Thursday, May 31, 2007

From Portland I headed up to "The Emerald City" - Seattle, Washington. I had a few bike shops to stop at and talk about our three new light systems that will be out in the next couple of months. *Hint. Stay peeled to your daily driver for news and hints in the very near future.* One of my best friends from elementary school lives in Seattle now so I avoided hotels once more in favor of a familiar face and a foreign couch. My time in Seattle was brief so I wasn't able to do everything on my Seattle checklist, but I did get to the top of the Space Needle. I was a total tourist the whole time there snapping pictures of everything. It really is a cool way to see the city though, I recommend it for anyone who has the opportunity and if you get up there on a clear day you can get a great view of Mount Ranier. I didn't make it to the Experience Music Project, but when I was walking by it Dio was blaring from their sound system which induced some fist-pumping from me.

On Friday I took off for Spokane, host city for the Washington State 24 Hour Championships. Big Mistake. Everyone who had a boat, motorhome, ATV, motorcycle, or any other item requiring a trailer was on their way to a three-day weekend through Snoqualmie Pass. Traffic was an absolute nightmare topped off by a flaming motorcycle in the middle of the freeway. I crawled along at the blistering pace of anywhere from 5 to 45 miles per hour for about an hour. I was supposed to pick up Rob and Shawna from the Spokane International Airport at 4:55 and the traffic got me there right on time. I had hoped to get the trailer to the event before I picked them up but it wasn't happening. As much as I was dreading it, it was very nice having two extra bodies to help get the trailer ready to go and set-up was a breeze.

Tired from a long day of traveling all three of us just wanted a bite to eat and a bed to crash in. As we headed into Spokane a blinking sign caught my eye - The Swinging Doors. It took a minute to convince Rob and Shawna that this place would be grand, but eventually they caved. The place was a riot and we all were pleased with the food. It was a nice little slice of Americana that I've decided should be the new focus of my travels. Less corporate chains and more off-the-wall places, I think it will make this experience a lot more memorable and make for better stories to tell.

Saturday when we showed up at the race we were immediately bombarded by people asking questions so we were all very glad that we'd spent some time on Friday getting everything ready to go. Things are always crazy until about 11 a.m. when people really focus on preparing for 24 hours of pain. I was able to sneak away and get a pic of the "Non-NiteRider" charging station. A few power strips and a confusing tangle of cords was all that was offered for those without NiteRider equipment.

Bagpipes sounded shortly before the race which was a cool way to kick things off. The tunes were cranking out of the pipes during the starting run, as a Scotsman myself I was extra appreciative. Things died down of course after the start and we found some time to catch our breath. I even got out on the course for a lap which quickly put me in my place. Let's just say there's a climb called "5 minute climb". That uphill combined with "Devil's Down" left me limping in hurt, tired and winded after my lap. I went over the handlebars on Devil's Down and ended up off the trail still clipped in to my pedals. I survived with very few injuries but as I was hustling to get off the trail and out of the way my left leg cramped up and I fell straight to the ground. The cramp was way more painful than the wreck. I managed to make it in before we got busy and nursed my wounds with a Red-Bull.

The sun sticks around for quite a long time when you're that far North. Sunrise was around 5 a.m. and it doesn't set until about 9 p.m. so the light runtime was a lot shorter than I'm used to. Once the sun went down a movie screen was cranking out some cool MTB videos and we had a front row seat. I have to say the race director Gino definitely knows how to run a cool event. I had a blast at the race and everyone was insanely nice and appreciative of our being there, especially Gino. The lighted archway right in front of the timing tent had to have been a welcome sight during the middle of the night for the riders, it also provided a really sweet photo op.

I can't forget to mention our new best friends in Spokane - David's Pizza. Mark and Ted were churning out pies as quick as they could and the demand was high for their tasty slices. It was awesome pizza and they were hooking us up at the NiteRider trailer with free food all weekend. Super cool guys with a super cool rig, I had a little bit of booth-envy once I saw their Pizza Response Vehicle. Yes, those are ovens on the side of the truck. Jealous much? I'm off to Alabama for my first motocross event of the season, should be a change of pace. I can't wait for all that windshield time.

