Postcards from yo momma

On the Friday before Mother’s Day–back in the days before the IT department at work e-mailed the ominous warning to everyone that abuse of the network according to company policy includes webstreaming, which was my favorite background noise while writing my technical documentation masterpieces–NPR had this special about mothers and technology. Two young girls talked about this hilarious new website called Postcards from Yo Momma where people submit actual email messages from and chat conversation transcripts with their mothers. These electronic communiques are posted on this website (made anonymous, of course) for all to read.

Now. I’m not necessarily trying to pick on moms here but… I can’t help but notice that the voice of some of these other mothers sound maybe just a bit familiar… Not saying anything against mothers, of course. Love mine, in fact. But, well, you know, she is a mother. She does act like a mother. Is it so wrong that there’s something very therapeutic about this website for me?

Sorry, Mom. We kids need to get some venting out. Perhaps someone will make a “Postcards from Yo Child’n” website for you. I’d understand. Really, I would.

I thought this was particularly newsy as two of my closer friends have recently had babies. Gwenn had her daughter, Margaret Grace, at the end of February. And, this past Tuesday, my friend Val had a son, James Alan. It’s going to be awfully noisy the next time our group of friends gets together, what with all these crying babies. Maybe Gwenn and Val should frequent this site to get an idea of the kind of mockery they are in for in the future… =)

Song of the day: Doing the Unstuck

In response to my earlier entry, a word from “Doing the Unstuck” by the Cure:

it’s a perfect day for letting go
for setting fire to bridges, boats,
and other dreary worlds you know
let’s get happy!
kick out the gloom
kick out the blues
tear out the pages with all the bad news
pull down the mirrors and pull down the walls
tear up the stairs and tear up the floors
oh just burn down the house!
burn down the street!
turn everything red and the beat is complete
with the sound of your world
going up in a fire
it’s the perfect day to throw back your head
and kiss it all goodbye

Memory melody

The soundtrack for the last year of my life with Mike was Dido’s “Take My Hand.” Again, it’s not so much what the lyrics were describing but the melody of the song that makes the echo of this song so meaningful. I bought Dido’s No Angel somewhere towards the end of 2000 and I listened to it obsessively for a month straight. It was one of those CDs that just spoke to me in wordless messages–the music just went into my ears and filled my body. In a way that does not necessarily refer to God, music can be a truly spiritual experience, a moment of feeling alive in a melody that just makes you want to scream lyrics (sometimes not even the ones the song uses). I’ve been alive with songs I’ve never wanted to end, hitting the back button over and over again to breathe that music endlessly because the experience is just so vivid.

On the flight back from Christmas vacation in Colorado with Mike, I was hitting the back button on my portable CD player to hear “Take My Hand” just one more time as I feverishly scribbled a journal entry describing my overwhelming desire to start a new life with Mike in Colorado. We fell in love with Colorado the first time we went there; on this, our second trip, we made our nuptial vows with the state. I was excitedly writing about the decision, describing my trepidation and fears of leaving my home state of Ohio and all my friends and family. Yet, I reported in this journal entry, I knew this was something that would make the quality of our lives better. We wanted to live there. It was our nirvana.

“Take My Hand” hummed an air of mystery and excitement that I was feeling for the unknown future. For the first time in my life, I felt I was headed on a road into something less secure than I ever knew. I was alive with this feeling. I made analogies to the original settlers of the West, to conquering the great mysterious frontier. If you’ve ever been to Colorado, you know that it still feels like the old west out there in many ways. It feels unconquered, wild, and it invites new settlers to its enchanted lands. I fancied myself a pioneer, arriving there on my wagon with my husband in arm, ready to take on the trials of making a life in a new settlement in a wild part of the country.

There are a very few times in my life where I feel “called” to do something. Going to Hiram was one of those moments. The first time I set foot on that campus, my soul tingled with the foreknowledge that this was the place where I had to go to school. Not everyone gets this sort of emotional response about where they choose to attend school. They are more practical, selecting by major or location or affordability. It wasn’t like that for me. Major decisions in my life are always led by “gut feelings.” When I’m on my mark, when I’m full of life, I’m in tune enough with myself that I can feel what I need to do. I felt like that about Colorado too.

Of course you’re saying, “But you came back!”

Yes. Because by the time I did finally move to Colorado, my husband was dead and the moment was gone. I was following the echo of an expired call and it misled me in that moment. My ears were deaf to the calls urging me at that time, those that probably told me all the reasons I had to stay in Ohio. I needed to heal. But in the first wave of grief, you struggle to put together the pieces of the life you had, as if you can just continue with it sans the one you love. Grief is the refusal to look at the facts of how your life has unalterably changed. Grief is trying desperately to hold all of the shattered pieces of your old life, struggling to put it all back together with crazy glue (and crazy being the operative word), while pieces are sliding through your fingers and embracing arms. It takes a long time to learn that you have to let go of that old life, define a new one, and begin creating it.

This morning, I pulled out a bunch of CDs to listen to on the way to work and I grabbed No Angel. I purposely listened to “Take My Hand” to see if I could recapture any of that old feeling. After Mike died, this song made me cry because I could still see myself in that airplane seat, scribbling that journal entry with inspired fury. I could still taste the hope in that memory. Through anger and undulating sadness, I looked back at that memory and burned with envy for the moment in my life when anything seemed possible.

The song doesn’t phase me in the least anymore. It’s a great song and I still love it. But the melody doesn’t vibrate beneath my skin, calling me home to my nirvana like it used to. I look at the memory of myself on that plane ride home as though I’m watching an actor in the play of someone else’s life. I’m separate from it. The song no longer echoes the old call.

Yet, there’s something still familiar in that song. Something on the tip of my senses that reminds me of who I was in that period of time. It’s like remembering an instance of my childhood. Vague feelings of desire tingle the veins in my arms–not enough to raise goosebumps, just enough to stir the vestiges of those lost feelings.

I’m letting go and I can feel it. Time continues to pass and my life is diverging further and further from what I was with him. It’s neither good nor bad; it’s different and it’s the way it is. As the years between my life with him and my life without him widen, I find myself loosening my grip on those pieces of that old life and feeling less emotional about doing so. It’s becoming natural. In the beginning, I would have barbecued anyone alive with my eyes for telling me that this would happen. I needed to ease into it myself. Time heals open wounds.

Not that the wounds can’t be prodded from time to time. My empathy is still connected closely to the raw emotion of loss. I feel it when I watch a movie in which a character dies or someone I know is going through loss. Grief can slam into me at unexpected moments (other songs that still evoke emotion). I embrace it for moments–examine it, understand it, live it, love it, hate it, cry with it. But I know how to let it go when it is not being productive to my empathetic responses, when it is too closely influencing my thoughts and pulling me back under. I couldn’t do that years ago. Now, I can feel it and let it go.

