Friday, March 28, 2014

Reverse Engineering

Who needs a trainer block when free phone books still get delivered to my door?


Thursday, March 27, 2014

As Subtle As A Bomb

A bomb went off in my apartment last Thursday night.  You may have heard it from wherever you are.  Leaving behind the rumble of a semi-charmed life, the incident was highly unexpected and caused by a envelope and two sheets of paper.

Accepting me into my preferred graduate program.

Yeah.

So.

I scheduled the posting of My Last Two Weeks In Pictures before I received this news.  Otherwise, that post probably would have included some different pictures. Like something that evoked [kaboom! your life is never going to the same again!].  Anyone want to find me a picture of that? 

The explosion had a little constructive interference because in the time continuum it was a one-third of a trio of concussive blasts.  First, I was having a conversation with my parents about a major surgery my dad was having the following day.  Secondly, I was texting a friend who had just landed back in the US after a trip home from Israel that required two unexpected over-night delays on two different continents.  And here I am opening my mail on a random Thursday night while on the phone: credit card bill, graduate school acceptance letter, stock trade noti....what?  All pretty much simultaneously.

As much as my acceptance surprised me - arriving nearly three weeks before the date I was told to start keeping an eye open for notification - it has thrown many people I have told for an even bigger loop.  I guess they took my comments on the intention to go to grad school as more general - "I plan to attend graduate school at some point in the mid-to-distant future" - while I meant it as much more time-sensitive: "watch me deposit this package of application materials into the nearest mail box." 

Other than the shock, the response has been gratifying.  People are happy for me, but sad - and make no mistake, I am too - that I am leaving.  It is nice to know that my presence in the lives of the people I enjoy most here in Austin is noticed and appreciated and will be missed.  Either that or they are lying to make me feel better.  It's working.

The best response was from someone who immediately jumped to my post-grad school plans:  "but you'll move back when you're done, right?  We have crazy people here too."

Which is exactly the way to spin my departure from Austin in a positive way.

The competition for city with the most crazy people in need of my particular talents, where I will move after grad school, starts today.  Submit applications to my inbox.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Starving But Nauseous, or The Personal Check Engine Light

Every time I think I know all of the signs that my personal check engine light is about the come on, I discover a new one.  This time it's one to do with my appetite: I am starving, but nauseous.  Since Saturday morning, I have been going through these waves of being incredibly hungry, but too nauseous to actually eat anything.  When the wave recedes, I find myself sitting in my apartment with double a normal order of sushi, adding extra avocado to the top of each piece, which is exactly what happened last night.

In comparison, I've really only ever felt like this immediately after finishing a hard Ironman, or when struck by a stomach bug.  So basically my body has been exhibiting the symptoms of extreme physical exertion and/or acutely debilitating illness.  Great.

I may not be training full-time anymore, far from it, but stress is stress, whether it is accumulated through training, work, fighting with your kids, warding off the cold going through the gym, waking up stupid early for a workout, not getting enough sleep one night or a week of nights, or emotionally raging in traffic.  Many coaches and athletes use TSS (training stress score, natch) to track stress accumulated through training, but have no accounting metric in place for other types of stress (and there really isn't a good one, sadly). 

For reference, a TSS of 100 is equivalent to an hour at threshold, where threshold is the effort/pace/watts you can hold for an hour straight and no more.  So a TSS of 100 for an hour workout is exhaustive, by definition, and a TSS of a 100 for an workout slightly longer than an hour means you went just under threshold the entire time. (Getting a TSS of 150 for 90 min technically means you held threshold for 90 min, but more likely it means one of two things: you torched yourself so much that the rest of your week will be recovery OR your threshold is not pegged properly.)  Since TSS is calculated through pace/effort/watts (correctly pegged, through a recent threshold test) and accumulated time, going much faster for shorter reps and taking longer rests of total rest or active recovery (aka a VO2 max workout) will net you a low TSS score despite being physical draining.  And the calculation of TSS is really only correct if you are basing your threshold numbers off of a recent test, otherwise the conversion factor can be wildly inaccurate.  So right there you can see the pitfalls of TSS (and here people are basing entire training protocols off the numbers).

