Three Special Rides

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Going on a bike ride makes a day good.
Going for two bikes rides makes a day great.
Going on three rides?
Makes a day practically perfect.

Yesterday I had one of those practically perfect days.

The day started out crisp and cool, just above freezing and I had to take advantage of it. After all, there are not many cool days left, summer is dangerously close and so are humid mornings.

First, I went to a friend’s house and we prayed about the trip together which was a huge encouragement to me. I feel so much support from friends and family.

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On my morning ride I met some cows.

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It took some time, but finally this cow became curious and trotted over.

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What is it?

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It tastes good!

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We quickly became friends for life.

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But Mr. Bull did not want us to be friends for life. Uttering my apologies, I took my bike and left.

 Then I rode up the road which my and brother and I will be taking to leave to Colorado. After 10 miles though, I turned around and headed back home.

It was surreal to think that in a week’s time Noah and I will ride up this road but there will be no turning back. We get to ride new roads, mile after mile, day after day.

I almost broke down in tears as I flew down the hill into the little valley I am proud to call home. I feel blessed beyond belief that I am in a place in my life where a trip like this is possible. It is even crazy that this is something I want to do! Just a few years ago I despised all forms of exercise but now I have discovered the joy of exploring new places on a bicycle and everything has changed. And the thing I am most thankful for about this tour is that I get to share it with my brother Noah, it is so amazing that we get to ride to Colorado together.

Speaking of Noah, yesterday was his 19th birthday so for the second ride he, my youngest brother Jono and I went to a pizza place for lunch. It was great to ride with not one, but two of my wonderful brothers. My brother Jono, as always, kept us entertained. He brought along a Bluetooth speaker and at times instructed us to sing along with the music.

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Then a few hours later, it was time to go for a group ride in Croghan. So I rode my commuting route, which always feels weird to ride during the daytime and met up with six other cyclists for a 16 mile ride. I really enjoy chatting on rides and finding out the story of how different folks began cycling. Sadly, this is my only time I was able to ride with the group, I am thinking that next Tuesday I will want to pass so that I can make sure I get a really good night’s sleep before my brother and I head down the road.

After the ride, I went home while the sun was setting and the moon and stars were making their return for the night. Once again the air became cold and I pulled into my parent’s driveway worn out but in the good “I had a lot of fun” way. And I got home just in time to eat peanut butter pie and sing “happy birthday” to my brother.

Days just don’t get better than this.

Make it a great day.

DSC02441February is flying by, I can’t believe we have already left the first week of the month behind.

Last week, although it seemed so brief, was a good week for me. I biked 201 miles which is the farthest I have gone in a week since I retired my road bike for the winter. Besides biking, work went well, I was able to spend time with friends and family and I began some projects that I have been putting off for awhile.

Good weeks don’t happen by accident. On January 31st, while I was visiting at my parent’s house, I picked up a book randomly lying around, titled- Coach Wooden: The 7 Principles That Shaped His Life and Will Change Yours and flipped to the middle.

My eyes fell on this quote,

When I was teaching basketball, I urged my players to try their hardest to improve on that very day, to make that practice a masterpiece…It begins by trying to make each day count and knowing you can never make up for a lost day.

Those words drew me into the book and I quickly read through that chapter, which was entitled, “Make Each Day Your Masterpiece”.

Then I came across these words,

“Have a great day” is a passive statement. But “Make it a great day” means that I am in charge of making my day great.

I couldn’t get this principle out of my mind, so every day last week I set out to make that day the best it could be. My goal was to go to bed each night knowing that I had spent my time wisely and done my best for God, for others and for myself.

It was fun thinking of ways to fill each day with meaning and purpose. On the other hand, it was sobering to realize how much of my time I fritter away carelessly. The mornings that I don’t go into work are my main weakness, it can take me a few hours to really get up and moving.

So tonight I am setting out all my bike gear. That way when I wake up in the morning it will be easy to get out the door for an early morning ride and get a jumpstart on the day.

I can’t wait to see the sunrise!

 

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Bike at work

Arriving at work

It rained Saturday and Sunday, making all of our snow disappear. When I went to bed last night the wind was howling and rain was pounding on my window.

The morning brought a whole new world. The temperature had dropped, transforming the rain into soft, fluffy flakes of snow. My ride to work was beautiful-for the first time this winter I got to bike through a snowstorm in the dark.

Riding through the falling snow under a black sky was incredible. I just wanted to stare into the millions of snowflakes as they whirled and danced gently to the ground, but I managed to keep most of my attention on the road since sliding into a ditch is not ideal.

My world was small, out on that road. It consisted of only two things: the snow on the ground and the snow in the air. What a wonderful world to be in!

I know that I can pray to God anytime and anywhere, but out in a snowstorm like this I can feel His presence so close to me. It is one of my favorite times to talk to God, out in the peaceful splendor of whirling snow.

A fox tiptoed daintily across the road, leaving tiny footprints. I wondered if he was commuting as well, or just out enjoying the weather.

It was favorite commute so far in 2016 and I arrived at the restaurant pumped and ready to work hard.

But I didn’t end up working very hard. All the local schools had a snow day and many business were closed as well, so my boss decided to shut down at 9:30. Then came the exciting part; getting my boss’s car that had become engulfed by a giant pile of snow, onto the road. It took a lot of shoveling to dig the poor thing out. Then I stood on the road and made sure it was all-clear before giving my boss the go ahead. She zoomed up the small incline though the deep snow and onto the road.

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This is my boss’s car, after four hours of being in the parking lot

Then I went to the shed, took out my bike and simply carried it to the road. Using a bike for transportation in the winter comes with perks!

Going home took a long time. The road hadn’t been plowed for a while and the visibility was terrible. Not wanting to take any chances, I clung to the right side of the road, out of the reach of the cars.the road home

Over the course of my ten mile journey, I spotted three vehicles that had slid off the road. I asked one guy if he wanted help (he had help on the way) but the other two cars were so stuck that they had been abandoned.

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The rain created a lot of run off, turning this stream into a nasty brown river

One guy, in a beat-up pickup, told me to get off the road, even though I was already on the shoulder and completely out of his way. Maybe he actually said, “Your lights are cool.”

While I was biking through town a guy shoveling snow saw me and nudged his buddy.

“How’s the ride?” He asked.

I grinned and gave him a thumbs up.

Turkey Time

I plan on eating a lot of food today, so I woke up early at my parent’s house to get a ride in. Now that my road bike is retired for the season, I have been taking every opportunity to use my mountain bike on gravel and dirt roads that I have avoided all summer.

 

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In the East

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To the West

 

Today we climbed up into the woods until my legs were aching. We explored a bit and then stopped to watch the sunrise. Thank you God for painting beautiful colors in the sky! Then it was time to speed downhill. I have never gone so fast on a mountain bike on rough gravel road. It was awesomely terrifying. I tried to refrain from using the brakes at all, but my cautious side kicked in before a couple of the sharp turns.

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Now I am back at my parent’s house feeling all fired up. I am ready to cook the turkey and eat it all!

Happy Thanksgiving!

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.

Ten Things I Realized on My First Bike Tour

DSC01197My mini three day tour to Rochester and back turned out to be so much more than I was expecting! Here are a few of the lessons I learned and thoughts I had on my journey.

1. I need to challenge myself.
Before I left on this trip, I was feeling stale: in my relationship with God, at work, in life in general-even in my biking the excitement was waning a bit. But I have come back from my three days of biking completely energized. The challenge and excitement of pushing myself out of my comfort zone to do something new got me out of the rut I was experiencing. I feel on fire!

2. The greatness of exploration.
I have been such a sheltered cyclist up to this point. Even when I biked down new roads, I was still in my local area and I had some idea of where I would end up. This trip, however, I had no clue where I was or what I would see next. Every new bend was its own adventure.

3. The importance of inspiration.
I was halfway through my first day of biking, having an absolute blast out in the countryside when it hit me full force-I would not have gone on this bike trip if it wasn’t for all of you. Even though I eventually wanted to go on some sort of bike tour I would have postponed it at least until next summer without the constant inspiration I get from the blogs I read. Rootchopper and his #nowrongplan expedition, the lovely account of touring out west on Chasing Mailboxes, Jim on his fast and fiery DALMAC ride, CapeJohn’s adventures, Carmel’s extraordinary mountain biking journey, Dan riding solo everywhere, anytime he has the chance…reading about those epic rides kept me thinking, “I have to do that.”

4. God is with me.
I saw evidence of God’s protection and care at every stage of this trip. But more than just protecting me, I knew that God was with me and I felt His presence and love.

5. Support teams are awesome.
My dad played the unofficial role of support team on this trip. I called him to get a new route home since my original route was accidentally illegal and for directions when I couldn’t find any people to ask. Since he and my mom met up with me for the concert, they also became a mid-ride SAG wagon, bringing me extra tubes and clean clothes. I owe him big time.

6. Smart people are smart.
This one is embarrassing. I have read many cycling blogs (written by folks who know way more about cycling than I ever will) which talk about the necessity of sport drinks on long or hard rides to keep electrolytes in balance. I completely ignored their wisdom and experience and went along my happy way, refusing to drink anything except for water. This trip I caved and tried out supplementing my water with an occasional Gatorade. Sadly, I could feel the difference and from now on I will use sports drinks on long or extremely hot rides.

7. Bathrooms are amazing.
I never realized before how incredible bathrooms are! I can refill my water bottles, wash my hands, check my appearance in the mirror to make sure I am still recognizable as a human and yeah…actually use the bathroom.

8. Bike touring is fun.
I came into this ride thinking it would be fun-but that it would also be filled with hardship. I imagined the ride being good overall, but I thought there would be a decent amount of some type of suffering. So I was shocked to find out my ride was a total blast! Other than two sections on the last day, everything was great and those tough moments were completely overshadowed by the bliss of exploring the world on my bike.

9. Interaction is cool.
I am a introvert. Interacting with random strangers is not my strong suit. For three days I talked to and greeted countless people and it was actually not half bad, in some cases it was really awesome.

And that only leaves #10, which turned out to be an entire blog post by itself which I will post tomorrow. Just to warn you it may be even more cringe-worthy than #6…

My Bike Adventure-Day Three

Like I said, I went to bed at 11:45 on Wednesday night but as I lay there I could not sleep. My body was way too keyed up-whether it was from the concert or the biking, I don’t know, but my heart was pounding. I could feel my blood thudding through my veins from my head to my toes and even after a few hours of laying there, trying to relax my mind and body, my pulse had not slowed much.

It was hard to not think discouraging thoughts as I felt the night slipping away. I needed sleep! I was going to attempt to bike from sunrise to sunset on Thursday, my longest ride ever and every moment of sleep I could get was vital to my success.

When my alarm went off at 4:45 am, I knew that at best I had only slept for 1.5 hours. Although that was slightly worrying, I got all my stuff together and headed off campus at 5:30.

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Umm…I am sure you can see the bats in the tree.

I stopped at a Tim Horton’s to get some breakfast. (Don’t worry, I didn’t buy coffee.) The best thing about Tim Horton’s? They had a bat tree outside. I found that out when I locked my bike up to a small tree and woke about 50 bats from their early morning nap. Sorry little guys!

In a few miles, I was back on the Erie Canal trail. Biking down the trail on Wednesday had been fun and the trail was pretty, but let’s get real. Erie Canal has many locks, making the water somewhat stagnant and muddy looking. It is not picturesque, like a flowing river, by any means.

But in the early morning?
The sunrise turned the surface brilliantly golden and there was fog rising out of the canal. It was spectacular. There were animals wandering around everywhere-rabbits, raccoons, turkeys, ducks and a fox. The trail was fairly deserted but I passed a few cyclist commuters and early morning exercisers and we exchanged cheerful “good mornings”.

Despite my fears about my physical capabilities to bike on such little sleep, my legs were strong and I kept up a fast pace. As I pedaled along there were many things that made me smile.

A heart drawn in the gravel of the trail-I imagined someone pausing mid-commute each morning to quickly scrawl a heart with her finger, knowing that in a few hours no trace of her action would remain.

A fisherman pulled fish out of the canal right as I was passing by so I called out across to him,

“Nice catch!”

He turned toward me, beaming, and gave me a thumbs up.

My bike trip had been great so far but these next 40ish miles on the Erie Canal trail were the highlight of the trip. It wasn’t the scenery, the tranquility, my legs feeling strong and sure on the pedals or the perfect cool chill in the air. It was the overwhelming presence of God. I began pouring out my heart to Him, there on the trail. My thoughts and hopes and fears and dreams and confusions and worries all started spilling out and we worked through some stuff together in the gray dawn of the early morning.

It gets me every time. God wants a personal relationship with me, little old me. He wants to be with me in all my troubles and joys-and bike adventures.

After a few hours of riding on the trail I was fired up. Emotionally, physically and spiritually. Eventually I bade a sad farewell to the Erie Canal and started heading north.

Two hours later I started to drag. I wasn’t feeling well. My shoulders were feeling strained. My butt was starting to get very sore. My mind began to go in the wrong direction.

“It is still morning and you are already in pain. It is only gonna get worse. There is no way you can keep biking all day. Look at the time and look at your mileage. You have stopped too many times and wasted precious minutes. By nightfall, you won’t be anywhere close to home and someone is going to have to drive for hours to pick you up.”

My speed had slowed to 13 mph. With a discouraged mind and complaining body, it was unclear how much longer I could persevere on my bike.

My mood continued to worsen and finally I realized I needed to do something or I was going to have a miserable day. So I went back to the basics.

Why was I out here on my bike?
To have a fun adventure.
What was my goal?
To bike all day long.

So I made the decision that the only important thing was to bike until dark. Mileage didn’t matter, speed didn’t matter. I stopped worrying about the stats on my bike computer and started focusing on the beautiful countryside around me.

Quietly, I began to sing one of the songs from last night’s concert.

Every giant will fall, the mountains will move
Every chain of the past, You’ve broken in two
Over fear, over lies, we’re singing the truth
That nothing is impossible with You”

I soon realized that mentally and physically, I was back on my game. I had found my second wind. The rest of the day went by fast and without any major mishaps or flat tires, although I did miss my turns a few times and was forced to stop and ask people for directions. They were all super helpful and got me right back on track.

It was early evening when I made it to the most physically daunting part of my trip. While there had been rolling hills to climb throughout the day, the overall elevation stayed the same. Now I was leaving the lower elevation of the area around Lake Ontario and climbing up into the Adirondack foothills. For the first time for the entire trip the weather was not kind to me and decided to give me a strong headwind to fight against.

For a ten mile stretch I went directly into the headwind up an endless array of climbs.

“All speed is good speed.” I kept saying to myself. I tried to distract myself by talking to cows but it wasn’t really working to soothe the pain I was experiencing in my shoulders, neck, feet and butt.

I was climbing yet another hill, when out of nowhere a cyclist on a recumbent, pulling a trailer came sailing by. He long gray hair was secured underneath a headband and he had a flowing, wispy beard. As he flew down the hill he yelled across the road to me in a jubilant, lilting, tone,

“The wind is on my side today!”

“I know!” I yelled back.

It was so unexpected.  Hands down the most humorous moment of the entire trip. I recounted this moment to my brother and sister and they didn’t find it that amusing. Maybe you had to be there. But the way he sailed down the hill and delivered his line was perfection and his gentle, humorous taunt kept me smiling for miles. It was exactly what I needed to get me through the next series of hills.

Dusk was falling. My phone battery was dying and I wasn’t sure how long my headlights would last, so I called my dad and asked him to pick me up between 8:30 and 9. At 9 I saw his headlights and pulled off of the road. It was perfect timing, my last headlight was about to die.

I climbed off my bike, triumphant. I had just made it to the 150 mile mark for the day, 320 miles for the 3 day trip.

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I was tired, hungry and sore but I made it!