Sunday, January 31, 2010


I woke up early today which is unlike me so I decided to go for an early ride. I usually wake up early when there is something on my mind so it seemed like the perfect thing to do was ride to Tabor. It is still a little dark when I leave and I ride the whole way there without getting passed by a car.

I get to the park, put on Talking Heads and just sink into the ride. It feels so good to have worked through my fear and feel really comfortable on my bike again. It is so foggy that I can't see a thing as I pass the first vista. I circle the top and head back down the Salmon side doing that little head bicycle dance to Houses in Motion.

It looks like a cloud has landed on the top of the mountain and as I circle the top the second time I realize I've settled into something wonderful on these Tabor rides. It's a feeling of finding home. I had the same feeling when I met my husband...he felt like home. David Byrne singing Where I Want to Be just reinforces this feeling.

I put on my riding mix for the last two ascents which starts with my theme song, Bicycle Race by Queen and think about how much I have grown in the last six months. On our trip to Finland in September I decided on my purpose: To love my husband and see the world. In January, I found my theme song: Bicycle Race. And on my ride on Thursday I found my motto: Choose Life. Do what you love. Ride your bike.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Choose Life

I rode off this morning in a somber, serious mood. Yesterday, my client who is a doctor was regaling me with frightening stories of bicycle accidents. I woke up freaked. I still had every intention of going on a ride this morning, but having a wipe-out or getting hit was definitely on my mind.

My riding is methodical, steady and slow as I head towards Mt. Tabor. I'm breaking early so I have time to signal at each stop sign. Seeing a couple of pedestrians approaching an intersection I come to a complete stop, put my foot down and say, "Go ahead." They look shocked at my behavior and one of them says, "But it is so much easier for us to stop." I just smile and continue on.

When I get to the park I put in my earbuds and put on the minimalist sounds of Efdemin. It fits my mood. I start up the Lincoln side and about 1/3 of the way up start to smell something vile. "Oh, man, that's skunk," I say, temporarily jolted out of my serious ponderings. Oh yuck, now I'm sucking skunk air. I make it to the top and decide not to venture to that side of the mountain again.

My thoughts return back to the conversation with my client. One of the stories she told me was about a patient that kicked his heroine addiction, fell in love with bicycling, and then was hit and killed by a truck. This is a tragic story, no doubt. But, as I ride I'm sorting out a different lesson than the obvious, "Don't ride a bike because you might get hit by a truck" one.

I'm a little over half way through War and Peace. It is quite a book and I've heard of people only reading the peace parts for obvious reasons. But, I think the genius of the book is the war parts because through those stories, Tolstoy is telling us to do the things that makes us feel most alive. My favorite scene of the book is when a beloved character gets shot and as he is lying on his back losing consciousness he looks up and realizes how beautiful the sky is. He can't believe he has missed it all his life. He wonders if it has always been this beautiful and is so sad that he might not be able to see it again.

As I pedal up the mountain I think about how death is really near us all the time. I have a friend who had a heart attack and nearly died at age 36. Coming down the mountain the third time, I realize what I really want to take away from the sad former heroine addict story. The real tragedy would have been if he had not chosen to live life.

As I pedal home I feel satisfied with myself for having sorted through my fear. I say to myself as I ride, "Choose life. Do what you love. Ride your bike."

Wednesday, January 27, 2010


They call it the bicycling bug. I caught it from a client named Leslie and I want to write down the story about how I caught it from her before I forget it.
Leslie is a true lover of bicycles. She rides to work, to play, to run errands (sometimes with a couple of kids riding on the back of her Xtracycle). Leslie also rides for fitness and when she rides she really rides. 50-60 miles rides on her Lemond road bike are the norm for her in the summer and like me she is a great lover of hills.
Last July, Leslie was preparing to ride her first Cycle Oregon and we were talking about riding. I confessed to Leslie that I love to ride my bike but I get so scared of the cars that I always ride straight to the Springwater Corridor to ride on the bike paths. Leslie said, "You just need some education. Try taking the bike streets which are designated for bikes. Many of them have speed humps to slow down the cars." Then she explained how to get to Mt. Tabor which is her favorite weekday ride.
That night I rode to Mt. Tabor on the bike streets and up the Lincoln side for the first time. My whole first set of gears didn't work so it was a pretty tough ascent, but riding around the top of the mountain for the first time I was hooked.
That weekend, Leslie rode her first Cycle Oregon and I started riding all around town. My enthusiasm for riding has not faded and in truth has grown from that day.
Oh, and one more thing about Leslie. As you can see from the picture above, she is definitely one well-dressed cyclist.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

A Perfect Moment

I rode off today with a nebulous goal of riding to the top of Mt. Tabor 8 times. I had done 6 times before on Christmas Eve and I had figured out before leaving that 8 times was about a 34 mile ride so I thought, "If I can do it, I'll do it."

