Wind, water-chugging, and wine

Saturday Michael and I headed up to Lake County to do a ride he used to use as his TOSRV training ride back in the days when he lived in Painesville. We did this ride last year to train for TOSRV and suffered rain and chilly temperatures for the first half of the day. Fortunately, the weather had calmed down by afternoon and we had a sunny and humid, albeit windy, second half of the ride. My memories of that ride are pretty clipped due to the fact that I had spent the first half of it grumpy (remember, Mars Girl is grumpy when starting in rain). However, this year was almost a complete turn around–minus the nasty 20mph gusts of wind we had to battle throughout out the second half of the ride–with a temperature of 80 degrees under sunny blue skies.

Because the weather was so unseasonably warm, I did get to try my new Keen sandals, which I just bought at Century Cycles’ spring sale a few weeks ago. The picture to the left shows me modeling them. They were really great. I loved the comfort of not having to wear socks–even the little anklets that I usually wear–at all. My feet were constantly exposed to the warm summerish air and I had no problem at all with them coming off or anything during the three difficult climbs we did. I’m so glad I bought these sandals! It’s going to be a great summer of riding now that I don’t have to be restricted by socks and hot shoes. My motto for summer weather is always to wear the least amount of clothes as necessary to still be considered publicly decent. The absence of socks on this hot day made my feet feel comfortable and free!

I was also impressed with how the cleat is almost completely protected within the soles of the shoe so that I can walk around without that distinctive clicking noise of cleat-to-pavement and I don’t feel like I’m going to slip on the cleat. My normal shoes, especially with the huge Frog cleat, cause me to slide on pavement and I have to walk gingerly to ensure I don’t slip. It’s definitely got me thinking about eventually replacing my normal cycling shoes with a pair of cycling shoes more akin to sneakers (Michael has a pair like this). I can definitely see the benefit!

So the shoes immediately won my approval. Especially on a hot day such as the one we had on Saturday. I’d forgotten that 80 degrees is pretty brutal when you were sheltered from the wind. This was definitely the warmest day we’ve had all spring. It was more like summer. What a nice relief from the frigid weather we’ve been experiencing.

I should preface this with some details about last year’s ride. First of all, right out of the gate, Michael had missed a road that we’d intended to take and we spent about a half hour trying to find it until he asked someone for directions and learned we were on the wrong road. Once Michael figured out the correct road, our progress was further impeded by construction on a bridge on Fay Road. We had to get off our bikes and carry them over a half-complete bridge. I remember being frustrated, wondering why Michael had never checked his route out before embarking on it. But aside from riding the entire route during the week before our ride, how could he have known the road would be closed? Not living in Lake County, we’re not aware of these things.

Well, this year our route was not without the “interesting’ mishap. We were pedaling along what used to be State Route 86 when we came to a cul-de-sac. We’d just ridden down this route last year and now it looked as though the road had never gone through. Turns out, I learned later, Route 86 was re-routed last fall (after we’d been on it) to straddle Route 84 because the old road was a high accident area. Pretty funky that they could change a road so quickly. Doesn’t road construction normally take several years? I wish I’d taken a picture, for it barely looked like a road had even existed.

We decided to see if perhaps the road continued behind the mound of ground in the cul-de-sac. I had pictured in my head that perhaps around the mound was another cul-de-sac coming from the other direction to make it closed off to through traffic (I learned later that Michael had thought the same thing). So we got on our bikes and rode for a bit on the treacherous downhill path of matted grass and the occasional large stone (sure could have used a cycle cross bike in this situation!) only to learn that, no, the road was completely gone save for the bridge going over the river at the bottom of this hill. Weird. We had to carry our bikes over a “river” of big rocks, and then climb grudgingly to the newly rerouted Route 86/84.

Needless to say, I was wondering how much more of our would-be route was going to be disrupted by some other unforeseen change, if we were going to have a repeat of last year. But it turns out the rest of the route was exactly where we left it last year. We took three major climbs: the first one, “Baby Bear,” on Fay Road, a nice steep but quick bump along a very pretty, quiet neighborhood along a small creek; the second one, “Momma Bear,” on Trask Road, a harder climb from river level out of a valley; and the third, “Daddy Bear,” on Blair Road, the biggest climb out of a valley crossing the Grand River, which was the same valley we climbed out of on the second day of the PVG tour, except we went in the reverse direction. I felt very good on these climbs. They were fairly short, though, steep, and I was impressed with how quickly I recovered after them, which is a good sign that my fitness level is really improving. I love climbing! Hopefully I’m done walking my bike up anything for the year.

One of these days, I’d like someone with a camera to stand at the top of one these hills to snap some picture of me finishing my climb (with the yawning drop in the background). I guess I’m going to have send a camera up with Michael one of these times since he beats me by minutes or more and could probably easily catch me doing the last bit of a nasty hill.

We lunched in Madison about 40 miles into our anticipated 70 mile ride. The little diner we’d enjoyed last year was no longer there, to our dismay because they had the best chocolate milk shakes, but we found another smaller diner down the street where all the locals eating breakfast eyed us wearily donned in bike gear and sweaty as we walked in (they probably thought we were crazy). The food wasn’t bad, but they ran out of ice cream so we shared a watery milkshake with our meal that didn’t quite quench the milkshake lust I was having in anticipation of the ones made from the now closed diner.

