Tuesday, September 16, 2014

The Tipping Point

View from the top of Blue Mound


End of Summer

For that a great weariness has come upon me
Here in the remaining day of summer—
And the over-grown yard a stagnant mood,
Under the boughs the apples rotting,
And the fading grasses forgotten of cutting—

Suffer me to wag the tongue a little.
Even as leans on the fainting evening
the foliage withering,
I am touched with a song of brown and of shadows,
And of colors lingering.

And I passed before a house of vines
To hear a myriad of birds therein
Crying, crying.

-Mark Turbyfill

Hurry Back

Hurry back fair summer, from where you came,
my soul tends to wilt in this cold pissing rain.
Friends are posting on their dreams of snow
while I am dreading the temps dropping low.
Each year I feel your stay is too short,
please settle in next year and never deport.

-me

We are at the door of the tipping point.  Three morning rides have now been in the upper 30's and I would have welcomed my shoe covers on two of them--my feet turning to numb blocks.  It's too early this year--it's always too early for me, but this is exceptional.  2014 will go down as the year I turned off the heat the latest in the year (late May) and turned it on the earliest (mid September).  My fat bike friends are giddy as children in a candy store, drooling with anticipation.  I, however, feel I'm looking down the barrel of a loaded gun.  You think I'm joking, I know you do, since I help out with Madison Bike Winter but sadly I am not.  

Alex Soth--Sleeping by the Mississippi

To ward off the dread and doom, I rode this past weekend.  Lots.  I rode down the Badger State Trail/H8TR trail with a friend to "geocache" holiday ornaments on a tree branch for a friend.  I rode around lake Monona and then found some sun beams to sit in--not unlike my cat.  My husband and I rode downtown for the Alex Soth art show at MMOCA and his winter shots along the Mississippi made me shudder.  A group of us rode out to Blue Mound and to the the top of the world, or at least top of SW Wisconsin.  And finally, after cleaning up and eating, we rode once again downtown for the Willy Street Festival to welcome in two of my favorite folk singers as they wrapped up their Wisconsin music tour by bike.

I am hoping I can keep this momentum thing going--all the way until Spring!

Top of the World ride

Placing holiday ornaments
Brianna Lane and Peter Mulvey wrapping up their Wisconsin bike tour

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Sifting

Reader, if you are in the midwest bike community, you may be very angry with me for writing this post.  You may not understand my intentions and you may choose to stop reading this blog.  I understand.  This, however, is something I just felt the need to do.  Please know I do not take this situation lightly.  I ask you not to judge me for my decision to write this.

I rode today.  I rode though the cold gray winter-like clouds, through the wind and through my confusion and sadness.  I rode for an old friend of mine who is struggling deeply, one who has a mental illness.  I rode for his family and for his victim.  I rode for myself in hopes of making sense of a very bad situation.  Today I learned that one of the most influential people in my life regarding cycling did something that will place him in jail for a very long time.  First I was in disbelief, then I was angry, finally I was sad.  I am not going to go into details regarding the crime.  I don't need to.  I'm sure many of you already know about it.

When I was fourteen, and a part of  the Gopher Wheelmen junior team, I was the only girl in the group.  Although I had two female coaches, I had to train and race with the boys.  During the weekly training rides, I got pushed and shoved verbally and a little physically.  It wasn't all that bad in hindsight but being one of the youngest on the team, and being the only girl, made me a bit sensitive (later it would make me tougher).  I remember the first time I met Ezra, he was a bit younger than me and yet he could outride most of the guys much older than us both.  He wasn't showy, he saw cycling as "fun" vs. work and he was unbelievably nice.  For some reason he felt the need to protect me, and that he did.  On group rides, even though he could school the rest of the team if he wanted to on sprints, he would hang next to me and we'd chat.  He'd also shut the other guys up if they got a little too brash with me.

A season passed and we started "dating"--or whatever teens do at that age.  Nothing physical happened between us other than holding hands, but we hung out all the time.  We'd walk around the lakes, go on long rides or get our parents to drive us to movies or concerts.  Honestly, looking back on it, we were just really good friends.  We even spent a week together with my mom in a cabin near Ely, MN.  I think we "got" each other.

