Category Archives: biking

Back in the saddle

The firsts just keep coming and coming. Tonight I’m claiming myself an expert in the fine art of snot rocketry after having blown my first two in the entirety of my lifetime. If I were an Olympic judge with this gross performance a qualifying sport, I’d give myself high marks for trajectory and aim. That’s what happens when a person tries to get back at it after a week with a summer cold, no cycling, and then going without tissues the first time back on the bike.

The good news is I always see beautiful things on my rides. Like the neighbors’ flowers. Exhibit A:

1CI stop and smell flowers from time to time, literally and figuratively, even at the risk of not remembering to kick out of my doggone triple-link pedals. Why is it so tough to remember “Kick Out?!”

What I do know is Karma is a big be-yotch, although I don’t usually like to use that turn of phrase. Just seems every time I get all judgey, like mentally berating the a-holes who though similarly enjoying my favorite Lacroix Pamplemousse sparkling water are inconsiderate enough to toss a can along the road. Gravity pulled me back down to earth to check my superior attitude for a bloodletting. The top scrape came from pavement, and the bottom one layered drying poison ivy breakout yet healing there.

Exhibit B:

1A

Laughing helps when I think of my son quoting Napoleon Dynamite asking the bullied kid, “How’s your neck?” I felt like the kid answering, “It stings,” only about my knee and elbow.

My country adventures lead me to ponder the sights and smells. Such as, “Is that mixed leather/Freon smell in the air actually someone cooking meth in the woods?” Being an avid reader, I recently learned how to gauge how much daylight is left by the number of finger-widths of sunlight on the horizon still visible. Riding with my shoes clipped to my pedals doesn’t allow to test that theory, though. (See Exhibit B above.)

I wonder whether the big four-wheel-drive truck’s driver will follow and kill me, or if I can subdue him with mace tucked in my tank top. Such is a woman’s concern riding her bicycle alone at dusk. Men don’t usually feel the need to carry weaponized pepper spray on a ride, do they? Think about that for a minute.

A passing truck has large red letters marking the vehicle as “ANGLER AID,” as we live near a lake, and I consider whether I could need “CYCLER AID” from a similar but non-exist truck in the future. A mysterious man behind the wheel of yet another large 4WD pickup parked in a church lot stares curiously at his phone. Is he still there since Wednesday night service (it’s the Ozarks, after all), is he lost and consulting GPS, or does he simply have a wife who makes it difficult to want to go home? I’ll never know.

Exhibit C:

1D

Not the actual church in question. I saw it during the 26-mile ride & liked the name. (Note the burnout marks from teens doing donuts.) Hurts, don’t it?

Finally, I returned home for my nightly walk with Woody during which I enjoy many gorgeous sunsets. He’s hearing-impaired and can’t see very well but is so patient with my dawdling to pulls weeds at walk time. He waits with bated (and weighted, poor sot) breath at the driveway’s end, his heart seems to explode with pure joy at just getting to sniff the neighborhood. The poor boy is over the moon at getting to go, such simple pleasure at life. I wish I could be more like him.

Exhibit D … for “DOG,” of course

1B

It’s hard to get an antsy pup to stand still for focus!

 

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Let’s Get Fired Up

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The proverbial journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, as the cliche goes, or maybe I should say cog rotation. My fractional journey with new bike shoe cleats to clip into my triple-link pedals. Hell, I don’t even know why they’re called “triple link,” but my hip felt it when I fell over into the yard at first try this morning. At least there’s a lot of padding where I landed. On my body, that is. And in the grass, not the street or gravel, thank goodness. 

An even bigger humiliation came at hearing my know-it-all husband who’s never used toe clips before tell me what to do and then watch me fall. Of course, I could control yelling at him to leave me alone. “Let me do it the way the guy at the bike store (shout out to Stu at “Bike Outlet” in Springfield) told me how to use them!” But I didn’t. 

It being Independence Day brought a mental note how no one was actually shooting at me along the farm road. People ‘round here apparently just start firing their fireworks with the rooster’s crow.

All previously expressed rules still apply. Numbers two and three come to mind immediately upon launching (close your flycatcher and breathe in/breathe out), and following them on the outset remains a prescient warning. 

It’s odd to be my somewhat advanced age and feel my dad’s presence on my cycling route. Funny how pedaling through the country and smelling the cows’ … ahem … leavings will remind me of him claiming, “Smells like money!” Reminiscing on it makes me chuckle now even though it didn’t back then. Seeing a cardinal pop out from behind a shrub, land just long enough on the ground to chirp at me, and then dash away quickly brings me fond thoughts of my mom. Of her darting out just fast enough to remind me to keep going without her. 

