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#30daysofbiking Day 20: a lesson in the rain

in the mist

I learned a lesson today.  Woke up this morning to rain, and since I really had nowhere that I had to be, I stayed in – catching up with work in the house, and hoping the rain might pass eventually, thinking I’d go out for a ride when it did.  And it never did.

I don’t mind – and actually often enjoy – riding in the rain, but can’t say I intentionally go out in it just to ride.  I have decent rain gear, and if I have to be somewhere, I usually don’t let rain stop me.  I’ve been caught in the rain – unexpectedly.  But I can’t say I’ve ever decided. “Hey, it’s raining – I’m going out for a ride!”

a puddle of pollen - washed from the air

But of course, this being #30daysofbiking – I knew I was going out in it, whether I really wanted to or not.  By late afternoon, when things still hadn’t cleared up, I decided to just go.  Had my rain gear, packed my camera in my waterproof Ortlieb, and decided to ride my mountain/commuter bike because it had fenders and I didn’t care how filthy it got.  I was prepared for a dreary, wet slog, and had decided ahead of time where my turn-around point would be.

The surprise was on me.  It was divine.  The rain dwindled down to a pleasant drizzle, the air was incredibly still and quiet, and smelled so fresh and clean.  Mist was hanging over the hills, leaves were dripping.  It was one of the most serene experiences I’ve ever had on my bike.  When I got to my turn-around point, I knew I wasn’t going to turn back as planned.  I stayed out in it.  Gladly.

I think most of my rainy day rides have been commuting – in town, in traffic.  A few times we’d been caught in showers biking trips (Grayson Highlands, VA, and the New River Trail come to mind).  But riding out on a quiet local road – just to ride, in the rain – was something I probably would never have thought to do, had it not been for my commitment to #30daysofbiking.

What a wonderful lesson #30daysofbiking taught me today.  Ride every day – you never know what you might be missing.

dandelions: just as beautiful when wet

#30daysofbiking Day 19: caffeinated

my friend Sarah: concert violinist, coffee lover and cyclist
my friend Sarah: concert violinist, coffee lover and cyclist

Rode into town this morning to meet my friend Sarah for coffee.  She is one of the most amazing women I feel honored to call a friend.  Accomplished concert violinist, adjunct professor of music, cyclist, gardener … and one of the most positive and upbeat people I have ever met.  It was one of those hard-to-get-started Monday mornings where I needed to tap into her vivaciousness and energy.  A little caffeine and an apple fritter didn’t hurt, either.

Sarah and her husband Jeff are both passionate/committed/avid cyclists (and after yesterday’s post, I hate to even try to figure out the correct adjectives).  They deliberately chose to buy their house close to the university where Jeff is teaching – where he rides his bike or walk to work every day.  Sarah rides locally as much as she can, although her teaching and playing often take her a little farther out, and not always within cycling range.  They both recently rode in a local charity cycling event to support Habitat for Humanity.  They’ve planted a wonderful organic garden in their back yard, and are always so conscious of  their low-impact/no-impact lifestyle choices.  I’m always inspired by them.

After coffee, I stopped at the garden center for a few small items and then headed home.  Would’ve liked to have ridden a bit more, a little farther today … but it was another day of HS tennis for Grant, and I just couldn’t find the time.  Feeling a little over-extended in keeping up with family, friends, photos, biking, blogging … and laundry.

But the best part about a bike commute – the times when I can incorporate a ride into daily task – is that it really gives me some breathing room.  A pause from the routine.  Even if it’s just a trip to town for coffee, or a stop at the garden center – it’s infinitely more satisfying than driving in a car. (Now if I could only figure out a way to do my laundry by bicycle! ;))


#30daysofbiking Day 18: a “serious” cyclist?

They are obviously pretty serious...

Today as I was fluffing about, thinking about today’s ride – a road ride? a bike picnic? a leisurely family spin on the greenway? – I thought of a recent conversation I had with a nice guy who had been asking me about my Xtracycle.  At one point, as he was telling me about one of his friends who cycles, he said something along the lines of, “Well, he’s one of those really serious cyclists …”, with the inflection in his voice implying that we both knew that I (goofy lycra-less woman on an Xtracycle) was obviously not in that category.

