Saturday, June 26, 2010

Let's Go Ride a Bike Summer Games!

I'm blogging from New York City today! I'm going to New Jersey for my 25 year high school reunion, and staying with my Dad in Manhattan for part of the time I'm here. I didn't bring my bike this time, though. Too many logistical hassles between here, the hotel and home. It's Saturday and I haven't been for a ride since Wednesday-- I'm having withdrawals here...

I wanted to make sure I got my official Summer Games post in before this segment finished-- I've actually been doing many of the activities listed, but I haven't been blogging that much these past few weeks.

One of the challenges this time around was to carry a load on your bike. I do this fairly regularly as I try to bike to work as often as I can, and that means hauling loads of clean and dirty linens back and forth (I'm a massage therapist). My hybrid had a great basket on the back to haul stuff in, but sinceI got my crank forward back in October of last year I've been without a basket. That meant lugging three or four sets of linens in a messenger bag-- not fun at all. It also meant that I couldn't do much grocery shopping if I needed to get things like milk. As I posted a week or so ago, I had a rack installed on my crank forward and I've bungeed a basket to it. Mostly I've been hauling my camera around, but here's what I got last week:

Lavender! Here's a closer look:
I stopped by the Flower Wagon and bought seven new lavender plants. I'm going to edge my driveway with them. I underestimated the amount I needed, though-- I need at least seven MORE plants to make it the whole way down the drive. Anyway, I felt so very European toting my lavender on my bike! And it smelled great, too.

Another Summer Games task is to do some kind of maintenance task, big or small. Of course I wash my bike regularly and I check the tires daily and fill them if necessary. The last thing I want is a pinch flat, especially on that rear tire.

The one thing on the list I really wanted to do was read a book about cycling. I picked up

Bike Snob: Systematically & Mercilessly Realigning the World of Cycling

by BikeSnobNYC at the Borders by the Rockaway Mall in New Jersey. It's very funny and I also love that he opens the book talking about the Amish (except he's wrong when he says they don't wear sneakers-- some of them do). The illustrations are great as well-- I would recommend this book to any bicyclist who's willing to poke fun at themselves, and even to those that aren't-- they might climb down from their high horses and mingle with the hoi polloi!

I also have a subscription to Bicycle Times magazine. I love it because it's mostly about regular people doing regular bicycle riding. Some of the stuff they write about goes right over my head, like some of the technical stuff about brakes or whatever, but it's very balanced between the technical and the mundane. Perfect for me, lol.

I hope to get a ride in on Monday or Tuesday. I've been missing my bike!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Bike Freedom Valley!

Otherwise known as INSANITY! And I mean that in a good way, of course!

Let me say two things right at the start: first, I only took two pictures today, despite the fact that there were many interesting sights along the way, and second, this ride kicked my butt! I finished, though, and I wasn't even the last one to roll in!

I woke up at just after three this morning and couldn't get back to sleep; I was too excited about the ride, I guess. I finally got on the road at about 5:30 (because even though I was up early I still couldn't leave on time). Unfortunately I kept having problems with my bike rack and had to stop three times to monkey around with it until I got it the way I needed it. So now I was running late-- registration check-in was from 6:30 to 7:30, with a projected start time of 7:45 am and I wanted to get there before seven so I could get a good parking spot!

I got to Kelly Drive in Philly at about 7:15 and found a spot easily. I had pre-registered, so getting my number, cue sheet, and other stuff was quick and easy. I took a picture of the riders assembling at the start, as you can see above, but it doesn't show AT ALL how many people were there. I don't know what the number was, but hopefully it will be on the web soon and I'll post it.

Right from the start I knew it was going to be a bit rough. At eight in the morning the temperature was 77 degrees with a humidity level of 82 percent. The humidity did go down as the day went on, but the temperature went up, with the "real feel" going as high as 98 degrees!! Oh misery!

I opted for the 35 mile shared roads ride (meaning shared with cars). The info on this option said the terrain was hilly, and I assumed that meant something similar to "Lancaster County hilly": rolling hills with an occasional steeper climb, with lovely flat sections in between to give some rest. Well, I was wrong. VERY WRONG!

The first fourteen miles were torturous. Seriously, if I had realized how hilly it was going to be I never would have thought I could have ridden it. I'm not sure that I've mentioned it here on my blog, but I am one overweight chick right now. I won't say how much, but it's significant. Maybe someday I'll post some before and after pictures. Anyway...

