Sunday, October 24, 2010

Resting and Playing

My road bike Amie has, sadly, been sitting idly in the garage for the last week. The time has come for me to give my back a rest. If you've been reading my blog for a while you know I have trouble with my back. It started when I was 15, progressed to 4 herniated discs when I was 20 (which were very painful - I hardly sat at all for a year), and has settled into arthritis in 13 vertebrae, and a sticky SI joint. I'm 34 and after 19 years of this I've learned a lot of tricks which keep me happy and active - the way I like to be. I've had some very good years with my back in the last 19 years, this last year and a half has been moderately good. I finished RAGBRAI and that is awesome. Totally awesome.

But, last week, as I was doing that thing where you try to put your pants on without bending know what I mean if you have back problems...where you almost try to kick the pants on, I was thinking, I never really let my back recover from that ride. I just kept going. My back didn't seize up, but it just got progressively more and more exhausted. Every time I try to stand up I groan like an old lady. No, the rain has started. It's getting cold. I'm going do what I very seldom

Of course, rest for me means 45-minute elliptical sessions, 60-minute stationary bike sessions, 40-minute dog walks and riding my bike for errands and transportation. I get all cranky and fidgety if I don't do cardio. I don't sleep well and I have to starve myself because I don't have a naturally fast metabolism. Still, if you knew me well, you'd know that just doing a little cardio 5 or 6 days a week is definitely resting. My husband used to say that I either was moving or in-between. Actually, now that I think about it, blogging has helped me have an in-between.

Which brings me to today's ride. I donned my new favorite, oh so favorite, pink coat and set off to the library and the grocery. It was raining but I skipped the umbrella, wanting to feel the tangible sensation of the rain on my face and my hands. Tat-a-tat-tat, the rain drops patter down, and with the wind blowing I'm reminded of just how alive I am.

I try, with varying results to get a good picture of my new favorite (oh so so SO favorite) coat with my camera. At the library, I run in, grab a book about cycle touring (like the 8th one I've read) and head back out into the pouring rain.

I head over to Fred Meyer for some fruit, coffee, and wine. The coffee I get is Portland Coffee's Mt. Tabor blend. So delicious every morning for my one soy latte.

Riding home, the sun has come out and I get my favorite shot of the day. You can see my butterfly helmet that I bought in Finland, my coat, and my beloved bicycle, Reilly (completely outfitted with every toy you can put on a handlebar including the umbrella attachment that I got in Japan). Well, there probably are more handlebar toys, but Reilly's out of room. :)

Friday, October 15, 2010

Year Two

After spending the last week in Montana, we decided to do a familiar Tabor ride for our first time back in the saddle. For Peter, it was the first time riding in at least two weeks. The air is brisk and cool, the sun gentle as we ride off on this beautiful fall day.

While I was in Montana I had my one year anniversary of this blog and I've spent a little time over the last few weeks reading old entries. I usually write my entry while I'm icing my back and spend almost no time editing. It's clear from reading that I'm not so good with commas and hyphens. But, I am so happy that I've been keeping this diary because I've grown so much as a cyclist in the last year. It's fun to have a record of that. If you've been reading along, well, thanks so much for taking an interest in my little story and in my riding.

As we round the top, we see 4 tourists out on rental bikes. They are taking pictures of the city on our first time at the top. On the second trip up they are posing with the statue of Harvey W. Scott pointing towards Portland. As we round the top, they hop back on their bikes, decidedly more well-dressed than we are in our workout clothes and we all barrel down the mountain.

They stop to look at a map and I pull over to chat. They're from Japan and are here for 4 days and yes, they did ride all the way to the top of Mt. Tabor on those city bikes. "Impressive," I said and asked them if I could take they're picture.

Our ride has been over-run with oblivious parents. "Oblivious...oblivious," I sing to the tune of Aquarius. Screaming kids, kids running into the street, kids yelling at their parents "No!" seem to erase parents brains to the fact that getting hit by a bike would really hurt (both of us). I keep yelling out, "Watch out!," but mostly just slow way down so I can stop at a moment's notice. "Looks like fun," Peter says, tongue-in-cheek, as we pass a kid that is screaming at his dad.

As we make our way down after the fourth ascent, Peter remarks, "I'm really getting better at this." That's the beauty of muscle memory. It takes a little while to build it, but once you have it, you have it. It probably helps that we walked/hiked 30+ miles in Missoula.

We make a big circle, riding down the Salmon side and through the neighborhood bike streets, past the library and the school. The leaves are falling slowly and sometimes hit my cheek or my chest as I ride through them. They make a satisfying crunch sound under my wheels. Riding on a sunny fall day on my favorite mountain with my favorite person. I think as I ride that this is a great way to start the second year of my diary.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010


The thing I love about riding is that there is almost always something interesting that happens. Sometimes it's good. Sometimes it's bad. Many times it is just fun or amusing or in some may memorable. But, time and time again, I'm happy I chose a bike ride over time on my elliptical.

Today, as I rode off I was thinking about how my dad always says, "Welcome to the real world," to me. I was thinking about what the REAL world is. Certainly, it is many different things for many different people. For some people, it is constant suffering and hardship. For most westerners, even the hardship comes with some measure of support from our family, culture, government. You don't see a lot of people walking around with dead eyes like I read about the people in somewhere like Nepal looking.

