I think I can consider myself one step closer to be a “Native” Portlander. I complain about the weather regardless of the conditions–it’s too cold, it’s too wet, it’s to sunny, it’s too hot, it’s too…
Right now, it’s just too rainy and like a good Portlander I have at least five different rain jackets. Each rain jacket matches a certain type of drop: The pink one is for constant mist days, the yellow one is for big, wet drop days, the orange one is for sporadic rain fall of all drop sizes, the dark blue one is for riding through sporadic mists, and the light blue one is the one I wear when there’s less than a 30% chance of rain–that’s a sunny day for Portland.
It rains a lot.
You would think that choosing to live in this delicious climate that I might adapt. I’m stubborn. This time of year it can take me a whole hour to choose the appropriate jacket and work up the courage to suit up and willingly ride 40 miles in the rain.
Misery loves company, however. This week I was lucky enough to ride with my cross team: Ladies Auxiliary, and JVA. There’s nothing like starting the ride with a cup of coffee and ending with a glass of beer. Suddenly the size of the rain drops becomes inconsequential.
More complaining to come.
Photo thanks to Kate Walker. I’m in my light blue rain jacket.
I’m taking this from the ride files. The date: January 2009 The Place: Somewhere on the South Island of New Zealand.
It had been a long time dream of mine to visit the habitable continents of the world and to visit at least 7 seas. As it was, both of these dreams were on the brink of becoming a reality–my 6th continent and 7th sea. I remember I pedaled all day into a raging headwind the entire time questioning my reasons for being on the road but, as I crested the final hill I caught sight of the bright blue Tasman Ocean. While I can’t remember all the details of this trip I do remember vividly feeling the silent sense of accomplishment.
The Tasman Ocean
The story doesn’t end here. I haven’t even gotten to the coffee yet and you can see there’s more writing below.
I spent the day riding spiritedly along the Tasman stopping at different beaches along the way reveling in the joy of seeing my own dreams into reality. I’m also a sand collector so I had to collect a small sample for my collection. But alas, the sun was setting and I needed to start looking for a place to pitch my tent. I decided that it would be most fitting to spend the night camping on the beach. I was enchanted by the beauty surrounding me and cooked my dinner as the sun was setting and the waves were lapping on the shores in a timely manner. It was truly a beautiful moment. I’m sure many of you have had your own equally poignant moments.
The story still doesn’t end here.
My night took a turn for the worst when a camper van showed up on the same beach and parked feet away from my tent. Our idea of a great evening was wildly different. I wanted my peaceful perfect moment and they wanted to party with loud music until the early morning hours. My tent vibrated and pulsed to the loud bass in the music. I wasn’t scared or annoyed just sad that I had, over the course of many years of travelling, made it to this moment and the only trophy to be had was a miserable night sleep.
The story continues.
Needless to say, I didn’t sleep well. Horrible, in fact. I woke at first light, packed up my gear, and headed back to a small town that was several miles back. I remembered seeing a coffee shop at the top of a hill. Luckily for me, in New Zealand almost every coffee shop has great coffee and I was certainly prepared to enjoy a delicious cup and some breakfast.
When I got to the coffee shop I was greeted by the worst sign that made me swear off hippies, at least for the morning. The sign read as follows: “Sometimes we’re open, sometimes we’re not. Sometimes we open on time and and sometimes we don’t. Thanks for coming.” I literally beat my head against the window of the shop. All through the night I had clung to the thought of a cup of coffee and now this tiny pleasure was going to be denied me. The next closest coffee shop was several kilometers and several hills back. Hungry, baffled, and severely under caffeinated I stood there trying to figure out what to do and yes, maybe I was even fighting back a tear or two. I was a self pitying mess.
Don’t worry, the coffee is coming.
My fate changed moments later. Two people came up to me after reading the sign for themselves. An older woman and man who, at the time, I took to be a married couple. They introduced themselves as Father such and such and Sister such and such. In the back of my mind I was thinking Well this is going to be annoying. The last thing I want to do is talk politely to people and especially a Father and Sister in vacation clothing… We lamented a moment or two about the coffee shop and I believe I shared my general frustration from the evening before and this glorious moment in my life that was turning out to be one of the worst nights I’ve ever spent on the road. They bobbed their heads politely and then they did what has happened to me a million times travelling but I’ve never appreciated as much as in that moment: they insisted I come to the vacation house of the church and enjoy breakfast with them. Eureka!
In this moment I was not going to decline. I followed them back to their house on my bike where two other Sisters were already beginning breakfast. I was offered a shower and a place to do some laundry and the best meal ever. While they were enjoying a modest breakfast of toast and coffee they prepared a special breakfast of eggs, tomatoes, bacon, and an endless stream of coffee for me. I have never felt so grateful. In exchange I shared with them stories from my travels and then the disappointing details from the night before. Better than the coffee, the shower, the laundry, and the amazing breakfast was this philosophy that the Father shared with me which I have carried with me every day since…when something bad happens, something great is around the corner too. I’ve tested this philosophy since that day and whether it’s actually true or not, doesn’t matter. It always seems to rescue me from despairing in the moment and it opens a curiosity about the road ahead.
A Father, two Sisters, and one clean and grateful cyclist
As it turns out I left their house that morning full and squeaky clean. They had treated me like a hero–though very undeserving. Moments later (about 2km later) on the road I would get to test this new perspective for the first time when I met a fellow cyclist who happened to be from Oregon also. For days we traveled together battling head winds, torrential down pours, and creating a friendship that transcended the experience from the night before.
