Tuesday Trippin’ June 15

It’s been a musical bikes week. The Hybrid just needed adjustments. The stem had been tightened down so much that it interfered with the bearings. That was a relief.

We found a chain for the road bike on the internet and took it back to the shop, then they finished earlier than the earliest date we had been given. That was a pleasant surprise. More down time passed between switching bikes in the past. I was without the road bike for some time before I went down to get the hybrid back from my mother’s house. When I was down there, I was on hilly roads, so I expected it to be harder. This time it was back and forth without even a day between riding one and riding the other, and I really noticed how much easier a ride the road bike is.

I also noticed that the Brooks saddle isn’t for me, again. Perhaps it’s because it’s a men’s saddle. There isn’t supposed to be any difference between the men’s and the women’s Brooks saddle except for the length of the nose. Maybe that difference made the difference. The discomfort though is going to make me give things a rest for a few days, and I’m not going to be excited about exploring Brooks possibilities in the future. I’m afraid I may have had some vein pressure, and that could get ugly.

Russ finally got new handlebars for his bike (the crash last November bent them badly and he’s bee riding at an angle ever since. The really big guy at the bike shop told Rus to get a wider bar than what he had, and he’s enjoying that advice. He watched a video and did the replacement himself. It was good to see us (him) moving in the direction of being able to do more ourselves. We took a class on bike repair and maintenance several years back, but I didn’t use any of the information soon enough to remember it.

The weather has been hot. I’ve been riding at warmer times in prep for the century. Overheating is a significant risk for me though. Riding has been draining, but manageable. I’m not feeling very confident about this hilly suburban century I signed up for near the peak of summer heat. I’m not sure whether I should push it as hard as I can, or just enjoy getting to ride down an interstate type highway with 1 or 2 thousand of my closest strangers for, probably, the only time in my life. When I ride through the hottest months of the summer for the project, I’ll have been riding centuries for months (if I’m riding centuries at all), and I’ll be able to start very early.

This week has been a long line of obstacles, both mentioned here, and not, but we managed. The obstacles have been tedious, but the continuous movement forward in spite of them felt good.

Tuesday Trippin’ June 8

I bought mascara for our family trip last week. I don’t know how long it’s been since I used any and it was the 4th day, the actual day of the graduation celebration before I put it on. Literally, I don’t know the last time I wore even the smallest amount of makeup before that. It might have been that family generations photo after my granddaughter was born, so 4 years max. In some ways, I was SO prepared for the pandemic.

I’ve been following Stephanie while she knocks around in places I would go and rebuilds her family’s business Stuckey’s. I always wanted to stop for a praline on family road trips as a kid, so I’d love to see her succeed.

I noticed this tweet Sunday morning. It made me think. Every photo of me that I post for this project shows me at 60 without makeup, that is, until they start showing me at 61. I wonder every now and then what effect my age will have on the level of support I get. I can think of ways it might help, or challenge, potential supporters ideas of who gets support and who doesn’t.

On the one hand, is grandma what you think about when you go to Kickstarter looking for a project to support? On the other, how many Grandmas decide to do a project that will require more physical stamina than anything they have ever done before? People might want to see if I can actually make it (for laughs or inspiration) And, Grandma is only one of my roles as a person. There are plenty of people successfully funding Kickstarters well at my age and older. They may not be as open about their age as I am, but they’re there. All I really know is that I’m going to continue being myself and hope that’s enough to be able to do what I want to do.

Jerseys and Other Things Revisited

I’ve decided to have a project jersey, or shirt. Russ does like jerseys, so he at least will be in a jersey, but we’ll probably both want t-shirts when riding the recumbents. The recumbents will have more storage places, and more upper body contact where the pockets in jerseys are.

The reason I’ve decided to have a jersey is that guy who used to wish me a glorious day every time I rode by. Thinking about how he annoyed me while he was a smoker making me breathe his smoke as he wished me well, and then how I was able to better accept his message once he quit smoking made the decision. And, now he’s gone. I haven’t seen him in months. I ride a little further on a lot of occasions to see if he’s come back to his spot. Maybe everyone knew the guy because for a time he was always there. Maybe I just happened to catch him several times and very few people have run into him. I don’t know because by the time I decided to stop and talk to him, he was gone.

The experience could sound like a small thing, but it’s really the struggle of our time. In a way it is the struggle of all times, to connect with people who are different. Sometimes the reasons we don’t connect are rational, like the avoidance of taking in 40 carcinogen filled breaths while I’m breathing deep and wanting fresh clean air. His habit slowed me in responding to the wish as he intended for it to be received. Sometimes the reasons people don’t connect are not rational though. People make assumptions every day based on isolated experiences and stereotypes. Our lives are richer when we can connect whether our challenges to that connection are rational or not.

The back of my shirt/jersey will say “Have a Glorious Day!” I’m sure there will be a day when I’m so tired I don’t want to do anything but scream, and someone will remind me what my shirt says,Iand that will be alright. That will be why it’s there. I don’t know about the front. I’m thinking the best way to phrase a sentiment. I haven’t found the right words yet. We will see.

This Week’s Riding

There’s been a lot of rain in the forecast this week, all day, every day, the chances of rain are high, but the quantity of rain hasn’t been. Yesterday the forecast was for a high percentage chance of rain nearly every hour, but the rain gauge said only 3/4 of an inch fell and when I planted a calla lily in a spot that gets drenched when there’s much rain, it was dry an inch below the surface. So, while I was expecting to miss a lot of riding, either because of the rain, or because of my equipment failures, I’ve actually been able to find a time and place to ride every day.

