23 December 2008

'let go of me Uncle Dave'

After refusing to allow me let go of the bike, only an hour before, Liam turned to Dave, who was now pushing him and said, "let go of me Uncle Dave."

And off he rode. My boy is a two-wheeler now, and he's not looking back.

It's the best day-before-my-birthday present ever!!!

Thanks Uncle Dave!

08 December 2008

December ride

Originally uploaded by Ben McLeod
So far, December has been pretty tame, with sunny days and mild temperatures. Certainly not the driving rain we've been told to expect! [I'm sure that will come...]

I took advantage of the weather on Saturday and went for a road ride (I guess, at some point, I may need to face facts and admit that I haven't been on my mountain bike in two seasons, but not now).

It was hovering around 50 degrees under mostly sunny skies so I took the Masi out on the Hillsboro Hills ride. It's become my standard, go-to ride. It's 22ish miles, depending upon how many warm-up and cool-down laps I ride around my neighborhood (each is 1-mile).

View Larger Map

The first 10 miles are mostly big-ring spinning by berry farms and nurseries, then a pretty decent climb to the top of SW Iowa Hill Road (it's a great view from the top, looking over the valley, straight at Mt. Hood). The drop off the top is steep and straight drop (with the exception of a crazy-weird, but fun "s-curve" in the middle of the downhill - in an earlier post, I referred to it as the Unger Drop and Twist...) into the valley and another 10-or-so miles back to Hillsboro.

It was an incredible day for a ride. I had just watched Obama's weekly radio address (I love saying that... watched a radio address... who woulda thunk?! ... oh and Obama. President. Let me say that again. President Obama). In it, he spelled out his plan for economic recovery; a new New Deal, if you will. I've been doing some work for a GIS firm in Portland, and one thing that pretty much every single one of these programs that the President-elect is proposing will need some form of GIS.

The warm sun and green fields (seriously - green fields in December!) combined with the words of a thoughtful (intelligent!) president(-elect) got my brain all roiling with good thoughts of change.

Yes we can.

My Unemployed in Oregon line may be changing soon, but the geek riding his bike part won't stop.

Shortly after arriving home, I was awed by this sunset.

20 November 2008

spin class blues

spin class
Originally uploaded by Ben McLeod
I went to a spin class last night. About two minutes into it I remembered something; I really don't like spin classes. The bikes are nothing like real bikes, the room smells horrible, and you don't go anywhere!

On top of that, the instructor played The Who, The Beatles, The Who, The Beatles, The Who.... for an hour (the only non Beatles or Who song was that ode to rednecks by Lynard Skynard - Sweet Home Alambama - one of THE WORST songs ever)! I'm a fan of both bands (and I HATE Lynard Skynard), but.... come on! Variety is good. Monotony is bad.

In the instructor's defense, he was playing to the crowd; a bunch of 50 and 60 year-olds that I guess did not appreciate the hip-hop he had been playing lately.

The Bikes
Spin class bikes feel nothing like a real bike. The one I was lucky enough to get had wobbly handlebars and a jiggly saddle (which also pointed down making me slide off of it every 10 seconds or so). The pedals had either cages - which I find annoying - or SPF clips that I don't have cleats for. Also, they didn't spin in a circular motion, more like an oval, which was incredibly disconcerting and somewhat uncomfortable (but frankly, not as bad as it sounds). And what's up with the shifting/friction thingie?! There must be a better way.

The Music
As I already stated, this class played nothing but The Beatles and The Who with a horrific redneck song thrown in just to make me freak out.

I imagine that this is the hardest part for an instructor. Not everyone will like every song you play. I've been to a few dozen spin classes in my life (there was a time in Concord when I went a few times a week for a few months) and only liked every song played in about 4 or 5 classes.

The Instructor
That was the big bright spot to this class. This guy was nice and even humble, a trait uncommon in the spin class instructors I've met. Generally, I've found them to be a miserable lot who think rather highly of themselves.

In Conclusion
I'd like to buy a trainer. That way I can pick my music (or watch TV).

I got to ride next to Nikki, and I always like that (she is my best friend, after all!). Then, after the class, we went swimming with the boys in the amazing pools at the SHARC. The "warm water pool" is a shallow pool that starts at 0 inches deep and goes to 4 feet. In the middle, there's a big gadget that dumps water onto the kids (and adults) that wander beneath it.

Liam showed us what he learned in his swim classes, and Camper, fearless as he is, repeatedly jumped in (at first we caught him, but as he grew more bold, we just stood by and watched as he'd jump in, land on the bottom, and jump up). At one point, the lifeguards turned on the waterslide into the big pool, so Liam and I went for a few runs.

Meanwhile, in the outdoor pool, the high school team was hosting a swim meet.

So yeah, I'll be back for more spin classes and more fun in the pool. Maybe there'll be better music next time - or maybe I'll bring my iPod (with big-ass headphones)!

15 November 2008

fall family ride

fall family ride
Originally uploaded by Ben McLeod
It was a sunny, beautiful autumn day today so we took the McLeod family bike-train for a ride. It was close to 60 degrees out, so I wore shorts and a long-sleeve jersey, while the rest of the crew was a little more bundled up.

Basically, we rode out to the base of the hills that surround Hillsboro (out to Forest Hills Golf Course) and back via Rood Bridge Road (which brings us by another golf course - I guess you could call this route the Golf Course).

View Larger Map

The mostly flat route takes us through farmland and nurseries, with great views of Mt. Hood, Mt. Jefferson, Mt. Adams (the sun glowing off the new snow on the peak was creating a gorgeous alpenglow!), Mt. Saint Helens, and a glimpse of Mt. Rainier.

