xmlns:og>='http://ogp.me/ns#'> Pedals & Pencils: May 2009

May 31, 2009

Getting Greasy. Getting Sick. Getting Chased.

Dear friends & family,

With increasing temperatures and daylight stretching long into the evenings, May was a great month to be a cyclist.  More accurately, it was a great month to be someone trying hard to become a cyclist.

.252 miles this month: Redding and the surrounding areas are splendid this time of year.  Shasta Dam holds a lake of sapphire water.  Millville Plains is bursting with wildflowers.  Whitmore's deep green pine trees fill the air with the smell of my childhood spent on a mountain in Oregon.  Mt. Shasta is tipped with white snow against a cloudless blue sky.  I live in a breathtaking place and The Rocket and I saw it in all it's splendor this month.

.1 Rookie Mistake: You know that saying "Hindsight is 20/20"?  Well, friends, I'm seeing clearly now.  One weekend in May, I set out to ride 65 miles in the Anderson Park Century ride.  I didn't have anyone to ride with, but I was surrounded by other cyclists, so I set off at seven in the morning.  I was riding along just fine.  In fact I'd even made a friend and we were having a great time riding up the never-ending Wildcat Road.  The heat rose up from the asphalt in waves and I drank routinely from my water bottle full of endurance drink.  I hadn't tried this drink before.  I know.  I know.  Even rookie cyclists know you never, ever try a new drink on a long ride.  As I pedaled up toward Shingletown, my stomach felt like it was being wrung out like a dishtowel.  My stomach cramped so fiercely that I gave serious pause to lying down on the side of the road and letting the buzzards pick at me.  And you know I hate birds.  When the thought of buzzards feasting on my innards began to sound better than riding my bike, I pulled over and made the Rescue Call of Shame.  My step-dad jumped in his van and I turned around to meet him.

.1 Cowdog: As I coasted downhill, fighting back the rowdy uprising in my stomach, I came across three cowboys mounted on horses and one energetic cowdog.  The cowboy entourage was taking up the entire width of the road.  I called out "On your left!"  The cowboys moved over, but the cowdog wanted to play my least favorite game, Crash the Cyclist.  The dog beelined right for me.  I called out "Watch out, dog.  I don't want to hit you."  Cowdog's owner offered up the very helpful suggestion "Just run him over."  I replied "That won't end well for me."  The dog charged my right foot and in the nick of time, I clipped out and kicked the dog.  He yelped.  I am not an animal person, but kicking a dog made me feel terrible.  I rode away riddled with guilt and dreams of lying down on the side of the road.  After a measly thirty-five miles, my step-dad scooped my up in his rescue van and returned me to my car.

.1 Soccer Halftime Show: After checking in with the ride coordinators to let them know I was no longer on the course, I walked back to my car.  I'd parked along a chain link fence surrounding soccer fields.  There were hundreds of itty bitty soccer players enjoying a halftime break.  As I walked the fence to my car, my insides did the Vulcan death grip on my stomach and before I could turn away from the cute, little soccer players, everything I've ever eaten began to revisit me.  I clung to the chain link fence and threw up.  A lot.  The soundtrack to my misery was a chorus of high-pitched "Ew!  She's puking!  Ew!  Ew!  Ew!"  As I was doubled over, all I could think of was that great soccer announcer bellowing "Gooooooooooaaaaaaallllllll!"

.1 Flat Tire: The next weekend, I was determined to take The Rocket out and expunge the memory of what competitive eaters call a "reversal of fortune".  I headed out to the garage to prepare The Rocket for a nice climb to Shasta Dam and a drop down onto Keswick Dam.  Go ahead and insert your own dam joke.  I'll wait.  I plugged my water bottles (full of water only) into their holders and noticed The Rocket was looking at me with one very sad, flat back tire.  Last month she got a flat front tire after driving home from S. California.  This time she got a flat after the rescue van pick up.  I think The Rocket is sending me a not so subtle message that she does not like riding in cars.  She likes to be on the road.  Message received.  Last month I successfully changed a front tire by myself, but I've never changed the back tire.  This involves removing the wheel from the chain and stuff like that.  I took out my trusty tire irons and set to work imitating everything I've seen other people do.  Miraculously, my pretend attempt worked and I changed my back tire all by myself.  My hands were black with grease and I knew my mechanic brothers would have been very proud.

