First Snow

Well, not first snow for the local mountains, but the first chance I had to get up there after they had received new snow.

The first shot of snow was at the end of September, which gradually melted off.  Then another, which did the same.  This one will too, but it will take longer.  If it doesn’t, I’ll be quite happy, as long as there are more layers on top of it.  I’ll be quite happy because this was taken about 1/2 mile from the local ski lodge.  So the more snow on the slopes, the better!

First Snow

Believe it or not, it’s a color photograph.

This is just to the south of the beginning of almost 20 miles of single track bicycle trails that lead back to our house.  It took me another 45 minutes to drop 2,000′ in elevation before I dropped below the snow line.  From there, the trails were tacky, perfect for flying down the trail.

There are some fire roads in the area, so if that’s your thing, you can hop on those.  But I’m really enjoying the single track, even the very technical parts.  While I’ve spent the last 25 years riding a lot, it’s all been on the roads.  I’ve never been comfortable on the dirt, even though I’ve had this mountain bike for 14 years now.  But with some great trails right out our front door, I’ve decided that it’s time to push myself.

Even though I’ve been heading up there for just the past couple of weeks, my comfort level on the loose stuff, the rocky stuff and the steep stuff has progressed quickly.  Perhaps a bit too quickly, since I don’t have a lot of the safety equipment (just my helmet).  I’ve already had run-ins with trees (including a full face of snow-weighted branch today) and have had to dismount the bicycle over the handlebars.  Luckily I haven’t gone off the side of the trail (yet).

I’m having a heck of a lot of fun, it’s beating me up quite nicely and it’s getting my body and brain ready for ski season, which is right around the corner.

I can’t wait!

It’s Sunday…

…Go!

Bicycle
Bicycle

The National Park Service just announced the autumn rendition of the ride around Crater Lake.

It won’t be the same as the spring rendition, but it will still be nice.

If you can’t make it to Crater Lake, get out there and ride.

Wherever you can.

Mauer Path

Cobblestones marking the location of the Berlin Wall, Brandenburg Gate, Berlin, Germany

Berliner Mauer

The Berliner Mauer is the German name for the Berlin Wall.

Quite a lot of history and quite a lot of emotion associated with that name.

Goddess and I made our first (of what will likely be several) trips to Berlin last weekend.  We had a long weekend, so we took advantage of the Intercity Express (ICE) trains, which are high speed, but thanks to connections and stops, still take about the same amount of time to get there.

But I’m fairly certain that the law frowns on me enjoying a beer while driving.  So we let the conductor do the driving.  But not really for that reason, although it is a nice reason.  We chose the train because when Goddess and I see a city, we see a city.

Mainly on foot.

Down back alleys.

Off the beaten path.

For 12-15 hours each day.

And that gets exhausting.  So throw a 5-6 hour drive on top of that and it’s almost too much.  So the train saves the day.

I’ve already started posting images from our trip and there will be plenty more to come.  In the three full days of canvassing the city, I shot “only” about 300 images, which is not much compared to previous trips.  By comparison, a three day trip to Kyoto, Japan was worth about 1,200 images.

Of course, not all are keepers.  But in both cases, I still came out with quite a few.

Mostly black and white.

Because that’s how I saw the city.

And if not black and white, the colors were very muted.  It must have been the cold, cloudy German winter days that helped generate that mood.  But I’m certain that the history had something to do with that too.

Here’s a four-shot image of the view out our very modern hotel room.  The stitching is sloppy, mainly thanks to the very wide 10mm lens.  But I’m sure I can get the point across.

If you look closely, you’ll see a brown line.  It’s actually a line of cobblestones, two wide.  And the line traces the route of the Berlin Wall.

Coming from the west, right down the middle of the street, before turning south into a field.

Berliner Mauer

So as I hung out the window and looked, I couldn’t help but think about what it was like 22+ years ago.

Our hotel was on what would have been on the East Berlin side, the apartment complex directly across would have been in the West Berlin sector.

So I was explaining to Goddess the image that I remember seeing as a kid, one where the father was holding up his very young baby in a window across the wall so that Grandmother, looking through a window and visible only as a silhouette, could see her grandchild.  It was likely the closest they ever got.

I sure wish I could find that image.  It’s not in Life Magazine’s archive.

But this one is in their archive and it captures the mood that I felt when leaning out the window into the cold winter air, watching the small snowflakes get whipped around in the wind.

Could you imagine living like that?

Be grateful for what you have.

CX Query

This one’s for all of you CX fans out there.

The pic below is of Tim Johnson (USA) during the 2011 Cyclocross World Championship.

Midway down a muddy, slickery descent about halfway through one of the laps (EXIF shows 15 minutes into the race, so likely third lap).

So here’s the question –

In a race where the rider is going to swap his bike out several times, why in the world would one have a Garmin Edge 500 mounted?

Is he running a power meter on each of the bikes and then merging the data after the race?

If so, in the grand scheme of things, for the WC, why would you worry about power?  At that point, you should be properly tapered and peaked, unlikely to come close to that wattage level anytime soon.

So why bother?

Just curious.

Still finding a groove

Wow!  This is the longest that we’ve taken to finding our groove after a move.  We’ve been in Germany for four months now and we’ve been on the go.  Constantly.

