Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Niki Nishiki

Today I sold my first ever road bike to a stranger named Robert. Yet again, I have something to be nostalgic about. My white Nishiki named Niki was of an un-known age somewhere between 25 and 30 years old. She was a Christmas present from my parents, and a hand-me-down to them from a family friend. She was named by Joyce who also had a white bike, a Peugot named Hugo. She got me around Gainesville efficiently for a solid eight months before I got worried that the men's crossbar was too dangerous and passed her on to Josh. Here she is in her glory days when she opened my eyes to road biking, and made me look cooler than I really am with her cow tape handlebars and her gum-wall tires. This is Nicole and I riding together on St Patrick's Day our senior year. Nicole is riding her hand-me-down pink panther bike from me that she has named Rosa and now rides in Tampa.

Here she is, in her second stage of life, being ridden by her most recent rider. This was his ride during our scavenger hunt to his new bike and was, therefore, the last time he rode her. The blue tape manned her up a little bit, and ensured that she matched Josh's precious Nike's, but she's always a woman to meeeeee.

And here's Niki yesterday, ready to be posted on craigslist. Props to my mom who did a great job shining her up for her new owner.

I hope that she will be a sweet surprise to Robert's girlfriend who will be her new owner. She is a great bike and she will be missed.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010


I have been a slacker of a bicyclist recently. And, therefore, a slacker of a blogger. I biked to work one day last week and one day the week before. In my defense, there have been things preventing me. I had two events last week that prevented me from riding Tuesday and Thursday and Friday, I left for Tennessee right after work. That's right, Josh and I went to Tennessee to see the gator's SEC season opener in Knoxville. And, believe it or not, Tennessee is the only regular season sec team I had never seen us play. So what a perfect first away game! It was a lot of fun but also brought back weird feelings. We know no one in Knoxville so we were set up with Hadley's hospitable brother and his girlfriend whom we tailgated and socialized with all afternoon. We sat in the upper tier behind one of the endzones, surrounded by Tennessee fans but just a few rows below one of the larger gator sections so we could still participate in "we are the boys" and gator bait chants. Our seats were reminiscent of the seats my family and I had for the second game my freshman year of college versus Louisiana Tech, for which my whole family flew down to visit like three weeks after I moved in. I remember this strange elated feeling I had being at that game, not being in the student section but watching it from across the stadium, thinking about this new community of 50,000 students I was a part of and how this would be my life for the next four years and how it was scary and different and so exciting that I wanted to cry. This game in Knoxville made me so happy to see the gators play and feel fortunate to have been a part of that community that I will forever look fondly upon but, anyone who knows me can guess how painfully nostalgic it made me. Because that may be my biggest fault... that I am too nostalgic, always, and sometimes need to get over the past and just live in the moment. And the moment was so good. We won the game, despite a shaky first half, and I had Josh there to celebrate with. We had a beautiful, relaxing drive home through less mountains than I was hoping for because, according to Josh's vivid memory of 8th grade history, Davie Crocket or Daniel Boone discovered this Cumberland Gap as an east-west route through the mountains. We saw larger mountains in Shenandoah than in the Blue Ridge or Smoky Mountains. Perhaps my favorite part of the drive was the two hours we spent listing all 50 states, their capitals, their state nick names, and the mascots of their biggest schools. Does anyone know the nicknames of New Hampshire or Washington?

It was a good weekend but I gotta get back on those bikes! I am sick today so have yet to ride this week but it is finally fall and these are the perfect mornings to be riding to work. And as much as I love writing about the gators and Josh's birth, this is a blog about biking and I'd like to stay as true to that as possible. Josh still hasn't tested the waters of long distance riding with his new bike so hopefully this weekend we can make some happy biking memories for me to be nostalgic about in the years to come!

Sunday, September 12, 2010


After reading my blog about New York, Josh asked, semi-jokingly, "When am I going to get my biography like all your other best friends have? Never in the history of your blog have I had a biography, I'm just a shady figure who is mentioned here and there." I laughed but also see that he has a point. Everyone that reads this blog knows Josh and knows who he is so I've never felt he needed much tribute. He said all this the morning of our Leesburg ride, while I was writing my blog about Hill and Go Seek the night before and said, "Maybe I'll get one today..." After that ride, I ended up writing about his cramps and his weakness, which he thought was too exagerated. Though that day was fun and he was a big part of it, it wasn't a day about him, it was a day about us riding together with my mom. Yesterday was his birthday, though, and he's now 25. I think it's time for his tribute.

