Towpath riding

Remember me? I’m Mars Girl’s neglected bike, the Trek hybrid. I need love, too. Our life was good together until that Giant came into her life. Now all I do is sit in the garage, collecting dust. And I haven’t had a tune-up in two years! At least she let me play with one of her new toys last night–the NiteRider MiniNewt light. It works much nicer than that $15 Trek light she used to mount on me….

Feeling a bit under the weather with a cold in my lungs, but still wanting to get my exercise and ride with my buddies, I opted to ride the towpath on my hybrid last night. The last time I rode the hybrid, as you may recall, was to church a few months back, which was 3 miles to church and back. I was a little annoyed at the end of that ride because I cannot get the speed on the hybrid that I can on the Giant. Well, last night, I just didn’t care. No one cranks up the speed along the towpath, anyway. During the day, it’s hard to since you have to maneuver around the many walkers and toodling cyclists; at night, you have to contend with the darkness and the crushed limestone that covers most of it. Since I wasn’t expecting to hit breakneck speeds, I was actually able to sit back and enjoy the ride for what it was.

The towpath looks wicked spooky at night, which was an especially seasonal experience. Lined with trees along sections of the old Erie Canal, you feel almost lost a dark mysterious world. It’s been a long time since I’ve ridden on the towpath so I forgot really how scenic it was. Even in the dark, I could see the sparkle of water along the Cuyahoga River. My awesome bright MiniNewt light bore into the darkness like an LED spotlight, revealing twisted limbs of trees above and beside me in a magical pattern of nature. I couldn’t see my computer or my speed in the darkness and it was nice. I was just pushing my pedals in time, playing with the rapid-fire shifters as if I’d never used them before (in fact, when I started the ride, I was confused as to which lever increased the gear and which one decreased the gear. It was like trying to drive an unfamiliar car.)

I stayed somewhere among the gears in the middle front ring for the entire ride, shifting between the back gears, but not really varying that much. We rode north from Lock 29 to the old mill, which is about ten miles. The towpath is pretty flat overall with the return ride–back south from the old mill–trending uphill (upriver, after all) so it wasn’t anything too difficult. At a few of the intersections where you crossed a street to continue, I looked up longingly at the hills I usually climb on my road bike–Highland Road, Boston Mills–and I felt as though I were somehow cheating. A slightly panicked when I thought about what would happen if I tried to climb those hills on my hybrid. For some reason, this seemed like a daunting task, even though before I got my road bike, I climbed many of the hills in the valley on my hybrid and I did not feel inhibited in the least. Now the hybrid feels so heavy to me. I wonder if I tried to make the climb I would psyche myself out because my road bike snobbery has told me I “can’t” make it up those hills without the lightweight properties of my road bike.

I remember once on a ride called Elephant Rock in Colorado a girl on a road bike remarking, “I can’t believe you’re doing this ride on that heavy bike.”

At the time, I was confused because I had had a trail bike before the hybrid and the hybrid was much lighter than that. I continued on to finish that hilly ride, unaware of the differences between my bike and the road bikes. I guess it just goes to prove that will almost always defeats skill… I didn’t know then that there was much of a difference between my hybrid and the road bikes so I didn’t feel that I had any handicaps so I just pushed myself through my rides. It’s amazing to realize now that I know the qualities of the road bike that make it superior. It doesn’t mean I couldn’t get up the same hills, I’d just probably be slower (which Mars Girl doesn’t like!).

Although, I will say, my hybrid is more stable than my road bike. As I was riding last night, I enjoyed the sturdiness of the hybrid frame. It felt cool to be bumping along tougher terrain and not feeling fully the drop between every bump. I marveled how big the wheels of the hybrid looked to me now when back in the days that I rode this bike regularly, I thought my tires were pretty thin.

My seat still needs to get fixed. You can push it and it will move from side to side. Also, I think that it sunk in height while I was out. I reminded myself that I need to take the hybrid in to CC to get a full tune-up next spring. I think I will replace the tires with something slightly knobbier for my new plans to use this bike for the casual type rides like the one I did last night. Maybe I’ll want to take this bike to one of the Erie islands next summer or something.

It was a nice night for a ride. A little chilly, but I was dressed properly. My feet suffered a little in my vented running shoes. I wore cotton socks–mistake. But otherwise, I felt great and I’m glad I got out. Maybe–just maybe–I’ll be willing some time to do a toodling ride with some of my fitness cycling friends (as opposed to my crazy mileage road riding friends). Last night, we finished with 19.34 miles, which surprised me as I had assumed the towpath riders of my club didn’t go very far. Not bad for a chilly fall evening!

