Since I'm not a racer anymore. At least not one who dismounts her bike, like, ever. Stay on that bike. I took the Nikon to the race instead of the bike and played with the light and dust.
It's heavy on Bill because we are married and in love <3
The sun was setting as the race started, which made for some tricky lighting situations. I wanted to get more shots in the single track, but it got too dark to shoot really fast. I managed a couple though.
This is early season cross. Dust and light.
Sometimes it can be incredibly excruciating to admit that something you love is bad for you. When you've dedicated years of hard work, and you look forward to the time each Fall when you get to spend your weekends playing in the mud with your friends. The red zone efforts and hour-long pushes to stay in the pack as best you can, the exhilaration and pain of just toughing it out when you come around and don't get the bell and realize you've got TWO laps to go, but your heart is about the burst, but even so, two laps later, you're still pushing even harder. That was cyclocross for me. And I'm walking away this year.
In fact, I sold my bike this week. I zipped up my skinsuit for exactly one race this September, and on the first lap felt a pop in my knee while jumping a barrier. Me being myself, I of course kept racing. There was a soft-pedal lap, then a realization I was falling off the woman I was chasing, so I laid the hammer down and again and pushed, pushed, pushed. A week of swollen knee, a fear of another ACL surgery, a few more calls to the insurance company to get approval for an MRI. An hour outlining my medical history with a random person from the doctor's office on the phone. Then putting my bike on the market.
After three years of not living up to my potential as a racer and constant fear that I was going to do something terrible to my knee this time, I made the much-too-late decision to walk away. But I've also found that it's not necessary to abandon the sport completely! I'm a fan. I have a spouse who races, I'm on a team still. So this week I came out to the next installment of the race I hurt myself on and just took pictures and cheered. It was great! The weather was amazing, the sunset was epic. We had tacos. And I walked away with money in my pocket and one less bike in my garage.
The huge, giant, enormous upside to being a professor is the holiday schedule. The downside is that we don’t get paid for these days, but really, at this point in my life, I’m willing to take that. And for the next 2+ years, my spouse will be on the same fun-times schedule as me, while he grinds out that engineering degree. So we might be money-poor, but we’re rich in the best ways.
We figured we should kick off our new-found freedom by spending our first official Spring Break in 11 years in Moab, escaping the rain of the long Oregon winter, and riding trails in a place we’d never been. We’d heard the stories. We’d seen the pictures. We checked the weather reports. We knew it was were we needed to get our butts to the instant I got done giving finals.
In fact, we were so eager to get out of town, I spent the entire 2 days of driving grading papers in the car (sorry Bill). I absolutely could not wait the 24 hours it might have taken me to do this at my desk. We had had record rainfall for 4 months straight, and we had been out riding in the mud and the muck through all of it, and we were both loosing our damn minds. 18 hours on the road later, we were in mountain bike paradise.
Dead Horse SP
Neither of us had really done any riding on slick rock to speak of, so with the help of some advice from my local friend, Julie Cornelius (who unfortunately for me was in Nepal during our visit working on an amazing film project), we outlined an itinerary that would allow us some time to get comfortable and then progress to more technical trails over the course of our 5 days in town.
We kicked things off with a gorgeous ride around Dead Horse State Park, 14.4 miles of mostly level, not at all technical trails, that just happen to sit at around 6000ft in the sky. Perfect for breaking in the legs after 2 days of sitting, and breaking in the sea level lungs with a good jolt of altitude. The views are unreal from here, as the trail snakes along the edge of Canyonlands NP and looks down on the Colorado River.
Navajo Rocks + Arches
The next day, we were up for more of a challenge, so we hit up Navajo Rocks/Chaco Canyon. Unsure of which direction to ride this loop, we asked a guide we spotted at the trailhead, who suggested taking a figure 8. This turned out brilliantly, as we descended a long sandy section while watching dozens of riders carrying their bikes up the same trail. The terrain here changed about every 4 miles, keeping us on our toes while wowing us with canyons, steep red rock cliffsides, and 45 degree sandstorm off-camber sections where we quickly learned to simply trust our tires and roll. 11/10, would ride again. We topped the day off with a driving tour of Arches NP and a couple short hikes.
