Easy Does It

The Logging Road Cyclist was clawing his way back to fitness. This was a more complicated procedure than it sounds. Of course, there was the usual goal of cardiovascular tuning, which at present was pretty miserable, and the strengthening of the legs, which were weak. Rides often done in the past without much thought elicited a more-or-less continuous stream of “Did this used to be this steep?”, coupled with gasping, aching legs and the sudden impulse to just quit climbing and take a short rest.

The phenomenon of the rests might be the result of poor physical condition resulting from the months of no cycling that The Injury caused. It was also, TLRC thought a lack of mental toughness. Whereas before, he felt that he could pretty much power up anything that provided enough traction for his 35mm Schwalbes, and continue beyond indefinitely, he now doubted that, and took appropriate measures: the rests. He was no longer willing to do a long climb on a short, wet day and drop off the other side for fear of running out of gas. Getting lost and thus forcing a longer-than-planned ride was not something he was comfortable with. This colored his choice of rides.

As noted, he did the Chandler Pass ride out by Valsetz, and then the Rickreall-Falls City loop, both moderate, both reasonably well remembered. He got a might confused on the latter, and did some unintended climbing. The grade down to Black Rock had been heavily logged and looked much different, but he persevered, and gained back some confidence.

A harder ride, and one TLRC knew like the back of his hand was Grass Mountain. He had given it a try a few weeks earlier, but the Panzer Saddle on the DeSalvo had some issues and created a hot spot so quickly that he only got up the first four miles before having to retreat. He had fixed that and last weekend returned.

It was a nice day, foggy at home, sunny out in Alsea. He ground away, thinking how much steeper it seemed presently than in memory, but didn’t have to stop. Near the top, the road splits. Years ago, on his first successful ride up Grass, he had taken the left hand road, which in his memory was pleasant, woody, and not too steep. Since then, he had always taken the right branch, which besides being hella steep, had much better views. In his diminished state, he opted for the left.

A smattering of snow had appeared at this elevation. In the years since TLRC had been here last, the road had been covered by deadfalls and growth through the roadbed. The ridgeline TLRC thought he had to obtain seemed a lot higher that he recalled, and he was wondering how well he actually remembered this route.

Slinking under a large downed tree, TLRC looked forward along the snow patch into the heavy growth beyond and spied a line of cat tracks disappearing in the distance. Suddenly alert, he assessed them. A bit on the small size for cougar, but on the other hand, pretty big for a bobcat. He pondered. TLRC was not as a rule worried by cats, certainly not bobcats. His own (11!) encounters with cougars and ancillary reading had left him with the feeling that cougars pretty much wanted to be left alone. Still, lil’ cat or big cat, this one might well be retreating from TLRC himself and it struck him (given that whatever it was was certainly possessed of claws and teeth) as the height of folly to follow it into densely wooded terrain. Since TLRC was on the fence about dragging his bike through more of this mess anyway, back he went.


As it turned out, the hella steep, view-dripping way shortly became snow-bound. Another choice: slog through deepening snow into the afternoon, or call it good?

He called it and went back the way he came, once again marveling at how steep the climb up is.

For some reason, this buoyed TLRC’s spirits. Standing alone in the forest, in the snow, all alone and deciding what to do about the tracks left him feeling like his old self, an adventurous self he feared losing. He felt ready for some serious abuse: a visit to California and the Machine People.


Goodbye, First Five Year Plan

Many people ask The Logging Road Cyclist:”TLRC, what is your best character trait?” Without skipping a beat, TLRC answers: Modesty. It was in that spirit that when the Fifth Birthday of the Blog came about earlier this month, he let it slide and didn’t make the spectacle out of it that it perhaps deserved. Rather, he thought of it as the end of the first Five Year Plan. While roughly the last 20% or so of the plan was disrupted by The Injury, TLRC thought that on the whole a lot was accomplished.

But out with the old, on with the Second Five Year Plan. This will be based firmly on the final form of the Mk IV “Panzer” saddles, without which, it seems TLRC will not be riding.

Covered Panzer saddle

Things may or may not be helped by TLRC’s acquisition of an iPhone. Hopefully he can control himself.

Thus far, things are not looking good. An anonymous selfie, forsooth.

Certainly the micro trailer will help out on more exotic rides

Micro trailer and “traditional” trailer at DIxie Summit.

At any rate, Devil Puppy enjoys snuggling there as much as anywhere.

On the first bike-trip-with-micro-trailer, TLRC camped in the beautiful, fire prone oak savannah of the Western Sacramento Valleythe night before and night after a ride from Paskenta up to Round Mtn through the Great Valley sequence of sediments and through the Elder Cr. Ophiolite.

Sierra Nevada, blue in the distance, hogbacks of the Great Valley Sequence in the middle range and the sparsely vegetated Elder Cr. ophiolite close in.

But perhaps the biggest news is that TLRC shook off his wet-weather lethargy and went out in the Coast Range today in pretty funky weather for the Chandler Pass Lollypop, which he only vaguely remembered the route of, thus doing a downhill exploration Lite. The Luckiamute was pounding and opaque brown from the recent heavy rains, reminding TLRC of his past winter boating trips in conditions like this where all the mud and logs and high water made things sometimes less than really fun. It being the last or next-to-last weekend of regular hunting, the roads were busy with generally friendly hunters, but only one rifle shot was heard. Coming up to Chandler Pass, TLRC ran into a couple of country boys with lips full of chew, a massive 4×4 and a chainsaw cutting their way down the road. They offered to guide TLRC down to Valsetz! On the way back to Hoskins, TLRC, who has waffled back and forth into vegeterianism for years had cause to regret that rare purchase of ham he had made a couple of days before

when this cute little girl and one of her brothers came grunting and snorfling over to say hello like a couple of labradors. TLRC got home and immediately finished his ham, vowing “nada mas”. He may be off beef too, or at least yak.

