Friday Commute

At work today I found out that my coworker was talking about my crazy biking habits at the tax office. This isn’t the first time that I have realized I have become a topic of conversation. It is great in a way, maybe it will inspire some more people to get out on their bikes. On the other hand, I have heard my feats exaggerated on two occasions.

One guy was under the impression that I biked fourteen miles to work. Someone else, who I don’t think even knew about my ride in -17, confidently told another lady, “Yeah she bikes in anything, even at -20.” And those are the enhancements I have heard, there may be more that I haven’t caught wind of yet.

My ride home was uneventful until I came into town. I spotted thin tire tracks in the snow beside the road. Instantly I thought they were bike tires, then I saw horse manure and realized the tracks were made by an Amish horse and buggy. Bummer!

But when I was almost home I was shocked to someone riding a bicycle on the sidewalk! First biker I have seen this winter in my county. I would have stopped to chat but it was a boy around the age of ten, so not wanting to be a weird stranger, I settled for a smile and wave which he returned.

To work (10 miles)
3:45 am to 4:55 am

Weather
16F, 5 mph South wind, snow

I wore
Head: balaclava, ski goggles
Torso: two thermal shirts, rain jacket
Hands: winter gloves
Legs: yoga pants, thermal pants, rain pants
Feet: socks, boots
Comments: Nice.

From work (10 miles)
3:50 pm to 4:55 pm

Weather
26F, 14 mph Southwest wind

I wore
Head: headband, scarf, rain jacket hood
Torso: thermal shirt, rain jacket
Hands: knit gloves
Legs: yoga pant, rain pants
Feet: socks, boots
Comments: At first I left my face uncovered but with the wind I needed the scarf to cover up my neck.

I would be missing out.

Last night my mom called me to tell me when she would swing by to pick me up for my brothers’ basketball game. A little while after we hung up I realized that I didn’t need a ride, this game wasn’t in some far off city, it was in a nearby town that I know well. I think I floored her when I called her back to tell her that I would bike to the game, she still doesn’t understand that I genuinely like to bike places.

It always feels awkward going somewhere dressed to the nines in my biking gear, but I was able to slip into the bathroom quickly and change into normal attire. Holding one of my little nieces during the game was super fun. Watching my brothers lose the game after a valiant first half was not so fun.

After the game I changed back into my somewhat damp outfit and got back on the road. I had not traveled far when a truck pulled over in front of me and a family friend who had watched the game motioned me to stop. He tried to convince me to throw my bike in his pickup.

“It is so cold out. Where are you headed?”

“Just back to my apartment.”

“Ha! That is over 10 miles, let me give you a lift.”

I attempted to pacify him by stating that I was not cold, that I love biking in
winter and that I would be just fine. He was not buying it. His frustration was obvious, why couldn’t I just be a normal person and do normal people things like ride in a car?

Finally, after what seemed like an eternity I was able to bike on. But during my ride I thought about what normal people doing normal people things may miss out on while rushing home in their heated cars.

They miss the clear, black sky with the stars dangling so close to earth.

They miss the happy crunch of studded tires through ice and snow.

They miss a time of calm reflection.

They miss the simple joy of watching the glittering snow.

They miss breathing in the crisp cold air.

They miss the warmth of muscles working together to climb a hill.

They miss the exhilaration of coasting down a giant hill.

They miss the sound of the wind rushing past their ears.

They miss the peace of a landscape covered in white.

They miss the little bunny tracks sprinkled alongside the road.

They miss the feeling of well-being that comes after a hour long ride.

You can’t pry me off my bike, I would miss out on too much.

Upper Body Update (week 7)

Guess what? I can do twelve pushups. In a row. Without face planting. I was not expecting that at all. I was pushing myself to do eight or nine in a row this week but I can do twelve! This is way too exciting!

Twelve pushups may be a measly amount to many people but not long ago, I wasn’t able to do a single pushup. Seven weeks ago I could barely push through four. It will be interesting to see what happens in the coming week. Maybe I have stumbled upon a Fibonacci sequence-type thing and next week I will be able to do nineteen pushups in a row. Or maybe the number will plateau for a few weeks.

I don’t really care because I can do twelve pushups. Ha!

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Monday Commute

file2151245044275I try to bike very defensively. My mantra on the road is, “Don’t give cars a chance to hit you”. I don’t care whether I have the right of way or not, my main concern is making sure that I stay safe. That caution paid off this morning.

