Monday, March 22, 2010

Forgetting About My Dog

I love my dog, Dexter. He is the cutest thing you ever saw and he is sweet and loves me. But, he is stubborn and manipulative and I think just plain lazy. He also has separation anxiety which is one of the reasons I work from home. Dexter pees in the house. When we adopted him from The Humane Society they told us, "Correct him when you see him pee in front of you inside. Praise him when you see him pee outside and he will learn to be housebroken. It does no good to discipline a dog unless you catch him in the act." So, we did as they said. And, Dexter learned three things: Inside in front of us -- VERY BAD. Outside -- VERY GOOD. Inside when we are not around: NO BIG DEAL.

About 2 months ago we gave up on having rugs in the house. At this point we had thrown away about 8,000 dollars worth of rugs because Dexter's "accidents" were so tiny you couldn't find them and properly clean them. This was when we realized that Dexter had "accidents" as many as 5 times a day. We took Dexter to the vet for a complete workup and the vet's diagnosis: "You just have a bad dog." I started asking my friends who had housebroken dogs how they trained their dogs and almost every one of them said, "You rub their nose in the pee, yell at them and put them outside." So, this is what I started doing. It felt awful. But Dexter went from having multiple accidents a day to having 4 accidents in the last 3 weeks. The last accident was yesterday and when I went to grab his collar to discipline him he actually bit me. My companion of the last 9.5 years who I love with all my heart and have knitted seven sweaters for bit me. I was devastated and didn't know what to do. "Stick to your guns," my friend Paul said. "It's working, just put on your gardening gloves if you have to discipline him and stay with it."

I didn't go for a ride yesterday for fear of leaving Dexter alone at home and coming home to an accident. But, today I had a different approach. Dexter would never pee in front of me so all day I kept him by my side, either tethered to me or with the door to a room closed. And, I went for two rides and left him outside both times in our well-enclosed back yard. And, it's funny because last week I was on a mission for a perfect ride and did everything I could to create it (special jersey, special socks, special water bottle). But, today on my ride when all I wanted to do was forget about my dog I had another perfect moment.

It didn't seem like it was going to be a perfect ride. For one thing, I put my water bottle on the wrong bike. I decided to do three climbs. Four was what I wanted to do, but I figured two was smart without water. I split the difference and did three. I was feeling good and passing people and feeling like a real road biker. I was practicing my shifting techniques and working on my cadence. And, then on my third climb, it happened again. Two men with a labrador were walking down the left side of the street and a skateboarder was bombing down the right side of the street all crouched down. I carved a line in between them and the five of us were all in a line as I looked to the left to see the resevoir, the cherry trees all in blossom and the sun setting over the city. I knew life didn't get more perfect than that moment and I was so happy that it happened to me again.

And, I realized when I was just a few blocks away from home that I had completely forgotten about my dog. I came home and he was sitting on the back stoop waiting for me. He shook with delight at seeing me and could hardly wait for me to lock up my bicycle in the garage. And, inside we went, tethered together: An imperfect dog and his very imperfect dog owner who every once in a while experiences a perfect moment on her bicycle.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

110 Mile Week

This last week was a good week of riding, although I realized that I hadn't blogged about any of it. Well, that's not true. I did blog about my 9 times up Tabor ride on Sunday, but after reading it on Monday I decided it was too personal and deleted it. It was an amazing ride, however, and there are a few things I want to remember. One, perfect rides cannot be planned. They just happen. But, a great ride is still a great ride and climbing 2958 feet is something I am really proud of. Two, I love to climb hills. I LOVE to climb hills and Mt. Tabor is my favorite place to ride. When I was climbing up on my seventh time a big truck passed me with 5 skateboarders holding on to the back. One of them looked back at me, smiled, waved and yelled, "See you at the top." "Alright," I yelled back. Three, when I was climbing for the 5th time everyone started looking more beautiful to me. My mind was clear and my heart was glad and for some wonderful reason people looked more beautiful. I wish I could hold on to that feeling and I think that no matter how old I get that alone will keep drawing me back to riding. I was on a mission to have a ride like I had on Tabor when I did it 8 times and that didn't happen. I still had an incredible ride and I will definitely do it again.

The rest of the week was less exciting. I did some spin rides, and some stationary bike. Peter and I had plans to do a 38-mile loop on Thursday, but my back was feeling scary sore so we turned back after having lunch at the Little Red Bike Cafe in N. Portland. I do love their vegan tempeh, lettuce and tomato sandwich. We still logged 21 miles that day when we added in a 2-mile grocery run and that is nothing to sneeze at.