It’s really hard for me to write these words. I don’t want to admit to them. I don’t want others to think I’ve “moved on” (oh, how I hate, hate, hate that term). I’ve learned to live with it. I’ve let go of its negative aspects. In a way, I guess, I have moved on (though I will slap you if you use that term with me).

Grief did one good thing to me: it taught me to love deeper, live stronger, feel deeply. It made me much more compassionate than I ever could be. That scar will always be there. It will help me help others, even if I never do anything other than assist people in hospice or as a pastoral care associate in my church. However, grief will no longer hold me down and keep me from hearing a new calling.

It’s a weird experience to watch your fingers slackening hold on the pieces of a life you hold so dear and, most importantly, to realize that you’ve come to a place where it doesn’t hurt to let them drop to the floor. “Take My Hand” no longer angers me. I identify the song in a nostalgic way that reminds me of a period in my life. Like when I listen to that song from high school that reminds me of a guy I had a horrible crush on (“Joy Ride” by Roxette), or that song from college my friends and I ravenously danced to for stress relief (“My Sharona” by the Knack). It’s an interesting piece of my history that causes reflection on a warm spot in my life, but I know I can’t go back to it so there’s no sense it letting it hurt me.

I pray that Mike does not hate me for letting go. I hope that he doesn’t feel I’ve forgotten him or our love. I pray that he knows I will always love him, that a piece of my heart is always occupied by him. Because of him, I’ve grown. Because of his death, I’ve continued to grow. It’s the contradicting duality we widows hate to admit to, but experience nonetheless. I pray that Mike sees how I’ve changed and embraces it. I hope he’s proud of how I’ve decided to turn the tragedy of his death into a positive reality for me in my future work with the hospice and my church. Though I’ve started to put together a new life of my own, I do not forget from where I’ve come. He’s helped shape the foundation of what I’ve started, but now I’m molding my life into something all my own. I pray he understands the goodness in all this. I’m sure he wouldn’t want me to live the sorrow of his loss forever; at the same time, I don’t want him to mourn the loss of my devotion. But I can’t keep him close when we’re separated by these realms of life and death. I’m alive and I have to submit to life.

“Take My Hand” by Dido

Touch my skin, and tell me what you’re thinking
Take my hand and show me where we’re going
Lie down next to me, look into my eyes and tell me,
Oh tell me what you’re seeing

So sit on top of the world and tell me how you’re feeling
What you feel now is what I feel for you
Take my hand and if I’m lying to you
I’ll always be alone
If I’m lying to you

See my eyes, they carry your reflection
Watch my lips and hear the words I’m telling you
Give your trust to me and look into my heart and show me,
Show me what you’re doing

So sit on top of the world and tell me how you’re feeling
What you feel now is what
I feel for you
Take my hand and if I’m lying to you
I’ll always be alone
If I’m lying to you
Take your time, if I’m lying to you
I know you’ll find that you believe me
You believe me

Feel the sun on your face and tell me what you’re thinking
Catch the snow on your tongue and show me how it tastes
Take my hand and if I’m lying to you
I’ll always be alone
If I’m lying to you
Take your time, if I’m lying to you
I know you’ll find that you believe me
You believe me

Glimpses of TOSRV

Last night, Michael and I looked at the still pictures he took at TOSRV as well as viewed–for the first time!–our video footage of the tour, which mostly consisted of us reporting our status at each rest stop and reading our stats. It’s kind of funny to watch because you can see how unhappy I was the morning of the second day, and you can see my shaken defeat at Waverly. I wish we’d had time to take more footage.

While I was doing the ride, I thought it would be really cool to put together a video documentary of TOSRV. I’d done a little documentary type of writing in a nonfiction class in college and actually find it quite fun. I remember a paper our professor had us write about a subculture. Back then, I was not really a part of any interesting subcultures; since then, I’ve found myself in quite a few that would have been worthy of a great paper (cycling, amateur astronomy, sky-diving). I really have an interest in perhaps writing a piece or doing a documentary on this sort of thing. If I did it for TOSRV, though, I’d probably have to forgo riding one year and just kind of wander around taking footage of the route and the riders. It sure would be a great piece, though. I can see it all in my head. If I did it, it would probably sell for many of the TOSRV participants. Maybe I should aim for the 50th anniversary in two years…? Hmmm…

Anyway, getting beyond my dreams of creative avarice, the real reason I opened this blog entry was to share with you some of the pictures from our ride. So, here they are in chronological order.

Along a canal–or what looked one–between Columbus and Circleville on the first day.

Downtown Chillicothe, First Day
(As Michael keeps reminding me, our state’s first capital city.)

Overview of the mural that now welcomes TOSRV riders to Portsmouth. (Really, you have to see this in person. This photo barely does it justice! The mural is a marvel to study, for some real people are depicted–inside jokes and cultural knowledge only longtime TOSRV riders can fully grasp.)

Heidi and Michael stand together like Siamese twins in park after the first day.

Two drowned rats stand together with their TOSRV certificates at the end of the ride. The gold seal signifies a completion both days of TOSRV. (Half TOSRVs are designated in, I think, silver?)

My first TOSRV: 210 miles and the chafing to prove it!

NOTE: I apologize profusely for the rambling length of this entry… I just got carried away with describing my experience!

I think I got to experience the best and worst of TOSRV weather this past weekend, though I’m sure there’s been worse weather than Sunday’s on/off rain showers. Saturday was absolutely the best biking weather you could ask for–sunny and warm, but not too hot. Rain greeted us right away on Sunday morning and pretty much teased us with relief and then more rain just when we thought it was going to turn into a decent day. Still, I completed my first TOSRV and I feel really good, albeit, I’m a bit chafed on the bum. (If only I had heeded Michael’s advice and used the chamois cream he gave me for my birthday…) Overall, I had a great ride and really enjoyed myself. TOSRV is just challenging enough that it is not an easy 100 miles (like Toledo), but it isn’t a completely muscle-depleting ride (like Roscoe Ramble or Eddy’s Sweet Corn Challenge).

It was chillier on Saturday morning than I would have liked, but I braved it out in my shorts because I knew that it was supposed to get to the sixties. I’ve found that as long as my core is warm, I’m good to go, and so I had heavier shirt on for the first half of the ride. Being the biggest freeze baby, I tend to wear my warm clothes until I start to sweat through them. Otherwise, I might have been able to shed my heavier shirt earlier in the day. By the time I removed the heavier shirt, Michael had already removed his arm warmers; I didn’t remove my arm warmers until the last leg of the route.

