Saturday, August 1, 2015

A Contrived Failure, and a Clear Win

Thursday, July 30, 2015 I worked like normal, but left around 3:30. Went home and started darting around, fussing with my pack and trying to make sure I was remembering everything. Then a little before 7 I rode down to the F Street Bridge to do an offical start.

lining up with myself for ITT start
lining up with myself for ITT start

I had been planning for several weeks to make an attempt to finish a Vapor Trail 125 ITT. I did this in August of 2013, and it was the hardest (physical) thing I had ever done.

I was more or less satisfied after my finish in August. It was a feat of 1-day endurance that was good enough for me; I felt no compulsion to find a harder thing to trump a Vapor Trail 125 finish.

But then 2014 happened. I came into 2015 feeling like I could get fit again if I could put in some work, but something like a VT125 ITT felt like one of the things I could do before the accident, and when I was younger. But those days were past.

Some time this spring, I got the fire again to ride far and push my own limits. I finished the Salida Big Friggin' Loop, which opened my mind to the possibility that maybe I could finish another ITT. Once I had that thought, I knew I was going to need to try. I upped my training and then picked a date.

I borrowed a GoPro in order to document the experience, so I have some footage. Futzing around with the GoPro cost me some time, but I'm happy I did it because I have some good footage.

The ride started with a warm evening. It was a little cloudy, but looked like a normal nice summer evening. Right away Mother Nature let me know that she controlled the game with 20 minutes of good hard rain. The smell of ozone was in the air, but thankfully no lightning. But I went from a little too warm to damp and chilled. By the time I got to dirt after the first 40 minutes or so the rain was a memory and I started to dry off and get warm again.

Creatures started showing themselves to me. First it was rabbits and other rodents. Then a mule deer doe. And then, before I had even gotten above 9,000 feet elevation I saw a cow elk who looked like she'd just come from a salon. Beautiful healthy coat, standing in good grass and vibrant flowers. Our land is bursting with fertility this summer, and this huge animal looked like she'd been eating grain and alfalfa all summer.

My buddy Ryan met me just as I got to the Colorado Trail. He'd been on an adventure all day, all the way from Cotopaxi to Monarch Pass, then the CDT over Chalk Pass and on to the Tincup Road. Then all of the Colorado Trail from Chalk Creek to Blanks where we met. He knew I was going to be out there, so he'd arranged to find me on his way home as I was on my way out. That was cool, great to see a friend as the last light faded. He was just finishing up a huge day and I think he waited around at the trailhead to see me.

As I started my night and the Colorado Trail singletrack, light rain fell for about 20 minutes, but not enough to soak me. Just enough to make things nice and cool, and to remind me about who really controls the night (Mother Nature). I had borrowed a light from a really cool guy Jay Buthman who has a company called Amoeba. I'd always been curious about his lights, and didn't have a great solution for my helmet mounted light. Jay sent me a demo unit, which is so cool. I hadn't had a chance to mount and test it in darkness, and had to tinker around a little to get it right, but damn, what a light! Made the tech chunk on the CO Trail all the more fun. And made my own bar mounted light seem pretty weak!

Here's a video of me pushing up the first hard hike-a-bike, which is about 15 minutes into the CO Trail section (2 minutes):

Here's a video showing some of the trail riding, smooth:

Here's a video showing some of the trail riding, chunk:

That section of CO Trail is probably my favorite night ride; challenging parts, smooth parts, beautiful woods and creeks. I took enough water to get to my next water stop at Canyon Creek from Browns Creek. Wonderful tasting clear water.

I should mention that for this entire effort, starting from a couple hours before I left, I was feeding using Tailwind Nutrition powder. I had a supply that I used to mix and refill my water bottle from the clear water in my Osprey hydration pack. I used their caffeinated product through the night and switched to normal after dawn. I was using a Steripen to sterilize the water, since it was absolutely gin-clear but certainly carrying some beaver fever. I don't take water from creeks that flow out of mining districts.

I felt really good during that whole trail section, and popped out onto the road to St Elmo at midnight feeling strong. Time to get to work knocking out that climb to the divide. Three hours of constant, relentless climbing. No way to get it done other than to get started and keep going.

Stayed on task relentlessly from Cascade all the way to the bottom of the trail up to Altman Pass (Alpine Tunnel). When I got there I had my first crisis of fatigue. When you do these things, there typically come times when the effort gut punches you. I couldn't catch my breath. My legs were aching and shaking. I had probably pushed too hard up from Cascade.

On this course, when you get to the divide you better take stock. Continuing means you're over on the west side of the divide in a wild, remote place. There is no help or cell service and no easy way home once you're over there. If you go over there you better be ready to work. Even turning around heading home from the Alpine Tunnel means a two-hour ride home. If there's any question about where you're at, it's time to do a full diagnostic.

Luckily, I was unwilling to turn around without at least making it to the continental divide. I pushed the bike up there, and by the time I got to the top I could catch my breath, even though I'd just pushed hard for 20 minutes over rocks and up slippery gravel. That made me happy. I had gone from beaten to back in the game. That's key to finishing something big. Down times will happen, but you can beat them if you try. Or you can let them take you down.

I made it up and over to the west side, rode the railroad grade road down about 2 miles to where the Tomichi Pass Road branches off to the south. From there, it was time to push the bike for two hours. I had a nearly full moon, but clouds kept it mostly obscured. Until I was stumbling over the bowling balls of the Tomichi Pass Road. Suffering in moonlight, and stoked to be there.

On this adventure, I felt that my fitness for hike-a-bike was solid. HAB is never fun, but I was able to tolerate a lot of effort and kept it going very well. There is a TON of HAB on the night-time part of the Vapor Trail 125, and in years past it gutted me. But I've been hiking more, and riding more primitive stuff on my recreational rides.

I made the summit of Granite Mountain right around 5:30. Pink light on the eastern horizon, beginnings of daylight, but still not enough ambient light to ride without lights. Here's a video where I can be heard explaining the nature of the risk as I begin my descent.

As I began my descent, I noticed that some kind of noisy birds were squawking as I went past. I was apparently disturbing them too early. Then I heard much more animal noise up on a ridge to the west. I looked up and saw this:

Amazing! What a privilege to be in that wild place at that time of day in mid-summer!

In another mile the trail came close to the creek. A high mountain creek, just below the headwaters. Gin clear and cold. It probably didn't need to be sterilized, but I gave it the steripen treatment. Don't need me no beaver fever.

