Taking it in … Soaking it in…

Weekends have been pleasant of late. I have been able to get in a few rides and a few long walk/runs. While driving back from a ride in the Gorge last weekend, I had an ah-ha about why my rides and walks and runs are so important to me. Thom drove me and Patty to our drop off point at Cascade Locks so that we could pick up the bike trail there and bike to the Falls… not a long ride at all, but it has its small challenging climbs and some of the most amazing views of the Columbia Gorge.

Here’s the thing. The drive out to the locks is along the Columbia Gorge River on a highway that urges traffic to keep at a steady 55 (maybe 65??). It is a highway built to get from Portland to Eastern Oregon efficiently. You get some gorgeous peeks at the river along the way and a steady view of the gorge walls replete with trees and water falls. No two ways about it, it is a spectacular drive.  Unfortunately, there are not that many places to pull off to the side to slow the pace of the panorama going by.  You can stop in a few towns along the way but that’s about it. You get a “panoramic” drive and you take in the scenery around you.

The bicycle ride.. now that is another thing altogether. Starting in Cascade Locks there is a bike path that winds slowly through a forest of firs and maples. The ferns abound and small creeks dots the sides of the path. Eventually you end up on the old Columbia Gorge Highway. I learned on one of my stops along this wonderful route that the Old Highway was purposely designed to allow its travelers to stop and soak in the panorama.

So that’s it… the joy I get from my rides and runs and walks is the gift of being able to SOAK IN the sceneries around me. From a slow view of the gorge to a drop of early morning dew on a golden leaf, details of life that escape me when I am zooming around in my car.

Here’s to SOAKING IN life!
Along the path:

Vantage Point- Bike

Creeks ‘long the way:

A Slow Look at the Columbia River:

Fall Leaf:

Early Morning Dew:
“The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.”
― Eleanor Roosevelt


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Seattle to Portland Event Report

Little by little, the numbers kept creeping up!
113…120…161…really? MORE!!

I know! I know! We are usually more pleased when we see our numbers GO DOWN! How in the heck can those creeping numbers be good? Let me show you:

So, let me start at the beginning. Several months ago, I set my sights on the Cascade Classic Seattle to Portland Bike Ride. I had remembered reading about STP last summer and the news article never really left my imagination. What would that be like? Could I really stay focused long enough to make it happen? I was fairly confident that my mind could handle the challenge. But I was not sure my body was fit enough to handle the challenge.

Fast forward to July 8, 2011. Thom drove up to Seattle with me. Both of us have not had easy driving experiences in Seattle so scouting out the start line the night before seemed like a very good idea. And true to our experiences, we did in fact have a few “scenic” side trips to the start line! (DH had decided that the way to drive in Seattle is to realize that whatever lane you are in is always the wrong lane and as soon as you decide to change lanes, it is still the wrong lane!)

And… we snuck in a visit with Soscha, Thomas Gabriel and Elijah.. so my “high carb dinner” was HOME MADE! And of course we were entertained by Gabriel’s sporty talents!

All of our scouting though did prove fruitful. We got to the start line with plenty of time to get me into the very first two-day-rider wave at about 5:15 am. Lots of people were camped out at the start line. The sunrise was gentle and seemed to signal a good day ahead.

I was bundled up expecting nasty weather but it turned out that the entire ride was actually quite awesome weather. Not too cold. Not rainy. Not too windy. Captured in my mind’s eye is the sun glistening and shimmering over the calm waters of Puget Sound, the various lakes and rivers along the way. Peaceful.

The exit from Seattle was dotted with intersections controlled by police who kept us moving at a very fast clip. I was conscious of pacing myself but I found out quickly that when you are surrounded by thousands of other riders, the draft that you ride inside makes going 16-18 miles per hour not that hard. My normal clip is between 12-14 miles per hour so zooming at 16-18 miles per hour without the aid of a hill was quite fun!

My first “food” stop was about 24 miles in. This was the first of many stops along the way to fuel up on water, fruit, carbs and protein. The organizers and sponsors did an excellent job stocking the stops with just the right thing of any rider. The longest lines were always to the honey buckets, but in an oddly ironic way, the lines were a “relief” from all the sitting you do on such a long ride.

At about the mid-point for day 1 (about 100 miles per day), Thom met up with me and we sat for a while and had an early lunch. I was feeling hungry more than anything. We had already braved THE HILL (oh yeah.. that hill is now seared in my mind as THE HILL… lots of crowd moaning and groaning) so we deserved every morsel of food we had at this stop.

