Goodbye, Friends. Hello Adventure!

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After work today, my dad asked me how I was feeling. I told him I was feeling sentimental. The past few days have been nothing but a series of goodbyes and even though I know I will be back home before long, I feel so emotional about leaving.

I got emotional saying goodbye to the people at my church, to my Sunday School kids, my coworkers, customers at work…I thought I was holding myself together well until I became emotional while biking my commute for the last time.

Logically, it doesn’t make sense for me to feel emotions for a road but for me this is not just a road. It has been my classroom. This is the road that taught me to love cycling. On this road, I learned how to ride in dark, how to ride in the snow, how to stay warm in cold weather and how to use clipless pedals without falling over, just to name a few things. I have learned about myself, grown in my relationship with God and gained so much confidence while riding to and from work on this road.

But that isn’t why I became teary-eyed on my commute this morning. The reason I started bawling my little eyes out is because winter threw a going-away party for me on my final ride to work. That’s right, there was snow. Oh, it didn’t really stick but for about ten minutes, the snowflakes were falling so furiously that I felt like I was transported back to February. It was beautiful.

And then, after work was over, the wind was strong and the gusts were overpowering and I took it as an invitation to ride home slowly and take time to enjoy the familiar river and the farms, fields and hills that make my commute so unique and beautiful.

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But surging past these sentimental thoughts, is an irrepressible excitement . On Wednesday when I wake up, I will do something rather ordinary. I will hop on my bike and pedal down the road. But this time something will be different. I won’t be back home before the day is over. Instead, my brother and I will continue to follow that road (and many other roads).

And if there are no major disasters…
And we remember the difference between East and West…

…We will end up in Colorado with our brother.

Only two days left until “GO!” time, the next time I post we will be on our way. Thank you to all of you for your encouragement and support in this adventure, it means so much to me.

 

 

That Week Flew By!

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Oh my, is it really Monday already?

Here are a few things that happened during the past week…

Moving Back Home
With the help of my family I moved out of the apartment and back to my parent’s house. I am staying here until my brother and I leave to bike to Colorado on May 18th.

A New Commute
With the move, my commute increased by four miles each way, bringing the round-trip total up to 28 miles. The extra four miles are all downhill which is great since I only need to wake up a few minutes earlier to get to work on time. It has been exciting to try out a new commuting distance. Of course, I could have always extended my route if I really wanted to but for some reason I never got around to it.

Testing Out a New Tent
My brother and I set up our new tents (Big Agnes Fly Creek UL1’s) for the first time on Saturday. I was stunned with how fast and intuitive the setup is-if I don’t mess something up royally on the first try, you know it’s gotta be easy! I tried it out overnight, testing out my new sleeping pad and bag in the process. So far, so good!

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Unearthing Historic Bike Computers
I poked around in my dad’s old bike stuff and discovered several interesting gadgets, among them a Cateye computer (still in the box), which caught my eye since I use a Cateye on my bike. This one was a bit different though-solar power, baby!

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Hyperactive Gear Purchasing
I have been a touring equipment buying maniac and the majority of the stuff that Noah and I need for our trip is either here or on the way. My spending spree has been so epic that the bank called to make sure that my account hadn’t been hacked into.

Riding a Dream Bike
On Saturday, I visited a brand new bike shop that opened in the town where I work. When I walked in I mentioned how cool it was that they had a fat bike outside. I was instantly offered a test ride. Do you know how long I have been waiting to try out a fat bike? It feels like decades! So I rode that sucker around the block with a stupid grin on my face. It is not a question of if I will own a fat bike, but a question of when.

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Getting Pre-Trip Jitters
I have been thinking about this tour since last October and talking about it to friends and family since December, but now that I have moved out of my apartment and I am testing out all the new gear, everything finally seems real and a swarm of butterflies have made my stomach their new home. Today at work the new schedule was hung up and my name isn’t there anymore, what a bizarre feeling. My emotions are all over the place. I am so excited! But also so nervous!

I have a sneaking suspicion that I won’t be able to calm down until my brother and I actually head toward Colorado…maybe we should leave tomorrow.

Eeyore Brain

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Today has turned out to be a very dreary spring day, complete with dark, foreboding clouds and steady rain. My ride to work was nice however, mostly because I had a friendly tailwind encouraging me for the entire ten miles.

As my workday came to a close I started dreading the journey back home. The more I thought about it, the more reasons I came up with to feel dismal and rather quickly I developed a full-blown case of Eeyore Brain. I had become dramatically pessimistic about everything: the dark day, the cold rain, the energy sucking headwind, my stiff quads…I just felt so tired.

While I was gingerly pulling on my damp cycling clothes, I decided that my ride home was going to be awful and that I would simply have to grin and bear it.

