Wednesday, December 24, 2014

merry christmas!

Here's wishing a very Merry Christmas and all the best in 2015 to all my friends and family!!!

Saturday, December 20, 2014

jingle bell road

Pedaling, pedaling, pedaling on
Pedaling smart and pedaling hard
I ride and I ride, and continue to climb
I'll get there sometime

Riding up, riding up, then coasting down
A smile at the top replaces my frown
Asked why I ride into thin mountain air
It's because it's there

What a great day, what a great way
To ride the week away
And I'm sure, on a bike tour
It seems like I'm working , but it's really play

Pedaling, pedaling, pedaling on
I've weighed the pros, and I've weighed the cons
If I am willing to put in the time
I can do the climb

In the summer, it's a bummer
If you can't ride all week
If you do ride, on the roadside
You'll see some bikes that are pretty sleek

Riding up, riding up, then coasting down
A smile at the top replaces my frown
Asked why I ride into then mountain air
It's because it's there

Sunday, November 23, 2014

i'm loving it

No, not McDonald's. I'm a month into my new adventure, training to be the bike shop manager for Scheels in Overland Park, opening next June, and I'm loving it! For the past one, and next three months I'm spending my time in Omaha, training at a great store that's been open for about 10 years. My schedule has me spending ten days straight working there, and four days back home, about three hours away. At first that was really hard; new job, new town, away from family. And after spending my whole career in retail drugstores, getting familiar with a whole new lingo was a challenge. But my wife and dogs are doing great, and the culture and people of Scheels are awesome, and have made this as easy as it could possibly be.

I head back tomorrow morning for another 10 days, and I have a feeling that the next several weeks are going to fly by as we enter the fourth quarter, or perhaps more precisely the two-minute drill of the retail game, the holiday season.

This time of year the bike shop has shrunk to a fraction of its normal size, and North Face, Under Armour, and Spyder jackets have filled in the void. Since winter gave us a sneak preview in Omaha we've been selling coats, hats, gloves, sweaters, and base-layers like crazy. It's been kind of a baptism by fire to the world of selling at Scheels. It's been fun, but as cool as North Face is I can't wait to sell more bike stuff.

My wife and I did get to tour the new store on Friday and see the progress in construction. This store is going to be amazing! Come late June, if you're anywhere near Kansas City, come to Overland Park and see the newest Scheels. In the back corner of the first floor you'll find a guy with a smile on his face in the bike shop. That will be me.

Friday, October 24, 2014

new adventure

After managing retail drugstores for a long, long time, Friday was my last day. I've known for a long time that I wanted to do something different, and I've finally found that something. I start training next week to be the bike shop manager for the new Scheels in Overland Park, KS. The latest edition of this awesome store, based out of my hometown, Fargo, ND, is set to open in June of 2015. I am so excited that I'm going to be part of it.

The next few months will have me going back and forth to Omaha to train in the Scheels located there. I'll make the trip up and down I-29 more than a Royals prospect. After training I'll be involved in setting up the new store, preparing for grand opening. Making a living helping others find the right bike for their adventures sounds like a blast.

Osco Drug and CVS Health have been great places to work, but I had no real affection for Tylenol or Head and Shoulders. But bikes? Mmmmmm bikes. I have often joked that I still didn't know what I want to be when I grow up. Maybe now I know. A great weekend to all of you, and if you're in Kansas someday, and you need a bike.........

Sunday, October 12, 2014

kind choices

I've always enjoyed cooking. Part of the reason is that I've always enjoyed eating. But I also like the creative process of putting ingredients together to make a sum greater than its parts. When I became a vegan I was presented with some new challenges when it came to cooking, but not as many, or as difficult, as you might imagine.

Over the last two years I've tried dozens of vegan recipes, many trying to re-create familiar favorites with animal friendly ingredients; Alfredo sauce using blended cauliflower, "meatballs" made from beans, and "cheesecake" using tofu.
 My culinary journey has also included sampling some meat substitutes. Mexican veggie protein crumbles make for great tacos, especially when you add lettuce, hot sauce, and some dairy-free cheese. Seitan works great for vegan hot wings, and as a replacement for beef in stew. Tempeh is a soy product than can replace meat in a lot of dishes. And I've recently found a real summer treat in Tofurky's Beer Brats.
And with a quick Google search you can find tons of recipes for things like sloppy joes made with lentils, and burgers from black beans and sweet potatoes. You can find recipes for General Tso's Chicken, minus the chicken, plus tofu or cauliflower. I've made them both and they were delicious.
I've made feta cheese from almonds and tried several dairy-free cheese options. Daiya is my favorite for shreds. And I love Go Veggie parmesan-style topping for pasta or pizza.