The sun was really beginning to warm up the day s it was time to pull on the shades. I was now heading into the part of the ride that would take more strength. I had been riding the wave of nervous energy for the first 50 miles and now, it was about keeping that energy steady for the next 50.

It turned out the the ride after THAT BIG OLE HILL was quite pleasant. We wove through the countryside dotted with cattle, rivers, pastures and a 14-mile bike path complete devoid of any kind of noise except the spinning of our wheels. I coasted into the mid-point at Centralia Community College where the welcoming committee of volunteers put a nice exclamation point on to the end of day one.

We drove up to Olympia where our “scenic” drive to the hotel made us chuckle. After a long epsom salt soak, I felt refreshed enough to do a bit of exploring with Thom. We took a walk around the Washington capitol, picked up some yoghurt at the store, and ate an early pasta dinner where Ariane, David, Paola, Brianna and I met up for lunch back in October! After dinner, A I promptly fell asleep by 6:30!!

A friend had suggested compression tights which I did end up getting. AMAZING! I woke up on Sunday morning feeling a bit more tired that on day 1 but NOT SORE! Thank you, Jan! We headed back to Centralia and I set out for day 2 by 6:00am. I knew that the day would be slower and indeed it was. The route promised to have lots of “rolling hills.” The challenge? You have to go UP before you get to go DOWN! I had many more moments of 7 mph going up a hill than on day one, but I also got many more 25 mph going down. At one point, I actually clocked 35 mph. OH WHAT A GREAT FEELING THAT IS! (Until you realize that there will HAVE to be another up hill to remind you that nature always has her ups AND downs!)

The plan was to meet up with Thom one more time before he headed into Portland to wait for me at the finish line. Lots of great little “mini” stops along the way. One guy at the 113 mark has been making a special recipe of banana/cinnamon bread for the last 18 years! His table was piled high of this delicious little snack. Hit the spot after one of those rolling hills that seemed to go on forever. Just a really nice and personable guy being nice to thousands and thousands of riders. Pretty impressive. Another little stop in a town that seemed to only be a few blocks long where the locals put on a pancake breakfast. I did not partake as my stomach was still asleep and not wanting much food. I was sticking with the basics but the gesture did not go unappreciated. Their mileage sign captures the moment for me… The miles had been creeping up and now I was way more than half way to Portland. It felt AWESOME!

And now the REAL test of my resolve. I was tired! I had not hit the wall but I was finding that I had to stand more often to relieve the sore rear! The small hills seemed much larger than I am sure they really were. After meeting up with Thom at mile marker 173 or so, I was not only hungry, but beginning to calculate more often how much more I had to go. At mile 188, that last big stop, I relaxed on a nice little hill, gathering up the last bit of energy to finish off my ride. I had a nasty twinge in my right heel/ankle that was left over from my HM a few weeks earlier. It was calling my attention but I found a way to push harder with my left foot giving my right foot more of a break for the last 25 miles or so.

My eyes kept tabs on the odometer … realizing now that I was super super close. I stopped a few times to text Thom and Brianna so they could start heading to the finish line. We headed over the bridge into Oregon and I felt a hug tug on my heart. I was “home” and heading towards the goal line. I could almost say “I did it!” I could feel the emotion bubbling up and urging me on. All of a sudden my pace that had slowed to about 13-14 miles per hour got a jolt and I was pushing 15-17 miles per hour. At the St. Johns Bridge.. a gorgeous old London-style bridge, I stopped on last time to let Brianna and Thom know I was super close. A gentleman had stopped to call his wife and he encouraged me by telling me I had been setting a good pace. I was surprised!! and even that little comment really gave me energy to keep going.

THE SLOWEST part of the entire ride was that last 4 miles or so heading into Portland. We seemed to hit every single red light. And someone decided that one last hill at the very end of the ride would be the true test of our mettle. LOL. YEAH RIGHT! Didn’t they think that the prior 200 miles were enough!?!? But you could hear the cheering from families and friends from a few blocks away, so even a poorly placed hill was not going to stop any one of us now. When I picked out Thom, Brianna, Sean and Patty out in the crowd, I felt all of the support I ever needed lift me right over the finish line. They handed us a “finisher’s patch” as we gingerly got off our bikes, careful not to trip in front of all those people! The joy I felt started in my tippy toes and surged all the way to my smile.