Canyon Creek is a long, challenging descent with a painful punchy 15-20 minute climb at the end. The descending part, for somebody with my skill and risk tolerance, is well over an hour. That descent at first light has been the setting for bad crashes for me two different times. This time I made it down in decent time, unscathed, and had a blast. Success!

Making it to Snowblind Campground where the Canyon Creek trail ends, is a huge milestone as part of the Vapor course. It's a transition. Made it through the night and getting ready to tackle the day. Lube your chain. Take off a layer. Steel yourself for one of the two remaining long climbs on the Vapor Trail 125.

The 2,500 foot ascent of Old Monarch Pass. You finish Canyon Creek with a sense of elation. Old Monarch Pass road replaces that elation with exhaustion. It's relentless. Not a terrible climb when you're fresh, but after the night portion of the Vapor course, it's a soul-crusher. But without help from somebody who has a vehicle, you have no choice for getting home but to tackle it.

I know from past attempts, best thing to do with the Old Monarch climb is just to get to work and stay on task. Don't let it get to you. I did as well as could possibly be expected, but I was tired and the Old Monarch grind took a toll. A high point was seeing two more cow elk just a mile or so above the valley floor. I looked into the woods and saw what my brain first identified as horses. Because they looked like they'd been curried. Maybe it was my semi-hallucinatory sleep deprived state, but I tell you, those critters looked healthy. Fat and happy like a domesticated ungulate.

I was deep into my keep-moving-and-don't-think-about-quitting mode. When you make the Old Monarch summit there's a strong urge roll on over the top and point it down. If you want to finish you have to put that out of your mind. Descending on the highway sux. What a waste of all that climbing, with so many good descending trails.

I rode the singletrack link from Old Monarch Pass to Monarch Pass. My inner dialog during the latter part of the climb and the link over to Monarch Pass was about how I would be OK with it if I decided to just do Starvation Creek then call it a good effort and head home. Or maybe I'd rally (the Crest Trail can be quite a kick in the junk when you really need it) and want to take on the last 3-4 hours after finishing Starvation. Either way, I had no doubt that I had 15 miles to the Starvation trailhead in me. I wasn't even thinking about bailing down 50.

As I started climbing past the tram on Monarch I felt deep fatigue. Nauseating heart-pounding dead legs fatigue. As soon as I hit the steep part of the first jeep road climb I had to jump off and push. It only got worse. I knew I was properly hydrated and my nutrition was good. This wasn't a bonk. I hoped it was just a low point that I'd ride through.

There was a threatening dark cloud ahead, even though it was only around 10:30 I was concerned about getting caught and considered taking the first exit, Fooses Creek down. Before too much longer I decided to take Fooses regardless, because it was only a couple miles away and I was shelled.

Then the bottom fell out. I walked through a ride-able rocky section. When I tried to re-mount the bike, my balance was bad. I had the staggers. A couple of novice riders were catching me, so I got off the trail and sat. Did I have enough energy left to get to Fooses? A couple miles maybe, 300 feet of climbing?

Then I thought, is it even safe for me to try to descend on singletrack? I'm kind of a shit show, stacking way up on the Colorado Trail would not be an ideal way to end this adventure.

As disappointing as it was to forgo one more singletrack descent, my practical mind kicked in. Nope. Go home. It's been a memorable experience. It's been a huge success. 80 miles already, nearly 30 more just to get home on the highway. Visions of pre-dawn in a wild place. The memory of a mouse running across the Colorado Trail last night as I floated through the night.

Why risk tarnishing all this goodness? I had already happily capitulated to the reality that trying to finish would be un-fun. I was fine with that, why get greedy about the end of the ride?

So I rode down.

My fitness is very good, and I'm very grateful that I've gotten back from my injury. From the way this ride went, it's obvious to me that the capability is there--it would just take deeper training. In 2013, the year I did this successfully, I had already done a 24 solo, the Durango Dirty Century, the Redneck Epic, Dirty Double Fondo, etc. This year I've done some great riding, lots of very long days, but nothing like the endurance base I had by August of 2013. This was a nice big chunk of training too, beyond all the other wonderfulness that it was.

I pushed through several low places, and got myself home without needing or taking any assistance. I had logistics covered, meaning I never needed something that wasn't in my pack. You can forget how to prepare for these things, and that can mess you up just as badly as lack of fitness.

I needed to know how much two more years of age and a big injury had taken. Answer, not enough to matter.

That's a win. Solid win. I put more golden memories into the bank. I made an adventure. And I satisfied my inner critic. For now.

Hot damn.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

July 2015 High Country Images

We are having a beautiful year.

In winter it was cold. Spring brought an unusual amount of moisture; snow, rain, slush--it was wet.

Summer has been very dynamic. Big thunderstorms, then hot and clear for a while, then a week's worth of rainy afternoons.

The land is busting out with life. Green grass, happy sagebrush, flowers, mushrooms.

Here are some of my pictures from July adventuring.

Greens Creek

Pretty columbine on Greens

The view down toward Whitepine from Granite Mountain, Canyon Creek Trail

Looking north toward the Alpine Tunnel and Brittle Silver Basin from Granite Mountain, Canyon Creek Trail.

My buddy Craig checking out my bike, top of Granite Mountain, Canyon Creek Trail.

Looking south from Granite Mountain.

On the way down from Granite Mountain, upper Canyon Creek Trail

Another day, another bike ride. Crest Trail.

Crest Trail, new friend Taylor cresting a climb

New friend Denise on Silver Creek Trail

Denise going past and Taylor rolling on Silver Creek Trail

Taylor finishing one of the hundred climbs on the Rainbow Trail near Mear's Junction.

Get out there. The rockies in Southern CO have never been prettier.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Describing my favorite ride

When summer comes and high country snow recedes, I start venturing up into my happy place on my bike. Between Mt Ouray and Mt Antora there there is a high basin with a series of drainages, two of them with trails following down. There are two good climbing routes: the Marshall Pass Road and the Poncha Creek Road. Silver Creek and Starvation Creek have trails following them and they are born at the Divide and complete their runs to drain into Poncha Creek within a relatively short distance.

I love to start from my house in Salida on my mountain bike and ride to Marshall Pass. From there a number of adventures are possible. Down Silver Creek or Starvation Creek then back to town the way I came. Or backwards south to north on the Monarch Crest Trail, to descend Greens or Fooses and return to home using highway 50. Or Agate Creek. Or something else I dream up.

