Tucson –> San Dimas –> Redlands

2015 Courteney Drives the Civic

On the drive from Tucson to San Dimas, Courteney realized what I meant when I said the Civic was basic.

2015 Zanna on the TT Course

Suzanna flew into California to join us in racing San Dimas. We had a lovely evening spin previewing the San Dimas TT course, which would have been my favorite ever if it didn’t go uphill for 4.25 miles.

2015 Courteney Turns 24

Courteney struggled with the idea of turning 24 last month or, as she put it, getting old. Dude, I have shirts older than that.

2015 Pepper Pillow Fight

This is what really happens when girls go wild.

2015 Peppers Recovery Ride

The three of us had quite a bit of fun at San Dimas. From the racing to the adventures at our Airbnb house, the laughs never stopped. Okay, so there wasn’t actually much laughing during the racing. Maybe just some barfing and a few tears. I also stole a bottle from the feed zone because I was desperate.

2015 A Tree Grows in San Dimas

After one of the stages, I bonked so hard that I hugged a house plant, cried, and accidentally insulted our roommate. That kicked off a spree of tree-hugging.

2015 Post San Dimas Stage 3

I was cranky after crashing out of the crit at one lap to go, so Courteney cheered me up with a spin on the TT bike. The girl really knows how to live it up! Apparently this is what old people do for fun.

2015 Sweet Pig

This pig. Holy shitballs.

2015 Redlands Rest Day

Courteney was served up on a platter for my rest day entertainment. Then I roadtripped to Super Target with Zanna and two boxes of hair dye later, I accidentally have black hair.

2015 Greatest Pet Ever...And Pig

We spend a large part of each day taking photos of the pig. Even when the pig has gas, she is adorable. Same with Courteney.

2015 Easter Bucket

I couldn’t be home for Easter so my wonderful parents mailed Easter to me.

2015 Egg Hunt

Our host family set up an Easter egg hunt for their daughters and the three of us. I found 11 eggs, a lemon, and an old tennis ball.

2015 Easter Baskets 2

We also got Easter baskets! It’s hard to be away from home for a holiday, but our hosts made us feel like part of their family and it ended up being a very enjoyable day. I also won $14 on my scratch-off lottery tickets. That’s more than I won in my last race.

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Happier than a pig in Redlands.

Our host family in Redlands has a pig. A tiny, five-week-old pink pig. Her cuteness is almost too much to bear at times. She waddles around, wags her tail, grunts a lot, and always wants to climb into your lap and fall asleep. She drives us all to distraction: nobody rode bikes yesterday. I tried to do corework but ended up holding the pig for 90 minutes instead. If photographing the pig was a sport, I’d be an Olympian by now.

But then Courteney put her in my room this morning and stepped out for a moment, and the pig pooped aggressively under the bed. It was messy and disastrous and required a good bit of clean up. The pig wasn’t looking so clean herself and badly needed a rinse to be restored to her glowing pink self. Somehow I found myself holding the tiny pig in the kitchen sink trying to rinse her butt and tail while she screamed. SCREAMED. I did not think such a large noise could come from such a small animal.

Now the pig is hiding in her blanket (pig in a blanket…pig in a blanket!..pig puns never get old) and even though she exploded poop everywhere and shrieked at me, I miss her.

2015 Best Pig Ever

I don’t know who is happier here; the pig or Courteney.

2015 Coffee and Bacon

Coffee and bacon for breakfast.

2015 Shy Pig

The pig is shy.

2015 Snuggling Pig

The pig is willing to snuggle whatever part of your body you make available.

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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.

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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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