All Good Things Must Come To An End

I’m sitting outside for one last sunset in Tucson before leaving for California tomorrow. From one perspective, this trip has been one long series of goodbyes: I said goodbye to home, goodbye to each new place I discovered along the drive across the country, goodbye to Andrew and many of my teammates at the end of camp, and now I am saying goodbye to Tucson.

This place has become home. It’s missing a few critical things – Andrew, my parents, the pets – but something about it has stolen my heart in a way that will never be undone. When I am alone on the side of Mt. Lemmon looking at the vastness of the hills and the desert while the wind blows, I feel the happiest and most alive. It’s not the coffee shops or the great tortillas or the other cyclists; it’s just the desert and the mountains and the way the sky is bigger here than anywhere else. I don’t feel ready to say goodbye.

But with each goodbye has come a new adventure that erases the sorrow of the previous farewell. That’s not to say I’ve forgotten the things left behind; I can hardly look at other dogs because the ache for my own furballs is so acute. I miss the kind lady I met in Canyon, TX and the friend I stayed with in Albuquerque, NM. But if behind me is a trail of wonderful things, then I have to believe that what lies ahead holds the potential to be equally awesome.

So onward. Courteney and I are driving to San Dimas, CA to race this weekend and will stay on to race Redlands after that. Other teammates will fly in to join us and then we will continue our travels together around the country. We’ll race, eat everything everywhere, laugh until I’m glad my chamois is absorbent, and then do it all over again.

But that is tomorrow. For now I have this sunset, this final evening, this glass of wine, and the sweet sorrow of this goodbye. This place has been wonderful.

2015 Le Buzz Group

One final coffee shop ride to Le Buzz.

2015 Courteney's Rebuttal

Courteney thinks she is being clever by texting us a photo of her middle finger. Meanwhile, I’m sitting two feet away.

2015 Safety First

When you can’t be bothered to take anything off on the drive home from a ride.

2015 Courteney at Sunset

So meta.

2015 The Kiwi Breakafst

Every morning, Courteney makes this brown slop for breakfast. It looks like an “after” picture, except that I tried it and now I’m addicted. She made a beautiful bowl of my very own one day and has subsequently made me breakfast every day since.

2015 Recovery Time

This is what happens when the ride is done. We can never get enough chamois time.

2015 Court and the Cat

Courteney was very nervous about this black cat, so I made her go stand next to it. She kept talking about how it was eating “biscuits”, which apparently is New Zealand for cat food.

2015 Peppers Night Out

2015 Tucson Tattoo

I got another tattoo. The artist looked a lot like my father, except with a lot of tattoos and some big gold earrings. I started up some small talk by asking, “How long have you been doing this?” Without missing a beat or even looking up from my arm, he gruffly replied, “A couple of weeks.” The real answer was 1984.

2015 Afternoon in AZ

Another perfect afternoon in Tucson. Courteney kept heaving heavy sighs and moaning “I’M BORED.” This is because she is a teenager. I can’t get enough of having nothing to do. This is because I am old.

2015 Tucson BFFs

Tucson.

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This is how life looks right now

Once upon a time, life in Arizona was so lovely and entertaining that I couldn’t find the motivation to write a proper post. So here are a lot of photos instead:

2015 Peppers in the Desert

The Peppers rock. (Ha. HA. Get it?)

2015 Lindsay Bayer Riding

COME AT ME, BRO

2015 Camp Steele

Our host here in Tucson shares a last name with Andrew and because I am simple, this is thrilling.

2015 Chipmunk Terrorist

Nothing is more terrifying then a chipmunk darting across the bike path when you’re on the aero bars. They’re everywhere out here and holy crap, they have huge balls.

2015 TT Practice

Learning to ride my TT bike one anxious grimace at a time. Then I finished 3rd in the Tucson Bicycle Classic TT and now I’m all WATCH ME ROCK THIS, I’M GONNA WIN THE OLYMPICS.

2015 TT to Stella

We don’t mess around with getting to the coffee shop.

2015 I want to be a firetruck

Julie told us, “When I was 8, I wanted to be a professional soccer player. Courteney replied, “When I was 8, I wanted to be a firetruck.”

2015 Pepper Palace Team

That one time we were serious.

2015 Courteney in the Car

Courteney was anxious about the ride to the TT. Or maybe it was my driving.

2015 TBC Stage 3

The lovely scenery of stage 3 of the Tucson Bicycle Classic.

2015 Peppers at TBC

I love these people.

2015 Post Race Stella

Post-race coffee at Stella Java with Jules and Courteney’s right hand.

