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Sunday, January 31, 2010

January Centuries

Yesterday, when I found that the snow had not reached this far north and that the weather, while cold, was predicted to be sunny with winds that were not very strong for this time of year, I decided I would ride a century. In the winter months, one never knows what week-ends one will be able to ride because of the fickle weather. As Steinbeck pointed out, "The best laid plans of mice and men," and that includes winter rides. I debated whether to post and seek company or not. Posting a show and go or captaining a winter century has potential risks: people without the proper preparation showing up, people showing up who will hold me up, people showing up who I will hold up. Rides in winter are just harder for some reason, and it seems I will never know how I will feel that day. In winter, I despair of ever again having summer's strength.

I decided to post and got one reply: Mule (Steve Rice). He is a stronger rider than I am, particularly in the winter months, but I also know he knows how fast I can ride and would not commit if he wasn't willing to ride at a pace I can maintain. He is one of the riders I know I don't need to worry about. The pace will probably press me a tad, but that is good for this now overweight body. I think how it is good to have friends with the same interests.

At 8:00, we leave the firehouse. I have no route planned and asked about looking at some of the new brevet routes, but as we head that way we find that there is some snow and ice of the road. We ride on thinking maybe it will fade as we head to the west, but when we get to Liberty Knob, we decide to turn around. Meanwhile, my big chain ring froze. Attempting to emulate Mule, I try to kick it over to the small chain ring without dismounting. My foot gets sucked up and caught. Luckily I am able to unclip and tilt to the other side. Mule grins and asks me if I remember what Skippy tells me, and I say yeah, not to follow Mule I manually move the chain to the small chain ring vowing to keep it there the entire day. In my head I vow I will practice this move with no audience in the future until I master it.

We head back north as I know there is no snow that way having come from the north east yesterday on my return from Cincinnati and having ridden 39 yesterday on my short jaunt. We head toward Brownstown. I am comfortable despite the cold, maybe even a tad overdressed. By now my water bottle is frozen solid and I wonder why I bother bringing water on a winter century. I think maybe this is one of the things that make winter centuries harder, having to go without water except for store stops. On 39, the water has receded leaving the ice above. I know it will glitter in the sun like diamonds if we return this way, but who knows if this will become our plan.

At Brownstown we stop at the gas station for a snack and drink, then decide to head northeast. We pick our route from the map as we go. I have never been to Freetown before, so we head in that direction. Surprisingly, it is a fairly large town with a couple of stores. We don't stop, but I store the information for future use. We then decide to head to Seymour. I have been to Seymour before, but never by bicycle. I am dragging and feel much worse than last week-end despite the fact that there was double or more climbing last week-end. I am glad when we stop. This will be our last stop before home.

The restaurant reminds me of a small town restaurant. The people inside are amazed that we are riding our bicycles in this weather. They are even more amazed when they find we have ridden 70 miles and intend to ride 30 more. One woman comes to the table and asks if we can eat all we want since we ride so much. If only this were true. Mule tells her it is not true. I think that I wish it were true. I also think that this is another thing making this winter century harder: the winter weight gain. The food is good and I feel more able to face the inevitable west wind that I know we must face to get home.

We head south and west in chunks so that we aren't in the west wind for miles and miles. I am glad we did not do my Half and Half Century as it has a such a long haul straight west. I apologize for my pace, but he assures me he doesn't mind. When we finally pull in to the fire station, we are a few miles short. This doesn't bother Mule, but I need to the 100 to get century credit for the ride. I decide to take a break and get something to drink before finishing it out.

Once in the house, it was so tempting to just let it go and quit. After all, I have my January century in. It is warm here. There is unfrozen liquid to drink here. But I know that if I once again intend to do PBP, I need to be able to get back on the bike when I am tired of the bike, to get back on the bike when I hate the bike, to get back on the bike when my eyes feel like they want to roll upwards into my skull, to get back on the bike when sleep seems the sweetest ambrosia on earth. So.....I force myself back out to ride it out, to head once more into the west wind. Yes, there definitely something a tad off about those of us who love distance cycling when the description somewhat resembles torture;-) I comfort myself with the thought of re-entering the womb in my bath tub, sloshing in the hot water, completely at rest.

