Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Unintended Titanium: An Adventure Bike Experience

A few months ago (or likely more as time seems to be slipping through my fingers faster than usual), I wrote briefly about cleaning out bicycles and how I often acquire different bicycles over winter. This past fall and winter was no different as I cleared out three bicycles and found myself with a new bike.

To go back in time just a bit, after ridding some of the excess from my life in regard to bicycles, I thought the one thing truly missing from my fold was a dedicated road bike. However, I didn't want a road bike that would take only sub-28mm tires, so finding what I was looking for was a bit of a challenge. Granted, there are many more wide-tire-capable bikes of all types today then have been available in the past, but it's still somewhat difficult to find true road bikes with the ability to take a wider tire -- particularly when the rider would prefer a steel bike. While steel bikes with wider clearances are usually easier to find, steel road bikes with wide tire clearances are just as much a unicorn as any other material.

Searching went on for some time, and as the hunt continued, I started to ponder whether I wanted a truly road-only bike, or if it would be better to look at something that is lighter weight that could function as a road bike, but that would also permit off-road riding on a whim. An adventure/gravel bike seemed to make sense in some ways, so the search kind of veered off in that direction. Whether that was the right decision to make is questionable to me at this point, but it's how I ended up with the choice I made.
To make the long hunting story short, I ended up purchasing a Kinesis Tripster ATR frame. It is neither a road bike, nor is it steel. It is, however, my first experience riding a titanium frame. Because of this, I found it somewhat difficult to quantify benefits of the frame material, but I will certainly share what I can from my experience.

Initially, I was excited to find the frame at a discounted price which is kind of what pushed me into the Tripster direction (never a good reason to buy a bike, I'll admit). I was having difficulty deciding between a few frames though and not being able to test any of them, and after having read a plethora of information and reviews on each, this frame seemed like a good bet.

In typical EVL fashion, this bike was built, then re-configured, and then put back to the original set up. After initially setting it up as a "road" build with drop bars and a double compact crank, I thought that it might work better with my Jones bars and a triple crank instead. The problem, however, was that we just couldn't get the shifting to work with this set up. Ugh. So, back we went to the first build, with very minor modifications.

The Tripster was ridden in both configurations, but with the triple set up it wasn't taken far due to the shifting issues. After having it rebuilt as a more road-centered ride, I struggled through a few more rides. I continued to think that the reason for the struggling was my lack of ability, lack of riding alone for any distance and so on, but after one final ride that sent me over the edge, I just couldn't bring myself to get back on the bike.

Since I have bikes that function in a more intermediate role (gravel, can carry a bit of a load, etc), it didn't make sense to keep this bike. Ultimately, the frame was sold to someone who was looking for more of an "adventure" bike, for which I believe this bike to be perfectly suited. As a road bike, however, it was less than ideal.

The qualities of this bike and geometry make it well-suited for long distance gravel adventures, but despite the ATR (Adventure, Tour, Race) designation, I didn't find it to be particularly race-like. It was incredibly comfortable and I could easily see how throwing some bags on it and taking it on a long distance adventure would be a perfect use of this bike, but trying to turn it into a road bike for faster paved rides was a huge mistake and definitely didn't bring out the best qualities for this particular bicycle.

What I did find intriguing about this option was the frame material.  Again, having never ridden a titanium bike prior to this experience, I have no way to know how it compares to others, but I have to say that I was impressed by the feel of the ride. It's something that has stuck with me, even months after saying goodbye to the bike. If this is how every titanium frame feels, my goodness, I'm amazed that more people don't ride it! I know that it comes at a cost, but it really was one of the, if not the smoothest ride I've ever experienced. It was one of those experiences that could easily send me down the rabbit hole in which all I ever want to ride are titanium frames -- it was that good.

Even to this moment, I don't know if it was the combination of the geometry and the material or just the material that brought the smoothness of the bike. I suppose the only true way to know with certainty is to have more titanium bike tests, though I don't see that as a horribly likely option because I don't possess the financial means to do multiple tests at this price point.  Still, it doesn't keep me from wondering about this material and how it could be beneficial for various types of bikes from road to mountain and those types in between.

As for the plan of obtaining a dedicated road bike, I have since made another purchase (in steel) that I'll be starting to test soon. It took a bit of time to figure out which direction to go for the next test, and I'm trying not to get my hopes up too high, but I believe this round will make more sense for my needs moving forward.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

2018 Silver Rush 50 MTB: Racing for a Better Corral Position

**It's race report time once again, and as usual, both Sam and I have sides of the tale to share. Sam's experience is in bold letters, while mine will be in regular font.

During September of last year, Sam raced the Barn Burner MTB race in Flagstaff, Arizona. It's kind of become a tradition because most people are wrapping up their race season and don't seem to travel to this particular event. Fortunately, Sam was able to get a spot in the LT100 MTB upcoming in August of this year because of racing that event.

However, Sam didn't time as well as he'd hoped at the Barn Burner, so a couple of months ago, he decided he would race the Silver Rush 50 in Leadville with the hope of getting into a corral position that would have him closer to the front. When he signed up to do the SR50, we had discussed the reality that he would be on his own. He was fine with that idea because he knew that he could get up early, travel to Leadville to get his packet, race, and be back before the sun set. 

Of course, as reality sets in, sometimes we all start changing our minds about such matters. Sensing something was amiss, I asked if he would like to reserve a camping spot for the night prior so that he wouldn't have to get up so early. He didn't seem keen on this at all. Though I felt bad that I couldn't be there, with one of our aging dogs (who happens to also be incredibly cranky around other dogs) losing most of her vision and having a difficult time with traveling these days (not that she was ever a very keen traveler), it just didn't seem feasible to do a 15-16 hour day with her.

Then, I started to feel bad that I wouldn't be there for Sam so I tried to plot out how to make it happen. We went over several scenarios, but none of it made much sense. Ultimately, we worked it out so that our older dog would stay home and have a couple of friends check on her, walk her, and feed her during the day and we'd take the younger dog with us (since she doesn't do well being left for long periods of time and actually likes to travel).

Now the only challenge would be getting me out of bed by 3 am. I am not a morning person - at all. It's not so much that I sleep in, but I prefer to just let my body wake up naturally whenever possible, which usually happens between 5:30-6:30 am (dependent on how late I go to sleep). Mix in the fact that my alarm clock has decided that it is permanently stuck on 6 am and I knew it would be interesting to see how the morning went.

Miraculously, I somehow made it out of bed and we were on our way pretty much as expected.

This third time might be the charm.

Things that were different this round:
- I slept the night before the race
- This is the third time I've had a different bike for this race (but my build skills have advanced)
- Instead of single speed, rigid, steel, I rode a geared, carbon frame that has front suspension
- There was no overnight camping this round - instead we drove out the morning of the race
- I decided to use primarily a Camelbak instead of bottles

There wasn't much to worry about the morning of the race. We got up around 3am and headed out. I had prepped everything the night before so that I wouldn't forget anything.

We arrived plenty early, just before 6am.

