Friday, December 19, 2014

I dig this blog!

I don't have enough time to sift through all the really cool blogs out there on cycling and travel--and believe me, the list is endless--but this one stood out:

Everything Will Be Noble

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Into the Stillness



Finding "milk glass" on my Crystal Lake ride


An absolute
patience.
Trees stand
up to their knees in
fog. The fog
slowly flows
uphill.
White
cobwebs, the grass
leaning where deer
have looked for apples.
The woods
from brook to where
the top of the hill looks
over the fog, send up
not one bird.
So absolute, it is
no other than
happiness itself, a breathing
too quiet to hear. 
-Denise Levertov

Watching the last of the snow depart from the farm fields

Mother nature graced us with Seattle weather this past week.  The clouds rolled in, many days ago, and seeing as they must like it here, they chose to stay.  I was told the sun came out for an hour, but alas my place of work is cave like so I never saw it.  

In this weather, day an night seem to blur together
When living in a northern clime, one often wonders if it would be better to have thirty to forty-five degrees with clouds and drizzle or negative twenty to thirty degrees with sun.  Not having a choice in the matter, I opted to buck up and get outside to explore how the slightest changes in weather, change the scenery around me.

Through the fog, witnessing the seasons and years roll by
There were three things I noticed right away.  The first and most obvious was how cool, damp air settles so deep in the body my bones began to hurt.  I laugh at myself for sounding like an arthritic old woman, but there is something in my constitution which detests cold mixed with moisture.  No matter how much I sweat, the moment I stop moving, the cold cannot be shaken until I take a long hot shower and drench my insides with hot tea.  Second is how scents linger in the air and cling to my nostrils and lungs in damp weather.  As I pulled off the road to get a picture of a farm, I could smell pine resin, manure, woodsmoke, bacon and smores.  These followed me for almost a mile.  Lastly, I sometimes feel almost as if I'm scuba diving.  Sounds are deadened--absorbed by either clouds themselves or the moisture they produce.  My breathing rates slows, and when I'm producing enough heat not to shiver uncontrollably, I feel almost hugged by the fog.

All of these wonderful feelings are brought to an abrupt halt when I notice the pavement has opened into a gaping maw from freeze/thaw cycles and I am able to hear "feed me Seymour" coming from its dark depths.  This noise only being silenced by the constant grinding coming from millions sand grains working their way into my cassette and chain.

One reason I ride with others is to drown out the sound of my dirty bike

After tomorrow, reality is supposed to hit again.  The mercury is expected to drop below normal and we might even see the sun in a few days.  We will soon find out if my mood lifts with the sky's clarity or if I continue to dream about Seattle weather.

If the weather doesn't lighten my mood, a cycling Krampus does the trick!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Turn On, Tune In, Drop Out

Yes, I am a child born to a hippy mother, and yes, I know most likely too much about Timothy Leary.  But damn if I don't love this phrase he was given by Marshall McLuhan.  This post was percolating in my mind for a few days, and then an old friend sent me an e-mail which brought it all together.  Once again, I have a friend to thank for inspiration!

We live in a hyper drive world.  One in which most cannot get enough information quickly enough.  One in which children no longer gaze at clouds or search the grass for bugs.  One in which we no longer practice common niceties or even acknowledge folks around us.  One in which we all have to be available at a moments notice and if we unplug for anything, it seems the world, for others, falls apart.

I don't care much for this world we now live in.  Call me a Luddite if you will, but frankly I'd like to go back in time.  Back to when phones had to be plugged into a wall, back to when people would feel great guilt or shame if they let a door close on another person, back to when we wrote handwritten letters.

I don't believe all this shit on commercials which makes it seem like doomsday will occur if you don't buy the new smart phone.  Commercials actually irritate me to no end.  I also don't want to be told I'm being unproductive if I don't fill every moment of my day.  I like having days when I can choose to do anything or nothing at all.  I am one of those people who protect my "me time" (this phrase is one that my friend who inspired me used).  You may say this phrase is "selfish" and I agree.  We need to be more selfish, but in the right way.