Every adventure up there is different. Weather, riding companions, animals encountered; all of these things make the ride unique.

Since it's such a favorite place of mine, I thought I might dedicate a blog post to deconstructing a ride into the shadow of Ouray (photo album at bottom of page).

Start with 5 miles of Salida town and County Road 120. Elevation change is roughly 7100 feet to 7500 feet. Then 5 miles of climbing toward Poncha Pass and the Marshall Pass Road. It's a good wide highway with a breakdown lane to ride in, but lots of traffic. Elevation change is roughly 7500 to 8200. An hour or hour and fifteen minutes of pavement, and I turn right onto the gravel Marshall Pass Road, Chaffee County Road 200.

Marshall Pass is 15 miles away and 2,500 feet higher. The road starts in Piñon/Juniper and grass with the occasional ponderosa pine. The first 3 miles are pretty flat, but climbing is constant all the way from Salida to the Pass. The three miles bring you to an intersection at a place known as the Shirley Site. There was a town here at one time over 100 years ago, but now it's a parking area with a latrine. There are three ways to proceed up from Shirley. County Road 201 goes south and then west up the Silver Creek drainage. Poncha Creek Road goes west, and a mile up the railroad grade curves around back to the east to begin snaking its way up toward Marshall. Poncha Creek Road takes the straightline approach to get to the same place, going more or less straight without regard to steepness.

Sometimes I go up Silver Creek Road and ride only the Rainbow Trail then back to town. But my favorite is to follow the railroad grade. That's what I did on July 3, 2015. As I left Salida that day it was cool, humid and overcast. I was planning for the clouds to burn off, but prepared for whatever the mountain had in mind for me.

Half way up the 5 miles of highway 285 it started to rain on me. After 10 minutes of rain, I considered turning around to ride something lower rather than suffering in rain all day. It looked like it was settling in, and might rain all day. I actually slowed and looked for a gap in traffic to turn around, then thought, "Ah, what the hell. Might as well keep going. I'm already up here."

When I got to the Marshall Pass Road, it was wet and to the west it looked much more wet. I stuck with my plan, because I'd already climbed the pavement part and it wasn't raining hard enough yet to turn me back. If there's anything I've learned about these mountains, it's that you can't tell what the weather will ultimately do based on what it's doing right now. So I kept rolling over the moist gravel.

When I got to the Shirley site there were lots of puddles and the brush and trees were shining with moisture. But blue sky had appeared on the western horizon. My wager had paid off. It was burning off, and as I rolled up the railroad grade the aroma of happy wet sage filled the air.

The railroad grade is a wonderful aerobic climb. And much of it rolls through a tunnel of aspen that goes on and on. So beautiful. I often see bighorn sheep, and the road is littered with old rusting railroad spikes.

After 15 miles of dirt road and over three hours on the bike I emerge at the pass. Now singletrack! Between the ~4 miles of Continental Divide Trail/Colorado Trail from Marshall to Silver Creek, the ~6 miles of descending on the Silver Creek Trail, and the ~10 miles of Rainbow Trail, there are nearly 20 miles of classic Colorado trail ahead. The whole ride is a reward, but this section of trail-riding is what makes it world-class.

On July 3, 2015, I rode the traverse over to Silver and down Silver in lovely cool, sunny weather. Shortly after I emerged from Silver Creek to start the Rainbow, I noticed some clouds blowing in from the north. Before I'd gone 15 minutes down the Rainbow the rain started. Five minutes later I was hunkered down in cover with lightning flashing and cracking overhead. It rained hard and there was lots of electricity, then it gradually moved off to the south.

When I started moving again, I found a trail that was more puddle than not. The muddy water sprayed all over me and my bike. Total mess. But the sun was back out and everything was green and cool. So we went from overcast to rain to sun to storm back to sun. Typical day up in the shadow of Ouray. This particular ride took me 7 hours, 55 miles, over a mile of cumulative climbing.

I finished, a muddy man who was almost out of water, rolling down the highway sometimes hitting 40 mph, then back to town on County Road 120. Home to my dog, a shower, and a pint of Ben and Jerry's. Typical day up to the divide on the bike. Bliss.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Am I a Hundie Guy? Why?

Today I was up in my happy place riding my bike. 

When I left the house this morning I was planning to climb to Marshall Pass and then climb backwards up the Crest trail to the top of Greens and down. I figured there would be snow, but passable. Messy.

As I rolled through town on the way to CR120 I thought about it. Up to Greens and down seemed short. It would be trail I haven't seen since 2013 so it qualifies, but it seemed short for a beautiful early summer day with an early start. A more worthy ride would be Marshall and then Starvation Creek, then back up the Silver Creek road to do the Rainbow. That's a hard ride. So before I hit the city limits my plan had switched.

Starvation was amazing. Early summer beauty. Everything wet and mossy. But it was also strenuous, more than I remembered. Especially since I couldn't keep myself from clearing half a dozen blowdowns.

As I got down to the junction with Poncha Creek I was thinking about calling it a day and heading home rather than taking on the hour climb back up to the Rainbow trailhead. I was tired. It was hot and getting hotter.

"Well," I sez to myself. "Well, if I go home right now it's just a bike ride. But if I suck it up and climb up and ride that trail, then it's a 60-miler with over a mile of climbing. That's an accomplishment."

So here's the thing that popped into my head. Why does it need to be an accomplishment? And I chewed on that during the hot dusty climb up the Silver Creek Road...

Some of my heroes are the people who do the Big Multi-Day Rides like the TD (wow what a finish for the men's field last night!) When I grow up I want to be Eszter Horanyi or Jefe Branham or Mike Curiak. What they do and have done really inspires me. I have half the gear I need to get into that game, and friends tease me for how often I've declared that I'm going to get out touring, but never do.

Most of those heroes of mine graduated from the Big One-Day Rides like Leadville, the Breck 100, and of course the daddy of them all, the Vapor Trail 125.

I never graduated. I'm still stuck on the Big One-Day. And my little internal pep talk reminded me why.

I'm hooked on the banana split feeling. What, you say, is the banana split feeling? Well, it's this feeling you get after you do something hard and then your dad and his best friend Jerry take you to tastee freeze and buy you whatever you want. And they tell you they're proud of you. And you feel all settled, and satisfied. Like you did what you set out to do.