Btw, Happy Halloween, everybody! I know it’s so drole to greet you thus way, but I will anyway. I was going to go to a custom party tonight, but I think I’m going to nurse my cold and work on reading the entries to my professional organization’s technical writing competition. I’m one of the judges, so I have to have my evaluations done by Monday. I don’t want to aggitate my cold if I am really going to ride my bike on the Red Flannel Metric Century this Sunday. Maybe I’ll actually buy some candy to hand out to the neighbor kids… so that I can see the runts who are always walking across my lawn…. Rrrrr….!!

Scary voters

Oh, brother… And the Republicans are worried about a few homeless people voting??

(Excuse the hyperlink. I forgot how I posted a YouTube video right on my blog…)

And here is another reason why I absolutely cannot vote Republican in this life time.

I’m still waiting for society to grow up. I think I’ll be waiting a long, long time.

Dwindling cycling season

Well, I resisted as long as I could. As of last night, my bike is on the trainer. This isn’t a permanent situation–I can always take it off and ride the roads–but the fact that it is on the trainer signifies that I’m defeated by Mother Nature and must now turn my efforts to boring exercise indoors. Last night, I did about an hour of cardio on my bike while watching an episode from a DVD of the fifth season of Babylon 5 (which I’d never seen and am borrowing the DVDs from a friend). I didn’t feel I got as much of a workout as being on the road, and I didn’t feel like pushing it with doing sprints, but at least I did something on that rainy, dreary fall evening that got my heart going. Tonight, I will workout on the Total Gym to try to get some muscle tone and work on my abs so that I can stop bitching about the fat roll at my waist. Though, I don’t know, as many crunches as I’ve tried to do in the past, I still have never got that thing to slim down.

I hope I don’t gain back all the weight I had at the end of last winter. I was looking at the pictures of me from TOSRV the other evening and you can really tell a difference. Bleh. I probably should sign up for a gym membership again, but I just haven’t found a gym I’ve loved as much as the one I had in Willowick. Besides, it’s so much easier to workout at home where I can turn on whatever TV show I desire while working out. I should probably buy a treadmill at some point or a StairMaster for variance. Plus, I’m always worried that putting my bike on the trainer somehow does damage to my bike.

It’s pathetic. I used to abuse the bikes I had as a child and they continued to work fine. My Giant is my baby and I am afraid of breaking her. There’s a voice in my head telling me that I don’t take good care of nice things… and I’m worried I’ll ruin my favorite toy… One only has to look at the condition of my car to realize that I do have a habit of making good things look bad.

Right now the weather for Sunday is looking good: sunny and 60 degrees. So maybe I’ll get to do the Red Flannel Metric Century up in Oberlin. Michael and I are thinking we might do it on the tandem, thanks to a hearty suggestion from TDB. Sounds like fun!

Well, daylight savings time begins on Sunday. That means when I leave work it will be dark. I will go to work in the dark. The depression of winter begins…

What is the price for zoning out?

$147, apparently. I just got off the phone with the Village of Peninsula’s Mayor’s Court. I tried not to cringe too much when the nice lady on the other end of the phone said, “Okay, 53 in a 35…”

I said, “Oh, ugh, don’t remind me.”

She says, “Well, at least it wasn’t in a 25.”

I agreed heartily. I forgot to mention in my last blog that I’ve had a ticket in Peninsula before–10 years ago when I was dating Mike and still lived at my parents’ house. You see, it was 2am and I was driving home for the night. Forget the fact that I was 23 years old and should have been able to just stay over night at my boyfriend’s house without questions. No, no, not in my house. My younger brother apparently could go out drinking with friends and stay out all night without calling home to tell my mom that he was staying out and my mom wouldn’t bat an eye. However, if their oldest daughter decides to spend the night quietly at her nice boyfriend’s house, it was a national crisis (which, at that point in evening, I was already going to get a lecture for).

But, anyway, so, here I was very tired at 2am trying to get home so that I could feign the innocence my parents wanted to believe I had and, of course, I was totally zoning. Especially since I knew I’d already stretched the limits of my mom’s patience by coming home so late. So I was driving like 61mph and I came around the bend that led to Peninsula and for some reason I thought it was still further down the road. Nope. I’d missed the 45 mile sign that warned of the approaching town. The next thing I knew, I was in town, in the 25 zone, going 61 with flashing blue and red lights behind me. Whoops. (Side note: I was actually speeding for all the zones prior to Peninsula; the highest marked speed on that road is 55.)

I was such a nervous weirdo. When the cop asked my why I was going so fast, I stated that I was trying to avoid deer. Um? What? I seem to always manage to make myself look like a complete airhead in front of cops.