Yikkety Yak, Don’t Talk Back.

A Mary’s Peak Loop via C2C and FS30

Anyone who spends much time reading The Logging Road Cyclist (like Ryan), or for that matter spends much time out in Oregon’s Spectacular Coast Range gets the importance of navigation. It is really really really easy to get lost. Well here is a nice ride, in that it loops around Mary’s Peak (a worthy goal in itself), but furthermore, the C2C Trail folks have marked all the scary downhill part. You can just park at the end of Woods Cr. Road by the gate and fling yourself off the heights down to the Harlan Valley below and just follow these:

Don’t even bother with a map! There is even a short section of nice single track installed.

But listen up. They don’t want the trail chewed to bits when it’s wet, so follow the rules:

no riding this part Oct 15-May 15 (note the MkIV Panzer saddle peeking coyly out from behind the sign?).

After the single track another mile or so of road until a gate is reached. Turn left on the 30 road, ride to the pavement at the top, turn left, take the second right,  pass a gate and slide back to the car. The climb up the 30 is stiff: 2300 feet in just under 8 miles.

TLRC thinks this is a good ride for anyone who thinks, but isn’t sure, that they will like this kind of riding.


Having just finished his second MkIV Panzer saddle, The Logging Road Cyclist slapped it on the DeSalvo and took off for a tune/fit ride, sandpaper ready to hand. He worked his way up Skillings Rd and to the McCulloch Peak road, stopping here and there to sand away thin layers of seat foam, getting the pads equally thick, getting the shape just right.  At the top, he decided to head home. It was a hot and very smoky day, and, as always of late, TLRC was taking things a bit at a time so as not to hurt himself again in one way or another, and also because he couldn’t quite believe he was riding again.

Near the cutoff to The Forest Estate, TLRC passed a man with a toddler, a girl. TLRC slowed to a respectfully slow pace as he passed, and gave a polite hello. When past them a ways, TLRC heard the man say “I know you!”

Thinking he had misheard, TLRC dismounted, looked back and said “You know me?” “Yes”, the man said, “you’re TLRC.”

“You know I’m TLRC? How?”

“I recognize the bike.” Really. An honest to god aficionado! Turns out this guy had just moved to town, was looking for stuff to do in Mac Forest and had stumbled on to The Site’s page thereon. He said that there was “a lot of useful information”. Hooked, he continued to read, and admitted, after the initial discovery, to having read the whole damned thing. Really, the bike? This guy REALLY read the site!

Aside from the unadulterated joy of being not only recognized, nay praised for the site, TLRC was very, very pleased that someone found all this useful. The original intent of the site, after all, was pretty much just to catalog rides so folks could go do them. The incessant blather that accompanies that was neither intended nor stoppable…

A Do-It-Yourself Perineum Relief Saddle: The TLRCP/PRS MkIV “Panzer”

About a year ago, The Logging Road Cyclist sustained serious damage to what he thinks is his pudendal nerve. While months of visits to various specialists failed to produce any definitive diagnosis, the fact of pain in the perineum, or colloquially the “taint”, remained. The damage happened while climbing up the steep Skillings side of McCulloch Peak, a road TLRC had ridden dozens of times before. Same ride, same bike, same seat. He had slid forward on the seat to keep the front wheel weighted as he had many times before.  This time, however, at the top, he felt an odd pair of filament-like things down there, like tendons or something, and that was all she wrote.

Three months later, he was able to walk without causing pain in the affected area. Another month or so and after lot of seat modifications he could paddle his kayak and ride his recumbent a bit. TLRC had pretty much given up on ever riding his upright bikes again.

By the Fall, TLRC was experimenting with taking his Gold Rush recumbent out  on the logging roads. With touring tires and fenders, he rode up McCulloch a couple of times. It took a lot of effort. He rode up Old Peak Road to the parking area at the North Ridge Trail and down Woods Cr. Rd. This was all encouraging, so he tried Prairie Mtn. This was not. About 5 miles up, a shooting pain in his right knee convinced TLRC that perhaps this superbly designed road machine was less than optimal for really steep logging roads and another debilitating injury lay ready to pounce should he persist.

Pudendal nerve injuries are a nightmare for the devoted cyclist. They are long-lasting, potentially career ending, and difficult to treat. As the Gnat put it, one of those things that might be the one that stops you. Based on TLRC’s experience, one must learn patience, Grasshopper, and try not to give up hope, find ways to adapt. Perhaps it is better not to identify one’s self totally with one’s pastime, e.g. not naming one’s self after it. On the other hand, since age will take it all away eventually, one might view it as a required “life experience”…

After this year of stoic suffering off of his bikes, TLRC felt healed enough to dip his toe into the water and try out some saddles designed to prevent or alleviate injuries like his.

That pudenal or perineal injuries are not uncommon is borne out by the number of bicycle saddles that purport to alleviate or prevent them.  There seem to be three main types:

Relief Channels. Typified by the Selle Italia Max Flow the large family of Selle SMP saddles, and any number of offerings from other manufacturers, these use a cutout or trench running for some length along the saddle or its nose to relieve pressure. TLRC tried a number of these, and while they might have helped prevent his problem, he is damaged enough that they didn’t feel safe for him.

“Noseless” Saddles. Adamo makes an array of saddles considered noseless, but they do not seem noseless to TLRC. A lot of people seem to like these saddles, especially the tri community, but TLRC could never figure out how to hang himself on one of these. Bi-Saddle makes an intriguing product that is not quite noseless, but is highly adjustable and has potential. The only truly noseless saddle that TLRC spent any time on is the Spongy Wonder. This saddle truly has no pressure in the perineum, is built to be used seriously (unlike some of the other “bench” type saddles that are meant for comfort or city bikes), and in spite of the whining one will encounter on various forums about how one can’t control a bike without a nose on the saddle, it is quite possible to ride the Spongy Wonder over pretty rough terrain. TLRC thought he had found his solution, but he was unable to get the Spongy Wonder adjusted so that it did not impinge on his sciatic nerve, which was quickly leading to additional problems he didn’t want.