Anyway, knowing full well the draw backs, I did some research in order to draw some informative comparisons and figure out why I can't eat anything.  Back in August and September of last year, a normal week was ~ TSS 900-1000, divided as swimming ~230 (with a max of 300 during which I wrote a note about how my eyelid didn't stop twitching for 5 days straight), riding ~400 (although the range is much wider than for swimming, with a max of 631 and a min of 56), and running ~200 (with a max of 379).  And realize that these numbers tell you zip about how many sessions I did in each sport, how long each session was, and what I did during those sessions.  I hypothetically could have done three swims, two of an hour each and one of 18 mins, at threshold - an incredibly taxing program - or I could have swum at a much slower pace for 10 total hours.  And any one week of 900 TSS won't really kill anyone.  It's doing 900 TSS weeks back to back to back...that really gets you.  [I don't use Training Peaks, but for those who do, a better way to track the week to week accumulating is Chronic Training Load (CTL).  When you are using nothing but TSS, CTL is far more meaningful for long-term training.]

Right now I'm swimming 5-6 days per week (with a recent max of 27,300 yards [that's 17 miles; I think I just blew my own mind] across 6 days), spinning twice per week (which is only 45-60 mins but HARD), and "running" and other various core/PT sessions that probably account for TSS 100/wk.  Whitney's workouts are good for an average of TSS 100/each so I'm now accumulating just from swimming the same amount of stress I was previously from riding and running combined.  [And that doesn't even scratch the surface of an elite age-group swimmer, who is probably doing 10-12 practices per week of at least TSS 150/each.  I am so far below normal for real swimmers when it comes to accumulating stress in the pool; I maybe swim as much as most serious 10-12 year olds and I am slower.]  The spinning is probably good for TSS 75-100/class when I really hit it.  Done right, spinning classes are extremely intense and physically stressful. 

Moral of the story for me: I'm not training full-time anymore, but I am likely getting close to my mid-season, full-time training TSS - and have been since mid-January - without trying or realizing it and not taking any down weeks like I was when I was training full-time.  Plus my non-training stress is higher for reasons that will become clear in an upcoming post.  THANK GOD I can't run right now!  I'd inadvertently deep fry myself.

Moral of the story for everyone: no matter what TSS you get from training, if it's even relatively high(er than you think) and you add the non-training stress, the accumulation will get you.  It make take a while, but it will get you. 

And - back to my original point - it'll show up in some most unexpected ways.  Like personal sushi buffets after not being able to eat all day.

Here are signs I personally exhibit:
  • small scrapes, scratches, and bruises not healing on a normal timetable.
  •  little illnesses (runny nose or intermittent cough) not going away on a normal timetable.
  • disproportionately foul mood.  I have hurled some hilariously foul language at stop lights that dared turn red before I was able to ride through them.
  • long-term low grade headache despite adequate hydration.
  • intermittent fluttering resting heart beat.  It feels freaky, you'll know it when you feel it.
  • body temperature out of sync with surrounding environment, especially at night.  When this happens to me, I'm usually way too warm.
  •  too tired to sleep.  Oh the irony, but it sucks.
  • higher than normal hair loss.  I use this as a oil stick for both long-term training fatigue and my TSH.
  • scuffing the toes of my running shoes on the ground far more than usual.   Case in point: tripping on the trail.  My bike TSS max of 631 was two weeks before this fall, I got close to my swim TSS max the same week as that bike max, and then ran over my run TSS average the week before this fall and the week of this fall, while keeping my bike near my bike TSS average.  All in all pretty normal for being neck deep in 70.3 training.
  • funky appetite.  This one is actually really common, but presents differently for everyone.  Some people crave meat, some people crave vegetables, some people crave chocolate, some people crave caffeine.  Some people probably crave all of those, and some people crave nothing.  Be very nervous when you lose your appetite all together.  It's one of the best predictors used by riders in the Tour de France to determine which of their competitors are actually a threat.  Racers who have stopped eating aren't replacing anywhere near all of the calories they are burning, and are close to, if not over, their red line.  It's why most teams choose to eat in private when possible.


