BikeTown Chronicles #4

I returned to spin class today.

I’ll wait for the applause and trumpet fanfare to die down.

This isn’t the typical type of cycling that I’d include in a BikeTown post. The reason this is a milestone of note is more the reason for my absence from spin versus the return itself.

Back in late July – maybe early August? – I’d finally pulled the trigger on returning to spin. My original BikeTown efforts had been derailed by the temporary closure of the Springwater Trail, my normal cycling route. The city was upgrading a culvert from the Willamette River to a nearby marsh – which ran under the Springwater – in an effort to provide salmon a more attractive conduit to a spawning area.

Y’know, your basic salmon bom-chika-bom-bom moment brought to you by America’s kinkiest city…everyone is getting their freak on here!

The trail closed in early July, which significantly expedited my not-working-weight-gain. In the three months prior to July, I had put on 20 lbs. Between July 1 and 31, I welcomed another ten pounds into the – ahem – folds.

However, by mid-August, while I was easing back into spin, my diet and weight and overall feeling of well-being had pretty much stagnated.

So…I took a temp job. I know this is redundant information to regular readers, but the important aspect of this job is the to and from and not the job itself.

I rode.

It was just a 3.5-3.7 mile ride each way, but four days a week I was working in the equivalent of a spin class during my “work” commute. That was doubling my spin workouts.

I’m not sure why my ride home was two-tenths of a mile longer than my ride into work…but it’s not like I’m trying to tell you it was uphill both ways. I think that gives me a little latitude on the accuracy of my GPS tracking.

The effort was more significant than spin class, too. I found a range of gears that afforded me a good challenge throughout my ride. This was easier than figuring out my easy-challenging resistance settings on the spin bikes.

And, while not both ways, there was a hill on my commute. During spin classes, I hadn’t found a comfort level rising up out of the seat to simulate a hill climb. My knee was just not having it.

However, my daily ride took me past Montgomery Park

which was the old Montgomery Ward building back in the day.

<pours one out for Montgomery Ward>

There’s an S-shaped hill behind the building that transitions down from Thurman Street and effectively out of the Alphabet District and onto St Helens road, which took me into the industrial part of town. That hill was fine and dandy on the way to work, but ~8 hours later, the uphill was…likely to be a walk.

Except.

I learned there were only a handful of bike commuters working at my Amazon location. A max of six during my temporary assignment’s duration and on a couple of nights, just me.

And then there was Minh…

Me being dirty old me, I immediately registered the fact that two of the regular four riders during my work week were attractive young guys. The other regular rider was an Oldie Hawn, like me.

Ben, one of the two young uns, usually arrived early and left late. He was all about those hours.

Minh was not. He usually beat me out of there at the end of the shift.

I realized this first on my second night of work. Night one, I’d ridden the bus because I was unsure of the bike parking sitch.

I’d ran/walked home the next morning because the shifts end at 430 and the bus came around 5. Who needs to wait around in the dark for a half hour?!?

Well, just for a bus, at any rate.

That second morning, I set off on my bike for home. I pedal at a pretty good clip because I want the workout. However, after having my ass handed to my by about about 1500 boxes during my shift had me wondering if there was a way around that Montgomery Park hill. Mentally, I was assuring myself that when the road forked to go uphill, that other fork surely came out on the other side of the complex.

But why risk getting lost? I’ll just ride up as far as I can and then walk the rest of the way in the protective anonymity of darkness.

Unfortunately for my elderly ego, just ahead of me was Minh. I somehow seemed to be gaining on him…like there was a tractor beam in his butt.

This sent me into a frenzy.

The gaining on him, not the butt. Although…woof.

If I caught up to him and then died on the hill, that would be tragic. Moreso than simply being “that old guy that stares”. Still uncertain of the alternate routes, I dialed back my pace and hoped for the light to change and stop me.

This is me we’re talking about, though, so naturally that didn’t happen.

I cruised up on to the hill as Minh disappeared around the first curve. I rode as far up as I could – about a quarter of the way – before giving up. To my surprise, while I thought I was quitting, my ego was telling my body to rise up off the saddle and keep going.

Ok

It wasn’t pretty, but I actually ended up making it to the top without stopping…and I gained ground on Minh, who had not even stood up while ascending the hill.

Obnoxious punk.

I think what really got me to the top was not the fact that I was gaining on the kid. Rather, I was pretty sure he could hear my labored wheezing behind him and if that stopped he’d either know I’d quit or think I’d died. I couldn’t bear either fate.

So, pedal, did I.

Cycle Yoda-speak!

The next day, I made sure to call out Minh for taking the hill without standing up. He made it sound like no biggie, so I decided that I’d keep riding up the hill versus finding out where that other road led.

I started counting off my pedal strokes. At first it was to drive my pace, to avoid losing momentum up the hill.

One-two, one-two, one-two

There were 50 one-twos going up.

The next week, I just counted pedal strokes. Sure enough, there were 100. At least I was being consistent.

The third week, the other Oldie Hawn told me about the other fork in the road. “Much easier”, he told me.

I think I’m going to take the hill for the whole month, then I’ll think about changing

I thought those were crazy words, certainly not words I would have imagined speaking on Day One.

Do exactly so, I certainly did!

But you better believe that on commute 19, I absolutely sailed right through the light at the bottom of the hill, veering left toward parts unknown instead of right to the hill that I now called my bitch.

I’m proud of my cycling accomplishment during my regular two months of work at Amazon. However, I am also aware of several opportunities during that time where my BikeTown blog crossed over into Red Shirt Diary territory.

First off, (mom, stop reading) since it was only three and a half miles each way, I didn’t wear my helmet. Bad, old Xtopher, I know! However, only one of the regular four actually did…so, somehow that makes it better, right?

Then there was the whole, riding at night without a head or tail light. Yeah, pretty suicidal. But, I did follow fairly well lit roads. There were a few dark areas where I could safely assume homeless people had taken out the street lights in order to give them better darkness for sleeping. Or whatever they were doing under that cardboard. Fortunately, there were only a couple of near miss swerves to avoid large sticks or…shoes. Why are there so many discarded shoes on Portland streets?!? Oddly, the only direct impacts I suffered sounded like license plate frames.

But I never fell. Hooray for my short clad legs and helmet-less brain bucket.

My practice had been wearing my reflective safety vest during my ride. However, in the middle of my assignment, my family took off for the Oregon high desert. When I dropped my bag in my room, I discovered an optic orange Nike vest that my sister had brought along for me.

Yay, substitute mom!

The trip coincided with my nephew checking into college in Bend. I’d already been watching as my sister inched closer toward an empty nest. By watching, I mean receiving random care packages over the course of the summer countdown to college.

A Captain America tee shirt she picked up for me at the Costco.

Some cookies.

Shorts and another couple of shirts. I suspect these were a result not only of her frustrated mom gene, but also self defense for her eyes since they were having to watch me trundle around in clothes that hadn’t fit in a good 15 pounds.

So the vest was not a huge surprise, but that it was also my favorite color was all the more “aw” for me. Of course, I laughed pretty hard at myself when I learned the vest was originally for my brother in law, but hadn’t fit his meatier, mor muscular frame.