Most of my commute is on a state road and there are several side roads that intersect it along the way. Vehicles on the state road have the right of way, all side roads have stop signs at the intersections. Regardless of the fact that drivers by law must stop before turning or crossing the road, I always pause when a vehicle and I are coming up to an intersection simultaneously until I know that the driver sees me. Sometimes I feel silly being so cautious, cars stop at stop signs, right? Not always.

This morning about a mile away from work I noticed the headlights of a pickup truck approaching from a side road. I was about to cross the intersection but paused waiting to see what the truck would do. He never slowed down for the stop sign and turned left-right in front of me. My heart started to pound, if I had not slowed down we probably would have collided.

On the way home I paused at several intersections, but this time I did not feel silly in the slightest.

To work (10 miles)
3:45 am to 4:50 am

Weather
32F, 9 mph West wind, snow/sleet/rain stuff

I wore
Head: head band, rain jacket hood
Torso: thermal shirt, rain jacket
Hands: knit gloves
Legs: yoga pants, rain pants
Feet: socks, boots
Comments: It was so warm out!

From work (10 miles)
3:50 pm to 4:55 pm

Weather
25F, 10 mph West wind, snow

I wore
Head: headband, ski goggles, rain jacket hood
Torso: thermal shirt, rain jacket
Hands: knit glove
Legs: yoga pant, rain pants
Feet: socks, boots
Comments: Nice and warm without overheating.

Saturday Commute

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A bit colder than this.

My coldest commute so far.
My slowest commute so far.
My hardest commute so far.

I love Saturdays! I learned a lot about myself today. I am stronger, tougher and dumber than I ever imagined.

At 3:35 after I covered myself in about thirty layers of clothing I headed out into the -17F darkness.

Minus seventeen by itself wouldn’t be too bad but…

-You know how you were told in school that when air is cold it contracts? It’s true. My tires at 35psi yesterday acted like they contained no air this morning.

-My bike has a rule for -17 degree weather. Thou shalt continually pedal. If you stop pedaling for even one split second, you must be punished by the chain slipping off the gear, which you must then stop and reposition.

-My ski goggles don’t really fog up unless you dare to stop and bend down to reposition chain. Then they protest by fogging up like crazy.

-My bike has an additional rule for -17 degree temperatures. All shifting is permanent until the bike decides otherwise. Biking on the second lowest gear of a bike is not exactly fast, in case you never noticed.

-If you don’t fully charge your headlight, accidently leave it on high and spend an inordinate amount of time on the road, it will run out of battery two miles before you get to work.

Usually my morning commute is a gentle, peaceful ride that I enjoy immensely. Today I fought for every inch of road. My legs screamed, my brain screamed, my back screamed, my neck screamed. No matter how fast and hard I pedaled I felt like I was going nowhere. That is because I was going nowhere. My average speed was just above 5 miles a hour. Many people walk that fast.

At 4:45 I called my coworker to tell her that I would be late, but that I should make it before we opened to customers at 5:30. I bumbled slowly on, aware that a single phone call could have me at the restaurant in 10 minutes with no effort on my part. But even though it was rough, I knew I could make it, I knew I wanted to make it. So I did. At 5:25 I rushed into work, performed a quick change act in the bathroom and started cooking breakfast. I cooked breakfast like I have never cooked breakfast before. I think it had to do with the adrenaline still rushing through me combined with the knowledge that I had faced my toughest challenge yet and conquered it.

I pushed myself to the limits of my endurance and I found that I can go beyond that.

I can bike in winter. I can bike in snow. I can bike in sleet. I can bike in storms. I can bike in cold. Living car-free in every season is what I have dreamed of for several years now. But now I am actually doing it! I just have to remember from now on that living car-free is a lot easier if I properly inflate my bike tires.

To work (10 miles)
3:35 am to 5:25 am

Weather
-17F, 3 mph Southeast wind

I wore
Head: head band, ski goggles, balaclava
Torso: two thermal undershirts, soft shell jacket, rain jacket
Hands: winter gloves with liners
Legs: two pairs of yoga pants, thermal pants, rain pants
Feet: socks, boots
Comments: Head, good. Torso, little good warm. Hands, good. Legs, got very cold on the last leg (hehe) on the ride. Feet, stayed warm but then became cold probably as a reaction to my freezing legs.

From work (10 miles)
3:55 pm to 5:10 pm

Weather
17F, 16 mph Southeast wind, 28 mph gusts

I wore
Head: balaclava, ski goggles
Torso: two thermal undershirts, rain jacket
Hands: winter gloves
Legs: yoga pants, thermal pants, rain pants
Feet: socks, boots
Comments: Good stuff.

Friday Commute

It was snowing quite hard on my morning ride but I stayed on the shoulder and arrived safely to work.