Klondike Bluffs + Arches
Day 3 saw us feeling confident on the bike. My best friend from undergrad, Celia, was also in town that day, so we arranged a plan to meet at Klondike Bluffs for a 14 mile spin after a morning hike to Delicate Arch. While Klondike was amazing (especially the UFO section), we were surprised by a storm that kicked up suddenly in the late afternoon, whipping up crazy winds and violent lightening that was far too close for our comfort. We had to get the hell out and back to safety after 12 miles just to make sure this ride didn’t end poorly.
In the morning, Celia and Eric left for a 5 day guided bike trip through The Maze, and we caught a shuttle for Mag 7, the mother of all trails, 36 miles of pain, elation, more pain, frightening cliff sides, scream-inducing jeep road waterfall climbs, and utter exhaustion. I can’t say that I exactly “enjoyed” Mag 7 entirely, but it was an amazing experience. When we go back next year, we’ll do it differently, cut out the jeep roads, and maybe have some type 1 fun, instead of all type 2. Every emotion was felt on this ride. EPIC is the only way to describe it.
After our thorough ass-kicking at the hands of Mag 7, we weren’t sure how we’d feel about getting up and riding a 5th day straight, but we didn’t want to miss out on Porcupine Rim, so we still dragged ourselves out of bed and got on the shuttle bus one last time. This ride was the pinnacle of all mountain biking, ever. I have literally never enjoyed a ride as much as I did that 2 hours. Both of us were feeling strong, technically better than ever, able to ride both up and down bigger rocks and boulders than we’d ever hit in the past. I was riding past men left and right, pushing my own limits. We were only able to get as high as UPS thanks to a recent snow storm up higher, which just gives us something to look forward to next time. The cliff edge views were mind blowing, the block drops were pristine, the weather was phenomenal, and we never wanted it to end. Best trail ever, period, end of story. We kind of forgot to take photos cause it was too good.
Stuff that worked
Because we didn’t think we’d had enough in Moab, we actually stopped over in Echo, Oregon for a cross country race on the way home, which pushed our total mileage for the week to over 100 miles of pure single track. Some things I loved:
My new Qloom inner shorts, which I paired with anything I was riding in. 7 days on the bike, all off road, could easily have resulted in some wicked saddle sores. But thanks to the fact that I now own about 6 pairs of these inner shorts, and paired them up with some quality chamois cream (I like Betwixt from Zealios, a local Oregon company), I came home unharmed. Also Bill and I basically matched every day, which is adorable, right?
My Specialized Camber <3. This bike has just 120mm travel, but handled all sorts of crazy rock gardens and drops. I did manage to shred a full set of brake pads and the tires were definitely replaced when we got home, but the bike itself was bomb proof. I was pushing my limits, hard, and never had a fall. The stability and handling on this thing rule.
Our new Dr.Tray bike rack. We replaced our HoldUp tray rack right before leaving (see my previous post), and we were thrilled with how this worked out. It’s just so much easier to use, and so much more secure with the extra bike lock options. After losing a bike off my rack 2 years ago, I’ve been super paranoid about theft. It’s awfully nice to have a rack that allows me to relax a bit.
Length of the drive: 18 hours, 2 days each way
Miles ridden: 100 single track
Miles hiked: 10 (leave time for Arches NP, it’s great)
Best food: Love Muffin Cafe (had breakfast here multiple times)
Worst thing: SO HARD to get dinner! The town was overrun with tourists (us among them). Actually got turned down for pizza one night. We had planned to credit card this trip, but ended up cooking at the camp site more than expected.
Places we stayed: Slickrock Campground - easy to get a site, not expensive, has showers and a pool, but spots are tiny and dusty. Up The Creek - bit more $$, had showers and more grass, centrally located, walk-in only, nice and quiet, plenty of shade.
Shuttle Company: Porcupine Shuttles
Next time: We’ll go with a group, stay at one of the BLM sites up the river, and avoid the town. Ride Ahab, check out Canyonlands, see the parks at night (Arches has night time closures all summer in 2017).
The past couple weeks have been something of a whirlwind, between the end of the term grading crush, visits from my in-laws, and a side project of organizing a bikepacking forum through my team with Oakshire Brewing. I suppose I should know by now not to take on so much at once, but I'm not sure I'm going to learn at this point in my life. Maybe I should just repeat that line about "thriving on the pressure," although I don't buy it.
