Our beloved "grandma cat," Sabine, is nineteen years old. She’s not an active animal, but she does love us – especially Genevieve, who has about a dozen nicknames for her.
Sabine in her old age has acquired some funny habits, like expecting treats when I come downstairs after putting the girls to bed around 8 and, each morning, expecting to be let into the garage.
She darts through the door when I open it to throw some recycling in the bin, then spends five or ten minutes exploring the space, sniffing my bike and the car’s tires, and winding up – in truly bizarre feline fashion – by licking the the girls’ bikes’ spokes.
When she’s done, she waits to be let back into the house, then jumps up onto the sofa to sit with the girls while they watch PBS Kids.
I just don’t know how Vivi does it. She was up past midnight at a sleepover, then awake at seven. After a mammoth post-lunch meltdown, we went for a three-hour hike slash creek stomp at a cool little park south of town. I have been basically catatonic since dinner, but she somehow had the energy to do this in her pajamas:
Tree branches swaying slightly
Leaves whispering to one another
Cornfield already asleep
Clouds have painted the sky a deep blue
Grass admiring the masterpiece
Everything ignoring the headlights
From cars slicing through the
Everything ushering everything else
To fall asleep
It passes quickly
But you experience every minute of it
Opposite of space
In space you feel slow
There is no movement
That you can feel
The longest thing possible
But it is there
You see it
Wispy but clear It is there
It guides you
It will lead you
To those bright dots
It already led you this far Keep going
It says Persevere
Light flashes in your eyes
Bats circling above
Clear your mind
It is nothing
But it still leaps in front of
Your eyes to wake you
But you smile
Because it is still nothing
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.
front: 135x10mm Surly Enabler (repacked with cold-weather grease, January 2014)
rear: 170x10mm Salsa Mukluk (ditto)
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
front: Avid BB5 Mechanical (stock)
back: Avid BB7 Mechanical (installed, February 2014)
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.