Waylen Jones

Installment Number One:

In an alternate universe a man named Waylen Jones exists. In this universe, the trees in the West haven’t been chopped down. The trees in the East are still blowing in the wind. The Boreal forest is as strong as it was 5,000 years ago. Global warming hasn’t yet begun, due to the vast amount of trees still populating the earth, as well as the lack of wood burnt and Co2 released during the industrial revolution, which still happened, just differently. This world, where all the earth’s forests still exist, is only possible due to the seemingly impossible scenario where the axe and the saw were never invented. All other modern-day technology exists. But up until 2008, the saw and axe have been absent among that list. Finally, after breakthrough research performed at Duke University birthed the axe and saw, for the first time in human history, wood now has a use. Welcome to the world of Waylen Jones. Real life lumberjack and modern day Paul Bunion.

The splitting terror of 100,000 tons of pine was sweet, sweet music to the ears of the men holding the 18-foot long cross-cut saw blade. The man with the missing pinky finger shook his head approvingly as he wiped a bead of sweat from his brow. Both were dressed for the harsh elements of the forest in Northern North Dakota in early spring. This meant thick leather boots, heavy pants held up with suspenders, and, of course, red and black plaid jackets. Between the two of them, an entire morning had been spent hiking through thick forest brush, chopping massive grooves in the outer layer of their cellulose-clad victim, and then hours of brutal, taxing, back and forth pulling on the saw until the 12-foot thick diameter tree finally began to groan and crack. Both men now stood back a safe distance as the tree came thundering to the ground, smashing limbs from other trees as it came. Smashing entire other trees as it came. They stood in awe, despite witnessing the same sight a thousand times before, as it slowly made its way to the ground. It shook the earth as it made contact. One of the men had captured the magnificent felling on his iphone and, within minutes, posted it to facebook. Waylen Jones’ status read “just made a big-ass tree my bitch!”

Waylen and his co-worker, Paul, knew the real work was yet to come. De-limbing the behemoth and segmenting the trunk into pull-able sections would eat up the rest of the afternoon and the next two days. Then the oxen teams would be brought in to pull all the dead, hacked-up wood out of the woods and to the river, where, as everyone knows, the seal team would push the logs upstream for miles upon miles to the wood mill. This was by far the most time-consuming and costly of the logging processes. The funds spent on training fully-grown adult male sea lions to push the giant logs upstream for 200 hundred miles, let alone the great quantities of mackerel needed to fuel the 2,000 pound animals, was astronomical. But demand for wood products was so great that the cost didn’t matter. The demand was so great, in fact, that no one bothered to find ways to stream line anything in the logging process. This was the way it had always been (since 2008 at least) and this was the way it would always be. Change wasn’t necessary.

From the mill, the wood would be cut up and processed into manageable-sized pieces and trucked out to wherever it was needed to make greeting cards, McDonalds coffee cups, and (one of the newest paper inventions)–annoying pamphlets and magazines inserted into people’s mailboxes to get them to buy things they didn’t know they wanted or needed. It was a thrilling new enterprise and Waylen Jones found himself right in the middle of it. He had always thought of himself as an ambitious man, but nothing had quite caught his attention enough to spark the killer drive he now had. He’d grown up in a small, northern town in the state of New York, gone to community college for a year and a half, then dropped out to manage the family business when his father passed away. Unfortunately, the family business was put out of business a few years later when the invention of paper made Jones’ Stone and Tile Chisel Work obsolete. So Waylen set off out West and eventually found himself where he stood today: sweating and panting at the base of an enormously thick piece of wood. In this universe, a ‘woody’ was not an innuendo for an erection, since no one had given trees or wood a second thought up until just a few years ago.

Waylen scratched at the saw dust in his black beard for a moment as he and Paul took a moment of silent rest while the dust and leaves settled around the fallen pine. It would be a long time till quitin’ time. Yes sir. They had a long afternoon ahead of them. And another long day after that. And another long day after that, and so on. The life of a logger isn’t an easy one. Waylen found that out a long time ago. Men died young out here. And the women too (mainly from seal bights–women were the best at training the sea lions). Yes sir, it was a dangerous time to be out in the untamed wilderness. But it was the only life Waylen Jones knew anymore. And the only life he wanted. Because Waylen Jones was a lumberjack. He worked all day and slept all night. And, you know what? He was OK…he was ok.

