Archive by Author
Apr 18, 2015

Bicycling in Tri-Cities

We’ve been getting out regularly trying to stretch out our miles in preparation for our summer trip. We decided to spend Spring Break in sunny Tri-Cities to get in some longer, drier riding. We stayed with our niece Aubrey, Chris and their two daughters, Camryn and Carsyn. They graciously put us up while Chris recuperated from ACL surgery.

Tuesday the 14th, while Chris was in the OR, we took off for a 37 mile ride from downtown Richland to Benton City. The thing was, the wind was in our face for the first 11 miles. And I mean WIND! It was steady at 20 mph or higher. We just saw that it was gusting to 34. It made for a long, slow slog out to Benton City and a really fast flight back to Richland. We hit 42 on the smallest of downhills when we had the wind at our backs. About a third of the trip was also brutal cross-winds. There was just no escaping that force of nature. We chalked it up to a lot of horizontal hill work. And we didn’t do much other than sit still and eat when we got back. Our stats for the day were 37 miles @ 12.8 average, 1500′ of gain.

Wednesday we decided to take on Clodfelter Hill. It is an 8 mile climb to the top of Horse Heaven. We needed to get in some real climbing so this was good.

We took off at 10 and drove to Sacajewea Park to look at Maya Lin’s “Confluence Circle” installation. The circles tell the stories of the native tribes who used to gather to trade at the confluence of the Columbia and Snake Rivers. An interesting little museum there, too. By 11 we’d driven over to Kennewick to start our ride of the day.

horse-heavenWe headed up Leslie Road to Clodfelter. The sky was clear and the wind was much less than the day before. But it was up. Lots of 6-8% grades. And still it went up. We were passed by a single near a false summit, then he zipped back by us yelling, “Wheeeeee!” We still had 2 miles of up to transit. A quick pizza break (nothing like cold pizza on a ride!) fueled our last push.

Once on top we could see forever! Mt. Adams, Hood, and Rainier were all in view. We also had the full force of the wind against us again. But since it was largely downhill, it wasn’t so bad. We only could get up to 14 mph on the downhill, so you know the wind was up. Eventually we got to Webber Canyon, a 5-6% down. But we only got up to 36 on that 4 mile drop. The wind was agin us!

We looped around and headed home on Badger, but we were tired and sore. We’ve been fighting colds for a couple of weeks. We thought we were better, but we weren’t. By the time we got back to the car, we were completely wiped out. But we’d done almost 2400′ of climbing, almost our highest of the year.

We visited with Aubrey, Chris and the girls, then took in a movie nearby – “The Longest Ride”. Romantic, sweet, and an interesting way to tell the story. We slept like rocks that night.

We’d planned to do some riding on the way home on Thursday, but we were just too tired and sick to consider it. We trundled home and settled in quickly. Hopefully, these colds will pass before the good weather does.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Jul 7, 2014

NW Tandem Rally 2014

s2-nwtr-pendletonHeat, headwinds and hills, that’s the mini-version of this report on the  NW Tandem Rally (NWTR) in Pendleton on the 4th of July weekend. It was our first big weekend of riding this summer and though we weren’t in the best condition, we had a lot of fun.

We left Seattle for central Oregon on Friday the 4th. About a hundred tandems had arrived a day earlier and so were able to participate in the 4th of July Parade in Pendleton that morning. They were all decked out. Plus, since they were tandems, the crowd loved them. They won a trophy for best community group. You can see a photo in this Oregonian article. I think that’s a first for the rally! We got in about 2 and set up camp behind the Pendleton Roundup stadium. Sheila was in on a meeting of rally organizers who have finally codified NWTR as an official entity. They will now serve to guide groups who want to do the rally in the future and make sure every event is well-planned. Nobody has taken that role in the rally’s first 25 years and last year the local person who was organizing it, failed to actually produce a rally. We don’t want that to happen again.

Camping-at-PBRFriday night there was time for lots of socializing at the BBQ in a nearby park. Met new and old friends, heard fantastic stories from the road (“You rode self-supported from Canada to Guatemala?”) and hob-nobbed with the group. When we went back to the tent we discovered there was an additional treat in store for us. The Professional Bull Riders were putting on a show in Happy Canyon, an auxiliary venue on the ground. Lots of yelling into a microphone, loud, LOUD, music, cheering and bull-riders. It went on until the fireworks started at 10. It was too much for us, so we just put in our ear plugs, donned our eye-shades and went to sleep. I guess we’re just party-poopers.

