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The "Crank"






Starting the second climb with only one water bottle was part of my original plan as I had no interest whatsoever to climb Ophir Pass loaded up with extra water weight.  The reasoning here is a direct counter to the familiar concept of the too familiar rider carrying an extra 20 pounds of adipose tissue, who spends every grain of his mental and financial energy getting his bike as close as possible to 14 pounds.  If the bike pedaled itself, that would make good sense.  But we all know that most pedal vehicles need a host to propel them forward and the case being such, it becomes a package deal: bike and peddler ascending together, so the sum weight of man and machine would be fully applicable; It’s simple reasoning folks and the same reason most Tour riders are a simple composition of a pair of legs and lungs with any other extremities simply gifted pro bono by Mother Nature as part of her generous handouts at conception.

Anyways, I knew that I had some support on the other side of the pass, so I allowed myself to keep things light and efficient in the quest of my ascent.  I climbed the winding dirt road and got into a good rhythm.  Not being very technical, I explored different lines and enjoyed this section by myself.  About 10 minutes into it, pressure in my lower abdomen, reminded me that my bladder needed some relief so over I pull towards a cluster of fine looking aspen trees, lay the bike down, unzip my jersey and pull down the bib fronts.  There I stood, exposed and feeling the warm southern breeze in places that seldom see the light of day.  Nothing.  Obviously more time was necessary to familiarize myself with the surroundings.  Still nothing.  Time was ticking but there was nothing I could do as we all know that some things you just don’t hurry. Eventually I overcame stage fright and things loosened up down there.  Trees watered and buttoned back up, I mounted my steed and continued on feeling much relief. 

I rode this next section with Jesse a few weeks back and we encountered a number of washouts from the recent rains.  Some still remained across the road, but the more serious debris had been removed, making it much easier to stay on and navigate.  I rode on, heading up and west.  When I turned in the saddle to look back, I noticed that the sun behind me also rose higher in the sky and was headed in a similar direction; no doubt on its way to Bakersfield, California.  We shared general bearing, me on earth, he in that azure firmament above reminding me of his superior position by beating on my back.  I unzipped my tunic to let the breeze cool me off.  A slight annoyance only for the day was unfolding spectacularly, and as the road twisted and ascended towards the top of the pass, with it unrolled spectacular views of the surrounding mountains.  Scree fields and corrugated ridges of rusted mineral streaks bleeding from the mountain sides as far as the eye could see reminded me of the area’s mining history and of times past.  The combination of the images in my head and those before my eyes were a beautiful composition that eventually carried me to where I could see the top of the pass.

 Movement up ahead in form of another rider pulled me out of my trance and alerted me that it was time to stop smelling the roses.  A long left hander wraps up the climb and here on this last stretch I closed the gap and got a good glimpse of the man ahead.  He wore a grey kit, a small pack and bitchin’ Enve Socks and was showing good form.

 Catching him was my mission but as I crested the top, my attention was pulled off Enve Socks as my carburetor was being violently blasted by the unique smell of…  Oh, yes, the unmistakable smell of Bacon!  At the top, Max had a frying station and was offering crispy bacon to the riders and some bumpin’ beats.  The ambiance broke down any resistance I had, so I courteously took the piece handed to me and inhaled it.  Damn good!

 “Nice gloves!” says Max referring to my Grifter motorcycle wrenching gloves.  Made of buffalo leather in the great USA, these things are awesome for wrangling cattle and general gripping of cylindrical shaped items such as electric toothbrushes, axe handles and an assortment of handlebars; whether motorcycle or bicycle, it matters not, as these gloves have no prejudice one way or another and perform flawlessly at the task at hand. Right on!

My girls were waiting for me with love and refreshments on the other side of the pass so there was no need for me to spend too much time here.  After the bacon I hurried on as I wanted to start the descent ahead of the gentleman in possession of the Enve Socks, but in my haste I was halted by Max yelling at me again to strap my helmet.  Oh yeah…. I typically unbuckle that piece of Styrofoam when climbing as any strap around my throat hinders my breathing and triggers fantastic and terrifying visions of standing on the hangman’s gallows waiting for the floor to drop.  I don’t believe they still hang people in our civilized country but regardless, I just don’t like the whole helmet noose feeling.  Another topic altogether, so mothers, tell your children not to walk in my erroneous ways…

