Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Mission of Mercy

Last Friday, I set out for a four-day excursion into the darkest wilds of Northern Illinois. I planned to watch a Bears pre-season game at a Chicago bar with some old friends on Friday night, stay in a hotel in Chicago that evening, and then head out to my small but scenic hometown of Dixon to visit family and then come back on Tuesday.

I managed all that, but the trip was overshadowed by a mission of mercy. Argotnaut can provide details on her site when she's damn good and ready. But the short version is that her dad was badly injured in a car accident last week. A's parents have a small dog that her dad took care of. With him down for the count, they were faced with either boarding the little guy for perhaps a couple of months, or putting him down altogether.

Those of you who know Argotnaut know that she'd rather eat broken glass, or worse yet, a veal steak, rather than let a poor little innocent creature come under the ax. And since I felt the same way and the trip was already scheduled, I volunteered to bring the dog back on the plane to Portland and let him stay with us until the situation was resolved.

As usual, my family answered the bell to help me manage a potentially difficult task. I showed up in Dixon on Saturday afternoon as scheduled and we had a nice get together. Then on Sunday morning, my little sister Tavia and my brother Steve and I drove the 80 miles to Morris to pick up Buddy.

Good God what a cute little dog! He's had a hard life, which is why he has no lower teeth between his canines so his tongue sticks out most of the time. Or he adopts an Elvis/Billy Idol sneer of disdain, when what he's really doing is smiling. He was a little nervous at first, understandably, but after a few minutes in the car, he settled in:

He seemed to enjoy his three days in Dixon despite the fact that it was an entirely new world filled with strange creatures -- owls, crickets, Heckman siblings, my Dad. Then it was time to mount the expedition that would get him back to Portland, first by car to the bus depot in Rockford, then by bus to O'Hare, and then (mercifully) by cab rather than public trans to home in Portland.

I'd gotten a soft-sided carrier before I'd left PDX, and he settled into that with minimal fuss on the bus:

O'Hare, as usual, was its own cross to bear. The flight was delayed two hours and we had to change gates during the wait. But to be fair to United, I did request an aisle seat with an empty seat next to it, and they came through with flying colors. So when Buddy got fidgety, I could put him on the seat next to me and let him poke his head out of the carrier for a stretch:

Fortunatly, our other pets seemed to adapt quickly to our guest, and he adapted quickly to the futon, worn out no doubt:

As for me, well, I had a very nice trip but I'm still a bit weary. My lovely wife has been quick to take up the household burdens so I can be a lazy sod for a day and recover. And no, we don't now have two dogs named Buddy. Buddy II has been christened "Pepe," because he's a speedly little guy who likes to run in small circles like he's doing the Mexican Hat Dance.

Sorry to burden you all with photos of a cute critter, but get used to it. We have the most photogenic bunch of animals under one roof (including Argotnaut, of course!)

Monday, August 21, 2006

River deep, mountain high

One of the true laws of cycling is: "There is no way to train for climbing but to climb." So I've started to incorporate more up into my rides. But I probably overdid it a little bit yesterday by riding to Portland Woman's Forum Scenic Viewpoint overlooking the Columbia River Gorge. It's a little over 1000 feet of elevation gain from the Sandy River (see previous post) to the park. For some sense of perspective, 1000 feet would be equivalent to riding from the ground floor of the Sears Tower to about the 75th floor.

Now that I have a fancy new picture phone, Argotnaut has suggested I send her a photo when I reach my turnaround point on a ride. Here's the one I sent from the park yesterday. The Vista House (see previous post again) is the itsy bitsy little bump on the flat outcropping just to the right of center:

According to the spiffy new bike logging software I downloaded yesterday, this ride consumed 1100 calories. Today it feels like it was even more than that. I had entertained taking this route tomorrow and pushing the extra couple of miles to the Vista House in keeping with the cycling law stated above. But my aching legs are telling me that tomorrow, perhaps I should send Argotnaut a halfway photo from someplace a little closer to home!