My favorite part of the ride–both days–was the stretch between Chillicothe and Waverly. It is rolling with some nice hills that gave my muscles a nice, pleasant burn. The infamous Schoolhouse Hill was nothing like what I expected it to be: it was a gradual climb, perhaps longer than the rest of the rollers, which, I suppose, is why less experienced riders dismount and walk up it. But with all the chatter about this hill, I thought for sure it had some significant grade to it–even if for just a few feet–that made some people nervous. It was really like a much shorter version of the kind of grade I like when doing long climbs up mountain passes.

My ABC friends were right in suggesting that if I could climb any hill out of the Cuyahoga Valley, then I would be prepared for any hill on TOSRV. Schoolhouse Hill was certainly no Stucky Road from Roscoe Ramble. Hell, it wasn’t even the first part of Quick Road. I even had enough breath available to remark loudly several times to Michael as I climbed it, “This isn’t hard!” Which I am sure just peeved those riders walking their bikes up the hill, and probably made me look somewhat like a braggart. I’m always putting my foot in my mouth. But sometimes my pride just gets the better of me. Maybe as a younger, less experienced cyclist (ie, before my days in Colorado), I would have been intimidated by that hill. Not these days…

In addition to containing those hills I love to strain my legs upon, the stretch between Chillicothe and Waverly was the most scenic and least trafficked. There were some farms with cows for me to shout “moo” at–it’s always my goal to get a cow or two to look up at me with their unimpressed stare. And goats for me to giggle at–the dejected “bleh” sound goats make brings me to tears with laughter. It’s the simple things in life, folks!

I enjoyed riding on OH-335 (Three Locks Road) along the railroad tracks and underneath the railroad bridge where the road takes a sharp, dangerous turn (on Sunday, Michael filmed me going beneath this bridge). It was a shady, quiet road that dipped and climbed, twisting along lonely landscape.

I rode Saturday pretty strong. I felt good all the way to the end of the ride. We were welcomed in Portsmouth by the new TOSRV mural which is positioned right where you cross the bridge over the Scioto River into town on the route. In the old days, I’m told, this bridge was a suspension bridge, like many of the bridges that cross the Ohio River. Michael is lucky enough to have experienced the atmosphere of this now-nostalgic crossing when fellow riders and associates of the tour would applaud you as you came into town. The old bridge is depicted on the mural shrouded in fog, which is what Michael says is how he remembers his Sunday morning crossings of the bridge. I guess fog is common for the area, though our Sunday ride was fogless.

You can feel the love of TOSRVs past and present participants oozing from the mural. The faces are realistic (and some of them, I’m told, are depictions of actual “famous” riders of the tour). An homage to TOSRV, and to the sport of cycling, the mural really stirred an impressed feeling of awe in me. I felt connected to a community and a tradition that had started before me and, hopefully, will exceed me into the future as cycling (hopefully) regains popularity.

Portsmouth has many murals depicting various pieces of connected town history and now this cycling event started by a father and his son in the 1960s is now a part of the town’s collective identity. I don’t know if the people of Portsmouth appreciate or dread it (for I’ve read blogs where some locals from other towns along TOSRV’s route have complained), but for me, the mural marks a journey to the mecca of Ohio cycling.

Once we were done admiring the new mural, Michael and I made our way down to the flood wall to admire all the murals there as we rode towards the park. We stopped at the Ramada Inn to see if we could get a room and, amazingly enough, they did have one to sell us! Then, we made it to the park to have a celebratory beer and contemplate the feat of our 105 mile trek.

After a half hour or so of rest, we took off down the main street towards the bridge into Kentucky. We were so close, after all, and I agreed that since my bike had never set wheel in another state, it only made sense to amble across the bridge to touch Kentucky dirt. There’s not much to do in the section of Kentucky that bridge crosses into–no city, just a stop light and road going east/west. Still, crossing the Ohio River, to me, is always a marvel. I’m hopelessly attracted to bodies of water and Ohio is certainly the state for grand bodies of water with Lake Erie on the north and the Ohio River on the south. (Next month on the Marietta River Rendezvous, I get to enjoy a 1.5 hour cruise on the Ohio and I’m really excited about that!)

On our way back across the river, we stopped to film a barge making its way east. The sun was glaring brightly in my camcorder’s viewer and I reflected sadly that the next day was not going to be as pristine as this day had been. I tried to soak in the last bit of sun before we headed to the old high school to pick up our luggage, and then back to the hotel for showers and dinner and a prompt passing out. I never realize how exhausted these kind of rides make me until I’ve showered; only after I’ve washed the dried salt from my body do I understand fully how taxing an activity cycling for hours–in this case, six–really is. I had trouble staying awake through dinner.

Of course, Sunday we woke to rain showers, which still surprised me despite weather.com’s warnings all week, because I’d gone to bed to clear skies. I donned my bike gear grudgingly and, in my haste to get moving, I made my fatal mistake of the day: I decided not to apply the chamois butter to my shorts.

Motivating myself to start riding in the rain is always the hardest part of a rainy ride. I am more willing to deal with rain that begins while I’m already out; when I have to deal with it right off the bat, I’m more likely to talk myself into bailing. That’s why it was good to be there with a friend. I knew that if I bailed, Michael wouldn’t so I had to go if I wanted to ever live it down. I wasn’t really going to bail–this was my first TOSRV and I wanted to earn the right to wear the jersey I bought–but I won’t lie that I entertained the thought as we rolled back across the bridge into the silent gray morning.

It made me nervous that I didn’t see as many cyclists as I had the day before. Saturday, the roads filled with so many groups of bikes that you were never alone. Sunday, however, it seemed we could go several miles before catching up to slower moving cyclists and then passing them. Compounding my nervousness about starting too late (I had stopped to get some ibrophin from a drugstore before leaving Portsmouth) was the fact that the roads on TOSRV are not really marked. Major turns are manned by HAM radio operators and volunteers standing by TOSRV-marked cars; however, some parts of the route you just had to navigate by memory (or the memory of the person I was riding with who had been on multiple TOSRVs). We were given a map with our registration packets, but it didn’t include turn-by-turn instructions, which would have been helpful when we were navigating through some of the busy streets of the few small towns we passed through. I guess, though, if we had a map, it would have been wet at this point. The only thing I didn’t like about TOSRV was this lack of clear route indicators. I like to be secure that I’m going the right direction at all times.

As I do whenever faced with the difficult challenge of completing a ride in less than desirable conditions (whether physical pain, lack of interest, or bad weather), I just turned off my thoughts to focus on my riding. I set the small goals of reaching each rest stop, which, when looked at by themselves were relatively short, doable distances even when I’m not in the mood. The 20-30 miles to the next rest stop is merely an evening ride after work.

The rain let up on that first leg between Portsmouth and the Waverly stop at Lake White and I mistakenly thought for awhile that the day would turn out all right despite the predictions of doom from the weathermen. About ten minutes after we reached Waverly, however, the skies really let go and rain fell hard. Some thunderstorms began to pass through the area and we waited them out, which probably put us behind for the rest of the day.