“Rear Lift” Saddles. Versions made by Rido and SQ-Lab reduce perineal pressure by raising the rear part of the saddle where the sitbones go so that the nose of the saddle doesn’t press into the soft parts so much. These are a great idea, and the SQ-Lab saddle that TLRC tried was especially comfortable, but none of them quite did it for TLRC. To much padding on the nose, an arch in the forward part of the nose and not enough padding at the rear made them just not quite work.

Finally, TLRC just decided that his One Goal for the summer would be to make a saddle that he could ride. All the commercial options above were close, so he figured he could make something work.

What he came up with is a combination of all three types:


TLRC began with the shell of a Bontrager Yatra saddle. He chose this mainly because it provides a good, flat surface to glue foam to. Once the cover is pulled off the little channel that edges the shell needs to be cut off and the nose trimmed. Finding suitable foam was difficult. Most closed cell foam is too soft, and will remain compressed past a certain point (thanks to The Foam Man for pointing this out!). TLRC got an extra hard yoga block to use. This has a couple of drawbacks but has worked well so far. Because of the curvature of the saddle, the foam needs to be cut into roughly 1/4″ slabs (TLRC made a miter box to guide the cuts and uses a Japanese pull saw). The foam is applied in three layers with a very generous 1″ wide relief channel, then trimmed to follow the edge of the shell. One of the tricks is to extend the foam forward far enough for one’s pubic ramii to rest on them when tucked forward, yet not so far as to extend into the groin and perineum. The other trick is to sand the foam so that it is the full 3/4″ thickness in the front, but only 1/4″ thick at the rear. For this TLRC used a sandpaper rasp: a piece of 1×4 with 60 grit paper glued to one side and 36 grit on the other). This allows the saddle to be mounted in a strongly nose-down position while maintaining a flat seat. Thus the nose is pretty much out of the way of one’s delicates. Some custom sanding of a dip so that the saddle has a curved surface helps with comfort (TLRC used a piece of 60-grit disk sandpaper to a 2-gallon bucket to get the curvature). Finally, because the nose is wicked sharp, TLRC fashioned a foam cover for it.

This thing actually works! It took a couple of months to finally settle on this design, but TLRC has done 2 unshuttled Alpine Trail rides, the Middle Willamette Trail and a bazillion local rides with no ill affect. It takes a lot of fiddling and sanding while out on rides to get it dialed in (one can expect, for example, that the two sides of the saddle will not be of exactly equal height). The foam TLRC used is pretty hard, but not a lot more unyeilding than a lot of high-end saddles. It is pretty funky, but it works:

The Logging Road Cyclist’s Perineam/Pudendal Relief Saddle, MkIV “Panzer”

TLRC is riding again!


The Logging Road Cyclist has had a couple of high-stress years. This included the inability to ride at all for nearly a year. TLRC aficionados will realize what this means. Another pair of external stressors that were right up there in the all-lifetime stress levels coupled with no riding brought back some nasty remnants from the past. TLRC is amazed at how similarly he responds now. It is, to loosely quote William Gibson, describing something else, “rather like having a Nazi tank buried in your back yard, grown over with grass and dandelions, but then you notice its engine is still idling.” Following is an example of one of the old events. TLRC is riding again (see other posts), and promises to pretty much drop the TLRC history lessons (especially the first person ones) and get back to the business of the site, which is after all, LRC, and happier.

The pager went of with its usual shriek and called us up to the old town of Placitas for a pedestrian hit by a car. It turned out to be a stupid guy rollerblading in the 50mph two-lane blacktop that ran through there. It was late at night, and given the lack of lighting, it would have been nearly impossible for the driver to have seen him before he dodged out into her path, got crumpled up over the front of her car and hammered face first through her windshield.

When we got onto the scene in our personal vehicle, the driver, an Hispanic woman of about 40, was still in the driver’s seat in hysterics. The windshield where his face had gone through was shattered in a circle a couple of feet across right in front of her. He was crawling around on the highway, on all fours, screaming like an animal. There was nothing human about it.

Our rescue rig arrived with some gear so that we could start doing some good, and soon after a county sheriff unit arrived and started to take control of the traffic. Everything was still out in the middle of the road and cars were stacking up in both directions. We got a backboard out of the rescue and took hold of the guy. This was a bit tricky. Given the mechanism of injury, i.e. face first through a high-speed windshield, we were by protocol required to immobilize him in case of spinal injury. On the other hand, he was combative and bloody, so we had to manhandle him onto the board without exacerbating his injuries and, at the same time maintain his airway with all that blood.

We got him down and rolled him over. His face was nightmarish. It looked like someone had spent 10 minutes slashing at him with a box cutter and every time he screamed, which was with each breath, the cuts lifted and moved around and bled. It was like some abstract rendition of a human face come to life through LSD. He screamed and fought us and bled and screamed some more. Finally there were four of us on him, one at the head, me at the right arm, one at the feet, another with the left arm. He pretty clearly wasn’t having any airway problems.

I held hard while my wife, an EMT-I, started a line in him. I am simply unable to watch IVs or blood draws, or even have my own blood drawn without getting the heebie-jeebies or fainting, but this time it didn’t bother me at all. I just watched all her prep and, pinning his arm against all of his contortions, closely watched her slide the catheter home.

