Tuesday, December 28, 2010


Though these photos aren't bike-focused per se, I wanted to post a year-end batch of never-been-posted photos from our Paris trip last spring, which was amazing, incredible and everything we imagined it would be. (Most of them haven't been posted yet anyway.) Please enjoy!
Sunrise over the Seine.

Crescent moon under Tour Eiffel.

The boy Baker looking out the window of our Paris hotel room.

Parisian schoolkids pass in front of Notre Dame.

Youth choir inside Notre Dame. I'm not the least bit religious but the sound of their voices in such an incredibly beautiful, historic place absolutely gave me chills.

Baker chatting up some breakdancers in front of the Paris Opera House.

Throng of Mona Lisa admirers at the Louvre.

Shakespeare and Co., the famous bookshop just across the Seine from Notre Dame.
Fabian Cancellara destroys the field at Paris-Roubaix and WE WERE THERE! (Photo by Baker McQ)

Happy New Year from the McQs! (Photo taken at Luxembourg Gardens.)

Thursday, December 23, 2010


Click here to read my travel story in today's Seattle Times about South Whidbey Island.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010


Here's some more, July through December. Please enjoy!
July - Chinook Pass on the east side of Mount Rainier. A frozen Tipsoo Lake is in the foreground.
August - Vern Latta (Mary's hubby) and the chirpy Tammy Bennett climb the last couple miles to Artist Point at the end of the Mount Baker Highway.
August (again) - Me (again) on the last section of the 17-mile, 5,000-foot climb to Hurricane Ridge on the Olympic Peninsula.
September - Tom Meloy and Mark Clausen bomb down from Artist Point on our superfun Everson-to-Artist Point-and-back Hundred-miler.
 Sept. (again) - Titanium Cancellara at the finish of the Capitol Forest 50-mile Mountain Bike Race. Because of a mechanical, he ran about seven miles of it and rode the last 10-plus miles with this wheel strapped to his pack.
October - Steve Hindman descending Atomic Dog on a day in which some of us rode every single trail on Galbraith Mountain.
November - Near the top of Galby's Towers during a snowy Thanksgiving Day ride.

December - View of the San Juan Islands from Galby's Wonderland Trail.

Monday, December 20, 2010


Right. It's that time of year. Year-end roundup stuff. Which this sort of is. Bike-related pics one from each month throughout the year. Today, I'll post January through June; tomorrow, July through December. Please enjoy.
January - Johnny Boy Clark on the Taylor Dock on a foggy, foggy morn.
February - Titanium Cancellara and Johnny Boy at the top of Lost Lost Lake Trail on an epic day in which we linked Chuckanut and Blanchard Mountains with some Pine and Cedar Lake action thrown in for fun. I broke a chain and a spoke.

March - T.C. taking a break from tiptoeing through the tulips during our hundred-miler down in Skagit Land.

April - Fat Tire Bike Tour in Paris. Wow. What a place!
May - John and I with our broken collarbones that happened in separate bike incidents about a week apart.
June - T.C. checking out some weird futuristic art thang during a 40-miler on Camano Island.

Sunday, December 12, 2010


San Juan Islands, including Mount Constitution on Orcas Island, from the Wonderland Trail on Galbraith Mountain.
Saturday, I headed up to the Galby Towers on the Redline Monocog. That's my single-speed 29er mit der rigid fork and Elixer brakes which I added and which I love. Three hours, 2,500 feet of climbing including the Wall (stupid steep) and that last pitch to the top (only slightly less stupid steep). Down via Wonderland, Mullet, Three Pigs, across the road and down Padden back trails which were clogged by various and sundry ABDP's (Annoying Bellingham Dog People). A route I ride often; a route I love.  
Looking east toward Mount Baker from just past the Galby Towers.
But enough about me. Looks like Roger Michel and company have a date for the 2011 Capitol Forest 50- and 100-mile mountain bike races. (See here.) August 27, about two weeks earlier than this year's race, thus offering more daylight and better chance of good weather. (Though this year's raceday weather was great.) I highly recommend this race and plan on being there myself depending on how things do or don't go with the High Cascades 100 which is just three weeks earlier. Registration for Capitol Forest opens Jan. 11.