I thought I would take the hybrid in on Sunday to see if the steering problem was a quick fix, but I didn’t expect it to be quick and the shop was closed. I’m expecting the chain for my road bike to come in 3 more days. I’ll take the hybrid in then and decide what to do. I had planned to let it become my gravel bike with slightly larger tires and whatever else I need to do to it once I had the life that allowed me to need a gravel bike. But, it’s getting pretty old, and it will be older still if I ever get around to graveling it. It feels like an old friend when it rides right. It definitely needs new handlebar grips. I need to educate myself on when metal fatigue happens to alloys. This one was my first.

It’s been a pretty good week and the challenges have been more manageable than they looked like they would be. I’ll keep on writing and riding and see you next week.

Public Transportation for Everyone

Like many people, I’ve experienced fast, efficient, clean, safe and pleasant public transportation in Europe and Asia. Back home in suburban Atlanta it’s different. There are no bus routes that would take me to the northmost (closest) MARTA station if I wanted to “Be smarta, take MARTA”. The 3 , yes, three, bus routes in my town don’t come near me. I need to drive 30 minutes first if I want to go in to Atlanta on public transportation. At my last home the closest bus was 2 miles. That sounds so close by comparison, but the result was even less satisfactory. Cobb Transit was/is separate. The transfer station isn’t close and it takes longer. The trip downtown was a three hour venture (if you drive, not walk to the bus). Who has 6 hours to devote to a daily commute? Even with notorious Atlanta gridlock, only people who have no other choice would do that.

Routes were and are limited in each of the places I lived OTP (Outside the Perimeter) because of low ridership, and ridership is low, at least in part, because of limited (or unavailable) routes. I wanted, and still want, the freedom to read, check out, do needlework, or use my phone while using fast, efficient transportation with a smaller carbon footprint. Some people define freedom as being the driver. “That’s fine” I would say to them. “But, if I am using public transportation, I’m not on the road competing with you in traffic. Supporting public transportation for all of the people like me, makes your life better too.” Maybe I’d have reached them better if I’d had some photos like those below handy.I could put them next to some of constant road construction. I’d like to see those DOT dollars building infrastructure for tomorrow, not gobbling land paving it.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is cycling_promotion_fund.jpeg
https://www.bicycles.net.au/2012/09/cycling-promotion-fund-reminds-aussies-cycling-advantage/

So, why is this in the middle of my KarenGoes.com push toward the cycling video project? Well, because it’s important, there’s a cycling component and, because everything’s connected. Not to mention, the need to repair and update our infrastructure makes the news every day.

The pandemic complicated already challenged US commitment to high speed public transportation, really, to public transportation at any speed. But, demand is building and things will change. We’ve learned some things and, there are enough ideas being implemented for me to link to existing projects and research for everything I want to talk about incorporating in my vision. It’s time to win the next era, and making public transportation desirable, efficient and highly effective while giving it a sense of place is a significant piece of that.

If You Build It

These are the things I would put together to design a multi-use, multi-level public transportation system centered around a high speed public transportation core. This system will increase options, improve public transportation and reduce traffic on roads. It will fit in existing landuse, reduce heat island effects, hide currently visible utilities infrastructure with increased safety, provide public and ecosystem services, help stabilize the natural environment, reduce and in some places reverse habitat loss, remediate significant factors driving climate change, beautify public spaces, promote public health and greatly amplify public transportation utility while making it all more inviting.

For Starters

Begin in an area with medium to high density residential population (so there will be abundant local potential users). Build a multi-use transportation corridor in, under and above the median of a road or highway.

First, dig the median out to make a utility tunnel. Put in all feasible public utilities and transportation facility utilities. The tunnel will contain things like fiber infrastructure (phone and other telecom). Put in any systems needed to manage and run the transportation system. Put as many ugly power lines that fall on people during earthquakes or wind and ice storms in the utility tunnel, no more digging up underground utilities for maintenance, go to the access tunnel. There can be additional areas underground for auto parking (with charging stations), bike parking, delivery lockers, maybe even auto services like tire stores. This will improve viewscapes and viewsheds while improving ease of access for maintenance and major repairs

As utilities move into underground spaces, easements on the roadside will become available for moving lanes out or creating green space. Power companies and the DOT have entire departments to work out the easements for changes in roads and lines. I worked in a power company department once doing exactly that for. As the high speed lines move out to areas with less population density, the number of things that are practical to put underground will decrease. Dirt from the tunnel can be used to build up other areas.

Ground Level

The first or ground level (level with the road) will be open with mixed-use, including some street level car parking. A few businesses can be incorporated in the support structure (those providing the goods and services you see in train and metro stations worldwide for convenience and transportation services, perhaps including bicycle storage, bicycle rentals, locker storage and delivery or parcel lockers). And, being ground, or street level, it may also include turn lanes and cross streets as needed for people who using the original roadway.

First Transportation Level

The next level above ground will become the first transportation level with high speed public transportation, such as high speed rail. Why high speed rail? Travelers in Tokyo (the largest city in the world) can make a trip in a small fraction of the time it takes to make a similar trip in a city like Atlanta where the population is much, much less dense. A public transportation user can occupy themselves in any self contained activity instead of being frustrated by drivers, and (if it’s high or even medium speed rail) get there sooner, safer, at lower cost and with less negative environmental impact.