We saw cows, horses, chickens, llamas (OK, OK, alpacas!), geese, and goats - to which, Liam and Camper would shout a greeting. At one point Liam even yelled a greeting to a farmer ("hello farmer!"), who politely - and graciously - gave us a wave.

Most of the trees were barren, with a few still clinging to their leaves (or is it the other way around?) but the scene was almost more reminiscent of spring than fall as many of the fields are verdant with the fresh shoots of whatever was recently planted (lettuce, spinach, rye?) having just broken free of the soil.

The ride ended with a trip to the Rood Bridge playground, so everyone came away satisfied. At close to 20 miles, it was the longest ride Liam has ever ridden on his trail-a-bike - this time he even pedaled a little!

08 November 2008

winter[riding] season begins

I went out for a ride in the rain today.

The rainy season set in about a week ago and I've been dying to go out and play in it. Camper and I have been taking the Breezer/Chariot combo out for some fast laps around the neighborhood, but we haven't hit upon any serious rain - just a drizzle-or-two.

I've been wanting to take my road bike out in the wet conditions, but haven't had the chance to until today. It poured this morning, which was a little more than I was prepared for, so I waited until the clouds broke and the sun came out.

The pavement was wet, and while the sun was shining at the moment, there were still scattered showers all around. Perfect.

I put my bike stuff on, grabbed my bike and set out on my usual route.

I quickly made a discovery
Skinny bald race tires are not the best option for wet riding conditions.

Compensating for the lack of surface contact, I continued on.

As I rode toward the hills, I noticed the fact that I really couldn't see them, and the way the sun was making those low-level clouds ahead of me glow, was spectacular. I then realized that was not clouds ahead as much as it was a wall of water.

I plowed headlong into the water and was quickly consumed by the downfall. It was pouring, and all the while, the sun was pounding down on me. I had a shadow!

The sun was on one side of me, and on the other was a huge, double rainbow. One end was i a stand of trees amid a wheat field, and was making the trees glow. The other end was on the barn and silo of a farm and was lighting them up.

I rode out of the rain after a few minutes, but looking towards the hills, could see that it was raining. A fifteen-hundred foot descent on wet roads with my current tires was already discouraging. Doing it in the pouring rain was out of the question.

I detoured onto SW Johnson School Road and rode back towards Rood Bridge.

The sun was shining and I quickly dried off in the breeze (of my totally-hauling-ass speeds!). Wool is good for that. I kind of like riding in cooler temperatures. In the summer heat, it's hard to regulate your body temperature, but when it's 55 degrees out, it's easy (wool tights, long-sleeve poly shirt, wind/water resistant jacket - add a layer if it's cooler, open vents of it's warmer, etc.).

It was a good first-of-the-season ride.

06 October 2008

First Cyclocross event

in the maze
Originally uploaded by Ben McLeod
Nikki and Camper attended their first cyclocross race on Sunday. Liam and I are, of course, veterans.

We all went to the first of the Cross Crusade races; which will take place every Sunday for the next two months. Going in, I knew that I was already interested in trying out a race. It was fun to watch Nikki get increasingly drawn in, until she finally said that she too would like to give this cyclocross thing a try!

The race was fun to watch - lots of mud flying and people sliding - and the venue itself was a fun atmosphere.

The course looked challenging, but doable. There were the requisite obstacles, from stairs to muddy hills, some twisty, turny riding and some fast straightaways.

I'll be gone next weekend, and the Sunday after that, we're celebrating Liam's birthday, so it looks like our next chance to try a race would be Sunday the 25th in Astoria.

15 September 2008

Back in the saddle

me and my Masi
Originally uploaded by Ben McLeod
My first ride since my "incident" a week-and-a-half ago. This time I stuck to my normal, low-traffic route.

I took my beloved Masi into the Hillsboro Bike n' Hike last week before my trip to NH, thinking that I'd have to leave it there for an extended repair. Instead, the guys in the shop performed an on-the-spot "post-crash" checkup for me (check the frame's integrity, as well as the fork, handlebars, etc.).

They had to bend the derailleur hanger back into place, as well as the right shifter on my handlebar. They also made some quick adjustments to the derailleur - but that was it, and all it cost me was a twelve-pack!

Of course, the whole drivetrain needs to be replaced, but that can wait (until I have a job, maybe...). For now, my beloved bike is rideable, and I'm back on the saddle.

13 September 2008


it's log!
Originally uploaded by Ben McLeod
Liam and I went up to Bald Peak to watch the Pain on the Peak cyclocross race. I think I found a new obsession!

For those of you that don't know what cyclocross is, here's the Wikipedia entry on it (what did we do before Wikipedia?!).

It was hot and dusty, pretty much the opposite of the stereotypical cyclocross image, but it still looked like a lot of fun. Watching these guys race their bikes in a dusty pack, then hop off and carry their bikes across obstacles made both of us want to try it. They had a junior competition, and when Liam saw the kids go by, he looked at me and said, "I want to try that." I nearly cried.

There's a place in Portland that rents cross bikes, and a series is starting up soon. I think I'll have to give it a try!

Check out my set of pictures here.

07 September 2008


Originally uploaded by Ben McLeod
There's a cool display of handmade Oregon bikes at the Portland Airport (PDX) . The bike shown is a Renovo wood-polymer frame with carbon components.

Dear Santa......

03 September 2008

In a ditch

Well, it had to happen.

I guess.

Given the amount of rides I go on, and the number of cars that pass me, I was bound to get driven off the road.

Into a four-foot deep gravel-lined ditch.

