My Bike Adventure-Day Two

I woke up Wednesday morning feeling great. I dawdled around my hotel room getting my directions for the return trip all set to go, patching tires and repacking my bags. By 11:00 I was on the road again.

The route for the day was simple-stay on the Erie Canal Heritage Trail until I got a bit past Rochester. For the first twenty miles the trail was gravel and followed the Erie Canal as it wended  its way through the woods. It was a pretty trail and very quiet, only three cyclists met me going the other way.DSC01215

As I biked the trail I sang the mandatory trail song.

Every few miles or so the trail would be interrupted by a road to cross and after crossing one road, I was confused as to how to get back on the trail. There was a small park right on the canal, was I supposed to bike through it? So when a man said hello to me as he was walking by, I asked him if the trail went right through the park.

He told me yes, I could bike on the sidewalk and straight through the park to the trail. I thanked him but he was not finished talking to me. He proceeded to give me a rambling lecture about being careful about strangers “grabbing me” as I went along the trail. But his conclusion lacked conviction.

“Now, I don’t know if there are any people around here that would do that…but there are people out there…that do that.”

Got it.

A few miles later I caught up to a group of three cyclists who were obviously on a bike camping tour and from their many bulging panniers, I would guess it was a long one. I was about to pull up beside the cyclist who was trailing the other two but as I went down a slope I hit a huge bump and from the thud, thud, thud of my rear tire I knew I had got another flat.  Sadly, I watched them pedal out of sight.

Here is what I have realized in hindsight, however. All of my other flats on this ride were strategically placed. Therefore, this puncture must have had some purpose. The only thing I can come up with is that these three cyclists were not cyclists at all. They were really murderers posing as cyclists. Had I pulled up to them and started talking to them, I would have been instantly dispatched and then stuffed into a random pannier, never to be seen again. Yup. Having a flat tire clearly saved my life.

I took my time through the afternoon, pedaling slowly, and stopping to take pictures. I passed many folks out walking on the trail. It was a total reversal of roles, for once I was the fast moving vehicle on the “road”, having to watch out for and safely pass the slower moving pedestrians.DSC01231 DSC01227 DSC01218 DSC01239

In the late afternoon, as I neared Rochester, the trail became paved and there were more and more  cyclists, many on nice road bikes in full team kit. They looked ever so pro. I was enjoying the ride but the miles were ticking by pretty fast and I started to worry that I would go too far on the trail and miss my exit off.

I spotted a friendly-looking cyclist by the side of the trail and he didn’t seem in a rush so I stopped to ask him if he knew where 33A West was. He said he didn’t and I was about to go down the trail again but he stopped me and said he had a smartphone, if we went over to the shade he would look it up for me. I thanked him gratefully.

After a few minutes we found out that I still had about ten miles left on the trail before my turnoff. I thanked him again and then asked if I could ride with him. So we went along together chit-chatting a bit about our lives. After a few miles it was time for him to go home but when we stopped, in a wonderful gesture of kindness, he gave me his phone number and told me to call if I had any navigational problems.

I did mention my blog to him so he could find out how my trip went if he wanted to, so Irwin if you are reading, thank you so much, you are a wonderful person!

After Irwin and I parted ways, I paused to take some pictures of cool graffiti. I was clipping in when a cyclist went whizzing by me. And that is when I made a reckless decision-to follow him. This is gonna sound whiney, but I never get to try to keep up with speedy cyclists and here was my chance to do so. In hindsight, even though I stayed far enough back so that if he had to brake suddenly I wouldn’t crash into him, my choice to speed along the path with pedestrians around was not a wise one.

But it was exhilarating. He and I charged down the trail going 22-24 mph. I realized how bad I am at cornering. While he took each turn with ease, I lost time slowing down on each one. But I was kinda amazed at how easy I was keeping up with him, no heavy breathing, no pain. Ha. Just as I became proud of myself for keeping up, I felt a sharp pain in my side. For an instant I thought my side was cramping, but no, it was a bee buzzing under my shirt.

At that moment I had a choice: free the bee and lose the cyclist or keep the bee and keep up with the cyclist. My choice was clear and a few seconds later the bee stung again on the other side of my abdomen. I could feel it buzzing angrily as it started crawling toward my upper back. It was the ultimate suspense waiting for another flash of pain to strike , all the while pedaling like mad to keep the pace of the cyclist ahead of me.

After another mile or so the cyclist veered off the trail to a parking lot and I watched him go rather mournfully. I was happy to stop and release my trapped bee friend though!

Soon I was off the bike trail and on proper roads again, only a few miles from my destination. As I turned the corner onto the last road my tire once again went flat. And no wonder, two little pieces of metal were jammed right into the tire. Cool.

