My Experience Buying and Using the Giro Vanquish Helmet

The helmet I’ve had my eye on for a while is a Giro Vanquish. Skip down to the features if what you’re interested in how those features are working for me. And here is one of the reviews I used when considering the purchase. FYI, Amazon didn’t have the price quoted/linked in the article at anytime during the period I was looking, with the exception of a small size in and undesirable color (which isn’t what the link directs to).

Delays in buying the Vanquish sooner were… well, cost slowed me by about 6 months. I’m price sensitive and generally a late adopter. Moving to the point of purchase is an easier decision in the lower end price range, but there were other things that slowed the decision too. 1. Stores. 2. The search for other options with a visor/goggles. Was there a helmet with eye protection and additional features. 3. Reluctance to be seen as a poser. And, 4. Venting slits over the eyes.

Stores

No stores had the Vanquish when it first caught my eye, so I couldn’t check fit, and once they did, none of them were marketing to me. The sales rep at one store said “I don’t remember the name, but the only thing we have with goggles is for racers”. The name is actually on the box, which was just a few steps away. Another store told me the Vanquish and a commuter helmet with goggles that they also offered were both primarily for velodrome riding (wrong on both counts according to their respective manufacturers).

I’ve benefited from some articles that say “X product is for X rider”, especially in trying to make sense of group set levels as a less knowledgeable rider in the market for a bike that suits the demands of a high mileage project well, and at the same time isn’t more expensive than necessary. It seems to me though, that there’s little reason to keep the marketing or the perceived market for the Vanquish as narrow as it appears to be. People do have to make tough price quality trade-offs, but I think that a lot of people who are not racers and not terribly price sensitive would also find the appeal in this helmet, especially in a market that sells to Silver Comet riders.

The Search

The rider I first saw wearing a bike helmet with goggles was wearing a teardrop helmet (which first put the idea of not wanting to look like a poser in my mind). Nothing would look more like a poser than to have the less aerodynamic body while sporting the most aerodynamic helmet that few people have seen outside Olympic level training and competition.

I did find other options with visor/goggles. The commuter version had a much lower level of cooling airflow. The MTB version had friction fit goggles and I like the magnetic option better. It seems more durable. I didn’t look at any of the teardrop “coneheads”.

As far as other features in addition to the goggles go, I didn’t find helmets with any. Features I have seen in other helmets that would also be desirable are fall detection and imbedded earbuds. If I ever start to ride on roads, the turn signals and lighting that Lumos developed would be nice too. The Vanquish is very light though, and those things would add some weight, so it’s not a surprise they don’t add it.

Features

Weight

It’s super lightweight, and I will likely notice immediately just how light weight if I ever go back to something different.

The Aerodynamics

It’s cool and breezy. It is supposed to be comparable to a teardrop helmet for reducing drag. Giro is pretty proud of it. I understand why. Some reviews do say that there are other helmets with more airflow. With my tendency toward overheating and the importance of temperature regulation through the head, I may look at some of the others if it seems like I need to moving into the Georgia heat season centuries. This one is better than the last one though, probably not.

The Goggles,The reason I bought it.

They’re everything I expected and I am happy. They do not rest on any part of my face and the lack of ear pieces feels pretty free, just like what I hoped for. The Zeiss logo is in my peripheral vision, just like reviews say. It would be nice not to see that, but I don’t always notice. The goggles do pop off fairly easily, but not so much in actual use (unless I forget and try to scratch my nose). 

It would be nice if the helmet came with a helmet bag, mostly mesh for evaporation and airflow, but a padded pocket for the goggles (or at least a goggles bag). It’s not something I usually care about, but after my second ride with it, I placed the helmet carefully in the back seat of the car. Later, a back seat passenger later put it in the floor where it got jammed into the seat adjustment rails. My new helmet that I finally bought had gouged lenses in the first week. Replacement lenses are $80. I’d like to see it come with more lenses. The darker ones are a bit too dark for the speckled lighting on a treed trail. They have made a lense that is mostly clear, and those new gouges would be less noticable if the clear one had been an option rather than an additional purchase. Polarized options would be nice too.

The eye protection of the visor/goggles is good enough that I open my eyes wider and relax my face much more than with sunglasses.

Photo of the helmet from underneath. The two light colored areas are the air slits in the goggles that bring airflow over the eyes.

