For those of you not on my exclusive Christmas card list, I thought I would post my annual Christmas card letter for this year as well as provide an image of the Christmas photo card I sent with my letter. Stamps are expensive, so please don’t feel left out if you didn’t get a card and letter from me. By myself, I send nearly 80 cards a year… and I’m not even married.
I started the tradition of sending a photo card and letter during the first year of marriage to Mike. We found it a great way to let people know what we were up to. I figured that you didn’t need to have kids to send neat photocards. I kind of wish all my friends did it; it adds a personal touch to the annual message.
Nowadays, I try to sound upbeat so as not to depress people with my widow dribble. After all, that’s what this blog is for, right? ;)
Dear Friends and Family,
It seems just days ago that I was sitting here composing my Christmas letter. Not to sound cliché, but for some reason this year seemed faster than most to me. I must be getting fully back into the swing of things, reinventing my social life or something, for I feel that I’ve been incredibly busy doing almost nothing at all. Well, not nothing, but I guess I have less to show for this passing year than I had hoped (i.e., when I am I going to write/publish a short story or book??). But I’ve definitely been very busy with a great many activities—volunteering with my church (Unitarian Universalist Church of Kent) and my bike club, doing bike rides both registered and self-motivated, hanging out with friends, blogging (see, there’s some writing), and going to Indians games with Dad. It certainly feels good to be busy.
I am sure you’re all just dying to know what my cycling mileage count is for this year. I’m proud to say that I continue to blow up all previous records with a grand total this year of 4,575.81. And the year is not over yet. There still may be sunny, warmish (40 degrees and above, that is) days to come with this mild year we’ve been having. I have to admit I’m a little sheepish about admitting these mileage totals now; there will come a year when I don’t actually beat the previous year’s record and it will be utter disappointment to all. So I’m just saying this to prepare you for that day, okay?
500 of those miles in the count were done during my summer vacation, the highlight of my year: the Across Ohio Bicycle Adventure (XOBA). July 25th through August 1st, I participated in an annual group ride from Eaton, Ohio—about ten miles from the Indiana border in southwestern Ohio—to New Castle, Pennsylvania. I had the time of my life! One entire week of cycling 50-70 miles per day, seeing parts of Ohio I didn’t know were there, and camping each evening on the lawn of a high school or university. Believe it or not, it was a very, very relaxing vacation for me. Just what I needed, really. And I’m proud to say that I rode every mile from one side of the state to the other. To make it an official crossing, I even rode the ten miles to the Indiana border from Eaton, which was an optional ride for those souls like myself who have to do everything officially.
Despite what you may assume about my level of fitness, I would not say that this ride was easy. We had a slow start of three 50 mile days (on one of those days I took the optional 100 mile route) which culminated in a very hard 70 mile day of constant hills from Millersport to Loundonville (where Mohican is located). Mother Nature added an extra challenge to this day’s ride by providing a constant, steady downpour of rain for all but the last ten miles of the ride. If you think riding in the rain is retched enough, try it in hill country where there are soaring downhill descents and you can’t take them at full speed because you might hydroplane. And most people assume cycling is a relatively safe activity!
Anyone who knows me knows that I am patient under almost any unwanted conditions—cold, wind, harrowing uphill climbs—but that I’m absolutely insufferable in the rain. I pity my riding pals who stuck with me and my sour expression throughout that day; I know I was not a pleasant companion. What doesn’t kill you, though, makes you stronger. I still don’t like the rain, but I lived through all the discomforts of that day which grants me all the bragging rights I desire. =)
The most difficult part of the ride, however, was the last two days. It seems that I may have pushed myself too hard on the Loundonville route for I ended up with an overwork injury in my right knee. At one point on the second-to-last day, my knee was throbbing with so much pain that I actually had to stop and cry—both tears of frustration (the realization that I might have to quit) and anguish. The route took us through town (Kent, in fact) where I was able to stop at a CVS where I bought a knee brace and some ibuprofen. I immediately took three pills, donned the knee brace, and pushed on. I told myself that I was only going to make myself go the next 30 miles and then assess where I was at. I didn’t want to call the “SAG wagon” to come pick me up; I had to finish my goal. But, I knew, if the pain was too overwhelming I would have to stop. Fortunately, the route was relatively flat that day (I found that going up hills hurt the knee worse) and the brace and ibuprofen did their jobs. When I reached that 30 mile mark, I decided I felt okay enough to push on. The pain was still there—though dulled in the background—and I didn’t know at the time what kind of terrain lay ahead. So for the remainder of the ride, I made my goals simple: to make the next ten miles; then when that was reached, the next ten; and so on. To my great joy, every ten mile goal was another ten miles I’d done and I managed to push on all the way to the overnight stop at Youngstown State University. I’m so glad I did because I would have missed the absolutely beautiful leg of the ride that went through Mill Creek Park—a metropark outside of Youngstown. I probably could have done without the last five miles through the Youngstown ghetto, though. Ugh! I had to attach myself to a big burly guy I met at the Handel’s (one of the “official” ice cream stops along the route) which made me feel somewhat safer.
I’m proud to say that I did make it from border to border of Ohio and without any great injury to my knee. After a week of rest after XOBA (in which I babied my knee and did not ride my bike), I found myself achieving newer and better cycling goals the rest of the season. I climbed hills I’d never climbed before and I conquered hills I’d walked on some rides in the previous years. Most importantly, I think my experience with “pushing through the pain” on XOBA showed me just how tenacious of an individual I am when it comes to completing a goal. There is a great comfort in that. To me, it means I can overcome anything; mind over matter. I guess I’ve probably proven that to myself over the last eight years in a lot of other ways too.
XOBA was really a lot of fun. The theme was ice cream and so each day the route went to one or more renown local ice cream shop. Apparently, Ohio is known for its ice cream. I didn’t partake in ice cream every day, but I did discover a lot of new ice cream places to visit (Young’s Jersey Dairy near Springfield and Velvet Ice Cream in Utica were my favorites). Additionally, I experience a lot of the back roads of Ohio. Say what you will about my state, but I think there’s a lot of hidden beauty there that people don’t often see when traveling through it by car. And I got to experience it all at a bike’s pace—from planes spraying farmer’s fields to the Ohio Small Town Museum (in Ashville) to Slate Run Living Historical Farm to Ed Jeffers Barber Museum (in Canal Winchester) to empty county routes in the middle of nowhere and unheard of sleepy towns. I saw it all and I loved every minute. It’s not often that you get to see your own state with the eyes of a tourist. I found lots to love and appreciate. What more can you ask for in a vacation?
Alas, my vacation adventures have not ended for the year. In December, I embark on a trip to Utah for skiing with a friend lost and found again. I’ve never been to Utah before. I’m told that their skiing is even better than Colorado. Of this, I’m yet skeptical. But skiing out west is skiing at its best and I’m looking forward to it. I also plan to end the year with a four day weekend trip to Holiday Valley (in New York) for eastern skiing over New Year’s weekend. For me, every season yields something fun to do outside and I’m prepared for whatever Mother Nature allows.
Anyway, I’ve yammered long enough about my adventures. I hope that 2009 has given you an assortment of your own great adventures; may 2010 bring even better ones! The best adventures in life are often the ones you least expect. Here’s to health, happiness, and avarice in the coming year.
Love, Peace, and Fulfilling Adventures,