Back at home, I wash my hair quickly in the shower and then treat myself to a hot bath. When I come back downstairs, I am clean and sweet smelling. It is 4:45 p.m. My husband looks at me. I tell him that you know you are getting old when you have your p.j.'s on before it is even dark outside particularly when it is winter and dark comes early. I am glad I have vegetable soup left from yesterday as the last thing I want to do is cook and/or do a lot of dishes. I am beat, but it is a good tiredness. I am glad I got the chance to ride, and I am glad I had the company of a friend.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Warm and Rainy in January

Today is one of those rare January days where it is warm, at least warm for this time of year. It reminds me of when you swim and get a chance to grab some air before going back into the water for awhile longer. I know that it will be cold again very soon, possibly tomorrow, but today it is warm and each warm winter day brings me one step closer to spring.

Since yesterday was a century day, and a hard century day, I had intended not to ride today. As the day progressed, however, and the rain was light and the wind was not too brutal and the temperature was warm, I decided to put a few miles in. My bike was still dirty from yesterday so that was not a worry. Actually some of my favorite rides have been in the rain. Unless it is a very cold rain or a very heavy rain, I can't see any reason not to ride. Bob at the bike store says it is hard on the bike, but bikes are meant to be ridden. I suppose things may wear out sooner, but I am wearing out with each passing second. Rain doesn't seem like a good reason to put my life on hold or to miss doing one of my favorite things: riding my bike. It sure is more fun than the housecleaning I have done most of the day.

I head out toward 39 at a meandering pace. After yesterday, I don't want to torture my legs with any serious hills today. A hawk glides silently skimming the tall grass, his colors blending perfectly with the scenery. Hawks always make me think of Grasshopper because he loves them so. The world is filled with water and I am surprised that 39 has not yet flooded. The road work they did last summer has definitely helped. The ground can't absorb more and the water laps gently against tree trunks changing the world. Sage's Ferry is flooded and the waters cover the launching site and reach for the road. 700 and Medora will be impassable. I grin thinking of the time I got caught out and had to wade the flood waters to make it home before dark. Such a scolding I got.

The clouds move quickly across the sky, grey and sullen, and I wonder when I will next see the sun. I can't remember the last sunny day. I think briefly of Mule saying that he e-mailed Bill saying the only thing they were accomplishing asking about my new bike was to make me second guess myself. I am glad for his insight. I say a prayer for the friends I have, each one so very special.

All too soon it is time to turn around. There is supper to be made and I have left one half of the kitchen floor to wash until my dirty bike rolls over it. Tomorrow may be cold, and I am glad I made use of this warm, January day.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Paris Brest Paris 2007 12

The journey has ended. We are waiting for the restaurant to open so that we can eat. Everyone is tired. All of us finished. I am homesick and it will soon be time to go home. I dread the thought of the travel, but I long for my own little bed and my own routines and the people who love me. They lose my luggage on the way home, including my bike. This may be a blessing as it is delivered to my door the next day so I never had to try to carry it all. My bike case had been opened, but it appears to be fine other than being impossibly light without the heavy carradice.
When I return to work, I find they have tracked me. There are banners across my doors and windows: Congratulations. But I am only there a short time before the phone call comes and I am out the door to the hospital. The light is that this didn't happen while I was on the road somewhere in France and that there is still some hope that all will come out okay.