By this time the Albuquerque Ambulance medics had arrived, so legally it was their scene, as we were all EMTs and outranked. One of them moved to the IV point with my wife, so I took over the feet from one of us who was having trouble dealing with this horror show. The medic in charge said he was calling medical control to get an order to paralyze the skater with versed, an anesthetic with amnesia-inducing properties, probably a good thing for him, and probably something we all could have used. He went back into the ambulance to make the call.

About this time the Sandoval County Sheriff deputy came up and looked to us to get the attention of someone. Since I was only holding feet and everyone else was either busy or in shock, he caught my eye and asked if he could take our rescue unit. He needed a second vehicle with emergency lights besides his own so that he could block off a section of the highway to make a landing zone for the helicopter that had been called. I looked around. It was Albuquerque’s scene; their ambulance had everything they needed and our rescue was pretty much just sitting there adding to the diesel atmosphere. I nodded and he gave a quick thanks and took off.

All this time the patient was screaming and kicking and bleeding and his face was fracturing and bleeding and this was all to be seen in the flashing of the emergency lights and the odd bright white light of someone’s heavy-duty flashlight or the ambulance’s spots and the diesel stank and the radios crackled and we could still hear the hysterics of the poor driver that this idiot had catapulted into hell when he went into her windshield.

The head medic came back with a syringe and pumped the versed into the line. Almost instantly the skater slumped peacefully. The wounds on his face settled neatly into place like a jigsaw puzzle and he looked human again, but as if someone had taken a red Sharpie and drawn several feet of lines all over his sleeping face. This remains one of the most graphic and vivid images of my life, not the screaming and the horror, but the falling into place on a quiet face of all that wounding.

This done, we packaged him up and carried him to the LZ a short distance away. The Life Flight medic climbed out, talked to the Abq guys, we loaded the patient and backed off to let the Aerospatial haul this poor stupid kid off to be fixed. I later heard that he got two hundred-odd stitches in his face.

We picked up a bit and got into my Volvo to head back to the station to clean all the blood out of the rescue. I was trying to compose myself after all I had just seen; not an easy thing to do. It was hard not to just curl up into a small ball and cry, which was really my inclination. After a few minutes, my wife, who was clearly stewing about something popped up: “Don’t you ever, EVER give away my ambulance like that. EVER!” I, a mere EMT-B (basic) was outranked by her EMT-I (intermediate) and was legally subordinate to her on emergency scenes. I explained to her what the cop had asked for, that it was Abq’s scene at that point, that Abq had no need for the rescue, that the LZ was the priority at that point and that I wasn’t in the habit of denying reasonable, if any, requests from the police. She would have none of it and started to lay into me again. I said, look, think what you want, but if you put me in that same situation 100 more times, I’d do the same thing every time, so just drop it, but she didn’t. I didn’t need this at that particular moment.

While we were in the station bay cleaning the shocking amount of blood that had gotten transferred into the rescue, the Sandoval deputy came in, looking for me particularly. He thanked me, in front of my wife, for giving him the rescue and said that without it there was no way he could have gotten a safe LZ and hence no way we could have flown the skater. She just looked on. I looked at her and said nothing. In retrospect, this event was the second- or third-to-last nail in the coffin of our marriage, demonstrating to me a growing and fundamental lack of respect. The last nail was firmly driven home a few weeks later during a similar incident, and I left soon after.

I often look back on the time I spent running with that fire department 20 years ago and wonder how I did it. In a period of about 18 months I responded to more than 12 calls, maybe 14, that involved death. There was a drug overdose. There was a multiple death car wreck on I-25 and the blood from the victims ran in rivulets across the banked asphalt into the median before we zipped the bodies into the bags. A guy in a small pickup towing another truck rear-ended someone on that same road and burned to death while his foot was trapped beneath the brake pedal and we had to extricate him which meant working in close proximity for an hour. (We really dropped the ball on this one: instead of doing it the way we were trained to do we let the coroner direct us. We should have told him to take a hike.) I honestly can’t even remember most of them; I just remember that when I stopped I counted and the number is what I know now. There was a lot of other stuff that didn’t involve death, but was gruesome too, like extricating a comatose drunk from a blood-soaked Caddy after a high-speed head-on with another drunk, or the story I just told.

There was a lot of feel-good to it too. For extended periods, since I worked at home, if you called 911 in our area, you got me. Medical calls were challenging and made me feel like I was really helping the community and usually didn’t have the emotional impact of serious trauma calls. But what really got us rockin’ were the 10-45’s: car crash with injuries. Not to say that I enjoyed them, for that implies that I found gratification from someone else’s disasters and that isn’t true. What 10-45’s did was to seep into my being, into my very living bones and expose all the flaws and weaknesses in me. Each one was a test of whether or not I could stand to see and deal with the worst. Each time I passed, I knew something about myself that changed me. I learned to drop a cloak of calm over myself, to detach from what was in front of me and focus on the task at hand. While I can still do this, and it is indeed an asset, eventually I paid a price. The accrual of all that trauma damaged me in a long-lasting way.

What sticks in my head is the nighttime nightmare stuff. Lit by the emergency bars, diesel in the air, something bad out in front of you, hoping you can hold it together if it’s as bad as you fear, that you won’t break. I never did, but I did take some long walks out into the desert and cry by myself sometimes. I know myself better now than I did then, and knowing what I know now, I would never have subjected myself to that kind of emotional loading. I’m picky about what books or movies I absorb and have to recognize that I have my limits. Recent situations have stretched those for me, and I found with that the same feelings that the lights and diesel and blood elicited all those years ago arise in me with a surprising freshness.


I brought Bridgette home on July 4th, 2004. Thirteen years and 10 days later, on Bastille Day, 2017, Bridgette died at the vet’s office.

It was a stupid thing, to have brought a new dog home on the 4th, since the new dog was, and remained, terrified of loud noises. Besides the 5 hours in a strange truck with a strange man and dog (my preexisting dog, Luna), soon after we got home, the fireworks started. But the 4th was what I had to go up to Port Orchard and check out this beautiful dog I had seen on the Pacific Northwest Border Collie Rescue web site.