We got back on the bikes and headed east again to catch the part of the route we’d abandoned last year due to my sour mood, which is what gave us the extra 5 miles to 70. Heading North along County Line Road (Ashtabula/Lake Counties), we enjoyed the last our our easy passage with a tailwind, easily nailing speeds comfortably at 19-20mph. Then, we had to turn west to head back towards Painesville, which, of course, was straight into the wind. Our entire trek back was south or east, neither of which was desirable since the cross-wind when headed south was just as bad as travel east. And we’re talking about serious wind–about 20mph “gusts” that seemed pretty steady. We had tried to draft off each other, but I couldn’t keep up with Michael so we pretty much just fended for ourselves.

Part of our ride followed Lake Road through quiet communities along the mighty Lake Erie. It was nice to ride by the lake because a cool breeze was coming off it, almost like an outdoor air-conditioning. It was a shame when we had to head south away from it, turning again into the breath of oven heat that bore right into you.

During the last 20 miles, as I pumped hard into the wind, I started to bonk. Every time we’d stop at an intersection, I’d feel heat exploding from my cheeks, sweat dripping down my back, and my legs felt burnt from over-exertion. My lungs, asthmatic, throbbed slightly in pain. I was running low on water–it was like we couldn’t drink enough. We probably should have had our camel backs on in this heat. It was hard to drink because we knew we had to conserve on the stuff in the two bottles on our bikes.

I told Michael that I needed to stop and rest, which is only natural because our only long stop had been at lunch and normally on a ride of this size, such as a registered one, we would have had the opportunity to stop every twenty or so miles. So Michael kept me going until we got to a gas station in Painesville where I could buy some Gatorade. We rode up the street a little to find some shade to sit in and took about a twenty minute break before continuing the last 8 miles of the home stretch. Miraculously, I felt completely refreshed as though I’d just started riding. Funny what a little Gatorade–a little liquid–on a hot day can do.

Usually I wouldn’t stop so close to the finish but I knew that the last several miles was along this road in an industrial area where there was absolutely no protection from the wind. It had been pretty brutal last year and so I anticipated that in this wind it would be absolutely demoralizing. I was right, of course. Along this stretch, I found myself at one point crawling along at 8mph. However, being recently refreshed, I pushed harder and did not let myself dip that low again and I kept myself between 11-12mph–not breaking any speed records but at least I felt as though I were moving. Yuck. I hate the wind. Give me a good hill any day over the nastiness of wind.

Anyway, when we got to the end of the “wind tunnel,” we were nearly back to the park where we started our ride. Being at about 68 miles Michael, of course, suggested that we take a ride up to the lighthouse in Fairport Harbor to add an extra mile and ensure 70 miles. It was a nice little ride up to the lake–North, so with the wind. We paused, looked at the lighthouse some, and then headed back to the park where we finished with just a little over 70 miles for a fitfull day of riding. Here’s a picture of me smiling happily at the finish and, again, enamored with my new cycling sandals:

As I was de-gearing myself, I realized that while I’d done so marvelously well by remembering to apply sun block that morning, I’d still managed to miss a very small spot. Around my watch band. Dah.

I forgot that it’s usually best to take off my watch and apply sunblock to my whole wrist. It’s really funny how the sun manages to get that small strip of skin between where my watch sat and the end of my glove began. The sun is sure an opportunist. I realized that I’d also forgotten to apply sunblock to my now sockless feet. Fortunately, I didn’t get burned there, but it is now definitely possible in these sandals (I got sunburn in the exposed part of my regular sandals one sunny day last year).

We decided to spend the night in Ashtabula so that we could partake of one of the many wineries in the Geneva area. We ended up getting dinner at one of my favorite wineries, Laurello, where we enjoyed a pesto shrimp pizza and a bottle of Muscat Blanc. I bet you are surprised that I, the lover of red wines, actually drank a white for once! Well, you know, it was a hot day and I desired something chilled… I did, however, buy a bottle of their Modavi–my favorite of their red wines–for consumption at some future date. And, if you’re lucky, I might share.

It was certainly a great ride on a great day (though I could have lived without the wind). The finish to my day was perfect. Who could ask for anything more?

Stats for the ride:

Miles: 70.58
Ride Time: 5:00’46
Avg: 14.0mph (yeah! I get pissed when I dip below 14. Between 14-16 is a good day to me!)
Max Speed: 29.8 (because I braked liberally down a few really steep, windy hills. I’m sure Michael’s max speed is much higher.)

Next Saturday: 80 miles through Wayne County. Whew-hoo!

Journalism is silly

When I read a sentence like this, I’m ever-so glad I never pursued that career in journalism I thought I wanted as a child:

Best known as the genocidal dictator who butchered millions in his quest to unite Europe under German rule, Hitler also had a largely unsuccessful career as an artist in his early years.

