End of the Errandonnee Era

Errandonnee 2015 ends today. It was great fun seeing what everyone was up to on their bikes these past twelve days! Many thanks to MG from Chasing Mailboxes for organizing this friendly challenge.

Another one of my coworkers told me today that she and her boyfriend are thinking about biking to work. When she first started working at the restaurant in November she thought I was nuts for riding to work, but my evil plan to convince people that biking to work is awesome is slowly starting to gain traction.

The weather on my trip home was perfect. Forty-four degrees! Although I kept my earmuffs on since my ears can be sensitive to the cool air blowing past them, my gloves and jacket came off. It is t-shirt weather!

I have never felt so connected to a seasonal change before. I feel the world waking up, as strange as that sounds. I can feel myself coming alive with the return of warmth. Winter is a stately, calming season, where snow drapes gently but securely over the land. Spring is full of energy: roaring brooks, chattering birds and budding trees.

Before arriving home I stopped at the Post Office to mail an international letter. I made it just before the window closed, thank goodness. It really isn’t best to plan errands that are time sensitive after work because I never know exactly when I will be able to head home.

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This ramp leading up to the Post Office was great fun to run up and down as a kid. These days though I climb the stairs, how very adult of me.

Then I biked all the way over from the post office to the local library (about 100 yards, what a trip!) to return a few books. I also poked around for a few new books to read but it can be tough to pick out books just from their covers. The library was closing at 5 o’clock so I didn’t have time to browse through any pages. Eventually, I found an audiobook which should come in handy now that I have gotten bitten by the spring-cleaning bug.008

To work (10 miles)
3:40 am to 4:40 am
Weather
28F, 7 mph South wind

From work plus errands (10 miles)
3:30 pm to 4:55 pm
Weather
44F, 7 mph South wind

Errand #11 Post Office (Non-Store Errand)
Distance: 0.5 miles

Errand #12 Library (Arts and Entertainment)
Distance: 0.5 miles

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Saturday Commute

I had an odd day.

My morning started out great, I got to sleep in until 3:05 am! I am finding out that getting out the door takes less time when I don’t have to don a gazillion layers and tons of face gear paraphernalia. Plus, biking to work takes less time because my legs are actually free to pedal properly, the roads are clear and spring is having this weird “you should go faster” effect on me.

The ride into work was calm and peaceful, just the way I like it.

But mid-morning one of the waitresses told me to come out into the dining room, as one of the tables of customers wanted to see me. Instantly, I was nervous. I really dislike going into the dining room when there are lots of people around and I had no idea what this couple wanted. Did they have a complaint about their food?

Nope.

They had seen a crazy cyclist biking in a ice and rain storm in early January (from what they described I think it was this night) and had been wondering all winter who I was. This morning they had overheard a few of the “regulars” talking about me, put two and two together and found their mystery biker. They exclaimed that I was tough albeit insane. After chatting for a few minutes I went back to the kitchen.

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I apologize for the picture, but at least there is candy!

 

Along the way home from work I stopped into an adorable country store to buy cabbage and some goodies to surprise my brothers with at church tomorrow since they just finished the last game of their basketball season. I went inside, snapped a picture of the candy shelf only to have the owner of the store (a sweet Mennonite lady) pull me aside.

“So you are the girl who rides your bike all the time!”

Apparently, she and all the store employees have been keeping a close eye on me and my travels all winter long. She curiously plied me with many questions, which I was more than happy to answer. As she chattered on about the various conversations she, her family and employees had been having about me throughout the winter, I began to feel my stomach start to turn just a bit. When we ended the conversation, she happily told me that she was so excited to tell all her sisters (there are 16 siblings in her family) that she had finally talked to the winter biker!

I bought everything I needed, left the store and started packing my panniers. I was going to take a picture of the cute storefront, but when I turned around, camera in hand, several people were watching from the windows and I completely chickened out.

After getting back on the road, I had to take a few deep breaths and calm myself. All of a sudden the scrutiny of being the crazy girl biker felt overwhelming. I felt threatened and creeped out when I thought of all the cars that have passed me over the winter and wondered, maybe for months, just who I am and what I am doing on the road in the snow. All the times friends and family have told me about times they have overheard others talk about me came flooding into my mind, haunting me.

