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

file9851344474078

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

file6051296990607

 
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.

Upper Body Update (week 6)

Ten Things That I Loved About My Day

1. The sunrise was breathtaking this morning.
2. I babysat my nephews and niece.
3. I sang silly songs for hours with above children.
4. My niece was super cuddly all morning.
5. I watched my brothers play basketball.
6. They won.
7. I saw a winter biker on our way to the game.
8. I spent time with my lovely mom.
9. I won a “bet” against my brother.
10. I get to snuggle with my little dogs.

201501140252522015011402571320150114025927

Monday Commute

Last night I checked the pressure of my tires and oh my! When I said I lowered the tire pressure I meant it. Both tires clocked in at just above 25 psi! Pretty sure that is a lot less than what the manufacturer recommends as the minimum pressure, oops. I pumped them up to 60 psi, I believe they were originally at 80 psi.

I felt like I was flying on the commute this morning, although it was snowing a bit the roads were clear and my tires actually had some air in them! While at work the owner’s husband came in and started playing around with my headlight, he nearly blinded my boss. Then he asked me lots of questions: where did you get it, what kind of batteries does it use, how long does it last, etc. I love talking to people about my equipment, maybe someday one of them will feel inspired to bike.

Outside it continued to snow lazily through most of the day. When I see those big, fat snowflakes float gently to the ground all I want to do is go outside, lay down in the snow and watch them fall. But since I am such a responsible adult I resisted the urge while I was at work.

I hit the road at 4:00pm, the shoulders of the road were covered in snow,  but visibility was decent so I took the lane. I stopped to pick up some stuff at the grocery store, the guy in the pickup truck next to me asked, “You got snow tires on that thing?” Winter biking is a great conversation starter, apparently.  The side roads I took to reach my apartment were covered in a snow/slush mixture and at 60 psi my tires had more traction than at 80 psi but I still fishtailed a bit. I am guessing that in snow 40 psi will work well. Now I just have to buy a portable bike pump so that I can adjust to the ever-changing road conditions.

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

Weather
30F, 10 mph Southwest wind, light snow

I wore
Head: balaclava, ski goggles,
Torso: thermal undershirt, rain jacket
Hands: knit gloves
Legs: yoga pants, rain pants
Feet: socks, boots
Comments: My face overheated from the balaclava but did I bother to stop and take it off? Of course not! Do you realize what a difference decent tire pressure makes? I was so happy to be flying along that nothing in all of creation could have compelled me to stop that bike.

From work plus grocery stop (10 miles)
4:00pm to 5:10pm

Weather
28F, 3 mph West wind, snow

I wore
Head: rain jacket hood, ski goggles
Torso: t-shirt, rain jacket
Hands: knit gloves
Legs: yoga pants, rain pants
Feet: socks, boots
Comments: Nice.

Saturday Commute

I have become a controversial figure.

Just before jumping into bed last night I called my boss to see what she was thinking about opening in the morning, since the weather was supposed to be severe overnight. She told me to come into work at 6:30 am.

I woke up at 4:00, ready for anything, which was good because we got another 18 inches of snow overnight. Usually, I take the dogs on a walk before leaving but there was no way their little legs could carry them through several feet of snow. Instead I shoveled out an area of yard for them to walk around in, like a snow exercise pen. At 5:00 I headed out the door.

The roads were decently clear, at least they seemed that way in comparison to yesterday! Just out of town I saw a van stuck in a snow bank, so I pulled over to ask if they needed to use a cellphone or if they wanted help pushing the vehicle out of the snow. Not to brag or anything but my brothers and I are pro vehicle rescuers. I think the combo of a 15 passenger van, circular driveway and bad plowing we experienced in childhood has something to do with that.

But the people assured me they were fine, their brother was coming to help them, so I biked on. The shoulders were still not well plowed so when visibility was good I took the lane. The good thing about lowering the pressure in my tires is increased stability, the bad thing is soft tires make biking slower and more strenuous, so it took me forever to get to work. I am going to play around with tire pressure this coming week to find a good balance between speed and safety.

I caused an uproar at work today. Many of our early morning customers are regulars and they know and frequently discuss my odd biking habits. They knew that I was biking through the winter, but now that the weather has turned wintery for real, they don’t think it is appropriate for me to be out on the roads. I am in the kitchen, of course, but the waitress told me that they were saying that every car that passes me should offer me a ride. Please don’t wish that on me! If I need a ride I have a cellphone and I will call one of the dozens of people that have offered to help me out when necessary. Although I totally appreciate any car that stops to see if I am okay, if every car did it I think I would go insane.

One guy is so concerned that he offered me an apartment close to the restaurant so I wouldn’t have to bike anymore. Even though they don’t approve of my mode of transportation it is nice to know that these guys care about my safety.

