Brr-Dam

OldColoradoCityIt was 16° F (-9° Celsius) when I left Perry Park at 7:45 this morning on my way to the Pikes Peak BMW Club meeting at Mother Muff’s Kitchen in Old Colorado City.

The Gear

Base layer for my torso was a thermal turtleneck from waaaaaaay back in the day.  The thing is warm, itchy, and indestructible.  Next was a thin cashmere V-neck sweater.  Cashmere is warm, feels softer than a baby’s butt, and can be had cheap at Jos A. Bank.  The combo is surprisingly warm, but leave the pipe and David Niven accent at home.

Over the top of the sweater I zipped up another old favorite, a fleece jacket from The North Face.  Finally, my trusty Klim.

I covered by bum and netheregions in the quick-dry UnderArmor motorcycle shorts, which are, oddly enough, cozy warm.  Then a pair of Hot Chilis.  Then a pair of casual BMW riding pants with the rain liner in.  Thermal socks.  Aerostich Combat Touring boots.

Under my Arai helmet but over my Klim jacket I worse a fleece balaclava, and just about pulled my back out making sure there were no leaks around the collar.  I put on an ancient pair of Dainese winter gloves, and turned the heated grips on my R1200RS to High.

Once you get all that gear on, the only cold weather hassle left is dealing with the fogging lens on your helmet.  Easy enough to manage, though: keep helmet open until you pick up some speed, and open it each time you slow down.  The RS has the stock shield, which directs plenty of air at my helmet, so that approach worked well for me.  Dealing with fogging would be more of a hassle on a bike with a full fairing.

The Ice Cream Headache

It was a sunny morning, but the Front Range was completely frosted over.  I didn’t take a picture, but this one is pretty close to what it looked like the entire route from Larkspur to Old Colorado City.

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http://sergiophoto.photoshelter.com

It took about 5 minutes for the ice cream headache to show up.  It wasn’t the worst I’ve had, but I did have to concentrate to get past it.  My setup had no air leaks anywhere, and the heated grips kept one side of my hands warm.  The topside did get a bit chilly, but never numb.  The tips of my thumbs went numb, and my feet felt about as chilly as the top of my hands.

The only other rider I saw was a guy in jeans and a hoodie riding his 600 home along I-25.  I wonder what the story was behind that early morning ride.

Mother Muff’s Kitchen

I felt immediately comfortable with the crowd from Pike’s Peak BMW club.  Craig, Lee, and Bex were kind enough to invite me to sit with them.  It’s always nice when the locals are friendly to the new guy.  Made me glad I rode up there.

Mother Muffs is the red storefront at the upper right:

MotherMuffs

By the time I left, temps had warmed up to the low 40’s, so I stowed my gear, slipped on my flip-flips and Hawaiian shirt, and rode home singing Gypsies in the Palace.  The temps in Larkspur were only 36°F by the time I got home (around noon), but it still felt downright tropical compared to the first part of the ride.

Old Colorado City somehow manages to hang on to its low-rent charm at the foot of Pikes Peak.  I always enjoy riding down there.

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Springer in the Moonlight

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The ride home from Palmer Lake normally takes 20 minutes, but at night I slow down so I can dodge the deer who like to play Spook The Biker along that stretch of 105.  That’s a perfect road for a Softail, and at 45 mph the ride lasts even longer.  The moon was out tonight, lighting up the edges of the clouds.  I’m scared of the dark.  Less so outside than inside.  But when the moon is out I am comforted by something that feels like the mother energy of goddesses.

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Photo courtesy of http://1000awesomethings.com/2010/04/14/527-the-night-before-a-really-big-day/

I’ve ridden Route 50 across Utah and Nevada a few times.  It’s always best on an FX Softail such as a Deuce, Night Train, Standard, Custom, or Springer.  I wish Harley would go back to designing elemental motorcycles like the FX Softails instead of putting all its energy into making its baggers more and more like cars.