2015 Mt Lemmon

Returning to the beauty of Mt. Lemmon for a recovery spin. Yes, I now climb on my easy days because TUCSON.

2015 CLowe and Special Sauce

I hit a rabbit on my ride the other day and was incredibly sad. When Courteney came home, I blurted out the horrible tale. She tried to make me feel better by telling a story of her own: “One time, I hit a duck. And she had all of her babies behind her. So I hit them too.”

Nothing with Lindsay Bayer and Julie Kuliecza

We’re launching a podcast. Here’s our cover art. Get excited.

2015 Tucson at Dusk

Another sunset in Tucson. Julie loves the sunsets too, so much so that I looked out the window last evening to see her standing on my car taking pictures.

Posted on in Cycling, Friends, Life, Travel 2 Comments

Pepper Palace: Your #1 Source for Awesome Sauce

Andrew arrived in Tucson just over a week ago. I was nervously primping (because even though he’s stuck with me for life, I don’t need to make him regret that decision) when my roommate asked, “Do you have any clothes that aren’t for cycling or the gym?”

No. I have mascara and sweatpants.

When he arrived, it was a whirlwind of activity for three straight days. I wanted to show him my favorite places around town (Stella Java, La Estrella Bakery, Mt. Lemmon, Time Market, Le Buzz…hmm, this list is rather food-heavy) and we also had to get all of the team bikes ready for camp. By “we”, I mean “Andrew” while I spectated and offered helpful suggestions like, “How’s my TT bike coming along? Will you be done soon? When can we go eat?”

And then in no time at all, we were driving with Julie in a caravan towards the Phoenix airport to collect our people and kick off team camp.

Pepper Palace took over a mansion just outside Scottsdale for the week. The house was awesome; brand new, massive, and full of perks like a pool table and an arcade. The only thing missing was a refrigerator large enough to hold the colossal load of team groceries. You could have fed a small country with the first grocery trip, and yet we were back at the store in a day. Because cyclists.

It wasn’t long before we’d exploded all over the house in a sea of red clothes, sparkling waters, hot sauces, and Gu products. Did you read the article about the chick who generated only enough trash to fill a mason jar over a period of two years? Yeah, that was not us. Taking out the accumulated trash yesterday required multiple trips by six people, one of whom (GOKES!) had to jump up and down atop the dumpster to get the lid closed enough to keep the coyotes out.

Camp itself was exhilarating and exhausting all at once. It’s hard to be constantly surrounded by so many people and so much energy; team camp is a crush of new everything, perpetual motion, and unending stimulation. Sometimes it felt like Andrew and I were just passing ships, crossing as I’d dash from one thing to the next while he raced around in the garage building bikes, adjusting bikes, doing everything bikes. Each day was jammed from morning until night with rides, team meals, team talks, and endless chatter and laughter.

And then, just as quickly as it started, it ended. I woke up at 4:35am today to drive Andrew to the airport and head to Tucson to live with a smaller group of teammates and race the Tucson Bicycle Classic.

Saying goodbye to so many people felt like a punch in the gut. It was wonderful to be surrounded by my team; I love each member and cannot wait to see what we accomplish this season by working together and how much fun we will have doing it. There was not a single person that stuck out as a bad fit (….wait, what’s that expression about how if you look around the room and can’t see the asshole, it’s you? Shit). I have never been more certain that a group of people were meant to be together and never more proud to be part of that group. And to be able to share that with Andrew was wonderful.

I hate goodbyes (and pre-dawn alarm clock settings) but optimistically this is just the beginning of something new. Andrew will be back in a little while, I’ll see all of the Peppers again in time, and there are a lot of snacks waiting in Tucson. Huge thanks to everyone who made this past week enjoyable – Sarah for building this team, Julie and Amy for their non-stop efforts to pull everything together, Nicky for being our new director, Andrew and Johs for being our tireless mechanics, Jay and O’Neill for their support, our sponsors for providing heaps of cool stuff, and my teammates for being the kind of people you can spend a week with and leave wanting more. It’s going to be a great year.

2015 Holy Shitballs!

Terzan surprised me with a gift in the mail and this is just one of many reasons as to why she is awesome.

2015 Cyclists at Stella

Yet another coffee shop ride in Tucson. Yes, that is an insole sitting on the table off to the right. Adam rolled up with it in his jersey pocket.

2015 Hardcore Atop Lemmon

Andrew had to do the iconic Mt. Lemmon climb as part of his visit to Tucson. When he got to the top, I was all, “Hooray! Let’s take a selfie! Look hardcore!!” And this is the result. I don’t think he actually tried to make a face.