So there you have it. I went from 0 to 204 in two days… and proud of it!

And… as is now a wonderful pattern: Thom, Brianna and friends have encouraged me all along the way. Your voices accompanied me along my trip and I thank you for that.

QUOTE: “The bad news is time flies. The good news is you’re the pilot.” Michael Altshuler

MANTRA: “Road work ahead.” DBH

P.S. Yes.. I am signing up for STP 2012. I think DH and I have a new tradition!


Filed under SideTrips (Not the Garden!)

A 99-day journey to my first triathlon!!

My first tri!! What a hoot it was..This little video captures a bit of how I moved through this fun adventure. (Turn on the speakers to hear the music!)

DATELINE: Hagg Lake, Oregon. September 4, 2010
My first TRI ever… and SPRINT length TRI of 1/2 mile swim, 12.5 mile on the bike and a 5K run at Hagg Lake was a joy to experience.. no doubt about it. And sharing it not only with my friends and family here in Oregon but with friends and family online has just added to the depth of the experience.

When I started out with this hair-brained idea (inspired by Brianna’s triathlons), I did not necessarily doubt I could do it, but I’m not sure I really believed I WOULD do it! I tested the idea much like one tests frigid waters with one’s tippy toes. You kind of let an idea slip into your brain. You let it simmer. You find out more about it. You look around you, inside you, up and down and all around for signs that maybe you should or maybe you shouldn’t. What I found on Sparkpeople was loads of signs that I should.

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A Path Lined with Other Gardens

You can lose your soul in the eye of this Water Iris.

Three gardens inspired by my mother guided me to Talisman Gardens. Many other gardens that I have toured on my travels also weave themselves into my imagination. And then there is the garden at Maine’s home (my grandmother) in Guran.


The first garden was more of an orchard in Emsworth, England. We lived right next to the old stone wall next to our first school, where my kindergarten teacher was thoroughly disappointed in me for confusing a “J” with a “5″. What I remember from this garden is “GREEN”… and the endless nettle plants. We had a goat whose job it was to clean out the nettles, but not before those nasty plants had stung the backs of my legs. Nasty! Under the fruit trees (I can’t remember if they were apple trees or something else) the grasses grew and in the early spring the green carpet was generously dotted with lily of the valley, a sight that was ever so delicate.

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SideTrip: Cooks in the house!

Brianna has the GENE- the cooking gene!! We are a family of cooks… Mummy’s meals, even the simple ones, were always delicious. Her catering and her restaurant which she co-owned with Paola, Coco la Fleur, all rubbed of on each of us. Paola still carries on the tradition through her business as a private chef creating a wide array of aromatic and delightful foods.

Now here is the next generation, doing the same thing. Brianna is already whipping up things from nothing as well as following recipes to the “t”. And she also has that artistic touch that will make following her blog a delight for the eyes. WAY TO GO, Brianna! Grandma would be proud of you.

Go visit her new blog to see what she is up to!

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The Frog Blog

When we put the pond in last summer, one of the most vibrant memories of my childhood was rekindled. As I have mentioned before, Mummy had ponds or fountains in each house we had in Carmel Valley. And with each pond came the frog eggs (slimy ick!), tadpoles (oh so cute!) and frogs (heavenly glorious). A perfect night for me was going out and sitting on the brick stoop when it was pitch dark, looking up into a sky painted by a VanGogh brush of the Milky Way and listening to what seemed like hundreds of frogs singing their songs. It is one of those core memories that I love to revisit.

I was watering one of my begonias last summer and was startled by a florescent green frog. He was nestled between some leaves, seemingly quite at home. I am not sure if he hitched a ride from the nursery or if he had hopped over from another garden. Needless to say I put the welcome mat out! (Pending a photo)

What I did not realize until a few weeks ago is that he brought all his cousins, friends and acquaintances with him! I was in the living room on evening and realized that I was in a calm and relaxed mood. The sounds outside the window had become a symphony that recalled my childhood stoop. The stars are behind all the clouds but the frogs have filled the nights now with their symphony. Take a listen below!

Thom recorded the frogs the other night. Certainly one of the most special sounds I know of.

Even the dogs and the cat like to sit outside with me, listening to the music.

What about you? VOTE HERE!

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SideTrip: Road to a Triathlon

Brianna inspired me last year with her two triathlons. My goal is to follow in her footsteps a year from now… The original video is on PhotoPeach if you prefer that format

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