(Let me preface this by stating my feeling that labels are not only unnecessary, but also unfailingly stupid and inaccurate, and I try to avoid them.  But we’ve all heard – and likely even used – terms and labels when referring to other riders.  Like, “He/She’s really hard-core”, or “He/She’s a really serious cyclist.”  Enough said.)

But it has had me thinking about how right (or wrong?) was he?  What exactly is, and who qualifies, as a serious cyclist?  (And please feel free to chime in with your comments – whether you are serious or not. ;))

So, my self-evaluation of my cycling seriousness led me to the following conclusions of why I don’t, apparently, fall into the serious cyclist category:

  • I have more skirts in my closet than lycra-wear.
  • I have never ridden a century – or across the continent, or around the planet – and am not sure I really care if I do.
  • The combined dollar value of all of my bicycles is likely less than that of some (many?) serious cyclist’s wheel sets.
  • I do not have a training regimen.
  • I do not have a fully-equipped bike mechanic’s shop in my garage or basement.
  • I could not tell you how many miles I logged last week, but only that I rode every day.
  • Although my kids sometimes call me a hippie, I’m definitely not a hipster.  And I don’t own a fixie. (Yet.)
  • I stop a lot.   To take pictures, eat an apple, look at old barns, talk to farm animals, or just sit and enjoy the scenery.
  • I cannot execute a bunny hop.
  • Some days, I just get the groceries.
  • I don’t know the names of all of the components on my bicycle.
  • As much as I would like to, I don’t live in a serious cyclist city – like Portland, Minneapolis, NYC or Chicago.
  • I have been known to ride in flip-flops.
  • I still own a car.
  • I admire people like Kipchoge Spencer and Ross Evans infinitely more than Lance Armstrong.
  • I enjoy riding entirely by myself.
  • My husband is my only sponsor.

Part of my is, admittedly, a little sad that I will likely ever be referred to as a serious cyclist (despite my aversion to labels).  The only thing I know for sure is that even if I’m not a serious cyclist, I am a passionate cyclist – I love bicycles and the place they hold in my life.  I try to ride nearly every day, and hope to be doing so for a very long time to come.  I like to think that I embrace the bicycling lifestyle, even if I’m not defining it.

So, today’s #30daysofbiking ride ended up being a sub-serious-cyclist leisurely ride around “the neighborhood” – with my sponsor.  It wasn’t blazing fast, or very long, but there were a couple of nice sheep.   😉  Fine by me.

I, on the other hand ... obviously not so serious 😉

"Seriously" in need of shedding a sweater ... or four.

#30daysofbiking Day 17: bikes, tennis, rock-and-roll

home again - front yard (boys say I am starting a collection of bikes-leaning-against-tree photos 😉

A long and very multi-faceted day.  Grant left before 7am to attend the annual two-day HS tennis tournament at the Champions Club in Chattanooga.  Mark and I spent most of the morning dropping off garbage; literally.  Today was Household Hazardous Waste day, and we had a small pile of old paint, batteries, and miscellaneous “hazardous materials” to dispose of.  Quite a line of people waiting to go through the drop (a good thing).  We also made a stop at the landfill to drop off some recycling and a few other things.  Sorry to say, it was too much of a load to attempt by bike.

quick 8.6 miles around my "block"

Mark was kind enough to let me sneak in a quick ride “around the block” while he finished up some yard work (that I should have been helping with).  “Around the block” is basically the shortest loop I can make out of our house, and a nice little ride.  A couple good hills, lots of woods.  And also the requisite cows, a few mules, a few sheep, and a little white pony. 😉  Not much in the way of distance, but I simply had to stay faithful to the #30daysofriding.

We wanted to see Grant play, so we headed to the Champions Club just in time to see a great match – close, some wonderful volleys, but ultimately a loss.  He played 6 matches over the course of two days, a few wins, a few losses.  But one really great singles win – coming from behind to win in a tie-breaker.

Came home briefly to clean up and get ready for Round 2: the boys’ band, The Night Shines, were playing a concert at the Warehouse in East Ridge. I think Grant must have been pretty exhausted after 2 days of tennis, but it didn’t stop him.   They sound better and better each time, and I think they’re ready to be some serious contenders in next weekend’s Battle of the Bands.

It was a very long day … but never any shortage of good entertainment!

