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.

Tuesday Trippin’ July 20

The weather hasn’t been completely peachy. Last week we had siding replaced on the back of the house, soffits and fascia underneath the gutters with Hardie board and it’s rained enough that there hasn’t been a paintable day since. Fortunately, It’s easier to get a rideable day than it is to get a paintable day. I got up this morning to see if the forecast was as grim today as it was last night. I clicked and got excited, then realized it was showing me Panama City Beach. We visited my Mother for the first time in a year and a half a few weeks ago and went a little out of the way to drive through Wewahitchka for some Tupelo honey and walk down the beach. I’m not sure why the widget reverts back to the fun thing you checked once or twice instead of going to show you the place you’ve checked dozens of times since, but I’ll choose to be grateful for the reminder that I got a walk on the beach and a long awaited visit with my mother

The morning percent chance of rain moved inside my parameters here too, and the thunderstorm forecast disappeared completely. The grim bedtime forecast converting into a bike ride happens often enough that I never rule out a ride until the morning of, and really kick myself if I forget to re-check. More to be grateful for.

The ride was nice, not too wet. I was dragging at first, but energetic and getting my head into the right place before it was over. The Y was more crowded last time I went. I hope that was a reflection of the time of day rather than changing norms. I didn’t get the muscle soreness after, so I’m getting used to being back. My bike feels like it could use tightening up, tuning up and adjustments everywhere. For that matter, so did my body earlier this week.

I’ve been writing a good bit, things for this blog, both published and not, as well as other things. I’ve also started getting ready for the seasonal uptick in sales for the Etsy store. I need that to flow smoothly for at least the next 6 months and everything I do now will save some really irritating oops from happening later.

That’s it for today. Have a glorious day, and try to remember what you’re grateful for.

Cameras Part Deux

Sometimes I chide myself for focusing on the wrong thing, but making some camera decisions now does seem like the thing to do. I have to get funding before those decisions matter. At the same time, I need credibility as someone who has what it takes to get the job done. My blog pictures need to start looking better.

I’ve spent some time now and then over a few months considering what to carry instead of the Nikon for stills while riding the trail. Once there is a recumbent, I may take the Nikon from time to time, but as a rule, it’s just too risky, and you know those amazing things will happen too fast on the days on the days I have it, and there will be really glorious moments on the days don’t have it. For that quick access I’ve thought of a point and shoot or a better phone camera. I wasn’t sure. The phone cameras keep getting better and you’re more likely to have your phone handy when something happens quickly. My decision was partly made for me.

I love the Samsung Galaxy 8 Active that I had, but it was tired before I ran it through the washer and the dryer in my yoga pants pocket. The $9 a month I’ve been paying in insurance since it was new was going to get be a Galaxy 9 (not active). After the deductible, it was going to cost half the retail price to get a dated phone. I’ve mentioned my luddite tendencies, but that’s just because the budget is king in my life. The current Galaxy phone is a 21 and I want to do a project that needs a good quickly accessible camera at the touch of a whim. A lot of the tech savvy people who participate in funding crowdsourced projects won’t relate to this, but buying the Galaxy S21 Ultra was a leap of faith, especially since the reviews said it wasn’t even as rugged as the S20. My last 2 phones were active models because I AM going to drop it. The temptation to get rid of the overpriced and useless insurance was tempting, but the phone was really expensive. I couldn’t quite do it.

I thought there was a nest in our hydrangea this spring. Some people working on the house damaged the bush and now the empty nest is exposed. This unedited image is the first thing I took with my new phone. I should go back out in the endless rain to take another photo. I bet the shiny mylar ribbon would really pop against a darker wet nest.

One of the things I love about this phone is that you can turn on “Make a RAW copy” (actually, I found out that I could have done that on my 8 Active too). That means that you can use the .jpgs for all those things that .jpgs are good for, but if you want to play around with RAW, you have that option. I haven’t bought the software for that yet. I’ll probably go with Lightroom because it is widely used, but I did see some software that was rated higher and was a one time fee, not subscription. Decisions! And, miles to go…

Mom! Why is My Skin Red?