I’ve traded my FX Softails for baggers so often I’ve come close to despair.  I always go back.  I love riding the FX Softails so much I want to ride them more.  So I trade them for baggers, which let you ride farther and longer.  But baggers are different.  Even the Road King, a Bagger Lite, is different.  The difference is subtle, but it’s important to me.

I’ve got an 05 Springer, now.  Instead of forcing it to do 600-700 mile days, I’m going to try something new.  I’m going to imagine being satisfied with 300 or even 200 miles days.  Ride the two lanes, not the highways.  Ride nice and slow.  And stop when I want to.

I’d like to ride the Springer under moonlight across Nevada’s Route 50 with that attitude.  Bucket list for sure.

GiG

Photo Blog: Following Missus Fender Bunny Up Mt Bierstadt

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It’s known as Colorado’s easiest 14er, but it’s still a 7-mile round-trip with a climb from about 11,400 to 14,000.  You actually have to descend a couple hundred feet before climbing back up, but who’s counting.  If you really care, see the map here:

Map of Mt Bierstadt

Three months ago Missus Fender Bunny, in her early 50’s, was released from an 11-day stay at the hospital weighing 98 lbs and unable to climb a set of stairs.  Since then she’s been doing about 30 minutes of weight lifting three times a week plus some calisthenics now and then.  Not what you’d call rigorous preparation for high-altitude trekking.

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Here she is on the part of the trail that descends from the road to the marshes.  Mt Bierstadt is the round mound on the top right of the picture.  The map said it was 3.5 miles away, but it felt a lot longer.  I googled “altitude factor” to see if there was a way to multiply mileage by elevation and ruggedness of terrain, and found this:

Altitude multiplier

It reads more like a gut-level multiplier than anything scientific, but made me feel better.

The lower part of the hike is a pleasant stroll through marshlands.

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After what feels like a mile but is probably less, you cross this stream …

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… and begin the ascent.  While climbing we met some really nice locals.

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We met a ship’s captain from Virginia who was recovering from open heart surgery.  He’d prepared quite a bit at sea level, and was having a blast hiking up the mountain with his son.  One couple kept me in stitches.  The guy was from Japan and full of exuberance, his companion was an American woman with a wicked sense of humor.  I heard the term “Coloradans” for the first time, but I assured her it was not a widespread trait.  We met more than one couple on their first date, which left Missus Fender Bunny in shock:

Are you kidding me???

One couple was hiking up with their 5 month old baby!

When’d you bag your first 14er, George?

The dogs were cool.  Lots and lots of dogs, but hikers were great about picking up after them.

The vistas from the other side of the river were cool.  Here’s a view across the marshes and the road:

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Missus Fender Bunny and I stopped for breakfast at a midway point that felt like it was another mile up the road, so it was probably just another 1/2 mile up the road.

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We stopped for secondsies a little higher up the trail.  And 11sies beyond that.

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After a long zig-zag up the shoulder, you reach a large field of tundra scratching out such a meager living between the rocks that it would have made the Koch Brothers weep with joy.

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This part of the hike feels kinda long since it keeps going and going.  Suddenly, you get to the ridge line and can look over the other side.

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At that point, if you have any sense of self-preservation, you take a Left and hike along the ridge line to the foot of the summit, where you are met with a wall of rock:

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This is one of the spots where your imagination takes over with vivid images of broken ankles, arms fractured backward at the elbow a la Steven Segal, and other reasons to turn back.  Which Missus Fender Bunny considered doing for a moment or two:

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But she’s a tough broad, and in spite of feeling a little queazy about scrambling up the bone-breaking, spine-shattering, skull-crushing rocks, she made it the rest of the way.

The summit is loads of fun because it’s full of friendly, happy people:

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We agreed to take photos of the couples up there only if they promised to flex.  They insisted on returning the favor:

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The hike down in the afternoon was spectacular, too:

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Given our level of conditioning, if we hadn’t stopped to take pictures or stop for meals or to chat with all the friendly people on the trail, we probably would have hated the climb, LOL.  It took us about four hours to get to the top, and about 3 to get back down.  Anyone who hikes regularly at altitude could cut down that time by quite a bit.  If they wanted to.  But why hurry?