I felt like I hadn't really done much riding this week but when I added it all up it amounted to 110 miles which is actually pretty good. Hopefully, next week we will get in a real long ride on the weekend.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Worst Ride Ever

I wanted to do a long ride today. Peter was less enthused. If you ride up to Skyline there is a big 35-mile loop you can do that is a Portland cycling favorite. Peter, being the most supportive husband ever, dutifully prepared his homebrew sports drink and sandwiches and loaded the bikes on the car on this 41 degree cloudy Portland day.

While I drove to Skyline, Peter laid back in his seat with his hat over his eyes. Periodically, he would comment on my driving. "Going around the giant moose statue right now, right?" I laughed and said, "Your sense of direction blind-folded is better than mine with all my senses."

We made it up to Skyline and started up a curvy ascent with cars whipping by us every 30 seconds or so. My bike was feeling great from my professional bike fit I had yesterday, although my cycling shoe cleats had been adjusted so I had a hard time finding the clips on my pedals. I kept looking back to check on Peter and he was laboring on behind me but didn't seem to be having any fun.

Skyline is really curvy with no shoulder so the cars pass pretty close to you because they can't see very far ahead of them. One car passed so close to me that I flipped him off as he drove by. My attitude is: I have every right to be on this road and you can just wait until it is safe to pass. Peter was feeling very differently. Almost four miles in I looked back and he wasn't there. I waited for him to catch up and from the look on his face I knew we were done. "I don't want to get killed," he said. "I don't think we are going to get killed," I replied. "Well, I don't want to be a quadriplegic either."

So, we turned around and climbed back up the hill. I was in the completely wrong gear to start a climb like that and when I tried to gear down going so slowly, my chain dropped and I came to a screeching halt. I couldn't clip out in time and I started to fall to the right, slowly and painfully. "Here I go, here I go," I said as I luckily fell into grass instead of the giant boulders that were just a few feet further away.

When we finally made it back to the car, Peter said, "That feeling is the reason I didn't get a driver's license until I was 26." We loaded up the bikes, defeated and still just sweaty enough to be cold. We sipped Peter's home brew sports drink as we drove. "Why does it tasted like cherry jam?" I asked. "Almond extract," Peter replied. Realizing this wasn't our most triumphant bike ride ever we decided that this day needed something else to make it right. So, on the way home we stopped at the liquor store and bought some akvavit. An hour and a half later, we were relaxing in our sauna, sipping akvavit, and dreaming of buying a summer home in Finland. Where, I'm sure, we could have many happy bike rides.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Keeping Up with Leslie

When Leslie and I were talking about riding on Monday (as we often do) she told me that she tries to keep a 20mph pace on flats and an 11-12 mph pace on hills. Leslie is really the person that has taught me the most about riding and I really look up to her. I've had a rough couple of days and decided a game was what I needed for today's ride: Keep Up With Leslie.

I did okay on the flats. 20mph is not my most comfortable pace...I couldn't do it for 70 miles, but to ride to and from Tabor I did fine. When I got to the first hill I was like, "Okay, start at your normal pace and see how far you have to go." Normal pace: 8.5mph. Darn it. Well, clearly, 12 mph is out of the question. How about 10 mph. That seems attainable.

The whole way up the Lincoln side I struggled to see that blasted 1 and 0. 9.5, 9.6, 9.7, oh damn, 9.5. On the last little stretch I hit 10.0 for a split second before I lost it. Coming up the Salmon side I got to 10.0 a couple of times, but I couldn't hold it. I imagined seeing Leslie's svelte figure 50 feet ahead of me. 12 miles an hour! 12 miles an hour! How the hell does she go 12 miles an hour?

I decided to do the big steep hill on Yamhill for my third run. That was laughable. It looks really scary so I geared down to my granny gear as I was going down. That put me at a measly 7mph going up the hill.

For my last climb I did the sweeping road past the resevoir and for that I can do 11-12 mph. Though, not the whole way. But, hey, I still did it.

Riding home I was in the best mood. My game had kept me thoroughly entertained and my admiration for Leslie was as high as ever. Checking my clock when I parked my bike I realized that by just TRYING to keep up with Leslie I had shaved 11 minutes off my Tabor time. And, that made me very happy, indeed.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Picnic Ride

We set off today dressed in street clothes for a picnic on Mt. Tabor and Rocky Butte. I had Dexter in tow which makes my total weight 61 pounds and I certainly felt it on the way up to Tabor. Dexter gave a few dogs a good talking to on the way up which is always hilarious to hear.

At the top of Mt. Tabor we had our turkey and salami sandwiches washed down with Hansen's Diet Root Beer. Dexter had fun rolling around in the pine needles and making a royal mess of his sweater.