Like many systems, where space allows, the high speed level will also have parallel slower local transportation lines with more frequent stops. Where there isn’t enough space to build a local traffic line parallel, those lines will move to the level above. Waiting areas and seating compartments will be well ventilated with air circulation, filtration and cleaning systems that reduce modern (as well as ancient) health risks. I see this high speed/local speed architecture as incorporating all of the smartest and newest technology, but I don’t see it being visibly very different than the best modern transportation systems that already exist.

Other Commuters

The second level above ground (or the level above powered commuter lines) will be commuter bike path. Where this level is sandwiched in the transportation column the commuter bike space will have sides that let in light and air for physical and mental health. The support structure will have public art. It will have bike parking or storage and rentals, unmanned bike repair stations for self repair, sales or vending machines for drinks, snacks and bicycle repair items like tubes or other wear parts and equipment. Where the bike path does not fit in the transportation column, it can have loops or elevated access trails directly connected to existing systems so that, in some places, this level can be accessed without going through the other levels, transforming commuter and pleasure cycling to a viable option for more people. There could be kiosk coffee shops with balcony seating near an overlook or park, perhaps with a green roof.

The Winding Path

The level beside or above the bike paths will be for walkers, skaters, families with young unpredictable children, handicap scooters. It will be for the people who want to move along on their own power, but for whatever reason, won’t move as quickly, or as predictably as a commuter cyclist. Where there is room, half of this corridor could be dedicated to hover boards, skaters and other users that don’t mix well with pedestrian traffic or commuter cyclists. Where there is room, there could be skateable architecture side features where bikes, boards and skaters could detour from time to time for acrobatic distractions. This can come out into an adjacent built up area maybe in an extension like a rink area and could be designed as public art to provide visual interest to non-users as well as users. These areas will be connected to the public use areas of the complex.

Up on the Roof

The roof of the transportation column will be a green roof linear park with the features that local communities ask for. It might include children’s sports fields, water features, public art, native trees and plants, some edible plants, possible community gardens, space for public meetings, green space for group or individual exercise or meditation, outdoor exercise equipment, story teller’s square, entertainment, etc. This is the space that is used like a local public park, not really intended to provide additional transportation alternatives, a space that increases available land for public use and reduces heat island effects and remediates stormwater management problems.

In locations important because of adjacent habitat or parks, the linear park on the top level will connect to adjacent land to become a habitat greenway or wildlife bridge where animals can move across the transportation column from habitat on one side to habitat on the other reducing road kill and other negative effects of fragmentation. The earth for this can be sourced with the material dug out for the underground utility corridor.

Throughout the system I see a lot of structural, functional, system, environmental and social integration similar to the way this park was designed, almost as though it were a living organism. The more natural systems that can be used to provide services the better. Note that they use a lake for irrigation and even have gardens in the underground parking structure!

In areas where hard surfaces are required, pervious pavements will add to resilience in dealing with stormwater management.

Solar and or wind power generators will be incorporated into the structure where appropriate. Solar may be in multiple forms, perhaps in windows, in canopies, perhaps in horizontal structures that will shade the original street and auto traffic below.

There will be low maintenance green or living walls with local native plants where appropriate providing shade and other cooling as well as ecosystem services and landscaped beauty. If this is what you think of when you hear “living wall”, there should be places for that too.

Any level other than the green roof might have delivery service lockers, coffee kiosks, vending, small unique restaurants and chains, financial services, convenience businesses, emergency services, etc…

Existing power easements become available for expansion if needed to replace lanes of traffic, as connecting greenway, or as low maintenance landscaped areas with plants chosen to provide native habitat that will reduce stormwater management burdens and reduce flooding.

Moving up and putting this in existing transportation corridors, will preserve the opportunity for land that would otherwise be gobbled up in new roads to remain available for higher and better use. At the same time, filling and covering the transportation center with living green roofs and linear parks takes land that would otherwise contribute to heat island effects and turns it into temperature mediating spaces that provide multi-use public space as well as transportation.

Incorporating solar and wind power generation features will improve efficiency and reduce costs while saving even more land for other uses.

Covering this transportation system with native plants and green spaces where possible will improve appearance, reduce the effects of Urban Heat Island, improve stormwater management, reduce flood risk, reduce climate change effects, and be inviting.The green roof with linear parks and public use areas will draw people in to local and community use of the facility, provide hard to find space for all kinds of parks, and so much more.

At the end of the line, before a transportation car turns to go the other way, it will move into an enclosed area that will quickly disinfect with UVC light, or other appropriate technology.

As the line moves out to less densely populated areas, the speed will increase, the stops, services and amenities will spread out and the wildlife bridges will become more frequent as they begin to look more like green overpasses.

These ideas and more are out there. People are making them work. We can make them work.

Tuesday Trippin’ June 1+

We made our trip. We went to Chicago. It was our first post Covid travel for a family graduation. Riding on the way up was limited due to weather. Much of it was weather I would normally be willing to ride in (unless I was going to get in the car and be wet and grimy for 8 hours afterward). We pulled off to look at Kentucky Dam, then rode back and forth across the mile and a half that runs across the top a few times. We were staying in close proximity to the car in case the weather turned ugly again. You couldn’t really call it a ride, but it did break up the sitting and the smell of summer lake water was refreshing. The rain had been so recent that the pavement was still wet with puddles. A surprising number of people had walked large dogs without curbing them. That was not nice, and even the fairly stiff breeze couldn’t carry that competing bad smell away.

