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Posts tagged ‘#30daysofbiking’

#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. 😛

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 – everything 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:

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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 – as I saw it from out on our front porch – was 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 – not 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. 😀

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

#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