This is the way to Recover!

Well, if you read yesterday you saw that I survived the ride!  Did pretty darn good actually!  And my gorgeous wife was there to pick me up and take me to hotel.

So this time we didn’t skimp I booked us at the Inn at Spanish Head in Lincoln City.

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It is built on the side of a cliff and every room has a great view.

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We went to the top floor to eat, and I had the BEST Pesto seafood dinner!  Even after the ride, I was finally full!  Plus, with both of us eating, and a glass of wine apiece, it was only $60!

We went back to the room, opened a bottle of wine we purchased in Walla Walla last weekend, and hung out in front of the sliding glass door to watch the ocean and the waves.

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Now Northwest Beaches are not like other places.  On the east coast, California, the South, and Hawaii, I hear legends of people who lay on the beach to get a tan, and who go swimming in the water to cool off…  That is not our beaches!  We have cold water beaches.  With the winds off the water, it’s a rare day the temp hits 75, and the water is never over 50 degrees.  It is no exaggeration that a person who falls into the ocean from a boot, in the middle of August, can quickly suffer hypothermia!

And I LOVE our beaches!  Especially Oregon.  There are sandy beaches perfect for long walks, building sand castles and flying kites.  There are rocky beaches with crashing waves, sea stacks and incredible tidal pools.  If you like to watch birds, you will see herons, pelicans, eagles, and yes even these guys

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The best part, though, is the proximity of the hotels to the water.  In some, like this one, they are close enough to get spray from the big waves.  (In Washington, where I live, they are at least a half mile from the water)  Being this close means you see everything that goes on in the waves in front of you.  That night, Michelle and I saw 3 or 4 gray whales swimming by the hotel!  Nothing could be cooler!

We slept with the door open and the sound of the waves crashing.  My only gripe is we only had one night!

Now my wife was born on the Oregon coast, and grew up for a bit there.  One of the treats for her was going to Sambos.  Well In Lincoln City, Sambos is still operating, so guess where we went for breakfast?

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Yep we were the first customers! Pretty damn good breakfast too!  Then of course a stop on the way back at Starbucks!

We loaded up the car and heading north.  We decided to go back to Pacific City, to see what the town was like when the cyclist left!  The beach was taken over by Sea Kayakers and Surfers (all in wet suits mind you!)

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And it was just plain gorgeous!

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The next stop was the Tillamook Cheese Factory.

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Here on the west coast, there is NO better cheese than from these guys!  We did the self tour, ate the free samples (including cheese curds (Squeaky Cheese!  (It Squeaks as you chew it))  Then we brought home some garlic cheddar!  DAYAM it made a good grilled cheese!!

We drove north along the rest of the coast, and through Cannon Beach (Michelle had never been on the north part of the coast)  She loved it!  She is already looking for a place for us to stay for a long weekend in Cannon Beach!

Once we hit Washington it was a bee-line home!  We got lucky with traffic, and where we didn’t I had a few tricks I learned in Pullman to get around it!  We were home and unpacked before 5!

The bike was cleaned and lubed, all sand and grime is gone, I  packed for today’s bike commute home.  (It will be a slow one).  All in all a great weekend!  perfect ride and some relaxing at the beach!  Too bad its back to work!

 

Will Work for Wine!

OK, as much as I hate to admit it, a man can’t ride a bike 24 hrs a day EVERY day.  There has to be more to life.  As you may, or may not have noticed, aside from cycling, one of the other things I really enjoy doing is wine tasting.  Being 12.5 miles (as the bike flies) from Woodinville, WA, the wine tasting capital of Western Washington makes this easy.

My favorite winery, is Dusted Valley.

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Michelle and I found them about 5 years ago, the first day they opened a tasting room in Woodinville.  We had been in another winery, and they told us “Hey, this place just opened, go check them out!”

We did, and ended up tasting the best damn red wine EVER!  BFM (forgive me, but its a merlot based wine called Blow your Fucking Mind (take a sip and you will understand why)) Stained Tooth Syrah, Cab Franc and Malbec, just to name a few,  You also have to love a wine named after a prostitute!  Squirrel Toothed Alice (Google her)

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She and I have had many a good night together!

Michelle and I left there the first time packing toothbrushes and members of the wine club, Stained Tooth Society.

