Monday, April 25, 2011

Hand To Hand Battle With Failure

 Easter Sunday promised to be a very warm and lovely day, and instead of going for a drive or putzing around the house trying to find room for all our junk, I wanted to bike out on BLM land behind the house.
My back wheel was working fine after taking it into the shop, and although LC's bike did the job when I needed it mine fits me better and is just.........mine.........and I very much wanted to ride it.
I got dressed and geared up, walked out to the shed to retrieve the bike and was suddenly struck with the realization that this was the first time I had worn bike shorts since leaving Tennessee.
I biked a lot for the first five months I was in Juneau but always wore tights over my bike shorts because of the cold and rain and snow and ice.
The first time I had worn straight-up bike shorts in sixteen months.
Too cool.
The picture above was taken only a couple of minutes from the house.
The snow capped mountain behind the building in the picture is Carter Mountain.  
It is a little over 12,000 feet and located almost 50 miles from here...........

My bike felt great.
It changes gears easier than LC's.  
The frame is smaller and fits me well.  
The water bottle cage is mounted just a little off-kilter to accommodate my left-handedness. 
It has a girl-specific seat that helps to cushion where the "girl meets the bike".
I have ridden it many many miles in every terrain and weather condition you could imagine.
And I love it..............

I rode 1/2 mile down to the end of our road, turned left onto a dirt double track driveway, turned right again at the fence and was immediately on BLM land.  
Just thousands of acres of nothing and more nothing.................
 I would like to introduce my bike.
It is a Tassamarlin.
A little over four years ago (just a few months after I had met LC) I was driving home from a race in northern Virginia.
I almost made it home.
In the pouring rain heading over a mountain range about 30 miles from the house I came around a bend on the highway, hydroplaned, spun the truck 180 degrees around and slammed sideways into a rock bluff.
I was banged up but otherwise unharmed.
My truck was totaled.
My race gear (that had been stashed in multiple plastic containers in the bed of my truck) was thrown free of the bed, and my bike was in two pieces.
I bought my beautiful dark blue Silverado a month later (that the bank actually owned for a couple of years but now I own it).
And both of my sons gave me their income tax refunds to put towards a new bike.
I originally had a Gary Fisher Tassajara which was a nice bike.  
This time around I bought a Gary Fisher Marlin.
The Marlin had a decent frame but with cheaper components.  
So in effect I bought a frame and had the bike shop guy move a bunch of Tassajara components (as well as many other upgrades I had put on the bike over the years) onto my new bike.
A friend of mine looked at it when it was all put together, laughed and told me that I now owned a Tassamarlin.
Maybe the only one in the country.............
For a few minutes I walked my bike through a field to pick up the trail again.
I had been out for about 30 minutes by this time and after I again found my way to a trail I came across a closed gate.
I picked up my bike, hauled it up and over the gate, climbed underneath the barbed wire fence, rode about 20 yards, looked down at my bike and realized that I had a flat tire.
I flipped the bike upside down, took the back wheel off, pulled the tube out, pulled 5 thorns (FIVE thorns) out from the inside wall of my tire, put in the new tube and started to pump it up.
Only it wouldn't inflate.
Double damn!
I tried the pump again and then again.  Nope.  It wasn't working.
Reluctantly (very reluctantly because I really did not want to call him for a flat) I called LC, asked him where he was, and when he told me that he was still at the house and had not yet left for the drive he was planning with James I gave him directions to where I was sitting with my flat tire and my upside ride.
I sat in the sandy dirt drinking water and eating a banana realizing that although I had been reluctant to call him I was also grateful because it would have been a long walk back to the house with a dead bike.
One flat tire fixed I enthusiastically headed in one direction to continue my bike ride and LC headed in the opposite direction to go for that drive he wanted to take.............
 Heart Mountain dominates the horizon to the north of Cody.
Carter Mountain dominates the horizon to the south.
As I continued to head south (and although I knew that Carter Mountain was a long way from where I was) I felt like I was getting not just closer but close.
An optical illusion of course, but I love the fact that this very lovely mountain is such a huge presence so close to where I live.
I love this mountain very much.........
 The very last thing that LC said to me before we parted ways was "don't piss off any bulls".
At the time I laughed at the unlikeliness of that actually happening.
It was so large that at first I thought that it was a boulder.
And then I realized that it was a bull.
Oh hell.
I stopped quite a way from him, placed both feet on the ground as I straddled my bike, reached for my water bottle and took a drink while regarding this big guy.
He seemed content sitting comfortably in the sage chewing on his cud.
How do you piss off a bull?
It sounded like the opening line of a bad joke but I honestly did not know the answer.
After watching him for a few minutes I decided that I would ride slowly, not make any sudden moves, not change gears and just inconspicuously ride on by.
At least that's what I hoped would happen.
As I slowly moved closer to him he stopped chewing and started watching me.
And he watched me during my entire approach and continued to follow me as I passed by him.
Thankfully I turned out to be simply an interesting diversion for this big boy and I breathed again and continued on with my ride............
 Scenes from the trail..........
 I did not come across another human being the entire time I was out.
Just cows.........
 The same small wildflowers I saw growing on the side of a hillside in the rocks a few weeks ago.
They were plentiful all along the trail....................
 Heart Mountain..........
 My bike computer is not working so I am not certain exactly how far I biked.
I would guess only 5 or 6 miles, but after the false start with the flat tire I had been out for a good while and decided to stop at this fence line.
I dropped my bike and walked along the fence line up and over a small rise to see what was on the other side.
More wide open everything..............
 One more very zoomed-in picture of Heart...........
 Heading back to my bike beside a closed gate along the fence line..........
 The hills directly in front in this picture is where I was originally headed.
But I had skipped breakfast and only had one banana left with me.
One banana and half a bottle of water.
Nope it was time to head back and I would try for those hills again on my next trip.
I unpeeled the banana and promptly dropped it into the dirt.
My immediate inclination was to see the humor in dropping the only food I had left and my immediate thought was "five second rule"
Hungrily I picked it up, dusted it off, looked at it doubtfully before eating half of it (the cleanest half) and tossing away the remainder.
A day later I am still healthy so I guess I was lucky.............
 Carter Mountain before heading back the way I had come............
 There were quite a few rolling hills, a couple of long gradual inclines and a couple of short and steep climbs.
I was very pleased to make them all.
It felt SO GOOD to be back on my bike..........
 After making an uneventful and very fun trip back I by-passed the house and stopped to say hello to Dixie.
She is still hanging in there.
Still carrying that baby and apparently in no hurry to become unpregnant.
She is sweet and pretty and gentle.............
After I stored my bike back in the shed my sore muscles carried me into the house.
Such a good and familiar soreness.
I grabbed and guzzled a can of Diet Coke realizing that I was both very hungry and very thirsty.
I looked at myself in the mirror and shook my head.
My face was bright red except for around my eyes where I had been wearing sun glasses.
It seems like a long time since I have had to be concerned about sun burn............ 

During our lives...we experience so many setbacks, and fight such a hand-to-hand battle with failure, head down in the rain, just trying to stay upright and to have a little hope."
  Lance Armstrong 


  1. Good work as usual...the pix are great

  2. Hi Dave. I didn't know how many people would still be interested in reading my blog after I moved from Alaska. Thanks to you (and everyone else) who takes the time to read. So far Wyoming is a great place to live!