Air Flow Slits

The slits at the top of the goggles could prove to be an issue for me. The slits are there to wash your face in air. They work, which is a good thing if you want the cooling and don’t have dry eye. But, I do have dry eye. My problem could be age related, or it could be the amount of riding that I’m doing. It may be manageable. The first time I built up to a century ride, we started in cold months. It caused some seriously dry lips and peeling skin that seemed way too serious to be caused by the riding. But, the dermatologist simply told me to use Aquaphor on my lips and skin. It took a while. I was doubting her, but it worked finally. I still use it.

Now I have drops from the ophthalmologist that I use before and after my rides along with some other treatments. Time will tell how well the drops work and whether or not the slits cause any more drying than I had with sunglasses. As a general rule, in the past, my vision has been better when I ride (with or without glasses). That’s probably the cardio benefit I’m experiencing. And, logically, it seems that if I’m relaxing my face and opening my eyes more, the air circulation isn’t causing a bigger problem than riding without half my face covered. I looked for aerodynamic articles or video to answer that question with more certainty, but everything I found was about reducing drag for a competitive advantage and didn’t seem like information that illuminated to dry eye questions. I do suspect that three slightly smaller slits, one over the nose and two over the temples might be better for me, maybe better for other people too.

The attached goggles, slits and all, provide another benefit that is, maybe, unique to me. I don’t personally like anything on my forehead, probably due in part to the sensitive skin. Since I was old enough to decide for myself, I haven’t even had bangs. I tend to wear my helmet incorrectly. I’m not trying to be difficult, I’m just uncomfortable and I keep inching it up, then it seems to fit there in that wrong place. People give me grief about it, from strangers, yes, strangers, to my grandson. When they do, I fix it, a little, temporarily. Now that I’m wearing a helmet with attached goggles in a fixed location, it’s easy for me to know how far down on my forehead the helmet actually should go. My eyes go in the middle between the slits above and the bottom of the lens. If I wear it wrong, it doesn’t cover my eyes and it feels as stupid as it looks. So, this highly advanced helmet does have an unexpected advantage for this challenged rider with user errors.

Why would I be willing to tell this embarrassing fact to people I hope will support my project? Well, partly because I hope you’re laughing with me, partly because someone might benefit or learn from my mistakes, and partly because I’m just a 60 year old grandma who’s not trying to be anything except who she is. The little girl inside wants to go out and play, to share my project with people who might enjoy or benefit from it. The big girl inside hopes that someone looking at me doing this will say “You know, if she can do that, I can do this thing that I want to do.” That’s more likely if I don’t pretend to be something I’m not.

This is after about a 40 minute ride. The helmet was not tight, perhaps even on the loose side. I experimented a lot with different headbands in conjunction with other helmets to solve the sensitive skin issues that were resulting in acne. That left me with a lot of different headbands of different thicknesses.

Now that I’m wearing the helmet properly, I’ll need to revisit the headbands I’ve been using. I had a variety for experimentation. My goal is to choose a best option to use always, so that the only times I will need to change the fit adjustments will be in the winter when I need cold ear protection. More on that later.

Tuesday Trippin’ October 1-11

I was still going to write up last week a day late, but this week came along and blew it right out of me. Russ and I had a commitment to each other to complete the project video this weekend. Then my tech guy came along and suggested that I live stream for engagement. I think I like the word “engagement” in my life now about as much as I liked the words “on task” (as in “needs to be”) when my kids were in school. I said “But my budget is complete. What will it cost?”

I didn’t feel great in the first place. There was a week of rain expected, so we decided to get our second shingles shots while the weather was wet in case it was as bad as the first. The first was draining and caused the biggest reaction I’ve ever had to a vaccine. I hoped the second would be better. DENIED!

