Monday, May 26, 2008

Urban Assault Ride

Yesterday, my Sorella teammate, Sage and I participated in the Urban Assault Ride. They lived up to their claim that it would be the most fun I've had on a bike all year.

It's sort of a combination road race, 'cross race, scavenger hunt and obstacle course. They warn that you might get wet and this was entirely accurate. The light sprinkle that was *supposed* to clear up to just cloudy and warm, instead became a downpour. If you'd told me that I would one day go out riding for over two hours in 50 degree rain wearing Keen sandals, I would've said you were crazy. But it actually wasn't that bad, thanks to race adrenalin and wool socks.

Before the race, there is a bonus quiz that you take to determine your start order. The quiz can give you as much as a 10 minute head start on your competition, so I spent way too much time and enlisted Jess's help, to try to find some of the answers. Here's a question that gives you an idea how hard the quiz is:

16. Swobo sells an item of clothing made of a material that comes from a distant land. Also from this country is a cyclist who many consider to be one of the greatest ever. One time in the Tour de France, he was in a breakaway with a teammate and a rival rider. He rode off the road and into a ditch. What was the name of the teammate that waited for him?

Our 75% score (the highest score was 89%) put us in the first wave.

There were six regular check points and two mystery checkpoints. I SUCK at figuring out clues, so I used my people skills instead and talked others into giving me both answers. You have to devise your own route between check points, so I planned out a clockwise route that would also give us the most downhill cruising.

At the start, we ran to our bikes and headed to REI, the first mystery check point, which fortunately, was right on my pre-planned route. It seemed most racers had the same idea. One person forgot this was supposed to be for fun and promptly went down hard on the tracks that curve on 10th and Morrison. Ouch.

I was feeling competitive, but as always, my first rule was to keep the rubber side down. I'd had a bike crisis that morning because of the foul weather, but Jess convinced me to keep my road bike as my vehicle of choice. It was a good thing too, because there was no way I ever would have kept up with Sage without it. There was also some scrambling involving the rules, since I had been completely misinformed by the woman at packet pick up, that we only had to go to seven of the eight checkpoints. It took some doing to find someone who knew the answer to this but I was very glad I checked.

At the Fat Tire Farm stop, there was bike jousting, catching rings on the joust pole. Then it was off to the NE Community Cycling Center to find a fairy on a bike who would give us our check point bead. We found him alright, but he wouldn't stop (even though Sage said 'Please' very nicely) until I cut him off.

After that we screamed down 33rd Ave toward Laurelhurst park. We saw another Sorella team mate, Kim, heading up the same street with her husband. They'd decided to go the opposite route from most folks. Kim is an excellent climber but there's no way I would have survived that route. And we finished a few minutes ahead of them despite some crowds at the challenges.

Keg WalkingAt the park, Jess was waiting for us, but didn't take many pictures. It was pouring rain by this time and she was soaked from riding around to check points trying to keep up with us. There were two challenges, keg walking--which Sage couldn't do in her bike shoes, so she promptly took them off. Those kegs aren't flat, and she still had a hard time (it looked painful) but she perservered. I found it much easier in sandals. Then it was over to the human wheel barrow challenge. I chose to carry, thinking Sage had bigger arms and would fare better standing on her shoulders, while I used mostly leg strength to push her along. We only fell twice winding between the orange cones. After we finished, she revealed that she'd been eating ice cream every day for the past week. Thanks partner. :)

Bike LimboThe next challenge was only a few blocks away at Sunnyside school. Sage and I both rocked the bike limbo (on our own bikes) in one try. The hardest challenge was yet to come, at the Plan B Bar. A bag toss with the target hole on the ground about twenty feet away. Thankfully, if you didn't get four bags in, you could still leave after ten minutes. You could switch off at will so we both took tries and actually made our goal with a minute to spare.

Next up, River City Bikes and my favorite on-course challenge: a real live version of the Paper Boy video game. I rode a small red banana seat bike around in circles, tossing papers to Sage, who caught them in a plastic bin. We got our three catches in four tries and then it was over the bridge to the finish at Pioneer Square. Of course, we couldn't just ride in and be done. We were directed to put our bikes in a secure coral and then sent over to grab a big wheel and do a quick loop around a twisty course that invited lots of skidding out. I absolutely could NOT stop smiling riding that thing. Then off with our shoes and into a huge blow up obstacle course that was filled with puddles of muddy water from rain and previous contestants. By that time, we were too close to finishing for me to care so I threw myself into it with glee. We slide into the finish, completely soaked, but our reward was a second place finish in the women's division!

Final Challenge

For our efforts, we got the prize I'd actually been hoping for--free Keen shoes, and some UAR socks. The winners got custom made UAR Timbuk2 bags. Thought they looked really cool, I definitely don't need any more bags. I don't need any more shoes either, but Keen finally came out with a clipless pedal version of their sandals and I've been wishing for a pair since they came out.

