Northward Bound

Northward Bound

Last weekend Albert and I rode 160 kilometers to stay with a couple who had graciously offered to host us deep in the mountains northwest of Santa Rosa. It rained the whole way. Presented below (and purposefully attributed to no one of us in particular) are our thoughts on the experience. 


1 km from Marin:

"I had a good three minutes of the jacket where I thought it was waterproof"

2 km from Marin:

"Hey Albert, where's your backpack man? Under your jacket? Nope, it's not under the jacket. Where is it Albert? It's back in the car, isn't it?"

50 km from Marin:

"And then there was that old lady; you said I was hitting on her. I was just being friendly! Is there a difference between being friendly and flirting? Mmmm... it's a grey area"

60 km from Marin:

"You come flying down the other side through the pines and you hit these little inlets, each with a little jetty, little fishing boat, and little oyster shop. Yeah if we did this again I would definitely stop for chowder." 

75 km from Marin:

"You were pretty hungry and slow and I was just bummed about the traffic. I would get to the top of each roller, get off my bike, and sit and wait for you."

80 km from Marin:

"I could feel the stillness. I could hear the leaves rustling. The moment seemed like an infinite peace. I probably should've walked the steep part."

82 km from Marin:

"We get to the top, you're like 'I need a food break'. It's raining, cold, misty, and now we're standing in this gross muddy pullout. You ask me if I can help you get your banana out of your back pocket, and so I go to your back pocket expecting to extract a banana and I just find this large glob of unrecognizable brown mush. That was surprising, but I think more surprising is the fact that you wanted to eat it."

83 km from Marin:

"I was thinking about a lot of stuff I didn't need to be considering but I couldn't get away from. And then we turned onto Coleman Valley Road. You're going through these trees; this beautiful forest, and then you pop out onto the ridge with the road rolling off into the misty distance. I remember seeing you standing up on the next roller, everything so grey, foggy, and peaceful, and just seeing your little taillight going 'blink, blink, blink, blink', and then my troubles were gone."

110 km from Marin:

"I wasn't miserable until I got very hungry. Do you remember how hungry I got?"

150 km from Marin:

"How was that for you? Slow."

152 km from Marin:

"It was actually contemplative; almost scary; almost to the point of tears. Just a lot running through my head. Suddenly there was this sense of eery arrival. It was almost as if this was the coda, the epilogue. That moment, it hurt, but it also felt like a special gift. It's almost as if you are watching yourself suffering from above, and you know you'll keep hurting and know you'll keep going, and you're ok with that."

152.1 km from Marin:

"About five seconds later you got off your bike, sat for a while, and then asked if I wanted Skittles."

157 km from Marin:

"We came under cover of twilight. It was almost like you're arriving right as the door is closing."

160 km from Marin:

"You could tell we were going to be in good hands. It feels like this type of stuff shouldn't happen. I had a real sense that they were genuinely good people, happy to share what they had. We had been given something special"

Why We Climb

Why We Climb

When Ben speaks his words are carefully chosen, each bringing its own weight and meaning, forming as a whole an idea and intent that is powerful and focused, saying exactly what needs to be said without a superfluous syllable.

When Albert speaks his words are not carefully chosen, falling over each other in a slightly jumbled cascade, interspersed with infectious laughter and sly sidelong glances, carrying with them a zealous vulnerability, coming together as an exemplification of raw emotion. 

Ben, Albert, and I spent a weekend together attempting a winter ascent of Mt. Lassen. We were out for a total of 48 hours, but it is hard to evaluate the experiential content of such a trip in metrics that are quantifiable. 

It is hard to use mere weight to describe the feeling of carrying camping gear, avalanche equipment, way too many clothes, and a very large camera up thousands of feet and through miles of deep powder.

It is hard to use just speed to describe the feeling of carving swooping turns through a pristine snowy landscape, spread before us like a canvas begging for an artist’s brush. 

It is hard to use the temperature to describe the feeling of standing under a full moon, camped in the shadow of Mt. Lassen, freezing for hours as our small backpacking stove battled to turn snow into water for our summit attempt the next morning.

It is hard to use a clock to describe the feeling of unzipping our tent door just as the sun peeked its head over the mountain’s flank, heralding a new day, bathing miles of untouched whiteness in a rush of golden light.

It is hard to use wind chill to describe the feeling of boot-climbing our way up the final ridge of Lassen, assaulted by a screaming tempest of mountain air and ice crystals scouring exposed skin like coarse sandpaper.

But most of all, it is hard to describe the feeling of watching Albert and Ben, after slogging for a day and a half, take their final steps to the summit.

This is why we came. We came for this release of emotion. We came for this fulfillment and contentedness. We came for this moment when the past and the future are not meaningless, but inconsequential.

We came so we could be, in both the eloquent words of Ben and candid words of Albert, “so stoked”. 

Why We Ride

Why We Ride

Cycling is beautiful: there is no other sport that lets you feel pain and adrenaline, lets you see peaks and valleys, and lets you smell ocean and pines all in one blissful four-hour retreat.

For six years cycling gave me more than I could have ever imagined; vivid sensory experiences that will last a lifetime. However, while losing myself in the sport and competition, I also lost a true purpose for why I rode. Riding each day became not a privilege, but an expectation, even a burden.

So I quit racing.

Taking a step back from the bike was one of the best decisions I have made in my life. I would never quit cycling, but I needed time off. Time to spend with friends and family, after spending so much time on myself.