The first few minutes of pedaling down the road fulfilled my prediction of doom. I don’t know why but my quads became very sore while at work today and my legs simply did not want to move once I got on my bike. Combining that with the gloomy weather, the only thing that kept me moving down the road was the force of habit. I settled in for a slow, plodding ride home.

But my little bike had some tricks up its sleeve. It wasn’t long before it started nudging me,

“Hey, this wind isn’t that strong, we can go faster than this.”
“Your legs aren’t stiff as you think they are, you drama queen.”
“Look! Puddles!”

When people tell me it is nasty weather out and that I shouldn’t dare to ride my bike, I usually tell them that, “The weather outside always looks worse from the inside.” It is a statement I have found to be true. No matter how awful a day seems to be, once I am outside, riding my bike, any weather becomes at least somewhat enjoyable.

But today my Eeyore brain refused my acknowledge this truth. Thankfully, my bike was willing to step up the plate and remind me.

From then on I enjoyed the gentle rain and softly blowing wind. The air was filled with the joy of spring. Before I knew it, my bike and I had made it home.

Choosing the Wrong Bike

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The weather is cold and the beautiful snow has returned.

On Sunday we got a light cover of snow overnight and into the morning. Instead of melting off during the day, the snow stuck around as all proper snow should do.

When I woke up Monday morning, I noticed that another thin layer of snow had fallen overnight. It wasn’t enough to cover the road so I foolishly decided that it was alright to use my road bike to commute to work.

Four miles down the road, I finally realized that I that made the wrong choice. The farther north I went, the thicker the layer of snow on the pavement became and the sky was adding to that amount very rapidly indeed.

I love riding in snowstorms and over the past two years I have become confident in handling my bike in snow but I have always used my mountain bike with wide, studded, knobby tires. Now I found myself in a snowstorm on a road bike with two very skinny, very smooth tires. Yikes.

What if I hit a patch of ice, would I smash into the ground without any warning?

I started singing a song that always gives me perspective when I am feeling afraid while riding.

Being a cyclist, I change the words slightly. I sing the chorus like this,

I don’t ever, ever, ever
Bike alone
You are with me, for me
Always holding on.

It is amazing how focusing on God and His love can drive away my fear. I began to see the reality of my situation: yes, I was not on a proper winter bike, but with the wide shoulders and desolate roads the only thing to worry about was falling over and with the amount of clothing I was wearing it probably wouldn’t be that bad…hopefully. And I knew that if the snow became too deep for me to handle I could always ask my coworker to pick me up.

As I continued to bike along, it hit me. This might be the very last snowstorm I get to ride through until next winter. I became a bit emotional. Though I enjoy every season, winter is undeniably the greatest of them all, snow makes the world a wonderful, magical place and I am going to miss that magic.

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So yes, I went from being scared about riding in the snow to being emotional about the end of winter within a few minutes. It is probably a good thing that I have never claimed to be a completely rational human.

I made it to work completely fine. There was no sliding, no slipping, no scary moments. My bike, on the other hand, was a complete mess. The poor thing was practically crying,

“Look what you have done to me!”

After I got home from work, I gave it exactly what it deserved: a very thorough cleaning.

Although everything turned out alright in the end, I won’t be taking my road bike on any more snowy adventures…my mountain bike is clearly angry about missing out.

 

 

 

Getting Pranked By My Bike

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A sure sign of spring, the sheep are escaping out of their pens at Fence Fail Farm

 

Ahh….good ‘ole April Fool’s Day. I am not much of a prankster but this is the one day of the year that I try my hand at tricking people. The apex of my achievements in pranksterdom was when I made homemade bagels for my family. Special cheddar cheese and chive bagels. They looked rather yummy, if I do say so myself, but I had secretly poured so much salt into the dough that they were entirely inedible.

At work, I also try to come up with a few harmless and creative pranks each April Fool’s Day. I have been lucky so far, each year my work schedule has allowed me to set up the pranks on March 31st, but actually be off work on the 1st. For three years I have been pranking my coworkers without ever being pranked myself.

This year, however, the tables had turned. I went into work this morning knowing that I was about to receive payback for my devious deeds. Sure enough, my coworkers had sneakily sealed up some of the squeeze bottles, replaced a few of the raw eggs with hard-boiled ones and put objects in the commercial toaster so that when I turned it on, the objects came clanging merrily out. It kept me awake this morning!

But I must say, my bike pulled the most absurd prank of all.

I bought a new computer for my bike (the old one kept glitching) and last night, I assembled it all together and got everything properly configured.

This morning as I started biking through town in the light, warm rain, I noticed that the speedometer was showing double the speed I usually travel at. I was going 30 mph through town, just like a car! By the time I got to work my max speed during the ride was 64 mph and according to the display, I had gone 20 miles. Oh dear. I decided that I must have put in the wrong tire size when I was setting the computer up the night before…

It wasn’t until an hour before my shift would end that my brain finally woke up and I realized that I had forgotten to do something very important when I took the old computer off. I felt extremely silly but after making a small adjustment to my front wheel, the computer worked just fine for the ride home.