I actually had a little mental breakdown at about mile eight when I realized that it was going to be an incredibly challenging ride and I still had 27 miles to go. I sat on the side of the road and cried for about twenty minutes, wondering how in the heck I was going to do this thing. I just decided that I would go as slow as needed to, walk if I needed to, and rest if I needed to. It would be that simple.

And that's exactly how I did it. I walked up quite a few hills, lol. The first rest stop, at Villanova University, was around mile fifteen. The oranges, bagels and cold drinks revived my spirits! The best part? It was mostly all downhill to the next stop, about ten miles farther down the road.

Along the way I met this guy, whose name I can't remember, and his horse Showtime:

I don't usually think of cowboys and Philadelphia as really going together, but they look awesome don't they? He said Showtime was 27 years old-- he's in great shape for such an old guy!

I didn't get a picture, but there was a couple riding a recumbent tandem who always seemed to be either just in front of me or just behind. The woman was in the front seat doing the driving while the man was in the back seat strumming a blue ukelele! And they were singing as they went along. I wish I'd taken their photo.

I also rode for a while with a woman from Berks County, and we exchanged numbers at the end of the ride, with hopes of getting together and doing some biking.

The last leg of the ride was on the Schuylkill River Trail (pronounced SKOO kill, but with a G sound in the middle there, too). After a few miles you could opt to get back on the street in Manayunk (MANny unk), or follow the trail the whole way back. Since the trail option was also the flat option, that's the one I chose! And it really was a trail-- packed dirt and small rocks, running through trees along the Schuylkill River. I saw two big turtles sunning themselves on a fallen tree trunk and I stopped to take their picture, but just as I was getting my camera out some people rode by and the turtles slid back into the water. At that point I just wanted to get to the finish so I put the camera away and pedaled on.

When I got to the start/finish point I rang my bell like a crazy woman for about thirty seconds. I was too tired to whoop it up any other way. I got a quick butt massage-- yes, butt massage (and legs, too). I needed it something awful! I grabbed a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and after resting for a half hour or so I loaded up my bike and headed home.

I will definitely do this ride again next year, and I will definitely choose the same ride option that I did this time around. I want to see how much I improve over the next twelve months! Although it was a tough ride for me, I'm glad that I underestimated the term "hilly." If I had really understood it I never would have chosen to try the 35 mile route and challenged myself.

I think I'll take a rest from riding tomorrow... but maybe not...

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Lots and lots of miles this weekend...

Or so it seemed anyway. I did close to thirty on Friday, twenty on Saturday and just over twenty today!
My main ride for Friday was the Long Ears Loop again. Still no baby mule but look above-- it's a black lab sitting in a tree house! This treehouse is in a goat pen and they climb all over it and play on it. The dog's name is Tika and she lives in the pen with the goats. If you go over to the fence she'll bring you a ball so you can throw it for her over and over and over and over again... This pen is another Amish farm just across the way from where the twins live. In addition to Tika and the goats there are cows, a bull, and horses of course. They also run a store that sells items in bulk. I haven't actually shopped there because I don't really need any bulk items.

This little beauty lives on a farm about a mile past the baby's farm. When I stopped to have a drink and a rest she came right over to check me out. As soon as I brought my camera out she got shy and wouldn't look at me! Until her buddy came over, too:

Later I rode down to the Cozy Crop House to do a few massages, and then rode from there to my mom's at about 10:30 pm! It's only about two miles from CCH to her house but it was DARK. I do have head and tail lights on my bike, but it was a tiny bit unnerving to be riding on somewhat lonely country roads that late at night-- the rustlings in the cornfields and long grass were the worst!

Saturday morning I went on a sixteen mile ride with the bike club and it was hard. The route was hilly as heck (because flat is a relative term in Lancaster County-- and I mean that seriously, not sarcastically, lol). It sure seemed like the pace was faster than eleven miles per hour, but that could have been because the hills were wearing me down. I don't have a problem with shorter hills, or ones where there's a downhill first to gain momentum but those long, low-grade ones just kill me. And there were plenty of those kinds of hills on this ride! The upside is that I didn't have to get off and walk any of them, and I kept the pace pretty much. I did fall behind from time to time but once I got caught up I stayed with the main group until I tired on a hill. Luckily for me I wasn't the only one struggling a bit so I had plenty of company, lol.

Today there was a twenty mile ice cream ride scheduled, but the only ones who showed up were me and the leaders (they ride a tandem). It was beastly hot-- 89 degrees with humidity at 73 percent! Like a sauna or something. Since it looked like thunderstorms could roll in we decided to ride around Lititz rather than out towards Ephrata-- that way if it did start to storm we would be close to home. We went about 15 miles, stopping for ice cream at the end. I had a root beer float and boy did it hit the spot on such a hot day!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Thirty miles of beautiful riding and then a few in the rain...

