xmlns:og>='http://ogp.me/ns#'> Pedals & Pencils: December 2008

December 31, 2008

Lessons From My Closet

There is a movement called Simple Living.  The idea behind it is that the simpler your life, the happier you will be.  The more unfettered you are, the more fulfilled you will be.  While I can't imagine only having one fork and a singular pair of shoes, there is a certain tranquility in paring down, cutting away the fat.  I don't plan on throwing out all of my flip flops or tossing my favorite books or getting rid of my seldom used wedding china, but I eagerly admit to feelings of joy when I expunged two large shopping bags stuffed with clothing from my closet.  Some clothes I just don't wear.  Some clothes were too big.  Some were too small.  Basically they just don't fit anymore.

A funny thing happened as I gleefully threw items into the bags.  I discovered things I already own that I'd forgotten about.  Cozy sweaters crammed on a shelf, shiny brown boots hiding in a dark corner.  Jeans smashed in between other jeans.  I was ecstatic to rediscover these long lost items.  It was like shopping in my own closet.  I carefully folded or hung each one.  I even organized all of my clothing by color, like a teeny tiny version of Oprah's closet.  Sitting on the floor of my closet, I could now clearly see each item.  It was refreshing.

From the floor I could also clearly see my fancy dresses.  Party dresses, maid of honor dresses, funeral dresses.  I'd already weeded through them and kept the ones I feel good in, but from the floor I could see they were taking up SO much space.  Why was I letting things I only use occasionally plug up an area I occupy everyday?  It didn't make any sense.  So I gathered up my fancy dresses and moved them to the tiny hall closet.  The one that houses snow coats and the vacuum, both things I rarely touch.  When my fancy dresses were all settled in the hall closet, I had a "Why didn't I think of that sooner?" moment.  Of course dresses I seldom wear should occupy a space I seldom access.

And then it hit me.  My closet, my wise closet, was imparting lessons to me.  As I was cleaning out my closet, I was feeding the desire to rid my life of things that don't fit.  Not just things that don't fit my body, but things that don't fit who I am, or better yet, who I'd like to become.  I want to become a better writer, teacher, and cyclist.  To make room for that in my life, other things simply do not fit.  Endless hours drifting through the internet will not fit.  People who create unnecessary drama do not fit.  Mindlessly watching tv does not fit.  Scarfing all things chocolate does not fit.  People who constantly complain about teaching do not fit.  I simply don't have the room.

If I get rid of things that don't really fit who I want to be, I'm confident I'll re-discover some things that are important to me.  Things I'd forgotten about when I sandwiched them between thoughtless, unimportant things.  For example, I love poetry.  I love writing it, reading it, even just thinking about it.  Parking myself in front of the TV mindlessly doesn't leave a lot of room for rumination of poetry.  In the same vein, pounding copious amounts of tasty goodies in lieu time in the saddle doesn't fit with my goal to be a better cyclist.  There's not room for both.  This probably seems like "duh" to you, but it's time for me to let go of things that suck time and energy and give nothing in return.  It's certainly not simple living, but it is living simpler. I already feel happier.  Here I thought I was just cleaning out my closet.

December 27, 2008

Candy-gram? No. Pizza guy? No. Landshark Socks? Yes!

This Christmas, I received things in pairs.  For example, I received two homemade scarves.  I am now the lucky beholder of gift certificates to two different bike shops.  In my stocking were two pairs of socks and a pair of necklaces.  My mom even gave me a ornament of A Partridge In A Pear Tree.  Ok, it's a stretch, but I'm the one writing this, so it counts.

The thing I'd like to talk about today are the socks.  Both pairs were stocking stuffers from Terry.  One pair were made of read and green soft, fuzzy goodness, perfect bedtime socks.  The other pair of socks are the best pair of socks ever created.

Before I tell you more about the socks, let's talk about my favorite times of the year.  To start with, I love the week of 4th of July.  That is the week Terry and I both celebrate our birthdays and I volunteer with Youth to Youth.  I also enjoy the week of Easter vacation.  Not only do I enjoy the days off, but it is a time for me to reflect on my relationship with God.  Another favorite time of year is the week of our anniversary.  The fact that my favorite person in the world has stuck with me for another year is pretty amazing shocking.  But there is one week that is in a whole other category.  I'm not saying it's better than those other weeks, I'm just saying it's worthy of it's own special category.