More Big Wheel FunWe retreated to the Visitor's center where I put on dry clothes (thanks to Jess) and we huddled under the bathroom dryers getting warm. The rain finally stopped and it actually warmed up a little so we went back out to enjoy the finish line party, which included a band and the mini-bike limbo contest. We also took a few more loops on the big wheel course. I may need to buy one. PMS crankiness is no match for the smiley power of the big wheel!

I got third in the limbo contest and just missed taking home one of those cool bags. Then we hung out some more while had a very long raffle and gave away literally tubs full of cool prizes, like bike computers, wool jerseys, hats, t-shirts, biodegradable lube etc. We didn't win anything, but the day was already such a success, I didn't mind.

Finally, we crawled home and Jess and I spent the rest of the night uploading pictures. You should go check them out here and here.

Next year, Jess will be all healed up and I'm sure we'll have a blast riding the course together. I can't wait.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

The Good Ship P.M.S.

I'm cranky, and nothing makes me feel better like a nice blog rant. So here are a few things that have been pissing me off lately:

1. Drivers. Why is it so &$#!*ing hard to get home alive these days? The more I commute, the more I can't wait to finally take my shiny new mountain bike for a spin way out in the woods, where I don't have to worry about every third car trying to run me down, which is it what it feels like, riding around town these days. And I'm not just talking about clueless people who don't see us--no, these are the super assholes, who buzz by just for fun (not surprised to see one was full of 20-something boys this afternoon), or jet out in front of us or cutting us off so they can get into their driveway (yes, the DRIVEWAY--they were 20 feet from home and STILL couldn't wait 5 seconds for us to go by). I'm also sick of sucking up exhaust at every stop light.

2. Smokers. Let me just get this memo out now. If you see me out and about and you are smoking, just know that I hate you. This would've been true BEFORE my mom took up residence in an urn on my bookshelf, but now it's worse. Guess what, no one actually uses those little 'smoking shelters' on campus. Nope, they smoke in front of the doors. I've just gotten in the habit of holding my breath when going in and out of buildings on campus. But what I'd really like to do is knock all those cancer sticks out of their mouths with a baseball bat. And if my aim is a little off--oh well.

3. FREE (BEER/ADMISSION). If I see one more event put FREE BEER in all caps or one more organization who tries to lure volunteers with FREE BEER, I might throw up in my mouth a little. I DON'T GIVE A FRAK ABOUT BEER. I hate beer (but not as much as smokers). How about getting original? Try FREE KOZY SHACK or FREE COLD STONE for a change. At least the beer, when it's offered, actually is free, as advertised. Some people need to go back and look up the meaning of the word free. Take the Carfree Cities conference for example. Everywhere I look, there are articles and ads about their "Free Public Day." So I went to pre-register and before Firefox could auto-fill my forms, they were telling me about the 'suggested donations.' FREE MEANS NO DINERO. If you want a suggested donation, then guess what, YOUR EVENT IS SLIDING SCALE.

4. Bike Racers. I didn't used to hang with the racing crowd much, but I've been a member of a team that is also a club for three years now, so I've gotten more exposure. By and large they're a good group, but a little single-minded when it comes to their bike use. It's not at all uncommon for a racer to drive three miles to the start of their race with their bike on their car. And then put that bike onto a stationary trainer to warm up.

&*&W$)#%&@#)%(*^)%(@*%^@)#*$&^@#)*&$^ (Censored, cause I couldn't think of a good enough way to express how stupid this is).

Hey racers--did it ever occur to you that you could actually use that bike to, you know, get around?

Of course not all racers are guilty of this, but there is definitely a mentality that is separate from the notion of bikes as transportation, or bike culture. This was recently illustrated by my own team, who practically leap to volunteer for any racing related event, but can't be cajoled, bullied or begged to help out with an amazing (nay, historic) event to try to take back neighborhoods *for people, NOT cars* that is happening next month. Maybe I should try offering them FREE BEER.


Monday, May 19, 2008

Some People Mature: Other's Just Age

Tomorrow's my birthday but I'm not quite ready for the pasture yet. Making good on a promise made many months ago, I took my bike out to Portland International Raceway for the Monday night novice women's race.


My goals were to stay upright, and to not throw up and I achieved them both.

I had no idea what kind of speed I could maintain, being much more out of shape than the last (and only other) time I tried this about three years ago. I kept up with the pack for about two laps and then started to fade. This turns out to be a good thing, since it wasn't long after that I came upon about four riders who had crashed on a turn. Most of them were already up, but Heather was on the ground moaning. It looked like she landed on her hip, and then Penny landed on her. Not good.