Whenever Josh tries to insult me by calling me weird, I thank him because 1, I take it as a compliment and 2, it irritates him. So he has started saying "you're so normal" instead of calling me weird. Well Josh is not so normal and that is why I love him. For one thing, he is secretly a nerd. He never let this be his identity because there are other non-nerdy things he cares about but he loves his star wars books, he'd rather read about ancient archeological digs than The Kite Runner, and he can disassemble and reassemble his computer in 20 minutes. A few weeks ago, Josh and I were riding in the car and he plugged in his ipod to play the score from A New Hope, reciting the lines that Luke and C3PO and everyone else would have been saying along with the lyricless music. Josh is very honest about his feelings and the things he cares about. He is never fake and, though I don't always agree with his politics, I admire that he cares so much and that he reads about the world more than I do. Though he reads lots and lots of news, it can take him months to finish a book. He is a first generation college graduate and it took him five years to get through but he beat the odds and supported himself financially, with bright futures scholarships and minimum wage from Zaxby's. He is a hairy, manly man and a stellar athlete but he has asthma and that can make him lazy. What it means to be an athlete is still in question and whether he's more of a stellar athlete than me is debatable. He was a baseball pitcher growing up and has recently began to thrive in his position as goalie on our dc soccer team. He lives for me, of course, but if there was no me, college football would give him something to live for. Just another reason why fall is the best time of year. But not the best time of year to get married. He loves the gators and he loves chipotle and he loves star wars and he loves john frusciante and the red hot chili peppers. Those are his passions and those are all the birthday cakes I've made him over the years. Here they are:

Summer 2007, baseball cake for fun

22nd Bday Chipotle Cake, 9.11.07

23rd Bday Swamp Cake, 9.11.08

24th Bday Millenium Falcon Cake, 9.11.09

25th Bday RHCP Concert cake, 9.11.10
We gave it to him like this so it was much more concertesque. We blasted red hot chili peppers and sang happy birthday over it. I wanted strobe xmas lights but this was all I had. He was very happy with it, but the little John figure I put on the stage reminded him of John's leaving the band which is always a sore subject.

If you're disappointed in thinking that I'm straying even more from my bike-themed blog then think again... I got Josh this new bike for his birthday:

It is a 2008 scattante 330 21 speed and it was waiting for him at the end of a long "quarter of a century-themed" scavenger hunt around our apartment building and my parent's house. The scavenger hunt was fun and a good surprise. Here are his clues...

Afterwords, we went downtown to watch the Florida game at a bar in Dupont. Josh was given too much free beer and bourbon by bartenders and a bar patron who 1. felt bad for him that Florida was losing (at first) and 2. wanted to celebrate his birthday. After, we played in our first fall soccer game, which we lost 2-0. We could have easily lost by a lot more but, Josh (or should i say, Vince?), who you'd think would have been wasted from the drinks, was better than ever making some really great saves. Unfortunately, though, we think the combination of alcohol, exercise in the heat, exhaustion, and whatever else, is what led to his nausea and migraine that kind of spoiled his party last night. As soon as he started drinking last night, he felt really sick and ended up spending most of the night in bed or the shower while everyone else felt bad trying to have fun without him. It was a bummer but he was still happy with how the day turned out. He is a 25 year old man, he can now legally rent cars, but he's still as nerdy, honest, and hairy as every and I love him for every bit of it.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Fall Epicness

On Saturday, in honor of Labor Day Weekend, I laboriously endured an epic night bike ride that took me from Bethesda to MacArthur Boulevard to Colombia Heights and back to Bethesda. My friend Mary's Birthday was yesterday and she hosted a bbq Saturday night to celebrate. I made her a no-smoking sign cake which I transported 5.6 miles on my bike to her house. Many people doubted that I could do this, and deliver the cake in one piece, but I did it and I think I could make a business of it.

