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Brat wrote about having soft boiled eggs for breakfast today, and it got me thinking about comfort foods.

I think of comfort foods as ones that make you nostalgic, bring back memories. Things that just make you feel better regardless of your day. Generally, easy things to make. Warm things.

Because that is definitely one of mine. Soft boil the eggs. Make toast with butter. Chop the toast up into little squares. Scoop the egg, runny yolk and all, over the eggs. Mix, salt and pepper to taste, and enjoy. We actually do this for dinner far more often than we do it for breakfast. At the end of the day, that’s when it’s a comfort food. And it’s something that my family used to make every once in awhile, so it’s both nostalgic and feel-good.

Another one, and probably a general one, is chicken noodle soup. John would argue for tomato, but he can get his own blog if he wants to win that argument. Something about the savory and salt and warm. Throw in some biscuits or some crescent rolls or some bread that is warm and flaky and bread, and it’s perfect. Definitely a good meal on a cold night.

Arguably, when I’m sick, 99% of the time the only thing I want to eat is toast, lightly buttered. So maybe that’s another one.

Gingerbread, or ginger cookies. Holidays and home and spice. I have the best recipe for Molasses Spice cookies. We call them Mole Ass cookies. Delicious, and perfect for the holidays.

Applesauce, slightly heated, with cinnamon on top. Tastes good, smells good, makes me think of childhood.

Gooey, melty grilled cheese sandwiches. Yum. Always a feel good favorite.

Any others?

Well, not entirely lazy. There was a lot of cleaning and straightening around the house. And some gardening.

I do not recommend mixing dusting, gardening, and then running a couple miles while the pollen is having a last big hurrah before winter really arrives.

But then it was off to a lazy night of sushi and birthday cake with James, Cara, Shelly and Nate for Nate’s birthday.

Fabulous time.

Plus, there’s just two weeks to go before Shelly is due, so it was sort of a low-key last hurrah of hanging out as couples before one of us couples becomes a threesome.

But then again, we can’t wait for this baby. It’s been 9 months in the making (obviously) and we’ve all been super excited for about 7.5-8 of those months.

Yay baby!

A year or so ago, in September of 2009, John and I went to Papua New Guinea. I’d just started to post about our trip, day-by-day, when I tapered off blogging. So I thought I’d catch up on those stories, and move on to Ecuador.

But before I begin, here’s the first and second post I wrote about the beginning of our trip.

And here’s something that John sent me right before we left. About coconuts falling. On people. And killing them. At least 50% of the time. That’s not a statistic I’m comfortable with if I’m going to be hit with a large yet tasty object.

I’d like to point out that that is the province and town we flew into at the start of our trip. Hence, the hospital we would go to if something went wrong. And there were a lot of coconut trees around the place we went, although I didn’t hear or see any falling the way we did in Fiji a year before.

At least if I’d been hit with a coconut, I still might have been able to contribute to science, if only as a statistic.

Happy Friday, everyone.

Hrm, so it’s been nearly a year. Maybe I needed a break. Maybe I felt like I didn’t have much to say. Maybe it’s been nice just to not be tied to posting. I don’t know what it’s been, but I just haven’t felt like writing.

So I’d been thinking for awhile that November NaBloPoMo might be a good way to get started again, and lo and behold, it’s freaking November all ready. Yikes!

So, I’m diving into the deep end head first.

Here’s some things that have occupied me since I last wrote:

December: A wedding and a 90th birthday in the family! What fun to get everyone together and celebrate throughout the holidays. Very joyous, although the 5 year anniversary of the date we lost my cousin did dampen the spirit a bit at times.

January: Another massive neck/shoulder injury. Ugh. Xrays, several specialists, and back to physical therapy. Happy times.

February: We found out that there was going to be a baby! No, not mine, but my best friend’s! So excited for her.

March: Massive last push for data in the lab begins and ends. I basically decided what would and wouldn’t be in my thesis and went from there. Not much sleep occurred.

April: The Cough of Death and thesis writing were not a good combination. Too much sleeping, and the rest of the time was spent writing. Thank goodness for cough medicine!

May: I DEFENDED MY FREAKING THESIS AND EARNED MY PHD!!!

June: I GRADUATED! ALL OFFICIAL LIKE! THAT’S DOCTOR SARAH TO YOU NOW!

July: Month o’ Travel! We went to Ecuador for four days and the Galapagos Islands for eight. Massive amounts of fun, and stories to come. Promptly upon arriving home, we drove the 18 hours to Wyoming for a massive week-long family reunion that my mom organized for her 60th birthday year. Then, as soon as I got home and did laundry, it was off to Salt Lake City for a conference. Ugh. But I did get to see a friend who lives there now. Oh, and a snake. Never going back. Ever.