I stopped and we helped get her off the track. Then I rode with one of the Ironclad riders, who's leg was swelling into something epic and horrible-looking, back to the start, where she could see the medic. I had heard her talking to the medic earlier and saying something like, "I hope not to see you again." Total jinx.

Penny decided that's it for her racing career. She said she saw her summer "flash before her eyes," of not being able to ride and it wasn't worth the risk. I can't say I blame her. I will go back, but I have a tendency to drift towards the back of the back to avoid just such mishaps. I suppose surging to the front would also be a safe option, but that's not physically possible at this time. Maybe by the end of the summer...

Jess and her friend T came out to watch and took a couple of pictures. The weather at least, was perfect, cooling down from an 80 degree peak with cloud cover moving in. After my escorting duty was done, I kept riding until the women's race was over, which gave me a total of five laps, just one shy of the real race. I was happy to discover that I actually got faster as the race went on. I think I will do a longer warm up next time.

Tomorrow will be low-key as birthdays go, filled with catch up studying, drawing live nude girls in art class and dropping off ballots. But there will be Cold Stone. Can't let the day be totally boring (not that live nude girls is boring). But Jess did take me to the beach this past weekend where we had superb weather and the nicest hike I've been on in a while. Head on over to my Flickr page and check it out.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

To Know Them is To Love Them

Since I'm too swamped for a real post, I give you a much better form of entertainment:

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Fun at the Dentist? Yes.

I'm not saying it was a trip to Disneyland or anything, but my hygienist is seriously awesome and has a great sense of humor. So even though she's torturing me, she's kind of cool to hang out with, and I told her so today.

When she came out to get me, she said, "Oh good, you came back." This is because she spent two hours torturing my gums on the right side yesterday and I was plenty sore after the novocaine wore off, but I woke up this morning feeling pretty good.

"I didn't even make a voodoo doll of you," I told her, by way of assurance. She was relieved.

For round two, it was more of the same, this time in the lower left quadrant. Except she 'grazed a nerve' as she called it, when giving me the shot which did not please me. Yesterday I gave her a hard time when she was giving me the prep speech and she said, "And then you'll feel a pinch."

"Huh. Feel a pinch, that's what they always say."

She admitted it was a crock. "Should I just say it's going to hurt like hell?" she asked. I told her that would probably be better. She agreed that she likes to prepare for the worst too.

The big needle in the gums is the worst part and after that it's all about trying to keep my jaw open and not swallow too much of my spit. I keep my Ipod with somewhat noise-canceling headphones turned up way loud and then the scraping noise becomes more like part of the music. A few times she was even on-beat. She got a little jealous yesterday when I started laughing.

"What's funny?" she asked.

"I have a lot of 80's music. I'm rockin' the Copacabana right now."

She loved that, and said I should bring speakers next time.

Today I told her that, based on her instructions not to have any crunchy foods for a week or so, I told Jess that meant I should only eat ice cream. And that Jess wasn't buying what I was selling.

"Should I call her?" Shea asked.

"Oh that would be so great!" I said. We started laughing hysterically. I'm pretty sure you don't hear many people laughing in the dental chair. Towards the end of the cleaning, she called over to the dentist, who was just hanging out at the front counter.

"Hey Aaron, can you do us a favor?"

She told him to call our land line and leave a very straight-laced message with instructions to eat ice cream specifically. We couldn't hear the whole thing, but it sounded like he played it completely dead pan.

At home later, Jess came downstairs and said, "Is your little mouth doing OK? We need to get you some ice cream." Aaron was so convincing apparently that she wasn't *quite* sure it was a joke. But, she said, "No dentist called and tells patients to eat ice cream. It sounded fishy."


It's a good thing I like Shea so much because she didn't have time to do the upper left quadrant and I have to go back on Monday at (OUCH!!!!) 7:00AM.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

My New Mountain Bike, Let Me Show You It

Created with Admarket's flickrSLiDR.

It's been almost exactly one year since those crackhead Sorellas gave me a free hit of MTB at an all-day clinic and sent me on my way. The conclusion was inevitable. Happy trails to me...

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Outside Looking In

I'm enjoying a rare quiet moment in the middle of my Monday, sitting OUTSIDE IN THE SUN on the campus quad. 

I feel like I've been through the wars. Except I got a little perspective on that this weekend, so I'll change that to, 'I feel like I've been through the bougie middle-class-problems skirmish.'

I promised Jess that we would tackle the garage this weekend.  We organized it last summer (sort of) but then we kept getting more and more stuff, until we could barely walk through to get our bikes out.  I think J's eye literally started twitching every time she had to go in there.  It's a good thing she hasn't been riding much these last few months.  We took everything out, rearranged the shelves and then put it all back in, but more organized.  The results are so pleasing that I've gone out there several times just to admire all the luscious space.