It's twins! Alright, I don't know if they're really twins but they're certainly a well-matched pair. They live on an Amish farm in Warwick Township and I can't say that I've ever seen them pulling a buggy or doing any kind of farm work or even being ridden around, so I can't imagine what their function is. I doubt they're just pets, though.

I don't think I've mentioned that I'm going to be riding Bike Freedom Valley on June 20th. It's a non-competitive bike ride in Philadelphia with the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia. You can choose from a number of different routes, and I've chosen the 35-mile ride from Villanova to Spring Hill and back. To that end, I've been trying to up my daily miles in preparation.
On Monday I rode 22 miles in the morning and then another 8 in the evening. It was a gorgeous day for a bike ride! Sunny, dry, relatively cool and a little breezy. I did the "Long Ears Loop" in the morning hoping to get some good shots of the baby mule, but he and his mom were nowhere to be seen. I did get some waves from the adorable little Amish girls in their black pinafores as I went by, though. They also have a stand selling strawberries and rhubarb so I'll have to make sure I bring some money with me for next time. Fresh strawberries right out of the strawberry patch are delicious!
I was obviously taken with this wheat field... at least I think it's wheat. I guess I'm going to have to do some research! What I loved about this field is that it looked so soft. I didn't actually touch it, though, so I'm not sure. I tried to get a good close up of at least one stalk, but it was too windy to get a decent one.

Tuesday I was in Delaware most of the day and so didn't get a chance to ride at all. Yesterday I decided to try and do the Spooky House Ride before the rain got here. Of course I was about halfway done when it started coming down; I was soaked by the time I got home! I'm going to have to spend some time cleaning my bike today because it's covered in mud splashes and worm bits-- but I can say with confidence that my new bike rack did an excellent job of keeping that stuff off of ME, lol.
I did stop to take a picture of these wild roses despite the water. They look like they're about done and I was afraid the rain would knock all the petals off before I get back own this way again.

Unfortunately the Wednesday night ride with the bike club was rained out, too. I can only make the bike club rides when I don't have work in the evening, so it was disappointing to have no work and no bike ride! Especially when it's an ice cream ride...

Here's to next Wednesday then!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Look! It's my dad riding a bike!

My dad also came down for a visit this weekend and of course I asked him to go for a bike ride. I've asked him before and the answer was always no, but this time he decided to go for it. He rode the hybrid and he wore a helmet, which made me happy.

We rode Saturday and Sunday, both times meeting Sam downtown for breakfast. My mom also came to breakfast on Sunday. Here's Sam and my dad on Saturday:

And here's one that my brother might like better...

I tried to explain to my brother and my dad the concept of bicycle driving as opposed to bicycle riding, because I think it's the best way to approach biking on the road. I don't think I did the greatest job, considering that I kept remembering one more thing I had to tell them and then a few minutes later would remember another thing I needed to tell them and so on and so on. In a nutshell bicycle driving, or vehicular cycling, can be understood in this statement from John Forester, who originated the system: "Cyclists fare best when they act and are treated as drivers of vehicles." Riding with them made me realize how much I've learned about safe bicycle operation over the past year or so.

This is not to say that they don't know how to operate bikes or are dangerous or something! Not at all. Just that riding with people who don't do bicycle driving makes me realize how much safer and effective it really is-- for motorists and bicyclists.

So my dad and I rode down by the meadow reclamation area both days. For someone who hasn't ridden a bike in about fifty years (according to him) he did a lot better than I did when I started riding again after a long time away from it! We rode a little over eight miles on Saturday and eleven miles on Sunday.

There was a fishing derby going on own at Lititz Run today. I had hoped we could take a break there and rest for a while, but all the sitting areas were taken-- unless you wanted to sit in the damp grass. I sure didn't want to sit there and my dad didn't either, so we just walked around and watched for a little bit and I took this picture of some cattails:

My dad said he wants to ride again when he comes for a visit. It'll be fun!