I figured that as long as I was putting a bunch of time into this bike forum, I may as well create some cute little illo's and create something I'd like to save out of it. I also pulled together a basic packing list for off-road/remote travel, gravel grinding, or credit-card style travel, with ideas for bike repair kits and first aid supplies.
The research I had to do to get this event together brought me to a bunch of great website on bike overnighting, and definitely put some good ideas into my head for trips I'm going to plan this summer. I'll describe some of those in more detail in a later post, but for now, download my packing lists to get yourself started:
Big dreams of big trips, long days and hours on the road. To be free to exist without attachment to place. The ability to blow with the wind, root down when the soul needs it, then pick up and drift away upon a whim. This was the life we sought when we sold our house, quit our jobs, and took a risk on ourselves. But beyond the career adjustment, the lifestyle we were looking for needed one more thing: a Car Conversion!
5 years back, we bought ourselves a Subaru Impreza Sport, with a CVT transmission that got us everything we needed. Great gas mileage, all wheel drive, the ability to get ourselves, our snowboards, and our bikes basically anywhere we needed, while saving cash on our hella-long-ass commutes to work every day. These days, our needs have changed and we’re definitely finding the little bean car to be lacking in both space and guts. Throw some camping gear and 2 bikes on that puppy, and you’re gonna be bottoming out and struggling up inclines for days. Plus, not really much room to stretch out and make a little nest in the back when you’re not wanting to pitch a tent!
After a few weeks of talking, googling, watching youtube, and racking our brains, we came up with a solution. We were going to spend Spring Break in Moab (aka the MTB capital of America), and we’d build a bed in our car. One week on the road would be a good test run.
We had several problems that we had to figure out in order to make this #shredcation work. We needed to make room for ourselves to sleep inside our car (we were hoping to save cash by shacking up on BLM land tent-free), we needed to carry a good amount of gear (camping gear, clothes and biking kit for 9 days, plus race gear), and we needed to keep two very expensive bikes safe when we weren’t either riding them or actively in the car.
We found a great tutorial that another Subaru owner had created on installing an Ikea standard twin bed in the back of an Outback in order to create both space to sleep and to store goods (here's another one). However, after measuring out the headspace in the Impreza, we quickly realized this was never going to happen for us. Adding even, say, 3 inches of under-bed storage would make it impossible to move inside the car. So, we simplified. Ultimately, we cut a nice thick piece of pine into two pieces and used it as a “base”, and used the same Ikea twin mattress as a bed. Cutting the board made it possible to push both the board and the front seats forward as far as possible, squeezing out a precious few extra inches of leg room. Less necessary for me, but definitely key for my husband.
Next up, storage of all our gear. We have a Yakima SkyBox 12 that we put on the roof. It would definitely help to have a larger one, maybe a 16 (the numbers refer to the square footage), but the 12 was what we had, so we rolled with it. It fit the majority of our gear, and the rest stacked in the hatch on top of the mattress.
Now for bikes. We had hoped at one point to be able to just lay the bikes in the back of the car when we weren’t there, stacked with some cushioning between them. But this was going to require us to move our gear all into the front seat (including bedding), and carry extra stuff just to pad the bikes. We’d also have to remove the front wheels and loosen the handlebars in order to get them fully flat. We quickly discovered this was going to be a serious hassle. But, we didn’t trust our bikes on the tray rack alone. I’d had a race bike stolen off a tray rack when I stopped for take out, cable lock cut and bike long gone in under 5 minutes. Going on a hike was not going to happen here.
So, I called my buddy Evan at Yakima and asked what they could do for me. Even suggested the brand new Dr.Tray bike rack. It’s lighter weight than their other models, has a bunch of cool features that make it much simpler to operate, and best of all, has a welded-on steel loop that a bigass chain lock could be looped through for security. They’ve also beefed up the included cable locks, so hopefully they can’t be cut with fingernail clippers anymore.
I’ve gotta say, this rack ended up being just the ticket for us! It really did install in around 5 minutes. It weighs in under 35lbs, which was a really nice surprise after removing our 50lb rack to put it on. The remote tilt lever makes it far quicker to raise and lower the rack to get into the back of the car. There’s also this cool design that allows you to move the trays around on the rack, even while the bikes are loaded, in order to adjust their placement for the old handlebar-seat interference issue. Easy as pie. When we’d stop for lunch or walk away for even a few minutes, we used the two included cable locks, plus we threw on two very large chains with padlocks (we had chain cut at Home Depot and covered it with an old 26er tube for padding against the carbon for a $4 solution.
