Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Cycling...with nature

Heading down into the Otto Kerl valley

Dream Farm goat creamery outside of Black Earth

As with most silent sports, one can easily become more in tune with the changes that take place year to year, season to season, month to month.  It doesn't take long to fall into this rhythm if you choose to let the senses take over.

While on a ride yesterday, moving into the driftless zone of Southern Wisconsin, I became acutely aware of the differences this exact ride had roughly one year ago to date.  The corn stalks were about a foot taller last year at this time, the Japanese beetles had already turned many of the leaves into lace and the gypsy moths seemed to make cities out of side roads. 

After riding my favorite routes time and time again, I feel as if they are sometimes my "home".  I know it sounds strange to say that 30-50 miles of road could be so familiar that I would call it home, however, there is no other way I can describe this sensation.  I look forward to punctuations that mark certain dates.  Early March, my unconditioned legs burn climbing up the slightest hill and my lungs fill with the smell of freshly spread manure coming from the Aker family farmsteads.  Late March to early April the sandhill cranes return to the cornfields in hopes of finding leftovers from the previous harvest.  Early June, my legs become more fluid and I'm able to climb higher and look down upon my favorite goat farm to see the kids playing in the pasture.  July brings the loss of spots on this year's fawns along with a thickness of air that seems to add 10lbs. to the bike.  August warns that the summer is about to close with falling black walnuts that will make even the most fearless cyclist cringe.  And then into autumn, when the shadows become long, the light casts hues of yellow and orange and the geese begin to fly overhead in chevron formation.  I find these rhythms or cycles comforting not unlike holding my favorite coffee mug each morning.

Yesterday I took in the details as well as the big picture.  The smell of corn fields mid July during a long dry spell, the tiger lilies along the roadside that escaped long ago from someones yard, the patches of ripe blackberries that fueled me through the second half of my ride and the feeling that I'm so small in the big, beautiful world.

Being someone that spent so many years moving across the country and abroad, getting to know land so well is still a novelty for me.  If I grew up in one house and lived my entire life in one city or town I'm not sure that I would appreciate this awareness.  Instead, I may resent it.  For now I rejoice in "settling in" whether it be for the long haul or just a cycle in my life.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Tapping Into My Roots

Almost 37 years ago, I was born on a hot and humid summer day. I entered the world and was handed off to two completely different parents.

I am a firm believer that we all pick up traits form those who raise us, even if at the time we do not see the benefits of this. My optimistic streak whispers in my ear to find the gifts that these two people have given me vs. the habits.

My mother gave me the gift of creativity, the ability to think outside of the box and a love for nature and poetry. My father gave me the gift of two wheels and the old "eagle eye" for spotting wildlife.
To be honest, I really had no choice but to love cycling and the culture that surrounds it. My weekends as a child were spent watching and cheering for my father at bike races around the Midwest. When he wasn't racing, we'd watch the "classics" on t.v.

When I was old enough to get a bigwheel, the entire world unfolded right in front of me. Rolling around the block alone gave me a sense of independence and adventure. This activity alone probably shaped who I am today more than any other.

As the bigwheel's wheels wore through (I wore out two sets)from doing "spin outs" and "skids" down hills, a new bike with training wheels magically appeared. This brings me to my next monumental life shaping moment. The training wheels came off one day. My dad ran behind me and then let go of my seat. I was on my way to a new world. Of course this new world came with hiccups. I turned back to see where he was, turned into the road and wiped out in gravel. My first brush with road rash...I was not happy...but I survived. From that point on, I never looked back.

Fast forward 30+ years. There aren't many aspects of the cycling world that I haven't explored. I've road raced, done some off road riding (cross and mt.bike), ridden recumbent and tandem, embraced year round commuting even in -20 degrees, toured and am now in the throws of the urban scene riding fixed.
I can mark the most important events in my life through rides. I ride to celebrate living, to burn through anger or frustration, to dry tears, to bust through fear and to see this beautiful world around me at a slower pace. I'm not sure what my life would be like without cycling. I'm not sure if I want to know.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Coming full circle

As a cyclist in the midwest prarieland, my love for nature is limitless. This being said, some of mother nature's creatures cause great strife for those biking on farm roads. One wouldn't think that something so small, like a red-winged blackbird, could cause a large human to go a bit crazy. It's not like I'm talking about mosquitoes here. No, these so called "harmless" birds choose to dive bomb cyclists and can sometimes attach themselves to helmets causing cyclists to look like demented beings with arms flapping, swerving all over the road and using expletives that are not suitable for this blog.

A couple of days ago, biking mid day in the scorching summer sun, I breezed by two baby red winged blackbirds sitting in the middle of a country road...helpless. Of course I stopped, knowing that they could be hit by a car (going much faster than any bike). But what to do? The parents were swarming me, just being good parents of course. They were definitely too young to fly, they still had pin feathers. So there, under the endless blue sky, I took off my cycling gloves and scooped the babies up (not touching them with my hands, using gloves instead) to move them to the side of the road in the shade. The parents of course had no idea that I was just trying to be helpful. Instead, they thought it was pertinent to chase me away. After a few minutes of ducking and dancing around them, I got the babies off to the side. Will they survive? Sad to say, probably not. But even though these creatures cause me so much grief on the bike, I just couldn't seal their fate by leaving them in the road.