Tag Archives: Mountain Biking

There will always be sunsets

Years ago, at my grandfather’s funeral, my dear neighbor Munzer gave an impassioned account of their relationship. His speech ended something like this:

Every time we had a bad day, Ed would say to me “Sure, but we have this beautiful sunset! And now, there will be no more sunsets.”

I paraphrase grotesquely. But it was a beautiful and sad notion. And he was right. Growing up, we had some unbelievable sunsets, and each one really was the signal for a fresh start; a new day.

There will always be sunsets.

A photo posted by Joe Lewis (@sanbeiji) on

New pad!

We scored. After searching a little over a year in the insanity of the Bay Area housing market, we finally went into a contract on a new home. I am too psyched about this.

The place itself is around 2000 square feet, more or less depending on if you count the carpeted attic space, and the master bedroom has loft space which is perfect for setting up as my practice/office corner. The carpeted attic storage space is right behind the loft, so it just screams for all the sheet music, networking junk, and office equipment to be stowed away out of sight in there. It has a formal dining, living, family, kitchen, and finally, a 2 car garage. The living area is a perfect space for Yingwen’s piano teaching. There is a patio in the back with a little pond, which is just totally cool. No doubt Max will spend hours in front of that thing, trying to catch minnows or whatever. The location is close to lots of good amenities, excellent schools, and it shaves off at least ten minutes off my commute time. Schwing!

And it’s within reasonable range of my favorite mountain biking trail. Now I just need to get up off my lazy butt and get riding again — the loop between the new place and the top of that trail should be about 1 full hour of punishment so it’s perfect for after work, and the trail itself is a good inlet and trainer for the rest of the Mt. Diablo trail structure, including the summit. I’m outta shape, so we’ll have to make the full monty of getting back to the summit more of a year-end type of goal…

Stargazing

I had a quite awesome ride this evening on my mountain bike. I ride almost every night after work, but this ride seemed almost transcendental for some reason – I can’t explain the feeling exactly, but maybe you’ll get it. The air was crisp and perfectly still after a rain, and the clouds had parted to reveal a gorgeous star-lit sky. The constellations were in excellent position for the ride home, like they were arranged somehow by hand. The Pleadies and Taurus were almost directly overhead, followed by a very bright Orion and Canis Major directly in front of me. Sirius shined almost perfectly over the trail, and I could almost see a faint glow from the brightness of the star cast on the road like moonglow. Just to the left were the Cassiopeia constellation and what looked like Jupiter. I haven’t kept track of any orbits in maybe 10 years, so it might as well have been Saturn or Mars, but my hunch stands on calling it Jupiter for now.

This all made me recall how I first became interested in astronomy in the first place. I remember one evening when I was maybe 12 or 13, looking up at what I would later find out was the Sword in Orion’s Belt, and noticing that something was odd about one of the stars in there. It looked fuzzy, and my first thought was that my eyes were getting screwy. So I borrowed my aunt’s field binoculars to see if I could get a better look. Well that made it look even fuzzier, but at least I proved to myself that the other stars still looked nice and crisp while this one looked like somebody stuck their thumb on the canvas. I would always keep an eye on that thing when I could at night, and left it at that for a while until I was given a rather decent telescope a year or two later as a birthday present from my grandmother. Well the first thing I did was go out and try to find that star, and when I trained the 4.5″ Newtonian reflector on it, I was absolutely amazed at what I was seeing. It was a whole freakin’ cloud of what looked like glowing smoke and clusters of stars all over the place. The thing looked like it was moving. It was the Great Nebula in Orion, M42, and I felt like freakin’ Galileo. So my whole thing from then on was like, “So what the hell else is up there?” Some question, indeed…

Later on I would find myself spending night after night looking through the telescope. I found a nice star chart made of heavy card stock and bound loosely so it would fold well, and a red penlight so I wouldn’t ruin my night vision. I’d take that thing everywhere, anywhere there was a dark sky; from my backyard or the foothills of Mt. Diablo to the hills north of Cloverdale, the Mendocino Coast, and the Rouge River Valley in southern Oregon. I was intent on accomplishing two things: 1. finding objects with nothing more than a finder scope and a newtonian tripod mount, and 2, finding out what the heck it was and what made it tick. I went through most of the easier Messier objects, a few galaxies and globular clusters, several nebula, a comet, and all the planets from Mercury to Neptune. Spotting Uranus and Neptune was tricky, but I think I caught their positions.

I sucked up every book I could on the subject, from Asimov’s Tragedy of the Moon to Hawking’s Brief History of Time. My favorite research project was in my college statistics class, where my buddy and I decided to to a statistical analysis on correlation between star color and age. I will never forget staying up all night typing it out and cutting and pasting illustrations into the final document the night before it was due with no sleep and the pure power of Jolt Cola. That and my American History final essay on the Challenger ripping apart were perhaps my two best pieces of work in college before switching to the music major. I had subscriptions to Astronomy Magazine and Sky and Telescope, and would scan them for whatever was the hot event that month: comet appearances, planetary alignments, stars passing between the craters of the dark side of the moon, whatever…

I think I’m writing this down now so that I don’t forget for myself how cool all this crap really is. I used to have this ridiculous daily routine: Ride the mountain bike first thing in the morning, practice the double bass all day, look at the sky at night. Rinse, lather, and repeat. That was a lot of fun…

The world looks different at night

Switching back and forth between daylight savings time and standard time is always a disruption. This time I was really getting in to my after-work mountain bike riding, only to have it suddenly go dark on me by 6 PM after they changed the clocks on us again last Sunday.

So I got myself a set of Nite-Hawk lights for my bike. This is pretty rad – lights up the whole road very nicely. Check ’em out!

Everything seems so different when you ride at night. I seem to hear things and smell things differently. Everything looks different – not sure how to describe it. Mysterious, nostalgic, primitive, trippy… it’s all in there. When it is ice cold outside and the stars are shining like crytals, there’s no people about, and all you can hear is the breeze, the ride sort of becomes this unique transcendental experience.

Life is good…

So, more bike upgrades today. I slapped on some new lightweight toe-clip style pedals because I decided that after a year trying them, clipless pedals just don’t work for the kind of extreme mountain biking I like to do. It’s not so much the clip vs. the pedal, it’s the shoe issue. I like to have very lightweight running shoes or cross country shoes when mountain biking, and the soles on biking shoes are just way too stiff. When you dismount, you feel like you have a couple of planks strapped to your feet. When you are hitting extreme terrain, with boulders, logs, fences, and rivers, you spend a significant time jumping on and off the bike.

I also put on a new seat – nice one from Specialized that has a tad more padding than the racing saddle I had on there before, but is still quite lightweight.

Did an hour-long ride along the local greenbelt trail and man does this bike ride sweet now! Had to re-clamp the back tire once because the wheel moved, but it’s not going anywhere now… This weekend is looking like one big mountain fest. Life is good…