Since we had arrived early and I had forgotten to brush my teeth in my morning stupor, we stopped by Safeway with the intention of using the restrooms and obtaining a toothbrush/paste for me to feel more human and to not have to have gross morning breath and a film on my teeth all day long.  Unfortunately, Safeway wasn't open, so we waited a few minutes for the doors to unlock, got what we needed and were on our way to the starting area.

We have parked each time for this race at the college just above the starting line and this race was no different. After putting some air in my bike tires, I rode down to the starting area to pick up my race packet and bib number.

While Sam was gone, I noticed the woman next to us getting ready for the race and happened to see that she had a "Leadman" bib on her bike. Of course, being the nosy sort of person that I am, I had to inquire as to how the series was going thus far, despite it still being early [For those who are unaware, the Leadman/woman requires racers to complete the Leadville Trail Marathon, the Silver Rush 50 MTB or Run, the LT100 MTB, Leadville 10k Run (which just happens to be the morning following the LT100 MTB), and the LT100 Run].

The racer shared her nerves about doing the SR50 mountain ride because she had attempted it on other occasions and had yet to be able to finish. Instead, she was viewing the ride as training and telling herself that if everything spiraled downward, she would be able to do the SR50 Run instead. I shared that I would personally fear the running distances far more than the riding (Who runs 50 or 100 miles all at once???? Crazy people, right?), but she was more confident in her running than riding skills (which I can respect - we all have our strengths).
Warming up for the SR50
I rode back up the hill to the college parking lot to prepare for the race. I'm not sure who gets to park down at the main area, but it doesn't seem to be us [G.E.'s note: I think they reserve the main lower parking lot for medical and race staff, as well as those who genuinely cannot get up and down the hill - and it's definitely a hill that I went up/down at least half a dozen times that day.]

I feel like I've ceased to be nervous about these endurance races, but I always hope to be well prepared. G.E. had been chatting with a budding Leadwoman who we hoped would make the cut off time this race and move on to her next level of "torture." I continue to contemplate doing Leadman each year, but haven't quite worked up to actually registering to do it [G.E.'s note: I stand by my statement that the two long runs are the worst of this, I think. I truly believe a 50 mile (let alone the 100 mile) run would break me].

At about 7:30am, I rode down the hill, while our Golden Retriever pulled G.E. down the hill. [G.E.'s note: True story. She does get very excited when there are people, so I kind of expected this of her. On the up side, my core got a good workout from clenching all day trying to keep her from lunging toward others constantly.]. I dropped my bike in the starting corral and went back to find G.E. and Bernie (I needed to have my arm mauled a bit before the race, as most do) [G.E.'s note: mauled by the dog, not me - just for the record - and to be honest, it's really not a "mauling" but more of a just wanting to put an arm in her mouth to hold], and we stood for a bit until the start time got closer. 
Sam's intended times for this race at each aid station/stop.
This year, the organizers decided to do two waves with those expecting to finish sub-7 hours and then those expecting to finish a little later, with the intention to help with some of the bottle-necking at the start (I assume). I strolled back over to the starting area about 10 minutes before the race would begin.

Bernie and I stood quite a distance but within eye shot of Sam so that we (or at least I) could see him take off up Dutch Henri Hill. I was busying myself with keeping our overly excited dog from jumping or annoying those passing by when I happened to look up and have a moment of pure shock. Sam was actually speaking to other humans. I couldn't see who he was talking to, but he was definitely engaged in conversation which was rather shocking to me as he's not normally one to go out of his way to have a chat with those unknown to him or who are just standing around. I smiled and thought it was great that he was stepping outside his comfort zone, but didn't give it more than a second or two of true thought.

In front of me at the start I noticed two familiar faces/helmets and a very familiar voice. Somehow, I had ended up set up directly behind Elden (Fatty) and Lisa (the Hammer) Nelson. Certainly outside of my normal behavior, I introduced myself as the only guy that is shorter than Fatty. We chit chatted a bit and then I spoke to a first time rider just on the other side of me who was nervous about the race. I tried to reassure him that he would do well and that death was not imminent. Lisa appeared highly focused and did not interact much, but I have to say both Fatty and the Hammer both appeared pretty intense - maybe it's just my perception. It was at this point that I thought that once we started, I would try to stick with Elden, knowing he is a stronger endurance rider than me.
Climbing Dutch Henri Hill at the start of the SR50.
The start was the typical National Anthem, flag and gun shot start. At the base of the very steep but short hill, racers prepare to travel on foot with their bikes to the top of Dutch Henri. Some choose to RUN up this hill in the hopes they will get to the top first and obtain an LT100 coin. Fortunately, I already have one for this year, and I like my ankles, so after a mild jog up the hill we were on our way through the start.

After watching Sam and the others take off from the start, Bernie and I headed back up the hill to start our journey for the day: trying to help Sam at the few crew points in this race. The first stop is about 14.5 miles into the race, so we knew we had some, but not a ton of time to get there and cheer for Sam. Frankly, since Sam had expected to go on his own, I figured he didn't really need me to do anything (perhaps that was a bad way to think, but it's what happened).

As we bottleneck at the start, we are released into some mild single track for a couple of miles and then make our way out while hopefully picking up some speed. Really, it's a climb out for about 11 miles from the start. I had Elden in my sights for the first six miles or so and then I got caught behind some groups. Prior to that, I had been picking off riders one at a time. The climbing piece seems to be where I have suffered recently, particularly when I ride geared, as was the case with this race. I just seem to do better on a single speed.

Things were going pretty smoothly as I approached the first aid station at Printerboy. I had no intention of stopping but somewhere along the way I lost the remainder of my GU packs. Apparently, I need to do a better job of securing my stuff in the new Camelbak. I didn't want to stop, but knew I needed to grab some GU from the aid station. One of the volunteers handed me a couple of packets, I saw G.E. to my right, but kept rolling as quickly as I could. At this point, I was about 10 minutes behind my target time.

As Sam arrived at Printerboy, Bernie and I were amusing ourselves - she was trying to beg for and/or steal food from anyone who was willing to give it to her (or not paying attention). What can I say? She's a Golden and loves food in any form.  I attempted to assure others that they should eat their breakfasts, snacks, etc and not give it to our pathetic-acting dog who gets plenty of food. When Sam came around the corner, I yelled to him, but he seemed to be ignoring me. I wasn't worried because I knew that I had a package of GU to give him at the halfway point. When I saw him grabbing packets from the aid station, I wondered what he was doing, but since he didn't stop but for more than a couple of seconds, I figured he was fine.

At the 14.5 mile point (Printerboy), racers are at a low spot and are preparing to climb up again toward Stumptown. This is the turnaround point and the halfway mark. Over that 10.5 mile stretch, I parceled out the two GU packs I'd received at the aid station by stretching eating to every 45 minutes (instead of the 30 minute increments I'd planned on). I knew it would be close to the turnaround, so I just hoped it would be enough. 
During this stretch of the race there was also an insanely large amount of people who decided that they needed to clip out without warning which caused me to crash a few times while climbing. None of them were serious falls, but I really wish people would give some warning before they just stop when we're climbing.