So, how did our new rig perform? Well, I’d love to say we nailed it on our first try. But truth, not so much. We ended up being so crammed in the back of the car that we pitched our tent (brought as a backup) just to put our junk in while we were at camp. We were nice and warm in the car, but getting in and out was a pain. We also forgot about window coverings… That’s a big deal. Not only could all the other people camped around us see in, but the sun woke us up bright and early. We rolled tee shirts into the windows and duct taped towels to make do, but we were kicking ourselves over that one.
Over all, we just decided that the space we have to work with is not sufficient for this type of solution in the long term. We’re definitely going to continue to use our rig for weekend trips to ride bikes closer by, but when we hit the road for longer than a couple days, it’s not going to hold up.
Our next theory is based around roof top tents. We think that being able to pitch from the roof and leave our bedding up top will save us enough interior space to not need the cargo box (you can’t fit both on a set of bars for both space and weight reasons). We’d like to set up a cooking zone in the rear hatch that slides out to make organization and setup of camp simpler. The only possible draw back to this will be the weight on our already-low-riding car. The Dr.Tray definitely scrapped the road a few times (it hasn’t since we unloaded after the trip, so it was surely due to the weight of our gear). Adding a 100lb tent to the mix will load it down even more, so we’ll have to be very, very careful with bumps and ditches.
To wrap up, the tray rack was a resounding success, and the car conversion gets a C+. We’re excited to plan for roof top tents and figure out our next trip: a full month this summer touring the Western Canadian national parks. Cheers!
My own education came about in the post modern era, focused on design as self-expression. We were encouraged to find clients who had similar outlooks to ourselves in order to find fulfillment as designers by creating communication design which spoke, in reality, to ourselves only. We were specialists in communicating to other people like ourselves, and we felt that our clients were probably looking for our point of view, not only our skills at design.
Later, as reality hit, and we found out that we didn’t always have choices when it came to our clients, we learned to incorporate the views of our clients into design. It became a 2-part conversation - the voices of clients were expressed through the aesthetic decisions of designers, and audiences received those messages. It was a sender - message - receiver paradigm, with emphasis on the sender and the message. We hoped our audience would be hooked because our delivery was so compelling.
As design developed and audiences became more sophisticated, receivers demanded messages that spoke to them, not at them. The paradigm became more balanced, with the audience having an equal impact on the structure of the communication. Now, the conversation was an actual conversation: senders and receivers interacted and influenced messages, and passive observers no longer existed. Designers operated as a conduit for the active conversation happening between senders and receivers. New media platforms allowed for a constant feedback loop, giving audiences more power, and helping our clients to better target their markets and find the best users for their products and services.
The common thread between all of these communication paradigms is the human to business interaction. In the end of it all, business entities and their consumers needed to be connected to each other so that an exchange of goods and services could be made that was mutually beneficial. In a simplified sense, the system was seen as being closed, at least from the designer’s perspective. The secondary impacts of these communication transactions were not considered during education and training. Indeed, I believe design pedagogy has shown a remarkable ability to compartmentalize the consequences of the design profession and to shield young designers from having to consider the negative impacts of business activity that is a direct result of their work. While other design disciplines have moved toward a more responsible practice (think LEED in architecture or Cradle to Grave product design standards), graphic design has largely been left out of the equation, to the detriment of our chosen field.
I would propose that we shift the structure of our communication yet again to include a fourth party. This party has always been there, but we have been capable of ignoring its presence until now. This entity is our own planet and its resource scarcity problems - the universal paradigmatic system in which all communication design operates and in which its impacts reverberate. Failure to do so would be to fail to equip students with the correct tools to perform the tasks of designers in the future world. Designers have a duty to understand the challenges and nature of the businesses they work for, to intimately comprehend the values and drivers of their audiences, and, I believe, the impacts that their design decisions have on this earth-system. A global perspective, while overwhelming sometimes to truly understand, makes designers more valuable to clients and more responsible as citizens.