Grant: he's a tennis champ by day ...

... and a crazy bass guitarist by night!

#30daysofbiking Day 16: two-fer

always cows

One of the things I love most about cycling is the variety of things I get to see – often stuff I would never notice if travelling in car.  Sometimes it borders on the “most unusual” (more on that later), and sometimes the simply ordinary.  But riding in rural Tennessee, there is never a shortage of cattle in the landscape.  Lots and lots of cattle.

I call this my official "rides-with-Holsteins" attire... I think the cows like that I make an attempt to blend in. 😉

Today I had two short-ish rides.  First a solo road ride close to home, along one of my favorite roads with plenty of green pasture and grazing Holsteins.  Typical lovely sunny day out in the country, until I had quite the (hilarious) surprise.  Let’s just say as I was riding by one of the few houses along the road, I apparently startled a man who was out sunbathing – and I’m not so sure he was even minimally clothed, judging by the way he grabbed his towel and made a dash for his back door.  I’m not saying it wasn’t a little pervy, but honestly, I found it pretty hilarious.  I think he was genuinely mortified, and I really didn’t see much other than a flash of tan buttocks.  Maybe it was just a tan Speedo? 😉  I don’t think anyone driving by would have ever noticed him … but simply because I was travelling slower than your average car, well, let’s just say it was quite a surprise! LOL.

Mark got home from a week’s travel, and we headed over to our favorite Mexican spot for dinner.  They’ve recently started bringing in a Mariachi Band on Friday nights, so we had some music along with our dinner.  They were actually not too bad … and quite genial guys, turning to let me take a few pictures.  (Not sure why I had my camera in my bag, but I did.)

Las Margaritas - Mariachi Band

The evening was so nice that I talked Mark into a short low-key ride just up our road. Slow and casual ride, beautiful evening, more cows.  Kids playing ball at the little league field.  (No naked men anywhere – lol).

Tomorrow starts the annual mulch-a-thon around our house.  The boys and their band are playing at a small venue in Chattanooga in the evening.  Hoping to find some time to squeeze in a ride… not going to miss a day.

low key evening ride close to home

last cow of the day

#30daysofbiking Day 15: secret garden

wisteria bike

I know – it’s been a little flowery around here … but it’s springtime, so what do you expect?  Even though I was due to take a grocery run on the Xtracycle, the day was just too lovely to not go for a road ride.

When I was young, one of the first “chapter books” I remember receiving for my birthday and reading was The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett.  I remember being fascinated by the idea of a beautiful garden locked up behind a wall.  Today’s ride took me by a lovely old home in Hamilton County, with an amazing (and somewhat overgrown-and-gone-wild) collection of beautiful flowering plants and trees, climbing green ivy, and a tumbling picket fence.  Since it was all growing right along the side of the road, I couldn’t resist stopping; it begged to be photographed.  Beautiful to the eye, but the scent of the wisteria was even more incredible.

I had a wonderful ride (despite the excessive amount of pollen in the air – we’re above record levels), and got home just in time to leave again for Grant’s tennis match at Lee University in town.  I don’t know which is better – a college campus on a crisp autumn day, or a college campus on a gorgeous spring day?  While I was waiting for Grant to get on the court, I walked around and was happy to see a nice number of bicycles and cyclists on campus.  And I think I’ve mentioned it before, but one of our good friends who is a professor at Lee (and I often shudder when I think of him reading this mess :-0), rides or walks to campus every day – and I’m sure he’s inspiring others.  So awesome you are, Jeff! 😀

It was a long but lovely day – and a great improvement over yesterday.  Pretty exhausted, but definitely in a good way.

bicycles and clock tower near the tennis courts - Lee University

bicycles and clocktower near the tennis courts - Lee University

bikes on campus - Lee University

#30daysofbiking Day 14: I get by with a lot of help from my friends

End of a day I am glad to see over with and behind me.

I have four wonderful, inspiring, intelligent, beautiful, amazing sons.  If I have left a small mark on the world, it is only through them.  When someone takes them for granted, mis-treats them – especially an adult who knows better – well, my fangs come out.  And that’s all I am going to say right now.

