Sunday, March 22, 2015

When farm animals attack

The first thing I'll say is that I'm ok. The 2nd thing I'll say is that my Mt bike isn't. And the third thing I'll say is that it could have been SO much worse.

OK. Now that I have your interest, I'll tell you what happened...but you'll have to bear with me, cuz I can be quite long winded sometimes getting to the point.

Saturday morning dawned clear and cold, but with a quite reasonable projected high temp of 72 for the day. My plan was for me to go on a solo Mt bike ride. My MTB partner of late (Mike) was going down to Fontana to the US Cup MTB race today (this is the same race series that Cannondale is giving away a new MTB every race, and Fatty was the FIRST winner). This weekend is the 2nd race of that series. But I digress. I was going to go back to Sierra Madre Ridge and give it a go for the long haul. I tried it about a month ago and it rained on me (and I slid out on a mucky corner pretty close to my car and then had to put my bike (and me) back in my car all icky sticky (still have mud in there from that). There was a perfect forecast for this long out and back ride...not too hot, not too cold. The rain was weeks ago so the road (the entire ride is a dirt road) should be in pretty good shape.

I left home a bit after 8am full of hope and excitement at the long hard ride I had waiting for me (I like rides like this). Got to the start point and ready to ride, turned on my GPS and my SPOT unit, and lit out for the long climb about 9:05am. It was still chilly but warming up quick. This ride is pretty much a 2 hour plus climb, with just a few descents sprinkled in for good measure. If I make it all the way to my projected turn-arund point it will be 22 miles out, and about 5000' of climbing (with another few thousand on the way back). The road is a rather typical ridge winds it's way up the spine of the Sierra Madre ridge from Hwy 166, going past Miranda Pines (a popular camping spot) and keeps on going. IF you have camping gear you can take this ridge system in a long arc for about a hundred and fifty miles, coming out clear over by Lake Cachuma. Todays ride would only take me to the Bates Canyon road intersection (which is the next dirt-road intersection that takes you back to rt 166).

All was well...I was feeling great and the weather was perfect. I did have a headwind already, but that is somewhat welcome as it keeps you cool as you constantly climb (and it turns out I set my best time so far on the initial 9 mile climb up to Miranda Pines today). Once you pass Miranda Pines you keep climbing, and you can see the ridge ahead of you, climbing up and up. I had only seen 1 vehicle thus far (it's a somewhat popular 4wd road, and also the street legal off-road motorcycle touring thing is big up here too), so it was a very light traffic day. That is fine with me...I've begun doing more MT biking lately as I've almost been killed (not kidding) on my road bike 3 times in the last 6 months...and thought I'd give that a break. Not sure what it is around here that makes it so scary for the road bike....but it is.

It was just about mile 14 of my climb when on a slight downhill curvy section I came around a corner and there were some cows in the road. Specifically, they were trotting along on the right side of the road, going in the same direction I was. From the time I saw them I only had a few seconds to formulate a plan. Should I stop? (then what?) Do I keep going and pass them? That seemed like the best option at the time. So I kept rolling towards them. Not sure how many there were, I'm guessing about 5 or 6 (I only had a brief look at them). All I really saw was the last cow. It was massive. ROUND. Not oval shaped like a regular cow. HUGE. And trotting along as tail-end-Charlie. He was on the right side, and I was passing on the left. All was right with the world.

As I came up on him (her? I have no idea, but there were no horns is all I really know) I saw it's head turn and look at me as I approached. No big deal...the cow looked at me. Suddenly the cow changed direction right as I was alongside ready to pour on the gas. In the blink of an eye this massive cow veered 90 degrees and launched at me, and hit me like a rodeo bull taking out the clown. One moment I'm on my bike, the very next instant I'm flying thru the air off the left side of the road (which is the steep downhill side). I saw the bull turn and charge but there was nowhere to go. Just to the side of the road was a quite thick impenetrable wall of bushes. Impenetrable if you go at them horizontal, but not if you fly over them. That cow must have knocked me at least 10 to 15' down the hill, where I landed in more bushes on my back (I think..all I know is my face didn't get scratched up thankfully, and my back that's my deduction).