 But this being a race, I did buckle the helmet and hoping to make up for the lengthy stop I pedaled on slightly faster than I should have gone.  This stark realization came at the first bend in the road on the way down.  A hairpin section of strewn baby head size rocks is easily navigable by decent riders and in my attempt to prove that I belong to that elite camp, I went into it slightly over my head.  For reasons outside my control, I found myself going way too fast into a line that my bike chose simply by itself, without any consultation or attempt to align its goals with the direction my body was going.  If anyone around had the opportunity to see the spectacle that was unfolding at that time, they would have found it somewhat amusing to say the least as the discord between bike and rider could only be described as a “tank-slapping” waltz.  For those not familiar with the term, it is more commonly found in the sport of Moto GP.  Google it and prepare to be amused.

 Amused I was not, but whether by luck or some other unseen force I made it through without crashing.  The episode really scared me, making my heart drop and leaving me shaking with tears welling in my eyes.  Ohh my… 

When we become the recipient of a life changing event, its mark is left on our conscience so we tend to remember it for some time.  Lofty names are known to be given to places of significance as memorials worth recollecting.  Augustine’s Conversion, Latrobe’s Salvation and such creative names mark notable events and places.  Narcis’ Emasculation will be the appropriate name of that corner of Ophir Pass, as it clearly describes the life changing event that happened to me there.  I have no memory of the next few minutes of my life and I believe that the trauma of the scare I experienced, completely erased the period of time that immediately followed. 

The next thing I do remember is that I was rolling on a section of smooth packed dirt, completely rattled and feeling slightly lighter.  I am convinced that had I been weighed at that exact moment, I would be found to lack the exact amount of the combined weight of my peaches which were left hanging at the apex of that turn.  Should anyone find them, please return them to their rightful owner.

 Wiping tears (or sweat) from my face I mustered the courage to keep on and cautiously I arrived to the town of Ophir where notable dreadlocked long time local, Jaime and a group of chaps were cheering me on.  Being quite shallow, the cheering and approval of men made me feel better, and so I smiled as I rolled through towards the fire station where my family was waiting for me with food and drink.  No sooner do I stop, that Enve Socks blows past.  Damn!  Another situation outside my control, so I redirected my focus to my wife and kids who had the organization and efficiency of a Formula One pit crew. Bottles were exchanged and sandwiches were replenished.  Hugs all around, and with more congratulatory cheering, I wheeled on.  This stop was very good for me, repairing the morale I had earlier lost at that cursed corner.  Encouraged I turned it on to catch Enve Socks and as I approached the highway I was riding alongside the man.  At this turn more spectators offered their voices up and more wives showed their support for their racing husbands.  Thank you Vick and Steph, respective wives of Tim and Oz!

 Mr. Enve Socks and I took a left here, mainly because this was the race course and part in obedience to the highway patrol who was stationed at that junction and pointed us in that obvious direction.  I waved thanks to the man in blue and he acknowledged the gesture by gravely nodding his head. 

We rode this short section of pavement to the next turn on the right and more dirt of the Galloping Goose Trail.  I am ashamed to say that I have never done this trail before, so I let my riding comrade take the lead.  The sun was breaking through the trees and we rode through a kaleidoscope of mercurial sun rays and shadows dancing on the damp ground.  Enve Socks and I were riding a similar pace so we kept each other company on one of the most pleasant trails I had ridden.  We traded lead a few times and so we came to the Sunshine turn-off where my companion stopped to refuel, leaving me to continue solo on the climb out of Illium.  I climbed this rocky section at a moderate pace, eventually reaching the double track along the river.  More pleasant riding here and with the thought of completing the first lap within reach I found myself pedaling bravely to the bike path and back towards town.  Along the path I once more took advantage of the smoothness to eat and drink some more.  The walkers along the path were of good sport and offered their cheerful remarks as I went by.  Taking a right at the roundabout, left on Mahoney, through Car Henge and up the Kids Hill brought me across the finish line and the conclusion of the first lap.  Here I allowed myself the luxury of using the actual restrooms of the Gondola, took off the knee and arm warmers, refueled on what little I needed and I prepared to head out for the second lap, just as Enve Socks blew past.  A hand well played by the said gentleman and that was the last I saw of that rider for the rest of the race.   I did meet him recently at a Fat Bike - Nordic Race and what a great athlete and gentleman he proved to be.

to be continued...