Thoughts and Adventures From Greenlite Heavy Industries

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

It's Either Up or Down

Saturday I spent five hours exploring the fire roads east of our cabin at Snoqualmie Pass.  I basically did a loop that skirted the edges of Lake Kachess and Lake Keechelus.  The day was beautiful and I was able to get in nearly 5K of climbing.  Not much compared to what I have in store for a week from Saturday (Leadville).

Leadville has me fairly uptight, but I'll save that for another post.

I'm a city boy through and through, no sense in hiding that, but it's in the mountains where I find solace.  Climbing these steep seldom used fire roads can yield a kind of Zen-like experience: relax, find the rhythm, enjoy the beating of your heart, the sweat, the peace of mind.

I'm going to have to figure out a way to better tell these stories through photos.  Somehow stuff like this just doesn't do the scene justice.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Sign Of The Times

Making sparks
Sam and I have been working on a sign for my friend’s juice shop – Juju Beet – over in Bellevue.  We started with a big slab of redwood that I had sitting around, framed it in steel, finished it with multiple coats of marine grade epoxy and finally attached acrylic letters that my friend had cut out via his laser cutter.  The big letters are attached with wood screws, which I offset with quarter inch spacers to create a nice shadow line.  The small letters were attached with epoxy.

Last night was hanging time.

Sam putting on the final touches
The biggest challenge was drilling the eight half inch diameter attachment holes through C-channels in the existing awning.  Luckily the awing is constructed of aluminum, unfortunately the tapered flanges were nearly three quarters of an inch thick at the hole location.  A lot of overhead work with the Hole Hawg set at minimum speed.  Fortunately I escaped with no metal in my eyes.

We worked at night in order to minimize sidewalk traffic, and didn’t finish until eleven.  I’m looking forward to seeing the sign in full daylight and will head over today to get some photos.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Cross Epic

A 25 mph gravel train

Last Thursday I broke my self-imposed rule of no more road racing until after Leadville (in order to minimize the risk of pre-Lead injury) by scrambling off to Seward Park to race in the weekly throw down.  The race was crowded and fast, as the normally informal event had been converted into a full-on legit contest complete with announcers, an official start/finish line, a beer garden and even a giant screen onto which, after dark, the day’s double ascent of Alp d’Huez was going to be projected to the Tejay chanting masses.  After a race and a straight to my head beer Chad and I were cruising too fast up Lake Washington Blvd when he asked if I was doing the Cross Epic.

I’d never heard of the Cross Epic.

Thirty six hours later I was in the parking lot of Motofish Studios in Redmond straddling a cross bike coated in November dust about to embark on a 52 mile cyclocross race.  Oh yeah I’d also forgot my glasses and repair kit.

At 7:30 we were off for a fairly caz rollout to what the Motofish dudes called the Tuscany Loop, and within a few minutes I was questioning my theory of being able to both ride 50 off road miles and picking up my wife at the airport at 10:30.  I pulled out my phone and made a quick rolling text - “might be a little late.”  Everything was friendly until the Loop, at that point the gloves came off.

We were on some great trails and the pace was hot, a few rabbits were gone but Chad, myself and another teammate, Trevor – on his single speed Nature Boy - hung tight with the second group.  The pace was blistering, you really couldn’t give an inch or you’d be out the back.  Chad ended up double flatting, so by the time we started the descent into Snoqualmie Valley it was just Trevor and myself wearing the red and black.
Carnation aid station

The brakes on old Blue ain’t what they used to be, so I was grabbing a handful as we dropped into the Valley, good thing too as one of the rabbits had hit a bump and broken his carbon steer tube.  The guy was tough, but you could tell he was in pain, we all stopped to see what we could do, which was not much.  It’s times like these when I wish I would have switched majors and gotten that medical degree – I could have shouted “stand back I’m a doctor.”

We hit the Snoqualmie Valley trail with a vengeance, we were a 25 mile per hour train dusting all dog walkers and shirtless joggers in our path.  It isn’t often that one gets to rail like that on a cross bike.  Hats off to the other trail users: nobody complained and we even had a few cheers.

In Carnation we stopped by an aid station set up by the wife and kids of one of the Motofish guys.  They had those mini cans of Coke on ice, I couldn’t resist.
A classic case of Helmet Hair

From Carnation it was up up up to Joy Lake.  Damn what a climb.  We dropped back into the Valley and on a short section of tarmac a strong guy from Audi went down and started rolling towards the centerline as a Dodge Diesel roared towards him in the opposite lane.  Luckily he stopped the rolling, but man I saw his life flash before my eyes.

 What followed had to be one of the top three steepest climbs of my life.  From there we hit the Pipeline trail and tore like hell back to the Motofish Studios.  I don’t think that my legs had ever felt so strong, it seemed like there was no bottom to the well.  I kept asking more of my legs and they kept delivering the goods; definitely a good confidence builder now that I’m within three weeks of Leadville.

I pulled into the start/finish parking lot tired, dirty and happy.  Melony ended up taking a taxi from the airport.

Thursday, July 18, 2013


I have to admit to being a dang lucky guy.  Thomas Jefferson once said “I’m a big believer in luck, the harder I work the luckier I get.”  I agree with this – to a certain extent.  I’ve worked pretty hard during my life, but there ain’t no denying the fact that I’ve stumbled through a lot
Owen and I cranking up Stevens Canyon
of right doors.

Last week as a dozen teammates and myself pedaled around Mt. Rainier, which gave me a lot of time to ponder life and the luck I’ve had.  My most significant lucky streak has been with my family.  I was born into a top notch family, I met and married an awesome chick – no regrets no complaints - and, best of all, I have these two kids who, and I might be slightly biased here, are the two most wonderful children on the planet – despite the daily headaches they give me.

I was also lucky enough to be born extremely healthy.  In two weeks I’ll be forty eight, but I feel twenty four.  I’ve never had any health issues – major or minor – I eat whenever and whatever I want and never gain a pound, my eyes are 20/20, and my hair is still mostly on top of my head and not in my ears or nose.  The fact that I can get on a bike and ride hard for one hundred and fifty miles up and over three major passes without any special training, diet or suffering leaves me feeling very lucky.

The third aspect of luck that I try not to take for granted is my friendships.  I’m not a super gregarious guy, I’m not everybody’s good buddy, but I have a radar for good people; I have a natural knack for surrounding myself with people of the highest caliber.  There are probably two dozen bike teams here in the Seattle area, but somehow – we can call it luck – I managed to get on one of the best, if not the best.  When I go to races I’m not jealous or envious of any other team, because I’m on the coolest team there – not to mention the fact that we have the most kick ass kits.

We had a dozen guys riding one hundred and fifty hard fought miles together, not everything went as planned, but to my knowledge not a mean or angry word was said.  I love that.  I love going out and throwing down hard with good people.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Gravel Century (Almost)

Being a bad boy - sans helmet
A few weeks ago I was sitting in a cool bar in Georgetown drinking Manny’s with my buddy Chris when he started talking about how gravel centuries are becoming increasingly popular.  A spark was lit: an off-road century is just what I needed in preparation for Leadville.

The John Wayne Pioneer Trail in the Ironhorse State Park is a converted Railroad grade that runs from North Bend (20 miles east of Seattle) to the Columbia River.  I figured that I could do an out and back on the trail from our cabin at Snoqualmie Pass: the turn-around would be fairly close to Ellensburg.  Basically it would be fifty miles down and fifty miles back up.

I left the cabin at 8:30 on Saturday morning.  Instead of turning right and riding up to the JWPT trailhead at Hayak I made a last minute decision to turn left and weave my way to Lake Kachees via old logging roads.  The first four miles were up a vicious grade, but I was rewarded with an equal amount of screaming fire road descent.  I hit thirty seven miles per hour and decided that it would be wise to apply a little brake: no one had any idea where I was and it could be days before anyone came by.  It’s prudent to be a little cautious when you’re all by your lonesome.

I hit the trail at the Stampede Pass road and I rolled quickly down to Easton where I made note of the water tap.  Thirteen miles on I hit Cle Elum, where Smokey’s BBQ was just opening up at the newly renovated Railroad Depot.  I stopped in for a Coke; it was too early for lunch but I made a date with the owner to get some pulled pork on my way back.

By reading the mileage signs I figured that I’d be turning around at the Thorpe Trailhead, but at mile 47.7 I hit a deep dark tunnel.  Outside the tunnel was a little box into which trail users are supposed to insert signed wavers absolving the State from any liability.  I didn’t bother to
sign.  My little flashlight barely dented the absolute darkness inside that dang tunnel, so after about a hundred yards I said screw it and turned around (I’ll have to head back sometime soon with a better light).

I had prepared for a hot, sunny day in Central Washington, but instead I rode under gray/black threatening skies.  A few miles after my turnaround I ran into a trio of young guys loaded with overnight gear; they said that they’d come from North Bend the day before.  One dude was on what appeared to be his little sister’s Costco bike and another guy had loaded his backpack into one of those seat stay mounted child seats.  Hat’s off to ‘em, they were on an adventure much like some of the poorly equipped hair brained crap that I pulled as a teenager back in Iowa.

I could smell the thunderstorm as I rolled into Cle Elum, and all hell broke loose just as I parked my bike in front of Smokey’s.  I sat underneath the eaves of the train depot and ate my pulled pork, beans and cornbread watching the storm rage and then blow itself out.  I was a little worried about my gut-buster meal – was it going to fuel me as l climbed the final thirty miles or was I going to puking beside the trail.  Only one way to find out.

The gut buster that wasn't
Riding after the storm was nice as it was cool and the rain had dampened the trail enough to keep the dust down.  My legs and stomach were both feeling good but my ass had had enough.  My mountain bike position is a lot tighter than what I have on my road bike, which causes me to sit a lot further back on the saddle, thus putting more weight on muscle (i.e. butt) and less on skeleton.  By mile seventy my butt was bruised fairly deeply and I was entering into a misery situation.

I don’t mind suffering, but I don’t like misery.  Suffering is part of the game, if you want to do something big, something cool you have to work, maybe even suffer a bit, for it, but misery - that’s just miserable.  I ended up riding much of the final ten miles standing up.  I rode up to the Summit West Ski Area just to add a few miles to the ride as I’d turned around a bit early.  I stopped at the summit store to get an Orange Fanta and then headed to the cabin.  I arrived with ninety seven miles on the odometer, a more pedantic guy would have rode in circles for three miles, but me, I parked my bike, went inside, laid down and watched the Outlaw Josey Wales.  I’d had enough.