Friday, July 11, 2008


(View from the car as we drove along the ridge line before we started climbing Mt. Palomar. The mountain is somewhere a ridge-line or two beyond this one. Note the groves of citruis fruit...I love California!)

I never appreciated how chilly a long descent could be until I cycled in South Carolina and California. In Florida (and North Carolina, for that matter – remember we lived along the coast, where at 20 miles inland, the elevation was a whopping 10 feet), a “descent’ is really no longer than 30 seconds, maybe a minute. And in the 60-second case, you have to drive 50 minutes.

For some reason, that math just doesn’t sound right.

But you had better believe that I’ll drive 30 minutes in order to bike 60 minutes, so I can climb a “hill” for 3 minutes.


Welcome to the Gulf Coast.

And have I mentioned that it’s hot?

But I digress. Newspapers! were the subject at hand.

While in California, I discovered the “trick” to long, cold, windy descents. After climbing Mt Palomar with ELF, Chris, and Sherpa Thomas, I was warned of the cold descent.

At first, I really didn’t’ believe them. I had just spent 1:27 climbing a grand total of 11.7 miles (you do the math – it makes me too tired to compute!), and had assuredly lost (at least) 3 pounds of sweat. Probably more. I was drenched, sweat-soaked, my arm warmers peeled down to my wrists, my jersey flapping open in the 3 mph breeze that I produced.

And no, it wasn’t from the butterflies that kept passing me as I huffed and puffed up the hill.

Upon reaching the sign at the top, the four of us posed for pictures, stopped at the local Store, and then made our way up to the Observatory at the very top. During a brief 700-foot descent, I realized how cold a 5000+ foot descent could be.

My hand, fingers, toes, arms, legs, head, and nearly any other extremity was cold beyond belief. And it was only a few minutes of riding. Not the 20 or so minutes that were promised when we began in earnest.

30 minutes later, the four of us returned to the store to top off our bottles – and in Liz’s case, purchase a long-sleeved shirt. Chris and Sherpa Thomas, being the smarter ones of the bunch, whipped out their mini wind-vests and prepared to descend. The thrifty side of me refused to pay any sort of money for an overly-priced souvenier from the top of a mountain that I rode up.

Darn it! A new rule should have been made: anyone who gets up the mountain on their own power, gets a free shirt . Sounds great - I LOVE it.

Alas, this was not to be.

While I pondered my options, Sherpa Thomas piped up, “You know, you can stuff newspaper down your jersey. It works! They do it on the big tours.”

I gave him a wary look, wondering if he was pulling a fast one on me, or being totally serious.

In my desperation, I took his word, asked the restaurant owner next door if I could have some newspaper-waiting-to-be-recycled, and walked out with (not kidding here) a stack of papers. Magazines included.

Chris and Sherpa Thomas looked at me and then burst out laughing.

Anyone who knows me, know that I like to be, er, thorough. So when Sherpa Thomas said that lots of paper would do the trick, I grabbed as much as I could without seeming too greedy. There were lunch-goers, watching my every move.

After asking Thomas if he could help “stuff me” (trust me, that got a few sniggers and snarky comments from my posse), I was well padded and ready to ride. Luckily, I didn’t blow off the mountain's edge with the gusty winds billowing up from the valley below. And yes, I did look a bit like a marshmallow (think the Michelin Man logo), but surprisingly and to my utter amazement, I stayed warm.

And discovered that descents – when not frozen to the bike – were actually fun.

I just felt a bit weird and self-concious in the process.

Who stuffs their jersey? Pu-leze!

And even though I’m a g-i-r-l, I was never with the bra-stuffing trend. So you could say, that my newspaper-padding and jersey-stuffing trick on Palomar was a big-time first for me.

The 10-year-old inner child of me would have been mortified. But what could I do. I was desperate and wated to stay as warm as possible. And I did.

So you had better believe that now The Tour is on, and that we’ve had a few “rolling” and one mountain-like stage (today), I’ve been looking for the newspaper-stuffing types.

Thus far, I had been disappointed.

Until today.

While watching a bright orange-jersey rider (from a Spanish Team that I can’t remember and could not write without butchering the spelling), who was trying to play Elizabeth’s favorite game of "bridge-the-gap", I saw – to my utter amazement and delight – a spectator holding out some newspaper and then…the rider grabbed the paper and stuffed his jersey!


It’s true!

I know, I know – Sherpa Thomas was right. And I never should have doubted him. But I still felt silly during my descent. Ahead of me were Thomas and Chris with their handy vests, and behind me was Liz with her souvenir-shirt. And me, with yesterday’s paper.

One of these things is not like the other…

I think that we all want to know that we’re not too different, that we’re not all that far off from the mainstream. Yes, I like to march to the beat of my own drum, take immense joy and satisfaction in my many differences. But there’s also a part of me that wants to fit in, to be like the others, to know that I’m not the only one doing something. I’m not weird, I’m not alone, I’m not all that different.

I think all of us do. (At least that’s what I tell myself).

I celebrate my uniqueness, but I still want the reassurance that I’m not alone in my pursuits, in my journey.

So today, when the Spanish rider in the bright orange jersey made a grab for the newspaper and stuffed his jersey before his very own 15 km descent, I couldn’t be more thrilled. Not just for my own sanity, but also for him. I knew he wouldn’t be too cold.

Then again – I was only topping out at speeds of 35-40 mph. He’s doing 60 + mph. Can’t speak to that extent. But it’s bound to work, right?
(Chris, Sherpa Thomas, Liz, and me, the morning before we climbed Palomar)


Courtenay said...

hey NICE KIT!!!

i have never tried the newspaper thing myself... but greg has and he says it works.

Ryan said...

Does Nate know you're a "stuffer?"


Jennifer Cunnane said...

I think you are going to start a new fashion trend - maybe newspaper stuffed jerseys will be "in" just like those knee high socks appeared out of nowhere in Kona last year! Funny post...