Friday, June 4, 2010

So my brother Sam and his girlfriend Mary are visiting from Florida, and I convinced Sam to go for a bike ride with me. Here he is riding my old hybrid-- by extension my sister's old hybrid, since she gave it to me in the first place! As you can see he refused to wear a helmet. No comment from me on that; it's his brain. Ok, actually I do have a comment. I think you should always wear a helmet while biking but of course he's old enough to decide for himself what he wants to do. I will say this-- even though he's puffing away on a cigarette here he still rode faster than me, lol. Of course he did have the more efficient bike to ride...We went downtown to Spill the Beans for breakfast (of course) so I could have my usual scrambled eggs and potatoes. It was far too humid to sit outside. Afterward I went to the Matthew 25 thrift shop to look at stuff-- you can often find beautiful handmade afghans there for like five dollars-- and then sat around and took pictures while I waited for Sam to get done on the phone. I think he talks on the phone more than anyone I know, other than myself.You can kind of see my new narrow tires and rack (I bungeed the basket to it). Here's a better shot:I know; now it looks even more dorky than it did before. Awesome!

But I've had a heck of a time with this bike these past few days. First there was the flat over Memorial day weekend, and then there was the whole gear issue... yes, a gear issue and it really put a damper on my ride with the bike club!

I picked up my bike from the bike shop on Wednesday night and went right to the ice cream ride start point. As I was tooling around in the parking lot, I could feel that the gears weren't shifting quite right, but it didn't seem awful. Certainly not anything that would cause me to not ride-- it would just be a little rough shifting from time to time.

I can assure you that it was a fricking disaster! Once we got going I could only keep it in first gear or seventh gear-- the lowest or the highest-- everything else just went ka-clunk-ka-clunk-ka-clunk and wouldn't stay. Well, every once in a while I could get it to third or fourth for a time, but as soon as I had to shift I fell way behind. I was so embarrassed! The sweep stayed with me, and we didn't fall way way back, but enough to make me frustrated.

We rode about six miles to Rita's in Mt. Joy. There were about twelve on the ride I think (I was too absorbed with my problems to pay attention) and it was a beautiful evening. And as one of the other riders mentioned, one of the absolute best ways to see Lancaster County is by bike! I would definitely like to do this ride again when I can enjoy it rather than suffering like I did, lol.
I don't think anyone at Green Mountain did anything wrong with my bike, I just think that the internal gear thingy is complicated and also uncommon. At any rate, I decided to take my bike back to the place where I bought it and have them look at it. After all, they put it together in the first place.

Shirk's is about 30-40 minutes from my house depending on traffic-- and that means farm machinery and buggy traffic! It's literally out in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by farms. I do believe the owners are Mennonite, and they speak both English and some kind of German dialect, too. They also wear the standard strict Mennonite clothing with the suspenders and porkpie-looking hats. They don't have a website or I would link it.

They spent about ten minutes messing around with my bike and it was done! And they even adjusted my brakes and tightened up my handlebar stem. And best of all, my bike runs perfectly now! I won't go anywhere else for bike related stuff ever again.

Whew-- what a week!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

I think this'll be fun!

I've decided to enter the Summer Games at Let's Go Ride a Bike, a nifty website/blog I came across yesterday. The Games actually started May 17, but the first round ends June 7 so I'm making it in just under the wire!

There are three different categories composed of five different activities. All you have to do is complete at least two activities in the featured category to be entered in drawings for all kinds of cool stuff. Obviously that's a way simplified explanation; click on the picture above to get all the details! And give it a try! I never win anything so I won't be holding my breath, lol. I love bike challenges, though, so this is right up my alley.

I did ride today for just a short bit-- downtown for breakfast, to the bank and on to the dentist to pay a bill. Then I took my bike over to Green Mountain Cyclery to have some new tires and also a rack put on my bike. I've decided to try narrower tires to see if I can make my riding a titch more efficient-- but they're going to hang on to my old ones in case I don't like the feel of these new ones. I LOVE riding on fat tires-- so comfortable and easy in many ways. But I'm wanting to go longer distances now and it makes sense to do what I can to facilitate that.

As for the rack, a couple of people told me that I wasn't going to be able to put a rack on my bike due to its crank-forward design. Well, they were wrong! The mechanic found one that would work in less than five minutes. This rack doesn't come with its own basket so I'll try my Topeak basket, and if that doesn't work I'll do like the Amish and bungee a milk crate or cardboard box to it!

The only negative about all this is that I can't pick up my bike until after four tomorrow! That means no riding tonight or most of the day on Wednesday... boo! On the plus side, I did get the grass mowed this afternoon and I now have plenty of time to vacuum before my brother shows up on Thursday.

Once I pick up my bike tomorrow I'm heading out for my second ride with the bike club, and it's another ice cream ride. A great pace to try out my new tires!

Here's a picture I took about a month ago of a barn cat-- it looks like she might be pregnant, actually: