Archive for July, 2020

Karen Goes, Cycling

Cycling on local trails in Georgia, I get to see nature that awes me. One day a pileated woodpecker flew beside me for 20 yards on the Silver Comet Trail. Before the pandemic I was riding more on Big Creek Greenway, a path in a streambed north of Atlanta. There a Great Blue Heron was feeding in the shallow puddle of a drying pond and I didn’t know there were otters at Big Creek until I saw them one day. One of the coolest sights was when a Great Blue Heron flew from the stream below to the bridge I was about to cross, and then, just as I approached flew on across right in front of me. Deer are often out on many trails. Oh, to have had a camera going for some of these sights.

Sometimes the interesting things I see are people, all kinds.  One day I saw a person tethered to her phone (not as in listening to great music and working out in the zone, but, as in, really never letting go of being connected to the device). Do those people get the same benefits of  being out on the trail as people who are attuned to their surroundings, or is it merely cardio benefits for them? And, where do the benefits of being in nature come from? I mean there are obvious things like vitamin D coming from the sun and the endorphins that come from the exercise itself, but what about things like your mind space? So, I read some things, including Nature Fix by Florence Williams and while I began as a skeptic about some things, like bird calls having a positive effect, she did convince me in the end that they do.

So, my next thought was, just as the person who is wired outdoors loses some of the benefit of being in nature, maybe there’s a way for people who are home bound to gather some benefits of being outdoors. I don’t just manage to get myself back on the bike when the outdoors is part of the picture, I want to (most days) ;). What if I video a large amount of trail time, capture some of the more extraordinary sightings as well as changing seasons and provide a varied distraction for people to watch while exercising?

Video isn’t the whole outdoor experience and can’t provide all of the outdoor benefits. But, maybe, at bare minimum, it could help people who can’t get out, or can’t get out as often as they need to, find a more enjoyable experience exercise and help with the motivation to get back on that stationary bike again. I want to collect video that could be used to give the homebound, or those even who don’t get to travel for exercise as much as they’d like to a more varied experience that is closer to nature.

When I first thought of this plan fitness centers were open and I used one. I’ve kept my membership to the Y current through the pandemic so far, but haven’t been in for months, since the first cases came to town. When I did go, I primarily used strength training and the water rower (maybe I’m a sucker for a gimmick, but I really like it better than traditional rowers), But, I’d never really do cardio for more than short 20 minute span, sometimes less. There was never a cycling video that provided variety, or even actual real scenery to watch, and daytime TV choices on other available screens fall way short of inspiring. If I wasn’t able to cycle outdoors, I’m not sure I’d have the motivation to keep going. I want to make video that helps people who can’t get out there in person, get out there in spirit.

The base goal I thought of was to film my roughly hour long ride 2 or 3 times a week for a year on the Big Creek Greenway, a paved multi-use trail that goes north-south along the Big Creek stream bed in the suburbs north of Atlanta. Partly a photography or data/film collection project to capture nature and the changing seasons on, but there was/is a creative aspect too. At the lowest level of funding, the project would just subsidize rides that I was already taking and commit me to filming them. I would capture video that was as long as some people want to work out, and it would provide an experience for people that changed weekly with the seasons.

When the Shelter in Place order was given, outdoors was one of the few escapes people had. The bike shops sold out and the trails were filled with crowds (on those trails that were open). The numbers of people wearing masks was, and still is, very low. The best research that seems to be available points to 20 foot distances being more appropriate for cyclists because of speed and exertion than the 6 ft recommendations for people who are stationary or moving slowly. That’s a nearly impossible distance to maintain on the Greenway. The base plan needed to be altered before I got it out in front of people.