Bridgette had an interesting story. She had been picked up as a stray in Elko and was slated for euthanasia. The day before the execution, the vet in charge of it called the BC rescue people in Idaho. He apparently couldn’t stand to put her down. The BCR folks took her to the Boise environs where she stayed for a while before Sally at PNWBCR in Granite Falls WA got her. Bridgette stayed there for a while before she was sent over to Bob at Port Orchard. They figured she was a year and a half to two years old by then.

In later years I got an inkling of why she might have “strayed”. She once killed a rat before my eyes in my kitchen, SNAP, dead, right out from under the cat’s nose. Bridgette took the dead rat out through the dog door, and when I went out side to tell her what a good dog she was, she hung her head and acted like she was about to be beaten. A few years later, she got loose on the driveway and killed an adolescent turkey the same way, SNAP, dead. Again, as she held the little turkey, head lolling out one side of her mouth, dangling feet out of the other, Bridgette hung her head and waited for her beating. Then it clicked: She’d been a chicken killer and someone had dumped her.

She was a magnificent dog. While larger than a real border collie, and probably mixed with German Shepard, Bridgette had beautiful stark black and white markings with some slight brown/gray around her eyes, like negative kohl. When I got her she weighed 45-50 pounds but after six years of mountain and cross biking she bulked up to 60, with no fat on her, and she stayed there for the rest of her days.

On the PNWBCR website there were two pictures that captured her perfectly. In one she is sitting, ears up and alert looking at the photographer. In the second, ears down, she is approaching an unseen person with her head tilted up towards them with an expression of happiness at seeing whoever it was. I saw those pictures and she stole my heart. “We can call her Bird” I said to The Girlfriend, who at that point, about a year into it, hadn’t suffered either too much nor too long yet.

Besides her smile, Bird’s ears were her most expressive feature. They’d go up and down time and again during the course of a conversation. Of course they were up for full alert and down for being petted and relaxing. There was a half-mast position for walking and running.

She was my biking dog. We’d do the trails and roads in Mac Forest time and again. We rode Waldo Lake and the North Umpqua trail. Lap upon lap of Mary’s Peak, where her ashes will go in a couple of days, beside whatever remains of Buffy and Luna.

She hated the driftboat, but liked river trips. She loved water and loved chasing tossed pebbles. She would wait, and wait, and wait for a pebble to be tossed. She once stood within ten feet of the same spot, chest deep in the John Day River for 8 hours while we sat in camp. Once in a while one of us would get up and toss her a rock, but mostly she stood there staring, moving just enough to keep one or the other of us in sight. When I broke her lower right canine with a rock, I put a stop to the rock tossing (until the last couple of days with her when it didn’t matter anymore). She responded by starting to dig rocks out of whatever riverbed she stood on, and carrying them up the bank. She’d hold her head under for as long as it took to dig one up. I once counted slowly to 40 while she groped the bottom of Oak Creek and came up snorting with a softball-sized rock.

Birdie was my third dog. The first, Buffy was a nondescript 40 pound brown mongrel stray from New Mexico and residual from my second marriage. We saw her at night on the side of the road near the Malpais outside of Grants and when we saw her again the next morning, we picked her up. She was a bad dog with a snaggle tooth and a torn ear who liked to pick fights. She was a terrific biking dog who also hated the driftboat and kept me alive, literally, through The Dark Time. When she had to be put down much before her time it traumatized me, mostly I think, because of that bond. On the rebound, ironically much like that second marriage, I took in another stray that a girl at Animal Crackers offered me, Luna. Luna was smaller, black and looked like a mix between a flat-coated retriever and some kind of spaniel. Someone had kept her tied to a tree in her own filth and fed her on scraps until poor Luna was tweaked. Luna could be a sweet girl, but would unpredictably turn on us. It started with growls, escalated to snaps and ended when she bit me in the face one day, and I just had to end her. It was like an execution. It helped when our crusty pragmatic vet said to me when it was done: “Thank you for doing that. Now we know she is where she can’t hurt anyone and no one can hurt her.” That helped. Some asshole, through either negligence or intention had ruined a perfectly good, sweet little dog. This had a strong influence my future interactions with my dogs.

In 2007, TG got her springer, Robbie. Robbie adored Bird, who mothered and bossed him around. Rob is pretty low-key, so he was happy to let his life be guided by Bird, who was in turn perfectly willing to take charge of his, teach him his place in the world, and keep things orderly. Tonight Robbie is off. He is lying back by Bird’s old place by the bed and won’t come out. He has been unusually clingy this last week.

Losing my last dogs had been very difficult for me. I was very close to Bird in a way I hadn’t been with the others. She had her problems. She, like Buff, wouldn’t back away from, nor was above starting, a fight. I got so that I could sweep her to the ground with my feet and put a foot on her neck in the blink of an eye. Didn’t hurt her, stopped the fight, but your usual Corvallisite tended to look askance at the procedure. But beyond that, there wasn’t much wrong. My life had stabilized too, so I didn’t have the neurotic connection that I had to Buffy. Bird was, well Bird, and I simply couldn’t imagine life without her. I was, to put it simply, afraid to lose her because of my pain. So I got a spare dog. It didn’t hurt that I had just broken my hip and gotten a laptop and thus with spare time and access found a litter of springers. Thus Breeze, spare dog.

Right now, I’m glad I did this. Five years ago when Breeze came on board, I wasn’t. I’m not sure why, but there was always tension and strife. Perhaps Breeze just wouldn’t accept Bridgette’s authority, which Bridgette was certainly not going to relinquish. Perhaps Bridgette and Robbie just terrorized poor little Breeze all the time and she fought and postured to save herself. At any rate, it could be tough, but as of last week, it all paid off. Breeze is turning into a new dog. She is learning to play with me, something that was simply not allowed under Bridgette’s regime.