It was around that time I started questioning cycling in my world.  To be honest, I was sick of it.  I had been training for years already and I was burnt out.  It just wasn't fun anymore and I wanted out.  I remember Ezra telling me I didn't have to race.  He didn't even judge me for not wanting to ride.  He may have been the only person I told this to at the time.  You see Ez had this different outlook on riding and training.  He floored our coaches, and everyone knew he had what it took to go all the way if he wanted to.  He could have gone pro.  Instead, he'd show up to training rides when he wanted to, he'd do a race here and there, and then he'd set the bike aside for awhile to skateboard instead.  Training just wasn't what he did.  He played.  And if cycling wasn't fun at the moment, he wouldn't do it.

On my ride today, as I sifted through all the muck, and then finally put what he did recently aside, I realized that Ezra was a very important part of my life--even though we only really knew each other throughout high school.  When I chose to give up road riding, he went to Kenwood Cyclery with me to get a mountain bike.  I had never ridden one before, but as we rode home at dusk, down the railroad tracks, I thought I might just be able to like biking again.  He helped me see cycling as something fun, not just work.  If it weren't for him being in my life, I may not have had the emotional strength to stand up to the junior boys on my team and I may have given up on cycling all together--thinking that if I wasn't racing, what's the reason to bike?

After high school we went our own ways.  I moved away from the cycling scene, opting to commute instead of race, and yet I kept hearing snippets about him from my friends.  I'd hear that he was off everyone's radar and then he'd just show up to a cross race or mountain bike race and kill it, and then he'd disappear again for awhile.  Later I'd read about him in the bikejerks blog and see his gold plated Peacock Groove 29er single speed.  Never did I hear about him bragging or talking trash.  He appeared to be the same person I knew back in the day.  He also continued to work in the bike industry, getting into QBP and working with several of my friends.  When I'd ask how he was doing, they only had the best of words.  Everyone seemed to love him.  I can only say it made me so happy to hear him continue his passion--a passion that first brought us together in the first place.

What Ezra did, many will never forgive him for.  It's difficult, but after my ride today, I can say I hate what he did, but I don't hate him.  My hope is that he gets the help he needs, pays his dues however the courts seem just, and finds solace.  On that note, I also hope his family finds the peace they need and most importantly, I hope his victim heals to the point she can live a wonderful life.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

A rolling celebration marking the end of a stupid bike trail law

Meeting up at the capitol for the pre ride briefing from Richard
Laws are often times made to help and protect us.  Laws are also meant to be revisited and often times changed. Years ago, NR45 was placed in the books for many reasons--to help protect natural areas, to prevent motorized vehicles from going onto trails designated for hikers, cyclists or skiers, to limit human made noise in natural areas etc.  The problem, however, is that NR45 also stated that no one could use the state trails between the hours of 11pm-6am.  This meant if you lived in a town--let's say Monroe, WI--and worked the second shift at the hospital, you would be breaking the law if you chose to bike or walk home via the trail, even if it was the only safe way to do so.  If caught, you could also be fined...heavily.

Being a year round bike commuter, a person who wakes at 4am to go to work (I start work before 6am most days), a Wisconsin Bicycle Federation board member and a tax payer, I had serious issues with this law.  My feelings were and are, fine or arrest someone for disrupting the peace or doing an illegal activity that would harm others but DO NOT waste tax payer dollars and DNR or police resources by fining people who choose to use the trail at night in a peaceful manner.

Four years ago, a ride was started by a local guy, Richard.  Pick Me Up At The Border was not only a way for cyclists to have a safe, fun night ride, but also a bit of a protest against an archaic law.  This weekend marked the fourth ride and a bit of a celebration since it is the first time it is legal.  That's right folks, you can now ride on state trails legally between 11pm-6am thanks to Friends of the Badger State Trail and the Wisconsin Bike Fed.  Like other years, a group of us met down at the state capitol just before midnight, rolled out at a mellow pace on the Badger State Trail as a group until it turned to gravel and then we strung out--some choosing to pick up the pace a bit--all the way to Illinois or until the leaders swung back around and passed you, at which point folks hopped on the night train.

Tunnel break near Bellville on the way back

Monroe pit stop at the new bike trail facility

From capitol to state line to capitol it's 90 miles.  For most of us, however, who choose to ride to the starting point, it's about 100.  This, mind you,  is almost ridden entirely in the dark.  I've spoken about my love for night riding in other posts.  Magic is the only word I can use to describe it.  I love having to focus on what's in front of me in a small lit up circle.  I love seeing the moon and stars.  And I love the surreal feeling, not knowing what time it is, how fast I'm going and where exactly I am.  Add a bunch of friends plus gravel and it's just that much more special.

