Sunday, July 27, 2008

Chasin' Trail: Colorado & Mexico

Well, it took four hours and all the water I had, and my nether regions hurt, but I've found it. My bike commute route to school. Yesterday I did the first trial - a one-way trip that took me 1:10. I swore to my family that the way home from my new school was all downhill as speedy as it went. But I also went fast because I was nervous about the cars whizzing past me. So today I decided to try it round trip, looking for trail to circumvent the heavily-trafficked streets and highways of yesterday. I found about 2/3 trail on the way there and then on the way back looked even harder.

I can claim unmitigated success - providing I can piece the thing all together again. I was out there searching for four hours, but I predict that once I get it downpat, the commute will take me an hour and a half tops. And all but 10 minutes of that will be on trail.

I re-fell in love with Colorado today. Finding my way through this, figuring out how the paths connected - and the fact that there were bike paths to be found - was enchanting. And these are optimal bike paths - wide smooth concrete that threads its way along gulches (mostly dry this time of year), through neighborhood open spaces, and under the shade of the occasional willow tree. And they all hook up! Ahhh... a biker's dream.

Tomorrow takes me out into the wilderness for my first-ever solo backpacking trip. I have a long list of business I should be taking care of, but I see those mountains to the west and - just like that - they trump business for now. I'm only able to go for one night, but I'm thrilled to be trying this out. I have a couple of goals. My Albuquerque uncle boasted of a 29-pound pack while all the women in his hiking group had 40-pound packs. The gauntlet has been thrown. I would like to be able to send him an email evening the score. My other goal is to write. I'm back from a 2 week trip to Mexico that was HUGE. I haven't even begun to process it all. We set a breakneck pace of traveling and touring that took us:

  • through 15 Mexican and American states
  • across 5063 miles
  • to sea level at a Pacific coast beach
  • to 9000 feet at our highest mountain pass
  • to hell and back with each other; we laughed until our faces hurt and alternately, snapped at each other so that we left toothmarks
  • to Lake P√°tzcuaro, one of the world's highest lakes
  • past countless mudbrown, unappetizing rivers
  • to pyramids built by ancients
  • to resort hotels built by moderns
As you can see, I'm going to need a pretty thick journal. Maybe Albuquerque uncle will win the challenge after all. This time.

To New Friends

I have a newfound
named Cindy

I told her I'd be there the 20th
I arrived the 22nd
Called her at 9:30 PM
Proposed a run for 7 AM
the next morning
She batted not an eyelid

I gave her a bum steer on directions
She drove 45 minutes out of her way
She batted not an eyelid

We ran
We talked
We laughed

My newfound
is cool.

(My apologies for the blurry pic; we'll take a better one the next time I'm in Albuquerque!)

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Paradise Valley Tri Race Report

Hannah came out of the water even with me though I didn't know it until much later. I heard Mom yelling to Sam that he could be the first on the bike - get going. I didn't look at him yet either. Instead I was watching Strong Sister, willing her to hurry up and land her kayak so we could do the bike together. I wanted to be with someone, didn't know if I could do it alone.

You cruise along thinking it's all OK and then ten minutes before the race, your 26 year old nephew whom you love like a brother but haven't seen since Christmas asks you a simple question and you bust out in tears. Big juicy unstoppable ones. You apologize for the failure of the impermeable smile; you're just too comfortable with him to fake it. He, however, does not always expect strength and wraps you in an embrace, then walks you to the outhouse where he rips off a healthy dose of TP to mop up the tears and snot. You know you have to get it together, to swallow the lump in your throat so you can breathe around it, so you can gulp air - cuz the tri is starting.

Then you stand on the beach, having managed to breathe around the lump long enough to get you across the lake, all told 6 minutes, 49 seconds. You breathe around the lump but inside you still have the emptiness, the ache. You think to fill it with Strong Sister but she is taking too long and you're just standing there idle by your bike. So you hop on and push off through the gravel down the road, still not sure but going anyways, past Mom's house where the impulse to go inside, to curl up in the dark sanctuary of the basement is almost overpowering. But that would cause concern. So you do what you do best and just keep steppin' and think with each pedal stroke how much you appreciate the finite pain of tri.

Then you remember to look for Sam, the 16 year old who you should be reeling in, and you see him way ahead of you, turning onto the first paved part of the course and you half register that he is looking strong, has maintained the gap. However, he will surely tire when he hits the gravel again. Next thing you know you're wishing your mountain bike had aerobars so you lean forward on the handlebars and get sore forearms for your efforts. And now you don't see Sam at all but you're sure that he's just around the curve or over the hill cuz you're back on the gravel - and he must be tiring. You get to the last straight part of the course and spot him. He is two minutes ahead and you think, "Dang! Sixteen year old boys are fast on their bikes," and you start racing in earnest but it is too late. 47 minutes was not enough to catch him.

He has made it to the bike drop first and in case there is any doubt, your mom says, "Moriah and Kate are out ahead" and you catch yourself thinking "Ah heck, I can reel in a 14 year old and a 10 year old." You are half right.

Kate is in the bag within the first half mile, but Moriah, the real third leg of their relay team, is off in the distance. You don't see her until the last mile and you yell, "Go, Moriah! You're doing great, girlie!" She gives you a big goofy grin - and goes. And inside you turn up the heat because now she is in sight and you are hungry to win this thing free and clear. You pull up on her, you gain. Enough to round the curve right before the finish line and see her cross. Your run times out at 19:19, which is just about 20 seconds too late, but you hug those three teenagers anyways, those 2nd cousins who you now want for training partners.

You receive a bellyfull of smack talk all weekend about getting whooped by the kids - and you give back equal amounts. It is only three days later when you're out on the boat writing this race report on the inside flap of a National Geographic magazine that you wonder what's the line between distraction and actual enjoyment of the moment. And when are the big crocodile tears gonna crawl out of the sewer again. And then you realize that it doesn't matter, that it's all OK, that they'll come when there's a person you love around, someone who'll give you TP and a warm shoulder - and that life isn't for taking that seriously anyways. You wrap up this race report (total tri time 1:14), close up the National Geo, and dive into the lake.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Five Days Hiking

A strange blue light
weaves a spell around me
makes a click
makes a crunch
in this ol' granola soul

A strange blue light
wreathes around the mountains
draws me further
pulls me inward
pulls me upward
pulls me out

Out into the wilderness
up the peaks
across the ridges
I don't stop walking
I can't stop looking
could go forever
above the treeline
across June snowfields
surprising herds of elk
past glacial cirques
feeding rushing streams

This strange blue light
that bathes
rock-clad mountains
this granola soul