 Some of these signs didn't show up until after my thyroid went haywire, some I've had for life, and some overlap.  The overlap is not particularly surprising, considering that hypothyroidism is basically being seriously over-trained in every aspect of your life simultaneously.

Either way, it's important to know and pay attention for your own signs even when you have an idea just how hard you are training.  It's even more important when you have little to no idea how hard you are training.  Which I think is most people, and myself currently, apparently.   

Having any of these is annoying, but manageable - and most importantly, reversible.  What you want to avoid is ignoring these lesser signs and getting to a point where your personal check engine light actually goes off.  Because that will bring you to a full dead stop, often long before you want to. 

Friday, March 21, 2014

Thursday, March 20, 2014

The Great Game

I should probably anonymize this blog before I post this, or else risk facial profiling by the ATX PD.  Oh well.

The National Sport of the District of Columbia is jay-walking.  Once you watch someone float across Constitution or Independence Aves during free-flowing mid-day traffic, or better yet New York Ave on a Friday afternoon, you realize that there could be gold medals handed out for this type of law breaking. 

And it is a sport of style.  There are two goals: not have to alter your path and pace, and not require any driver to alter their path and pace.  Diagonal lines and timing are key.  Tourists and new residents are immediately obvious.  Those who do it well are amazing to watch, frankly.

It doesn't take that much time in Austin to realize that people here don't jay-walk.  They don't even cross in a crosswalk against a light when it is safe to do so.  SXSW just ended and the tens of thousands of extra drunk people knocking around downtown, oh so politely waited on corners to cross in crosswalks.  I even saw groups waiting for a light to let them cross immediately in front of - and parallel to - a "road closed" sign.  As in, there are definitely no cars coming your way and there won't be until the road is reopened several days from now, yet here you stand.

In DC, if that many people gathered for any reason, streets would be forced into serving as pedestrian malls at the whim of the crowd. 

Monday morning I watched as someone stood and waited for a light to cross a street deserted as far I could see in both directions.  It was 6:15 am and the sun wasn't up.  To this woman I ask, were you just too tired to be thinking logically?

Jay-walking isn't what makes traffic in DC so bad, and not jay-walking certainly isn't making the traffic in Austin better.  And Austinites aren't overly law-abiding in other ways.  So the mystery remains.

I think it's just going to end up being one of those things I chalk up as an unassailable cultural difference, which will become clear to me when I have lived here long enough to be considered a Texan.  Which is to say, never.     

Monday, March 17, 2014

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Music Dump: The Mama Didn't Raise No Slave Edition

As occasionally happens, I have amassed a play list which has withstood the tests of time and the Top 40.  Some of these songs are by artists new to me, but whom I will now follow anywhere.  All of them definitely hit me broadside early on in their first play, to be replayed...frequently.

I thought I would share.

Angola's Lament, by Sam Riggs and The Night People

Now I make my rounds through the fields all day, while the prisoners work their sins away, shotgun perched upon my leg, on a sixteen-hand-tall thoroughbred

Now ash to ash, and dust to dust, you're here because your dreams went bust
Best put that pickaxe in the ground, keep on moaning that lonesome sound



That Wasn't Me, by Brandi Carlile

And you will fall all the way to the bottom and land on your own knife
And you'll learn who you are even if it doesn't take your life


Do I make myself a blessing to everyone I meet
When you fall I will get you on your feet





Odyssey, by The Wyld

Never gonna go wrong with this one
You're dealing with a reckless mind
If you're not here to help me
Don't waste my fucking time


No luck cos I feel I gotta fall sometimes
But I fight on my feet in the street for the dream
Oh lord, gotta live nine lives




** Bonus karma points if you name the Sochi commercial in which this song featured in the comments without Googling it first.