In that brief moment I was flying thru the air (after being hit REALLY HARD by the cow) all I could think was "this is bad". As I landed, the thick bushes broke my fall and then kept me from falling/rolling another 100 yards or more down the steep embankment. My next thought was "is the cow chasing me down the bank?" That thought really scared me, as it was quite steep and I did NOT want a GINORMOUS cow rolling over me down this steep hillside. Thankfully there was no more cow. As I stood up in the broken bushes, my next thought was "where is my shoe?" The cow hit me on my right side, and my right shoe was missing...I was standing in the dirt and broken bush/sticks with just the sock. I fought my way out of the bush and crawled my way back-up the bank, moving over to the right where I could see an opening to the road. I peeked over to my left and thankfully the mean cow and his friends were gone. I was alone.

I made my way over to my bike which was lying right on the edge of the road by the bushes (that I flew over).  By this time I was taking stock of my situation...was I hurt? I was sure scratched up. My right hip hurt (I believe that's where the cow hit me, but it's all just a blur actually). My right upper inside calf had a nice long chunk of scraped skin (which had a nice long lump under the entire thing). That might have happened as I abruptly was crushed into my bike and then off/over the bushes...I have no idea what part of me hit what on the way. My right ankle hurt a lot and was missing some skin too...and turns out my right heel is all black & blue. That must have happened when the cow literally popped me out of my shoe with it's blindside linebacker hit. I wouldn't have thought it possible to come out of the's strapped on pretty good...but I did. And thankfully the shoe was lying right there by the bike.

So now I've done a quick damage control report on my body...I'm ok in the big scheme of things (LUCKY!). So now what about the bike? Initial scan it looked fine. OK, not really. BOTH wheels were taco'd BAD. Apparently the mean cow trounced on not one but BOTH of them. And it seems my beautiful Shimano XTR tubeless wheels (which have withstood 11 years and countless miles of abuse) gave it up quick when a HUGE cow stomped on them. I had no camera with me or I would have taken a picture. I've never seen 2 wheels that folded over.

It was then that I freaked out some and started screaming at the cow. "THANK YOU VERY MUCH BROWN COW!" "DID YOU REALLY HAVE TO DESTROY MY  BIKE YOU STUPID COW?" (and a few other things along that line). But it fell on deaf ears, as he was gone. And I was 14 miles from my car. With a badly broken bike. And no phone (not that it would do any good up here). I did have my SPOT unit though (Satellite POsition Tracker)...and it was running. So Jeannie could pop up my map-page and see my GPS positions every 10 minutes any time she wanted. Some of the features of the SPOT units (along with sending out your GPS position anywhere on the globe every 10 minutes where it can be seen by anybody with the link to your map page) is the 4 "message" buttons. 3 of them are programmable by me. And by "programmable", I mean I can set up a specific email message to up to 10 people, and when I push that button the satellite will see my signal and send that email to the people I selected. The first one I have setup for "I'm at the half-way point and am now headed back". The 2nd one is "I'm done for the day and  safe and sound" which I send at the end of my ride/hike/whatever.

The 3rd one is a bit more in depth. It's my personal "emergency" button. To push this button I have to lift up a little flap and press/hold for about 5 seconds. There's no way on earth to accidentally press this button. This one I have never used before. It says something like "I'm OK, but something has happened and I'm going to be late." I envisioned using this one in the event that my bike ever breaks and I'm on foot. Like today. The 4th one is the actual satellite 911 call (anywhere in the world). Once I pry up the cover and  push this button, it sends my name and location to the same satellite center that receives emergency messages from ships and such. They then notify the proper authorities wherever in the world you are of who you are, and exactly WHERE you are (by GPS coordinates) and that you need help.I hope to never need that button. But today I did need my personal emergency button. I had done rough calculations and figured it would take at LEAST 4 hours for me to walk those 14 miles. So I lifted that flap and pushed the button. And resumed carrying my bike. Switching shoulders, holding it in both hands, it was killing me. There was NO WAY I was going to be able to carry my bike to my car. Should I leave it and go? ABANDON my bike? NOT A CHANCE! Not when I'm able anyway...and I was able. I just had to figure out a way to get home.