Like the rest of being with Bridgette, her end was easier than the others. Three years ago she got cancer and was given 3-6 months to live, maybe 9-12 with an awful, toxic chemo regimen. I chose not to do the chemo on a 12-year old dog and hit the jackpot with another three years for free. I think this eased losing her. We “pre-grieved”. Getting the diagnosis was terrible for us, almost like losing her, and we knew that at any time she could be gone within a month.

In the end, she just sort of faded away. Over those three wonderful years she seemed to sink into a state of happy senility. She hadn’t been a barker before, but now would stand in the house or yard and methodically bark, bark, bark, bark until she got her way. She was pleased to sit around, panting heavilyand  looking happily at us, like a pothead dog. Slowly her back legs started to give out. One day she just sort of fell over and couldn’t get up, and she would struggle with her balance, one could see.

She became increasingly incontinent, and we knew that end was coming. We got in a couple more beach trips, and she could still make it up Mary’s Peak from the parking lot, barely, at a snail’s pace, but she was happy about it. Woodland Meadow Park was, as always, a haven, and near the end she even had a good digging session.

On Wednesday I decided it was time. They had an appointment on Friday afternoon. Normally this would have upset me a lot, to have had to wait. But this time, I used it. Breeze went to TG’s and I spent most of the three days with Bird, just us, parks, the river, coffee, just sitting, sleeping on the porch together.

I also started my dog-loss routine. I shopped for a small urn to keep a portion of her ashes in at home. I found a small Nalgene bottle I could use to give some ashes to TG who likes to set them at the base of a new plant or tree in her yard. I have some small plywood pieces and clamps I use to press some wildflowers that I will pick on the peak when I scatter her. I’ll pick up her ashes tomorrow, then go up the peak, open the ashes and bottle up enough for us to have, spread the rest among the others already there and pick flowers to press and frame so I can remember the day.

On Friday, we took one last loop around the park, hung at home for a while and then went to the river. We spent the last couple of hours with TG, Robbie and Breeze. At the vet, I hugged her as she went to sleep, breathing along with her, stroking the side of her face in the way she always loved. I cried and talked to her and petted her and breathed her breath and heard the tech crying behind me. The vet thanked me for sharing her with them over the years. On the way out I saw the crusty, pragmatic vet. Choking back my tears I told him I’d just lost Bridgette. He nodded and said, “I know. It’s a bad day.” Everyone who knew her loved her.

Actually, two and a half. Boys will be boys.

The Logging Road Cyclist went to run the Illinois River with The Bad Drunk and a couple of Kids, The Assailant and The Nice One. It was a beautiful warm spring day with 2500 cfs in the river. An idyllic run.

Down below Submarine Hole, they camped on the right bank in a cobbly little getaway. After dinner, the kids smoked some dope and ate the mushrooms they had brought, while The Bad Drunk swilled his way through the bottle of pinot he had decanted into an aluminum fuel bottle. The sober TLRC lounged in his sleeping bag, enjoying the glow of the canyon.

About half-way through his swill, The Bad Drunk started up a little game with TLRC. “You’re a black belt, TLRC,” he’d say, “see if you can stop me from getting you!”, and then he’d dart in and poke TLRC somewhere on the upper body.

This was pretty irritating, but TLRC was used to The Bad Drunk, so he took it for a while, quite a while, actually, and he asked The Bad Drunk a number of times, politely, please to stop. Finally, TLRC told The Bad Drunk to stop it, for real, or TLRC would. TLRC had been really, really, patient, but the continued unwanted poking by a bad drunk was getting to be a bit much.

The Bad Drunk, of course, as bad drunks are wont to do, did it again, because he thought it was pretty funny, what he was doing. The next time he poked TLRC and retreated, TLRC snatched The Bad Drunk’s ankle and chopped at the back of his knee. This laid out The Bad Drunk pretty well, aided, no doubt by his drunkenness. The Kids looked on. The Bad Drunk sat back and started chattering away about something else.

The next day, while driving to Gold Beach, The Bad Drunk was drinking the six-pack he had bought at Cougar Lane. The Kids were in the back smoking dope. TLRC was driving. The road there is generally one lane with patches and dips and bumps and occasional oncoming traffic. TLRC drove in his usual conservative way: slow.

The Bad Drunk started to badger TLRC: “Go faster, Jesus Christ are you a grandmother, come on, what’s wrong with you &c &c &c”. For some reason, TLRC tried to explain why he was driving the way he was and let this go on for some while before he realized he was arguing with a bad drunk about something stupid.

So he did something stupid in response. TLRC looked over at The Bad Drunk and said “Like this?” and stomped on the gas and drove as fast as he could for a mile or so. The Bad Drunk looked appropriately terrified. Looking around, TLRC saw that the potheads had gone white. TLRC stopped in the center of the road, turned to The Bad Drunk and asked “Enough?” The Bad Drunk nodded and TLRC drove on in what he considered was a safe manner.

The next day they went up to run the North Fork of the Smith. On the way in they stopped at a high spot to look at the view and The Bad Drunk and TLRC walked away from the car to look around. On their return The Kids were burning their way through a fatty with the shuttle driver. This discomfited The Bad Drunk, whose car it was, and pleased TLRC.

TLRC was futzing around with his boat at the put-in when his Combat Information Center (CIC) pinged him about the incoming bogey apparently trying to avoid the sensor arrays. TLRC gave a quick half-turn and saw The Assailant coming in low and fast with his arms extended. Clearly, The Assailant intended to grapple TLRC at least, and probably to take him down onto the gravel.