2015 Drew and the Van

Andrew rocking the rental van. I was cranky that night, so he ate my discarded contact lenses while driving as part of a deal to cheer me up.

2015 Drew Breaking In My Bike

My new race bike on its inaugural ride…under Andrew’s butt.

2015 Drew in Saguaro

On a spin through the gorgeous Saguaro National Park. The desert is breathtaking.

2015 Dead Pig and Me

This was breathtaking, too. He was sleeping (forever) right on the side of the road in front of somebody’s house. So of course I had to take photos and then sing a song about it…

2015 Look! The Uhaul.!JPG

We were waiting on the side of the road for Julie when she pulled up with the Uhaul and a cup of coffee for me. Julie always has all of the everything I need.

2015 Road Trip to Camp

We are EFFING READY to get our team camp on.

2015 Us in AZ at Camp

We got to the team house before everybody else, so we ran around like children, played a game of pool, and explored the yard.

2015 Welcome to Camp!

No cacti were harmed in the shooting of this photo. My legs, however, thought the jumping felt like shit.

Jules and Me and That Paper Cow

Sweet paper mache cow decorations, dude.

2015 Team Camp

Getting ready to roll on day 1. Nothing moves more slowly than a full team of women trying to get out the door for the first time in new clothes on new bikes.

2015 Zanna and Beer

Terzan photobombing the team refreshments.

2015 Girls Night Out

Staying hydrated during our night out on the town. We were supposed to go salsa dancing after dinner, but in true cyclist form, we bailed on that plan and went to the grocery store instead.

2015 New Kit New Bike

New kit, new bike. I love this Scott!

2015 Rice Mask

Terzan made turkey lettuce rice wraps for dinner and then let me talk her into applying a rice wrap to her face for $5.

2015 Team Dinner

When we weren’t on bikes, we were gathered around this table inhaling food and sparkling waters.

2015 PEPPERS!

PEPPERS! No, seriously, that spells PEPPERS! We spent 20 minutes in the sun trying to get it just right.

2015 Peppers on a Roll

Rocking and rolling. I love seeing our little red army.

2015 Hardstyle

We bring the hot sauce.

2015 Pepper Mojito Night

Mojito night! Terzan and I juiced roughly two dozen limes by hand, and then later learned that there was a juicer tucked away in the kitchen. SHITBALLS.

2015 Peppers Go Metal

The Peppers doing 80s rock style, with the notable exception of Amber in the back, who is just lurking.

2015 Us in AZ 1

Andrew. This doesn’t need a caption.

2015 Peppers 4Ever Yo

The Peppers. This doesn’t need a caption either.

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PTSD from that time my parents tried to kill me with fish

About six weeks ago, my parents invited Andrew and me over for Sunday dinner. “I’m marinating hamburgers and a salmon burger for you,” my father said excitedly.

Then they cancelled a few hours before, because they do not love their only child.

Dinner was rescheduled for the following Sunday. “I’m still marinating those hamburgers,” my father said. “They’ll be so flavorful!”

We gathered for dinner; everybody ate their beef burgers while I had my salmon patty (which had been marinated and cooked separately). It was flavorful: brimming with the delicious flavor of fish. Nobody else tried the salmon.

The next evening, I started feeling badly. I crawled into bed early, hoping it would pass, but soon became horribly ill. To briefly and non-graphically summarize the subsequent five hours: I exploded and begged for death to come take me away. Andrew watched sympathetically, because marriage means you cannot run screaming when your spouse is disgusting.

Eventually we concluded that medical intervention was required. While I was a biohazard in motion, Andrew was kind enough to load me into the car without requiring that I climb into a trash bag first. Then we spent 8 hours in the emergency room. Apparently Virginia is not a Death with Dignity state, which is how I am still here writing this post today.

Thankfully the episode passed eventually and I recovered. When my father and I met for sushi (oh, the irony) a week later, we put the pieces together and discovered that the salmon burger was the culprit. Apparently the package of frozen burgers clearly says “DO NOT DEFROST” but my parents were like, hey, let’s not only defrost this bad boy, but leave it thawed for a week before feeding it to our kid. When I saw my mother the next day and mentioned that she tried to kill me with a fish patty, my usually doting mother replied, “Hm. Really? Hm. So anyway…”

I love you, Mom. And, Dad, that marinade was great. But next time, let’s do meatloaf.

So fast forward to yesterday, when my roommate joined Costco and brought home a huge bag of frozen salmon fillets. She excitedly offered to thaw a fillet for me and while my first instinct was to scream NO WAY, PLEASE DON’T KILL ME, I said sure, that sounds great, I have a few extra pounds that I can’t wait to crap out violently.

