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Barbarella: The Barbara Howe diary

Just as Barbarella bumps through the universe, comically oblivious to the dangers and threats being thrust at her, Barbara Howe has had a few misadventures of her own. After an illness-filled season in 2006, the 31 year-old Velo Bella rider is working to get her fitness back in 2007. Although 'cross is still the favorite discipline of the Marin County, California resident, Howe is returning to action by racing her mountain bike. When not training on and around Mt Tamalpais, she keeps busy cooking and sewing.

Follow the fortunes of this free-spirited individual here on Cyclingnews.

May 21, 2007

Big birds and bruises

Barb Howe and the ostriches.
Photo ©: Wendy Simms
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The week between NMBS #2 and NMBS #3 turned out to be more eventful and busier than I had planned. This was due in part to trying to keep up with Wendy Simms and her boundless energy. Wendy sat out the cross country race due to a cold, but that didn't seem to slow her down at all during the week.

We started off Monday morning with a two hour easy spin around the Solvang area. On the way out, we stopped at Ostrich Land and checked out the ostrich wares. You can buy everything from feathers to eggs (full or empty) to ostrich oil in the gift shop. I seriously considered buying an egg (full) equal to two dozen chicken eggs. I figured the egg could feed several people for an entire day starting with a giant omlette for breakfast, a fritatta for lunch, a souffle for dinner, and angel food cake for dinner. After that, you'd have to start taking cholesterol medication.

Since my jersey pockets are much much smaller than an ostrich egg, I was spared the egg overload. On the way home from the ride we stopped again at Ostrich Land to feed the big birds. I think the birds liked Wendy's helmet as they spent much more time looking at her head than mine. I wouldn't want to be chased by ostriches, they're really big, kinda scary looking and ornery. We followed the feeding of the big birds by loading up the Honda with both of our stuff, loading up ourselves with burritos and heading south to Santa Barbara. In Santa Barbara, we met up with Bella Jen Tilley and her boyfriend Ryan for some shopping and more burritos. Wendy was on a mission to eat as much Mexican food as possible as its not readily available all the way up in Nainamo ( ). Ryan graciously offered Wendy and I couch space in his house, and since a comfy couch is hard to resist, we took him up on the offer.

Wendy, Jen and myself at the beach.
Photo ©: Unknown
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Tuesday and Wednesday were spent logging road hours on the mountain bikes. I'm not a huge fan of the road riding on mountain bikes, it just feels so slow. Of course it helps to remember to add a bit of air to the tires, 24 psi is not ideal for riding on pavement. Jen led two great rides in the hills around Ventura, we covered over 90 miles in two days on fat knobby slow tires.

Wednesday's ride was followed by a shopping trip to the outlet mall south of Ventura. Wendy was very motivated to find something worth shopping for. It was tiring but worthwhile. Wendy, Jen and myself all bought the same jeans in the same size. Ryan's patience was heroic as he presided over the shopping efforts of three ladies. On Thursday, I decided to lead the ride, we went to the beach just three miles away.

As you can see in the picture, Jen and Wendy had plans other than mine as I opted for casual clothing to prevent myself from riding too hard or too far. During the ride I was lauded in my choice of tempo, distance, and route choice. You can always count on me if you are interested in a pleasant, casual bike stroll.

Allie B, Alex B, and Kimber G.
Photo ©: Barb Howe
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Wendy and I drove to Ontario and some how managed to miss traffic. After Wendy checked into the hotel, we went in search of some burritos. The guy at the desk said there was a place "across the street," so we walked out the door and were confronted with several large streets. After walking for ten minutes in an office complex wasteland we spied what looked to be food sources. Several minutes later, the "food sources" turned out to be an insurance agency and coffee shop--not what we were looking for. There were no pedestrians to be seen even though the sidewalks were perfect and flat and the landscaping was lush and green in the semi-arid inland empire. We walked back to the hotel crossing a ten-lane road, bushwhacking through a deserted lot all the time feeling as if we had descended into some alien environment. We eventually did find the burrito place. It was across the street, just a street that was behind the hotel nowhere near the door. Full of burrito, I left Wendy behind and headed towards Redlands and host housing.

Our host housing in Redlands was awesome. Our hosts Michelle and Jonathan, have a beautiful old spanish style house. They regularly host cycling teams and their daughter Katya is getting a good collection or jerseys to grow into. Friday the team went for a pre-ride on the course in Fontana.

Wendy Simms enjoyed the ostriches.
Photo ©: Barb Howe
(Click for larger image)

The whole Fontana weekend is one I'd like to forget, but the repercussions of all the crashing hasn't let me forget yet. I'll just say that I got into a few fights with my bike, the bike won, and the ground hurts. The hardest crashes were totally stupid like catching my bar on a branch and getting tossed down on a rock. I was glad to finish the cross country with out harming my bike or breaking myself. The short track was just about as fun. I even managed to hit the deck in what was a 13 minute race.

On a brighter note, two of our three downhillers were present at Fontana. It was good to see them racing through adverse condition. Allie somehow ripped a hole in her leg through her shorts and armor, got six big stitches, and still raced on Sunday. I packed it up as quick as possible after Sunday afternoon's short track in hopes of getting home at a decent hour. Josh had hooked up a job wrenching for a pro road team for the next two weeks, and if I didn't make it home Sunday night then it would be about a month that we wouldn't get to see each other. I was a motivated driver on the way home and made it from Redlands to Larkspur in seven hours with only one gas/food/bathroom stop. Josh left the early Monday morning and won't be back until the end of the month.

Till next week,