Now, the wine itself would be enough to make us come back, but more importantly, the ladies who work their make us feel like family.  Jill, Colleen, Veronica, Heather, and Michelle.  Anytime I show up there on my bike they are happy to see me, let me fill my water bottle, let me taste one or all, and make me feel like family.  My kid brother showed up, mentioned my name, and was able to taste for free.  I was family, so he was family!

My favorite story of Dusted Valley was that they were banned from Alabama because of their label

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Someone in that state thought he saw a nipple!  I think someone finally tasted the wine and decide either A) there is no nipple, or B) the wine is too good so i don’t care!  Either way, its allowed in Alabama.

I learned about 3 years ago that DV members can volunteer to work the big release weekends.  My main job is working the supply closet.  After everyone tastes, they come up and make their selections.  My job is to pull the orders. I fly!  I pack the cases, carry the wine to cars for little old ladies, occasionally pour wine for people and “other duties as assigned!”

The best part.  I get paid in wine.  Yep, for 5 hours of work, i get 3 bottles of my favorite wines!  Rachis Syrah, BFM, or others that are available!  Last night was the volunteer night, to come in, taste the new offerings early, and review the jobs for the volunteers.  It’s fun, no crowds, and we can retaste anything.  I could give the talk myself easily, but I am happy to show up for the wine.

So, I am set up to work at the end of the month, get the free wine, and spend time with (aside from my wife) my favorite group of ladies.  If you ever see Dusted Valley in the store, or you ever get to Woodinville or Walla Walla, mention my name and try it out, you will NOT be disappointed.  AND if you get to the Woodinville tasting room on April 27, ask for me!

OK, I admit, I will work my ass off for good wine!

Woodinville’s Willows Lodge

When it comes to hotels, I am not picky!  When my youngest and I did the Zombie Run last year, we stayed in the cheapest, tackiest hotel in Chehalis (Nothing moved and I never saw any bugs….).  When I biked the Or Coast, I just wanted walls and a bed.  So again I am not picky

However, when my wife and I go somewhere for a special occasion, it is ok to go all out.  This was the plan Friday night.  It was our 3rd anniversary last week.  Last year for our anniversary (or close to it anyway) we went to Key West.  This wasn’t an option this year, so Friday night we spent the night at the Willows Lodge.

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This is in the middle of Woodinville’s best area for wine tasting, right next door to the Redhook Brewery and right off my favorite bike path!

Just to let you know they are all about nature, this is next to the front door

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And you walk through this to get to the restaurant across the parting lot

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When you go in, your first see this look through fire-place:

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On the other side is the fire side lounge, our favorite date night place!  The staff welcomes you with a glass of either red or white wine as you check in, and they are there for your every need for as long as you stay!

My wife loves the spa, she has had messauges , the best facials ever, and manicures there.  Not being s spa boy I can’t give you first hand knowledge, but I have seen her come out of there relaxed and ready for a nap, which I hear is a good thing!

The grounds are gorgeous!  image

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With walking paths, ponds and gas fire pits to help you stay comfy.

Then there are the rooms……

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King sized, VERY comfy beds…

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Gas Fireplaces and sitting areas (we brought the wine!)

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A balcony with a great view, and my favorite part

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Now I am not a gourmet person at all.  But for those who are, the Barking Frog, the restaurant at the lodge is award-winning.  I find the dinners there too fancy, but the room service menu has “real” food.  Mac and Cheese, a pizzette (basically a damn good cheese pizza!) a burger and other simpler food (for simple people like me!)  The breakfast menu is stellar though!  We take her mom there a lot as a special treat.  They always pamper her (almost 80 year olds deserve it!)

I was still fried from recent workouts, so Michelle and I ordered room service for both dinner and breakfast,  She fell asleep early in the giant bed, and I sat in front of the fire, with a last glass of wine, the balcony door open, listening to the frogs croak.  it was nice, it was relaxing, and it was what we needed.

We slept in the next day and took our time heading out into the real world…  We always hate leaving.

Now folks it AINT cheap.  But the service is impeccable.  If you want to taste wine I can name off 4 fantastic wineries (Dusted Valley, Ross Andrew, Alexandra Nicole, and William Church) and another 10 + ok ones within walking distance.  Have a pet?  They are welcome at the lodge.  The bike path goes along the river and there are always birds signing and eagles soaring.  After eating there, you will have to get back on the bike to work it off.  So no, it aint cheap, but it’s worth it.

If you want to pamper your significant other, surprise him or her with a night there.  You won’t be disappointed!  Michelle and I will be back, hell maybe for our 4th anniversary, maybe before just because she deserves it for putting up with me!