For a lot of people, having kids is part of living in the real world. Kids aren't my thing and since good birth control is cheap and incredibly effective, my world hasn't included a baby. So, does that mean I'm somehow missing out on what real life is like? Maybe, but I also get to save my pennies for trips to Iceland while my friends are saving for piano lessons, braces and college.

Anyway, these were the kinds of thoughts I was having when I saw them in front of me. She was about 5 feet tall, with a scarf on her head. He was maybe a few inches taller, bowlegged, and wearing a smart Irish cap. They were moving along slowly, holding hands and taking up the entire path. They had to both be at least 80 years old. It just killed me. Elderly couples, walking slowly together, hands clasped completely ruin me. They send me into all these sentimental, gushy thoughts about life and my husband and living our lives together until we are old and creaky. I chastise myself for not taking a picture of them as I approached and slowly walk around them.

I stop as usual at Powell Butte for a banana. "Two bananas and an egg," I told my husband this weekend. I can get 3 hours worth of entertainment for 45 cents, plus burn lots of extra calories to be able to eat a fabulous dinner. Such a rewarding hobby.

A couple of Russian kids are playing on the trail. "Da, da, da, da, da!," the little girl says to her brother. I laugh that she keeps saying the only Russian word I know.

Back on my bike, I'm admiring the horses when I notice a long stick covering the right half of the path. Then the stick moves. Snake! Before I can think, Turn! Hard! Fast! I turn hard and fast and miss the snake's head by a centimeter or two. This is the first time in over a year I've seen a snake out here and now every stick is a snake. What's that? Oh, just a stick. What's that? Oh, another stick. I'm just starting to settle down and get back to enjoying my ride when Snake! Oh, geez, now I am officially freaked out. I do not want to hit a snake. At. All. I worry that they are out sunning themselves because it is colder.

At the end of the trail, I run out and take some pictures of the sunflowers for my friend, Lucy. Then head back. I'm still on snake alert and thinking about how this is just the kind of thing that stresses me out. Things I have absolutely no control over do not stress me out. Swine flu, nuclear holocaust, crashing when I'm in an airplane. I am not in the slightest way responsible for those things. When I'm on a plane, I'm utterly relaxed. It's the stuff that I do have some control over that gets me stressed. I think about trying to be the kind of person who would say, "Just relax. Enjoy your ride. If you kill a snake it is it's own stupid fault for being on a trail with so many humans on it." This works for all of exactly 6 seconds before I'm back to diligently scanning for moving sticks. When I turn onto the I-205 bike path I let out a sigh. I decide I need to climb a big hill and head for Mt. Tabor.

The hill climbing relaxes me and I go out of my way to get a nice shot of Mt. Hood. After 41 miles I pull into home, starving because I'm two hours late for lunch. I eat a giant bowl of pho and think about how glad I am that I made the herculean effort to miss that snake. When I rode past that spot, he had long since slithered away. It was a bit more stressful today because of him, but then, without him, it surely wouldn't have been so memorable.

Monday, October 4, 2010


this time last year on Tabor

I ride off today, under-dressed, in my RAGBRAI jersey and Pearl Izumi bike shorts. It's the only pair of shorts I have and my only real jerseys are my RAGBRAI jerseys, so there it is, my uniform. My emotions are a mixture of anger, sadness, frustration, and delight. Life is like that sometimes. I'm not going to go into the first three other than to say that by the end of this ride they were just memory, a happily forgotten result of climbing hills. The delight was because I had made the most delicious homemade tomato soup for lunch and while I was enjoying it my dad called. I hadn't talked with him in a while and it was nice to catch up.

I was moving quickly in the beginning and drivers were pissing me off. One ran me into a parked car after a stoplight and another passed me while I was going around a circle. It was a perfectly ridiculous thing to do on such a quiet street so I guess I wasn't all that surprised when the passenger leaned out of the window, just a foot away from me and takes my picture. What did surprise me was that he was wearing a Jason hockey mask. How bizarre! I've seen this guy before when I did my Bicycling Daydreams ride.

As I pulled into the park, I saw him jump out of the car, run up to these two women and take their picture. "What are you doing?," one of them says, while the other has the presence of mind to pull out her smart phone and snap a picture of him. He poses for it, then jumps back in the car and they speed off.

I pass a road biker, dressed much more appropriately in pants and a jacket and say, "Howdy." I'm freezing at this point and glad I turned on the sauna before I left home. I pedal on to the top, circle it, and scream down in front of the reservoir at 27 mph. Just before I reach the bottom I see the two women and stop to talk about how strange the hockey mask guy was. We decide he was looking for pictures of shock when I tell them about my experience. I think my mouth was open and my brow was furrowed in my picture. Concerned, maybe. Confused, for sure.

Then as I'm riding away, one of them yells out, "Hey, RAGBRAI!" We get to talking and we graduated from the University of Iowa a year apart. "I've always wanted to do RAGBRAI!" she says. Small world.

This is just a short little Tabor ride, but already it has been filled with fear, surprise, mystery and fellowship. It is just what I needed to remember to shake off things that make me feel sad or hurt. And, when in doubt, even if it is for just an hour, go for a bike ride!