In Chicago (more accurately Wheaton) we rode the loop in Waterfall Glen, a nice short ride hills. I was glad to get some hills in.They’ll help prep for the century at the end of the month. On the way home we rode the B & O rail trail and the Ohio River Greenway in Louisville. I’ll write separate posts about those in more detail. It was certainly worthwhile to take the bikes. They provided a nice break from the driving and, while we didn’t get in enough exercise to call it training, at least it wasn’t a total break in training either.

I fell on the Greenway in Louisville. I was going near 0 mph, so the only problem was the road rash, or so I thought. Russ put the chain back on for me, and since the bike was working, I didn’t think to check anything out.

It was the ride after next, back at home when (according to the shop guy) the bent derailleur, hanger apparently turned everything in the vicinity into a crumpled mass. I was planning a “push it as hard as you can” ride, but ended up walking it to the car holding the back end in the air because the tire wouldn’t roll. I was near the bike shop and drove over to see if they still required appointments. No appointments or masks required, The shop had a lot more bikes than last year, mostly childrens though, and parts are still way limited. Unless I found the right chain on the internet, it would be September before I was riding again. Late September was when they were expecting the right chain to be in stock.

I felt beauty of a back up bike intensely, not just in times like these. Even under more normal conditions, getting back on the road isn’t always immediate. It took away all of the fear that having two different type bikes for the project could be seen as extravagant. I had been thinking of it primarily for the ability to keep up the schedule physically by alternating between the recumbent and the standard bikes, but the ability to keep going mechanically is equally important.

Russ found the chain and it is ordered. With the century in 3 weeks and the build up to project level rides I’m looking hard at the old hybrid now. It wasn’t riding quite right last time I was on it. I loaned it to someone who’s first love is mountain biking. I think that is what happened to it, but I don’t know what it will take to get it right.

We took the hybrid out yesterday. It is rideable by some standards, but I don’t know what is wrong, I think it is something in the steering or front wheel. The bike is a fairly simple machine, but I don’t know that much about it. If it were a car with a manual transmission and the clutch plate was slipping, I know what that feels like. If I had been the person riding it when it started to have the problem, I might have a guess. My fear is that it’s something that will get worse if I continue to ride it, going from a less expensive repair to a more expensive repair, or even something that could cause me to have an accident. It could certainly do that through behaving slightly unpredictably, even it it doesn’t happen with a catastrophic failure. It needed a seat post so we could mount a seat. Russ put the Brooks I haven’t been using on it, so we were at the shop yesterday to get the post, but didn’t want to ask someone to look at it until they could test ride it if needed. I’ll take it by for an assessment today, and the chain for the road bike should be in by the 11th. Riding isn’t cancelled, but it will be hard to ride as much as I’d like for a week or more.

The century is in 3 weeks. Unfortunately, a broken bike isn’t a suitable back-up. And the planned repairs on my primary bike are “just to get it back to the shape it was in”. That wasn’t delivered with a condescending tone. It was clear that more repairs are on the way. The clarity of goal was to ride as much as possible throughout June while my schedule was more open, for both the project and the century. That’s still the goal. It’s just not going to look quite like I envisioned it.

Tuesday Trippin’ May 18 & 25

May Days

May is definitely a sublime month for riding. Here in Georgia the weather begins to have some pretty nice days in February, especially if you’re comfortable riding temps in the 50s. And, the number of nice days just keeps increasing through May when it’s not hard at all to schedule a beautiful day to ride. The best part is that the weather hasn’t yet cranked up to unbearably hot yet. The animals that were hunkered down for the winter have come out to play. The ones that left have come back from where they wintered and they’re starting their families. I’ve even been swooped by a couple of hyper vigilant birds protecting against a perceived threat to their nests.

The weather, blooms and animals make me wish we were in full swing photographically, taking video and calendar stills. However, hindsight being 20/20, I’m thinking it was insane to believe I could be trained, up, and running by last January, or even by now. I don’t really know in all honesty exactly how unrealistic it was. My childcare obligations were full-time spread over 8+ days over two weeks. Trying to make that work without being able to choose which days I had off, and knowing that weather doesn’t deliver rideable days on cue was the part that was predictably going to cause an inordinate level of stress. All the sickness (thankfully not Covid) wasn’t something I should have expected though. As time was passing, I felt stress to get the elements of the Kickstarter together and submitted, but, right now I can honestly say that it was for the best that it didn’t happen. The goal is to get large amounts of video over changing seasons to enrich the lives of low tech users and provide an alternate experience for people who can’t get out in real natural environments, but that’s not all I want. I’m training because I want to do it on low impact pedal power, and I’m researching how to do it best because I want to produce video of a quality that it could be used in subsequent high tech projects, and I want to collect the video in as regular and consistent a way as possible, in case it could be useful for scientific research (such as species counts or trail use studies, trail impact studies or economic impact studies, ecosystem services studies…).

