All posts by Mike

Not the post I was expecting to make

Normally I’d be posting about this morning’s ride, about Kevin, Kevin & Karen (I’m outnumbered by the K’s!), about hopefully the last time I’ll see temps dip into the 30s for a very long while. About feeling a bit better than expected, and how may Sunday’s harsh ride up Redwood Gulch might have been good for me.

Zoe-Zoe guarding her turf.
But all of that got overshadowed by a phone call this afternoon. Staff was properly screening the call, since someone was looking for “the owner” (and most such calls are cold-call salespeople I don’t have time for). But with a bit of a twist; it was an important call concerning a former employee. Well, that turned out to be true. It was the sister of Mike Flaherty, a young man that worked with us for a number of years, becoming our service manager in Redwood City. I’m not sure exactly how long he stayed with us, but at the time, it was longer than anywhere he’d worked previously. Michael was a bit of a character, sometimes a bit impulsive, but a pretty good guy. He eventually left to work for another shop in Burlingame, where the structure was a bit less formal and more to his liking. He could be his own boss there, something that’s tougher to do at Chain Reaction when you have so many family members running the show!

Not too long before he left us, his living situation changed and he could no longer take care of his cat, which we adopted. We called her Zoe-Zoe (not sure where she got that name), and she was an interesting animal. Quite independent, didn’t really want to be around people much. She would lash out at anyone trying to touch her, much less pet her or pick her up. She’d crawl into things and dare you to disturb her. But somehow she clicked with me. I managed to tame her, get her to not literally bite the hand that feeds her, bring her out into the open. It was really frustrating to Becky (my daughter and resident cat person) that I, a person who really didn’t care that much for cats, was the only person who Zoe-Zoe got along with.

Our cats, at that time, were allowed outside during the day, and they’d come home at dark for food. But one day Zoe-Zoe left in the morning and didn’t come back. Lots of frantic searching and no sign of Zoe-Zoe. After a few days, we assumed she was gone, perhaps taken by a predator, run over by a car, a sad fate of some sort. We all missed her greatly, even though it gave most of the household time for their shredded (clawed) arms to heal. And I’m sitting at my computer, just like I am now, same room, at almost 1am and I glance down to the right of where I’m sitting and there she is, looking up at me. Zoe-Zoe. Gone six days. I mean, what sort of cat disappears for six days and returns home. Zoe-zoe did.

Zoe-Zoe’s been gone for years, and today we found out that Michael is gone as well. We don’t know what happened to Michael; I didn’t ask when his sister called. She just knew he’d spoken of me from time to time and that I should know he’d passed a few days ago. He was probably in his mid-30s. Michael and Zoe-Zoe were both enigmas that I could never really figure out, but I’m glad I knew them.

Not many more rides up RWG with a 34/28. This is not fun to confront.

It was time to do the Ugly Ride again, heading south and up Redwood Gulch & Highway 9. The ride starts out pretty nice; you get to ride past Old LaHonda early on, instead of heading up. A pleasant loop through the foothills down to Los Altos, where you stop at Peets to refuel, and see if the old shop location has finally been rented (it hasn’t). Actually roll things back a bit to when we’re heading over Jefferson and I realize, we forgot to bring masks! Only that’s not a requirement anymore, and didn’t keep us out of Peet’s. In fact, there was only one person wearing a mask inside. Overall, I’d say employees are the most-likely to not be wearing masks.

I told Kevin ahead of time that my plan was to take it easy at the start of Redwood Gulch, and hope not to run out of steam on the steeper parts. You know, those sections where your Garmin is reading it as a 16% grade but you’re certain it’s under by half. Unfortunately, it’s not about taking it “easy” anymore. The problem is a too-low cadence messes with what’s left of my breathing; it’s difficult to breathe at a rate higher than my cadence, and I need more air than 46 gasps/minute allows. Which means… I might be strong enough to push a higher gear, but it doesn’t take long to run out of air.

Last big change in gearing for me came… what, 2009 or so? When compact gearing first came to be a big thing, and I moved from a 53/39 up front to a 50/34. I never, ever, missed the larger chainrings. Still kept an 11-28 in the back. Next step is going to be an 11-32 I think. More than my rear derailleur will handle, but I don’t think going to an 11-30 will make enough difference. New bike time might be closer than I thought!

Once we got to Highway 9 I was good. I’m always good on Highway 9. Kevin hates it; he doesn’t deliver as much power on shallower grades. I reminded him it was like the lower part of the Galibier in France, only shorter. For him, it’s just a grind. For me, it’s just a grind. I prefer a grind.

Beautiful day; we started with base layers but removed them early on, before starting the climb. Warm enough to stay loose and feel like I still had something as the ride went on. Definitely looking forward to warmer weather ahead. And climbs less steep than Redwood Gulch.