At 25 miles-per-hour.

The good news: I was able to walk away from it with only a few cuts, scratches, some torn skin and a sore shoulder.

The bad news: My bike is pretty fucked-up, and with my being unemployed and all, I doubt I'll have the money to fix it.

I wasn't hit, but....

I was riding along SW River Road - a route I've never ridden but I thought I'd catch it down to Route 10 - when it happened. The bike lane suddenly disappeared about a half-mile or so before, forcing me into the traffic lane. I was literally riding on the white line when a white van passed me. They didn't hit me or brush me, but were so close that it freaked me out. I swerved, was caught by the gravel (there's no shoulder here; the white line runs along the edge of the pavement, with about 4 inches of gravel before the four foot drop into the ditch) and pitched head first into the ditch.

View Larger Map

I'm not sure what pisses me off more, the fact that there was no oncoming traffic, so the white van had no excuse for not giving me any room (I think he was pissed because the woman driving the truck that stopped to see if I was OK drove really slowly behind me before passing me; he was stuck behind her and took his anger out on me by not giving me an inch), or the fact that there were several cars behind the van that clearly saw me fly face first into a ditch and DID NOTHING! The only person that pulled over was a woman who was driving a pickup truck two cars IN FRONT of the white van. She saw the whole thing in her rear-view mirror and turned around to see if I was OK.

I should have taken her up on her offer of a ride, but I was too stunned and in shock to really talk. I told her that I was OK, but after she drove away I realized that my bike was not. I'm not sure what happened, but the rear wheel doesn't spin easily when my weight is on it (it spins fine when you pick the bike up and spin the pedals). It feels like the brakes are applied, but I can't see any signs of rubbing.

Funny Irony

Before heading out on my ride today, I logged-in to our bank web site and saw that the Oregon DMV recently cashed our check for car registration. Our Share the Road plates should be arriving any day now...

26 August 2008

Portland Century

I rode in the Portland Century ride on Sunday, and the swelling in my ass (thank you Boudreaux's Butt Paste!) has now gone down enough to allow me to sit and write about my experience.

For those of you that don't know, a century ride is an organized, fully-supported (rest stops with supplies, support vehicles, and marked courses) 100-mile ride.

It was my second century (but not the second time I've ridden 100 miles in a day. I've done that several times, but not with support). The last one I rode was the Tri-State Seacoast Century in 2003. My total time (including rests) was 7 hours, 15 minutes. My ride time (the time spent in the saddle, chaffing my ass to bits) was 6 hours, 35 minutes.

It was a perfect day for riding; cool, and slightly overcast. I started the ride at 7:30 at PSU in downtown Portland. The ride goes across the Willamette and hops onto the Springwater Corridor for most of the first twenty miles. I hopped in behind a guy that I'm pretty sure was a pro rider (he was totally decked out in Hammer jersey, shorts and socks, had a sweet ride, and crazy sculpted legs). I drafted behind him (we were moving at about 25 mph; I could feel him pulling me along. If I fell too far behind, I'd have to pedal like mad to catch back up, but then could rest once I was back in his slipstream) for most of the length of the Springwater until we reached a cluster of riders that he was able to deftly maneuver around. I was not so lucky.

We started to climb at about mile twenty, and then dropped down a fun descent around mile twenty-five (see the map and elevation profile to the right, or here. Thanks to Matt Haughey). This is where all of the riding in the Hillsboro Hills this summer came in handy. I blew by people huffing their way up to the second rest stop (I skipped the first one) at Eagle Fern Park. I pulled into Eagle Fern Park to re-fill my water bottles, eat strawberry shortcake, a peanut butter sandwich, a banana, and a Hammer bar.

As I was leaving the rest stop, a guy was entering and screaming at someone in a acr. I couldn't really hear what his problem was, but I did hear him ask the driver if he wanted to get out of car and discuss it (this was no hot-head, young rider; he was easily in his 60's). The driver did not take him up on his offer and drove away. I, and everyone around me assumed that the driver had not given the biker enough room on the road.

About a half hour later, while riding a narrow, winding road, this same biker came upon a group of us riding together. Everytime a car would approach from behind, someone would yell "car back" and we would all get a in a single file line to allow the car to pass. Not this guy. He would ride out into the middle of the road to block the cars. At one point, someone yelled, "hey man, car back. Get into single file!" To which, he responded, "fuck them. They need to learn to share the road." I guess he didn't get the irony in his statement.

It's riders like that that piss off people in cars, and make them hate the biking community.

At mile fifty, I went to hop off my bike for a moment, but my right pedal wouldn't clip-out, so I fell on my side and bent my derailler. It made it so that I couldn't utilize my lowest three gears. A total bummer on the hills I was dealing with at the moment! Luckily, there was mechanical support at the Fireside Retreat rest stop at mile 58 (of course, that was the end of the climbing).

The mechanics got my bike all fixed up (sort of.... I think I need a whole new drivetrain) so I could finish the ride.

The ride from the Fireside Retreat rest stop to the next stop at Blue Lake Park was mostly downhill and brought us along the Historic Columbia Highway and through Troutdale and it's lovely outlet malls. I was feeling a little tired, but still pretty good.

The rest stop at Blue Lake Park was at mile 73. After that, we rode on the bike path that goes along the Columbia River. That part was the worst. I was starting to get tired and had to deal with some pretty high winds coming off the "Mighty Columbia" as well as families out for rides and walks on the bike trail.

By the time I reached mile 90, I was pretty sure my ass had fallen off, but realized I was now only 10 miles from the beer. The ride through the wastewater treatment center was almost enough to dissuade me from my longing for the beer. Almost.