Bonks of Monumental Proportion

It’s December, which means it’s time to train.  At last, it’s no longer that period of time where everyone questions you in a judgmental tone, “Really? You’re already riding 25 hours a week?  And you’re doing sprint intervals?  It’s only October 1st, are you crazy?”  No, those few months that separate the end of summer racing and the beginning of winter training is over with.  The off season (which some mistakenly call ‘cross’ season) is long gone.  Hell, it’s almost January.

For those of us who don’t remember how winter base miles work, let me first tell a story explaining how they DON’T work.  Here we go:

A few weeks ago I set out on a long, hard ride with a training buddy, Michael, who was in charge of planning the route and directing us during the ride with our hand-written map.  We had just arrived in Solvang, California, where we’re training for a couple months this winter.  So that meant that neither of us had any idea what any of the roads were like or where we were heading, really.  But we had done our homework the night before on ridewithgps.com, and our directions were freshly laminated in a thick sheet of clear packing tape (the best way to preserve a homemade map while it sits in a damp pocket for five hours or six hours.

We got a late start that morning, since the massive bowl of fruit I ate for breakfast required a massive amount of time spent in the bathroom, dispensing a massive amount of mostly-digested fruit.  Already, our plan for the day began deteriorating before we even got on the bikes.  Our route of 105 miles and 7,800 ft of climbing would now most likely end in the dark, since we didn’t start before noon.

Michael had a threshold test to do that day, so we rode for a half hour to warm up, then he took off by himself to slog out twenty minutes of grueling pain.  Doing a 20-minute threshold test is not advisable when you plan on riding a century afterwards, especially if you’ve been off the bike for a month or two.

I caught up to Michael a while later in a small town where he was waiting for me.  I asked if we should fill up water bottles and he said no, that there were, “tons of towns we’re gonna pass through later.”  So we kept riding straight through.  I was feeling strong, so I lead while Michael drafted.  When someone is drafting me, it makes me want to go harder.  So I went harder.  This lead Michael to comment on how fast I was going, which made me go even harder.  This lead him to complain about the speed, which, again, lead me to go even harder.  There’s no better satisfaction you can get on the bike than knowing the people behind you are suffering because of you.  And I’m not just talking about the consequences of me eating that large bowl of fruit for breakfast either.

On we went, passing through not “tons” of towns along the way, just one. Michael barely realized it since his head was down and his eyes were crossed.

At about mile 50, he informed me that that town we had just passed through, roughly 15 miles ago, had been the last town to get water and food.
Me: “Uhh, are you serious?”
Michael: “Yeah, whoops.  Sorry.”
Me: “What the f—k?!  I have half a bottle left.  No, I have less than half a bottle left.  There isn’t another town anywhere up the road?”
Michael: “Not until we’re about five miles from home.”
I swore at him some more at that point and clicked up a few gears as I ramped up the pace in anger as we came up to a steep hill.  I’d make sure he paid for his mistake.  The ride “planner” (in this case Michael) is in charge of knowing the route and towns along the way in which to re-stock food and water.  I just made up that rule right then, to help myself confirm that this was solely his fault, not mine.

Me: “Well, I’m probably good on food.  I have two sandwiches left.  You?”
Michael: “Uhh, not so good.”
Me: “What do you mean?”
Michael: “I’m out of food.”
Me: “Really? How much did you bring?”
Michael: “Two cliff bars.”
Me: “That’s it!? For a 100-mile ride?  All you brought was two cliff bars?  How long have you been racing?  Five years now?”
Michael: “Well I thought we’d stop for food.”
Me: “Well you f—-d that up now didn’t you?”

I ended up giving him a sandwich and we continued riding.  Actually I lied earlier.  He told me we’d passed the last town only three or four miles after we went through it, not 15.  So in reality, we could have easily ridden back to the town and gotten plenty of food and water for the rest of the ride.  But of course we didn’t do this.  I mean, who would go to all that trouble?

No.  We hammered on.  I kept up the pace and Michael grew quieter and quieter.  The bonk was coming for him.  I was relentless.  I didn’t care if he was in pain.  I didn’t care if he would bonk 40 miles from home in a part of the country he had never been before.  I was mad that I had to give up my sandwich and I was mad that I wouldn’t have any water for another two and a half hours.  Two and a half hours…yeah right.

Eventually with about 30 or 40 miles till home, I took a glance back and saw that Michael was no longer behind me.  He was long gone.