The Weather and the Camera

There’s been an unusual amount of high wind on several of my rides. From my time ballooning, I know some of the signs that indicate wind speed, like a certain amount of movement in tree branches or how stiffly a certain size flag is standing straight out. So, while I was getting pushed around out there, I was looking at different tells and assigning approximate wind speed numbers. The Mountain Laurel had just bloomed. I thought I had more time to get a photo, but the wind was pretty constant and it dried the blooms. Not in a way many people would notice from a distance, but in a way that someone who had hoped to get a peak photograph would lament. As I’ve been stressing over pictures missed, I’ve been running scenarios through my head. If my best photo of a particular flower or other feature that exists on the trail comes from my yard instead of the trail, do I use the best photo or the trail photo? I want that best photo to be on the trail, but I also want to show my best work, and some calendars have subject matter that isn’t even on the trail in the first place. I’m personally fine doing either, and will say whatever it is that I decide in the end, but I want to make the choice that my supporters would choose.

I’ve also given a lot of thought is what to do about not having spring photos I’m happy with yet. I had thought of trying to keep the reward timing on 2022 calendars, but I’m not yet happy with my spring collection of photos. I have to have usable photos for all of the calendars for all of the months in case the calendars associated with different project levels make. The timing for delivery the rewards being significantly before the end of the project is what complicates production, and it’s becoming increasingly obvious that the rewards and the project will each take large amounts of time with little overlap.

I considered producing the calendars with my best available photos and then making better calendar pages available for the first few months. I think that carries the risk of disappointing. Once a first impression is made, it’s hard to improve. I also want the primary overlap (that time when I’m filming at the beginning and still filming during the same months at the end of the project) to be in better months. The better months (times when weather makes riding most fun and video will be more enjoyable) are April and May if it’s in the spring, or September and October in the fall. If I shift this to a “next year” project, my 60th year project becomes my 61st year project. It doesn’t have the same sound, but my calendars will be better from the start, and I can make sure those best months are well covered with lots of video. I’m near deciding my reward needs to be a 2023 calendar. As much as I hate to do that, I think it’s the solution.

We’ll be visiting family up north over the weekend, riding bikes on the way up, and on the way back. We also have an appointment with a recumbent shop. We’re looking forward to a much more cycling active June than I would normally have when we get back

Tuesday Trippin’

Do you have a mental file of pictures you didn’t take?

We had storms this week. Normally “thunderstorms” in the forecast is an absolute no go for me, but Russ called from work and said that the weather was spotty and I might give it a try at Big Creek (Greenway) because that’s the closest trail. I wanted the ride and was eager to go.

I parked in Alpharetta because boardwalks in Roswell were closed for repairs. The lot was empty, but the Greenway is an urban trail with parking lots and access points around every turn. There were some people out, mostly walkers. I wasn’t riding for long before I heard thunder behind me. It was between me and the car. That’s my automatic turn around signal, but I’d have to be turning toward the thunder. The Y was up ahead. I’m a member. I could shelter there if I needed to. In fact, I’d expect them to let non-members shelter there too.

When I got to the Y, I’d only heard thunder once more, and it still didn’t sound close, but I knew I was now headed toward it. Still, I called Russ, told him I was headed for the car and to check on me if he hadn’t heard from me. As soon as I hung up, I nearly changed my mind and went for shelter. I’ve never ridden through a storm before. I never saw the lightning, but the thunder was close by and it got worse before I got back to the car.

I saw a party balloon on a ribbon. It was a pale pearl pink, almost white, gently rocking on the ground in the rain. I thought about what a poignant photo it might make, but I sped on by. I’m not sure I could have taken the image in my head if I’d had the Nikon with me, but the thought of it was a welcome distraction. The wondering if I’d pay for my choice was peaking with the rumbles in the sky.

As I approached my parking lot, things were beginning to settle. I came over a bridge and saw the muddy orange water roiling. I thought it would make a good snippet of video. Because the Greenway is in a stream bed, it floods often. Because that streambed is in an urban area it floods even more often. The low spots on the Greenway are pretty evenly distributed and they often bring sandy silty mud with them. Mountain bikes are more adventurous, but it’s not ideal for road bikes. So, when it floods, riding is interrupted until the water recedes. Then it’s still slippery till the maintenance crews scape the mud away. Just about the only time a cyclist on a road bike sees the water roiling like that is when they do exactly what I did, try to make it out before the storm moves in and fail. My foot lightened on the pedal and I was reaching for my phone. Then the thunder grumbled and I pushed on. This time it was behind me. I was considering that it might mean the storm had passed, but I wasn’t slowing while I thought about it.

The ride was short and fast. A sprint is a good ride. It leaves you feeling energized. So, does being alive! I looked at my texts. I saw one from my son who had also been out in the area. “I’m seeing lightning. Be careful.” Since I made it through unscathed, I’m glad I went. But I wouldn’t have if I’d seen that text when he wrote it.

The next day the storms were due to return, but the morning window was longer and safer, so was my ride. I started the week happy that I’d been able to ride on days I might not have. It felt really good, that sense of being out ahead of things, especially after the challenges of recent months. I’m now at two solid weeks of being happy with my mileage and I’m back to pushing for longer individual rides.

I signed up for a century scheduled for the end of next month. It will be my second ever.

Signing up for the century was another thing I wouldn’t have normally done. My first century was the flattest century you could imagine. This one has 5000 feet of climb, or at least the 2019 route did. But, a woman in a car stopped me in the parking lot at Big Creek one day. She called out her car window “Have you heard about the bike ride?” It was so random, I reached for the most likely thing I could think of. Since I was on a road bike, I said “You mean the 400 Century?” and was stunned when I had guessed correctly. She said “Yes. This is the last year…They cancelled last year for Covid and they’re never going to do it again after this year.”