So I stopped walking and using the "2 rocks propping up the wheel with the badly bent part in the middle of them" method I stomped and stomped my broken wheels into somewhat more of a circle shape from the taco shape. I was hoping to roll my bike down the mountain. Being tubeless wheels/tires, the tires were blown out of the beads and totally flat as the rims were actually sheared in two where the cow stomped them. Multiple spokes were blown out and dangling around, and I had to wrap them around other spokes to keep them from grabbing the brakes each turn around. With the broken out spokes and totally sheared rims, there was zero chance of actually sitting on my bike and coasting for even a little bit. So I pushed on. And stopped again and again to TRY to get the darn wheels to roll thru the frame. They would roll 3/4 of a turn, then catch and drag a few feet, then roll another 3/4 turn. I did it that for a mile or so and stopped AGAIN. Waked some more, and stopped AGAIN. Finally I got both of them to sort-of roll past the long as I maintained constant pressure on the handlebars and pushed (downhill)...though it was wearing away the frame annodizaton where the rear tire was badly rubbing on the frame...but it was either that or carry it...or abandon it (not an option). Note: the front fork has lots more room for the tire to be WAY out of round and still's the rear that was my problem for that first few miles).

So I walked. Somewhere between 30 minutes and an hour after I sent the "I'm ok but I'll be late cuz something happened" emergency SPOT alert, I thought to re-check my SPOT Unit and make sure it's still in "Track mode" (where it sends my position every 10 minutes). No it wasn't. The little covered personal emergency light was still on. Seems it had been sending this message over and over apparently (I didn't know that, as I've never used this button before).

I have Jeannie on the email distribution for my emergency email, but also my brother Greg and his wife Marla. I have them on it just in case Jeannie is working (or busy) and doesn't see the email that I'll be "late" (they both have fancy cell phones that get email...and we don't). Well...that part worked like a charm. Marla got the email(s) and called Greg, who was out on his usual solo Saturday Century road-ride. So here's Marla getting email after email (the same one) that something happened and I'm going to be late. And she was obviously worried (THANKS Marla! I can't tell you how much I appreciate how much you both care, and the trouble I put you through yesterday...Greg was ready to jump in his car and make the 3 hour drive north to help out even). So NOW I know that once I hit EITHER of the emergency buttons, they don't stop sending their emergency message (either my pre-programmed email OR the actually 911 distress call) until either my SPOT lithium batteries go dead, OR I Turn it off. When I saw that it wasn't in track mode (after what I thought was somewhere around 1/2 to 1 hour), I turned it off and back on again, and then put it back in "track mode" and continued my long mosey towards my car. So Marla had called Greg, who had called Jeannie alerting her to my predicament, and Greg even suggested that she call my local bike shop (Main Street Cycles) and see if they know anybody who can find out if I'm ok. So Jeannie sent an email with my SPOT map web-page link to the bike shop where Bob (the main man down at Main Street Cycles) looked at it and knew exactly where I was, and he suggested that she call the  Forest Service (at that point my SPOT wasn't yet back in Track mode).