The last few miles were through downtown Portland, which was kind of fun, but difficult due to a combination of the traffic, my low energy levels and traffic lights (the constant stopping, unclipping, starting, clipping back in... repeat... was pretty hard). I just kept thinking to myself, "beer... beer..."

As I approached the finish I saw Nikki and the boys. Liam was jumping up and down, and Camper was pointing at me yelling, "dadda, bike! Dadda, bike!"

It was a wonderful finish; I had my family there to greet me, free beer, an incredible salmon dinner, more free beer, and a great goodie bag that included beer and coffee.

18 August 2008

Tour de Fat

Originally uploaded by Nikki McLeod
We checked out the Tour de Fat this weekend. The Tour is an event sponsored by New Begium Brewing (makers of Fat Tire beer) and is a fun celebration of all things bike.

They have crazy, tricked out bikes (as seen to the right), beer, bands, beer, a bike parade, beer, a New Orleans-style funeral procession for a car, beer, The Sprockettes, beer, a slow ride competition, beer, bike giveaways (like, for people that are willing to trade their care for a bike), and did I mention beer?

There was a good crowd (I love the Portland, tattooed bike punk scene), despite the 100 degree, oven-like day. For respites, the kids ducked out to the Salmon Street Spring fountain.... and I drank beer (I highly recommend the Mothership Wit!).

You can see my set of photos from the day here and Nikki's photos here.

13 August 2008

Bald Peak Ride

Originally uploaded by Ben McLeod
In need of a different route, today I rode up and over Fern Hill and around the other side of Spring and Iowa Hills, passing through Gaston and Laurelwood before climbing up to Bald Peak State Park.

The route was 36 miles, with a little over 2600 feet of climbing and descending (click the "Elevation Profile" under the "Show" tab).

I've ridden much of the route before when I went around Hagg Lake. The scenery is beautiful, rolling wheat fields, nurseries and open space. The majority of the ride is big crank spinning, with speeds averaging about 20 mph.

The climb up and over Fern Hill is relatively easy, with a fun, winding downhill. The climb up to Bald Peak out of Laurelwood is one of the toughest I've ever encountered. My bike computer tells me that the road incline in some places was a 22% grade! For the most part, however, it's a sustained 12% grade for two miles, with a vertical gain of over a thousand feet.

View Larger Map

The view from the top of Bald Peak is amazing, with views of Mt. Ranier, Mt. Saint Helens, Mt. Adams, Mt. Hood and Mt. Jefferson.

10 August 2008

Providence Bridge Pedal

Fremont Bridge
Originally uploaded by Ben McLeod
This week's Sunday family ride was the Providence Bridge Pedal. We rode the 6-bridge, 14 mile, family ride, along with thousands of other riders.

It was estimated that there were over 17,000 participants.

We had a blast and didn't experience any of the congestion that has marred the event in past years. There were only two spots where traffic moved so slowly we had to walk our bikes.

It was so cool being able to ride over bridges that are normally highway bridges reserved for cars. It was fun just being up on the Marquam and Fremont Bridges with all my fellow bikers.

Like all gatherings of humans, 90% of the people were great, and fun to be with, 5% were kinda moody, 4% were idiots, and 1% were just plain assholes. That's life.

After the ride, we went into the Bite of Oregon and enjoyed some good beer (so deserved), fine food and fun music.

Another successful McLeod family Sunday Ride!

Check out all my pictures here.

31 July 2008

PDX to Oxbow Park

sandy river amusements
Originally uploaded by Nikki McLeod
Bryce, his cousin-in-law Adam and myself rode from downtown Portland to Oxbow park. The route we took was something like this but with about 15 more miles added on.

The ride took us out the length of the Springwater Trail to Gresham, and from there, we zigged and we zagged through farmland (mainly huge nurseries; next time you're at Home Depot and wonder where all the little trees come from, wonder no more; they most likely come from all around Portland) until we finally found Oxbow Park (yeah... we got a little lost).

The park is on the shores of the Sandy River. Our wonderful wives and kids met us there with all sorts of yummy food (but no beer - we were dying for beer). After a nice picnic, we made our way down to the water for some swimming and rolling naked in the sand.

It was a great way to spend a day.

26 July 2008

a bicycle built for four

bicycle built for four
Originally uploaded by Ben McLeod
Liam has been eying the tandem for a while, wondering when we'd turn it into the engine for the McLeod family bike-train.

Well, people, today was that day!

We hooked the tandem up to Liam's trail-a-bike, which, in turn was hooked up to Camper's Chariot, and took it for a ride around the farmlands of Hillsboro.

We had a blast, and will be taking the train out again in the near future - maybe for the Providence Bridge Pedal!

23 July 2008

What's with all the h8ers?

There's been a rash of biker vs. motorist crap in Portland recently (I'm trying to find links to stories, but the Oregonian's web site absolutely blows; seriously, one of the worst news sites out there), and I for one would like to know what the hell is going on. People, what the HELL is going on here?

Can't we all just get along?

I mean really, this is childish.

There are assholes behind the wheel and assholes on saddles (I'm talking figurative, people) - it's a fact of life. But to paint either "side" with a single brush is craziness. I like to ride my bike as much as possible, but I also have to drive a car. So where does that put me? Where does that put most people?

Frankly, I blame The Oregonian. Aside from a shitty web site, they sensationalize stories worse than local TV news. This creates an atmosphere of mis-trust, and even worse, hatred (which, in turn, feeds the sensationalism...).

