Whenever possible, bike.

DSC00768I have been told that every day is a good day for a bike ride. So I went for a bike ride.

An hour into my ride I decided to stop for breakfast so I went in a convenience store to eat. As I was buying my apple and sandwich, the cashier, a girl somewhere around my age, asked me if I had come on a road bike. When I replied in the affirmative, she told me that she had just bought her first road bike and was eager to try it out.

I smiled. “If you ever want to bike with someone I am always up for a ride!”

She wrote down my name and phone number on a piece of paper, who knows, maybe we will be able to ride together in the future.

It drizzled a bit on the way home, but the heavens decided to save the majority of their fury for later in the day. I was surprised to see a weasel on the side of the road, I don’t ever remember seeing one out in the wild before. The weasel was just as surprised to see me, it slid back into the underbrush before I could snap a picture.

I bike so frequently on some local roads that I know all the potholes and ridges of the road by name. This one I call the “Grand Canyon”, a crack in the road that threatens to swallow every passing bike tire. I have rated it a “7” on the road obstruction scale. Although it is fairly easy to spot and avoid, this geological feature is extremely dangerous to the unobservant. I wonder how many bike tires have been victimized by this yawning monstrosity.

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The “Grand Canyon” from the view of a passing cyclist.

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The “Grand Canyon” from a small rodent’s point of view.

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My tire fits right in, with plenty of wiggle room.

I came home greatly refreshed by my few hours of pedaling. I even managed to go through a section of road work with minimum angst, which felt like a small victory.

So much for a calm bike ride.

When my alarm went off Friday morning at 3:35 am, I crawled out of bed reluctantly. I hadn’t slept well and my body was still fighting off this cold-sickness stuff I have got going on. But at least my headache was beginning to clear up. Thankfully, I was really busy all day at work. I was running around like crazy until two o’clock. But from two to three o’clock, I was dragging like molasses. It was all I could do to keep my eyes open. On days like this, I make myself a promise. I can take as long as I need to bike home.

So my commute home started out calm and gentle, I was just enjoying the wind on my face and the song of the birds. I had only biked about two miles when I saw my mom’s vehicle pull over to on the opposite side of the road. How very odd. She jumped out of the car and started waving me over.

And then all of a sudden my sister popped out of the car! I was stunned.

“Honey!” I called out.

She ran over and gave me a great big hug. I couldn’t believe it! She is really, truly alive* and back in the USA**! It is kinda spectacular.

After talking with her and my mom for a few minutes and making plans for how we were going to spend the night, I waved goodbye and started to bike again.

I completely forgot all about how tired I was and how slowly I was going to bike home. When I am excited, I can’t pedal at a conservative pace. I booked it home, grinning like a lunatic.

*My sister had been gone for 18 months, I didn’t know for sure that she was still real. Sure, she emailed me, but someone could have hacked into her account. Yes, she sent me letters but forgery is a thing. And how did I know for sure when we talked on the phone that her voice wasn’t cleverly prerecorded? As for seeing her on Skype, well, holograms have been used to deceive people before. (At least in movies.)

**She had strongly inferred that she was coming home July 1st and then whenever we mentioned that date, she never corrected us. That is her side of the story, at least. The truth is she lied to us and made us all emotional wrecks by coming home early. I have never been so happy to be an emotional wreak though, so I guess I will forgive her. Maybe.

Ahh! She is really, truly home! My heart is happy.

Hill Repeats (Kinda)

I woke up this morning and knew instantly that something was wrong. My throat was sore, my body ached, my nose was all stuffed up and horror of horrors, I had a headache. Generally, I like to think that I am tough when it comes to enduring aches, pains, bruises and wounds of various types. But when my head is aching? I act like a pathetic, whiny child. My head hurts, obviously I’m dying.

To combat my cold symptoms (because apparently some pathogens think it is the end of January, not the end of June) I went out for a ride in the bright sunshine. I decided to do a series of hill repeats but being in rebellious child mode, I did it my way. I climbed the same hill, four times, I just took a different route to do it each time. Yeah, four times probably isn’t an adequate amount to call it hill repeats, but I am gonna call it whatever I want to call it. (That is the kind of mood I have been in all day.)

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This tree and my cold would make great friends; they both still think it is winter.

I am trying to  learn the proper way to descend a slope on my road bike, going into the drops feels odd and I always wonder if I am actually doing it right. On my first descent, a truck passed closely on my left and started sucking me into its “draft vortex”. I fought to maintain my position on the shoulder which made me swerve into a patch of loose sand. The bike slid a bit and then began to wobble madly. My brain passed on a bit of helpful information.

“You are going to crash.”

