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#30daysofbiking Day 30: Success!

by the creek

Success! Day 30. ¬†What a great project this has been … so amazing, so much fun riding and getting to be part of the conversation with the cycling “twitterati” (as coined by a twitter pal). ūüėÄ

Today’s ride – solo road ride in the late afternoon. ¬†Much better feeling than yesterday, for whatever reason. ¬†Relaxing, connected, peaceful. ¬†As it should be. ¬†Rode on a very quiet road not far from home, which crosses a beautiful creek running through a field. ¬†No cows, just the trickling water – and me and my bike.

I feel like I should have something more profound to say about the whole experience, because it has meant a great deal to me. ¬†All I have are a few random thoughts ¬†that were running through my mind today…

  • It wasn’t hard. ¬†Really.
  • Ride … regardless. Even when – especially when – you might not feel like it. ¬†The days that surprised me the most were the days I may not have normally gone out “just to ride”: the bad weather days, the tired days, the too-busy days, the days when I ran out of time or daylight. ¬†I’m glad I ¬†found a way to get out – there was always an unexpected reward.
  • It’s not about the distance, or speed, or incredible skill on two wheels. ¬†Even if it only means riding around the block or up the street and back (or, as someone joked – to the end of the driveway and back) – just ride. ¬†You will be glad you did.
  • Mix it up. ¬†I loved taking a variety of rides – from the long-distance road rides to the simple commuter trips, or the quick spin on the greenway or up the road. ¬†A change in perspective can be a good thing – for anyone on a bike.
  • Love your bicycle; it’s an amazing friend to have.

So where to go from here? ¬†Lots of chatter about continuing … and I think I’m up for it. ¬†Maybe not the daily posting, but definitely the daily riding. ¬†Or as close to it as I can get. ¬†Thinking #330daysofbiking ………….

Last word – I am so grateful to the many friends – twitter, ¬†ShutterCal, and “real-life” – who encouraged me (and put up with) all of this daily nonsense, who read the blog entries, commented, tweeted, and allowed me to share my (one-too-many) random pictures … you are awesome! ¬†And most of all – grateful to the tweeps (@patiomensch, @rycera, @nicycle) who started the whole #30daysofbiking rolling – you guys ROCK!

... the end. (Or the beginning ...?)

#30daysofbikingphotos

#30daysofbiking Day 29: distracted

Bigsby Creek Road barn

It was a truly beautiful day, weather-wise, but my heart and mind were just not in the ride today. ¬†Even though it felt good to pedal, I felt so distracted – thinking of countless things around home that needed to be taken care of, schedules, tennis, upcoming graduation, moving boys back home from college … It’s all piling up and about to converge in a few days of craziness, and I just can’t clear my mind.

I took a few photos today along the way, but found it kind of revealing when I got home and sorted through them – none of the “keepers” ¬†included my bike. ¬†Perhaps it speaks for the feeling of detachment I had today? ¬†Dunno.

A nice set of handlebars on his head

more flowers alongside the road

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#30daysofbiking Day 28: fields

To the attentive eye, each moment of the year has its own beauty, and in the same field, it beholds, every hour, a picture which was never seen before and which shall never be seen again.

~Ralph Waldo Emerson

fields of red clover

Road ride today. ¬†I wan’t quite confident in the weather to be rain-free. ¬†So no pannier, no dry bag, and hence – no DSLR today, just the pocket point-and-shoot Lumix. ¬†Which I came to regret, because my eyes were popping … the fields were amazing today. ¬†On fire with red clover and yellow buttercups. ¬†And a few daisies.

A pretty peaceful and quiet ride, one that I wished I could have extended a few miles longer. ¬†But it was another tennis day for Grant, and against one of the tougher teams in the district, so I really wanted to be there to cheer them on. ¬†(Guess I didn’t cheer loud enough; defeat.) ūüė¶

I’ll leave the rest of the ride story to the pictures … not much I can really say. ¬†The fields – you’d just have to see it; photos could never capture the scope of the endless color.

a few daisies ...

... a few clouds

taking a quick phone call at a country church...

... fields of buttercups

... and endless red clover

Now I believe that lovers should be draped in flowers and laid entwined together on a bed of clover and left there to sleep, left there to dream of their happiness.