Enjoy!

Dividend Shopping Day!

So, as I mentioned, I started a new job with my previous company this week.  I like the company, and I have enjoyed the heck out of people saying “Hi!” to me in passing, then stopping dead in their tracks, turning around and yelling “HEYYYYYY!!!  You’re Back!”  One guy asked “Did you leave?”  “Nope” said I was just lying low!”   (I left 3 years ago!)

I like the company, I like the commute and the job.  I love the fact that I am able to commute with my wife, and sneak kisses in the elevator!  Yesterday, though, my favorite part was walking across the street to the REI Flagship store!

Outside REI Flagship
Outside REI Flagship (Photo credit: dmolsen)

Yep, like I posted earlier, I can walk out the front door, cross the street and walk into the loading bay dock entrance!  {Cue the angels singing Hallelujah))

Even better, for the trip, I had my dividend to spend!  $167.00!  Add to that, the most expensive item purchased was 20% off!!!!  (Be still my heart!)

Some years, I do not know what I want or need.  This year, no such problem!  My wife requested a pair of wool socks (gotta love a lady who is easy to please) While I needed bike shorts and Fingerless bike gloves.  Pretty simple.

convenient for me, the bike department is just upstairs from my entrance.  It’s almost like I planned it that way! I found my gloves first, only $26, Giro Bravo Gels.  Very comfy, and I can’t wait to try them out!  I had found a pair of shorts, even tried them on to make sure they fit, when my eyes fell on a wonder to behold!  Zoic black-market convertible Pants!  HELL YEAH!  Long pants that zip off into shorts!  I have 2 or 3 pair of hiking pants like this and I love them.  Shoot I have even taken these to Disneyland in the winter, shorts during the day, long pants when the sun went down!

These will be perfect!  In the winter time, I like long pants when its cold outside.  Now that spring is TRYING to show up, there will be mornings when it is cold, and I will start with them on, but as it warms up, I can shuck down to shorts!  I was debating whether to get warm weather pants as well, but this killed two birds with one stone!

I also picked up some cylinders to help with the next flat tire, and YEP, just in case you are curious, I picked up a pair of Merlino Wool socks!

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One thing I always do is watch the person ringing up the items wherever I go.  Today, the guy behind the counter forgot my 20% off!  Luckily I caught it!  All of this together was $127!  I still have 40 bucks left to spend!

I decided that since this was lunch time, i would spoil myself a little, and enjoyed a Classic Vegie burrito and Caribbean C Smoothie from world wraps!  Damn good!

I gotta tell y’all, if there is an REI within spittin distance, and you do ANYTHING outdoors, spend the $20 to become a lifetime member!  Then you too will understand the joy of Dividend Shopping Day!

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year! (Or Why I Love Being an REI Member)

Sing it with me people!  “It’s the most wonderful time, of the year…..”

No not Christmas!  Shoot it’s not even Spring yet (though close!)  Yes, I can hear y’all thinking, “Dude what are you talking about???”  {Or as my kid sis in England would say “What are you on about big bruver?”)

Well I’ll tell ya, aside from spring time and the hope for nicer weather on the horizon, my favorite part of  the month of March is the REI Dividend arrives in the mail!!

What’s that, not everyone knows about REI, let alone the dividend?  Wow, I sometimes forget the rest of the world isn’t as spoiled as I am with places to get outdoor gear.

Flagship store of Recreational Equipment Incor...
Flagship store of Recreational Equipment Incorporated (REI Co-op), Cascade District, Seattle, Washington, USA. The high portion of the building at left includes a large artificial climbing rock. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

REI stands for Recreational Equipment Incorporated.  It’s a co-op started in Seattle, back in 1938, by climbers who wanted to help other climbers get quality equipment at a decent price.  It has since expanded to 31 states and carries gear for almost anything you can think of in the way of outdoor adventure! (Hiking, biking, kayaking, skiing, snowboarding rock and mountain climbing even the new stand up flat boards for water!)  About the only thing it doesn’t carry is guns for hunting or poles for fishing!

I first started shopping at REI when they opened the flagship store right across the street from my office!  I was in heaven!  In fact, I (in my slacks and tie) was one of the first 100 people to climb their climbing wall pinnacle

Rock climbing tower, REI Flagship Store design...
Rock climbing tower, REI Flagship Store designed by Mithun in 1996. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

OK, cool, so you know what REI is, what is this about a dividend?  Glad you asked!

