Well, the 2014 Amgen Tour of California starts in 2 days, and this year both Stage 1 and Stage 2 are practically in my back yard. The buzz of activity around the American River Bike Trail is already increasing; and while I was out walking this morning I may or may not have seen a quartet of pro cyclists fly past me. They were going fast enough to have been “the real thing”… or they may have just been some local hotshots wearing team jerseys. I know which version I prefer!
And since it’s now nearly the last minute before this year’s race kicks off, I thought I should (finally) post some of my photos from Stage 8 of the 2013 AToC.
Things were starting to get busy as the race drew nearer.
One of the many, many, many CHP officers escorting the peloton…
I always wait for the broom wagon to go by.
The Big Guy also got some great photos with his Nikon. He was standing further up the hill from my position.
And here was a surprise — it happened directly in front of him…
Here’s hoping we get some amazing photos of this year’s race!
Soda Bay, Clear Lake, California
California Poppies along Highway 20, Lake County
Alligator lizard near Lake Natoma, Sacramento County
Flowers along the American River Bike Trail near Folsom, California
Canada geese in Lake Natoma
Wildflowers in Snipes Ravine, Orangevale
… and the Amgen Tour of California!
Here’s a few long-overdue photos of the 2012 ATOC, Stage 1.
The race passed through the beautiful little town of Monte Rio, on the Russian River.
And finally, a few photos of the Sonoma coast — very beautiful in the very last week of 2012.
And one of the more interesting sites we’ve seen while driving up and down Highway 1 — or anywhere else, for that matter!
Stage 8: So, Lance had a bad day today, and it certainly looks like his hopes for a podium finish are shattered.
Yep. He blew out, hard.
From the VeloNews live commentary: The really frustrating moment was atop the climb at Les Gets. It was a weird accident and, from the look on his face, it became readily apparent that it was the final straw for Armstrong.
It’s remarkable that he never had a day even remotely like this in his seven-Tour run. He always appeared to have luck on his side – recall the Beloki crash among other moments.
As I was following along with today’s stage I thought, Man, Lance NEVER used to fall of the bike! But then I remembered 2003. That was the first year I actually watched the Tour, and it had to be the toughest of Lance’s Tour wins. Not knowing any better at the time, I thought that was the way all Tours were supposed to go.
- He’d crashed earlier in the Dauphine, and he came into the Tour with stomach problems and hip tendinitis.
- He suffered on L’Alpe D’Huez, narrowly escaped disaster when Beloki crashed on Stage 9, overheated himself in the Stage 12 time trial, and continued to falter on the next day’s stage.
- The climax came on the road to Luz-Ardiden, where Armstrong was knocked off his bike by a spectator’s bag and later nearly fell off again when his chain jumped a cog.
That incident was the last straw for Lance in 2003, and he fought back — hard. He fought back and he clawed his way to the top of the mountain, and he ended up with his fifth Tour de France win . . . beating Jan Ullrich by just over one minute.
This morning it was clear many people seemed ready to write Lance off immediately. And it’s possible this was one Tour too many for the former champion; he’s not as young and strong as he was during his incredible string of victories. But anybody familiar with his story should know better than to assume the worst, especially right after the end of the stage.
I’m not a Lance groupie, but I admit the man fascinates me. Boy, did I get tired of the constant “Lance-centric” Tour coverage we tend to get here in the US, especially in the weeks leading up to the race.
I understand that Lance has the personality and the name recognition to draw in new cycling fans, but I hope that they can see there’s much more to pro cycling than Lance Armstrong. No team is ever really about just one man, and no race is ever about one or two contenders. There’s teamwork and strategy, and especially this year there has been luck, both good and bad, and the struggle just to survive from day to day. There are the daily breakaways, the fiery sprint finishes, and the early fight for the Yellow Jersey. It’s tough to beat the drama of the Tour de France.