So here is where Turn On, Tune In, Drop Out comes in.  Many think it has only to do with tripping along the LSD road.  Not me.  This is how I break it down:

Turn On:  When I bike or hike alone, I often go pretty deep into different levels of consciousness.  Yes, I'm all still there so you don't need to worry about me crashing, but my mind tends to work in a different way.  Things come to me at different speeds and on different levels than I'm used to.  It is during these times I do all of my personal "work" if you will.

Tune In:  While riding, hiking, walking or camping I am tuning in.  My senses are all firing, I am acutely aware of my surroundings, and when I get a few hours to "tune in" I am elated.  Very few things in this world bring me more joy than feeling, I mean truly feeling my body work, smelling whatever may be in the air--be it resin from pine trees, woodsmoke, freshly laid manure--you get the idea, seeing the beauty in everything natural and some human made items as well, tasting sweat drip down my face or the beer I so rightfully earned and hearing either my friends voices (the ones who are riding with me) or just the song of birds vs. the phone ringing/buzzing/vibrating.

While tuning in, if I am around others, I also find I become more sensitive to their needs.  This could mean something simple like giving passing space to someone on the trail or asking someone if they need help if I see them with their bike on the side of the road.  I like tuning into others.  It makes me feel human.

Drop Out:  This could be the most difficult one to explain.  For me, "dropping out" means not getting swept up into keeping up with the Jones', not feeling the need to be "in the know" all the time (whether it be news or gossip), and not caring about being popular.

About a year ago I chose to go on a news diet.  It was one of the most difficult things for me to do since I thrive on learning new things and keeping up on what's going on in the rest of the world.  In this modern day of 24-7 news and media hype (even on NPR), I found myself getting angrier and angrier.  Sure, I knew where all the wars were and what countries were struggling financially, but I began to wonder if it was hurting or helping me.  I would have to go on rides or runs just to calm myself down after hearing negative news.  So, I decided to pull the plug.  Now, I can proudly say I am able to read some newspapers (although I still greatly limit myself) and chat with clients about specific world events, but with the elimination of television and radio news, I am a much happier person.  It comes down to this:  I know the type of person I am and I control the actions I take--that's all that really matters.  No knowledge of climate change will change how I live--I will still choose to live simply with a light footprint.  No news of racism will change how I treat others since I choose to treat others with respect regardless of their race, financial status etc.  I will also not be bought by big corporations trying to sell me things or tell me I will be a better person if I work harder. Essentially, I am dropping out of the cycle of brainwashing.

For all of this self realization I have come to in my forty years of living, I can thank my mom, my husband and all of my friends.  Please know that this is my journey and way of living.  By no means do I suggest others follow in my footsteps unless they want to.  I do not judge others for wanting specific material items or wanting a certain way of life.  I just ask that others don't judge, but instead respect me, for my choices.


Friday, December 5, 2014

Interdependence

If you love your friends, you will serve your friends.
If you love your community, you will serve your community.
If you love money, you will serve your money.
And if you love only yourself, you will serve only yourself.
And you will have only yourself.
-Stephen Colbert

Madison Bike Winter's Holiday Lights Ride

A few days ago I was sent an article talking about the differences between individualistic vs. interwoven cultures, and where we, as Americans, tend to fit in.  The friend who sent it moved down to Louisiana, the heart of cajun country, not long ago.  I distinctly remember him telling me, within a few months of his move, that this is where he felt he "belonged".  We never really got into why he felt that way, we only touched on what makes Louisiana so different than any other state, until now.  Attached to the article he briefly stated that maybe this is why he feels so at home in Lafayette.

The winter loop commences
I get it.  I mean I really get it.  I have touched on my ongoing search to be a part of something bigger than the "I" in many blog posts.  I am, by nature, an "interdependent" person.  This does not mean I feel the need to be around others all the time, quite the contrary.  At times, sometimes for days on end, I am very happy just being in my own little world--silent except for the sounds of nature.  But there is no way I could survive off just my world alone (I would bore myself to death quite quickly).  People, especially my cycling community, recharge me.  They give me a sense of place, a warmth in all seasons, things to laugh about, cry about and think about.  They challenge me in both mind and body and I wouldn't want to know my life without them.  I am, in so many ways, dependent on them--and yet I do not see this as a weakness on my part.  Instead I celebrate being able to be a part of them, one small link in the chain.

