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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.

November 1, 2007

Apocalypse Now

Smoke covering the skies in Southern California
Photo : Barbara Howe
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The closest UCI race to home was this past weekend down in Southern California. Rachel Lloyd and I decided to chase some UCI points, and make the drive down there. We packed up the Honda and headed out to I-5 for the windy, dusty, boring drive down. I've been logging lots of highway miles these days, and have noticed that the right lane is the new left lane. I was taught that you should drive along in the right lane and use the left lane for passing only. Apparently that bit of traffic law is lost on folks today. Everyone camps out in the left lane whether they are going 55mph, 65mph or 85mph. This leaves miles of virtually untouched roads in the right lane ripe for passing. My question is "why do people get all angry at you when you pass them on the right when they are poking along in the left lane?" MOVE OVER and let people who are actually going fast pass you on the left. Okay, rant over.

Rachel and I arrived at the venue just as the women finished racing and I got to see Melodie, who had just won the race. She said the course was fun, but bumpy. Since the men were racing we headed out across the top of a dam for a ride. I nearly got blown over as the Santa Ana winds had started to blow. Such a beautiful name for such destructive winds. They are basically very warm, very dry, very strong winds that blow in from the desert and cause havoc. Rachel's brother lives in nearby Filmore so we spent the night there. On the way over we passed what used to be orchards and are now housing developments.

Melodie and Rachel getting ready to run away from the cloud of Armageddon.
Photo : Barbara Howe
(Click for larger image)

When I awoke Sunday morning I smelled smoke but didn't think much of it until we started driving back to the venue. As we drove east the smoke and wind grew stronger and thicker. I started to think that I wouldn't be able to race with so much smoke in the air when we passed the source of the fire. It was a small grass fire on the side of the road, and there were already firemen attending to it. After passing the fire the air cleared a bit but remained heavy with dust. I noticed that several palm trees from the roadside nursery were blown over. They had been upright the day before in their car sized above ground planters.

Photo : Barbara Howe
(Click for larger image)

Then the air grew thick with smoke again. We passed a few more small grass fires on our way to the race. The wind was ferocious, the Honda got buffeted back and forth the highway, both Rachel and I were afraid that the bikes were going to fly off the roof! By some miracle, the venue had clean clear air and much less wind than the surrounding areas. The gun went off and by a strange twist of fate I got the hole shot with Rachel and Melodie, with Coryn close behind. They passed me soon after that and that just about finishes the race story. We finished in that order, and drank lots of water. The cloud of Armageddon was nearly upon us at the finished, large brown and ominous. Rachel and I decided that the bikes needed to go into the car on the way home so they wouldn't get blown off the roof. Packing all four bikes and wheels into the wee Honda was like a game of 3D Tetris. We took off right after awards hoping to get home at a decent hour. Aside from some traffic on I-5 we had a rather uneventful drive.

The folks down in Southern California put on a great race. Thanks to Dorothy Wong's long-term vision and determination they have a great series and a UCI race in an area not known for cyclo-cross. If there are UCI races down there next year I'll definitely be back.



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Images by Barbara Howe