Maybe it was never realistic to hope for Lance to win this year. I can’t help wondering what Lance’s own private expectations were. When he came out of retirement for the 2009 Tour, I was hoping to see him ride in support of the next generation of GC contenders. I kept thinking about how Bernard Hinault promised to help Greg Lemond win and then ended up trying to take the win himself. Sure, it made for great Tour drama (although I wasn’t actually watching the Tour back then), but I think I would feel more respect for Hinault if he had kept his promise and acted a little less selfishly.
But here’s a question: how exactly should a former champion end his cycling career? Going out in a blaze of glory sounds fantastic, but how often does that really happen? I mean, how many of us could walk away while we’re still winning? (Just walk into any nearby casino for the answer to that question.)
Four former Tour Champs:
Anquetil: Abandoned his sixth Tour attempt in 1966. According to the True Grit Cycle News and Blog,“It was only with misgivings that he tried for a sixth Tour win, since as he said: “If I win, my contract fees won’t go up but if I lose to Poulidor then they’ll go down.”
Hinault: In the 1986 Tour he battled teammate Greg Lemond for the lead and finally gave up 3 minutes. Hinault left cycling at the peak of his career. He retired in November of 1986. His last race was a cyclocross race five days before his 32nd birthday.
Merckx: In the 1975 Tour he was punched by a spectator and was injured but didn’t abandon; he lost by under 3 minutes. He won his last Grand Tour in 1974 at the age of 29 and his last major classic in the spring of 1976, at the age of 30. He retired two years later on May 17, 1978, at the age of 32.
Bottom line: I honestly don’t expect Lance to now come roaring back and to pound Andy Schleck, Cadel Evans, and Alberto Contador into submission. Velonews now reports that Lance intends to stay on and ride for his team instead of trying for a podium position. I think it’s a wise decision.
I’d be very disappointed if he chooses(or is forced) to abandon, but I would also really have hated to see him stay in the GC fight and drop further and further down the standings. His struggles definitely make great Tour drama — and I admit that I like Lance better when he’s forced to show what he’s made of . . . even as a domestique. Those guys are the unsung heroes of the peloton and the ones who helped Lance reach Paris as a winner 7 times.
If this truly is Lance Armstrong’s last Tour, I hope he’s able to stay and fight it out with the rest of his teammates and to finish with his dignity intact.
Because that’s what being a champion is all about, and that is the true essence of the Tour de France.
I can hardly believe it’s July already, but we’re a week into the 2010 Tour de France, so it’s time for me to drag myself out from under my rock again and get blogging. This will be my catch-up post, and then hopefully I’ll be able to write more about the Tour next time.
I meant to get back earlier — I have tons of photos from our local Tour of California in May I’m excited about sharing. I decided to forego the video this year in favor of still shots, and I’m pretty happy with the results.
Then of course there’s the yarn stuff. I have a few (to put it mildly) unfinished projects scattered about the house . . . most of them are winter projects like sweaters and blankets. In May I did manage to finish my Black V-Neck Sweater (Ravelry link) knit in a cotton/wool blend, and I’m very pleased with it.
I’ve temporarily put aside my Hemlock Ring Blanket until the weather starts cooling off a bit. But I’m really happy with the way it looks thus far.
I also knit up a few face/spa cloths using some nice soft cotton yarns I found on sale at Tuesday Morning (a very dangerous place for me to shop, if you know what I mean). One of these made for some relaxing vacation knitting while I was at Clear Lake in early May.
I’ve been on a yarn “diet” lately (cutting back on buying) since I already have such a large stash and I’m such a very slow knitter. In fact, I’m so slow that this year I decided to start my Christmas knitting in July. No excuses this year!
For our Clear Lake trip, we discovered a comfy little motel near Kelseyville and the State Park. It’s called Ferndale Resort and Marina, and the views of the lake are wonderful. The guys liked it because they were able to tie their boats up at the dock right in view of the rooms — and the fishing wasn’t bad, either!
The resort has a restaurant aboard the Clear Lake Queen, but on our first night there we went about 100 feet down the road and found excellent food at Zino’s. It’s a small, unimpressive-looking place from the outside, but the owner, who is also the host and server, was very gracious and the lake view was excellent. My meal was fine (I had the leftovers for lunch the next day), but what I really loved was the soup.