In the same way that the first couple of hours fly by when you are on an 8-hour car trip, the first two times up the mountain flew by. I was happily listening to my riding mix on my ipod, rockin' out to the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and the Freestylers. I was having a great ride and was still keeping that distant goal of 8 times alive.

And then, my third time up the hill I was listening to Everything That Happens by David Byrne and Brian Eno and my thoughts turned to my client that had to put his dog to sleep a few weeks ago. Right with that came thought of my other client who will likely have to put her dog to sleep in the next few weeks. I think sometimes recognizing how really hard life can get prepares you for the appreciation of how wonderful it can be. For some reason, I looked down and saw my shadow and choked back a sob because I realized I was having a truly perfect moment. It was that brilliant way the mind can think of ten things in the space of one breath and all at once I knew that there was nowhere on the planet I would rather be than right there on that mountain, climbing up the steep side, listening to David Byrne sing. In that one sob I felt so lucky to be alive and healthy with a healthy husband and healthy pets.

David Byrne then sings "Everything that happens happens today." I can't help but think about all the people that are putting there dogs to sleep today. This leads me to think about all the people that are dying today...born today...getting new puppies. I could go on. I wonder how many people just had a perfect moment at that exact moment I saw my shadow and had my perfect moment?

Not much could top that feeling and when the song One Fine Day comes on I couldn't be happier. I fly up the hill three more times. This is now uncharted territory. I check in with my body. Back feels good, knees feel good. I've got water left and I ate half a peanut butter and apricot jam sandwich as I rode around the top after my 4th and 5th ascents. I can do it, I decide and I head back down the hill.

The 7th time up the Lincoln side feels hard. I have to switch to an easier gear and I get passed by a couple of road bikers. I love this feeling though...pushing myself when it gets a little tough. I make it to the top and head down the Salmon side for my last trip.

Now, I'm giddy. The endorphin high has kicked in and mixed with a joyous satisfaction at doing something hard that I've never done before. I don't know where my tired legs went because I am flying up the hill. About 2/3rds of the way up the hill my grin has gotten so wide that it has turned into a full belly laugh and people can't help but look at me and smile. I get to the top in record time and rejoice in my accomplishment. As I descend down the mountain for the last time Led Zepelin's Immigrant Song comes on as if celebrating right along with me.

Just as I get to the bottom, my riding mix ends. In no great hurry, I coast most of the way home reveling in my cycling glow.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Bahn Mi

Late this morning we rode through the drizzle up to the top of Tabor, and then down the backside. We rode a few blocks east and south to a Vietnamise restaurant HA & VL for some Bahn Mi sandwiches. We both picked barbeque pork and sat down to wait for the sandwiches. Next to our table was the review of HA & VL and it said that the Vietnamese iced coffee was a must-try so we put in an order for that as well. The sandwich came on a crusty French hoagie roll with pork, pickled carrots, cucumber and cilantro. It was delicious. The iced coffee was the real surprise. Brewed strong and finished with a pinch of salt and condensed milk, it tasted like you were drinking custard.

After our lunch we rode a few doors down to Fu Bonn for some groceries. We stocked up on herbs, noodles, veggies and meat. We also got some new chopsticks and pho spoons. Somehow we managed to fit all of our groceries in our baskets and we happily rode home.

The picture above is me all dressed up for a girls party tonight and on my way out to the store for wine. Inspired by the bicyclists in Finland I always get a thrill out of being all dressed up on my bike.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Bike Commuting

I haven't posted in a while because I was sick and I got tired of writing about Tabor. I did have a very proud day, however, on Christmas Eve when I rode up Mt. Tabor six times. I hold the record now among my cycling friends. The most anyone else has done is four.

The weather has been cold and rainy, so I've been doing my elliptical more inside for my serious cardio. I have, however, continued to ride my bike as my main form of transportation. My favorite all time short ride is to Pho Van to pick up chicken noodle soup. I wrote a haiku about their pho ga today:

Pho Van
Fuh Van or Fo Vahn
noodles, broth, chicken and sprouts
hot, simple, comfort

And because I'm totally geeking out about going to Japan I wrote two more bicycle haikus:

riding up tabor
practicing my japanese
I'm gasping for breath

want to ride my bike
want to ride my bicycle
ride it where I like

The last one is based on the Queen song Bicycle Race which has become my new theme song. I had a great ride up Tabor today and I did practice saying all the phrases and vocabulary I learned in japanese as I rode. One of the great things about SE Portland is that you can ride your bike saying "Onna no shito wa akai no jitensha motte imasu" (The woman has a red bike) and no one really cares. It certainly won't be the weirdest thing they will see that day.