As Michael has aptly pointed out to me in our numerous discussions since the ride, the Waverly stop was probably my weakest point. I’m deathly afraid of thunderstorms and as soon as I saw lightening, my heart stopped. My knees always get weak when I see lightening and then hear the crash of thunder. I have this paranoid fear that God (or Zeus) is having target practice with me. I’ve spent my whole life avoiding this fate of being struck by lightening, which frankly sounds absolutely terrifying (because, yes, I’ve watched all the specials on the Discovery channel about survivors of lightening strikes). I began counting the time between the flash of lightening and the sound of thunder. It never got closer than five-one-thousand. Forget that a park ranger once told me that if you could see lightening, it’s already too close.

I sat on the bench underneath the rest stop pavilion, concentrating hard on the mantra: I gotta finish this ride, I gotta finish this ride. Meanwhile, the safe mountain climber in me was reminding myself that sometimes it’s too dangerous to reach that destination peak. I fretfully told Michael that I was not going to quit because I knew he wouldn’t; I think that’s how he understood what was going on in my mind. I was trying to make myself believe my own words.

The temperature had also dropped. I had to put my heavier shirt back on (I’d taken it off during the climb to Waverly). Before I could back myself out of the ride, I followed Michael to my bike and climbed on. As we rode out of the park at Lake White, another round of heavy rain began to fall. My memory of that part of the ride is like a surrealistic dream. I rode through the town of Waverly on very busy streets. My vision of the world was blurred through the smearing of raindrops smashed the clear lenses of my goggles. I focused on the only thing I could see clearly: the flashing tail-light on Michael’s bike light. Car lights zoomed by all around me. The sky was dark like early morning.

We had just turned onto the less busy Route 104 right next to a shopping plaza when a Dodge Prowler pulled up next to me. An old man in the passenger seat asked if I was on “the ride” and when I said yes, he began to frantically tell me that a rider had been killed by a motorist on Route 23. He wanted me to inform someone, but though I had a cell phone, I definitely had no speed dial to Charlie Pace (TOSRV’s organizer). I thanked the man and he drove off. I shakily told the story to Michael. Thoughts of a killed cyclist haunted me a little for the rest of the ride. I think part of the reason it really struck me at that moment was because I was dealing with my own fears as I rode at the tail-end of a thunderstorm in a downpour through a busy town on streets through which I could barely make out the traffic in my rain-streaked goggles. At that moment, my own fears were getting the best of me. Hearing such news at that particular moment left an unmovable bookmark of that place and time in my head.

I kept thinking about the dangers of cycling. We cyclists–as most human beings are wont to do–forget our mortality on the roads and how easy it is for a motor vehicle to take us out. This man (who I now know is William Crowley, surgeon, age 57, from Northfield, Michigan) was just like the rest of us–he’d completed one day’s ride, he’d probably celebrated his victory somewhere in Portsmouth with a hearty dinner and maybe some conversation with friends, and he took off that morning headed for Columbus. If he is anything like me, this ride was a relaxing vacation away from home, enjoying an event I spent all winter dreaming about. I couldn’t help wondering who he’d spoken to the night before, who the last person he talked to was, what his thoughts were as he left Portsmouth that morning. Certainly, he didn’t know that within an hour, he would be dead. I know that’s morbid, but I couldn’t help but think how it could have been me or Michael or any of the other cyclists with whom I’d interacted over the last 24 hours. This incident just brought me back to pondering mortality, which is not something I’d been thinking about in the last few months. Perhaps my own experience with death sometimes makes me oversensitive to it.

Anyway, sometime later, the rain let up again and it warmed up a bit. The sun actually came out while we cycled along Three Locks Road beside the railroad tracks in the hilly valley I loved so much on this tour. At one point, I felt the heat of the sun beating on my black rain jacket and thought, for just an instant, that I’d eventually be able to strip down to my short-sleeved jersey.

No luck, of course. This day was just doomed to tease. While eating lunch in Chillicothe, it began to downpour again. No thunderstorms this time, though. Since the rain had relented during the prior leg, my spirits had lifted, not to be retired again. Despite the pounding sound of rain on the tent where we ate, I knew I was in this ride for the long haul. After all, I was half way there now. No turning back for me at this point. By the time we got on our bikes, the rain had reduced to a drizzle again and we were off.

At this point, my butt had started to burn with what I knew could only be chafing from the edges of the thick padding on my bike shorts. This is where I realized the error of my lazy ways that morning. The tingling burn of the chafing marks was yet another battle with discomfort I had to fight for the rest of the ride. Next to the struggle with the rain, however, it was just another thing to contend with. It was only during the very last ten miles into Columbus, when it again began to rain hard, and my bike pants got wet for the final time, that I realized just how much pain I was going to be in for the next few days. Yikes!

After thirty miles of taking turns leading each other through the last leg of Columbus, Michael and I rode into Capital Square in downtown Columbus side-by-side. I felt really good at that moment, and not just because I was finally done riding my bike (for at least a few days). No, I’d done something I’d never done before: ride back-to-back 100 mile rides. I’d arrived at a new pinnacle in my cycling “career.” And, surprisingly, my legs were not as sore as they could have been. Amazingly, I realized later, I had not puffed on my albuterol inhaler at all during the ride and, for once, my lungs didn’t feel weighted and heavy as they normally do at the end of a strenuous work out. (Perhaps the fact that I have not smoked a cigarette in several months contributed to this.)

I just can’t get over how much I continually surprise myself by doing things I just don’t anticipate I have the ability to do. It’s nothing special, of course. A lot of people–some of them in less physical shape than myself, unprepared for the weather, or with cheaper bicycles–complete TOSRV every year. I am only patting myself on the back for myself because somewhere within the hidden depths of my mind, I’d doubted my ability to complete this ride because of the mileage. Once again, I proved myself wrong. I thrive on the challenge of proving myself wrong. That is, of course, one of the reasons why I ride.

I would have to say that I really did enjoy TOSRV–both days, now that I’m out of the rain and have only the memory of the journey to reflect upon! It really was as epic as people say it is in the sense of its deep tradition. When the weather is great (or because it’s the first day), you’ll never see more cyclists on the road at any event in Ohio. At least, in my limited experience. Though, I’ve never been on a ride that had as many people as I saw on that first day. It was like a worship service of Ohio cyclists and I certainly felt a part of that excited energy. I would most definitely do this ride again, despite all the early season training you have to complete to work up to it. The early season suffering was well worth it. Though, I’m not sure any TOSRV will be as holy and close to my heart as my first TOSRV…

On a side note, I’d like to mention that Michael and I noticed quite a few people on Giants throughout this ride–new and vintage. As we passed each one, Michael would ask, “How do you like your Giant?” To which he received many enthusiastic responses that just increased our Giant snobbery to new, insurmountable levels. We even talked to a guy at the park in Portsmouth who was sporting a TSR. Oooo… *drool* how we would love to just ride a TSR. Equipped, of course, with a granny ring (TSRs don’t come with them stock). I ain’t goin’ anywhere without a granny ring. Still… TSRs fulfill our carbon-fiber dreams… Although, I’m thinking these new OCR-Composites have a pretty sweet aerodynamic look to them. Someday, when I make my millions from my illustrious romance novel writing career, I will own a whole fleet of Giant bicycles–one for each day of the week!

