The Wine Cyclist

Philosophy

The Short Winter Days of Portland

by on Jan.28, 2010, under Philosophy

The close of 2009 brings also to an end my travels far and wide, and though I still have some recapping to do and pictures to post, that will all come in good time. Before we end the first month of this new year, I wanted to tell you all where I am and what I’ll be getting myself up to in the year ahead.

It’s official. I’m now a resident of the great state of Oregon and the fine city of Portland therein. With a Honda Accord full of as much stuff as I could haul, I drove across the northern states, following to a certain extent my bicycling route of the summer, but this time in the dead of winter, to my new home in the Pacific Northwest. And though most of my stuff is still in fairly disorganized piles on the floor, I couldn’t be happier about my new home.

What does being a Portlander now entail for me? Well, at the moment, it means tolerating annoyingly short days, being just over a month past the winter solstice and a hair north of the 45th parallel. I have retrieved my bicycle from it’s super secret stashing place here in Portland, a spot I left her in back at the end of August, and she is in fine riding shape, but alas the days are too short. But I do not let that get my spirits down! There may not be any riding of great distance in my immediate future, but I have many new neighborhoods to check out that are within a few miles ride. And this is good, as there is much I want to explore locally before I expand out to the rest of the region.

With the spring will come nicer weather, more hours of sunlight, and doubtless the exploration of many a Pacific Northwest wine region by bicycle. The Willamette Valley, naturally, offers many great weekend destinations for me at a fairly reasonable cycling distance. And when the opportunities arise, I hope to also spend some time in the southern parts of Oregon and in the various AVAs of Washington. Perhaps the summer will even bring some trips down into California and the myriad of wineries there.

In the meantime, having a base of operations will be nice again, as it means I get to spend some time working on musical projects, something I’ve sorely missed during 2009. It’s hard to say what shape those projects will take just yet; things are still ramping back up in that department. In the past I’ve gotten very involved in house and techno. More recently, I’ve been rediscovering my passion for jazz. The future likely lies somewhere in between. Should be an interesting year…

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Time For A Break

by on Jun.27, 2009, under Cycling, Philosophy

So I’m sure you’re all waiting for this blog update. Here you are. I’m still alive and well, but tired in Stillwater, MN. Over the past five days, I’ve logged nearly 300 miles of cycling. Whew…

IMG_0388I set out from Madison on Monday morning. Look at that beer gut there. We’re gonna do something about that, no doubt. I’ll take an after picture of me on the Oregon coast and we can look at the two side by side.

It’s been a long, hot week. I think the highs I’ve encountered every day this week have gotten close to 90, if not broken through (I think Tuesday was 95), and the humidity’s been pretty intense too. Rare cloud cover made for a lot of cycling down sun-parched roads. Fortunately, I have a nice stockpile of sunscreen to keep all that annoying solar cancer away. Even with all that, though, I’m developing a solid and well-defined cyclist’s tan (kinda like a farmer’s tan, but with some extra shapes produced by the cycling gloves).

IMG_0393It was a very warm night to be camping in White Mound County Park on Monday night. I noticed a lot of abandoned firewood at other empty campsites. Enough that I could’ve built a pretty sweet fire, but it was just too damn hot. I was sweating bullets for quite a while and didn’t even want to think about crawling into my sleeping bag until after the sun had set. Even then I had left it half-way open all night, but I awoke early, and knowing it would be a long, hot day, set out early as well to get as many miles in as I could before the heat really started pounding down.

Made a stop in the library in Richland Center to check in online briefly, and post some quick updates (by the way, I seem to be updating my twitter page more often than this site. So for more timely, if less detailed updates, surf on over there as well. Say what you will about twitter, and I can say many things, but it is, on occasion, handy). All the computers there were running linux, which I thought was pretty cool for a small town library. The morning was getting on, so I was off again, down a very hilly US Route 14 into Viroqua, WI. There are some surprisingly solid uphills on that route. A few climbs of 8% or greater grades had me thoroughly worn out. I think that I’m getting better at these intense climbs, slowly but surely.

IMG_0395At the top of some of these climbs, at least you might run into this very friendly sign. The sign you see here is probably a cyclist’s best friend. It means time to cruise like the wind. There are many other road signs that have special meaning to cyclists. Perhaps there’s a blog post in there somewhere.

There was a very lovely homestead just out from Viroqua whose owners let me crash for a night. A fun game of scrabble and some delicious fresh fruits and veggies was about all I could take in my exhausted state, but a good time was had no doubt. Back on US 14 the next morning and I was up over some more hills, heading through La Crosse and up to Trempealeau.

(continue reading…)

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Too Much Driving

by on Jun.11, 2009, under Philosophy

My apologies for being away from the blog for so long. There hasn’t been much cycling for me lately, so I haven’t had too much to say. Instead, I’ve been spending the last week or so road tripping around.

There was some excellent hiking in western Virginia, then out to Norfolk, up through Pennsylvania, a night in Rochester, and now, one last weekend in Cleveland. All told… that’s a lot of driving! So much driving!

My shiny, red Trek FX is resting up for some serious miles in her temporary home in Wisconsin while I’m off tooling about. The downside of such is that — excepting some very nice hiking in Virginia — I’m growing a bit restless with all this sitting in a car.

