Posted by: Travis | January 3, 2008


This is gonna be a long one, i can feel it. Just warning you.

Lets start with whats been going on with me the last few days. New Years eve was rather mellow and uneventful. Rachel and i picked up matching sinus infections over our christmas vacation that had us coughing up all sorts of gooey stuff it bright colors that i didn’t think existed in nature. For the most part mine was gone by new years eve but Rachel’s lasted a little bit longer. As a result, we chose to stay home for new years eve. I cooked a pork top loin stuffed with apples, cinnamon, brown sugar and rice that picked up at whole foods, along with some roasted diced sweet potatoes tossed in olive oil, brown sugar, salt, pepper, and cumin. It was pretty good. We picked up a bottle of prosecco, Rachel took a nap after eating, watched some college football, then some guy jump a football field on a motor cycle, the the ball drop, then bed time at like 12:10. Thats us alright, 22 going on 80.

To make up for the boring night before, we decided to live up to the image our friends and families have of us as young, do-anything, thrill seekers and participate in the New Years Day Mount Hamilton Climb. Its a Bay Area tradition that Rachel’s dad found out about while kicking around some internet message boards on cycling. We heard from him (and from the guys across the hall from us that work in a bike shop) that though the climb was long, it never really got too steep and the new years day ride had a pretty fun atmosphere. Rachel and i decided ‘what the hell’, we might as well give it a try. From the website of a near by bike shop we found out that the moderately paced group was set to roll out around 9:30. (When trying to figure out which group you should go with on a bike ride, always err on the side of caution and go with the slower group the first time you go. There’s nothing worse than hanging on to the back of a group that is faster than you by the skin of your teeth). We arrive at the base of the mountain around 9:00 and to our surprise see about 100 or 150 other people getting geared up to make the climb. We jump out of the car and start doing the spandex dance getting ready for the ride, deciding how cold we think it will be up at the top, how many layers to wear, how many power bars to bring, do we have enough water, do you think we’ll need gloves, what pressure should i ride my tires at, etc. We finally decide we’re ready to go and realize that people seem to just be leaving in groups of 4 or 5 whenever they are ready, rather than one huge group. Might as well get with it. I get excited and snap a few pictures while Rachel starts to question what we might be getting ourselves into. She realizes that she hasn’t been on the bike in a whole month, hasn’t done any physical activity in 10 days because we’ve been traveling, and is just getting over an infection that left her whole respiratory system looking like it got slimed by the ghostbusters. Too late to turn back now, this is Travis Boot Camp, and we depart.

The first mile and a half or so sting the legs as neither of us has been riding much in the past 2 months because it gets dark at 4:30 in the afternoon. Its normally good to do a little bit of warm up, just to get the legs loose on the flats before hitting a climb, but we’ve got no time for that, gotta get to the top. After about two miles of climbing we find our rhythm, the legs stop burning and we have the chance to take in some of the already incredible views we see, i’ve got to take some pictures. After four miles or so we crest a hill and do a short 1 mile descent into a valley before we start climbing again. We’re still in good spirits.

We climb for another 2 or 3 miles over yet another hill and do another descent of about 3/4 of a mile and then off in the distance, on the top of the tallest peak we see a little white dome. The end of the climb. We’re about 6 or 7 miles away, but its pretty obvious that we still have a very long way to go. So far it isn’t too bad though. I take a few more pictures and Rachel and i spend some time joking around. Sure we’ve been climbing for like 10 miles straight but it isn’t too steep, just keep turning the pedals and do go harder than you can sustain.

The the road turns up again, and again, and again. We slow to a snails pace and the goal changes from beating this guy or that guy to the top to finishing at all. Rachel starts to get quiet, thats a bad sign. Responses to my lame jokes and smart ass comments degenerate from laughs and equally silly responses to rolling of the eyes, then to one word resoponses with a serious tone to no response at all. We pass a sign that tells us we have four miles left and i make a comment about how we are “so close” and the observatory is “just right there”. Im reminded that four miles of this is not close at all, in fact its quite far. I try to hang back, remain in good spirits, offer words of encouragement, but im starting to fade too. My legs are burning. On the steeper sections i stand on the pedals, foolishly expecting a burst of acceleration and get nothing.

3 miles to go. Rachel starts talking about not being sure if we can do this. The same thought occurs to me but i keep it to myself, knowing that if i agree there is no chance of us getting to the top. “I think we’ll be fine, just take it at a pace you’re comfortable with a stop as often as you need to” i say.