As winter bears down on us, and the desire to curl up in a little ball and hibernate until spring blankets me more than any down comforter, I look towards this community of mine to get me through.  It doesn't take much, just a group ride here and there, with maybe a cup of coffee or pint of beer thrown in for good measure, and I'm a renewed woman.

Bombay's Freezaroo Ride   photo credit David Kohli

Belleville UFO Ride  photo credit Sara Hull

I want to take a moment to thank my friends--some I know well, many I hope to know better with time.  Another thanks goes out to James, a kindred spirit and someone who "gets me" 100%.  James, at some point I'll join you again in cajun country--at least for awhile.

Post ride shenanigans at One Barrel Brewing Company


Friday, November 28, 2014

Perspective



This is what my ride last thanksgiving looked like
Last year at this very moment I was biking back from Minneapolis to Waconia.  I had hauled my trusty steed to the Twin Cities area for a long thanksgiving weekend and was bound to make use of it regardless of the low temperatures.  This year, I had planned to do the same, although a nagging shoulder issue mixed with ice and snow on the ground made me decide to bag the idea and opt for two feet as my mode of transportation.

No, I didn't plan on walking all the way into Minneapolis from Waconia (over 40 miles I'm guessing), but I did plan on getting out there--and ice, fresh snow and almost record low temps (it was 1 degree when I went out yesterday) would not keep me in. I'm sure I've mentioned how unruly and cagey I become if I'm not "let out to play" on a daily basis.  When you add in long hours in the car and heavy food, "unruly" becomes a nice term if I'm trapped inside.

Caught without a fatbike and forced to walk (gasp) this year instead of bike

So I woke this morning, already sick of being in the 'burbs, without the ability to explore more than a 1-2 mile radius, and decided I would go on a bit of a walkabout.  I often explain to folks who don't know the twin cities, and who think everything is bike/ped friendly here from the articles they read, that once you get out of the Minneapolis/St.Paul circle, the area becomes extremely unfriendly to pedestrians and cyclists--especially come winter.  The suburbs are little islands cut off from the rest of the area and one can rarely explore outside of them without using a car to connect the towns to the trails/safe roads.  For example, even though I biked into Minneapolis via trail last year, I had to subject myself to about five miles of terrifying roads to get to the trail.  But since I am so damn stubborn and since I was literally bouncing off the walls, I decided I was going to walk around Lake Waconia.


Lake Waconia at sunrise on black Friday--a much better view than from inside a store

Lake Waconia is roughly the same size as lake Monona in Madison.  I knew I could easily handle the 12 miles or so of walking, what I wasn't too sure of was how to avoid hwy.5--the only road leading into Waconia from one side of the lake.  No bother, in my mule like state I chose to hit that section last thinking I'd either be too tired to care about playing a life like game of frogger or I'd cut through farmland and prairies covered in snow until I hit a safe road.

I headed out without a map or music--opting instead for the sound of my footsteps in the fresh snow and navigating by a gut feeling.  Hell, it's just a big circle after all.  If I lost sight of the lake, I'd know I wasn't on the right road.  Besides, I had biked most of this route before so I was quite confident in my navigational skills and sense of distance.

One of the many farms surrounded by McMansions
Within a couple miles, the word "perspective" kept looping in my mind.  Things like this happen to me frequently while biking or walking for long periods.  I get caught up on words or ideas and can't let them drop.  I kept thinking about the different perspectives I had this year vs. last year even though I was on the same roads and trails.  The weather was different, I was moving at a slower pace (by about 15mph), cars most certainly treated me differently (I'm quite certain several drivers thought I was out of my mind for walking down Co.Rd 10--but I've heard it's used frequently by cyclists in the summer).  When I hit the North side of the lake, I was greeted by first an old barn, followed quickly by an 8,000 sq.ft. McMansion, then by an old lake cottage.  This happened repetitively around half the lake and I couldn't help but wonder what the owners of the farms and cottages thought.  As cars drove much too close to me for comfort, even on the small cottage lanes, I began to compare this area to the small towns in Southern Wisconsin.  Sure the occasional "buzzing" happens in my area, but it's never car after car after car.  A much needed perspective.