I felt strong for another 20 minutes and then I started feeling the bonking quickly and inevitably approaching.  You know it, that terrible light-headedness and empty pit of a stomach sensation that proceeds the true bonk.  I began to sweat a bit extra, which seems to happen during bonks as well.  Not a heavy sweat from being hot.  A cold, chilly sweat that leaves you cold and clammy even if it’s hot outside, which it wasn’t.  In fact, it was beginning to get cold as the sun was now perched low behind a mountain, just minutes away from retiring for the night.

During the day it had been warm and sunny.  Not super hot or anything, but in the upper 50’s, lower 60’s, which felt pretty damn nice coming from Portland, where a few days earlier I’d been doing intervals in a snow storm.

I was wearing arm warmers, knee warmers, and a wind vest.  Once the sun set, I realized it wasn’t going to be even close to enough.  A heavy fog came from nowhere, and once the sun finally disappeared it dropped down to the upper 30’s.

The bonk, now in full swing, made me continue to sweat.  I started going slower and slower.  I remembered I had an old Hammer bar in my bike seat bag for emergencies just like this.  I stopped and ate it.  It tasted amazing.  Unfortunately, it did nothing for my energy stores.  At this point, my glycogen was down so low I was pedaling at a grueling 125 watts.  I had been easily cruising at 300 for the previous four and a half hours.

Now it was pitch black.  I was shivering as I rode down the country road.  No cars passed.  I passed no homes or stores.  I navigated my way by following the double yellow line down the center of the pavement.  I coasted down every hill.  Then I started coasting on the flats too.  I started dreaming up a plan to stop and raid a beehive for honeycomb if I happened to pass by one.  Yes, I was that cracked.

I’m pretty sure the only thing that kept me going was my beehive dream.  I eagerly scanned the sides of the roads for the stacked white boxes that I’d seen earlier in the day as we passed by farmers’ fields.  I salivated as I imagined eating thick slabs of honeycomb, honey and bees alike dribbling down my face as I gorged on pure sugar, the only thing that can revive one during a bonk of this proportion.

I began wondering if I was on the correct road.  Michael had told me to take this Santa Rosa road and that there were no other turns until I got to Buelltin, which was just five miles from home and I knew how to get home from there.  The problem was that Michael had told me this while he himself was bonking right before I dropped him.  And also Michael is terrible with directions.

The road ahead seemed to never end.  Occasional I swerved from the left to right lane, not quite being able to hold a straight line without deep concentration.  I stopped every five or ten minutes to rest on the side of the road.  I could have been mugged and beaten up by an infant with Polio.  I was so weak I was having trouble holding my head up.  I had never bonked this badly before.  Or if I had, it had been years and years and I had put it out of memory.  During my first year of riding I ended most rides with bonks, since I didn’t bring food and I rode as hard as possible for three or four hours no matter how tired I felt that morning as I headed out.

At last, I saw some light far away.  This greatly improved my mental state, and I increased my speed from seven miles per hour to seven point two miles per hour.  That ridiculous speed only lasted for a few minutes though and I went back to the more reasonable seven.

The lights stayed the same distance away for maybe about 12 hours of riding.  I’m not sure actually.  But they stayed a long ways away for a long, long time.

When I finally got close to the lights, I realized they were coming from someone’s mansion way up on top of a hill, not the city Buelltin, which I had been hoping they were from.  Before I reached Buelltin, I would repeat this process of seeing lights way up the road, getting my hopes up, then being crushed every time when I found out they were just from someone’s house.  Or in one case a car.

After riding severely bonked for well over an hour, I arrived in Buelltin.  My dreary eyes, half closed, spotted a gas station on the left.  I rode straight though a red light at a busy intersection and went left without looking as I headed for the bright lights of the Am Pm or whatever it was.  I almost hit a parked car in the parking lot before I got off my bike and nearly fell over.  I swayed back and forth like a drunk.  I leaned my bike up against the building and reached for the door handle.  I missed it by a good foot and almost fell over backwards since I had been getting ready to pull the door open, and had anticipated the effort it would take would require putting my weight into it.  I regained my balance and tried again.  I made contact with the door handle, but it was labeled “Push” not “Pull” so I had a few moments of confusion and great frustration as I tried and failed to get to the great quantities of food, now in sight but still beyond reach.