While the CIC brought the Target Acquisition and Fire Control algorithms online, TLRC pondered the situation. He knew The Assailant reasonably well, and they had always gotten along, and had just had a pretty good time together on the Illinois. The Assailant had always seemed like a peaceable and friendly sort of guy. TLRC could think of no earthly reason that he was suffering this sudden attack.

On the other hand, TLRC knew that The Assailant had been a wrestler, was a pretty beefy guy, and had at least twenty years on TLRC. If The Assailant was intent on pressing home a real attack, TLRC could be in for trouble.

TLRC had realized that one of the problems with Shotokan karate (if one chose to view it that way) was that there was no “flexible response” or “escalation ladder”, as the nuclear war theorists put it. Shotokan training relied heavily on parrying an attack and responding to it, emphasizing the defensive focus of the discipline. The responses were intended to put a stop to a fight in a very definitive way: performed correctly,  some pretty awful things should happen to the attacker. In real life, this limits the options available to a karate practitioner. It is sort of like carrying a .45 or a knife. You might well prevail, but save for the most dire situations one might end up being responsible for actions he would rather not be morally or legally associated with.Thus TLRC did not want to do anything he’d regret, and most certainly he did not want to hurt anyone at all, especially in such a vague and uncertain situation as this.

Target Acquisition had by now told TLRC that a nose was easily available for a strike, should he choose that option. TLRC decided that his best choice was to feint with a back-fist strike (uraken) to distract The Assailant, while he, TLRC, got out of Dodge and figured out what was going on. Uraken is a very fast strike, useful against weak body targets. One makes a tight fist and, keeping the wrist, elbow and shoulder very loose, pulls the fist up against the opposite shoulder and then uncoils it like a whip, as fast as possible. A wrist snap at the end gives a final burst of kinetic energy and the force of the strike can be concentrated on a very small area of knuckle.

TLRC asked Fire Control for a solution that would put the middle knuckle of his right hand about an inch in front of The Assailant’s nose, and pulled the trigger.

Unfortunately for The Assailant, TLRC had quit training a few years before due to serious shoulder problems that had required surgery. He had chosen between karate and boating and quite frankly was a bit rusty. Fire Control in particular was poorly calibrated. The uraken unloaded precisely on the bridge of The Assailant’s nose.

The Assailant diverted his charge and backed away, making loud pain-associated noises and with both hands covering his face. TLRC felt terrible, and completely forgetting that he had just been attacked, and still had no idea what The Assailant’s intentions were, ran over apologizing profusely. Fortunately, there was no real damage (intended as a feint, the uraken wasn’t really loaded). To TLRC’s surprise, The Assailant was apologizing too, and feeling pretty much like he deserved what he had just gotten. “There was all that stuff about your karate, and I wanted to see what you would do. I guess I know”.

For some reason no one present believed that TLRC had missed his true point of aim, which kind of hurt his feelings. The Nice One was disgusted with The Assailant and thought he’d gotten what he’d asked for. There was no bad blood between TLRC and The Assailant. The Bad Drunk just thought it was all pretty funny.

TLRC Really Used His Mad Ninja Skilz, Once, Out in the World

When The Logging Road Cyclist was training, there were two major schools of Shotokan Karate in existence. One was TLRC’s school, the Japanese Karate Association (JKA), at the time led by Sensei Nishiama, the other was the Shotokan Karate Association (SKA) led by Mr. Oshima. To an outsider, indeed to most insiders below the higher black belt ranks, there wasn’t much difference. They used mostly the same training forms (kata), techniques (there were minor things like stance width that got argued over incessantly, but that any other than an adept wouldn’t notice) &c, &c.

The most notable difference was in attitude. The JKA was not training fighters, the SKA was. We JKA students were told that the goal of karate was “the perfection of character”, and indeed at one point TLRC had it figured out that part of this was that if were trained enough to prevail in almost any fight you ran into, but arranged your life so that a) you never got even close to one, and b) that if you did, you just walked away, you had absorbed something about both yourself and how you should carry youself in the world. Training was like a trap you set for yourself only to avoid, and in doing that, one progressed to a better self. There are, TLRC realizes now, probably more efficient ways “to perfect one’s character”.

TLRC, who spent a couple of years training with SKA (he had moved, and that was what was there) after getting his black belt, came to the conclusion that those guys all figured that somewhere, sometime out there in front of them was going to be a battle to the death, and they were going to prevail. TLRC enjoyed their tough training regimen, and in a way their combative attitude appealed to a certain dark part of TLRC that he still doesn’t like to acknowledge.

There was a pretty big difference training with the two schools. In his home JKA dojos, TLRC went to class and worked hard. On the way to SKA classes, TLRC’s stomach would tighten and he would sit in the car before going in, getting ready to get pounded on (there was some resentment of him being an auslander from time to time). One thing for sure: in the JKA one did not talk about taking it out in the street. One fought in the dojo, there, and there only. Using karate on an untrained person was considered disgraceful. Had TLRC ever really gotten into a fight in the World, he would never had disclosed it to his instructors, unless it was a true and necessary matter of self defense. In the SKA dojo TLRC went to, one of the head instructors would occaisionally  brag to TLRC about how he had gotten into some civilian’s face over some trivial matter.  This was not trivial, as the instructor was actually a pretty scary individual. TLRC was also warned about lightly going in to train in other SKA dojos, the implication being clear that here, they were more tolerant than usual, and TLRC might actually get hurt. It set a much different tone. Eventually, TLRC just left after getting tired of having constantly bruised ribs, and also enduring the endless racist jokes and troglodyte politics that were particular to this dojo (NOT, TLRC will emphasize again, the SKA in general).

Eventually TLRC moved back home, took up training again in the dojos of Peace, Harmony, and Light, and took up mountain biking too.