I'll leave you with this pic I snapped in Spokane, analyze and discuss.

Monday, May 21, 2007

It's always sunny in Portland. Isn't It?

Sorry for the dust around here, I guess I've been too busy enjoying my downtime. I've been staying in one of the nation's most bike friendly cities - Portland, Oregon. Cycling is much more than a weekend adventure or an expensive hobby it's seen as and used as a viable means of transportation. It's such a change from the Midwest where cyclists are constantly verbally accosted simply for being on the road. Portland is a model city for progress, it seems like everyone is constantly thinking about their impact on the environment and how to live as "green" as possible. NiteRider has several programs in place to cut down on pollution with all of the Fazer series commuter lights being packaged in 100% recycled material. NiteRider also participates in a battery recycling program that keeps old environmentally harmful cells out of landfills. Protecting the environment is everyone's job and it's something we are proud to be a part of.

My cousins Dave and Amy were very gracious hosts and tour guides during my stay in this clean city. They have a beautiful home in a really cool neighborhood in the Northeast part of the city. It's been nice the last few weeks staying with someone I know as opposed the the lonely life of empty hotels. Things from here on out are only going to get crazier for me so I know that this luxury is something that will not last. This weekend I have a race in Spokane, Washington and the following weekend I have to be in Alabama; that's something of a long haul. I spent some time getting dirty helping them with landscaping and gardening which is something I actually enjoy. I could definitely feel all of the shoveling I did the next morning.

On Wednesday my cousin Amy, her dog Lazlo, their roommate Eric, and myself all piled into the car for a trip to the coast. Oregon isn't exactly the beach vacation hot spot that Southern California is, but it is absolutely beautiful. It was surprisingly sunny for my entire stay in Oregon, something I didn't expect at all. After an amazing drive through the Tillamook State Forest we arrived in Pacific Beach, Oregon. The beach is famous for it's large rock outcropping offshore called a haystack. The Oregon coast is littered with them, if you've seen The Goonies you've seen a haystack. There's also a huge sand dune right on the beach that is a leg burning climb, but it's worth the view. Once you're at the top you can see out to sea for an eternity and up and down the coastline for miles. For a landlocked kid from Kansas seeing out over the ocean for that far is a very humbling experience, it really makes you feel small.

Time to cross the Colombia River and head up to Washington. I'll be in Seattle all week visiting bike shops until it's race day in Spokane. I plan on being a total tourist while I'm here in Seattle, Space Needle, EMP, ferry rides, all of that. Stay tuned for updates.

All of the photography on this post was done by my cousin Dave, I wish I could take credit for it.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

San Fran!

I spent the weekend in San Francisco visiting an old friend from high school. We drove to the city from Vallejo and had to navigate the maze of freeways and detours caused by the tanker truck accident last month, it was gridlock all the way to the Bay Bridge. Fisherman's Wharf was amazingly busy and coincidentally quite annoying. It's the definition of tourist-trap with street hustlers and performers all trying to catch a buck. Coit tower provided a scenic shot of the city skyline at night and a more tranquil experience of the city. The Tour of California has staged it's Prologue here for the last two years, and the climb up Lombard street is nothing to scoff at. I ended up talking about our lights to a couple of cyclists we ran into at base of the tower, one of whom works at R.E.I. It's a small world. We went for a bite to eat in Chinatown and ended up at a restaurant that I had been to about seven years ago, it was pretty weird since we just walked into one at random.After a delicious meal we cruised across the Golden Gate Bridge to Marin County. It is always cool going to the place where mountain biking got it's start, but it's frustrating to know that there are so many trail access issues in the area. There's a really cool movie called "Single Track Minds" that documents the rise of mountain biking around Mt. Tamalpais and the eventual legal battles that ensued. It's about 30 minutes long and is worth the time if you've got access to it. On to Oregon!