PBP 2007 11

The journey is ending. Things are becoming blurred in my mind and I begin to wonder what quits first: the mind or the body. I determine it is probably the mind. Though my body is exhausted, I feel like my legs could continue their journey forever, but my neck is starting to hurt and I feel at times as if my eyes want to roll back into my head. I begin to dream of hot water and the smell of shampoo and soap and the feel of toothpaste for I have lost my toothpaste somewhere along the way. At one point I stop to lie down and rest in the beautiful yellow flowers that line the road only to find that they are some type of stinging plant. While it is painful, it also wakes me up and I am able to ride farther while the welts subside. I decide to take caffeine at one point, and only realize later that it was not caffeine that I took but Ibuprofen. I don't know why I brought the Ibuprofen as it would be a real emergency before I took it on a ride due to the preliminary studies about its effect on liver and kidneys when a person is dehydrated.
I realize as I write this that it was a later control where I found Johnny, during my last nap. Dave was long gone. I had found Steve Royse eating at that control as well. He looked as fresh and as upbeat as the day we left and I was feeling so very sick that I wanted to slap him. I was sitting there with all this food I was going to force myself to eat, unable to stomach more than a bite or two. I will later run into him on the road, but only after I have awakened and hammered the hills hard afraid I won't make the control deadline. I end up in a paceline with people from four different countries. The one from the US is trying to make 80 hours. We are moving at a pretty good pace and I hold on for about a half hour, but then I am spent. I also paceline with some man with a white and light blue pants and jersey. I can't remember the lettering and I am not sure where he is from, but he makes me feel good right before he drops me by looking back and nodding his head in approval. Funny how some things transcend language. Not eating has done me in again. Royse came along and swept me up off the road giving me lollypops and encouragement, and we end the ride together. I am able to keep down soup at the last control. I cry as we reach the finish line, but I am smiling. One woman comes up to tell me she thinks what I have done is wonderful, and I agree. We wait a long time to sign in at this control, much longer than anywhere else along the route. Royse talks about a party, but I insist that I just want a toothbrush and a bath and to try to eat again. I know my body needs food even though it doesn't want it.
At the hotel, following a good toothbrushing and a hot, sweet smellings shower then bath, I realize I am glad to be able to do girl things again like spread lotion on my skin. It feels so soothing. My private areas are pretty raw from the rain, the distance, and losing my butt paste along the way. I have learned so much from this experience. I think of all the people who made this trip possible, this feeling as if I am in awe of myself and what I have done. I don't know if I will ever do it again, but I am so glad I did it. So many people to get here. Eddie, Davy, the Steves, and on and on. And now I have something I can hold tightly to myself when I am feeling caged in or lonely. I hope I can remember the feel of the wind, the rain on my skin, even the smell of my wool jersey at the end of my journey. I think of the thinking errors I made during the ride and am amazed at how sleep deprivation blurs thoughts. I still don't really have an answer about the body/mind connection and which gives out first. If I ever ride another such event, I will be able to ride it better I believe. But mostly, I am glad I was here and that I did this thing. I finished. Along the way I saw many who did not. I saw strong men broken by the weather and the course, pain on their faces as they realized they could not go on. So many things that I could never write them all down. I wish I had taken the time to take more pictures. Perhaps in the future......

PBP 2007 10

After Loudiac, I finally manage to throw up. While it scared me due to dehydration concerns, I felt so much better. The rain had stopped temporarily and I had a wonderful hour or two. I knew I was feeling better when I started to sing and climb. It was one of those times when those around you seem to be feeling weaker and for some strange reason you are feeling stronger and stronger. I stop to take pictures of some of the flowers. When I stop to brush my teeth alongside the road as they feel like they have developed fur, I see a beautiful creek off to the side. At a small village, I find a stream with the most beautiful swans, and always there are the French yelling, "Allez! Bravo!" The climb into Brest is fun and when I get to the top, there are crowds of people who seem to go wild when I reach the top and am still climbing standing out of the saddle. I am sure it is my imagination, but it seems real and so I pretend. Then comes the most wonderful descent that seems to last forever. Near the bottom I pass a large group and cry, "Rally Brest! Rally Brest!" Being male of course this meant they had to give chase and we hammered for quite some time before I saw Johnny riding off to the side and dropped to chat for a moment. I then started stopped at each child I saw and leaving some gift with them: a sticker or a toy parachute or a tootsie roll. We come to the bridge at Brest and the wind almost blows me over. One of my great regrets of the ride is that I didn't stop to take a photo as I thought the route would be out and back and I would catch the view on the return. I later take pictures at the summit of the hill I was on such a high over earlier, but it was nearing dark and they did not turn out so well.
At the control, I find my stomach is upset again. I have started eating at the bars and places between controls, but I decide to eat at the control here. I am waiting in line wondering if I can ever stomach another jambon avec fromage sandwich again when some man dressed in a suit asks if I am aware there is a restaurant with no waiting a bit up the hill. He walks me up there and speaks perfect English. He asks if he can take my picture and e-mail it to me. I tell him yes. He writes my e-mail address down and I note that he has the addresses of many others. I have never gotten my picture so I wonder if I have been scammed, but if so, it is too late. I am missing broccoli and spinach and roughage in my diet. While at Brest, Dave comes in after me. I tell him where I will be in case he wants to ride with me. He finds me in the restaurant and we decide to continue our journey together for awhile.
We ride into the dark and see a man weaving on his bicycle. He asks for help. Dave stops and then I stop. We find that he has not eaten or drank anything since 5:00 as he got sick to his stomach. Jamie from England stops as well, and then a nurse. We make him eat and drink and spend quite some time helping him. Jamie says to me that it is time to try some tough love as we will not make our time if we continue to stay, so we take off. Dave catches us and we make the control. I was thinking this was where we find a McDonald's, but I must be wrong, because wherever it is we end up, we see Steve Rice getting ready to head out. It must have been Loudiac as Joe wasn't with him and must have been at the hotel. Dave and I get into a small tiff when he wants to tell me when to get up rather than when to leave, and I hope I don't hurt his feelings as I suggest we just take off alone. I want a bit more sleep than he is allowing and decide to give myself the luxury of three hours. I go to bed and look over. There is Johnny three mats down. What a hoot. Later I will tease him about sleeping with him;-) This from the woman who, despite temptation, has not slept with anyone but her husband in 28 years. The next thing I know I feel tiny hands on my shoulders, and a child is whispering, "Madame, madame, it is time to get up." Even the small children know quite a bit of English and I feel stupid. One of the things Jamie and I talked about in the dark of the night is that he was amazed when Dave told him he doesn't know French. Jamie teaches French to adults. It makes me realize how little he understands America. I don't speak French either. If I were going to learn another language that I would use, Spanish would make more sense. But I just listen. Jamie is big. He has one daughter. He has never done LEL and has no desire to do so.
But enough for now. It is time to leave for the hospital again.