Oh, and lastly, yes, the chafing on my butt still hurts. I’m working on the long healing process. But it’s not going to stop me from going on the club ride tonight. Some people never learn, eh? Well, I can’t spend too much time out of the saddle or I’ll lose my conditioning!

Tragedy for a cyclist on TOSRV

I’m going to write an entry about my experience on TOSRV, but first I wanted to relate this bit of tragic news I learned mid-ride while leaving Waverly (the first stop) on Sunday morning in the rain. A car driven by what I assumed to be people from the town slowed as I was pedaling and told me that a cyclist had been killed on Route 23. This was probably at about 10:30am as Michael and I had stayed at the Waverly stop to wait out the light thunderstorm that was rumbling through the area. The accident occurred at approximately 7:45am, so the news was a bit delayed and it was weird to me, in retrospect, that the driver of the vehicle was so frantic about me getting ahold of someone from TOSRV to let them know what had happened.

Having no way to inform anyone and figuring out that someone on the tour had contacted the correct authorities, I just continued on my way. However, I was a bit shaken by this news. This kind of incident reminds me that cycling can be dangerous. Throughout my ride on TOSRV, I could not help but notice there are three kinds of drivers: those who give cyclist ample berth, those who give cyclists way more berth than necessary, and those who don’t give cyclists any berth. There seems to be an on-going war in all communities between cyclists and those people who feel we have no right to be on the road. What has this society come to when every one is in such a damn hurry to get places that they can’t take a few seconds to move around a person on a bicycle?

Anyway, this event is still under investigation. The driver of the car who hit the cyclist (who was, I should mention, not on the proper TOSRV route) did a hit-skip, leaving the scene of the accident and, according to the article in Columbus Dispatch, returned a half hour later, claiming that she thought she hit a sign (!!). Whether it turns out the cyclist was in the wrong (it was not illegal to be on Route 23) and not “properly” dressed in bright gear (I was wearing a black rain coat, so I was not in proper bright attire myself), I will always contend that hit-skipping is the worst crime ever. No matter how scared you are for something you’ve done wrong, you should never just leave the scene of an accident like that. I know I would never do such a thing, ever. I would be too overwhelmed with guilt to just leave someone like that. Admit your guilt–whether accident or fault–and accept your punishment like an adult.

I’m seriously thinking of doing the Ride of Silence in Cleveland. Not for this guy necessarily, but to remind myself that what happened on TOSRV could happen to anyone, no matter how properly equipped you are on a bike. We all go into moments of tired concentration while trying to keep ourselves pedaling; I know I’ve made my share of mistakes while riding (forgetting to look before crossing an intersection, which I admittedly did once on TOSRV while following another rider). I know there have been times while driving where I’ve zoned out, worrying about work or a fight I had with someone or talking on my cell phone. Sometimes one bad decision you make can cost your life or the life of others. I would hope this somber message serves as a reminder to everyone that we should be more aware of the world around us when we’re on the road in any of our vehicles–whether they are motorized or not. And especially if they are not motorized because there is a lot of motorist rage out there against cyclists. (I was enlightened just outside of Columbus while crossing an intersection on green by a stopped motorist’s unsolicited rage against cyclists, which he shouted out his window with lots of explatives.)

The roads are for all types of vehicles. When driving, remember to share the road. If cyclists were forced to stay on bike paths, cycling would be a very boring occupation for those of us who enjoy challenging routes, long rides, and the ability to venture to alternate locations. I can’t tell you how exhilerating it is to see the world by bicycle (see previous blog entries). We tend to try to create our routes on the least trafficky roads possible, as we prefer to not mingle amongst busy motorist traffic, but sometimes you just can’t avoid a nasty stretch of busy road. We have a right to be there, so please respect our space.

Ten books that changed my life…

As lover of all things written, I’ve been kept up many a-night, on weekdays even, turning the pages of a great book into the wee hours of the morning because I couldn’t but it down. On a work night, even, knowing that I need to be awake to think enough in my job. A scarce few have made it to the ranks of my absolute favorite. These books have either agreed with an inner philosophy of mine or they’ve helped shape my view in some significant way.

1. Children of the Dust by Louise Lawrence – This is a juvenile fiction book I read somewhere before middle school when I was totally enthralled by post-apocalyptic–particularly nuclear war–literature. Okay, so I’m still enthralled by post-apocalyptic literature and film. It’s a sick fascination, like watching a car crash in a way, except much more grim. I will watch The Day After every time it’s on. I just can’t help myself, despite the fact that these stories have always given me nightmares. Imagine being ten years old, barely understanding nuclear war, but gorging yourself on every post-nuclear war story you could find for a period of five years. I’ve read them all–Alas Babylon, A Canticle for Leibowitz, On the Beach, and many more whose titles I’ve lost over the years. Let’s just say that I’ve had a lot of sleepless nights.

Anyway, Children of the Dust was always my favorite of these books. It describes the fate of one family, separated by misfortune–the father manages to find refuge in a fall-out shelter with a community of scientists while the rest of his family tries to live on the surface of nuclear contaminated world. The book is divided into three sections: the story of the family left on the surface, the story of the husband in his underground bunker, and, finally, a future in which the surviving daughter of the surface family meets the post-war born daughter of her father. Lots of death, lots of suffering. But, of course, few survive and a new life emerges that would make Charlton Heston scream, “Get off of me, you damn ape!”

It’s a great book. I know I read it several times as a kid and I got my best friend, who is not a big reader, to become obsessed with the book as well. One year for Christmas, she managed to track down a copy of it (it was no longer being published) so I own a copy. It is much thinner than my memory remembers. Well, it was juvenile literature and I was a kid. I will always treasure this book.

2. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle – Who in my generation did not like this book? Well, I suppose some of you out there are not science-fiction fanatics like I am. This is another book from my childhood that made me gravitate heavily towards all the books in our library that bore the red little tilted planet symbol that signified science-fiction books. I was born into science-fiction when I read this book and there was no turning back! I recently bought this book for a coworker’s newborn baby when my company decided to give books as shower gifts. I figured that at some point the child would be old enough to read and enjoy it as I did… and I had a secret hope to infect more children with a love of science-fiction.

