Graduation!

Let’s pretend it’s one month ago and I posted this update when I should’ve. In that case, we haven’t been on our cross-country road trip yet, but Rheannon did just graduate! Graduation ceremony was long (I spent a total of 5 hours at the stadium!) but Michelle Obama spoke and did her best to make up for every other speaker being pretty uninspiring, and it was all worth it to catch glimpses of Rheannon among the sea of graduates, and to see her happy face when we met her outside the stadium. Afterwards we had a celebratory dessert potluck in the backyard, where we got to debut our new hammocks, which have become our summertime hobby.

Let’s take a moment for a quick recap Rheannon’s awesome undergraduate career…

When I met her she was a bike messenger, taking one or two classes part time at the community college. Our second summer together she got an internship at the coast studying oyster populations, and the next summer she worked for the Forest Service in Randle, Washington, doing survey work. At the end of that summer we came to Corvallis and she started at OSU, where she got involved at the Lichen Lab. The next summer she got a job with the BLM in Salem which involved a lot of bushwhacking around in the mountains looking for sensitive plants. In the meantime during the school year she took lots of science classes…chemistry, organic chemistry, biochemistry, physics, statistics, and on and on. Last summer she started working at the EPA looking at nitrogen cycling in wetlands. During her final year she supplemented her science classes with courses like Wilderness First Responder, Rock Climbing, and Winter Backcountry Travel. And she also managed to get published in a couple of scientific journals and work 20 hours a week. At the end of it all she came out with a cumulative GPA of 3.8, a lot of job experience, and a healthy understanding of how things work. That understanding of how things work is what got me so interested in science and going back to school, and that high GPA (combined with a somewhat competitive nature) is what inspires me to get A’s! She sets the bar high, and we’re awfully proud of her.

Rheannon and friends after the graduation ceremony.

This needs no explanation.

Beaver cookies!

A younger, bike messenger version of Rheannon.

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Catch up

It’s been a busy around here and we’ve neglected to post any updates, but don’t worry, I’m determined to keep this blog from disappearing into the flaky sea of abandoned internet stuffs. A lot has happened, but I will attempt to give you a brief recap of this month’s highlights.

Of course there are great mountain bike rides to talk about, but there’s been some rumors that this is turning into a mountain biking blog, so I’ll try to keep it to a minimum. The most memorable ride was the McKenzie River trail, which we rode on my birthday. We went out the night before and camped, got up early and rode most of the trail (cut out the last 7 or so boring miles). We’ve been at the McKenzie River in late May for the past two years as well, and the upper section is usually still under a lot of snow, but this spring is unusually warm and dry. We got back home in the late afternoon and had people over for pizza and birthday festivities, and wrapped up the night at the karaoke bar, where I sprained my ankle during a particularly moving performance of Black Sabbath’s War Pigs. Normally I would beat myself up for such a seemingly careless injury, but in this case I can say with confidence that it was definitely worth it.

The infamous “Blue Pool” on the McKenzie River. The water usually comes from underground, but it’s so high here that it’s coming out of the rocks above the pool.

Friends jumping over friends.

Over Memorial Day weekend we stayed at the Crater Lake Lodge, courtesy of our wonderful friends Skyler, Mary, and Sea Oh. I have to admit, my expectations were greatly exceeded. First of all, even though it now seems absurdly obvious, I never fully comprehended that Crater Lake is actually a crater. This is dumb not just because of the name, but also because it’s one of the most famous natural wonders in the country and I’ve probably seen hundreds of pictures of it. But in my head, I was picturing a normal, forested lake with shoreline, but just extra beautiful and really really deep. There is no shoreline, just sheer cliffs rising hundreds of feet around the entire lake. There’s one steep trail that drops down to the lake, where they helicopter in boats every summer for tours around the lake. It’s a national park, and besides the Grand Canyon I think it’s the only national park I’ve ever been in. What we usually do at national parks is drive up, get to the booth where we realize it costs $10 to get in, and promptly turn around. But this time, we had fancy reservations in a fancy lodge, so we coughed up the $10 and it was well worth it. I’m pretty sure we had the nicest room in the lodge, with two windows overlooking the lake. The only camping in the area is a few miles from the rim, so the lodge is the only option for staying the night in view of the lake, and besides being prohibitively expensive (that’s what good friends are for), it’s amazing and worth it. You get a historic northwest mountain lodge setting, killer views, lots of snow. Pretty great.