I staggered in, teeth chattering from the cold and stomach groaning in emptiness.  I grabbed the first thing in sight, which was a Twix bar.  I tore it open with my teeth since my hands were too numb to function, and spat the wrapper out on the floor as the gas station attendant watched in confusion.  I ate the two chocolate cookies, carameled in gooey, crunchy wonders.  It was pure bliss.  It was, hands down, the most satisfying thing I’ve ever eaten in my life.  I immediately grabbed another bar and tore the wrapper open in the same manner, spitting more wrapper onto the floor, and devoured it, standing and swaying in the middle of the brightly-lit fluorescent store.  Next up was a king sized package of red cinnamon gummy bears.  Pure high fructose corn syrup.  I paid, not saying a word since speech was still well beyond my capabilities, and sat down on a bundle of firewood on sale.  I made love to the gummy bears.

While I plowed my way through the cinnamon bears, an old Asian man approached me from behind and jabbed me in the back with his cane, practically yelling at me in Chinese.  I was confused, but not deterred from my gummy bears.  I ignored him as he continued to complain in Chinese and jab me in the side with his cane.  The gas station attendant came over and apologized, but said his father (the store owner) was saying I couldn’t sit there on the firewood.  I looked up at the gas station attendant with a blank stare, and crammed another handful of cinnamon bears in my mouth.  Read bear juice flowed from my mouth and down my chin.  I wasn’t going to move.  And I didn’t.  I staid there, eating gummy bears as I sat hunched over, hugging myself in an attempt to warm up.  I had been hoping for a hot chocolate/mocha machine, but this gas station didn’t have one and I wasn’t yet prepared to head back outside in the cold for the five miles home.

Partially recovered after 15 or 20 minutes of zoning out, I made it back on my bike and headed down the street.  In sheer luck, I saw Michael riding on the sidewalk up ahead of me.  He’d just gotten into town and was dazed and confused as he rode along at a couple miles an hour.  He was in bad shape.

We stopped at another gas station and as I entered, someone I had met at a Christmas party a few nights before recognized us and stopped us to talk.  He blocked my way as he stood in the doorway.  I had no clue who he was as he grasped my hand in a firm handshake.  My hand was completely limp.  I made no effort, nor could have, to shake his hand in return.  I interrupted him as he started asking us about our ride, and shouldered my way past him.  I mumbled, “Sorry, but I’ve got to get around you.  I need food.”  Again I entered the gas station and got the first thing I saw.  This time it was a hot dog.  I pumped about a cup of ketchup on it from the ketchup pump and took a huge, sloppy bite.  Luckily, I had chosen a hot dog with fake melted cheese inside.  The cheese oozed out, mixed with the ketchup, and splattered all over the floor and on my shoes.  I couldn’t have cared less, except for the fact that it meant less ketchup and cheese that I got to eat.

Michael was off roaming the aisles, eating an apple pie in one hand and a Snickers bars in the other.  I found a hot chocolate machine and drank three, 16 ounce-cups, each filled a third of the way with half and half creamer.  We stood in the store, leaning heavily on the hot dog counter until the sugar hit us.  And damn, when it hit, it HIT!!!

We paid, walked out, and nailed those last five miles so hard I’m not sure if cars were passing us or we were passing the cars.  I almost ran some pedestrians over while they were crossing the street, them not realizing I was crushing it at 32 mph in a 25mph speed zone.  They yelled at me as I swerved around them, Michael in tow hanging on for dear life.  And before I knew it, we were home.  Just like that, the agony was over.  I got in the shower and stayed there for half an hour as my whole body vibrated out of control from consuming 4,000 calories of sugar in 20 minutes.

So there you go.  Now that you’re starting to do some long rides again, remember to bring food, have an idea of the route you’re going to take, dress for cold weather, make sure you aren’t ending the ride in two hours of darkness, and start out with something under 100 miles.  Basically, don’t ride like a pre-cat 5 who just bought a Trek 2200 a week ago and has never been on a road bike before.

Signs that I’m tired

There are a couple well known signals that most cyclists know about to let them know if they’re going to be tired for their ride when they wake up in the morning.  I employ a couple of these.  One that most cycling books talk about is your morning pulse, or heart rate.  Supposedly, if your morning heart rate is higher than normal, your body is stressed out/tired.  I’m pretty good about checking my HR in the morning.  When I’m really rested, it’s 28-30 bpm.  When I’m pretty rested, or what it normally is, it’s 32.  And sometimes it gets up to 34 or 35 when I’m tired.  This particular fatigue measurement method isn’t that accurate though, because sometimes I’ll have a great ride and be super energetic even if it’s 34 or 35.  And sometimes just the opposite if it’s 32.