A Wrinkle in Time is a fantastic tale of a several genius children on a quest to find their scientist dad that brings them on a journey across space and time through a process called a tesseract. It’s about family and love and, at times, about the central character’s (Meg) growing up. There are two other books in the series, A Wind in the Door and A Swiftly Tilting Planet which I read. In one of them, I learned about mitochondria because the character Charles Wallace (Meg’s younger brother) was dying of a disease that broke down this cell organelle. I think they might have somehow had to go inside his mitochondria to save him, but I don’t remember. I think there was a whole complete universe within the mitochondria that they visited. Maybe I’m making that up–it was a long time ago. But I wouldn’t put it past L’Engle; her stories were always way different than anything else I’d ever read.

3. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald – Okay, I know it is a bit cliche for an English major to adore a classic such as this, but I can’t help it. There are reasons a classic is a classic and this book is one that deserves such praise. I think the reason this book so special to me is that it was probably one of the first “classics” in high school that I actually found myself enjoying and understanding on some level. It’s easy to read. It’s tragedy and I looove tragedy. Especially tragedy in which you know right off the bat is going to end up as a tragedy. As you watch events unfold, you keep screaming, “Don’t do that!” and “Ugh! That won’t work.” and “Turn back! Turn back! This is the last point at which you can get out of this unscathed!”

Jay Gatsby is a man from a lower class background who desires, with every ember of his being, to become a part of the wealthy class and he wants it all for the love of a girl (of course). But he is nouveau riche–new money–and he will never fit in with the families of old money no matter how much he tries. For one slim moment, he does win the girl, but you know throughout the book, that it is not going to last because the relationship is impossible in impossible circumstances during impossible times. Of course, we’re left with a smoldering mess of tragedy at the end with only the narrator to spin the tale of the fading star the world will never know. I love the drama of a good tragedy! Did I already say that? Oops!

Even better, in the movie version, which is a fairly decent interpretation of the book, Jay Gatsby is played by Robert Redford… and, God help me, I love that man no matter how old he gets. *drool* I wouldn’t care one iota if he was nouveau riche or oldo riche–I’d take him as my lover any day! And I wouldn’t need one million dollars to persuade me to such an indecent proposal.

Anyway, The Great Gatsby is another book I’ve read several times and still managed to love. The more you read something of this caliber, the more details you find that lead you to admire the intricate pattern the author has woven into plot.

Because of this book, I learned the word “hedonism.” Whenever I use the word hedonism, the descriptions of the crazy parties thrown by Gatsby come to mind.

4. Passage by Connie Willis – I read this book on the way to and during my trip to Colorado with my parents in August 2002. My first return to Colorado since I left in July 2001 after a month-long sabbatical, there was a strange irony about reading a book written by a woman from the Denver area who had set the book in Denver. Even further ironic is the fact that Passage is about a young female doctor researching the phenomena of life-after-death. This book moved me in ways I can barely relate in words. The question is never fully resolved during the very shocking ending, leaving the reader to make of the topic what they will. My spirituality was stirred as I read this, and I kept wanting to say, “I believe. I believe.” I kept hoping she’d conclusively find evidence for life after death; like real life, she never found anything conclusive.

It was a really weird time in my life, halfway between a stage of anger and acceptance in my grieving process. On that trip, I also stayed at a hotel where the manager bore an uncanny and striking resemblance–I am not kidding–to my husband. He had his mannerisms, his friendliness, his receding hairline, his eyes, his speech pattern. I wondered vaguely if this were some half-brother of his from the biological father we never knew (which is entirely possible as my husband was born and raised for the first couple years of his life in Denver). I guess this book means more to me because of time in my life when I read it than anything else. I’m afraid to read it again in fear that it will stain the memory of it. Some of my friends were not as taken with the book as I and have found holes in the plot that I refuse to look at. This was my book at a moment in my life when I needed desperately to believe in something. Even if it is a work of fiction.

5. The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley – The Arthurian Legends told from the perspective of Morgana, King Arthur’s half-sister, this feminist perspective of the popular legend emotionally describes the colliding of two worlds: the matriarchal pagan traditions and the uprising patriarchal culture of Christianity. It jerked my heart strings because it so beautifully describes the pieces of Christianity I always had a problem with and points out the brutality of men in their dominance of a society. On the surface, it’s just a great story. This book moves like a symphony from beginning to end and, despite its many pages (500?), I never felt like it dragged. In fact, I was glued to it for three days straight (I’d have finished it sooner, but I do have a life). It caused my feminist side to scream with rage and my slightly pantheistic leanings to surface.

It isn’t all negative on Christianity, though. Morgana, the last High Priestess of the pagan sisterhood, finds peace with the new faith when she stumbles upon a nunnery and realizes that even Christianity has its own sisterhood of brave women bound by the tradition of a Earth mother in the form of Mary (Jesus’ mother, that is).

When I read this book, I was angry with Morgana for giving into the new society and for finding something good about Christianity in the nuns she discovered. For every resigned line, I thought, “Yeah, but, the nuns still have a secondary place in the Christian [Catholic] church!” (Whereas, in the pagan culture described in this book, only the women were priests.) However, as I’ve started to come to terms with my own history, I’ve started to realize that I’ve now changed like the character Morgana, and I’ve found my peace to reconcile with Christianity. I guess you can say that I’ve grown with the book, even though I haven’t read it in several years. I remember enough of it for it to still affect me in new ways.

6. Childhood’s End by Arthur C. Clarke – Sort of post-apocalyptic, this book is about a crux in the evolution of humanity where the Overmind (read: God) has decided it is time for us to move to the next level of being. A race of beings called the Overlords, who look suspiciously like what the Bible has described as demons or the devil, are dispatched to Earth to help us in this transition to our higher state. The sad thing you learn towards the end of the book is that the Overlords do not have the capacity of mind to evolve beyond what they are, so they can never become one with the Overmind, and therefore, can only serve the Overmind in the capacity of helping each race (for, we learn, there are many in the Universe) into its transition.

Childhood’s End has slight references to Biblical themes such as Revelations and makes a case for how man has interpreted past intervention its growth by the Overlords (thus, the image of the devil). I really liked it because it suggested that much of what we as a race misinterpreted in reality became myth, thus binding strongly with my own philosophies that there’s a point in life where science and religion become the same thing. We never really learn exactly what the Overmind is–it does not take away the belief in God or a godlike figure, but supports the idea that man is a part of something bigger than himself.

I also have taken a liking to the genre that describes an evolution of man into something else. Other books in this genre that I have loved in the last few years are The Harvest and Spin, both by Robert Charles Wilson.

7. Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut – No one points out the ills of society or the fallacies of human nature better than Kurt Vonnegut, which is why I was always one of his biggest fans, may he rest in peace. Cat’s Cradle is the pinnacle, in my opinion, of his cynical outlook on life with such gems as his invented religion of Bokononism and his made-up words like foma. Foma, the basis of the Bokonon religion, is “living by the untruths that make one happy.” Oh, what joyous fodder for a religious skeptic like me!