REI is still a co-op, anyone can shop there.  However, if you join, you get 10% back on all nonsale items you buy during the year.  I once had a $300 dividend when I was getting ready for Mt. Rainier.  The best part?  it’s not an annual fee!  One time only, lifetime!  When I joined it was $15,  I just checked an it is up to $20.  Still, spend $200 your first year and you get it back!

What is nice is that I don’t just shop there for gear.  I have gotten work clothes (Hey if it has a collar and buttons it fits in the office, especially if it is Mountain Hardware), baby shower gifts (every infant needs a carabiner (just kidding, they have lots of stuff to help parents introduce babies to the outdoors INCLUDING bike trailers and ride behinds for older kids)), birthday and christmas presents (everyone needs a headlamp, or in case of zombie apocalypse, an ice axe!)  and even anniversary gifts from there.  It all adds up over time.

NOW add to it I have an REI Visa card.  I get a percentage back on each card purchase added to my dividend.  Normally I am not a big credit card shopper, but this year I did a LOT of traveling for work!  Guess how I paid for it all?  It always got paid off as I got reimbursed, but that’s 1000’s of dollars in purchases that all qualify for my dividend!

Shopping with your dividend is shopping with free money!  My wife just turns me loose and tells me to come out when I am done.  Last year I splurged and bought a set of sunglasses strictly for biking.  This year I need at least a new pair or two of biking shorts (wore a pair out last year) and maybe a new swiss army knife!  Or even a new soft shell jacket!  Just have to wait and see what I get in the mail!  Plus, if I don’t find anything i need or want (yeah right) after July 1, I can ask to cash it out!

Just for the record, I am not affiliated with this store in any way shape or form.  In fact, I’ve been turned down for jobs there as EVERYONE wants to work there!  They just have the best selection, customer service and return policy (this will be its own post!) anywhere.  Check them out, talk to the employees, hell even if you go elsewhere to find a cheaper price, the knowledge they share will come in handy!

Best part!  Almost Forgot!!  I am going back to the company that is next door to the flagship store!  Just in time for the 20% off dividend sale!  HELL YEAH!  Time to climb the wall again!!!

“it’s the most, wonderful time….  Of the year…”  HEY is that the mailman????

 

Dads Make Mistakes Too

Yep, any Dad out there will agree with me. We dads can screw up. we are far from perfect. Lord knows I have made more than my share of mistakes, but there’s only really been one involving bikes. Well involving bikes AND kids. I’ve made plenty on my own!

My youngest is almost 15 now, but back in 2009 when he was 11, i convinced him to ride Cascade Bicycle Clubs Flying Wheels ride. I had done the Century ride before, but with him I was going to do the 25 mile loop around Lake Sammamish.

He was a little worried about 25 miles since he had never gone that far before. But I promised him great food stops with plenty of sandwiches, cookies and fruit! He was on board.

At the starting line, you can see he was raring to go:

Eric and Dad at the starting line of Flying Wheels 2009
Eric and Dad at the starting line of Flying Wheels 2009

Ahh, but here in lies my mistake. You see, if I hear a ride starts at 7 AM, I am crossing the starting line at 7 AM. Not a minute later. Had I read the fine print, I would’ve seen that the 25 mile riders didn’t start till 10 AM.

What’s the big deal you say? So we are early. Well I’ll tell ya. In this ride, the food stops are set up as needed, meaning they planed to have our food stops set up for people starting at 10!

So there we are pedaling away,

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and we are approaching the halfway point. He’s getting a bit tired and I say “No worries, 2 more turns and its ALL YOU CAN EAT! 11-year-old boys LOVE that phrase. We turn into the food stop and, yep you guessed it, nothing. Maybe the fact there weren’t any other bikers on the route should have clued us in.

No worries, Plan B! To the AM/PM! A fresh bottle of Gatorade, a candy bar, and a soft pretzel later, and we are the wind! Soon after that, we started passing roadkill. Normally this is NOT good thing! But to an 11-year-old boy, who’s only ever seen this from a car, this was the coolest thing ever! I did convince NOT to run over them again with the bike to see what would happen…

We took our time, and I let him lead the way, spotting the Dan Henrys as we went. He was starting to feel it, and it was almost time for a 7/11 stop when we saw the entrance to the park ahead! we were almost done! I raced ahead to get this pic!