I had to majorly talk myself into doing so  during the 26-mile training ride part of our MS150 Ozarks team took last Saturday. As expected, I trailed in dead last but alive. Unfortunately, I skipped the last six miles with the ass-kicking hill at its end after lunch, but that’s okay. I did NOT quit, and no “sag van” had to come retrieve my exhausted butt. 

Surviving that morning convinced me to not only get my Triple Link Pedal system installed, but it also coaxed me into putting down a deposit on a road bike. How sad is it to use layaway at my age? Pretty pathetic, perhaps, but a better way to ease into purchasing a second bike within a year. Even a used one. Having it may just help propel me forward even further. 

So old Black Beauty, as young as she is, gets put out to pasture. Or at least given to the kid to use. And a sleek used road bike will take her place in the near future. Next pay day.  😉

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Today’s topple onto my bum be damned! I’m going to get the swing of this thing. Two walked hills, a thrown-but-fixed chain, and a pocketful of swearing out loud  later, I made it 26 miles last week. All the old disgruntled farmers can honk at me again if they please. I’ll strap a big red triangle on my back and keep laughing at their rudeness. Though I don’t want to keep gauging everything in distances, it was a small milestone for me, especially since only my stabilizer muscles hurt this week. Yoga with a dowel rod soothed my calves, and hip-openers somehow stretched those lats outs southward laterally. 

I’ll keep learning new things along the way. I need to quit worrying so much about all the road litter. Some people are just inconsiderate jerks. I can “give a hoot” and not pollute while trying to follow a new rule of “MYOB,” especially to stay pedal-clipped and upright. I also need to work on other people’s noise not bothering me so much, even though it does. Cycling safety means no earbuds, so letting the birds serenade me might mean I don’t get hit by a passing car.

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Tonight might require a few OTC pain relievers, but that’s okay, because I didn’t take any all week. I just winced if it stretched forward, backward,or sideways. Pretty much winced if I stretched at all. And there’s a big illial/buttock contusion will likely bloom overnight, but oh well! My rotations may be baby steps to others, but they’re big to me. Having the assurance that Mary, the woman who manages the marina near our home where I practice ride hills, will call EMS … or at least roll me off the road, as she laughingly told me … makes me feel a smidge better. I’m gonna get this.   

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What else can we do?

morning sun

After completing 36 sun salutes on Thursday night and 24 the night before to celebrate summer solstice, thanks to the three-minute plank-off queen Rosemary Cross, I got back in the saddle yesterday to stave off the calf muscle cramps I’ve woken up to lately. My body’s getting stronger, right?

I marvel at a passing neighbor and how she keeps such superhuman pace. By all appearances she seems better than the lukewarm response at my inquiry into her morning so far. She replies, “I’m moving along. What else can we do?” I hope to do half as well as her octogenarian self at that age. 

Three little birds on a telephone wire spy on me from above, as if Bob Marley’s prediction comes to life, and I scold a previous me having tossed cans out the car window in a seeming previous life in hope Lake Ozark aluminum recyclers might benefit at my delinquency. Bemoaning that mistake in the last half of my life is weak penance for all the aluminum I now see strewn along the roadside.   

litter irony

Beyond all I notice on my bike “training” route, I still flinch at the thought of attempting 150 miles this autumn. My stretch up and down this trek remains arduous as well as my attitude toward it.   

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I see you smiling at me, woman at the crossroad stop sign … is that derision or is my face as red as it feels? Let’s both hope it’s only oxygen rushing to my brain, and first responders don’t find your mini-van’s tire tracks across my mangled remains in the ditch some future day. That’s why I’m on the county highway, not only tracking my so-called mileage progress but making sure my mangled carcass is found so my family can claim it at the morgue. Gallows humor does little to help lighten the current mood. And Bob Seger’s chorus resounding in my head reminds me running against the wind is likely prescient for our future team route.

The universe continues teaching its lessons. I now realize first-hand what the saying “kick it into high gear” really means though I’m not great at doing so. Staying visible in the curves is tantamount to keeping the legs in motion, though I’ve yet to actually “clip in,” still scared to make that pedal commitment.

Yet each time the fly-catcher stays empty is a successful ride indeed.    