Well, 61 in a 25 means you have to go to mayor’s court; there’s no paying the ticket and getting it over with. On my husband’s coaching, I practiced my best, “I’m sorry, Mr. Mayor, sir, I’ll never do it again” act which included batting my eyes and laying the feminine wiles on thickly. Fortunately, it worked and he waved my court costs. I still had to pay $100, but I think for the speed I was doing, I got off really lucky. He may have had the power to lay some major points on my license and he only gave me the requisite 2.

I’m not looking for sympathy here. I know I have a lead foot problem. I know that I’m an impatient driver and that driving to me is just something you have to boringly endure to get to where you’re trying to go… And on any drive, my mind wanders to about fifty things I need to get done or I’m thriving on the anticipation of what is going to happen when I get to where I’m going (as I was alternately thinking of a nice hot shower on my way back from FFFF on Saturday and picking up the book I reserved at the Brecksville library). My boredom while driving leads to many risky behaviors, such as reading email on my phone, texting friends, or using the time to call people I haven’t talked to in awhile (for that I use an ear bud, though). I keep telling myself I need to stop doing this and pay more attention to the road. But even if I’m not fiddling with crap, I totally zone out, my attention only partially on the driving. I get so deep in thought sometimes that I’m sure my attention to the environment around me is pretty minimal.

It’s the completely opposite of how I ride my bike. On my bike, I’m constantly aware of my surroundings, as I have to anticipate the moves of all the vehicles around me to ensure my safety. I would never answer my phone on my bike or attempt to talk on my phone while cycling. I certainly wouldn’t attempt to read my email or do other than watch the road ahead of me. Besides the obvious road dangers while cycling, I think that the activity of cycling keeps me occupied because of the level of exercise. I’m much more in the moment when cycling because I want to enjoy all scenery and smells and concentrate on overcoming the pain of difficult climbs. I’m working out hard and my thoughts rarely wander. Sometimes I think about poetry I could write, as I do in the car, but my thoughts don’t wander too absently to the stuff awaiting me at home to do. In other words, cycling is not boring–driving a car is.

The thing is, I should be more aware of my surroundings while driving because that activity is actually more dangerous than my cycling. Chances are if I toss it on my bike, I won’t die. I mean, I can die, but the likelihood is much lower due to the fact that I usually can’t attain the high speeds of a car (forget the fact that Michael and I hit over 50mph on the tandem a few weeks back). A car is deceptively dangerous: you feel safe because you are surrounded by four walls. However, a car and the speeds it attains are much more deadly.

And let’s not forget the fact that I was going 53 in a 35 zone, unaware of my surroundings, in a community that is heavily used by my fellow cyclists. Fortunately, cyclists generally don’t ride on that area of 303 that I was on and if they do, they only use it for short stints to the next less busy road. Still. I was in the area where a cyclist might go because it was a speed zone.

Over the last couple of months, I’ve been trying really hard to stop speeding so much. I’d been using my cruise control more, setting it to five above the posted limit. I was still reeling from the $140 I paid to the City of Lyndhurst in December when I got ticketed at 35 in the 25 zone on the road where my last job was at. I paid that much for the pair of skis I bought last year. Yeah. It’s frakking depressing.

The problem with cruise control is that it makes driving even easier which does not help me any with the zoning out problem I have. I feel like I need to physically push the gas pedal to be aware. Using cruise control is like putting your car in autopilot. If I use it while on a long trip (of a few hours or more), I find that I become incredibly bored, instead of my just regular bored. Yet the problem with me pushing the gas pedal myself is that I tend to push it just a little higher than I should, and then a little more, and then the next thing I know it, I’m pushing 80mph on the freeway. 80 seems to be my favorite speed. I usually don’t drive anymore than than that because I can feel the instability in my car. 80 always seems perfect. I guess I should move to the Nebraska plains where the speed limit is 75 because then I’m in that 5mph safety factor that cops usually give you. I’d never push 90 or 100, so I’d be perfect.

I’m aware of my problem. I know I’m a speed demon and I know I’m too A.D.D. to drive. I guess, really, those cops who let me off the speeding tickets I should have gotten from 2001 to 2006 were doing me no favors because I seemed to start to assume I’d always be able to bat my baby browns and hike up my skirt to get off with a warning. (By the way, I never deliberately batted my baby browns or hiked up my skirt… I just happened to be wearing the shortest skirt I own when I got pulled over once in Colorado… and I got off with a warning and the young state trooper gave me his business card… and I did nothing to encourage that, I swear; it’s just a funny story to tell now.)