I guess what I'm saying is that there are a lot of choices we can make when we plan our menus, make our shopping trips, and cook our favorite meals that don't contribute to the suffering of any animals. Would you be willing to make a few changes? Can you make some kind choices?

Saturday, October 4, 2014

crmbt 2015 route

The Colorado Rocky Mountain Bike Tour recently announced their planned route for 2015. It offers 472 miles of beautiful alpine scenery and visits to some of the great cities in Colorado.

Day 1 - The tour will start in Gunnison, a place that's very familiar to anyone who has spent much time on Colorado bike tours. Riders will take US50 out of town and start a climb that is really tame, until it's not. Over the first 33 miles they will gain about 700 feet in elevation. Over the next 10 miles they will gain close to 3,000 feet, arriving at the top of Monarch Pass,  11,312 feet, before descending all the way to Salida.
Day 2 - From Salida riders will head north to Buena Vista on US285. They will follow that highway as it merges with US24 and cross Trout Creek Pass as the tour did this year. But instead of staying on 24 at the split, they'll follow 285 to Fairplay, where they'll turn onto CO9 for the last leg of the day. Highway 9 will take riders all the way to Breckenridge for the next overnight, but not before a climb over Hoosier Pass at 11,539 feet. This will be the first time CRMBT has ever done Hoosier Pass.
Day 3 - The third day will feature some classic Colorado riding, including two-thirds of the Copper Triangle done in reverse. From Breckenridge riders will follow the bike path through Frisco to Copper Mountain and all the way to Vail Pass. The screaming descent will be on the road that I-70 replaced in the area, now closed to traffic! Frontage roads and bike paths will get them back to US24, this time heading southwest to Leadville, the highest incorporated city in the US at 10,152 feet. It's pretty impressive to be at that altitude and look out and see mountains towering above.
Day 4 - After averaging 74 miles for the first three days, riders should be warmed up for the "Queen Stage" of the tour. After heading south to Twin Lakes, the route heads east/northeast crossing Independence Pass, 12,095 feet. From there it's a long, winding road, downhill, to Aspen, then back on a bike path almost all of the way to Glenwood Springs for a much-deserved rest day.
Day 5 - Rest day in Glenwood Springs. Riders might visit the hot springs, do a little rafting, or just relax, maybe with a short ride on the trails around town. Whatever they choose, this is a great place for a day the middle of your vacation.

Day 6 - This day won't be the longest, or highest elevation day, but it will be beautiful. A little more bike path, some coke ovens, and McClure Pass, 8,866 feet. Then a nice descent, and an ever warmer ride into Hotchkiss.
Day 7 - The route on the final day will take riders through the Black Canyon of the Gunnison River. It's a beautiful place to ride a bike. There's no mountain pass, but they will climb to over 9,000 feet and summit at a trail-head that's called Hermit's Rest, if I remember correctly. There are spectacular views and a pretty good descent back down to US50. From there they'll ride along the Blue Mesa Reservoir and Blue Mesa. By the time they bid adieu to the reservoir they'll only have about 10 miles left to Gunnison.
Riders will roll into Gunnison with 472+ miles and 7 mountain passes under their belts, lots of great memories, and if they're like me, a whole bunch of pictures. If this sounds like fun to you, check it out at CRMBT. Get signed up early for the best rate.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

fast against slaughter

Tomorrow, October 2nd, I will be fasting. I've pledged to participate in #FastAgainstSlaughter as part of World Day for Farmed Animals. I learned about this event through Farm Animals Rights Movement (FARM). The date for the fast was chosen because it it Ghandi's birthday.
The purpose of my doing this is twofold. First, I want to raise awareness. Health and environment aside, billions of animals are killed for food every year. Billions. And I truly believe that most consumers have never really thought about that. If they did think about it, learn how the system works, look inside factory farms to see where their food comes from, they would make a change.
Second, I want the day to serve as a reminder to me that the choices I make, and the encouragement I give others, is important. This is not simply about eating meat or not. It's about a system that has devolved into something bad, where cruelty and abuse are all too common, hidden from the light of day, figuratively and literally.