I’d be very happy to tell you what kind of soup it was, but I must admit that stupidly — and unusually for me — I failed to write down any details of my trip (ask my mom about our road trip to British Columbia where I wrote down every single thing we ate on the entire trip). All I know is that it was the Soup of the Day on a Monday, it was orange colored and maybe a little bit spicy but not too much, and it was absolutely delicious. If anyone can help me out I’d be eternally grateful, and a little less embarrassed.
Our next big thing was the Tour of California. This year we were lucky enough to view the first two stages from the roadside.Stage 1 took the riders from Nevada City to downtown Sacramento. The day before the race, the Big Guy and I drove along Salmon Falls Road to Hiway 49, thinking we’d pick a spot in view of the Auburn Foresthill Bridge. A lot of other folks had the same idea.
In the end, though, we found a great place to watch a bit further along the route, near the Salmon Falls Bridge over the South Fork of the American River.
As we were walking back to where we’d parked the truck, we noticed something bright red lying in a ditch by the road.
The next day, Stage 2, we got up early and drove over to Howell Mountain — yes, the same place as last year. Again this year it was raining. Last year we situated ourselves up near the top of the climb, not far from the King of the Mountain sign. This year we decided to stay closer to the bottom and found a sharp hairpin turn. Then the only question was which side of the road to stand on?
In the end I chose the outside, and the Big Guy decided on the inside. He had a disposable camera and got some good shots. He also could have patted Lance Armstrong on the back as he went by.
It’s surprising how hard it is to pick out faces as the peloton goes by! I wasn’t even sure who I’d seen until I got home, uploaded my photos to the computer, and was able to get a closer look. I’m just happy that I was able to get some good shots and still watch the riders go by without having my eye glued to the camera’s viewfinder.
I have a bunch more photos of the peloton here, from both Stage 1 and Stage 2.
That’s all for now; I hope to be back in the next few days with some Tour de France commentary.
I’ve been neglecting the blog lately and neglecting quite a lot of other things too. I don’t want to blog about sad things all the time, but unfortunately these past few months have been full of a lot of sadness for me.
In the early morning hours of Monday, April 12th, our most beloved boy, Buster, passed away. He was 16 years old, an incredible age for him to reach considering that he was a 90-pound Doberman/Rottweiler mix.
There were so many things about Buster that were incredible to us — despite his very common name, he was anything but a common dog. He was a big dog, a mix of two breeds with scary reputations. But wherever he went he made friends — both canine and human. He was never in a real fight in his life, and while he always stood ready to protect his yard and his house, he also loved to climb up on the sofa and lie with his head in my lap.
His very favorite thing was to go fishing with the Big Guy. Buster took his fishing very seriously. Folsom Lake was his lake; he was completely at home on the bass boat; and his hysterical yapping let everyone know that the fish were biting. As soon as a fish appeared at the end of the line, Buster would launch himself into the water and try to retrieve it. He knew the Big Guy would reel it in, but he wasn’t taking any chances!
I’ll never forget the day we brought him home. He was just a little squirt — probably the runt of the litter. I’m not sure, though, because we never saw the other pups. He was the only one left, but there he was, scampering about the house after his big Rottweiler dad, chasing after a tennis ball. His dad took time out to give us a friendly greeting, as did his mother, a beautiful red Dobermann. When it was time for us to leave, Buster climbed happily into my lap and never looked back.
At our house, we had been smelling something unpleasant — probably a dead rodent — for about a week but couldn’t pinpoint the source. When we got our new puppy home, his little legs were so short I had to lift him from the step into the front door. But once inside, he got right down to business with his nose . . . and he led us straight to the dead mouse under the Big Guy’s easy chair.
That first night, Buster slept in complete contentment on our sofa, right on top of the Big Guy’s head. The next day we took him out to Folsom Lake to fish off the shore. Buster walked the whole way by himself, and it must have been at least a mile to the fishing spot and then back to the car.