The Draw, by Bastille

Just listen to your friends, trust that they're fair, look in their eyes,
Just listen to your friends, they only care and hope that you're alright



Love Me Again, by John Newman

Know I done wrong, left your heart torn, is that what devils do?
Took you so low, where only fools go, shook the angel in you

It's unforgivable, I stole and burnt your soul, is that what demons do?
They rule the worst of me, destroy everything, they bring down angels like you



** John Newman's album, Tribute, finally finally came out in the US.  It's only one of maybe three albums in the last four years that I can listen to in its entirety, over and over again. 
  
Elastic Heart, by Sia (featuring The Weeknd and Diplo)

And I might have thought that we were one
Wanted to fight this war without weapons


I've got thick skin and an elastic heart
but your blade might be too sharp
I'm like a rubberband until you pull too hard




Raise Hell, by Brandi Carlile

I found myself an omen and I tattooed on a sign
I set my mind to wandering and I walk a broken line
You have a mind to keep my quiet and although you can try
Better men have hit their knees and bigger men have died

At this point it was you and me,
And mama didn't raise no slave

 


Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Gone 'Round The Bend

The last two days of my trip to Oregon were spent in Bend, the town where I have been told unequivocally to move.  Madison is the Austin of the North, and Austin is the Madison of the South.  It would be fair to describe Bend as the Madison/Austin of the West.  And to be fair, I'm sure Boulder fits into there somewhere.




It is considerably smaller than either Madison or Austin, but feels the same: outdoorsy and/or sporty, upper middle class with an underbelly of decidedly poor, families, students, liberal, a bit (more than a bit...) granola, (over) educated populace, etc.

Several of these factors combine to create the current social climate: poverty with a view.  Bend is small - 80k - and everyone wants to live here due to the proximity to awesome things, but there aren't enough jobs for everyone.  So PhDs serve you dinner at the Deschutes Brewery and "urban outdoorsman" panhandle at every major intersection.

Yet, many consider those downsides worth it because of Bend and what it puts them close to.  Mt. Bachelor is a 20 min drive for both great alpine and nordic skiing, and the Deschutes and Willamette Forests offer literally endless hikes, plus mountain biking, kayaking, SUPing, running, and on and on.  There is a "multi-sport" event held in May - the Pole Pedal Paddle - which consists of SIX events: downhill skiing, cross-country skiing, biking, trail running, kayaking, and a short road run.  That's a lot of sports to master and equipment to own - and 3,000(!) adults participate, not including teams.

Mt. Bachelor, 20 miles from town with a snow base of 10 ft
 
The best part about Mt. Bachelor is that sits in a completely different weather pattern: on Friday town was 50 deg and snow free, but the mountain received a few inches of fresh snow overnight and sat right around freezing.  The best of both worlds!  So I decided to act like a local - I skipped work and went cross-country skiing.  9 am on Friday and the trails were bustling. 



Howdy

A great day for snow sports.  I've got the sunburn to prove it.

Looking east, up at Mt Bachelor

Looking west while climbing back up to Mt. Bachelor's base

Onward and upward


Some Recommendations For Those Visiting Bend

While in town I swam with Central Oregon Masters Association (COMA) at both the Athletic Club of Bend and Juniper Aquatic Center.  These sub-groups (and they have other practices in Redmond) were welcoming and friendly and cost-effective (drop-ins were ~$7), although be warned that the longest/fastest workouts are the lunch time practices Monday through Friday.  Everything else is shorter and/or less serious, at least compared to what I am used to and prefer.

To better grasp the feel of Bend, I worked out of several local coffee shops.  Jackson's Corner and Strictly Organic were both exactly what I needed, plus some nice bells and whistles.  Jackson's Corner has local kombucha on tap and a full food menu, and Strictly Organic has food adhering to practically every strict dietary standard out there.

The basic run in town is along the Deschutes River as it winds its way through Old Town and the old mill area south of Simpson Ave.  Parking is available along Reed Market Road, and in Riverbend Park off Century Ave.  Like Austin or Boston, many different length loops are available; just cross the river at the footbridge of your choice.

