Saturday, October 25, 2008

Two. Many. Bikes!

Seems like every few months, we spent most of a day organizing our garage, only to have it overflow with stuff again in what seems like no time.  I accept 95% responsibility for this.  The other 5% I blame on the recession, since it seems our two perfectly lovely commuter bikes aren't going to find a new home for a while.

So, with the help of Rubbermaid, we set out to once again hack a path through the middle.  I'd say we were fairly successful:

Storage Geeks Live Here

While we were in a groove, we went through several boxes and drawers full of bike stuff, and a box of goodies will be making it's way to Goodwill or the Community Cycling Center in the near future.

Then there's the stuff, we're still hoping to get a little cash for.  So if you're in the market for:

Columbia winter boots
Specialized bike shoes
women's bike saddle
Apple Mighty Mouse (the computer kind, not the super hero)
Surly Cross Check Fork all means, click on through.  I also have a bunch of old Star Trek comics I'd love to see get a good home (not so attached to the cash).  Something about dealing with all my mom's stuff has given me a strong urge to de-clutter my life.  It's an ongoing project.

But for now, I'm going to pat myself on the back (and Jess too) and maybe wander back out to the garage before bed so I can revel in the orderliness of it all:

Storage Geeks Live Here

Monday, October 20, 2008

Hot Crossed Buns

Originally uploaded by Anne and Tim Photos

Survived and thrived at cross race number two today, out at Rainer High School. I managed to get my act together (so I thought) and head out around 11:00am. As I was driving up I-5, I ticked off the list in my head: keys, wallet, phone, check. Helmet and shoes, check. Front wheel... ? crap! This is the downside and the nightmare I have about a roof rack that requires taking off the front wheel. Luckily, I hadn't yet crossed into Washington, so it was a simple matter to take the Jantzen Beach exit and retrace my steps, making my effective departure time 11:30.

I guess I should've worn lighter shoes because coming off I-5 onto the 432 expressway, I had a little too much momentum and got caught in a speed trap. Yet another reason I hate driving. On my bike, I can sprint as fast as I want, and not worry about stupid cops. He wasn't even bothering with sirens, just had his speed gun out and was pointing and waving at folks to pull over. He got me and another car with two cross bikes on top, obviously in a hurry to get to the race as well.

He had some mercy and only wrote the ticket for 5mph over the limit, but that's still a big ol' $93.00 ouch. So much for saving money by buying cross race passes...

I reached the high school without further incident. Registering as a returning rider was as easy as signing my name on a sheet and handing over my pass. The sun had been working it's way out on the drive out and now it was a bonafied gorgeous fall day. I went back and got my race gear on, but my warm up was pretty lazy at best, punctuated by chatting with other team members and fiddling with strange noises on my bike.

Oh well, warm ups are for sissies I thought. I decided not to pre-ride either, though I probably could have followed the course around just outside the cones. But we came out last year to watch this race, so I had a good idea where the tough spots were. I also talked to a guy who was already done and asked him for tips. He said there was a lone barrier on the back side, and I should gear down before I get to it because the remount would be bumpy. It turned out to be a really good tip.

Last week, the women seemed to start lining up 45 mintues before the race. This week, no one went near the start line until the call for staging actually came. That's because this week, starting positions were determined by who had the most series points, and then by number lottery. I don't really care much about my starting position but I ended up in the second row, which was pretty good.

I didn't have any of the nerves of last week, so I was pretty relaxed right up until the whistle blew. Then we were off. As we reached the end of the starting chute, I counted and determined I was probably in the top ten. That quickly altered as we took a right turn and headed up what I would come to think of as the hill of pain. Of course, I find just about all hills painful. But this one was special.

My cross check is the first bike I've had with a double ring up front. Usually all my road bikes have had triples up front because I love my granny gears. But since was going to be an around town bike mostly, I went for a compact double instead. Until today, I hadn't yet bottomed out of my gears and wished for more, but that all changed on the first hill. Still, it wasn't too bad, and most of my panic subsided once I warmed up a little. I wasn't exactly spinning the next time I hit that hill, but I made it up alright, especially with people ringing cowbells in my ear and Bruce yelling at me to "PUSH IT!"

