Thursday, July 12, 2012

McKenzie Pass On A Sunday

Tilda and me outside Elizabeth
and Jon's Airstream
The day was Sunday, but the bike was Friday, a Bike Friday, more precisely a Bike Friday Tikit, the little fold-up commuter with 16" wheels and a BIG heart. Destination: Eugene, OR from Sisters, OR over the McKenzie Pass.

This would be my 3rd roll up and over the pass, but my first on Tilda the Tikit. The first two times I rode on Fern, my Lightning P-38; those roll-overs were lightning fast and equally only a snap of effort. I remember each with great joy--calling my son, Bryan, from the eastern edge of Springfield, OR. That was his clue to hop on his bike and meet me on the trail he rides from Eugene to Riverbend School in Springfield where he has taught the last 10 years. Elijah and Ayva (this year ages 11 and 9) would meet us at Starbucks on Alder/13th and we'd all ride the last 4 miles home together.

Lots has changed for Kirk and me this last year what with retirement, moving to Tucson, reducing to one car, and more. One of the "mores" was the sale of Fern, my Lightning P-38 with about 80,000 miles on her. My Bacchetta Ti Aero had become my exclusive ride while Fern just sat, and sat, and sat wondering if I'd ever pack her in her suitcase again to go for a another long ride. Fern went to live on a sailboat with her new owner in Gloucester, MA; Tilda was upgraded to serve as my new traveling companion.

Leaving Sisters, heading up the Pass
So, this Sunday ride over the McKenzie on the Bike Friday, Tilda Tikit, would be a shake-down ride: could Tilda do it? Could I do it on Tilda? The answer to these questions would inform if/how Kirk and I will do some international travel with Tilda and his yet un-named, un-purchased two-wheeled steed.

Just a week before I had climbed Mt. Lemmon in Tucson on my Bacchetta, 25 miles, 6,335' to an elevation of 8,000' in 4 hrs-40 min. I knew I had "the stuff" to do the McKenzie, a much easier climb of less than half of all the numbers. The X-factors would be Tilda AND my ability to ride an upright bike that distance (about 120 miles door-to-door) and hauling an additonal 30+ pounds of bike and gear. Tilda is is irrefutably NOT a recumbent.

Elizabeth, my Sisters bent-buddy, and I gave Tilda a test ride after unpacking her in Sisters and shipping her suitcase to Eugene. Uh-oh, Tilda's rear wheel seemed out-of-round with a bump-hump-bump-hump with every rev of her 16" wheel. Everything we did to re-seat the tire was for naught, so it would be a bumpy ride all the way to Eugene. Oh well.

(Turned out my new rear wheel from Velocity was defective so I'm due for a new, new wheel sometime soon).

The beginning of the McKenzie Pass is about 10 miles from Elizabeth's house, then another 15 miles or so to the Dee Wright Observatory at the 5,300 summit. Two-thirds of the way up I was huffing and puffing which was relieved a bit by my inhaler; but my heart was at or above its max. I would needed several more short stops between the inhaler and the summit to slow my racing heart. Don't know what the difference is: small wheels, riding upright, different muscles; but it was a TOUGH ride to the top, for sure harder than Mt. Lemmon.
Tilda at the Snow Gate on the Pass about 5 miles from the summit

Dee Wright Observatory
in the background at the summit

View of two of the three Sisters Mountains from the summit
I still believe descents are over-rated, but I did enjoy my sense of accomplishment making it up and over the McKenzie and finally onto the flats of Rt. 126 west to Eugene after a water refill at the Ranger Station on sweet Tilda.

It wasn't long after the Ranger Station, my unaccustomed upright riding legs began to rebel.  That was also about the same time I lost my 3' shoulder and would need to share the two-lane road with 45 mph traffic and mobile RV/homes with HUGE side mirrors. My share of the road would be limited to 3 to 9 inches for the next 50 miles. Given my weary legs and spent heart from the climb I was beginning to doubt if I had another 60 miles in me.

I have learned to recognize when my body-mind-spirit says ENOUGH. It's hard to explain what those sensations are, but they are reliable and I have learned to trust them. Vida, a little town of 867, thirty miles east of Eugene, was grand enough to have a gas station. Instead of calling Bryan to say: "Time to get on your bike to meet me", I texted him with the plaintive reality, "I'm not certain I can make it much further".

While my two wheels have helped me learned when to say when, I was deeply grateful for Bryan's follow-up call to my text in which he said, "I would like to come pick you up. Would you let me do that?" What an awesome way to allow me my dignity and affording me the opportunity to practice accepting help when needed.

I'm grateful I was able to say "yes" to Bryan's offer of SAG which kept me safe on that sketchy 50 mile stretch on Rt 126 given my state of precarious fatigue. Maybe even best of all, accepting SAG help assured me a more speedy recovery so I could fully enjoy Eugene-time with the Ayva, Elijah, Bryan, Mandy, and Kirk who had been traveling for a month of Sundays.

Well done, Tilda!!

Thank you, Bryan!!

Monday, July 09, 2012

The Lemmon Vanquished

Mt. Lemmon sits waiting 15 miles east and a little north of home. The Lemmon has beckoned nigh every road bike rider who lives in Tucson; many come from afar just to vanquish her 25 miles straight up 6,300' to Summerhaven at 8,000'.

The Lemmon has beckoned me since moving to Tucson 8 months ago. I rode eight miles up the the Lemmon last December with Bob Klenke's Tuesday morning group, but that was not intended to be a summit, just a ride up as a few miles and back down in time for a Christmas luncheon. I did intend to summit the Lemmon in May with my son, Daniel. But alas, neither my lungs nor my legs showed up for the ride that day. Daniel, however, summitted with aplomb. 

My new plan: summit with my two recumbent buddies, Mark Doumas and Wayne Cullop, both of whom also ride Bacchettas on Friday, June 29th. When the day finally came, Wayne offered to SAG for us hauling water up the mountain for us. BIG help. Thank you, Wayne!! 

We summitted with ease in 4 hours and 40 minutes. Grand Joy!!

Thoughts and lessons learned on the mountain:
  • Know your demons. One of mine is feeling "less than" in the presence of others who seem to be excelling easily. So, for example, the day that our Club hosted a Mt. Lemmon Climb and there were 2-300 riders on the mountain and I'm the only recumbent...I felt less than. Yes, my legs weren't working that day nor were my lungs, but most importantly I was feeling less than. I know that there were some riders who made it up in 4 hours and others in 12. So, in reality...
  • Knowing the above demon well, I planned this attempt with Mark with whom I'm well matched. We chose to ride it on a Friday when the traffic, both bike and car, was light.
  • Having a SAG person on the road was HUGE so we didn't have to worry about water. Each of us went through 4 full bottles in 25 miles + the 4.5 from the start to the base of the mountain. If we had to carry 4 bottles that would have been weighty, and what if we needed an ounce more??
  • We planned ahead of time to stop every 6 miles, once we started the climb, so dividing the mountain into 4ths. That worked very well. We were ready for a breather every 6, and 6 seemed oh, so doable compared to 25. You gain 1,000' every 4 miles.
What we missed? Well, we didn't stop and enjoy the many vistas along the way. We were quite focused on getting to the top. But being Tucson residents, we can stop and see the vistas anytime whether biking or driving.