That wins the award of the silliest dependant clause lead-in sentence I’ve ever read! Who the hell doesn’t know who Adolph Hitler is? Do you really think you need to feed us the general background information about the person involved, as you would for, perhaps, some third world figure the average human being doesn’t know about. I mean, an equally stupid sentence would be something along the lines of:

Best known for his suffering death by crucifixion on charges of sedition and his subsequent alleged return from death a day later, Jesus Christ began his career as a carpenter under the tutelage of his stepfather in Nazareth.

I mean, come on, how stupid does the Associated Press really think we are?? I am so glad that I don’t write in a profession that makes me state the obvious. Woe is the day that the entire educated human race doesn’t know who Hitler is (for we should always remember the man in order to avoid ever letting such horrid people into power again). Or Jesus Christ for that matter (since even non-Christians such as myself can find life lessons in his teachings). Geesh. This is why I don’t subscribe to or read the paper, people! It’s great reading… for a sixth grader.

Thanks for making me chuckle, Martin Benedyk. God bless your Journalism degree. You could teach a class now that you’ve mastered the art of providing background information to the assumed ignorant reader. (I remember when we had to write sentences like this in the one and only journalism class I took in high school… and flunked… because I didn’t like the watered down approach to writing forced by journalism.)

Skinny chicks

I’m so tired of skinny girls who don’t eat. Before any of you jump in to say that I’m a skinny girl, I’ve got some photographic evidence to support my claim that I’m not skinny at all.

Exhibit 1:

Exhibit 2:

So what started this rant is when I walked into the office kitchen yesterday to clean my dishes after finishing my meal of a salad, three beer pretzels, and a zero fat Yoplait yogurt–which I consider eating healthy. The skinniest girl in the office was making her lunch of a tiny cup of instant oatmeal. First of all, when I eat instant oatmeal (usually for breakfast), I always use a pack and a half because one pack is not enough food. Secondly, when I eat instant oatmeal, I’m always hungry again about an hour later. I could never eat it for lunch and not go crazy with hunger by 2pm.

Immediately, I’m feeling defensive. God, I think, these girls must think I’m a total pig. They must be looking at me, thinking, “I can’t believe she rides her bike so much and still carries all that weight.”

The second event that roused my anti-skinny girl anger was on a ride last night when one of my fellow female riders stated that she needed to ride up Everett Road to work off the lunch she ate because she rarely eats lunch (in other words, she was feeling guilty for having ate lunch). Immediately, I’m thinking about how I always eat lunch. In fact, call me a traditionalist, but I eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I have to. If I don’t eat, my mind turns to mush and the world spins out of control. I’m very bad at starving myself. In fact, despite the apple I ate before last night’s ride, my stomach was punching me with hunger pains as we rode the last stretch of our 23 mile route down Major Road. I was mentally kicking myself for not having grabbed a granola bar on my way out of the office.

I used to starve myself. In fact, just a few years ago, I was at an all-time low of 130lbs and I was working on getting down to 125. That was before I moved back here from Colorado. I fit into clothes that hadn’t fit me in years and though I still had a fat roll, I was looking a lot more trim, so much so that people were complimenting me on how great I looked. What was I doing? Well, first of all, I lost a lot of weight over the year after my husband died because I just couldn’t eat–the smell of food made me retch for weeks. So I probably lost a lot of weight there. By the time I started eating normally again, my stomach had probably shrunk a little.

During the period of time that I lived in Colorado, I always skipped breakfast. Or, rather, my breakfast consisted of a cup of coffee and a granola bar. For awhile, I used to just eat a bag of popcorn for lunch. I would eat a bowel of some vegetable for dinner. Eventually I moved back up to eating real food, but it was usually half the portion of whatever I ate, no matter how big or small that portion was. I rode the edge of hunger all the time, eating just enough to get the hunger pains to stop, but going no further. I suppose that’s the way you’re supposed to eat, but after awhile the feeling of being constantly hungry really wears me out.

I suspect that I put on the bulk of my weight in 2006 (after moving back to Ohio) when I worked for a company where I spent a lot of time in bars drinking with my co-workers after hours. I don’t think I’ve ever drank as much and as regularly as I did when I worked for that company. Before working at that company, I was pretty consistently exercising and I only splurged on eating once a week on Fridays when I would have pizza and beer at my cousin’s house for sci-fi night. But then I started going out of town every other week for work. Evenings were spent eating at restaurants and, of course, more drinking. I also went through the course of a relationship with a guy who smoked, which got me back into that habit. So I wasn’t at my healthiest.

I’m not sure I can blame all of the weight on that job, though, since it’s been two years and I think I’ve managed to gain even a little more weight despite all the miles I do on my bike. I’m probably maintaining my weight. I wouldn’t say that I eat a lot of bad food. Despite what I say about beer and wine drinking, I really don’t drink all that much. So I don’t understand what’s happening to my metabolism. But I do know that I have to eat three meals a day.

It’s hard to not feel jealous when I see some skinny chick with better self-control. I guess I wish I could eat tiny morsels of food and feel fulfilled. I’d love to be a skinny chick too. I marvel at skinny chicks who eat like I do or worse–eating normal meals and then eating cookies and ice cream on a whim. These skinny chicks I have no problem with, other than a slight jealousy that their metabolism allows them to eat at will without suffering consequences. That’s a lucky strike of genetics. I can grok that.