We decided to name our pup after James “Buster” Douglas, the heavyweight boxer. In my journal in February ’94 I wrote about our little munchkin dog with the huge feet. We were watching the Westminster Dog Show, and Buster had his nose on the TV screen, trying to get the dogs.
A few nights before that we heard coyotes from somewhere nearby; the neighborhood dogs were going crazy, and Buster got very excited. I was already hoping that I could teach him to howl; I had found a record in our 1974 World Book Encyclopedia Science Annual called “The Music of the Canids” and had been playing the wolf chorus over and over for Buster.
Believe it or not, it worked — Buster learned to howl, and a few years later he taught his daughter, Pinkie. Whenever the dogs heard sirens, all three of them would race outside, Buster and Pinkie to howl, and Gabby (who tried to howl a few times and then gave up) to wag her tail and bark in support.
At the end of March 1995 a friend of ours told us about a stray dog hanging around where he worked. She was a pit bull, and she seemed friendly; he was worried what might happen to her and he knew that we loved pitties. The Big Guy and I decided to go have a look at her — but I insisted we bring Buster along. If Buster didn’t like her, that would be that.
Buster loved her. I’m sure he felt that we’d brought her home just for him. At the time we had no intentions at all of raising puppies; in fact, for some reason the possibility never even occurred to us (stupid, I know). But on July 5th, 1995, Gabby had her litter of ten healthy, beautiful pups (her last litter, because we spayed her as soon as possible afterward). Since we couldn’t possibly keep all ten of them, we settled on just one — Pinkie.
Buster helped with the pups as much as possible, but I’m sure he and Gabby were both relieved when the nine went to their new homes. After that, it was the just the three of them, our little dog family. They’re all gone now, but they have left us with so many amazing memories. I’m sure one day they’ll feel like happy memories again.
In May 2001 we found out that Buster needed surgery. It was sort of a shock, since he had never been sick a day in his life, but now he had a big fatty tumor, non-malignant, growing inside his abdominal cavity. We had a lot of faith in his vet, Dr. Faulkner, at American River Animal Hospital, and Buster trusted her too.
After the surgery we found out she had removed a 16-pound mass from his abdomen. It was the biggest lipoma she had ever seen. Buster recovered (after one little mishap when he managed to prematurely remove his own stitches, leading to another surgery to repair the damage), and through the process he formed a special bond with Dr. Faulkner and made a lasting impression on the rest of the veterinary staff.
In my journal in June 2001 I wrote: “Buster makes new friends everywhere he goes. Everyone at both vets’ offices made a point of saying what a special dog he was, very sweet and cooperative. Our new local vet, Dr. Faulkner, phoned a few days after his second surgery [performed by a different doctor] to see how he was doing. She said he was “just a perfect angel.” I’ll never forget those sweet words.
Unfortunately, that lipoma ended up growing back, and so Buster had another surgery a few years later to remove it. After that, even though we knew it would come back again, we made the decision to skip any further procedures because of his advancing age. We all figured that before the lipoma managed to grow to a bothersome size Buster would already have passed away from old age. But Buster had other ideas; he intended to outlive that lipoma. And so it kept on growing.
For now, all I can say is that it’s heartbreaking to lose your three best friends in the world, one in September, the next in December, and the last in April. It was the thing we had dreaded and feared for so long, and now it’s happened. The house seems so utterly empty without them. It almost seems like all of them had been with us for half our lives, like there could be nothing after them.
The morning after we lost him, I wrote in my journal: “Buster was the best dog ever. He was the smartest, most intuitive, most precious, loving, tough, cuddly, faithful, handsome dog ever. Nothing will ever be the same without him.”
November 1993 – April 2010
Both of my “bully gals” are gone now. Gabby and Pinkie — mother and daughter. They had very different personalities, but both were wonderful, sweet dogs and loyal friends.
