Thursday, April 29, 2010

Loup Loup mystery unwound

Thursday, 29 April

Out in the middle of nowhere on my Loup Loup loop from Chelan (see previous post), not too long before the pavement ended, I rode past a complex of what looked like satellite dish thingies. They were out on a ridge maybe a half mile from the road I was on, and the sign on the gate was some made-up telecom sounding moniker. I puzzled for a while about what they might be or do, but then I rode past some other curious thing to wonder about and then the pavement ended. And then I forgot about them altogether.

This morning's Seattle Times reveals that the site houses a deep space telescope, akin to the Hubble. It's one of ten in the Very Long Baseline Array. "This system is so good that it has the ability to see fine detail equivalent to standing in New York City and reading a newspaper in Los Angeles. It peers through clouds and dust into other galaxies, into regions where planets are being formed. It has produced images that go to the very beginnings of the universe, and helped discover a black hole in the center of the Milky Way."

It seems pretty cool to me that it sits out there in our amazing resource of fruit orchards, that it takes only two technicians on site to keep it going, and that Erik Lacitis happened to write about it while it was fresh(ish) in my mind. I must try to follow up on more of the curious things I see on long rides in the boonies!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Wenatchee roubaix and Loup Loup loop

Sunday, April 18

Today's ride was the short little jaunt that is the road race at the Wenatchee omnium. However, there is rather less road than there needs to be. In places, the potholes and missing pavement stretch across the entire road, on both uphill and downhill sections. The phone camera photos don't really demonstrate the depth of the problem. And sure, most of the road is fine (if you don't ride anywhere near the right edge). But some of the road is just not there. I like paved road beneath my road bike, thanks very much.
Some of the holes are full of sand from a winter of road "maintenance." When you're riding by yourself, these are a challenge (picking them out of the shadows, finding a line). In a group of more than 2 riders, they could be treacherous. Although the course cries out for superlight carbon wheels, it could be their last hurrah. The problems start about 200 meters after the left turn at the church and continue on and off for several miles.

Yesterday was the long-miles day. I racked up 136 miles in the saddle and somewhere in the neighborhood of 6000 feet of climbing, finishing with 50 miles into a significant headwind. But only 3 stop lights and 1 WalMart. And not a single other soul did I see upon a bicycle. I rode from Chelan to Okanogan, then over Loup Loup Pass to Twisp. I stopped to take a picture (or three) at the top of the pass and reveled in the silence. Nothing to hear but birds and trees swaying in the wind. And I discovered a great bakery in Twisp, which will induce me to ride through that town again. The scariest moment was encountering a "pavement ends" sign after a string of "road work ahead" signs. Happily, the missing pavement on this road (Old 97) was replaced by oiled dirt (I didn't know they did that anymore) with only a tiny bit of gravel. It was almost as good as the paved road--and a whole lot better than the Stemilt loop above Wenatchee!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Numbers and comparisons

Monday, 12 April

130 miles of road racing for me this weekend. That’s a lot, for me. Kings Valley Road Race in Oregon, Olympic View Road Race in Washington. Similar, but not the same. 31 cat 1-2-3 women at KVRR, 29 I think at OVRR. 18-mile circuits; lots more climbing (and wind) per lap at KV. Pace was faster at OVRR, but at KV the field was lined out single file a lot more often.

Full disclosure: I admit I didn’t do much racing. I was mostly hanging on, getting in some "speed work." My average speed for nearly 3.5 hours at OVRR was about 25% faster than I ride on my own. But I also learned and observed.

Learned: Sue Butler is sublime on a bike. Most of us ride a bike; she is just there among us, effortlessly. You would not know she was pedaling to watch her in the pack. It’s beyond having a smooth pedal stroke. It’s being at one with the bike. A pleasure to behold. More practically, I learned from watching Tina how to get through the worst crosswind section at Kings Valley. On the first lap, that was a couple miles of hell for me, and I barely made it. Then I saw where and how Tina was riding, and by copying her example, the second and third laps went much better for me. My arms ended up being tired from the death grip I had on the bars to hold my position, but the legs were much happier.

Observed: A cat 2 team leader who flagrantly violated the centerline rule to get to the front to be with her peeps, apparently oblivious to the fact that others in the pack were commenting on her poor example. A cat 1 who forgot that you don’t cross the centerline into the left lane when you have a mechanical and expect service from the wheel car. A cat 2 who didn’t know where the finish line was when she started to sprint (and who was disappointed when her legs gave out before she got to the line). Cat 3s who can’t get out of the saddle and keep the bike in a straight line. A cat 2 with a pedal stroke that looks like her left ankle is unhinged.

Also observed: A lot of selfless teamwork. Active racing. And some new cat 3s who surprised themselves. Two days of good racing.

Oh yeah, race numbers. OBRA riders understand what the purpose is behind two jersey numbers. One is for the finish line, the other is for the official in the follow car. So at KV, one number sideways on your left side, one horizontal across the pockets. I wasn’t absolutely 100% certain the camera was on the left, and we got to the start less than 30 minutes before the first race went off, so I had just prepinned one number on each side. I was the oddball in the pack (OK, in more ways than one). Next day, at OVRR, I got my act together: one number on the left, one on the pockets. Everybody else had their second number pinned for the nonexistent camera on the right side of the road. We are stuck with the requirement for two jersey numbers because the officials want them, but that second number is just about useless when it’s pinned sideways in your other armpit. Sit in a follow car sometime and see for yourself.