I rarely let myself eat ice cream, despite the fact that I love ice cream. The dessert I allow myself to have regularly is half a square off a chocolate bar, and I only allow myself to do that once or twice a week. I have whole candy bars given to me at Christmas still sitting my freezer. I have a bag of white chocolate Reese’s cups–my favorite–sitting in my cupboard at home, left overs from Halloween. It takes me a year to get through a bag like that. I have ice cream in my freezer left over from a party from last summer. I like having these things around to remind me of what I’m not eating. But it sucks when I’m having a sugar craving because I can’t stop myself from indulging.

I figure it’s genetics. None of the women in my family are skinny chicks. We’re all big-boned with pillow bellies (and I’m skinny among them maybe). I guess I should be happy that we don’t have huge butts–all our fat goes to our mid-section–but it sucks that I could never wear a bikini on a beach with pride. (I do, in fact, where two piece swimsuits, but I always wear a towel when out of the water–I don’t want to subject the grossness to the women who I know are looking at my blubbered belly and judging.)

I keep trying to just accept my body for the way it is. I’m not fat, I know that. But I’m not skinny either. And being skinny requires a level of deprivation that I just can no longer maintain if I want to function like a human being. At the same time, I can’t help but want to slap the skinny chicks who eat tiny pieces of food as their entire meal and wear size 0-7 jeans (I wear 10 or 12) and then tell me, while my mouth is full of a piece of cake from an office party, that they can’t have any because they are on a diet. Or they tell me they are too fat. No sympathy!

I know. I should probably count calories and see where I’m messing up. That seems like so much work and I suspect it would only encourage me to become more obsessive about food. Guys don’t seem to obsess about food (well, except my dad who has amazing will-power and looks great–he’s lighter than me, I’m sure). I guess I should just try to be more like a guy. Though, that sure doesn’t help attract guys. You can’t win to lose. Guys like women who eat normally, but they want to date women who look like super-models. It’s hard to compete in that world. If I want to get that kind of attention, I need to start eating oatmeal in a small styrophome cup for lunch, I guess.

After a day of skinny girl frustration, I ended up ordering the half-chicken dinner special at The Winking Lizard after the ride. But I only ate half of it and brought the rest home. So at least I’m making the effort to reduce my intake. Though, I did wash the meal down with one 22 oz Commodore Perry IPA beer…

I got bikes on my mind

So. We all know I was bitching over the winter about how annoyed I was with riding the Beast because its gears are so low and I have to spend all my time in the highest ring on the crank. And I’ve been needing a bike that I could utilize in the winter months and in less than ideal conditions–roads in various states of disrepair, or, not even roads at all as occasionally I might have the whimsy to ride on a non-paved path. Well, so, I was originally looking for a hybrid that would offer better gearing and was maybe a little lighter than the Beast. When I expressed this to Derrick at CC last Sunday, he started to lead me through the land of fitness bikes–Giant FCR and the Raleigh Cadent. Pretty sweet looking hybrids, these. But as I continued elaborating on my intended use for this new theoretical bike, he paused and said, “I think what you really need is a cycle cross bike.”

At which point he proceeded to show me a Masi Speciale CX that costs as much as my OCR. But I found myself salivating as I looked at the bike–in a warm “root beer” brown–he showed me as an example, pointing out the heavier wheels and other important components for the rougher ride. Like dangling a carrot in front of a rabbit. My eyes filled with the stars of blind love. A bike I can take both on the road and on the towpath, while maintaining the kind of gearing I expect when riding, and something I could potentially use for long rides where I needed to pack gear? Hmmmm….

So then I started thinking about cycle cross bikes and how one might fit into my life perfectly as a second bicycle to my OCR, which would still be my main bike for ideal conditions, but the cycle cross bike could be substituted for the less than ideal riding conditions without a loss of power or speed. Such as early spring. Such as TOSRV.

Hmmm. So my mind is racing now, palms sweating. And then yesterday I send a quick email off to Derrick to inquire further about cycle cross bikes and all my options. At the end of it, I learn I could also have a custom Surly Cross Check bike built to my specs for a little more mullah. And he is having a Masi Speciale in something close to my size sent to the Peninsula CC for a test ride on Friday. Mind is racing. Mind is obsessing. Toys, toys, toys.

Recite and repeat: I am not in the market to buy anything right now. I’m just looking. It’s all for education’s sake. Something to ruminate about until fall when I could really use a bike such as the cycle cross. Must sell the Beast. Of course, I won’t get much cash from that to apply to a new bike. Still. First things first, right?

One would ask, “Why look now for something you might buy later?”

Um. Cuz. I. Um. Well, you know. B-b-b-bikes!