Pinkie was born, along with her 9 brothers and sisters, in our back yard. We hadn’t planned on breeding our dogs. This was our first and only litter. If we could have kept every puppy we would gladly have done so. As it was, Pinkie was the puppy who stayed. And her mom and dad both adored her and tended to their pup for the rest of her life. Gabby loved to hold Pinkie down and clean her ears. When Pinkie went out in the rain and came back inside all wet, I would grab a towel and Gabby would go to work with her tongue.
One day when Pinkie was no more than a year old, I found all three dogs huddled together in the back yard. Mom and dad were clearly worried and wanted my help. I found that Pinkie had stuck her head through a plastic Gatorade bottle which had both ends removed. She was fine, but she looked like she was wearing a clear, plastic cervical collar.
I wish I’d thought to take a photograph at the time, but I was laughing too hard. I had to find a pair of scissors and cut her out of her predicament, much to the relief of all three dogs.
Buster, her dad, taught her how to howl at sirens. She would only start in if he initiated it, though. One day he was off on a fishing trip with the Big Guy, and I could see that Pinkie desperately wanted to howl, but her dad wasn’t there, so she whimpered a little and then gave up.
Why did we call her Pinkie? When we had 10 little black pups in our house and I was trying to keep track of them all, I found she was the only one who had a little bit of pink on her chin. She also had different-colored pads — some were black, and some were pink. I called her Pinkie then, thinking I’d change her name later. She didn’t seem to mind having such a funny name.
Pinkie had a fat “otter tail” and a gorgeous thick coat; I called it a Rottweiler coat because her dad is half Rottweier and half Doberman. She looked like a black dog — until the sunlight hit her just right. Then you could see that hidden in between the black hair was a red coat she’d inherited, maybe from her mom, a red-nose golden-eye pit bull, or maybe from her grandmother, Buster’s mom, who was a red Doberman.
Pinkie loved going to the lake and was a born swimmer, although she was usually reluctant to get in over her head. She was splashing in her water dish at only a few weeks old; but at the lake she might decide to take one short swim and then stay on the shore to play with Gabby (who was afraid to go swimming).
One year on her birthday I took her for a walk down to Negro Bar. She was on her leash as usual, but she suddenly spotted a few ducks swimming far out in the water, and she decided she was going after them. She surprised me with her determination; she swam at least 100 yards into the water, aiming for the ducks, until she finally decided to turn around and come back. That was the only time in her life that she tried to swim with the ducks.
Pinkie was diagnosed with diabetes about 10 months ago. She lost a lot of weight, and her appetite changed completely. She’d always been an eager and happy eater; she became so picky that we usually had to beg her to eat. We tried so many different types of food to tempt her. She did like to eat whatever fish the Big Guy brought home from his fishing trips. When she finally stopped eating bass and striper, we knew we were in for a rough time
She was strong, and she was stubborn. A few times in the last several months we thought we had come to the end, but she rallied and started eating again and gained some weight back. She wasn’t ready to quit.
She lost her eyesight to cataracts about eight months ago. She bumped into the walls a lot, but she kept on going. She loved to go for walks with the Big Guy and Buster. I missed seeing her beautiful brown eyes.
We love you.
July 5th, 1995 – December 6th, 2009
I love autumn. I’m just beginning to realize that this is probably my favorite time of the year, when the heat of the Northern California summer is reluctantly fading away, the mornings are crisp but the afternoons are still tee shirt weather. I can sense the change in the earth’s position to the sun; the light has a different quality to it even before the leaves dry up and start falling from the trees.
I’ve had a few changes in my life this fall, and most of them are good, or at least potentially good. We just finished painting the exterior of our house; I’ve started some new projects at work; I’ve got some new yarns and several WIPs (works in progress); and the Big Guy has bought me a new (to me) bike. So I should be feeling a lot happier than I do; but I’m still grieving for a very special member of my family.
My last photo of Gabby
After a few days of feeling that the pain was diminishing, I woke up one morning and it hit me all over again. The house was chilly, but the morning sun was coming up over the tops of the trees in our back yard, and there was a big sunny area on the carpet in front of our sliding glass door. At that moment it was probably the warmest spot in the house — and I suddenly remembered that every morning for as long as I could recall the winter months would find Gabby trudging from her bed of blankets out to the livingroom, searching for the heat in that very place. This morning, that spot is empty.