PBP 2007 9

The day is finally here and we are preparing to go to the start. I notice that my stomach is feeling rather badly, but I figure it will pass as the ride starts. Wrong! It will haunt me with nausea throughout the entire event, though it does ebb for short periods of time. It is not raining, but there is the promise of rain in the air. The crowd is large and it would be easy to get separated. Some people are pushing and shoving. I hang onto the back of Steve Royse's carradice so as not to get separated. I still am not sure about finding my way if I get lost. Someone at the hotel tell me the arrows here are used differently than they would be at home.
There are fireworks and other exciting things going on in the distance. I notice a man and a woman speaking french and they are pointing at me and laughing. He tries to talk with me, but I don't really speak but a few words of french. I call on Johnny for help. I find that my Boure hat means being drunk in french. I will meet this same people in a bar somewhere in France in the middle of the night later during the ride and the giggle will continue. It was almost like running into old friends.
The ride gets ready to start. Someone wants to see both of my lights work, but my secondary has not worked since I got here. Perhaps I should have asked Dave or Steve for help, but I was proud of myself for finally getting the primary to work without help and I figured I could get by. I hate always having to ask for help. Asking for help is hard for me to do. There are reasons for that, but this is not the time to go into that. I have my primary light, my head lamp, and a cats eye handlebar light.
The ride thins out more quickly than I would expect and I hang onto the people I am riding with. Unfortunately, there are enough people that I am not very comfortable eating in the midst of everyone. If I ride this type of ride again, I either need to practice or come up with something that works for me. In the dark I hear someone go down and the sound of their helmet scraping across the pavement. Water bottles seem to be everywhere, but I manage to remain upright and with everyone. I find I am overdressed, but I don't feel as if I can stop. By the first stop, I am starting to feel very dehydrated. Coke tastes like the sweetest of drinks, but my stomach just won't get over it.
I later end up bonking and Steve Rice gently pushes me up hills and feeds me caffeine to pull me along. I am amazed at his patience and gentleness, and I feel badly because I know I am impacting his ride strategy. Strangely enough in light of what is to come upon my return home, I think about when I will be without Lloyd for I am realistic enough to know that barring illness or accident, I will outlive him, and I think that maybe with friends like this I can somehow survive that loss when it comes.
Sometime or another, we come upon a stand where children are giving out hot chocolate and pound cake. It tastes so good. I am glad I have a little something to give them in return: stickers and toy parachutes. Sometime during this time, I realize I must separate from the group for their own good and my good. Unfortunately, when I try to communicate that need to Royse, he won't accept it telling me that I will be amazed at what an hours worth of sleep will do for me. When we reach Loudiac, Dave is there and says we will meet at 1:00. I am in no mood to argue, so I go to bed and explain that I will need to get up at 1 to tell some friends to go on, but want to sleep another hour or so after that. Luckily, the man at the control speaks English. They wake me at 1:00 a.m. and I go outside, but I must have gotten the time wrong because nobody is out there. I try to find paper and finally manage to snag a scrap piece from one of the tables. I write a note intending to leave it on Dave's bike as I think he will find it as he is so observant, but I can't find his bike. I leave the note on Steve's bike asking them to go on. My bike is not shifting right and I need a mechanic and I need a bit more sleep. When I awaken, they are all waiting and I feel like a piece of shit. They had not found my note. I tell them to go on and finally they go. I will finish this ride, but at my own pace and in my own way. I have realized I must do this to be successful. I remain sick to my stomach. I was amazed at the control at how I could sleep. As soon as my head hit the pillow it did not matter that there were a hundred strangers around me, I was asleep.
I am amazed at the people along the route, even in the rain and the chilly, windy night air, they are there helping. They all blur together. Rain impacted picture taking, and I am glad my camera was not destroyed. I had bought waterproofing for my handlebar bag and applied it prior to the event, but it had never been tested. It worked well.

PBP 2007 8

We are back at the motel. The bikes are not allowed in our personal rooms, so there is a large room where they are kept. The carpeting is covered with plastic. The room is filled with bicycles and bike boxes. The boxes also litter the stairwells. When we take our bikes and check out, this is where our luggage will stay until our return. I feel very lucky that I never had to move more than five or six bikes to get to my own. I also am glad I am not neurotic about scratches on my bike like I am about so many other things. I learn so much by just watching the others. Many are veterans, others are new like me. I see different seats and different lights and different thingamajigs.
The other picture is the bar where people kind of loiter on the first floor. Only two more days and we will be leaving. Tomorrow is bike check in. I grow more and more nervous, but the good kind of nervous. I ask myself over and over why I want to do this and never do come to much of a good reason other than to see if I can. I am hoping for good weather, but I hear the forecast is for rain. (Boy were they right;-)

PBP 2007 7

The journey ends as all journeys do at the cemetary. Monuments to people that have been loved. That is all we can do to honor the dead and what they were, what they contributed to our lives and our world, to honor what we ourselves will become, and people have chosen monumental means to do so. We go into the cemetary in shifts because we may not take our bikes inside. I go with Joe and Royse. We never find Jim Morrison's grave, but we do find the grave of Chopin. It is like a shrine with people before it. There are flowers and candles and other tributes. What must it be like to contribute to the good of humanity to where strangers build a shrine for you? I will never know as I, like most, am not so talented. I am just me. Royse also asks me to photograph the monument near Chopin's that has a name I am not familiar with. Joe and I wonder if people are actually buried here or cremated and then buried. Space leaves me to believe they are cremated.

PBP 2007 6

My saga continues, this time to try to get my mind off of the day and the doctor that left us hanging by not coming to tell us our options as promised. His failure to show worries me. Was there another emergency or does he not know what to do? My husband is stable, but not well. There is a grayness to his complexion that I do not like, and his blood is so thin that any prick leaves it flowing. Though he will not admit it he is frightened, and I am frightened and not afraid to admit it. He sent me home to get some sleep. It gives me a chance to drop the face I maintain there and cry. If and when they decide what to do or what they can do, I will be staying down there most nights until he is stronger, if he gets stronger. God must give me strength because I am a weakling and a coward in the face of this nightmare. There are things I need to say to him, but there is such finality in words and I can't yet go there. But onto Paris, a place I perhaps should not have gone
After lunch we head to Notre Dame. I believe that I read Hugo's "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" when I was younger, but I barely remember the story. There are gargoyles and wonderful carvings and statutes. The towers lift one upwards towards the heavens, and I am sure that was there intent. There are tourists everywhere dressed as brightly as any cyclist. Birds gather in flocks hoping for a spare crumb or two. And who do we run into but my nephew, Chris, and his wife, Dian. I knew they were in Paris and that they wanted to meet, but who would have thought that we would meet like this. I am glad because it takes the pressure off of me to try to meet prior to the ride. We talk about possibly meeting for meal, but we know it probably won't happen. I remember Chris when he was a small child before his mother's accident. So many years ago, yet just like yesterday. Everyone is getting tired at this point, but we decide to go to the graveyard. Alex recommended this to me. I am not a Jim Morrison fan, but he told me the graveyard had other things much more wonderful.

PBP 2007 5

I am writing this before going to the hospital to be with my husband. He suffered a mild heart attack. They are unsure what to do as all four of the bypasses they did two years ago are completely blocked, plus there is another blockage. They have consulted a blood doctor to see if there is a blood disorder leading to this unusual development. He also has broken out in shingles which has a solitary benefit of meaning a private room due to contagion. They are concerned about me as I have never had chicken pox, but I nursed my children through it without catching it so I would assume that I am either immune or had a slight case that nobody noticed. The doctors will all meet this afternoon when the heart surgeon is free to decide what to try to do. I believe I am writing this to avoid going back in and facing the stark reality.
In these pictures we were at the Arc de Triumphe. Dave is making one of his faces. Dave always provides comic relief and while I have seen him in a bad mood for a very short period of time, I have never really seen him angry. His love of food makes me giggle. Dave started riding about the time I did, but we were not friends for a few years. I dream of what it must be like to ride up this road when it is clear of cars and with crowds cheering on both sides. The cobbles shake my bike and make me even more admiring of those that can ride so quickly and skillfully on the surface, even when wet. I am lucky to stay upright and they are racing. I am amazed at the intricate carvings and I am sure that each tells a story, probably based on French history or on Greek myth or a combination of the two. I wish I had a guide or more time to read up on it, but it would be a lifetime task as there is so much beauty here. I think of a time when construction involved craftsmanship and was a creation. It makes me think briefly of Mike Pitt, Sparky, and how he said he is doing so much of the work on his house in Maine himself. He certainly could afford to pay to have it done, but there is a certain satisfaction people find in creating that we get nowhere else.
We are getting hungry and shortly after we pass here, decide to stop for lunch. Joe suggests that we return and get a sandwich and eat in a nearby park, but when we get to the park, we find it is closed to bicycles, even walking. We meet two young men also here for the ride who are in the process of being expelled from the park. They have tattoos so thick on their arms that the underside of their forearms are now blue and black without a discernable pattern. Each generation is so different. I think of the patches on my jeans made from brightly colored bandanas and halter tops and wonder if I ever really was so young and naive. But I don't know that the youth today are as naive. Cynicism in the young is not admirable, but sad. Someone told me that Churchill once said that the man who is not a liberal in his twenties has no heart, but the man who is not a conservative in his thirties has no head. We eat at a roadside cafe instead. My food is burned, but I eat it anyway because I am hungry.

Paris Brest Paris 2007 4

These pictures are also from the pre PBP tour. We are at the Eiffel Tower. It was interesting to me to find that there were uniformed guards carrying machine guns. They came up to us during our visit and told us not to leave our bikes. For some reason, they seemed very uncomfortable with us being there. Steve Royse, as usual, has a lollypop hanging out of his mouth. My middle brother, Chris, the dentist, would not approve. Fueling is problematic when one has a dentist as a relative;-)

Paris Brest Paris 2007 3

One of the first places we stop on our pre PBP excursion is in front of the palace of Versailles. I have been here before when I was a child, and I remember the room of mirrors and how I had read about it in books before I came. Royse finds the palace boring, but for me it is a mysterious building that houses the spirits of those that came before. If I remember correctly, it was here that Marie and Louis found out about the death of the king, falling to their knees holding each other and saying they were too young to rule. I would like to see the Petite Triagnon as well where Marie played at being a simple milk maid. I think of her growth from child to dignified woman, a growth that came too late to save her life or the life of her family. If I ever come again, I hope to be able to prepare more by reading and to have time to stop and explore.
It is outside of this building that I first notice that there are double decker buses, but the top deck has no roof. One young man passes with a small umbrella that is attached to the top of his head with a head band thus leaving his hands free for other things.