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It was a real treat, and Missus Fender Bunny is already planning our 2nd 14er!

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GiG

The Rewards of Getting Up at O’ Dark Thirty

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I had to get out of bed at 5:00 am, dig out my gym gear in the dark so as not to wake Missus Fender Bunny, trudge down the long and steep driveway covered with a fresh 9 inches of snow under what I was certain was the hostile stare of a gang of juvenile mountain lions eager to prove their cat macho by taking down an old man for breakfast, dig the car out of the snow, scrape the ice off the windshield, and drive icy roads to get to the Y by 6:00 am. But the reward was recognizing, over the course of a few games, some of the guys who used to play ball with me back in the day and, once I walked out of the gym, taking in the glorious view of the Front Range, covered in snow under a bright blue early morning sky.

I didn’t have my camera with me, so I grabbed a picture I took in April a few years ago. It’s not of the entire front range, but it’ll give you an idea.

Gig

The Sky in Colorado

Closeup of Thunderstorm over the Big D

Closeup of Thunderstorm over the Big D

I first moved to Colorado in 1975 courtesy of the US Air Force.  I fell in love with the snow, became a ski bum, and considered my barracks at Lowry AFB my domicile, and A-Basin my home.  I was on the mountain as early in the season as possible, and as late into June as they’d let me.

I only discovered the spectacular beauty of a Colorado Summer when I returned in 1992.  The shot above, taken from our peeling, chipping, badly-in-need of repair deck, is a closeup of the bottom of an afternoon thunderstorm to the East of us.  Below is a picture of a second thunderstorm building to the North later that afternoon.

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Thunderstorm over Perry Park – full

And here is what it looks like when it’s directly overhead.

Thunderstorm directly overhead

Thunderstorm directly overhead

GiG

Running Los Gatos

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Rocking chairs in Tropic, Utah

The morning crowd outside the Los Gatos Roasting Company gasped.  The team of bicyclists in their red and white spandex suits set down their coffees and pulled out their iphones.  While they recorded the scene, two joggers wearing headphones stopped and tried to help me up.  “He seems OK,” someone was saying to the 911 operator on their phone,

but he’s acting very strange.

I wasn’t acting strange at all.  In a sudden burst of gratitude, I had fallen down on the sidewalk and started rolling back and forth, moaning “Oh My God.  Oh My God.”  What’s strange is that other people don’t do that, the weather in Los Gatos is that beautiful.  Only a week before we’d been hit by 18 inches of snow at my place in Colorado.  I couldn’t take my eyes off the bright blue sky and the leafy trees, but the joggers hauled me up onto my feet.

“Where’s a good place to run around here,” I asked them as they slapped the dust off my back.

“Across the bridge and down the path,” the thinner one said.

Before the police, ambulance, and fire trucks that were no doubt on their way could check my vitals and haul me off to the psyche ward, I thanked the joggers and took off across the bridge.

The Chasquis were the Pony Express of the Inca Empire.  When I was young and living in Peru, some American runners theorized that training at altitude would give them an advantage because it would increase their lung capacity.  So they flew to Cuzco.  The Peruvians asked

“Peruvians, have we ever won a marathon?”

But nobody listened.

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Buster on running trail in Colorado

At home I run the mountain trails behind my house.  They go either up or down, and don’t do much in between.  Since our place is at 6800 feet, I’ve developed what a kind-hearted person might refer to as a measured pace.

Soon after leaving the coffee shop in Los Gatos I found myself jogging between a cemented-in river, the aqueduct, and Highway 17, a wide dirt trail with a slight incline heading up the Santa Cruz Mountains.  Runners wearing earbuds playing music collections from their iTunes libraries designed to help them surpass their potential went by me so fast their windblast made me feel like I was riding the Harley again through Route 160 in Northern Arizona.

A little old lady using a walker with knobbies caught up with me.

“Slowpoke!”