It used to be that at the first sign of imminent danger I would freeze up, tense my muscles and grip those brakes sharply – not a formula for success. But over the course of the winter I learned to change my reaction to panicky thoughts. I gradually taught myself that they were actually a cue to keep my muscles loose and to use my hands gently and sparingly, if at all, on the brakes. That training held me in good stead today and by simply keeping my body loose I was able to get my bike back under control.

By the end of the ride I felt so much better, my legs were burning up the last climb and it made me forget all about my headache, at least until I got home.

First place in a horse race.

DSC00750Today I ditched my church. Instead I went up to the church my brother and sister-in-law attend. It was a special day for them; their four children were being dedicated and I simply couldn’t miss out on that.

While I normally get up to my own church by 8am, this church’s service started at 10am so I puttered around my house for a while, feeling like I had all the time in the world. Eventually, I looked at the clock and realized that I should be leaving right now if I wanted to bike the thirteen miles to the church and be on time.

Scurrying around my apartment,  I grabbed an outfit for church and threw on my biking clothes, making it out the door as fast as possible. Once on the road, I gave myself an inspirational speech.

“Move those legs like lightening or you are gonna be late.”

(I am a master of inspirational speeches, as I am sure you can tell.) Moving at as fast a clip as I could muster, I checked the time when I reached the halfway point of my journey. Oh, okay, I was actually going to be early. Sure enough, I pulled into the church parking lot along with the pastor and his wife with a good thirty minutes to spare before the start of the service. What a waste of an inspirational speech.

The church service was lovely, especially the dedication. My brother explained the meaning behind all the children’s name and we all prayed for each child that God would bless them and strengthen them as they grow.

After the service, my entire family had a barbecue at my brother and sister-in-law’s home and we were able to hang out for a few hours together. Hanging out with my family is one of the my favorite things in the whole wide world and it is about to get even better because my sister (who has been gone for 18 months) is going to be back home in ten days!  Just ten more days, I can’t hardly wait!

Then it was time to bike back home. I was pretty full from lunch so I took it nice and slow for most of the way home. But then I found myself catching up to an Amish horse and buggy. There were quite a few cars in back of me so I pedaled slowly behind the buggy while they passed us. When the coast was clear, I made my move into the middle of the road to pass the horse and buggy.

There are quite a few Amish families living in my area, I have seen and passed them on the road many, many times. They are two speed vehicles: I have never seen an Amish horse cruising along the road at any other speed than a walk or steady trot.

But when I pulled into the middle of the road to pass this particular horse and buggy, something weird happened. I noticed the horse trotting a bit faster than a normal pace. Could it be? No way! But then my beliefs were confirmed when the horse broke into a charging gallop. The Amish were racing me!

A grin spread across my face wider than the entire continent of Antarctica. They wanted to race, huh? It was on. With a quick glance to make sure the road was still clear behind us, I swung into action. I pedaled with a hot fury and soon I was in front of the buggy, pacing parallel to the horse. A horse in full gallop is a beautiful thing, but seeing all that power out in full force added with the noise of a rattling buggy was slightly un-nerving. I had a moment of self doubt and slight fear but then I kicked it up one more notch and found myself in the lead. I continued to pull ahead with the horse putting out a valiant effort for a few more moments until it was slowed back down to a walk.DSC00743

As I disappeared from sight around the next corner, I knew exactly what the horse was thinking.

“If I wasn’t pulling this huge black thing, I would have so beat her.”

It has been a perfect day.

Some days are good, some days are bad and once in a great while?
A day turns out perfect.

Today has been one of those perfect days.

I was able to hang out with my sister-in-law and my nieces and nephews which is always a blast. After that, I talked to my brother and a guy he works with. It was a conversation about a idea that I have and after talking with them, well, it might actually become a reality and that makes me so excited I can feel it from the top of my head all the way down to my toes.

And then I biked the fastest sixteen miles of my entire life at 21.8 mph. When I was trudging along at 9 mph this winter I never dreamed that I would ever be able to go that fast. I passed several farm vehicles with ease making me feel like a total speed demon. So fun! Then I arrived home and sweat began erupt from my pores in geyser-like fashion.

Now I am watching a bike documentary and it is quite inspiring and it almost makes me want to go for another bike ride before bed!

Jack of All Trades

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This little guy is killing it!

I really put my new trailer to work today, we went 19 miles together and climbed over 960 feet.

I used it to haul…
-trash
-laundry
-my laptop
-groceries
-two kids

Not all at the same time though, thankfully!

This was my first time hauling my own trash to the dump. Previously, I would bribe my brother with either food or money to drop in off with his car. It might seem like a tiny, even weird thing to finally be able to take my garbage to the dump completely independently, but it made me beyond thrilled. Look at me, my bike and trailer! We can do practically anything!