So, with bad weather, a miserable body and the holiday shopping season on the way, I was going to work on the Etsy store hard and strong. It’s the small side hustle that I dreamed would become a business one day. My conversion rate is usually good when I’m active in the store and I have a five star review average, but that alone isn’t an indicator of profit. My number of listings vary, depending on whether or not sales are coming in fast enough cover listing fees. If you carry 500 listings, it takes $100 net per quarter to cover the listing fees alone. Usually listing a bunch of items will trigger a sale or two, but during the low seasons it may not be a net gain after fees and expenses. Not being a fan of net losses, I let many listings expire in the off season and build back up for the holiday shopping frenzy. The problem is that the sales aren’t coming this time. I’m a “star seller” with 100 percent scores across all the metrics they use to decide the designation. But, there is a minimum dollar amount and number of sales needed to get/keep the designation and I currently have no sales for October. It is the first time I’ve built the shop up for the holiday season and not triggered sales while building. I’m at a loss, to understanding how I can make a future with Etsy. I’ve had to raise prices because shipping and other costs keep going up. I’ve been on the edge of closing for at least 4 years. I need to keep the store open while I promote this video project so that anyone can see that I’m able and willing to please customers, but I’m less certain than I’ve ever been that can justify being on Etsy next year at this time. Like too many other people, I’m there because I love the idea of what Etsy was and the dream of what it might mean for me if I could make it profitable.

It was while I was contemplating the potential death of my Etsy store that my tech guy brought up streaming. Some time back I was riding alone a lot and I wanted to stream my rides to a single person who’d show the video to the police if anything ever happened to me. It wasn’t feasible then, so it wasn’t on my mind for this, and I felt like it was a little late to be changing things. In truth this project will change constantly, even after it’s funded, but this was a change that interfered with my plan to get the project officially out there very quickly. He is probably right though. Engagement. If we can stream, it should help.

I was physically miserable from the “jab” and still not excited about the disruption in our existing plan when I went west to test stream through areas with low and no signal strength. The weather was questionable and I hadn’t really looked at my tech. I’m a Luddite, until I’m motivated not to be. Once I wanted to be part of a team attempting a world record length balloon flight. I got my HAM license and learned to send packet location data so that I could (we got the record BTW). I’d have to learn it all over again to do it now. I use my phone to call, text and photograph. It doesn’t have games, and until this week, didn’t have social media.

I felt pressure to get on with it though. I was grumbling about putting Facebook on my phone and asking if there wasn’t another way to live stream. I didn’t have good prep or mounting hardware for anything. It started raining at my first choice location just before I pulled up at the Tara Drummond trailhead and the scrape of my worn windshield wipers was grating.

I didn’t want to get the phone soaked and I’d driven too far to give up, so I drove out further where the rain was lighter. At Coot’s Lake the weather was misting and the trail was littered with slippery wet leaves. I had that brain fog that comes with trying to rise to the occasion when you just want to curl up in bed and sleep it off, but I didn’t drive for an hour just to emit greenhouse gases and fight falling asleep on the way home. I needed to accomplish something, so I took the bike off the rack.

I forgot my brand new shiny helmet with the goggles. I forgot to change shoes. I realized that near the car. I was wary of slipping on the wet leaves, but if I went back for them I wasn’t sure I’d actually ride. I left my cheap drug store readers trailside to pick them back up on returning. My bike bags were full. I was taking video of the inside of one bike bags so the phone would stay clean and dry. The plan was to compare any streaming gaps to the network signal strength tester I thought I was running in the background

I went to and through Brushy Mountain Tunnel describing where there were high rocks or open spaces on either side along the way, then just barely into the edge of the Paulding Forest. I stopped to turn around and check to see if I was still streaming. I was. I was streaming black screen with terrible audio to my personal profile instead of the private group we set up for the test. I was trying to fix it all without the glasses I left back near the car. This is when and where I decided it’s time for multifocal contacts. I need to just get over it and learn to stick my fingers in my eyes. I turned everything off and started back to the car. I resolved to pick up my glasses, take a deep breath and start again.

I was still riding very carefully because of the slippery leaves and lack of helmet. I passed a group of people with a Doberman. The person who was supposed to be holding the leash wasn’t. I sped up as much as I was comfortable in the wet leaves while the dog’s leash bounced on the pavement. I don’t know whether I was more afraid of the dog or a fall, but I was aware that it could be a double header. The dog got tired of chasing me while I was still upright and I learned first hand that adrenaline will completely wipe out the feeling of side effects from a vaccine.

I picked up my glasses as I neared the car. I rethought my second attempt. I didn’t want to go back toward the Doberman for a second try any more. After the Doberman, I didn’t want to go in the other direction where the St. Bernard that chased me that one time lives. I loaded up told my peeps I was in the car safe. I thought about going on out to Cedartown and riding even further west, but that’s a long way for someone to drive to rescue me if the day kept on getting worse. The adrenaline had charged me up, but my brain was spent. I just needed to get a handle on dealing with a delay that’s worthwhile. As I drove home, wide awake, the clouds cleared and the blue sky was glorious. I told myself to just enjoy the view and remember that the leaves on the trail still weren’t dry.

