Monday, April 27, 2009

REESE HILL ROAD 'N' MORE

Saturday, Team Unattacked (John Clark, Scott Young and I), headed north up Sumas way for some Reese Hill action. Always good to get this one under one's belt. Did South Pass Road too so that Scott, who's riding the road bike segment for our Ski to Sea team could get some experience on the course. Funny, when you dread hills they're never as tough as you think they're going to be. And vice versa, and I think therein lies the key: dread all things so that nothing seems that bad. (God, I am not looking forward to writing this next sentence.) Put in 60 miles in all with some fun rolling ups and downs on Mission Road. (Hey, that sentence wasn't that bad!)


Thought I'd give an update on my race plans too. This Sunday (May 3) I'm planning on the Tucker Classic mountain bike race down at South Seatac. It'll be my first-ever race in the Indie Series (http://www.indieseries.com/), which I've heard nothing but good things about. The following Saturday I thought I'd try the Silver Lake time trials out Maple Falls way, maybe the 7-miler on the 29er, and the 22-miler on the Specialized Tarmac, sans aero bars. It's a Charlie Heggem production: (http://www.norkarecreation.com). May 17 is another Indie Series race, this one on Whidbey Island. And May 24 is B'ham's own World Championships, also known as Ski to Sea. I'm on Awesome Dawson Descending Masters, sponsored by Dawson Construction. (Thanks, Pete!) John's running, Scott's road biking and I'm mountain biking, for the first time ever. Should be fun!

Friday, April 24, 2009

DAD McQ

Me da's 87th birthday would've been yesterday. As a tribute of sorts, I thought I'd re-print this story I wrote last year for The Seattle Times Sunday magazine. Hope you like it.
Just up the trail, a dark mass flutters through the trees. The way it flies — flutter-flutter-glide, flutter-flutter-glide — its size — big as a crow, but a crow doesn't fly like that — I know what it is: a pileated woodpecker.

I stop for pileated woodpeckers. That'd be my life's bumper sticker.


It's behind that fir tree. If I can just . . . Dang! There it goes. Winging it through the dark moss-hung forest . . . flutter-flutter-glide, flutter-flutter-glide. And . . . gone.

Oh well. 'Least I saw something. I swing my leg back up, remount my bike and . . . THERE! Fifteen feet to my right, eye level, is another one. Bright red triangle Mohawk-head, cool black eye stripe. It's so close I can see its eyes blink, hear the scritchy-scratch of its claws as it rotates around a limbless snag. Like a jackhammer it blasts away, raining down cookie-size woodchips that bounce when they hit the ground. It couldn't care less that I'm here watching. Lucky me!

My dad is the reason I'm this pileated woodpecker guy today. Growing up, he'd take me for walks in the woods of central New Jersey looking for birds we had no chance of seeing in New Jersey. Great gray owls. Golden eagles. Pileated woodpeckers.

So these days, I know my birds. Not because I ever saw them but because on the way home from our hikes, I'd grab my dad's Golden field guide, "Birds of North America," and read up on what we just spent the whole day not seeing. Pileated, by the way, means capped, a reference to its distinctive triangular red crest. Woody Woodpecker was a pileated.

Twenty years ago, I moved West, and since then have had a handful of these up-close audiences with a pileated woodpecker. They always feel the same: like a curtain has been pulled back and I've been allowed a glimpse at the magic that underlies the natural world. I feel blessed. Lucky.
I check my watch: 12:41 p.m. I wonder: Did my dad just die? Later today, will I find out that this is the exact time he passed away back in New Jersey? Is this pileated woodpecker his spirit visiting me to say goodbye?

My dad's in his 80s now and doesn't do well. His legs are shot, and mentally, he's often confused, which frustrates him. Parkinson's, they're pretty sure, though at one time they thought it was Lou Gehrig's disease. Who knows?

On our hikes looking for birds, I don't remember what we talked about or lessons imparted. Only that I loved walking in the woods, tromping through the fallen leaves, hopping rocks across creeks. Probably I always hoped that we'd connect in some father-son way. Like Opie and his dad in the opening credits of "The Andy Griffith Show."

But he was on his way out then. My mother and her ever-stewing rages had become too much. Most of us six kids were grown, some even out of the house, so he made his escape. But at 12, I was the youngest. Sad, mad, I spent the next few years consumed with resentment. My dad never gave me anything, never passed anything on to me. That was the interior monologue of my one-man show. There was a stretch in my 20s when my dad and I went years without speaking.

