Walking to work with my bro.

DSC01813One of my younger brothers moved into his own apartment in the “big city” just a few weeks ago. Last night I called him up to ask if he would want to walk to his workplace with me the following morning. He usually drives the two miles to work but he has expressed an interest in walking so I thought maybe if I showed up it would give him a bit of motivation.

I did the calculation in my head-it is 27 miles to his house, then two miles of walking-he starts his shift at 8:00…I wanted to set my alarm to make sure we had enough time!

Walking took a little longer than we anticipated  and we ended up at his workplace at exactly 8:00. It was great spending a bit of time together, he is such a sweet guy. Maybe we will get the chance to do it again sometime!

It drizzled on the way home but the sun was shining and the smell of the fallen leaves made me smile. Then the shifting cable for my rear derailleur snapped. Yippee! For the last 15 miles of the ride  my bike was effectively a two-speed. Highest gear in the back, big or middle ring in the front. I had to climb any and all hills out of the saddle, with a painfully slow cadence.

After a few miles I went past a field with four Galloway cattle, two of them with striking white belts. Naturally, I stopped to say hi. For a while they wanted nothing to do with me, but finally, after an excessive amount of coaxing, one of them galloped clumsily toward me. The others soon followed. Awww…now I could see their adorable faces up close. Eventually, they went back to their grazing and I went on my way.DSC01741DSC01754

Five miles more and I once again stopped, this time to hang out with some gorgeous horses. They were super friendly. Every time I am around horses, especially draft horses, I am amazed at their quiet strength.

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I am a Belgian Draft Horse. I am quiet, regal and wise.

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Just kidding! I am a big clown!

The road took me past an Amish schoolhouse, where about fifteen pupils were outside playing noisily in the grass. They waved at me, smiling. Then the bell at the top of the schoolhouse began to swing back and forth.

Clang. Clang. Clang.

Recess was over. They scurried inside.

I was slowly grinding up the last hill before home when a German Shepherd rushed into the road behind me. I love dogs but I was bitten on my bike last summer. Now every time I see a dog running behind me I can’t help but be nervous. Without the use of my gears there was no way I could beat the dog up the hill, so I stopped and clipped out, ready to calm the dog down.

But I had totally misjudged the dog’s intent. She ran up to me whining and when I started petting her, she flopped to the ground and asked for a belly rub. Poor thing, I think her owners were out for the day and had left her in charge of the farm. She was lonely.

So thanks to a bunch of friendly animals, the ride home was a great one, even without gears.

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Biking Without a Helmet

DSC01691There is a debate that rages around cycling: helmet or no helmet. Wearing a helmet is mandatory for children in New York State and my parents always made sure my siblings and I wore them. When I became an adult I chose to continue wearing a helmet while biking, a layer of protection between my noggin and the pavement seems like a great idea. I always wear a helmet when I ride-always.

Today, however I experimented with riding helmetless.

My coworker needed Friday night off so she asked to switch shifts with me. I agreed even though I knew it would mean minimal time in-between my Friday and Saturday shifts. So yesterday I worked lunch and supper and then headed home. As soon as I got home I walked my dogs, I washed my bike, took a shower, laid out everything I needed for work the next day and crawled into bed.

At 3:30 my alarm went off. I lubed my bike chain, walked the dogs, threw my biking clothes on, grabbed my bike lights and headed out the door.

I was almost halfway to work when I finally realized-I had never put on my helmet! No big deal, right? Ha. Wrong. When you have been conditioned from childhood to wear a helmet and have made a habit of wearing one every single day it is strange what thoughts will flit through your mind.

“Wouldn’t it be funny if today was the day you crashed?”
NO! That is not funny!
“If you are this scattered brained already, think of all the mistakes you will make at work today.”
Hey! That is not nice!
“See this car, it’s gonna hit you and smash your brain to smithereens.”
Ahh! Stop scaring me!

I felt so self conscious the rest of the way to work. When I arrived at the restaurant and told my coworker she laughed at me. And then she offered to swing by my house in the afternoon and pick up my helmet for me, since she was headed into town to do some errands.

Her thoughtfulness floored me. Time and time again my coworkers prove that even though they love to tease me about my weird lifestyle, they are always willing to help me when I need it. I was a bit hesitant about accepting her offer at first, after all my helmet does nothing to keep me safe when biking-it just comes in handy if I ever do crash-but I decided I was being silly. If she wanted to help me, I wasn’t going to stop her.

At 3:30 pm I left work, helmet placed firmly on my head. And guess what? I still didn’t crash on the ride home!

Hot day, cool night

Yesterday was scorching hot. The sun shone brightly, too brightly and just taking my dogs on a walk made me feel all sweaty. Sure, calling 70 degree temperatures “scorching hot” might seem like hyperbole but last week the weather was fantastic. It stayed crisp and cool every single day and biking out in it felt amazing.

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My personal opinion is that falling leaves should mean falling temperatures.

But fall betrayed me yesterday and the sudden 30 degree rise in temperature caught me off guard. Faster than I had realized, I had gone into cold-weather mode, I simply did not want to bike under a blazing sun.