BullsSaturday morning we had a mass start for the nearly 200 cycles. We headed up into the hills and out towards Athena. There was lots of climbing to get up there and then we had steady rolling hills all day. The downs were never quite long enough to get up back up the other side. The landscape was mostly bare ground or stubbled cropland. After lunch at the 30 mile mark, we decided to trim some miles off the route and head back. It was so hot it reminded us of our cross-country trek, except we were not in condition for this riding. Eight miles from lunch we discovered one of our problems was a slow leak in the front tire. I couldn’t pump it up enough to get us to the next rest area, so we had to change the tube. No shade to be found. Just us, hot asphalt, and lots of empty fields. The house in this picture was just about as tired as we were when we left the last rest stop. The last 14 miles after the final rest stop were excruciatingly long. A friend said her bike thermometer clocked in at 110 degrees. I know it was over 90 in the city, so it could well have been that high on the pavement. The headwinds cooled us some, but made the climbs that much harder. We ended up doing 62 miles and 2800′ of elevation gain.

tired-houseWe finally got down off the plateau and in to the showers. What blessed relief! Sheila went off to another NWTR board meeting while I scavenged our dinner. The only Thai restaurant in town was closed for the weekend and the catering was all meat-centric (“Get over it.”), but we found a friend in the local Safeway. They had vegan cheese and deli slices. For Saturday, I bough the toppings for a pizza, took them to a local parlor (Big John’s Home Town Pizza) and they built us a beautiful pie. We shared it after the board meeting. Later we met up with Amanda and Rob from our tandem club who were also camping. We gave them their first lesson in playing pinochle and had lots of laughs swapping stories. They already knew bridge, which helped them in some ways and really confused them in others. The PBR was done with their shows the the nighttime was much more enjoyable.

We debated whether to leave Sunday afternoon or camp a third night. We were very sore and very tired after Saturday’s ride. A lot of people were bemoaning the heat and hills. We decided to ride the short route and leave early. It turns out that being in our cross-country tent helped signal our bodies to waken at 5:30. It seemed natural to hop up, dress, break camp, and pack up before breakfast.buggy-arm

Sunday the course was a straight out-and-back. The long distance was set to be around 63 miles to the Bar M dude ranch. We’d been there the last time we rode here and knew it would be just fine to turn around at the rest stop half-way up the hill. There were more flat stretches than Saturday, but plenty of the big rollers, too. When we got to the rest stop, we discovered that my arms were a mass of dead bugs. Nothing like biking through swarms of gnats when you are covered in sweat and sunscreen! On the return we had 4 miles of steady down followed by another 8 miles of hills, heat, and headwinds. We were glad to be returning before 11 because the temperatures were surely lower than they’d be later. We totaled 38 miles that day, making an even 100 for the weekend.

We arrived back at the Convention Center and celebrated with showers and peach cobbler. By 12:20 we were on the road home. It seemed like we beat much of the holiday weekend traffic, only slowing for about 20 miles on the east side of the pass. It was a great weekend, but ever-so-nice to be back home.

Feb 23, 2014

Last days of sun

Saturday, February 22 – Sitting at SeaTac waiting for our shuttle home.

What a difference a few hours makes. We used to be in sunshine and hot, now we’re sitting in an ice-cold parking garage, thankful that it’s not snowing. But first, a review of our last three days.

Mt. LemmonWednesday we decided we needed a challenge, so we headed up Gates Pass.  We got a late start because it was so cold out, nearly 52 degrees! Once the sun came out and warmed stuff up, we took off. Gates is a low pass with only about 3 miles of climbing at a generally gentle pace. As we neared the top, it kicked up to 15% in two stretches. That felt like the work that real climbers do.

We flew down the backside of the pass and stopped at the Sonoran Desert Museum. We incorrectly thought it was part of the National Park so weren’t prepared for a hiking experience which cost money. So we settled for some baked goods and continued riding.

We were feeling peppier than ever so we stretched our ride out to the north and west, eventually returning to town along one of the river bike trails. We clocked in at 54 miles for the day! Now we’re riding!frog-mountain

That night we took Steve and Patricia out for dinner at a neighborhood Ethiopian spot. The food was good and the company was marvelous.

Thursday we wanted to stretch our legs one last time before I tore down the bike. This time we headed NE to Mt. Lemmon. It is a 25 mile climb averaging 6%. We weren’t going to do that since it took us 15 miles to get to the bottom. But we set our goal as the Babad Do’Ag overlook, 2.5 miles up. It was a tough, serpentine climb. The grade was about 6% most of the time.

We made it up without much hassle. Lots of younger stronger riders flew past us. I thought we must have looked like gramma and granpa to them. Sheila pointed out that in our helmets we just looked like fit riders, going slowly. Maybe I’ll get a mane of white hair for my helmet so they can tell we have a reason for our lack of speed.

spencer-packingAfter that we cruised downhill – what a blast! Stopped for a snack at Le Buzz, a bikers coffee shop. Chatted with some folks who were also in Tucson for sunshine and cycling. Then home and I started breaking down the bike. It was pleasant out on Steve and Patricia’s patio.