Next Try

I haven’t been happy with the sensitivity level of the glass screen protector my tech guy recommended. Pushing on the glass sometimes makes enough movement to ruin photos. I’ve been really tempted to try a flexible one instead.

Screen cap from the end of my feed for Sunday. Russ is watching me check my phone for damage. You can see him through the reflection in my goggles and the haze of my crumpled glass screen protector.

Russ and I went back out on Sunday together. We drove to Cedartown and rode west because it’s an iffy signal section of trail that’s really too far out for me to be riding alone. We confirmed that the signal is low in most places and the video quality is poor, but at least we were streaming to the private group this time. While we were out there I ran over a big green walnut with my front tire. The bounce caused my expensive new Galaxy 21 Ultra to dismount and I ran over it with my back tire. I may not like the sensitivity of that hard glass screen protector, but the phone still appears to be fine. I came home and ordered another one.

The broken screen saver left a fine powder of dust that I thought was the same kind of micro cracks that accumulated on my old old phone. Russ told me to wipe and the undamaged screen was a relief.

Tuesday Trippin’ September 27

A lot happened this week. My leg is healing well and only occasionally reminding me that I parted company with my bike while riding. I got in some decent rides and the injury was not my limiting factor for any of them, in fact I find myself going further than I expect. I start off thinking it will be a short ride because I don’t feel that good, and before I know it I’m wondering why I didn’t turn around sooner. I tend not to take breaks when I ride without Russ. That will change, not just because Russ will be with me, but also because we will need to check and maintain camera equipment often.

I ordered the helmet I’ve been considering for a while. I’m pretty happy and going to discuss that in a separate post, just so it’s easy to search. While writing something different this week, I wasn’t able to find out if I had talked about it before. I’ve been having technical difficulties with the page. It seems like I was previously able to search on text, but for now, I’ll make doubly certain it’s searchable.

I did some research on the new Hero Black 10.  I’m so glad this camera will be available for the project. I’ll take it as a sign that things are happening in the best way possible. A lot of the reviews seemed a little underwhelmed and looked at them from the perspective of “most users”. I can’t really speak for most users, but for myself, the new differences should matter to me quite a lot. I had hoped this model would allow access for auxiliary power with the battery door closed. It won’t. Hopefully it’s the same size door and I won’t have to wait for after market sources to make a door that allows this and fits the new model. The reason they don’t do that is that more people are interested in the waterproof quality than are interested in access to that port while in use. I do plan to ride in wet conditions if I can and still take good video, but getting the whole ride is the primary goal, and an auxiliary battery will make more sense than carrying enough batteries to change every hour, give or take.

I’m looking forward to a beautiful fall and October has come of the best riding of the year.

Tuesday Trippin’ September 21

Until today, I haven’t been on the bike since Saturday morning (when I went straight and the bike slid off to the right). A four day break will become more common as my rides stretch out to hundred milers. The training plan I linked to recently recommended a week off every month, but then called it more like 5 days off with a lighter ride after 4 days off the bike will become somewhere between a break, and the status quo later. But, Saturday my body was expecting a workout and the fall happened at the start of the ride, so the feeling of losing the training is bigger.

The Roswell section of the Big Creek Greenway has boardwalks, and the boardwalks are “slippery when wet”. I had just gone through some mud on concrete and was feeling good enough about recovering control quickly that I forgot to be extra on guard as I entered the boardwalks and rode through the same spot where I’ve fallen 2 other times. The other two times, riders in front of me caused my falls, but this time I was all alone. I was thinking shortly afterward that all three of my falls in the last 20 or so years had been right there in that spot, but I forgot falling in Louisville, so, it was 3 of 4 falls that have been in that spot.

The Greenway was flooded last week. This shot of the “Slippery When Wet” sign was taken from an overpass.

It was as painless as possible. I wasn’t riding fast because the boardwalks are slippery. One knee hit first, but the landing was almost on all fours, so impact was fairly evenly distributed. I caught myself with my arms on all three of my other falls and pulled my rotator cuff a bit with each one. I was really thankful for the way it happened with minimal pain and injury.

