Today, Vivi turns eight! What a roller coaster these years have been, and what a marvelous person she is today!
Today, Vivi turns eight! What a roller coaster these years have been, and what a marvelous person she is today!
My attempt to sell the Beast was successful. Within a couple days of putting it up for sale, several people wrote to ask me about the bike, and one guy checked it out on Monday.
I figured Dave was serious, since he was willing to come down from Minneapolis to ride the machine, and he was: he asked good questions, told me he was planning to do a 24-hour cycling race that weekend, and best of all eagerly roared off toward the nearest gravel roads. About a half hour later, he came back grinning and splattered in mud. He handed over cash for the bike, I helped him pack the bike into his car, and away he went, a new fatbiker.
For the first time in almost two years, I don’t own a fatbike. That’ll change on Wednesday, when I go to pick up this beauty from my friend Ben. I’m eager to ride it and name it and race it. I’ve got big plans for us.
Vivi and I spent quite a bit of the second half of July working on this 500-piece puzzle. She was a good partner.
Working on this monster took me back to working on giant puzzles with my great aunts Mayme Leppanen and Selma Palojarvi in Ironwood Township, Michigan, when I was about Julia’s age.
I’m selling my much-loved fatbike, a Salsa Muluk 3. The as-ridden specifications appear below the photo (Salsa’s specs can be found online), but here are the pertinent details:
If you’re interested, leave a comment!
WHEELSET Rims: Surly Rolling Darryl 82mm; 32 hole (drilled) Spokes: DT Swiss Champion SG Tires:
DRIVETRAIN Front Derailleur: SRAM X7 Rear Derailleur: SRAM X7 long cage Shifters: SRAM X7 GripShift Crankset: Truvativ Hussefelt Chain Rings: 24 x 36 t SRAM Crank Arm Length: 175 mm Pedals: t.b.d. Bottom Bracket: (English) Truvativ (100mm) Chain: Shimano HG-53 9-speed (new, May 2014) Cassette: 11 x 34 t Shimano HG-50 9-speed (new, June 2014) BRAKES Brake Levers: Avid Speed Dial 7 Brake Calipers
Rear Rotor: 160 mm Avid Front Rotor: 160 mm Avid CONTROLS Handlebar: Salsa Bend 3 (711 mm) Grips: Ergon GP1 Stem: Salsa Pro Moto 3, 31.8mm Stem Length: 100 mm Stem Angle: (+/-) 7 deg OTHER Seatpost: Kalloy SP-369, 27.2 mm dia & 410 mm length (259g) Saddle: WTB Pure V Sport Cables/Housing: Jagwire Cages: t.b.d.
Last summer, the girls were almost always up for a bike ride – around the block, through the neighborhood, down to campus, over to downtown. This summer, I’ve had less luck. Julia has been enthusiastic about riding near and far, but Vivi has been reluctant, for whatever reason (prime suspect: Julia’s enthusiasm).
So when Julia proposed to enjoy the gorgeous weather today with a bike ride, Vivi pitched a fit which turned into a big fight which subsided and then, to my surprise, turned into a ride on a new (to us) bike. We rode over the streets to drop off some stuff with a friend of mine who’s gonna try a 24-hour race next weekend. On the way home, the lure of a shortcut convinced both girls to venture for the first time onto gravel: a half-mile stretch that went slightly up and then down, fast. Vivi, of course, bombed the descent - except for a stop halfway down to look back at Julia and me, plodding along.
I was very, very happy with their first experience crushing gravel.
My ridiculously well-read friend Julia recommended that I read Fire Season, a book-length essay by Philip Connors on his work as a fire-tower lookout in the mountain forests of New Mexico. Connors’ writing is amazing, evoking both the wildness of his setting (which I now have a deep desire to see firsthand) and the civilized nature of his work, which aims, at its base, to preserve what man values in nature. I loved lines like
Time spent being a lookout isn’t spent at all. Every day in a lookout is a day not subtracted from the sum of one’s life.
which seems as true for my favorite outdoor activity (riding bikes!) as it does for being a lookout.
