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Bike Dancing


I train a lot. Most of it is by myself. That’s a lot of time to let a mind wander.

I had a roommate in college who made me a mixed tape, and I realize I am carbon dating myself here when I say mixed tape here. It has four instances of Son of a Preacher Man on it, which was prompted after a night of drinking and cards when I kept hitting repeat on the song. This was the tape I listened to on countless whitewater kayaking trips in the southeast. I recently played it again and after all these years my mind wandered back to running waterfalls on the Tellico, playboating on the Ocoee, runs on the Upper Yough, and mac ’n’ cheese surprise for dinner.

Take powerlifting. My lifting buddy Maria always listened to music during her sets. If she missed a lift she would yank her earbuds out in frustration. It was part of her process. She always had her music in while training. All those month of training and I never did. I broke out my iPOD the week before my first competition. My coach said I was nervous. Yes.

At World’s, I listened to Adele’s Rolling In The Deep. For hours. Over and over. Louder and louder. All through my warm-up and in between my three lifts. I could see everything around me but couldn’t hear any of it as I was insulated by Adele’s voice.

Before each lift, I would restart the song as soon as I was in the hole. That gave me the correct timing I needed so when my name was called and I handed over my iPOD to Coach Joe I’d continue the song in my head as I stepped onto the platform and prepared for my lift. Stand at the bar, wiggle from foot to foot to plant my feet into the platform, smile at the judge (this was new in Vegas), grab the bar – right overhand and left underhand – and give a little tug, close my eyes as I envisioned standing up, open them, engage everything, and when I reached the crescendo in my head, STAND UP. Timing. Yes, I deadlift to Adele. And when I hear that song now I return to the lifting platform and relive it all in my head, in that same trance.

During my last race, the Tour Route in the Tour De Los Padres, which was more a training ride than a race given the previous few months lacked any substantial training, I had two songs in my head nearly the entire time: Dancing Queen by ABBA and JT’s SexyBack. It was a constant mashup and I danced my way through the Los Padres to it

Songs on repeat in the Smoke ‘n’ Fire were often MGMT Kids, some other song I haven’t been able to recall since the race ended, and Like A Rolling Stone. And a special version at that: my pal Tommy Karren singing the Rolling Stones’ live cover of Bob Dylan’s Like A Rolling Stone as he rides off in front of me. It’s usually just a single line as I hear him singing in the distance, “like a ROLLing stone”.

There were lots of songs during the Tour Divide. The connector road leading up to the climb to Red Meadow Lake gave me a beat down. Climbing away from that road was a grind and I filled it with songs like Machete by Moby and Everything In Its Right Place by Radiohead. This parade of songs continued until the track switched to Clocks by Coldplay just as I rounded the bend to my first view of Red Meadow Lake. They were simultaneously beautiful and quiet. It was like riding in a postcard.

There are lots of postcards with music. U2’s All That You Can’t Leave Behind and Yosemite National Park. Scamming free wifi on the floor of Ritwik’s apartment while listening to Emmylou Harris’ Wrecking Ball one summer. Singer’s and Songwriters of the 70’s (1971 in particular) and the SoCal desert. I once listened to the entire contents of my iPOD, the soundtrack of my life, during a whiteout in the Cascades. A lot of postcards.

Anyway, thanks for the mixed tape Becca.


Photo: DKCH

Tour Divide Letter of Intent


When I came upon this race called the Tour Divide I immediately said to myself, “I must do that.” With a decades-old racing background and an inclination to meandering about, something about racing the Tour Divide was calling me. The simplicity of it. The enormity of it. The community around it.

I’m looking forward to endless miles of riding, unlike the No Trespassing signs I encounter near where I live. I’m looking forward to some un-civilization.


I’ve been riding my bike a lot lately. While riding around in the middle of nowhere I generally come across two kinds of people, yet both kinds immediately recognize me for who I am. And I feel a sense of being from each. With the first group, it’s like looking in a mirror. These are people very much like me: out there, in my karass if we were to find ourselves in the Cat’s Craddle. When I share what I’m up to with that second group, I get puzzled and incredulous looks from their tilted heads, often followed by exclamations of encouragement. This response I take as them seeing and accepting me for who I am even though I’m very much unlike them. I’m on the other side of that looking glass.


So, I’ve been riding my bike a lot lately, encountering my own existence and bumping into my own impermanence, sometimes both at the same time. Like the flying ninja squirrel that hopped down from a boulder in front of me. Could have been a mountain lion for how I screamed (twice). Or, like a field of wild flowers.