Deschutes by the old mill

To get a taste of local hiking without crossing the Cascades, head to trail heads in Tumalo or Sisters, or drive out Century Ave toward Mt. Bachelor and start walking from any of the little pull-outs once you pass the Deschutes National Forest sign.  Or you can snow shoe at the Nordic center at Mt. Bachelor, or drive down to Crater Lake.

Cascade range, including Mts. Bachelor and Washington, with Bend in the lower left

Monday, March 10, 2014

Pre Lives, or You Are No Longer Uninformed

Hayward Field, the track at the University of Oregon, is one of the most revered places in the sport of running.  It's at least in the Top 5, along with Marathon, Greece; a certain house in Hopkinton, MA; a certain bar in Falmouth, MA; and Iffley Road Track in Oxford.  A disproportionate number of American NCAA national champions, major marathon champions, and Olympic medalists have circled this tartan, even before people in the United States cared about running and winning running races.




Two names stand above all others associated with this oval: Bill Bowerman and Steve Prefontaine.  Bowerman was a long-time coach of the Ducks who used his collegians as guinea pigs to test the training theories upon which 31 Olympics were forged and the running shoes upon which Nike (yes, that Nike) was built. 

Bowerman, with his infamous stopwatch, at Hayward

Prefontaine - or "Pre" - was a Duck from Oregon with the guts and from-the-front racing strategy to redefine the idea of what it meant to race and be a sportsman.  Pre died in 1975 at the age of 24, in a car accident in Eugene.  At the time of his death he held the national record for all distances between 2k and 10k, and one of the only things he hadn't won was an Olympic medal, although not for lack of trying.  One of his now infamous and oft-repeated quotes is "Somebody may beat me, but they're going to have to bleed to do it." 


"I race to see who has the most guts."

One of my favorite books is Bowerman and the Men of Oregon, written by a runner of Bowerman's by the name of Kenny Moore who did this little thing called running the marathon in the Olympics, twice.  I cannot recommend this book enough, and when I first read it, I could only imagine this place based on pictures my dad took for me when he rode through on his motorcycle.  But now I visited myself so please excuse me while I fangirl a bit.

Because of Bowerman, Pre, Dellinger, Moore, Grelle, Davis, Ohelmann, and Knight etc etc, and all of the track events hosted there (Olympic track trials, NCAA national champs, IAAF junior champs, and on and on), Eugene is known as:

Tracktown USA

The stands on the west side are iconic, not only because Nike peddles shoes using their image.




Pre died in a late night car accident when the car he was driving flipped and slammed into a rock wall.  The site - known as Pre's Rock - is notoriously hard to find because it happened on a random street in a random neighborhood in Eugene.  For those who want to go looking, the Rock is at the corner of Skyline Ave and Birch Lane in the Fairmont neighborhood, just north of Hendricks Park, about a mile east of the UO campus.

 Runners come and leave tokens, hopes, and prayers.




The road curved and his car went straight.  If not for the house just behind where I am standing, Pre would have died within sight of Hayward Field.

- - - - - - - - - -

Although Nike's current apparel line let me down while souvenir hunting, it is still pretty cool that the company was born here.  Phil Knight went into business with Bill Bowerman - creating a company known as Blue Ribbon Sports - to import and distribute Japanese running shoes, named TIGERS, in the US.  Bowerman was a consummate tinkerer and contributed designs for new shoes, most notably the "waffle trainers" that defined early Nike shoes.  Before the first Nike designs, the vast majority of running shoes, made primarily in Germany (Adidas) and Japanese (TIGERS), had smooth soles.  (I think the exception was Chuck Taylors.)  Anecdotally, Bowerman created the first track shoes by pounding little carpenter nails through the soles to improve their grip on contemporary tracks, which were made of loose cinders.

Both men were notoriously forthright and no-nonsense, which definitely impacted the nature of the company, if the company taglines of the last 50 years are any indication.  I found a great example of this hanging at the wall at the Nike store in Eugene, the only positive of going there.




[Partial Transcript]

Bill Bowerman at Oregon said "If I tried to take the (marathon) shoes away from Kenny Moore or Wade Bell, I'd have a fight on my hands."