I walked the bike out. I walked a little more in the parking lot. It was a good thing that we took the time. We were planning to ride the trail at this particular time because my grandson had practice for his mountain biking team. Before we knew it, one of his coaches brought him back. He also slid down on the boardwalks, even with his low pressure knobby grippy MTB tires. I walked a short distance a few times on Saturday to help keep me from getting stiff, and a longer distance on Sunday in the rain. At least recuperating from the injury and not being able to ride because of the rain overlapped for both of us. If I had unlimited resources I’d re-build the boardwalks, raising them above flood water level and changing the material. They recently replaced part of the boardwalks. I was sad to see that they didn’t take the opportunity to raise them any at all, or to rework some of the sharp bends that cause problems.

My ride this morning was on the Silver Comet. There are some slippery boardwalks on the Comet too, but none on the section I used. The trails were really wet with puddles and a lot of tree debris, wet leaves, pine cones and dead wood sticks of varying diameter. I walked out without my helmet and it was the first post injury ride, so I was wary. I personally enjoy being helmet free, but I recognize that if I fall, I could regret not having one. I was beginning to feel better, but I cut the ride short. Pushing my body, trail conditions and my luck didn’t seem like the thing to do.

The Recovery Ride Will be a Walk in the Park

After looking for the really nice shot of Russ in the stream at the local park for 20 minutes, I settled on this random and unrelated photo of Russ being his larger than life and larger than BigFoot self.

We took our grandson to a Saturday practice for his mountain bike team on Yonah Mountain. Rather than wait, we went over to the hiking trail and did as much as we could in the seriously limited amount of time we had before returning to pick him up. The walk reminded me that one reason building up my cycling mileage was easier the first time is that I was hiking regularly at the time. I had been thinking about the negative reasons more, like aging, but that’s not the whole story.

Sometimes my lightbulbs are a little slow to switch on, but while hiking up Yonah mountain the lack of shoulder issues and the attitude of my saddle free hips brought this decision clearly into focus. The recovery cardio needs to be a true recovery in several senses of the word, and the focus needs to be physically and mentally restorative, not the opportunity for additional video footage I was thinking of at one time. One or two centuries a week will really provide quite enough video, and we need to vary more than just our body positions on the bike. We’ll get significant benefits that keep us riding if we vary the activity as well. Recovery should be the primary purpose of recovery cardio, and with the amount of time we’ll have in the saddle, cross-training is the way to do it best.

Leita Thompson Park in Roswell GA

There is a pleasant no drive option, so making the switch is not just ideal physically, it’s easily doable.There is a park with a trail near my house. Walking there and doing the loop inside then walking back is just under 5 miles. We may venture out to other places for some variety if there is available time. We live in the Georgia Piedmont Region with reasonable access to Lookout Mountain and Valley, the southern terminus of the AT and the the Blue Ridge. Some of those trails might be doable before or after a photography day which would open up some location options for the still photography.

That was the easiest decision I’ve made for the project.

Tuesday Trippin’ September 14

I’ll be breaking out the Smartwool soon. It is so nice for in between temperatures.

I’ve been heavily editing some of the future posts that will be the framework for our business plan and our rough schedule. It became obvious in the details that one of my plans was going to leave us with no time, not just no time for ourselves, no time to succeed.

The level we dropped was where we tried to do a smaller number of the long rides, but Russ continued to work full time. In trying to find enough training time for Russ over the past year plus, it became clear that the apparent “best compromise” level was really the “doomed to failure” level. I’m sad about that in some ways. I liked having the level in case our real dream didn’t fund. We could still shoot some full videos and do the project on a level that would suit the needs of many users. But, I’m also relieved. I can handle the small ways I might disappoint myself, but something big like a Kickstarter, it would really hurt to fail at that because I put in a level that wasn’t workable. So, in the end, I’m in “It was for the best” mode, and I’ll be looking with increasing scrutiny at other things I need to rework or remove.

We’ve had some hard rains. The Greenway flooded again and was closed to get downed trees off the trail. That cost us a ride. Last year there was a lot of flooding. It left some large stretches with piles of dirt removed from the trails, downed tree debris and scraped understory in a lot of areas. The path was not nearly as pretty as it has been in other years. I was just beginning to see it as largely improved and ready for photos, but with this last flooding, it is beginning to look less camera ready again.

I think that’s about what I have for this week. See you next week.