Life has been strange in other regards, with some personal troubles here and there, but all of that just has me more ready to go. I look forward to the mind-clearing opportunities of the upcoming 3,000 mile ride. So much of this summer is a disentangling of the head and reset of many aspects of my life through the intense mental and physical struggle of the trip as well as the beauty of the experience.

At the moment, though, I’m getting to relax, surf the web, and take in some food porn. Several years ago, when I ditched cable television, I was very happy with the decision; I did not really miss anything from cable television, except for one thing. I miss the Food Network. Thanks to my friends here in Lakewood, who are letting me crash with them for the weekend, and who have cable, I’m able to veg out with some food television for a while.

Hopefully, I’ve only 500 miles of driving left ahead of me in the near future as I head back up to Wisconsin this weekend. My car is surely in need of some rest from the road as well. In the last four months, I’ve racked up over 10,000 miles of driving. My legs are getting stiff just thinking about all that time in a car… Whew… Time to go for a stretch.

All goes to plan, I should be able to set out by the summer solstice. We’re almost there…

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Goodbye, Cleveland!

by on May.31, 2009, under Music, Philosophy

Whew… so it’s been a long week hauling all of my stuff out of my (now former) residence in Cleveland, OH. It’s been a long month, even, as the packing and sorting process was kicking into high gear as early as the first week of May. Well, here we are. It’s the end of May, and after nearly nine years of residence there, I have moved out of Cleveland.

It’s been a crazy weekend of partying, packing and driving; so I sit here, weary and waxing philosophical (and sipping on some tasty Highland Park 18yo single malt scotch — thanks, Kelly). Now, I’m not gone for good, mind you. I’m sure to be passing through Cleveland on occasion. We’ll meet again, Cleveland. Don’t know where. Don’t know when.

Despite my crazy schedule of packing for the weekend, I made sure to hit up a couple parties so that I had a chance to hang out with my friends in Cleveland one last time before heading out. Two nights in a row of staying out past 2am, followed by a 500 mile drive today makes for an interesting headspace.

And this morning was not lacking for strangeness.

My bed had shipped out yesterday, and so, in a bizarrely empty house (with new and strange echoes that I haven’t heard since I first moved into the place three years ago), I rolled out my sleeping bag for my last night living in Cleveland. After a big brunch and an hour jamming my poor Honda with as much crap as I could fit in there, I was on the road, heading out of Cleveland, and rocking out to some Johnny Cash (American IV), some Leonard Cohen (Essential, Disc 1), and some Warren Zevon (Excitable Boy and My Ride’s Here).

I haven’t listened to American IV is quite some time. It was good to hear it again, and it felt just right for the ride down Interstate 90 out of Cleveland. Johnny Cash’s voice at that point in his career still staggers me. The emotion that rides on that bass-baritone… I can only hope to be able to generate that kind of emotion in my music some day. Listening to Cash reminds me that I should be practicing my guitar more than I am these days. The things I give up to enjoy the open road…

Not that I mind. The adventure ahead is great, and my music will still be there when I’m done. There is (hopefully) much future ahead of me for such things.

Honestly, there are many things I won’t miss about Cleveland. The weather, of course, leaves much to be desired, and it’s hardly the most bicycle-friendly of cities (nor Ohio the most bicycle-friendly of states). Still, there are things I will miss. As much as I’m looking forward to going west, to settling who knows where, I do look upon these last nine years in Cleveland with fond memories of good times and good friendship.

And so, the day is done. I have traveled far, and though the local clock here only reads 10:30, I’ve an extra hour to make up for. Off I go to rest up, and begin planning the next (much bigger) bicycle adventure…

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On Bicycling and Wine: An Introduction

by on May.01, 2009, under Cycling, Philosophy, Wine

It’s a rainy first of May here in Cleveland, but that does not dissuade me from putting in the miles. 9 miles to work and 9 miles back. It’s not exactly distance, but thanks to the many traffic lights on the route, there is no shortage of starting and stopping. Nothing gets your calves in shape like accelerating from a stop to full speed every 1000 feet or so. Waiting for me when I get home are a delicious dinner and a nice bottle of wine to accompany it. Through all the struggles and the hassles, being able to ride my two wheels home to appreciate the pleasures of some succulent vino makes it all worthwhile.

If you’re curious about the details of what’s going on here, I’d encourage you to look at the “About” page, which breaks down the plan for this here website. I’m here right now instead to just give you a warm welcome and introduce myself. I am the Wine Cyclist, but I’ve been known to answer to “Jim” at times as well. I’m here to bike a lot, enjoy wine a lot, and tell you all about it (along the way, I may very well wax philosophical and discuss my musical inclinations as well).

This is more than merely a presentation, however; this is a dialogue. Participation in the conversation is strongly encouraged.

Over the next several days, I will be continuing the introduction and taking lots of pictures of the process of equipping both myself and my bike for the coming tours. The action really gets rolling in about two weeks when I take off for the Finger Lakes to roll on some hills and visit some wineries.

Woo! I’m excited! Are you excited? Let’s get this ride a’rollin’…

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