After eating a lot and awkwardly socializing with the "smokers" at Mary's house, I rode my bike over to Sarah's, where another party was being held. This was a very last minute decision, I'm not sure what I was thinking but I just had the urge to traverse the city by bike, like last Saturday. This was a very different part of the city, though... a much hillier part. In the 6.4 mile ride from Chain Bridge Rd to Fairmont Street, here are some of the hills I conquered: the long hill up Reservoir Road between Foxhall and Wisconsin Avenue, Wisconsin Avenue in Glover Park, Reno Road from Mass Ave to Cleveland Road (so very steep), and Calvert Street approaching Connecticut Ave. It was a nice scenic route, though, taking me by the French Embassy, Georgetown University Hospital, the Social Safeway, Joe Biden's home, Mama Aisha's mural, and the many partiers making the trek from the Woodley metro to Adams Morgan. By the time I got to Sarah's, I was tired and slightly scared from the knife I had just seen lying in the street. I had kind of run out of steam so I wasn't very much fun. I had just enough time to briefly socialize, talk to Meghan's (Sarah's bff and roommate) friends about how sweet it would be if 1215 Fairmont organized a rooftop block party, finally try Sarah's famous homemade ice cream, and play HAHA on the floor to be a part of the new blog

I left with Nikki and Eric and walked with them back to their apartment on 16th street, then rode my bike from there to Cleveland Park, another 2.8 miles, where my loving Joshua picked me up at an Exxon Station. I went home and passed out watching the end of the LSU v UNC game. I consider this ride so epic mainly because of the cake delivery but also because of the night riding. This is something I wouldn't like to get in too much of a habit of because it is far more dangerous than riding during the day. I just can't help how good it feels to get around by bike. It makes me feel so efficient and accomplished and useful.

Yesterday, my bikes were not utilized but I did go for a nice run in the morning and then to the Rays/Orioles game in Baltimore with Josh. The Rays lost but it was a fun game and the weather was great, except that it burnt us. Last night, we went to a party at our friend's house in McLean Gardens (near the cathedral) and I was dd for Josh and Brendon. I noted, repeatedly, to Josh how awesome it would be to have a bike taxi to lug them around in. It was a joke at first but the more I think about it, the more I kind of want one. Talk about feeling useful and accomplished.

I slept briefly before waking up at 8 am to partake in a bike ride with two coworkers, Kate and Allison. We took the Capital Crescent Trail to Georgetown and back and left early in hopes of avoiding the likely congestion on this gorgeous-weather holiday. It turns out the trail is just as busy at 8:30 in the morning as it is at noon and we did a lot of stroller dodging but it kept us on our toes. Allison, whose bike is in disrepair, rode Lucy so she and Charlie had their first ride together! I'd say it went very well. Afterwords, they had the privilege of seeing my messy apartment and buying my friendship with a hearty breakfast at the Original Pancake House in Bethesda. Now I'm tired but I am fighting it off so Josh and I can follow through on our plans to play at the park with every type of ball you can imagine, something we did regularly in Gainesville and have done far too little of since we moved here and started our 9-5 jobs. I could get used to not working Mondays. And I will get used to this weather. I declared yesterday that if I have a daughter, I'm naming her Autumn. Fall is the most wonderful time of the year and I'm so glad to already feel her presence!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