Friday Steve took us to the airport early in the morning so we could rent a car. We then drove to Phoenix to see our friends Gail and Tom.  It was a pleasant 2 hour drive in our brand new Chrysler 200 (a car big enough to transport our bike gear to the airport Saturday). We caught up with their stories and they ours. Went to lunch at a Thai restaurant downtown which was incredibly noisy. Evidently that is de rigeur for happening restaurants. Who knew? Later, Sheila, Gail and I went to see a Chihuly installation at the Desert Botanical Garden. While we’ve been to the Chilhuly at Seattle Center this one was all dessert specific art. Quite beautiful. We were walking through gardens of cacti, then suddenly there’d be a big arrangement of glass spikes or flowing glass spires. We enjoyed both the gardens and the installation as you can see in the gallery below. But sadly, we failed to take any photos of them!

Our evening ended with a return drive to Tucson, after which we got up early to begin our travels home. not much to say about the flights. We tried to get bumped from our Seattle flight and would have gotten bumped had a San Antonio flight not been delayed. Then when we arrived at Seattle, they couldn’t get the jetway to connect, so we had to taxi out to a different gate. The shuttle we were waiting for arrived fairly quickly and we’re back.

Isn’t it nice to be home again?! Even if it is gray and 40 degrees!

Feb 18, 2014

Riding with a Seattle transplant

spencer-bridget-tonyToday we headed out to ride with Bridget, a Seattleite who fell in love and moved to Tucson. She was thrilled to be able to talk about Capitol Hill, lakes, Cascade bike rides, and all things Northwest. We also got to meet her husband, Tony, as he joined us on what turned out to be a 48 mile ride for us. We rode to East Saguaro National Park, one of our favorite spots to ride here.

We caught up to them on the Aviation trail and wandered out to the park. Our riding styles were pretty well matched. Turns out that she’s doing volunteer IT work and some WordPress site management for a non-profit here, so she and Sheila had a lot to chat about. I pretty much am out of all conversations on the bike because of my hearing loss. Sheila does a good job of feeding me the pertinent bits over the tandem radio system we have.

cautionWe arrived at the park around 11:30. We were congratulating ourselves on having remembered to pack Sheila’s Senior Park Pass we bought in Wyoming. But when we got to the guard gate he wanted to see her ID. Oooops. We convinced him to take our tandem business card with its photo, plus Sheila’s business card. He let us in warning us to carry the driver’s license next time, as well as a warning about the first turn at the bottom of the hill!

There is an 8 mile loop in that park we’ve described before that is terrific. The first turn is at the bottom of a very steep downhill and is about a 130 degree turn. Tony said he’d gone off the road negotiating it one time. We were careful as can be. Problem is it is followed by a steep uphill. So it is always a challenge to take as much speed as is safe to get up the other side. We were feeling pretty sassy, so we really attacked and made it. There are a whole string of ups and downs (or should I say: downs and ups) that benefit from generating lots of speed. We love that part of the loop. Then there is a long (1.5 mile?) hill on the backside which completely took the wind out of our sails. Payback. But then there are more rollers, tending downhill, so it’s back to fun stuff.

spencer-sheila-tony-bridgetSpeaking of fun stuff, Bridget and Tony met on that loop. Bridget (on vacation from Seattle) was in the process of doing 9 laps of the loop (!) to make up for missing a long road ride when Tony caught up to her. They did 5 laps together. He then loaned her a better bike to replace the mountain bike she had been riding for the rest of her stay in Tucson. One thing led to another and now they’re together. An appropriate story for February.

After the park we went to their home for a snack and a rest. Then Sheila and I bid them adieu and headed back toward downtown Tucson. Our goal was to get to Lovin Spoonful, a vegan restaurant which serves milkshakes. MMMmmmm. 10 miles later we were sitting on their porch sipping our shakes and nibbling our French fries. Of course, we had to then ride another 3-4 miles back to Steve’s and Patricia’s house. But we’re home, well-fed, and looking forward to dinner out with our hosts. Nothing like sitting outside by the bubbling fountain surrounded by fabulous southwest plants and sculptures while we blog and relax.

Feb 17, 2014

Sunshine = biking as a way of life

It’s Monday, Presidents’ Day. We just got in from a 41 mile ride around parts of Tucson we’ve never seen. This time we were led by our host Steve Wilson. He and his partner Patricia are putting us up in their lovely home in central Tucson for the remainder of our stay. We spent most of the day yesterday getting our stuff moved from Susan’s house to Steve’s. Then we hit a matinee showing of “A Winter’s Tale”. We enjoyed it. We had a thank you-farewell dinner with Susan and Kirk at a place called the Blue Willow. Pretty good food topped by pretty good cherry pie. I love my cherry pie. All 25 miles of our riding that day were errand-based.

beyond-bread-screwToday we got up and headed to a battery store. Sheila’s Garmin bike computer/GPS had finally worn out its rechargeable battery. Lucky for us, the store with the battery also was next door to Beyond Bread – a most excellent bakery. We enjoyed a kind of Breton pastry called Kouign-amann (pronounced queen aman). When we got ready to leave, the rear tire was flat. When I got it off, I found we’d picked up a large sheet metal screw. I had to screw it out of the tire! Just one more repair.