Because I didn’t pay for my unsafe indulgences, I just didn’t feel the need to adjust my ways. Now, I guess, I’m trying harder because I can’t afford to pay $140 every six months to whatever town I’ve sped through. Besides that, I’m sure I’m up to six points now on my license. I’m getting dangerous close to the 12 point limit where your license gets suspended. My insurance is sure to go up if they notice my lead footing problem.

I have to figure out some way to stay engaged in my driving so that I’m watching my speed. I remember on Saturday when I hit the 35 zone, I noted it in my head at that moment and I thought I slowed down. If I did in fact slow down, but I did not check my speedometer, I must have been going faster than I thought I was before I got to the 35. So who knows what I was doing, which is kind of scary to me. Especially since the cop remarked that I was going uphill at 53 miles an hour! What??

It’s ironic, too, that on my bike, I’m always aware of my speed. My eyes are always glancing down at the computer to see what I’m doing. I know how fast I’m going uphills, downhills, and on straight-aways. I’m just a much better cyclist than I am driver. Maybe I need to just give up on the car and switch to using my bike… it’s too bad everything I need to get to isn’t within a 20 mile radius of my house… and getting groceries would be a hassle. Can someone please invent a pedal car? ;)

Anyway, the lady at the mayor’s court in Peninsula was very nice. We chit-chatted about insurance coverage and how it works. (Since, also, I didn’t have my insurance card on me when the cop pulled me over because I didn’t have my purse on the ride. I always carry my license and medical insurance card when I’m riding so that if I’m unconscious on the road, whoever finds me can figure out who I am and give the hospital proof that I can pay for any help they can give.) She told me she’s the only one who works the desk so if I need to make arrangements with her to stick around and wait for me at lunch time or on my way home from work, she’s willing to do that. Peninsula only takes cash, cashier’s check, or money order. So at lunch today, I’m going to pick up my damned library book (the source of my Saturday zoning out) and go to the ATM in Brecksville to withdraw the required amount. Then, one of the days this week I’ll hit the police station on my way home to make the payment. And try to maintain my dignity. And not cry too much over wasted money.

But, again, I deserve it. I know I was in the wrong. I think I’ll profusely apologize to this nice lady when I turn in the money. I love the Village of Peninsula and, though I always joke that I’d like to be ticketed for speeding on my bike (which I really don’t), I don’t really want to make the officers of this fine village have a reason to hate me. I respect their quiet little town. I actually feel kind of bad for breaking the speed limit there (whereas I feel less bad in the other towns) because I have a personal connection to and respect for that village. It’s almost as if I’d insulted a beloved relative.

Fracking Freezing Fall Foilage Ride with Friends

Actually, it was rather a nice day to ride, but indeed a little chilly. I only affectionately call Medina County Bike Club’s Fall Foilage & Frostbite Frolic ride (FFFF) the Fracking Freezing Fall Foilage Ride because last year I did it and it was singularly the most miserable ride I’d done all year. Yeah. It remained the most miserable ride even after I experienced my first TOSRV. Last year, FFFF rained. And rained. And rained. To say nothing of the wind. I was all by myself; for some reason I can’t remember, Michael didn’t feel compelled to join me on that ride. It probably had something to do with the miserable weather that was predicted for the day.

No one else I knew from ABC was there last year, either. So I pretty much spent two hours huffing up Medina Line Road in wind and rain, feeling like I’d rather be anywhere than riding. I remember experiencing a lot of pain and feeling completely wiped out at the end of that ride. I really stretched my skills of suffering that day. And it was only a 50 mile ride.

Well, today was different! I’d sworn that I would not do this ride if the weather didn’t look promising. It didn’t look inviting this morning with the gray skies looking pregnant with rain, but it wasn’t raining either. claimed it was supposed to be partly cloudy with a balmy high of 54–comfortably within my cycling cut-off temperature of 50 degrees–so I decided I was going to go ahead and do it. “Besides,” I told myself, “there’s always the 25 mile route if the weather is looking mean.”

I was really surprised when Michael kept suggesting this week that we do this ride. I was reluctant due to the questionable weather and my memories of last year’s slog. For once, it seemed like he had decided it was a given that we were going to do the ride and I took the place of the reluctant go-along (not that Michael is a go-along; he just seems to have slightly less of an obsession with mileage than I do… and that’s okay… because he always comes along with a smile… and sometimes I am grumpy.)

Anyway, when I pulled into the parking lot for the ride, I immediately saw Ernie from ABC. A few minutes later, Randy pulled up. Then, Ernie got a call from Lori who was already at the registration table. With Michael and myself, we were going to make a nice cozy group of five who all wanted to do the 50 mile ride. I felt assured that I could make it through the ride this year, no matter Mother Nature threw our way, because now I had that extra motivation from my friends.