~ Conor Oberst

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#30daysofbiking Day 27: storms and swimming

caught in the rain

To the pool today. ¬†Another day of unpredictable – when it came to the weather. ¬†Sun, clouds and wind on the way to the pool; not so bad. ¬†The swim part was more work than the biking part today. ¬†Not that I strictly adhere to a regimen when I swim, but most days I like to follow one of my old swim club workout sets ¬†– primarily to mix it up. ¬†(I have almost perfected the skill of being able to doze off and nap while swimming, so the “mixing-it-up” part tends to keep me conscious). ¬†It was a long swim today – for me, anyway – and by the time I finished, the storm was brewing outside.

Sure enough, got caught in a downpour on the way home.  No rain gear, of course.  Thankfully it was brief.  From wet (pool) to wet (rain).  Oh well.

anxious to be swimming outside (soon!) - rather than inside

another one of the typically (un)productive ways I spend my day

of course when you have no rain gear, you can just see it coming ...

#30daysofbiking Day 26: earth wind fire water

Earth and wind ... a blustery bicycle day

Elemental day. ¬†The earth and wind part came by bike. ¬†A front moved through bringing more wind and cold(er) and blustery temperatures. Not much rain, but pretty threatening skies. ¬†Wasn’t the nicest day to be riding, but I headed out for a local trip on the Xtracycle. ¬†Took the camera along, but my eyes felt “broken” – just didn’t see anything to shoot (except usual group of cows far out in the distance).

Afternoon brought another tennis match for Grant; today’s home game was at Lee University in town. ¬†It was uncomfortably cold and windy to be sitting still watching the match, so I walked around a bit – which is where the fire and water part come in. ¬†Lee University’s athletic teams are the Lee Flames, and they have a neat flame-topped fountain adjacent to the tennis center. ¬†Going through the photos upon getting home, I couldn’t help noticing the elements.

Pretty lame correlation … but I cannot explain how my brain works some days. ūüėČ

... fire and water (Lee University)

... fire and water (Lee University)

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#30daysofbiking Day 25: windy

... after the storm, field in bloom

It was a dark and stormy night …. (I have always wanted to write that). ¬†Lots of nasty weather last night, but woke up this morning to sun and some pretty strong winds gusts. ¬† ¬†Lots of green. ¬†(And yellow – up in the field).

Spent the day doing house stuff. ¬†Actually, Mark did more of the “work” part than I did (no surprise there). ¬†We had both considered taking a nice long road ride, but the wind was so crazy we decided to hold off until later in the afternoon. ¬†Finally got out, but it was some tough going. ¬†Riding against a gusting headwind is even more difficult for me than a long climb (but I am not such a serious cyclist to begin with;)). ¬†A few times crosswind gusts felt like they were going to blow my bike right out from underneath me. ¬†On the flip side, a change in direction (tailwind), made it feel like I was flying. ¬†Definitely the fun part!

can you tell local elections are right around the corner?

"sharing the road"

Spent a little time playing with my camera around the yard and up in the field. ¬†More “other” pics than bike pics today. Still kind of hard to believe that we’ve reached Day 25 of the 30… ¬†And that’s all I have. ūüėõ

little blue butterfly up in the field - can never figure out how they can navigate on windy days like today?

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#30daysofbiking Day 24: signs

Reflections Of A Bicycle (it's very philosophical)

Day of rain.  Strong storms rolling through the region Рeverything from rain to hail to high winds, and even some tornados (although fortunately not here).

We had a few light showers in the morning, but during a break in the action, Mark and I went out for a ride – hoping to get out and back before things got too nasty. ¬†We couldn’t have timed it more perfectly. ¬†The clouds were rolling, and the wind was picking up, but we managed to have a dry ride – a few drops of rain only at the very end, near home. ¬†I think I was making Mark pretty nervous – my typical stopping to take photos, while he kept eyeing the threatening skies.

all "signs" pointed home - get back before the bad stuff comes

My latest “beef” happens to be about some recent roadwork done by the folks at TDOT. ¬†About a week ago, some large and very noisy machinery showed up on our road. ¬†They ended up carving rumble strips/troughs/markings along the edges of our road – a narrow two-lane road that has barely any shoulder to begin with. ¬†I’m not sure why and when this decision was made – although being down in a valley, we tend to see a fair amount of early morning fog, and visibility on the road can be pretty bad at times.