Tuesday Trippin’ September 7

It’s been an up and down week. Georgia schools started in mid August, so we’ve had plenty of time for the fall sniffles and crud to mix and redistribute (along with Covid). We have a new student in the house, and little fingers go everywhere. So, I’m fighting off the crud, but thankfully, it’s not Covid, yet. I’m really self conscious about the cough though. I want to spontaneously volunteer to strangers through my masked face that I’m thankfully both vaccinated and Covid free.

Georgia is solidly in 4th place for total numbers of cases, and for deaths, due to Covid-19. That’s for overall numbers as well as 28-day numbers, not a place you want to be consistently outpacing 46 other US states. The trails and everything else remain open regardless. My commute out to the closer spot on the trail is taking about as long as it did to go 2 counties out for open trails early in the first year of the pandemic because traffic is heavy again. It’s a strange situation and how people are dealing with it (or not) is even stranger. People are ready for “back to normal” no matter what their stance is on any of it. I hope the vaccine will remain protective for me, and I’ll do what I can to prevent passing anything I can’t detect to anyone else. Based on policies I see now, I don’t anticipate any closed trails over Covid in the foreseeable future.

Weather has been a challenge too, but riding has been nice. Today’s ride was slow to warm up my muscles, then I had a faster finish. I was a lot hotter when I stopped than I realized while riding. That surprised me with the overcast sky and cooler temperatures. It makes me wonder how fast my finish was compared to my average. We will record all the metrics we expect to be relevant to this and future projects once videos begin, but I don’t usually bother to start up any devices to measure ride stats for personal knowledge. Today I would have actually looked at them if Russ had been with me because he does.

We stuck to the gradual 10% (or less) per week build when we first started our pandemic rides. We were in such reduced fitness at the time that it was hard to understand how we got there. This week I found a plan for working up to a century in 12 weeks. I think it’s interesting. We never could have done that last year and the 10% recommendation for gradual pacing is important. It’s basic to maintaining long term stamina. But, we laid firm groundwork over the last year and I think we can adopt a little bit from this second plan too. Our current rides exceed the front end of this 12 week plan, but we’re not doing full centuries yet. Russ works more than 40 hours a week and, being in landscape, his busy seasons are the best riding seasons and his hours ease up when the days shorten and it’s still difficult for him to get in rides on weekdays. I forgot that when I expected the training prep to be more workable for longer than it actually is.

One thing I found nice about this 12 week plan is how doable it feels and there also seems to be some good solid general advice on the page. That reinforced my sense that we did enough training over the last year to be able to swing into century mode on cue. One difference though is that this is a training plan to do a single century at the end of 12 weeks, not a plan to do weekly or twice weekly centuries at the end of 12 weeks. I’m still pretty comfortable though. Our plan we be more like stretching the back third of this plan over the same amount of time and working it to the higher goal. It will fit nicely into our set up needs at the beginning as we prepare everything and get set on both ends of the trails. It’s feeling pretty good to be looking at a big daunting project like this with a healthy, but shrinking level of fear.

Tuesday Trippin’ Aug 30

August has been full of doing things rather than writing things that are ready to post. The riding has been going well. One day I went out and was hit by three stinging meanies, on my shoulder, on my chest, and the last one was in almost the exact same spot on my lip as the sting I wrote about in my last post, but I did not get stung by any of them. I held my breath a bit each time until I realized I wasn’t hurt, but never had to pull out the benadryl that’s now part of my everyday kit.

It’s been humid southern riding. Moving or removing my bike shorts has been worse than a wet swimsuit on some days. I haven’t suffered much with overheating, and that feels good. A guy came up to me in the parking lot one day as I was loading the bike. I had passed him earlier. He said “You didn’t have to make that hill look so easy!” I thought “What hill?”, but what a I said was that he was on a mountain bike and I was on a road bike (which is easier) and I talked about how much it meant to me to be riding and regaining strength over the pandemic. On the way home, I decided I must have passed him on a long slow hill that I walked up when I first started riding the Silver Comet. back then there was an intersection and you had to stop at the bottom. Now there is a trail bridge and momentum takes half the load. It was a small thing, but it felt good to be in a different place than I was a year and a half ago. I’m probably passing 80% of the riders I see going in my own direction now. That doesn’t mean I’m fast. Fast riders get on, get done and get off. I never even see those riders if they started in front of me. I still can’t call myself a good rider, but I am much stronger than I was, and I’m good enough to complete the project I want to do. It’s a level of accomplishment that feels good, feels on target.