This pileated reminds me of the one that swooped down onto a fallen log not five feet from where I sat in a lawn chair at San Juan County Park. Dropping from the sky practically into my lap. Gotta tell Dad, I remember thinking. It'll give us something to talk about.

With time, and getting married and starting my own family, my bitterness toward Dad faded. He and I found our way back into a dialogue through the birds I saw out here. The 22 snowy owls on the beach at Boundary Bay just across the border in British Columbia. The white pelicans that looked like angels flying high above the interstate near Yakima. The baby gray owls I nearly ran into, literally, up on Chuckanut Mountain. The bald eagles I see everywhere. So what if we're not together when I see them; in talking about them we are (kinda).

These days, I raise my own son and we live at the edge of a great, vast forest where eagles soar and pileated woodpeckers fall from the sky, and I write about hiking and biking and running in the woods. My dad, whom I used to whine about for not giving me enough, has given me everything.

Soon enough I realize that this pileated's partner, the first one I saw flying through these woods, is likely itching for me to leave so it can get in on the good grub. I say goodbye to my dad, if that's who it is, get back on my bike and take off.

Back on the trail, pedaling through the woods, tromping through the fallen leaves, rock-hopping across creeks.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

EIN SUNNY DAY IN BELLINGHAM

Two days in a row with beautiful, sunshiny days that are nothing less than glorious--right on in seriously groovy and righteous way! Snow at the top of Galbraith Mountain is finally gone so I headed there on the Felt Nine Pro, it of the 29-inch wheels. Views were stunning all around. Above, Mount Baker; below, our fair city by the bay.
Below is something that's pretty cool--a kiosk with tools set up by Brandon Strong, a Bellingham High student, probably for his senior project. (I don't know details, but he gives shout-outs to Kathy Salisbury from Fanatik, Mark Peterson and Darren Clark from http://www.whimpsmtb.com/ and Allen Young.) It's at the bottom of the Mullet Trail. Speaking of da' Mullet, see video farther down of the Mullet's long cool bridge.

Me, looking all short and stubby leg-like at the top of Galby, as the kids call it.

video

Saturday, April 18, 2009

FINALLY FIGURED IT OUT ...

... how those Tour de France guys stick their sunglasses up into their helmets when they're not riding so that they stay put, but more importantly look cool, hip, and altogether righteous. I got it.

Hey, check out this great story (www.bikemonkey.net/?p=4168#more-4168) from Yuri Hauswald about helping a blind rider through his first mountain bike race. Sehr inspirational! First read about it on Levi Leipheimer's Twitter: twitter.com/Levi_Leipheimer

Sunday, April 12, 2009

TORNADO TOM!

In honor of Tom Boonen's third Paris-Roubaix win, I thought I'd share you you a photo of he and I hanging out together.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

PARIS-ROUBAIX EVE

video

Out riding again with the Team Unattacked Boyz. Forecast was for rain, so we headed up Alpe d'Chuckanut on two 29ers and a 'cross bike. Always a great time. About 30 miles, 2,500 feet of climbing, about 2:45 of riding. Solved a lot of the country's problems too.

Tomorrow, Easter, and Paris-Roubaix. I'm probably waking at 5, gonna shoo away the Easter Bunny then watch the race live on Cycling.tv. I'm a full-on cycling geek nerd dork dude, I admit it. Hardly care at all about baseball season starting or the Yankees' coming and goings--their new stadium, etc.--which, until about five years ago was pretty much what my sporting spectator world revolved around. Anyway, it'd be cool to see Tornado Tom or Fabian Cancellara on the podium, or even George Hincapie, though that's more a sentimental wish than anything. Here's a quick pick: Boonen, Flecha, Chavanel.

Bummer bit of news: looks like the Mount Constitution Hill Climb, which I rode last May and was planning to again next month, is cancelled for this year. Apparently a victim of the bad economy.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

TEAM UNATTACKED RIDES AGAIN

Saturday, got out for 45 miles in the relative sun of Northwest's Northwest. Great to be out wit da boyz.

Sunday, Stijn Devolder (below) comes through again at the Tour of (Ned) Flanders! Let us all bow down before him.