Saturday, August 27, 2016

Today was Good

My Dad died from lung cancer shortly after his 60th birthday.  My mom died of a palsy condition at 76, my age today.  My sister died at 63 of breast cancer.  My mom's mother lived to be 100.  Her father died in his late 90's.  My dad's parents were both deceased before I was born.   None of my many cousins are still alive.  Family longevity is all over the place.  I can't say,  "This is the way it is in my family."   I see old age and I see early death.    

Life and death, health and wellbeing become topics to chew on.  No, not just chew on,  to take charge of.  How will I do this thing called aging?  Will I leap or whimper into my dotage?  Whimpering, never  a favorite of mine, leaves only leaping.  Well, not literally leaping, fused ankles don't leap so well, but they do pedal.    

                                                            Image result for graphics for leaping person

So, with  this in mind, I set my birthday goal -- my goal would be to ride 1 mile for each of my 76 years.  That's this year's goal but will it be the next year's goal too?  How far will my goal setting of miles to years reach, 78, 79, 80?  Will I ride 100 miles on my 100th birthday?

Ed, my always willing riding buddy.  Thanks Mr. Ed

A couple of years ago I had multiple surgeries from which  I'd never  achieved complete biking strength recovery.  Last  year I tried for 75 miles but fell short.  So this year's ride was an important one.  It required me to train, to focus and to put in sufficient effort to put my ripped apart abdomen back together again.  

On my birthday we set out at 7:30.  By noon we had finished 46 miles…

The next 30 miles were accompanied, supported and cheered by Brad and Yessi.  They made each intersection  festive and fun as they blew horns and shouted support…

and smiled…

And provided a loving push…

And then we celebrated!    Rhododendron Island County Park was filled with such cheer it still makes my heart dance…

The next morning we were still celebrating…

Sore muscles, yep!  Happy, yep!  Next year, yep!


"Today was good.
Today was fun.
Tomorrow is another one."

~ Dr. Seuss

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Celebrate Summer

Needing to put aside our at-home commitments and celebrate summer we jumped into Thistle and took off for Oregon.  Our Destination was the 22.7 mile Banks to Vernonia State Trail, west of Portland, but east of the coastal mountains.  A trail-of-note designed for horses, walkers, joggers and bikers, and while we were there, roller derby folks too.  Passing through forests, over bridges and trestles,  and through farm lands the trail pleases all tastes.   Forests provide a cool bowered jungle-like pleasure.  Farms and fields enchant with their open vistas sporting horse-grazing, hog-raising and free-ranging chicken.

And look what came with the trail…

We camped at Stubs Stewart State Park one night; moved to the mountains and camped at Gales Creek a couple of nights, commuting to the trail, and then spent four nights at Anderson Park, a city campground in Vernonia.

Gales Creek

Stubs Stewart was very near  the trail, at about the midway point, and also boasted a large network of mountain bike, equestrian and hiking trails.  Anderson Park is located at the Veronia trail head.  It also provided the additional benefit of easy walking to restaurants, coffee shops and the grocery.

Oregon is delightfully bike friendly

 One great restaurant in Vernonia, the Blue House Cafe (excellent food), even provided bicycle parking inside…

Leaving Oregon and the Banks to Vernonia State Trail, we head north to a network of trails in Thurston County, Washington.  These three connected trails provide off-the-road links between Lacey, Olympia, Tumwater, Yelm, Rainier and Tenino.  We found ourselves being  a bit envious just imagining how wonderful Whidbey Island would be if we had off-the-road bike trails connecting our communities.  

We spent one night in the City of Tenino campground, but then, being back in Washington and too close to home, we once again turned into homing pigeons and headed for Whidbey Island.  The riding was great, but unfortunately not great enough to overcome our homeward bound instincts.  


"(A Bicycle is) an unparalleled merger of a toy, a utilitarian vehicle, and sporting equipment.  The bicycle can be used in so many ways, and approaches perfection in each use.  For instance, the bicycle is the most efficient machine ever created:  Converting calories into gas, a bicycle gets the equivalent of three thousand miles per gallon.  A person pedaling a bike uses energy more efficiently than a gazelle or an eagle.  And a triangle-framed bicycle can easily carry ten times its own weight -- a capacity no automobile, airplane or bridge can match."

~ Bill Strickland 

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Leave. No. Trace.

"Nooooo! Benton! What did you find?"

We had walked about a mile up a steep logging road out the backside of our Gales Creek Campground. The trail followed the creek for the first half mile or so and then headed up to the top of a ridge. This beautiful wooded land, situated in the Tillamook Forest in Oregon, was nicely recovering second or third growth fir with beautiful vistas off to distant mountains. Logging debris marred the road's edges, along with a few cans and cigarette butts, but otherwise the forest was healthy and peaceful and quiet.

Walking over to the edge, where Benton had been rummaging, I was affronted with piles of toilet paper and human waste. And, despite the no camping signs, there were also several fire rings scattered about. Clearly this area had been used for camping by the worst kind of outdoorsmen, those who have no respect for the land.

As we trudged down the hill and back to camp, the bad behavior of a few disturbingly clouded our thoughts.