The weather was really much better this year than last. Chilly, yes. But at least the sun came out. It didn’t rain. I actually was able to take off my top layer. The chill was eased by the hard work of this rolling hilly route. I took my rack pack again and I’m still convinced the weight is really adding an extra strain on my hill climbing. I’m not sure if I’m being paranoid or not. Maybe I’m starting to get out of shape because of longer periods in between rides (it will soon be time to put my bike on the trainer). I probably would never have thought it was making my bike heavier if the other bike enthusiasts hadn’t pointed it out to me. Okay, I know, I digress–I’ll stop obsessing, I promise.

It may not have rained, but the wind was particularly nasty today. It seems that travel in east was especially difficult. There were times on Granger Road, during the last fifteen miles of the ride, where I was struggling to maintain 12mph. While the wind last year was notable, it was nothing like today. If you’re not familiar with Granger Road, it’s basically rolling with mostly uphill. We were riding the cyclists double-whammy: uphill in the wind. That’s just not a winning situation. (Except, I reiterate: I’d take wind over rain any day. I do not like being wet.)

On the roads on which there was a cross-wind, it seemed a little scary because you felt as though you were going to be pushed–bike and all–a few feet left or right on the road. As we wooshed gladly down a nice hill on Ridgewood Road near Medina, the wind decided to blow extra hard and I felt my bike quaking from side to side. It was a bit disconcerting. Whenever the wind is blowing like this, I imagine myself getting tossed off the road. When discussing this fear later, Randy gave me one more outcome to add to my list of fears: you could get blown a few feet into traffic. I don’t know why my overactive imagination never chose to envision that one!

So it definitely was not an easy fifty today; however, I feel better than last year and I did get the exercise I needed to enjoy wine tonight. Michael and I are headed for a Halloween Party at one of our favorite wineries–Emerine Estates.

As a sad side note, I got another traffic ticket on the way home from the ride. In Peninsula. Yeah, the town of which I know ALL the speed limits since I drive through it on a daily basis to and from work and it is our bike club’s playground for riding. Shame on me. 53 in a 35 (maybe I should have told him I’m dyslexic). I just wasn’t paying attention to my speed. I was actually fiddling with my cell phone to find the email from the Brecksville library to see how many days they were going to hold a book I had put on reserve because I was trying to decide whether or not to turn down Riverview and pick it up on my way home. Duh. I’m the biggest dork. This is my third ticket in a year. I have to have at least six points by now… (and that’s not including a traffic accident I had in 2006). I hope I don’t get my license taken away. Ugh. Are any of my readers police officers? Could you ppppllllleeeeeeeease give me a courtesy card? Please?

I guess this makes up for all the tickets I got out of over the last several years (until July 2007). Between 2001 and 2006, there were at least four tickets I should have gotten, but the cops let me off. I think probably now since I have a record, no one is going to be letting me off any tickets anymore–men nor women. *sigh* I hope this doesn’t cost too much.

Love after death

After death our bodies may be resurrected. Our souls may transmigrate or become part of the heavenly pleroma. We may join our loved ones in heaven. Or we may return the constituent parts of our being to the earth from which it came and rest in eternal peace. About life after death, no one knows. But about this we surely know: there is love after death. Not only do our finest actions invest life with meaning and purpose, but they also live on after us. Two centuries from now, the last tracings of our being will yet express themselves in little works of love that follow bead by bead in a luminous catena extending from our dear ones out into their world and then on into the next, strung by our own loving hands.

Death is love’s measure. Not only is our grief when someone dies testimony to our love, but when we ourselves die, the love we have given to others is the one thing death can’t kill. Only our unspent love dies when we die, love unspent because of fear. It is fear that locks love in the prison of our hearts, there to be buried with us.

— Forrest Church in Love & Death: My Journey Through the Valley of the Shadow (emphasis mine)

Whew. This man, a UU minister dying of cancer, has captured in much more grandiose words than I have yet to muster, a spiritual conviction I’ve felt in my heart for much longer than I’ve been a widow. As a widow, I hold these words close to my heart even more tightly. This is what I believe.

It actually reminds me of the end of the biography about DeForest Kelley called From Sawdust to Stardust: The Biography of DeForest Kelley, Star Trek’s Dr. McCoy. He had a very deep romance with his wife, Carolyn. After he died of cancer in 1999, his wife returned to their home and found an embroidered pillow which he’d left for her that read, “Real love stories never have endings.”