I like my Ed Grimley grimace in the above photo from this year's Capitol Forest 50.

Monday, December 06, 2010


Had a great time earlier today on the Joe Show, hosted by Joe Teehan. Here's the podcast. I'm on at about the 2:00 mark. Enjoy. And thanks, Joe, for having me on!

Friday, December 03, 2010


Along with a bicycle hill-climbing story story in the cool 5th-Anniversary issue of Adventures NW (congrats to Paul and Alaine!), I'll be on the Joe Show, KBAI AM-930, this coming Monday at noon. Not sure what I'll be talking about but no doubt it'll be outdoor- and likely bike-related.

Also, last Monday at the Chuckanut Radio Hour, a live performance taped at the Leopold, I read a sorta Christmas-themed essay I'd written. The show was taped (taped? are things really taped these days? I doubt it.) for TV and will be broadcast at 4 p.m. Dec. 18 on KVOS Channel 12. Truthfully, I'm not super happy with it. I like the piece I wrote but I was distracted as heck early on b/c I couldn't get the microphone at the right height. So if you watch it, it looks like I'm fighting with the microphone for the first minute, trying to decide whether or not to wear my glasses, whether I should hold my essay in my hand or leave it on the lecturn, etc. Kind of a mess. Oh well. 
Above photo is from a previous Chuckanut Radio Hour reading when I had no struggle with mic height.
Just for the heck of it, here is a piece I wrote and read on the Chuckanut Radio Hour last January. It's called "Cannonball", and can be seen on YouTube here. (No mic height struggles here either.)


Last summer, when my 10-year-old son took swimming lessons at the Bellingham Country Club, they’d come to a point in the lesson when each kid got a turn jumping off the diving board. And this one kid—every time it was his turn—he’d walk to the end of the diving board and yell “Cannonball!” as loud as he could, so that every head in the place would involuntarily jerk toward the diving board.

And we’d all watch as this skinny, kinda gangly 10-year-old, would just sort of fall off the end of the board. On the way down, he’d make a half-hearted attempt to grab his knees, but he’d always let go. And when he’d hit the water, he produced an underwhelming “bloop!” of a splash, like when you drop a pebble into a pail of water. “Bloop!”

Next day, same thing. “Cannonball!” shouted to the heavens, an awkward semi-stumble off the end of the diving board, a splash that wouldn’t soak an ant. Day after day this went on, and each time I hoped this would be the day the he’d get it right.


Then one day, it dawns on me: he is getting it right. Every single day. Just with his attitude: the way he approached the diving board—always an eager bounce in his step—and how he’d giggle while doggie-paddling back to the ladder after his attempt. Not at all dejected or with the slightest notion that he’d failed.

That’s the way to live your life. Yell “Cannonball!” to the world, give whatever you’re trying your best shot, and if it doesn’t work out, no biggie. Just enjoy the experience and remember: there’s always tomorrow.

Now, I envied this Cannonball Kid because I’m not like that at all. If I don’t know ahead of time that I’ll be successful at something, I won’t even try it. For as long as I can remember, I’ve always been that way.

But then, I remembered “Purple Haze” …

Back when I was in high school, I was obsessed with Jimi Hendrix. And at the beginning of my senior year, I decided that in three months, at our Senior Talent Show, I would play “Purple Haze” on guitar in front of the whole school. There was just one problem: I didn’t know the first thing about playing guitar.

So I hired our town’s hotshot guitar player, a kid named Billy Tucker, to teach me “Purple Haze,” just that one song. Billy was a terrific teacher and like lots of guitarists I’ve met, he enjoyed copious amounts of cannabis and other mind-altering substances. This worked to my great advantage because Billy would lose all track of time and my 45-minute guitar lessons sometimes lasted two-, three-, even four hours. Which was key, because I needed all the help I could get.