They actually ran a story (I wish I could find it, but as I already wrote, their web site is horrible) about a guy who wrote in his blog about nearly hitting a cyclist. Apparently, the cyclist blew a stop sign and did not have a light on his bike. The guy was all pissed off because he felt that the cycling community needs to do more in regard to pushing safety, and that they/we should support laws that require lights.

The comments that followed were a series of harsh back-and-forth between bikers and motorists (or, at least, people that put themselves in either camp). But I think everyone was missing the point. Why did the Oregonian run the story in the first place? Is is news? No. Did an editor point out to the reporter or the blogger that there are ALREADY laws in place that require lights?!

Clearly, the biker (if there really was one) was in the wrong and breaking the law. That's going to happen.

It would be like me writing in this blog something about drivers are patently unsafe and it's time the motoring community backed speed limits - and The Oregonian running it.

Can't we all just get along (and ignore The Oregonian and all sensationalist media that is just trying to sell papers)?

22 July 2008

Sunday family ride

family ride
Originally uploaded by Ben McLeod
Another Sunday, another family ride. This time we rode along the bike trails on the east and west banks of the Willamette from downtown Portland into the Sellwood neighborhood (my new favorite Portland neighborhood. The more I see of PDX, the more I really like the east neighborhoods.) and back again. It was roughly 14 miles, and was highlighted with stops in the Sellwood Park and Grand Central bakery.

View Larger Map

The Eastbank Esplanade and Springwater trail are havens for biker families (and bikers without kids - there just happened to be A LOT of families out riding - and walkers, and rollerbladers... ) out for a Sunday ride. It was so much fun to get out and see everyone enjoying the amazing weather and each others' company.

We were joined by our friends Erica and Phillip. Nikki and Erica went to UNH together and she and Phillip have been in PDX for several years now.

20 July 2008

first tandem ride in a while

Nikki and I busted out the tandem for a road ride through the Hillsboro Hills. It was the first time we've been on it in a couple of years, due to babies and laziness.

I forgot about how much fun it can be to be riding so close. We're able to carry on conversations and work together.

I just have to remember to tune it before we take it out again - that clicking noise and the lack of gears can get annoying!

19 July 2008

The dude BROKE HIS BIKE IN HALF, bent a metal pole... and walked away!

I was watching the stage on TV and kept rewinding this scene. I can't believe he walked away from an accident that snapped his bike in half and bent the street sign pole!

Not only did he walk away, but he hopped on a new bike and finished the stage.

Now what was that crap about Tiger Woods being the world's greatest athlete? He plays golf people (now, I'm not saying that golf is not challenging, but I will say that it is no athletic feat). Any of the guys in the Peloton would eat Tiger for lunch - they would have to; imagine how many calories a day they go through? The answer is roughly 5000.

18 July 2008

future wearer of the yellow jersey

We've been using the trail-a-bike so much that we almost forgot about Liam's bike.

Tonight, we were hanging out in the driveway so the boys could play with their sidewalk chalk when Camper came out of the garage with Liam's bike, saying, "bike? Bike?" Of course, Camper's a bit too small to ride (much to his disappointment) so he ran behind as Liam took off.

By the end, Liam had ridden around the block a half dozen times and was barely relying on the training wheels.

I nearly cried.

17 July 2008

the lapsed rider

In the ski industry (once upon a time, I had a job...), there is a term for people that haven't skied in a while; "lapsed skier." Most of the time, the reason for the lapse is kids and family.

I guess you could say I'm a "lapsed biker." I've barely ridden for two years; I went on a few road rides last year, and not one mountain bike ride. Now, in the past few weeks, I've ridden several hundred miles and the addiction is once again coursing through my veins. Seriously, I get a tick if I haven't ridden, and all I can think about is my next ride. Total junkie.

Biking is the only thing I can do as an adult that fully brings me back to being a kid (well, that and swinging - I love hopping on a swing), and I love that.

I forgot how good the burn can feel (seriously, it's a weird combination of ecstasy and agony), and how amazing it is to reach the top of a climb, look down, and think, "I was just there!" Then, of course, there's the downhill. There really isn't much in life that's more fun than hauling ass down a mountainside gripping the bars of a bike.

My appetite has shot up and I'm eating ... well, I'm probably eating like a normal person (if normal people inhale Powerbars and swill Hammer Gel during the day), but it sure feels like a lot. Although, a healthy appetite is not the best thing when you're unemployed. Makes it hard to buy the food your body wants to eat!

Most lapsed skiers result from having kids and not having the time to ski anymore, nor the inclination to spend the money needed to take a family skiing. While a large part of my lapse is the result of having kids, another factor was my job working nights. Which is funny, because a big part of why I accepted the job in the first place was because I felt that it would give me more time to ride. I was wrong. As it turned out, I had less time to ride (uhhh... I was sleeping), and when I was awake, I just didn't have the energy.

Oh well. None of that matters. I'm unemployed now and can ride as much as I want (he says with a nervous grin on his face...). Think I'll go for a ride in the morning.

16 July 2008

The Henry Hagg Half-Century

Stimpson Mill
Originally uploaded by Ben McLeod
I rode the longest ride I've been on in at least a year today. I'm calling it the Henry Hagg Half-Century, because its a loop out and around Henry Hagg Lake.... and it's 50 miles...

I started the ride along my usual route, but this time, instead of staying on Iowa Hill Road, I climbed over Fern Hill and down into (I think it's called) the Tualatin Valley, where I rode along Old Highway 47 and up to and around Henry Hagg Lake.

The road that goes around the lake has a lot of vertical to it it, with many, many uphills and downhills (I guess you could call it "rolling"). A loop around the lake brought me back to where I started, so I rode back down into the valley.

