A Ride

story and photos by Team CSP-SBI’s Michael Ort
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I wake up with an ear worm: “Rejoice, rejoice, Emmanuel shall come to you, O Israel”.  No idea where it came from, but it’s there.  By 6:45, I’ve had my tea and some too-sweet granola (the store must have changed its supplier), and am out the door on my cross bike.  No one out on the streets – Sundays are delightful that way.  Up the hill behind Thorpe Park.  Funny that the ride starts with the steepest hill.  Up onto the mesa and beginning to stretch out.  Ten cow elk cross the dirt road in front of me.  I wonder where the pronghorns I used to see around here have gone.  Bouncing along over ruts and rocks – the big trucks doing the forest thinning sure mess up the road.  The heavy equipment used to put in the Snowbowl water line a few years ago must not have been cleaned of noxious seeds before coming in.  The cheatgrass came in at that time and is spreading quickly.  All the forest clearing might be for naught if the cheatgrass carries the fires instead.  Pass through a covey of sleeping campers with vehicles on both sides of the road.  No dogs come out, good!  Bouncing bouncing bouncing, Rejoice rejoice Emmanuel!

We had dinner out with our daughter last night.  She moved out last weekend.  I was surprised how good it was to see her.  I miss her.  The nest is empty.  Legs feeling good – rejoice!  We are going to do the Ride the Rockies next week, and I have not really done any training.  This ride might tell me whether I can do the miles, but it is too late to train.  I was working on Reunion Island for a couple of weeks, where I managed a couple of runs on the track outside my dorm room, but the work was pretty demanding.  Then a day in Dublin to drop off suitcases – why bring them home if we are moving back there in a couple of months? – and then to Oxford to work on a proposal for a couple of days.  It was good to meet my two colleagues – we had only corresponded via email and chatted on skype previously.  But one just could not seem to get her mind around the project and focus on obtaining the results we need from her.  After the meeting, the other colleague told me she wants the first one off the proposal – she doesn’t have the skills to do the work we need.  Colleague number two is right, but these are people, not robots.  I am the lead on this – it falls to me.  I wrote a letter, but is it kind?  Is it clear?  It is sitting on my computer now, waiting for me to decide.  I need advice from someone.  Who?  Guido would be good – I’ll write him.  Bam – oof!  Hit that rock a bit hard.  Rejoice!  Come back to now.

These wheels are pretty strong.  Had them built last summer, set up tubeless, and now can ride fatter tires.  35 rear, 40 up front.  My first long ride on them was this same route, I think.  It was before I did that ride put on by that organization in Phoenix, riding up to the Canyon.  I did not know anybody on the ride, but my daughter ran the scheduling for friends who were giving massages at the finish.  We all camped there that night.  And then I ran into Dara – Troy was off doing something – and so there was someone to chat with.  She had her little gas molecule with her, running around playing.  I was beat from riding a cross bike on a mountain-bike course, but bang!  Didn’t see that rock in the shade.  I really should get some lighter sunglasses so I can see in mottled light.  Legs still feeling good. Dropping down behind Wing Mountain.  Cool, a coyote!  And cows.  Rejoice, rejoice!  I wonder where that song comes from.  Can’t think of any more words to it – could it be from Dad’s temple?  No, I can’t remember singing there.  Mom’s church?  Maybe – they did a lot of singing back then.  It was an ecumenical time.  That seems to have passed – do churches still invite people from other faiths to discuss their belief systems?  I learned a lot from those but I can’t seem to believe in the Judeo-Christian-Muslim god any more.  After seeing my daughter in the hospital with Stevens-Johnson syndrome, skin blistering from a reaction to her epilepsy meds, I couldn’t see any god that allowed that as merciful or loving, or else he/she/it wasn’t very powerful.  The forest feels powerful today.  Maybe god is something else.  Cool, arriving at road 222.  Fast and no traffic – haven’t seen a car moving yet.  Where is my shortcut – that one?  No, I’ll recognize it.  Don’t second-guess yourself.  There it is – turn off!  A couple mule deer.  Now road 171 – heading toward Kendrick.  The lava tube is over there.  It is nice the tourists don’t know about the better caves.  Ahh, the first car passes me, respectfully and slowly, keeping the dust down.  Give them a wave.  Oh, two hours in now, time to eat something.  Quiet out here, good time to sit.  Rejoice, Emmanuel, whoever you are!  Along the foot of Kendrick and then south on road 100 through Government Prairie.  Pass the Government Prairie vent – coolest scoria cone around, with benmoreite, rhyolite, and dacite all erupted together.  The students I take here are always amazed and confused by it.  What a wide-open area!