Mom wasn’t an anti-vaxxer, she was distracted. I received my smallpox vaccine at school in Texas. I remember lining up in a huge lunchroom, but after that we moved back to the small rural town in Alabama where she and a few more generations of my family grew up. I really don’t know what happened, but the ball was dropped somewhere and the rest of my vaccines didn’t happen at school, or the health department, or the doctor’s office. My vaccine card was also missing Polio, maybe something else as well, but Measles and Polio are the ones I remember.

I was in the 5th grade when it happened. I noticed the rash in the bath at home. I don’t remember how quickly the shift from “not that sick” to “nearly dying” happened or how long I was sick. I remember lying on the sofa in front of TV (no remote, black and white) drifting in and out while Mom was at work. I lost 40 lbs. I remember Mom telling me if I didn’t eat they’d take me to the hospital and stick a needle in my arm. For a long time I remembered the weird hallucinations I had, and the delirious nonsensical conversation I was told about later, but those are lost to me now. I remember my hair falling out like a cancer patient, but only about half of it. Some of it never came back. I wore my hair in braids back then and they were never as thick again. No one else in my class got it. I’m guessing they were all vaccinated. I ate a lot after I got well and became chubby for a couple of years afterward.

I remember Mom telling me I had a really close call, but just how high my temperature got was a little fuzzy. The mercury was up in that tip of the old glass stick thermometer where the numbers end and just a little bit of tube allows the liquid to continue to expand into the twilight zone of guessed the temperatures. As an adult, I wondered if there was a way to figure out how high it got. I looked up the symptoms and things that happened to me to see if they happened at a specific body temperature. It was disquieting. The phrase “denatured proteins” was in what I saw and it wasn’t very far from the temperature range I’d been led to believe my body and brain might have reached. The article likened denatured proteins to scrambled eggs for those who aren’t familiar with the term. In fact, the only reason I’m sure my temperature didn’t get all the way to that level is because I’m alive.

Shortly before I had my first child, I read an article about an unvaccinated farmer who contracted Polio when his daughter was vaccinated. When I took my son in to the pediatrician to get his Polio vaccination, I asked the Dr to vaccinate me as well. I told him about the article, and about getting the measles after missing that vaccine. He laughed and gave us both the drops. I didn’t mind the laugh. I wasn’t going to get Polio from taking care of my child and that’s all that mattered to me. We don’t give Polio drops in the US anymore. This article from the CDC explains that the liquid drops Polio vaccine can lead to what happened to the farmer in the article and that’s why those drops are no longer allowed in the US.

Catching the measles isn’t quite straightforward. There are some after effects. I wonder sometimes what new research could mean diagnostically to my health, so I look it up every now and then. The linked article talks about a loss of antibodies to other illnesses after having the measles and uses chicken pox for an example. There’s a relationship between chicken pox and shingles. If you had chicken pox, you take one shingles vaccine, if not the other. While waiting for my Covid vaccine, I remembered that the age recommendations had changed I was now overdue for shingles.

My grandfather had shingles. The last 20 years of his life were marked by pain. He didn’t have the opportunity to take a vaccine. I owe it to his memory to do my best to avoid the pain he suffered, I almost took it first, but felt Covid was more critical (and there needs to be time between vaccinations). At a time when so many people were comparing Covid vaccine reactions, mine was practically nil, but when I got around to the shingles vaccine, I had the strongest reaction I have ever had to any vaccine. I rarely have side effects, but this was enough of an exception that it had me rethinking which vaccine I should have taken. I had the measles after chicken pox, so what if the immune reduction affected me? I finally decided I was ok. When my children got chicken pox, I didn’t get sick, so I must have had enough residual immunity to keep me from catching it again, therefore, the vaccine for people who had chicken pox was the vaccine for me.