By afternoon the roads were clear so I decided to head to a nearby convenience store and put a little air in my tires to make the biking home easier. But even though I put four quarters in and even though the machine made lots of noise, it refused to pump any air into my tires. It was too cold I guess. So I turned around and headed home.

When I was just past the restaurant, the giant white dog appeared. But this time I knew there was no outrunning him, he was too close when I spotted him. I was quite sure that he wouldn’t hurt me when he caught up to me, but to increase my chance of staying safe, I decided to stop and show him that I was a normal person.

I got off the bike, ripped my goggles and face mask off and took off my gloves. Instead of continuing his fast pace toward me, he stopped while continuing to bark at me. I held out a hand and talked softly and firmly while making no direct eye contact. “Hey now, I know you are a big softie, it’s okay, no need to bark.” He walked up warily, sniffed my hand, barked a few more times for good measure and then backed away. I slowly started to walk with my bike down the road and though his posture stiffened he stayed still. Once I was out of gaze I hopped back on my bike and sped off.

Saw a few joggers out with their dog, you rock!

To work (10 miles)
3:45 am to 4:55 am

Weather
28F, 12 mph Southwest wind, heavy snow

I wore
Head: head band, ski goggles, rain jacket hood
Torso: thermal undershirt, rain jacket
Hands: knit gloves
Legs: yoga pants, rain pants
Feet: socks, boots
Comments: Between the snow being so beautiful and biking carefully, I kinda forget how I felt temperature-wise, so I am going to guess everything was okay!

From work (10 miles)
3:10 pm to 4:40 pm

Weather
12F, 7 mph Northwest wind

I wore
Head: balaclava, ski goggles
Torso: two thermal undershirts, rain jacket
Hands: winter gloves
Legs: two pairs of yoga pants, rain pants
Feet: socks, boots
Comments: Stayed warm.

The Best Reason to Drink Just Water

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For over a year water has been my only beverage. I realize this is not exactly normal human behavior but one fact that I have discovered prevents me from drinking anything else.

 

In 2013 I was a your typical twenty-something. In the course of an entire year I drank-

-10 to 15 glasses of lemonade
-10 to 15 mugs of hot chocolate
-half a glass of milk
-3 to 5 bottles of orange soda
-5 to 10 glasses of juice
-some water

That means that in the course of a year I spent quite a bit of money on beverages. Here is my estimate of how much I spent.

-10 to 15 glasses of lemonade (free at work)
-10 to 15 mugs of hot chocolate (gift from Christmas)
-half a glass of milk (drank at my parent’s house after making peanut butter cookies)
-3 to 5 bottles of orange soda (free at work, nice perk, huh?)
-5 to 10 glasses of juice (drank at work, at my parent’s house or while babysitting)
-some water (free from various taps)

So apparently I spent nothing on drinks in 2013, but that is not the issue here. The main point is that I spent 2013 drinking lots of stuff that was not water.

Now compare this to last year, in which I drank only water. My life completely changed beverage-wise. Why the change? How could I suddenly quit drinking everything besides water?

Thank you for asking. One day I  suddenly  discovered a fact that changed my life forever. After my realization I will never go back to my normal beverage-guzzling habits.

The fact I discovered is that water is the only thing I like to drink.

So simple, yet so profound. I decided to take a stand, from this time forward I resolved that I would only drink what I wanted to drink and I only want to drink water. Why all the beverage hate? Let’s do a quick rundown.

Lemonade: Great until I realized that I prefer to eat a slice of lemon dipped in sugar.
Fruit Juice: Usually too sweet or doesn’t really taste like the fruit specified. Why drink juice when fruit itself is so awesome?
Soda: I realize that it is super healthy but it burns my throat and mouth.
Tea: Yuck.
Coffee: People take perfectly good water and then turn it a nasty, bitter brown. This is the definition of water pollution.
Hot Chocolate: I can never figure out a good temperature to drink it at. It is always too hot or too cold.
Milk: I only want to drink it after eating peanut butter cookies, and when you really think about it drinking plain milk from a cow is kinda gross. I just remembered that dairy farms are an important part of my local economy. I love milk, I just don’t choose to drink it. Got milk? Get some more.
All other beverages: I don’t care if I never tried you, I don’t like you, deal with it.

You probably think I am a really picky person but that isn’t true when it comes to food. My food hate list is short it includes only liver and blue cheese. Anything else that I have eaten I would eat again; chicken feet, squid and bone marrow are great.

Away I go through life, a twenty three year old who loves food but despises drinking anything besides water. This should be interesting.