The week I'm talking about is, of course, Shark Week.  During Shark Week my DVR just about faints from exhaustion.  I am mesmerized by sharks.  Fierce white tips, fat nurse sharks, powerful great whites.  I am in awe of them all.  My hair could catch on fire and I wouldn't even notice that my scalp was singeing because I'd be too busy watching Great Whites propel themselves straight into the air, hunting the playful inhabitants of Seal Island.  From their ultra-sensitive noses to their rows and rows of teeth, I am an unabashed shark superfan.

So back to the socks I got for Christmas.  Let me tell you what makes these the King of All Socks.  To begin with, they are cycling socks.  That in itself makes them far better than all other types of socks.  Secondly, they are made by The Sock Guy, creator of awesome cycling socks.  The Sock Guy must also be a fan of Shark Week because these socks have sharks on them!  Strike that.  These socks are sharks.  Great White Sharks.  The toe is the nose.  On the ankle is the fin.  And the mouth on the underside is full of pointy teeth.  Just in case you're still not getting the greatness of these socks, here they are in full predatory action!

Can't you just hear the Jaws music playing?  These are by far the most ferocious socks I've ever seen.  Surely, they will make me a more ferocious cyclist, too.  Sharks have to continuously move forward.  Otherwise they die.  As I'm chugging up hills, I will have sharks on my feet.  My feet will have to keep pedaling, if only out of mortal fear.  SNL had it right.  Landsharks are the best and most clever of all the shark species.

December 23, 2008

The Little Gingerbread House

Happy Festivus!  I had every intention of writing out my Airing of Grievances list, but it turns out I don't have a lot to be disgruntled about.  Most of my list revolved around laundry and the fact that Terry beat me soundly at the Feats of Strength this year.  The Feats of Strength took place at our gym and let me just say that I am not friends with the Bosu ball.  Terry, on the other hand, is gifted and talented on the Bosu.  I was so uncoordinated that one of the personal trainers actually told his client to stop doing sit ups so she could laugh at me.  Yes, I added that trainer to my list of greivances, but even so it was a sparse list.  So I leave you with a photo of our Festivus Pole and a story about a little gingerbread house.

Several Christmases ago our friends, Nick and Abby, threw a gingerbread house making party.  Their table was all a-sparkle with bowls of candy.  There were fluffy clouds of frosting to lather on graham crackers.  It was a fantastic party idea.  With hot apple cider in our bellies, we created some charming gingerbread residences.  I say residences because 'houses' did not apply to all of the creations.  Actually, charming didn't apply to all of them either.  Terry, for example, made a gingerbread trailer on blocks.  It was complete with candy tires in the front yard and tin foil windows.  Really, quite a work of art.  I designed a much more traditional boring house.

At the end of the night, Nick and Abby insisted that everyone take their creations home.  Terry and I are not keepers of stuff like that and after several failed attempts at leaving without our gingerbread masterpieces, we said goodbye and abandoned our creations on their front doorstep.  Nick and Abby retaliated and the structures went back and forth between our houses several times until they came to rest on the dryer in our garage.  Moisture in the garage damaged the gingerbread trailer beyond repair.  Those tinfoil windows just weren't structurally sound.  My little gingerbread house, however, remained intact.

I kept the house until the following December when Nick and Abby had yet another party.  Amazingly, we were invited.  This one was a white elephant gift party.  Yup.  You guessed it.  I wrapped up the house and put it in a pretty Christmas snowman bag.  Along with 15 Halloween glow stick bracelets and a random Christmas bear figurine.  Terry gleefully searched the house and threw in an Abs of Steel video and a golf putter laser thing.  What a steal, right?  What more could you want?  Although Nick and Abby did not go home with our prize collection of stuff, another pair of friends did.  I don't remember what Terry and I walked away with, but the gingerbread house was gone forever.  Or so I thought.

Yesterday we found a bag sitting on our doorstep.  Aw, someone left us a gift.  How sweet.  Wait that pretty Christmas snowman bag looks familiar. We opened the bag. Our hearts sunk as we discovered fifteen Halloween glow stick bracelets, one random Christmas bear figurine, one Abs of Steel Video, one golf putter laser thing and one Gingerbread House.  Other than the licorice siding that has come loose and a pungent sugary odor, the little house has remained strong over the past years.