Early on as an MTB, TLRC took a trip to California and did a long ride in the Sierras above Pinecrest. This was a real ordeal for TLRC; 30-40 miles with lots of climbing and chasing his brother-in-law, one of the Machine People.  Well into the ride on a narrow trail through a meadow, TLRC ran his front wheel smack into a rock or something, which brought him to a dead halt.

Fortunately, TLRC was inept enough that he wasn’t going very fast anyway. He was also inept enough that getting his feet out of the still unfamiliar clipless pedals was hard. The end result was a forward-stationary TLRC who slowly tilted over to the right.

Naturally, he looked into the fall. There, on the ground was a log, and sticking out of the log was a limb with about 1″ diameter tapering to a sharp point. The tip of the sharp point intersected the arc currently being traced out by TLRC’s right eye as it swung groundward.

Instantly, time slowed to a near stop. TLRC removed his right hand from the grip, and smoothly brought it up to his left ear. During this movement, he pressed his fingers tightly together and bent them slightly. He curled his thumb into his palm and arched his hand, which was now a rigid striking tool. Keeping his elbow close to his ribs he began an outward swing, shoulder loose, upper arm, lower arm, wrist and hand held as a single structure. When the lateral side of his hand hit the branch, TLRC compressed all the muscles from shoulder to waist and emitted a forceful grunt, expelling his air and completing the solidification of body and striking masses into one. The limb snapped, and TLRC found himself, eye intact, lying attached to his bike.

Time resumed it’s normal flow, and TLRC lay there and laughed and laughed after completing this thoughtless effort. It worked just like they said it would! He had done almost exactly this move thousands of times doing basics and kata, and sure enough, it was part of him, just lying in there ’til needed.

Middle-aged Mutant Ninja Turtle

Get there first with the most. Nathan Bedford Forrest

The Logging Road Cyclist stood with his dojo-mates and seniors watching the kumite (sparring) rings on the far side of the large gymnasium. It was mayhem. Typically, Japanese Karate Association (JKA) events eschewed any serious contact; in fact it was against the rules. But if a competitor could stand being docked a point, a real blow could be landed. These guys were firing off full speed yoko kekomis (side thrust kicks, the karate equivalent of a 16-inch naval gun) at each other’s knees, and missing by fractions of inches, ditto rib-breaking gyaku-zukis (reverse punches). It was terrifying to watch because TLRC was entered, and for some reason at this particular tournament, the wise men had decreed that all ranks green belt and above were to be in the same kumite pool. TLRC had drawn a sandan (third degree black belt). He, TLRC, was a mid-level green belt.

The difference between a sandan and a green belt of any type is similar to that between a Nimitz-class carrier and a driftboat. The JKA is a conservative institution and has 3-levels each of white, green and brown belts, followed by a first degree black belt, or shodan. It was typical for students to take five or more years to reach shodan, after which, it was said, “one was ready to begin training”. Given the testing schedules, if one avoided failing any test at all, he or she might get there in a minumum of two years, but this was rare. From shodan to nidan (second degree) was usually another two to five years, and to reach sandan often took more than an additional five years, with luck. The JKA was very serious about ranking and it was expected that students would fail many tests, especially for higher degree black belts. One was expected to accept failure and work harder in the aftermath.

TLRC’s sandan was a middle-sized, middle-aged man. TLRC was a pretty big middle-aged man. The sandan ran a dojo in Washington near where the tournament was being held. TLRC didn’t really know the man, who had seemed nice in the past, but today was one of the worst agressors.  Ignominy, at least, was off the table today, given the disparity in rank. Physical damage, on the other hand was definitely on the menu. TLRC was seriously afraid of getting hurt.

The more he watched his scheduled opponent, the more TLRC worried. He needed a plan. He could simply dance around and try to stay out of the way and not attempt to score any points at all; be a heavy bag with legs in other words. This felt unsafe given the level of testosterone being displayed. TLRC decided on another, hormone vs hormone approach. They had had it drilled into them never to display emotion while fighting, always to present a calm face to the opponent and keep the boiling inside, where it was of use. There are displays and displays however. TLRC vowed to project to the sandan the clear signal that if TLRC actually got hit, then the kumite was going to get very real, very quickly, and that TLRC would take at least a little piece of sandan down with him, even though on it’s face this was a preposterous notion. TLRC planned to enter the ring looking as crazed as possible, and strike recklessly at his opponent as fast as he could. In retrospect, he may have gotten this notion from his recent perusal of numerous texts detailing the big carrier battles of 1942, where the basic tactical doctrine of carrier operations, always strike first, was proven correct again and again. TLRC hoped his strike arrived before the sandan’s fighters launched and antiaircaft batteries unlimbered.

TLRC stood in the ring, hands at his sides, face drawn to project as much anger as possible withut actually snarling. He tilted his head forward and slightly raised his eyes so that the whites showed beneath the irises: senpaku. It is rare for normal people to display this way. The insane or battle crazy do. It can subconciously rattle an opponent.

The whistle blew and TLRC charged. He actually had very little hope of this working. The sandans in TLRC’s dojo would either have evaded this clumsly assault or simply stopped it dead without mussing their hair; indeed they had done it many times. Usually they just herded him around like a pathetic sheep or played with him like a cat with a mouse.

But this sandan, like the Japanese Navy at Midway, scorned his opponent and had expected timidity or at least hesitation. TLRC actually made it, and, arriving in a respectable fighting stance got a straight punch right into the sandan’s throat at the adam’s apple. Even though TLRC stopped the punch at the surface, this was completely illegal, and the judge rushed in to stop it and penalize TLRC. Just before the judge arrived, TLRC looked straight into the sandan’s eyes, leaned his fist into the sandan’s throat, bared his teeth, and growled. Involuntarily, the sandan’s eyes widened.

The sandan proceeded to beat TLRC in about thirty seconds, by the book, with nothing scary and no contact at all.