Of course, it won’t be long until Gabby’s daughter, Pinkie, figures out were that sunny spot is. Blind as she is, she’ll find it, and she’ll enjoy lying there just as much as Gabby used to. Now she’ll have the spot all to herself.
Gabby’s sunny spot
Still, I can’t help but feel at least a little happy over my new bike. It’s not really new — it’s a vintage Peugeot triathlon bike.
I’ve never owned, or even ridden, a road bike before in my life. My current bike, which I’m still crazy about, is a Trek hybrid. It’s sort of halfway between a road bike and a comfort bike. It’s got flat handlebars like a mountain bike, and its tires are only a little fatter than road tires. I tend to ride it like a road bike, and it’s pretty darn fast.
But this shiny red Peugeot is something else again. It’s a couple of inches too big for me, so I was nervous getting on and off of it the first couple times. I also need to get used to the different type of handlebars and the placement of the brake levers — not to mention the fact that the shifters are not where I’m used to finding them!
This is a completely different experience from any other bike I’ve ever ridden. The Peugeot is a race horse, a real thoroughbred. It doesn’t have all the fancy equipment of a brand new road bike, but it’s light as a feather and it goes fast.
I’m planning to do a bit of work on the bike. It needs new tires and the brake levers are a bit stiff, and there are a few other minor changes I want to make. But all I have to do is look at this red beauty and it’s all I can do to keep from dropping everything and going for a nice long ride.
Did I mention this fall weather is perfect for cycling?
Of course, I’m still knitting — I just haven’t got much to show for it at the moment. Mostly what I have is a bunch of half-finished projects, including a bunch of squares for a blanket; a cotton blend tank top; a cotton shopping bag; a wool sweater of my own design; and some socks. I’ll try to share more details in my next post.
Two blanket squares
I was a bit disappointed recently when two different pairs of socks came out of the laundry with damage. My lucky bike socks (pictures to come) suffered a small hole near the side of the toe, which was easily fixed. My beloved Koigus weren’t quite so lucky — I’m going to have to unravel part of one cuff and re-knit it. I guess there’s a lesson for me to hang onto my yarn remnants in case I need them for repairs.
Until next time!
I haven’t been here in a long, long time.
There’s plenty to write about — I was especially looking forward to sharing my experiences at this year’s Ride for a Reason in early August. I’ll get around to that eventually, but not today.
What’s been most on my mind lately is the loss of one of my three dogs. Gabby died three weeks ago today, very suddenly. She was an elderly dog, and she had been battling mast cell disease, a type of cancer, for the last three years — but she was doing very well, aside from some arthritis in her joints, and her love of life was as strong as ever.
It’s still a mystery to us exactly what happened. Apparently she ate some foreign material that lodged in her stomach and would not pass. She became more and more uncomfortable and finally completely lost her appetite. By the time we realized what was going on, there was no other option but to let her go. If she had been a younger dog, emergency surgery might have saved her. But because she was at least 13 years old, the risk was too great.
Saying goodbye to her was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do.
One small consolation is the fact that I have hundreds of photos and several videos of her in her healthier, happier days. It’s still hard for me to look at them for very long, but I’m so glad that I have them. And I want to share them here.
I’ve posted pictures of Gabby (and my other two dogs, equally well loved) a few times before. But now I’m going to be posting pictures and some video of Gabby on a regular basis for awhile, in the hope that it will help me through my loss — and for another reason, as well.
Gabby was what’s commonly called a pit bull — you know, those dogs that a lot of sadly misinformed people assume are a vicious, dangerous breed. I hope to show Gabby as a breed representative that was the complete opposite of vicious and dangerous. I could write all day about how wonderful she was (and at some point I probably will add a few words about her fun-loving antics), but I think that photos can sometimes say a lot more and a lot better than words. Especially my words.
So this is for Gabby, one of the best dogs I’ve ever known.