An ants on a log’s eye view from our room.


Rheannon looking tiny on top of some rocks.


Tromping through the snow on a sprained ankle.

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More importantly, Rheannon published her first ever scientific paper in a fancy scientific journal. It will be the first of many to come, and in fact she is working on at least one other research project that will be submitted for publication this summer. I can’t give you much more detail because I am a lowly community college student/bike mechanic and not all that science savvy, and I haven’t been able to get her to post about it herself (doesn’t like to toot her own horn), but I do know that she owes at least some of her success to Branson, who apparently did most of the work:

Even more importantly, our best friend/dog-godparent/wedding planner/everything got accepted to medical school this month! I’m not the least bit surprised, because I’ve never known anyone who can willfully succeed at anything they put their mind to like Sea Oh can, but I am dang proud of her. This seems like an appropriate time to post an embarrassing picture:


Dimple Hill & World’s Greatest Pit


Rheannon invited me on a mountain-bike-burrito-picnic-date night last week. We rode up to Dimple Hill, where someone had the foresight to stash an ammo box full of beer in the woods earlier that week. So we enjoyed burritos and beer over a picturesque view of Corvallis from the meadow (it’s only picturesque because you can’t see all the college students with their sweatpants). But, it was cold, and we were like popsicles on the way down. That didn’t stop us from picking up some ice cream on the way home:

As the weather gets sunnier and warmer, I’m looking forward to a lot more mountain bike-burrito dates, and a lot of hanging out on Dimple Hill and drinking a beer, kind of a Corvallis/mountain bike version of the Bluffs. There will be one big thing missing though, which is a red-nosed pit swinging on a rope. It seems that after 7 1/2 years of tearin’ it up on roads and trails behind the bike, Branson’s running days are over. While there is a lot of sadness that goes along with that, I’m happy that she’s a lazy pitbull and not as high energy as Lloyd. She can still get her kicks sleeping in the sun.

Here are a few pictures of her glory days:

Spring

Spring has been crawling onto the scene here like a guilty dog reluctantly returning to the scene of an over-turned trashcan crime. Rheannon and I went out for our weekly Thursday night group ride last night (although the numbers may be too low to technically call it a group ride this time of year). Last week I dressed for a 10% chance of rain, which means no rain jacket or winter tights, and was met with a cold downpour and hail. This week we expected more rain but were treated with last-minute clear skies. The temperature was warmer, the sun set later, orchids are blooming all over the forest, but winter still lingers in muddy puddles, as evidenced by the dirt pants we got from our ride:

Today I finished the last of my 29,029 feet of climbing, one week early. Here is what I’ve learned:

1. Making a goal like that really gets me out on my bike.

2. Getting out on my bike that much is a good way to get burned out.

It’s probably because I just spent 5 hours in the hot sun and I endo’d and slammed my head into my chest, but I’m tired. I need a small break. I need action movies and sleeping in. Pit bulls and ice cream.