This should really be a Father's Day post, but it wasn't in my head yet. And Father's Day is just arbitrary. We shouldn't limit ourselves to thinking about our dads when Hallmark tells us we should.

Forty years ago. Forty plus. My dad and his friend Jerry Barringer got into riding bikes with gears and funny handlebars. Tony Barringer was my age and my friend too, so we had a posse. Check Tony out with that ridiculous hat! King of the Mountains theme.

those were the days
That's me with the poo brown Schwinn Varsity with the yellow bar tape.

So it started with riding to the next town to have a burger at the diner there. And then some longer rides, and then centuries.

What I really got thinking about today as I asked my tired body to work for just another couple hours instead of going home was that first one. My first century ride. I know I finished it on that Schwinn. I got a better bike, an Italian Torpado (with Campy!) using paper route money the next year. But that day, that banana split day, I was a little kid on a 48 pound steel throwback to a different era.

It was the Seaway Century out of Muskegon, Michigan. I can't honestly remember if it was 1974 when I was 10 or 1975 when I was eleven. I remember crying. I remember really caring about whether I was close enough to my dad's back wheel to be in his draft. And I remember the words. He didn't make me feel bad for crying. He just spoke to me evenly and we worked through the miles. I can't tell you what he said, but I'm pretty sure I remember what it meant.

That experience I think set up some basic wiring in me. There's something in me that likes getting up out of bed and facing a big challenge; to be dealt with and either completed or not before it's time to go to bed again. And then you eat ice cream. And hamburgers.

I think I'm going to go get some ice cream.

Sunday, June 7, 2015


If you had asked me a year ago whether I would ever do a huge endurance series ride again, I would have probably told you that it was unlikely. I was busted up and trying to kick the narcotic pain meds that had kept me inside my skin for a month. I felt not only broken, but aged. Significantly aged.

Feeling old, like feeling young, is a state of mind. My 2014 was chock full of life lessons. One of them was the power of states of mind. When you are a busted up 50-year-old sitting through whole summer days inside on a recliner, you aren't putting yourself into a picture that includes athletic achievement.

If you aren't careful, you can become that guy on the recliner.

Yesterday June 6, 2015 was the Salida Big Friggin' Loop, an event I've been putting on since 2012.

Blanks Cabin Colorado Trail trailhead

Some time between  October and March of this past year, a kernel of desire started to establish. It was desire to have my strength back. Meaning, to have the belief, that I could be strong on the bike again. I worked on getting back fitness, which is necessary to achieve on the bike. But without faith there's only so much you'll be able to do.

Some time last winter I put my name onto the registration list for the Big Friggin' Loop. I put a stake in the ground. I cleaned up my diet and started living a little more cleanly, and I started putting in bigger miles on the bike. And I started making myself believe.

Yesterday was test day. Time to answer the question, "can I still do something like this?"

Not going to do a blow-by-blow, but suffice to say the weather looked threatening at times but turned out to be 5 different kinds of late spring weather, each with something pleasant to offer. I got very tired, but kept the cranks turning.

About 5 hours in I had an awkward stuck-pedal crash and fell over into a pile of rocks. I banged down hard on my right elbow and thigh. My blink reaction was fury. I swore and yanked my bike back upright, pushed it to the top of the climb that I'd dumped on. When I started riding again I found that it wasn't shifting right. Must have bent my derailleur hanger. Fuck!

Then I got a gift. Having been through situations on big rides where something bad happened and it took me down a negative road, I stopped myself from going that way. And then realized that, even though this setback had happened, I was still rolling. My forearm was stinging, and I felt joy in the sting. I was on a finisher's pace in the SBFL! I'm out here doing this, and feeling this! The pain means I'm alive. What a privilege! What a blessing!

When I got to Buena Vista, I went straight to Boneshaker Cycles, to re-stock since they were so kind to set up a whole neutral support area in their shop, but also to see if I could borrow their hanger tool to fix my derailleur. The town was jumping. The street was full of cars, the sidewalks full of tourists. And Boneshaker was super busy too.

I was really hesitant to bug them; a busy shop in the summer doesn't need a distraction. I went back toward their service area, where the mechanic was busy working on a rental bike. When I sheepishly asked if I could borrow the hanger tool, the wrench said "want to come back here and put it on a stand?" That was exactly what I wanted, but I wouldn't have asked. Having it offered was really nice, and my new friend took a couple seconds to clear the stand for me. With a good stand and the right tools, I had my bike shifting right in a matter of minutes. I lubed the chain since it was so convenient up on a real work stand, then headed back out to see about finishing. Chatted with the Boneshaker guys for a while, and they really are wonderful people. Then topped off my water and rolled out into a hard rain in full sun.

I left BV feeling happy, positive and ready to go finish the long loop. The Barbara Whipple trail took a bit of the starch out of my collar right away. The punchy steep climbs made me really feel the miles that were already in my legs. And then about 15 minutes into the Midland Trail, I repeated the clumsy keel over crash into a new pile of rocks. Onto my right side again, but this time the elbow took the worst. Again, the quick rage followed by a sense of big picture gratitude. I chuckled at my own klutzy nature, and how dumb it had been to not take 20 seconds to lube my pedal cleat the first time it stuck and sent me crashing down.

I ground my way through the afternoon, deep in the pain cave. By the time I came to the turn-off for the base loop, I was there. I could tell that finishing the base loop would be plenty of challenge. So I pointed myself east and south and made for home.

The discomfort was from everywhere. The ass. Legs, butt, and back. My left foot was numb or in pain--an issue that started last summer. I think I had some gout symptoms that may have left a uric acid crystal in my forefoot. And then there's the feeling when you have to burn some matches to get up a steeper pitch, and there's a moment of nauseous breathless heart-pounding.

It was great. Full suffer, but with the acute awareness that I was back! I can get into the pain cave, I can live there for a while and my body will handle it. I was playing a game that I had almost convinced myself was a game for a younger Tom. A couple times on the way up to the Aspen Ridge summit, I choked up and felt my eyes fill with tears. What a privilege to have this suffering! My patched up, worked over, broken and healed body Can Still Do This! Through the intense discomfort, elation surged. I would choke up, and make a kind of asthmatic moan. If I there had been more energy and breath in me, it probably would have been a sob.

