Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Miles Per Hour

Fast rollers in the Pull Out
 After a few weeks of much needed vacation, Gentle Readers of This Blog, I got back up to The College.  I was in KS to see Little Egypt for a spell, and also bid Rico farewell as he's off to Germanland for the summer.  How I wish life was easier, and that we could all live in the same country - but jobs and War have taken us so far for the last few years.  Little E wants me home but, as in AZ all those years ago, there were no jobs.  Also in KS no jobs.  So I work as I do - at least I have a job and in my profession.  It pay the bills.

As much as I want to be home, the mountains and this land, as harsh as they sometimes are - have slowly endeared themselves to me.  I feel in my heart a real love for the land - the birds, the greening grasses and trees - the high strung Mustangs I encounter - and the darting and singing birds everywhere. 

Living at the elevation I do - and in this clear mountain air - I could tell on my vacation that my lungs had power.  I noticed this walking up five flights of stairs at our hotel in Orlando, FL - I found that I was hardly winded.  I'm not bragging - it's just that for many months I could hardly breathe up here.  Now with some time, gradually I am stronger. 

On my return up here, and now that summer has all the students away - it is quiet and slowed down.  The weather was for me, heavenly - so I left my place at 5:45 pm and headed out with the Mighty Trek, and the plan was to ride down the first Pull Out of the Monument, and return.

A rare evening ride for Yours
 No traffic as I roll out, mes amis.  I see my pals, like Le Tigre down in Tucson, with incredible average speeds!  Try as I may, I can't seem to get that MPH up.  Compared to last time when I rode down to the Mummy Cave Pull Out at Canyon de Chelly, I was just a wee bit slower.  Today I was at 14.4 MPH average speed for the 30 mile round-trip trek - last time 14.6 average speed.

So I try to take less photos and just pedal - that can slow you down getting the camera out.  Wind plays a part too.  Even though I am riding fast as I can - the headwind will slow me down, and sometimes coming back instead of the tailwind I have a headwind again.

Also compared to when I first went out, I am much improved.  The first trip I did I could barely breathe, Gentle Readers of This Blog.  Not only a struggle for a breath, but feeling the insides of my chest burning on fire, and  my lungs pushing my rib cage out! 
Tsaile, Arizona, Navajo Nation
Tonight I glided and found a groove.  Always difficult the first four miles because I have to climb "Benally Hill."  After that, after the lungs, heart, and rib cage wake up - things are smooth.  Mostly the out trip is down-hill, and I reach my top speed (tonight) of 31 MPH. 

The air is cool and the sun makes everything hazy - the headwind is a winding down and the roar, like in the mornings, is more like an echo in my ears.  Also, I'm not wearing the warmers and jacket.  It's like Tucson Days on the fast commute home - after working and sitting on your butt, your tired body gives way and blood mixed with oxygen being forced into you  and that powers-up your body.

Pretty soon I'm charging into the Pull Out - a coyote eyes me from a safe distance as I zip into the parking lot of Massacre Cave Overlook. 

Going back now, I am tired, mes amis - just keep pedaling.  I have a crosswind that seems more like a headwind mostly - but at some point - I don't know where - I get that tailwind that's so sweet, and now I'm flying back to Tsaile.

For some reason I could not shift down into my small ring (I have a triple ring) and for the last climb up Benally Hill - the real hard last climb that seems to want to kill you - as I said I could not get the thing to shift so I had to just man-up and shred my legs.  I made it okay actually, but I could feel the cramps starting out in my calves - that means I'm in trouble.  But then I sailed down the road you see above, and soon was gliding home.

For a bit later after the ride, the legs cramped but then things were okay. 

Now this evening I need to rest - but tomorrow evening I'll go back out there!

Take care and keep reading my blog.  Check back now and then.  I'm still here!

Cheers!  Bruce

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

An Arrow and an Omelette

At the Entrance of Canyon de Chelly Nat'l Monument
This past weekend was forecast to be perfect!  I was also invited to attend a breakfast at the hotel restaurant right there at the Monument entrance.  Meeting at 9 am on a Saturday morning meant I'd have to leave The College at 7 am.  Well, at close to 7 am, all set to ride, it was still about 35 degrees!  But just seemed that it would warm quickly as I rode down the mountain - and also there was no wind!  Incredible!  So although there was a sting in the air from the cold, I was quickly rolling out.

With no wind, I flew down Hwy 64 like an arrow!  Part way, I startled some wild ponies and they dashed off and stomped and were bit upset to be surprised by a cyclist.  Again, with no headwind, which is usually the case going down to Chinle, my two hour ride ended up being an hour and 15 minutes from what I could tell.  I just wanted to keep going because I was wanting to keep up a higher average speed.  I hammered really hard - why not?  I mean usually I've go the wind roaring in my ears from riding down - this time it was beautiful!

So I met these people at the restaurant - what it was was my former colleague in this job (I had never met her) and ended up she was passing through town and all her teacher and librarian friends met her and met up with each other.  My breakfast was good - a Denver Omelette -  but mainly everybody was catching up.  It got kind of rowdy and loud - the folks I was with were a bit odd and I didn't really fit in - but they were nice enough. 

Oh yeah, some son-of-a-bitch stole my tool bag from my bike - that really sucked.  So for my hellish ride back up the mountain, I had no patch kit, no wrenches, no spare tube, etc.  Luckily, they didn't take my tire pump.  I took my Garmin off the handle bars and put in my pocket before breakfast - basically anything that someone could steal they took.  This was right at the entrance of the hotel.  Of course I had brought by big (and heavy to carry) bike lock, so at least they didn't steal my bike!

The ride back up was okay at first, but then as I started to get up into the High Country, a very strong cross-wind kind of beat me up.  Also, it was getting pretty warm out!  So I slugged it out for the way home, gusty wind, and hot and sweaty going.

About 8 miles out from Home
I want to tell you that I've shed some weight - about 20 pounds!  Being lighter makes a difference on the bike!  And up in the mountains and with the altitude, being lighter and not a fat guy helps - so what I'm saying is that I feel pretty strong, Gentle Readers of This Blog.  I'm no longer gasping for air like I was on my short commutes to work.

For the 50 mile ride, I averaged 14.5 MPH which is a vast improvement - mainly because there was no wind going down...  As the days are getting warmer and longer, I will try to go out and do a few hours before the sun starts to go down.  

Hwy 64 is really the only safe road for me to ride on - its good training for sure, but I'd like to get out and do some more riding to other places.  Just have to do an out and back - unless I want to do about 20 miles on narrow, busy, and really bad rez roads.  I just don't think I'm ready just yet!

Cheers!  Bruce

The Rock with Wings

I've been driving to The College campus in Shiprock, NM, a few days a week to help out at the library there.  Those mornings I drive over the mountain and then I pass Shiprock - I must tell you Gentle Readers of This Blog - it really is out in the middle of nowhere...  Shiprock is the largest city or town on the Rez.  There's a good Chinese Place there.  Living where I do in Tsaile, I'm pretty far from most everything, so I welcome a chance to eat out.

Still, I am amazed at the vastness of the this place.  I was visiting Tucson not long ago, and the first thing that I struck by was all the people!  Everything was so crowded it seemed.  Here at The College, the landscape is mostly the high country - in Tucson, it's Walmart, CVS or Walgreens on every corner - and just other shit you don't need.  And again, all the cars and people and everyone rushing around.

I stayed with my friends and neighbors up in Dog Mtn!  The pups are always glad to see me, and its a chance for my friends B and H to take a break and sleep in, while the dogs and I go for long walks in the desert!

Weather is warmer and I am still riding my bike everywhere.  May is Bike to Work Week, and believe me -  my bike works! 

It was the Pow Wow and I went as many of my friends were dancing.

My boss' people hail from Oklahoma where I'm from - here is is representing the Cherokee Nation.

When I was in Tucson it was 90 degrees on the campus - it was beautiful and awesome!  I drove back to a few inches of snow on the ground and very cold and windy weather.  But, thank goodness, those winds and rain and snow clouds are fading, and warm weather is here!

Cheers!  Bruce