.63 miles: Two days later I headed up to Whitmore with my friends Nick and Nathan.  It's a sustained climb with some steep pitches, but my legs felt strong.  A couple of times I had to stop to remind my heart that it is also strong and there is no reason for it to beat out of my chest like that.  After a quick breather and a stern talking to, my heart shaped up nicely and I enjoyed my longest ride of the season.

.1 more dog: After stopping at Whitmore School for some water and a snack, we turned around to enjoy the downhill home.  I was cruising along pushing in my big chain ring.  Nick and Nathan were behind me and I was lost in some monumentally important reverie about what kind of burrito I wanted for lunch.  Nathan interrupted my burrito planning session when he yelled "GO, ALICIA, GO!"  This wasn't the peppy yell of a cheerleader rallying the football players.  This yell had the distinct tone of immediate danger.  To confirm this Nick yelled "You're screwed!"  As I shifted into my little chain ring to pedal a little faster, I looked back and saw a rat terrier nipping at their heels at 20 MPH and gaining.  The dog eventually tired out and turned around.  Let me take a moment to provide a public service announcement.  If one is on a bike and would like to warn someone that a dog is starting a game of Crash The Cyclist, it's very helpful if you actually mention the word dog somewhere in your warning.  Yelling "You're screwed!" isn't as helpful as one might think.  Having said that, I loved Nathan's take on rat terriers: they're dangerous because they can get caught in your spokes.  Classic.

.2 more dogs, no seriously: After fun with the rat terrier, we continued toward home.  This time the boys were ahead of me, but within sight.  As we rode next to a hill, two bulldogs came tearing down the hill after Nick and Nathan.  The dogs were a blur of barking, growling, and serious running.  Fortunately my sloth-like speed made me invisible.  As the boys sprinted away, I began to realize that soon the dogs would tire out, turn around, and see me.  Oh, this did not seem like it would end well.  With the boys out of sight, the dogs turned around and trotted toward me.  I tried to be calm.  I tried to be cool.  I failed.  As they neared, I used a voice reserved for cute babies and adults who annoy me and said "Hi, sweet doggies.  Whatcha doin', you good wittle doggies?"  Bulldog #1 panted and wagged his tail at me.  Bulldog #2 was having none of that.  I don't blame him.  I can't stand it baby talk either.  He gave me a sharp bark that clearly meant I had three seconds to leave with all body parts in tact.  In a wavering big girl voice, I said "Ok, I'm leaving" and pedaled away, praying the dogs didn't want to play Crash The Cyclist From Behind.  They didn't.  I turned a corner to see Nick coming my way.  He said "We sprinted away and then I realized we'd left you behind."  I informed him that he was definitely 0 for 2 when it came to dogs that day.  There's that saying that when 2 or more people are being chased by something, you don't have to be faster than the something, you just have to be faster than the slowest person.  Let me tell you, being the slowest person stinks big time.  I've got to work on that or I've got to start packing milk bones in my seat pack.

.$1,195 donated so far: Thanks to Jean P., Amy and Steve P., Tracy H., Jeff W., Anita J., Carmen L., Chris F., Katie L.., That Unicycling Guy, Sue H., NVB employees, Kyra M., Janet M., Nancy W., and Debbie S. I appreciate your support and generosity.

.$805 until I reach my fundraising goal: I'll be accepting donations through the month of June, followed by my century ride in July.  So, if you'd like to help me meet my goal and support a great cause, click on the link below to donate online.  You can also write a check to The Lance Armstrong Foundation and I'll make sure it gets to the right place.  Thanks for your support!