Jimi Hendrix, you see, is not exactly intro guitar material. And trying to learn “Purple Haze” before you’d even learned how to play “Polly Wolly Doodle”, or any beginner guitar song, was like trying to learn how to ride a bicycle by racing against Lance Armstrong in the Tour de France. But I stuck with it and come Talent Show night, Purple Haze was in my brain. Some of it, anyway.

For the show, I wanted to somehow look the part, so I borrowed this rainbow-colored hippie dashiki shirt with billowy sleeves, a pair of suede Indian moccasin boots that laced up to my knees and had fringe around the top, and tied a bandana around my head. In my mind, I looked just like Jimi at Woodstock. But in reality, I probably looked more like some Village People version of Davey Crockett.

Some classmates who had a rock band agreed to back me up and one of them would sing the song. As for the actual performance … I won’t bore you with the details other than to say that it went about as well as could be expected for someone who wasn’t really musically inclined to begin with, and who’d only had about 10 guitar lessons, and then tries to play “Purple Haze” in front of the whole school. Among the more challenging moments was the guitar solo in the middle, during which my fingers wouldn’t cooperate with what I wanted them to do, and stinker note after stinker note shot from my guitar like sparks from a bottle rocket on the 4th of July.

In short, I played “Purple Haze” about as well as the Cannonball Kid did a cannonball.

But at the end, I rallied. “Purple Haze” ends with the same screaming high note repeated over and over again. It sounds cool and it’s so simple to play that even I couldn’t screw it up. So when we came to that point in the song, I raised the guitar to my face, and just like Jimi Hendrix, I played guitar with my teeth.

The place went nuts. And all my previous sins—the cavalcade of klunker notes, the cacophony of sonic crap that I’d produced—were forgiven. It felt amazing—like I’d died and ascended to Rock Star Heaven. And there was Jimi, and he smiled and gave me the peace sign.

So it’s January, the start of a new year—a whole new decade, in fact—and of course, New Year’s Resolution time. And so I’ll leave you with mine: to shout “Cannonball!” to the world more often—to take more risks, try new things, to just enjoy the ride and not obsess over success or failure.

And to always remember: that whenever things start going really badly, I can always just grab a guitar and play it with my teeth.

Saturday, November 27, 2010


Thanksgiving we had snow in Bellingham. Relentless snow that just kept falling and falling. This after days of crazy cold temps, crazy wicked wind and ice everywhere. But Thursday in the snow, I headed up to the Towers on Galbraith. My tire tracks the only ones in the snow. Up to four inches of snow in spots. Hidden ice underneath on some stretches. Took a few tumbles, one on my formerly broken collarbone side but I made myself small and rolled through it. Got up laughing.
The heavy wet snow made for sloooow going; felt like I was riding with my rear brake on the whole time. But I made it--first up the Wall (had to walk a coupe stretches, I admit), then up to the top. It was beautiful, and all the world was silent save for the wind blowing in the trees. And 24 hours later, the snow was gone.
The above is from today: John Clark, Steve Vanderstaay and I rode down to Chuckanut Mountain for some Two-Dollar trail action. Couple patches of ice but snow. Great riding.  