This book is cleverly told by an unidentified narrator and describes the destruction of civilization (as is a common theme in Vonnegut books) by a scientist who invents a material called ice-9 which has the capacity to freeze all water it comes in contact with instantaneously. Reflecting the very real fears associated with the real life discovery of atomic power, Vonnegut’s scientist is so wrapped up in the fascination of science that does not even realize the potential threat of his invention, nor does he particularly care for he is completely oblivious to human relationships.

I love this book because it just eloquently satirizes human relationships and religion, and emphasizes the responsibility of scientists to society. Something in these pages resonated with me and I found myself exclaiming often, “You are soooo right!” as I chuckled. Vonnegut, in my eyes, will always be a genius. His fiction and his non-fiction papers tell me that we think a lot alike. Although he may be slightly more cynical than I am!

8. The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell – This is another story about the collision of two very different worlds. It’s the future and the human race has discovered another race (I think it might have been a planet off of one of the Centauri suns, as those are the closest to us and used often by writers). We send a convoy to study this race who has apparently welcomed our presence with open arms. Of course, we screw up and majorly blunder in our relations with this culture completely alien to our own.

The science is less important, for the genre is just the convention Russell chose to construct a unique setting for her story. The theme is old–two different cultures collide and misunderstand each other. We could find this going on elsewhere in the world as western civilization tries to negotiate with tribal cultures we can barely understand. It’s really a great sociological study of humanity, as seen through the safety of a telescopic lens so that no fingers can be pointed directly at anyone. But you can draw your own analogies as you read; they are certainly plentiful.

9. The Time Machine by H.G. Wells – The reason I love this book so much really has mostly do to do with a description of a very future Earth enduring a natural death under a swelling sun and a disappearing moon. I think it’s chapter 9 or 10. It occurs sometime after the Time Traveller has left the Earth of the Eloi and the Morlock. In his rush to escape, he accidentally pushes himself very far forward into the future to a time long after the human race has gone from the Earth.

The descriptions in this chapter are so vivid, I could see it clearly in my head like a chilling painting I always think of whenever I’m reading something about how things will come down in the solar system as the sun dies. I remember that I was reading this chapter while babysitting some kids who were playing as I only half-monitored them as they moved about their basement playroom. Suddenly, that playroom just dissolved around me and I was in the time machine with the Time Traveller, watching these crab creatures move about the scorched surface of an unfamiliar Earth. I got goosebumps, which for me is always a very clear indicator that I’m emotionally moved.

This chapter taught me a very simple lesson (which is also, I think, what it is intended to have taught the Time Traveler): human existence on the planet is only temporary. In the grand scheme of the universe, we are inconsequential and small. The things we value and worry about and put all of our thought into are transitory. Everything we may do probably amounts to nothing in the grand scheme of things.

Somehow, this line of thought urged me to live for the moment, to not allow myself to become weighed down by the small stuff. It should have depressed the crap out of me, but the sick person that I am, the sense of smallness and insignificance somehow makes me feel comfortable. And, to me, there’s always something beautiful in a universe, even in its destructive capacity. I find assurance in the understanding that no matter what we do to the planet, we have no power to rule it. We can make conditions here unbearable for life (and thus snuff ourselves out) and other life will emerge that can live in these conditions. The planet will go on, whether or not the human race is on it, and to me, there’s God in that. We have our chance to have a go as minders of this celestial garden; if we ruin it for ourselves, then something else will emerge that takes over. And the planet will go on until the sun burns out. And more suns will go on after ours burns out. The Universe is constant, I believe. Even after one is extinguished, another is created. I think the cycle of energy that creates life and binds the collective Universe is endless. After all, how did we get here now?

Ahhh, but I babble… Sorry!

10. It’s Not About the Bike: My Journey Back to Life by Lance Armstrong (with others) – I know it’s cheesy for me to tout this book, knowing how much I love Lance Armstrong and feel he can do no wrong. BUT, this is a really, really inspirational autobiography about finding the strength to overcome a horrible situation and not only come back to life, but come back kicking and punching and shoving your way through it. Folks, this man was within inches of his life. As he states repeatedly in this book, he should have died. Yet, for reasons not even he understands, he happened to survive. As he openly admits, some people die from cancer and some live.

This book is such a testimony to fighting your way back from any great loss and findng strength in the lessons learned. I especially loved the duality of Armstrong’s statements about his brush with death. He tells you repeatedly that he would rather he never had to go through this horrifying experience; yet, he openly admits that going through cancer gave him a drive for life and his career that he never had before, without which he would have never gone on to earn the seven Tour de France victories. I understand this duality because I’ve felt it myself with my husband’s death. While I desperately wish that I would never have lost Mike, I have found an empathy within myself towards other people that I never had before and I’ve discovered a more devoted thirst for life. I think this book validated these feelings that I thought were kind of shameful to even consider. It’s an odd thing to almost love and depend on the one thing that crippled you so badly.

I read this book during my time in Colorado when I was becoming an avid cyclist. I think I used this book as my personal gospel for finding a way to get beyond my own grief. It also showed me that death is random. Here is a guy who was so close to death, yet he survived; it made me see a randomness that was somehow comforting when thinking about my husband’s death. And the cycling was inspiring which, as you know, brought me back to life too.

Words of Wisdom from my Page-a-Day Calendar

To announce that there must be no criticism of the President, or that we are to stand by the President, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public.

– Theodore Roosevelt, The Kansas City Star, May 7, 1918 (bold added by blog author)

That, my friends, is why I am glad every day that I live in a democratic country like the United States. We are a country where criticism of the political leader does not mean certain death. Although, with the “Patriot Act” and wire-tapping, one only wonders what government agency is keeping its eye on hippy liberals like me…

But that aside, I am just posting this because I’m tired of being called unpatriotic by so-called patriotic Americans because I won’t stand behind GW or any of the decisions he’s made in the last eight years. I’m patriotic because I speak out and don’t just follow along blindly like a sheep. You should criticize anyone with power–your parish priest, your company president, your state representative (even if you elected him there). These people, no matter what exalted position they hold, are just human beings like you and me, full of faults, frailties, weaknesses, hidden agendas, and ambition. The minute we stop paying attention is the moment we get snowed over by some smooth-talking individual with ill intent. A democracy only works if its people are participating in its decisions; otherwise, it could turn into a dictatorship awfully quickly (“I’m the decider.”). Laws are only obeyed and followed if the people respect them.

Lastly, the frustrating aspect to being labeled unpatriotic is that most of the people who chastise me for my criticism of GW (which mostly consists of mocking his constant diarrhea of the mouth) had no problem–and still don’t–freely criticizing Bill Clinton, especially during the discovery of his sexual indiscretions. Hey, folks, freedom of speech is granted to everyone!