August: Oh crap, you mean I have to find a job? Two interviews, two job offers. Neither is perfect, but both work.

September: Realized I wasn’t as close to being done with the old job as I thought. Another interview, again not quite perfect. Must I make up my mind?

October: Hrm, there’s a light at the end of the tunnel to finish this job, plus some exciting job prospects–two tentative job offers that I’m super duper excited about! Things are looking up! Except for that downer where my grandmother-in-law shattered her femur and got shingles and had an allergic reaction to morphine that swelled her throat closed. Needless to say, we traveled home for an emergency visit just to be on the safe side. She’s hopefully starting to recover. And I have two tentative job offers

Now: The San Francisco Giants won the world series. Huzzah! And I started blogging again. Huzzah!

One down, twenty-nine to go!

We flew from San Francisco to Los Angles to Brisbane, leaving around 4pm local time on a Thursday and arriving around 6am in the morning local time on a Saturday. No Friday for us, sadly. We headed straight to the hotel, which we’d booked online.

Our hotel was sort of a cross between a Holiday Inn and a family-run business, but the proprietor, Tom, let us check in immediately, and even gave us rooms! I have to say, after 20 hours or so of travel, a shower was incredibly welcome. Tom also provided us with breakfast, which he cooked himself. He told us he did everything but clean the rooms at the place, and indeed we saw him running around quite a bit as we sat and ate. And let me tell you–the Australians do bacon properly! Mmm. And I highly recommend the Airport 85 Motel in Ascot if you’re passing through Brisbane!

Laura had posted several comments here about things to do in Brisbane, and the one that caught my eye first was the Koala Sanctuary, mostly because I wanted to see a bit of Australia in the one day we had, even if that bit was not in the wild. Along with two of the members of our group, V and D, and equipped with maps and directions and good cheer from Tom, we set out.

Now, Brisbane has a large river running through it, and the first step on our trip was to take the City Cat ferry–a very civilized way to travel. The day we were there was part of, or the first day of, the Riverfire Festival, so there were plenty of people headed into town with us. The ferry jetted along, and each time it stopped, swallows would alight on the two front guide poles, only to take off and ride the air currents in front of the boat as we moved. Along the way, we got some excellent views of the city skyline. Much more fun than a city bus!

From the downtown, we took a bus out to the suburb where the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary sat. We were expecting not much more than koalas, and were pleasantly surprised–it was very zoo-like, with many different animals. Lots of birds of all sorts, some huge fruit bats, wombats, wallabys, and of course, many, many koalas. We saw some very baby ones that could barely hold onto mom, and plenty of others. We even got to pet one (very wiry, not-quite soft hair) at one of the feeding demonstrations. We looked in vain for an echidna, which was supposed to be inside the wombat pen, but never saw one. As we were leaving, the guy at the exit told us that in the 10+ years he’d worked there, he’d never seen one of the echidnas either. Not to be, I guess.

My favorite bird was big black parrot–when he saw me, he came scurrying out of the back corner of his cage, all the way to the front. Once there, he started head-bobbing and displaying the red feathers on the underside of his tail for me. I think he liked me! Or maybe just the pink shirt I was wearing. Either way, he followed me across the front of the cage and back, and head-bobbed back at me when I did it to him. All with the constant red tail flashes. It was pretty cool. I had a new boyfriend for the day!

There were huge iguana-like lizards running around, and wild turkeys and peacocks wandering the grounds. Check out the Australian wild turkey–they have their tails on the wrong way! One turkey was dragging dead leaves and other plant material across several paths and down some stairs to his large bird pile of nesting material. He lost most of the material along the way, thereby just leaving a long tail, but that didn’t deter him from trying!

They had a reptile house which I braved, clutching John all the while. The people who designed the reptile house were very thoughtful–it was U-shaped, with snakes along the outer walls and frogs and lizards on the inner walls. This meant that I never, ever had to turn my back on a snake-for which I am very grateful. They had desert death adders, some tree snakes, and a taipan, the most deadly snake in the world. Now, cobras look mean to me, but the taipan looks truly evil. (You can google your own damn snakes–I’m not linking to them!) And while most reptile houses I’ve been in (which, I’ll admit, are few and far between) don’t have much in them that moves, nearly every snake in that place was in the process of moving somewhere else in it’s cage! Not a happy set of moments for me! But I made it in and out with little fuss, no tears, and only a few whimpers. Although after we exited, one of the big iguana-like lizards rustled the underbrush and about gave me a heart attack!