Bernie and I were on our way to Stumptown. Sam has done this particular race three times now, but I manage to forget how horrible the road is to get to the turnaround spot there every time. After attempting it yet again, I decided I would go to another spot that is both easier to travel and would allow me to see him twice in a short period of time. I'd just have to make sure he actually saw me so he would know I wasn't at the actual turnaround.

When we arrived to our spot to wait just before Stumptown, I kept hearing someone yell, "Bernie! Bernie!" I was looking around because I found it amusing that there was someone else there named Bernie, but after a few rounds of this, I realized it was coming from a young lady Sam and I had been talking to before the race started. She and her mom were there supporting their dad/husband and she had quickly bonded with our sweet-though-often-a-pain-in-the-rear Golden. We walked over to where they stood on the opposite side of the course. Bernie was content to roll in rocks there and to get treats, which made it easier to focus on getting Sam what he would need.

Soon after, Sam came tearing through. I yelled to him, but he didn't seem to realize I was there. As he rode off, I said to myself, "Well, I guess you don't need anything." I would find out later that he had seen me, but was just focused and decided to stop on his way back toward the finish line. As we all stood waiting, several racers came down asking for water, caffeine, and food. At first we all thought they were joking, but some of them seemed really angry that we didn't have anything. We tried to tell them that they had just come out of the aid station, but many of them seemed confused.

By the time I reached Stumptown and the turn around, I had run out of GU, water and whatever little liquid I had been carrying in my single bottle. The bonk had begun around 23 miles, so when I reached G.E. a bit after the 25 mile point, she gave me the rest of my GU and filled up my water.

When Sam came back down from the turnaround, he shared that he'd lost all his GU and that he was completely out of water. I asked him if there was water at Stumptown because several people seemed to be out and I was confused because I thought that was where the aid station was. He said that he hadn't seen any water there, so I still am not quite sure what happened, but I think it explains many of the upset racers.

I knew I had given Sam all of his remaining GU, so it would have to hold him for the entirety of the race, but the plan was to make sure I had cold water for him back at Printerboy on his return trip.

It's really difficult to un-bonk yourself once it's happened. In fact, I have never been successful doing this. It's always a downhill spiral and a test of mental fortitude after that point.
But, I was going again, loaded up with GU and water, but pretty bonky (not completely, but I knew I was getting there). We climbed up and down pretty much until right after Printerboy inbound. Immediately after Stumptown though, I encountered Lisa Nelson multiple times. We did some leap frogging. She would pass all the people walking their bikes and then I would somehow pass her on the downhill. Climbing did not go well for me after bonkville, so we swapped like this until around mile 39 when we start to bomb downhill. Climbing back to Printerboy, she lost me once again and I now had no more GU and only drops of water (I do have a better plan, I just thought for this 50 mile ride I wouldn't need it. Pshhhht! Who needs water or energy?).

Even though I knew I didn't have any GU to give Sam, I did bring a jug of ice cold water for me. I always seem to forget to eat and drink while I'm out on these courses, so I wanted to make sure I had water. When I'm riding long distances, I love cold water. I know it's better to drink room temperature water because our bodies process it easier, but it always tastes so good! So, I figured I'd give up my vacuum sealed ice water to Sam when he came through Printerboy inbound.

When he stopped there, he informed me that he was out of water and GU. I told him that I didn't have anymore GU to give him, so I wasn't sure what to do. Meanwhile, I was trying to unscrew his bladder for the Camelbak to add in the ice-cold water. One of the race volunteers overheard Sam and ran over to the aid station to grab a couple of GU packs for him, and as I was starting to pour in the water, another racer crew member came over and helped me add water to his pack from his own stash (I have to say, one of the things I adore about the races in Leadville is how great all of the people are to each other - It really is a place where anyone will help anyone). As I was adding the cold water to fill the bladder to the top, some of it spilled out on to Sam who let out a shriek.

"That's COLD!" he stated firmly.

"I know. I thought you'd enjoy it. I'm sorry... I'm sorry. I didn't mean to spill it," was what came out in the moment. We didn't have time to argue over cold water though, so I sealed him up and sent him back on his way. "See you at the finish!" I yelled after him.

After stopping briefly at Printerboy and having way too cold water poured down my pants, I knew we were reaching the peak of this race and it would start the 10 mile downhill back to the finish line. This is where I performed better than I ever have [G.E.'s note: I'm gonna say it was the extra cold water.]. I went absolutely as fast as I could and had no issues through this area. It was all smooth, wet, muddy, and rocky sailing.
I encountered at least five people who had pinch flatted on the way down and saw one mild crash. I tore through all of this as fast as a crappy down-hiller with a hard tail really could. Sadly, I was now at least 40 minutes off the time I had wanted and really thought I could do. I had been shooting to finish in 5 hrs, 15 minutes, but I was now just hoping to finish in sub-6 hours.

The last part is no longer down hill, but has some climbing through a bit of singletrack, winding around, and for me was just about surviving the bonk that had taken over. A couple of people were passing me and I just gave in and let them.

Up until about a mile out, someone in a white jersey was tailing me. While we're riding the winding portion of the singletrack, you can see each other from a bit of distance. I didn't look very closely, but every time I turned the rider seemed to be getting closer. I really didn't want anyone else passing me, so I gave it all I had and kicked it through this part to the final little dump right at the finish.

Bernie and I waited near the finish line. It's always fun to see the racers come in. Some look as though they could ride the course again, others appear to be near death. I think figuring out the nutrition and water situation is always a challenge, and most of the riders aren't used to the altitude so I completely understand why there's such a variance. I chatted with a couple of individuals who were wondering how long it would be for their riders to come in. One asked if it's all down hill from Printerboy. Even with the downhill stretch, a lot of the riders are tired, so many tend to slow down. This was disheartening to one crew member in particular who really wanted to be done, but I just didn't want her to have too high of expectations and then be disappointed. It's sometimes difficult to know with certainty how long it will take.

I knew that Sam wasn't going to make his intended time of 5:15, but I still had hope that he'd make it in close to that time. It was unrealistic, but I always hold out hope that he'll find a way to do it.

At around 5:42, I heard Lisa Nelson's name announced. I was hopeful that Sam would be close behind her. I know she's a very strong rider, but I knew it was possible that Sam could've been close enough to finish in the next few minutes.
A few seconds from the finish line.
Just prior to 5 hours 52 minutes, I saw Sam's helmet pop over the last ridge with a rider right on his tail. I yelled and screamed because, you know, that's what you do at things like this, and watched as he rode into the finish. As I walked to meet him outside the finish, I heard his name announced, as well as Elden's name immediately following. He had somehow managed to finish just prior to Fatty. I couldn't help but wonder how that happened, if they'd met up on the course and figured out a way to work together, or if they'd planned this, or what exactly had transpired. I would find out soon enough that I was entirely wrong with all of my thoughts.