As I was blissfully unaware of brew-ha-ha I had begun back home, I continued my solo hike with my broken bike. Walk walk walk. And walk some more. I was holding a steady pace around 3.5mph (which is pretty slow, considering that I climbed up this road at about 4.5 to 5mph). Re-doing my math over and over in my head I was figuring I could get to my car around 4 to 4:30pm. However, I was thinking SURELY a truck would come by and give me a ride down. And I was right...about an hour into my LONG hike a truck came by. I was pushing my wobbling bike down the right side of the road when I heard him come up behind I held out my left hand with my palm open for him to slow down. He didn't. Didn't pay me even the slightest attention. He pulled as far to the left as he could (the dirt road isn't that wide) to get around me, and just drove right on by. I couldn't believe it! What planet must he have been from to not even open his passenger window and ask if everything was alright? I'm in the middle of nowhere, pushing a badly broken bike, with my hand out for help and looking back at him. Did I miss something? Should I have JUMPED OUT in the middle of the road to stop him? (I wasn't hurt, but I could have REALLY have used a ride). He didn't even look back at me as he drove away. I was aghast. And forlorn. And even quite MIFFED! I still had 11 miles to walk! Wow...thanks a LOT buddy! I'm scratching YOU from my Christmas Card list, you can count on THAT! (when I finally get home that is).

And so I kept on walking. And back home, Jeannie had noticed that my position was updating again now that I put my SPOT back in "Track" she knew I was moving. Slowly...but moving. She accurately  guessed my bike was broken and I was she wasn't too worried. If it came to it I could push the 911 button at any time and get rescued....but she knows me and I won't do that unless I have to. But Greg and Marla were still worried...(they didn't have the map page showing I was moving again...all they both had is the gazillion emails...which turns out to be 11 looking at my SPOT page this morning). Greg figured I must be hurt. So the phone calls between Southern California and Santa Maria were fast and furious...all while I was on a lovely Saturday stroll with my Mt bike. I had LOTS of time to think things over as I walked. I still can't really come up with any way to change what happened...the cows were suddenly there and I didn't have a lot of choice....things happened quick. Though I have to admit that I never expected the rodeo-bull attack. I thought cows were mostly afraid of us.

It took me about 4-1/2 hours to walk the entire 14 miles. And that was the best pace I could hold. Which isn't too bad really...backpacking it takes us all day to go 14 miles. And all I had to do is push my busted bike. Downhill (mostly). And still it sucked. Turns out Mt biking shoes aren't really equipped for hiking. I have some blisters on my feet in a few places (and my right big toe had pushed right thru my sock, and has a nice hot-spot there for sure too)...but that's all of small consequence in the big scheme of things.

Here's some shots of my broken wheels:

These first two shots are the front. Keep in mind looking at this 2nd shot that I had to stop 5 or 6 times to stomp the rim into shape so it would roll thru the fork (the front was easier as it has a wider gap to roll thru).

 And here's the rear. The 2nd shot shows clearly where he stomped it...and it appears he got this one TWICE, as it's cracked in half like the front just the other side of the broken off valve stem (as you can see in the first pic). They're a total write-off, I doubt very much I can even get replacement rims (though I'l look into it). The spokes are all special order, and I have to assume they all are stressed...once you break one they all are weakened. At a minimum I'd need to replace 2 spokes on each wheel and the rims. Considering I HOPE To be getting a new mt bike SOMEDAY (a Ripley 29'er is my dream), I don't see putting any money back into these. They were sure nice while they lasted tho (Jeannie got me these wheels 10 years ago for my Christmas, New Years, Ground-Hogs Day, Easter, Memorial Day, 4th of July, Labor Day and Thanksgiving gift (they weren't cheap).
If you can remember waaaay back at the beginning of the post I mentioned how things could have been SO MUCH worse. Here's what I thought about during my forced march. IF the up-hill had been on the left side (where I was) and the downhill-side of the mountain on the right side (when the cow was trotting along just before he attacked)...I think I might not be so happy right now. As it was, he FLUNG me down the mountain and out of his sight. Done and gone, threat eliminated. IF it had been the uphill bank instead that he smashed me into, I'm afraid he would most likely would have come at me over and over again, pummeling me into I would have not been able to get out of his sight. I'm only guessing he (she) was at LEAST 1000lbs (2000lbs? I have no idea what a LARGE cow weighs...this one was about as big as I've ever seen. It was MASSIVE. And it was brown. With no horns (now there's a small miracle...horns would have been OH so much worse). That's all I know about this particular cow. And that it apparently REALLY doesn't like being passed. Who knew cows suffered from road rage?