After taking my heart rate, I take all my vitamins and minerals.  They’re spread out in about seven different bottles, and if I’m tired I usually drop the one or two of the bottles while trying to open them, and a couple pills, before the process is over with.

Another sign I use to tell if I’m going to be tired is how long it takes me to get breakfast going.  On a normal day, once I get into the kitchen I have the oats on the stove within 12 seconds, mushrooms and meat cut up in a pan with eggs within 33 seconds, and fruit being chopped by 40 seconds (estimated time).  I get the process going quickly because, most likely, I’ve been thinking about eating food since five minutes after last night’s dinner.  If I happen to find myself standing in the middle of the kitchen with a blank stare on my face and not a thought going through my head, that means I’m tired.

But all these things don’t necessarily add up to a bad ride or tired legs.  They could, but then again, with the right amount of coffee and the right mix of riding buddies for me to try and drop, my legs could definitely turn around.  There’s only one true measure of my fatigue.  It’s the number one sign to tell how tired I’ll be on any given day: the number of times I cuss at inanimate objects while getting ready for my ride.  I know if it’s going to be a tired day if I’ve sworn at six or seven objects before I’ve gotten breakfast half way down.  This morning I’d thoroughly cussed out a bowl that was dirty, a spoon that dropped on the ground, the stove for being crappy, an orange peel that missed the garbage can, the garbage can, a spatula for being in the dishwasher instead of the drawer, the house for being cold and smelling like paint fumes, the paint fumes, and the fridge for being empty—all in the first five minutes of waking up.  That’s a lot of things to drop the F bomb on that early in the morning.  I mean, I REALLY let these things know how downright useless and terrible they were.  How utterly worthless their existence was and how much I despised them and how much they should despise themselves.  It’s a good thing none of the objects were alive and were without emotion, because otherwise I’d feel pretty bad about the things I’d said.  This morning I knew I was going to be tired all day.  And I was.

Train Ride Down South

The train is just leaving the designated fresh air/smoking stop at Eugene. Yes, that’s exactly how it was worded: the “designated fresh air and smoking stop.” It’s moving very slowly. But at least it’s heading the right direction: south. The weather in the northwest, for riding, has been off and on. A week of mild rain, a week of heavy rain and cold, a week of upper 20’s and snow. Another week of rain. Mainly I guess it’s just been off. Miraculously I’ve gotten through it all and remained healthy, and haven’t missed a day of training since I started at the beginning of November.
My bag of food sitting next to me is shrinking at an alarming rate. The train ride will take another 25 or 30 hours and I’ve already eaten approximately 25% of my food…in the first 90 minutes. I have a feeling that things are going to get pretty bad tomorrow.
The compartment I’m in is mainly full of senior women. I’d say the average age is 68, with a few exceptions of young people. Almost no middle age people are riding the train. They all own cars, which are of course superior to trains and any other form of transportation. No, I’m not being sarcastic at all.
I’m in the upper compartment of the train, which is the first time. The view was pretty good earlier in the day when it was light out. Now that it’s dark I can’t really see anything out the window because of the conveniently-placed overhead lights directly up above and against the windows, illuminating and reflecting off the glass so that people outside get to see us. Not that anyone’s watching.
Earlier we passed some lovely little communities and homes backed up against the tracks. There was a lot of chain link fence and razor wire. Those homes and businesses must be extremely valuable to need such extravagant protection.
Two days ago I didn’t know where Michael (the friend I’ll be training with in Solvang) and I were going to live. The house we were going to stay at moved. It was a 5th wheel. The other house we were going to live in didn’t have a bathroom or fridge. Or a second bed. It was an RV. And the third house we were going to live in was too expensive for only two of us to pay for. This house was an actual guesthouse. All three of these houses were right next to each other on the same person’s property.

