Impromptu Bike Path?

On my commute home along the (Summit County) bike and hike trail, I encountered, to my surprise, this abrupt redirecting of the bike path to navigate around the road construction at Seasons Road and Sullivan.

An awkward redirection of the bike path.

Literally, the path went through the front yard of this person on the corner. Which I think is okay as it appears they were digging on said lawn. Still, I felt as though I were doing something slightly bad and disrespectful.

I did like how Beau just rolled through the grass like nothing. Squee!

Bike Path

I hope these people have a nice lawn service to repair the damage done by all the bikes traversing their lawn. As you can see, a nice path is already worn into the grass.

Homemade sign and everything!

The construction may have Seasons Road closed off to car traffic, but the bikes can get through, dammit! As it should be.

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Ride to Work Season

I rode to work this morning, which is the second time I’ve been able to do so this year (the first time being last week). Have I mentioned how much I love to ride to work? If not, here it is for the record: I absolutely *LOVE* the freedom of riding my bike to work. It’s invigorating exercise that accomplishes both a morning workout and the act of transporting yourself to where you need to go. I feel energized all day at work; I have the ride home to look forward to. It makes me feel much more motivated to be here. Endorphins are SssSoooooooOOO good!

This morning it was a little damp out from what I assume was a rainfall in the early morning. The pavement was half wet and half dry. The smell of wet dirt, leaves, and trees filled my nose on the bike path and down Truxell Road, triggering some distant memories of Girl Scout camp for some reason. I was in a thoughtful happy place. It was divine.

Because I was on Beau, and I could, I took the tow path from Peninsula to Boston Mills Road. A rare treat to only pass two other people on the trail, both walking dogs and coming at me in the opposite direction. The Cuyahoga River shimmered in the breaking sun. The stillness of the woods was broken ever few minutes by the scampering of little creatures. I am so lucky to live beside such a beautiful national park.

There is still some snow on “Mt. Boston Mills,” struggling to maintain itself against the warmer day, and losing the battle. I look every day to see how much more is gone and I await the time I pass and there are no white-brown patches left. That will signal to me that spring has finally come and summer is nigh.

Beau’s only fault is his weight as I lug him up Snowville Road. My ascent is slower–or so it seems–than when I’m on Black Beauty but as TDB points out, who’s in a hurry to get to work?

I don’t know if I will get to ride to work any more times this week as spring rains are promised and the cooler temperatures may return. I am thankful, however, to have had this day. There’s plenty of summer ahead and more chances to enjoy my commute to work.

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Trees toss confetti
Amber, gold; crunching like foil
Beneath my two wheels.

A little autumn haiku for you, composed on a brisk September morning’s bicycle commute to work. Life is good. Go for a ride. Drink some coffee to warm you from the post-ride chill.

Another morning commute

For once, I decided to let it out a little down Boston Mills Road after the I-80 overpass because I figured I knew every bend in that road by now. Besides, the steepest part of this road is actually the hill that rolls you into the overpass hill and I’d already passed that part with my usual cowardice. (This part of the road yields a very steep downhill with a bend so you can’t see all the way to the bottom, but you need the speed from that hill to launch you up the next steep incline that makes the overpass, which is actually a pretty steep hill and not your standard overpass hill. I usually tap my brakes down it so that I don’t get as much of a push as other people I ride with do, which results in me having to climb more of the hill than most. Oh well. More calories burned for me!)

On the overpass bridge, I stopped to get snap a picture of I-80 and the valley (where I was actually headed) because it looked cool this morning with the fog hanging over it.

So I started down the other side of the overpass, talking myself through letting it out a little and telling myself not to brake as I sailed down the hill. I was doing pretty good. One of my ways of preventing myself from braking is to not allow myself to look at my computer to know how fast I’m actually going. So I can’t say how fast I was going. But it felt good and I wasn’t scared.

Until I rounded the second corner to find two deer, maybe 20 feet ahead, right smack in the middle of the road. Fortunately, they looked about as surprised about me as I was to see them there. They scampered off. Meanwhile, my natural reflex to brake and remove my left foot from the pedal had already kicked in so there was absolutely no threat of collision–not even a close call. My heart had lept into my throat anyway. This is exactly why I don’t let it all out and speed. Was this a warning from the Universe, trying to remind me the reason I am over-cautious on the bike? Ha!

But actually I was kind of bummed as I continued because I had to start pedaling again and I’d already passed the best grade for sailing down the hill. So any hope of breaking my usual 34mph barrier was probably broken. Darn!

