The Ride to Work

I'm one of the fortunate people who is able to ride their bike to work every day. Every morning and afternoon I get to enjoy the best part of my day from the saddle of my bike. A few days ago I took the camera along, so prepare yourself for a barrage of photos. This was also the first morning riding with my new, super-badass Camelbak H.O.S.S. I'm not sure what that is supposed to stand for, but it's got tons of space, a rolltop dry-bag type main compartment, and rad little pockets for wallet, phone, tools, etc. Thanks for hooking it up Jimmy! Today I'm also bringing some tapes up to the shop to try to stave off FM radio overload.
So, bag packed, tires topped off, I roll out on the trusty Steamroller, headed North up Mississippi Street. I take a left on Killingsworth to head West.
Killingsworth takes me all the way to land's end where I'll take a left on Willamette Boulevard, an appropriately named road that runs above the Willamette River and the associated industrial and shipping centers on the north side of Portland.
It's a fun, curvy road with lots of nice views and very little traffic. Speaking of curvy, I'm field-testing a new handlebar setup today:
We have tons of old steel flat bars laying around the shop from old crappy mountain bikes, so Robby (the owner/bossman) thought it would be a good idea to bend this one into a fun, sweepy shape. It's pretty comfy, but I'd need a really long stem to not be sitting super-upright on my bike. Maybe for a laid-back neighborhood cruiser. Here's the obligatory on-bike self portrait:
Flattering, no? Here are some pretty flowers:
And lest you forget that bicycle commuting is no game and that every street is not a flower-lined boulevard but a blood-smeared battlefield, allow me to give you some insight into the intense level of competition you find between cyclists on the mean streets of North Portland. I approached another rider from the rear and was instantly convinced that this guy was looking for a fight, what with his battle flag, hiked-up socks in leiu of combat boots (clearly a savvy gram-counter), and ordinance-carrying rack. However, I had the element of surprise on my side, and with my stealthy-silent fixed gear drivetrain and sniperlike breath control I was able to sneak up within inches of his wheel and linger in the draft for a single pedal stroke before rising out of the saddle and leaping to his left to put the hammer down and totally school this namby-pamby urban warrior wannabe:
Slightly winded from my effort but assured a glorious victory, I settled into a comfortable pace for the rest of the ride along Willamette. The road eventually veers back in a Northeasterly direction and drops me into downtown St. John's, a little city of its own way out on the peninsula between the Willamette and Columbia rivers in North Portland.
Almost directly across the street from this sign lies the storefront of our competition:
Here's the main drag, Lombard street:
Across the street from our shop, shaded by a purple awning and adorned with lovely hanging baskets we have Plew's Market, purveyors of fine snacks, candy, soda pop and other delectables to keep us going through a hard day:
And here is our little storefront - still very much a work in progress - but with some bikes in the window:
Whew, made it. Another foe bested, another ride to work completed. Time to unlock the doors, stop sweating, wash my face, pull on a fresh t-shirt, pour a cup of coffee from the thermos and get crackin!


India's Podium!

blam_sprints_145.jpg Originally uploaded by stacy schrag
Here she is on the podium, eyes closed as usual.

Backyard Blam!

blam_sprints_018.jpg Originally uploaded by stacy schrag
Found this photo on flickr tonight, so I thought I'd share. Here I am shredding the pump track during my 3-lap time trial at the Backyard Blam Bicycle Jam, held last Sunday here in Portland. I might have finished in the top ten. Check out the other photos on this girl's flickr and pdxfixed to get a sense of the action. They also had a quick stop contest for the fixster kids, a trick competition on the pump track/dirt jumps, and goldsprints. India won 3rd in the ladies goldsprints and took home a cool bag from Crumpler, some purple BMX grips, playing cards from Chrome with pictures of famous bike messengers on them(?), and a Knog cycling cap that I get to wear because it's too big for her. Hehe.


Flashback to the Future!