The fish was waiting for me in the refrigerator around dinnertime, but I couldn’t bring myself to commit. It wasn’t until after getting home from my Target date with Julie at 9pm (yes, that’s a thing, Target is wonderful) that I had to face the music and cook the salmon, or risk letting in sit in the fridge overnight and become rife with fatal diseases. The package said to bake it for 15-20 minutes, so I baked it for 35 minutes and then set it on fire for good measure.

Okay, not that last part, but only because it was late and I didn’t want to set the smoke alarm off. Once the salmon cooled from an internal temperature that rivaled the sun, I took a deep breath, ate half of it, and then waited. It has now been 24 hours and everything seems to be okay internally, so I just microwaved the other half (for so long that it partly exploded and partly caramelized) and ate it.

This is the definition of living on the edge.

Posted on in Family, Life, Travel 3 Comments

Reunited and it feels so good

Life here in Tucson is great! I’m just sitting here at the kitchen table, stress eating and waiting for the locksmith to arrive. My car keys are missing and after ransacking the house and dumpster diving the neighbor’s rolling trash can (try to look dignified while doing that), I’ve resorted to calling a professional. The $46 fee is spent at this point, so now I’m really hoping the keys are locked in the car. If not, I will be devastated that my keys are still missing because I will have no way to go buy the alcohol required to move past this.

Other than the obvious, things are good. I did the famous Shootout group ride on Saturday morning and while I wanted to die a million deaths during the ride, my first thought after it ended was that I couldn’t wait to do it again. Sunday was a sufferfest up Mt. Lemmon, noteworthy for the glorious moment around mile marker 9 when another cyclist called out, “I love your blog!” and for the fact that I neither cried nor panicked on the descent. It probably had something to do with the planned post-ride stop at Le Buzz; my subconscious was all, GET ME THE EFF OFF THIS MOUNTAIN AND TO THE COFFEE.

On Monday I drove back to Phoenix to do my time trial bike fit at Cyclologic. It felt like going home; I showed up in sweats, Steve brought me a cup of coffee, and I flopped onto the couch and started whining about being sore all over. Then I made it maybe an hour into the session before the snacks came out, and there was definitely a point where Steve had to tell me to put down the sandwich and get on the bike. In the end, we found a TT position that is as comfortable as one can be while hunched over a bicycle like an overeager frog. Steve probably really misses the quality time we spent together, but I’ll be back once more next week to flop all over the studio dramatically and talk about how my butt hurts.

Aside from training and the trip to Phoenix, things are pleasantly uneventful. The roommate and I spend 96% of our awake free time gathering, preparing, and consuming food and hot drinks. There is an overly sensitive smoke detector in the kitchen and I’ve learned that when it starts shrieking, that doesn’t mean the house is in flames; it merely means lunch is ready. This place is starting to feel like home, except that my dogs are a million miles away and nowhere will ever truly be home until it is covered in their fur. But this is a good place to be for now.

The locksmith just came and broke into the car, where I found the keys sitting in the trunk. Funny how a self-inflicted wound cost $46 and yet all I feel now is joy and relief. As my roommate put it, “Less than the cost of a night at the theater and probably feels even better.”

2015 Julie and Angry Grandma

Julie is adorable at Stella Java, but Angry Grandma does not approve.

2015 At Stella with Jules x 3

The more Julie, the merrier.

2015 The Shootout

We survived the Shootout, but thank god that guy in the back had the good sense to carry extra water.

2015 New Kits

Hooray for our new Sugoi team kits! Hooray for the end of labial abrasions!

2015 The Dinner

This is what I’ve had for dinner almost every night for the past two weeks, except that the pile gets bigger every day. A week from now, I’ll be serving dinner on a hubcap.

2015 Jules on the Ride

Riding with Julie makes everything more fun, even when there is a relentless headwind and a long uphill grind.

2015 Bike Food Fail

I had this brilliant idea to make mochi to eat during rides – tasty! cheap! easy to digest! – except that I ended up with golf ball-sized blobs of rock hard rice phlegm. They look terrible, but at least they taste…….terrible.

2015 Jules Wins The Ride

The crankier I got on the ride, the more cheerful Julie got. When we ended up adding an extra 10 miles to the trip home and I prepared to throw my bike into a ravine and punch squirrels, Julie bubbled over with joy.

2015 Drafting

I shamelessly hitched a ride on this guy’s wheel to get home after Julie turned off. Also, see that chick off to the right dressed like it’s snowing? It’s nearly 60 degrees. Tucson considers this to be cold.

Posted on in Cycling, Friends, Life, The Pets, Travel 2 Comments
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