By the time I left work the skies were clear. I love cold and sunny winter afternoons right after a snowstorm, the landscape gilded with shimmering white magic. It still took me a thousand years to get home, definitely overdid lowering the pressure. A few people were out walking taking advantage of beautiful afternoon. So I earned a “Good luck”, “You’re brave” and my favorite, a snort of incredulous laughter.

Wow, what a week!

To work (10 miles)
5:00 am to 6:25 am

Weather
10F, 5 mph Southwest wind, snow

I wore
Head: balaclava, ski goggles,
Torso: two thermal undershirts, rain jacket
Hands: new winter gloves
Legs: yoga pants, thermal pants, rain pants
Feet: three pairs of socks, boots
Comments: Got a little warm, vented jacket. In spite of my torso being toasty warm, my legs grew cold, silly legs.

From work (10 miles)
2:00pm to 3:20pm

Weather
10F, 14 mph Southwest wind, 23 mph gusts

I wore
Head: balaclava, ski goggles
Torso: thermal undershirt, rain jacket
Hands: two pairs of knit gloves
Legs: yoga pants, rain pants
Feet: three pairs of socks, boots
Comments: Stayed warm except my nose found the wind chilly.

Friday Commute

MT220937

Okay, this photo isn’t very accurate because road conditions were different, plus I didn’t see a “Sheriff car” but it was the best I could do.

Just when I thought winter biking couldn’t get any better…

All the schools in the area took snow days and my boss decided to close early so I got a partial “snow day” too! And believe me it was a snow day. Starting out the journey home wasn’t too bad.

I made a deal with myself before I left work, if the weather was nasty when I got to the hiking trail I would stop and do some off road biking, but if it was nice I decided it would make sense to take advantage of the clear conditions while they lasted. When I arrived at the trail, visibility was low so I took to the woods.

The snow was a little deeper than last week, in a few places it was up to 10 inches. Biking through 10 inch snow is doable, but starting in it was impossible for me, so I would walk my bike to an area where the snow was not as deep. I took a jaunt through the woods for about half an hour.

Just before heading back to the main road I was struck by the sudden urge to test out a tip I had read online. Lowering the psi of your tires was supposed to give a bike more traction in the snow, and I knew I needed good traction to stay safe on the eight remaining miles. I didn’t have any equipment with me so I took a fallen twig and let air out of my tires until they were decently soft.

As soon as I started off, I realized what a huge mistake I had made. Why in the world had I never tried this before? It made a giant difference in my control over my bike. Fishtailing was almost completely eradicated and when it did occur it was a very lazy and half-hearted fishtail.

Visibility became so low I didn’t dare stay in the plowed lane. Instead, I took the shoulder where the snow was up to six inches deep (I used my fingers to measure depth). I went along slowly and steadily. The falling snow was magnificent and despite the adverse conditions I was thoroughly enjoying my ride. A guy passed me in his pickup and then pulled over to the side. As I came alongside him he asked me, “Are you going to work or are you out for fun?” Neither of these were the precise truth so I went with how I was feeling, “Oh, for fun.” “Holy cow! (He didn’t actually say cow, that is my G rated paraphrase) Be careful, don’t get wasted by a car!” I thanked him for stopping and continued on.

As I was coming up the last hill into town, the sky cleared. And then another car pulled up beside me, a jeep this time. Two guys and the man driving was our county Sheriff. The guy on the passenger side asked me,

“Are you okay, are you good?”

“Yeah, I am great!”

“Alright as long as you are fine…”

At this point the Sheriff gave me a smile and thumbs up.

“Thank you guys for asking, I really appreciate it!”

Oops, I would have said Sheriff or Sirs or something if I had thinking properly, but carrying on a conversation while handling my bike in deep snow is tough! I am pretty happy though, I now know for sure that my local Sheriff is not against winter biking unlike the mayor of a neighboring city.

I arrived home super tired but it is the good, endorphin-filled, satisfied tired of a good day’s ride. It was worst conditions I have biked in so far and I made it and loved it! That feels amazingly good!

150109-145750

Whoa, who is behind the balaclava? A dark, brooding, mysterious….

150109-145925

….um okay. You pull off the balaclava only to be met with this…creature.

To work (10 miles)
3:50 am to 4:55 am

Weather
16F, 26 mph Southwest wind, snow

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

From work plus trail riding (10-11 miles)
12:20pm to 2:35pm

Weather
21F, 18 mph West wind, 33 mph gusts, heavy snow

I wore
Head: balaclava, ski goggles
Torso: thermal undershirt, rain jacket
Hands: two pairs of knit gloves
Legs: yoga pants, rain pants
Feet: three pairs of socks, boots
Comments: Overheated a bit when the wind took a break.

Wednesday Commute

150107-172015

The current state of my bedroom window

I have reached a new low!