I’ve been riding my bike a lot lately. I’ll see you in June.


The Lost Coast

This was originally written in an email to Jim (kind of like a cousin-in law), hence the unusual wording. My bike ride was lovely. I had planned on riding the Lost Coast (Mattole Rd) and then heading south once I got back to the Hwy 101 area. Day 1 started with a 7 mile climb of ~1,700 ft out of Ferndale. I then dropped quickly to nearly sea level and back up and over another 900 ft climb. They were both steep with the second one steeper than the first. I was then riding against a headwind along the water. After a few miles, the route headed up and inland again. This is around where I spoke to a motorcyclist, one of the two people with whom I spoke on my entire trip. We chatted about the road and campgrounds. This is also where I ate some of my one-pound cheese burrito (hold everything but the cheese) and trail mix (I had to settle for Trader Joe’s as I ate all the unsweetened chocolate mix from your house while we were driving away). The one town I rode through is called Petrolia. It had a combo store/post office that was closed for the holiday. My campground was about 7 miles further down the road. I decided to turn in early. I arrived around 3:30 and was probably in bed by 7:30. The campground had great hot showers and I’m pretty sure I shared mine with some leeches. In a panic, I quickly got dressed, put on my long underwear all twisted, and ripped a hole in it. Thanks Jim. I don’t think I would have been so worried about slimy black things inching their way to me if you hadn’t told us about the leech in your swimming pool!

Along the coast for a bit.

I had the campground to myself that night. Despite going to bed early, I slept in late. Part of that was due to waking up really cold a few times in the night because my sleeping pad kept deflating. That happened the second night too. It’s just as well; I’m happy to not be using it anymore and don’t have plans to patch it again. That sleeping pad was noisy. I call it the potato chip because it’s as loud as a crinkling bag of potato chips. So, no more potato chip. The next day began with about 7 miles of gentle rolling uphill to a town called Honeydew. Its combo store/post office was closed due to Thanksgiving as well. But, the porch was in the sun and I had more cheese burrito and trail mix while I soaked in the rays. Leaving Honeydew, I climbed back up and over the coastal range. This was 8.5 miles ascending, the first 5 or so were super steep and the last 3 leveled out quite a bit. By super steep, I mean riding at a 3 mph pace for about 2 hours. Leveling out means speeding up to 5 mph. The climb was about 2,500 ft. Descending was exciting and steep for about 7-ish miles. The road then turned to a gentle slope near some large redwood groves in Humboldt Redwoods State Park. I intersected the Avenue of the Giants route after going under Hwy 101 and camped about 3 miles to the south.

The closed Post Office in Honeydew.


Topping out on a 2,500-foot climb.

I had plans to ride further south, loosely following Hwy 101 but there was lots of rain in the forecast and I had already spent two cold nights with the potato chip and had a hole in my long underwear. So, I had Kristen pick me up in the morning and we loaded all of my now soaking wet gear into the car and headed home. All in all, I climbed (and descended) 8,500+ feet on some terribly bumpy country roads and had a lovely time.

A Few Days along the Great Divide Route


I haven’t been on a bike trip in a while and thought I’d spend a few days on the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route, from Rawlins, WY to Steamboat Springs, CO.


Wyoming is a vast wide-open place.


Aspen Alley.


Some fire road in Colorado.


Somewhere else in Colorado.

Hey, I’m a World Champion now.


I’ve taken an unusually long detour away from outdoor adventures lately that has seen me lifting heavy things in a gym. This was due to my dear friend Maria asking if I’d like to enter a powerlifting competition with her. “Sure,” I said, “I like to deadlift.” And so began my foray into some serious lifting.

Squats on Mondays. Bench on Wednesdays. Deadlift on Fridays.

We started on our own and along the way were adopted by a powerlifter at our gym named Joe. By the end, he was our coach and we all traveled to Las Vegas together for Maria and I to compete at the 2013 IPL World Championships. The title of this bog post gives away most of what happened in Las Vegas yet this summary barely describes what happened in getting there.

Maria and I were just a couple of beginner powerlifters transitioning from plenty of high-intensity interval training at Gymnazo. After coming back week after week, Joe began to see we were serious about lifting and so began our relationship with him. One that was genuine and generous. One that enabled us to excel in a way that I have no doubt could not have happened alone. We had a little community in the corner of the gym, lifting heavy things and making a mess with chalk. Practicing a state of being around lifting those heavy things. It was mental and emotional training as much as it was physical training.