We also saw Tasmanian devils, dingos (very dog-like), cassowaries (those suckers have big front claws and can be mean!) and turtles along the way to and among all the koala enclosures. Our favorite part, by far, though, was the kangaroos–for a $1AUS or so, we bought some kangaroo feed and fed them for about an hour. We even had some moms with little joeys sticking out of their pouches! One mom had a tiny baby, with only three feet and a head sticking out. I managed to feed her some before the bigger males crowded her out. The baby pulled his head back in and she was left with just three legs sticking out of her pouch–very comical! There were also emus, which John was able to get close to but I wasn’t. We found a wallaby that must have been very old–he moved incredibly slowly and it took probably over five minutes for him to eat just a couple pieces of food out of John’s hand, but he was very stately about it all.

We ended up spending nearly the entire day at the LPKS, loving every minute of it. What with the festival, our plan had been to then take a bus back towards the South Bank, where Laura had suggested good food and shopping, but when we returned to downtown later than our initial plan, we found millions of people all converging on the riverbank. Part of the Riverfire festival was F18 and stunt plane theatrics followed by fireworks, and people were lining up for the show. We were all pretty tired and a bit jetlagged, and the huge crowds were very off-putting. Instead of South Bank, we took the City Cat (very empty going upriver away from the show) back to our area of town. While underway, we actually got an amazing view of some of the stunt plane acrobatics, so we did enjoy a bit of the festival!

We happened to have picked a hotel nearby some famous horse racetrack, and as we headed towards the hotel, many people were heading the opposite direction, most of them dressed up as if they were leaving the Kentucky derby–hats and all! And most of the women were barefoot, carrying their shoes. I can’t walk in heels all day, and apparently the average Brisbane woman who attends horse races can’t either! We thought they were heading for the festival, or a wedding or something (we’d passed a reception at a restaurant just after getting off the ferry), but our waitress, when we did find a restaurant, told us they were all coming from the races.

After a great dinner, it was back to the hotel to collapse, since we’d been walking all day and had more traveling to do. John, in true boy fashion, turned on the TV for a bit and we were entertained by both some Australian-rules football and some cricket. Neither made much sense to me, but I’ll admit my brain was pretty fuzzy at that point! I have no idea if he ever made sense of it, but I passed out fast asleep pretty soon after getting in bed!

All in all, I think we barely scratched the surface of Brisbane, let alone Australia, but I loved it and I can’t wait to go back someday. Thanks again, Laura, for those suggestions–we had a fan-tabulous day!!

I’m in the lag time between old and new computer, so I don’t have one at work that’s personal, and as John just got the game ‘Spore’, there’s not a lot of access to the home computer. I’ll return sometime soon, and catch up with all you guys then, as I’m sure you’ve all written massive amounts.

Between work and computer issues (4th logic board in 3 years, and AppleCare expired yesterday, thankfully shortly after the installation of board #4) and general catching up on life, there hasn’t been much time.

But, my family is fine. Thanks, Renn, for asking.

Here’s the updates:

First, mommy.

Tuesday of this past week marked her last “bad” chemo, the combo chemo that wipes her out for 3-4 days after. So now it’s just the easy chemo, surgery, then a year of easy chemo, and radiation. Not much, right?

The last scan, two sessions ago (?), showed…nothing. My mom’s response has been to joke that she thinks the docs just wanted to finance their cars and lied to her. Really, I’d rather have them lie to her that she has it, not that she doesn’t. But a blank scan is awesome. No bones about it, awesome. And the joking is way better than having her say it will be easy to die because she’ll be with her mother again. To which I want to point out, but I need my mother!

It was a bit tough to see her looking sick while we were home, but I got used to her new look pretty quickly. When she saw my hair cut, she asked if it had been for her, which would’ve been a damn good reason if I’d been able to stop my mouth from saying “No” in time. And just being with her made things so much better, so much less stressful. I don’t think I realized how much stress I was carrying around.

Surgery (double, voluntarily) is scheduled for 11 July. I fly home on the 12th–there was a fine line between being there at a time when I’d be helpful and making her more stressed that I was missing so much work. She’s contemplating reconstruction, but that can apparently interfere with radiation. So we’ll see what the surgeons and doctors say eventually about that. I’ll be there to help out in any way I can.

And really? This is going about as well as it could.

*KNOCKS ON WOOD REPEATEDLY AND LOUDLY AND WITH GREAT FORCE*

Dear any and all gods of anything–that is not an invitation to do your worst!!!!

As for the flooding, they’ve been out of it for the most part. My parent’s house backs onto the woods, but it’s a couple hundred feet above the creek that runs back there. That would require a lot of water!

When I talk about the basement flooding, it’s not because of rising water levels, but because the ground is so saturated with water around that when rain runs off the roof, it just overwhelms the ground below, and the water comes up through cracks in the foundation of the house.

My goal, when I’m home, is to call contractors to come look at the house and get quotes and get it all straightened out and hopefully on the way to being taken care of for my parents.

The basement got damp a couple times, and recently flooded again pretty badly–they’re going to have to take up the carpet, though whether that’s to dry it out and fix the spots or because it’s just to wet to do any good, I haven’t been able to get a straight answer about.