Maybe it has made things safer for automobiles, but it has made my riding life a bit more of a brain-rattling headache. ¬†Now it is nearly impossible to move over onto (or even slightly beyond) the white line, without shaking the teeth out of my head and causing some control issues with my bike. ¬†It’s incredibly jolting – much more so than I ever would have expected. ¬†So now¬†I’m pretty much forced to take the lane to avoid the rumble strip – which extends into the lane fairly significantly in several sections. ¬†I’m sure TDOT wasn’t ever considering cyclists in making the decision; a definite sign of priorities (and our not-so bicycle/pedestrian-friendly local culture).

bicycling brain-rattle rumble strip, courtesy of TDOT

Right now as I sit here, the wind is blowing pretty viciously, and I hear the rumbling of thunder in the distance.  A sure sign that I should probably sign off and turn off my computer before the power goes out.  Looking for some sun tomorrow.  Fingers crossed!

An addendum to the rumble-strip mention … twitter friend @brennen forwarded this article to me, about the increasing numbers of rumble strips being installed on roads around the country (thanks to stimulus dollars), and the significant hazards they are posing to cyclists. ¬†It appears LAB along with several other advocacy groups are attempting to have changes made to (shoulder allowances, pass-throughs, etc.) to make it safer for cyclists. ¬†Very good article: http://www.bikingbis.com/blog/_archives/2010/4/28/4514086.html


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#30daysofbiking Day 23: first light, last light

First light. Across the road; neighbor's field & morning mist

I love the surrounding fields in the first light of morning.  In the spring and fall, we always have some amazing mist hanging low in the valley.  This morning, the light Рas I saw it from out on our front porch Рwas especially beautiful.

It was a long day. ¬†The boys’ 14-year old car had finally reached the point of not-worth-fixing-again. ¬†Mark took the day off so we could do some car shopping, and we ended up finding a nice 2008 Honda Civic Hybrid as a replacement. ¬†I know it’s not as fuel efficient as a bike – but as far as vehicles go, I’m happy with the choice.

Came home and mowed grass, planted some corn, and finally – near 7pm in the evening – ¬†Mark and I got out for a quick spin. ¬†A front was moving in, and we didn’t have much daylight left. ¬†Tomorrow it appears we will see rain and some thunderstorms.

The last light coming through the approaching clouds was lovely Рnot as colorful as the morning, but still beautiful in a muted way.  A fine ride, and a fine ending.

in motion...

in motion...

... last light.

#30daysofbiking Day23: river ride & Earth Day rant ~ Olin’s toxic fish

courtesy of Olin Chlor-Alkali, Charleston, TN - a reminder of what has NOT changed since Earth Day 1970

oblivious to the warnings, Brady, age 5: fishing for (toxic) bass with his Nana and Pa

Today is Earth Day. ¬†Forgive me if I don’t feel like celebrating. ¬†I might sound a little snarky, but I find too much of the current Earth Day celebrating to be nothing but a bunch of marketing hype, Earth Day-branded discounts, and various corporate greenwashing tactics – all aimed at wasteful consumerism. ¬†“Go GREEN – buy this (useless-crap-you-don’t-need-that-will-end-up-in-the-landfill) and enter EARTH at checkout to receive your 15% Earth Day discount!” Throw in a few token speeches, a ceremonial planting of a tree, an elementary school poster contest, and you’ve got Earth Day 2010.

As the great Walter Cronkite reported on his CBS news special “Earth Day 1970’’, on April 22, 1970,  “The hoopla of (the first) Earth Day is over. The problems remain.’’

And so they do.

Today’s ride was to points along “our river” – the Hiwassee River that runs near our house. ¬†The river that now, thanks to the wonderful folks at Olin Chlor-Alkali corporation, is so contaminated with their mercury discharge that the few remaining fish that survive outside of the “dead zones”, namely bass, ¬†have been found to contain mercury levels 25% above EPA limits. The last documented EPA Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) indicated mercury discharge rates in tons – both airborne and “discharge to receiving streams and/or water bodies”.¬†¬†¬†The warning signs are posted at nearly every put-in and boat dock, yet I am continually stunned to see people fishing here – and keeping their catch. ¬†Today was no exception.

Donnie and Vicky; this bass wasn't big enough to keep ... otherwise they keep and consume their catch, despite posted warnings

I stopped at the put-in closest to our house when I saw some people down fishing. ¬†Decided to be brave and talk with them, to see if they would let me photograph them. ¬†After their initial wariness, they were very friendly and obliging. ¬†I asked them if they kept their catch – and they said they did. ¬†I also asked if they were concerned at all about the posted warnings, or knew about the mercury issue. ¬†I got an answer I had heard before, “Oh, we’ve been fishing here for a long time … ain’t never had any problems with it.”

further upriver, but just downstream from the Olin plant

further upriver

catching bass - upriver near the marina/boat ramp

catching bass - near the marina/boat dock just downstream from Olin

I stopped again near the boat ramp/marina – a location closer to the Olin plant and their discharge sites. ¬†I’d been on the water just upstream from here near the plant (by boat) and you can visually see – in the water – a line of demarcation where there are “dead zones” from the pollutants. ¬†Two gentlemen were out on the small dock fishing. ¬†And catching a few bass. ¬†I stopped and talked to them too. ¬†They told me they kept what they caught, as well – “They’s some good eatin’!” ¬†When I asked if they were concerned at all about the mercury discharge from Olin, one of them told me that he knew someone who worked there, and he knew it was “real bad” – but figured if the fish were out swimming, they were probably ok.