  " Most of these animals are raised on factory farms, where they are confined, mutilated, and bred to grow so large, so quickly, that many of them literally suffer to death."

As a species, we have evolved to be able to control many other species. With that power comes responsibility. We are part of a system that is unsustainable. For our health and our environment we need to rethink the choices we make, mostly out of habit. But, tomorrow is about the animals. It's about our accepting that responsibility, and committing to humane treatment for all animals.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

pragmatic vegan - ditch dairy

It would definitely be easier, more convenient to be a vegetarian, rather than a vegan, sometimes. And I will admit I miss cheese more than meat. But something that started out about me, then about the world in which I live, has ended up being about animals.

 I've always thought of myself as an "animal lover". For most of my life I've shared my home with dogs. I've even met a few cats that I like. But for a long time I never thought about being against cruelty to animals, and being part of a system that is nothing but cruel.

Factory farming has given animals less space, often keeping them indoors their entire lives. It has shown little regard for their welfare, or for that matter, the consumer's welfare, using barbaric means to move sick or "downer" animals into the food chain to save their profits. And ultimately, no matter the quality of their existence, animals have their very lives ended for our pleasure.

Some would reason that continuing to consume dairy is "kinder" than eating meat. But if you look at dairy production, you'll see it's anything but kind. First, what could be more painful to a mother than having her newborn ripped from her only hours after birth? But a dairy cow's milk is a product, not to be wasted on her young. Male calves are often stuffed into veal crates, sealing their fate to a completely miserable, and mercifully short life. Females face the same sad lives as their mothers.

Dairy cows are repeatedly inseminated to become pregnant again and again, so they'll keep producing milk. They have become replaceable parts in the factory, and when they are "spent" after only a fraction of their natural life expectancy, they are sent to slaughter as well.

Undercover videos show workers abusing animals in deplorable conditions. That is what factory farming is! That is what it does! If you want to continue to consume dairy, take time to watch what happens on a dairy farm. At least be an educated consumer. But, if you are open to taking a step, let it be this one. Ditch dairy.

If you can't give up cheese just yet, how about starting with milk? Their are many wonderful substitutes: "milk" made from almonds, coconut and soy. Their are some dairy free cheeses too, and they're getting better all the time. If you can't give it up, how about cutting down? Every little bit helps if we do it together.

If you want a glimpse into the dairy industry, please read this:

Grace was treated like trash

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

really nice bikes

Let me start by saying I have a nice bike. It's a Trek Madone, and it's probably more than my cycling ability warrants. But when you ride a week-long bike tour, you find yourself among all kinds of riders with all kinds of bikes. And some of them are really nice bikes! There are riders of every size, shape, age and gender.
But the range of bikes is just as broad. There's brands from all over the world: Fuji, Orbea, Specialized, and Trek, Cervelo, Giant and  Scott. If you pay attention you're likely to see frames made of steel, aluminum, titanium and carbon fiber. And then there's different grades of carbon fiber, and different levels of components that one can put on a bike. I've owned bikes with cranksets, derailleurs, and shifters called 105, Deore, Tiagra, and Ultegra. And they are all made by Shimano!

 Now, the Ultegra components are pretty good; they're what I have on my Madone. But the top of the line available from Shimano is the Dura-Ace line. And something that's only been available in the last few years, and seems to be getting better all the time, is the Dura-Ace Di2 (Digital Integrated Intelligence). That's right, electronic shifting.
On this year's CRMBT, I noticed a number of bike with electronic shifting, including Stefan's new Wilier. I told him he didn't need a faster bike, he already flies by my at some point during each day and yells a quick, "Hi Jeff". Stefan pointed out that with a touch of a button the shifter puts you in the next gear. If you're descending and want to go up several gears you just hold the button a little longer. It never needs adjusting, and the chain never rubs against the derailleur.

I also noticed a trend towards road bikes with disc brakes. One rider told me he'd blown several tires by over-heating his rims on descents in the Boulder area, so opted for disc brakes on his new Seven.
As we gathered in South Dakota several years ago for the first bike tour I had ever done, we watched as cars pulled in with bikes on racks. In some cases there was a real question about which was worth more, the car or the bike! Whatever the components or frame material, it's fun to see so many beautiful bikes gathered together to do what they were designed to do, ride!