2 miles to go. The road gets steeper again. I feel like im about to break so i decide that on the next curve we’re stopping to take break. Rachel stops and almost collapses over her handlebars gasping for air. My legs are killing me. My calves, hamstrings, and quads are overworked to the point of random vibrating spasms as i stand there. The last time i felt this sort of pain was when we ran the half marathon together almost a year ago. The view is incredible. I pull the camera out to take a picture of the scenery and Rachel declares in a tone that i rarely hear from her: “Don’t you dare take a picture of me right now”. She wants to turn around. I can see people standing on the top, bikes leaned up against the railing. “No, we’re so close. If we turn around we’ll forever regret quitting after being this close.” I plead. Her body language indicates that she has given in but she offers no words, she just clips back into her pedal and continues forward.

1 mile to go. The lady with the bright purple windbreaker tied around her waist that i was making fun of for having a slew of mirrors and a triple chainring (allows for an additional lower set of gears, makes climbing easier, mostly come on cheaper bikes, indicates lack of climbing prowess) passes us as we take another break. My ego is shot to hell but right now i don’t care. Every turn of the pedals is excruciating and i feel im going to break. But as the finish line comes into sight i feel a rush of adrenaline and with it more energy. The road steepens again for the last 1/4 mile but Rachel and i accelerate up the hill going faster and faster, leaping out of the saddle and going all out, rocking the bike from side to side as we crest the top. We sit down and coast across the parking lot. Suddenly it doesn’t hurt so bad. We sit, speechless, looking down at the road we just climbed. Holy crap. That feels good.

After about an hour of hanging out with the other 150 or so other cyclists on the top, we eat some food, refill our bottles, take some pictures, pee, and then its back down to the cars. Descending is fun, but doing it for 45 minutes gets tiring. The climbing works your quads, calves, and hamstrings, but screaming down hill in an aero position, with all your weight being supported by your feet, arms, and core works a totally different group of muscles. Not only that but you have to be totally focused as you negotiate hairpin turns doing 35 miles an hour when a miscalculation can send you over a 200 foot drop off. All this after just spending 3 hours climbing 4600 feet, giving it everything you’ve got can get pretty tricky. Rachel and i decided to keep it pretty conservative, but we marveled as people shouted “on your left” before shooting by us doing upwards of 50 miles per hour. No thanks, i don’t really feel like going to the ER today.

Like many things that may cause temporary discomfort, finishing the climb was immensely satisfying, though i will spare you all the sports cliches that get thrown around about how ‘pain is temporary but victory is forever’ or ‘pain is weakness leaving the body’. I was really glad that we decided to do it and that we didn’t quit. As sick as it may sound, i’d actually like to give it another try, perhaps at a point when im in a little bit better shape and haven’t spent all winter using the lack of day light as an excuse to get out there and get some exercise. I got spanked on this ride by people who were older and in worse shape than me. When the ‘fast group’ that left 30 minutes after we did caught up with us it flew by like a freight train. Maybe some day i’ll be able to climb with those guys (and girls). Although im not sure i’ll be able to get Rachel to go with me again.

The pictures i took of the ride can be seen here. There was also a guy from a local shop taking pictures, which can be seen here.

In mid February, the worlds best cyclists (and some of my heroes) will be riding up the backside of Mount Hamilton and down the road that we climbed and descended into San Jose for a stage of the Tour of California. If we go watch it in person we’ll have to take off work because its during the week, but you should be able to watch it on TV and see the road that we did this ride on, pretty cool. Also worth mentioning is that the Tour of California prologue time trial will be held in Palo Alto, just blocks from out apartment. Since that stage is on a sunday, we will absolutely be going to see that in person. Rachel got to see a stage of the Tour de France this summer, but it will be my first time seeing a professional bike race. Im very excited. Should be cool.

Just a few more things:

  • This weekend Rachel and i will be going back to San Antonio to see a bunch of our friends that we haven’t seen since graduation and meet our friend Katie’s boyfriend who has come all the way from Kenya on his first visit to the US. It should be a spectacular weekend (except for the whole catching a 6:30am flight out of San Jose on friday morning thing).
  • I’m about half way through a really interesting article about how currents in the pacific ocean (and us dumping a bunch of crap in it) have led to a huge glob of trash just floating around north of Hawaii that is twice the size of Texas. I feel one part interested in the science but two parts ashamed for humanity. You can check it out here.
  • Also noteworthy in the news: the train wreck that is Britney Spears had her legal team ask the judge in her custody battle if they could be relieved of representing her because she was so much trouble to deal with. Damn. I keep thinking she’s done, she’s hit rock bottom, she couldn’t get any worse, and i’ve been thinking that for a year now and she just keeps proving me wrong.
  • The RIAA (the folks that keep bringing lawsuits against college kids for ‘stealing music’) announced the other day that they consider ripping a cd that you legally purchased to your computer (theoretically so that you can put it on an mp3 player like an ipod) is illegal because it is an unauthorized copy. I’ve thought that these guys were going way overboard a few years ago but this is ridiculous. Im sorry that you didn’t see the age of digital music coming and clung to the cd format like it was a life preserver. Now all you record execs are upset because the money is flowing in anymore because the times passed you by and people don’t buy cds like they used to. So just keep driving to work in your ferrari and have your high priced lawyers sue college kids for all they are worth because they love music. Keep jacking up prices for cds and concerts and manufacturing artists that put out bad music then complain because no one wants to buy your product anymore. I hope karma catches up with you. I don’t think that kids stealing music via napster aren’t guilty of some wrong doing, but you guys are going about solving the problem in the wrong way. I shouldn’t have to buy a CD to listen to in my car, then purchase the same album again as an mp3 to listen to on my ipod, thats silly. Screw you guys.
  • Today officially starts the state primaries for republican and democrats. To be honest i really haven’t paid much attention to any of the debates up until this point. I saw John Edwards when he came to speak at Trinity in 2005 and was very impressed with him. My parents met him briefly at some fund raiser and were also very impressed. I tend to be impressed with Obama as well. Everyone that i have talked to that has read his book or seen him speak seem to be put in awe of how great he his. Between the two of them i don’t really have a preference and secretly hope that the two of them end up on the ticket together. I really feel like this country could turn the corner and make some progress if we elected either of them. Although i liked Bill Clinton, Hillary just feels too calculated and too much like a ‘washington insider’ that is the product of her handlers and will not bring the change we need in this country. Im all for a woman being president, i would just prefer that it not be this woman. The rest of the democratic candidates i would be fine with, but they don’t inspire me the way Edwards and Obama do. Then there’s the republicans. Where did they find this group? It feels like they are all just caricatures of factions of the republican party. Romney feels like a good looking, say anything to get elected, super rich, uber-calculated, sleaze ball, kinda like a Rick Perry type. Mike Huckabee seems like a nice, amicable, reasonable guy with a sense of humor (i like that aspect of him), but then you listen to some of the things he says (‘if abortion was illegal we wouldn’t need all of those illegal immigrants to do our dirty jobs’) you realize that he’s a psycho. Then there’s the whole abolishing income tax completely and replacing it with a 30% sales tax. What is that about? I guess all you really have to do is tell people that gas prices will increase by another dollar or so and people will be against it.  Then there’s Fred Thompson, who i don’t know much about but every time i see him i think he’s going to keel over and die. He seems to really represent the old, white, man-ness of the republican party. Likewise i don’t know much about Ron Paul other than he’s raising gobs of money and hes a libertarian. His take on foreign policy really doesn’t bother me too much and i appreciate that someone with the republican party is actually trying to find out why Islamic extremists hate us, other than ‘our freedom’ as Dubya so eloquently put it. Then there Rudy ‘holy crap, 9/11!’  Giuliani, who runs around with women that aren’t his wife and who is no longer on speaking terms with his kids. Yeah, sounds like a great candidate to me. I won’t even go into the whole bringing up 9/11 every two sentences. Give me a break. The there’s John McCain, who i actually had some respect for back in 2000. Back then he was conservative, but i could respect that he seemed to be level headed, was in favor of campaign finance reform, wanted to step across the aisle and work with democrats, was opposed to the ignorant, paranoid hate running rampant in the republican party, and generally spoke his mind and was refreshingly candid. Then he started hanging out with Jerry Falwell, started caving into the evangelical republicans, became paranoid about terrorists, and began his undying support for the Iraq war like it was sleeping with him. Anytime i see a republican debate it just feels like a contest for who hates immigrants, terrorists, gays, liberals, and taxes the most and who loves Jesus more. Watch out folks, this is when the Daily Show with Jon Stewart (which will be back on the air monday!) gets good.
  • Lastly, i’ve become addicted to a website called Yelp recently. Its a website that has reviews for any sort of business, but i use it mainly for restaurants. It puts citysearch to shame. You should check it out here.

Thats about it. I promise to climb down from my soap box now. Thanks for listening. I wish everyone a happy new year.


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