The road goes straight along the range boundary.  Glad we don’t use township and range much anymore.  GPS and UTM sure simplify things!  Through the little housing community – they just graded this road.  Up to 35 mph on the downhill, with a bit of sliding on some turns.  Rejoice!  Left on old route 66, dirt here.  And uphill.  Hmm, my legs are getting tired, and it is hot.  Stop at the top for another bit of food, and refill my bottles from the one-liter platypus in the big seat bag I put on the bike for this ride.  Great invention, but I am still going to be pretty dry by the end.  Twenty miles to go now, forty miles in.  More sunscreen? Nah – too much sweat on me, so the cream won’t stick.  Downhill to that little housing area – I wonder if it has a name?  See my second (and third, fourth, fifth, and sixth) vehicles on the road – old pickups each with one person inside, in single file moving slowly.  Wonder what that is about.  Damn Assos bib shorts.  I bought them because everyone said they are so comfortable.  They always feel noticeable when I wear them, chamois too thick, bib straps push on my shoulders.  I want shorts I don’t notice.  After these shorts failed, I started buying Castelli.  Those fit me, and disappear when I am on the bike.  My nipples hurt – the stupid bib straps are chafing them.  Do I need to put bandaids on them like in a marathon?  Bouncing along probably accentuates the problem.  Pavement!  I wonder how long this stretch is.  Long fast cruise downhill, to turn back onto road 171.  Three miles of pavement to the turn.  Wave and call out greetings to the pack of runners returning from their run and getting into their cars.  Damn, I should have asked them if they had any extra water.  Up the hill – three more cars pass by – and turn onto 222A.  This will be a grunt – my legs are tired.  Forgot how loose and rocky it is too.  A big guy in a huge pickup stops and gets out, heading off into the woods.  He waves, and remotely locks the pickup, which chirps as I pass by.  Finally at the top – Rejoice, Emmanuel.  Who was Emmanuel?  Isn’t that another name for Jesus?  For people who had no surnames, the various forms of god sure had a lot of given names.  Cruising down the road toward A1 Mountain now.  Brake quickly at the rough patches.  Better lighting than earlier this morning, but I am tired and need to be careful.  Stop for my last food and drain one bottle.  Still have half the other to drink.  I’ll make it.  An SUV comes by and stops and asks if I am okay.  I probably look pretty beat.  I should – I am.  I thank them.  Damn!  Should have asked for water.  Or maybe a beer.  Out into A1 meadow.  No animals out now.  Down the hill to Thorpe Park, slowing and ringing my bell for the walkers.  Pavement, up the hill, and home.  Pine pollen covers everything in yellow.  Except me.  I am covered in dust.  And my bike too.  Hose us both off. Rejoice, rejoice!  I’ll lube the chain later.  

Everybody up! Iron Horse Bicycle Classic 2017

The community here gets behind any cycling event 100%. –Howard Grotts, 2017 IHBC King of the Mountain

Cycling up Coal Bank pass, the sound of water flowing in the high mountain streams along the road, I felt completely in the moment.  The road was open solely for the Iron Horse participants.  I concentrated on my breathing and my mind was quiet.  As I rode the bike I was aware of my surroundings.  Wet evergreen needles glistening in alpine sun.  The endless white of the San Juan mountains touching the blue sky.  With every breath I inhaled the fragrance of sweet forest.   Rivulets of water streamed down the stone-faced mountainsides, reminding me of the soothing ambiance of the Florida River rolling over the polished rocks by the cabin where we had slept.  It was a seamless experience.  The rhythm of heart and legs pumping.  Breathing deeply in the silence.  Here I am.  This is the reason we cycle.  To dream big and immerse ourselves in the cycling experience, becoming a part of something greater and timeless.

Finishing second. Thanks Mai @ http://sansai.photoshelter.com for the amazing photos in this blog entry (all but the Molas pass photo)

I enjoyed the Iron Horse Bicycle Classic more than ever this year.  There are a number of events over the weekend inlcuding kids races, mountain biking, a cruiser parade, BMX, and more.  I focused on Saturday’s road race from Durango to Silverton.  It’s an incredible course traveling up the Animas River Valley and over two high mountain passes before making a fast, sweeping descent into Silverton.  It’s one of the most beautiful courses in the country.

The community not only gets behind the events, they actually get in the events!  There are thousands of riders cycling from Durango to Silverton.  You can race or ride at your own pace.  Either way, everyone challenges themselves and shares the cycling experience.  The citizens cheering along the course are equally extraordinary, and it takes so many volunteers and staff to make the events happen.  No matter if you are riding, racing, cheering, working, or waiting for your family member to finish in Silverton, all participants infuse the festivities with special value.  And the event promoters are careful to make the community integral in every aspect of the weekend’s adventures.