I've taken something back that was lost. I am so grateful. I guess in 2014 it was my path to see some misery and be challenged to survive it. I don't ever want to live through something like that again. But at least now I know that I can if I have to.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Back at it, Baby!

Been wallowing a bit. For, like, a year?

Been suffering from Läzyfücker Syndrome. Riding bikes for long distances has just been seeming too durned hard. Dunno if it's a positive reaction to the longer days and more colorful light or a negative reaction to the tightness of my carhartts and belly overhang. But it's something. Something vernal I think.

I've been finding joy in the long ride again. I'm digging out of some pretty crappy physical sloth and my muscle is marbled like a high-quality prime rib, but pedaling the bike is starting to feel good again.

Poncha Pass in early March
Poncha Pass in early March

Put my name down to ride my very own Salida Big Friggin' Loop in June. Might ride the Dirty Double Fondo in May if I'm there in terms of fitness yet.

I have become aware of the fact that for many many years, my own perceived life purpose was riding mountain bikes really far. That started to seem pretty absurd to me. It still does. Am I on this planet to wear out mountain bikes? Is that what I'm for?

Well, I'm not sure where I am with that. But endurance riding is a part of me. I'm not ready to put it into the past, and I'm completely at a loss to identify something with which to replace it.

The Universe doesn't seem to have a plan for me. The idea that The Plan™ would be riding bikes still seems absurd, but frankly the fuggin' Universe seems more absurd and random than it seems orderly. There's order in nature, and that's one of the things that draws me out into it on a bike. But the universe of humans? So-called Humanity? Absurd and getting more so with every passing hour.

As Walter Sobcheck might have said if he was a mountain biker and not a bowler:

"Fuck it dude, let's go riding."

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Solstice Day

Acknowledge the darkness, appreciate the light.

Solstice Sunrise
Crazy sunrise on the shortest day

Deer in the pre-dawn park. The rut is in full swing.

wind hike
Hike up in a draw out of the wind

sand dunes
Looking down at the valley from Salida's Sand Dunes

solstice storm

Strong snow-smelling wind
Winter's breath from the Divide
Look now toward light

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Cruising to the end of a tough year

I've been through plenty of tough times in my 50 years on the blue marble. Was this year the worst? Hard to have perspective to know. Memories from other difficult years, like the year my marriage failed, are clouded by time. I'm in this year now, and I'm still in the process of climbing out of the hardness and leaving it behind. It will not be my story.

So whathafock happened? Well, actually quite a few suckful things happened in my personal life, but the big thing was a serious injury. I realize looking back at the few posts I wrote this year that I never told the story here on the blog. So here it is.

On May 4 I was in the San Rafael Swell in Utah with my good friend Earl. We were riding motorcycles in the canyons. It was a Sunday, and we'd done a big ride of over 100 miles on Saturday. I was tired. I made a mistake while trying to corner on an easy sweeping left turn in a dry wash. I won't call it an accident. I made a mistake. I blew the turn, went wide into the rocks. Just before I crashed I kicked my right foot out to try to shove me and the bike back to the left. All I did was hurt the leg. It's not easy to kick 300 lbs of motorcycle and 200 lbs of Tom-meat off the course that it's on.

immediately after the crash
This picture was found in a hidden cranny on my digital camera just a few weeks ago. Earl took it when we both thought this would be a funny story some day.

When I landed face down in the gravel I knew I was hurt pretty badly. The knee was screaming, and I clearly had a chest injury. Earl picked up my bike. We talked about the situation a little and Earl asked me if I could ride. I said something like I guess we better find out.

We were an hour's ride from where we were camped. But it took almost two because I was really hurting. When we got back we scrounged up all the pain relief we had between the two of us. I had two advil and Earl had one. I took two and saved the other for later and Earl loaded up the bikes and everything else. We drove the hour to Green River and stopped for lunch. I had a hard time sitting in a chair, and when we got back in the car I leaned the seat way back and just tried to relax.

We drove the 7 hours back to Salida. We went to Earl's house where I got Vicki and we went home. I found a Vicodin from a previous adventure, took it and went to bed. I actually slept. In the morning I started moving around, doing things like cleaning cat boxes with three days worth of produce. While I was doing that I started to have muscle spasms from in-breath. A breath would trigger a spasm which pushed out the air, another in-breath another spasm. It was kind of like a seizure, and very difficult to stop.

I put Vicki in the truck and we went to the hospital. The knee hurt really really bad, but it was the ribcage that was a crisis. When I got to the hospital I told them to never mind the knee and figure out what was up with my ribs. I expected to be there for an hour or two, then go fill a pain pill prescription and go home. The ER doc came back with an X-Ray and told me he wanted to check me to stay. He told me I had a pneumothorax, which is doctor-talk for a punctured lung.

So, let's cut to summary: I had broken 6 ribs, two of them in two places. It was ribs number 3-8, all fractured right where they join to the spine. Probably 5 and 6 had fractures in the middle as well. My theory is that the lung wasn't punctured immediately, otherwise I never would have survived 24 hours without treatment. I think the spasm seizures displaced the fractures, moving a jagged edge up against my lung wall.

That first day in the hospital was super bad. My pain seemed to be escalating. All day long and into the evening, the doctor had to be asked to up the dosage. By nightfall I was on IV dilaudid. For the next 6 or 7 weeks, narcotic pain meds would be part of every day.

I was in the hospital for three nights. When I got out, my sister Meg arrived to stay with me for a week to take care of me. My memories from those weeks in May when I was heavily medicated are hazy and unreal.

My knee was sore, but I was so medicated that I could kind of ignore it when I walked around. When I finally got off the pain meds (no easy task folks) the knee became more of an issue. So I went to an ortho, expecting that I had torn meniscus that would need a scoping. Nope, fractured tibial plateau. The ninth fracture, which I had been walking around on without crutches or cast for nearly two months.

So I had the darkness of lonely days spent whacked out on narcotics, watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer on Netflix. Then I had the darkness of trying to get up, go to work without any pain pills clouding my judgement and function in life. Nobody likes to hear a whiner whining, but people, that was a very difficult time. I could barely stand to sit at my desk, but worse than that my ability to bring any energy to my work was limited. I felt like crap because I felt like crap, and also because I really didn't feel like I was earning my paychecks. And I really needed to start bringing home paychecks again because I had not worked for a month.