So, my parents are safe and sound above flood stage.

The rest of Iowa, though… It’s been hard to look at all the pictures–I know Des Moines and Cedar Rapids well enough to recognize places. John lived in Iowa City for a year–the pictures of UofI? So hard. Jeannie’s family lives around there, and she and Dave were going back for an Iowa wedding reception. I haven’t called to see if they made it there and back high and dry or not. And Dave’s mom has a restaurant somewhere over on that half of the state, too, so I can only hope her business didn’t literally go under. Dave’s little sister lives in Iowa City for school.

I just hope everyone dries out and can recover some semblance of life as it was.

In the meantime, I fly home again on the 12th. 3 more weeks.

Ok, some of you are going to get the previous post twice, due to your feeds. Basically, I was bored, and whiney, and I wrote it, then went off to shower and actually do stuff. Whereupon, I decided it was boring to whine, came back and deleted it. Not soon enough for it to not show up to Laura from Almost Never Boring and Bratfink from Bratland. Both gave me some lovely advice involving fleas, and it’s in the comments of the last post.

Anyways, long story short, the cats have brought fleas into the apartment (this is probably the 3rd time in 4 years it’s happened), the fleas eventually make the move to the rabbit, and all three are happily infested. Then I start getting bit. And with my allergies, I get big, nasty, swollen bites. That itch. A lot.

Last time, when we finally asked the vet about it, they assured us rabbits couldn’t have fleas. Despite treating the cats, and finally bombing the apartment, we didn’t get rid of them. Then Fred the Bunny’s hare started to fall out. Not shedding, falling out. So I took him to a (different) vet, who said he had fleas. We treated all three of them and that was that.

We try hard not to let the cats out, but the Gray One has become a bit of a Houdini lately, trying to escape at every turn, and all it takes is one momma flea on him when we bring him back. He also meows incessantly when the doors are open, which grates on your nerves after a bit. I think he made a friend during one of his longer escapes, but he’s been de-maled, so nothing will come of it. Tubby McFatterson, or the White One, really doesn’t give two figs about being outside. But a couple weeks ago, while we were in the backyard, John let them both out, hoping it would cure the Gray One of his meows. It didn’t. And now there are fleas.

Since Thursday, possibly Wednesday, I’ve discovered 10-15 bites. 7-8 yesterday, but I’ve got several new ones that have popped up in the last few hours, and I don’t realize they’re a bite until I’ve itched it enough to raise the skin a bit, at which point I’m doomed and the bite is off to the races. And the bites are all in fun, socially awkward places. The back of my knee. My lower hip. Right under my bra’s underwire line. My neck.

So Laura has suggested giving the fleas a dip of their own, and Brat has suggested salting them.

Mwahaha!

I’ll report back. In the meantime, if anyone’s got any ideas, I’d love to hear them before we resort to bombing the apartment and generally poisoning the place we and our animals live.

Anyways, other things that I have learned this week that I’ve been meaning to write…

If you boil some test tubes at 110 degrees, and then take them out of the heat rack, they will be at 110 degrees, which is a wee bit warmer than your skin might appreciate. I’m just sayin’.

I have made several new mutant viruses. Or just managed to contaminate everything. I’m suspecting option number 2. (Pick three, my lord, pick three! (Brat, I know you know this one.)) We’ll know by the end of this week.

I’ll be home in less than a week. I’m both excited and terrified. According to Pamela, John’s mom, my mom’s looking good. And Beatrice, John’s grandma, is out of the hospital. More on this later this week, probably. And then we’re off to a wedding. More on that later, too.

Oh, and I’ve got an appointment with a counselor about my snake phobia. I decided it was time to do something about it. I’ll let you know how that goes, too.

Rhiannon’s birthday party last night was actually much more entertaining than I had anticipated. We don’t know a lot of her other friends, so weren’t sure how it would go down, but a Bourban Peach Smash and a Mojito sure made things much more entertaining. Key word there being “smash”. John and assorted others had several pitchers of Hurricanes. It was a fun night. There were some phrases I wanted to remember and report back to y’all, but they’ve been lost in the fuzziness. Oh well. We had a fun dinner, and then graciously bowed out of going to play Guitar Hero at some unknown person’s house.

If you rant about something that might make you sound a bit prejudiced, you might want to check your audience. I’ve got to remember to just keep my damn mouth closed, I think. Scratch that, I know. Or just let go of it already now that the problem child will never return and I’ve almost solved the problem that was left to me.

One of my cloning enzymes (science, sorry) is cutting at a sight it’s not supposed to recognize. And thus deleting 400bp of an essential gene, and not my gene, either. New mutant, anyone? Bah. Freakin’ 5-step cloning process. I hate cloning. But what would a Mad Scientist do without it??