Thursday, May 10, 2007

You got to know when to hold 'em

San Pablo, California is $19.99 dollars richer because of me. I'll never let them take it all... This folks is why I don't gamble. The true irony of this penny is the fact it was spat out to me by a Kenny Rogers "The Gambler" slot machine. I never cared much for his chicken and now I don't like his slot machines - the music, that's a whole different story.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

10-4 Good Buddy

When I woke up on Thursday morning I knew it was time to get this show on the road… literally. My boss, Jack had invited me along for a nice early morning ride in the Mission Trails area just east of the NiteRider global headquarters so I met him at 6:45 for a nice spin on my last day in So Cal. We rode the short couple of miles to the trailhead – uphill. I was feeling pretty good when we first hit the dirt so I put out a pretty good effort on the first climb which I was sure would never end. Once I finally reached the top I was a little worried about what was to come. My physical condition is certainly nothing to brag about. The trail system wasn’t overly technical, but my laziness was shining through and I was picking horrible lines and getting tossed everywhere. We ended up riding something like 16 miles and I felt every inch. Luckily I survived without any spills and hurried around to leave for The Coolest 24 in Cool, California.

Bidding San Diego a fond farewell on shaky legs it was time to hit the road, and after a quick jaunt through Compton (yes that Compton) I was well on my way to Cool, California. Interstate 5 is a truckers’ dream, wide open road, truck stops, awesome. Something about pulling into truck stops and getting diesel amidst all those “real” truckers cracks me up. I’m working on my trucker lingo, now if only I could procure a collection of pearl-snap shirts and silver-tipped boots, and a furry upper-lip. A C.B. radio would be amazing – I’m currently accepting applications for trucker handles.

Cool is a tiny mountain town nestled in the Sierra-Nevada mountain range about 100 miles west of Reno, Nevada. The drive in from Auburn was one of the most nerve-racking and gorgeous drives I’ve ever done. Pulling a trailer on a super twisty mountain road is not exactly a relaxing experience. I managed to pull over a few times and snap some nice pictures of the valley and the American river that runs through it. It’s the kind of drive that would be best enjoyed from the passenger seat of a very safe, slow-moving vehicle. I don’t recommend it for anyone easily affected by motion sickness. The Coolest 24 is a mountain bike race for an extremely good cause. All of the proceeds from the race were donated to the fight against cancer and they had well over 400 registered racers! It is a really great event for a great cause and I strongly recommend it to anyone who can make it! You could tell all of your co-workers and friends that you were doing charity work all weekend plus you would be able to ride your bike which makes philanthropy feel doubly good.

I was the only NiteRider employee from our main offices who would be attending the race, but I did have two very competent guys helping me through the night; our Northern California sales-rep Brian and his friend Rob. Their help was absolutely invaluable and I was lucky to have such great help. I was a little overwhelmed with repairs at the start of the race and they really kept the heat off of me so I could hunker down and get the work busted out. A million thanks guys, hats off really! Brian is a die-hard Oakland Raiders fan and me heralding from Kansas City Chiefs territory I wasn’t sure how we’d get along but all was fine, I did however find a few interesting pictures on the camera…

In the spirit of Cinco de Mayo I brought an assortment of chips and salsas which was a nice way to pass the afternoon. Salsa buffet in the afternoon, charge batteries and flirt with incoherency at night. Everything ran fairly smoothly through the night after we figured out a few power issues. We kept tripping the safety circuit on a power strip and we would find ourselves in the dark, swimming in irony. After that little battle was fought about four times we finally had it to where there would be no more problems and it was smooth sailing ‘til daybreak. Things do tend to get a little weird for me around 3:30 a.m. through about 5:30 a.m. it’s a really strange feeling fighting through the urge to fall asleep standing up. Luckily I had Brian and Rob to talk to and keep my mind preoccupied.

The Coolest 24 Hour Mountain Bike Race is an event that solidifies my faith in the cycling community. Using your bicycle and self-sadistic desires to help fulfill a societal need is something more people should get behind. Bikes + Charity + No Sleep = Good Times with Great People! This event is only going to get bigger with such a good cause and absolutely beautiful countryside. Be there or be decidedly un-round.

Keep the bugs off your bumper and the bears off your back door. This is your daily driver, over-and-out

Friday, May 4, 2007

On the road.

Farewell San Diego, Hello America! There's sure to be a lot more of this...

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Reunited and it feels so good!