I’ve also been adjusting to changing commitments and getting some personal things done. I have more time available and I’m trying to get my mind and my house ready to shift into full time mode. Part of that is that we just made some major renovations to the house. Another part is working on the Etsy store and getting it ready for the busy season. I’ve been struggling with it, as have a lot of vintage sellers. I’m in a funk. I have a lot of stock, and I’m ready to just give it all away, clear out the basement and Marie Kondo the side gig. I can’t really afford that though. And when I say that I can’t afford that, I’m still fully aware the increasing overhead by way of fees and shipping costs is killing me. I still have a 5-star average review, I’m just working harder than I should be to accomplish it, and… Then every once in a while there’s that one customer, and I just made such a difference for them. That thing that I found and rescued was that thing that reminds them of someone they love and they’ve been looking for for so long.

I’m making a push toward paying a lot more attention to the photography because however much I personally want to do the project on muscle power, it will always be completable on electric power, but there will be few fixes for photography fails. I’ve watched a lot of photo editing videos as well and will watch many more. I’m sure the level of editing I’m willing to do will evolve, and at the same time be different for different projects. To some extent the point is moot. I don’t have editing software yet. In fact the only reason I’m looking at editing instruction instead of photography instruction right now is that I need to choose the editing software. I may end up with the obvious Adobe products, but if I do, I want that to be an educated choice.

Until next time…

Glorious Connection

During the first wave of the pandemic, Russ, in the landscape industry, was officially considered by the Georgia Governor’s executive order to be an essential employee. That was a flood of mixed feelings. In the beginning we stayed home except for work and groceries. We didn’t go out to feel the freedom of empty roads with little traffic in those early days. I really enjoyed not buying gas. But, one day, for what reason I don’t remember, I took Russ to work. On the way we saw Santa Claus on the side of the road. How random is that in April? He had signs leading the way, thanking essential workers and encouraging people. And there he was, waving and dancing. After the initial delight, I want to know the backstory when I see something like this. Who was this guy? What motivated him?

I think I saw him maybe 3 times total, but it was every time I passed by. It wasn’t always a Santa costume. By the time I was driving that road often again, I wasn’t driving it during commute hours and there were only signs beside the road. I wanted to take a photo back while he was still out there, one with the sun rising behind him. Time got away from me. Then I wanted to photograph just the signs. Then there was only one sign left. It was the smiley face attached to a traffic sign. After missing the previous photo opportunities, being in a rush, not having time, not making time, I finally stopped to take a photo of the smiley face sign before it too was gone.

I didn’t want to park in turn lanes, so I pulled into the neighborhood next to the sign. There wasn’t a great place to park, so I parked across the street from a driveway, but it was a narrow street with houses on only one side. There was a little less room than normal street parking. When I came back to the car after taking the picture, there was a man in the driveway looking at me like he was wondering what I was doing.

I said Hi, and told him that I had stopped to take a photo of the sign and apologized if my parking had bothered him. He introduced himself. He said he was the guy! He put all the signs out there and stood there waving and smiling at passers by during those dark early days of the pandemic, and then he kept it going. The person to get the backstory from was standing right in front of me, and he was talking to me about the whole thing. I guess I picked the best time to stop after all. His name is Jerry and he’s a professional Santa. Santas had a rough go of the pandemic too, BTW, but Jerry didn’t say anything about that.

Jerry was out there at 6AM every day, then cut it back to two days a week. He was out there for a total of 6 months waving at people and thanking them for being essential workers. One day his wife asked him how many people he thought he had an impact on. His guess was 25 per day, but then he decided to count reactions, and realized that he could count 150 positive reactions a day, and sometimes he was in the dark, he wasn’t even sure that he could see all of the reactions. On top of that, people stopped to talk to him and thank him, to tell him that they shared what he was doing with co-workers and it cheered them too. He was really having an effect, making a lot of smiles and laughs. His big message for me was that his effort was totally worth it. He let people know that they mattered, and the cool part is that they let him know that he did too.

Jerry’s big focus was on the more essential jobs, from healthcare workers to waste collectors, but he made a difference to everyone who was out there driving by, and the Georgia list of essential workers was pretty big.