This morning, hanging out in camp, and reading The Hour of Land: A Personal Topography of America's National Parks by Terry Tempest Williams, I found Williams' prose describing the splendor of our public lands enlightening. The passion of many preservationists -- John Muir, Teddy Roosevelt, Edward Abbey, Ansel Adams, Bob Marshall, Aldo Leopold, and so many others -- and a political system that put these glorious places in public ownership, filled my heart.

Sadly, other words flowing from Williams' book were not so satisfying. She described disastrous political decisions leading to the damage of wildlife corridors, barriers blocking rivers and fish migration, leases to mining, timber and grazing interests causing degradation of the land, destroyed artifacts, unwise road building, and both agency interference and budget cuts designed to strangle the work of the governmental bodies' responsible for maintenance and oversight. The list of misdeeds is long and torturous to those of us who believe our public lands are this country's most prized assets.

Then I read this: "How could he (John Muir) have imagined that the work of a backcountry ranger now includes picking up five pounds of toilet paper in a two-foot radius on the trail to Half Dome in Yosemite National Park". Sadly, I realized the political neglect and deliberate contempt for our land is only part of the story. Where is the public's responsibility? We cannot point our finger at politicians' misdeeds without correcting our own misdeeds.

That's when I put my book down and said, " Ed, we have work to do."

Grabbing rubber gloves, bags and a shovel, Ed and I set off to correct a wrong. We again hiked to the top of the ridge, picking up trash along the way and then picked up human waste at the top.

We also destroyed the fire rings in a pathetically small effort to discourage irresponsible campers from camping in this spot again.

Too little, we know, but loving the land as we do, it was a gesture, however small, to correct a wrong. We were doing for others what they should have done for themselves. We removed their trace.

Leave no trace! This is a simple concept. It means exactly what the words say: Leave. No. Trace. No cigarette butts, beer cans, bottle caps, body waste, dog poop, foot prints, fire rings or toilet paper.   Not even your chewed gum or apple core. Outdoor ethics, plain and simple, Leave No Trace.

“What we are doing to the forests of the world is but a mirror reflection of what we are doing to ourselves and to one another.”

~ Gandhi

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Our Trusty Iron Steed

Years and rides and travels and more rides and more years and more travels…our trusty iron steed carries us up hills and down hills, along backroads and across deserts.  It's fun, it's exhilarating, it's challenging!  We are enthusiastic pedalers.  

We purchased our Cannondale tandem about eight or nine years ago, used.  We don't really know how old it is, but we believe Cannondale began making tandems in the early 90's.  We are the third owners of our bike and it's been a love affair since the first ride.  Our Specialized singles were purchased new about five years ago and suffer from tandem-neglect.

We ride because we love it, but also to carry out Ed's adage:  "Old age is for training".  When we're traveling Thistle totes our tandem and our singles… 

Other times our Element is the beast of burden…

Brad cramming two tandems inside
our Element, NW Tandem Rally

   Rails to Trails entice us.   Here we celebrate the Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes finish…

When we're on the island we try to ride 3 or 4 times weekly, at least in the spring, fall and summer.  One summer we set ourselves the challenge of riding all the connecting roads on Whidbey Island, and came darn close to finishing…

Group rides are fun and good training motivation…

 Chilly Hilly

Deb, Fran, Ed and Greg, STP

STP  Finish

Chilly Hilly ferry wait

Chilly Hilly

NW Tandem Rally

A favorite, riding the back roads…

And we ride with our wonderful family…

Concrete, WA

Fran, Ed, Yessi & Brad, Maxwelton Beach

As with any travel adventure or relationship, we sometimes get out of sorts but by the time our ride is underway, smiles creep onto our faces, and all vestiges of grumpy vanish.   I'm pretty sure this is true of most exercise, but on our tandem it might be more pronounced because of the teamwork required.   

We are often asked, "Why a tandem?"  The answers are simple.  A tandem equalizes our different bike riding speeds and the partnership effort is challenging as well as rewarding.  Communication is a must on a tandem as it is in a good marriage so the tandem enhances our couple verbal skills as well as toning our bodies.

"How do you decide who is the captain?" is another question often asked.  Ed's answer is always, "It's the person with the biggest ego."  And, the followup question, as eyes turn to me,  "So you just sit back and let Ed do all the work?"   My answer, delivered slightly peevishly, is "There's a reason the person riding shotgun is called the stoker."  

We've always enjoyed riding, but the tandem has increased our enthusiasm and it's almost always our ride of choice.   We still ride our singles but mostly for trips to the grocery store or exercising Benton on the back roads.  Also, singles work better for city riding.

But, singles or tandem, we ride and we smile and we love it…

We depart tomorrow for ten days of tandem riding in Oregon.  It is a training trip to prepare for my  birthday ride later this month.  I plan to ride a mile for every year of life so a bit more than 36 miles!  Actually seventy-six is the magic number this year.


"Next to a leisurely walk I enjoy a spin on my tandem bicycle. It is splendid to feel the wind blowing in my face and the springy motion of my iron steed.  The rapid rush through the air gives me a delicious sense of strength and buoyancy, and the exercise makes my pulse dance and my heart sing."

~ Helen Keller