Husbands who get up and go to work at obscene hours of the weekend morning and leave behind a coffeepot with two cups in it are wonderful.

On the other hand, cats who want to nuzzle your cheek and lick your earlobe at said obscene hour of the weekend morning are not so wonderful. Especially when they bring fleas with them.

I’m alive.

I survived the weekend.

I’m insanely busy.

I’ll tell you all about it soon.

Let’s just say that “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times” adequately sums it up.

We need to talk. And not in a good way. We have some issues to sort out. Just a few…

Ok, so.

Amelia and I headed off to Chico around 1pm on Saturday, which put us there right around 5pm. Not too bad. We went and checked in, and were given pretty bags with all our swag, mostly lots of advertisements, but also a water bottle, our jerseys, and our shirts.

The water bottle? Was white. Which means you can’t see the level of water left. Which can be a problem. But it did have a Sierra Nevada logo on it, which was a plus. It was supposed to be our ticket into the rest stops. The jerseys? Were pretty. The shirts? Were not. Bah. And while the jerseys apparently run small, a medium shirt was meant to fit a herd of people. I kid you not.

We were also given arm bands to get into dinner the next night.

Nowhere, on nothing, were we given any sort of rider identification. Yes, we carry IDs, health insurance cards, etc, with us. But what happens when there’s a 19-bike pile-up and I’m separated from said identification? To get around this, the Cinderella Ride provided a number to be twist-tied onto your bike, and an arm band (the kind you get when you go into a bar) with your name, rider number, and emergency contact on it. Awesome.

The name bands we got from the CVWR people? Green with yellow smiley faces and no information on them. Which was rectified with a pen. If I’m going to be possibly injured, I want people to know (a) who I am and (b) who to call.

Minor details, apparently.

Speaking of minor details, there was the map. Yes, it had the pertinent route information on it. If you don’t mind a complete lack of detail. It had distances, but they were approximate at best.

But we took our map and went off to drive up the infamous Honey Run Hill. Not too bad for the first 5 miles to the covered bridge. And then we started climbing. With lots of switch backs. And we just. kept. going. for. ever.

Until, there, in the middle of the road, giving a very ill-timed flop, was a snake.

Keep in mind, people, that I am rediculously terrified of snakes. And I was driving.

So what did I do? Nothing more (or less), than slam on the brakes, duck my head down where I couldn’t see the road, and start screaming and crying. Luckily, given that the road was about a car-and-a-half wide, there was no one coming. And the whole “brace yourself for a crash” panic that set in kept my foot locked on the break.

Amelia was smart enough to put the car in park and then proceeded to hug me and tell me it was okay. And it was. Eventually, I lifted my head long enough to see open road, and started driving again. And this time, instead of scanning the road for oncoming cars, I was scanning it for oncoming snakes. Fortunately, there were none. Unfortunately, my brain was now wired to think of Honey Run Hill = Terrifying Snakes.

(You can’t see me, but I’m totally having full body shiver freakouts as I’m writing this. I swear.)

At the top, we made the colassal mistake of not going to drive Table Mountain Road. We figured Honey Run was supposed to be the hard one, we were short on gas, and hungry, and thus Table Mountain would just sort itself out. It wouldn’t be as bad as what we’d just driven.

Right? Right…..

Off we went to get pizza at Woodstock’s Pizza, which James had told us was not to be missed. On the way, we swung into one of the local bike shops and came away the proud owners of (clear) Sierra Nevada bike water bottles. Awesome. As was the pizza. Very tasty. Then it was off to our hotel, some 30 minutes away, to prep ourselves and our bikes.

We did have one snafu in that Amelia’s tire, the one that went flat on the Cinderella and was pumped up by a helpful Prince Charming, had the valve break off. We hoped it was in the ‘closed’ position, but figured if it went flat, it would do so early and we’d know.

In the morning, after loading everything and eating breakfast, we headed back to the course. It opened at 6, and we were ready to go and on the road by 7. We opted to bring arm warmers, given the bit of chill in the road, but leg warmers were left behind. This, by far, was the option of choice for most riders who were leaving, so we figured we were in good company. Mine, however, rubbed off a nice ring of sunscreen, and I ended up with a lovely little circle burn around the tops of my arms, which has turned into a lovely little circle of deep tan in the surrounding light tan…

Moving on.

Heading off down the road, our first complaint was the crummy course markings. There was a small orange arrow on the road at one point, and if we hadn’t known to turn on 9th, we would have missed it. As it was, the other people with us only caught it because they noticed us turning. And that was the only arrow we saw. Instead, we got a cutout man pointing in random directions. Helpful. And usually with little warning, to the effect of “shit, shit, turn, turn”. Fun times. Bah.