 

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Ebony & Irony

Me and my black bike are still at it, though my own words have come back to haunt me. I told my friend Joedie to go travel as much as possible while it was possible. She has the terrible misfortune to have Multiple Sclerosis. I gave her my unsolicited advice several years ago to see as much of the world as possible, starting with a Las Vegas trip she considered taking. “Girl, go down that strip on your own two feet in case you ever end up in a damn wheelchair” (I’m paraphrasing from memory, here). She’s since taken a couple road vacations  that I know of and seen both the mountains and the beach.

How could I push my opinion off on her like that without heeding my own urging and put my butt on a bike saddle instead of the recliner where it’s usually perched? Now I’ve committed to doing the MS150 Ozarks in September 2019. One hundred and 50 miles in the less-challenging yet still formidable rolling Ozarkian mountains. I now contend perhaps I should be committed.

“Training” is happening, if not at break-neck pace. I use the word in quotes, as I’ve never trained for a darn thing in my life. Past efforts amount to being an athletic supporter, aka high school cheerleader a bazillion years ago, and yogini at present. Yet I continue getting all geared-up for the current biking venture by buying triple-link pedals and gloves yesterday. My new Schwinn helmet came in the mail, too. Prince could have gotten me the old  purple one, partying like it was 1999. It WAS 1999 when I got it. 

And in case anyone asks or even mentally assumes it (you know what Buttermaker said about assuming, right?), this effort is not just a shopping opportunity. All my sporting exploits have consisted of movie-watching and admiring dudes in various tight pants at Kaufman and Arrowhead stadiums.

More of my soapbox harmony is also back in my throat. Kinda stuck there, as a matter of fact. In Kansas City the recycling community used the slogan, “If we all do a little, we’ll all do a lot.” I chirped that as a mantra or sorts. So now I witness a plethora of discarded trash along my so-called training and began to accept some personal responsibility to my community in this setting. Instead of simply singing “Give a hoot, don’t pollute” ala Woodsy the Owl in my head, I usually find a disgusting plastic bag discarded along my route and collect somebody else’s McDonalds or Taco Bell trash, even a housing insulation package and though of my grandpa and his favorite cartoon when I saw the Pink Panther on it blown away by recent storms.

If we all do a tiny bit, we can all do a collective lot. It starts with one. While I’m blasting my quads and thinking of Flo from the Progressive commercial doing the same, I laugh while trekking down the terrain and hope not to face-plant. Neighbors might wonder about that crazy biking woman and grab their phones in case I need an ambulance. Continue reading

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Farm Road Wisdom

Even though sunrises generally took place in my long-ago Girl Scoutian past, my friend Kezia thinks she’s going to turn me into a morning person. That woman coaxed me into believing the far-fledged notion I could potentially drive 150 miles at my pedal power propulsion. I asked her, “WTH, are you kidding me?”

She was not kidding. She could sell ice chips to a polar bear.

The road teaches you a few things. Not so much in a Jack Kerouac sort of way, but early-morning bike rides impose both mental and physical training. My past involves lots of the former but none of the latter. Let me just say if I ever wanted to go on a run, it was down the driveway to get the mail.

Step one meant attending an informational meeting. Kezia had me at “Best of Luck Beer Hall” FB invitation. How prescient that name may become. It’s like the universe cursing me and laughing under its breath all the while. “Ha, ha, ha, you mere mortal. Dare you contemplate this ride!”  

I’ve tentatively accepted the challenge. Can I cobble — better yet, maybe cudgel — something out of that chaos?  

Things I’ve learned over the last two (morning) six-mile bike trips:

  1. Girl, you don’t know what training means. Better “brace up,” just like Momma said!
  2. Shut your fly-catcher. Open-mouth breathing can do some damage.
  3. In through your nose, out through your mouth. Just like in yoga, breathe like you heard a dad tell his kid at the recent Almost5K you walked. (That’s right, “Almost5K,” and “walked.” No shame in my game.)
  4. When taking pix along the route, trust your gut in assuming it’s probably not a good idea to snap a quick shot at a house with “NO TRESPASSING” and “PRIVATE PROPERTY” signs out front.  That lonely beater car out back almost covered in weeds didn’t get there by accident, and the purple plastic tape around poles doesn’t only mean no hunting.
  5. Instagram isn’t everything. Don’t flood your feed with multiples you find cool. Not everyone thinks an ironic Axe Spray container in the ditch is as funny as you do.
  6. You are not that funny … just funny looking on a bicycle at 6:30 am raising a leg over the crossbar to walk a country road incline while laughing at yourself.
  7. Mother Nature gives you a church in every second of silence that only birdsong breaks.  

Lucky seven. I’m gonna need that luck. Or something. Maybe my head examined.

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