Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Patience.

It's a trait that seems to be lacking in many of us these days.  Maybe even most of us.

Whether sitting at a traffic light, standing in a checkout line, or listening to a friend share an opinion, we don't seem to be very good -- nor indeed very interested -- in slowing down and being a part of that moment.

It used to be that we would blame this lack of patience on something ephemeral -- the chaotic pace of summer, for example, or that lying sonofabitch Nixon  -- but it transcends seasonal boundaries.  It won't get suddenly better come fall.

I'm as guilty as anyone.  And consciously trying to improve.  Specifically, of late I'm trying to slow down in each moment, to pay attention to something, anything specific to that moment.  

Like a cumulonimbus explosion of fur.


Or the framing of a sublime evening happening.


Maybe the earning of a peaceful moment the old fashioned way.


Or stopping mid-mach down a favorite descent, just because I can't remember what it smells like *right here*.


Perhaps recognizing when composure turns oh-shit into ho-hum.



Or appreciating a process that takes a meaningful amount of extra time to achieve, but delivers in return something that can't be arrived at any other way.

   
A few weekends ago my desire to slow down and be present had me standing at the edge of this opening, watching the line of sun march across as a band of clouds departed.  I wasn't the only one aware of the change: The buzz of insects palpably increased as the light intensified.


Patience has come to mean leaning into the moment I'm in.

It's especially enjoyable when that moment includes loam and duff.


Or sunlight and shimmers from an elevated perch.


Or applauding the longevity of a 45-year old turd.  And the herculean efforts required to keep it going.


My biggest "Learn patience, dammit!" episode in recent memory came a few weekends ago when I was 6 hours into a 7 hour ride, parched, and out of water.  I came upon a creek trickling down a mountainside and thought, "Hmm, self, your thirst could shortly be slaked -- all you need to do is crouch and drink".  

And that's what I did.  Even though I didn't have a filter.  Even though it wouldn't have taken much restraint to wait just one more hour.

As I rode away from said crick with water dribbling down my chin and sloshing in my belly, I heard what I had hoped not to, what I hadn't waited long enough for: Cattle, all over the hillside above the aforementioned crick.

Which brings us to the picture below: My penance, as it were, for not possessing patience at a time when patience would have been advantageous.  Atop that cutting board sits roughly 3 servings worth of 'medicine', ostensibly capable of chasing out whatever bug(s) I ingested when I couldn't be bothered to slow down and think.  And listen.


Ah well.  At least it's livened up the morning dose of raisin bran...

We could all stand to benefit from slowing down, from not giving in to the compulsion to rush away from this moment, or toward the next.  You might be doing it right now -- by mousing up to close this window before finishing this sentence.

Give it some thought.  When you have a moment.  

It's easy if it's important.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Dream wheelset for sale.

DT Swiss 240s 6-bolt disc hubs.  Boost 110/148 spacing.  Freehub of your choice.


Laced to Nox Kitsuma 29" x 36mm internal width carbon rims.


Laced 3x with Berd Polylight spokes, using DT Swiss Prolock Squorx nipples.

Ridden less than 100 miles, total.


New they'd be $2500.  Selling now, including shipping to the lower 48, for $1999.99.


Front wheel weighs 771g.  Rear wheel weighs 857g.  Those include tape and valves.


Don't delay: 

mike.curiak@gmail.com

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

A ride, recently: Getting high. And old.

September.  Already.

Among other things, this year it means that the water we've been playing on in rivers and creeks since January is pretty well gone.  What an amazing year to explore new waterways.

And while if you've got time to travel and/or are willing to grovel you can still get out and paddle, I've finally made the switch to pedaling.  Not much chance of burnout when your riding season begins the last week of August.

In advance of the upcoming long weekend Pete invited me on an ambitious bikepacking loop in the San Juans.  A cursory glance at the maps revealed that his proposed loop covered more ground in 3 days than I'd prefer to.  A lot more.  Nothing against extended saddle time, but if I'm going to be in the mountains I want to savor them, not suffer as they blur past.

So I opted to ride solo, and slowly, to revel in some thin air and skinny track.


 And I was frankly shocked, even from the first few minutes, at how prolific the flowers still are.  Even at treeline.  Even on west facing (hot, dry) hillsides.  The winter that gave so much continues to keep on giving.  (Thanks!)




I was also surprised at how many people would show up to a trailhead with two cars, load all bikes into one car, then leave in that car.  Took me a bit to figure out that they were running shuttles.

  

And by "many" I mean many.

There are lots of times when using a car is appropriate -- like driving to ride somewhere that's 50, or even 20 miles from home.

But I'm at a loss on how many people now *regularly* incorporate a vehicle to take care of most or all of the uphill part of their bike ride.  Regularly.

I'm dating myself by saying so, but we as a community used to be so much better than that.  And now shuttling is so common that few even think twice about doing it.

Shame, that.



My high point for the first ride was a bit over 12k.  A handful of snowfields meant that I didn't need to carry much water, and could almost always dip a bottle to re-up.


^ Lunch stop.  3rd one of the day.


Casualty.