Fight cancer by supporting my century ride for The Lance Armstrong Foundation. https://www.kintera.org/faf/donorReg/donorPledge.asp?ievent=294743&supid=241282118

The Little Book That Could

Once upon a time there was a teacher who loved writing.  (Yes, this story is about me.  Aren't they all?)  The teacher loved writing so much that she and her class wrote a book.  It was such a beautiful book that the teacher decided to use lulu.com to make it into a real, live book.  She convinced a photographer to snap some lovely pictures to accompany their words.  Her class raised enough money at the jog-a-thon for each student to have a copy of their very own, real live book.  The children beamed.  The teacher beamed.  The parents beamed.  They had done it, authored a book of their own.

Just when the teacher and her class thought they couldn't be happier, the teacher got an e-mail saying their little book was now going to be featured on amazon.com for all the world to see.  The students were thrilled that children in China , Moscow , and even the remote jungles of Sacramento would be able to read their book, Drumming Hearts and Rosy Lips.  I am now big and famous and poised to sign autographs.  Oh yeah, they all lived happily ever after.  The end.

May 9, 2009

What I Would Say to Cancer

For the past three years, preparing for a century ride has become a natural part of my life.  Cycling season is as real to me as winter, spring, summer and fall.  I think daily about cycling.  Routes to try, weather conditions, jerseys to wash, pedals to tighten, miles to log, hills to climb.  Since a large chunk of my limited brain space is occupied by all things bike, it's ironic to me that I don't often think about the big picture.

This year I'm riding for The Lance Armstrong Foundation as a member of Team Fatty.  Actually our full name is Team Fatty: Fighting For Susan.  Susan is the wife of Fat Cyclist.  Fat Cyclist doesn't have the luxury of forgetting the big picture because Susan, a mother of four, is in the fight of her life against cancer.  She is has battled cancer before and it's back for more.  Previously I understood that riding my bike and raising money to cure cancer is important, but I didn't fully get it until I watched this clip, What I Would Say to Cancer.  Here's what I'd say to cancer:

You have taken too many children long before it was their time.  You leave mothers with drawers full of onesies fresh with the scent of baby.  You have taken mothers  leaving children longing to hear just one more bedtime story snuggled in the crook of their mommy's neck.  You have taken fathers, leaving daughters to walk the aisle alone on their wedding day.  You have taken husbands and wives, leaving one side of the bed cold.

Here's the worst part of you, cancer, you're greedy.  When you can't take a life, you take whatever you can.  You are a sneaky thief, taking lungs, breasts, brains, limbs and other parts that don't belong to you.  You have no conscience, no heart.

But I do.  In fact, I've been told that my heart is freakishly strong and you can't take that away.  So, for all my loved ones and loved ones of my loved ones who have battled cancer, I'm pulling on my Spandex, swinging my leg over the crossbar of my bike and getting ready to ride 100 miles.  I could go on, but I won't because each pedal stroke is my answer to you, cancer, and I'm going to keep on pedaling until you get what I'm saying.

May 6, 2009

Funny Money

It was one of those days.  Rainy day recess created the perfect storm of too much energy and not enough paying attention.  Lunch was a welcome break.  After some grown up conversation and deep breathing, I trudged back to my room, fingers crossed that the yard duty would give me a good report.  She approached.  I cringed.
"Your class is sweet." she said.

"Yes, they are."  I said, reminding myself.

"They adore you."

"It's mutual."  I chirped.

Even on bumpy days I could still say that with one hundred percent sincerity.  I do have the best job in the world and my time with these little ones is coming to an end quickly.   All rainy day toys were put away and my students were in their seats ready for the read aloud.  As I walked to the front of the class, several students piped up
"We made something for you."

"What did you make?"

"We made you money."

"Oh, wow.  That's a lot of money.  I'll go put it in my purse.  I'm going to Costco today.  Do you think I can pay with this?"

"No, Mrs. McCauley, it's funny money."

"Why did you make me all this money?"

"It's teacher week and you don't get paid enough."