Okay, so anyone who has been following our little travelogue knows that I have fallen woefully behind and have little hope of catching up to the present day. We've been here in Portland for about a month, and the blog still shows us somewhere in Colorado. There is still so much to tell from our journey, but so much happening here in Portland that our reading public (small as it may be) is missing out on because of my chronologically-induced writer's block.
There is no perfect solution to this dilemma, but after much debate and deliberation I have decided to flash-forward to the present, attempt to keep our readers updated on the current happenings here in Portland, and occasionally flash back to cover the last few days of our trip. We've already covered the majority of truly epic adventures. Crested Butte was both the literal and figurative high point of the journey for both of us and once we left that mountaintop haven we just wanted to get to Portland, move into our new apartment, and have a home again.
Speaking of home, our little apartment has really come together. Here's what it looked like the day we arrived:
Simon (our faithful '94 Camry) was happy to have the load off his back and ready for a much-deserved rest after handling the 4,000 mile trip like a champion. Every time we passed a U-Haul, especially a U-haul trailering another car, we pitied the poor souls inside and thanked our lucky stars that we weren't doing the same thing.
The next day, our cube full of stuff arrived.
Where to put it all?
Just stuff it in there! Use your whole hand!
We managed to unload the entire thing in one afternoon, and began the long process of setting up, organizing, and putting things in their places. But of course, any moving experience wouldn't be complete without at least one trip to the Swedish embassy, IKEA!
We rode our bikes to the MAX station at the Rose Quarter, locked 'em up, and took the train to Ikea, right nextdoor to the Portland airport. We picked up a silverware organizer, a dish drainer, a recycling bin, some tupperware, a can opener, and some other goodies. We eyeballed couches and shelves, but saved those for another trip. We eventually went back with Simon to carry home a set of galvanized steel shelves for all our bike stuff and a super-cool blue couch that folds out into a really comfy bed for anyone interested in making the journey to visit.
We also hit up Crate and Barrel to cash in the gift certificates we were gifted as wedding presents. We scored a french press, a pair of cool cups and saucers,
a pizza stone, a colander, and a wine bottle stopper. Thanks gift-certificaters!
So, our little spot in North Portland is starting to feel like home. The breeze blows through nicely up here on the second floor, and we're right next to a big tree that we can watch the birds and squirrels in.
Our street is pretty calm and quiet, but we're right around the corner from the historic Mississippi Avenue district, home of Mississippi Studios, a music venue once graced by the talents of Dent May and his merry band of musicmakers, including none other than the illustrious Carr Chadwick and Jesse Thompson, currently on a summer tour in Europe. This little stretch of town is also home to some great restaurants, most of which we have yet to sample from. However, the Mississippi Pizza Pub is certainly a highlight. We were worried about finding a good spot for pints and pies to fill the gaping void in our lives left by Athens favorite, Transmetropolitan, but the MPP is a good start. They've got pre-made slices on the cheap, whole pies and delicious brew on tap. Not too shabby. They also offer gluten-free pizza (MEGS! Come to Portland!) and host a spelling bee every Monday night. Right next to the pizza pub is the Por Que No?! Taqueria, a teeny little spot with amazing tacos that give Taqueria Del Sol a run for its money. We didn't sample the margaritas, so I don't know how they compare to Del Sol (which may be the best I've ever had), but I know they can't match the friendly service of Mr. Jake "Treetop" Jackson. And by the way, just to give you an idea about the amazing variety of locally-brewed beers, the IPAs we had in lieu of margaritas were from Amnesia Brewing, whose restaurant and brewery are about another 200 yards up the street. Awesome. Every neighborhood seems to have at least one bike shop, one brewery, and at least 3 coffee shops or cafes.
Anyway, things are rolling along here so I'll try to update once or twice a week to stay current. I'm starting to settle into my new job, India is keeping up and working diligently to stay on top of school, and we're gearing up for the Cross Crusade cyclocross series, which starts October 4th, the day before my 25th birthday. I'm also trying to sample as many of the nearby concrete skateparks as possible before the rainy season starts and the mud starts to fly on the 'cross courses. More on all of those subjects and more to come...