heed the call

I am in the midst of reading Into Thin Air and, hence, in the midst of dreaming of big challenging things. Things like climbing Everest. A few years ago I read Into the Wild and loved it but, oh gosh, this is even better. If you don't know, Into Thin Air is written by mountaineer and adventure writer, Jon Krakauer about his successful attempt at climbing Everest in 1996 and his witnessing of of the most notorious and deadly storms in history on this highest peak on earth. When I started reading, I spent most of my time trying to wrap my head around why people attempt to conquer this peak, knowing all the dangers involved. I felt for the wives and mothers who spent two months wondering if they would ever see their lovers and husbands again. I wondered how Rob Hall, the guide of Krakauer's tour, could ever leave home to risk his life so blatantly while his wife stayed home carrying his child in her womb. But the more I read, the more a little fire in me burns to experience what these climbers did in 96 and what others like them do every subsequent spring. These mountain climbers, men and women alike, are satisfying urges that have gnawed at them for years. I might be so judgmental as to say that people who are going to devote their lives to such a life threatening cause shouldn't take on the responsibility of having kids that they'll need to be there for day in and day out, though I don't even really want to dabble in what controversy that might cause. But I will never say or believe that there is any reason these people, who feel the call of Everest, should not heed that call. This whole thing makes me think about my conversations with Ben on Ragbrai after Stephen Briggs passed away, in which he speculated at whether it is worth it to participate in something so life-threatening. But these people climb Everest knowing the dangers because, for them, there is no other way. Life is too short not to follow your heart and heed the call of the mountain. Or the open road. Or the stage or the blank page or whatever it is that gnaws at you. That is why Erik shoots films from ice falls and nobody's fears can hold him back. Oh yeah and Erik interviewed Krakauer earlier this year! What an appropriate time to incorporate him in this blog.

I wish I could find the exact quote because it is so good but it could take me hours so I'll paraphrase. At one point, Krakauer explains the difference between mountaineering and other extreme sports like skydiving and driving motorcycles (I know motorcycling is not an extreme sport but it's extreme). While mountaineering brings the same thrill as these things, the difference comes in the spiritual aspect of the climb. There is a rare connection and partnership with the earth (and whatever spiritual being one may believe in) that one feels on a mountain and nowhere else. I have to argue that I can feel a peace with the earth when I'm on a bike and surrounded by open spaces or trees or sunshine or rain. But when I ride I generally do so on a path that is made by humans or on roads with cars or by cornfields that are made to feed cows that will eventually feed me. So I can only imagine the extent to which this peace must intensify on places like everest or k2 or mckinley.

There is a point to all this. The point is that you should read this book. And that it has inspired me to try my hand at a little rock climbing. I have done some in my day but nothing like what I'll need to do to prepare for my Everest expedition. I don't think my bouldering experience in The Gainesville Rock Gym is going to cut it.

What? Did she say Everest expedition? Yes, I did. I found this website advertising "Ace Himalaya", an organization that offers 16-day climbing trips from Kathmandu to Everest Base Camp and back. This may seem like a cop-out but it's not. I don't want to potentially become part of such a glaring statistic, one that cites approximately one death for every four climbers who reached the summit of Everest between 1921 and 1996. But these pages have come alive in me and that little fire says I have to at least see this mountain before I die. And if I'm going to pay thousands of dollars to fly across the world to see the damn thing, why not at least set foot on a part of it that is rationally reachable. And, while climbing to base camp is nothing like ascending 3 miles straight up into the troposphere, it is no small feat as far as the atmosphere is concerned. It is nearly 20,000 feet above sea level, higher than Jon Krakauer had ever previously been in his 34 years of climbing. It may take a while to train and to save the money. And the dream may fade when I put this book down and am not reminded daily of how spectacular such and experience would be. But I just hope the dream doesn't die. I sincerely want to do this in my life and would like to make it a priority in the next 17 years. After all, according to Krakauer, I already rank among the climbing elite in which, "getting to the top of any given mountain was considered much less important than how one got there: prestige was earned by tackling the most unforgiving routes with minimal equipment, in the boldest style imaginable. Nobady was admired more than so-called free soloists: visionaries who ascended alone, without rope or hardware."

Obviously I did not ascend alone, my friend Stephen, who had done this before, was on the ground taking the pictures. Obviously this was not a mountain, just a big high cliff along the potomac river. And obviously, I didn't realize how high it was until I got to the top and looked down. Or until every subsequent time I've been by it and been shocked that I did something so dangerous. But in that five minutes that I ascended the cliff, sans rope or harness, I maybe, just maybe, had the potential to be one of these highly-admired free soloists. I was not, however, highly admired by Josh who's first reaction to these pictures was "How could you not have thought to call me to say goodbye?". And I probably won't be admired by my mom who has never seen these pictures before. I won't do it again, or anything more dangerous but I did it and it felt good. And I will climb to base camp and it will feel even better. Who wants to come with me?