This course was a lot less technical than last week, but at the same time, much harder because of all the climbing. And there were seven barriers total, six of them all together in a pack, and the one lonely one that the guy had warned me about. Let me just say that as a vertically challenged person, six packs of barriers suck like a black hole. I got over them without tripping and that's all that can be said. As for the rest of the course, it just never seemed to end. On the first lap, I just kept thinking: we're still on the first lap. Man, we're still on the first lap? Geez, this lap is long. When is this lap going to end?

Finally, it did end--with the aformentioned hill of pain. In the regular course, it starts with gravel and standing up to pedal put me at risk for spinning out my back wheel. So it was a sit and grind. Then once you've made it up that, there's still a pavement hill to kill any will you had to live before you cross the finish line.

Now that I'm a cross veteran, with two whole races behind me, I think I've figured out that I'm one of those people who gets better as the race goes on. Once the first lap was done, I was pretty well warmed up, and I knew what to expect. In addition to the climbing, there were some super fun, really fast descents as well, and I hung loose on every one of them. In lap two I started to pull back some of those jack rabbits who got away at the start. One woman in my category passed me, but then immediately lost all her juice and I passed her back and made it stick. I caught a few other people on the few technical sections--steep short climbs, barriers and tight turns.

Of course, I was also getting passed by the A and B women right and left. It wasn't till lap three that things settled down a little. There was one particular narrow spot that was gravel road going over a pipe that carried water underneath. Twice when I went over it, I heard women barreling down on me, screaming, "On your left!" I wanted to reply, "I got nowhere to go, just wait a damn second!" But I didn't, and they went barreling by and it's a wonder I didn't end up in the ditch. But that's racing.

Jess is working this weekend, so I didn't have a crew (or a personal photographer, but pics are bound to turn up on Flickr and elsewhere), but I did have a few pockets of cheering sections. Zan showed up right before the start. Mostly I couldn't tell who was cheering when I went by, but I just want to say that no matter what look I may have directed your way, I really did appreciate the support.

I came up the hill at the end of lap three, really hoping I might see a big zero on the lap counter, but alas, I rode too fast and still had one to go. "It's your last lap, make it a good one!" yelled Zan. I decided that was good advice. I resolved to try not to let anyone in my category catch me, and I think I managed to pick off a couple of more before it was all over.

Results were posted right away and I was astonished and pleased to see that I got sixteenth, nine places better than last week. Who knows what would happen if I kept at it?

After the race, (and the required time spent collapsed over my bike heaving, though my recovery was much faster this week, and some guy who should be raised to sainthood offered me water), I did the smart thing I and went straight back to the car to change clothes. I stopped by the concessions tent, but they had been cleaned out by hungry riders and spectators before me. Luckily I came up with a better post-race food plane than the Costco samples I had last week. I grabbed my post race cookies and went to the hill to watch the men suffer. I ended up next to Bernard, whom I met at the Oregon Manifest Handmade Bike show a few weeks ago. Bernard brings the count to three, of black folks crazy enough to do cross--and we have to import him from Seattle. The other one is a member of team Ironclad, or The Real Team Beer, as I like to think of them. I gave Bernard one of my recovery cookies.

My dear teammate Sage is devastated that I'm not planning to fully explore my cross potential. She missed her calling as a crack dealer--she offered to sell me one of her race passes for $5, and insists that there's no way I'll be able to walk away. However, future weekends will be devoted to study. Because I can stop any time I want. And this amazing weather is bound to turn soon.

For photos of the race, check out these prompt flickr posters:

Anne & Tim's Flickr Page (Photos by Tim) (Thanks for making me look WAY cooler than I am :)

Ironclad's Flickr Page

Saturday, October 18, 2008

A Rvr ov Knawlege is Floin' en Mi Hed

I survived my first two weeks of school.  My cold lasted three weeks, that would be up until a few days ago.  Monday is my long day with Logical Thought and Programming in the morning and Principles of Visual Design (PVC) in the afternoon. 