Stage 15: 18 Road Trails

The trails in Fruita have a big reputation. Zippety Do Dah might just be the crown jewel of the 18 Road trail network. It lies a few miles past the last farms surrounding the little town of Fruita, out where the rolling desert meets the steep slopes of the Book Cliffs, and was chosen as one of the three trails with the best “flow” in North America by Bike Magazine. For those of you unfamiliar with the concept of “flow” in a trail, think of a wild mountain stream running along the valley floor. It makes graceful, smooth turns and S-bends, humps up and over undulations in the terrain, and keeps its speed and momentum going over or around whatever obstacles lie in its path. The concept is the same for a trail, a skatepark, a winding road, a racetrack, or a set of dirt jumps. As long as you are able to tap into it as a rider, flowing trails like this one have the capacity to put you in touch with a higher power. Call it enlightenment, awakening, Buddha-consciousness, salvation, or whatever you like. This kind of trail can inspire the sense of interconnectedness and oneness with the universe that yogis, gurus and spiritual teachers have sought throughout the ages. But I don’t think Buddha, Jesus, Krishna, Mohammed or the Virgin Mary have ever ridden this particular trail.

Like any journey to glimpse enlightenment, this ride would not be easy. But we didn’t know that yet. Zippety-Do-Dah is a relatively short section of trail - only about 6 miles - so we thought that we’d add another section called Chutes and Ladders to stretch the ride out a bit. We climbed the gravel 18 Road up to the top of Chutes and Ladders, hooked a right, and got ready for what we thought would be a nice little descent. Most of what we received was super-technical descending on steep sidecuts and down rutted ridgesides all the way to the wash at the bottom,

Then back up on loose, abrupt climbs that had both of us pushing our bikes.

After we got down from the steeper slopes right at the foot of the cliffs, we got into some fun, smooth, rolling desert terrain with swooping lines of nicely hardpacked trail that we could really whiz down.

We made it back to the trailhead mostly unscathed, with lactic acid already eating our legs, and slightly humbled by the difficulty of the trail we just finished. But, we had come for Zippety-do-dah, and we weren’t done yet.

To get to the top of the trail, we had to climb back up to the high point of the trail area in order to descend back down Zippety. With our legs already tenderized by the viciously steep uphills on Chutes, we decided to take the “easy” way up and climb the doubletrack on the western edge of the trail area rather than climb up a section of windy singletrack. The climb wasn’t too painful, and we made the traverse across to the top of Zippety-do-dah, where we were greeted by a small wooden sign staked into the sandy ground with two black diamonds on it. “Advanced Experts ONLY,” read the warning printed on the sign. A little antsy, we rolled in. We soon found ourselves on the edge of the knife, on the top of a ridgeline so narrow that there was barely room for the trail, with sides so steep and loose that there was no way for even the most tenacious scrubby plant to cling to the slope.

The trail tread itself was fairly smooth with only the occasional loose rock, but the consequences of any misstep would be dire. After this point, there is no photographic record of the trail. I was in survival mode. Making sure my tires stayed on track was more important than snapping pictures. “Don’t look at it, look at the trail, look where you want to go,” I told myself. I had to keep reminding myself not to look off into the distance at the expanse of desert while riding the humped ridgetops, but all distractions were wiped away when the trail pointed downward. Holy crap, is it too steep? Just a straight shot, you’ve got it. No turning back now, way too fast to stop, are my brake pads going to melt? Oh god, BUMP! Phew, made it. Lean back, here comes the bottom…” The speed and steepness of the drop-ins left my heart in my throat and it landed with a thud in my gut on the tight transitions at the bottom.

My arms were shaking with adrenaline and fatigue as I rolled the last few giant piles of desert to the trailhead. India navigated some of the trail, but the steep descents were a little too much and she was forced to walk her bike, which she later admitted may have been harder than actually riding on slopes that steep. She trooped on, held it together and made it back to the trailhead with no major hurts. In hindsight, she was probably the smart one. There were at least three times during the course of those six miles where I really thought that if I screwed up, lost focus for even a second, my life would have been on the line. It was awesome. I'm not sure if I glimpsed enlightenment or not, but I wouldn’t recommend it to just anyone, but an experience mountain biker with some nerve and confidence on steep slopes would love this trail.

We made it back to the trailhead and up the gravel road to our car and campsite and made dinner.

We were also treated to a beautiful double desert rainbow after a few sprinkles of rain.

I had never seen a rainbow inside a rainbow before and we sat and watched as its colors faded in and out of focus. The sun set soon after, and we crawled into our tent for a good night’s sleep.