Then I thought, “How dare she buy him a vest in my favorite color!”, like I somehow had reserved rights to all things orange.

Don’t I, though?

Nevertheless, the episode afforded me a more fashionable alternative to night time visibility than my tattered old safety vest.

The most strange of my Darwin-esque Red Shirt moments involved those damned e-scooters. Yeah, there was more than one.

The first was simply me mistaking an oncoming headlight for another cyclist. I was fairly nonplussed at the fact that the oncoming light was on my side of the road. Ascribing the poor behavior to the overt asshole-ness of Portland cyclists, I moved to give the bastard a wide berth. Psychotically, the headlight started weaving. As it whizzed by me at about 15 mph, I realized it was a scooter and not a bike. This was as I was also making a last desperate swerve to avoid a collision with the oncoming erratic swerving maniac.

The second instance was also a case of vehicular mistaken identity. There were two scooters traveling side by side, I mistook them for a car. I was pretty surprised when the driver’s side of the car split off from the rest to swerve into my lane. Realizing my mistake, I hugged the parked cars as tightly as I could to remain out of the way of the scooter, which was now traveling toward me in my lane.

Asshole

was the most affable salutation I could muster for this jag as he passed within inches of my handle bars.

Helmets, scooters, hills and poor visibility aside, I survived my two months of bike commuting four times a week to work and back! It was a great way to get amped up for a night of work, but also a surprisingly welcome cool down on the way home. I’d been anticipating hating the ride home after work and expected myself to take it easy along the way.

I didn’t.

I’d arrive home each morning; panting and sweating, leg muscles twitching. Also surprising was logging some of my best commute times on the longer ride home. Those are results I can take!

The end result was returning to my spin class today, 20 pounds lighter than I’d been on the last class I’d attended. I’ll take it!

But what I appreciated most about those morning rides wasn’t chasing Minh most of the way. No, it was leaving work with a stiff back and sore shoulders and arriving home feeling like I’d worked those kinks out.

Not a bad way to end a couple of months of long day’s nights! Of course, neither was chasing Minh…story of my life, right there. <shrugs>

BikeTown Chronicles #4

*Not* Sleeping With The Enemy

Well, I’ve been sitting on this for a couple of months now.

Not that I’m pals with Julia Roberts, that would not be news I kept to myself. I’m totally that guy who would have a celebrity friend and always refer to them by their full name just to make sure no one forgot.

But let’s take a moment to acknowledge that this movie grossed $175 million back in 1991…on a film about escaping domestic abuse! That’s not Gone Girl money, but it’s about half of Gone Girl’s box office and I’m really not sure how you adjust that for inflation over almost a quarter century.

Anyhoo…that was quite a sidebar.

So, in August, I took a part time/seasonal job to get my ass off the couch. This was after watching all of the Marvel movies – except the Captain America movies – that I could get my hands on on Amazon over the course of two days.

This was after packing on 20 lbs in three months.

This was after my crisis of confidence that I’d ever be comfortable or capable of returning to work in retail management after trying – and largely failing – to cope with the feeling of betrayal my last job left me with for four months. I really think that this disease I carried with me when discussing my last job was a bigger part of why I kept finishing second in interviews than I’d been admitting to myself.

Maybe I was imagining that.

Maybe it was actually happening.

Who knows?

But what I did know was that something had to change. Doubting I would succeed in finding a company I trusted enough to risk going to work again, I opened up craigslist and just started scrolling through the jobs page.

No filters.

Everything.

Hell, anything.

I needed to change things up. Occupy my time. Jump start my confidence in myself and a future employer so I could let go of these feelings of distrust and worthlessness.

That’s the first connection that this experience had to Sleeping With The Enemy. I felt abused and devalued by my last job. Like Julia, I was going to have to overcome my fear in order to succeed – unlike her, I’d already escaped, but couldn’t let go of the trauma. She only had to learn how to swim – well, and then hide forever – I wasn’t entirely sure that I knew or could articulate exactly what I needed to overcome.

The second…correlation? Sure, let’s go with that – that this entry has to Sleeping With The Enemy is that I went to work for Amazon.

Escandoloso!

Literally, the company that has been the feared enemy of my brick and mortar retail career.

But, in reading the craigslist post, this was a seemingly win/win situation for old Xtopher:

There was no interview at all. Take a few aptitude tests on line, pick a schedule, go to work.

In.

Sane.

The job was at night. I took the 9-430 shift Friday night through Monday night. Why is this a win? Because it took me out of commission for the prime drinking days…something I needed to get away from.

Lastly, the job is crazy physical. It’s fast paced, too. Well, it’s set your own damn pace because there’s very little oversight…I choose fast because I expect myself to exceed expectations, so Bob’s your uncle.

Oh, here…

Anyway, I anticipated riding my bike to work since the busses don’t run until 5-ish in the morning and waiting a half hour when I could be home and in the shower in 15 minutes seemed stupid. So there’s basically four lunchtime spin classes a week just in the commute, which was a good start. But this job just kicks my ass on the daily whether I ride the bike or the bus.

And I’ve dropped at least 20 pounds since I started work there.

Technically, I guess this is a win/win/win…and I’ll take it!

Ok, so how does this job kick my ass?

I’m glad you aksed.

(Is it racist if I type in Ebonics? I’m going with “nope” because I friggin’ love that word.)

Its a warehouse job. This particular warehouse is a Sort Center, which is where the Fulfillment Centers route locally bound packages to be sorted for delivery. There’s three basic functions my role can be assigned to:

Unload: semis come into this Sort Center from Fulfillment Centers throughout the PNW and California. Hell, maybe even from other regions, too. No one tells me anything until 3 seconds after I need to know it. Trucks either need to be manually unloaded onto a belt or come palletized, then my job is to move the boxes from the pallets to the belt.

Puller: boxes travel down the belt, past 68 aisles on either side. Pullers look at each label as it goes by and pull packages for their assigned aisles – usually a group of 3, if we’re staffed up and we usually aren’t – and put it on a shelf.

Sorter: each Sorter is assigned two aisles – same caveat as above – that are about 21 feet long and are separated into six sections on each side, each section has three shelves. Four of these sections are divided into six totes representing different delivery areas, the other two are just shelves for oversized packages. The Sorter looks at each package and then scans it to log it into the correct delivery bin.

It sounds pretty easy until you think about how many semis it takes to deliver the 40-50k packages to our Sort Center each night.

There’s generally 8-10 people on Unload, so figure each of them will touch 5000 packages per night, that’s a lot of bending, twisting and lifting.

Pullers are the area that seems to get the least amount of compromising, it is a job that runs short as a last resort, so figure there’s about 45 people doing this job during a shift.

Then there’s the Sorters. Ideally, there are 34 in order to keep it manageable.

What usually happens is not that. If there aren’t enough Sorters, a set of aisles will be allowed to build up until its shelves reach critical mass. At that point someone will be pulled from their aisles and conscripted to put out the fire.

You can probably see where the disadvantage of having too little supervision and allowing people to set their own pace. Likewise, the extreme disadvantage of being a fast worker. Frequently, I’ll be asked to go take care of one of these orphan aisles, only to return to my own to find them in chaos.