I cried my eyes out when I read the final pages of that book. And I knew what drew me to Dr. McCoy: the man behind the character had the heart of an incurable romantic. I never met him, but I understood him. It was how I felt about my husband, even if he never had time to leave me such a message.

I thank God every day that one of the last things I ever said to Mike was that I loved him. It was the last thing I said to my grandma H. too. Don’t let your fears of loss prevent you from feeling love or expressing it to the people you love every day. Without love, we are nothing but animals.

By the glow of Venus

With my gears once again righteously shifting (thanks to Brent at CC) and having come home early from work for a service call, I took off for the roads on my bike and managed to ride the last thirty-five miles to my goal of 3,000 miles. I’m now in uncharted territory (well, actually, I have been since I passed last year’s total of 2843 miles). Now I’m in the ranks of near craziness riding. I can’t claim total craziness, for there are guys out there with upwards of 5,000 miles for their year (see that blog I’ve added to my list by the guy in Seattle). But I’m still proud for my accomplishments this year–five century rides, over 500 miles of tandem riding, and a fulfilling year of exploring the many roads of Ohio.

Last night was an evening of warmth in a week of chillier temperatures. This morning it’s been rainy and it’s a chilly 40-something degrees. It was 64 degrees when I took off for the roads and it pretty much stayed pleasant with 58 degrees, as reported by the temperature monitor on my computer. The skies were mostly clear and it’s true that once darkness set in, Venus was my companion as I pushed myself an extra ten miles than I originally intended just to get in those final miles.

I left my house around 5:30 and returned home at 8pm (just in time for Gossip Girl) with a ride time of 2:44’44. I started my ride by heading into Kent intending on doing a reverse route of my 25 mile loop that goes through Streetsburo. Instead, I ended up detouring up Lake Rockwell Road to enjoy the beautiful fall colors of trees along these pristine lakes which supply Akron its water.

Once I reached Route 14, I didn’t know quite where to go because if I continued down Lake Rockwell, I’d end up going a little far and probably have to take 303 (busy and ugly state route) back into Streetsburo to make a loop. So I went down this bumpy chip-and-seal paved street just up 14 a little ways called Price. Two dogs chased me into the street, scaring the crap out of me, near one of the houses. Price was starting to look a little less civilized than I’d expected, so I turned at the next street–Webb. Passing several gravel companies, Webb wasn’t all that scenic but the pavement was decent and it had some hills. I wasn’t sure where it was going, but I hoped to get back to Lake Rockwell somehow and turn around. I eventually hit Infirmary Road, which is a little bit busy but not too bad, and so I turned right down it since I knew it would hit Lake Rockwell again.

So I went back down Lake Rockwell and the lakes, which turns out to be an easier direction than going up it. My original plan was to get back to Ravenna Road and head back to home through a bunch of really nice rolling back streets I know. It was just starting to get dark as I hit my favorite Seasons Road, going to opposite direction I usually take that road (which was harder than my usual direction). I turned on my light to alert oncoming cars since the roads were so rolling. I passed several people leaf blowing or mowing their lawns.

As I came up on the Summit County MetroParks bike and hike trail, which brings me very close to home, I realized I was at 27 miles. My mind that craves even numbers reminded me that I should round off the ride to 30 miles. Then, I realized that if I got 30 miles in, I would be just five miles away from the desired 3,000 mile goal I wanted to achieve this year. I couldn’t just stop when I was so very close!

“Well,” I thought. “I got a light. I know I can make a loop around town that will give me around 35…”

“GO FOR IT!” the Mileage Nazi in my head exclaimed.

The next thing I knew, I was pushing past my natural turn-off of Stow Road and continuing north up the bike and hike trail. My plan was to take the bike and hike to Barlow Road, then go up Barlow to the entrance to the bike and hike trail that loops back into Stow by basically paralleling Route 8. There’s a way I usually go home when I come up Quick Road from the valley that takes me on some side streets basically back to my house. I was pretty sure this route would give me the extra miles I needed.

I was surprised that the temperature didn’t drop much while I was out. I was comfortable in my long bike pants, wicking undershirt, and long sleeved flannel. The bike and hike trail at night was really cool and quiet. I was careful with my speed and my eyes were glued alertly ahead to prepare for any sudden stops I might have to make due to some passing nocturnal creature. Several cats crossed my path and I sighted deer (who promptly ran away from me) along the sides of the trail in several places. I actually wasn’t that nervous. It was really a beautiful night and I kept spotting Venus in the dark sky every time I hit a clearing of trees. I only encountered one other night cyclist, also with a bright LED light. We passed in the night, wordlessly, like two space ships in the key of space.