Connors’ skills at crafting prose are matched by his skills at explaining the American perspectives on fire and on wilderness. Much of the book concerns how the U.S. Forest Service – Connors’ employer – has understood the primordial force of wildfire, and how it has reacted to it. The historical material is fascinating on its own (someone seriously proposed clear cutting the Rockies to prevent fires!) and as context for Connors’ own stints in the watchtower. Not all of the fires he spots garner a response from the Forest Service: some are left to burn acres and miles of forest, contributing to the endless natural cycle of burning and growth.
But Connors also adds his voice to the conversation about what wilderness is, and what it’s for. He comes down in favor of preserving wilderness for its own sake: not as a place for humans to “recharge” but as a place apart from humans and, I thought by the end of the book, better than we are.
Friday, August 1, turned out to be unusually athletic. I set a deadlift PR at the gym at noon, learned how to dive at the pool in the afternoon (thanks to the girls, who enjoyed teaching me, and who laffed and laffed when I belly-flopped off the diving board), and then went on a long ride – five hours, 62 miles – with my friend Scott through the nearly-moonless summer night.
Despite getting to bed at 2:30 am, I’m pleased with August so far.
Shannon and the girls got home tonight from tae kwon do around 6:15. Within a few minutes, we were sitting down to dinner – an hour or an hour and a half after our usual (ridiculously early) dinnertime.
The meal was scarfed, the desserts were wolfed, and then Vivi got a bad attack of heartburn from something in the entree – probably the tomato sauce. She cried for ten minutes, and being Vivi, was angry as hell about it – screaming at us all. By time she was feeling better enough to take some Tums, I had heartburn too – which actually made Vivi feel better about her own case.
Meanwhile, Julia began wondering why people have heart attacks, and whether she’d ever have a heart attack, and how much it would hurt, and what she would do if she “died all alone.” I tried to explain that eating right and getting exercise would probably prevent a heart attack, but there was only so much I could say. She just had to cry it out, finally vowing as much to herself as to me that she would always get enough exercise.
Calmer now, we headed upstairs so the girls could take their showers. That went quickly, and while Julia did her thing, Vivi and I did ours: playing a game. I was almost crying with laughter when, during one round, she whomped me thoroughly while singing a crazy song that incorporated words from the game.
Before too long, it was bedtime. I packed them off into their rooms, where we somehow wound up discussing and practicing the art of the eye roll. Both girls were hilariously bad at it, thank goodness. They’re probably lying awake in their beds practicing it right now, though.
Seen on my trip to the Bay Area: numerous Chinese guardian lion sculptures, including this small one on a table at the hotel
and this life-sized beauty in front of the art buildings at Mills College – one of a pair:
Even though our vacation came at the start of summer, we saw lots of firewood for sale in the UP. Every other rural house or small-town gas station seemed to be selling camp wood for sale, always on the honor system. $4 a bundle was the normal rate, but I did see some priced to move at $3. This appears to an unexploited marketplace inefficiency. Someone should buy all the cheap wood, then sell it to desperate tourists at campgrounds for $6.
Here and there, I also saw bigger quantities for sale – by the cord, by the pile, or even by the truckload, albeit through a raffle.
That the hardship facilitates a shared solitude, an utter isolation that has been experienced before by others and will be experienced again, that these others are present in spirit even if the wilds have tamed or aged or brutalized or otherwise removed their bodies.
A little song that Vivi made up and has been singing for a few days:
Here they come down the street
Marchin’ their robotic feet
With a motorized computer in their head
With snapping jaws that snap shut ev’ry time you touch ‘em
You don’t wanna bite your finger offffff………
With the Lutsen 99er mountain bike race just over two weeks away, I needed to get in one more big ride before the window for “training effects” closed. Home and work calendars lined up to make today the best option, and though I would have gone out even if it was 40 and raining, I lucked out and got some spectacular spring weather: about 80 degrees, sunny, a gentle breeze.
My route was designed to take all day and to hit some of my favorite hills and gravel sections as well as new roads far to the south. I needed pretty much an hour to feel fully warmed up, which confirms other recent rides and tells me to go out easy at Lutsen. My all-time favorite climb, up the Shady Lane Trail minimum-maintenance road southwest of Cannon Falls, did not disappoint, being as steep as I remembered and badly rutted with the spring rain.