Sorting is what I do most nights, and it’s a lot of fast paced walking, lifting, carrying, squatting and then more of all that. The aisles are about 20 feet long and I usually walk between 8-10 miles per shift, wearing a rut in the concrete floor.

Carrying stuff.

The pace goal for Sorters is to scan ~170 packages per hour into their respective delivery totes. That’s three packages a minute, which sounds easy enough.

Then you have to factor in things like scanner issues – believe me, holding the scan button tighter does not make it more likely to read a barcode – and replacing full totes with empty ones throughout the night.

I’m usually in the mid to high 200/hr range. That number will go up dramatically on nights where I hear things like, “We only have 5 Sorters on this side of the belt!”

FML.

There should be 16.

But somehow, at 430 in the morning, things still seem to have gotten done. Whether that’s because we managed to actually finish everything because we were staffed up or because the managers decided to pause the Unload team and push packages to the following day – which is never a good option – is not always clear to me. But at some point in the night – for whatever reason – the Unloaders will become Sorters, which always helps us get to the finish line.

Or close.

The culture of minimal supervision means that at 430, people walk away from their assigned areas and just leave.

I’ll cross the finish line in my aisles – clothes completely soaked through with sweat – and head toward the front to turn in my scanning equipment only to realize the silence coming from the aisles around me didn’t mean the aisles were done, just that the Sorters were gone.

Nice teamwork, right?

The latest I’ve ever had to stay is about 515, and that’s only been a few times. Generally, I’m on the road by 445, pedaling toward home.

But, what’s with all this minimal supervision, you ask?

Well…to run a shift, we need about 85 people, right? Call it 10 Unloaders, 45 Pullers and 34 Sorters.

We feel lucky if 75 people show up.

There’s days when you look around at the start of shift meeting – called a Stand Up – and it doesn’t look like there’s even 50 people there.

So, Amazon basically falls into the same staffing terror trap that my airport employer experienced. And they kind of deal with it the same way: unenforced expectations.

The only real hardline I hear people talk about is attendance, which at least puts them a step ahead of the airport. That’s pretty much out of their control, since points automatically accrue with missed shifts and tardiness. You hit the point threshold and you’re out. Beyond anyone’s control beside the individual.

I love systems like that.

But for the rest of the rules, enforcement is phoned in.

I hate systems like that.

There’s usually two shift managers who have maybe a dozen junior managers – called Ambassadors – to help keep things running in the different zones of the warehouse. Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of expectations on the Ambassadors other than get the packages ready to deliver. Nor is there much development that I can see. I rarely see the shift managers away from their station at the front desk. Occasionally, I’ll see them with the Unload team or at the front of the belt, helping. Anything beyond that is pretty much run by Ambassadors.

The sad thing is that with the Ambassadors usually being self-directed, if someone doesn’t pull their weight, everyone else just has to work harder. Most of the time, I see Ambassadors strolling around in pairs, talking. Since most Ambassadors started as Sorters, they will occasionally hang out with their Sorting buddies from before they were promoted and talk.

I think the main criteria for being an Ambassador is “just be there longest” when an opening comes up. Fine, if that’s how you wanna do it, but it would be a lot better if there was a formal or better yet, executed training program for these junior managers.

But, remember what I said about my own development…it’s usually three seconds too late. My first night on the job was spent being shown safe working habits and how to Sort. Every role I’ve learned since then has been learned in the moment. Not optimal, but I can roll with it, I’ll care enough to figure it out. It’s just difficult to do what’s encouraged if I have a question – “ask an Ambassador” – since the vast majority of them rarely make eye contact and usually offer barely a grunt in response if you greet them.

Despite those obstacles and bad people habits, there’s still about a half dozen Ambassadors that I would call good. They got good because of their own drive and luck I’d guess.

Luck is never a good quality in a workplace…it always runs out.

If there was more of a drive to manage performance versus simply achieve results, night’s where we have fewer than 75 associates would be nights where we had everything we need rather than a crisis.

However, with the balance of the Ambassadors demonstrating bad habits to the associates, it’s no wonder we have the results we do. I’ve seen people just walk away from their aisles and be gone for 20-30 minutes. I’ve seen Pullers have an Ambassador cover their zone so they can go to the bathroom five minutes after returning from break. There is more than one associate who moves at a pace that suggests they are terrified their shoes will burst into flames if they walk too fast.

I’ve witnessed conversations that are completely not appropriate for work taking place. I thought long and hard about saying something about them – the favorite topic is speculating whether a small, heavy box has a dildo or other sex toy in it. Ultimately, I decided to just keep my head down and my focus on my work…this is a good strategy, since people’s hands move rather slowly while their jaws are flapping.

Anyway, it’s unfortunate that these issues are not addressed simply because people might quit. The adverse effect here is that the bad behaviors travel up the chain of command like a contagion, just lowering the performance bar. I even overheard one of our Shift Managers engaging in a dildo conversation with four other people. I was working across the belt from the other Shift Manager, a woman, and I looked up at her and her face registered absolutely no offense.

This bothered me…

The hell with that.

I sold myself on taking a job – any job – just to get off my couch. The emotional/mental benefits I mentioned above. The physical aspect of the job that I simply love…even though I feel broken for days after my four day work week ends.

The fact that it was a job at Amazon was an added benefit, maybe the exposure would allow me to stand out and be promoted or help out if another job I was qualified opened up. I think I’m at that level, now. I hear my name come up in positive sidebars. However, I don’t want to be an Ambassador if it means most of my peers suck at their job. I’ve been there and done that. Ain’t for me.

But the last benefit is likely going to be the most useful for me. When I left my last job, it was with what I considered good reason. The State of Oregon disagreed, so I’ve been denied unemployment benefits, which were part of my financial planning for my time off and job search. That disqualification is lifted once I’ve earned 4x my weekly unemployment benefit and then I can begin drawing unemployment bennies.

Well, when I took this temporary seasonal job, I didn’t know how long my assignment would last, because: no interview. What I found out is that I could be a seasonal employee for up to 11 months.

That’s a lot of seasons.

But if I quit once I reach my disqualification threshold, I’d be right back at square one with the great state again ruling that I quit for no good reason.

Oooh, conundrum.

I knew after a month that this job, four nights a week was too physically demanding for me to do long term. I wasn’t as sore as I’d been my first week, but my soreness was in my joints – from my fingers to my knees – and not in my muscles.

That’s no bueno.

Fortune smiled upon me when corporate decided to standardize work shifts. Instead of our station’s four day/9-430 shift, we were being moved to a three day/815-515 shift.

Three days…I could do three days.

Or…

We would be moved into a four hour shift, five days a week. There was going to be an 815-1215 shift and a 115-515 shift.

Out of those three possibilities, I got the absolute worst possible shift for me: 815-1215.

This was bad for me because, why?

Because we are always short staffed. I could easily see the, “Hey, can you extend to a full shift today?” conversation happening every. damn. shift.