I had been building up to my plan, researching successful Kickstarters, and working toward one of my own. But, now Big Creek was filled with so many people, and the Silver Comet was closed in the two closest counties. We went out to Big Creek in the early morning one Sunday, normally the slowest time there, to see if that was doable. Out of 100 or so people we saw spread out over 8 miles, one other couple had masks on, and many were walking 2 or 3 abreast, so that didn’t allow safe passing distance. As that ride ended the numbers of people on the trail increased markedly.  That was an unpredictable risk too, choosing to start a ride with conditions at one level, and finishing at another level. I thought my plan was on indefinite hold. I settled into sheltering. And, I thought I was doing fine. I was so wrong.

A friend posted about going out past the two closed counties to ride the Silver Comet (SC) where it was open. She’s someone I’ve worked Support and Gear (SAG) for on overnight rides for the entire length of Silver Comet and Chief Ladiga trails. Together they make the longest paved paved path in the Rails to Trails (RTT) system. I had ridden my bike out as far as she was driving, and I had driven out there if I was working SAG for her, but I’ve always tried to limit the amount of gas and transportation expense I was willing to use in order to cycle. It seemed too much to drive that far for a bike ride, and to spend more time in the car than I do on the trail. But, we did it. Russ and I went out there for what turned out to be a ride that was both pathetic and necessary. 12 miles was all we had in us. But it was a very important 12 miles. I felt alive again after not having realized how far from that I had drifted. I said to Russ “If I get sick, you need to remind me that there are things I still want to do.” I didn’t know that my voice was going to tremble when I said it. I started going out often, and as I did, I realized that my project is more important now than ever, and that I have to build back up to spending more time on the trail than I do in the car, even when I have to drive this far.

So, now my base goal is to get an hour of video per week at the most sensible place, whether it’s the Silver Comet, or the Greenway. I’ll stay flexible as conditions change.

This will be a stretch in many ways. I’ll be happy enough to have the base goal fund, but the big dream is to make the stretch goal. At a higher level of funding, I will film the entire Silver Comet and adjoining Chief Ladiga trail in two directions weekly. For this, I will have to reach a level of physical output that I have never before sustained. I’ve done a century before. I’ve done the Silver Comet and Chief Ladiga together before, but not repeatedly twice a week. And, though the goal is to get a year’s filmed record of the longest paved RTT trail in the country, I really expect it to consume me for 2 years. While building up, increases in mileage of 10% per week are recommended. I may have good weeks, but I’ll likely suffer setbacks if I try to build up faster than that over time. I won’t be able to stop that level of riding abruptly either. I expect to fill in weather or other unavoidable gaps that may happen by continuing to film as I slow my level of riding gradually.

I’ll be sharing my best film shots with supporters and making some digital wallpaper calendars with different themes. Some of the unbelievable things I see while riding are wild life, and some of them are crazy stupid. I also hope to get some good footage for a multi-use trail safety video. I do understand that this will be grueling at times and there will be days when I wonder what I was thinking. I’m looking forward to the challenge, and working through it to the other side.

Monetizing a Hobby

Last week my partner in everything, Russ, was talking about a tweet he had seen on monetizing hobbies. He said that it was sad so many people felt compelled to monetize their hobbies. I said “I don’t know. Some people can’t have their hobbies unless they monetize them. Dad never could have had all of those boats unless he had been willing to build and trade them, and I never would have felt the freedom to do all that smocking if I hadn’t been able to make it pay for itself.” He said “Exactly.”

For a little back story, Dad built his first wooden boat in his father’s shop when he was a child. He probably built more bass fishing boats than anything else, but he also built race boats (hydros), sport fishing boats and put at least one cabin cruiser in a pre-built metal hull. He built engines too. In fact, that was what he did best. When I was young, there was always a way to get on the water, and it would run perfectly tuned, and fast. I truly miss that part of my life.