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If it takes you less than nine hours to figure out what is wrong with this wheel, you are heaps smarter than me 😀

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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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.

Errands to Run

 

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These horses were running away from me, not because I was scary but because they are doing the running version of the Errandonnee this year. They have errands to run!

The Errandonnee has begun!

 

Yesterday, I ran my first errand-bringing up a jello salad to my church for a funeral dinner that is being held today. Since the salad was in a large bowl, I used my bike trailer to give it a safe and gentle ride.jello salad

My bike likes going to church. While all the cars have to stay out on the parking lot and endure the rain and snow, my bike gets the VIB(Very Important Bicycle) spot. I ride my bike right up to the entrance and lean it against the building where it stays nice and dry no matter the weather out.bike at church

Then today I rode back and forth to work. I also rode back and forth to work yesterday, but I couldn’t take any pictures because the shutter on my camera refused to budge. So now I am using my old camera which has an annoying scratch on the lens. I apologize for the weird blur on all the photos, I will work out a solution as soon as I can, or else I will go bonkers from having to deal with the blurriness.

I had a beautiful ride in to work, the sky was bursting with glittery stars and the moon was a stunning orange crescent. The temperature was close to zero and the crisp cold air felt wonderful.

Throughout the day the temperature rose until it reached 26 degrees for the ride home. The sun was out and shining brightly and there was a gentle breeze.

If the weather forecast is to be trusted we are going to have a warm week. Tonight I am going to take the studded tires off my mountain bike and put on a pair of smoother, hybrid-ish tires. My bike and I should be flying tomorrow!ice

Errand 1
Deliver Salad to Church
Category: Non-Store Errand
Distance: 2 Miles
Big bowls of food may not fit in my panniers, but a bike trailer is up to the task.

Errand 2
Commuting
Category: Work
Distance: 20 Miles
Cold, clear night skies are the best!

Where did Febuary go?

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I saw the first tapped trees today. So either spring is here or the maple producers are as confused as the rest of us.

“Leap Day”, despite being such a rare day and all, did not turn out to be very exciting. In fact, it seemed like any other Monday and even worse. My workday dragged on and on, and without even realizing it I had become a grump. The wind was out in full force and I knew it would be fighting me all the way home so I had already come to the conclusion that it would be a miserable ride.

Finally my shift was over and I walked out the door with aching legs and a tired body. Usually I can’t wait to hop on my bike and pedal home, but yesterday I really did not feel up to the task. But I told myself that I could go as slow as I needed to and eventually I would make it through the howling winds.

But as I started down the road I slowly began to realize…
I was not tired.
My legs had stopped aching.
The wind had died down.
And it was a beautiful day.

For the first time in several hours I could feel a genuine smile spread across my face. Sometimes I forget how reinvigorating a bike ride can be!

And now a new month has arrived and I haven’t the slightest clue how it will play out. It could be cold and snowy or unseasonably mild like the rest of the winter has been. I have high hopes for a few more nice snowstorms but either way I am excited, I can’t believe spring is just around the corner.ice footprints

I reached 1,100 miles for the year today and I am aiming to have as many adventures on my bike this month as I can, I would love to get 700 miles in by the end of March.

One of the best things about biking in March is the Errandonnee! It begins this Friday and I am hoping I can pull off the required 12 errands in 12 days. It will be fun reading about everyone’s errand adventures, whether they bike, run or do both.

 

The Lowest Temperature Ever Recorded

snow covered railroad tracksLike many (perhaps all?) cyclists I am obsessed with the weather and I scrutinize the forecast at least several times a day. It is how I always begin and often end my day.

This morning was no different. When the alarm started ringing at 3:22, I rolled out of bed and dragged myself over to my laptop to see what type of weather I would be dealing with on my commute.

Sometimes when I check the weather I am thrilled by what I see, other times I am disappointed and occasionally what I see makes me quake in my boots. But this morning was the first time that the weather report made me laugh.

Still half-asleep, I had glanced at the temperature that my local weather station was reporting.

-9999.0

Yikes, that is kinda cold! I decided I should either put on all of the clothes that exist in the world before venturing outside, or refresh the webpage. While I was refreshing the page a few times, the weather station apparently experienced a heat wave and began reporting 16F. Sixteen degrees is downright balmy after that type of cold! So either my town set a record for the lowest temperature ever or there was a slight glitch in the system. Personally, I think we set a record.

After that interesting start to the morning, I had a funny feeling about how the rest of the day would be. But it was a great day. It snowed during my ride to work, great big fluffy flakes-my favorite, and then it was brilliantly sunny on the way home, making the new snow sparkle like diamonds.