Saturday, September 13, 2014

crmbt day 1 - colorado springs to canon city

Sunday, 8-3

Woke up to the symphony of zippers; tent flaps, luggage, etc. and prepared for day 1. Sherpa Ville always has coffee and hot water for oatmeal, and I had picked up some bananas and bagels. The school wasn't far away, and the porta-potties were closer. After dressing and packing my bag I left my tent and waited for Peter to give his talk to kick-off the tour.

A large group was winding it's way through the neighborhood and missed the turn for Lake Circle  near The Broadmoor. We climbed by the golf course and when we saw the sign for the zoo, I knew we were not on the right track. Some folks thought turning right was appropriate, but I just turned around, went back down the hill until I saw cyclists heading a direction that would get us to our first highway for the day, CO115.
Pretty views and sunny skies made for a nice morning. The shoulder was plenty wide, but held a lot of debris, and by the time I finished I think I had seen a dozen riders changing flats on the side of the road. Of course, I asked each one if they had what they needed, but they were all well prepared.
As we neared Canon City I saw what I thought might be a high school, but soon realized it was surrounded by a high fence topped with razor wire. We didn't stop there.
After some rollers we ended up 700 feet lower than we started. But we would go a little higher tomorrow. We were mostly in by noon, and the tents were going up in Sherpa Ville. After a nice shower I walked to Subway for a veggie sub, then returned to the school where a lot of us spent the whole afternoon visiting, enjoying the shade, and telling cycling stories.

That evening I walked to a Mexican place with Thom and Glenn for a good meal and a nice visit. I was in my sleeping bag fairly early to be ready for a planned 94 miles tomorrow including our first mountain pass. This was a good first day to warm up the legs and let us flatlanders acclimatize before the serious fun began.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

pragmatic vegan

In the almost two years that I've been a vegan I've read a lot of blogs, posts and feeds about health, the environment, and animal rights. On the whole, the writers and readers are of a like mind. The only problem with preaching to the choir is you have to get someone to join the choir before he can hear you preach.

I believe that all reasonable people would be interested in positive change in those areas, but maybe not ready, willing or able to make the leap to vegan. That's OK. I would like to offer a series of occasional posts taking a look at what we, together, can do to make a difference. For starters, can we all agree that animal abuse and cruelty should not be tolerated?

If people saw what takes place on the farms that supply their food, they would demand a stop to it. The corporations that run the farms know that, and funnel huge amounts of money to politicians who propose "ag-gag" laws, which make it illegal for whistle-blowers to record acts of cruelty and abuse. That's right. Instead of trying to stop the abuse, they want it to be illegal to bring it to light!

Is it too much to ask that the animals raised for food be treated humanely? Please take the time to learn the sources of your food. How does your state stack up when it comes to animal protection?
Whether through donation, signing petitions, or participating in organized activities, can you support those standing up for farm animals? Like Animal Legal Defense Fund?

If we use animals for food, we should at least know how they're raised, how they're treated. Let's take our heads out of the sand and take a look at what's happened to the "family farm". 

Saturday, August 30, 2014

colorado rocky mountain bike tour 2014

 Click on the black bars under "road tunes" in the side bar to hear the music with the video.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

crmbt day 7 - woodland park to colorado springs

Saturday, 8-9

From Woodland Park to Colorado Springs is a quick, 20-mile, mostly downhill ride on the ever busier US Highway 24. Even with the last couple climbs in town to get back to the high school, this ride should take no more than a couple hours. Oh, right, we had a little detour planned for 20-miles up, 20-miles back. Pikes Peak, baby!
 I took these pictures the Saturday before the tour started when I drove out to Woodland Park to recon the route that would get us off US24 a little sooner, save us from one small climb, and deliver us to the mother of all climbs. I wanted some shots of where you pay your fee and enter Pikes Peak Toll Road because I knew that when I went through the gates in one week, it would be much earlier, and much, much darker.