So we headed out into the country for the first hill. Approximately 700 feet of climbing, on a bumpy, bumpy road. I would not have taken my bike, with road tires, on this road by any sort of choice. A number of people commented that they usually skipped this road for exactly that reason. I swear it hadn’t been paved since the dawn of time. Amelia and I decided the road upkeep was the responsibility of a local bike shop (not the one we frequented) that was camped at the top selling new tires for $5. Which was helpful, given the number of people I saw with flats. Amelia didn’t get one, and neither did I, thank goodness. Her tire actually held for the entire ride. Woot.

However…. The road was bumpy enough that it rattled the water bottle cages off the back of my seat. Which meant I had to stop in the middle of the climb, get out my bike tools, and spend 10-15 minutes putting them back on. Which meant first disassembling them. It sucked. And wasn’t easy. And meant that a worried Amelia waited somewhere up ahead not knowing what was going on. And no SAG support went by to help. In fact, I only saw 2 of them on this part of the road, but figured they were off helping people with flats.

And of the 50 or so people that passed me? Only 3 asked if I needed help. Which was about par for the day, given how few people were kind enough to announce things like “on your left” when they went to pass you. Bah. Etiquette, people, etiquette!

We made it up to the top, and then had a straight, fun downhill. I hit about 33.4mph top speed. Wheee!

Then through some country roads and on some local bike paths (where some shit was kind enough to try to run Amelia off the path, given that he was special enough to be traveling with his bike groupies and we were two single riders and thus clearly beneath him), and off to the covered bridge on Honey Run Road.

So far, so good. We goo’d. We drank. We peed. We were off and climbing. And it wasn’t as bad as it could have been. For one, no snakes, which I was insanely grateful for, especially since my climbing mantra was “Please no snakes, please no snakes, oh god was it right here? Please no snakes!” And the road was nice and shady, which was great when you needed to stop and rest. And it often had little flatish spots where you could get going again and clip in easily. It was a long-ass climb (6 miles, 2000 feet), but we later decided that, with respect to the other hills, it was fine. Not fun, but fine. And we both made it to the top just fine, slowly but fine, and were off to the first rest area.

Where the food was crap. It either looked or tasted unappatizing, and if it hadn’t been for the bananas, we wouldn’t have eaten at all. Then it was off to Table Mountain. At this point, there were some rolling hills, and I didn’t have a whole lot of gas left after Honey Run. And my knees were hurting when I climbed, probably from standing. But I made it to the downhill. Which was fun. And terrifying.

I hit, at one point, 37.7mph on my bike, and was on a road with signs warning cars to take the curves at less than 35mph. Thus = Me. On a bike. Going way to fast. I love downhills, and I love the rush, but not when they’re twisty downhills. Then they’re just sort of terrifying. As in, “grip your bike handles for dear life and hope your breaks don’t give out” terrifying.

Amelia and I met up again at the point where we turned off for lunch (65 miles) or Table Mountain (100 miles). I didn’t know if I had much left, and was hesitant to do it. I didn’t want to wimp out, but I didn’t want to get in over my head. Amelia’s point was, “What do you want to tell the internet you did?” Ah, the power of society’s judegement. (You guys aren’t judging me, are you? Right?) A chick we asked about the climb said it was only 2.5 miles of hard climbs. She said it was steeper than Honey Run, but more fun. So off we went.

Some light climbing under the baking sun, and we made it to the next rest stop, where I accidentally discovered, when faced with a large Park&Rec sign detailing how to “identify my friendly neighborhood snakes”, that the one that scared the shit out of me on Honey Run was a gopher snake. Oh joy and rapture! No screaming and crying, but my bike was parked in front of the sign, and Amelia had to go get it for me. My bike, not liking the snakes, attacked her in the process. Sorry!

((People! This isn’t necessary! I thought I was done with the snakes!))

More crap food, and thus only more bananas for us, and we were off to climb. 11 miles, according to the map, from the turn onto Cherokee road to lunch. 11 miles. I can do 11 miles. And only 2.5 miles of it was climbing, right? According to the girl, right?

Right up until there was a giant snake on the side of the road after a couple miles.

LUCKILY(!!!!!) my brain realized that the snake was not a part of the living world and managed to insert the word ‘dead’ before the word ‘SNAKEOHDEARGODAGIANTSNAKEPANICPANICPANIC’.

And yes, that is one word, why do you ask??

I screamed. Good practice if someone ever attacks me. I got about 100 feet down the road and stopped. It’s hard to bike when you’re mildly hyperventilating and crying and screaming. There was no one else around, for which I was thankful for (I’m not real proud of this rediculous reaction), but if a SAG guy had driven by about then, I would have asked for a ride back to the start. I was ready to be done. With the road, with the ride, with the snakes, with Chico in general. I was not having fun. (Poor Amelia noticed the snake, but when she asked other riders, no one had, so she spent the whole hill (MOUNTAIN!!) hoping I hadn’t seen it either. No such luck.)