PBP 2007 2

This is a new friend, Joe Camp, who I met on Tokyo. He lives in Illinois as does Greg Z., the person who introduced us. Joe is married and has three children. He reminds me of Mike Kamenish, Deisel Dog, for some reason, perhaps the shape of his jaw. Joe is a strong cyclist and I am glad that he will ride with us, but I worry that we will not be fast enough for him. I am persistent, but I am not always very fast, and I am a girl. It is funny how little by little I grow to know more of the people who log on the Big Dog site. I still remember meeting Greg Z. in person in Texas. This rather tall man who I don't know at all comes up and asks me about Grasshopper and how he is doing. I still smile at this recollection. Steve Rice says maybe it should scare me that people would recognize me through my logs, but it doesn't. This picture is on our pre PBP bicycle tour into Paris. Joe was a continual source of comfort to me throughout my entire PBP experience, and I have come to hold his friendship dear. The warmth of his hug when I split with the group in Loudiac will remain with me the rest of my days. He is a very special person, the kind you feel safe with.

PBP 2007 1

This is the hotel where I stayed. On the way to the hotel, I am struck by the size difference in cars. Most cars are 1/2 the size of cars in the United States. In the room, I am struck by the small size. It is small, but I am small and it meets my needs. The bed is nearer the floor than beds in my own country. The toilet paper is about 1/2 the width of toilet paper in this country, I would assume to discourage waste. The hardest thing to adapt to in the room is the bathtub as it sits at a higher level than the floor. I slip twice prior to the event, but I am able to catch myself rather than fall; however, following PBP I take a good tumble and am thankful I do not reinjure my back after landing on my tail bone. It makes me think of when I fractured my spine and missed a couple of months of holding my daughter, yet how lucky I was that it didn't cause me to have lasting pain. Initially they told me I would be on medication for my back the rest of my life, but I told them no and was lucky enough to have my body heal and not be in constant pain. I miss my pillow and determine that next time I will pack less, yet I will include my pillow. Why does the world like such fat, fat pillows? In this aspect, France appears to be like the United Stated. The motel does not have soft drink machines or candy/snack dispensers. There is a bar by the check in desk, and you can get alcohol and soft drinks there. On the far side of the hotel (I didn't get a picture), there are oodles of outside cafes and a mall with Carefour, the French version of Walmart. There is a man made pond by the tables and it looks quite romantic. I later get some white wine from Carefour and it tastes like ambrosia. It also calms my nerves.
When I arrived, everyone was putting together their bikes other than the few whose bicycles were lost during transit. Mine does not appear to have been opened, and I am thankful. One woman on the bus over was on the verge of tears as her bicycle had not appeared, and my heart goes out to her as I think I would be crying. Such a long journey. I open my case and David jumps right in putting it together. I later learn that Steve Rice asked him to do this. I don't argue as I worry about being able to do it right, but I watch closely so that I can pack it again correctly.
I was frightened on the trip over, but due to wearing my geeky red shirt with "American Team" on it, hooked up with Alex from Lexington and was able to follow his lead. I don't know why I am such a baby about new experiences. I wonder if it is this hard for everyone and why I am so insecure. I know I am not particularly intelligent, but I also know that I am not completely an idiot. The ear planes I bought do keep my ears from causing me such intense pain as I have experienced in the past on longer flights.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Venting Odds and Ends

Today my best friend at work as well as another woman got told that they will no longer have jobs in the near future. Another of my friends was crying as she bumped another onto the pavement due to seniority. All around me tears and a sea of sadness. I hated my helplessness in the face of their tragedy and it took me back to when one of the same women, my friend, lost her daughter in a tragic car accident. There is never anything one can say or do, but everything within me screams that I should be able to fix this, even though my brain knows that I cannot. It reminds me of a book I read once, a Russian author, but I don't remember his name or the novel/short story. He is at a funeral and talks about how in the back of every one's mind is the thought that they are glad the person in the coffin is not them. I think that is how many feel today as the news further demoralizes an already demoralized office. Yes, we are truly sorry, but yes, we are glad it is not us.

As I ride my bike after work today, I wonder what the world will be like when there are no jobs for most people anymore. In a few years, we can get rid of most of the librarians and the libraries. You will be able to download your book from the library to your computer or portable book. No longer will we need to build magnificent buildings to house the knowledge passed down through the centuries or pay people to guard and organize them. That means we won't need the people to build the building or make the materials to build the building or ship the materials to build the building. An endless chain of lost employment. The person at the filling station pumping gas and checking your oil has long vanished. Waitresses and car hops at many restaurants: poof. While this may be inevitable and there are some new jobs created, I suppose I think that for most people working instills a sense of self respect, even if the chore is menial. While sometimes it is quite pleasant to be taken care of, there is something very comforting about the ability to take care of oneself. One question I have posed to parents throughout my years as a social worker is, "How can you care for your child if you can't provide for yourself?" And not everyone is smart enough to hold employment in this brave new world.

