I am not the only one…

DSC01019My coworker had a revelation this week. When I was working with her today she told me her story.

On Wednesday at 4:30 am, she was driving to work when in the distance she saw a red light flashing on the shoulder of the road. Instantly, my coworker became confused.

“It is Wednesday, right? Why is Bri biking to work? She doesn’t work today. ” She thought to herself.

But when her car caught up to the flashing red light, she realized that…

Bri is not the only person who bikes at 4:30 in the morning! Here she had me pegged as this weirdo that was out biking when no one else would. But, as she discovered, there are other biking “weirdos” like me. Loads of them, in fact. There are plenty of people who love their bikes and will ride them whenever possible, even at odd hours of the day.

And that is why blogging is so much fun. It has enabled me to meet wonderful people all over the world who love to bike. You all are awesome, inspiring, helpful, caring and flat-out cool! I so enjoy reading about your biking experiences, thank you for sharing them. You have taught me so much. It is great to know that there are so many people who are just as (or more) enthusiastic about biking as I am.

And as for the guy out cycling at 4:30 am on a Wednesday morning, ROCK ON!

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Exciting Times

DSC00993At the beginning of the month, I set a tentative goal to reach 700 miles before the end of July. There are still two days left in July and I have already made it up to 700 miles, which makes this month a record setting month for me. I can’t believe I actually did it! Ahh! DSC00985

In other exciting news, while I was biking last night, a cop pulled over to tell me I was “well-lit”. So now my nighttime lighting system is fully police-approved.

Awkward Biking Moments

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This picture is from months ago, when I first got my road bike. I was babysitting and the kids wanted to try out my new ride. A four year old took this picture which may explain why it is slightly…awkward. But don’t worry, she still has a few years to work on her photography skills. Come to think of it, this is better than the majority of my photos. Maybe I should hire her as my personal ride photographer and pull her along in the green trailer.

Last night, my sister, brother and I went to a fair together. I only hung out for a bit since I had to work in the morning so I soon ditched them, picked up my bike (which a friend had kindly allowed me to park in their vendor booth) and walked through the fair until I reached the street. Then I rested my bike against a wall while I swapped my sneakers for cycling shoes.

As I was doing so, an older man walked past me, looking at my bike all the while. I swear I caught my bike preening a bit under the attention. Cycling shoes affixed to my feet, I set my bike on the road and clipped my right foot in. At this point I noticed the older man up the sidewalk a bit, leaned against a brick wall and watching me closely.

I pushed my right foot down and then tried to clip my left foot in, but I was starting on an incline so I didn’t have enough momentum so I put my foot down to try again. This time I clipped in after a few precarious wobbles. (I do have a good excuse though, I have new petals and shoes and they are quite different from the old set my dad let me use.)

Finally pedaling smoothly, I set off down the road. As I got near where the old gentleman was standing, a guy approached him.

“What? You can’t make it all the way up the hill without taking a break?” He teased the older man.

“Well, at least I am making it up better than that girl on the bike.” He laughed.

I giggled softly as I past them by. I had to, even if I was the subject his gentle teasing. If only that old dude knew that the momentary fumbling he had just witnessed was tame compared to most of the awkward moments I have had on my bike. What if he had seen me try to flounder through deep snow? Or propel my bike with one leg when it decided to stop working on a subzero ride? Or fall abruptly the first time I used clipless pedals? Or come unclipped when being chased by a dog, legs flailing to find the pedals?

If he knew them all he could write an entire joke book!

I have so many undignified moments on my bike, but it is all part of the experience. I wouldn’t erase any moment of any bike ride even if I could. My bike and I are having a blast this year, so in the end I think we have the last laugh.

Keeping my bike clean.

DSC00937My bike gets really dirty, really fast. Especially on rainy days. And, since my bike is light-colored every bit of dirt, sand, grass and snail (yup, I find snail parts on my frame all the time) shows up beautifully. So I have gotten in the habit of washing my bike a lot. I wash her down every time after a rainy ride and a couple times a week otherwise.

I use the same basic routine shown in this GCN video although I don’t use WD40 as my lube. I must admit I am three times slower than Simon, but I am getting faster the more I do it.

I don’t have a hose outside so after I have scrubbed down my bike I run it up the stairs and stick in my bathtub to rinse it off. My mom did not believe that I gave my bike a shower in the shower until she came to the apartment one day and saw it for herself.

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Shower time!

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The last order of business is to wash off my own hands, because I always manage to get them filthy in the process.

I enjoy taking a few minutes to make my bike sparkle and it is a great feeling to have a clean bike to take on the road the next day. Besides, it is way more fun than giving my dogs a bath, my bike doesn’t stare at me with mournful, pitiful eyes and act like I have betrayed it. I think my Trek likes being clean.

