When Bees Go Berserk

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Today I rode home in a gentle rain and there are rumors of snow for tomorrow, which is quite a contrast from the warm sunny days we had on Saturday and Sunday.

On Saturday when I arrived home from work, I was instantly lured to the patch of crocuses once again. This time I noticed a flurry of activity; there were dozens upon dozens of honey bees swarming the flowers.

Honey bees are so diligent and industrious in their collection of nectar and pollen, I enjoy watching them and I always hope a bit of their solid work ethic will rub off on me. On Saturday though, the words “diligent” and “industrious” did not describe these insects. Words like “frantic” and “hyperactive” were much more accurate. These bees had no chill.

I don’t blame them.

At least in my mind, I imagine the existence of a bee to be something like this…

Winter comes and for endless months the bees are cooped up in their hive. There is nothing to do but eat, sleep, stare at the endlessly hexagonal honeycomb and trade yarns about past adventures in the wide, wide world.

By the end of winter the bees are all irritated and antsy, having been infected with an acute case of hive-fever.

But one glorious day a few bees that went on a scouting expedition return buzzing with excitement.

“The flowers are back!”

Instantly, the hive is in an uproar  and the bees wiggle their way out of the honeycomb and launch themselves into a bright blue sky. The sun warms their wings and the breeze guides them gently onward. Flying as fast as their winter-weakened muscles will allow, they speed on in the direction of the flowers. (Well, they hope they are: everyone was so excited that they didn’t really bother to pay attention to the instructions from the scouting bees.)

After what seems like a never ending flight, the bees finally spot the flowers. Naturally they make a…well, you know; beeline for them. As they approach the crocuses, a heady, intoxicating smell greets them.

And that is when the bees go completely, absolutely berserk.

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Guess what came in the mail today?

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One of my brothers has been living out in Colorado for the past few years and although my sister and parents have gone out to see him, I haven’t had the chance to visit him yet. But this summer my brother Noah and I have decided that it is high time to get a move on it and go to the great state of Colorado to visit our brother. Since it is scientific fact that cycling is the best method of transportation, we are making preparations to bike out west. (You can’t argue against science after all!)

Today our maps came in the mail from the Adventure Cycling Association and I am beside myself with excitement. We are going to ride down to the Erie Canal trail and take it to Buffalo, then hop on the Underground Railroad route and follow it until we reach the Trans America. Then we will stay on the Trans America trail and eventually arrive in Colorado (if we manage to follow the maps properly). Here is a rough sketch of our planned route, starting from where we reach the Erie Canal.

We are expecting to leave at the tail end of May, so there is a lot of planning to do and much gear to buy. Is this actually happing? I think this is actually happing!

91 Miles of Good Fun

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Today turned out to be one of those lovely days when I don’t have much planned and there is time to take a long, leisurely bike ride. Awhile back I promised a hill that I would come back and climb it someday, so I set out this morning, just before dawn to fulfill that promise. (As we all know, oaths sworn to hills are legally binding.)

Weather-wise, the day creepily mirrored Dan’s ride from yesterday. There was a light layer of snow on the ground when I left the house and the temperature was in the mid 20’s. I had the best seat in the house to watch the sun rise. As I climbed along a ridge up out of the valley where I live, to my left I watched as the sun rose over the Adirondack Mountains. It was beautiful.

The thoughts rolling around in my head were not so beautiful. My scaredy-cat side was out in full force, masquerading as common sense. I was going into this ride with two issues:  stiff legs and a minor saddle sore, and part of me wanted to abort my mission and head for home.

But deep down, I really wanted a day out on my bike so I set out to manage these nagging issues as best as I could. I have found the best way for me to get my legs feeling better is to drop down into a ridiculously low gear and just spin it out. And sure enough, 20 miles down the road my muscles decided to get back in the game. The saddle sore was similarly compliant, with a good dosage of cream it stayed calm throughout the entire ride.

It is weird what games my mind will play on me to try to keep me from doing what I have set out to do.

The miles flew by and before I knew it, I was sailing down the hill into the city of Rome. I stopped at Fort Stanwix and meandered about a bit, but I couldn’t really find anything more exciting than biking to do.

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Now it was time to go back toward home and face the hill. It turned out much smaller than I thought it would be, I got in a good rhythm and had almost made it to the top when I had to stop.

It wasn’t because my legs were unwilling to climb any longer. Not this time. It was because an Australian shepherd mix had decided he didn’t want me to climb any longer. He dashed over and staked out the shoulder of the road as his personal territory, barking furiously at me if I dared move an inch.

There was a time when I was bold in the face of any dog but since being viciously attacked a few summers ago, I err on the side of caution (and fear). Grabbing a granola bar, I attempted to appease the creature who was staring me down with fierce blue eyes. Just as I was starting to despair, a gentleman pulled his car over and chased the dog away for me. I was very grateful indeed, although I felt quite silly for not being able to handle the situation myself. Next time, I will be braver…hopefully.