Mai was waiting in Silverton and that was extra uplifting

My race went off at 7:30am Saturday.  The field was stacked with impressive talent.  My basic plan was to ride with the main pack for the first 20 or so flat miles through the river valley, and wait for when the climbing began in earnest to spend my energy.  But I saw Sepp Kuss, a professioal cyclist from Durango, was there, as well as Howard Grotts, a superb climber.  My teammate Drew saw them as well and advised me that if I could get in a break early and save some legs for the climbs, that it wouldn’t be a bad strategy.  As the race rolled out of town, I found myself moving up in the pack.  And then I saw an opening at the front and just kept going.  I was riding solo off the front.

Drew in Silverton. A teammate in the race, especially one as great as Drew, is a huge help & morale boost

I rested my forearms on the tops of my bars and time trialed to the base of the first climb.  On Coal Bank Pass the race official’s vehicle pulled up next to me and told me I had a six mintue gap.  It was beautiful riding higher and higher into the mountains but it was getting more difficult and I knew they would be charging hard across that gap.  I told myself that if I make over Coal Bank Pass still solo that I had a chance to hang on for the win.  I did go over Coal Bank solo and started the Molas Pass alone as well, but when I glanced across the valley I saw the orange kit of the Rally Cycling rider Sepp Kuss about a minute behind.  I was suprised how quickly he caught me and how effortlessly he spooled by, like climbing on air.  I kept my own pace and started looking over my shoulder, but didn’t see anyone else.  I crested Molas Pass ok, stayed safe on the descent, and pedalled hard up through the tunnel of cheering fans.  You can’t help but get shivers, and feel so happy to have made it, knowing you did your best effort on the ride.  It was awesome.  The first person I saw was Matt Caruso of Caruso Cycleworks, my mechanic, and then I found Mai.  It was a fun celebration.  As the racers came in we all congratulated one another, happy for each other and the challenge, laughing as we recapped our experiences.  The spirit of cycling in Durango is positive, energitic, rewarding, super fun.

 

Wendy Palen from Team CSP-SBI finished strong with teammate Tom Sisk

 

Tom Sisk, the leader of the Landscape Conservation Initiative, put in a great ride

The celebration continued for hours as riders rolled across the finish line.  One of the best parts of the weekend was the arrival of my teammates in Silverton.  Team CSP-SBI had three riders in the citizens ride.  Wonderful how cycling brings us all together.  Shared joy filled the atmosphere.  The grace and beauty of all the people on bikes in epic landscapes.

The Iron Horse Bicycle Classic reunites us with old friends and family and helps us make new ones.  It is such a family friendly event.  So many interesting people, it just absolutely flattens all boundaries to coming together as one community.  The whole world seems bicycle-oriented, and the incredible mountains, snow, and sky make the setting especially delightful.

I don’t know these people, but they look like they are having a good time

 

Mindy Caruso from Albuquerque won the Womens Pro race with a stupendous ride. Way to go!

It is inspiring.  I think the most incredible thing is experiencing the joy of others, and seeing their accomplishments.  Mindy Caruso from Albuquerque won the womens race in remarkable fashion.  I was so happy for Sepp Kuss, winning his hometown-race.  Howard Grotts, another hometown hero, would win the mountain bike race the next day and win the inaugural King of the Mountain competition.  Ned Overend was there representing the best in the cycling tradition.  At 61, his experience and strength is awesome.  Iron Horse turned me on to so many inspirational stories.  You learn more about the triumph of the human spirit.  On our podium Sepp called out “everybody up” for us to gather around him.  He wanted us all on the top step with him.  I feel lucky to be a part.

Sepp is a generous champion

 

the womens podium, go Mindy from Albuquerque!

 

the mens

 

Teammates celebrating together in Silverton

 

Team CSP-SBI on Molas pass showing the spirit of the Iron Horse

The story of the mens and womens pro races, w/ video, in the Durango Herald:
https://durangoherald.com/articles/161665
The kids race attracted over three hundred youth!
https://durangoherald.com/articles/161825-iron-horse-kids-race-participation-x2018-sky-rocketing-x2019
The BMX event was an exhilirating success:
https://durangoherald.com/articles/161850-bmx-proves-it-belongs-at-iron-horse-bicycle-classic
There are more stories at the Durango Herald, and also other media such as Facebook:
https://www.facebook.com/IHBCDurango/

Thank you to my teammates, friends and family, Southwest Bike Initiative’s fiscal sponsor SINC, and our team sponsors.