Unsuccessful in finding a third person to help pay the rent for the guesthouse, we planned on staying in the RV until we found something more permanent. Something with a bathroom. But more importantly something with a fridge.
Yesterday I posted a housing wanted ad on a cycling listserve in Solvang and got a couple responses and our problem was solved. Now there was no reason to live in the RV. So I emailed the woman who owned the RV and told her that we wouldn’t need it anymore, but we’d still appreciate a ride from Santa Barbara (destination of my train and Michael’s bus) to the new house in Solvang, which is about 25 miles away. She replied with bad news. A day ago we had a ride (from her) to Solvang, but nowhere to stay other than her RV. Now, angry that we weren’t staying with her, she didn’t want to give us a ride anymore. So now we had a place to stay but no way to get there. Luckily our new host was nice enough to agree to come pick us up. Imagine reading through your emails, coming across something about two cyclists needing a place to stay for three months, calling them up and saying, “come on over!” Then also agreeing to come pick them and 400 pounds of their stuff up at the train station—all that in just a day. Sometimes kindness can be confused with a person’s desperation, which in this case would be money. Although that isn’t the issue here, it’s just kindness. This is why I don’t believe in Karma. Lots of good things happen to me and lots of people help me out, yet I never seem to do any good to other people or the world. Maybe I’ll do some great deed in the future that the Karma gods know about.
A few weeks ago I exited the grocery store and walked into the parking lot and saw the driver parked next to me had left their lights on. I decided to rack up some quick karma points and walked back into the store and told a clerk to make an announcement that the owner of the car with the license plate “whatever” had left their lights on. My good deed done, I went back to the parking lot and saw that the car’s headlights were already off. It was just the automatic headlight deal where they turn off 30 seconds after you park. I was left wondering if it’s the thought that counts towards karma points, or if it’s making an actual difference. I would guess it’s half and half. But of course the points are diminished if you do it purely for the sake of acquiring karma points.
Now my food rations are down another 5%.
I didn’t bring anything to read or do for this 30 hour train ride. Other than my laptop, which had no movies on it, and two ipods. So I can either listen to the music on my computer, or I can listen to the music on my ipods, all three of which have the exact same songs. Or I can type.
I think I should just eat all my food right now and get it over with. It’s occupying all my thoughts as it is. Damn it, why didn’t I bring more food? Why didn’t I eat more before I got on the train?
Down another 5%.
If you flip a quarter 1,000,000 times, there’s a chance it will land on heads every time. It’s a small chance, but it’s possible. Likewise, I have a theory that there is a person that has never had to stop at a red light. A person who drives an average commute 5 times a week, goes on cross country vacations a few times a year, has been driving or has ridden in cars since birth, and will lead their entire life without every having to stop at a red light. If this is true, there also exists an unlucky person who has never gotten a green light without having to stop first.
What am I at now? I think I’m at 65% food rations left. BUT! That’s not including cliff bars or the giant bag of whey protein. That’s just counting fruit, bread, rice crackers, and deli meat–of which there is none left. Of course the deli meat is the first thing to go. Actually the very first thing to go was a pear. But not before it got smashed in my bag and slimed every other item of food. That’s the problem with pears. They’re one of nature’s weakest, most fussy fruits. They spend days and days being too hard and unripe to eat, then when all of a sudden they get ripe, they get really soft and the slightest ding will peal off their skin. This makes them poor traveling fruit, as apposed to something sturdy like the apple or coconut.
If the train was moving any slower, I could get wifi from one of these houses we’re passing by. Unlike the no-red-light-for-life-person theory, there does not exist a human being who has ridden Amtrak and hasn’t gotten pissed off.
I figured out why they have all these bright lights on the inside of the train up against the windows. It’s so you can’t see out and get a visual reference of speed. Instead, we’re left to judge by feel. It feels like we’re going 14mph. But it could be 12mph. I’ll never know because I can’t see out. It would be a pretty cruel punishment to keep prisoners in constant wonder about how many days they had left to serve. If they were kept inside with 24-hour artificial light and there were no clocks or calendars and the guards were forbidden to tell them what day it was, the prisoners would most likely go crazy. One hour would seem like four. In fact because of the seemingly slowing down of time, they could serve less time and get the same “benefit.” Think of the money that would be saved if the typical 20-year term were shortened to 5 years. And that’s not even counting the money that would be saved from not having to buy clocks and windows!
I can see outside a little. We’re going about 12mph. And I’m out of roast beef. Woah! I just remembered I have “WolfQuest, Survival of the Pack” on my computer. I think we all know how I’m going to spend the next 20 hours.

Never mind. The game’s not working.