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The rest of the ride home was calm and peaceful, I love it when an hour or two slips away while steadily pedaling. The only part of the ride that wasn’t calm and peaceful was discovering my favorite downhill section of road ever. Technically, this hill is smaller than the one going into the city of Rome but because of the gradient and great road conditions, I was really able to fly down the slope. For those few minutes I felt like a bizarre hybrid animal, a cross between a charging rhinoceros and a soaring eagle.

I know I said this the last time I rode this route but I am going to repeat myself…I have to bike this way again soon!

 

Bursting into color…

Big, soft, white flakes of snow fell lazily this morning, but met their demise on the warm ground. By the time I left work the roads were dry and I could not spot a single trace of winter.

But I did find signs of spring: the birds singing in the air, the warm sun on my face, the streams gurgling with the most ridiculous laughter, animals let out to pasture, the sap plink-plinking into tin pails, and oh glorious joy,

I found crocuses.

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And a random alpaca because I couldn’t say no to those imploring, gentle eyes.

Every Errandonnee Ends Eventually

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The 2016 Errandonnee has come to an end, the twelve days flew right by! Thanks so much to Mary at Chasing Mailboxes for such a fun and friendly competition.

I had a great ride this morning. It began with fighting a strong headwind for 18 miles. Normally I find riding into a stiff wind very demoralizing because it feels like climbing a hill except that the hill is invisible and never ending, but this morning was different. My mind was in the right place (for once) and I didn’t let that wind best me. I knew that the harder the wind blew the more benefits I would reap when I turned around at the halfway point.

Once I hit 18 miles, I made sure the road was empty before making a U-turn. Now it was time to fly.

Wind at my back, exhilaration in my heart I let the bike go at full throttle. My bike and I had been waiting for this, a strong tailwind to transform us into epic heroes. Every time I sprint down a road with the power of a strong wind behind me, it makes me burn with the desire to become a faster, better cyclist. To be able to ride like the wind…but without the wind. I want to be able to tear up the road like this under my own power.

When I came back into town I went to a friend’s house to do a few hours of babysitting. The two kids were filled with boxed up energy so I took them outside and they started riding their bikes around the yard. The tires of these little bikes were quite flat so I took out my mini pump and showed them how to pump up their own tires. The kids were fascinated and ended up pumping up the tires of all of the bikes they could find.

After their mom came home, I was able to get my mini pump back with some gentle coaxing and I went to donate blood. It felt good to donate again and the process went smoothly. (Although I did almost fall asleep at one point. They had me lay down on a cot and since they were busy, no one actually took my blood for 5-10 minutes and I got rather drowsy while staring at the ceiling.)

Then I ran a few errands before eating supper and going to a meeting at church. It was a busy day. And a very good one.

My last three errands were all pretty much in the same place, so I am splitting the distance equally between them to keep them all happy.

Errand 10
 Blood Donation
Category: Wild Card 
Distance: 0.25 Miles
 After biking and babysitting, giving blood makes me feel like taking a nap.

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If you want to be mean, you can just wait until tomorrow because I am not donating blood then.

Errand 11
 Library
Category: Art and Entertainment
Distance: 0.25 Miles
The best way to pick out book sat a Library is to browse around until you find some that jump out at you.

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And one of these books jumped out at me so I took it home.

Errand 12
 Dollar Store
Category: Store
Distance: 0.25 Miles
 People stared when I clomped around in the store like a horse, but I have learned to simply smile back, after all bike shoes honestly do sound funny.

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My Trek doesn’t mind being a workhorse as long as it gets to go fast at least occasionally.

A Mini-Vacation

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I have been working extra shifts for a coworker lately and she offered to take a couple of my shifts in return. The weather forecast said it was going to be a gorgeous weekend, so I asked her to take my Saturday hours.

Friday, after work, instead of going back home, I headed Northwest, straight to the “big city”. My brother lives there and it was time to pay him a visit. Our work schedules are completely opposite meaning that we rarely get a chance to see each other anymore but now, thanks to my coworker, we had a chance to hang out.

The route was a new one for me and fairly flat until the last 12 miles. The sun was beginning to set in front of me and each hill that I crested gave me a new view of the sky. It was beautiful, but my body was achy from working all day and then spending a couple of hours on a bike that it hasn’t quite adjusted back to yet-so I was ready to get my destination.

Just as the sky was at its most brilliantly flaming orange, I climbed up the last hill to find that I had made it. Below me, spread out in the valley was a million city lights. I don’t usually find cities stunning, but paired with the colorful sunset, the beauty of it all left me breathless. I plunged down that monster of a hill, the cold air stealing every particle of warmth from my face, arms and legs.

But it was so worth it to feel the icy fingers of an early spring night because in a few minutes I was swallowed up in the traffic and lights of the city. The adrenaline rush I felt is one of the most powerful I have ever experienced on a bike. As I rode through the city, all of my senses were at full alert and any tiredness that had been nagging at my body moments before had been completely swept away. Before I knew it I was at my brother’s apartment.