Obviously, the dread that had settled over me had been triggered by the day’s events and the shy, introverted side of myself was making me cower. Fearful thoughts started to bog down my mind.  I had take those thoughts firmly in hand and remind myself that the people I had spoken to today were just friendly, kind people who were concerned about my welfare (and sanity). The curiosity and concern of others is nothing to be afraid of.

And then I thought of an exchange between myself and a coworker that happened just before the end of my shift. She is considering buying a bike and riding to work because she wants to have more drive and energy while she is at work.

It is pretty amazing to know that I can maybe inspire people to ditch their car and pedal to work. Or maybe seeing me will remind them to dust off an old bike and go for a Sunday afternoon ride sometime this spring. That makes any scrutiny worth it.

Plus, this was my first winter biking, by next year I will lose my novelty status. Two winters from now I will be a standard part of the landscape and hopefully joined by other winter bikers. That would be downright awesome!

To work (10 miles)
3:30 am to 4:30 am
Weather
33F, 16 mph Southeast wind

From work plus store stop (10 miles)
3:15 pm to 4:45 pm
Weather
40F, 8 mph Southeast wind

Errand #10 Country Store (Store)
Distance: 4 miles

Friday Commute

011It was on my journey home from work that it became crystal clear that spring has arrived.

Sugaring season is here!

All along my route Maple trees had been tapped and the gentle “tink, tink” noise of drops of sap against the bottom of pails could be heard.

Maple syrup is magical. Simply collect the sap from Sugar Maple trees and then boil until the density is just about right, and voila! Maple syrup. Not only is it a 100% natural sweetener, it also has a beautiful flavor that nothing else in the world compares to.

And if maple syrup bores you, you can just take it, boil it a little longer, pour it over the snow in swirls and then eat the taffy-like result with a fork right out of the snow.

Or boil it a little longer, stir it while it cools and make yourself some maple butter.

Or boil it a little longer and make maple candy. I told you maple syrup is magical!

The sap runs best when the temperature remains below freezing during the night but soars above freezing during the day with the aid of the early spring sun. We hope for a good run of those temperatures so that there will be a successful sugaring season. The sap is collected from the trees and taken to sugar shanties which are basically sheds where wood fires are kept burning brightly to boil the sap. I will try to remember to take a picture of a sugar shanty tomorrow.

We are fanatical about our maple syrup around here. The syrup we make in our area is the best in the world and if anyone tries to argue otherwise, we just laugh and shake our heads because we know the truth.
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To work (10 miles)
3:35 am to 4:40 am
Weather
17F, 10 mph Southeast wind

From work (10 miles)
3:20 pm to 4:25 pm
Weather
41F, 13 mph Southeast wind

Saturday Commute

I saw a little cottontail rabbit while walking out to the shed this morning, what a cutie! A perfect way to start my day.

On the way home from work I saw a lot of people out and about, enjoying the beautiful weather. I also noticed tons of caterpillars crawling on the road. They all had the same coloring, off-white with black spines and underbelly. I must have seen fifty of them in total. One little guy was crawling across the white line into car territory so I picked him up, put him in the pocket of my panniers, took a few pictures so I can figure out what kind of caterpillars would randomly start appearing in the middle of winter and then “using mainly spoons I dug a tunnel under the city and released him into the wild”.

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Little fuzzy next to a dime

 

To work (10 miles)
3:50 am to 4:45 am

Weather
39F, 5 mph West wind

I wore
Head: ear muffs
Torso: t-shirt
Hands: knit gloves
Legs: yoga pants
Feet: socks, sneakers

Comments: Good.

From work (10 miles)
3:10 pm to 4:10 pm

Weather
48F, 10 mph South wind

I wore
Head: ear muffs
Torso: t-shirt
Legs: yoga pants
Feet: socks, sneakers

Comments: Loved it!

Friday Commute

My first thought this morning upon opening the shed doors where I keep my bike was, “What is that smell?” Nothing wakes up your nose in the morning like the strong scent of rotting flesh.  Using my bike headlight I searched for the source of the stench. Seconds later my beam fell on the skull and  antlers of a deer. The skull was covered with the remains of muscles and tendons, bingo, culprit found.