Wash out--bigger than it looks!
This year saw it's share of hiccups.  The heavy rain the week prior made large sections of the trail feel like b roads.  Some of the wash out was so bad I was actually happy not to see it very well as I slowly rolled my way through.  Flats, yep, there were lots of 'em.  I had my first on my trusty Clement LASs. But all in all it was a great night.  I'm always amazed by how awake I am when I roll back into town. Other than food, there is really very little on my mind at the end.

Thank you Richard for the dreamlike ride and introducing me to some really cool new folks, thanks to Steve for the rapid fire tube change--otherwise I would have been stuck out there for 20 mins. alone, and thanks for letting me follow your fool proof line during our pace line heading back , thanks to the Danimal for keeping the pace and finally thanks to Bill Hauda for getting the law changed!

Quick flat fix for Travis from Stray Cat Cycles


Helping the "winner" lighten the Burley load on the way back


Our little Indiana Jones moment in the tunnel

Sunrise!

Sunday, August 31, 2014

WTF?! I'm not over the hill, I've just begun to climb it!

Me and Laura on the "chocolate bunny" off Minnehaha creek

What's all this nonsense about "40" being over the hill?  Sorry folks, you can tease me all you want, but I'm not buying it.  All in all, I feel physically, mentally, and emotionally stronger than I did when I was 30.  Okay, I might not have the umf I did on sprints 10-15 years ago, and I may need the occasional extra recovery day, but the positives are I know my body so much better than I ever did, and with that comes increased endurance--again mental and physical.

Bike friends, no matter their age, keep me young
I joke with my clients and friends that my "secret" to staying young is hanging out with a bunch of friends who are in their 20's and early 30's.  The flip side is I also stay young because I hang out with a bunch of kids in their 50's and 60's.  By subjecting myself to this full spectrum of youth--be it mental or physical--I will hopefully be kept in check and will keep the years rolling off me like water on a duck's back.

One of the ways I always choose to celebrate my birthday, and yes, I am celebrating turning 40, is by biking either alone or with a group of cool people.  This year is no exception.  Our little gang of bike hoodlums from Madison embarked on a journey to my home city of Minneapolis to play with others. You see not only was this weekend my b-day, but it was another friend's 40th recently which brought back one of my friends, who goes back to early college days, all the way from Seattle.  Damn if I didn't feel a bit overwhelmed with love to get the chance to hang out with so many wonderful people.

So as in my other posts about biking in Minneapolis--I seem to go back to do this yearly now--there was more than just biking.  There was also a plethora of ethnic food from Ukrainian to Vietnamese, beer...so much beer, and little jaunts down memory lane.  Each time I come back here to ride,  my past solidifies a bit more--thankfully with good memories and I experience wonderful new things which will become good memories in the years to come.

Pho at Quang

Uki food!!!

Regarding the biking part, it's always pretty grand (the urban riding scene here can't be beat and the mtb along with some gravel trails are so much better than Madison, but the road riding sucks the big one).  This time getting to show two friends, who have never biked in the city what serious infrastructure looks like, made it that much better.  Splitting the flood water seas from a deluge was "interesting" but fantastic since we got all the trails to ourselves, and finding hidden gems as well as running into my father's racing team was the icing on the cake.  Speaking of cake, copious amounts of sugar and fat were consumed at the Baker's Wife to restore our energy.

Joshua!  All the way from Seattle!

Joshua and Jon rolling on the Kenillworth trail 

waiting out the rain at lake Harriet

gravel!

sunset on lake Calhoun

river bottoms near Crosby park

Hennepin Av bridge

North American Cycle Courier Championship

flooding between lake Calhoun and Isles

Yep, it was deep

Joshua on the Theo Wirth trails

Really, I doubt there is a better way to celebrate climbing, what I hope to be, a really long fucking hill.  Cheers all and here's to another year!  So many thanks go out to Laura, Jon and Joshua for coming out to play with me--I love you guys!


Are my friends trying to kill me or keep me young?



Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Summer is finally here

From plains that reel to southward, dim,
The road runs by me white and bare;
Up the steep hill it seems to swim
Beyond, and melt into the glare.
Upward half-way, or it may be
Nearer the summit, slowly steals
A hay-cart, moving dustily
With idly clacking wheels.
...
In the sloped shadow of my hat
I lean at rest, and drain the heat;
Nay more, I think some bless├Ęd power
Hath brought me wandering idly here:
In the full furnace of this hour
My thoughts grow keen and clear.
-Archibald Lampman



I'm one of those crazies who LOVE heat and humidity.  As long as it's under 95 degrees, and not too hazy, I actually feel stronger on the bike.  Don't hate me.  When you all are thriving in the 60 degree temps, you can revel in the fact I'm most likely shivering and stiff.  I really should just move down to New Orleans...but the road riding kinda sucks down there.

post ride bug cemetery
This weekend finally brought the summer weather I've been waiting for since last year (it's been freaking cold here this summer).  Sweat dripped off my arms, legs and nose as I climbed hill after hill on a little 105 mile ride we chose to do.  Bugs died a terrible death on my skin--poisoned by either my sweat or my spray on sunblock.  And I smiled, oh how I smiled.  It felt so damn good to open up my pores and then have my own air conditioner as I whipped down the big rollers.

Monday I woke to a low of 74 degrees with high humidity.  Yep, still felt good--and then the skies opened up to one hell of a thunderstorm, and this is the song that was left in my head throughout the rest of the day.  You just can't appreciate the blues thoroughly when it's 70, dry and clear skied.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Killing them with kindness...to prevent getting killed

Something happened on my ride this morning which may have given me a new outlook on drivers.  I was riding West of Madison, on a fairly busy, two lane road, with a designated bike lane.  The fog was lifting and I had both head and tail light on so visibility wasn't an issue.  I was on high alert due to the fact I was almost hit head on by a truck turning into my lane earlier in the week, but hopeful this ride would prove to be smoother--especially since it was my favorite weather (warm and humid) and one of my favorite routes.

I remember smiling since cranes were flying overhead and about to land next to me in a nearby field.  And that's when it happened.  A black sedan came within a foot of me, and took a right turn not far in front of me, into a condo parking lot.  I was snapped out of my awe of the cranes in a second and instantly felt anger flood me.  This was it.  I had mere moments to make a decision.  I knew I was going to follow him into the parking lot and have a "chat"--what I didn't know yet was how I was going to approach him.  In over thirty years of road riding, I've had things like this happen to me hundreds of times.  I've handled the situation in about as many ways.  I've yelled, I've preached, I've called the cops with the license plate...yadayadayada.  Today, I chose to do what I don't always choose to do.  I stayed completely calm, waited for driver to exit his car, and asked him a question.  "Excuse me sir, do you happen to know about the three foot passing law by any chance?"  Weather he did or didn't, I gave him the benefit of the doubt.  In that same calm voice, and with non threatening body language, I explained to him what the law is and why it's so important to follow it.  I told him he came within a foot from me and explained how mirrors stick out--something most drivers don't think about.  I explained what could happen if I hit a rock or a squirrel ran in front of me and he was that close.  And you know what...he apologized.  That's right, he said he was "really sorry" AND THEN HE THANKED ME.  I was stunned.  I've never had that happen to me.  All I remember is smiling, thanking him for listening, and then letting him know where he could find bike/ped laws if he was interested.

Now I wasn't born yesterday.  And I know this won't be the case all the time, even if I approach drivers in the same kind way, but if this works for half the drivers I encounter, it's worth it.  I'm not the only one who is talking about "distance passing laws" and if they work, as well as how to enforce them.  Lately it's been making a buzz in multiple states.  Regardless of the location, bicycle advocacy groups, police and the DOT all agree that education by EVERYONE is the most needed path.  Read here how Pittsburgh is approaching the issue.  Here in Wisconsin, we are proud to be the first state to pass such laws--ours was passed in 1973.  Look at this chart to see what other states are following suit.

If you find yourself in the position I did today, you have every right to be angry.  The trouble is, drivers rarely respond well to a cyclist screaming their head off--trust me, I know from experience.  Instead, read up on your rights and try killing them with kindness.  If this doesn't work, get their license plate information.  An officer most likely won't be able to do anything unless it is seen by others or caught on camera, but it's worth a shot.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Bikabout...Minneapolis Style

Ben McCoy--the man behind Mpls. Bike Love and Bicycle Theory--was kind enough to show the bikabout crew around my home city.  Read all about it here and see why I often get "homesick".