From Mt. Tabor we headed through the bike streets to the next cinder cone, Rocky Butte. It sure felt like a long climb up with a 17-pound dog on the back of your bike. At least a 1/3 longer than when I did it last week. But, after much strenous pedalling we were at the top. We had stopped at the Bi-Partisan Cafe for pie on the way over so we enjoyed our pie while looking out at the stunning mountain views. There was even a little view of Mt. Jefferson and Mt. Ranier.

As we sped down the mountain Peter got a great shot of Dexter looking back. We rode through the streets of NE across Burnside into SE and home. It was a lovely ride and a lovely picnic.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Willamette Valley Scenic Bikeway

Today was a fun day. We drove the bikes over to Champoeg State park for a 44-mile ride on the Willamette Valley Scenic Bikeway. For the first 12 miles we only got passed by 2 cars and it was so much fun just to be able to ride. The stretches between turns or stops were long and we were cycling through beautiful farm country. We saw sheep, goats, horses, donkeys, cows and a number of farm dogs guarding the property. We cycled past fields planted with clover for the winter as well as hazelnut and apple orchards. There were fields of blackberry bushes and rows and rows of giant trellises for growing hops.

About 16 miles in we stopped to eat our half sandwiches along a white fence planted with daffodils. We stretched for a bit and then hopped back on our bikes for a few more miles to Willamette Mission State Park. The park was quiet, the roads were smooth and we were having a fabulous time. After a quick bathroom break we rode on the bike path for a bit to get to 22 miles (and change). Where we stopped there was an old fashioned ferry taking 3-4 cars at a time across the river.

About an hour and 50 minutes into our ride I started feeling really tired and my legs felt sluggish. "I gotta eat, " I said, and we stopped unceremoniously at a stop sign and ate our other half sandwich. I drank more of my sports drink and a few minutes later I was feeling better. We stopped for a few more pictures on the way back and when we hit 42.1 miles I yelled out, "42.1! Longer than we've ever gone before!"

When we got back to the car we were officially at 44.6 and feeling fantastic. We plopped down on the sidewalk after loading up our bikes and feasted on dolmas, beans, artichoke hearts, and leftover chicken tagine from last night. We pondered on how lucky we are to be so well-matched athletically. It wasn't something either one of us knew to even look for in a partner, but it really worked out for us.

Upon returning home and showering we sat out back on the patio and had our first sample of Peter's home brewed wit beer. He and his dad spent the last month making this beer and it tasted great. The perfect "recovery drink" for a perfect day.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010


For the last month, Leslie has been telling me I have to try to ride up to Skyline. She even sent me a map about a month ago detailing the route along with directions. I don't have the greatest sense of direction, so I've been dragging my feet about it. Today, I was feeling adventurous though so I set off across the river, through the Pearl and up Lovejoy to Cornell. About 4 miles in is where the climb began. It's not too steep but there are only a couple of places where you get a break.

As I pass the Audobon society I remember that we used to drive over here to go hiking in Forest Park. Leslie had warned me of a choke point where there is a tunnel that has a bike path on the right side as you go up the hill. Going around this tunnel I felt reassured that I was going the right way until, "Wait, what's that?" Another tunnel. I really didn't remember her saying there were two tunnels, but I went around this one too and kept riding on Cornell. About 7 miles away from home I'm sure I missed a turn and I'm about to give up when I see up ahead a street sign. It's Thompson. Yes!

Thompson is pretty quiet and not too steep, but at this point I've been climbing for a few miles so my heartrate is up and I'm breathing hard. It feels like I'm riding through a forest there are so many trees and I can hear a stream somewhere over to the left. I'm really enjoying myself and taking it pretty easy since I don't know how long it is going to last. At almost 9 miles I see a stop sign up ahead and I switch to a harder gear to finish the climb. Skyline! I made it to Skyline!

I decide to ride on Skyline for a little while until I see the cemetary that Peter and I took his dad's telescope to a few years ago when Mars was so close. It's here that I decide to stop to eat my half sandwich. I gently lay Amie down on the grass and sit down on a white marker with the word DEVOTION painted on it. There's really no view so I don't feel bad about forgetting my camera AGAIN.

I do a few stretches and then hop on the bike. It's raining quite a bit now and I'm worried about getting chilled going down that long hill. Before I know it, I'm screaming down the hill at 35 mph. I decide to just ride through the tunnels as I'm not going much slower than the cars and I've got my back blinker on. Some idiot passes me in the tunnel anyway. I hope those 3 seconds he saved will make a difference when he gets where he is going.

By the time I'm through the Pearl and on the Esplanade I'm quite cold and grateful to turn away from the river and climb home. I ride hard and notice that my back is feeling great as I pull in to the driveway. This and that fact that I just did a pretty hard, brand new, 20 mile ride and didn't get lost makes me very happy indeed.