Saturday, May 22, 2010

123 Mile Week

I don't know if I have actually said this in my blog yet, but my dad and I were officially chosen in the RAGBRAI lottery. So we are going. 7 days. 442 miles. I'm a little terrified. I'm not worried about my legs or my mind or my knees or my feet. I'm worried about my back. I'm not worried about back pain or stiffness. I just don't want it to seize up. So, in an effort to get as many miles in my legs as possible, while keeping my back as happy as possible, I've been putting in a lot of miles on my Lemond exercise bike. It's a recumbent so it takes the back right out of the equation. I think, at least at the level I ride at, it is a bit harder on the legs than a regular bike. No coasting. But, you have ready access to food and water when you need it. And, when the weather is nasty as it was this week, a movie is much more appealing than getting hailed on.

On Wednesday, I had a 6 hour break in my schedule so I decided to see what 75 miles felt like. After about 4.5 hours of pedaling, 5 bottles of water, 2 diet cokes, 2 hot cocoas, and one gigantic bacon, guacamole, tomato and mayonnaise sandwich, I did it. Along the way I watched two favorites: Cast Away and The Big Lebowski. I felt great. I had burned about 4000 calories and was hungry for the next 2 days.

I still did a lot of bike commuting this week. Grocery trips and the like. My weekly trip to Pho Van where they know me well and have actually started giving me even bigger servings than usual. After eating myself into a food coma on Tuesday I opted for a nap in the pouring rain instead of the long ride I had planned. I rode my bike through dry ice that someone had thrown in my street this week. That was cool. I rode up to Tabor once and when it is all added together my total miles for the week is 123. Not including today. I might go get myself a new watch band today so that would be another 5 miles or so. Either way, I think it is a record.

There's one other thing I want to add. It's not really a bicycle thing except it was the kind of thing I usually only experience on my bike. And, I want to write it down so I'll remember. Last night as I was waiting for sleep as I so often do, I couldn't help but appreciate that with the rain coming down outside my open window, nestled in my comfy bed with our freshly laundered sheets, and lying back to back with my now slumbering husband, well, there wasn't a person in the world who was luckier than me. A perfect moment, and not while listening to David Byrne and climbing a hill on my bike. It happened in my regular life. I've found that these perfect moments sustain me for days, weeks, sometimes even months. But, up until now I couldn't remember one happening that didn't involve my bike, world travel or the sauna. Or maybe a few glasses of wine. Lying in bed holding on to that feeling as long as possible, I thought to myself, "Well, maybe there is hope for me yet. "

Sunday, May 9, 2010


"People are really good." That is the thought I had as I was riding along the Springwater Corridor, today. I was thinking about a tweet I had seen by a woman who has traveled the world on her bicycle. "We can trust 99% of the people we meet," she had said. I thought that was really lovely.

About 30 seconds after I had that thought, someone flipped me off as I waved to them in thanks for stopping for me at an intersection. "Except for the assholes," I think. And, I can't help but wonder what percentage of assholes fit into that 99% number. Then I shake my head and say, "No, it's just cars. People become assholes when they are driving."

It's a funny juxtaposition between a cyclist and a driver. On a bicycle, you are powered by your own energy and releasing frustration. You are admiring the beautiful cherry tree, smelling the amazingly potent honeybush, chuckling at the kid learning to flip up his skateboard up on its side and balance. It's an incredibly rewarding experience and leaves you feeling refreshed when you get to your destination.

Driving, on the other hand, makes the best of us feel impatient and the worst of us feel malicious. I feel it in myself as I drive. I just want to GET THERE! I am conscientious about stopping for pedestrians and cyclists, but the process of driving is so unpleasant that I only do it when I absolutely CAN'T ride my bike. My husband talks about feeling his chest and neck tighten as he drives to work 14 days a month. I think, while driving, it is the only time he experiences true rage. Idiot drivers just bring it out in him. He HATES it and it is part of the reason the car mostly just sits in the driveway on his weekends.

These are the thoughts I have as I ride to Powell Butte, passing on the way a father with his daughter who is driving a battery powered miniature car. I can't help but roll my eyes. I get to Powell Butte, drink some water and eat a couple of dolmas. 15 miles and my back is already feeling tired. Am I crazy to have signed up for 442 miles in a week? Remains to be seen.

For the most part, the ride was lovely. I passed lots of families with their 2.2 kids and I thought a ride on Mother's Day seemed like a fine idea. The sun was shining and I was comfortable in my Sheila Moon halter top bike jersey. But, I was a mile from home when I almost got creamed by a, you guessed it, impatient driver coming off the Hawthorne Bridge. I heard him slam on the gas and slowed down just in time for him to cut me off as he exited. "Idiot," I think. I hope that 1.5 seconds helps him whenever he gets to where he is going. Seriously, where can someone possibly have to go that it would be worth slamming into, breaking the bones of, and possibly killing a fellow human being? I try to shake it off and say to myself, "Cars just bring out the worst in people."

And, the wonderful thing is, there is such a fantastic alternative...something that brings out the best in people...a bicycle. I think it is best to just ignore asshole drivers. Even if they are revving their engine behind you and pass you with just a foot to spare. Because, even on a day when I run into someone like that, I'm still glad I rode my bike. I'm glad because I used my body and refreshed my mind. I earned my way to my destination and I didn't miss the honeybush along the way. The amazing thing is that I got flipped off and almost got smashed into today, but I still felt great after my 30-mile ride. Asshole drivers or no asshole drivers, I look forward to many more rides to come...long, short and every distance in between.