This shift was also bad for mine, truly because I didn’t see getting home at 1230 as a benefit. A) I’d probably stop and close a dive bar at least once a week, which is counterproductive to my fitness goals; but, B) I also knew that I’d still need a shower before going to bed and that’s gonna put my bedtime closer to 2 in the morning after letting my hair dry. Two hours of prep time – between my 40 minute round trip bike commute and pre-bedtime shower – was half of the time I’d actually be getting paid to work.

Bad ROI.

Icing this scheduling cake was that it wasn’t sustainable when I return to work, which – despite my plotting against the fine folks at the unemployment office – I was/am hoping to do sooner, rather than later.

So, I told my dildo-talking boss that I couldn’t do the new schedule, even though I was taking the choice of shift assignment as a compliment.

He asked if I could do the three day rotation.

No.

How about on-call?

Hmmm…maybe!

I liked that idea. As summer weather gave way to less bike commuter friendly fall and winter weather, I could pick up as few as one shift a month and still remain on-call. That could work.

Added bonus, I can re-open my unemployment claim from the world of the underemployed versus unemployed. Also a good thing.

So, I decided to do that. My goal was to try and pick up three shifts a week until I go back to working full time and then at least two shifts per month after that.

We’ll see how it goes. And quickly, too…my last two days as a seasonal associate are this Friday and Saturday, then I switch to on-call.

If anyone wants to go play Sunday, let me know…I’ll have a weekend day off again!

And maybe – just maybe – I’ll be in the mood to celebrate a new job. I was one of only three people interviewed last weekend for a job with Columbia Sportswear. Here’s hoping that I finally break my Second Place streak.

I’ll know before Friday. Fingers crossed that I can celebrate a new job, successful transition to on-call at Amazon and not even needing my Machiavelli-esque earned unemployment.

Another win/win/win!

*Not* Sleeping With The Enemy

I Guess It Looks Worse Than It Is…

About three weeks ago, I was out running some errands and after being mildly inconvenienced by a couple of reroutes found myself close to Washington Park. I had planned to take a hike to Forest Park that afternoon anyway, before it got too hot. Since I was probably less than ten blocks – that’s for you, mom! – from the entrance, I decided to just carry on since the temperature was already tending toward balmy.

I know from a similar errand-running excursion earlier this week that the my house<the Safeway<Freddy’s<home loop runs about three miles. Well, 3.4 with a coffee reward after Freddy’s. Factoring that out, I’m calling it an even three.

Freddy’s is only a block away from my personal google maps nemesis

So I had to successfully avoid that obstacle in order for my plan to succeed.

Figure that when I got to the entrance to Washington Park that I was about 1.5 miles into my errands plus another 3/4 mile from Freddy’s to the entrance, right?

It’s that last three quarters of a mile that’s the real killer. In addition to avoiding Taco Bell, there are also pretty steep streets up toward the park. What upset me when I got to the top of the hill was how out of breath I felt and how excessively sweaty I was.

Super not cool.

“Well, that’s probably just diabetes and coronary disease knocking on the door”, I pessimistically told myself. I opened up my MINDBODY app and bought a spin package.

I was also talking via messenger with the Filipina Fox, who is an obnoxiously fit friend and fitness instructor at not only my spin gym, RevoCycle, but two other studios in my neighborhood as well. Those are her second, third and fourth jobs in addition to her primary full time job. Then there’s the gym she belongs to for her personal workouts.

I dunno how she finds the time or the energy, but hats off to her! However, if I hadn’t been chatting with her, I probably wouldn’t have pulled the trigger on buying a spin package.

Nevertheless, there she was, providing me unintentional inspiration in my return to gym-centric exercise. She joked about the gym having an AED, just in case and I made another about having a DNR tattoo on my chest.

Then it was off into the park. I’ll write more about my walk through Washington Park in another post, it also is home to the Japanese Garden, which the Silver Fox took me to as a guest a few months ago. I want to share my beautiful pics from both visits.

For now, though, my point is that during my less than record breaking hike the temp went up 10% to 80 degrees at the end but I was just spent: I’d sweated through my clothes and was sucking air like a fish out of water.

No bueno!

The next day, I was at RevoCycle for my noon class. They call it Power Lunch and it’s just 30 minutes, designed to allow worker bees to get a ride in during their lunch hour. I wasn’t sure I could actually pull off a full “hour long” class, which usually runs 50 minutes. The half hour class allowed me to dip my toe back in the water.

I’d discussed my concerns – and reasons for my absence – with the owner and leader of the lunch class, Michael.

While I had been cycling and hiking pretty regularly through mid-June, my knees bothered me during and after the activities. Then, the powers that be had closed down my entrance to the Springwater Trail, which took away half of my exercise options anyway, since that was a major part of my cycling route.

The goal was to get salmon back to the Oaks Bottom Wildlife refuge by replacing a 70s era salmon culvert.

The culvert allows salmon to move protected from the Willamette River through the underground culvert and into the wildlife refuge.

It’s just a small project.

That completely closes down my access to my preferred cycling route.

And my back up route.

FML.

But, three months and $9 million later and at least the salmon will have a safe place to get their spawn on.

Meanwhile, that plus my persistent unemployment afforded me an option to gain 20 lbs. Most of which seemed to arrive in about an eight week period.

See the above FML.

So, Tuesday three weeks ago, I’m back at spin for a Tuesday and Thursday routine and I’m happy to say that I’ve only missed one class on the ensuing three weeks. I’ve also managed at least one hike per week and even one interval run!

Of course, after that, I couldn’t walk right for three days, but I’m happy that I accomplished it…proving to myself that what my acupuncturist has been working on – paired with running right for my body – has paid off.

The good news is that I’m down 8 pounds in three weeks and feel better, too! I’m not leaving a pool of sweat behind after my half hour class anymore and my knees are tolerating the intensity well!

Of course, since I’m kind of mean to myself, I have chosen a gym conveniently located two blocks away from the modeling agency I worked for in my late 20s. And, since it’s on my way home from the gym, I stopped off last week for a selfie.

Already looking better than I did halfway through my five mile hike to Washington Park two weeks prior to taking this! Still in no danger of anyone from my old agency chasing after me.

Plus, it helps to have a sweat towel…

In my conversations with Michael over the past few weeks, I’ve become aware of a few things:

First, the smoke and ash in the air recently has likely been mostly to blame for my wheezing and excessive sweat, especially on that Washington Park outing.

Second, the mental benefits from regular exercise are more immediate than the physical results. And the mental benefits feel great!

Third, it looks worse than it is. Yesterday, I faced a personal fear: being the only person in a class. Michael likes to focus on being present with your body during a spin class – it’s like the focus on mindfulness and breathing you experience in a yoga class – and usually checks in with the heart monitor wearers in class to see how they’re doing. I don’t wear one, but he kept asking me how I was doing, “How’s your breathing, pretty heavy?” or “How many words could you say right now?” types of things. When he asked me if I was at my max heart rate after one sprint and got a palms up response from me, he taught me this easy little formula.

220 – a person’s age = max heart rate

“So where is your heart rate at?”, he asked after timing off a pulse check in.

178

“What’s your max, I dunno how old you are…how does that compare?”

My max is 170.