I left work with my mind dizzy with possibilities. I could order a bike especially for me with the CC mechanics doing what they do best, working their magic–the magic they use to rebuild their own bikes. Or I could get myself a nice looking Masi, tripped out in fenders and slightly knobby tires and a pannier rack. Oooh… the possibilities. I could already easily see myself riding on either bike. I pictured bouncing over wet, potholed roads in comfort and style. Climbing Snowville Road on my way to work. Riding on the towpath with Diane and Jeff. Winter (when it’s above 40 degrees) riding with ABC. No worries (or as much) about flats and maintaining good speed that I can’t on my hybrid, managing to keep up with my compadres despite the conditions. Hmmm….

I am not in the market for buying anything right now. I’m just looking.

I tried to forget about all this last night. I went out to an Indians game with Diane, Jeff, and Michael. Of course, Diane and Michael both separately teased me on the topic of bike purchasing again, and despite the one beer I drank, my mind did not relax and it was again going wild with thoughts of purchasing another bike. I thought about it all night on the way home. Probably in my sleep. It was the first thought I had this morning once I became coherent.

The little devil on my shoulder is whispering, “You know, if you’re going to get another bike, you should spend the money for something you know you would really enjoy. And a custom bike built to your preferences would be the best of all options.” Those Surlys have some really swanky off-the-wall colors (check out their naming schemes).

The little angel on my right shoulder replies, “But you’re thinking about grad school! You need a digital video camera! I thought you wanted to go skiing in Utah this December with your friend J! You should save money. What if you want a motorcycle?”

Devil says, “Yeah, but nothing makes you more happy in life than the fahrfignugen–the pleasure of the ride–via bicycle. Bicycles are the one thing you purchase that you make good use of.”

True that having a bike custom built for me may cost a little extra money (and not nearly as much as you would think, really). But it would be done totally right. So the urge to just let go and splurge seems justified, in a twisted way. The Masi, though, is pretty nice-looking and probably all that I really need. I’m definitely no expert rider, that’s for sure. I’m not even that great, comparatively, to the hammerheads out there in my club. I’m pretty mediocre, so do I really need a custom built bike?

Well, technically, I don’t even need another bike. The one I have is fine for most purposes. And I could suffer with the slight annoyances of the Beast’s watered down performance. I mean, come on, I don’t even ride that much in the winter. I do ride a lot in the spring, though.

Masi. Surly. Masi, Surly. MasiSurlyMasiSurlyMasiSurlyMasiSurlymasisurlymasisurlymasisurly….

The sad truth of this situation is that when I start obsessing like this, it usually indicates that I am in the market for buying. I never torture myself so otherwise. But I know I need to control the urge to spend and focus my obsessions elsewhere. Like on my job. Which pays for these obsessive pleasures I’m compulsively drawn to. At least it’s a healthy hobby. I’ll probably live to be 110 with no heart problems and die peacefully in my sleep. After years and years of pedaling the endless streets of the world…

Rating the Valley’s Hills

Saturday as I was riding in Think Spring, I started thinking about how I would rate the hills in the Cuyahoga Valley using the ski resort rating system. Mind you, the Valley is its own experience so you have to imagine it like the Breckenridge of NE Ohio (although, there are also other very hilly places in Ohio that would probably make the Valley look like Holiday Valley in comparison). Here is how I would classify each rating:

Green – These are good hills to learn how to climb hills on, hills I’ve personally used to train myself for climbing bigger and harder things. I wouldn’t assume these hills are easy to someone who has never climbed a major hill, but they are good starting point on which to practice. If you can do them without getting off your bike, you can probably try something a little harder.

Blue – These hills are a little more challenging, a little steeper than the green hills. I would move to them next after feeling comfortable on greens.

Black – Not for the faint of heart, these climbs usually require major cardio output and lots of spinning. They are often a struggle to keep yourself going on. Even experienced riders admit to the vast superiority of these hills.

Double-black – In most cases, these are hills even I’m too scared to attempt due to their reputation.

Anyway, I wanted to share what I thought and, if you’re a regular rider in the valley, feel free to comment, suggest a different rating, or add personal experience of a climb.

West “Face” of the Valley:

  • Martin – Double black – Never climbed it, but I’ve got it on good authority that this one is hard.
  • Yellow Creek – Black – I think I did it once.
  • Ira – Black
  • Everett – Black
  • Wheatley – ?? – I don’t think I’ve ever climbed it so I don’t know. A friend in the bike club says it’s not too hard.
  • Oak Hill – Double black
  • Major – Green – Doesn’t really have a part that’s any steeper than any other. It’s a great slow climb.
  • Stine – Blue – Nice climb that looks easier from the bottom than it actually is.
  • Boston Mills West – Double black – I’ve done it! It’s only really hard in the beginning, the rest is a nice slow climb.
  • Columbia – Black – Even though I walked it two weeks ago, it’s not quite as hard as Boston Mills West.
  • Snowville – Blue – Not really too bad. This will be my primary route to work should I start commuting by bike.
  • Valley Parkway – ?? – I’ve only gone down it. I’m not sure how hard it is to climb. I suspect it’s either a blue or a black.