I walked my bike a quarter of a mile or so while I calmed down, and eventually got back on it and resumed climbing. Up. And up. And UP.

2.5 miles, right? Around mile 2, by my count, I’d walked only about a third of a mile for the 1.7 miles of climbing I’d biked. I figured, my bike and I could still make it to the top, but I needed to use different leg muscles at times. A bike climber I am not, apparently.

So I figured I was within spitting distance from the top. Well, can you spit 2.2 miles? That’s how far a guy who was stopped in the shade said it was. And about then the road started getting steeper, and my walking to biking ratio switched to more like bike 2/10ths, walk 8/10ths instead of the other way around. I rode the flatter or less steep bits, and walked the more steep bits.

The third SAG guy we saw was driving up and down the mountain. He kept asking if I wanted a ride, and warning me it only got steeper each time he passed me. The guy who’d told me it was 2.2 miles and I were walking together by this point, and talking. The company was nice to have on the walk, as bike shoes aren’t meant to be hiked in.

About 0.5 miles from the top, I’d been walking for over a mile, and I decided it was stupid. I was clearly going to walk the rest of the way. The SAG guy asked, and I accepted, a ride. So what if my bike and I didn’t travel that last half mile under our own power? We could have, with me pushing it, or we could be driven and get there that much faster. The SAG guy said that he’d been doing support on that part of the road for 15 years and had never seen (a) so many people stopped and walking or (b) so many people accept a ride.

When we got to the top, it was 100 degrees!! And I was sure there were still snakes around!! So I thanked him for the ride, said so long to my car companions, and took off for the downhill. We get to go down now, right?

Well, turns out that Table Mountain is rather flat on top. Who would have guessed, right? And that I had to go through about 5 miles of flats or ups/downs before getting to the down? My legs were pooped at this point. And the twisty, turny downhill didn’t help. Especially when my phone rang, and I, assuming it was Amelia wondering where the heck I was, slammed on my brakes. Turned out to be someone from my college, wanting me to donate money (and money involving a number plus zeros at that) out of my miserly grad student salary. I told them it was a horrible time to talk, hung up on the poor girl, and resumed my downhill race. Again, with the poor markings, I nearly missed the turn for lunch.

And when I got there? About 2:30, maybe? 3, maybe? They were packing up and THROWING OUT THE LEFT OVER FOOD!!!! Because, clearly, the 30-50 riders still behind me clearly didn’t need lunch after climbing over 4000 feet and biking more than 60 miles. Fuck you, CVWR. That was not a nice thing to do. It was totally not necessary to throw an entire tray of sandwhiches in the dumpster. I got lunch because Amelia grabbed food for me, but what about all those other people? I was highly unamused.

And the lunch pickings? Were as dissmal as the other food choices. Pre-made sandwhiches, bananas, cookies. Unlike the Cinderella, where they put out a smorgasboard of culinary treats, let you make your own sandwhich (PB&J, meat, veggie, all three, whatever your little heart desires), plus have cookies and M&M’s and pretzels and goldfish and windmill cookies and fig newtons and all sorts of snack food to replenish your energy with. Bah.

So, with 40 miles to go, we headed out. I was tired. And hot. But it was 40 miles, and I can do 40 miles. Especially of rolling hills and flats. I lost Amelia on the first couple rollers–she’s a much stronger biker than I am, and I was still a bit beat from the climbs. But I was moving along at 16-18mph, doing well.

Now, I will admit that, on this ride, I did something I never do. I set my bike computer to mileage. Usually I watch time, or average speed. Anything but mileage. This time, I needed the mental “only x more miles” to get through the damn thing. Which, given that there map said 11 miles to lunch and it was more like 14? Was highly unhelpful. Because on this stretch, I was checking my mileage every mile or so. Which wasn’t good.

Anyways. About mile 70, I was going along, pedaling fine. Hot and tired, but not too bad. Then, the tingles started on my skin. And when the wind cut out for a moment or two, I felt chilly. People, it’s not possible to be chilly when it’s 90+ degrees out. Umm…yeah, that’s one of the first signs of heat stroke.

Now, I hadn’t seen a single SAG guy since the hill, and let’s face it, he was only the 3rd one I saw altogehter. So I figured my choices were to make it to the next rest stop, or to make it to the next rest stop. I did, at one point, begin to consider flagging down a random car and asking them to take me to Chico, but sanity (and the whole I’m a woman and afraid of doing shit like that) prevailed and I didn’t.

And then a SAG guy drove by. I threw up and arm, and thankfully (and I may have become briefly religious at this point), he noticed and stopped. My mileage hit just over 70 by the time I rolled up to his car.

