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.

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A Record-breaking Vacation

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This is George. He is a rock. You get a picture of a rock because I couldn’t get the chipmunk to sit this still.

I got back home yesterday from a wonderful four-day vacation with my family. It was the perfect location-a little cottage on a lake in the Adirondacks-far enough away from home to be exciting but close enough to bike to and from easily.

We had so much fun as a family; swimming, kayaking, we even went for a bike ride! Although my family learned that I shouldn’t be trusted with planning routes-I promised my brothers a five mile loop but I led them down the wrong path and boom! The five mile loop magically turned into more than ten miles. Up some pretty decent hills too, I’m afraid. I think they forgave me, but that doesn’t mean they will forgot and trust my navigational skills the next time.

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I feel vaguely guilty cruising along on my sleek road bike, while the rest of family is trudging up the road on mountain bikes.

But even they admitted it was a lovely route, all twisting country lanes winding through the woods. It was wonderful to be able to ride with my brothers and sister, well except for the part when one of my brothers crashed his bike and face-planted onto the pavement right in front of me. That wasn’t fun to watch, it was probably even less fun to do. Other than his left leg falling off some decent patches of road rash he made it through just fine, even enduring the pain to finish the ride with us.

To top off the entire vacation, on the way back to town I set a new record on my bike. I finally broke through the 40 mph barrier, pushing the fastest recorded speed on my bike up to 40.7. My dad was even there to see it happen, he had caught up with me in his vehicle just as I was flying down the hill. When I saw him later that day he told me, “You were going forty down that road, you know.” I still had a huge smile plastered on my face.

I remember just a few years ago all my descents involved a death grip on the handlebars and excessive braking.  So flying down that hill yesterday, rounding every corner confident and carefree felt AWESOME. Brakes are totally overrated. But they did save my life and the life of an innocent skunk this morning so I guess they are occasionally helpful.

Hello September!

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I made an agreement with my neighbors this year-I can pick their apples if I make them apples pies!

The month of August turned out pretty awesome, even if it was too hot some days for my liking. I got in more miles than I thought I would, 675 to be exact, bringing my total for this year up to 4,330. It would be super cool to be up to 6,000 miles by the end of the year, and unless something weird happens, I know I can make that goal.

Last night after work, I met up with three other cyclists and we took an 11 mile ride together. One of the guys was new to the group and he brought a mountain bike (first time I have seen disc brakes in real life). In the course of the ride, he mentioned to me that he is thinking of getting a road bike since he only rides on the road anyway.

I recounted to him my road bike “conversion story” and told him he needs to get one! At the end of the ride, I told him that if he could keep up with us now on a mountain bike he would be cruising by us when he got his new road bike!

I figured it was my duty as a responsible cyclist to encourage a fellow cyclist to add more bikes to his stable.

Even though the ride with the group was shorter than I would have liked it was lots of fun. We were stopped by a herd of cows crossing the road, (It made me think of your experience last week, Brian! And no, none of us mooed at the cows, Dan!) found cupcakes on the road and dared each other to eat them and waved at everyone out walking.

I had a revelation while we were out on the road together. This is gonna sound really creepy but I have to say it anyway. Until I started biking with this group a few weeks ago, I had never really observed a cyclist in action up close and oh my goodness, everyone’s legs look so powerful and muscular while pounding those pedals! It is insane!

After splitting from the group, I rode back home. I think I must tense up more in a group then I do riding solo, because each time I get back from riding with them, my shoulders and hands feel really strained. When I ride alone, I listen to my body more and remind myself to relax my hands and upper body but with a group I forget to do that. Plus, I feel more tension when riding with other people-not a bad kind of tension, I just am constantly making sure I am where I need to be in relation to the other bikes. I need to ride with people more so that I know how to stay aware but also relaxed.

Hopefully, our little group will keep meeting up through the next month as least, I know some of them aren’t as keen at riding in cooler temperatures. But I must admit, as fun as summer has been, I am ready for fall!

Biking is making me younger.

DSC01056Throughout my teen years and into the beginning of my twenties, I lived a sedentary life. I also really love food (which is why I cook in a restaurant). It doesn’t take much to figure out that the combination of those two factors wasn’t good for my health. My energy levels plummeted and even completing a regular shift at work left me drained. I didn’t have the motivation to accomplish much outside of work, all I really felt like doing was sitting around and watching my favorite cooking shows.