Designed objects and messages never exist within a vacuum. In all instances, if we are doing our jobs well, the decisions we make as designers have impacts on human behavior, thought and activities. That is the entire point: to trigger a desired thought or behavior in a viewer. And because we are powerful humans, our behaviors, thoughts, and activities have impacts on the system in which we live. We must become conscious of these impacts and begin to consider them at the very start of our design processes. The fourth member of our communication paradigm can’t be considered at the end of a project, by simply choosing an FSC certified paper or using a recycled substrate. Indeed, the only responsible way to design within this paradigm is to operate from a sustainability perspective from the very beginning, the same way we consider the client and the audience.
Design pedagogy currently treats sustainability as something of an afterthought. This must change if we are to survive as a profession and as a species. It is not hyperbole to state that responsible practices in all design fields is crucial to the success of our society as the damage we have already done to our planetary resource becomes more and more apparent. Sustainability must be integrated into curriculum from the earliest design foundation courses. It has been said before, but we teach just as much through what we leave out of our pedagogy as by what we choose to include. Our omissions speak volumes to our students. When we de-emphasize sustainability or treat it as a “nice-to-have” aspect of design that should only be considered when a client asks for it, we teach our students that it’s not important.
Early this month, I had the opportunity to organize and direct a photoshoot for Yakima Racks (my job) in Joshua Tree National Park. I’m naturally a desert lover, something I believe I’ve inherited from my grandparents on my mother’s side. Being in the desert make me feel like my lungs are finally capable of expanding to their fullest potential. Living in the thick air of a sea level rainforest here in the Willamette Valley can put one’s body into a state of ease, because it never has to work that hard to keep existing. I loved the shock of the cold winter high desert air, thin and pure.
The nights in the park were cold. So cold! The coldest I’ve ever been in a tent. I missed the warm body of my husband at night while I stewed about whether I’d get frost bite on the tip of my nose if I left it exposed. When clouds don’t come like an extra blanket layer at night, the exposure is so much greater.
I lived in southern California for a brief year and a half of college about 16 years ago. I left in a bit of a rush, hating the traffic, hating the stress, wishing I were back home with my people whom I felt comfortable with. Returning this time, to a place that I’ve never visited, reminded me of many of the great things about the place that I had forgotten to miss. The gradient color of the sky in the evenings. The intensity of the sun in the winter months, cutting through the cold air and warming you deep down. The more subtle joy of a desert landscape, minimalist in vegetation, which forces better appreciation of those things which manage to live in the harsh setting. In Joshua Tree, one has to recognize the value of something so simple as water, an element of annoyance to my bike commuter self during Oregon winters.
We worked hard on the shoot. Call time was 6:15 am for sunrise shots. We shot until dark, working around the campfire. It was cold, windy, warm, exposed. We slept in tents or in cars, bundled up and probably each relishing our moments alone after long days with the crew. Yet I came away from each day physically exhausted but mentally sharp. What a great feeling! The key was being unable to be distracted by my email, text messages, phone calls, and office BS that commonly plagues my daily life. The insistence from my company that we work on 26 projects at any given time, giving each one equal attention, because everything is of equal importance. I feel like a terrible person if I fail to respond to emails within a couple hours. I know that I’ll often just forget entirely because my own scattered mind can’t keep it all together, so I get anxious about giving my messages instant attention. I know this is bad for me, yet I continue to do so. It was such a delicious relief to be actually incapable of behaving this way for a solid 4 days! Sometimes I have to be saved from myself.
I also was lucky enough to work with people who displayed a wonderful outlook on life, demonstrating a peace and pace of living that I’ve been craving. Gina and Adam, two climbers who are staying in or near Joshua Tree for the remainder of the winter, are living a simple life in a converted van of their own design. They have carved a life for themselves that is centered around their passions, and they have forced their working lives to fit the mold they created. Most of us do the opposite. We come into our working years with fervor and attachments, but end up pushing them aside or shoving them into an inconvenient corner in favor of putting our jobs on top. Then 35 years later, after we’ve done our time, sufficiently punished our bodies and minds, we allow ourselves a brief retirement to remember those things we lost for a few last good years before our bodies break down and we sink into old age.
This isn’t to say that we can’t be perfectly happy and fulfilled in our lives by growing our careers. There is nothing inherently wrong with that path. I simply need to learn to put my passions first. I am learning who I am every year, and one thing I’ve come to realize is that I can’t be happy in one place. I need to put my desire to affect change first. Now. How to do that?