I finished that ride after over 7 hours out.  I couldn't be me without thinking how much faster I used to be able to cover a similar distance.  And then immediately I realized how much more I enjoy rides where I've taken my time and soaked in a little of the soul of the place, rather than just racing through it.  Progress.



I was tired enough the next day that my ambitions were much less, uh, ambitious.  I chose a much shorter loop because I was pretty sure the flowers would be exceptional.  And because it has a great techy climb, stunning above timberline views, and then a rowdy, steep, rough descent.  The only downside?  It's not a secret, and it's easy access.  Also, see above mentioned positive attributes to understand that it's a popular destination.


Even though it was crowded -- as expected -- it was still worth doing.


When mid-way through the climb I sensed that I was within a bubble of humanity I deliberately stopped in the meadow above and just hung out for a spell.  Wandered around, spectated the doings of insects and people alike, enjoyed the ~320* view, then when the people thinned out I restarted.  Wish I could say that I never saw anyone else the rest of the ride, but that's not realistic in this place at the height of summer.
  

The people I did see were friendly, happy to be out, happy to be sharing the place with friends and family.  Except for the two tweens whom were pushing up the descent.  Don't think they'd been there before, doubt they'll choose that direction again.



Looking forward to getting back up there a few more times in the next few weeks.  Given the lateness of the flowers, and the proximity to peak color, I'm sort of expecting one of those fall seasons where you can experience purple asters, green grasses, yellow aspens, and snow covered peaks -- all in one ride.

Sure hope so.


Thanks for checkin' in.

Monday, August 26, 2019

PSA: Check your kit!

Not hard to imagine this scenario: You've just finished a busy week of work.  You're tired, run down, aware more than ever that you aren't getting any younger.  But you recognize that summer in the alpine is fleeting, ephemeral, oh-so-precious.  You know you'll be lethargic on the climb, but you're acutely aware that you'll feel umpteen times better if you get some rarified air in your lungs, incinerate some endorphins, and liberally paste your shins with wildflowers that didn't have the good sense to grow outside the trail tread.  

You motivate.

With limited daylight left you know it won't be an epic.  You reach for the light pack, fill a single bottle, don helmet, shoes, chamois, gloves, and head out.



The climb is slow, as expected.  But the world -- despite how advanced summer already is -- is a riot of greenery and wildflowers.  Lupine, columbine, aster, paintbrush, skyrockets, larkspur, mules ears, and limitless skunk cabbage stretch to every horizon.  You aren't moving fast, but you're *exactly* where you want to be.


90 minutes of climbing -- some of it deliciously technical -- bring you up to the limit of where trees can grow, providing views so expansive you can't quite focus on distant ranges.  Could be the lack of oxygen.  The grade relents and you feel the inexorable, delightful, never-not-amazing pull of gravity as you start to gain speed.  A trickle of spittle hangs in the corner of your mouth, so heavily are you salivating over the approaching descent.

Within the first hundred meters your speed increases to the point that you can pump, carve, and hop the bike easily.  You immediately remember why you're OK with a 30# sled, so capable is it once beyond walking speed.  

But then -- a noise: thwapthwapthwaphissthwaphissthwaphissthwapHISSSSSSSSSSSSssssss.


Gah.  Never even saw it until it was *in there*.

A cursory glance shows that plugs -- even many, stacked -- just aren't going to solve this.  You break the bead, pull the valve, stick in the tube that's been rattling around unused in your pack for -- how long?! -- and start pumping.

The bead seats.  Pressure is enough -- or so you hope.  Who even knows what pressure to run with tubes anymore?!

As you install it back into the frame it happens: ssssssssssssssSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSsssssssssssssssss.

Removing the wheel again you discover that the base of the valve in that old tube has cracked, failed.  Irreparable.

Damn.

Your riding partner offers his tube, which quickly proves to be even older than yours, and won't take any air.  With not a single patch between the two of you, your ride just ended.

You bid your riding partner good luck as he begins the much-anticipated descent.  

You turn 180* and begin walking your bike back down the hill.

You possess the presence of mind to enjoy the views as you walk, acutely aware that 30 extra grams worth of patch kit would have allowed you to solve this problem sans hoofing.


Check your kit before your next ride.  Don't let this happen to you!

Late addendum: It took ~$0.50 worth of Aquaseal to fix the hole in the tire.  Not a great trailside fix but easy and reliable once back home.

Saturday, August 10, 2019

Packrafting and raftpacking Yosemite.

Please click here and enjoy a few minutes of vicarious adventure, with words and stills from a recently completed -- and really unique -- trip.

Here are a few moving pixels to whet your whistle:


Thanks for checkin' in.


Monday, July 22, 2019

The only thing better...

...than a morning ride is an evening ride.






...than riding within the trees is when they end and reveal what they'd been hiding.






...than riding solo is riding with a friend.






...than an empty trail is...




...well...



...there is nothing better than empty trail.




...than grasses are flowers.


...than dry trail is moist hero dirt.






...than creekside trails are ridgeline trails.






...than lupine are columbine.





...than live trees are burned trees, especially as time passes and rejuvenation happens.


 

The only thing better than finishing a summer alpine ride today is knowing you get to do it again tomorrow.

Thanks for checkin' in.