As Festivus comes to a close, all I have to say is beware of pretty Christmas snowman bags on your doorstep because it's on.  It's so on.

December 18, 2008

My Christmas List

No, this isn't a list of stuff I want.  I don't want anything, so that would be a really brief and completely boring list.  No, this is a different kind of list.  Christmas vacation is less than 20 hours away and this is my list of things to do on vacation.  It's not a list to ooh and aah over.  There's no skydiving or marathon running, but I'm darn proud of it anyway.

1.  Wear my pajamas until the last possible minute everyday.  I think I'll alternate between the snowman ones and my flannel One Fish, Two Fish jammies.  I fully plan on topping them off with my fuzzy pink robe and disgusting slippers.  Totally hot.

2.  Go to the used book store and grab an armload of books to read.  I'm in the middle of Ghost Trails about a girl who cycled the Iditarod.  How cool is she?  Next on my list are Gilead and Love In The Driest Season.  Obviously I need more than that in my stack.  Any suggestions?

3.  Eat breakfast for dinner.  I love brinner.  Cheerios and bananas, veggie omelets, sweetmilks, waffles, Terry's vanilla pancakes.  It's all good no matter what time of day.

4.  Start another burrito streak.  I could eat a burrito every single day.  In fact, I once did for more than forty days in a row.  My favorite burrito includes black beans, refried beans, shredded cabbage, avocado, sour cream, and a sprinkle of cheese.  Delish.  I heart burritos.

5.  Ride my bike.  A lot.  This weekend I'm riding up to beautiful Igo.  Who knows where else I'll ride.  It doesn't matter.

6.  Go to the movies at least three times.  On my list are The Boy In The Striped Pajamas, Seven Pounds, Yes Man, and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.  Looks like I'll have to buy a ton of Sour Patch Kids.

7.  Watch all of my favorite Christmas movies, including Love Actually, While You Were Sleeping and A Charlie Brown Christmas.

8.  Sit in the hot tub and read without dropping my book in the water.  History is not in my favor.  If you've ever borrowed a book from me, chances are the pages were all wrinkly and fanned out from a dunk or two.  This is why I buy books instead of checking them out from the library.

9.  Get rid of as much stuff as possible.  Terry and I take great pleasure in making a mountainous pile of stuff for UCP.  If we haven't worn/used/watched/needed something for a year, it's out.  Exceptions are memorabilia, our wedding china, and books.  If you come over to visit, I suggest you don't stand still for too long or you might be accidentally tossed into the pile.

10.  Write.  The thought of having two weeks in a row when I can write whenever I want is making me giddy!  I'm home alone and I just giggled out loud at the mere thought of it.

Now it's your turn.  What's on your list?

December 16, 2008

The Thing About Dragonflies

My favorite insect is the dragonfly.

Yes, they're beautiful, but that's not why I love them.  Adult dragonflies hunt by holding their legs together like a basket and scooping insects right out of the sky, but that's not why I love them either.  Sure they're the only insect that can fly backwards and while that's amazing, that's not why they have garnered my affection.

The thing about dragonflies is that they start out as nymphs.  Ugly, brown nymphs with grumpy faces.  They scoot around in the water and muck, shooting out their masks, catching unfortunate prey.  They spend months, sometimes years, in this stage.  Wallowing in the mire.  Camouflaging, even covering themselves in filth.

To the inattentive eye, it just looks like they're hanging around being ugly, but what's really happening is change.  You see, the nymph is busy growing and molting.  It grows and molts, grows and molts, leaving ghost skeletons lingering in the water.

Nymphs mostly molt in the dark of night, so that sometimes the changes go completely unnoticed until one day the nymph crawls out of the water and up a cattail.  It clings to the cattail with hooks on its legs and then a most splendid thing happens.  One last time, the exuvia cracks open and an adult dragonfly flops out of its old self.  It hangs upside down, seeing the world in a whole new way.

The new dragonfly waits.  Waits to fly.  Waits to see the world.  Waits to wheel in the wind.  When blood pulses into the wings, the dragonfly takes off.  At first the flights are clumsy.  The dragonfly bumbles around as if it's getting acquainted with itself for the first time.  After a few test flights the dragonfly is zipping around, hovering and even jutting in reverse.  The scowl of the nymph is replaced with eager eyes and a jeweled body that shimmers even in the faintest of light.  It's hard to imagine that the dragonfly feels anything short of joy as it skims the water, reveling in the knowledge that, at long last, it has become what it is meant to be.