Another thing I'm thankful for: the bushes I landed in when I fell from the sky. THANK YOU BUSHES! It could just as easily been a tree, or rocks, or anything else that's substantially less cushionny than a breakable bush which saved me from tumbling down the mountain-side. Also I was quite thankful to find my shoe. It could have been almost anywhere. It could have 'catapulted' it way off down the mountain-side as I was walloped off of my bike, where I might never have found it. THAT would have sucked. The 14 mile walk was bad enough with BOTH shoes (did I mention how STIFF cycling shoes are, and how uncomfortable they truly are for hiking?) And the final thing I was REALLY thankful for: that I was not really HURT. Gosh, I could have been hurt SO BAD. That cow stomped on my bike after bashing me, and my fancy expensive wheels crumpled like paper. I'm guessing my leg bones would have stood up about the same if he had a chance to stomp them (or my body and all those necessary things like kidneys, and my liver, and all those other soft bits hidden inside). And then I would have needed that emergency rescue. Did I mention that an emergency rescue can be EXPENSIVE? Like IF they need a helicopter, it can easily go over 10 grand? I think I'd rather walk for a few hours in my stiff shoes, thank you very much.

OH...and I was down to about a quarter mile or less to go, another truck came by. Yep...that's my luck. This one stopped of course, but I could see I was very close to my car at this point, so I thanked them and kept walking...and in about 5 minutes or so I was at my car...done. OH MY GOSH my car has NEVER looked so nice! 

It's now Sunday morning, and I'm sitting here (safe) in the house taking stock of my injuries...I notice my right hip hurts some. I think that MUST be where that monster slammed me. My entire right leg is pretty scratched and scuffed up, mostly on the inside, and missing skin here and there...and the ankle hurts a fair bit too and is also missing some nice chunks of skin. But the most complaining at this point is coming from my LEFT knee. It was nicely swollen this morning and I'm really hobbling around. I have absolutely NO IDEA what happened there. Maybe it's just not very pleased with my 14 mile fast hike in hard bike-shoes...but I'm quite thankful that it didn't feel like that yesterday. That 14 miles would be a MUCH longer hike today, IF I could even bear it. I did pop an 800mg Motrin last night and again this morning after I got up...and I've been sitting with my coffee and an ice pack on it all morning. But all in all I guess I'm really lucky. That cow could have really hurt me, or even killed me I guess. So yeah... I'm banged/bruised/scuffed big deal. I'll live to ride another day, which is about all I can really ask for. But yes, the irony of me getting the smak-down by a giant cow while Mt biking isn't lost on me. Yep...Mt biking is WAY safer than road biking. Looking back, my decision to TRY to pass the cows wasn't too bright. Maybe I'll go have a nice Carls Jr. Six Dollar burger today for lunch. That's about as much redemption as I'm likely to get on that big-boy. And tomorrow I'll work on my bike. I pray I can get it working for my Sunnyvale trip next Monday (I'm heading up for 3 weeks starting the 30th). The Mt biking is WORLD CLASS up there...and I've never yet seen a cow on the trails.

Or maybe I should just take up stamp collecting? (thanks for that tip Mike! Never heard of anybody getting hurt stamp collecting!)

I found a picture online of what MY cow looked like  (the only diff that I can see is mine
had gold eyes.

And today (Weds) my "friends" at work sent me this picture...they titled it "Matt-a-dor"
Ha ha, that's pretty darn funny! Only my bull was WAY bigger. But I don't mind the NOT having horns.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

March Madness

Yes, it's that time again. The college basketball national tournament, AND the start of the REAL spring classics of cycling. This weekend in cycling we have Milano-Sanremo, the first of the Monuments! And as such, you can bet there will be a real fight for that title. This year will be awesome, as there are so many that could win it (and that's not even counting the dark-horses who could come out nowhere and steal the show). Kristoff is the odds-on favorite as the reigning champ...but it's a bike race and anything can happen on any given day. Others that I see who have very high odds of making the podium are Greipel, Cav, Degencolb, Sagan and yes, let's NOT forget Spartacus!