Each model sells for $7.95.  TIGER is not only better--it's less expensive.  As one runner said, "The only people who will be left wearing German shoes will either be uninformed or idiots."

You are no longer uninformed.

Very truly yours,
Philip H Knight 

Consider yourself now informed about the history of running in Eugene (and why I wanted a souvenir from there!).

Friday, March 7, 2014

And All I Won Was This Stupid T-Shirt

The day after I visited OSU at Corvallis, I drove forth and back to Eugene to visit the University of Oregon (UO).  The driving route is basically the same as to Corvallis except at one junction you veer south and ending driving along the McKenzie River through the Willamette Forest, instead of the Deschutes Forest to the north.  There is a noticeable discrepancy between the people that live intermittently along the road long before you reach the valley, on these two roads.  Going to Eugene these people are rich, whereas going to Corvallis these people are poor, with shanties that make me wonder if moonshine stills are brewing in yonder hills.

In contrast to the previous day of out and out sun, the day did exactly what the Northwest is famous for: it rained the entire time.  HOWEVER, the drive was no less picturesque.  Due to the rain, temperature, and altitude, the forests looked like they were breathing.  Plus, in the dreary rain, the McKenzie River raged and looked very primal.





I really wanted to like Eugene, but (most) everything about it and the people in it made it impossible to do so.  As I alluded to yesterday, some graduate programs are welcoming and some are....not.  Well, pretty much both programs at UO were not.  One would not deign to meet with me, despite the fact that I had flown halfway across the country and then driven over a mountain range to visit.  The other is just not in the business of being helpful and welcoming to prospective students.  But sadly, they've had to never learn to be, and never will, because inexplicably they have one of the highest applicants/available spots ratios in the country.  If they treat accepted students like they treated me, I wouldn't want to go there anyway.

Therefore, thanks to an ancillary of Murphy's Law, I was bound to like the campus.  It is historic and traditional, without being rundown, and the new buildings are incredibly well designed for their departments' intended purposes.  I also went over to visit Hayward Field, which will be described in much more detail in my next post.  The student outfit is Nike clothing, Apple electronics, and black everything else.

Aside from visiting UO, one of my to-dos was procuring a running souvenir for Eugene, which is basically the nation's capital for running, or at least track racing.  Turns out this process was the final straw; I eventually got on the highway and never looked back.

I skipped the book store because there are entire website comment sections about how none of their merchandise even mentions Pre, Bowerman, UO track and field, the last 60 years of running in Eugene....but you'd be all set if you want to buy a Oregon Ducks football shirt.  So I went to the Eugene Running Company, where my query was met with "why would you want a Eugene running souvenir?"  Um, because I've been runner more than half my life and I want a nice running shirt that shows I went to Eugene and reveled in its history.  You are a running store that presumably employs runners, you should understand this?

My next stop was Nike, which was born in Eugene, next to Hayward Field, when Phil Knight sold shoes out of his van.  Nada.  Nothing about running, Eugene, Pre, Bowerman, Knight.  "But we have a whole section of University of Oregon shirts."  I looked the manager square in the eye and said "I don't give a sh!t about the Ducks."  Off he scurried. 

So Nike, here's an idea.  Make a technical shirt that says "I raced at Hayward Field and all I won was this stupid t-shirt."  Email kebeebe at yahoo dot com so I can tell you where to deposit my royalties. 

[NOTE: For those who don't understand the joke, Hayward Field hosts serious, high level track meets with big prizes.  For example, during the track trials, the winner is a national champion and goes to the Olympics, the second place person goes to the Olympics, everyone else gets nothing.  Although if I had my way, they would be able to buy a witty t-shirt.]

In the end, the best parts of Eugene where the drive there, the drive away, and Hayward Field.  Which pretty much matches what everyone said I would like, before I even went.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Orygun

I'm spending the week in central Oregon, exploring the general environs of Bend and checking out a few academic programs at Oregon State University (OSU) and the University of Oregon (UO) and the Central Oregon Community College (COCC).  This whole trip has turned out to be exactly the type of trip I excel at, using all of the skills that made me a great writer for Let's Go, all of the skills that remind me of how much I related to Jerry Maguire: "This used to be my specialty. I was good in a living room. Send me in there, I'll do it alone."