I went to work for an extra half day today. The ride to work was, to use a nice term, exciting. Basically I biked through a heavy snow storm with less than 5 feet of visibility on occasion. This is actually much safer than it sounds, trust me. The state road where I spend 90% of my commute is a glorious road any cyclist would be jealous of. It is a two-lane road, but the shoulders are just as wide as a normal lane, so essentially I get a lane of road all to myself, which is extremely comforting in low visibility situations. In addition, when the road are as bad as they were this morning everyone drives slowly, in the center of the road (I got a lane and a half to myself) and most people don’t go out anyway. I was passed by a whopping three cars. My only job was staying upright and staying on my side of the road. See, safe!

The weather itself was so enchanting, there is nothing better than riding through giant snowflakes as they fall from the sky. I rode along vaguely thankful for that summer around fifteen years ago when traveling to swimming lessons was such a drag because the road was being torn up to expand it from a normal two lane country road to a two lane road with super-size shoulders. I remember thinking back then what a dumb thing to do, all that work just to put in gigantic shoulders.

I rode along vaguely thankful that I had stopped on a whim to take a water break and just happened to see that new snow begging to be biked last week, otherwise I would probably be freaking out biking through the several inches of unplowed snow. Vaguely thankful, I remembered the job offers I had almost accepted but turned down to keep this job…thankful that I had decided to go to Brazil and was inspired to commute full-time to work…thankful for those articles on winter biking I stumbled on causing me to question what was possible…

Finally it all clicked. I suddenly realized with clarity that none of these circumstance were by accident. I may have shocked my friends and family with my decision to continue biking through the winter, by God always knew. He knew that I would be a winter biker when I was born, he knew when I was a disgruntled nine year old sitting in a hot car waiting for construction workers to finish expanding a section of road, he knew when I started my current job, he knew when I was visiting Brazil, he knew when I was searching randomly through the depths of the internet.

He knew that I would need some practice in the deep snow before encountering today’s snowstorm. I didn’t happen to miscalculate the time I needed to get to work last week, I didn’t happen to stop for a water break (I never stop for water breaks on the way to work), I didn’t happen to be right by a snow-covered trail that happened to catch my eye. No, it was part of a plan.

God knew. He prepared the road for me and he prepared me for the road.

I continued to bike to work, stunned by this sudden epiphany. Even though Christmas was just two weeks ago I forgot what it was all about. God with us. God is with me and he is also ahead of me, he knows what is going to happen in my life and he goes before me to prepare the way, while continuing to prepare me for the way.

I have spent years of my life afraid of change, of the future, of things beyond my control. Those fears were swept away this morning and if I continue to remember that God knows the future and will prepare me for the future, they will never return.

I wish I could describe what it was like riding in the falling snow, feeling the care of God wrapping around me like protective blanket, nothing I can write comes close to capturing that feeling. When someone comes up to me forty years from now, worried about their future, I will say, “Well I was biking in this snowstorm when…”

The ride home was gorgeous, fresh snow covering the countryside. It was largely uneventful except for one small fact, my record low for winter biking has now officially changed from 9F to 0F. If anyone understood how exhilarating that fact is to me, they would worry. A lot.

To work (10 miles)
3:50 am to 4:55 am

Weather
14F, 14 mph Southwest wind, heavy snow

I wore
Head: balaclava, ski goggles,
Torso: two thermal undershirts, rain jacket
Hands: new winter gloves
Legs: two pair of yoga pants, rain pants
Feet: three pairs of socks, boots
Comments: The temperature was supposedly 6F when I left for work but it was actually 14F, so I overdressed. I decided to leave my jacket hood down which was a great idea, it kept my goggles from fogging.

From work (10 miles)
11:10pm to 12:20pm

Weather
0F, 10 mph Northwest

I wore
Head: balaclava, ski goggles
Torso: two thermal undershirts, rain jacket
Hands: new winter gloves
Legs: two pairs of yoga pants, thermal underpants, rain pants
Feet: three pairs of socks, boots
Comments: Had some fogging issues with the goggles as a result of pulling my balaclava up over my nose, I am getting a better vented face mask in the mail soon, hopefully that will solve the issue. Also, at this temperature if I am not wearing my jacket hood I need to wear ear muffs to protect my ears better.

Upper Body Update

My dogs think it is a great game when I just lie on the floor holding a plank, face accessible for licking. This morning as I was doing some pushups, the girls started play fighting each other when Panzy let out a bark of pain. I went over and she was shielding herself from Shammah, her body stiff with pain. I sat down and she crawled into my lap. I soon noticed her right eye was bleeding, she could barely keep it open. I opened it gently and all I can find is a slight scratch on her lower eyelid. I think she should be fine, but eye injuries always scare me, so I will be keeping a close watch on her to make sure to make sure her eye doesn’t show any signs of a worse problem. Poor little girl.

201501060414142015010604160520150106041247