On the flat part of Boston Mills, in the valley, I saw a mother and baby deer grazing in the field by the Boston Store. I stopped to grab a picture because it was just so darn cute. Especially since they weren’t anywhere near the road. Good deer–and animals, especially dogs–stay far away from the road where they could cause a cyclist to crash. Yes.

It was a pleasant commute, as always. It’s so quiet in the valley in the mornings, even with the traffic. There’s a peaceful state there that makes me glad to be pedaling instead of locking myself in the box of a car to get to work. This living only 16 miles from work thing is really working well for me. After tonight’s return home, I will be at 3,000 miles for the year. Hurrah!

The only thing bugging me this morning were my gears. I don’t know what the heck is going on with my bike but I’ve been having the worst time with my gears. I had a tune-up and I was having problems with rattling in my big ring. I took it into Century Cycles and Derrick had it running smoothly again. But something happened midway through the Wednesday night ride with ABC where my gears are now slipping slightly and clicking loudly in all three rings at certain positions on the back cassette. Especially annoying is the fact that some of my low granny gears are slipping, causing the whole pedal to spin for a second as if the gear is not quite in place. I need all of my low granny gears. I don’t understand what’s going on. I checked the chain and it’s still good. I’m wondering if my rear cassette is having issues. I looked at it, but I can’t see anything wrong (like bent cogs).

Oh well. I guess I have to lug it into Century Cycles again. I’m starting to get paranoid that they think I’m a groupie or something. I swear, I’m just having issues. With my Giant. I know, the horror! Maybe my bike is getting pissy with me because it knows I’m obsessing about that Surly Cross Check. I try to explain to Black Beauty that she needn’t be jealous; the Cross Check will have a different purpose. Black Beauty, my Giant, will always be number one. I wish she would understand that!

Number 1 reason why bike commuting rocks

Last night, I took the bike trail loop from Seasons Road that follows along Rt. 8 to get home from work. Look at the traffic southbound on Route 8.

To be fair, this was traffic for Blossom Music Center (a local concert venue) so it’s not the norm. And I usually don’t take Route 8 to get home as I can travel to and from work in my car by using back roads. However, I was really glad at that moment to be on the bike trail and not stuck in that traffic!

See? The bike path offers no-wait clear access in the same general direction! Ahhh…. the freedom of pedaling–no jams, no stop-n-go, no angry people flipping each other off. Cyclists are happy because they are living on the high of their endorphins. Have you ever noticed that out on the road, cyclists wave at each other as they pass going in opposite directions? I can’t remember the last time someone didn’t say, “Hello!” cheerfully as they passed me. That just doesn’t happen in a car. Cycling is better for you emotionally as well as physically. There’d be no road rage if we all pedaled where we needed to go, that’s for sure.

Anyway, I had a good ride home last night. Peninsula was a little uncomfortably busy, but when I saw the traffic on Route 8 I remembered why. There was a Lenyrd Skynard (sp?) concert or something going on. It’s a good thing I didn’t decided to try to climb Northampton (I had thought about it). Northampton, for you out-of-towners, being the one of the main roads to the Blossom gates. It’s normally a nice quiet road unless there is a concert going on… It reminds me why I don’t really like going to Blossom for rock concerts… seeing the Cleveland Orchestra or Garrison Keillor there is one thing, but rock concerts are a ZOO.

Ten observations from the bike seat

So I’ve now ridden my bike to work a total of five times, twice this week and I might do it again on Friday to replace the day of cycling I’m missing on Wednesday do to a social engagement (going to the zoo for free with Diane… in choice between bikes and animals, animals always win, so long as they aren’t running after my bike). Anyway, I’ve made several observations on my morning commute that I’d like to share here…

1. Red pick-up trucks pass too close. Always. I’m serious. I don’t know what it is about the color red on a pick-up truck but it seems to radiate a message of “I ain’t movin’ aside for any of ya’ll [insert expletive of your choice] cyclists.” These are the people most likely to express their feelings of distaste as they pass. In fact, just about a month ago, one such gentlemen passing in a red pickup truck on State Road shouted rudely told us all just how he felt about us as we ABCers regrouped at the top of Truxell. This gentlemen did not hesitate to share with us his other prejudices by using an abusive word for homosexuals. Nice. Also, I’m pretty sure that the guy who threw trash on me last year was in a red pickup truck. It was dark and I couldn’t tell the color, but it was definitely a pickup truck–one of those “big bubba” kind with the diesel engines–and my guess is that it was red.