We just watched the new Mission Impossible movie, and like any Tom Cruise movie, it was terrible. But with enough stunts and guns, anything can be entertaining for two hours. The highlight of the movie was a sandstorm car chase, which is a pretty good spin on a car chase. Also, Simon Pegg was in it, which helps make up for about 10% of the shots of Tom Cruise in Ray-Bans. One of these days I’m going to compile an ongoing list of the best movie car chases. I can already tell you that the number one spot is going to that scene in Die Hard 4 where Bruce Willis launches a cop car into a helicopter:

What else is going on? Rheannon is back working at the EPA and is very busy and very happy to be back. She likes it so much I think she would be volunteering if she wasn’t getting paid. Besides working there half-time, she’s also juggling work at the lichen lab, 12 credits at school, bryophyte workshops, yoga classes, pilates classes, spin classes, and mountain biking. She sleeps very well at night. Spring fever, have to do it all. Between the two of us we’ve probably got about 9 days left before we crash and end up locking ourselves in the house with nothing but frozen burritos and Hulu for a week.

Dallas!

This weekend we drove about 45 minutes north to Dallas, Oregon. We’ve been hearing about the trails there and finally got a chance to check them out with some friends. I hear people say that Dallas trails are better than Corvallis trails, and I’ve been pretty skeptical. Turns out they were right. There’s a vast network of really fun, well-built trails with lots of flow. We couldn’t stay out there all day because Rheannon is kind of sick, but we did get to hit Burgerville on the way home. I got dropped off in Adair Village so I could ride home through the forest, and the cheeseburger, fries, and milkshake were not feeling all that awesome once I got back on my bike. Small price to pay. Another couple of hours riding in amazing weather (60 degrees and sunny), and I’m well over half-way to my 29,029 feet. Now I need to get caught up in Calculus and Biology.

So serious.

Burgerville toast.

Syncline

It’s been a hectic start to Spring term. Some of my teachers have the unreasonable expectation that I should have retained some knowledge from previous classes. This is Rheannon’s last term ever as an undergrad (I have about 500 more). And to show how seriously we take school, we went up to the Gorge this weekend and did some camping and riding with friends. We camped on the Hood River and rode at Syncline, a big swath of bluff high above the Columbia River. Featuring lung-exploding climbs, rock garden descents, trails hugging exposed ridges, dry dirt, and hot sun. Just the right stuff to give us a much needed break from the damp and overcast trails of home. Not that we don’t love those. We really do. In fact I couldn’t get through the day of riding without reminiscing about some of my muddy home trails. Which brings me back to climbing and the progress of what is now being called 29 x 29 x 29. That’s right, 29,029 feet on a 29er in 29 days. I thought about making a rule about only leaving from 29th street, which is where many of our rides start, but that’s just too many rules. And it was also pointed out to me that this goal would have been much more appropriate two months ago in February, being that it was a leap year and the only month in 4 years that has 29 days in it. But hey, what are you gonna do? Work with what you’ve got. So what is my progress now that we’re a week in to the month? Well, depending on whose elevation interpretation you trust, it’s somewhere in the ball park of 8,994 feet. Not as far as I wanted to be at this point, but definitely on track. Unfortunately, there are forces of evil out there that would like to see me fail, and they’ve been rearing their ugly heads this past week. School and sick. School, the old fun-killer. And sick, well I’m not really sick yet, but I am teetering. So if I don’t have 15,000 feet this time next week, we’ll know who to blame.

Going Up

Spring visited us today, and even though the cold rain is going to come back tomorrow, it was enough to remind me that summer is not so far off. I spent the afternoon tromping through the forest on my bike, exploring new trails and hunting for elusive pin lichen. This was made all the more fun with our new Garmin bike computer, which aside from having an awesome topographic map with my location and every local trail (illegal or otherwise) displayed, it also has every bit of useless information that you don’t need but you really want anyway. And lately I’m really into tracking my climbing. I love climbing, which is lucky because the forest here is nothing but long, grueling climbs and fast, steep descents. So in honor of spring, and climbing, and superfluous gadgets, I decided to make a goal of climbing 29,029 feet for the month of April. That’s the height of Everest, and besides the significance of being the tallest point on earth, I kind of like the specificity of the number. And if nothing else, it gives me a good reason to update this blog.

So here it is, April 2, and I have officially climbed 2,785 feet.