A handful of us, including Steve and Paul, left the high school at 5:00am with all of our front and rear lights blazing and blinking. We got off of US24 onto Green Mountain Falls Road and followed it as it changed names a few time over the next few miles. Then a right onto Chipita Park Road for a mile or so. When we came to where I knew we would have to make a sharp right turn and immediately start climbing toward the toll booth, we came upon the surreal sight of dozens of bikes rolling through the dark, their blinking lights announcing their presence.

Peter greeted us as we went through the entrance; our tolls had been paid by CRMBT as part of our registration. And we continued to climb. Those responsible for Pikes Peak had requested riders be through the gates between 5:30 and 6:00am, to give us a chance to spread out and be a good way up the mountain before cars are allowed through starting at 7:30am. And, as we climbed, spread out we did!
 Looking down on US24 as morning broke.
 So many things to watch for.
 Harold and Vida at the day's first aid station just past Crystal Creek Reservoir.

I don't think that there are a lot of cars waiting to go through the gates right at 7:30am. But there are at least a few. We had the mountain to ourselves for over 2 hours. Then at 7:51 we were over halfway to the top when I realized: "We are not alone".  A minivan with Illinois plates rolled by followed by a few other vehicles. There would be stretches of no cars, followed by a group going by us, but the traffic wasn't bad for a Saturday in August.
After the Crystal Creek Reservoir aid station, 7 miles into the climb, we kept climbing, but with some sections where the grade leveled out, or even dropped a little, giving riders a chance to regain some speed and catch their breath. The next aid station would be 7 miles further up, and the final one at the summit. The last 5 miles to the summit was, at least for me, tough. There were a few steep sections where I looked down to see that my speed was down to 2.5 mph! In a couple stretches I thought that I could walk as fast as I was riding, so I did! Just to get out of the saddle, try to catch my breath, and continue to make some progress gave me a little lift, and let me think that I really was going to make it after all.
As we neared the summit we were treated to views that were nothing short of spectacular! For those of us upward-velocity challenged riders there was plenty of encouragement from other riders passing us on the way to the summit, and descending from it. A few words can really help when you're pushing so hard, bumping up against the limits of your abilities. After what seemed like an endless supply of switchbacks, we made it to the unpaved parking lot at 14,100 feet!
 I went to the gift shop/cafe and had tea (the coffee dispenser was empty) and donuts (no, I didn't ask if they were vegan, I just ate them). It's self serve and when I got to the cashier I told her I was paying for 2 donuts, but I'd already eaten one while in line. Deb (above) and David were at a table and called me over to join them. They told me about signing in at the aid station so CRMBT could put the names of all who made it to the summit on their website. Tourists who had driven up looked at us with what could have been awe, or pity. But they didn't exclaim "I can't believe you rode a bike up here" like I've heard on Independence Pass and other summits. If they had Glenn had supplied the appropriate response: "Yeah, it's faster than walking".
The descent wasn't the kind I love. It was beautiful and awesome, but way too steep and curvy to go fast. I had to keep pumping my brakes to keep the speed under control and stay on the road. Once  back below tree-line there were some nice sections where you could get some good speed, and make great time towards the finish line in Colorado Springs.

I stopped at both aid stations again to refill bottles and let my brakes cool. I also stopped and helped change a flat tire, of which I, fortunately, had none all week. Back on US24 we had much more traffic to contend with, but we were still going downhill at a good rate. Back in town I tried to stay on the cleanest part of the shoulder. It wasn't always easy. I was relieved to see Dale, one of the incredible volunteers, to tell us where we needed to turn. The rest of the way to the high school was on much more low-traffic streets, but they still held a couple of climbs to get there. After 160+ miles and 4 summits the last 2 days, those hills were almost my demise.

I finally did make it to the high school to find the showers were ice cold. I washed my hair and thought the rest of the shower could wait until I got to my motel. I found a Qdoba for lunch, checked in at the Radisson Airport, showered and took a 2 hour nap. I was so tired! When I woke, I watched TV for a while and didn't even have the energy to go looking for dinner. I ordered a pizza, and was back in bed shortly after dinner.

When I woke in the middle of the night I got up, made coffee and headed for home. One nap at a rest area, a few stops to walk around the car and do some stretches, and I made it home to my wife and puppies early Sunday afternoon. It was good to get unpacked and wash some bike clothes. It was great that I also had taken Monday off and had one more day to recover from one of the hardest, and most satisfying, things I'd ever done.