The 400 is a ride that was on my list, if only for the part that goes down 400, a limited access 4 lane highway that’s a major commuter artery for Atlanta. Now, I was hearing that this better be the year, if ever. “Why? I asked. “Their about to do construction on 400 and the DOT said they won’t issue any more permits after that. The date was the end of June.” I said “I’m not sure I can be ready.” She said “You don’t have to ride the whole thing.” I was thinking about what construction was likely to do to my Big Creek Commute. Big Creek is now back on my ride rotation list, but the intersection with 400 is the reason traffic makes the 18 mile round trip take almost as long to drive as the 52 mile round trip that takes me to the closest spot on the Silver Comet (SC).

But, as I drove home, I was thinking. “You better be ready.” The only big hill on the SC is Trash Mountain, so named because it’s beside a landfill (right when you want to breathe deep, is also right when you’d least like to). The “sisters” are the challenging hills on the $00 Century. “Big sister” is behind my backyard, literally. I found out about this ride asking passers by if they were part of an event. I can sit in my backyard and hear riders groan as they come up Big Sister (or talk about how pretty that lake they just passed was if they’re doing fine). Middle sister is in the neighborhood adjoining mine, and little sister is in the neighborhood after that. I passed by an “Avoid the Sisters” directional that never got picked up for months after the last ride. If I’m willing to dodge traffic, I can practice the sisters without ever putting my bike on the back of the car.

I signed up as soon as I got home. There are serious athletes in Atlanta. I’ll be at the back of the pack, so traffic will be more of a frustration for me. But, I’m hoping that the worst I can do is to walk up Big Sister and into my neighborhood to get a ride back to my car. I eventually talked Russ into it as well. Well give it a shot together. All of the websites for the ride are out of date, but there is a link that works to sign-up and a live link to a 2019 Jersey (the registration doesn’t come with one). For all of my lack of interest in Jerseys, this one is not more expensive that what I’d pay for any other jersey. If they update it to artwork that makes it a last ride jersey, I’ll probably order it.

Tuesday Trippin, May 4

I haven’t given actual numbers on my mileage for a while. The good news is that my weeks are back over 100 miles and that feels good. I’ve had draggy days and while pushing to get back to where I was, I’ve had some of the physical problems that come from inconsistency in training (like muscle cramps, the beginning of tendon and nerve issues in the feet, and endorphin ups and downs). I’m not really sure how fast it is recommended that you build mileage back if you were recently at a higher mark. It seems like you might not need to stick as strictly to the 10 percent per week of someone who’s venturing out in new territory, so I’ve been pushing as hard as I can. The 10% recommendation is certainly an “average person” number and the physical issues are settling down before they got very bad.

My child care obligations will stop being full time once pre-school starts in the fall. Thinking I was going to start this before that happened wasn’t exactly insanity, but the stress levels it would have created wouldn’t have been pretty and the number of rides that had back up footage would have been fewer. Take into account all the illness of last year, and I’m thankful that we did not pull the trigger and submit a video/project sooner. Riding for a goal has made all the difference in the world to me/us through the last year, emotionally and physically. But it might have been too much if we had tried before we were ready.

Russ trains up faster than me, which is good. He’s been working too hard on myriad obligations to ride much with me. Thankfully, now that we’re both fully vaccinated, I can ride in places that are safer to ride alone, meaning places that are less remote, more crowded, have more frequent patrols, more frequent access points and trailheads and some trail cameras. So, my current discomfort in riding alone is that Russ really can’t become any more prepared to support the project while working full time. His help with gear, equipment and technology to provide safety, moral support and backup camera footage makes the project a great deal more likely to be a success. Ideally, he would be able to make complete rides soon after we get the kinks worked out of our set up. The sooner we’re both optimizing our resources, the more reliable the project becomes, and the more likely we are to finish in closer to a year instead of 18 months. By the end of May, the biggest renovations to the house should be complete and he can take advantage of the long summer days more often.

This post came up in my memories. I’ve worn out a few tires since then, and I can’t tell you how many. But, I pay better attention now. I change them out before they look like this! It was funny to see that goal. I didn’t ever expect to actually meet it when I wrote that, but (if we meet our top goal) can do most of our support by bike, who knows? It’s possible.

The first time I rode through the rubber on a tire (and the last time I let that happen)

Tuesday Trippin’ April 6 & 13

Pine branch, Polk County, GA

Another “Trippin'” post that covers two weeks here, I don’t think it will become the norm. Leading up to April 6 was a whirlwind, shifting into better rides again (while dealing with those incredible spring pollen counts) and then back into sickness again. The first illness with the weight loss that I mentioned last post really kicked me. I kept thinking I was better then realizing I was not at regular strength, and before getting there, the second illness hit. First Russ got it, then me. It felt like rhinovirus (a cold), but no shortness of breath, so I didn’t seek a Dr. or a test. They just treat for symptomatic relief anyway. We each had about 3 miserable days surrounded by less miserable days on either end, timed perfectly to blow away some free that time we planned to use better.

