Thursday, August 23, 2007

We, who are about to dine, salute you.

I'm so close now I'm vibrating with excitement (or maybe it's just the aftershock of the 30mph ride downhill). 17 easy miles to Eagleville.

More familiar faces here, too - Jesse and Allegra, in a truck I remember seeing half an hour back. We exchange hugs before they have to run - Jesse's got a medical shift on-playa.

I bound into the Surpise Cafe, the two year old coffee and lunch bar that's quickly displacing the Country Hearth as THE last stop before the playa, with better food, faster service, and free wifi to boot. I take my lunch ouside - partly because I don't like the indoors anymore, but mostly because, after ten days of aggressive exercise, my table manners are no longer suitable for polite at. I scarf down my mixed green salad and bean burrito. It's the last salad I'll see until I come off-playa, and I am pleased that it is suitably delicious, chock full of strawberries, cranberries, carmelized walnuts, goat cheese, and vinaigrette dressing.

Cedar Pass, elevation 6305 feet

Now I know what it's like to get my ass kicked by a mountain in cold and in heat. Just as I hit the top, yards from the elevation marker, my left hamstrings start cramping, but that's ok - now it's 5 sweet miles of coasting, straight into Cedarville.

Recumbents saved my ass. Ask me how!

Well, my most excellent girlfriend and partner, Mary, got on the phone with both my bike shop and the makers of my bike, learned exactly what spokes I need, and most comforting, heard straight from the horse's mouth that my wheel will likely survive my last few miles.

I'm currently taking a break from the heat halfway up to Cedar Pass between Alturas and Cedarville, so it's a good moment to extoll the virtues of both my bike and my bike shop.

I ride a Bacchatta Giro recumbent (the kind you sit back on, like a motorcycle, or a La-Z-Boy). Unlike the low-to-the-ground recumbents you may have seen, this is a touring bike that stands almost as tall as an upright, so it's visible in traffic. It's my first recumbent, purchased with this trip in mind, but now that I've been on it for almost a year, I will never go back to an upright.

My bike is easier on my body in almost every way over an upright. It alleviates numbness in my wrists, in my posterior, and if you'll forgive my momentary Brooklyn Italian accent, in my cock-and-balls. I've been sitting in the saddle for ten days with no discomfort. The only downside is that I put more labor into uphill climbs, because I can't stand up on the pedals to use my weight. The learning curve was not bad; I was able to ride it easily on the first try, though it took about a month before I was comfortable riding in traffic.

I bought my bike at Angle Lake Cyclery, near Seatac, the only shop in the Seattle area that sells them (there used to be two others shops that carried them, but they have discontinued sales). Angle Lake specializes in recumbents, has been in business continuously for over 50 years, and its staff are incredibly knowledgeable. Dale, the owner, is the Mr. Wizard of recumbents, though like many fine artists, he's a bit, eh... organizationally challenged. Be prepared to have patience with him. Fom my trips there, I've had the impression that he has a devoted clientele (me included).

I'll point you to Dale's website though, frankly, it sucks. Your best bet is just to wonder in on a weekday when he's less busy. He'll let you take anything out in the parking lot for a test ride. Tell him Ivan sent you.

Honking is for haters.

Unlike the often melodious human voice, car horns don't have a great tonal range. They can't communicate subtlety or nuance, mood or expression. In fact, there is really only one thing that car horns can do, and that is scare the bejeezus out of the person in front of you.

When people seated securely in great crushing steel machines honk at people perched precariously atop spindly little spiderwheel machines, it's just terrifying to the latter, regardless of the intent of the former.

So this weekend, when you see me, please, don't honk. Slow down instead. Maybe even consider coming to a full stop. Offer me a juice box. But leave the honking to the haters. And the geese.

Thank you. This Public Safety Announcement brought to you by PETB, People for the Ethical Treatment of Bicyclists.

Desperate times call for desperate measures, or, I think it's time to eat the co-pilot.

Hobbling along this morning from Goose Lake state park, imagining my rear tire growing further and further off true, I considered cannibalizing the spokes of my front wheel to shore up the sagging rear. I was held back by the fear of spending hours in a delicate operation, only to lose the donor as well as the patient. I did notice that the wheel had abraded the casing of my rear break line, and I pulled it out of harm's way.

While I was deep in this internal debate, a loaded pick-up truck stopped ahead of me. It was my friends Stuart and Julie! They'd been following my blog, and stopped to say hi.

This was a terrific comfort in my hour of doubt. I was particularly happy to see Julie, because she was one of the first people to get excited about my plan last year. She has a lot more bike maintenance skill than I. She looked over my tire and professed that she thought it would make it. Of course I realize it's just her opinion vs. my neck, but still comforting to hear.

We chatted a bit, I shared some sunblock with Julie, and Stuart dug out some zip ties for me, so I was able to tie down my abraded break cable.

I returned to the road considerably happier, and have since reached the junction of 299. 30 miles by noon! I'm getting good at this. With luck, I should reach Eagleville by this evening.

I believe in Yesterday.

I race down the long straight stretch of 395 between Lakeview and Alturas, trying to incorporate my wobbly new danger into my worldview. This section has always been one of my favorite parts of the drive to Burning Man; the beautiful, serene countenance of Goose Lake, parallel to the road, but far enough off it to project an alluring sense of mystery.

My mind wanders down memory lane to previous trips. This time last year, I was barreling down this road in my trailer-laden tiger Saab, hot in pursuit of the London street bus in which the distraught, topless, champagne-drunk stripper in my passenger seat believed she had left her ID bag / drug kit.

Lost in thought, I wobble down the road singing "Yesterday," my voice oscillating as if I were singing into a fan.