Classroom books from the book fair: $73.

The pair of shoes I ruined yesterday on our field trip to the creek: $29.

Getting a raise from my students: priceless.

May 5, 2009

Shy Girl Magma

Growing up I was painfully shy.  I walked to class with my head down, fearful of making eye contact with anyone.  On my way to Mrs. Johannsen's second grade, I ran smack into a pole because I refused to look up.  In third grade I cried and cried when my mom informed me that if I wanted people to come to my birthday party, I'd have to call them myself.  Actually talk to people and ask them to come over?  NO WAY.  I was even placed in a club for social spazzes.  It was called The Garfield Club, named after the famous lasagna lovin' comic cat.  I know, so nerdy.

I survived junior high and my shyness lessened in high school.  My immediate circle of friends was a conglomeration of AP geeks and music nerds, but I was also able to come and go as I pleased amongst other groups.  This shy girl had somehow become friend to all and nobody was more surprised than me.

As an adult, my shyness lies dormant ninety-eight percent of the time, leaving two percent of the time for it to explode in spurts.  Last Saturday I zipped down to Chico for the Northern California Writing Project Summer Institute Orientation.  (Wow, that's a mouthful.)  I absolutely loved the Summer Institute last year.  It changed who I am as a teacher in powerful and exciting ways.  I was thrilled to be accepted again this year.

And yet my stomach was boiling with nerves.  I would be in a roomful of people.  People I didn't know.  People I'd have to talk to.  As I closed in on Chico, my nerves threatened to erupt and spew bits of shy girl magma all over my car.  Walking upstairs to the classroom, my upper lip dotted itself with sweat beads. Entering the room, I said hello to one of the directors and made a beeline for a desk without neighbors on either side.  I sat there for a moment, looking around at the other participants.  All of them had their noses buried in the folder of handouts.  The singular noise was the shuffling of papers.  This is ridiculous, I thought.

So, I made a bold move.  I gathered up my stuff and plopped down in a desk between two women.  Then I made an even bolder move.  I introduced myself and asked where they were from.  Somehow my lava flow of shyness had cooled and crystallized into a coherent mass of functioning social skills.  The sweat beads dried up as we chatted.  I found out that the woman two seats to my left is one of my mom's colleagues.  And in a surprising turn of events, the woman two seats to my right is training for the Tahoe century ride.  By the end of the day, I'd managed to find myself a carpool buddy and a cycling companion.

In addition to being welcomed back to the Summer Institute, I was also selected to attend a writing retreat at a spa/resort in Arizona.  In July I'll spend four days writing, learning about writing, thinking about writing, and reading about writing.  It sounds heavenly.  Except for the fact that I will be surrounded by people I don't know.  People I'll have to make eye contact with.  People I'll have to actually talk to.  I can feel the deep rumblings of my shyness already.  The only thing that will save me is also the cause of the rumblings.  Upon arrival I will have to make eye contact, maybe even shake a hand or two and utter the most terrifying word in the English language.  That's right, I'll have to say hello.  Either that or I can die in an extravasation of sweat and molten timidity.  Right now it's a toss up.

May 1, 2009

Metal Mondays & Other Bike Stuff

Dear friends & family,

This month was full of April showers, but May flowers are blooming all over making for some beautiful bike rides.

  • 285.942 miles this month: I travelled a bit this month and I realized that if I was going to get in enough miles, I'd have to take The Rocket with me.  So, The Rocket took a long trip to Temecula and a shorter jaunt to Chico.  The Rocket is an excellent road trip companion.  She never complains, never asks to stop to go to the bathroom, and she is never a back seat driver.  Although I must admit her conversational skills leave a lot to be desired.