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I have no idea how much time it took, as we did not push it at all. It was a nice summer day, and it was a chance for just the two of us to hangout together. He was “dogbutt” tired at the end, and I was worried that he hadn’t had fun until I was able to take this.

Eric calling home to tell them he finished his first big ride!
Eric calling home to tell them he finished his first big ride!

I owned up to the making the mistake that cost us the chance for the great food stop, but he was happy with a stop at McDonald’s and my allowing (for the first and only time) him ordering a double quarter pounder. He had earned it!

He and I have done other things together just the two of us, the Coastsavers beach clean up day, The Columbia Tower climb, a zip line course and going to Silverwood Amusement park. Of all of these, this is my favorite memory. He is a skateboarder now, and may not ride a ride with me again, but we conquered this one together and had a blast.

 

Be Proud of Yourself

In my about section, I explain that prior to bike riding, I attempted to be a mountain climber. Hence the moniker “Mountainstroh”. (I will explain the Stroh part another day.)

I have climbed smaller mountains. Mt. Baker, Mt. St Helena, Mt. Lassen. However, in Washington State, the mother of them all, is Mt. Rainier. 14,410 feet of snow, glaciers and rocks. You can see that mountain from most of western Washington, when it’s not raining, and it beckons to you! I tried to climb that SOB 4 times, and in each of those 4 times my body just could NOT make it to the top.

Now the first 3 times, I felt like a complete failure. I wasted hours and days of training, 1000’s of dollars in gear and guide service, just to have to admit I failed. I made it to 12,500 feet, Disappointment Cleaver (Aptly named), but after that the body shutdown.

That was where I was turned around on the 4th attempt. This time though, I didn’t feel like a failure. Up and until 12000 feet, I was leading the way, doing better than the guys literally half my age. I helped teach them self arrest, and how to walk with a rope. I was also in the best shape I could be! At 12,500 feet, I was staggering and pulling people off the mountain. I was done.

I remember thinking “Stroh (I call myself that sometimes when I have serious talks with myself) you gave it everything you had pal, you left nothing in reserve. It’s not failing, this is just one big F’n mountain! Be proud of yourself for trying!”

The Crevasse I saw when I came down
The Crevasse I saw when I came down      

 

Sunrise at Disappointment Cleaver, Maybe NOT so disappointing!
Sunrise at Disappointment Cleaver, Maybe NOT so disappointing!

 

 

This was distinctly a new paradigm for me. I started looking at what I do from the eyes of the people I know and work with. To me carrying. 40 lb back up and down 297 steps for 10 reps was just what I did. Hiking to the top of Mt Si with the same pack in 2 hours was fun for me.

To those I talked to though, what I did could seem as far out of their reach and my climbing Everest. I am not trying to brag, it’s just that when I have a goal, I train and train hard. Plus I loved hiking, and I like the feeling when I am “in shape”. I started allowing myself to be proud of what I accomplished. I didn’t go out of my way to tell people my stories, but if they asked or wanted to see pictures, I was happy to share. 12,500 feet IS an accomplishment!

I can hear y’all now though. “Is this a brag session? What the heck are you trying to tell us pal?”

Well, here it is. If you are a beginner, take pride in what you are doing! You’ve put in the time, effort, and money to buy a bike. Look around you at the people who you hear say, “I need to start exercising!” yet never do.

Instead of thinking “I only rode 10 miles today.” Think, “Hell yeah, I got outside and cranked out 10 miles instead of sitting and watching reality TV!” Look at all those people driving, or in McDonalds drive thru, or circling the parking lot for the closest spot! 10 miles is a good thing!” Plus if you do 10 enough times, it will soon be 15, 20, 100!

Instead of saying, “I don’t want to sign up for that organized ride, I would have to push it up some of the hills.” Say, “What the hell! I’m going to go for it! I won’t be the only one pushing!”

Every mile you pedal is another mile away from being a couch spud! How many people do you know who say “You pedaled 10 miles??? All at once??”

Getting in shape, and riding longer distances takes a while. It will be MUCH more enjoyable and you will reach your goals faster if you give yourself the pats on the back that you deserve! Don’t brag, but don’t feel bad about “short” or “slow” rides. Any saddle time gives you a helluva lot more benefits than couch time!

So, to quote Queens “Fat Bottom Girls”. GET ON YOUR BIKE AND RIDE!

My favorite celebration.  Wine at Denali Base Camp.
My favorite celebration. Wine at Denali Base Camp.