Twenty minutes later I had made it to Roberts Wesleyan College, where the concert was being held. My parents were coming down to Rochester for the concert as well so I called them to find out their status. They were still a distance away so I went off to get some supper. When I returned to campus I realized my front tire was very soft-the first time I have ever had a puncture in my front tire. Good thing I had asked my dad to bring some more tubes!

My mom and dad arrived and we went to the concert together. The band, Rend Collective, was amazing live! They are a group from Northern Ireland with joyful and triumphant songs about life we share in Christ. It was a wonderful experience, worshipping God together with hundreds of other Christians. DSC01241

I was able to stay with a family friend who attends college here and I was able to slip into bed at 11:45, ready to get some rest for the return trip home.

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A commute filled with lights and tears.

Riding in the early morning can be unpredictable. I calmly set off to work this morning and once I had left the streetlights of my small town behind me I looked up toward the sky. It was pure black and studded with brilliant stars, not a cloud in sight. I breathed in the cool autumn air, content and at peace, moving my feet to pedal at a gentle cadence.  I craned my neck to take in as much of the night sky as I could without falling off my bike.

My gaze fell on the northern sky and an indescribable awe came over me. Ever since I was a little girl I have yearned to see the Northern Lights and now, for the first time in my life I saw them lighting up the dark night. It was such an unexpected, such a joyful thing that tears spontaneously rolled down my cheeks. They weren’t even the brilliant colors that I know they sometimes appear in, this morning I only saw silver grays dance across the sky. That didn’t detract anything from my surprise and wonder at spotting these lights during my routine commute. Cars quickly passed me and I wanted to scream at them,

“Slow down! Don’t you see the dancing lights!?!?”

But it wasn’t long before I was torn away from the display in the sky, by a nasty villain known as fog. Usually I enjoy being sucked into the vortex of the fog as it rises up out of the river, but not today. I pedaled furiously to insure a quick escape but the fog extended further along the road than it normally does. By the time I could once again see the sky, the Northern Lights were gone.

The sky was still stunningly beautiful and I was cheered up even more when I saw Venus come toward me, golden and bright from the eastern sky.

The rest of my commute was filled with quiet contemplation. The beauty of the Northern Lights and the sky made my heart leap with joy. It made me wonder, if the sky is this glorious, what will it be like to see the creator of it all someday? There is glory, so much overwhelming glory in the night sky but I believe it is just a faint whisper of the majesty of God.

And so I arrived at work, a tearful mess, but replenished spiritually, emotionally and physically. I wish I could see the Northern Lights every morning.

A day on my bike.

DSC00855My day was free of commitments and in a wondrous twist of magic, the weather turned out perfect. I simply had to go for a nice, long, meandering bike ride. My destination was chosen, a state park that I had never visited before, but I brought a paper map with me so I could go down roads at whim and still end up at the park.

I have only ever biked in my immediate local area, so the majority of the routes that I take, I know rather well. But today I was able to bike many miles of road that I have never seen before. It became a proper adventure.

As a Christian, I can’t help but see the beauty of the world as an extension of the glory of God. Today I saw His handiwork everywhere and it made me gasp in delight. Forests stretching as far as I could see, hawks soaring through the air, deer bounding through corn fields, the gurgle of happy streams, lazy cows chewing stalks of grass; so many lovely things! Is there a better way to explore the world than on a bicycle? If there is, please don’t tell me, I refuse to change my mind anyway!

Eventually, I arrived at the state park and found out it has only one attraction. But what a wonderful thing it is; a roaring waterfall of decent size and strength. (I have been to Niagara and Horseshoe Falls, they have spoiled me, I suppose.) I ate lunch by the waterfall, made friends with a toad, hid my bike so I could walk down a wooded trail and then packed up to head home.DSC00871DSC00860

There was a headwind to deal with on the way back but I was in no rush so I took my time. But after an hour I was hot and my body was starting to feel the strain of biking all day. I made an executive decision – it was time for an ice cream break. Mint chocolate chip in a waffle cone was just what I needed to boost my energy and cool me down. The power of ice cream got me home in no time.

First place in a horse race.

DSC00750Today I ditched my church. Instead I went up to the church my brother and sister-in-law attend. It was a special day for them; their four children were being dedicated and I simply couldn’t miss out on that.

While I normally get up to my own church by 8am, this church’s service started at 10am so I puttered around my house for a while, feeling like I had all the time in the world. Eventually, I looked at the clock and realized that I should be leaving right now if I wanted to bike the thirteen miles to the church and be on time.