Going from Laurie, who is very calm, logical and good at explaining things slowly, to Amy, who talks as fast as that one girl from the Cosby show and has the psychic energy to match, was a shock to my system, to say the least. I seriously explored the option of dropping the class or switching to a different teacher.  But the other section I wanted was full and reports were that Amy is a good teacher if you can handle her.  Week two I was better prepared mentally, so I decided to stick it out.

My other classes are WDIM 101, which is basically an exploration of the field of web design and interactive media.  Sort of a 'what the heck am I getting into,' class for new students so you don't take a related class the two terms before graduation and realize you've been in the wrong major for three years. (True story).

There's also writing and argumentation.  That teacher seems to really know her history and says a lot of interesting things in class.  As a mainly fiction reader (or at least I used to be when I had time to read books, which I seem have fallen out of for the past two years), this class will be good for me to catch up on some 'classic' stuff I haven't gotten around to--and wouldn't without a class to force me into it.  The downers are that the actual tone of her voice is slightly irritating--but more annoying is that ninety percent of the class seems to be mute.  There are about four of us who talk and this week's class was like a bad Ferris Bueller nightmare.  When I said something after class, the teacher said her classes are usually much more engaged.  Just my luck.  Hopefully some of them will warm up in a week or two.

Thursdays I have off. Those are art days, since all my art homework takes me forever to do.

Fridays is my Image Manipulation class (think Photoshop fun).  That started out slow but ramped up quickly this week.  Fortunately, Phil is insistent that we tell him if he's going too fast.  I took him at his word and made him repeat several sequences.  I have taken a Photoshop class, but the muscled are out of shape.  Our first assignment is a collage based on a song, which should be both fun and frustrating, as I try to make real images match what's in my head.  I'm thinking of using one of Stephanie's new songs and doing something kind of sexy and haunted.  She loves the tortured love songs, that one. 

So far I'm actually enjoying my classes.  Even all the books are good. Last week, I was geeking out about the Declaration of Independence.  I really need to see the second movie...

Could be just the honeymoon phase, but I'm definitely not in Kansas anymore.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Psycho Cross Crusade

Ever since the first hint of chill in the air, all my racer friends have had cross on the brain. No conversation was ever completed until they had asked, "you gonna race cross?" with that special gleam in their eye. I never experienced peer pressure this heavy handed, even in high school.

With my new Surly Cross Check finally built, I no longer had the excuse of not having a bike. Besides, people do cross on all sorts of crazy rigs, including unicycles!

I bought two discount passes through my team, which forced me to admit that I was actually thinking of trying this crazy thing. And it had to be soon, before the weather gets too cold and yucky, even though for many people, mud is the whole point of cross.

The first weekend of Cross Crusade came and went without me. I was busy getting ready for my first day of school and I was still hacking up phlegm from the cold I've had for two weeks.

This weekend, the sun was slated to shine, my homework was pretty under control so I went for it. In just under two hours, I turned my mild mannered commuter into a lean mean, racing machine.

I even had a crew; Jess was off for the weekend and her friend T decided to join us. They carried my stuff, held my water bottle while I raced and of course cheered me on. It was awesome.

My training and preparation for the race consisted solely of hauling loads on Fezzik and watching a series of Bike Hugger videos with cross tips. The episode on remounting was particular helpful. I practiced a few times in front of my house and called it good.

We got there in time for me to do the registration shuffle and then take a few loops around the nearby streets to warm up. It was a weird venue, in the middle of a suburban housing development, with appropriately enough, a mental hospital nearby. One team mate posited that the race was just bait and that fences would go up before we could leave, so they could put us into little rooms and try to figure out why anyone would participate in such a crazy activity.

When I went to line up at the start about 30 minutes before race time, I saw lots of teammates further up in the ranks. Our start was somewhat delayed, and the waiting was the worst part. I tried to distract myself by ogling the cool bikes and asking my neighbor (also a beginner) for tips on dismounting. One woman had a jersey that said Alaska and with a home made sign on the back that said Palin with a line through it.