For me, it was fine needle arts. I funded my love of English hand smocking by teaching classes and selling supplies. I also designed smocking patterns, had my work published and attended conventions. It’s a specialty many people don’t know, but, English Hand Smocking is a type of hand sewing best known as coming from Polly Flinders or Feltman Brothers branded baby clothes. It’s time intensive and something most people can only afford if they do it themselves, use them for generations, or, honestly, if the original hand sewing workers didn’t get paid a living wage. Baby clothes that were passed from generation to generation had English hand smocking (and/or French hand sewing). That is where my soft spot began, in the hope chests and family portraits of my heritage. It was a privilege and because of privilege that I was able to pursue the art, even though I made sure none of the cost came from the family budget. One day, I’d like to have the time and resources to research and write a book on textiles of all sorts and income inequality. It is a multifaceted issue that weaves itself through all of the arts and the economy.

I didn’t see the Tweet Russ referenced, but we were probably looking at the same rub. The age old advice is to never turn your hobby into a business because you will lose the escape and gain another obligation. But, many (like me) don’t get either without the other. Is it a privilege or a burden? Yeah, that’s the rub.

Karen Goes and Goes

After changing careers I was thinking about “What next?”. My sysadmin (also my son) recommended Karen Goes as a url that could easily be relevant to whatever I might do next, then next, and then after that. That was just before “Karen” became synonymous with the mother who wants to speak to the manager, and then morphed into the world’s most heinously entitled woman exemplifying everything wrong with people who have “First World Problems”.

So, now that I’m off again. My next project is underway and the name is particularly appropriate, but I still thought about leaving “Bad Karen” behind. Then I remembered Dad’s favorite Jim Croce song. I had other favorites, but his liking it made me notice what a really nice song it is.

Like the pine trees linin’ the windin’ road
I’ve got a name, I’ve got a name
Like the singin’ bird and the croakin’ toad
I’ve got a name, I’ve got a name
And I carry it with me like my daddy did
But I’m living the dream that he kept hid

Movin’ me down the highway, rollin’ me down the highway
Movin’ ahead so life won’t pass me by

Like the north wind whistlin’ down the sky
I’ve got a song, I’ve got a song
Like the whippoorwill and the baby’s cry
I’ve got a song, I’ve got a song
And I carry it with me and I sing it loud
If it gets me nowhere, I’ll go there proud
Movin’ me down the highway, rollin’ me down the highway
Movin’ ahead so life won’t pass me by

And I’m gonna go there free

Like the fool I am and I’ll always be

I’ve got a dream, I’ve got a dream
They can change their minds but they can’t change me
I’ve got a dream, I’ve got a dream
Oh, I know I could share it if you want me to
If you’re goin’ my way, I’ll go with you

Movin’ me down the highway, rollin’ me down the highway
Movin’ ahead so life won’t pass me by
Movin’ me down the highway, rollin’ me down the highway
Movin’ ahead so life won’t pass me by

Like the pine trees linin’ the windin’ road
I’ve got a name, I’ve got a name
Like the singin’ bird and the croakin’ toad
I’ve got a name, I’ve got a name
And I carry it with me like my daddy did
But I’m living the dream that he kept hid

Movin’ me down the highway, rollin’ me down the highway
Movin’ ahead so life won’t pass me by

Like the north wind whistlin’ down the sky
I’ve got a song, I’ve got a song
Like the whippoorwill and the baby’s cry
I’ve got a song, I’ve got a song
And I carry it with me and I sing it loud
If it gets me nowhere, I’ll go there proud

Movin’ me down the highway, rollin’ me down the highway
Movin’ ahead so life won’t pass me by

And I’m gonna go there free

Like the fool I am and I’ll always be
I’ve got a dream, I’ve got a dream
They can change their minds but they can’t change me
I’ve got a dream, I’ve got a dream
Oh, I know I could share it if you want me to
If you’re goin’ my way, I’ll go with you

Movin’ me down the highway, rollin’ me down the highway
Movin’ ahead so life won’t pass me by
Movin’ me down the highway, rollin’ me down the highway
Movin’ ahead so life won’t pass me by

 

I always thought that was written by Jim Croce, but it was actually written by Charles Fox and Norman Gimbel and I’m a sap for it.

So, about that name change? Nah, it’s my name. And, I’ve got a dream.