  • 1 Easter morning ride: Terry and I have adopted a tradition of riding our bikes on Easter.  After church, we met up with my Uncle Jon and Aunt Jill for a beautiful ride through Rainbow Canyon.  The poppies were blooming and the wind was calm, meaning cyclists were out in full force.  As we rode, Uncle Jon kept on pointing out important people.  We saw Floyd Landis' doctor and we saw the father of world champion track cyclist, Sarah Hammer.  That's right, I rode with celebrities.  Ok, not so much with them as behind them.  Way behind them.  But I did talk to them.  Well, they gave me the courtesy cyclist wave and I very eloquently replied "Good (pant, pant, pant) morning (pant, pant, pant)."

  • 1 leather seat: As of late, my  bike seat and I have not been getting along.  More accurately, it's bent on making me swim in the deep end of the pain pool.  I was telling my uncle this and he kindly let me borrow one of his seats.  It's made of brown leather and has rivets all around the edge, making it look like an old school bike seat.  Well, it may look vintage, but it makes my tush feel good as new.  It's like riding on a cloud.  If I could marry this seat, I would.

  • 1 tube of Udderly Smooth: This is just what it sounds like.  It's udder cream, originally designed for cows, but now used by cyclists to prevent unwanted things from chafing down there.  My uncle hooked me up with a tube and I don't think I'm going too far when I say the cream is splendor in a tube.  My uncle also gave me new pedals, two pairs of cleats for my shoes, and two water bottle cages.  Then he cleaned and oiled my chain.  No, he cannot be your uncle, too.

  • 40 MPH: That's right I've hit the big 4-0.  I was seated so far back on my bike that my stomach was on my seat and my tail end was hovering over my wheel as I flew downhill.  It was so much fun!

  • 5.1 MPH: I've taken a different approach to hills this season.  Instead of trying to gut it out in the highest gear possible and burning out halfway up the hill, I've decided to drop into my granny gear at the bottom of the hill and ride up at a pace I can maintain.  I'm actually enjoying riding hills.  Shhhh, don't tell.

  • 4 spin classes: I hit spin class four times this month and I'm giddy about the fact that my favorite instructor, Greg, is back this season.  Let me tell you why Greg's my favorite.  He always has a good, hard session planned out.  He doesn't yammer through the entire class.  He doesn't look or sound like Barbie.  He NEVER touches the tension on my wheel.  Best of all, Greg has resurrected Metal Mondays.  Greg has a heart pumping, sweat inducing, head banging playlist of 80's heavy metal music.  I've never understood leather pants, big hair or the need to scream into a mic.  Having said all that, I have to tell you I love Metal Mondays.  Nothing makes me stand up in the pedals and push for all I'm worth more than metal.  I can't get enough.  I think it's contagious and I'm terrified the leather pants and big hair might follow.

  • 1 flat tire: The day after we returned from Temecula, I went to put the front wheel on The Rocket, I discovered it was flat.  Somehow when cramming 2 bikes and 2 suitcases in the back of my car, I'd pinched the tire.  Go figure.  Well, this seemed the perfect opportunity to finally change a flat by myself.  I grabbed my tire irons, my pump, a fresh tube and went to work.  20 minutes later, sweating and covered in bike grease, I had changed the tire.  All.  By.  Myself.  I did a little dance and used serious willpower to refrain from kissing the tire.

  • 58.5 miles: My longest distance this month.  It was about 100 degrees and I headed out with a handful of other cyclists.  It was a scorcher and just a taste of what summer holds.  The ride was good, but the ice cream sandwich at the end was better.

  • $920 donated so far: Thanks to Jean P., Amy and Steve P., Tracy H., Jeff W., Anita J., Carmen L., Chris F., Katie L., That Unicycling Guy, Sue H., and the employees of North Valley Bank for buying Easter basket raffle tickets. I appreciate your support and generosity.

  • $1,080 until I reach my fundraising goal: Terry has reached 100% of his fundraising goal and has no qualms about pointing out that I am now just approaching 50%.  So, if you'd like to help me out by putting your money where his mouth is, click on the link to the right.  You can also write a check to The Lance Armstrong Foundation and I'll make sure it gets to the right place.

Thanks for your support.  It's another season of great cycling adventures and I'm glad you're along for the ride.