And that’s the end of my story. As I get older the specific memories of my trips fade into the back ground making room for new memories but, this cup of coffee was genuinely outstanding.
I won’t be winning any fashion awards for my stellar cycling gear this winter. I hate winter riding. It’s cold, usually wet, and it’s cold. But I guess if I’m going to become one with my inner cycling spirit this year the best way to do this is to embrace the awkward layers of clothing and ride.
I wasn’t counting on commiserating with anyone, building friendships or, for that matter, other crazies who wanted to ride farther and climb higher. Cheers to these brilliant spirited women and an iPhone to capture it.
Top of Skyline after climbing 53rd ave, descending the backside and then climbing Old Germantown. We’re still smiling (and freezing) Photo thanks to Megan Schubel.
My dad rarely used the front door of our Chicago home (my first childhood home). He always used the back door and would either go immediately to the basement or ascend the stairs (which I vacuumed every week as my childhood chore). Regardless his path, the routine was the same: He hung his jacket and removed his shoes.
As a wee kid I remember putting his shoes on–often. Size 11 Timberland shoes (before Timberland was “Cool”). The outsides were leather and the insides were a dark orange. They had the appearance of loafers with only three crosses of the leather laces but had a gum tread that suggested these shoes could take you any where. My dad wore these shoes for years–well not the same ones.
When it was time for regime change, a new pair of the exact same shoe would appear. Countless times I watched the new shoes get worn and stretched and slowly begin their march to a dilapidated state. It almost happened before my very eyes but it always amazed me when the new pair came and they sat next to the old pair–where had the time gone? The old pair would then be demoted to “Saturday work shoes” and the new ones would take over where the old ones had left off. To this day, this is how my dad wears his shoes.
I’m not like my dad…well that’s a lie.
Today as I brought home my new black, oiled, Dansko clogs and set them down next to my old ones I couldn’t help but notice the similarity. For years I wear the same shoes, have them repaired and continue to wear them until hammering in the staples proves futile. Then I make the special journey for new shoes and though given the choice to do something different, I go back and select the exact same pair of shoes. The old shoes get relegated to garden shoes and the new ones are the ones I wear every day to work… just like my dad.
I’m not afraid of a good life changing resolution. I thought I should tell you that at the onset of this post. Every now and then I find myself in the mood to write a new years resolution that quite honestly often comes from the most optimistic corners of my imagination. Sometimes I succeed, at least for half the year, and sometimes I leave the resolution abandoned on the first day. My resolutions are rarely trite and regardless of whether I’ve seen them through or abandoned them, I’ve enjoyed the experience. In recent years I’ve lined my resolutions with the calendar not for any particular reason other than it’s easier to keep track of them and the beginning of the year seems as good a time as any.
1. Fall in love with cycling…again. Simple, right?
2. Do one comedy stand up show (inspired by “I’m Leaving You”. Look it up. It’s funny).
I’ll address the first because it’s the most serious. Literally.
It’s not that I’ve fallen out of love but over the course of the past few years I’ve had the pleasure of living my dreams—becoming a wheel builder, opening a shop that we hope inspires and educates, and learning everything there is to know about wheels and wheel design. In fact, I’ve attacked this mercilessly. If there is something to learn about wheels, I want to carefully consider it, understand it, mull it over, second guess it, take it to my engineer friend, test it myself, and then decide how it will fit into the repertoire of information I already have–All for the love of riding.
In the course of all this busyness I’ve managed to collect a fair share of dust on my bikes—yes I’m aware of the irony. I started the business because I love riding and exploring and it’s the part of my life for which I spare the least amount of time. But you can see from the paragraph above, I’ve been busy.
I should tell you, though, that I also love learning. I absolutely love it. My visit to Reynolds, and in particular spending time with Paul Lew, along with the time I spend learning with David Browning (an engineer with Altman Browning), and learning from poetic wheelbuilders like Ric Hjertberg is invaluable and well worth the concessions I’ve made. Where I am today with my understanding of the wheel is certainly not because I was born knowing. But, I digress.
Despite my love of learning I have given up my love of riding–almost a complete trade. While I love learning about aerodynamics, metal fabrication and construction these things have come at the cost of my love for the very thing that pricked my curiosity. So this year I am going to defy the laws of small business ownership and throw myself mercilessly at my bicycle(s). You’re likely to see me working with Russell Cree at Upper Echelon, riding Saltzman on a rainy Monday morning, doing a Velo Dirt ride or you might even see me racing cross this year…the possibilities are endless and that’s just what I like about this years resolution.
I encourage the same for you. Come to talk to us about wheels, about getting faster, about building stronger wheels, about aerodynamics, or about spoke construction and tension. We love that—we’ve dedicated our professional careers to these very matters. But we hope you’ll also come and talk to us about what you love about riding your bike and we hope that it continues to bring you joy.
And to briefly address the second resolution: It’s going to be a complete disaster but at least I’ll be laughing.
We simply wish you the best New Year and the most gratifying year of riding. We’ll see you when you stop into our shop or out on the road…
Lately we’ve been getting e mails from wheel-a-holics everywhere saying they will be able to get new wheels if “Santa” is nice to them. We thought we would help. This letter is a note to the “Santa” in your life and can be edited to fit your needs or simply used as is. We put some suggestions in red. Results may vary.