To compensate for my cautiously slow speed, I geared higher to ensure I was getting the aerobic workout I also enjoy, since the bike and hike is basically flat. I felt really good and energized and I was increasingly happy that I’d chosen this night and this manner to push myself to 3,000 miles. It was the perfect fall night with the damp smell of fall and the sound of crushing leaves at my wheels. Even in my reflection this morning, there’s a certain romanticism tied to that moment. It was so nice to be alone on the roads in the silence of the evening.

The only bad thing that happened was I experienced my first incident of anti-cyclist rage. On one of the side streets near my house, someone in a truck passing me in the oncoming lane pitched garbage at me. I know he was totally aiming for me (and I chose to assume that it was a male since men seem more inclined to enjoy the sport of throwing crap at cyclists; I can only imagine a woman screaming out the window, not throwing items, call me sexist). He had slowed down behind a car that was turning into a driveway behind me. I was hit square in the side by the trash, which shocked more than hurt, though it did sting. I shouted, “Asshole,” but too late and realized I was only feeding his satisfaction by responding. I couldn’t believe anyone would be so blatantly cruel to someone he didn’t even know. I was reminded of stories from other cyclists about having stuff pitched at them from passing cars. The only thing I can do in counter is imagine that the culprit is some overweight, fat-ass, couch potato who never does anything for his health and will probably die of a heart attack in a few years.

This incident didn’t ruin my whole evening, however. I had a great time, even riding through a small portion of Portage County (where, I add, the residents who aren’t even that used to cyclists treated me better). It was a beautiful, magical night and an awesome way to complete my crazy mileage streak. I love my new bike light–a NiteRider MiniNewt–as it lights up the road in a big bubble ahead of me and, I am sure, makes me completely visible to oncoming traffic (which may be good or bad depending on the driver of the vehicle). It was an expensive purchase, but one that was well worth it because now I’m not confined to daylight hours as the days get shorter. I don’t think enough people realize how cool it is to ride at night. Yeah, you have to be more cautious than normal so you can’t get your breakneck speed averages, but you get to experience a whole new set of sensations as you observe the world around you. I’ve always liked hiking at night too. It’s just different. An air of mystery surrounds you. Everything is quieter and still. And you feel like the only person on the planet. Which is sometimes a pleasant thing.

Bike vanity

When I bought my Giant, I was going to have a kick stand put on it. The guys at CC looked at me, seriously, and, shaking their heads, said, “You don’t want to do that.”

“Why?” I asked.

“No one does that with a road bike. You don’t need that,” they said. “Adds weight, anyway.”

Feeling the fully the pressure of not looking like “real” road cyclist, I went along with their suggestion and did not install a kick stand on my bike. Now I lay my bike on the ground or search for a tree, building, or sturdy object to prop it against whenever I’m not using it, like every other road cyclist. At times it seems it would be easier to just have a kick stand–as my hybrid does–but that is not the Road Cyclists’ Way.

Last weekend, I put a pannier rack on the back of my bike. I’d bought it in August, hoping to use it for lugging my clothes should I chose to commute to work, but I spent the next several months struggling with my inner need to feel acceptance by my fellow cyclists mixed with fears of losing my (*cough* *cough*) awesome speed under the *heavier* weight added to my bike. Even though I’d bought a rack that claimed to be lighter weight than average (and it does seem to be).

Because I wanted to use my rack pack to carry my over sized camera on the Fall N’ Leaf ride, and I knew I’d be stripping clothes due to the early morning chilly conditions that would evaporate into 75-80 degrees, I decided to suck up my pride and finally install the rack. Perhaps with all its hills it wasn’t the best ride to try out extra weight (I’d like to think it was the reason I had to walk up the hardest hill on the ride). But when the varying weather of fall comes in, it’s more logical to tote a pack because you need to be ready for anything–rain, wind, sun, heat, cold. If you start out dressed for the chilly morning, chances are by noon you’ll be down to your shorts and short sleeves. It’s easier to have the pack to stuff your stripped clothes into and also carry extra clothes for if the weather goes south quickly.

See, I had to justify putting the rack on my bike to myself before doing it. I was afraid that by adding it, it would make my bike look less cool. I know I needed it, but my own bike vanity and fears of being deemed less of a cyclist kept me from putting it on. It probably seems stupid to the casual cyclist–most people find it quite practical to add a rack to their bikes. But, again, it’s just generally not the Road Cyclists’ Way. In fact, some bikes do not come with the pre-drilled holes to allow the installation of a rack (I think LeMonds are one of them).

Well, I told myself that I could remove the rack whenever I wanted to quite easily. Michael demonstrated this aspect of it to me and I did one practice removal and replacement to prove it to myself. The first several times I showed my bike to members of my bike club, I stated, “Well, you know, I can remove the rack.” Fortunately, a lot of people asked, “Why?”