“Great! That’s fantastic…you’re probably in better shape than you were worried about!”

I guess it looks worse than it is.

But I’m still ecstatic that I’m doing something physical that ties me to a routine!

I Guess It Looks Worse Than It Is…

Manopause

I’ve never felt bad for women who declare, “Oh, god…I’ve turned into my mother”. However, I never really expected the thought to flit through my mind.

But that’s exactly what happened last night.

No, I wasn’t drinking.

The thought had no sooner pasted a glimmer of a smile on my lips, than I’d dismissed the idea. I’m not becoming my mother – although, in my case, I wouldn’t understand why women make that sound so bad.

I settled on an even more insane sounding occurrence: I’m obviously pregnant.

Here’s the scenario: I was actually – well, let me save you some time.

If a picture is, indeed, worth a thousand words…you’re welcome. I’ve clearly spared your eyes some strain.

If you need a little more context to interpret those two pictures, I’m happy to oblige. Read on, I’ll be as brief as possible…

I was eating ice cream for dinner. Why? I dunno. It just ended up in my hands while I was looking at my fridge for dinner ideas.

I was actually standing there, staring slack-jawed at my options of almost literally nothing to eat.

Fridge door open.

Freezer drawer pulled out.

This had the added benefit of blasting me with cold air on yet another 90+ degree day in Portland.

Seriously, we do not need this information getting out, but Portland has beautiful summers. That rain for next Saturday? Yeah, we heard that promise last week, but the rain was only a rumor.

If it does rain next Saturday, that’ll be the end of at least a three week dry spell. If it doesn’t rain…well.

Ugh.

Things could be worse.

Anyway, back to cooling the house with an open refrigerator. Realizing I was doing so, I closed everything up and stood in my kitchen undecided. I was conflicted about cooking and heating up the house, but I didn’t want to order in.

Ice cream seemed like a really good triple whammy to that conundrum because it’s cold food, right? It had the added benefit of not being beer or wine, too. But I was having trouble rationalizing executing the decision to eat ice cream as a meal.

I blamed the Silver Fox. He’d invited me along to Trader Joe’s last week. Probably because he needed bananas – seriously, if he needs bananas: TJs; if he needs milk: Costco – and invited me along.

$55 dollars later, my fridge was full. Of course, I’d only needed one thing when I agreed to go along…

Actually, he’d needed to go for some chocolatey good treats for some chocoholic friends that were coming to dinner the next night. By his endorsement, Trader Joe’s has the best chocolate ice cream.

I chose a different path.

I was not disappointed in my selection. Additionally, I’ve had two servings and still have more. Take that Ben & Jerry’s and your single serving containers!

This is all about excusing my dinner decision last night. Truth of the matter? Once I saw the ice cream in my freezer, I couldn’t not think about it. I had to have it.

It was a craving.

I addition to Portland’s current heat wave driving me to not cook and enjoy frosty beers and chilled rose deliciousness too frequently, it’s also limited my outdoor activity.

Meaning: no hiking or bike riding.

Also, meaning: fat Xtopher.

Seriously.

Fat.

I’ve put on 10 pounds in the last three months. Actually, I put on 10 lbs in a month, I’ve just been holding steady for the last two…trying to limit the damage. That’s 10 on top of 10 that I gained in the first quarter of the year, by the way. Not a good way to follow up last year’s fitfy initiative.

It’s a real shitshow over here at Chez Galby.

I look pregnant.

Well, I think that’s about 1000 words on the picture of my Facebook post about last nights dinner.

Moving on…

I sat down with my ice cream supper and decided to watch the movie Battleship. There’s always a little time for a stupid Rihanna-slash- action movie and after seeing Mission Impossible: Fallout last week…I was jonesing for another Adrenalin hit.

I cried during the movie.

What.

The.

F.

I mean…I’m not super surprised. I cried at the end of Rocky. But at least that was a story about believing in yourself and accomplishing a goal against all odds.

Sure, Battleship has a tenuous similarity. But, c’mon…at least Rocky is quasi tethered to reality. I have an equal belief in boxers and aliens. However, I’ve yet to meet an alien, so that diminishes the reality aspect of the movie Battleship by comparison.

My last word on this crying jag? Copious.

Big, round, flowing tears. Not a quick hit of emotion like in other bouts of ridiculous crying I’ll admit to. This shit just kept on coming. I literally did not have the control to stop. As it was continuing to not end, the movie moves on to a scene – where I know what’s going to happen – and I’m so caught up in this ridiculous moment that I uttered “Oh, no!” before Rihanna comes out of nowhere to save her stereotypically every Irish person from Boston shipmate.

Craziness.

But, just like with the ice cream, I couldn’t stop myself.

Irrational emotions and emotional decisions.

I need pregnancy hormones to even begin to excuse my present shape and recent decision making history.

Since I’m stubborn I decided to watch a potentially feely movie after Battleship ended. It had dropped recently on Netflix called Like Father. I figured it had the potential to make me emotional and that might help me justify the emotional outburst.

I know. Completely backward timing, but I was just looking for a lifeline for my dignity.

It failed to deliver.

As I’m sitting there, not being moved to tears, I emotionally decide to make the French Fries from my freezer.

C’mon!

It’s after 10 PM.

As I’m watching my oven timer count down, my rational Hyde brain is trying to assert itself and take control back from my Jekyll emotions. He’s been trying to come back to the forefront of my personality lately. That makes me sad. Hyde used to be my default personality. Now, I feel like Jekyll is too present.

Enabling idleness.

Eating and drinking to excess.

I know that it’s depression about feeling driven out of my last job for expecting my fellow leadership peers to follow corporate policies. Naturally, compounded by the challenge of finding a new job. With just a dash of frustration at too often being passed over for an internal candidate.

Yeah, that’s a recipe for depression, right there.

But knowing that in some trapped, logical part of my brain as 10:30 approaches didn’t stop the irrational and sad part of my brain from eating that entire package of French Fries while I finished that stupid movie. No, it wasn’t a movie, it was a mehvie. Hehe.

So I woke up this morning – having slept a straight eight interrupted hours and picked up where I’d left off last night: something has to change.

During the last few weeks of not going outside, I’ve been thinking about rejoining my gym. My resistance there is two-fold: primarily my fear of re-injuring my treasonous shoulder joints; secondarily, I’m too cheap to pay the initiation fee again.

My alternative was to go back to my spin gym. I’ve been talking about it since January. Last week, I actually went back to look at class packages. I was unhappy to discover that the drop in rate has increased to $25.

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot.

They gym seems to prefer class packages over drop ins. Fine. To that end, the owner offers 10-pack classes at a discount. That used to be $180, recently that increased to $190 and if I was having trouble pulling the trigger on the value of an $18 spin class in January…well, that extra buck didn’t help.

What was a surprise when I dug a little deeper last week was the offering of a 20 class package for $300. My grinchy fat ass can support a $15 class.

Except.

Budgeting goes well with no income. Splurging on a $300 luxury does not. I even joined AARP knowing that I was still too young to qualify for the Silver Sneaker program – which pays your gym membership in order to encourage us oldies to exercise – but thinking there might at least be a discount to get me by in the meantime.