At night when sad thoughts creep in and steal the remnants of sleep, I think about the dragonfly.  When I'm covered in sorrow and I can't escape the muck, I take heart in the fact that growth is happening.  Change is taking place, even in times when I can't see it.  I have to believe that heartache will someday become an ill-fitting skin that will eventually crack open and give way.  Give way to beauty.  Give way to love.

I think of the nymph and the day it makes the final climb up the cattail.  That must be one scary climb.  In fact the nymph will often fall back into the mud several times while trying to make that climb.  When I feel like all I'm doing is falling, I remember the perseverance of the nymph.

I swing my legs over the bed each morning.  I smile at my loved ones.  I breathe in and out.  I tell myself to keep trying.  I know one day strength will break through sorrow, leaving the mire to exist only in my memory.  I wait with anticipation for the day that I'll soar with wings pulsing with life.

I love dragonflies for their patience.  I love dragonflies for their determination, for their strength.  I love dragonflies because they are tangible proof that ugliness and pain cannot contain the pursuit of joy.

During lonely nights, dragonflies sweep into my mind with their basket legs and scoop away brokenness, leaving room for hope.

And that is the thing I love the most about dragonflies.

December 14, 2008

Snow Day

Fifty seven degrees is a little on the cool side.  Especially inside.  That was the temperature in my house when I crawled out from under a mound of blankets and started to pull on layers for a Sunday morning ride.  Bike shorts, wool socks, sports bra, thermal top, jersey, fleece cycling pants, earwarmer, shoes, toe warmers, jacket, full fingered gloves, helmet, and glasses.  Between the gloves and the helmet I realized I had to go to the bathroom.  So I peeled it all off and a few minutes later jimmied it all on again.

After a pair of clementines and a tasty bowl of oatmeal, I stepped outside and watched my breath float away in great, pallid puffs.  It was going to be a cold one all right.

As I stood in my driveway waiting for Laura, the tiniest of snowflakes began to tumble down.  If I looked carefully enough I could see one every fifteen seconds or so.  Laura pulled up breathless and rosy cheeked and we set off for a long climb to Shasta Dam.

We cajoled our bikes along the frigid roads, the flakes falling in even sheets, resting on my handlebars, forming an icy crust on my bike computer.  We climbed closer to the Dam and snow began to settle in the crevices of the mountains.

The air smelled clean and big gulps of it seemed to eradicate life's turmoils.  My toes were frozen statues.  My nose was a faucet.  And I was carefree.  Carefree as snow dusted my helmet and melted on my gloves.  I grinned and stuck out my tongue, catching snowflakes as I pedaled.  We passed a mother walking with her little girl.  The little girl had her tongue out, too, and we exchanged smiles.  Laura and I rode in an almost giddy state.  Every few seconds one of us would giggle or exclaim "This is so cool!"  We reached Shasta Dam and took a moment to snap photos.  As sweat and snow dampened our clothes, we began the decent home.  The cold was bitter against my teeth and unprotected face.  Ice crystals pricked my skin and my eyes welled up with tears.  I could say that the tears were from the cold, but in truth they were an unbidden response to the splendor of the snow.

The world doled out beauty today and I was fortunate enough to catch some of it on my tongue.

December 10, 2008

You Might Be A Cyclist If...

My friend, Laura, the one who handed me my pride last weekend, sent me a whole bunch of "You Might Be a Cyclist If..." sayings.  I was home alone and they had me cackling all by my lonesome.  First of all, I love the author's name.  Does it get any better than "Joe Metal Cowboy".  Seriously, you can't make stuff like that up.
You Might Be A Cyclist If...

By Joe Metal Cowboy Kurmaskie 2008

  • You might be a cyclist if you own more tights than a children's theater performing Peter Pan. I own three pairs of tights and every season I pine for more.

  • You might be a cyclist if when styling professionals ask what product gets your hair to do that, you answer, "Helmet." During long rides I get a strange mini version of Pippi Longstockings' hair.  My pigtail sprouts defy gravity and somehow point straight up.  Pair that with the helmet stamp on my forehead and I'm a beauty!