Sunday, November 14, 2010


Saturday, I enjoyed a three-hour mountain bike ride in the Chuckanuts with chiroprator Steve Noble who raced last August's High Cascades 100-mile mountain bike race near Bend, Ore. He gave the race mucho thumbs-up ('cept for the two flats he suffered) and so I've been ogling the race website ever since. And since the Capitol Forest 50 was so much fun, I'm putting High Cascades on my short list of very possibles for 2011.
And for those interested in broken collarbone recovery, I'm pretty much at the six-month mark. (This blog comes up a lot when people, most likely cyclists, are Googling info for when they can get back on the bike after breaking their collarbones.) Six months after surgery, I feel no ill effects. I think I started running/riding at six weeks, rode a road century at just under three months, did a 50-mile mountain bike race at four months--all with no soreness or discomfort. Strengthwise, for about a month now, I've been able to lift the same amount in the weight room that I was lifting before the break. And I can finally sleep on my right side (broken clavicle side) with no problem. 
Surgically implanted pin and prominent screw. (Please excuse my Sean Connery chest-hair wig.)
If I have any issue it's that one of the nine screws sticks out--a bump under my skin--fairly prominently. (See above photo.) Doesn't hurt, just looks weird. I know some people get their pins and screws removed--i.e. world champion Thor Hushovd among them--but I don't like the idea of more surgery. I guess I figure if I'm just going to have it taken out, then why did I have it put in in the first place? But who knows, there're so many pro take-it-out/pro leave-it-in stories on the Internet all I can do is what seems like a good idea to me. And right now, leaving it in seems fine.     

Thursday, November 11, 2010


Click here to enjoy my story in the Seattle Times about fun things to do on Whidbey Island. Beautiful place, that's for sure!

Thursday, November 04, 2010


Right. Well, first off I'd like to update something that's of import to the handful of people who are interested in this sort of thing. Those being folks such as myself and my fellow Titanium Cowboys who like to connect the Chuckanut end of the world with the Blanchard and/or Pine 'n' Cedar lakes areas. As Titanium Cancellara (Scott Young) and I found out last weekend (see post below), the Dictionary Trail--or Overlander, as it's called on Square One's Chuckanut Recreation Area map--is kaputski for right now because of logging. But since we'd approached it from the Burnout Road (south) side, I wasn't sure where the trail stops on the Dictionary (north) side. Today I pedaled up via the Fragrance Lake Road-Lost Lake Trail, took a right at the Dictionary and in about 300 yards, had my answer. (See above pic.)

The trail is blocked by a pile of logs and beyond that's it's all new logging roads, a new clear-cut (great views of the Sound though), and lots of scary machinery making lots of scary sounds. So, we'll have to come up with a new way to get our Blanchard-Pine 'n' Cedars lakes on.

Sign warning folks to stay from the logging.
In other news, I wanted to share some e-mails I received in my response to my story in last week's Seattle Times about Stupid Fun. (The story was basically about crazy workouts/races/informal competitions that people come up with on their own.) Brock Gavery of Seattle (who, by the way was featured in Outside magazine a couple years ago for being one of the Fittest Real Men in America) wrote that in August he and two friends biked 120 miles from Ballard to Paradise on the south side of Mount Rainier. The next day, they climbed to Rainier's 14,411-foot summit and the day after that, ran the 93-mile Wonderland Trail which circles the mountain. (I've got a feeling they did it over four days but I'm not exactly sure.)

Dustin Wallace of Ellensburg included a bunch of crazy stuff that he's done. Among them, he and a friend challenged each other to run the Yakima Marathon and then bench press 300 pounds within 20 minutes of finishing. (Their marathon time was 3:59:46; they were able to press 275 pounds.)

Bruce MacLean of North Seattle wrote that he recently rode his bike 50 miles to Mount Si, which he then climbed including the Haystack scramble to the top.

Cool. Love to hear about folks doing stuff like that!

Sunday, October 31, 2010


Saturday, Scott Young and I headed to the Chuckanuts and up the evil Burnout Road which has three (or four, or maybe even five) steep, seemingly vertical pitches. Above, Scott climbs the last one. (The two-dimensional camera doesn't do it justice; it's really steep.) At the top, we discovered that there's a whole lot of new logging going which ended up altering things dramatically.

Once there--elevation, 1,830 feet; we climbed over 1,600 feet in less than 4 miles to get there--we found the little-used trail off to the right, headed into the woods and started our steepish descent which we anticipated would lead to the Overlander Trail. (For those of you scoring at home, that's the one that leads from the Dictionary. Which, of course, isn't there any longer.) However, after about 300 yards the trail just disappeared, obliterated by a new logging road.) We looked for the trail on the other side of the road but after having no success finding it, we lifted our bikes up onto our shoulders and bushwhacked it in the direction of where we were just positive it had to be.