Finally a whistle blew and the women's A race was on! That's when the nerves really hit. Too late to turn back though. We had to wait some more while the B's started, then Masters 35+, Masters 45+ and finally it was our turn.

Did I mention I didn't get to pre-ride the course? Yeah, that would've been handy. But the race schedule is fast and furious. I talked to a team mate who said she never gets there in time to pre-ride so she just rides the first lap kinda slow. Well, that would probably be true of all my laps, so that worked out fine. There was nothing I could do about it, so I quit worrying. Jess and Therese had walked around a bit and Jess told me a few spots to watch out for.

The first lap, I took it nice and easy. The course had been described as 'super fun!' when I asked a few other racers about it. They failed to mention the back side, which was bumpy as all hell. It was like riding over a giant washboard. My back was rattling and I started wishing I'd brought my dual suspension mountain bike instead. Things smoothed out eventually, and after some tight technical turns on gravel, there were some pavement and grass sections where you could really open up.

Cross spectators are notoriously supportive and I enjoyed lots of personal cheers from friends and acquaintances along the course. There were a couple of guys taking themselves a bit too seriously and I'd hear them say things to racers behind me, like, "Come on, you can catch that Sorella, she's done." Whatever dude. I'm hear to have some fun and go home in one piece.

Then came the make or break obstacle-- my first run up. I dismounted ridiculously early just to make sure my foot wouldn't get stuck. The run up was crazy steep, but had some natural pockets to step in. I shuddered to think if it had actually been raining and the hill was just a mud slide. At any rate, I made it up without incident and my remount went smoother than I really had any right to expect.

A short, fast straight-away, a tight turn and it was on to my first set of barriers. It wasn't the most graceful ever, but I didn't trip--another goal checked off the list. After the barriers, there was just a few feet in which to get your act together before going down a crazy steep hill. The first lap was pretty jammed up, so the approach was even more awkward. I was actually glad I hadn't pre-ridden because then I have time to think about it and get all freaked out. Since the race was on, I just saw what was ahead and dealt with it. There's really no place for thinking in cross.

The rest of the race was lather, rinse, repeat. I definitely felt I improved with each lap, as I got to know what was coming up and got better at dealing with some of the technical stuff. Also, the field finally spread out in lap two, so I was mostly on my own, with the occasional polite, "on your left" from a high grade woman lapping me. I got kudos from fellow Sorellas who went by and even a literal pat on the back from Sarah. Luckily, I don't startle easily, and I was glad to see her. She went on to get 4th in the B race and Kim took no prisoners and took second in the Masters 35+ When she passed me, I couldn't believe how fast she was riding over the washboards. Ouch.

Oh yes--it wouldn't be cross without at least one fall--but luckily it was a totally minor spill into a nice soft mound of dirt.

I had absolutely no idea what my actual place was in the race. I definitely got passed by a lot of people, and didn't feel like I'd passed that many people. I did my best passing on technical sections and remounts, only to (mostly) get passed again on straightaways. But I didn't really care. I was having a grand time, in between hocking up loogies. Yeah, that cold isn't quite gone yet.

On the last lap, I had a couple of women in sight going down the last big hill before the finish line. I went ahead and reeled them in, just in case they might be in my category. I remembered not to sit up after the finish line, so the video camera could catch my number.

After the race, I spent a few minutes bent over heaving and trying to get air. I wasn't quite in my right mind (but that could be said of even showing up for the race I suppose), so I didn't see that Jess and T had come over to the finish to meet me. I went wandering off for a good 10 minutes, desperate to find them so I could get some water. It finally occurred to me to go back to the start line where we met up and I sucked on my water bottle like I'd just crossed the desert.

Before the race, someone told me that cross is really fun about thirty minutes after it's over. As the race got further into the past, I found I completely agreed with that statement. It was great to be done, and have survived. And I know it's not at all productive, but given my 'preparation' for the race, I was kind of ridiculously pleased with my remounts, which went swimmingly for the entire race. I think next time I need to shoulder the bike for barriers though, due to a certain lack of tallness.