As for Vegas, what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, unless it’s live-streamed over the internet. And our competition was live-streamed over the internet from the Grand Ballroom of the Golden Nugget Casino. Maria broke the California deadlift record and I broke the American deadlift record (in our age/weight classes). It’s still a bit unbelievable.

My winning deadlift. 292.11 pounds.

My winning deadlift. 292.11 pounds.

Biking at Soda Lake


What I rode by: The San Andreas Fault

It’s been a while since I’ve been on my bike and I thought it was time to set a new goal for myself and start training for it. So, we went camping in the Carrizo Plain National Monument to put in some miles on the mountain bike.

Soda Lake

Painted Rock

Painted Rock, up close.

The Carizzo Plain: a vast open place.

My dog Laila came for the camping trip.

I spent some time on my bike.

The Serengeti


The only other time I was in Africa was in a dream.

What I drove by: giraffes, lions, elephants

The Serengeti is an amazing place. I got glimpses of it as an ecosystem, the intertwined nature of everything and every being, when I saw a lion kill a gazelle. What fascinated me the most were all of the BIG animals and being so close to them, either no boundaries between us (on Meru) or just an open car window (on safari). These are also the animals I’ve only read about or seen in zoos. There is no comparison to being in the presence of a giraffe, lion or elephant in Africa.


Amazingly graceful giraffes.


Lion cubs.


Young male lion.





Mt. Kilimanjaro


What I walked by: Africa in relief, a cold windless summit morning

We climbed the Lemosho Route up Kilimanjaro. This is a less-travelled route traversing the mountain as much as ascending it. The 44 km (27 mi) trek to the summit starts in the humid jungle and quickly climbs up into the much drier alpine heath and moorland. You spend much of the second day walking across a large caldera: the Shira Plateau. We spent the second night at the Shira 2 Huts (3895m, 12,779ft).





Unlike Meru, and though these campsites include the word “huts” in their name, we camped in tents. Tents that our huge team of porters carried, along with our dining tent and bathroom tent. We carried little. As someone who has spent plenty of time in the mountains with a heavy pack and, more importantly, someone who cares about the well-being of people, I was conflicted in my participation of guided climbing in Tanzania.

Also in contrast to Meru was the isolation of our climbing party from everyone else on the mountain. Despite the large number of climbers, guides and porters, our little group of three climbers and two guides was generally on its own. There were exceptions. We were part of an endless stream of people both on Barranco Wall and on the final leg to the summit.


Barranco Wall.

The route from Shira 2 to Barranco Huts (3986m, 13,077ft) climbs up to the Lava Tower (4627m, 15,180ft) before descending into Barranco Valley through some spectacular tree groundsel. Now in the alpine tundra, the remaining days are dusty and dry with lower-profile vegetation.


Tree groundsel at 14,000 feet.

Our summit climb was on a cold, still morning. There was little wind. It was just a matter of slowly walking up the rest of Kilimanjaro. First to Stella Point on the crater rim and then around to the summit. By then, the sun had risen and you could feel its warmth.


Sunrise close to Stella Point.

Being at the summit revealed one of my expectations of climbing Kilimanjaro. Before coming to Africa my friends Joy and Wes, who had recently climbed Kili and gone on safari, suggested I suspend my expectations (for example, of the timing of things) and be open to the experience. I practiced just that, being intentional about being present in the moment. But then I summited Kilimanjaro and stood in front of a rather new green metal sign instead of the whether-worn, covered-in-stickers sign I had seen in summit pictures in guidebooks and all over Google. Alas, my time on the roof of Africa wasn’t going to be in the presence of that much-romanticized sign in my imagination.

The way down was short and steep. After lunch and a rest at our high camp, the Barafu Huts (4662m, 15,295ft), we continued to rapidly descend another third of the mountain. This amounted to a descent of over 9,000 ft in about seven miles. During our descent was also when I got sick and that made celebrating uninteresting for me.

Adventures in East Africa


Africa begins with climbing Mt. Meru, Tanzania

What I walked by: Cape buffalo, upepo (wind)

I climbed two mountains and went on a safari while in Tanzania. In writing about my trip the intertwined nature of the people, the mountains, and the animals is apparent.