Only 257 days left of this current administration…. =) In case you were wondering…

400+ miles and feeling good!

Yesterday, as a final act of training for TOSRV, Michael and I joined Medina County Bicycle Club’s annual freebie ride called KLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ! (this name is supposed to correspond with their New Year’s Day Ride, which they have called ABCDEFGHIJ!). Unofficially coined as a TOSRV training ride, which the ride’s leader and inventor told us started as his last-minute training ride one year, this trek took us in an 85-mile loop around Erie and Lorain Counties. We drifted through little Ohio towns I’d never heard of before–Steuben, New London, Monroeville, Fitchville–and ambling along peaceful country roads with scenery that harkened reflection of my rides through Germany and Italy.

It always amazes me how I don’t even recognize my home state as I ride through it. I was city raised, though not according to some people’s estimation, for I grew up in what a lot of people called, and still call, “the sticks” despite the sprawl of Cleveland which is quickly taking over to make it a real suburb. I guess when you grow up close enough to a big city in the Midwest, you can easily forget or overlook the fact that the state you live in is more rural than urban. Riding around in new counties around my home state gives me a great appreciation for the land I was born into and, I daresay, it’s hard for me to hate the place on sunny spring days as I cycle through these little towns and observe a world so utterly foreign from my own. It takes me out of myself and gives me the chance to smell the manure, as you would imagine, which, sometimes doesn’t really smell as horrible as its reputation suggests. I’m a Hiram girl, after all; when you attend a college surrounded by farms, you get used to the annual spring smell of freshly laid manure blowing in on the wind.

I must be getting old because yesterday it occurred to me that it wouldn’t be too bad to live in some little nowhere town. My thought is that I could jump on my bike at any time, like Michael can do because he lives near Wayne County, without worrying much about traffic to just safely enjoy the intrepid beauty in the untouched world around me. I’d still have to live near enough to a city so that I can enjoy my theatre and baseball games and a nice gourmet meal once in awhile. But, suddenly, to me, there’s something romantic about retreating after work to a nice quiet place in my dream A-frame house with a dog (Schnauzer or Lab) and my cats, and low trafficked roads to bounce my Giant’s wheels upon (bounce being the operative word here as chip-and-seal unfortunately seems to be a cheap selection for road surfacing in the country). A husband might be nice, too, but I’m not holding my breath on that one.

I guess, though, I haven’t changed all that much. In my twenties, my husband and I too dreamed of living in Colorado in some community in the mountains just outside of Denver (like Evergreen or Confer) or Boulder (like Nederland) because we could have the best of both worlds–the small town feel with access to the things we love about the city. Part of me just loves being surrounded by woods, the smell of fresh soil and plant life, and with the open road around me. I’m sure there’s a downside to living in a small community (gossip and nosiness, which I always detest) but there’s something comforting about having easier access to my better hobbies–cycling, astronomy, hiking.

It was such a nice day yesterday despite the constant chill in the air and headwinds from the west. The sun was shining and it took away any complaints I could have had about it being just a tad too cold for my liking. I was properly dressed and I was sweating, so it all worked itself out on the ride. I felt really good, even at 85 miles, and my positive energy is revived for TOSRV. I now feel confident that I can make it. I was on and I think I could have completed another 20 miles without too much additional pain. This morning my legs only seem to ache too much when I’m climbing upstairs, but otherwise, I’m fine. Of course, on TOSRV, I’d have to get right back on the bike this morning. Though, sick person that I am, I feel like I could ride tonight (the weather is nice and supposed to be crappy the rest of the week), but I noticed my lawn is a little shaggy so I might have to mow instead this evening…

KLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ! was really fun. The other riders were really welcoming and friendly. I had a good time chatting with the ride’s leader/inventor, even though I razzed him that he’s been doing TOSRV more years than I’ve been alive (this will be his 37th year!). I only say this because I admire people who have maintained an insane cycling habit as long as he has. I have to say, though: that guy and his group were fast! Michael and I pretty much rode the ride alone at our 14.8 average pace. I don’t know how fast these guys were going, but I think it was pace that kept them at a steady half hour ahead of us!

I’m getting very excited about TOSRV. Even if the weather is crappy, this ride just sounds epic in scale because of its long history and the excitement it raises among a lot of cyclists I’ve been talking to. For some reason, despite the crappiest of conditions, these people really enjoy doing this ride. I want to know why! I always love the thrill of starting a fairly large registered ride–there’s an excitement in the air as you ready yourself and head out across the starting line. I always liked that about the MS 150, which is one of the reasons I go every year. There’s so much ceremony in the MS 150–the mass start and people cheering you at the finish lines. Though there’s no longer a mass start at TOSRV, I am betting that kind of energy of the first morning of the big ride is there. And I’ve heard that people cheer you at the finish line. I just love the camaraderie of it all.

I remember the one year I volunteered for the MS 150. It was in Colorado and I wanted to stake out what the course would be like before I registered for it the following year. I helped at the starting line and served as a road marshall at two spots along the ride. I was so jealous of all the people riding because I wanted so badly to be among them. It was incredibly hard to just watch other people doing what I loved so much and not being able to mount a bicycle myself. It’s hard to be on the sidelines of the excitement. I’ll probably never work as a volunteer on a ride day again because, as much as my volunteering heart loves to help, I just cant be on the sidelines, no matter how many hours I put in during the days leading up to the ride. I want to be one of the riders too badly.

I have never trained as diligently as for a ride as I have for TOSRV. Usually, I just start doing regular rides of 20-30 miles and figure that I’ll be all right when the day comes to do the big 75-100 miles, with the MS 150 usually being my first big ride of the year. But my fear of doing back-to-back centuries, and it being so early in the season, pushed me to do some early training rides on days with less-than-desireable conditions (last Saturday in Lake County) just so that I could have some mileage and long rides completed. As I stated earlier, it’s paid off because I am now going into TOSRV with a confidence that the only thing that may wear me down is bad weather. And, since I’ve completed some rides in bad weather already, I’m not even sure that will deter me. (I hope not!) Well, the secret to doing a ride with someone is that they will guilt you out of bailing; that’s why Michael and I are doing it together. And he’s TOSRV veteran so he knows he can get through it.

TOSRV just sounds like one of those rides you have to experience when you’re a cyclist in Ohio. And I’m thrilled to be riding in it, even if the weather ends up sucking. The challenge of overcoming is always the sweetest part. Which is probably why I ride.

If I make it through TOSRV, I might aim my sights for Seattle-to-Portland (STP) like Sarah keeps hinting around for me to do. Wouldn’t that be way cool? Maybe next year if I haven’t found other ways to use up all my vacation time…