So I waited until the sun went down and darkness brought a bit of sanity and chill into the air. I chose a quiet country road to ride on, where I knew I wouldn’t meet any traffic. The sky was brilliant, not a cloud in sight. At the top of a hill, I couldn’t resist the urge any longer. I rested my bike against a tree and found a place to stargaze in a grassy field.

Laying down on the earth, staring into the sky, I found myself thinking all of the thoughts that people think of when they look into the night sky.

I am really small.
Earth is really small.
The universe is really big.
How many stars are there?
How many other people are looking into the sky right now?
Are those tiny pinpricks of light really bigger than the sun?
How long would it take to travel a light-year on a bike?
Is that a deer stomping around in the woods?

And of course I cried. For some reason, it is physically impossible for me to look into the night sky for any length of time without tears streaming down my face. I get emotional when I remember that I am just this tiny little blob in an endless universe and yet the God who created it all wants to have a personal relationship with me.

After a while, I started feeling a bit chilled from being inactive in the cool night air. I bid my farewell to the twinkling stars and the deer in the tree line before heading down the road again. However, I could not tear my eyes completely from stars and soon I saw a lone meteorite making its journey across the sky.

Then I saw a car coming down the road, headlights bright and glaring. There are two ways that vehicles put me on high alert when I am on the road alone at night. If they fly down the road like they own it, that puts me on edge. If they creep along the road, that also puts me on edge. I am picky about car behavior, especially at night-anything out of the ordinary makes me wary.

This dude was driving too slow. As he passed me, he rolled down the window and asked me if I had seen a black dog running around. Which could be taken as a sketchy question, if we are being honest. But I could tell from his tone of voice and demeanor that he was actually looking for his lost dog.

“What size dog is he?” I asked.

“Well, he is a black lab.” He replied.

“Yeah, I haven’t seen any dogs but I did hear some animal moving in the trees up the road-but I am guessing that it was deer or something.”

With that, he thanked me and drove off. Yes, it was a boring interaction, but truthfully speaking sometimes I like boring interactions. Hopefully he found his dog without too much trouble.

I made it home and carried my bike upstairs thinking it must be rather late. Nope, it wasn’t even 8 o’clock yet. Silly daylight savings time.

Making the most of the 2015 election.

DSC01681My bike and I ran some errands around town this morning, making a stop at the fire hall to vote. Election day is exciting. Well, at least I was excited about it until yesterday. Then I realized that we have one more entire year to endure the mudslinging and empty campaign promises of the 2016 presidential election.

Not cool.

When I stepped into the voting booth this morning, I decided that I did not want another year of endless political campaigning. I made up my mind. I was gonna stop whining and do something.

DSC01687So I took my ballot and wrote in another column. This is a free country. I figure if we can “write in” candidates, we can certainly “write in” columns!  In my newly invented presidential election column, I penned in each major party with the candidate that is most likely to win the primary. Then I spent a few minutes in deep thought before shading in my selection.

The final step was feeding my ballot into the voting machine.

Boom! The 2016 presidential race is over! That was easier than I thought.

Naughty, Naughty Sheep

My local area boasts a number of small, family run farms. Many of these farms proudly display their name on a sign out front.  On the road I use to commute back and forth to work, there is a farm without such a sign. That is okay though, because in my mind, this farm has a name. Over my years of commuting, this farm has become known to me as Fence Fail Farm.

I am not completely sure what the situation is: either the farmers have no fencing skills or the animals are brilliant escape artists. Maybe it is a combination of both, I don’t know. But I know one thing for sure. On Fence Fail Farm, the animals escape their pens whenever they feel the need to do so. And apparently, they feel the need to do so most of the time.

This farm has become the backdrop for many interesting scenes in the past few years. There is often a ATV roaming around the barnyard, herding the livestock back into their assigned places. I have had the opportunity to route an entire herd of cows simply by saying, “Hi there!” (The stampeding cows then frightened a herd of wayward sheep, so really I killed two birds with one stone that day.) I was also able to bike alongside a cow that had chosen to clomp along the road.

This farm is exciting. Every day that I pass by, the chickens and donkeys and sheep and cows and dogs and pigs seem to be hanging out in different locations across the countryside. (Well, I haven’t seen the pigs in awhile, I think they are finally being contained successfully. In a freezer.)

Today was no exception. The sheep had chosen to graze right by the road.

“Guys, what are you doing?” I asked sternly.

Animals are great. They can graze peacefully by a roadside for hours while cars and trucks rush past, but let a single cyclist pass by and…

“Ahh! It’s a thing! We are going to DIE!!!”

These sheep, predictably, had this reaction when they saw me after turning to the sound of my voice. They scrambled back to the safety of their pen, beginning to leap over the sagging wire fence, one by one. It was a hilarious sight and I pulled out my camera to capture the moment. Alas, it was at the bottom of my pannier and by the time I had it out, the sheep were all back in their pen, looking at me, eyes filled with guilt.  DSC01657

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This picture is actually from last week, but it is a better picture of this wild herd than I was able to get today.

As I took a few pictures, the sheepdog-a border collie, began to bark at me.

“Hey, I just did your job for you, you should be thankful!” I retorted.

He was not thankful or impressed and he continued barking at me until I left.

Well then. See if I ever herd his sheep for him again! DSC01661