Getting to the root of the problem (takes me a long time).

DSC00881I was biking home from work yesterday afternoon when a piece of metal jumped into my path, bit my rear tire and then flounced away, clattering on the pavement. It left my tire looking sad and limp, but I must admit, I was rather excited. This was my first big chance to put my mini pump to use out on the road. But after removing the old tube and replacing it with a new one, I discovered with a sinking feeling that my “new tube” wasn’t new at all. It was as incapable of holding air as the tube I started with.

Bringing along tools to fix a flat tire  10 points
Knowing how to fix a flat tire              10 points
Bringing a flat tube                            -100 points

I lost the game. So I rolled my eyes at myself for having a spare tube with a puncture and pulled out my cellphone. It was time to be rescued. I hate being rescued. After calling for assistance, I walked my bike over to a nearby cemetery and we hung out together until my dad arrived.

On the drive home, my dad filled me in on all the latest TdF details. Hey, if I can’t ride my bike home at least I can have a conversation about biking on the way home, right? Then I was off to my youngest brother’s soccer game (which he won, yay) and I didn’t get back to my apartment until past my bedtime. So I threw a new tube on my rear tire, pumped it up and got my bike ready for my commute in the morning as fast as I could.

Waking up at 3:30 to find that my tire was suspiciously flat wasn’t a great way to start the day. I scoured the apartment for another tube, I had one somewhere…but I failed to find it. So I hijacked my sister’s bike instead.

I didn’t realized how accustomed I have become to having my feet clipped in. On my sister’s MTB with platform pedals, I had to remind myself to keep my shoes on the pedals. But the good little bike got me to work and back quite nicely.

Then I went down to the local bike shop to pick up new tubes for my bike. I had never stopped in before. The owner is a full-time teacher, his bike shop is something he opened on the side a couple years ago. He was very nice, but oddly he knew who I was.

“You’re the girl who bikes ten miles to work, right?”

Armed with two boxes of brand new tubes (just in case something happened to the first one, with my track record things weren’t looking good) I returned home determined to get my rear tire fixed once and for all. It took me a few minutes but I finally, finally, I found the root of the problem. My tire had a quarter-inch gash in it. I was in a time crunch, I was helping an elderly couple in the afternoon and I had only minutes to spare.

So I called the cyclist hotline.

“Dad, my tire has a gash in it, what do I do?”

Once he told me there wasn’t anything that I could do, I remembered my old set of tires. My dad told me to put the old front tire on until I can order a new one. So that is what I did and then I carefully made my way to the home of the elderly couple. Whew! Who know flat tires could be so much work.

There is a moral to this story.
Avoid hungry chunks of metal on the road.
Or maybe…
My dad needs a pay raise for his cyclist assistance hotline and taxi service.
Maybe it’s both.

Sometimes it takes work to get where you want to go.

DSC00910 (1)Yesterday I had enough time to go for a long ride. After fourteen miles of biking, I decided it was time to figure out exactly where I wanted to go. So I went over to the side of the road, pulled out my map and spotted a lake that I have only ever visited in the winter to go ice fishing. It was high time to see what the lake was like in summer time, I thought.

I went North for nineteen miles into a strong headwind. I am finally starting to get comfortable in the drops so I stayed in them as much as possible until I reached the lake. But when I got to the lake I couldn’t find anywhere to actually sit and enjoy it. All the waterfront seemed to be taken up by private property and I wasn’t sure where I was allowed to go. After about forty-five minutes of biking around, I decided to just head home. After all, it is all about the journey not the destination, right?

But as I went down the road away from the lake, I noticed a lady working in her garden. So I went over and asked her if there was an area where I could access the lake without intruding on private property. For me, that takes a lot of courage. I don’t normally approach random strangers like that. I guess I thought the lake was worth it. She was very nice and gave me directions to a gazebo right on the water.

Following her directions, I went back to the lake and dismounted my bike to walk to the gazebo, relieved that I would get to enjoy the water after all. Until I heard someone shouting at me.

“You are on private property, young lady!”

I whirled around, wide-eyed, to see a lady hanging out the window of a cottage with a very stern expression on her face. Yikes.

“I am so sorry! I was told that this gazebo is open to the public.” I apologized.

“It is, but you are on my property right now.” She stated firmly.

I quickly moved to the gazebo, rather confused. There seemed to be no way to access the public gazebo but through her property. Regardless, I felt triumphant, I had made it to a beautiful spot on the water and I was going to thoroughly enjoy it. (Even though I felt like crying for the first two minutes because apparently I had used up all my emotional strength approaching and then being confronted by random strangers.)