My ability to enjoy weekends during June and much of July was severely limited as well. I couldn't walk for more than a couple miles, both because of pain and because I would get tired. I couldn't ride a bike. Pedaling really irritated the knee pain. I didn't even ride my townie bike to run errands for most of the summer. I actually rode the motorcycle, because it was easier than getting in and out of the truck and didn't drink so much gas.

It was isolating, boring, frightening, and sad. I was depressed. I wallowed in sadness and self-pity for much of the summer. It really took willing myself to feel better to get past it. I just had to put a different goddamn expression on my face in the morning, go to work, and get on with it.

Right now? A week before the winter solstice, a time of year that usually depresses me because of the darkness and the cold, and I'm in good shape. Very grateful. I've mostly healed. My knee actually has recovered enough with no intervention that it isn't limiting me from doing the things I want to do. The only thing my ortho forbids is running. Which is fine, because I only run when I'm being chased.

I'm enjoying playing in the snow with Vicki on snowshoes or fatbike. I'm enjoying relationships with friends that were taken to another level by the help and support they provided when I desperately needed it. I'm enjoying work, and I think I'm earning my paychecks again.

I'm kind of re-inventing myself, and I'm energized. I seem to have moved beyond the era of endurance mountain biking. I'm riding, but I'm just not thinking about doing dirt hundies or 24 solos. That stuff has been an obsession for a decade for me. Maybe I'll get back to it, but I did lots of that stuff. Not sure that my mission in life is to wear out mountain bikes. So maybe my path will be to do something else. Or lots of something elses. The years of endurance riding weren't very diverse. Or very social. Now I'm going to do lots of other things, and enjoy a wider spectrum of life.

This year is not my fucking story. In the years that come I'm committed to finding my joy. I will treat 2014 as a symbol of why we should be grateful. I lived through that shit, came out stronger. My body took a hit, but it's not the first time.

Thank God we heal.

old monarch

Here's to finding beauty, joy, and companionship in 2015 and beyond. Thanks to the people who helped me through the darkness. You will always be special to me.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014


Going back to work today. I'm nervous. It's been a while. I have not earned a dime in May, the last time I worked was April 30. Now I'm able to handle at least part of a day without narcotic pain killers.


Yesterday was the first day for that. I got up feeling better than ever since the injury. So I took Vicki back up Bear Creek and we hiked most of the jeep road up to the trailhead, and walked down the trail for a little ways. It was Vicki's first exposure to the Rainbow. I hope this section of trail will be come very familiar to her.

I did way too much. I got home exhausted and in pain. Took some pain meds and promptly fell asleep for two hours. But I feel like at this point I need to do a little too much every day, as long as I can rest my way back to feeling OK by the next morning it isn't too much.

This whole damn thing has been really intense. It's been humbling, frightening, depressing, boring... and inspiring. My friends and family have completely overwhelmed me with their support and work on my behalf. I have been touched deeply. Thinking about it chokes me up.

Now I'm trying to claw my way back to normal life. But it's going to be different. This has changed me. My old habits and routines have been completely blown up. Lots of what I do on a daily basis will change. My perspective has been changed.

Wish me luck. I hope I can be worth a crap at work. I need more than my income back, I need my life back.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Healing Update Too

Today Saturday May 24th I woke up feeling decent. Not done with this by a long way, but better.

Forecast was for a stormy afternoon and evening, so I decided to make the most of a pretty morning when I'm feeling good. I drove Vicki up to Bear Creek and we went for a walk up the jeep road. I 4-wheeled up part way then left the truck with the goal of climbing up to the trailhead and back. After about ten minutes I adjusted my goal to, make it a mile then turn around.

After a while my friend Chris S rode up and stopped to talk (he incidentally is a radiology guy who has taken x-rays of me after previous run-ins with two-wheeled vehicles). Then Alex B came up and I got to tell both of them my war stories. I felt that I should have a large gnarled wooden cane to lean on as I told the whippersnappers my tales of bravery and misery.


Where you see the whippersnappers up the road is about as far as Vicki and I went.

Which was fine. It was so nice to just be out in the fresh air and the aspen leaves had popped. I love the brand-new aspen leaves. They are so fresh and light-green. Hummingbirds trilled through the woods. It was nice.


I think Vicki liked it too.

This whole thing has been pretty mind-altering for her I bet. She gets adopted and spends 5 or 6 weeks with me, gets past trust into having fun. Then I go away for a long weekend. She gets to stay with a wonderful lady and an incredibly hunky 8-year-old blue heeler, so it's not traumatic that I'm gone, but still. Then I come home for 12 hours, we sleep together in my house. In the morning I drive her to the hospital parking lot and ask her to wait. After several hours somebody else (someone she trusts deeply) comes along and drives her home. Then it's back to the nice lady and the hunky heeler.

I'm gone for another 3 day spell. And when I get home I'm...


I move differently, I seem to sleep a lot. I'm home all the time, which she clearly likes, but I'm not chasing her around in the yard playing like before. We only seem to go to places that are a couple blocks away, and I walk like somebody who just busted out of the nursing home but forgot to grab the walker on the way out.

It's going to be a while yet before I can give her a workout when we go to the woods together. But it's nice to take a baby step.

I took a 90-minute nap when I got home. I think I'll sleep well tonight. Amazing to think that walking eight tenths of a mile with maybe 175 vertical feet of climbing could be a workout. But that's where I'm starting. Bring on the healing, bring it on.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Healing Update

Doctor's appointment today with Dr Johnson who was in charge of me when I was in the hospital. Dr White is my personal doctor. I saw Dr White last Wednesday and will see him again Wednesday afternoon. This was my so-long, farewell appointment with Dr Johnson. She ordered an x-ray which she'll check out, but I'll be taking it to my family doc Wednesday and will follow through with any problems with him.

I can walk, and have been taking Vicki with me at least once a day down to Riverside Park. If I go more than about a mile it wears me. And it's a pretty much senior citizen pace. But I can move around.

Vicki walks with friend

Tough for the Vicki Dog though. Thanks again to my amazing friends for getting her out there sniffing and playing. Here's a picture of her on a walk with my friend Sydney.

I slept probably 3 hours or more during the day today. I'm still managing pain, and often find myself on the recliner in front of a movie realizing that it's almost over and I have been sleeping.

Hmm. Lots like being a senior citizen.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Reporting on Status Reporting


To people still reading this blog, all six of you, just wanted to let you know about things around here.