I finished the SR50 in 5:52:28, somewhere around 34 minutes faster than my last attempt, and approximately 1 mph faster average. Little did I know until after crossing the finish line that Fatty was the one tailing me in the white jersey. I had come in -- somehow -- 5 seconds before him, though I knew there had to be some reason for this. I knew he had to have broken down - and later, I would realize that it happened early on in the race when I wasn't seeing him anymore. He hadn't ridden away from me, he was actually behind me the whole time - and I mean, RIGHT behind me.
I had failed at my mission, which was to move up in the standings. Unfortunately, I'm staying right where I am with that finish time, so I guess my resolve will need to be even stronger come August. The victory came in some improvement, so I'll take that, but it just wasn't what I'd hoped to gain out of this race.

As for learning... For the next race, I'm swapping Camelbak's out at the aid stations (I have two of the same one - G.E. can tell you all about it). [G.E.'s note: Sam's mom and I ended up both buying Sam the Camelbak Chase for his birthday, so now he has two. Even though I was upset about it at the time, I think it will actually work well for him in the upcoming LT100 because I can have the other one ready to go and just switch it out with him.] I have to climb harder and faster. I think near the peak I will burn all but the last of the matches to increase my climbing speed. I was my best ever on the downhill for this race and I hope to stick with that. I need more nutrition, so I'm going to try some liquid supplements in the Camelbak, particularly for the sustained climbing portions. I would love to find someone fast to trail and stick with, but I don't know how likely it is to make this happen.

Overall, I guess it was a good day. The weather was good, though a bit dusty. G.E. only got mild leg sunburn [G.E.'s note: I was so good about reapplying sunblock during this race, but never put it on my legs. Ugh!]. The race was shifted an hour earlier, which was excellent for missing the afternoon rains that inevitably come in Leadville.

I think Sam did well. Taking more than a half hour off his time is impressive. I know it wasn't what he hoped to gain out of this race, but it's still improvement (and there were a few things that would've likely helped him do better - it's always a learning process). It was a good day though and it's always fun to be in Leadville.

Only a few weeks until the LT100 ride, so I know Sam is trying to implement anything and everything he can that will help him improve. We'll be dog-free for that round, so that should help me focus a little better (hopefully) on getting Sam what he needs during the race... and I'm actually pondering doing the Leadville 10k Run that follows the day after the mountain bike race. We'll see if that happens or not, but I figure it could be an interesting way to wrap up the Leadville season this year.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Striving for Podium Me

Some days, I have begun to feel very slow. Wanting to find answers, I was reviewing my history on Strava. Initially, I was resistant to using this platform for tracking mileage, speed, and so on, but after using it for a few months, there was a realization that it provided information that helped me improve (both with running and riding) and I liked having a place to store information about my bikes because it helped me track how old tires are or how many miles are on a particular bike (or on my running shoes).

After using Strava for a bit of time, I realized it had become a kind of addiction. If I didn't see improvement, I would get frustrated and become more obsessed, so after some time I stopped using it all together. I needed a Strava break. At one point, I began to track some things again, but still wasn't horribly consistent with that habit, and then a little less than a year ago, I returned to tracking most rides, runs, walks and workouts through this service.

Having returned to Strava after an intermission, I was curious to go back and take a look at what I'd been doing when I first started recording. Since I don't run much outdoors these days, my curiosity was more in regard to rides I'd completed, but I thought it would be interesting to see if and how things had changed during the time span of using this software.

In the six years I've used this recording method, I came to realize that I have slowed down dramatically. Granted, there have been some severe ups and downs both mentally and physically during that time, but having thought I was doing pretty well at present, I was shocked to look back to the beginning of my records and discover that even on a bike I still ride today, my speeds have slowed between 2-6+ mph (3-10 kph) on an average ride, and running speeds were so much faster at that earlier point that I'm not even sure how I was physically completing the runs. I actually inquired of Sam, "How was I running that fast?" To which he could only respond with a shrug of his shoulders.

It's one of those curious things. Yes, I've gotten older, but in the grand scheme of life and (hopefully) not being at the end of my years on this planet, one would think that a shift so large couldn't happen in such a relatively brief span of time, especially for someone who participates in activities regularly. And yet, here I was, reading that in fact I have slowed down. The numbers simply do not tell lies.

In part, I've been frustrated because I seem to be able to push myself when riding the tandem with Sam; but when I venture out on my own it's as though I lose all focus and every ride becomes a slow, cruising ride - even when my intention is to go out and push myself. For a time, I thought it was the bicycles I was riding, until I made the connection that I have slowed on every bike - even those that I used to ride faster than at the present.

So, what happened? I wish I knew. As Sam said, "I think your brain is broken," and that's about the most sense I can make out of the situation too. My brain seems to have gone into some sort of looping record of being incapable, and yet, somehow I'm able to snap out of it when I know someone else is depending on me.

There is a part of me that doesn't want to believe my brain is broken because I thought I'd made a conscious decision to slow things down and not make everything a race, but somehow between the extreme of always wanting to race and never wanting to race, I have been unable to find a happy middle ground again. A middle ground that allows me to go faster (even if I'm just racing myself) when I want to, or relax when I have the desire is all that I'm searching for, but most days it feels as though my body protests cooperating.

I know that there have been physical shifts over the last six years as well, and these also likely play a role in the change of pace to some extent. I've become aware of both genetic and other permanent damage that I will always have to be mindful of when participating in activities too. Knowing these physical limitations exist has most certainly added to the broken-brain-syndrome.

Still, I know that my mind is stronger than my body and that I'm capable of more than my physical body would have the world, or even myself, believe.  That stubborn, use-it-all-up, no-one-tells-me-what-I-can-do, always-prove-myself individual is in there, attempting to get out. She makes appearances now and again, just to remind me that she's there, but I have to figure out how to bring her back to the surface when I need her to be present in the moment.
It's as though there is a "Podium Me" and there's "Defeated Me" that are fighting against each other on any given day. Podium Me knows that she's not actually ever going to podium during any race, but in a race with herself, she knows that she can push herself farther than she ever has before. She is confident, she pushes herself, she knows that the only way to improve is to continuously strive to be a better version of herself. Podium Me knows she still has work to do, but takes joy in the small victories and celebrates them, even if it's just with a smile to herself. I love Podium Me! She is awesome -- and she knows it.
And then, there's Defeated Me. Defeated Me truly believes that she is incapable, broken, slower than molasses, and will never achieve her goals. She is whiny and complains, even when there's no one to complain to but herself, which certainly doesn't improve the situation. Defeated Me has no hope and doesn't see any possibilities for the future. When Defeated Me shows up, there's almost no hope of having Podium Me arrive to the party. 

The thing is, both of these people live inside me. The biggest problem is that they have to coexist because there isn't any getting rid of either one of them. There are times when I believe Podium Me has completely disappeared and Defeated Me is all that remains, but when I look deep down, I see little glimmers of her. Right now, she only seems to show up at the gym or on the tandem bike, but that's okay. She's still in there and she'll find her way to the surface again. She just has to dig her way out of the trenches and get free of the shackles Defeated Me likes to place her in when she thinks she's won.

One day, if these two can learn to cooperate and work together, I may actually find the happy middle ground I've been seeking. I look forward to that day, but in the meantime I keep watching for the little sparkles of light from Podium Me, knowing that those little everyday victories are helping her find her way back.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Potato Diaries Wrap-Up

It's taken me a few days to settle back into life and its routine back home, but I wanted to post a bit of a wrap up, or some thoughts about exploring and riding in and around the Boise area. Perhaps it's unnecessary, but I had some things that kept repeating in mind throughout the trip and some that occurred to me after returning home, and so, here we are with a bit of a final post in reference to the trip to Idaho.

