Sunday, September 5, 2010

For Barb

Peter had been sleeping for hours when he was awakened Friday night by the shaking of my quiet sobs. "What's wrong?" he said. I just continued sobbing but somehow managed to get out "She......died." "Who died?" Peter asked. "The woman from the book." (Miles from Nowhere by Barbara Savage) "On the trip?" "No, she died after she got home and wrote the book. She died just as it was going to print." "Oh," he said, rubbing his eyes. "How?" "Cycling accident," I replied. "What a stupid book," was all he managed to say for consolation before he laid back down and drifted back to sleep.

But, it wasn't a stupid book. It was an amazing book. It was an amazing adventure. Barbara and her husband Larry had pedaled 25,000 miles. They'd survived logging trucks and bears and rattlesnakes, Florida drivers, cobras and the chaotic streets of India. They'd summited the Rockies, the Appalachians, the Alps, and they'd even cycled in the shadow of Mt. Everest. They'd battled dysentery, rain, snow, cold, heat. They'd been bruised by the rocks thrown at their faces in Egypt and discovered that even when that reserve that we all keep to get us through the lowest low is gone, that they still had each other.

And, even though I was so sad that Barb had died so young (she couldn't have even been 30), it was clear from her book that she had experienced more on that trip than most of us will experience in a lifetime. She had seen the world in a way that let her really experience the terrain, the weather and the people and she had been kind enough to share it with us. As I lay in bed staring up at the ceiling that night I knew that at the age of 34 I had found a new hero.

The next day I bought a hardcover copy of Miles from Nowhere and decided that I wanted my ride on Sunday to be dedicated to her. Maybe that sounds incredibly cheesy. But, nevertheless, that is what I wanted to do. I started thinking about how I could do that. It had to be a ride that I had never done before. Something challenging that pushes me outside of my comfort zone. To be truthful, going anywhere by myself for the first time is outside my comfort zone because I have a terrible sense of direction. I decided that I was going to try to conquer Mt. Scott and since I really didn't know anything about it and had never been there before it would a little adventure. But, going there and back would only be about a 20-mile ride so I decided to tack on Mt. Tabor and Rocky Butte and call it the Three Volcanoes Ride. I decided that every time I did the Three Volcanoes Ride after that I would be reminded of Barbara Savage, her amazing adventurous spirit and how, nearly 30 years after she had died, her book had touched my life.

Blame it on the 4 glasses of wine I had last night. Blame it on the cool, cloudy weather. Blame it on the smell of smoke still left in my hair from sitting lazily around our outdoor fireplace last night with our guests. Blame it on the PMS that had been over shadowing my last few days, or the wheeze I woke up with this morning (possibly from inhaling too much smoke). Whatever. When I woke up this morning I was no longer inspired. I just wanted to lie in bed, eat chocolate chips and read. And, that's what I did until at around 2pm I decided I'd eaten far too many chocolate chips and needed to get some cardio in. Admitting defeat, I filled up my water bottles, grabbed a gel (at the last minute) and set off to do a Tabor ride. My mind and body are so used to climbing Mt. Tabor that I could do it in my sleep. But, 4 times up gets my heart rate up for about 90 minutes.

Riding towards Tabor, about 2 miles in, a familiar sensation starts to rise inside me. Ambition. I decide that I'm going to go for it. Happy that I packed the gel, I climbed over Tabor and headed south.

There is a little bit of climbing to get to the base of Mt. Scott, but I was not prepared for what I saw when I looked to the left at the stoplight at Johnson Creek Blvd. I've never seen a hill that steep. I start up it. My heart is pounding, my poor lungs complain with a much more pronounced wheeze and my legs start to shake. My front wheel keeps lifting off the ground as I desperately pull on the handlebars. When my hands started tingling I knew I had to stop.

A road biker slowly makes his way past me and he looks a bit concerned. "Hiiii..." I manage to bleat with a slow smile. I'm not going to walk. I am NOT going to walk. I lift myself back up on my bike and pedal another .2 miles before I have to stop. But, after a minute of resting I get back up on my bike and pedal up to the road where the trail ends. The road biker passes me as I ride the last stretch on his way down. He gives me a huge grin. I found out when I got home that I had just climbed 662 feet in half a mile. Potter Hill was 387 feet in 1.1 miles. Mt. Tabor is 377 feet in 1.86 miles. My legs and hands are shaking so I eat my gel, but I think the shaking was just from exertion.

Riding alone is very peaceful and rewarding but I always worry about bonking. Not having someone there with some extra food (or to shove food in your mouth) means that I always bring extra and I eat and drink early and often. I know I can do a 30-mile ride with just two water bottles and no food, but that climb up Mt. Scott really took it out of me. Riding past Taco Bell I have an idea. Picturing those Tour de France riders throwing back the little cans of Coke, I pull up to the drive-thru to order a soda. I'm not getting a response. "I think you have to go inside," the woman in the car behind me says. "I've tried to do this on my bike and it doesn't work." "Will you order me a small Coke?" I ask her. "Sure," she says. I ride up to the window, pick up my drink and pay for the woman's order. Waiting at the stoplight she drives by with a honk and a "Thanks!" and I continue my way north.

I'm feeling good and have pedaled my funk right out of my system. I didn't make it to the top of Mt. Scott without stopping, but I also didn't walk. There is something about it being so hard that makes it feel even more rewarding. Climbing up Rocky Butte feels like a cakewalk and when I get to the top I feel satisfied and peaceful.

When it comes to the adventurous spirit, I think I am endowed with a very measured dose. I like to see new things and especially eat new foods, but I also like to feel safe and secure. I like maps and timetables, clean hotels and amiable locals. I always have more fun if my husband is there to navigate (and share the adventure). I'll probably never do an around the world bike trip, but I think there is adventure in my future. Adventure of a more careful and calculated sort, but adventure nonetheless. "Tackling" Mt. Scott (if you count stopping twice and being a shaky wobbly mess tackling) today will hopefully be the first of many new places I get to ride in this great and wonderful world.


  1. I love when we get inspired to do something because of someone else. I bet that if I had read the book I would've cried at the end too.
    I really let books get to me.
    Great, great achievement.