Factors of Five

One of the side-effects of Cycle Oregon is that I’m in better cycling shape than I have been in quite some time. Riding 70+ miles per day for a week will do that. So, after a week of sitting around eating pizza and recuperating, I decided to tackle one of the bigger outdoor goals I’ve had since moving to Bend – to bicycle the “Cascade Lakes Loop”.

Without going into detail, the ride is a 100+ mile loop that starts here in Bend and does a counter-clockwise loop out around Mt. Bachelor and through the lake region of the Cascades, eventually returning through La Pine and Sunriver, two quaint little towns to the South. It was exhausting and fun, featuring glass-smooth blacktop, unbelievably washboarded-out dirt roads, chilly morning temps in the 30’s, and eventually absolutely perfect 70 degree weather. Well worth doing!

So, why the funky title for this post? As you might imagine, spending 7 hours on a bike gives you time to think. And so I found myself contemplating the speed with which we travel…

  • Walking: 2.5-4 mph
  • Bicycle: 12-20 mph
  • Car: 60-100 mph
  • Plane: 300-500 mph

It seems that the factor of 5 is an important technological discriminator in terms of how/when we adopt new forms of travel. One can conclude that the next widely-adopted form of travel will operate at speeds of 1500-2500 mph (mach 3-4).

Which is cool from a, “Gee Whiz!” standpoint, except… well… as speed increases, so does stress. Or so it seems to me. I mean, walking is easy. Bicycling is sorta easy except you do risk significant injury. Driving involves insurance, road rage, motorcycle cops, and auto mechanics. And planes? Well, full body searches, annoying strangers sitting next to you, crappy airline food, and finally the ever-present knowledge that your life depends on a horribly complex web of technology operating perfectly. Thus, there seems to be some sort of conservation of stress at work.

I’m not sure if there’s any real conclusions to be drawn from this, but I do know that cities that encourage walking tend to be friendlier, more inviting places. Contrast San Francisco and Paris to Los Angeles and Phoenix.

I rest my case… and my legs.

The Calm After

I’m back from Cycle Oregon. 7 days, 518 miles, and some uncountable number of new friends and faces later.

As you can see, the scenery was spectacular (pictures are one of the roads we rode on, and sunrise the morning of the 1st day, respectively). But more importantly, the people on the ride were just amazing. Every meal was a chance encounter with whomever you happened to be sitting next to, and every person had a story. Some, most, were like me; just bicycle enthusiasts taking the opportunity to see a part of Oregon they hadn’t experienced and do a little more riding than they ordinarily do. But every day I met people that were there for some reason that transcended the ordinary. The 350lb gentleman doing his first bicycle tour ever, the innocuous looking retiree wearing a backpack that said, “You’ve just been passed by an 80-year old”, or the amazingly inspirational paraplegic doing the entire 500 miles on a hand-bike.

The most humbling moment came on the last day. I’d been riding for a half-hour or so with a father and his college-age son. Two very nice guys, and the fact that the son was taking a week to ride with his father across Oregon impressed me deeply. It was only later that I would learn the son was a cancer survivor, having twice beaten Lymphoma… thus casting their relationship into a whole new light. As the father put it, “every day is a gift for me.”

I can only aspire to embrace and appreciate the ride in the way those two did.

The Calm Before the Calm

I’m leaving to go on a 7-day, 450 mile bike ride in about 4 hours. I haven’t packed yet; there is so much to do, but it will all happen soon enough. There is time for one last blog entry.

It’s dark out this morning. The night sky is clear, yet here in Oregon magic happens and it’s drizzling. It hasn’t rained in months and the aroma of wet desert is exotic yet wonderfully familiar. The dampness and chill morning air carry a hint of winter. I stand outside in shorts and t-shirt, staring at the stars, while thinking of snow.

My wife is gone for the weekend and she took the dog. When UPS rang the doorbell yesterday, it was only then that I realized our doorbell doesn’t actually go “ding-dong-woof-woof-woof”.

As I drift around, making preparations to leave, the house feels strangely empty. I should be more frantic, there is much to do: pack clothes and food, take out the trash, straighten the wheel on my bike, find the tent and sleeping bag, call the bike shop… The list goes on.

But there is an irresistable serenity at work. The calm before the calm.

First Frame

May '04 Framebuilder Class
Back in May of 2004, I attended the “Brazed Frame Building” course offered by the United Bicycle Institute in Ashland, OR. In the course we designed and built our own bicycle frame, a process that was immensely fun and rewarding. It’s taken me 6 months, but I’ve finally managed to finish off my writeup describing the experience, including some of the pictures I and other students took. Check it out.