But then I started biking to work. Not all the time, but once or twice a week. Although it was fun and it felt good to be out in the fresh air, those ten miles to or from work seemed endless. But as many of you have experienced in your own lives, biking can be rather addictive. Three years ago, I started biking to work whenever I could.

And then my definition of “whenever I could” started changing. First I bought lights so I could commute by bike even in the dark. I began to ride my bike as transportation to other places as well. And I started to go on short morning rides just for fun.

Biking became a passion for me and I decided that I was going to try to biking through the winter. I had no clue what I was in for. Waking up an hour earlier to get to work on time, piling on layers of warm clothes, heading out into subzero weather, trudging slowly through deep snow – it took a measure of determination. It was also the most amazing experience of my life. It made me love winter with a surprising fierceness and cemented my desire to live without a car. Winter taught me how thrilling it is to explore the world and push myself to my physical and mental limits on a bike.

Once winter was over, I bought a road bike and began biking even more, over six hundred miles a month, just for the joy of it. That girl who just a few years ago struggled with low energy is gone. I am constantly surprised by how much I am able to do.

This Monday, for the second Monday in a row, I woke up at 3:30 am for my regular morning shift at the restaurant.

I biked 10 miles to work.
I worked on my feet for 10 hours.
I biked 10 miles back home.
*Interlude of one hour to shower and take care of my dogs
I biked 10 miles to an ice cream shop.
I met up with four other cyclists and rode 15 miles.
I biked 10 miles home.

Thirty minutes later, I was in bed, my alarm set at 3:30, ready to wake me up for another day of work.

It is earth shattering to me that I actually have the physical and mental stamina to work all day and then go out and bike. To see myself slowly transform from a being sedentary couch potato to living an active life, amazes me. And all it took was some time and a bike.

Every day I get older, that is a simple biological truth. But try telling my body that because every day I feel younger, more energetic, more full of life. Biking has reversed the aging process, I feel like a young twenty-something with the energy to take on the world.

And that is exactly what I am.

I never thought it would actually happen…

DSC00819For months I have done my best to find other people to bike with. Aside from wonderful bike rides with my family (shout out to my awesome big sis) I have been unable to connect with any other cyclists. I was beginning to think that all the bikers I see are lone road prowlers who never ride in packs. But on Saturday, my boss casually dropped a bomb. She mentioned that a group of cyclists meets up in front of an ice cream shop in town on Monday nights. Say what?

The same ice cream shop that I had called and asked whether they had any organized bike rides and been told, “They aren’t doing that anymore.”

Thrilled by this new knowledge that weekly bike rides were indeed being held, I decided to show up and check it out for myself. This is easier said than done, though, because the ice cream place is in the town where I work, ten miles from where I live. My timing would have to be perfect to make it back and forth by 6:00 pm.

At 3:20 I left work and biked home. Once home, I scurried around like a little squirrel; feeding and walking my dogs, taking a shower, checking my tire pressure and grabbing a bite to eat. Then I rode back to my workplace, dropped off my excess stuff and headed nervously over to the ice cream shop. I had no clue what I was getting myself into.

But when I arrived, I could not see a bike anywhere, even with my tunnel vision bike eyes. So I went inside and was told that, yes, there were normally bike rides on Monday night but usually people would be there by now. And no, they didn’t have phone numbers to contact anyone.

I went outside feeling sad. I knew it was too good to be true. I would have to wait until next Monday. But just in case, I biked a few miles and then looped back. Still no bicycles. Maybe just one more little loop, just to make extra sure…

As I rounded the very last turn, I saw a blessed sight. A man on a bicycle! And he was headed straight for the ice cream shop storefront. Hallelujah! Soon he was joined by another cyclist and I pulled over to meet them.

We were the only ones who turned up, but they assured me that normally they have a larger group. They started asking me questions about my biking and where I lived and worked. Then one of the guys said, “There was a woman who biked to work in the winter this year…”

All of a sudden he cut off and looked me straight in the eye. I must have given it away somehow because a look of understanding crossed his face. “It is you, isn’t it. I passed you on the road in the winter and I thought to myself, that person is slow to be biking out in that weather!”

I laughed. He is not the first person to think that I am a bit insane to bike in snow, but hey, I just happen to think it is loads of fun!

So then we got to the actual biking part. Twelve miles at an easy, conversational pace. They talked about their own biking, one of them bikes in charity rides as well organized races, the other fellow has started biking for his health. It was good fun, I will do my best to be at the front of that ice cream shop next Monday.

I still can’t believe it! I get to bike with people!
Boy, isn’t life grand?