During the mess that was today, I can only say I got by with a lot of help from my friends.  I include my bicycle in that group … the brief ride I managed to take today cleared my head, calmed me down, reminded me to breathe.  Anyone who rides knows the sanity-inducing power of pedaling, the simple sensation of moving forward, the meditative act of the inhale and the exhale.   The rhythm.

Feeling a little more peaceful as the sun sets.  Grateful for friends.

#30daysofbiking Day 13: triathlon Tuesday

This has become the only kind of triathlon I will partake in.  Swim, bike, read. 😉

Not my cup of tea...

My usual Tueday routine of riding to the pool for a swim, and the rather loathed routine of weights and strength training.  I would much rather be in the pool or outside riding, but kind of like brushing my teeth, I visit the weight room for the sake of bone density preservation (and it probably doesn’t hurt cycling/skiing/swimming-wise, either).  Gee, I love getting old.

I also had one of my typical moments of sheer genius today – left the house with camera(s) in hand … only to discover that I had left both batteries in the wall-chargers. Apparently I need some strength training in my brain muscles. So – no batteries, no pictures – except for these rather messy things I took with my iPhone.  FTW! 😛

On the way home I decided to stop at the bookstore, in search of a good book on photographic composition.  As is typically the case, I left the store with not one, but four books in hand.  Not all photography books, but still – ridiculous lack of self control when it comes to books.

One of my twitter cycling friends, Kerstin (@Kittydew) – who is a brilliant illustrator and computer/graphics design instructor, as well as an awesome cyclist – has been working far too hard lately. (Quite unlike myself, as you can tell).  So I told her I would take a scenic detour on her behalf during today’s ride.  And I did.  Took the long(er) way home, along Candies Creek Ridge Road.  And I will apologize to her in advance for the absence of some nice pictures of “her ride”.  Stupid, stupid battery-less me.  iPhone is all you get, my friend.

Now to sit down with the new books….

Kerstin's-been-working-too-hard detour

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#30daysofbiking Day 12: river ride

Me. Bike. River.

I have no good excuse to dislike Mondays, but I do.   Always feels like I am at the start of a long to-do list, and lacking the needed amount of motivation to get started.

Woke up to find The Band had spent the night, after some late hours practicing; school was out today.  (The Band, incidentally, is The Night Shines – sons Dillon & Grant, along with their friends Boaz and Tim).  Mark was off the the airport, and I was staring at my usual giant pile of Monday morning laundry.  Bleh.

After getting things around the house in some semblance of order, I headed out for a road ride – a little later than initially expected.  Solo today.  Decided to ride near the Hiwassee River, just north of our house.  I think I subconsciously needed a reminder to get back on track with involvement to fight Olin and their mercury-polluting mess … (more of the story on the subject is in my post from July 15, 2009).  Yet again, as I rode past one of the access areas to the river, several people were down fishing – despite the posted warnings of contamination.  I’m glad I rode by today – and then again, I’m not.  I’m getting so tired of waiting for the Mercury Pollution Reduction legislation to be passed.  How much longer?!!!

(Calming down…) We’ve had an incredible string of amazing weather days.  And quite unlike my feelings about Olin, I hope this weather doesn’t change for a long time…

before heading out, taking aim at myself ... 😉

#30daysofbiking Day 11: birthday boy

happy birthday, baby!

Today was my husband Mark’s 50th birthday – WOOT!  Older and better I say. 😀  Kind of hard to grasp that we have been together for more than half of our lives… One thing is for sure, I wouldn’t change a single thing.

We had our family celebration together last weekend – when all the boys were home.  So today was kind of anticlimactic … we just planned to hand around home, get a few things done and have a nice ride, dinner and a movie.

Another one of those days that didn’t go quite as planned.  Mark and Grant played a little tennis in the morning, then we did some yardwork.  And then came what was supposed to have been a brief – oh, one hour at most – home improvement project: installing a new electronic door lock … all my idea, of course. Which, like many home projects doesn’t go as planned and turned into close to 3 hours of aggravation.   (And as of this morning, it is still not working as it should).  Wasted far too much time messing with this thing, but finally decided to head out for a birthday ride.

It was definitely the best decision of the day. 😀  Had a great late-afternoon road ride, just the two of us.  Nice dinner out on the porch, and a relaxing movie at home afterwards.  Happy birthday, sweetheart!

the birthday boy ... Mr. Fit-Healthy-and-Fifty!

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