    East “Face” of the Valley

  • Theiss – Blue? – I haven’t done this one in awhile.
  • Bath East – Black – I haven’t done it in awhile, but the last time I did it (2 years ago), I walked. I made it up once without walking on my hybrid, the year before that.
  • Steels Corners – Black
  • Northampton – Black – Michael and I did it last year on the tandem. It didn’t seem too bad, but that was four legs. I haven’t done it on my own bike yet. Just don’t attempt to go up it when there is a show at Blossom. Then the road becomes a double-black as you have to ride among angry, drunken or high drivers on the way to the latest concert.
  • Wetmore – ?? Blue?? – I’ve never climbed it, only rode down it. It doesn’t look like it’s too bad. Just a little steep at the beginning, then a long gentler climb.
  • Quick – Blue – It’s only hard at the very beginning, the rest is a nice long slow climb with a few bumps towards the end. I like this road a lot, especially since it goes by my favorite trail head on the other side of Virginia Kendall.
  • Truxell – Green – A great starter hill for newbies with one hard part in the middle. But since I rarely have to bottom out at that part, it’s green.
  • Rt. 303 – Green – Though easy, this road is kind of sucky because of all the traffic. Definitely not the most scenic exit out of the valley.
  • Boston Mills East – Black – Difficult, but not so bad. It’s definitely harder to climb up than come down (there’s a bump in the middle that one has to climb over even when going down the hill).
  • Hines Hill – Double black. – I’ve only gone down it. It didn’t seem so bad going down in memory, but I’m told it’s quite a nasty climb.
  • Highland/Vaughn – Black – It’s only hard in one part, but that part is kind of hard. Though I’m remembering that I didn’t have much trouble with it last year.

    I’ve never done Smith Road–too highly trafficked–but most of us cyclists have expressed an interest in attempting it early some morning when there is lighter traffic. I would suspect that this road is a black. It seems pretty hard going up it by car. I’m not sure I’m ready for it.

    North Portage Path (towards Stan Hywit Hall) now has a bike lane on it. Reports from TDB, who has climbed it, is that it’s a bit nasty. It looks blackish to me by car, but not too scary that I don’t want to attempt it, especially now that it has a dedicated bike lane. Though, I really don’t like to climb where traffic is passing me because I’m self-conscious about drivers watching me. A lot of Ohio motorists have a nasty habit of screaming out the window at cyclists to scare them and sometimes guys will cat-call out the window, which makes me uncomfortable. So I don’t know if I will get over my self-consciousness to attempt it.

    Portage Trail is road that I use frequently in the car to get out of the Merriman Valley towards home. It too looks like it might be a fun challenging climb; however, it’s really trafficked and doesn’t have a dedicated bike lane. I sure wish they would build more bike lanes down in the valley. Perhaps it would calm down all the angry drivers and the city of Cuyahoga Falls whose officials seem intent on squeezing cyclists out down the valley by coming up with ridiculous rules every few weeks to come down hard on cyclists about.

    Anyway, I might have missed a couple of climbs. I was mostly thinking about the roads we frequently use. I’ve also heard rumor of this Stanford Road that merges with Brandywine. It’s technically closed, but people like to do it to add the extra challenge of navigating broken pieces of road while climbing. A friend showed me a picture he took of it–looks quite beautiful. But you should definitely use more knobby tires than what my bike has. I’m told it’s a great place to take a cycle-cross bike.

  • Cyclist Haters?

    Okay. Looking at the poll results, I notice that the current leading answer is “Get off the damn roads, cyclists.” And I have to ask: Um. Why are you reading my blog if you’re a cyclist hater? Is it not stated clearly in the mission statement of my blog that this blog is largely about cycling and how said cycling relates to my recovery as a widow? In case you forgot, I’ve reprinted the statement below (which also remains banked on the info bar on the right side of the blog):

    The intent of this blog is to outline my cycling and traveling adventures. My love of cycling has sustained me through some rough times in my life. I want to share my love with my friends, family, and anyone else interested. This is my story. This is how I learned to find a healthy way to deal with loss and depression. The high you get from exercise is legal and free. The endorphins it produces are better than any that can be given to you in a prescribed drug. It’s my drug of choice.

    So… Um… Doesn’t seem to be much question here about what my blog discusses. If you hate cyclists, does it not follow that you would then not really be that interested in reading this blog? Now, being the type of person who assumes the best in all people, I have to think you’re selecting that answer just to irritate me and inspire a rant. If so, okay, cool. I realize I take myself seriously–sometimes too seriously. I get it; you like to piss off the blogger. I have been known to be a ravel-rouser myself online (as my Highpointer friends well know).

    However, if you aren’t joking and you really harbor unabashed hate for cyclists, I don’t understand at all why you are reading this blog. Do you do it to aggravate yourself, the way I read fundamentalist gay-hating blogs and propaganda so that I can get fired up and battle-ready? (I only do this every once in awhile… and I’ve been good about not flaming these people on their own blogs.) Why are you here? I’m curious. Explain yourself.

    Just so you know, I just have no patience for haters of any kind (don’t have much patience for even myself when I’m in a hater mode). I would also suggest that perhaps you need to buy yourself a bicycle or take up running or other exercise you find less offensive because it’s obvious that you’re spending a bit too much time at home on the computer without exercise. If you exercised, your endorphins would be flowing and you’d be so high on the energy that you just wouldn’t even have the capacity to hate anyone… or be in such a general hurry in your life that the thirty seconds it takes to maneuver around “slow” moving vehicle such as a bicycle peculates such venomous hate within you.