As we walked back toward the car, I stopped to pet a cute black lab, who happened to be attached to a team mate I'd only met a few times. "How'd your race go?" she wanted to know.

"Good," I said. "It was my first time."

"Did you race A's" she asked.

"Um, no beginner. Did I mention it's my first time?"

"Oh, your first race ever!? Cool. But you're a mountain biker right?"

"Well, since May..."

She looked surprised at that.

"I'm really just a poser. I'm here to make the uniform look good." I joked, and she and her friends all laughed.

It's true though. I doubt I'll ever have the time or inclination to train enough to be really competitive. But it's definitely fun to go out and ride and get a great work out. Results are in already and I placed way better than I thought--25th out of 68 beginner women. Not too shabby for no training, practice or experience.

Everyone kept saying that once you do one race, "you'll be hooked!" I don't know if I'm hooked--but I guess I'll go ahead and use that second race pass. For now, I'm going to maintain that I can stop any time I want.

Created with Admarket's flickrSLiDR.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

The End and the Beginning

Summer is over. It hits me hard every year. Temperatures are still pretty warm, but the rain is relentless and the gray is oppressive. Only four days and I can barely remember riding home at night in a t-shirt just last week.

I spent the weekend getting ready for school and 'winterizing' the house. Saturday, I pulled one of my surprise house projects--we've had a piece of wood sitting in the garage for almost a year that was supposed to turn into a shelf at some point. With more bikes arriving daily, it was getting kind of urgent to clear up some more floor space in the garage.

I calculated the amount of time and swearing it would take to do the job ourselves, and then I called my friend Geahk, who is an artist and a carpenter and can build anything. He was happy to come over and do in a few hours, what would have taken us all weekend:

New Shelf

After Jess came home and I collected my girlfriend points, we spent some time picking the last of the tomatoes and bringing the grill and deck furniture into the garage for the winter, putting away the fans and sticking the sandals in the upstairs closet to make room for the winter boots close to the door. Depressing, but it is nice not to have to squeeze past the air conditioner to get into bed.

Sunday I got up early and spent the first half of the day taking back control of my office from the random scattered paper monster. Then I went out into the steady rain for four hours and ran a bunch of errands, starting with a trip to a Walgreens in Vancouver for more Sudafed. I got to try out my new rain legs, which worked pretty well. They seem perfect for a warm rain where you don't want to get soaked, but rain pants would be too sweaty. The only downside, is that if I actually care about keeping whatever pants I'm wearing looking nice, then I'll still need the full coverage of rain pants.

The rest of the evening was spent making dinner and lunch, packing up and getting ready for the first day of the end of my free time. School, here I come!

Friday, October 03, 2008

The Orient

Today was orientation day, which means I got to go down to my new school and sit for hours and listen to people talk about things I mostly could have read on my own.  I've been sick since Sunday and I'm well into the sinus drainage and evil headaches part of the process, which made today extra fun. Not.

Aside from being miserable and high on Sudafed (the real stuff, not that over the counter crap), I did actually get some good information from the session. I wasn't exactly in the mood to network either, but I made a point to meet a few of my nearest seat-neighbors.

2008_1002_002_orientation_dayWe were still waiting to get started in the morning and the main MC came on to let us know that there was Rock Band set up in the back.  It took about 45 seconds for three guys to form a band and start jamming out to Eye of the Tiger, which I have now had stuck in my head all day.  It was cool to finally see the game I hear so much about from Wil Wheaton.  I have yet to actually play Guitar Hero or Rock Band, and I didn't want my debut to be in a room full of 300 people.  Though I probably would be OK singing, as long as I knew the song.

While we sat in hard plastic chairs through hours of talking, I tried to make good use of the time by reading the student handbook and putting a bunch of  school numbers in my phone.  At lunch time, it paid to be sitting in the back, as we were closest to the sandwich buffet. I got third in line in front of a bunch of hungry 20-something guys. Not bad.  I used the extra time to run over to Powells and pick up some of my books.