We cruised around Tucson’s bike trails. This included one which took us into a flood basin once or twice. Hmmmm. I’m glad the sun is out! Eventually we got to the San Xavier Mission south of town. It’s a gorgeous mission dating back to the 1600s, the oldest structure in the area. When we stopped here on the last day of our 2003 Cross Arizona Tour they were remodeling it so it was covered in scaffolding.


When we got back to town, it was lunchtime. We stopped at a restaurant called 5 Points (it’s at a star-shaped intersection). They were having equipment challenges, too. Their bread was gone so they’d had to re-open their breakfast menu. Their smoothie maker died. But the giant blueberry pancake with Field Roast sausage turned out to be quite a treat for us. We were starting to feel like cyclists again after 5 consecutive rides.

Which gets me to an interesting thing. Much of what we are doing is reminiscent of our cross-country trip. We ride a good chunk of the day. When we get in, I blog while Sheila showers. Sheila then edits and adds pictures while I hit the shower. I’ve taken to shaving just before the shower as I did on the trip. It just seems more efficient. Then we relax and wait for dinner. The major difference is that we are riding less than half what we did then. But being in the heat brings it all back.


Jul 30, 2013

Let’s get to work.

Several of us have been talking for some time about how to best use our energies to change the world. A lot of the answer depends on what you mean by “best”, “use”, “our energies”, “change”, and “world”. But does it have to be that daunting?

Perhaps. But is that any reason to fail to at least explore the problems and possible solutions? The answer to that is a definite, no.

It just so happens I have my eyes on a problem I’d like to get more people talking about. Perhaps you do, too. Wouldn’t it be great if our problems were related and we could work on both at once? We’ll never know if we don’t start talking about them.

So here’s my idea. How about if we create a forum to bring forward problems, with or without solutions for the moment. Lord knows we have plenty to choose from. So why not send a list of what you think the 3 biggest problems are which require a “change” in your “world”?

Eventually, I’d like us to share ideas about topics. So, as an example, I’m going to tell you three of my questions. I’ll expand on the first. I invite you to comment on it, as well.

  1. How do we reform our democracy so it works for the people?
  2. How do we ensure all people are treated with justice?
  3. How do we ensure the ecosystem is healthy enough to support all life?

I invite you to comment, make suggestions to improve the questions or point at possible solutions, disagree wildly with whether these are important, or suggest your own areas of concern. I only ask that you be open, honest, and caring in how you respond. Everyone who initially gets this link is a friend. If it gets spread around, which I hope it will, I’ll still wager that everyone who gets it is human and therefore worthy of respect and caring.

Here’s a starting place.

Our government isn’t our own anymore. The elected officials at the national level are not beholden to the voters, they are beholden to the people with money. I invite you to watch this TED talk which lays out what I feel is a compelling line of reasoning.

Lawrence Lessig has formed an organization called Rootstrikers to get at this problem. Right now it seems as though the main purpose of the organization is to raise people’s awareness. It’s not active enough for me. I wonder how I can get more people talking about this corruption and implementing ways to stop it?

Because, in my view, we can stop it. There isn’t that much money involved in state and city politics. Individuals CAN still make a difference there. Some states already have public-financed elections as do some municipalities. That’s both a a good start and a good example. We should build on these.

What did you think? Let’s get started. Let’s talk.

Feb 14, 2013

1 Billion Rising


QdobaToday was Valentine’s Day. We really rolled back the clock on this one. After a day of fussing with computers, we headed to the NE YMCA (now called the University YMCA) where Sheila and I met just over 30 years ago.  A little trip down memory lane.

We went to attend a world-wide event – 1 Billion Rising. It is a dance protest to stand against violence against women. Violence that will see 1 Billion women become victims of violence in their lives. We need to break that chain. People in more than 200 countries around the world participated in flash mobs and other organized dances. You can see our group below.


After we danced for 30 minutes, Sheila and I went back to Capitol Hill and ate at Qdoba Mexican Food where we got two for one burritos for kissing while in line! What a deal!

Closed our our evening by sharing chocolates with our meditation group while discussing Loving-kindness. I shared stories of my mom and her “favorites”. That’s the best example of loving-kindness I can think of.

It was a great evening. Memories, dancing, (bargain) dining, chocolate, meditation, and love. All wrapped up in this precious moment.