There was not.

I’ve spent the last week or so vacillating between spending the money on re-joining my gym or buying a spin package or just forcing myself into the streets to cycle in extreme heat. Neither seems like a great idea. However, when I got back from coffee with The Fox this morning, bitching about my mild sweaty discomfort after walking just under two miles round trip in mid-morning heat, I decided on a compromise: I bought the lunch package of spin classes. They net out to $11 per half hour class. Not a great deal comparatively, but I was kind of fretting collapsing off my spin cycle during a full class, anyway. Hence the “compromise”. This will be a good compromise to get me back in the groove.

That’s what I’m telling myself.

This has the added benefit of pleasing the Filipina Fox, who teaches at the spin gym I go to. She doesn’t do the lunch class, but she’ll be glad that I’m at least getting back in the (bike) saddle.

Wish me luck…I’ve got work clothes that I’ve got to – hopefully – fit back into at some point. Time to push (mano)pause and banish my pregnancy body and Jekyll mindset.

Manopause

BikeTown Chronicles #2

Over the past week, I’ve been missing being active as my foot heals up. It’s provided me the opportunity to live actively vicariously through myself…my memories of being outside and active, at any rate.

It’s also gotten me thinking about the unfortunate side effects of getting back on my bike. Back in the saddle, if you will.

The muscle soreness, I look forward to. Achey knees, I’m able to tolerate…literally walking off the cumulative shock in the hours or days after a ride.

That saddle rash, though.

Short of getting a new seat, I’ve done what I can to minimize the occurrence of saddle rash. Wearing fewer layers of fabric to minimize chafe. Wearing the right layers, ie: padded undergear. Post-ride care, including a bag balm, because some remedies have to make you question whether the cost of the cure is worth the cause of the malady.

Kinda like the old chestnut about only sane people questioning their sanity. So when I ask if applying salve to my taint-ish region is a reasonable post exercise recovery…I have to be able to affirm my cycling adventures. It’s not as worth it as it would be if someone else were (gingerly) working the cream into my nether area.

Shush, Diezel.

But, since that’s not a fun part of my cost/benefit cycling analysis – and since today is the first day old leftie is feeling like a ride won’t send my recovery backwards – I move past the potential discomfort into other areas of my recent outdoor adventures.

So I’m co-opting or resurrecting this draft of my second BikeTown Chronicles with a few things further onto the plus side of cycling in order to motivate me back out onto the road this afternoon!

I had gotten to the point where I would remember gloves. Actually, I was pretty proud, I remembered them after my first ride. My forearm soreness was pretty severe after my ride, but in a weird way. I also experienced numbness during and after my ride. I remembered the gloves recommendation from one of The Fabulous Baker Girls, who is an avid cyclist. She swore the padding in the palms of the gloves would reduce, if not flat out alleviate, hand and wrist numbness during my ride.

The fact that I experienced numbness up my forearm after the ride reinforced the need for gloves. I put them inside my helmet so I wouldn’t forget them for my next ride. My hands and wrists still get a little numb during my rides, but not until I’m about 10 miles in. I have a mountain bike, with traditional straight handlebars. I’m sure there’s an alternative bar that would afford me the opportunity to reposition my hands during my rides so that I can reduce this numbness even further, similar to 10-speed handlebars. I just haven’t done any research into those options yet.

Cycling took an unexpectedly social turn on my third or fourth ride of the season when I ran into – more accurately, he “caught up” to me – Casey Adler toward the end of my Springwater Trail ride. How he recognized me from behind, in cycle gear – including a helmet, Mom! – is beyond me. I don’t consider myself to be that distinct looking as to be recognizable from either that angle or at that velocity.

It was a nice surprise, though. We rode the last couple of miles of the trail together, catching up.

Honestly, though, there was a moment where “catching up” turned into “catching my breath”, when I tapped out and told him he needed to talk for a while while I wheezed and listened.

I’m old, I own that!

I hadn’t been in a situation where I needed to be cognizant of sharing the path as we rode two abreast and chatted. I’m usually the grumpy guy muttering “excuse me” as I steer to avoid such people. I was proud of the fact that Casey and I took turns dropping back to avoid colliding with oncoming groups that were also riding side by side, albeit obliviously so. Hell, Casey was even aware enough to see a faster rider coming up behind us and sped up so we were riding single file again so Speed Cycler could pass.

Our social cycling ended abruptly when we realized that Casey was taking a street route – presumably – back to his place in NoPo while I was peeling off to take the Esplanade back toward my place.

After we separated, though, I focused on his casually motivational comment when I asked where he was coming from. He simply said that he’d taken the path out to Boring and was on his way back in. I was inspired because that’s a 50 mile ride for me, probably closer to 60 for him.

It was just two rides after this encounter that I managed – and promptly swore off of – my own half century ride. I know I’ve got another 50 mile ride in me…at some point. I just need to figure out how to incorporate them into my cycling routine, since they are time consuming and do have quite a physical toll.

My Health App and Strava finally synced on this ride, too!

Prior to this, for whatever reason, there had been about a half mile discrepancy. My Health app had been shorting me a half mile in ride and doubling the total mileage post-ride.

Weird.

Interestingly, it had been – and still is – waaaay overvaluing my caloric burn. It measures the energy in kcal units, which as my simple mind understands metrics – is 1000 calories. For the ride above, Strava estimates a 534 calorie burn, while my Health app insists on making that a 534 kcal burn.

Sadly, I don’t see me burning a half million calories in a month of cycling, let alone a single day.

But like I said, maybe calories and kcals are interchangeable and I’m just an idiot on the subject.

Could totally be the case.

There are definitely a few things for me to remember as I psych myself up for a ride today. Negative factors that are beyond my control, unlike padded shorts and gloves.

The ride that prompted this entry originally occurred on Cinco de Mayo. I failed to connect the dots between the holiday and the fun zone idiots I encountered on my ride home along the waterfront. The path along the waterfront is mixed pedestrian, cyclist, skateboarder, roller blader, unicyclyer, jogger, segue rider and any other mode of transport you can imagine. It’s Portland! The city may as well put up bleachers on the path at Gov Tom McCall Park since the path runs between the river and the strip of grass that houses amusement park rides or tents during the many summertime waterfront events. This effectively renders the pathway unnavigable as lower functioning humans are stunned into a slack jawed, mouth breathing and quite stationary existence on the path as they contemplate whether or not to enter.

Sidenote: this is not happening anywhere near the actual entrance to the festival.

Since we are in the midst of Portland’s annual Rose Festival activities, the fun zone is in full swing. Luckily, there’s a path along both sides of the river. I just have to remember to take the right one on my way home!

Hey, did you know that Walkathons are still a thing? Apparently, most of them are in support of Rude People Pride since they seem to block the entire path…prompting me to admonish them to share as I weave and wobble through the crowd.

That said, a Monday ride is a ride free of Walkathons!

However

I need to be careful to time my ride so that I’m back before rush hour for Portland’s bike commuters. This is particularly important while there’s an event at Tom McCall Park since everyone funnels along the east side of the river to get home, bypassing the virtual bleachers on the west side of the river.