  • You might be a cyclist if your spouse doesn't complain about the snoring since being kicked awake by the sleep pedaling. Snoring and sleep pedaling are only two of the many perils of sharing a bed with me.  I talk, thrash around like a fish out of water, and stick my arms out Frankenstein style while sleeping.  Oh, and I sleep with my eyes open.  Terry often tries to talk to me, only to realize I am staring at him while sound asleep.  I think this is a great opportunity for him to talk sports to me.  I think I'm actually more interested in RBI's, rushing yards, and shot percentages while I'm asleep.  Yes, I know those are from three different sports.  You're lucky I didn't throw a curling term in there.

  • You might be a cyclist if you don't care that your cycling tan is so jarring that parents grab up their children when you enter the pool. My tan has faded a bit, but both Terry and I have such distinct tan lines that we tease each other about having a permanent pair of shorts on.  Not to mention the Mickey Mouse hand tan that develops each season.  Cycling is so sexy.

  • You might be a cyclist if you've heard the words "Just a friendly ride, no one gets dropped" while rapidly falling back in the pack. I am the back of the pack.  Someone has to come in last.  Aren't you glad I'm willing to be the martyr?

  • You might be a cyclist if you've said the words "Just a friendly ride, no one gets dropped" while watching someone else rapidly fall back in the pack. Dare to dream.

  • You might be a cyclist if you have eaten pasta directly out of your front bag, while pedaling. Hold on while I add this to my list of goals for the season.

  • You might be a cyclist if your loved ones have assigned a separate hamper for your dirty bike clothes, and placed a hazmat label on it. No way are those clothes even allowed in the hamper.  They are on a strict straight to the washer regimen.  Terry and I have forgotten once or twice and after brewing for a day or two, the stench that rises up is unholy.

  • You might be a cyclist if you turn the air vents of your car to blow directly in your face, and imagine you're on a bike ride. I haven't done this, but I have found myself using hand signals and calling out warnings about holes or glass in the road.  I've also called out "On your left!" when passing another car.  I know, so nerdy.

  • You might be a cyclist if you can ID five brands and sixteen flavors of protein bars in a blind taste test, but on most long rides you would eat wet shoe leather, properly salted and containing a balance of electrolytes, of course. The people behind the Clif bars deserve some sort of medal.  Those things are still edible six months later.  And I think I have eaten wet shoe leather on long rides.

  • You might be a cyclist if you've contemplated grabbing seat posts, nudging longtime friends into ditches and macing their eyes with energy drinks to crest the hill first. I wouldn't so much call it contemplating, more like laying awake at night and meticulously planning.

  • You might be a cyclist if you think you may have contracted a rare blood disorder... no, it's just that you've turned into a late afternoon headwind. I can't count how many times I've been absolutely convinced that my tires were flat or that I had become terminally ill in the last thirty seconds, only to find out that I am a sissy when riding into the wind.

  • You might be a cyclist if you learned a long time ago that it doesn't matter how light or fast, just get on that bike. Only people who are light and fast think that light and fast don't matter.  They matter to this girl.  They matter a LOT!

December 8, 2008

Dear Frank,

Dear Frank the Tank,

I know how excited you were to ride cyclocross on Sunday.  I was, too.  No, really, I was.  Ok, I'll admit it, I was equal parts intimidated and excited, but my eagerness far outweighed my fear.  That's why I pumped up your tires the night before and filled up a pair of water bottles.

You can hardly blame me for the fact that your back tire was flat AGAIN the next morning.  What were you doing that night anyway?  It is completely my fault that I didn't have any spare tubes.  I looked on the cycling shelf AND in the cycling drawer.  Only tubes for The Rocket.  An egregious error on my part.  That's why I called Sir Steve, Bike Mechanic Extraordinaire at an ungodly hour the morning of the race and asked him to send a spare tube with his wife, Amy.  C'mon, Frank, you've met Sir Steve many, many times.  He would never do you wrong.  No, I don't think Sir Steve loves you more than I do.  Now you're just being hurtful, Frank.

Once Amy arrived with the tube, I was excited to load you onto the car and get your tire changed at the track.  Yes, I know the drive was foggy and it was only thirty degrees out.  I should have covered your seat.  Again, another unforgivable error on my part.  No, I do not know what it's like to have ice crystals freeze on my seat, thank you very much.