She said, and we both laughed.  She reminded me of my Mom.  So we got to talking.  My Mom considered conversation an art form, and loved indulging in long, meandering talks.  She told me she learned that from her father, Ricardo.  It’s how people passed the time in Lima, and no one ever asked “What’s  your point?”

My daughter Grace calls me if a week goes by without a conversation.  She likes to talk, too.  And like her grandmother, she’s irresistibly engaging.

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accoustic coupler modem

I suppose that for most of America and certainly Silicon Valley, the art of conversation is sitting in a broom closet, bubble wrapped into the box with the acoustic coupler modem.  I sometimes wonder if my blogging is an attempt to keep the door from slamming shut.

Rich Schwerin and Bjoern Rost  told me some of my blogs reminded them of Hunter S. Thompson’s writing. They probably want to borrow my Harley.  Forget about it, guys.  Hunter S. Thomson was a ground-breaking writer.  And far more committed to experiencing the limits of madness than I ever want to be.  I don’t know much about Hunter S. Thompson, but I wonder if he wasn’t searching for an identity.

Jack, Ed Norton’s character in Fight Club certainly was.  Tyler Durden gave Jack an identity that working in a soul-sucking job within a materialistic society had stolen from him.  That identify was born of a clear purpose: destruction.  Which Tyler, a born marketeer, preferred to call mayhem.  Tyler Durden also gave Jack a presence: fearlessness.  American men, we like to come across as fearless.  Much of the dumbassery in the otherwise friendly Harley culture springs from that desire.  We live under the delusion that having nothing to lose is terrifying to would-be assailants.  So we act like we have nothing to lose.

It’s a silly notion.  Reading the accounts of men who survived the Normandy landings, they were all terrified.  And none of them had to pretend they weren’t.  Is the fact that a squad car, ambulance, and fire truck can appear within minutes to protect us from the slightest risk making American men unsure of our courage?

Truth is, a man who has nothing to lose may be intimidating, but the most dangerous thing in the world is a mother defending her children. A father protecting his family. A Marine willing to give  his life for a fellow marine.  It’s always something outside of ourselves, isn’t it?  But our culture  tells us to have it our way.  To pursue our passions.  To listen to the music that makes us perform better than ourselves.  Could having nothing to live for but our own gratification, self-expression, or self-realization be another cause of our posing?

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The boys paying The Donster a visit after his surgery

When we first bought our Harleys, my friends and I were determined not to be posers.  We’d seen them at Sturgis.  Couples who trailered their Harleys on the back of air-conditioned pick-ups, then stopped one town away to unload the bike and change into their biker outfits, the rider having already grown a 5 day stubble, his passenger having already applied her temporary tattoos.

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Dear old Dad and his Harley

We refused to be posers.  So we bought the service manuals and worked on our own bikes.  Joined the forums. Called each other with questions.  Some of us tore the engine down and rebuilt it better.  We lived inside the aftermarket catalogs.  And we rode.

We rode across the country and back. Some of us rode to Alaska.  We rode through some hellish storms.  We made sure our trips included rain and a healthy dose of misery.  We were ecstatic if we got snowed on, or the temps climbed over 100 degrees.  We rode early in the Spring, and late into Fall, and rode in Winter when the roads were clear.  We bought expensive chrome to customize our bikes and embrace our freedom, just like the Motor Company told us to.  We thought we were these guys. And maybe we were.  During our 1-week vacations and on weekends.

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But I’m not one of those guys, not really.  I can’t ride where the road leads me because I have to be back at work in the morning.  I have a desk job.  Bills.  I spent 20 years raising a family, mowing my lawn, and being polite to the neighbors.  I wear a real helmet, ear plugs, and protective motorcycle gear.  And I suffer from a distinct lack of brand loyalty.

I can’t even pretend that I don’t have anything to lose.

Which leaves me wondering what gave birth to my particular Tyler Durden.  Just like Jack, NemoLester Burnham, and a lot of men earning a living in Corporate America, I am disoriented.  But I’m not searching for an identity.  I’m reluctant to accept the one I’ve got.

GiG