Part II

Last night I made a PowerPoint presentation about the train ride. It took a good hour and a half maybe. Then the woman who owns the seat next to me came back. She had been in the lounge car the entire time. She was slightly drunk and a bit high from a muscle relaxer. She asked if I wanted one. I said no thanks. After 30 minutes of her talking at me and shuffling around in her seat I said I was interested in a muscle relaxer after all. It didn’t do anything. I spent a couple hours staring out the window at nothingness and willing myself to sleep, but by midnight, I still hadn’t made any progress. I decided to try somewhere else on the train.
The lounge car had all of its lights on and some people were talking. But there was ground space to lie on next to the windows, so that’s where I spent the night. It was right next to a heater vent too, which was nice.
This morning I’ve spent my entire time in the lounge car, which as a bunch of open seats facing the windows. There’s enough space in here that I can take up three seats. It’s all very exciting.
I’m also pretty excited about a banana sandwich I’m planning on making in an hour or two. I have one apple and a banana left. Plus most of my loaf of bread and rice wafers. I found a small piece of roast beef at the bottom of the bag earlier this morning, which was a nice treat. And I had a cliff bar. So all things considered, I’ve grown quite accustomed to train life. The California scenery passes by slowly, yes. There’s not much to eat or do, yes. But then again, there’s a strong sense of community here. Out of sheer boredom and drunkenness, people are striking up conversations and friendships with each other. They’re even traveling in small packs to and from the dining car and roaming up and down the train cars in search of adventure. I imagine all these aspects of train life add up to a pretty accurate picture of what pre-agriculture-based society was like. It really baffles me that the train doesn’t have wifi though. I mean come on! By the time I post this it will be over a day old, and therefore meaningless.

Part III

I’ve spent the day trying to sleep, listening to music, looking out the window, and playing chess against my computer. It isn’t very fun playing against a computer, because it doesn’t make mistakes and its moves are always super rational. There aren’t that many tricks, and when there are and I see them, it doesn’t even matter because whatever I decide to do, the computer will win that set of moves. By the time it does something “risky” or tricky, its planned so far ahead and so well, that its actually not risky or tricky at all. Maybe this is why the best humans are able to beat computers even when they’re set“unbeatable.” The human knows the computer will plan for something practical and safe, and counter that with something irrational. Or maybe the computer knows that the human will play irrational and expect the computer to play rational, so the computer rationally decides to play rational, in which case if the human is still able to beat the computer, they must have figured out the computer’s reverse psychology. Maybe I should just set it on an easier level.
It’s sunny down here. The train just stopped at San Luis Obispo and I got off for the first time to walk around. It was probably in the upper 60’s. Nice and warm. Shorts and short sleeve weather. Before I got back on the train, I ran and got a sandwich wrap at a store.
I’ve come to the conclusion that traveling by train could possibly be better than by air. First of all, it’s much less stressful than flying. There’s no security, no giant airport terminal to get lost in. No worry about being late for the train, since it will certainly be later than you.
Secondly, there’s a lot of room on a train. You can get up and walk around, get off occasionally at stops. There’s room to lie down, seats available to put your feet up and even lie down if you get one of these sweet lounge couch things I’m on right now. It’s not as loud as a plane. Not even close. And the scenery is better, depending on what you like to look at. If you like the grand scheme of things, observing from a far distance 30,000 feet above the ground, giving the earth an apparent calm and feeling that everything is just A OK, then flying is for you. If you enjoy getting a close-up look at the closest thing the US has to slums and shanty towns, houses built out of cardboard and bed mattresses, trash-strewn back yards and tattered plastic snagged on razor wire and blowing in the breeze of the passing train, then the rail is the place for you.
Flying from Portland to Santa Barbara would take about 2 hours. Plus add in an hour and a half for terminal time. Taking the train is going to be 27 hours (it made up time after all and looks like it will actually be a few minutes early). But if you need to take a day or two of recovery, which I was going to have to do anyways, taking the train might be better than flying due to the lower cortisol levels and the ability to keep your legs elevated and moving about throughout the day. I’ll see how I feel tomorrow. Come to think of it though, 2 hours in a plane isn’t that long and wouldn’t hamper performance or recovery unless you got sick, which is also more likely on a plane than on a train, I believe. If a train could cover the equivalent distance of a six or five hour flight in 25 hours, then as long as you weren’t in a hurry, I think the train would be much better.
And lastly, if you include the price into the equation, $100 for a train ticket obviously beats $200 for a plane ticket. And then of course you have to count the fact that all I paid for baggage was a meager $30 for my two fifty pound bike boxes jam packed with equipment, my bike trainer and altitude tent poles, two large cardboard boxes with stuff in them, a big duffle bag, a backpack, and a bag of food. That would have cost an extra $500 if I went by plane. Yes in deed, trains are the waive of the future, just like they were back in the early 1800’s.