    I would also ask you to revisit my TPL blog entries which explain in detail the reason I enjoy long challenging rides and how healthy these activities are for me (and could be for you too!). I’m sorry, but there just ain’t enough bike paths out there to please me. I ride 3-4 times a week and would get very bored if I confined myself to bike paths. Most bike paths are also generally flat and I’d never have the opportunity to burn the big calories trying to get my butt up some steep grade hill.

    Frankly, I don’t care less if you hate cyclists. I’m not getting off the road. So there :P But feel free to express why you have selected such a hateful way of responding to my poll. Just keep in mind that if you’re too nasty, I reserve the right to delete your comments. I’m not about hate here. It’s all about love. I don’t have time to deal with your personal psychological issues. As my favorite bicycle shop says, “Define your life. Ride a Bike.”

    Excuse me while I gloat

    I can’t help but feel a little glee about the Indian’s 10-2 win over the Yanks yesterday at their opening game in their brand-spanking new billion dollar stadium. I didn’t see the game yesterday, as I was at work, but my heart was filled with joy when it was the first thing I heard this morning. Please excuse me while I do a little victorious happy dance.

    The Yankees opened baseball’s fanciest and priciest ballpark Thursday with a performance that would have embarrassed Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig and other stars from their famous pinstriped past. After an 85-year run in a stadium that produced 26 World Series titles, New York saw its hitters fizzle and its bullpen come apart on a sunny afternoon in a 10-2 loss to the Cleveland Indians.

    Jhonny Peralta broke a seventh-inning tie with a two-run double off Jose Veras, and Grady Sizemore hit a grand slam into the right-field seats off Damaso Marte.

    “To come in here and do what we did is something we’ll always remember,” Sizemore said.

    The Indians have been off to a pathetic start this year, losing games to the Texas Rangers, Toronto, and Kansas City, but this more than makes up for it. Of course, it’s now the bottom of the 3rd inning for their second game against NY and the damn Yanks are up 2-1. Let’s hope the Indians pull out another 7th inning miracle. Or, better yet, just kick some Yankee ass. (Where did the pacifist go? Isn’t this why some of my hippy liberal friends hate sports? Pah! A little competitiveness is a good thing… it’s healthy…)

    Holy Crap: the Giant Defy Alliance Rocks!!

    Seeing me ogle the new Giant Defy Alliance, Derrick at Century Cycles offered to let me demo the bike for a day so that I could try it out on the hilly roads of the Cuyahoga Valley to see how it rides in my usual stomping grounds. So last night I took it on ABC’s Thursday night ride starting at Deep Lock Quarry.

    Oh. My. God. Not only does this bike look ever-so-sweet and aerodynamic, but it is the fastest little speed demon I’ve ever sat my butt on. I swear, this bike practically rides itself. I take no responsibility for whatever average speed I may have maintained on this last night–I am sure I was at least 1-2 miles faster in my average than normal but I don’t know for sure since the bike doesn’t have a computer on it. All I can say is that I must have been much faster than normal because I was just behind the leaders of the group the entire ride last night.

    Now my real fear with this bike was the fact that it has the new compact double crankset up front, meaning I’ve only got a large and small ring–the large ring being the same size as the biggest ring on my OCR, the small ring being just a tad larger than the granny ring on my OCR. I’m not the most technically apt person, but CC posted a blog entry about cranksets and I think I understand that there’s a balance between your crankset and the cassette you have in the back. Derrick assured me that the compact double on the Defy Alliance had almost the same gear range as my OCR–I believe he said 90%. What worried me was the low-end of the gear spectrum. Would this bike be able to go in just as low gear up hills as my OCR? Would it impede my ability to climb difficult hills in the valley (which is my favorite thing to do)?

    We only went up Major Road last night, which is one of the easier climbs out of the valley, so I can’t speak to how this bike would perform going up something grueling like Everett or Columbia. However, I will note that during this climb, I managed to pass an awful lot of people, more people than I usually do. I didn’t feel like I was missing any gears. Not only that, but the extra teeth on the 34-tooth “granny” ring seemed more efficient when spinning. I may not have been going very fast, but I sure felt like I was. The bike was grabbing the road.

    Somewhere in the middle of the ride, I came up with the analogy that my OCR is like a Toyota and the Defy Alliance is like upgrading to a Lexis. The Toyota is a fine car (as is the OCR 1 a fine bike), but when you step into a Lexis, your whole driving experience changes. That’s how it felt on the Defy Alliance. This bike rides smoothly and seems to absorb a lot of road rattle. I actually felt more stable on it and, when we rode down Valley Parkway in Brecksville, I found that I braked a lot less than I usually do (but, as TDB pointed out, I still clipped one foot out of my pedals). The bike handled firmly taking turns and I had the false illusion that I was completely safe.