He made me supper and not too long after I called it a night and went to bed.

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Saturday morning I made him a triple batch of cheeseburger buns to freeze, which should give him lunches to take to work for awhile. Then we did a bit of shopping around town. I bought a new camera, hallelujah! Ironically, I paid less for it than my current (broken) camera and it is much better quality, hooray for good deals.

After that, we went to a state park on the shore of Lake Ontario and wandered around the trails for a couple of hours. The weather was perfect and we even spotted the first robin of spring on our walk. We had a great time, my brother is ridiculously silly and cheesy, so we get along quite well. (Funny how it is easier to get along with siblings once you all move out and have a place to call your own.)

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Then I rode back home and before long I set my alarm clock on my phone and went to bed. Why is the alarm clock detail important?

Well, yesterday was daylight savings time so I knew if I set the alarm on my phone for 7:15, it would change the time automatically for me. Except that it didn’t. I woke up Sunday morning and puttered around the house thinking I had plenty of time to get to church. I had completely forgotten about the time change so I wasn’t the slightest bit suspicious.

As I was reassembling my bike (I had cleaned it after my ride the night before), I realized that my cell phone and the bike computer were displaying the same time. The truth hit me, I had been pranked by my cellphone. Just as it was all clicking into place, my Pastor called wondering if I had forgotten the time change. Haha, yup!

I rushed up to church, arriving an hour later than normal. Usually I go to church at 8:00 to finish the power point before Sunday school so I had to find someone to fill in for my Sunday school class while I got it all sorted out. Whew!

Errand 8
 Visiting my brother
Category: Social Call
Distance: 68 Miles
 Cities are stunning when paired with a lovely sunset.

Errand 9
 Church
Category: Non-store Errand
Distance: 2 Miles
 Technology is not always as helpful as it is supposed to be.

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Look! I found green grass on the way home from church!

3 Great Things About Spring

berries

I loved seeing this little cluster at the park.

It is possible that by reading this blog you have observed that I am fan of winter. Snow makes me happy, it is as simple as that. But I can’t really be sad at the end of winter when the snow melts and disappears into the rivers and streams, because the end of winter means the beginning of spring.

And spring is awesome.

In the past three days I have experienced three great things about spring.

Biking Buddies
On Tuesday, after months of biking all by my little lonesome, my brother agreed to join me for a ride. I love biking by myself, in my own little world, but biking with a buddy is completely fabulous.

We went to a state park to hang out and take some pictures, I rode home with a huge smile on my face. Thanks man!

thawed river

This is the river I cross every time I ride to work, by Wednesday all the ice had completely melted.

Bare Arms
The past three days I have been riding in short sleeves, it feels great! One thing I adore about wearing short sleeves in the 40-60F zone is that I can really pick up what the air around me feels like. I love the cool pockets of air beside the melting rivers and dark forests, the warmth that comes from passing by a barn and how in every twist and turn in the road the air can be a different temperature. It is especially noticeable at night when I only have the road ahead to focus on.

Then today, I was able to bike in the rain. It felt so great to feel the rain pelt my arms after a winter with multiple cold rains where I had to be bundled up.

foggy day

It was rainy and foggy today.

The Road Bike
I took the road bike out for the first time today. I should have waited until tomorrow when the roads will be dry and clean from today’s rain, but I couldn’t help myself. My road bike was right there, all ready to go and the temptation overcame me.

The first few miles I was a newborn foal, stumbling around on its brand new legs but then muscle memory clicked into place and it was smooth sailing. Oh man, I forgot how fast and quiet this bike is! Since most of my riding (especially in winter) is for transportation purposes, I ride the same routes over and over again. But today biking the familiar route up to my nephew’s and nieces suddenly felt bizarrely short. I feel like the world has shrunk!

When I finally had my “riding no-handed” breakthrough this winter, Jim told me it would be even easier on a road bike. After ten miles of getting reacquainted with my bike, I was ready to try it out. The first couple times I was too timid, I brought my hands up into the air for a second but quickly replaced them when I felt the bike wobble. Seeing the unfamiliar skinny tire in front of me did nothing to build my confidence. But on the third try I took a deep breath, told myself that I could do it and sat completely upright.

Oh my goodness! It felt so stable and smooth and natural that I may never want to ride no-handed on a mountain bike again.

dirty bike

It needed a good cleaning when I got back home.

Three great things and spring has only just begun.

Errand 5
Park Visit with my brother
Category: Wild Card (I am putting this in the Wild card category because it took me by surprise, I wasn’t expecting anyone to ride with me!)
Distance: 18 Miles
Biking with real, living people is awesome.

Errand 6
Commuting
Category: Work
Distance: 20 Miles
When it is so warm out that you have to put ice cubes in your water bottle, you know it’s spring.

Errand 7
Visiting My Sister-in-Law
Category: Social Call
Distance: 26 Miles
How do my nephews and nieces get cuter every time I see them?