We have tried to be careful. Last week I got a flat on the trail and chose to walk 2-plus miles back to the car. The skin on my hands is thin and fragile from washing and I just didn’t want to hurt them. Getting something contagious is maddening in the age of ‘rona if you’re among those taking that good ol’ “abundance of caution”. Repeatedly getting something contagious feels defeating. During the pandemic of the century, the last thing a person wants is evidence that they haven’t been careful enough, or that their immune system isn’t strong enough. Whatever the contagious thing that got you is, it could have been Covid-19 instead. Being high risk without healthcare makes that so scary. The morbidity rates most quoted are based on the general public, and it’s less clear what odds a high risk person has. They don’t really quote odds on people for whom a lengthy hospital stay is not possible at all. The reasons for that aren’t pretty.

Trying to see it from a cool distance, the uncontrollable nature of the spread underscores the interconnected nature of life. Our house is a microcosm of everything complicating the spread. With “essential workers” and multiple generations in our house (including young children with shared custody). Our bubble has multiple households and is oh so penetrable, with every person reliant on the choices every other person. Georgia’s executive orders preventing any Covid based changes to custody arrangements took away any semblance of self-determination to risk levels. A pandemic bubble is only as strong as the weakest link and the utter lack of control over our own fate was more than a little stressful. We really have been together/apart in so many more ways than the obvious ones, and not just with corona virus either. I’m sure countless people will write long tomes exploring their particular insights into what was, what wasn’t, and what could have been. Mine would begin with some of the many reasons this was an exceptional time to internalize “Tragedy of the Commons” in new ways and how we could achieve such a truly beautiful future if we did.

Chronic stress suppresses the immune system. It’s not such a surprise this was the worst year for illnesses I’ve had for a while, maybe forever. even with the extra precautions. I still believe the riding and the project prep has made a tremendous difference for us. On that first day that we ventured out after the stay at home order, when so many of the trails were closed I had no idea how unfit I’d become in such a short time. Back when deciding to drive almost 100 miles distance to reach open trails seemed crazy, it took me only a few miles to realize it wasn’t. I don’t really want to think about where I/we would be without the cardio, the escape and the release that has come from making it a priority to get out there and prepare for this project. I’m counting this as another time that the trail has saved me from lesser fates.

Pollen Season

The warmer temps brought pollen. As I drove up to the trail one day, I could see yellow air down the path and started fishing around to find a neck gaiter. Every time I mention the Atlanta counts to a particular family member, she suggests that hers are worse because there are more trees in her rural location. However, this article about the 3 decades of research done by Tom Ogren suggests that, as usual, we are our own worst enemies. In the US, landscapers and urban planners like to plant male trees to avoid messy fruits, but…well.. read the link, and then share it with your HOA, allergist or garden club. This is only one of the many reasons you hope your urban planners are getting their continuing education. Our Atlanta counts are high, but Islamabad is reported to be the worst in the world. Their reason is manmade too, but caused by the choice to plant paper mullberries. If you’d like to know what you should plant, natives are almost always safe. These people, or your local librarian (yes those guys are still around and way cooler than you suspect).

I have so much to say and things are looking up, but I’m going to stop and save it for next week and beyond

Tuesday Trippin’ March 22 & 29

Loropetalum (pink) and Forsythia (yellow) along the SCT

I lost weight during the sickness I mentioned in my last post. Some of the loss was digestive system contents and some of it was fueling the fever. I took in my after-illness calories slowly and carefully. Partly because my stomach still didn’t feel right, but also because I wanted as much weight as possible to stay off. That second part is not the best thing to do to a recovering body, but losing weight while exercising hard is a pretty big challenge for me, and it’s also important for me to lose some weight. Two weeks later, and eating normally, I remain 9 lbs lighter than when I got sick. That is a first. Normally I go fairly quickly back to pre-illness weight.

Recent body stresses include significant illness, weight loss at a higher than recommended rate, and….drumroll please…… vaccination! That’s a lot, I know. I might have waited a bit longer on the vaccination. But, I was anxious. I fully expected to be skipped over, to get my eligibility with the last group. In terms of actually getting it, I was in the last group. Georgia dropped the eligible age to 55 and up to include me. The next week they opened some locations to vaccinate any Georgia residents 17 and older. All state residents were eligible and being vaccinated before I actually got my stick. I was so excited, and bummed at the same time. I was finally eligible. I even got an appointment. Some people who were eligible in the first wave hadn’t managed that yet, but, I didn’t recover from what was probably the hella-flu as quickly as I expected. I still had to wait. Canceling that appointment was so hard, so very hard. I didn’t know how long it might take to get another.

The second appointment was available on my first attempt to schedule though, and I started to feel the weight of Covid fear lifting as soon as I had it. I felt safer just knowing the shot was in my near future, and I was about to shift away from the US mortality rate that peaked at just over 6% back when the trails were closed to a less than 1% chance of contracting a milder case of the disease and virtually no chance of death. I had to remind myself that I wasn’t any safer yet, not for a few weeks.

Now, I’ve had the first shot. I had to drive to North Georgia, which I was more than willing to do. It was not much further than I drive to ride my bike! I’m going to admit this right here. I cried. It’s not that it hurt. Vaccinations sticks don’t bother me. I don’t think, even when I was a child, that I had much, or any trepidation over little needles. Those honkin’ big blood donor needles making scar tissue in my veins bothers me, and I still suck it up do that anyway.