In high school chemistry, the professor told us to look around the room at each other, then said “Before vaccines, all but two of you would be dead.” I have personal experience to what missing mine almost meant to me. From time to time, when someone teases me about being distractible or forgetful, I wonder if I did experience some brain damage. I don’t really remember if people started teasing me about my distractibility before that illness, and no one else does either. In some respects it doesn’t matter. This is the one life I have and it’s had some pretty awesome moments that I’m grateful for.

I don’t want to dwell on this, but I do want to learn from it and avoid as much sickness and pain as possible, and I do tell the story fairly often. Measles is dangerous and the effects can compound. All the diseases that have been worth developing a vaccine for are better avoided. I don’t want what happened to me to happen to others. I hope that sharing my story will help people to avoid it.

Tuesday Trippin’ June 22

Crickets

“Crickets”, people say that to indicate a lack of response. Shortly after moving back home for a bit, my son asked me if we were playing cricket sounds in the bedroom. I laughed. We are. I’ve been falling asleep to the sound of crickets for months now. At our old house, only 8 miles away (and almost every other home I’ve lived in) the real crickets outside were really loud. We had an exchange student once, she asked what the noise was. The background noise was so constant that she had to take me outside and point at nothing in particular before I understood her question.

At our current house, where the phrases “front yard must be bermuda or zoysia grass” and “open like a golf course” are in the HOA Guidelines, the neighbors use yard chemical services and the crickets are now faked on a meditation audio. (The reasons I moved here were good, but the fit wasn’t a natural one).

Russ and I have been skipping around with guided and unguided meditations. His default often goes to unguided abstract music, but as I’ve read more articles about the benefits of nature sounds and coming across articles about forest bathing I thought about crickets. They are the background music of my life. And, I have been sleeping better.

The Rides

I’ve been riding at Big Creek because the streambed is cooler and it allows me to ride at more different times of day. The leftovers of a tropical depression are drifting by though, and the weather service flood warnings started 2 days before the rain actually got here. Urban flooding is a problem in Atlanta and the surrounding areas. Really it’s a problem in all places where there is a lot of impervious pavement. It’s a problem for Big Creek too, and, while many people who walk short distances will get to use the Greenway there sooner, I won’t ride there or even check the conditions again for at least a week after the rainfall stops. It takes that long for the waters (which during flooding sometimes contain sewage overflow) recede in more places.

Watching the weather is something I didn’t come by naturally. I’ve alway been the “Yes, there’s weather.” girl who didn’t pay much attention, but it’s something Russ and I both do frequently now. Russ does it for his work. I started when I got into ballooning, continued through a few Georgia droughts, and I do it now for the bike rides. Often the local weather forecast will be for more rain or greated chances of rain when I look the day before a ride, and by the morning of the ride, things have changed enough to meet my parameters for a ride. I recently had a week when I didn’t think I’d be able to ride at all, and rode nearly every day. They weren’t all dry rides, but it was fine. Not getting rain that was in the forecast has been something I’ve noticed frequently over the years. Forecasts that that always seem to change in the same direction make me wonder if Heat Island effects on precipitation are being fully accounted for in the model.

Regardless, today I’ve got the weather when it wasn’t expected, so, I can write about everything else later. It’s time to stop writing and start riding.

The Sisters, 400 and Me

There is the matter of that century I signed up for… the 400 Century. The first 3 miles are on a large limited access divided highway. That’s what even the 9 milers are signed up for, to get to go faster down that stretch of concrete on their bikes than they do in their cars. Those who finish the whole ride will also do 97 miles of local roads that I choose not to ride on under any other circumstances, after having made a few exceptions over the last 30 years. If getting chased by the Great Dane was the worst of it, I might ride these roads normally. It’s more the near misses and the times I got yelled at because drivers don’t want to share the road (and you know the kind of profane ugliness that comes with the road rage of the frustrated American driver). I only signed up for the century because it was the last time there would be a ride on 400 due to construction and it’s on that pesky bucket list of mine. It’s so hard to watch a bucket list item go away and do nothing.