I suppose it would be somewhat understandable if I was upset at finding a rotting skull a foot away from my bike at 3:55 in the morning. But getting upset was the furthest thing from my mind. You see, my neighbors gave me venison. I don’t care if I find blood on the ground, on the shed door, find dead deer or parts of dead deer in the shed or hanging up on trees outside because I got free meat. I win.

Now last week I proved that I can leave horses in the dust and today I again proved my bicycling chops. As I was biking home, I saw a black cow walking alongside of the road. She was walking with a swagger, obviously confident that I had no chance against her. But I showed her. I wish you could have seen me whiz past her like she was standing still. I won, no sweat. Bike 2, Livestock 0.

The weather we are having is insane, is winter just getting skipped this year? Almost all the snow is gone.

To work (10 miles)
3:55 am to 4:50 am

Weather
38F, 12 mph West wind

I wore
Head: ear muffs
Torso: long-sleeve t-shirt
Hands: knit gloves
Legs: yoga pants, rain pants
Feet: socks, sneakers

Comments: The rain pants were overkill but I wore them since the road was a little wet.

From work (10 miles)
3:05 pm to 3:55 pm

Weather
40F, 13 mph Southwest wind

I wore
Head: ear muffs
Torso: short- sleeved t-shirt
Legs: yoga pants
Feet: socks, sneakers

Comments: My lower arms and hands were slightly cold but I was loving the feel of the air too much to care.

Biking and Babysitting

Why would someone wake up before 5:30 on their day off to bike 12 miles to babysit children for free?

(The children are my nephews and nieces + they are the most adorable things ever = I will take care of them whenever possible, under any circumstances)

To say I had a fun day yesterday would be the understatement of the year.

We played zoo for most of the day. My 3 year old nephew and I went to visit the zoo, while my 2 year old nephew was the zookeeper.

A friendly word of caution, beware of taking your pet monkey to the zoo. By the time we left the zoo he had magically transformed into a goat named Gabby. It was slightly disturbing.

When it was time for me to leave my 2 year nephew started crying. (I was in the middle of reading to them, oops.) I asked him, “Don’t you want to see auntie bike away with cool lights?” He nodded yes with a tear-stained face. Thank goodness, because I needed to leave asap to get to worship practice in time.

The bike ride back was epic. I rode in decently heavy falling snow/sleet stuff. I passed cars with their hazard lights on. I battled wind and sudden gusts. There was lightning.

It was exhilarating. I think I might be able to pull this car free lifestyle off! Feel so free and independent right now.

To Nephew’s and Niece’s House (12 miles)
6:10 am to 7:20 am

Weather
42F, 17 mph Southwest wind

I wore
Head: ear muffs
Torso: t-shirt
Hands: knit gloves
Legs: yoga pants
Feet: socks, sneakers

Comments: warm

From Nephew’s and Niece’s House (14 miles)
5:05 pm to 6:20 pm

Weather
32F, 16 mph West wind, 32 mph gusts, snow/sleet

I wore
Head: ear muffs, ski goggles
Torso: t-shirt, long sleeve shirt
Hands: knit gloves
Legs: yoga pants, rain pants
Feet: socks, sneakers

Comments: My feet got quite cold, since they ended up getting wet. Getting pounded by sleet stung my face like crazy.

Monday Commute

And we are back to autumn weather for now, but the warm snap is only supposed to last a few days.

While at work my sister called all the way from Brazil! It was great to talk to her, she is the best ever. I wish she could come home for Christmas.

On the way home from work I nearly got caught by the giant white dog.

To work (10 miles)
3:55 am to 4:45 am

Weather
47F, 7 mph West wind

I wore
Head: ear muffs
Torso: t-shirt
Legs: yoga pants
Feet: socks, sneakers

Comments: I thought it was going to rain on me this morning but I just missed it and got to work nice and dry.

From work to meeting (11 miles)
3:55 pm to ?

Weather
31F, 9 mph Northwest wind

I wore
Head: ear muffs
Torso: t-shirt
Hands: knit gloves
Legs: yoga pants
Feet: socks sneakers

Comments: My arms were cold starting out, but I didn’t want to wear a jacket. Within a couple of miles they felt just fine.