We’re OK with that, but now that winter is fast approaching, we’re learning to slow it down a bit.  We’re still without TV, but we’re going to keep it that way.  We’ve found that we’re just fine without it.  And every time I go on a trip somewhere and I have TV in the room, I’m quickly reminded of how much of a waste of time programming really is.  Even when we do have it, I usually just keep it on a news station.  Well, I can do that over the internet when I want.

The last post was a month ago?  Wow, the time has flown.  That was right after our trip to Amsterdam, where Goddess and I spent my birthday enjoying Belgian beers and watching the wildlife.

Soon after, I was off to Bavaria for a week of work.  Long days those were.

And the week after we were off to Italy for a quick work visit, then back in time to head back out to Bavaria for another work visit.

Lots of miles in vehicles lately.

Here are some of the pics from these trips:

Neuschwanstein Castle, Germany

Lunch View

That last view was from a lunch stop in Tyrol, right before we crossed the border into Austria.  Quite an interesting day of contrasts as we left home with temps in the 60’s, got snowed on at lunchtime, then ate dinner in Italy in 70-degree weather.

With winter rapidly approaching, the days are quickly shrinking.  I’ve never lived this far north (50º N) before, which is in line with Vancouver.  I didn’t really think much about it until the other day when we were driving into town and I saw the car’s shadow in the late-afternoon sun, pointing directly in front of us as we were driving northeast.  Then I looked at our sunrise/sunset tables to see what times they would be in the coming week, since we turn back our clocks tomorrow (a week before the US).  Even this early in fall, sunrise will be at 7am and sunset will be just after 5pm.  So that means my commute both ways will be in the dusk/dark hours.

Speaking of commutes, for those who I haven’t told, I’m strictly by bike these days.  When we got here, we looked at cars that I’d be willing to pay for and realized that for the price, I’d rather pick up a good cyclocross bike and ride the 9.1 miles to/from work.  It’s worked out well, since the commute by car is typically 30 minutes and the commute by bike is typically 35 minutes.  I’d definitely rather ride the bike.  Regardless of the weather.

So I’m riding Jake (no, I don’t name my bikes).  That’s the bike’s name.  Jake.

As in “Jake the Snake”.

Jake

 

Jake’s treating me quite well.  My weekly commute comes in just under 100 miles if I hit both morning/evening for all five days.  Some weeks it doesn’t work out that way due to other plans, when Goddess comes to pick me and Jake up at work.

And the commute serves me well.  I’m wide awake when I get in to work in the morning.  In the evening, by the time I get home, I’ve left whatever work issues I have at work, so I’m ready to spend the evening with Goddess.  The best part?  None of that stress of dealing with idiot drivers on the road.  Instead, I get miles of forest and farmland.

Goddess did have to laugh (at least a “I tolerate this” laugh) when I started stocking up on winter riding gear.  By the time all was said and done, between Jake, clothing and lighting, we could have bought a nice car for me to commute with.  But I certainly don’t want it that way.

Speaking of lighting, get rid of those rollers and trainers and get outside!  Yeah, I know it’s easier to hit target heart rates or maintain wattage while riding indoors, but you’re still riding indoors.  So get a good set of lights.  I was using OK lights, but especially after a few close calls in the forest with deer that I never saw darting in front of me, I knew it was time to upgrade.

After years of using halogens and then the new AA-powered LED lights, shell out a bit of money and buy a good set.  I looked at quite a few options out there, considered what I need now (deer avoidance) and what would keep me safe in the dead of winter, I settled on Light & Motion’s Stella 300 Dual’s.  They will sear the retina of any deer that dare stand in front of me.  Seriously.  With these babies, have absolutely no issues seeing anything and everything in front of me.

With the twin headlights, the trails open back up.  Even at 20-25mph, I can’t outrun these lights.  Dense fog is a different story.  But I have no problem seeing.  The left light is a wide flood beam, so there’s plenty of peripheral view.  The right light is focused, so I can aim it right down the trail as far as I can see.  With three different settings (Hi/Med/Lo), plus strobe, I see whatever I need, plus set up a mid-forest disco if I need.  And as far as safety? I’ve had large trucks coming the other way pull over to the side of the road and stop until I passed.

Light & Motion Stella 300 Dual Headlights

How’s them apples?

I typically use them in “race” mode, which means that instead of having to cycle through each of the settings, I can switch directly from Hi to Lo with a quick push of the button.  That’s handy when I meet an oncoming cyclist in the forest.  Hopefully I’m not blinding them.  But now I reach down and cover the flood light so they don’t get too much light; I can still see plenty beyond them with the spot.

Once I’m in town, I switch to low beam and have absolute zero worries about being seen by an oncoming car or the ones sitting at the intersections.

Outside the bike, lights and clothes, I’m ready for winter.  We’ve only dipped below freezing once so far, down to –02C (that’s 29F for you that can’t do metric).  I didn’t even have to break out the heavy gear and I was still sweating when I got to work.

But I’m waiting for the ice to set in.  I’ve already got my studded tires sitting in the garage, waiting to be put on the wheels.  Without a solid freeze cycle forecast, I don’t see the sense in putting them on yet.  But once we see it, they’ll stay on for the winter.

Well, that’s about it for now.  It’s mid-afternoon, the day is nice and Jake needs a serious scrub down to get all that mud, “horse mud” and road grime off.  Plus, braking sounds horrible right now with all the grit in the pads.