In truth, conditions have improved with the advocacy of groups like the ABC, Bike Cobb, Bike Alpharetta, Bike Roswell, and others, but it hasn’t been too long since I went to a town meeting where a planning official was being abusively berated at length by an angry driver that didn’t want bike lanes. We still have far to go. Rage is a dangerous thing, more dangerous when you’re not the one in a 3000 lb vehicle. I’ll be safer in a large group activity with support, but riding these roads is not my comfort zone.

To prep for this discomfort that I not only willingly signed up for, but also dragged Russ into, I decided that on days when I don’t ride (the trail), I should go out and practice “the sisters”, those challenging hills on the century that are right out my back door. So, I went over to Big Sister. Usually when I’m on that hill, I’m walking and it’s easy to forget how long the hill stretches out. I ride flat rail trails and stream beds. I deal with hills by building momentum. But, you lose momentum at the stop sign, and even if there wasn’t one, momentum doesn’t last through a long slow grade.

After walking up Big Sister with my bike, I came home to check published elevations to see if I was initially wrong when I guessed the Big Sister was not a higher climb than Trash Mountain (The biggest elevation change on the Silver Comet, graced by the scent of the adjacent landfill. It’s built in a place where railway right-of-way wasn’t available during construction, so it’s the “real hill” on the Silver Comet). The Big Sister and Trash Mountain are comparable in elevation gain, the whole difference (to me) is in the distance the incline is spread across on Big Sister.

I noticed something else while I had the elevations up. The Sisters didn’t really stand out so much on the graph. There are a lot of hills on the ride. It’s just that the sisters come nearer the end when riders are tired.

When I first started to write this piece, I was talking about needing to train a lot and maybe even completing the whole century. I haven’t really done that level of training. I kept riding through the family trip and the musical bike repairs pretty well, but it turned out to be maintenance, not century training. In most ways, this century is irrelevant to the video project. The timing and requirements are different, but I thought throwing it into the mix would make me a stronger rider. Now, I’m looking at the ride being next weekend, and it’s taken a lot of effort just to ride at all. On top of that, there’s time of year. If you look at a temperature graph of Atlanta, the highs peak right about when the ride is scheduled, stay high through July and start to break around the first week in August. Heat is not my comfort zone either.

Of course, I knew this, and was remembering this, when I signed up. Awareness doesn’t keep it from being a pretty big deal though. I can’t just ignore it. My biggest limitation in riding is heat tolerance. When I get overheated, I get a migraine (unless it’s actually heat stroke, IKR?). I have a tell. When my face looks red, I’m still fine, but when it feels red, when I feel intense heat on my face, that’s when I need to quit and take aspirin, or suffer. I got right up on the edge during a ride a few weeks ago. I stopped when I needed to. It happened to be at the end of my ride. I didn’t take the aspirin though. My face had just started to feel red. I didn’t feel like the terrible symptoms were coming. They didn’t. That made me feel pretty good. I hope it was because I’m more fit (or maybe I just stopped at the right time).

Regardless, I’ve been pushing my heat tolerance all month because the century will be hot. That push is beginning to wear on me. Some days I’ve been tired enough not to do anything very physical except my ride. It’s time to go back to riding in the cooler temps and quit pushing the heat limits. This century will be cool at 7AM when it starts and will heat up later when I’m tired. I’m going to have to treat this as a fun diversion and make sure I don’t stress my body on a level that will cost me in the end. It would have been nice to make this last (and my first) 400 Century Ride a full century for me, but as I look at it from a week out, I’m having to face that for this ride on this day, that’s not going to be the smart choice. That’s ok. It will still be a glorious day.

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.