•  Like many cities (both large and small), the available trail systems in Nampa and Boise had both highs and lows. There were some things I preferred about riding the Idaho systems and others that I think Colorado has done a better job creating and making user-friendly. Of course, from city to city in any state, this can vary so wildly.

•  We (just generally as humans) need to chill out a bit. During my 10 days in Idaho, I heard only two car horns directed at another person - and both were toward the end of the trip. In comparison, I hear horns blaring daily here at home. Maybe some deep breathing exercises are in order for some (most?) of us.
•  The Boise River Greenbelt/MUP is pretty incredible, especially given the relatively small size of the city. I think I could've spent days exploring and riding areas just off the greenway and still not have seen everything.

•  Not only is the river trail system really great, but there are so many other areas to explore by bicycle in the hills that back the city, as well as other paths around the area. There seems to be an opportunity for both city riders and off-road riders in this area.

•  I (and apparently some others) have lazy speech habits. Most of the people I encountered or heard say the city name pronounce it BOY-see, whereas I find myself saying BOY-zee (with a soft "z" sound). Some made a particular point to emphasize the "sss" sound, so I picked up on this very quickly and will try to be better with pronunciation in the future (though I've read since being home again that this is often the way locals tell the difference between "outsiders" and those who have lived there for some time).

•  For anyone who thinks the cost of education isn't increasing, when I was ready to enroll at Boise State University several years ago, the cost for a semester of undergrad would've been $982. It was one of the reasons I was looking at going to school in Boise. For the current school year, one semester of BSU tuition is $4,107. It's been about 23-24 years since I was looking to enroll there after finishing up my general ed requirements elsewhere, but that seems like a significant jump in cost (though admittedly, still quite lower than many other universities).

•  Since I'm experiencing 90's-versus-today thoughts, the city looks nothing like I remember it from my visit years ago. I remember the locals being very excited about the mall that had just been built during my visit then and having them insist upon us visiting it. The city felt quite small to me then, but it has definitely grown and expanded. Of course, the population has increased too. Though I think it remains a very easy-to-navigate city with a relatively low population.

•  There is good and not-so-good just about everywhere. It can become easy to romanticize a particular city, but I think many places are trying to balance out positives and negatives; and, what is a positive to one person may be the exact opposite to another.
•  When I visit other cities, I find myself wondering what it would be like to live there, so I tend to seek out the areas where I'd want to be if I did live in that particular city. I could see myself living in Boise, I think, but I suppose that is true of many other cities too. I personally liked the size of Boise - neither too large nor too small. It doesn't hurt that I'd have relatives living nearby either.

•  When I returned home to Colorado, the first thing I thought was, "Man, everything is so green here! Did that happen in the brief time I was gone?" There was a lot more dry/dead scenery during my Idaho visit than I expected, and I think it warped my senses just a bit to the point that anything green really stood out. Anything close to the river was green, but outside of the city, unless the area was being purposefully watered, there wasn't much green to see.

•  I am incredibly spoiled to have pretty decent roads to ride in Colorado, especially many with, at minimum, wider shoulders, if not bike lanes to utilize. I definitely take them for granted, and while there is still much room for improvement here, I am reminding myself now to be more grateful for my surroundings and the paths and roads I have to ride.

•  If you get a chance to ride in Boise, I'd recommend riding on Harrison Blvd (it's a tree-lined street with turn-of-the-century houses that stretches about 1/2 a mile long), Bogus Basin Rd (Harrison Blvd turns in to Bogus Basin on the north side of town. There is a bike lane for the first couple of miles, but then it gets a little tricky riding with the cars, but the views looking back down into Boise -- even if you only ride up a mile or so - are spectacular), and definitely take the time to check out the River Greenbelt.

Overall, I had a fantastic trip that afforded me an opportunity to explore the area with few interruptions, and both on foot and two-wheels. I'm sure I will be heading back at some point, and I look forward to discovering new treasures then. Until that time, I'm thankful for what is available to me locally and look forward to riding through some lovely (albeit warm) days here in Colorado.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Potato Diaries, Days 5-7: Connecting Loose Ends and Finally Riding in Boise

I've ended up combining days five through seven together here. I just couldn't get to posting and I've had some issues with connectivity on the computer, so it is what it is. But, here we are now. Three days, smashed together. If you've missed out on the prior posts, Day 1 is here, Day 2 is here, Day 3 is here and Day 4 can be found here.

Day Five:

I keep saying that I have plans to get to Boise to ride, and it just never seems to happen. For one reason or another, there's always an excuse not to get there. Now, time is slipping away and I don't want to miss out on riding in the actual city before I'm gone. Not that I can't or won't return, but it would be nice to actually ride there during this trip.

Yesterday, I was supposed to go into Boise to ride. That didn't happen. The day just got away from me and it was one of those when an hour feels like a minute. Those days are rough because nothing seems to get accomplished. Since things were moving a bit fast, I decided to go back and further explore the Nampa greenway system to try to make some sense of it.

An earlier post highlighted the fact that the map I received shows not only the path that is currently constructed, but also future plans for the greenway. I wanted to see how well the current version works and if the actual greenway is less confusing than the map makes it seem.

The plan was to ride from one side of the city to the other, hopefully only using the greenway, but that didn't quite work out. From the southeast side of the city to the northwest side, there are several locations that drop off suddenly. One of the connections uses surface streets, but the main artery is actually on a very busy road (it's a highway that turns into a street in the city, and spans five lanes through town) and users really find themselves sticking to the sidewalk unless they want to take a pretty great risk of getting hit on the road (I did see one person doing this, so it's not impossible). There are several cars pulling out of parking lots too, so riding on the sidewalk is probably just as potentially dangerous.
One part of the Nampa trail system. The dotted lines indicate future pathways, but unfortunately the map doesn't seem to be entirely accurate and it also leaves riders and walkers in random places without directions in certain spots.
As I was trying to calculate where to go (the signs are somewhat usable, but seem to be placed in areas that make it a little difficult to find them in some spots), I was pedaling on the road and saw a woman in front of me who looked vaguely familiar, but I passed it off as a coincidence. This happens often when I travel. I frequently see people who look like other people I know, so I tend to not make much of these situations.

As we came closer together the woman smiled and said, "Hey! Dog lady!" Realizing that she recognized me too, I took a better glance. It was the same woman who had stopped on Day 3 to help find the owner of the loose dogs roaming the street. We had a very brief conversation and off I went, still trying to connect to the next portion of the path. Had I had any sort of awareness, I should've asked the woman I'd just been talking to, but that hadn't occurred to me in the moment.

Eventually, I found a path again - whether it was what I was looking for or not, I'm still not entirely certain. But, then I was soon back on roads again as it just dumped me in the middle of nothing. I ended up riding the streets for awhile and then heading back to the house.