After soaking up the breeze and watching the water ebb and flow for a time, I snuck past the lady’s house to the road and headed home feeling wonderfully refreshed. With a sturdy tailwind aiding me, I flew all the way home.  DSC00915

Ordinary Mornings

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This is actually a picture from months ago, but I forgot to bring my camera with me today…

3:30am
Gentle tones suddenly echoed through my bedroom from a small cellphone, insisting that it was time for me to get out of bed. But I stubbornly rolled over and kept my eyes closed, because I knew that I still had sixty seconds until…

Ah! There it was. The alarm changed from gentle soothing noises to the loudest, most obnoxious tune known to man, yes, now it was time to wake up. Before I knew it I was out the door and on my bike, darting through side streets in the predawn morning, until I reached the state road that would take me to my workplace.

The air had a slight edge of cold. I took a deep breath and looked to the dark, black sky. A tiny sliver of moon shone, dyed orange and gleaming brightly. I followed the light of the moon down the road as it wound its way to the river. As I followed the river, the moon’s reflection appeared in the water, as a smudge of color dancing on the dark surface. Fog rose from the river, spilled onto the road and soon I plunged into it. The beam from my headlight morphed into a cone of lit fog, causing the beam to appear three dimensional.

As I climbed up the hill, away from the river, away from the fog, I heard a car cautiously approach from behind. Many of the vehicles on the road this time of the morning are familiar ones; the milk truck, the blue mini van, the black pickup, the utility van with reflective tape, but the current vehicle, I guessed, was a newcomer to early morning on this state road.

“What are those flashing red lights?” The driver may have wondered. They then solidified their newbie status by passing me with their turn signal on. No one else does that.

I crested the hill, pedaling steadily, shifting into a higher gear for the descent into the little village that lay ahead. Underneath the street lights, I checked the display on my cycle computer.

4:36am.
Perfect. Five miles down, five miles to go and I was right on schedule, no need to hurry. Groves of trees continually tried to obscure the sliver of the moon from my view, but always, as I rode on, the moon lifted above the trees, taunting them from the sky. I realized the sky had turned to a navy blue and slowly the moon was losing some of its orange glow. To the east, I could see fragile hints of colors, purple and pink were cautiously making their way into the sky.

I heard a bird sing softly and hesitantly, as if it was not quite sure if the sun was on its way. But then another bird backed up first bird’s soft singing with a triumphant trill. “The sun is coming, it will be here soon,” it proclaimed into the semi-darkness.

Underneath the navy blue sky, I thought many thoughts. Some were deep, others were silly, a few were sad or frightening, one was exciting, but most were happy, joyful thoughts. While I was consumed with a swirl of ponderings, a van pulled in onto the shoulder in front of me and stopped.

Instantly, my pulse increased its tempo and my senses became fully alert. What was this van up to and what should I do next? But then I chuckled. The van was delivering newspapers, there was no need for raised hackles. On I pedaled and then I went into my drops for a small downhill section. As I moved my hands, I noticed several strands of silk threads stretched across my handlebar. Those spiders! How do they manage to get my bike every single time?

My bike and I sailed down the hill and then came across a herd of cows, sleeping out in a field. They were flopped every which way and in the dim light I could not make out much more than their basic shapes. Onward we went, a fading moon leading the way. Turning a corner, I could now see, laid out, the beginning of dawn and it was beautiful. I began to sing,

“The sun comes up
It’s a new day dawning
It’s time to sing your song again
Whatever may pass
And whatever lies before me
Let me be singing when the evening comes”
From 10,000 Reasons by Matt Redman

I made it my prayer, under the dark blue sky. And then I was biking into town, only one small hill left between me and work. As I climbed it, none other than the giant white dog came out to greet me, his bark reverberating loudly through the sleeping town. I passed by him and a minute later I pulled into the parking lot at work. I tucked my bike carefully into the shed, unlocked the door to the restaurant and took one last, happy look at the eastern sky before stepping inside.

A few minutes later my coworker asked me how my bike ride was. Part of me wanted to spill a load of superlatives like: perfect and magical, stunning and beautiful, exciting and breathtaking, but it didn’t really make sense to say that. If I did, then she might ask why my ride was so magnificent. And what could I say? Nothing about my ride was out of the ordinary, it was just a mundane ten miles to work on my bike. But everything was so special, it always is. It is those ordinary morning rides that I hold close to my heart, the ones where nothing really happens but I arrive at work feeling alive from head to toe.

So I smiled at her and said, “It was good, really good.”