At the cyclocross track, you may remember that I lovingly took you off the roof rack and brushed the ice off of your handlebars, gears, and seat.  You might have noticed that Amy and I got straight to work changing your tire, a task both of us prefer to leave to Sir Steve.  Sadly, he was eating hot oatmeal far, far away at home with the kids.  Amy and I did our best.  In fact, Frank, you may recall us squealing with glee when we'd changed your tube and had you all put together again.  There may have even been a high five in there somewhere.  That's how glad we were to have changed your tire all by ourselves.

Frank, I understand that you were bitter with cold, but your response was totally uncalled for.  As we grinned from ear to ear because of our triumphant tire change, you really didn't have to hiss at us.  In fact, I'm not even sure it was a hiss.  You let out an exasperated "PSSSSSHHHHHH!" and your back tire began to shrivel.  What was that all about?  Seriously, we could have done without your attitude as we helplessly watched your back tire deflate itself.

So, I am very sorry that you had to watch from the roof rack as the other bikes zipped around the track without you.  Maybe next time you will hold your tongue and even a little air.  That is why I sent you on a short vacation to Sir Steve's bike hospital.  He's going to figure out what's wrong and make you all better.

Christmas is almost here, Frank, and I know it's your wish to get your wheels dirty at cyclocross.  I, too, hope that you'll be up and running for the race later this month.  Maybe if you behave yourself Santa will even exchange your usual lump of coal for some shiny new tubes in your saddle pack.  Merry Christmas, Frank!



December 7, 2008

Hollow Legs

Saturday was my first road ride of the season.  I'm just going to cut to the chase and say I got my, uh, my, um, pride, yes let's say pride, handed to me.  The morning of the ride I woke up extra early to prepare.  I put on layers of cycling clothing.  Then came the all important jersey selection.  I peered at the rainbow of jerseys stacked neatly in my cycling drawer.  (Yes, I have a cycling drawer in my dresser.  I also have a cycling drawer AND shelf in my garage.  It's okay to be jealous.)  I decided to go with my favorite pink Fat Cyclist jersey.  It has FAT CYCLIST emblazoned across the back pockets.  Awesome.  I slipped on my jersey and then headed over to the mirror to tame the bedhead.  Irony stared back at me.  I've grown squidgy around the edges and there's no hiding anything in Spandex.  I've got muffin top.  I'm too fat for my Fat Cyclist jersey.

Then me and the muffin top headed out to the garage to give The Rocket a little attention.  She was sleek as ever, bright pink wire casings looking all happy at me.  I gave her a little air in her tires.  By a little, I mean her tires were at 30 PSI and I had to pump fiercely to get them back up to 100 PSI.  As I was pumping, I noticed cobwebs laced in the spokes.  Muffin top?  Flat tires?  Cobwebs?  Had it really been that long?  Not good.  Not good at all.

My friend, Laura, met me at my house and we headed out toward Millville Plains, my favorite place to ride.  On our way out there we saw some pretty cool things like a field full of itty bitty goats.  Then we saw buffalo.  Buffalo are so cool looking.  They are unimpressed by everything.  I tried to snap a shot of a buffalo right next to the fence, but as I got closer he moved away, no doubt freaked by the muffin top.  Sorry, buffalo.  Just a little ways beyond the buffalo we passed a manger scene.  It had Joseph.  It had a handful of animals.  It had Mary, but no Jesus.  This led me to wonder WWJD?  What was Jesus doing?

We continued on, Laura speeding ahead of me and then graciously hanging back so I could catch up.  She could have totally stomped me and left me to my own devices to get home, but she didn't so that was nice.  The weather was perfect, sunny, crisp and with winds at about four miles per hour.  It doesn't get better than that.  In Millville we stopped at the Post Office and scarfed down some snacks.  Well, I didn't actually scarf.  What I thought was a whole Clif bar in my saddle pack was actually half of one I'd opened last season.  Clif bars are tasty, but this one had taken on the consistency of concrete.  Don't get me wrong, I ate it.  It just took a long, long time, meaning that Laura had to wait for me.  Again.