(This, after I had the daylights scared out of me by the one logger who was up there cutting and who let a tree fall scarily in my direction. It really didn't come close to hitting me but given than it's just about exactly a year since a tree did fall on me--read about it here --I was quite afeared.)
Thing is--and I'm still trying to figure this out--when we started bushwhacking, we had probably already crossed to the other side (the east side) of the Overlander Trail, and though we sure it was ahead of us, it was actually behind us. I'm wondering, does the new logging road follow the Overlander Trail? I'll have to go back up there and check this out. It's a damn shame if it does.

Luckily, after about 45 minutes of bike-carrying bushwhacking, we found the Lost Lake Trail, a few hundred yards east and below the post where the Dictionary used to sit. From there it was the fun-as-heck descent down into and out of the Lost Lake basin and then the Arenburg Forest straightaway on the North Lost Lake Trail.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010


Here I am a couple weeks ago during our attempt to ride All of Galbraith in a Day taking a break to enjoy a cup of coffee, made for moi by Steve Hindman. I share this because Thursday's Seattle Times has photos and a little mention of our excursion in my story on Stupid Fun, dubious adventures put together just for the heck of it. Read it here.

The main focus of the story was last month's Battle of the Bikes race from Wenatchee to Ellensburg--any route you want to take, any kind of bike you want to ride. I definitely want to race it next year.

Below are a few more pics from our long, fun Galbraith in a Day ride.
Cathy Crouch, Steve H. and Steve Vanderstaaay in front of Mount Baker.
Admittedly, we missed Scorpion and Evolution, but only because they were closed for the day.

We'd ben out on the trails for seven-plus hours by this point and I think we were all a little punch drunk by now. 

Sunday, October 17, 2010


Saturday, on a crisp fall day with nary a cloud in all the Northwest, a group of us attempted to do the incredibly stupid: ride all of Galbraith Mountain's trails in a single day. That's like 72 or 78 or, as it felt like, 70 million. The intrepid riders were Cathy Crouch (above, ripping it up on Atomic Dog, or Atomic Dong, one of the two), Steve Hindman (the mastermind behind our evil plan), Steve Vanderstaay, and myself.

Above, is our list of trails and the order in which we'd attack them--Steve H. did an incredible job putting it together. He and Cathy made it the whole way--yay, hurray and huzzah!--riding the last couple hours aided by lights and finishing at 7:45 p.m. under starlight. (We'd gotten underway at 7:30 a.m.) I made it midway through the third column before failing sunlight and lack of lights forced me to abandon. (What looks like a fourth column is actually just notes, not trail names, so I made it pretty far.) Steve Vanderstaay, who knew he'd only be riding as long as his knee would allow, rode with us for about the first six hours. (Great job!)

Below, is the map of what I rode as recorded by my Garmin Edge 500--kooky, huh? In all, I pedaled 35.6 miles of trails with 6,129 feet of elevation gain. Certainly, the most Galbraith I've ever ridden in a day. Basically, I missed the Three Bears-Goldilocks area, a slice of Cabin-2 1/2, to Crazy 8's-Kung Fu, and down to the Bobs. Everything else I rode, including several lower down--Kaya, Bunny Trails, Banjoland, Mole Trap (?)--that I'd never been on before. (So, in my mountain bike career, such as it is, I can honestly say that I've ridden every trail on Galbraith.)
Below, it's about noon, and we're getting back at it after lunch and coffee just below the Towers. (I'm serious, coffee! Steve H. brought a stove, water, and Via. How's that for attention to detail?) Stunning views of Lake Whatcom, downtown B'ham and the Sound, as well as Mount Baker. 
Photo credit: Cathy Crouch
Below, our stuff. Lots of stuff. A ride like this requires lots of extra stuff which we stashed in the woods. Looks like a yard sale. 
Below, Steve H. who descends at free-fall speed, is just a blur on Atomic Dong, or Dog, or something. 
Incredible day!