My first real experience riding dirtbikes went wrong on me. At first it wasn't wrong, it was a blast.

swelling is down

My friend Earl and I hauled the bikes over into Utah to the San Rafael Swell. We rode about 120 miles on Saturday May 3. Perfect weather, lots of chances to learn and figure out my motorcycle. Good fun day.

I was really tired on Sunday but we both wanted to ride at least for a while before loading up to go home.

My crash was unspectacular, embarrassing really. It wasn't that a challenging obstacle got the best of me, it was a total spazz move. For my mountain biking friends, it was your basic SPD fall. Not because you're going big, but a less-than-graceful reaction to a challenge situation.

I am far from having poise on a dirtbike. I was doing a decent job of faking it for much of the weekend, but when things went a little wrong on Sunday my response wasn't the kind of instinctive, muscle memory instant reaction I expect when I'm on a mountain bike.

kitty cat film

I spazzed.

kitty cat film

Upshot is that I broke some ribs. It was six, left side numbers 3-8 right near where they attach to the spine.

For the sake mainly of friends and family, I'll try to make some updates in this blog in the coming weeks. Current status:
  • Managing pain with pretty serious medicine.
  • Not working (job). Obviously wasn't working last week from the hospital. Haven't been able to operate without pain killers and that's going to be what holds me back from going back. I will have to be able to tolerate hours in an office chair with a clear head. I think that's not going to be this coming Monday. Please stand by.
  • Fantastic people coming out of the woodwork to help me with things.
  • Fantastic dog keeping me company, and being very patient about how slowly I move.
Thanks everybody, and check back here for news.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Vicki the Adventure Buddy

I got a dog. It's been a long time. My heart was bruised by the loss of my sweet Rosie almost a decade ago. And my life changed not long after I lost that dear friend. Having a dog would have been incredibly impractical.

But now it's not impractical. I have the house and yard. I have a reasonably flexible lifestyle. And I miss having that kind of friend.

So I decided I'm going to get another herding dog, but this time one without so much baggage. I spent a decade with Rosie scanning the horizon for other dogs any time I was out. She might jump any dog that came up to her nose, and when it was go-time she did not hold back. I paid for many stitches during that decade, her victims' and her own. I loved her very much and she loved me, and I miss her terribly. But she was really a pain in the ass!

Rescue takes many forms. Giving a good life to a young dog who's already reasonably well-adjusted, but homeless, is rescue. Taking a dog that's been neglected and/or abused is a pretty big burden. So many good people do it out of pure love for animals, I think we forget how difficult it can be.

So this time I decided, it's all about finding one who's pretty much OK but needs a home. I started looking around, mainly for heelers (AKA Australian Cattle Dog) and heeler mixes. Using the internet I found one on the western slope who had apparently failed to cut the mustard as a working dog, but had lived on a ranch until her incompetence came to light. Perfect.

By the time I got in touch with her shelter she was gone. Of course other possible dogs had popped up on searches. I sent emails and left messages for various shelters and rescues. A woman at Foothills Animal Shelter in Golden was very prompt and helpful. I had asked her about Mara, a beautiful red heeler who looked too sweet. Being in the shelter had been stressing her so they'd found a quiet foster home. She had been picked up stray in late February. She had been with the foster family for a couple weeks, and they apparently loved her.

I made an appointment to meet her at 4:00 PM Thursday, March 20. Vernal Equinox, first day of spring.

When I met her, she was quite fearful. Shelters freak dogs out anyway, but she definitely had her radar up for danger. A couple milk bone fragments and I had her coming closer. She wasn't completely freaked out, I could touch her, but she was eyeing me warily. Also, her teats (nipples for the non-farm set) were quite large for a 1-year-old. I wondered if she'd had puppies, then realized that it was likely they had done a spay-bortion. She'd probably been found stray and pregnant.

So, she had baggage. She was also very sweet, especially to the women who had been taking care of her. I could see that she had the capacity to trust.

And she yanked on my heart. She really needed to be someplace safe.

So I guess I fucked up that "this time one without so much baggage" thing. My practical side caved to my sentimental side.

At 4 PM I met this dog, by 5 she was in the front seat of my truck watching me deal with rush hour traffic trying to get to 285 and south to Salida. She sat there confined next to me for 3 hours and was OK. But not relaxed. She did not sleep.

The picture above is from the Friday morning. I gave her some food, and then we went for our first of three walks that day.

I decided to call her Vicki. I discovered that day that Vicki had no idea what to do with a toy. She had no idea what a ball is for. She would come to me and accept affection, but she always had an eye out for her escape route. Every once in a while I would inadvertently do something that made her flinch.

Being outside together was better, but I had to keep her on the leash. She was obviously still half afraid of me, so I couldn't count on getting her to come and let me put her back on the leash if we were out in the woods. I briefly took her off the leash in the above picture as an experiment, with the treats handy. In this picture I see a dog that is not frightened, but just kind of neutral.

When we got home from that walk we went out in the truck to run some errands. One of them was Scanga (MEAT!), where I got a box of frozen beef liver. When we got home she had some raw liver, which went down pretty easy. She took a nap, and later went out into her yard. She walked the perimeter, then returned to close to the back door. She stood briefly sniffing the breeze, then dropped a shoulder and rolled onto her back and writhed around. That wallowing on their back thing is a happy dog sign.

I went out after a while and called her over. I was scratching her chin when she slowly laid over, making full eye contact the whole time, and rolled onto her back. I reached out and scratched her chest, and she closed her eyes. For the first time, she showed me her belly and enjoyed a long chest rub with her eyes closed.

Then we went back inside, she found a corner in the living room and fell asleep. Real sleep, not the one-eye-open naps I'd been seeing her take.

Pirate staking out the beest. What kind of beest? Is it dangerous? Let's just assume that it is...

Meanwhile, Vicki's new life is complicated by the fact that there are these eyes on her all the time when she's inside. She'll come around a corner, and one of these fluffy hissy things will blow up like a fur balloon spitting and hissing. Early on, they would perch up on something high and just growl at her. Now they are starting to mellow out a little. Cautious approaches, a little closer every time.

She's kind of freaked out by doorways, or closing and opening doors, so when a door opens she tends to kind of charge right through it. In the morning when we get up and leave the bedroom, inevitably there is a cat in the hallway. She bolts out, and the cat(s) freak out and run. But they've figured out that she doesn't want to chase. So now they've started experimenting with approaching her on the floor 5 feet or less away. It's clearly going to be OK.