And you know what? 70 miles in one day is admirable. 4000+ feet of climbing, even if some of it was walking, is admirable. Dammit, I was proud of what I’d done. And not stupid. I didn’t need 30 more miles to validate myself. Sort of like I didn’t need to have heat stroke to validate my supidity.

Turned out it was the same SAG guy from Table Mountain. And here’s the thing that still gets me. If some girl hadn’t gotten to the next rest stop and given up (my plan, remember?), he wouldn’t have been driving past. And he wouldn’t have seen me. And I still had 5 miles to go. Again, fuck you, CVWR, for having such shitty support. I appreciate that guy and his services, but overall? You failed completely.

By the time we got to the rest stop, I’d sucked down an entire water bottle, enjoyed a bit of a breeze from the open window, and was feeling a bit restored. We picked up two girls, and about the time we did, Amelia rolled in.

I told her how I was feeling and that I was done. I felt bad for leaving her alone, and apologized, but she told me not to be stupid and that I was doing the right thing. I’ll admit that the better I felt, the more I felt like I’d given up. After a couple hours, though, I was just back to being proud.

So the plan was to go back to the fairgrounds and get dinner for the both of us and be waiting for her. Given that dinner closed at 5pm and all. Yes, that’s right. 5pm. As in, you’re not back, too bad for you. Dear god, do these people just hate anyone who doesn’t bike professionally and rediculously fast???

So I got back, opened up the car, and sat on the trunk sucking down more water for awhile. Eventually, I got the bike loaded, packed up my shower stuff, and headed into the fairgrounds. I did find the showers, after asking 4 or 5 people and hiking around a bit, and I think I’ve never felt so good in my entire life. Seriously.

Then it was off to stand in line for dinner. They were nice enough to let me take a second plate for Amelia, which I piled high with some of everything. Including the pizza. Because they’d run out of the promised tritip and were now serving pizza. Bah. Having made friends with those in line around me, I ate with them, and Amelia rolled in about the time we were getting to dessert. Thus, ice cream sandwiches started off her dinner, which is a great way to go.

She did all 94 miles of the damn thing. And I don’t think she walked the hills. So proud of her!

And yes, 94 miles. Not the 100 miles we were promised. CVWR, you can’t claim it’s a century and then only provide 94 miles. We were robbed! Well, she was robbed.

Anyways, we ate, then she showered, and then we went and got pizzas from the famous Woodstock Pizzas to bring home to John and James. And were off for home. We stopped at one point to get coffee, and the act of getting out of the car and straightening legs that had been bent for an hour was not fun. However, back in the car, and off we went. We made it home about 11:30, chucked my bike in our apartment, grabbed John, and went off to IHOP for the most delicious meal I’ve ever had.

Thus, to ring my birthday, I could be found in IHOP burying my face in a plate of hashbrowns. Never, ever, have I tasted anything more delicious.

So. Yes, that was the ride. And we did it. And we’ll never do it again.

To recap:

  • No one checked us in or out. What if we’d been stranded out there? Who would have known?
  • No identification was provided. What if we’d been in an accident? (Amelia, we totally need to look into getting those rider arm bands.)
  • Very poor course markings and maps. Who knew where we’d end up?
  • Very poor course support. What if that SAG guy hadn’t been driving past? What if I’d needed help elsewhere on the course? I’d’ve been SOL.
  • Very poor roads at times. Not the sort of road you want to be biking on. Please pave it. Or pay to replace all the tires it punctures.
  • Very bad food. We’re riding far and climbing high. Calories are needed. Edible calories. Yes, I know this makes us picky, but still.
  • Packing up rest stops and dinner before people get to them is very poor form. We saw some poor guy bike into the parking lot at 6:30. No dinner for him, and I bet he didn’t have lunch, either. Oh, and I didn’t mention, they told us they were running out of food at lunch. So they why the fuck were they throwing the food away?!?!??!
  • There were no wildflowers. Or, more accurately, there were more wildflowers on the table at dinner than there were anywhere on the ride. Bah.
  • The course was 94 miles. If you advertise a century, you should provide 100 miles. It’s only fair. And truth in advertising and all.
  • There are too many snakes in Chico. And I haven’t even mentioned the many that were flattened and nearly unrecognizable on the road, but that still get my heart pumping and the adrenaline flowing a bit.

A day or two ago, Amelia got an email telling her they’d like feedback. You just opened up a can of worms, people. Here’s some of the things they plan on improving for next year: “changes at the rest stops, porta-potties, after-ride dinner, course markings, course signage, course monitors, rest stop timing, coffee and many other other area.”

Get ready for an earful, CVWR–I’m gonna be sending you a long letter detailing how you can improve.

Anyways. Go us! We biked far and climbed high.

And Chico Velo Wildflower Ride? You can bite my ass.

Now let us never speak of this again.

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