Instead of re-tracing my steps, I rode through Gaston, across the TV Highway (new Highway 47) and into Laurelwood. I then followed Laurelwood Road up and onto the ridge that runs between Iowa Hill and Bald Peak. The climb is crazy-steep and at times really, really hurt!

The rewards for the hurting include amazing views of Mt. Hood and a nice, long downhill down Bald Peak Road, bringing me back to the intersection of Routes 219 and 208/10 (SW Farmington Road). I followed SW Farmington Rd. to Rood Bridge Road which brings me home.

The ride was just over 50 miles, with 3331 feet of vertical, and it took me exactly four hours.

I wish I could show you examples of sections of the ride, but I created the map in Bikely, and as I've already ranted before, there are a lot of sucky aspects to their site, and this is one. Another one: I can't print my map. Hello? Can't print your own maps?!

the itch to ride

me and my shadow
Originally uploaded by Ben McLeod
Do I go for a ride, or look for a job?

Let's see, riding makes me feel alive and strong (except for the end of the ride, which leaves me weak and tired - but that's the point, isn't it?), gets me out breathing fresh air and seeing sites I haven't ever seen before (I love scoping out new rides).

Looking for a job makes me feel worthless and impotent. My dad would have told me to get out there and "beat the street" looking for a job, but that's not how it works anymore. Now, if one wants a job, they troll through Craigslist, Jobdango, and all of the individual companies' HR sites.

I've sent countless emails, worked what few connections I have, and I've barely gotten a nibble. I was interviewed for a position at a web design firm a few weeks ago, but haven't heard ANYTHING. Do I send them another email?

I applied for a job last week that I think would be perfect for me, but I haven't heard back from them (then again, the closing date isn't until a week from tomorrow, so I shouldn't expect anything until then).

OK... so back to my original question. Ride, or sit in front of my computer? I think I already answered myself... see you after the ride.

14 July 2008

the Oregon Zoo adventure

Oregon Zoo
Originally uploaded by Ben McLeod
So Liam and I headed to the Oregon Zoo at Washington Park last week. When faced with the choice of walking or riding my bike, I always go with my bike. We rode our bike to the Max stop; the very first one on the blue line. I did this because I knew that getting on the train with Liam, my bike and his trail-a-bike was going to be hectic. And I knew it would be 10-times worse on the return trip. I knew this, and yet I continued with my plan.

We hopped on an empty train in Hillsboro several minutes before it left. We had time to hang both bikes on the racks and take a seat. The train filled up as it made its way through Beaverton, and was pretty packed as we headed into the tunnel.

I told Liam that as soon as the train stopped, he was to hop off the train and stand near the wall - I was going to grab both bikes and follow. The train stopped - and he refused to get off without me. I grabbed his trail-a-bike and ran off the train and told him to follow me. I sprinted to the wall and practically tossed his bike against it.

"Stand here!" I shouted, and ran back to the train, which now had several more people in the doorway. My bike was on the opposite side of the train, so I busted through the wall of people with lame shouts of "pardon me" and "excuse me." I grabbed my bike, hooking it on some guy's backpack and dragging him and the Breezer toward the now-chiming-and-flashing door.

I saw Liam standing at the wall watching me wrestle through the crowd as the doors closed on the back wheel of my bike. I yanked it free and ran across the platform for him.

I knew getting home was going to suck. I then said many, many bad kind of words to that little obsessive bicyclist-dude that lives in my brain. He laughed.

We enjoyed our day at the zoo, but I was watching the clock. I wanted to be down in the tunnel by 3:00 pm so we could miss the rush. Of course, we weren't down there until 3:30, and a blue line train was just coming into the station as we came onto the platform.

It was packed, and I hadn't even taken the bikes apart yet. We watched the train pull away. I took the bikes apart and we waited for the next train. It was a red line train to Beaverton Transit Center. It wasn't very crowded, but I figured that since it wasn't going all the way to Hillsboro, we'd let it pass.

Ten-or-so minutes later, a blue line to Hillsboro pulls in, and it is freaking packed. There must have been three bikers standing with their bikes next to each hanging bike (uhh, TriMet, get the drift, install more bike hooks. please?). We had no choice but to to pass, or hop on and be total assholes, but I'll save that lesson for another day...

A few minutes after that, another red line to Beaverton Transit Center came in. It was pretty empty, so we hopped on. I figured I would see how things look at the Beaverton TC.

We arrived at the station and watched several packed blue line trains move through. I also watched the clock move past 5 pm. I realized that it wasn't going to get any better where we were for several more hours.

I put the bikes back together and said to Liam, "we've got them, we might as well use them!" We rode though Beaverton, staying mainly on the sidewalk that runs along the TV Highway toward Hillsboro.

At SW 153rd, we hopped on a paved path that brought us to the entrance of the Tualatin Hills Nature Park where we road a paved path to the Merlo Rd/SW 158th Ave MAX Station. I popped the bikes apart and a minute-or-so later an almost-empty blue line train pulled in.

We hopped in, I hung the bikes up, and Liam fell asleep on my lap.

our beloved Chariot

the Chariot
Originally uploaded by Ben McLeod
We've had the Chariot since shortly before Liam was born (close to four years now) and the thing hasn't let us down yet. It was our main stroller until kid-number-two (Campbell) came along and we needed the services of a tandem-stroller, so now it pretty much lives with the trailer-bar on full-time (it even has a new life as the caboose in our bike train).