As I made my way back close to Waconia, I was faced with the daunting hwy.5, or several farm/prairie crossings.  Needless to say, I opted to trudge through the snow.  I laughed at the fact I was forced to do this, thinking about what the locals would think of me if they saw me.  In fact, I'm not sure anyone has ever attempted to walk around the lake in modern time.  A bit over three hours after I began, I got back to my mom's, pleased I had made it without getting squashed, and finally feeling a bit worn out (in a good way).  No, this wasn't nearly as much fun as my long cold ride last year, but it did feel great doing something I wasn't too sure of and making the most of my circumstances.  What felt even better was not having to start up the car, and for that I give thanks!

Coming off the prairie, this is what greeted me.  Welcome to the 'burbs!

Sunday, November 23, 2014

The Season for Waltzing


In my mind, each season has its own dance.  Spring brings the urge to swing or lindy since the new found warmth gives a bounce to my step.  Summer is for the slow drag or salsa.  Clothes are shed, sweat drips from every pore and just about everything seems sultry.  Fall, with the crisp air also brings crispness back to the dance floor with the fox trot or Charleston.  And winter, for some odd reason I connect winter, with a slow waltz.  Rigid, upright and yet still with a lilt.  I can imagine snow falling or scenes from Dr. Zhivago playing set to a waltz.

All of this, yes, even scenes from Dr.Zhivago, play on a loop while I'm out riding.  My pedal stroke, a bit cattywampus with the cold, added layers and winter boots on flats, seems to follow more of a 3/4 measure vs. the nice, smooth 4/4 beat, and my breathing no longer flows as it should--instead acting more like a hiccup as I brace against the sharp air.

On days when the wind rattles the windows, and snow finds its way into every nook and cranny, my mind begs me to curl up with a steaming mug of coffee and epic books or films which ooze slow like molasses (Sweetland and The Straight Story have been watched numerous times during the season of the endless night).  My body, however, feels cagey on these days.  Restless from not going out enough on all day adventures.  No gym workout satiates--in fact, the thought of stepping inside a gym turns my stomach, so I begin the long process of adding layers, covering exposed skin and prepping my mind for what's to come.  I call this moment "the tipping point".  If I reach the stage of adding all the layers, I'll head out--but it's getting to that point which is so damn difficult.  Heck, sometimes I feel downright exhausted just from dressing.  But 90% of the time, I come back renewed, re-energized and feeling a whole lot less like a pacing animal in the zoo.

This brings us back to the waltz.  By no means is it my favorite dance, and I'd rather partake in just about any other dance, but when a waltz is played, and I'm on the dance floor, waltz I do.  I don't like winter or riding in the winter, but when I have no choice (other than spending hours on the trainer), winter ride I will.  Happy dancing all!  I look forward to seeing you all move to little ditties, throughout the snow covered streets, in my mind.







Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Thanks, that was "fun", but now you can leave!

Dear Old Man Winter,

Your whimsy and mischievous behavior is a amusing at times.  I will say, you do bring a jaw dropping beauty found in no other season.  A quiet hush made by falling snow, blue light with long shadows, hoar frost which covers me during runs and rides, sundogs, visible animal tracks, and the sweet smell of firewood burning to heat Midwestern homes.  I just have one bone to pick with you.  You are not supposed to make your grand entrance until December 21st (I'll give you a day or two plus or minus).  The stuff you pulled last year was not appreciated and now it seems like you've opened up the same bag of tricks--but earlier.  Yes, yes, we Wisconsinites know it's going to be effing cold for 4 or 5 months out of each year, but this Spring starting in June and Winter starting in November shit isn't funny.  When you start pissing off the cross-country skiers, you KNOW you've gone too far.  We'd appreciate a little cooperation on your part.  Fine, make it cold early, but could you hold off on the wind?  And throw us a bone once in awhile--you know, a sunny day at "average" temps can make all the difference.

Yours truly,
-two wheeled maiden