Much of the gravel – known and unknown – was great, though I guessed wrong about the southernmost parts of the loop, and wound up riding way too much pavement (or at least the grass/gravel shoulder of paved roads). I also learned that Steele County does a bad job maintaining its gravel roads, which were uniformly as crappy as the rare bad gravel road in dear old Rice County. On the other hand, Steele County had sheep!
About halfway into the ride, as I turned back onto the completely unshaded gravel superhighways of Rice County, I started feeling pretty gassed.
I had forgotten my cash, so I couldn’t pick up a cold drink or ice cream at any of the infrequent convenience stores, and the water in my backpack grew more unappetizing as it grew more tepid. I decided to stop in the sprawling metropolis of Cannon City to sit in the shade of a roadside church and down my Red Bull, about an hour earlier than I had planned. I think my expression says it all with regards to this decision:
Back on the road, I rode past a beautifully dilapidated farm
and then ran out of water, meaning I had consumed 3.5 liters (about a gallon) in about seven hours. Oof. All that went in, but none came out except through sweat. Double oof.
I managed to choke down enough food to keep me going through the rest of the ride, including the “Radar Hill” climb just outside Northfield, which I saved for the end. The ascent was its usual legbreaker, but I wanted to see how hard I could go on a stiff climb after an all-day ride, since the Lutsen course finishes with a nasty ascent to the finish. Answer: not super hard, but steady enough.
All in all, I got my money’s worth: just about a full century, mostly on gravel, and 3,600 feet of climbing in just about 8 hours. I lost about 7 pounds on the day, despite taking in 1,800 calories. Again: oof. I’ll definitely need to eat and drink more at Lutsen – and take more backup liquids (more Red Bulls, Coke, electrolyte drinks).
Except for that more or less harmless error, everything went well. My aching hands tell me that I need to find a better pair of all-day gloves, and my aching feet tell me that I need to leave my shoes looser, but those are easy adjustments. My snazzy new Osprey Rev 24 backpack proved to be a comfortable way to carry my water and food, the Beast never faltered, my tires (Larry front, Nate back) worked fantastically, I put on enough sunscreen to avoid getting burned, and my pistons fired all day.
Now I just need to rest up for the race. I’m stoked.
This spring, the girls got very interested in the playground game four square. I never played the game growing up, so I had no idea how to play, and in fact at first I confused four square with tetherball, another game I never played.*
Now, the girls love this game, and want to play it almost all time, which is excellent because we have a great driveway for it. In trying to play with them, though, I’ve learned that their grasp of the rules is either a little shaky or brilliantly egalitarian: there is basically no way to lose, or at least to lose badly enough to be eliminated from the game. You can “go out,” but that just means that… someone has said you have to go out. You can go right ahead and keep on playing.
This is fine, since it’s usually just three of us playing, and even a cursory glance at the rules shows that you really need five people to play a real game – one in each quadrant of the “board,” and one to come in when another player goes out. But still, it’s clear that the girls enjoy the game half because they get to call out all kinds of arcane rules and conditions at the start of each round (“King has double lives, regulars, double touches, no cherry bombs, no volleys.”) and half because they love whacking the ball as hard as possible, ideally at my face.
I find both aspects of the game amusing, so I’m okay with this.
* The most common playground or gym games in my elementary school were kickball, tackle football (at least until Mr. Belmas made us stop), and “boomerang,” which is like a full-court version of dodgeball.
Yesterday we finished celebrating Julia’s first-double digit birthday. This sweet, smart, placid, beautiful girl turned ten on June three – a milestone birthday that I can’t believe has come already. She had a wonderful week of celebrations: a small sleepover with two good friends last week (and presents and pizza and a movie and cake), a nice family party on her actual birthday (and presents and her favorite dinner and cake [pictured]), and a small party with her Nonna and Boppa yesterday (and presents and lunch and cake).
Unlike even last year, when she asked for some toys and "kid stuff," this year she wanted lots of clothes and jewelry. Tween days are upon us! The marquee present was one of those "rainbow looms" that girls use to make endless rubber-band bracelets. (I’m wearing four of them right now.) Ten is going to be a great year for Julia. I can’t wait to see how she changes and grows over the next year!