Dates: February 2-5th. Campground: White Tank. Cohorts: Maggie Hudson, Ryan Lindquist, Evan Burgher, Gina Edwards, and Emme Perkuhn. Climb: Headstone. Miles Driven: over 800. Thanks to Yakima for footing the bill, Gina for teaching me to climb, and Maggie for capturing the evidence (below).
It’s easy to assume that Oregon just always looked like it does today. The beautiful forests that drape our hillsides and foothills and creep up the flanks of our volcanoes must have been like this forever, right? But this assumption is incorrect. My pioneer relatives did a rather breathtaking job of completely transforming this land from an area of massive, prehistoric forests with wide open floors and meadows, into a largely second- and third-growth “working forests,” as we like to call them, cut and planted strategically for future profits, choosing the most lucrative species to propagate, the recut again as soon as the trees reached a size large enough for harvesting.
In fact, inhabitants like my great grandfather, a lumberman who traveled to deep forest camps around the Pacific Northwest to cut and clear, did such an efficient job that there is next to nothing left of the old forests. And being a couple generations removed from their existence, we hardly even remember what they were like.
This past Thanksgiving I took a few extra days off, thanks to a move at my office, decided I would treat myself to an adventure each day of the break. The first place I decided to visit was the Opal Creek Wilderness Area, the last bastion of low-elevation old growth in this state. The subject of a decade long fight between conservationists and logging interests, Opal Creek was finally won by our great former senator, Mark Hatfield. It would become the last victory in his career before retiring to Beaverton, just a mile or so from where I live today.
Opal Creek is a 34,000 acre complex, preserved for all time, for all Americans to enjoy. Its namesake is the northern-most branch of the North Fork of the Santiam River system, and is famous for it’s clear blue and green waters. The hike in starts at a gate, roughly 100 miles from downtown PDX. A traveler to the area follows the old road into Jawbone Flats, an old mining town which has been converted into the Ancient Forest Center. One can rent cabins here (if one is quick with the mouse, as these fill up incredibly fast in the Summer), or use it as a jumping off point for longer backcountry adventures. The Opal Creek system connects easily to the Bull of the Woods Wilderness, giving a backpacker with lots of time a huge amount of territory to explore. And of course, there are the pools. I’m sure they would be incredible on a warm summer day, but as this was two days prior to Thanksgiving, I enjoyed more of a mix of rain and snow drizzling constantly on my head while I hiked.
The first thing I noticed upon starting down the trail was the size of the trees. There are monsters here, 500 to 1000 years old, never touched with a saw, spread far apart. Blanketed with moss (apparently this area is studied as the home of several endemic moss and lichen species), the floor is open and inviting. I spotted campsites along the way at regular intervals, perfect spots tucked just off the trail, looking soft and comfy, but far too close to the parking lot. The road follows Battle Axe Creek for a few easy miles before ending in the village of Jawbone Flats. At that point, the hiker crosses the creek and immediately is transported somehow deeper into the forest.
As I had to drive back home at some point (and get out of there before dark), I had to complete my loop and miss out on whatever lay to the left at the fork in the trail. Passing Opal Pool and the Sawmill Falls swimming hole, the color of the water was striking. By that point, goopy snow was falling fairly heavily on me. If it hadn’t been so spectacular in there I might have been a bit miserable in the weather. But as it was, the pure delight of giant trees, soothing green moss carpets, and the silence of deep woods made the whole walk a meditative joy.
Considering that just 125 years ago, huge portions of the state resembled this watershed, there is an air of tragedy to this place. While we can be confident that this will be preserved for us, hundred of thousands of acres have already been lost forever. I am buoyed, however, by the thought that Oregonians came together here to show that we value the existence of wild places for more than their monetary value in the short term. The short-sightedness of our ancestors proved a lesson, at least for some of us.
Visit Opal Creek by driving east from Salem on hwy 22 for 25 miles. Make the turn toward North Fork road and Elkhart, and go another 21 miles, until you find yourself at a locked gate. Come in the Autumn for turning vine maples, in the winter for solitude, and the summer for heat relief and popular swimming holes. It’s worth a day (or 3 or 5) in any season.