Scurrying around my apartment,  I grabbed an outfit for church and threw on my biking clothes, making it out the door as fast as possible. Once on the road, I gave myself an inspirational speech.

“Move those legs like lightening or you are gonna be late.”

(I am a master of inspirational speeches, as I am sure you can tell.) Moving at as fast a clip as I could muster, I checked the time when I reached the halfway point of my journey. Oh, okay, I was actually going to be early. Sure enough, I pulled into the church parking lot along with the pastor and his wife with a good thirty minutes to spare before the start of the service. What a waste of an inspirational speech.

The church service was lovely, especially the dedication. My brother explained the meaning behind all the children’s name and we all prayed for each child that God would bless them and strengthen them as they grow.

After the service, my entire family had a barbecue at my brother and sister-in-law’s home and we were able to hang out for a few hours together. Hanging out with my family is one of the my favorite things in the whole wide world and it is about to get even better because my sister (who has been gone for 18 months) is going to be back home in ten days!  Just ten more days, I can’t hardly wait!

Then it was time to bike back home. I was pretty full from lunch so I took it nice and slow for most of the way home. But then I found myself catching up to an Amish horse and buggy. There were quite a few cars in back of me so I pedaled slowly behind the buggy while they passed us. When the coast was clear, I made my move into the middle of the road to pass the horse and buggy.

There are quite a few Amish families living in my area, I have seen and passed them on the road many, many times. They are two speed vehicles: I have never seen an Amish horse cruising along the road at any other speed than a walk or steady trot.

But when I pulled into the middle of the road to pass this particular horse and buggy, something weird happened. I noticed the horse trotting a bit faster than a normal pace. Could it be? No way! But then my beliefs were confirmed when the horse broke into a charging gallop. The Amish were racing me!

A grin spread across my face wider than the entire continent of Antarctica. They wanted to race, huh? It was on. With a quick glance to make sure the road was still clear behind us, I swung into action. I pedaled with a hot fury and soon I was in front of the buggy, pacing parallel to the horse. A horse in full gallop is a beautiful thing, but seeing all that power out in full force added with the noise of a rattling buggy was slightly un-nerving. I had a moment of self doubt and slight fear but then I kicked it up one more notch and found myself in the lead. I continued to pull ahead with the horse putting out a valiant effort for a few more moments until it was slowed back down to a walk.DSC00743

As I disappeared from sight around the next corner, I knew exactly what the horse was thinking.

“If I wasn’t pulling this huge black thing, I would have so beat her.”

And I am celebrating in the downpour.

Note: the title is a quote from the song “Finally Free” by Rend Collective.

Today I worked the lunch/supper shift instead of my usual breakfast/lunch hours. I do prefer working early, but it is nice to get a bit of variety once in a while. My coworker and I were headed out the door at 8:30, which excited me because I knew my ride home would be perfect for watching the sunset. As she got in her car and I pulled my bike out of the shed, raindrops began to fall. Gently at first, but within a minute the rain was pounding the ground with great fury. I was soaked by the time I left the restaurant parking lot.

The road was covered with water and the skies seemed determined to turn it into a river. You know it is raining hard when cars actually slow down and drive cautiously. Then the storm really went for it by sending out a few lightning bolts here and there. Intellectually, I realize that lightning can be a deadly force but I can’t help but be delighted every time I see surges of electricity light up the sky.

Through the rain, I could still see the sun setting with pink and orange clouds across the horizon and it was beautiful. Breathtakingly beautiful. And I felt joy bubbling up inside of me. Sometimes I think God just sets me up to be overwhelmed by the glory of His creation.

Four miles into my ride and the rain dropped from full force to nonexistence. The sky was quiet. I don’t know what it was: maybe the joy, maybe the excitement, maybe I got struck by lightning – but my legs, they wanted to fly. I climbed hills faster then I ever have before and my legs burned but that feeling didn’t seem important so I increased my cadence even more.

I followed a car into town and managed to stay behind it until I reached my apartment and I pulled into my driveway having smashed my previous record for biking home from work by four minutes.

And now I am going to do some quiet reading to calm myself down so that I can sleep tonight. Rides before bedtime are not supposed to be that fast or exciting.

Do you want a ride?

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Now that the snow has melted, people have been coming up to me, curious about the experience I had while biking through the winter. In a few sentences I explain the basics: it was challenging, but I learned so much about myself, felt God’s presence in amazing ways and that biking through a heavy snowstorm is one of the best things ever. After I finish my little spiel, the standard reaction I get is a laugh and then either one of two things, “Well, I glad you had fun and stayed safe!” or “You are crazy!” (Or a combination of the two.) And then we move on in the conversation and that is that.