I LOVE long drives and I am totally in my element when meeting new people.

I parachuted into Redmond long after dark on Monday and found my way to Bend after ransacking McDonald's.  [All I want is a Big Mac and fries because I haven't eaten since before lunch....but I haven't had any vegetables today so I should have salad.  Screw it.  The quarter pounder, fries AND the salad were gone in under 10 minutes.  Don't judge.]

When I stepped out of the Redmond airport, the air smelled like pine trees.  Literally, obviously, overwhelmingly, pine.  Of all the things I was told to expect, walking into a Glade commercial was not one of them.  

The next morning, still under the cover of darkness, I found my way to a masters swim practice (where the coach was from Green Bay, woot!) and met Byron, Rob, and Susie.

All of these people have been telling me how great Bend is and how cool/calm/collected/copacetic the locals are.  What is the first thing I see in Bend in daylight?  A traffic jam.  Parents waiting in a very long line, rendering three traffic circles gridlocked, to drop their kids off at school.   Sorry, Bend, I can find traffic jams in Austin, you are going to have to do better than that.

An hour later I headed west over the Cascades, through the Deschutes National Forest and dropping into the Willamette Valley, to the Corvallis campus of OSU.  I'd be making roughly this same round-trip twice in two days - which is basically my idea of heaven.  And it turns out the drive itself is gorgeous and totally engrossing.  The best analogy I can make it that of a 150 mile, 2-lane luge track through 100 foot tall Ponderosa pines nestled right next to the road.  That is when the road isn't carving a track immediately next to a river.  On the windward side of the Cascades the air is so perpetually moist that the trees are coated in moss.

Corvallis itself is a shabby little town, with some upscale sections along the river, and OSU is bustling, but shabby, campus just doing its thing out of the spotlight focused nearly entirely on University of Oregon down in Eugene.  Students have a granola vibe, and I have never seen so many skateboards in a three hour period in my life.  The campus area is really cohesive as a campus area, and the department people I spoke with were really personable and helpful (trust me, this is NOT a given when dealing with graduate programs).

I will say Corvallis is going to be the stronghold for survivors when the zombie apocalypse hits.  As the highway approaches from the east, the speed limit drops from nearly 70 to 25, as the road splits to cross the river as a one-lane bridge in each direction.  Tear down those bridges and crossing that river gets really hard - the city literally comes with a built-in moat!  You heard it here first: the survivors are in Corvallis.

Anyway, here are some pictures of the drive. Because I know that that is what you all really want.

The basic view east of Sisters, OR.


The basic view out the windshield once you get west of Sisters, OR.  The red stuff on the snow just beside the side of the road is cinder, which the local highway departments use as sand/salt.  I suspect they apply it in semi-liquid form through a fire hose, because in the first few miles on either side of the top of Santiam Pass, cinder is spread tens of feet on either side of the road as if someone just blasted it with great force in every direction.  Approaching the top of the west side of the pass, the road comes straight up the valley, makes a sharp right and carves a lip right across the face of the mountain.  From the road up the the valley, it looks like a massive animal died and bled as it fell diagonally down into the valley, because the cinders present a long, straight, WIDE, RED line through the snow.




This view is on the way up on the east side, but coming down this side from the west, I went five miles without touching my brake or gas and sat right at 55 mph. 




The very top of Santiam Pass suffered a forest fire about eight years ago, so the very top is only white, with stripped toothpicks-like tree trunks as far as you can see. Well, that and the big slashes of dragon blood. 

Coming down on the very moist west side.


It is green EVERYwhere you look.


A moss-coated tree, among millions of moss-coated trees.


They must have a different definition of this word in Oregon, because I didn't see another car for 10 minutes on either side of this sign.



Trading trees for water.  None of it is calm, and some is serious rapids.



And the journey continues...


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