I went to Tanzania to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro. Believe it or not, climbing Kilimanjaro was never on my list of things to do. It was always Mt. Kenya. Since reading the book No Picnic on Mt. Kenya, I’ve wanted to climb Mt. Kenya. Still do. The book is an account of three Italians who in 1943 escaped from their P.O.W. camp for the sole purpose of climbing Mt. Kenya, after which they snuck back into camp. That’s my kind of adventure, both physically and psychologically.

Mt. Meru is an active volcano that last erupted in 1910 and is the third highest mountain in Africa (after Mt. Kilimanjaro and Mt. Kenya). It also makes for a great acclimatization climb before Kilimanjaro. Flying into Tanzania, I could see Massai villages circled by protective acacia branches. But driving into Mt. Meru National Park is where I saw the first of Africa’s wildlife: zebras. They would be followed by monkeys, warthogs, dik diks, cape buffalo, and giraffes. You don’t see many animals on Kilimanjaro, maybe just some monkeys. On safari, you see plenty of animals, but you’re likely in a vehicle. On Meru, when you see all of these animals, you’re on foot. You simply walk by. You also have an armed park ranger with you for protection from buffalo and, to a lesser extent, elephants.


Gideon, our armed park ranger scanning for buffalo.

The other great thing about Meru was that there were three other climbing parties and their guides with our park ranger, which made travelling from trailhead to the camps a social affair. We learned Swahili on our way from camp to camp, and learned about all the guides and their cultures. Our head guide, Raymond, is from the local Chagga people who live on and around Meru and Kilimanjaro. He works on his family farm between guiding trips.

Our 4-day climbing itinerary:

Day 1: Momela Gate (1597m, 5240ft) to Mariakamba Huts (2503m, 8212ft) – The trail is gentle but you feel the altitude. Lunch is next to a grand old fig tree. The day ends around the elevation of the crater floor.


Monkeys near Momela Gate.

Day 2: Mariakamba Huts to Saddle Huts (3560m, 11,689ft) – This is a steep hike through the rest of the rainforest and into the moorland (that reminds me of the vegetation where I live in California). After lunch, we did a short acclimatization climb up nearby Little Meru (3799m, 12,398ft).


The view from Little Meru. Summit Huts in lower left. Mount Meru summit on far side of the crater rim.

Day 3: Summit climb – Leave at 1AM to reach summit around sunrise, return to the Saddle Huts for lunch then descend all the way to Mariakamba Huts. A long day, as summit days usually are.


Mount Meru summit.


Mount Meru, also known as Socialist Peak.

Day 4: Mariakamba Huts back to the Momela Gate down a steep track where we saw lots of Cape buffalo.


Much warmer as you descend.

One final note about this climb. My guidebook said, “do not underestimate Meru.” That’s true. In general, it’s steeper than Kilimanjaro. There’s more scrambling over rocks and gentle rock faces. We also had the strongest winds our guides had ever experienced on our way to the summit. While I can’t give a wind speed, by strong, I mean strong enough to nearly blow people off their feet. The wind lasted almost the entire six hours to the summit. My right ear was caked with volcanic dust. It just didn’t stop until sunrise, which was spectacular.


Spectacular sunrise. Mount Kilimanjaro in relief from near the summit of Mount Meru.

Day 42: San Simeon State Park to HOME!


Day 42: San Simeon State Park to HOME!

Miles: 30

What I rode by: golden eagle


It was just a short ride home today from San Simeon over familiar roads. The hills we always thought were steep felt gentle compared to what we’ve ridden through Big Sur. We had a couple friends meet us at the big Los Osos sign to take an end-of-the-journey photo.


Some trip statistics:

Total miles: ~1,389

Total ascent: 65,164 feet*

Calories burned while riding: 47,951*

Animal sightings: gray whale+, dolphins, sea lion, sea otter, elk, deer, zebra, fox, raccoon, skunk, squirrels, California condor, bald eagle, golden eagle, osprey, baby swallows

Flat tires: 1 between the two of us (plus a broken spoke)

Number of zip-ties on my bike: 5 (3 to attach my Binners Market flag, 2 for my fender)

Pieces of duct tape on my bike: 3 (all holding parts of my fender together; it just couldn’t handle road vibration)

Favorite meal: Cascade potato cheese soup and a grilled fish sandwich at the Rising Star Café in Wheeler, OR


* Plus whatever didn’t get recorded on the 3 days my Garmin bike computer wasn’t working.

+ The gray whale in the Klamath River died on August 16, 2011.

This sign is less than a mile from our house.

Our dog Laila was happy to see us. The cat wasn't so happy to see her.