But one night I was talking to a guy that my family has known for many years; I respect him and his wife immensely. The topic of winter biking came up but after I had finished explaining that it had been awesome, something strange happened. He didn’t laugh and he didn’t move the conversation to a different topic. Instead he nodded encouragingly, so I plunged in to tell a few more details. Then he started asking me questions, so I told him how in the heaviest snowstorms I felt the presence of God closer than I ever had in my life. I also mentioned that I experienced God’s joy and delight filling me while I plunged through the majesty and wonder of the snow.

“When you do something and you feel God’s delight in you, it doesn’t matter how crazy people think you are, does it?” He asked gently. He then went on tell me of times in his own life when felt God’s joy mingling with his. But it didn’t stop there. He told me stories of Christians that he either knew or had read about who had done crazy things for the glory of God.

During the rest of conversation, he told me to not be afraid to live life differently, but to embrace whatever path God leads me down. I can’t even describe how his words made me feel. While most people are slightly shocked that I would live car free and bike in the winter, he encouraged me that this could be just the beginning. He told me to go all out and do crazy things with God and for the glory of God. “Keep on biking and keep on following God.”

It was one of the most encouraging conversations I have ever had in my life.

I was out on my bike when this same friend happened to see me on the road. He paused while he was passing me to ask if I wanted a ride. Now you must understand that since I live in a small, helpful community, I have been asked that question many times by acquaintances and strangers alike. People have asked so frequently that as soon as I hear a car slow down beside me, my response is already on the tip of my tongue.

“I’m good, thank you!”

At this point I am so programmed to say, “I’m good, thank you!” that I sincerely believe that I would blurt out exactly that, without regard to the actual comment.

“Hey, the bag fell off your bike!” (I’m good, thank you!)

“There is a tornado behind you!” (I’m good, thank you!)

Did you know that a bull is chasing you?” (I’m good, thank you!)

So when he pulled beside me and asked if I wanted a ride my response was quite predictably, “I’m good, thank you!” After he pulled ahead, his tone and body language clicked in my mind. The guy hadn’t really been offering me a ride at all! He knew I was perfectly happy on my two wheels. He knew that I didn’t need the help of a motorized vehicle to arrive at my destination. In fact, he may have even been slightly jealous that he wasn’t the one out on a bike ride.

It is a wonderful thing that people care enough about me to stop and offer me a ride.

But do you know what is even more wonderful?

When someone cares and understands me enough to sarcastically offer me a ride.

The Best of Both Worlds

30 Days of Biking has officially begun!

I woke up a little before 6am and after checking the weather I had a decision to make. Should I go on a bike ride to watch the sunrise while the temperature was at 15 degrees or should I wait until late morning when above freezing temperatures were predicted?

I decided to be a wimp and wait for the sun to warm things up a bit. A bit is right because the temperature choose to only get up to 24 degrees. Oh well, better cool than scorching hot.

I was eager to rid myself of my jacket, however, so I chose a road that climbed a plateau. Once my body warmed up I shed the jacket, excited to feel the cool air sweep over my bare arms. Yeah, it stung a little and my arms soon reddened from the chill but it was so worth it.

The road I was on was new to me and all of a sudden I found myself in a large barnyard, wondering if I had come to the end of the road.

Then I saw it. A snow covered path that went beyond the end of the pavement. I yelped with joy. Winter hadn’t surrendered completely yet.

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Begging to be explored.

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I love winter. I really love winter.

The snow was perfect. Hard enough so that I didn’t sink like a rock and soft enough to give me the “plowing through snow” feeling that I love. My grin was so wide that I am surprised my teeth didn’t fall out. Then I felt a quiet whisper, “Are you having fun yet?”. In times like these I feel God’s presence in such an overwhelming way that I don’t know if I should shout the glory of it or weep from joy.

I ended up doing a mixture of both.

I saw all sorts of animal tracks. Do turkeys eat cockleburs? Because the evidence I saw today sure made it seem that way. Tough stomached birds.

After a while the snow became too soft and I turned back. When I did the entirety of the river valley was spread out before me framed by the Adirondacks.

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Once I regained the pavement I flew down that road (after replacing my jacket of course) laughing. I met up with the main road and I had to ask myself the all-important question, to continue or go home. Too pumped to turn back I choose a different road to climb the same plateau again.

There were signs of spring everywhere; robins, trees tapped for sap and bare patches of earth. But more than that spring was in me. In my legs. In my heart. Deep down in my soul.

For the entirety of the ride home I could not wipe the dopey grin off of my face. How could I? I had just experienced the delight of winter and spring in one glorious ride.