Ultimately, there are several sections of the Nampa trail that seem to drop off into nothingness. It's unfortunate because it seems like a great way to actually get through this area, but at the present time, it appears to have limitations for usability throughout different parts of the city.

Day 6:

The plan (as had been the plan for several days to this point) was to get the dogs worn out early so that I could go and ride in Boise. I took an extra amount of time to ensure that they would be nice and tired so that leaving them for a few hours wouldn't be a huge deal. Unfortunately, my plan seemed to backfire and when we returned from what should've been an exhausting walk for the dogs, they seemed to have more energy than before we left. Ugh. My plan to shape up these two little pups was definitely working against me.

Instead, I took the dogs with me to Boise and figured we could walk the greenway together and get an idea of what it's like. Plus, I figured if it didn't seem like a good place to ride, I could always choose another spot when I came back without them.

The timing of our arrival could not have been worse though. We arrived to the greenway just about the time everyone was going to lunch, so there were walker, joggers and cyclists everywhere. On one hand I thought this was so fantastic. To have such a great space that so many people want to use is truly wonderful; however, I had three dogs pulling in three different directions and people trying to pass us, especially those on bicycles, weren't too happy with attempting to avoid running over the dogs.
Boise Green Bike docking station on the greenway. What a perfect place to have these for visitors and locals alike!
I noticed right away that Boise's bike share has a dock on the greenway (and several others as well). If only I could've thrown the three dogs on the bike with me, things would've been so much easier!
It's so cool to see a large river running right through a city. I know there are other cities with large rivers, but it's been awhile since I've experienced something like this firsthand.
There was so much green all around. This had been what I remembered of Boise from years ago, so it was exciting to see that the green still very much remains. Green and more green was definitely the theme. That and people. Lots and lots of people.
The Boise Greenbelt path ... and a Golden Retriever who just couldn't resist staying out of my photo. I took advantage of the brief moment when there weren't people passing in every direction.
The pathway itself is really nice too. There are spots that are in need of some repair, but I think that's a typical find on most MUP's of any significant length. Overall, it seemed to be in pretty decent shape and the fact that there are so many outlets to get users to various destinations around the city is truly fantastic.

Although I really wanted to explore the path more on foot, the dogs were being particularly bad, so I knew that the trip was going to get wrapped up quickly, unfortunately. We said our goodbye to Boise and headed away from all the people and the green.

Day 7:

A week in, and I was pretty convinced that riding in Boise just wasn't going to happen. The universe seemed to be working against me. Today, it was supposed to rain, so that didn't bode well. I don't mind riding in the rain, but it's also been quite windy, so I wasn't sure if I wanted to venture out into that sort of weather. Still, I was determined, so I went to work wearing out the pups and then prepared to get on my way to Boise to ride -- finally.

I got all that I would need together and went to grab the bike. I figured I should probably check the air pressure in the tires (since I hadn't checked it on any of the other rides), but when I went to attach the nozzle, I realized the front tire was completely flat.

Dammit, I thought. The old me would've freaked out and decided it was a bad omen and skipped the ride, but new me decided that this wasn't a big deal (because it isn't) and at least it happened at home so that I could take my time and not have to worry about it on the side of the road. Still, I have pretty puncture proof tires, so the fact that I got a flat was a little annoying. I can't even remember the last time I had a flat on this bike with these tires.

Deep down, I knew it was a goathead without even looking at the tire. Damn you Idaho and your thorny little spiky weeds. We have them at home too, but they seem to be everywhere here in much greater numbers. As I changed the flat I couldn't help but think that Sam would be so proud. There was a time when I would've been calling him crying about the flat tire and telling him I couldn't deal with it. He would've had to talk me off a ledge and then I would've used it as an excuse to avoid riding.

As it turned out, it was in fact a goathead that had broken off and was poking through just the very smallest amount, but enough to puncture the tube. Like I said, I knew what the issue was without even finding it.
The Boise River
Finally, I was off and headed to Boise. I ended up arriving just about the same time as I had with the dogs the day prior, but it would be far less difficult to maneuver through people on a bike than it was with three dogs at my side (or not at my side as the case was). 

My plan was to ride a good portion of the greenway and then head off around the city and possibly up into the foothills. It was probably a little ambitious, but I really wanted to see as much as possible of the city while I was there.
Cottonwood fluff -- This was not even close to the worst of it, but I took this picture while I was stopped so that there would be some kind of photo reference.
The first thing I noticed were the enormous number of Cottonwood trees. We have these at home as well and when they are blooming it is one of the most horrible things to deal with for allergy sufferers. Plumes of white fluff littered the pathway and air. My eyes and throat were definitely feeling it.

Nothing would deter me from my ride today though. Not allergies, nor rain or wind, or flat tires.

Remember that lovely Boise bikeway map I'd picked up a few days earlier? That map that was going to see me all around the city and help me out if I happened to get lost? Yep. I left it sitting on the counter at the house. So, I was on my own and knew I'd have to figure out how to connect to places using whatever was available on the trail system.
Different types of river and pond-use items can be rented in this spot.
This greenway in Boise is really a treat to ride. There are so many things going on in various areas and I should've taken far more photos than I did, but you'll just have to take my word for it that it's not only beautiful, but a great spot for all ages to use and hang out. There are different little pond areas, beach areas, spots where people kayak and use stand up paddleboards. People fishing, swimming, using rafts or other flotation devices were all over too. There is even a little shop that rents different river-use products and a place to grab a bite to eat. Frankly, I couldn't help but be a bit jealous that there are so many possibilities in such a central location in the city. 
People were "surfing" in this area of the river
Tried to get a photo of one of the surfers, but he was a bit too far away for a decent picture
When I passed one area of the river, I noticed a lovely area where people were "surfing" in the river. Who would've thought? I guess when you want to surf and you're not on a coast, you make things work.

Another really cool feature of the greenway were signs that directed people toward various attractions around the city such as art, food, and other things people would want to see or do. The city (or I suppose county, as I've been told the system is taken care of by Ada County) does a great job of making this a very user-friendly system. There were a couple of times when I wasn't entirely sure what direction to go, but it also didn't matter as I really just wanted to explore the area.
As I continued to ride, things got a little more quiet. I wasn't seeing quite as many people, though there were still walkers, joggers and cyclists to be found. I thought it was extremely pleasant that the majority of the greenway has a lot of trees, so there are few times when there are long stretches of being exposed to the sun.

Continuing on, I wasn't really sure where I was or when the path would end (Note to self: Remember the map next time and you won't have this problem!), but since it was still going, I decided to keep on riding.
I couldn't help but wonder if there were snipers in the bushes, waiting to shoot at me as I rode through this area
Then, things changed. There weren't as many trees and I was exposed much more to the sun. The path was still going though, so I persevered. Signage changed and then became non-existent. Where was I exactly? I hadn't traveled that far. At that point, I was only about 13 miles from my starting point.
The map told the story later - I had wandered into another city.
When I got home later, I would realize that I was almost in Eagle, which is just outside of Boise. Had I continued on about another mile, I would've hit the end of the path, but at that point I was concerned that I needed to get back to the pooches, so I started heading back to the start. I would loved to have had more time to explore. The other side of the river has an entire other stretch of path, and there is a portion that runs farther south-east as well. All told, I believe I read there are approximately 45 miles of pathway to run, walk, and ride. Pretty cool.