Generally speaking, I love catching the worker bee exodus of Portlander cyclists as they leave work for the day when I’m returning from a ride. It reminds me of what a great city Portland is to live in.

The only pinch point is the Steel Bridge.

This bridge was opened in 1912. One has to admit that at 106 years of age, it’s fared quite a bit better than more infamous technological marvels of that same year. Portland has also worked to integrate the bridge into its infrastructure plans to make sure it doesn’t cripple the city’s growth through the years.

Originally, this two-decked bridge carried vehicles on its upper span and train traffic along its lower span. When Portland introduced its commuters to light rail in the 80s, the upper span was repurposed to carry two lanes of car traffic and two lanes of light rail MAX trains. When the Eastbank Esplanade was created, the Steel and Hawthorne Bridges were selected to connect the east and west side waterfronts, each gaining a pedestrian and cycling path. For the Steel Bridge, that manifested in an addition to the lower deck. At about 5 feet wide, it’s half the width of the paths along the waterfront.

For all the ribbing Portland drivers get for being too polite, demonstrated nicely by Portlandia in its “No, You Go” sketch where two drivers at an intersection bent over backward to yield to the other, one of whom didn’t even have a stop sign or signal, the same cannot be said for its cyclist population. Especially bike commuters.

I’ve long suspected that being killed as a pedestrian by a cyclist would be the perfect manifestation of a Red Shirt worthy demise. Little did I realize that cyclists are trying to take one another out, too. During the Cinco de Mayo fun zone-slash-bike commuter rush hour, the Steel Bridge became something of a cycling Thunderdome. As I was crossing over in this last mile of my ~20 mile ride, the path was packed with slow-moving pedestrian and bike traffic.

I’m sure there was a very good motivator for what I experienced on the bridge this day, but all I can muster is either selfishness or straight up idiocy. We riders were all doing a slow pedal across the bridge as we navigated across with our walking counterparts. For whatever reason, an oncoming cyclist decided to pass a mother/father/stroller situation that was walking side by side across the bridge.

Mind you, at around 5 feet wide, this path is barely wide enough to accommodate three people across. This oncoming cyclist – in her irrefutable good judgment – decided rush hour was the day to make this a four person across path by bending the rules of physics.

She was partially successful, this typically stupid American. However, most of her success I attribute to me slow-crashing my bike into the hog wire railing of the pedestrian path. The commotion she caused didn’t cause her to slow down or rethink her judgment whatsoever. To her credit, it also didn’t cause her to speed up, so the chaos she created was maximized.

What a feckless cu…well, you get where that’s going.

So, hopefully the need for editing in this post is minimal, since I’m giving it less than that. You see, I have a 3 hour and 6 minute window for my ride before the bike commuter rush hour starts. I need to run.

Er…peddle.

BikeTown Chronicles #2

BikeTown Chronicles #3

How do I get myself into these shituations?

Oh, yeah…I’m stubborn.

And…competitive.

Fine, but I can still whine about this stuff, right?

After a gorgeous weekend through which I suffered through what The Fox likes to call bubble guts, I was feeling pent up. And, yeah, a bit frustrated that I hadn’t managed anything active during the good weather.

Sunday was our most beautiful and warm day of the year thus far and Monday was projected to be the same. So, I’d committed to getting outside after coffee. I was a little torn about completing some actual responsible tasks before my ride, but talked myself out of it since I was only planning a 90 minute/20 mile ride.

I’d be back in plenty of time to get to the FedEx/Kinkos to print out some documents for my unemployment hearing next Tuesday and get them in the mail.

Then as I was leaving my neighborhood coffee shop, the barista asked what my plans were.

“Bike ride! It was touch and go between bike or hike, but the ride wins out today!”, I told him.

The Fox had told me that our barista had been telling him about a 70 mile ride he’d done recently. “Told me” as in “I interpreted it as a dare”.

So, I leave the cafe after vocalizing my intent to take off on a little 20 miler. Saying it out loud makes me accountable, right?

Then I go home and get sucked into Netflix for an hour.

I end up leaving the house around 12:30, still plenty of time. Home by 2, showered and planted in Kinkos by 3, probably done by then, realistically.

My usual short ride out the Springwater Trail ends at the 6.5 mile mark, preventing me from having to cross any real major thoroughfares on my urban trail ride. It’s a 1.5 mile trip through the waterfront to the trail, so I come up a couple miles short of my 20 mile goal. I’ve offset that by taking a loop over the Tilikum Bridge and back around the waterfront to make up the difference.

I noticed my water bottle hitting my leg as I ended that loop and thought that I hadn’t placed it completely back in its cradle after my last drink.

Wrong.

I’d somehow lost a screw and that was causing the whole contraption – including my bike pump – to pivot on the remaining screw. I pulled over to tighten shit up and got back on the road, satisfied that I’d gotten the situation secured.

I get to the 6.5 mile mark and am feeling pretty good. My butt is tolerating the seat pretty well and I think, “Let’s just go to 30”. This is where my competitiveness and mild OCD kick in. I get to the 30 mile turn around point and it’s in the middle of the path, versus one of the park areas or major intersections. I decide to ride on so that I can fill my water bottle at my turnaround.

That happens at the 35 mile point and I think, “35 miles? That’s not a ride. No one does 35s”. I haven’t done a 40 since last year and decide to push on, thinking back to a conversation Little Buddy and I had during last week’s hike. She mentioned that most of her and 2.0’s rides were 40-60 mile affairs…so, why not?

I get to the 40 mile point in Gresham and think back to last year, when I was last here and decided not to push further to the end of the path. I also recall last weekend’s ride where I’d run into my friend, Casey Adler, and we’d rode along for a bit together toward the end of his ride.

He’d gone all the way to the end of the trail in Boring.

I was going to go, too.

This mentality is how I get myself into these situations.

The path out to Boring was lovely. It’s newer than the rest of the Springwater, so it’s also in really good shape, which is nice because my bum was beginning to ache.

At the 45 mile turnaround point, I do question my rationale for completing a ride that is 60% longer than my prior ride. Then I ignore myself and keep going because I’m gonna need to refill my water bottle, right?

I arrive at the Boring Trailhead Park and stumble off my bike in need of a little stretch. I walk it out around the little bathroom hut and realize that I’m not alone. There’s a “serious cycler” on the other side of the bathrooms getting ready to ride out. I decide to stretch until he leaves, not in the mood to be passed by a fit someone that is just starting his ride.

Once he leaves, I go to the water fountain to refill my bottle before getting under way.

Broken.

Ugh…I set my sights on refilling at Gresham City Park and gingerly head out. GCP is kind of new, I think maybe it was added when the Springwater was extended, but I’m not sure. What I am sure of is that there’s no water fountain.

I get back on the trail. I’m beginning to resent the overt associations the Springwater Trail has with…water as my thirst gets real. I think this as I’m cycling past signs telling me that I’m in the Johnson Creek Watershed.

Water, water everywhere.

Somehow, I manage to catch my fit serious cycler as I peddle toward the next park – a baseball field – in hopes of hydration. I’m in a mid-range gear in sprint mode because my knees are beginning to complain. I decide to follow him for a bit and ratchet my effort back to avoid overtaking him.