The reason I was so verklempt as I sat in an overcrowded waiting area (with part of me itching to get out) is that I haven’t known for a year plus if I’d be among those who made it through. I was never presumptuous enough to assume I had whatever it is that defeats Covid-19 naturally without any assistance from medical science. And, facing that without healthcare coverage is scary. I scanned faces for signs of emotion. Most faces were pretty blank and hiding what was going on underneath. The woman sitting right beside me as we waited to go to our health care workers was the only emotion I could detect. She had been watching them, and hoped she would get the one she thought looked gentle. I forgot to check the time when I sat down. I don’t know how many extra minutes that cost me.

The day after vaccination, I was really dragging. It was likely a reaction, but my body has had some significant stresses recently, and those were preceded by other significant stresses. In fact, I’m not sure when I remember things being what most people expect “normal” to look like. Who knows really. It could have been something else.

The day after that I was feeling okay and deprived of rides so I went out to ride in the rain. That was a calculated risk, I know. “I got my vaccination the day before yesterday” is not synonymous with “I’m fully vaccinated and safe.” Wet air transfers Covid-19 (and other diseases) really well. The mitigating factor was the lack of other people who also wanted to be out in the rain. There were very few kindred spirits out there. At the first sign of lightning, I would have turned back and gotten off the trail. It was a short ride and I didn’t push much.

What about that Stress Bomb?

This all brings up a very good question about my project. What if my stress bomb full of hurdles continues? I started posting here to show a certain level of seriousness and show a track record that supports the project. It hasn’t gone at all how I intended. What does that mean?

Well, my rewards are completable regardless of how well the filming goes. So, I can deliver on every reward. The project itself, the video of the rides and the free uploads, that should be manageable through significant adversity as well. Cameras on both bikes in both directions builds in a huge margin for error as far as technical and mechanical failures go. And, because I won’t stop those century rides cold turkey, fill-ins for missed rides during any given month will be pretty easy, up to a point. I can’t financially sustain the project indefinitely, even if it’s fully funded because the budget is based on a timeline. But, as long as nothing catastrophic happens, making up a missed ride during the same week of the next year will accomplish the goal of the right number of ride videos spanning the seasons. It sounds like a long time, but it’s a long project and it will produce a lot of video, and there will be plenty of video to enjoy in the meantime if I have to fill in gaps.

There may be some hard choices. I am personally committed to doing the project on pedal power, but there could come a point when that doesn’t make sense to the project. If there is an illness or injury that will cause us to miss half, or more of our ride videos for a month or more, and we could make those videos if we were to convert to electric assist, as bad as I’ll hate that, we’ll have to consider it. I don’t anticipate that will happen, but I’ll bet I haven’t anticipated every little (or big) thing that’s going to happen and the project goal will have to take precedence over the personal goals.

One risk factor just decreased in two ways. The vaccination makes me less wary about the crowds on the trails. I’ll still avoid crowds as best I can. That will make nicer video as well as lower risk of new variants, but soon I’ll be more comfortable in situations that weren’t at all comfortable last week. One of the most exciting parts of getting my vaccination is that I can probably put strength training at the Y back in my plans soon. Strength training is crucial to reducing the risk of injury. The CDC page doesn’t currently address gyms and the vaccinated directly, but pre “we have the vaccine” they mention that indoor gyms are among the highest risk activities, so I’ve stayed home, even though my gym has been open for some time now. Between the drive and the work out, 2 visits will be another 6-7 hours I have to fit in my schedule, but it will well worth it to reduce chances of injury.

All in all, the pre-project prep hasn’t been anything like I expected. But I feel optimistic, and so far the planning has accommodated the unexpected. This project is as sound and completable as any.

Tuesday Trippin’ March 16

This was the week that I have 4 full days free from childcare responsibilities. The weather was not just beautiful, it was gorgeous, and I spent all of that time tossing cookies and checking my temp (except for that night when Russ had to check it for me because I was shaking too hard to be able to push the display button just once). I had not experienced that before. It was scary. For 3 days, I didn’t feel good enough to pick something to run as background noise. I mostly slept.

The real defeat in that was not that I missed riding, I carried myself to the trail in my mind, even when I wasn’t awake (or even trying to distract myself). The frustration is that, once I felt good enough to function, and started to write, kind of like the Amy Adams Character in Julie and Julia, I’m here writing this stuff and wondering if it’s just a dairy. I don’t really have time for a diary right now. They’re supposed to be rewarding if you take the time, but now is not my time for that. And, I’m afraid to hook up the analytics and find out, just like I’m afraid to finish that video.

I don’t honestly know how much of not having submitted the application is my aversion to standing up in front of others with “a feeling I could be someone, be someone”, and how much of it is that life blew up with essential worker overtime instead of work from home, and dozens of other emergencies flowing out of control since the pandemic (since well before then really).

I do find it so much easier to put myself forward if people are looking at my work instead of me. I can fill out the application and wait, but that other part. You know, it’s not like in the movies. If you’re even still using paper for what you applied to do, you don’t have to open the envelope to know if you were accepted. Acceptance comes in a fat envelope full of next steps. Denial comes with just one sheet of condolences. Emails have subject titles. You open it to confirm, but you know. Instantly. I guess showing a hopeful character opening an envelope is a good way to communicate anxiety and suspense to the viewer though.

The Kickstarter will be different. I’ll be watching and responding daily as it makes, or … perhaps I shouldn’t speak that into existence. 🙂