I got a bit of a complex when I took the bike into CC on Friday to get the gears adjusted. I brought it into the shop and said apologetically, “Don’t make fun of me for putting a rack on it.”

One of the guys said, “There’s nothing wrong with that! That’s what OCRs are made for.”

Which, of course, made me worry that my bike still wasn’t road worthy enough to be considered a “real” road bike. How arrogant of me! Just who am I trying to measure myself up to? I love my bike, I enjoy riding it. I’m not a racer; weight is not something that really makes or breaks my abilities to go. I’m generally a 14-15mph rider by average. I like to do long rides, but casually. I’m never in a race to complete. I’m out there to see the world. I’m what is called a “touring cyclist.”

So I’m trying to ease up on my worries. And ignore the fact that the back end of my bike does feel a little heavier to lift (not having a bike rack, I’m always lifting my bike into the car). But maybe it’s my imagination. I still got up some nasty hills on Fall N’ Leaf, even though I was lugging my camera and stripped clothes.

My bike kind of looks cute with the rack on it. No one but another road cyclist would really think any less of me. And I think I’m really reading too much into that assessment. Well, I could still remove it… and maybe get a smaller camera that can fit in my back pocket…

My bike; leaning, of course. (Isn’t she cute?)

Who is Joe the Plumber?

I’ve never put up a sign in my yard. In the past, I’ve felt the issues and candidates I support are generally my business and I liked to stay low on the radar (believe it or not) to not let others around me know how I felt as far as politics go. So it’s really a monumental moment in my life that I’ve taken to putting a sign up in my yard as well as donning my car with a bumper sticker.

My apparent passiveness hasn’t worked in the past. So now I’m getting political. I feel the calling to combat the McCain/Palin signs that are sprouting up throughout my neighborhood and the Ohio countryside. If Joe the Plumber can put his McCain sign up in his yard, then Mars Girl the Tech Writer can plant a sign for Obama/Biden in her yard to show support.

Honestly, I know these signs don’t change people’s minds; they are merely a show of support for the candidate and issues you hold dear. It’s like wearing a crucifix necklace or other religious symbol–it doesn’t change anything with the people around you but it represents who you are and what you believe. It’s like a beacon of light in the night that allows you, for one moment, to connect with other human beings who feel similarly to you.

On the way to work this morning, I followed a car with an Obama bumper sticker and I felt connected to this beacon of hope. Which is similar to how I felt a few months ago when a car I was behind had a UU chalice sticker on the back. For a moment in traffic, you can say, “Hey, there’s someone else like me. I’m not alone.”

Yeah. I’m corny. But, hey, I’m feeling a little surrounded by a mob who deems me a heretic.

Last night, I watched the debates at my friend Buddha’s house. Two other good friends came by and we enjoyed dinner and liberal conversation. It was refreshing to watch the debates and discuss the issues with other like-minded people. Buddha’s having a big event on election day and I’m thinking of dropping in. Some of my friends are taking the next day off of work so that they can stay up all night holding baited breath for the results. I want to do this, too, but I’m still trying to accumulate vacation days at work and I’m going to lose two for Thanksgiving and Christmas (all our days off, even company holidays, come out of our PTO pool). And I’m trying to save up vacation time so that I can go on a ski trip to Colorado in January… So I don’t know if I will be able to do this. I might just end up tired at work the next day. Hopefully, I won’t be depressed, as I was at the end of the last presidential election when not only was Bush elected a second time, but that damn anti-same-sex marriage amendment went on the Ohio constitution. I’m so ashamed to live in this backward state sometimes.

Anyway, I actually have one other campaign sign in my yard: Greg Bachman, the Summit County Engineer, is up for re-election. He’s a fellow cyclist who has spent the last several years making great improvements to our roads, not only for vehicular traffic but cyclists! He specifically asks for opinions of road conditions from us and he spent the summer riding the roads himself, inviting community cyclists to join him (I never went, but did contemplate it). I’ll overlook the fact that he’s Republican and vote for him because I’ve seen improvement. Who cares about what the engineer’s political party is, anyway? I mean, in this job position, you just want a good engineer. For some community elected positions, such as coroner or county engineer, a political party just seems irrelevant because it’s not like it comes to play in your position much. You have another job to do and it’s not so much about politics, except to get elected. I’m not one of those voters who punches the Democrat on every open position on a ticket just because he/she’s a Democrat. I’m especially careful with local positions because these are the ones that really matter and effect me personally. Unfortunately, these positions often get the least amount of attention from voters.