This year they moved the finish line back to it's original location, which bodes well for the sprinters. Fabian isn't necessarily a sprinter and I don't see him out-gunning Cav if that came down to it, but he's a very powerful and cagey rider who has proved he can win from a LONG ways off if he gets a chance to break away from the front. Sagan isn't really looking as good as he has in the past, but he did just recently win a stage, so I'm sure that will give him a real mental boost. Greipel is one of the strong-men of cycling, much like Sagan and Fabian...he can climb well and thus be there for a chance to win over the pure sprinters if they can't stay with the lead group. I think this could very well be one of the most exciting Classics seasons in a long while if all these guys can stay healthy. And of course, I'm rooting for Fabian.

OK...enough on that...lets step back to the basketball tourney. My dad is a HUGE BB fan, and his alma-mater Wyoming is IN the tourney as the #12 seed for the East (how is it that Wyoming in the East bracket btw?) They play UNI (Univ. of Northern Iowa) in the first round tomorrow (Friday), who are ranked #5 in the East, and of course are predicted to win.

I know my dad played some BB as a youngster, but not sure if it was at Wyoming or at the Sheridan Junior college (where  I know that he's in their BB hall of fame, which I found out a year or so ago) or both...I'll have to remember to ask one day.

Personally I'm not a huge BB fan. However. March Madness changes all that, and almost every single game is exciting. The thing I LOVE about this tourney is that ANY team in the country (if they can make it to the tourney) has a chance to be the National Champion. Can't really say that for any other college sport. Football just doesn't have a big enough tournament (due to the nature of the sport) to pick 64 teams and let them go on a single elimination bracket. I wish they could...but with 64 teams you need to WIN 5 games in order to go to the championship game.

Plus, I always love rooting for the underdog teams...praying for that Cinderella Story of a nobody team making it into the third or fourth round (or higher?). Doesn't happen very often though...but they at least have a chance. Just making it into the "Dance" is quite an honor....however the lower seeds really have their work cut out for them due to the nature of the brackets (#16 seeds play #1 seeds in the first round...YIKES!). But consider this: the #16 (and 15, and 14, and so on) teams aren't really expected to have ANY chance. So they are very dangerous teams with nothing to lose. AND, they wouldn't be IN the tournament if they weren't pretty good.

Remember when the US Olympic hockey team beat the Russians in Lake Placid? THAT'S the kind of thing I'm always looking for. I'd say that even in the #1/#16 games, sure...the #1 would win that game 99 out of 100 times. But that 100th game is what it's all about. A few breaks here and there, players going above and beyond their usual abilities and you have a GAME out of what should be a knockout. THOSE are the moments I look for. And who knows. Maybe we'll get one this year. I saw n the news the other day that the odds of picking the entire tournament bracket correctly (every game) is something like a ga-zillion to 1 (your odds of winning the Powerball lottery are much higher).

And so...the tournament begins, and so do the real classics. Hopefully spring has sprung for most of the country...I know here we just had a crazy heat-wave last week, and all our nice green is quickly going brown already. And the Sierra snowpack is somewhere between 10 and 14% of normal, which bodes VERY BAD for our spring/summer and the upcoming fire-season next fall. We are officially in our 4th year of drought, and it's going to be ugly. Not sure where we (the state of CA) is going to get enough water for all the people AND all the crops...our groundwater level is the lowest in recorded history. Everybody is talking about conserving...but even that won't solve our woes. Don't know where this is going, but maybe instead of the Keystone oil pipeline, they should be making a WATER pipeline...seems over half the country has WAY WAY WAY too much water, and we NEED it. So pipe it over please...we could fill our reservoirs AND put water back into the ground.

And so...enjoy the cycling and BB, and hopefully you can get outside and have fun too...I sure will be.

Cheers (and GO WYOMING and FABIAN!)