    Having little technical knowledge of bikes, I can’t give you the specifics of why this bike is so enjoyable to ride. But as an avid cyclist who understands how things feel–at least as far as my experience extends to my OCR, my hybrid, and all the bikes I’ve owned in the past–this bike just feels great. I wasn’t expecting to notice as much of a difference as I did; in fact, I was worried I’d be disappointed because the bike was maybe “too die-hard road cyclist” for me to enjoy. Instead, I discovered that I may be more of a die-hard speed freak road cyclist than I originally thought I was. And I’m very depressed to learn that it’s not me who’s a good cyclist, but the bike I ride that makes me fast. What a sobering thing to discover!

    Of course, I now realize that I’m spoiled. I can’t imagine riding my OCR without thinking of the experience I had on the Defy Alliance. Which just frustrates the heck out of me. When I bought the OCR, I was planning on that being a bike that would last me a good fifteen years (barring any advances in cycling technology that I might become subject to). Although, I have to admit that a part of me has thought for awhile that I need to have two road bikes–one for commuting with a rack on the back and lower gears and one for faster riding, especially on flat rides. And during the winter, I’m always stressed about having my bike on the trainer, especially towards spring where the weather is so variable, because I have to take the bike off and on the trainer repeatedly. It would be nice to have a spare bike so that I don’t have to prematurely remove a bike from the trainer.

    To make matters more interesting, I’ve lately been thinking about selling the Beast and upgrading my hybrid bike to a Giant FCR or something similar that would be lighter and have gearing more like my road bike because I feel like the Beast’s gearing is too low for me to enjoy. So I guess there’s no end to what I can do with my bike purchasing. (Thus the reason behind my recent poll.)

    I know, I’m obsessed. Most people just have one bike, unless they work at a bike shop and are bigger junkies than me. But I have to admit that I kind of like having three bikes right now. Four would be good too. I’d probably stop myself after four.

    I’m not looking to buy at this moment. Now, though, I know I have some things to think about as far as optimizing my bike collection goes. I think I should work on considering what I’m going to do about my hybrid… Time to save money… And to start hocking non-athletic objects in my house to support my bike addiction…

    Memories of Mike in Haiku

    Yesterday did not inspire any writing on my so-called memoir; though try and try as I did, I just could not get any words out the way I envisioned them. Too much pressure or something. (I think I need to pretend I’m writing a blog entry in order to write them.) I did, however, come up with the following two haiku poems. I think they were inspired by remembering the simplicity of what I missed about Mike. Haikus are too easy. I’ve been using them a lot because I don’t have to say very much about how the memory made me feel. I enjoy using them to try to create images of a memory, especially when I really have little words to express the experience, and I just want to leave the impression about the memory that lingers in my own mind. Hopefully I did a good job here.

    Saturday mornings:
    Rumpled bed sheets. Hash browns, eggs.
    Love’s lazy muddle.

    Our most precious time together was on Saturday mornings, especially if he was gone all week on business. We’d wake up, fresh, and ready to face the day, but not without lingering first to just enjoy each other’s company. I miss the laziness of putzing around the house, eating Mike’s homemade hash browns with breakfast, and watching The Fifth Element or some other movie while we snuggled together on the couch. Afterwords, we’d shower and do whatever we’d planned for the day, but the first couple hours were often aimless.

    Hands grip my shoulders
    Kneading gently, tingling touch.
    Needing connection.

    Anytime we were out in public, Mike was usually right behind me, his hands on my shoulders as if craving the contact and couldn’t stand being unconnected with me. It was sweet, not clingy. I enjoyed the fact that he just reveled in being around me. The feeling was mutual. Our time together was usually quite precious, with his job taking him out of town so often, so when we were together, we got caught in each other’s gravity.

    Little Light of Love

    Instead of getting all sappy this year about this date, I thought I’d just put something up that reminds me of the good times with my husband, which, really, were connected strongly with our favorite movie, The Fifth Element. Yeah, we pretty much watched this movie religiously at least once a month, if not more. We had all the lines memorized. We were going to name our future son Korbin after Bruce Willis’ character. We were total Fifth Element nerds. We loved the message of the movie, the wacky sense of humor and the irony, Gary Oldman as Jean-Baptiste Emanuel Zorg, “Anyone else want to negotiate?”, Leelo Dallas multipasses, and the odd religious order of the movie.

    We had planned to eventually dress as Leeloo and Korbin Dallas for a G-Bash (a party my cousin Gary used to put on for Halloween) but alas time and fate prevented it from ever coming to fruition. And damn. We would have been a great Leeloo and Korbin, even though I don’t a body anything near Mila Jovovich’s perfection. But I could have done the hair; oh yes, I would have proudly dyed it that shade of orange and lived with it like that for months for one night of true Leeloo-ness. I wouldn’t have worn the bandage outfit, mind you (and you would thank God for this), but probably the one she wore the rest of the movie with the white t-shirt and orange suspender-like things. And boots. I would have kicked some party-going ass with Mike as my Korbin. Without even trying, he had Bruce Willis’ receding hairline.

    This movie rocked our world. We built our whole life around the movie’s philosophy that love is the one true thing that turns the evil of the Universe away. This was our movie and our song… as geeky as it might be, it’s quite romantic to me.