On the way up to the dump a pickup truck passed me, but slowly, because he was hauling trash as well in a (slightly bigger)trailer. When I got to the dump a few minutes later he told me he was impressed by how I kept up with him. The guys at the dump were really kind as well. One of them helped me carry my bags to the drop-off point and the other dude gave me a break on the cost I was supposed to pay on the bags.
First dump experience = win!

Then I went to babysit and since my trailer is actually a child-specific trailer, their mom was fine with me giving two of my favorite little boys in the world a ride. They are two and four years old and thought it was the best thing ever.

“Fast!” They would call out and I would pedal furiously (in a low gear for increased dramatic effect of course).

With a cry of “Slow!” I would coast, giving my legs a break, which I needed for what lay ahead.

I am a pushover when it comes to cute little kids that I adore, so when they asked to go, “Faster, faster, faster!!!” I coasted down a hill. Not just any hill though. A hill that is fairly short but has a gradient up to 13%. Have you ever pulled a 22 pound trailer with 65 pounds of kids in it up a hill? I never had before and I personally believe that no gears that exist are small enough to make that task easy.

There were two town workers cleaning the road on the hill and they asked me, “Will you be able to make up there?” I told them I didn’t know, but that I was going to give it my best shot. It took everything I had, but I climbed that hill with the best cadence I could muster. I was sweating bullets at the end but it felt great.

After babysitting, I went to the store and picked up groceries. It is so nice to be able to buy whatever I need to buy without calculating available pannier space. My world has changed, I could buy out the whole store and take it home with me if I wanted to!

My new trailer is awesome, with it I can do anything and everything I need to do in my day-to-day life without the help of a car. It feels wonderful!

I don’t mind eating you, but I have to draw the line somewhere.

DSC00608Dear Insect World,

First off, I would like to say that I think you guys are really cool. You are tiny, little things (no disrespect meant, of course) yet you make a huge difference in the world. You punch above your weight. However, I do have a teeny, tiny request to make of you in regards to biking etiquette and insect/human etiquette in general.

I don’t mind when you cling to me and use my shirt or pants as a rest area in between your flights while I pedal onwards, I get it, I am a tempting free ride.

I don’t care if you ambitiously spin webs from railings and road signs, causing threads of silk to become caught on my handlebars as I go past, even if I would advise you to move your construction location a bit further from the road as it really in both of our best interests.

I am not offended by you biting me and sucking my blood when I get off my bike to take pictures of the landscape or an odd-looking flower, but I think it only fair to warn you that my hand may turn into a lethal weapon.

I will not scream in fright if me follow beside me and buzz in my ear, I am a good listener even if your language is a little foreign to me.

I am not bothered if you come out of nowhere and bop me on the nose, leaving it covered in yellow pollen. I find it quite funny, in fact, to stare out of the corner of my eye and see nothing but yellow. Pollen is probably good for my skin or something anyway. So there are health benefits involved here.

I will not think less of you if you fly into my mouth and disappear into the cavernous void beyond. Free protein laden snack delivered directly to my mouth? Does it get much better than that?

I will not become angry if you crawl underneath my shirt and sting me, although you will probably end up dead.

My only request is please do not dive-bomb into my eyes. That should be considered no-landing zone. I know I look like a target and the pupils of my eyes look like the bull’s-eye and it is probably the dream of every flying bug to make a perfect landing there, but it is not good. Not for me and my safety, not for you and your safety as one of your fellow citizens learned quite tragically this morning.

I had only two and a half miles of my morning commute left when Gerof (not sure about the spelling, his tombstone was too small for me to read properly) rapidly came into my line of sight and then onto my line of sight, making my line of sight become quite blurry for a shocking moment. Gerof then scrambled around in my eye somewhere for a brief time, which was painful and irritable to me and deadly for him.

I tried to retrieve his limp body but I was unable to until I reached my workplace (you know the location, a squad of flies are deployed there to storm the fortress of food anytime there is a breach in the defense system) and looked in the mirror to locate him. I do not want to make light of your grief at such a sensitive time, but even though he was dead, my eye looked the worse of the two victims.

Red and swollen, it looked like the eye of a monster (which I suppose you think I am since poor Gerof is dead). But I do not believe I am the monster in this case- my eye could have been spared, Gerof’s life could have been spared, if there was enforced regulation of “The Human Eye as a No-Land Zone” legislation.   It must be done for the safety of eyes and lives everywhere.

I don’t want to threaten you, just gently remind you that more cyclists on the road equals less cars on the road and I am sure all of you have relatives or friends who have met their end on the windshield of a vehicle. Make cycling safer for our eyes and we will make roads safer for your lives.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,
The Red-Eyed Non-Monster

Edited to add
But it turns out the real moral of the story here is (thanks to timely reminders from MG and Jim) that a certain Red-Eyed Non-Monster should always wear eye protection to save her eyes and countless bug lives from utter destruction.