Russ was out there commuting every day, caught in a fog, grateful to be employed, grateful to have income that we needed, while also wondering if it would cost him his life. The official governor’s executive order was a cruel Catch-22 with no good options for high risk workers who actually needed their income. Russ’ company instituted new procedures to limit contact between crews and did everything they could to make it as safe as possible. At the same time, it’s hard to wrap your mind around beautiful landscapes as essential work. Bad things do happen when landscape maintenance goes by the wayside. Vandalism and vermin increase, but it’s not at the forefront of what people think about when they think of who’s job is essential.

It was and still is a struggle for everyone. But, it’s easier for some of the essential workers to know exactly why they’re essential, and harder for others. If you’re saving lives everyday, you know that risking your own is worth it. The more removed your work is from saving lives, the harder it is to see it as anything but risking your life for a paycheck. The pressure and opinions through the pandemic were and are still relentless, most of them dictated by what the holder of those opinions feared most. One day I asked Russ if he (Santa Jerry) was still out there. He said “What?, oh, I don’t know.”

WHAT!

There’s was a row of signs like you’re coming up on a Stuckey’s or Rock City and at the end of it Santa Claus is jumping and dancing and waving and Russ didn’t know if he was still out there? At the time that I asked that question, Jerry was still out there, and Russ was too distracted to see him.

I just said that Jerry mattered, and then I said, for all his effort, he still faded into the background for Russ. But, the thing is, both are true. When people are that stressed out, the Jerrys of the world all matter. The guy on the Silver Comet telling people to have a glorious day matters, even when you are no longer consciously aware of them, even if they become background noise, the noise is good. It matters that there is good background noise. People who love people redeem the rest of us.

I went to a funeral service for Russ’s Uncle Woody a few years ago. The pastor built the entire sermon on Uncle Woody’s favorite greeting, “God loves you and so do I.” Woody would say that and offer his hand. I never saw him do it. I met him at a family reunion and he didn’t do it there. Apparently he did it everywhere else. I love the unconditional love that gesture conveyed. I don’t know how to offer my own version of it to people. I want my own version. I want it to be inclusive of different belief systems. I want something just as warm as Woody’s, but universal. It’s harder now. We’re still in the middle of a pandemic and I’m really ready to leave handshakes behind forever, but the elbow bump feels more trendy than warm. I just don’t feel it. When I was active in ballooning, we all hugged a lot. Not everyone, because not everyone is a hugger, and that’s way too up close and personal for the pandemic era. What puts your mind and body into a greeting like Woody’s for today? I’m not sure.

Extroverts like Jerry have figured out how to reach out to people. And, we are all better for it. Not everyone can be a Jerry, not everyone should. People are different. Some are introverts, some are distracted, some are having a bad day, some have the weight of everything precious and ephemeral on their shoulders. But, reaching for the connection, however you can is a good thing, and even when people don’t respond noticeably, we get that strangers care enough to get out there every day and work for nothing more than a smile. When that happens, we’re in a world with a more beautiful backstory. When the world is crushing, the compassion and the connection are the background music that gets us through. And sometimes when we see or meet a Jerry, we smile, inside or out, and our heavy thoughts are replaced with lighter ones for just long enough.

Tuesday Trippin July 27

For a few weeks I was in a ride 4 days in a row, do something else for 3 days cycle. It wasn’t a choice, just the way things kept working out. It’ll be alright with me if that spreads out across the week, but it slides into the habit I plan for the project pretty well, so it will be alright if it keeps up too. There hasn’t been much that was too memorable about the rides. Rain has been frequent, so some rides were wet. I got a shingles vaccine on Sunday and I was kind of miserable Sunday and most of Monday, but I rode a slow and easy ride in 90 degree temps Monday night and hope to be up and riding early Tuesday, this morning, I didn’t feel like riding, but it’s a day when I can get out while the temps are cooler, so I pushed and went out anyway.

A week or 3 ago I got a sting on my pinkie while riding. Today it was my face, and I could have used my morning off to sleep in! It seems like all my insect bites while cycling the Silver Comet happen in July and August.

Picture taken about 2 hours after sting, and an hour after I took the largest recommended dose of Benadryl. Another 12 hours later I was still pretty swollen and tingly, feeling like I’d been to the dentist. My skin was exactly that red. My only edit to the photo was to crop it.

You can’t tell from the camera angle, but the swelling made me look a little square jawed. The lip was big enough to notice in my peripheral vision. That was really weird, really weird.