Having water next to me for nearly the entire stretch of the ride was really quite a nice feature. At home, there are several cities that have waterways and MUPs that run parallel, but I don't think any are quite like this, even in Denver. Though, the Cherry Creek path is awfully nice and nearly as long, it still can't compare to what is available to users along the Boise River greenway.  Of course, Denver is a completely different city that has built up in a way that made sense for the area.

If I had more time, I would like to have the opportunity to explore Boise more by bike and to ride up to Bogus Basin. I received word that my folks have wrapped up their to-dos and should be home late Friday evening, so I don't know if I'll have that opportunity on this trip -- but, there's always next time. I have one more day to see what I can in this area, so whether it's on foot or bike, I look forward to another day outside.

Monday, June 4, 2018

Potato Diaries, Day Four: Information is Power

Today, I found myself quite tired. There's plenty to do in and around the area I'm staying, but my body is physically tired. I'm not sure if it's just being away from home, the fact that I've been pretty well constantly moving since I arrived last Thursday evening, or if perhaps I'm coming down with some sort of illness, but today my body just wasn't cooperative in the least.

This morning, I awoke feeling as though I hadn't slept, despite having a solid seven hours of rest. I'm not one to give in to the feeling of tiredness regularly, but I was having difficulty getting moving. Taking the dogs for a walk seemed to loosen things up a bit, but I could feel that my body was rejecting movement. I really had wanted to explore Boise today by bike. In reality, I knew that it just wasn't the right day, and so, I decided I would use it instead to get as much information as I could about biking in Boise and the surrounding area.

Several years ago, I purchased my Rivendell Sam Hillborne from one of Rivendell's shop partners. At the time, the shop was called Hyde Park Cycles, but they closed up shop and re-opened in a revamped manner calling themselves Bike Touring News, which is how things stand today. Over the years, I've purchased random parts from the shop online too. From handlebars to bags, they've always been easy to deal with and ship quickly, so when I've needed something, I take a look there to see what's in stock.

As it happens, the physical store is located in Boise, and since my body was rejecting self-powered movement, I thought maybe it would be a good day to stop by the Bike Touring News store and check it out in person.
The view north from outside Bike Touring News. Just to the east of this photo, it looked as though there are some potential trails to investigate.
The shop is located on the north side of the city, right against some dirt climbing that looked interesting. The space for the bike shop is on the small side, but as Ryan shared (the current owner - former owner Jim and Stacy have retired and are happily bike touring, from what I've read), the shop model changed several years ago, making it based more for an online market than a retail, brick and mortar type of store.
Outside Bike Touring News retail establishment (the shop is a bit hidden, but is right behind the tree on the right side of the photo, under the white/yellow striped awning).
I would guess that the retail space is no more than 400 sq ft (possibly even less), but Ryan is making good use of what is available. If one is looking for racks, bags, tires, handlebars, or saddles, there is a decent amount of product to view, especially for a small space. The shop also sells and stocks Surly Bikes, so of course I had fun checking out various models in person. I couldn't help but wonder if Sam would strangle me if I came home with another bicycle. Never fear, Sam, I controlled myself and made no impulse purchases (though there is still time for bicycle indiscretions, I suppose).
Pictured here is about half of the shop space. Certainly, the shop is geared toward dirt riders and tourists, but it also makes a lot of sense, given the location of the shop.
It was quite nice to chat with Ryan, who was forthcoming with the highs and lows of biking in Boise and the area. I found it interesting that the streets of Boise are not owned by the city, but rather by Ada County, which, from the sound of it causes some issues with getting bike lanes and paths integrated into transportation around the city, as those who reside farther out in the county don't see the value in adding biking infrastructure. Ryan did mention that there are some great people who are fighting the fight and attempting to get and keep bike lanes in the city.

As someone who has been riding for the last few days out in slightly more rural areas, Boise roads seem like a paradise by comparison. Most of the roads I saw in the city had bike lanes and/or wider shoulders - nothing remotely close to what I've dealt with farther outside of Boise. I couldn't help but think that if I were going to live in this area, I would definitely want to be in the city so that biking in and around would be more practical. While it is apparent that there is still work to be done, it is a far better situation to deal with than those living a bit farther out in Meridian, Nampa, Caldwell, etc.

As for possible bike routes to investigate, apparently Bogus Basin (a ski resort) is a fun place to ride. I was told that the lift is used to take cyclists up the mountain and then they ride down (As an aside -- Blasphemy! You ride up the mountain first, Idahoans! Then you enjoy the downhill). The resort opens for the summer to cyclists; however, I was told it's typically open only on the weekends. Cyclists are able to ride there any time though, whether or not the lift is operational. I don't know if I'll make it to this spot while here for a couple of reasons - the most important of which is that I own better suited bikes for that type of riding and the one I have with me is probably not ideal - though it might be fun to try and it's not completely ridiculous to consider using it.

There are also about 200 miles of dirt trails to ride in the Boise area, which could make for quite a journey if one desires. I am learning that mountain bikes, touring bikes, and other dirt-type bikes seem to be the most common in the area. Although I have seen a few road bikes out, it's not a terribly common sight. Having ridden some of the roads, I understand why (though, Boise streets do seem better suited to road bikes).
Is it just me, or does the cover of this map seem dated? It was printed a little over a year ago, but it feels older based on the image... but, perhaps that is just my perception - or maybe because it was taken in winter?
While in the shop, I picked up a bike map and was told that it's a little out of date and that some of the suggested cycling routes are actually not the best. I appreciated the heads up, but thought it would be interesting to compare the map of Boise to the one I'd picked up in Nampa a couple of days prior.
Apologies for the poor photo, but I think it illustrates that there are paths to be selected in Boise when riding.
I would say the Boise map is definitely more complete and has more options for bike paths, but I suppose this should be expected from a true city, even if it is among the smaller "big" cities.
The reverse side of the map is full of information too. I particularly took notice of the Idaho Stop Law, of which I was aware but had forgotten about while riding in Idaho, until I saw it again in print. Many cyclists seem to implore this method of "stopping" regardless of location, so I'm surprised more states don't take this on as a legal method for cyclists to proceed through stop signs.

In short, I'm not exactly sure where I'll be exploring in Boise by bicycle, but I have a feeling it will be more street than dirt based for this particular trip. I'm actually considering riding the Boise River greenway system, as it's supposed to have about 30 miles of bikeable pathways. To complicate matters further, I may also be taking the three dogs on a mini-road trip to Montana due to some personal matters that have come up. Nothing like taking a faux-vacation from a faux-vacation. So, there may be a delay in posting about (and riding in) Idaho if that takes place.

I would love to ride into Boise and then explore, but it seems that getting to the city by bicycle from my current location is more than a tad challenging. Not impossible, but also not really practical, particularly given that I have some four-legged friends depending on me to get back in a somewhat reasonable time frame. I have read that there is work being done to attempt to construct a system of trails that would allow users to easily travel through each of the cities and into Boise. It sounds like it could be wonderful if that actually comes to fruition, but for now it's still an idea waiting for action.


**Days 5-7 can be found here.

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Potato Diaries, Day Three: On a Mission to Rivendell

As I wrap up day three of wandering in Idaho (if you have interest, day 1's entry is here and day 2's post is here), I'm starting to feel a little more relaxed. Things that were unnerving initially (such as the lack of space to ride next to cars), are less so now. Which isn't to say that the roadways aren't severely lacking, but I think - as with most things in life - we adapt to our surroundings and figure out ways to make it work.

We've done a great deal of walking since arriving (we being myself and the three dogs), and it's taken a toll on my hips, so I knew that today would need to be more activity on wheels than on foot. The dogs were grateful for a break too, though we did take a short walk this morning, just so they didn't feel completely neglected.

As mentioned yesterday, I picked up a map of the Nampa trail/path system and decided that today would be a good day to try to piece together what I could to get to a destination on the other side of the city. The pathway, that I mentioned in an earlier post, runs through my folks neighborhood and has a forking off point about a mile up the path. As it turns out, this direction is well suited to actually connecting to places people want to go.

The bike map leaves something to be desired though. Perhaps my expectations are a little off, but I find that when using a bike map, I want it to be easy to read quickly so that I don't have to spend much time staring at it while riding (or stopped on the side of a road/path somewhere). There seems to be a lot of future MUP information on the map, which at quick glances can be confusing. Though the legend does indicate the differences between currently available paths and planned paths, it's something that takes some time to decipher.

Personally, I think future plans should be left off of maps like these as it can be confusing to users. Perhaps a website notation for people to be able to see where the paths will go in the future would be better, but placing them on the map just causes users to think the path is already there -- especially when, like me, one doesn't bother to look at the legend for differences in path lines.

Anyway, I had a specific destination in mind when leaving on bike this morning. I had noticed a road that was called "Rivendell Court" on an online map and the wheels in my tiny brain started to turn. I couldn't help but find it interesting that I happen to be riding my Rivendell bicycle on this trip, so wouldn't it be fun to get a picture of the Rivendell bicycle on Rivendell Ct? It's the little things that both motivate and amuse me, I suppose.

Since the road is on the opposite side of the city, it seemed a good opportunity to attempt to piece together information from the bike map with roads that would get me to Rivendell.
There is green to be found, despite what I'd initially thought. There are still a lot of dry, tan colors to be seen too, but it seems the green and brown seem to stick to their individual areas.
The pathway is actually quite pleasant, on the whole. It winds around both farm areas and more planned (both newer and older) housing. It's interesting that this city can feel both rural and urban in a span of just a couple of miles, sometimes with the two literally abutting each other. For example, my parents purchased their home in a newer subdivision (less than 10 years old), but as I sit typing, I can see a huge farm and hear donkeys braying and cows mooing right across the street.
There were a ton of cats crawling all around this barn. I'm not sure if they call it home or if they were looking for food in the form of rodents and other critters.
The MUP, at least in sections, is in great shape but is also in need of some massive repairs in others. Like the roadways, it seems to be kind of hit or miss in regard to whether the path section is well maintained or not.

I had kind of an "aha!" moment today when a section of the trail dumped me out about a block from the nearest grocery store. It's great to explore a city by bicycle because I think things like this come together quicker in my mind and connecting roadways seems to become more obvious when riding. I have a pretty decent natural sense of direction, but not knowing a city's particulars, it can still be confusing in the early stages of getting to know it.
It got up to 92F degrees today, so the trees were especially welcomed!
There were breaks in the path that were a little confusing, but nothing that couldn't be figured out fairly easily - at least to the extent that I rode the path today.  When I arrived at a familiar road, I decided it was time to take city streets from that point and try to maneuver my way to Rivendell.
This is the widest shoulder I've come across thus far. The fact that there's any kind of shoulder is a novelty, but to have so much room was exquisite (plus, there was hardly any traffic)! I elected to ride on the cement portion though to give my hands a break from the chipseal for a short amount of time.
As mentioned prior, there are a ton of chipsealed roads here. This surface definitely doesn't do my already troubled hands any favors, and much of the time it feels like riding on miniature cobblestones. I can still feel my teeth chattering now hours after the ride. I was pleasantly surprised though to actually find a road that (although still chipseal) had a wide shoulder to ride in for some distance.

A couple of miles up this road, I happened upon a loose Golden Doodle. He was a massive dog that was galloping across the street. Back and forth he ran, as if he was chasing an invisible friend. As I got closer, there didn't seem to be anyone around who was responsible for this curly haired woofer, but there were several cars speeding up and down the street. Having concern for his safety, I turned around and tried to settle him on one side of the road.

Just as I was stopping, a vehicle pulled up beside and asked if the dog was okay. The people in the car said they would call the number on his tag as I had just spotted a very small, perhaps no more than 6-8 pound, dog on the opposite side of the street. The Doodle's "invisible" friend, I was guessing at this point.

"I assume they belong to the same person," I stated, half as a question, and went to corral the little dog.

When the owner arrived, he didn't seem at all concerned that his two dogs were out roaming the streets alone. I'm never quite sure what to make of these situations. If it was my dog out roaming, I'd hope that someone would call so that I could pick them up, but I think I'd have a bit more concern than this owner did. Oh well. At least they were back where they belong.

I continued on my mission, pedaling up some somewhat steep hills (though nothing in comparison to home in Colorado) and eventually arrived to Rivendell.

"It's real!" I exclaimed aloud, half surprised that Google maps wasn't trying to send me off on a wild goose chase.
It really does exist!!!
I pulled out the phone and snapped a photo of the Rivendell Sam Hillborne on Rivendell Court. The day's work was complete. The ride home was pleasant, though I will say the wind is nearly as bad here as it is at home, so the push against it was a bit of a struggle. Still the time in the saddle was enjoyable and I was happy to have made the short journey to find Rivendell. I had initially planned a longer route, but due to the hip situation and my forgetting to pack some food, the ride was cut shorter than planned.

When I arrived back at the house, I noticed something in the distance of the Rivendell photo that I hadn't seen while standing at the actual location. When viewing the left side of the photo, about half way up, just above the power lines, it looked to me as though there was a giant potato flying through the air.
I don't have my usual software to use here in Idaho, but I'm convinced this is a P-UFO or Potato UFO.
Okay, I know, I've got potatoes on the mind at the moment (speaking of, I haven't eaten a single potato since I've been here... I'll have to get to that soon!), but when I tried to crop it a bit and look at it closer, it does almost look like a potato UFO - but then again, my imagination tends to run away with me more often than not.

Tomorrow, the plan is to head into Boise to check some things out, assuming that my hips are doing better than they are today. I think it'll be fun to see the city again too. I spent a few days in Boise about 23 years ago -- the city is nothing like I remember it from that time. Sam and I also visited very briefly on our family trip here in April, but we didn't have bikes and didn't get to spend more than a few hours looking around, so I'm excited to have a little more time to investigate areas we didn't get to see.


**Day 4 can be found here.