2. Suspected fellow commuters. There is a gentlemen sporting a uniform like an auto mechanic’s on a hybrid or mountain bike who passes me every time I ride at about where the bike path crosses Bridgewater Blvd. I’m guessing he’s commuting too. I’m wondering if he likes to do it, or–I know, I’m overly suspicious–he’s forced to ride to work because he has a DUI. He seems pretty nice. He always nods at me as I pass.

I also see a few other dudes with rack packs or panniers passing along the bike path. I wonder if they are commuting.

3. Deer like Boston Mills Road. Not a day–morning or night–has gone by without a sighting of a deer along Boston Mills Road to send a jolt of fear through my body. You never know what those suckers are going to do–are they going to cross the street? go back from whence they came? come charging at you? Either way, it scares the crap out of me, causing me to unclip. I even saw one on my climb up Boston Mills this afternoon. Right after I saw a dude go whizzing by me in that really steep part after (for me but before for him) the I-80 bridge. Yikes!! That’s why I can’t get myself to speed between the two hills before the bridge. (Which you kind of need to do to get up the next hill.)

4. The valley is quiet in the morning. Which makes for great, pleasant travel. In the evening, it’s more busy and less pleasant. But I’m used to it since I ride in the valley with ABC.

5. An hour goes by fast when you’re enjoying the commute. No one seems to understand that at work when I tell them how long it takes. They’re thinking in terms of being bored in their cars. They don’t understand the exhilaration from a morning work out and the view of the world seen slowly (slower than a car, anyway) from the bike seat. Everyone should do it, there’d be a lot less road rage.

6. Snowville is a frakking long road. I thought the little “steps” on the road make it easier, but it really makes it harder because there’s a lot of gear-changing going on. I have to do the first part in granny, then for about a mile I can handle my middle ring, but at last I must switch into granny again to get up a few small but tough parts, most notably, that hellish little bump in front of Old Orchard Road. Ouch!! I almost think Columbia would be better because after the really hard part at the beginning, it tapers off into a steady steepness which is easier to manage. Still, I am not complaining. I love the fight!

7. The long way home is an adventure. I’ve been taking a direct route to work and the not-so-direct route home on these beautiful days I’ve been afforded. I’ve learned some new streets and explored. My route to and from work is “general.” I can chose what hill to climb or descend and there’s several different ways, so I can’t get bored with the same-old, same-old route. I didn’t have such choice on my commute to Boulder from Broomfield.

8. Once you’re on the bike, you feel inspired to not use your car at all. Just this week, on the way home from work, I purposely directed my route to allow me to stop at an ATM to pick up some cash; today I rode from work to a meeting I had at my church in Kent, adding 6 extra miles to my route and taking me on parts of the Bike & Hike trail that I don’t use so much. I like not using my car for a day or two. Not only do I feel more “green,” but that’s less money in gas I have to pay for a very short commute to work.

9. I’m filled with energy! Gotta love the endorphins! The extra energy helps me better deal with the day at work. I find myself more patient. Even though I’m still stressed. In the evenings, I feel like I can still take on the world. Which makes it hard for me to get to bed. It’s like going to work out after work… it gives you almost too much energy.

10. I love the freedom of cycling more than any other activity. Duh. That much is obvious. But the commute to work in the still of the morning, while the rest of the world is hardly stirring, awakes within me a zest for life. I know that I should take up some other activities–I’d love to learn to kayak, I haven’t gone hiking in forever–but I just can’t stop myself from getting into that saddle. It feels so good. Work out and freedom of the road. What more could you ask for?

Well, pleasant motorists and a lack of road rage. Keep dreaming, I know.

Going green, part 2

Well, the commute worked out great. This evening’s weather was about 72 and sunny, a very nice way to end a day. I took Snowville to Dewey, and then turned onto Columbia for my descent. Snowville was quite busy at 5:10pm and the drivers were getting quite feisty with honking horns and lots of close passes by. Ugh. Gotta love Ohio drivers. Though, when I vented to my dad later, he said that it’s Friday and people are more easily annoyed on Fridays.

Well, it was a good evening. After Columbia, I went down the only way out of the valley in that direction–Riverview through Peninsula–and because I was pressed for time on meeting with my dad, I rode up Truxell. Then I went down Sullivan to Seasons to Norton and then Stow Road towards home. That trek down Norton to Stow added some miles on–if I’d been wise, I would have taken the Bike & Hike from Seasons, but I was feeling sad because I hadn’t ambled down Seasons and Norton for while.