We reached Millville Plains and I was loving the sweeping views.  Laura raced ahead of me, and with the exception of one or two cars, it was blissful solitude.  The kind of solitude that quiets the mind and steadies the heart.  I was turning the cranks pretty slowly, but with snow-striped Lassen to my left, I didn't care. I chugged along with a ridiculous grin on my face.  I love riding my bike.

Laura had mapped out a thirty four mile ride for us.  I'd ridden most of the roads before and thirty four miles is usually a pretty easy ride for me.  Not Saturday.  At about mile 25, I got what I call hollow legs.  Hollow legs are when my legs start to ache, not muscle ache, not cramping, but a deep ache in my bones.  Each pedal stroke feels like my legs are empty aluminum cans, ready to crumple at the slightest strain.  I have ridden with hollow legs before, but usually at mile 75 or 80.  To be greeted with hollow legs at mile 25 was disheartening.

This is the part of the story where I get philosophical.  Feel free to skip ahead.  I've learned a lot from cycling.  For example, it really is all about the journey.  The destination is just icing on the cake.  Another thing I've learned is that it's possible to cry and ride at the same time.  In fact, it's quite rewarding, even invigorating at times. Fortunately, I had no need to cry on Saturday because the most important lesson I've learned on my bike is that my mind is stronger than my body.  Much stronger.  If I can convince myself to just keep pedaling circles, then I know I can ride beyond the pain.  Hollow legs are no match for a strong mind.  My body listens to my mind and my mind is one tough cookie.

After nine miles of mental fortitude, we were back home eating minty ice cream sandwiches.  I slumped on my couch for a few minutes until I was confident my legs could carry me to the bathroom.  I eased my salty, sweaty self into the shower.  My shower is about as big as a refrigerator.  Single occupancy only.  No tub.  No frills.  Not even room for big ideas.  As the scalding water ran down my head and turned my flesh pink, I sunk to the floor of my shower.  I closed my eyes and the water swirled in rivulets down my cheeks.  The water pounded my head and legs, massaging the aches away.  A singular thought rose from the steam.  I can't wait to ride my bike again.

December 5, 2008

Gummy Sharks and Priests

This is a snippet from the time we spent waiting in the airport on our way to Mexico.  Gummy sharks are not good breakfast candy.  Those poor priests.

I'm in the airport waiting for the fog to lift and our flight to board.  Just in front of me are two priests dressed in full black with the white collars and everything.  So cool.  Where are they going?  What are they doing?  One priest is reading a book.  What book is it?  Something scandalous?  What would they do if I sat down and pulled out my laundry list of recent sins?  I'm sure I've committed at least eight this morning alone.  I'm trying to make eye contact, but they are skilled at evasive eye maneuvers.  I am now staring intently at the reading priest.  It's becoming a tad uncomfortable.  That girl right next to him is SO lucky, but she's too engrossed in her book to even notice.  Ok, more staring.  Nothing.  Obviously my mental powers have been altered by the gummy sharks I ingested for breakfast a few minutes ago.  Wait!  The priests are getting up and moving away to other seats.  The gummy sharks have obviously sent my mental powers into overdrive.  Come back, white collars, come back!  Terry has cut me off from the gummy sharks.  I am thinking bad thoughts about him.  Darn, make that nine things to repent for this morning.

December 4, 2008

No Touching, Red Shorts!

The breeze was slight and the ocean was a blue blanket spread in front of me.  I was sprawled out in a lounge chair writing away on my laptop.  I was in the zone.  My fingers couldn’t keep up. Joggers and walkers sped around me like horses on a carousel, but I paid them no mind.  I was writing on a ship somewhere off the coast of Cabo San Lucas. It was blissful.

Out of the corner of my eye I spotted a speed walker heading my direction.  She was clad in a t-shirt and squat red shorts that, let’s say, didn’t suit her body type.  Earbuds tucked into her ears, she swung her arms vigorously to the beat.  As she passed me she looked my way and let out a disdainful “Tsk!” and kept on walking.  I looked around wondering what had warranted such a reaction.  I didn’t see anything out of the ordinary.  Maybe it was a special exercise breathing thing.  Other than riding my bike, I’m not really up on fitness type things like breathing and fancy stuff like that.  I shrugged it off and continued typing.