In the last few weeks I came back to the bike, both mountain and road. Now I can ride without the personal expectation of being a racer. Now I can ride with the bright-eyed wonder I felt freshman year of high school. Now I can ride with friends and share the beauty of the silent forests, with only the rustling of pines and chirping of birds, rugged mountains, with their bitter wind and alien landscape, and green rolling hills, dotted with the occasional farm, vineyard, and pond. Now I can ride to experience the moment instead of training for the days and weeks ahead.

Now I can ride to have fun.

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Pipe Dream

Pipe Dream

A friend of mine at Stanford is a serious organist and is one of a handful of students on campus who has permission to use Memorial Church as his practice room. I went after hours to watch him play and take some photos. The light was beautiful with only the ornate instrument lit up and the rest of the cathedral in gloomy darkness, a perfect complement to the haunting tones of the organ.

Click on the images below to see the larger (and uncropped!) versions.

The Coast of Santo Antao

The Coast of Santo Antao

 

The first thing you notice is the noise: a roaring, booming, and crashing that is more bodily vibration than audible sound. It is the swell stirred up by storms in the howling north Atlantic finally, after thousands of miles of open ocean, throwing itself against jagged cliffs that rise like castle walls out of the sea. It is an ominous thrumming, an omnipresent backing track to every minute of every day. 

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The northern coast of Santo Antao, the northernmost island in the tiny archipelago nation of Cape Verde, is a hostile place: the island abruptly ends with thousand-foot cliffs that fall precipitously to the boiling sea far below, a landscape weathered by crashing waves and whipping winds, creating a natural fortress that is impervious to the ocean's onslaught.

This uncompromising terrain is interlaced with beautifully built cobbled paths that contort themselves to delicately pick their way across cliffs and through steep valleys. The paths are so perfectly constructed and the ground they cross so unforgiving that their existence is almost paradoxical, as if they live solely to emphasize the untraversable nature of these islands.

Towns teeter on fins of rock, though their position is not nearly as precarious as the terraces used to grow food. It's not that the locals want to spend their time on steep, crumbling hillsides. Water is a scarce resource on these islands: though the cliffs are stained and scoured by the memories of waterfalls, the rainy season lasts only a few months and the blue skies that dominate the rest of the year, despite being amazing for hiking, leave the climate as arid as any desert. Wherever a dribble of water seeps through the rocks, a village springs up, no matter the locale. 

The waves crashing against the shore combined with clouds scurrying across the sky create beautiful shafts of light that dance their way through the valleys, a constant tango that completes the dreamlike atmosphere. 

The wild unpredictability of Cape Verde isn't tamed by the presence of people. One gets the feeling that the few signs of civilization here are only grudgingly permitted by nature, a temporary lease to enjoy this spectacular place.

Pre-Finals Bike Camping

Pre-Finals Bike Camping

Finals are a stressful time: you're asked to regurgitate a semester's worth of material in three hours onto a test that will count for up to 40% of your grade, which is why instead of studying, I decided to go bike camping with Tom.

A brief recap of the adventure:

1:45 pm: Tom reports he's going to be thirty minutes late. No worries, leaving at 2:45 will still give us plenty of time.

2:45 pm: Tom reports he's going to be another thirty minutes late. A little bit worried, sunset is at 5:00 pm. (Tom, did you make any progress in the last hour?)

3:30pm: We're rolling! Obligatory how-is-school-so-hard-face photo.

4:00 pm: Finally out of the Silicon Valley traffic. Alpine Road turns to a single lane and starts winding through beautiful temperate rainforest.

4:15 pm: Still temperate rainforest. Still beautiful. Still paved. Still light out.

4:30 pm: Road turns to trail. Still rideable; the recent rain left some super tacky soil that makes it easy to get traction even with a road bike and a 30 pound backpack. We've climbed half of the 2000 feet up to our camp.

4:40 pm: Whoops. Trail turns to steep single track. Can you say hike a bike?

4:45 pm: Back in business!

5:00 pm: We found sunset. And fog. And pavement (at least for a few minutes).

5:15 pm: We still have a little light. And the fog. No more pavement.

5:25 pm: Cold, wet, but stoked, we arrive at camp.

6:00 pm: Eat rice pilaf, salami, and trail mix for dinner.

7:00 pm: As we get the fire going the fog clears, leaving us with beautiful views over the bay and out towards the coast.

10:00 pm: Study a little bit, talk about life, go to sleep.

6:45 am: Tom reports that his crotch is rather itchy. Turns out he got poison oak there (and all over the rest of his body too). Harsh.

7:30 am: Camp packed, time to roll.

7:31 am: Uh oh. I have an almost-flat rear tire.

7:32 am: Decide to just ride it down, how bad can it be?

7:45 am: Off the fire road, back onto pavement.

8:30 am: Make it back to campus with only my rear wheel and Tom's body a little worse for wear. Success?

3:30 pm: Take the final I didn't study for because of camping.

No regrets.

Reiki

Reiki

Last weekend I got the chance to do a photoshoot for a friend's Reiki studio. Reiki is a Japanese meditative practice that promotes stress reduction, relaxation, and healing. 

I predominantly used the light, airy atmosphere of the room to focus the viewer's attention on the practice at hand and to convey a sense of cleansing and spirituality.

At the end of the shoot I decided to get a little more heavy-handed and set up a strobe on the ground to graze her fingertips, leaving everything else in shadow. Though I really like the effect, I think it also leads to the client appearing a bit corpse-esque, but I'm happy with the resulting image regardless.

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Until next time!

-Tim