Anyway, I ended with the following not-too-shabby stats for the entire commute. Commuting to work via bike is definitely GAME ON!! I may switch to wearing a backpack, though, instead of using the rack pack. I don’t like the way the rack pack throws off my weight distribution when I’m standing on the pedals.

35.55 miles
15.7 avg (KICK ASS)
34.5 max (of course, because I certainly didn’t wail the speed down Columbia… I suck)

Lessons learned: I’ve gotta stop pushing hard gears… My knee was hurting for a bit when I got home…

At Ray’s with the Mars Dad, I consumed two big beers: Great Lakes’ Grass Roots Ale and a Paul Lanner. Yay! A day well spent. Now to bridal shower hell tomorrow… (BOO!) but happy ride on Sunday (YAY!).

Mars Girl Goes Green

With just about every business advertising a new green policy, I felt inspired to “go green” myself and try to commute a few days to work. Okay, the main point is not going green at all (though not using gas to ride 16 miles to work is a plus). I’d want to ride my bike to work even if gas were a plentiful resource and cost .02 cents a gallon. I just like to ride my bike!

So today, I took the Hike & Bike trail where it connects about 2 miles from my house on Fishcreek Road and exited this fine trail at Boston Mills Road to descend into the valley. For those not familiar with the area, Boston Mills is mostly down hill. There’s one part where you have to climb a hill to get over the overpass for I-80. It’s a pretty steep uphill, but fortunately, it is preceded by an equally as steep (or maybe steeper) downhill that pretty much sails you most of the way up the overpass hill. The only thing that sucks is when cars get behind you because they can’t pass until they get up the hill with you (since they can’t see the oncoming traffic); I get all self-conscious about them trailing behind me as I climb, I feel as though I am being watched, but it makes me pump harder while my heart leaps into my throat nervously. Also, you never know if a car is going to pass you anyway, potentially causing a wreck if on-coming traffic comes over the hill. I shouldn’t worry about these things. It’s not even that trafficky on Boston Mills Road. But inevitably the one or two cars that do go down it every half hour happen to come along when I’m making my descent.

Snowville Road was a little tough of me this morning. I don’t think it had to do with the weight of my rack pack (which carried my clothes). Probably had more to do with not eating breakfast before I left. I didn’t used to eat before my 20-mile commute in Colorado either. But I was 130lbs then and I ate a lot less than I do today. Plus, my commute from Broomfield to Boulder was rolling, not mostly flat with one long 2-3 mile climb like my ride here is.

Despite the pounding of my heart, I did make it up Snowville without a single stop. I decided that I am going to keep commuting to work by bike at least until that first half mile of Snowville becomes easy. And then I’ll head for Columbia. Ha! I want good climbing legs, dammit!

The weather this morning was gloomy. Gray cloud cover, but no rain; about 60 degrees. Humid. The clouds are supposed to clear up this afternoon to yield a nice sunny day of 73 degrees. So my commute home should be nice. I’m meeting up with the Mars Dad for dinner at Ray’s tonight. No riding tomorrow due to commitments, but I’ll be back in the saddle on Sunday for Cleveland Touring Club’s Sunday in June Ride on which I guess I’ve been talked into doing the century route by Michael. “It will keep our fitness for XOBA,” he claims. Seems to me the 62 miles I signed up for would do that just fine. I kid–I love doing centuries. Except during the last 20 miles of the actual century.

Anyway, I thought I’d packed everything in my little cleanup kit here at work, including hair dryer. However, while cleaning up (de-smelling myself) in the girls’ room, I realized I’d forgotten the most important thing: a brush! Agh. So, my hair is in less than ideal condition. Fortunately, I’d put it in a french braid this morning for the ride. I look okay, but I would have liked to have curled my bangs and maybe redone the french braid. I guess I need to go buy a second brush. I can’t believe I forgot that. I guess I just assumed I’d be okay because I keep a brush in my purse… except, um, I only take my wallet with me on the bike. Duh.

This route turned out to be 16.06 miles, which, to me, is great for a commute. It’s about the same distance, though more strenuous, as it was for me to ride from Stow to Twinsburg when I worked for another company. Despite the harder route, this commute is prettier since I can go through the valley. My job in Twinsburg was in an industrial park and there was lots of traffic all the way into Twinsburg, most of which did not move over for bicycle traffic. A semi clipping you too closely is not fun.

My stats for the commute to work:

16.06 miles
15.4 avg
34.5 max (because I wussed on Boston Mills Road… took the downhill too conservatively… had a deer scare on the bike trail earlier so I was all nervous)

My time was great. Just over an hour is a GREAT commute time! I’m definitely going for twice a week once the weather cooperates.