If you're looking to buy a trailer, seriously consider a Chariot. It's safety is second-to-none, with big, beefy wheels, a solid aluminum frame and 5-point harness. I can say from experience that it self-rights and the harness holds the kid right in place - explanation: I was walking the bike and trailer around a gate and misjudged the width between two large rocks. A wheel went up on a rock, the trailer started to tip (Liam had a great look on his face; that perfect combination of fear and joy), and I pulled the bike forward, which caused the trailer to right itself (Liam had a relieved look on his face) and land on both wheels.

  • It's a great stroller that will go places most other strollers wouldn't come close to.
  • With the cross-country ski kit attached, it's fun to drag along on a winter adventure.
  • We have a jogging attachment, but never use it because the front wheels for the stroller work fine! And then there's the whole I-don't-run-thing.
  • A sleek, bike trailer that tracks so nicely.

first "just the two of us" ride in a looong time

Nikki and I went for a ride this morning. She didn't have to be at school until 1:00 pm, so we dropped the kids off at school and went for a "just the two of us" ride. It was the first time in a really, really long time.... and it was fun. Now we'll have to get the tandem rolling!

We rode the Hillsboro Hills ride that I've been using as the basis for most of my rides. It's a little over twenty miles of rolling farmland - and when I say rolling, I don't mean mean gently. I can't believe how steep some the fields are!

The ride starts out fairly flat and is fun to crank through in the big ring. There are places where the road turns ninety degrees around someone's property. The nicely banked corners and little traffic make it fun to scream through these corners and pop out with some good speed.

The Iowa Hill section was a little rough on Nikki, as it was her first hill climb of the season (and maybe the fact that she had woken up early to swim laps...), but she powered her way to the top and was rewarded with a great view of Mt. Hood and the upper Willamette Valley.

I love you bikely.com. I hate you bikely.com...

I've discovered a great site that does much of what I've been wanting to do (grumble, grumble....), that is, to make online maps of bike rides, and make them searchable.

The site is called bikely.com and while they seem to be on the right track, there are a few issues I have with them. For starters, I only see a white page when I visit them with Firefox, so I have to open Safari. I think it's a Mac thing - I've had that happen with some sites that use iFrames or Javascript.

You can either upload data from a GPS unit, or draw a map on a Google map. The drawing option snaps to streets, so it makes it really easy. You also get an elevation profile for the route - I love that stuff.

However, sharing the maps isn't easy. When I cut and paste the code they give me to embed the map in my blog, the area where the map should be is white. Now, again, that could be my Mac, or it could be the warning they post about the fact that the code may not work with your blog software. It appears to be Firefox, as this appears fine on Safari.Whatever. Is still pisses me off.

I'd love to show you a list of the maps I've created, but the link they give me is retarded (sorry - but seriously... it is. Go ahead. Click the link.).

You're on the right track bikely, but you could be so much better.

Sauvie Island family ride

hip shot
Originally uploaded by Ben McLeod
We went out to Sauvie Island yesterday for a family ride. It was scenic - we watched the Mt. Adams wildfire grow - but the roads are narrow with a ton of traffic. It kind of reminded me, and Nikki remarked on the same thing later, of Martha's Vineyard, but without all the houses (and the floating houses just aren't the same thing!).

I'm glad we took it in - we rode by a field that grows potatoes for Tim's Chips, and we went to a beach (that had a lot of trash strewn about - what's up with that?!) - but I don't see us headed in that direction again.

11 July 2008

A great sunset ride in Concord

If time was running out and I needed to take maximum advantage of the dwindling daylight, I would ride a loop in East Concord that climbs Oak Hill, an eastern hill of the Merrimack Valley, and catch that last bit of daylight - a good half-hour after the sun had set in Concord.

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I start the ride the same way I start the Concord/Hopkinton Ride, but veer RIGHT at the intersection of Carter Hill Road and Lake View. This follows Penacook Lake (the Concord Reservoir) around to North State Street (Route 3).

I could have detoured the ride around the reservoir by starting on North State Street, but I avoid riding that road as much as possible.

A few hundred feet down North State, stay right onto Sewalls Falls Road and follow that to the bridge. The Sewalls Falls Bridge is an old, one-lane, steel-grid bridge. It sucks to walk across in cleats, so just ride like hell, don't try to turn, don't try to stop, and don't look down - well, actually, do look down, it's pretty crazy!

After you cross the river, you'll pass the Concord Monitor - say hello for me - and cross under the highway. Take a left at the intersection, then the first right.

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Follow Sanborn Road to the end and turn right on Hoit. Go straight at the intersection of Shaker and Old Shaker (sometimes there are Shakers there on opposite sides of the street yelling at each other), where Hoit becomes School. That is one crazy intersection...

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Ride School Street to Oak Hill Road. Much of School Street is a gradual downhill. Use that to recover from the climb up Hoit, because there's one last uphill to go. After turning onto Oak Hill, the route ascends steeply before rewarding the rider with a long downhill into Concord.

At the bottom of the hill (now called Shawmut Street), turn left onto Eastside Drive, maneuver past the vehicles attempting to enter and exit Interstate 93, and turn left onto Eastman Street (stop off at Quality Cash for some well deserved kabobs) and follow it to the end.

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At the end, take the path that parallels the highway on the highway bridge.

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Follow the path to the Tech, cross the highway on Delta Drive, and ride through the much-vaunted, answer-to-Concord's-troubles, Horseshoe Pond revitalization project (a conference center and office buildings on the old Concord Lumber site). Instead of riding up onto 393, cross the tracks and head up past Franklin Pierce's homestead, a nice way to end the ride!

10 July 2008

bike tatts

bike tatts
Originally uploaded by Ben McLeod
Something I think many people are familiar with.