Room for More Bikes!

Saturday, I had to go to the farmer's market in search of snap peas. The selection at New Seasons is pathetic right now and I've been getting pretty desperate.  We rode our bikes to Lisa's house and then we all car pooled downtown together, J and I hardly fighting over Essex at all.  There were no snap peas, but it was good to get out and see people outside. It's like it's spring or something--crazy.

We also stopped for chocolate at a place (I forget the name), near Cacao that Lisa has been praising for months.  It definitely lived up to the hype.  I will link the name when remember it.

Then we had to rush back to NE to meet the delivery people, who were bringing my new stove from Home Depot. Geahk also met us there so he could take a look at a project I need help with.  The stove has one of those high backs with the controls at the back, and, unfortunately, I forgot about the counter that hangs over the kitchen--right where the stove would fit under, if it were short enough.  Geahk said he could just move the counter top, but after further study, he thought the best option would be to just get a different stove.  I agreed, but wailed silently over the doom that is every house related activity I try to do.

Which is why I get to spend the rest of the afternoon in rush hour traffic.  I found slide-in stove that will work, and it's even the right color---but it's out in BFE Milwaukie and my hired help, AKA my little brother Kenny, isn't available until 3:30. Fun times.

The rest of the weekend was spent either stressing over homework, the garage, or the stove.  Poor Jess had to put up with a pretty cranky, stressed out, and overwhelmed version of me.  I had the final draft of a story due in writing and our second midterm in Math.  Since those classes are back-to-back, there would be no time to cram for the math test before class.  For our second essay in writing on 'place,' I decided to write about Mom's house.  It seemed a prominent subject, since I have been working on the house for the past few months and accepting the reality that strangers will soon be living in it.  I knew it wouldn't be fun to write, but I underestimated just how much it would suck.  Aside from having to view the computer screen through tears much of the time, I also didn't feel like the story was coming together in a technical way either.  I felt like I was floundering through jello and I was sick of rereading it long before I could call it anything close to 'finished.'  The only good news about it was that people in my first workshop responded well to it emotionally.  Fellow classmate Rebecca even said that she really came to like mom through my story--so that made the torture seem more worthwhile. I do feel sorry for folks that didn't get to know her. She was just so damn cool.

Between the help I got from Jess and a fellow classmate, I muddled through to something that is hopefully acceptable.  In our class discussion today, it seemed that a lot of people really struggled with this topic, for one reason or another.  I really related to the person who said that she might not be graded as well, but she was glad she took the risk.  I took this class so I could push myself, so struggle is actually a good sign.  It's just not fun.  Jess strongly suggested I choose a more uplifting topic next time...

I left off halfway through this post to go to yoga, only to find class was canceled.  On the one hand, I definitely could have used a nice yoga session today--on the other hand, I was grateful for the unexpected hour of time which meant a little more time outside, and time to eat before spending the afternoon in rush hour traffic.

I went home and ate, then remembered I promised to cut the lawn, so I did that too.  Then I discovered cat puke on the carpet--not an unusual occurrance, but I so was not in the mood.  I was already exhausted and I still had two stoves to move.

Lil' bro showed up right on time and for bonus points brought his friend C, to help.  She was cute, smart and totally together which prompted me to ask her what she was doing hanging out with my brother. <G> Apparently, I wasn't the first to ask.

I'll say one thing for my bro, he's entertaining.  We had a surprisingly good time on the ride out and back and the woman selling the stove was warm and friendly and not at all a suburban pod person.  We stopped at McD's on the way back and traded bawdy jokes.  Kenny said something annoying that made me punch his leg--at which time he revealed that he'd been campaigning all day to see what it would take to force me to violence.

"Are you FIVE?" I replied.  I promised to hit him on general principle the next time I saw him, so he wouldn't have to work so hard.

The Home Depot folks were surprisingly--no make that astonishingly, nice when I returned the stove, even refunding my delivery charge.  My dad hasn't had quite as much luck--I guess our last name is pretty regularly cursed around those parts now, so I was happy to get no-hassle service.

It was after 8:00pm by the time I returned the truck and came home, stopping at Fred Meyer for ice cream so I could assuage my pain with food like any good American.  I was even prepared to buy the ::gasp:: packaged snap peas--but they didn't have any! Not even any snow peas just to feel the satisfying crunch of a semi-sweet vegetable.  I bought a small bag of baby carrots instead and some canned pineapple.  I've gotten semi-hooked on the fresh pineapples at New Seasons, but that's not sustainable for our budget. 

I was too tired and head-sore to think about homework so I just showered and spend some much needed time catching up with J.

Tomorrow, the first of two deep cleaning dental appointments lasting aproximately two hours each. This week is not the funnest I've ever had.