Thursday, November 17, 2011


At the bridge, I take off my rain jacket. It has done it's job and kept me pretty warm on the cold windy descent down Utah Hill from checkpoint one. I zip, fold and stuff it in my right jersey pocket with my Mandarin Orange Gu and my teriyaki beef sticks that are permanently stuck in the u-fold shape. It looks like most of the riders behind me have made the u-turn left at the bottom of the hill that we were all warned about and now its time to make my way up Old Highway 91 past Gunlock Reservoir, through Gunlock, past the SLOW sign and up the hill to the deep dish chocolate chip cookie waiting for me at Veyo Pies, which is check point number two. Basically that's going to be about 18 more miles with only 1600 or so feet of elevation gain. I feel good, but I decide to leave my windstopper beanie on under my helmet because it's still pretty cold and the wind is whipping around pretty hard.

I know that good basketball players have to quickly forget the last missed shot, or they'll never make another one, so as I shed my rain jacket, I also try to mentally shed the disappointment I feel about my slower than I wanted to go 7.5 mile descent down Utah Hill and try to shake off that frustration in the cold wind. There are hills coming up and more descents as well, so I start looking forward to them and try to quickly forget about getting Jimmered by the wind for the last 15 or so minutes out of the how many ever I am going to spend getting through this Tri-States Gran Fondo.

I start pedaling in the wind again up this rolling and ramp filled Old Highway 91 as it wanders up this beautiful valley toward Gunlock Reservoir and realize that I'm really starting to look forward to my deep dish chocolate chip cookie that is waiting for me at Veyo Pies. It's the special treat provided by Planet Ultra, the Tri-States Gran Fondo's organizer. It's always amazing to me that it's the little things, like that, that are what make me happy. The small stuff - the small gestures of a little bit of extra. A few kind words or something more than is expected. That kind of stuff. Lagniappe.

On my last birthday my wife surprised me by making some from-scratch brownies from my Mom's old recipe, and I don't remember exactly, but it was probably 30 or more years since I have tasted them. There is not another brownie like them, and as they melted in my mouth, that little gesture from my wife was so appreciated - so unduplicable - so surprising - so a little bit of extra - and so wonderful. It made me feel as loved as I can feel loved. It was wonderful. It is something I will never forget. Lagniappe.

So I ride on up the rollers and ramps, getting whipped by the wind, thinking about other little things about my wife. How she accepts me for who I am and doesn't try to change me. How she lets me ride even when I know she would rather me be spending my time with her and the kids. I like how she always asks "how long are you going to be this time?" I like how she agreed to let me build this new(er) bike even though money was tighter than tight so that I could go on rides like this ride and I like when she tells me "you NEED to go for a ride today." Lagniappe.

I wonder how it is that she seems to be becoming more like me as we age together. Or like a puzzle, I wonder if maybe I'm becoming more like her as that would probably be the better deal. We are different in a lot of ways but as the years go by we are becoming a lot more the same. I think about how we have the same values, even if mine are rougher around the edges than hers. I remember the way she touched my hand as she gave me the parking validation that day at the University of Utah thirteen years ago. That day I became her Minute Maid Man and we haven't looked back since. Lagniappe for sure.

I remember the time she dressed up as Santa Claus for Christmas in New Mexico so I could take some staged "candid" pictures of Santa leaving my Sister's house after leaving presents on Christmas Eve. Then we staged some reindeer tracks and reindeer poop out on the snow in the yard so we could prove that Santa Claus is real for another year or two for our three older kids who, while wanting to, didn't quite believe anymore. Then we sat down and ate Santa's cookies and drank Santa's milk before going to bed for a few hours prior to the kids waking up surprised. That was a great Christmas. Lagniappe for the kids.