Friday, August 18, 2006

Road to recovery

Just a quick post because it's been a busy day and I'm beat. Rode 30 miles this morning, then went to see a vocational guidance counselor (is there any way NOT to sing that if you're a Monty Python fan?) in the afternoon, and then watched the Bears game at my favorite sports bar this evening.

But I wanted to do a post to mark an important occasion for me: the ride was significant because it was my return to the Sandy River Bridge. The bridge is the gateway to the Historic Columbia River Highway, a glorious ride I'd enjoyed many, many times in the past, before The Calamity, and one I thought I'd never be able to do again. This morning was the first time back to the bridge in four years, so I couldn't resist a recreation of a photo I took the FIRST time I biked there back in the summer of 2002:
With the mighty P-38 Lightning in 2002:

And with the mighty Bacchetta Giro, 2006:

I'm getting stronger every day, and I'm looking forward to soon reclaiming another long-thought-lost goal: The Vista House by Crown Point. I've got some training to do to manage that climb yet, but it's within my grasp. Or since it's about 1100 ft. of elevation gain topping out about 30 miles from my house, perhaps I should say it's within my gasp!

Monday, August 14, 2006

Just for the halibut

Yeah, I've heard there are a lot of red herrings in this movie...

Sunday, August 13, 2006

10 bridges, 5 am

Kind of on the spur of the moment (well, yesterday), I decided to ride in the Portland Bridge Pedal, an annual event that gives PDX cyclists a chance to ride across bridges upon which only cars are normally allowed to tread. There are several routes from which cyclists can choose, from the shorter routes crossing only a couple of bridges to the "bid daddy": 10 bridges, 35 miles.

I've been steadily increasing the distances of my rides and am now up to about 35 miles, so I thought "why not?" and signed up for the longest ride even though this was my first Bridge Pedal Event. The ride was a lot of fun, though crowded with inexperienced riders who wanted to pretend they were Lance Armstrong. But even a palsied peloton of lackadaisical Landises couldn't spoil the beauty of the day and the uniqueness of the route. The hardest part: getting up at 5am to get downtown by the 10-bridge start time of 6:30am. Below, a few photos:

Start of the pedal:

Top of the Marquam Bridge: This is the bridge over which I-5 from Seattle travels. It has two decks and the bicycles got the top deck for the morning: So this is a view of Portland that cyclists NEVER get to enjoy:

A couple of very cool spans:
Fremont Bridge (note recumbent bike at far right)...

...and historic St. Johns bridge:

It was a very cool experience, but after the early start, 35 miles of riding that required constant concentration to keep from splattering little kids, several good climbs, and a four-mile ride home including one last sizable hill, I was ready to enjoy some quiet time with the family.

Friday, August 11, 2006

The Return of the Giant Hogweed

Well, I'm calling it hogweed because I don't know WHAT it is. (Homer Simpson voice): "Alright Dr. Lizardo and Tavia, I don't know what kind of plant it is but please tell me because I'm DYING to know..."

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Back to blissfully boring

Now that Argotnaut and I have managed to avoid the latest potential crisis , it's time to get back to talking about me Me MEEEEE!

A's scare really did take the wind out of our sails for an extended period. It's difficult to a) plan for important future stuff, or b) blog about frivolous stuff, when you're not sure if the love of your life will be alive beyond the next few months. Fortunately, it appears that we're both going to shuffle off the mortal coil as planned: as part of a murder/suicide pact when she's 104 and I'm 112. Of course, first she'll kill me by administering an oral poison that will taste like the best beer EVER, but rather than off herself afterwards, she'll run off with a feisty 96-year-old. That'd be okay...she'll have plenty of good years left in 'er. Shame to waste them.

However, there's no way I'll make it to 112 if I don't take care of myself. So I've been getting out more often on my new Bacchetta Giro:

I put in 20 miles today, much of it along the Columbia River, and got back home before noon. Then in the afternoon, A and I went to a local bicycle shop that was having a sale and we both got some much needed apparel and gear. What better way to celebrate living than tooling along and chatting with your loved one in reclined, non-polluting comfort? Well, there's ONE better way, but I can't go into that because this is a family site.