Team CSP-SBI’s Michael Ort goes bikepacking

Every time I see an adult on a bicycle, I no longer despair for the future of the human race.  — H.G. Wells

professor-ort-making-new-friends

Professor Michael Ort from the School of Earth Sciences and Environmental Sustainability spent his winter break bikepacking.  Over the years I’ve received emails from Michael from far flung places–Argentina, Ireland, all over Europe, Reunion Island–while he was traveling for research and work.  But this winter he stayed close to home and took a bicycle journey with a friend.  Here are a few pics he sent.  The things you can do and see on a bicycle.  More coming soon!

professor-ort-forward

professor-ort-guiding

professor-orts-trip

professor-ort-go

Bikepacking resources:

http://www.bikepacking.com/
https://bajadivide.com/
https://gypsybytrade.wordpress.com/
https://laelwilcox.com/
http://www.whileoutriding.com/

Cycling from Home

For the Lakota, mountains, lakes, rivers, springs, valleys, and woods were all finished beauty.  –Luther Standing Bear, “Land of the Spotted Eagle”

I’m amazed at the beautiful places I can reach cycling from home.  Albuquerque is big enough that it has everything we need, but it is compact enough that you can stretch your legs and reach open space.  From almost any place in the city you can see the mountains, mesas, forests, fields and wetlands that surround us.  We are enveloped in beauty.  All underneath an oceanic sky.  When I hop onto my bicycle I can pedal to everywhere I can see and many hidden places too.  Cycling lends itself to seeking a harmony with landscapes.  Cycling can make you feel like the wind itself.  Your breath and blood and legs flowing round, propelling you forward in a gliding motion.  This blog post includes photos from bicycling journeys I’ve started and ended from our home in Albuquerque.

bending-road-air-suspended-needles

following-where-the-road-leads

Cyclists seek out roads and trails that are not too much of an imposition on the places we travel.  Roads that fit into nature and are a way into the great mystery, where we receive a softening influence.  I like cycling up roads that climb.  It slows my speed down and my perceptions open to the world around me.  I see birds soaring, leaves drifting down, sunlight splashing through the trees’ bare branches making crosshatched shadows on the ground.  With my mind open and the air quiet and still, life reverberates unbounded.  The particulars of the day come forward and kindle a sense of mystery and contemplation of the great whole.

la-luz-today

landscape-1

Ecologists, biologists and others predict the effect of our actions on the living world, including ourselves.  Cycling for me provides a poetry of motion and personal experience that compliments rational understanding.  Cycling outside deepens the connections I feel for the natural world.  I sally forth with humility, and finding affinity, I recover more of myself.  There is no way I can dominate the landscape, but I can flow with it and feel its hospitality.  Fear and uneasiness falls away.  We are nature’s head and heart combined.

standing-beauty

high

Cycling has worked well for me as a way to accommodate myself to the environment, and integrate information into my consciousness with direct experience.  It is one thing to read the weather forecast, and completely another to feel it on your skin.  One thing to read a description of a mountain range, or even look at it on Google Earth or a map, and all together different to explore the mountain and discover what’s there for yourself.  It’s never too late to start cycling from home and experiencing the living library surrounding us, the human community and natural landscapes intertwined in a beautiful dance, discovering childlike wonder again, sensing joy anew.  If we listen to our curiosity and courage bubbling up like laughter, we can experience synchronicity in discovery.  When I return home I find myself appreciating things more.  There is a beauty we can feel and be a part of.

two-track

crest-curve

curving-trees

Cycling is not the only way to open our perceptions and be in touch with the greater world, but it is one path.  In this era of transitioning to a more sustainable society, it’s challenging to participate in mainstream activities and not be contributing to the problems of our times.  We fly to conferences and meetings, and even my cycling requires car driving from time to time to go to events and races.  My philosophy is to make it worthwhile and be aware of what I’m doing, while trying to pay attention to the little things we can do to make a difference.  Cycling from home makes me feel a wonderful congruity with the world.  I go with a beginner’s mind out into the unknown, which brings me closer, one step closer, to being happy living right here at home.

riding-dirt-roads

 

The Cycling Life in Japan

received an email from my friend Stephen who recently moved from Albuquerque to Japan.  He said I could post.  Thanks Stephen!
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We leave this weekend for a cycling tour of the Shimanami Kaido:

It is a 70km route spanning eight islands across the Seto Inland Sea. Kyoko and I will take the way out together over two days, and then I’ll ride back on the 3rd day while she and her father take ferries back to the start. We’re hoping for good weather.
I have been cycling nearly daily and should have around 6,000km this year, which is not bad considering the down time for the move, and travels. I joined a Yokohama cycling club with around 120 members from 12 years old to mid-70s (which puts me number 3 in upper age at 67). They have rides every weekend and I usually join them once or twice a month. Earlier this month there was a vintage bicycle ride in Chiba on the other side of the bay from us, so I took the De Rosa out for a 60km route. There is a L’Eroica event in May that I hope to join, too.
stephens-ride