The second time Red Shorts passed me she slowed, leaned down, slapped my ankle, and motored away.  Was there a bug on me?  Was my lounge chair in the middle of the walkway and I didn’t realize it?  Was this some sort of joke I wasn’t in on?  I so did not understand what was going on here, but I didn’t want to slip out of the ever shrinking writing zone, so dropped my head and tapped away on my keyboard.

When I saw Red Shorts making her third approach, I stopped typing ready to solve the mystery I like to call “What is your problem?”  She came in for a third pass.  This time she stopped and grabbed my ankle.  My mind quickly reverted back to my childhood, but before I could even force the words “Stranger danger!” out of my mouth, Red Shorts began to scold me.  With music blasting into her ears, her voice at a volume appropriate only for rock concerts, she said, “You’d better not be working.  You’re on vacation.”  I assured her that I was not working.  I was writing and I like to write.  Sometimes I even call myself a writer.  She said “You’re a writer?  Then that’s working and you shouldn’t work on vacation.”  I explained that my profession is teaching and that I write for pleasure.  This didn’t compute.  She continued barking at me.  “Well my daughter brought her laptop with her because she just started up a new business and has to check up on it.  She was on that internet so much that I had to hide her computer from her!”

While Red Shorts railed on her daughter, I tried to figure out how to flee the scene.  The woman was standing directly in front of my chair with a Vulcan death grip on my ankle.  What was that my kickboxing instructor used to tell me?  Was it jab the eyes first?  Or was it a finger in the windpipe?  Should I kick free first and then knee her in the stomach?  Darn it, I should have stuck with those classes!  As I was debating self-defense maneuvers, Red Shorts took a breath.  Aha!  My opportunity to escape!  I calmly assured her that I was not working, but that I appreciated her concern and I hoped she had a lovely cruise with her daughter.  She admonished, “I just don’t want you getting into bad habits like that when you’re young.”  Then she bustled on down the deck not to be seen again.

‘Bad habits like that’?  Did Red Shorts really just give me a lesson on bad habits?  She’s the one who violated my perfectly calm writing zone.  Want a bad habit to break?  How about not grabbing strangers?  Just a thought.  I was a little miffed at first, but then I realized Red Shorts would make a great little story.  I’m sure she’d be very pleased knowing she’s supporting my ‘bad habit’.

December 1, 2008

Me & Lance

Dear family and friends,
2009 is here! For me January is the starting line of another great season of road cycling.  I have to admit, I'm itching for the grip of Spandex on my skin and the glide of The Rocket kissing the white line.  It's going to be a great season and as with most great adventures, there are some big changes this year.

To begin with, I'm excited to be raising money for the Lance Armstrong Foundation.  That's right, I'll be riding with Lance.  By 'riding with Lance', I mean that he will be there, too, and I might catch a glimpse of his elbow or something through the throngs of other people who will reach the finish line way before me.  I know, Lance Armstrong's elbow.  I am so lucky.

In all seriousness, I'm honored to participate in the LIVESTRONG Challenge as a part of Team Fat Cyclist: Fighting For Susan because the time for furthering cancer research and funding is now.  During my first season I proudly rode for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and I feel this year is a continuation of that chapter.  It's time for me to stop just being concerned about the increase in cancer diagnoses.  It's time for me to do something about it.  And the something I do is ride my bike.  And by 'ride my bike', I mean fall a lot with some pedaling in between.

I'm training from December to July.  Then in the quiet morning hours of July 12th, The Rocket and I will be at the starting line of the San Jose LiveStrong Challenge.  As I ride, I will picture the brave faces of family, friends and students who have battled cancer and won.  I will also remember the brave faces of loved ones who fought with strength and, yet, did not win.  As my heartbeat keeps time, and my legs pedal beautiful circles for 100 miles, I'll ride with the knowledge that you and I are helping to increase the number of victories.

Please take a minute to pop over to my fundraising page to make a donation.  (https://www.kintera.org/faf/donorReg/donorPledge.asp?ievent=294743&supid=241282118).  You can donate online, make a check out to the Lance Armstrong Foundation, or give me cash.  I'm grateful for your generosity and support.  Thanks for partnering with me on this adventure.



"The Lord gives me strength. He is like a shield that keeps me safe.  My heart trusts in Him, and he helps me.  My heart jumps for joy.  I will give thanks to Him.” Psalm 27:8