Part IV

I take it all back. Trains suck. Amtrak sucks. We’ve been sitting here not moving for the last 40 minutes because a freight train in front of us needs to do “maintenance.” This is after the conductor assured us that there would be no more hold ups. Time to add some more slides to my PowerPoint slide show.

Part V

F- it. The train was stopped for well over an hour and finally it gets going…up to a blistering speed of 20mph because the traffic stop lights have been set to the speed the freight train was going. And they won’t adjust to our speed due to some malfunction. So we’re an hour and a half behind schedule and now we’re going 20mph, which will make us even later. Amtrrak, I really hate you.

How to successfully plan a trip in the last minute.

The Original Concept:

 

Early August: my teammate, Spencer, and I began dreaming of winter training down south.  We began scoping out locations in the Southwest using Ride With GPS.  A couple hours mapping out rides every night and before we knew it we had found the ideal spot: Solvang California.  It is, of course, the happening place to go train in the winter.  It’s rapidly becoming the new Tucson, the new winter Mecca, in case you didn’t know.  Eager with excitement, Spencer and I doubled hour daily hours on Ride With GPS and began mapping rides by the dozen.

 

The Plan

 

Mid September: by now Spencer and I were looking forward to the off-season.  It had been too long since we’d gone to a dance party or eaten a burrito without guilt.  But this was no time to forget about Solvang.  In fact, I began thinking of it more and more as I finished up my last couple races.  By the time the true off-season began, it was time to start a solid plan.  Here’s what we came up with: Spencer was going to join me in Solvang in mid to late December, where we’d train until mid February, then go to altitude for a couple weeks before our first big races of the year, San Dimas and Redlands.

 

Following Through:

 

I got on top of the logistics quickly and found a place for us to stay by October.  This was a full two months before I actually planned on heading down there.  You can imagine how organized I must have felt.

The living situation would be a 5th wheel and an RV, both parked on a nice woman’s 3-acre lot, just outside of Solvang and a short walk from the grocery store.  Rent would be cheap, and I imagined warm evenings sitting around a campfire after a hard day of training.

 

Making backup plans:

 

Just in case the house fell through, I kept two other households as options, who I had found on Craigslist.  I also found a third person to come train with us, named Michael, just in case Spencer backed out.  Training by yourself for months on end sucks, especially if you don’t know anybody in town.

 

Being glad you made backup plans:

 

Shortly after I found the house, it became clear that Spencer was going to opt out.  Now it was down to Michael and I.

 

Original plans begin to crumble:

 

Two weeks before we were set to leave (me from Portland on a train and Michael from Iowa on a bus), our host informed me that the 5th wheel wouldn’t be available, due to it not being up to the electricity code.  So our options became 1) contact the backups, which I did but neither of their homes were available anymore, 2) both sleep in the RV, which didn’t have a fridge or working bathroom, 3) one person sleep in the RV and one person sleep in a tent (notice that this doesn’t solve the problem with the fridge or bathroom), or 4) find a third person to make renting the woman’s $800 a month guesthouse economically viable, which only had one room but did include a fridge and bathroom.  We quickly began scrambling to find a third person.

 

Things Take a Turn for Good:

 

With a week to go, I found a third person to come stay with us.

 

Never Mind:

 

Half a week later: Yeah that was too good to be true.  Turned out he couldn’t drop everything he was doing and leave for California for three months with one week’s notice.

 

Last Minute Game Saver:

 

With two days to go, I contacted the Solvang cycling listserve and posted a housing wanted plea.  It worked, and I got two responses within a couple hours.  We were saved.

 

The Fumble Continues:

 

I emailed our original RV/5th wheel/guesthouse host and told her that we had found a new place to live, but we still needed a ride from the bus and train stations in Santa Barbara to Solvang, located 40 miles away.  She quickly replied saying that she would NOT come pick us up because her husband and her had spent the entire previous day getting the RV and guesthouse ready for us.  They needed some revenge.  So now we had a place to stay but no way to get there.

 

Saved Again:

 

Not to worry, as the train passed through the Bay Area, a mere eight hours before I was set to arrive in Santa Barbara, our new host confirmed that she could come pick us up.  And there you have it.  Everything planned out in the last two days.