Yes, I’m judging him while also telling myself that he’s probably still in his warm up mode.

Then I see he’s wearing dress shoes.

Chuckling – and rejudging – I think that maybe he’s a bike commuter and forgot to pack his cycling shoes. It is Monday, after all.

No, I tell myself…

A) Who lives in town and works in Boring?

B) He’s gotta be on his way home at this time of day, so he rode to work in the same shoes.

Now I’m curious.

And passing him.

I pull into the baseball field and begin cruising around for a functional water fountain.

Jelly legs.

As I’m refilling my bottle for the second time after immediately draining the first refill, fit serious cycler guy cruises past and I mentally say farewell, absolutely setting my sights on not catching him again.

I succeed!

But I do run into a couple of other curious characters on my ride back in.

The first was a motivationally fit fella out on the path in just bike shorts.

Well, spandex shorts. When he’d passed me heading toward town, I’d appreciated his bare torso and turned to appreciate the rear view after he passed. No pads in his shorts!

This time, as he passed me on his return to whatever outer region of town he called home, I wondered, “Where the hell does he put his keys?!?”

Or his emergency $5?

Or his ID?

My parents raised me well. My zippered back pocket held all three.

Sexy and dumb. Maybe I should chase him down…nah. Peddle, Xtopher.

The second character I passed on my ride back into town was resting shirtless on a bench by my 30 mile turnaround viewpoint. He made some vague hand signal as I passed by that appeared to me to be an offer of oral sex but I convinced myself was some cycler code greeting.

He should have been wearing a shirt.

After passing him, I reach down for my water bottle.

Gone.

I’m not totally surprised, because it never fit snuggly into the cradle. Then I notice the cradle, too, I’d gone. As is my bike pump.

Fuuuuuuuck!

It’s ok…I’m inside the final 15 miles.

That optimistic thought evaporates as I pass the perpetually wet spot on the trail that I always amuse myself by thinking, “Here’s the spring the trail is named for” as I pass through it.

I pull off to stretch and rest my bum for a few minutes. Shortly after I get back to my ride, Shouldn’t Be Shirtless Guy passes me. I think that he must have been riding pretty hard to catch up after so long just as he drops his hand and makes yet another weird, finger waggly hand gesture to me.

What the hell is this guy on about?

I’m approaching the segment of the trail called Tres Bridges because there are three bridges in relatively short succession taking riders over some industrial land, train tracks and Hwy 99. After my prior four rides this season, I’m remembering the rhythm of the bridges’ uncomfortable bumps so I can stand to avoid the ass abuse they create. I don’t need that this far into my ride.

I’m in the final ten miles.

I come off the last bridge and the shirtless guy is there, pulled off at a bench again. This time, as I pass, he laughs maniacally at me and laugh tracks me from my approach until I can’t hear him any longer.

“Oooooh”, I think, “He’s a crazy”. Ok, that tracks.

It’s Portland.

As I come out of Sellwood and get back onto the last leg of the Springwater before it becomes the Esplanade, I begin to feel…crispy. It’s now that I realize my spontaneous 50 mile ride is going to come in at a smidge over four hours.

Without sunscreen.

In a sleeveless tee.

“It won’t be that bad”, I think, considering the base tan I’ve developed on my bikes and hikes from earlier in the season.

That thought was wrong.

Oh, well…might as well get my sunburn out of the way.

Plus, now I’ve crossed a half century ride off my summer bucket list. I’m also well prepared to talk myself out of future aspirational endeavors.

And, hey…there’s always the two-day mail option to get my unemployment hearing stuff in before the weekend!

Oh, btw, my fitness tracker is convinced that I somehow burned 1300 kcals on my ride. That’s 1.3 million calories. However, since I woke up still fluffy today, I’m going to choose to believe that my fitness tracker is either broke or crazier than Shouldn’t Be Shirtless Guy.

BikeTown Chronicles #3

Too Soon?

Is it too early for me to be experiencing the Dog Days of Summer?

Regardless, it’s been a lazy day here at Chez Galby. So far, I’ve accomplished two things today:

First) Fed and watered the plants, which are angry about the recent Portland sun…curling leaves and droopy blossoms. Quite a protest happening on my balcony.

My plants are so passive-aggressively Portland.

Second) I made my way to Powell’s. I’d been intending to go tomorrow after the weekend crowds died off, but I read about The Samurai’s Garden on a blog I follow and was motivated to go sooner. Even though their inventory thought they had three in stock, none were locatable.

I rewarded myself with the original reason for my trip, so the swarms of people were semi-worth it.

Oh, and the menses (Chrisism) that were there.

Woof, I say.

Isn’t that picture just an OCD nightmare?

Somewhere in there, I managed to feed myself.

Chipotle.

I think I’m done eating for the remainder of my life.

I went into the weekend pretty excited and motivated. I’d been alternating walks/hikes and rides all week and was looking forward to maintaining that through the weekend. Friday was a 10 mile hike and Saturday I completed a 20 mile ride before having drinks in the afternoon with a new friend.

I went to bed excited about seeing Major Barbara tonight with a group of friends. While I was out and about today, we were able to finalize our pre-show meet up.

Show-nanigans, if you will.

Still, a fairly low key day so far when compared to what my intent was for the day. My original list included:

– Completing a mini-workout at home this morning.

– Afternoon hike.

– Dishes.

– Filing my unemployment claim.

– Perusing open jobs.

– Writing.

I got word from the Oregon Unemployment Division last week that my claim was rejected, which I expected from my employer. I wasn’t expecting it from the state itself, though, but am not surprised based on the lemon of a state employee I got to explain my situation to a couple weeks back. Nonetheless, I’ve put in my appeal and am backpedaling on some future financial plans I had been making…it’s just put me in an ambivalent funk about the whole work thing. It bothers me when inept people have jobs and I don’t.

Sadly, the lottery was no help last night.

There’s a pre-draft-notion I’m mentally kicking around about my departure from my last job. I think I’m not quite ready emotionally yet, so if you’re curious about that…just wait longer.

My laptop has also chosen this moment in time to go tits up, making the job search more challenging since I’m doing it from my phone. Writing is fine on my phone – blogging, I should clarify. I’d just started a new folder on my laptop fleshing out a book idea. I don’t think I could successfully scribble out a novel on my phone, so that’s on hold, dropping $800-1300 on a new laptop definitely is not in my immediate financial future.

I feel like I owe myself more of a blog post for the day than this in order to really consider that last point checked off my To Do for the day. I’ve been kinda burned out on writing lately, I’m up to 20 drafts again and that always erodes my motivation. But then I got some really encouraging praise in a comment on my BikeTown post and my motivation began to stir.

Maybe after this lil missive, I’ll listen to some music to recharge my mojo, knock off the few dishes, do my unemployment claim and take a peek at open jobs while my phone charges and then head out on an extended walk around the Esplanade before meeting up with Little Buddy and the gang.

Wish me luck!

Oh, gawd…the Chipotle is starting to kick.

Better really wish me luck now!

Too Soon?