In both cases, I just didn’t know what to say? ¬†“Are you out of your minds?!” ¬†I couldn’t say anything, but just thanked them for letting me photograph.

Brady's dad ... taking his son out for an afternoon of (toxic) bass fishing

On my way back was probably the most disturbing encounter I had today. ¬†It’s were I spotted the little boy, Brady (5 yrs old), out fishing with his dad near the bridge. ¬†Again, I stopped, talked to them and asked if they would mind if I took a few pictures. ¬†Sure, no problem. ¬†This time, I only asked if they kept their catch. ¬†They said yes. ¬†It honestly nearly broke my heart. ¬†How could they ignore the warnings? With no concern for possible cancer, reproductive, or brain development issues that can be caused by mercury consumption? ¬†I had to leave.

I’ve had my rants about Olin in the past, and I will try not to repeat myself, but these are the facts:

  • Olin is on record, and has known of the impending need to convert their plant to mercury-free technology – yet has repeated chosen to ignore their responsibility, and they are now crying foul. ¬†With the threat of pending legislation which would require them to convert their plant within 2 years, they are now attempting everything possible to stop passage of the bill. ¬†And they are being facilitated by indulgent (and well-lobbied) politicians – namely Senator Bob Corker (R) and Representative Zach Wamp (R).
  • Olin has successfully converted other plants – including McIntosh, AL, Niagra Falls, NY, and St. Gabriel, LA – and yet continue their exuse-making when it comes to the Charleston, TN, plant. ¬†Because they have been allowed to get away with it. ¬†Because they know the political will to protect the health and well-being of the river and local citizenry doesn’t exist – it is the hallmark of every environmental disaster brought about by abusive corporations and the political power they purchase. Coupled with¬†the recent decision by the US Supreme Court to overturn restrictions on corporate spending in elections, it can only get worse.
  • Olin bases their refusal to convert the Charleston plant on expense and jobs “lost” – which they know is complete fiction. ¬†Over 100 other plants have demonstrated that the conversion to mercury-free technology can be completed within 18-24 months, with minimal production downtime. ¬†The converted plants not only provide safer working environments for their employees and surrounding residents/neighborhoods, but also save energy and increase production capacity. ¬†A similar conversion by PPG provided jobs for over 250 additional workers. ¬†Olin, your excuses just don’t fly!

  • Olin continues to claim that conversion of the plant is “economically unfeasible” … So can they please explain to me how they can justify their recent disclosure of obscene executive pay increases?¬†¬†Joseph Rupp, Chairman/President/CEO of Olin Corp. received 14% pay raise, awarding him annual salary of 5.7 million dollars. John McIntosh, President of the Chlor Alkalai received 12% pay raise, bringing his annual salary to $1.4 million. ¬†Please explain to me how a plant conversion is “economically unfeasible” when contrasted with your executive compensation?

So, it’s Earth Day. ¬†And Walter Cronkite was quite the visionary. ¬†The problems remain. ¬†The Mercury Pollution Reduction Act appears to be stalled in the federal bureaucratic black hole. ¬†The mercury dumping continues. ¬†A little boy is eating toxic fish. ¬†The problems remain.

What could I say to him?

#30daysofbiking Day 22: a day in the life of a Big Dummy (10 photos)

Todays #30daysofbiking story will be in photos.  (Because it was a long one, and I am too tired to write coherently.)

Heading out. Paying respects to a "deceased" brother ...

Needed some cash.

Picking up a picture I had framed.

Picking up the tennis team snacks.

Mailing graduation announcements.

Dropping off some mail.

Taking the Greenway through town.

A visit to the bike shop; lusting after pretty shiny things. (Ltd. edition Felt Brougham in full chrome/white glory)

Sharing. (Another tennis match. Tennis team kids wanted to ride. Will hold many racquets.)

Watching Grant. Won both his singles and doubles matches today. ūüėÄ

After a long day, back at home. Good night, moon.