For day two, I decided on a longer hike. All the way up Sand Dunes, and we'd see how it went from there.

Once we were clear of town and alone on the trail, I decided to try an leash-off test. I had the treats in my hand. I took her off the leash. Moments later I called her close and gave her a treat. Then I just started walking up the trail. She followed along and it was like we'd always hiked together. I made a point of calling her over often. I would kneel down and give her some lovin'. Sometimes treat, sometimes just the affection.

It wound up being a pretty long hike, three hours. At times she seemed totally fine, but there were still moments when her radar popped up for some reason. She was suspicious when I took out the camera.

But it was a good, tiring hike. When we got home I popped open a can of the special artisanal‎ organic no-grain beef (dog) stew I had picked up before we met. I dumped it into her bowl and put it in front of her. She gave me a look that was like "really, for me?"

She tucked into that food and made it go away. Then we went into the living room so I could read and she crashed. About an hour later she woke up, and I took her outside just in case she needed to take care of nature's call. The door closed behind us and she did this kind of little dance step thing, then spun around to face me with a funny look on her face, and she turned and ran a big circle out into the yard coming back for a fly-by with her tongue out and a face full of fun.

Joy! She was showing me JOY! For the first time I saw that she knows what joy is. I was afraid I was going to have to TEACH this dog joy.

She was getting it. She was starting to understand that it's all going to be OK. She's going to be safe, and life will be fun. We played a game where I pretended to be trying to catch her and she showed me that she was way too fast and way too agile ever to be caught. After a while she came over for a big chest and belly rub. I had a few tears in my eye. She looked at me with happiness and security and let me rub her chest.

Today (Sunday March 23) was her third morning waking up with me. I seem to have lucked out and caught a cold, so I feel pretty crappy. But I want her (and me) to get into the habit of having at least a short walk every morning. So I blew my nose, put on my puffy down jacket and big gloves and grabbed her leash.

When I got outside I saw my townie bike leaning against the fence. She had been really good off-leash, maybe it was time to introduce her to The Bicycle. I realized that being Sunday morning, there were virtually no vehicles on the roads. I put her leash in my pocket, got on the bike and said "c'mon". And off we went on our first bike ride together. We rode the 8 or 10 blocks through town down to the F-Street Bridge. I made her stop and come over at every intersection, but she really stayed close on her own. My concern was that something would freak her out, but it was super quiet, so I took advantage and just got her over across the river and we had a nice little short trip on the dirt. Then I took her home and blew my nose again.

After it warmed up, it was time to go have some more exercise and quality interaction time. I grabbed my singlespeed and the leash. It was mid-day. So it would be leash all the way through town to the dirt. On leash next to a bike is way harder and more volatile than running along with the bike off-leash.

I put her on the leash and walked on the left side of the bike while she was on the other side. We walked along like that for half a block or so and then I stepped onto the pedal and swung myself on and started riding. She just kept walking along next to me, the leash slack. We made it all the way downtown that way, her consistently on my right even as cars drove by and dogs barked at us.

She's a year old, and way too young for big long runs, so I just took her on a nice flat trail along the railroad tracks, less than an hour, and I kept my pace down to about a trail-runner's pace. She was amazingly good at it. She just followed right along behind my wheel.

I stopped often to call her over and give her love. I did not bring any treats on that trip.

Her body language is changing. You can see it in a couple of the pictures below. She is relaxing. Her fear is beginning to be less acute.

So yeah, I fucked up the thing about baggage. Oh well. Even with all the improvement, she is still very jumpy. I don't take her collar off because she is uncomfortable with people putting things around her neck. So she doesn't like having it put back on. She doesn't like having me put the leash on her collar either. As I move around the house, every once in a while I'll do something that makes her flinch. She's weird with doorways.

But she's going to be OK. She is very sweet. As she continues to learn to trust me I can tell that she's going to be much like Rosie was, a sweet, loyal, and loving friend. I will probably always have to help her with fear. But she's going to have as much stability and reassurance as I can give her.

I need to teach her about balls and fetching. The game we have right now with the chasing wears me out. I like more the idea of being able to sit on my ass while she brings me balls to throw. Isn't that how it's supposed to work?

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Need More Red Sand in My Diet

Nothing is better for the mountain biker's constitution than a good dose of slab rock and canyon wren songs.

beginning of steves loop

Like any good first-world white male homo sapiens, my frustrations are legion. And like most first-world problems, they are not simple to explain. That's not to say they aren't problems, but come on. Get over yourself. Chances are, the more complicated your problems, the less significant.

Best thing for first-world problems, pack your expensive mountain bike into your vehicle. Go.

The desert is the chicken soup of my soul. My blood pressure lowers as I roll through the gnarled junipers, sage and rabbitbrush. I know when my personal spring has arrived when I hear my first canyon wren.


Followed a little group of bro-brah dudes up Mary's and saw them stop at Horsethief. They were doing the standard gawking trash-talking dare ya to ride it thing on the drop-in. Easy decision to skip that shit and keep going. I prefer to play the back nine at Loma anyway.


Steves, Lions, Troy Built. The stupid doubletrack climb up onto Mack's Ridge. Warm enough to perspire lightly, giving me that dried sweat salt/dust grit facial that all mountain bikers crave.

troy bilt
When you have a non-graceful dismount, it affords you a moment to reflect. And take a picture!

Got what I came for.

up on Mack Ridge

Finished up as the shadows got long. Last vehicle in the parking lot. Fire up the rustbucket, get on the interstate and west to the last Colorado exit.

rabbit valley exit

Nice secluded camp spot, set up the Wildernest via headlamp. Couple beers in the camp chair and a cold dinner. Lulled to sleep by cows and coyotes.

wilder nest

Up in the morning just before sunrise. Coffee. Fresh rubber pants. Ride the bike out of camp, time for Zion Curtain.

zion curtain

Beauty day. Started chilly, but not too chilly to skip the leg warmers and go bare-knee'd. Plenty of perspiration on the climb up to here. Start layering the dust/sweat. The layers work like sunscreen after a while.

zion curtain

Zion Curtain is big and raw. And it leads to the lovely and amazing Western Rim.

western rim

Commando trip. Drive-ride-sleep-ride-drive, and back home. Spring arrives in my heart.