I remember the countdown calendar she made for the kids so they could countdown the days until Daddy came home from traveling all over the country for weeks at a time trying to make a descent living. I remember the gingerbread houses she makes with the kids, the crafts, the gifts and all the thoughtfulness. If I were a cup, my wife would be like pouring a full cup of water into a full cup of water. She gives so much and asks so little in return and I wonder if I am guilty of not even giving that little that she does ask. I wonder if I put enough or as much effort into being a good father, husband and friend as I do into being a better cyclist? Thank goodness my wife is not a dripping faucet. That is lagniappe for me.

How do I put the V-meter on that? How do I know if I'm pushing myself on that as hard as I can? There should be a power meter for my marriage and my family and my kids so I can train as hard at those things as I do on my bikes. Or harder maybe, because sometimes my mind can't push my body as hard as my mind knows that it needs to on the bike and I end a ride knowing that I have given it less than my best effort. There should be a way to measure my performance in my life away from cycling. Or maybe there is. Maybe the measurement is what I get back from them. That is certainly quantifiable as well as qualifiable and I'm thinking now that I get back much more than I deserve because I seem to get back much more than I feel I put into it, just like on the bike. A little bit of extra undeserved. Again, lagniappe.

I know there's a bit of a ramp rolling up from the bottom of the dam to Gunlock Reservoir and I got faked out a few miles back in the wind and the cold, but now I see it up ahead and shift down a few cogs to stand and stretch my legs and back before the rise. As the road tips up, I sit back down and shift back up and settle into an easy cadence as I pedal up the hill. As I'm cresting the rise I see the lake and the Gunlock State Park sign and roll past admiring the scenery. Then I turn around and go back, thinking I better get a picture of something on this Gran Fondo and besides, I need to take off the windstopper beanie now because climb number two is just up the road a bit on the way to my lagniappe - my deep dish chocolate chip cookie waiting for me at Veyo Pies which is checkpoint number two.

I carefully park my bike against a rock near the sign, wary of another puff-of-wind mishap, and take a quick photo of my bike in repose by the lake with my Windows phone. While it's still very windy, it is warming up a little bit and the day is actually turning quite sunny right now. I'm about to stuff my windstopper beanie in my left jersey pocket with my spare tube and two chocolate chip granola bars, leaving room for my coffee shop covers that are now protecting my Speedplay cleats as I crunch around in the gravel and dirt. A little peloton of two cyclists wheel by and one asks if everything is OK. I answer "yes, just taking a picture" as he nods his head and they continue down the road.

Then he turns around and comes back and offers to take a picture of me with my bike by the lake and I take him up on that. Then I take a couple pictures of him and his bike with his camera. Little gestures that means a lot. More small stuff that really matters. A little bit of something extra. Here are two men with timing chips glued to the top of their helmets taking a moment out of the ride to do something kind for each other. It's slowing both of us down on this timed event that isn't a race, and we are both OK with that. How odd is that lagniappe? I'm thinking about that when another little peloton of four wheel up with the same idea, so I stay and take pictures of them as the other rider jets off to chase back on to his peloton of two with his buddy on the way to their deep dish chocolate chip cookies waiting for them at Veyo Pies.

I get everything packed back up into my jersey pockets and get underway in the wind again, making my way by the lake and eventually into the town of Gunlock. I come up a little riser, smelling the horses before I can see them and wonder what they think of all these cyclists riding by in the wind on their way through town. Gunlock is a nice little place and seems quite peaceful and quiet with the Autumn leaves blowing off the trees. I pass an old firetruck and glance at the flames on my top tube where the red turns to black and think that it would make a cool picture opportunity, but decide not to stop, and soon make my way past the town pond too. Before I get to the pond, I spot the road tipping up at what will be the start of climb number two out of three proper climbs on this Tri-States Gran Fondo, and I don't know it yet, but I'm about to encounter more lagniappe. I keep pedaling on in the wind heading up the road to my deep dish chocolate chip cookie waiting for me at Veyo Pies which is checkpoint number two. No, I don't know it yet, but I'm about to encounter the SLOW sign.

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