After lunch we had break out sessions with different workshops to choose from.  I was tempted by digital cameras 101, but I already took some photography classes this spring so I went to the non-traditional students meeting instead.  That turned out to be a total dud.  I came in on the tail end of introductions and then the facilitators said they wanted the meeting to be whatever *we* wanted--which translated mostly to sitting around in awkward silence.  There was no one there from my department (which if you're wondering is Web Design & Interactive Media or WDIM). 

For the next session I went to scholarships, which was much more useful.  Dawn, the scholarship coordinator had some specific helpful tips for getting scholarships and invited us to schedule a follow up meeting with her so she can help search out specific scholarship matches.

Then it was back to the big room, where they went over resources--library, the cage where you can check out equipment, AKA the AV nerd's dream playhouse, how to use the computer labs and the student online services site for registering etc.

Just when I thought my head was about to explode, they let us go for our last session, which was an hour long meeting with our department head.  For some reason the schedule listed the WDIM's and the Video heads together in the same room.  It was packed.  Then Chris, my department head came in and cleared up the confusion.  "Everyone in the video department go to room 360." Three quarters of the room got up and left.  As the last students were filing out, Chris added, "And everyone who's going to make money, stay here."

We laughed, but it turns out he wasn't kidding.  He checked the career placement data today and our department graduates have an average entry level salary of $50k, $14,000 higher than the second place major (game designers), with a 100% job placement rate.  He mentioned several times that we should not worry about getting jobs out of school. He's got more jobs than he has grads to fill them.  Comforting knowledge in the face of the mess that is the economy right now.

He talked for the full time, but for the first time all day, I wasn't bored to tears.  He seems to be approachable, tough but fair and a tad gay.  There are eight people starting this term in my department.  We didn't do introductions, but I'm sure I'll get to know them soon enough.  There's one other woman and everyone is at least two years out of high school and most seem to be at least in their mid-twenties.  We also got to meet Dan, the one full time instructor in the department.  He was dressed in slightly ripped jeans, t-shirt and flip flops.  Chris was in jeans, polo shirt and white tennis shoes.  He said he's the only department head who doesn't wear suits because he wants to represent the industry and jeans is what all the geeks are wearing these days.  I think I've found my people.  I wonder if I could get away with doing interviews with out my monkey suit?  I'll have to look into that.

I was thrilled to be done at 4:30 instead of 6:30 like I thought. Most people still had to stand in a long line to pick up their supply kits, hefty little portfolio bags filled with all the mandatory supplies.  Since I have some stuff from my spring drawing class, I opted to just buy other needed supplies ala carte.  The one thing that I anticipate might be a huge pain is no lockers on campus.  but I talked to the president and he said they're actually working on that.

Jess was downtown for an unsupervised trip to REI and a workout at 24 Hour fitness.  When I got outside, I found her bike locked up to mine and she was stalking me, waiting across the street.  So nice to be the stalk-ee for once.  Since I was done early, I talked her into going over to Seven Corners with me, where I got to pick up my new Cross Check!  It's not as hot and sexy as hers--just black bar tape with no fancy accents.  But it rides like butter and it felt like floating after riding the Dummy for the past month.  Jess left her bike in the shop for some tune ups, and rode the Dummy as far as Dalo's Kitchen, where I was meeting up with a friend for dinner. Since I have no rack yet, she had to carry all the stuff, which was a nice change for me.

I had a nice time catching up with Aiden, although finger food probably wasn't the best choice, considering how germy I am. Hopefully I'm well past the contagious period. 

Now I have a cross bike and two passes for the Cross Crusade series, and cross I guess that means I'll be doing a cross race sometime soon.  I had planned to be at Alpenrose this Sunday but unless I'm feeling significantly better, I might have to postpone.  But I definitely want to get out there before the weather gets too nasty.  I know, I know, that's the whole point of cross--but I really don't like being cold and miserable.  I haven't trained a lick, but I've watched several videos about cross tips on Bike Hugger, so I should be fine, right? Right?

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Locked Memories

Originally uploaded by ephany

I would love to have access to these videos of a 1997 trip to Hawaii with my mom. If you have access to equipment that can turn this tape into a digital file, please get in touch. Thanks.