Even if you try to avoid them, they will happen. At least this time they didn't hurt. I've returned from other rides with blood mixed in with the grease and dirt.

Either way, a good scrubbing with soap and water generally does the trick.

09 July 2008

Up and over the mountain

I decided to see what was over the mountain.

I rode to the other sides of Iowa and Spring Hills. The ride is roughly 34 miles, and while it's mainly smooth pavement, there are two gravel road sections that total about a mile-and-a-half. It's full of climbs and descents, and of course, incredible vistas (but I would recommend stopping for those).

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I started by ride going down SW Minter Bridge Road, but was turned back by a downed power line. I detoured over to SW Rood Bridge Road and rode that to SW Grabel, and up to SW Tongue Lane. It's the same basic ride as the Hillsboro Hills ride, but you turn onto SW Nursery Road.

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At the end of SW Nursery Road, take a right on SW Hergert. The road goes straight despite the fall line, which results in a fun roller coaster ride. I came to the top of the first rise to see two huge turkey vultures eating road kill.

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Take a left on the brand new pavement of SW Blooming Fern Road and enjoy the climb. Take a left at the bottom of a small descent and follow SW Fern Hill Road to where it ends at SW Spring Hill Road. Take a left, and follow the road.

I stayed straight at SW Hardebeck Road and ran into about a half-mile of hard-packed gravel.
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Turn left on SW Dixon Mill Road and climb straight up out of the valley. It's amazing how straight the road goes! The road has the decency to stay paved for the climb. It becomes a hard-packed (and oil-soaked in some sections) gravel road for a section that runs down a slight incline.

The pavement returns in time for some fast descents around some perfectly banked corners! Before long, you hook up with SW Unger road and drop down what I like to call, the Unger Drop and Twist ... and Drop, a a two-hundred vertical foot straight drop in a quarter mile, with a crazy "S-corner," followed by another straight shot descent into the valley. You should try it sometime!

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I then turned left on 219, and rode that to 208/10, where I took another left. I rode that back to Rood Bridge Road, and back into Hillsboro.

The Orgasmatron

... is what I would rename SW Gnos Road to. At the end, it leaves you shaking and wanting more.

It's a 3-mile out-and-back, or, in this case, up-and-down, as it ascends 600 feet in a mile and a half. It's a spur off of the Spring Hill Ride.

The first part of the ride goes straight up out of the farmland, with barely a curve.

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It may look like a field on a satellite picture, but look at the same section of land on a topo map!

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The views as you ascend are spectacular, with views of all the peaks in the Cascades. Another thing you'll notice is the brand new pavement. That's the nice thing about riding up what you'll soon be riding down; you cam scope out your line!

At the top is a commercial nursery, with rows and rows of various trees and plants.

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The road turns to gravel shortly after descending a bit off the top, so I'd recommend turning around at the top, putting your bike into it's lowest gear, and start cranking!

You start at 800 vertical feet and a mile-and-half later, you're at 200 vertical feet, and you'll see why I would rename this particular road.

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08 July 2008

Spring Hill

A ride into the hills around Hillsboro. About 23 miles.

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Start by going down River Road and turning right onto Minter Bridge Road. Once you get past the "Entering Agricultural Zone" sign, you're on your own - seriously, be careful, the roads are narrow, and while they are not, in any way congested, they do tend to have rather large trucks on them!

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Turn right onto SW Grabel, and again onto Route 219. A quick ride on the wide shoulder, brings you to SW Tongue Road. Take a left. This whole area is a nice flat, big gear, crankfest. Ride Tongue Road out past the golf course.

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Left onto SW Iowa Hill Road and start to climb. Follow the road to SW Unger, drop down over the edge and hang on! The road drops a couple of hundred vertical feet in an almost straight drop, with an s-corner thrown in for good measure.

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Follow the road to Route 219. Take a right and ride to Route 10/208 (Farmington Road), and take a left.

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Left at Rood Bridge Road. This road is a blast to ride. The pavement is mostly new and smooth, and the road has a bunch of right-angle curves with perfectly banked corners.

Rood Bridge Road ends up back at River Road.

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A little short of 25 miles, this quick ride includes two decent hill climbs (and descents), as well as some great scenery, fast pavement, and a bike path.

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Start out at Dewey School - at the intersection of Centre, Liberty and Auburn Streets. Ride up Auburn Street (northwest).

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Take a left at the intersection of Lake View and Carter Hill. And climb on up Carter Hill! It's a fast uphill with two pitches. The first climbs steeply and wraps around two corners. At the top of the second corner, the terrain levels out a bit and you face the rest of the climb in one straight shot.

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At the bottom of Carter Hill, take a left and ride over the river.

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Ride for a few miles, take a left at Penacook Road, and cross the river again.

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Take a left at Gould Hill Road - and go STRAIGHT up!

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Follow Gould Hill Road down to Hopkinton Road and ride into the center of Contoocook. Follow Main Street toward Concord, into the horrible, highway-like off ramp for I-89.

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Take a right on Jewett Road, cross over the highway and take a left on Farrington Corner Road. Farrington has a long, gradual downhill that's fun to crank down at high speeds. Turn left at the stop sign (Stickney Hill Road) and ride up a gradual, straight uphill, then down a hill. At the bottom of Stickney Hill, stay right and hop onto the bike path that rides perpendicular to I-89.

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At the end of the bike path, turn left on Silk Farm Road, and ride under the highway and around the crazy corner.

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Take a right at the end of the road and ride through St. Paul's. Take a right onto Pleasant Street and ride past the hospital. Turn left onto Warren Street and ride past the high school.

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Turn left on Liberty, go two streets over, and you're back where you started!