I am sad and confused tonight. I at least want to understand things, but I don't. I remind myself that it could be worse. Look at Haiti. But for tonight I mourn for my friend and selfishly, for my own coming loss because despite how often you vow you will maintain these work friendships when someone leaves a post, it just doesn't seem to happen.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Dreary Winter Days

Despite the weather predication for temperatures in the forties and sun, I could tell as the sun came up that he would have some work to do if this was going to happen. The fog was so thick and gray that the roads that were dry the night before were wet. I had planned to ride a century today based on the prediction, but the intense fog made me rethink that idea. It didn't help that I had just read an article about two Amish teenagers that were killed yesterday when a car did not see their buggy because of the fog. Indeed, the intersection where it happened, Liberty and Pixley Knobs, was one I had intended to ride today as I am working on another century route. This had been greatly impeded by my inability to transfer my Garmin Mapsource to my new computer. Grrr. Deciding to err on the side of living to ride Saturday and have company, I decided to wait and head out later.

When I finally go out, I find that the fog has coated part of the roads with ice, as if they were glazed. I think about turning back, but I had decided that since I wouldn't get a century in, I would go to the forestry to get my friend, Davy, the pictures he wanted. I will just ride extra carefully. Besides, I kept telling myself that the sun would come out and it would warm up. Meanwhile I am kicking myself for not riding yesterday when it was warmer and the weather forecast was once again, surprise, wrong. The 100 per cent chance of rain yesterday ended up being about 15 minutes worth of a light drizzle.

Once I get used to the slow pace, I am glad that I decided to ride here. The forestry is empty of the sights and sounds of summer. Everything is a study of gray and brown. I pass a man walking his dog. It is not leashed, but it obviously is well trained as it does not chase me. It is a beautiful dog, one of my favorites, a golden retriever. I will think of this dog later when I ride by Shelly's parents home and Shelly's childhood dog no longer barks at me as if I had ill intentions. Sadly, I wonder if they will get another dog because there comes a time when you have to wonder if you will outlive your pet, and if you do, what will become of him/her. I know they are growing old. It makes me think of how he would come by in his truck when I was running through the rain always wanting to give me a lift home. Even those few years ago he was wizened and stooped, but his kindness showed in his eyes and the way they crinkled when he grinned. While there are things that bother me about having a pet, like wearing clothes with hair all over them, the pets I have loved have enriched my life immeasurably. I smile thinking of my Pupik and how when I first moved in with my husband, he would not let him come down the hall to the bedroom.

Soon I am at the bottom of the fire tower hill. I know there is no way I am climbing the hill today. It is scary enough to come back down when the roads are dry. When the roads are wet, you are asking for a fall, and a fall at an incredibly fast pace. I get off my bike and take photographs of the first of the hill from different angles hoping that it can bring Davy some pleasure remembering when he could climb like the wind leaving the others behind.

On the way home, I find I am eager to get back to the house and fall into its warm embrace. For some reason, while I have enjoyed the ride, I am ready for it to end. I decide I will go back out if the sun comes out, but otherwise will do some chores. Lord knows it needs it. My bike could use a good bath as well.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Well, yesterday was not my day to buy a lottery ticket: just one of those frustrating days. The weather was nice, overcast and foggy, but in the thirties. It was the club banquet, however, so I knew I would not have time to ride and get to Grasshopper's house in time to go pick up Davy. Okay, I thought, that will give me a chance to do a short ride then go pick up buffalo meat from the buffalo store. Our local store doesn't carry buffalo. When I got there, the store closed at noon. Grrr.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Thoughts on a Saturday Morning

Thursday my husband and I went to order my new bicycle making the long drive to Tennessee. I appreciate his company as I know that riding in a car for that length of time will be painful for him, but I also know that he wants to be involved. Because of his health, there are so few things we can do together any more, and I know that it bothers him. Today is ours. My husband bought me my first bike because he worried that all the running I was doing would hurt my knees. I thought he was wrong and that I would never give up running, but with age came foot pain and hip pain. Mostly, I just found that I loved the world of distance cycling and the friends that I made there.

I have very mixed feelings about buying this bike. I already have a Trek road bike, a Cannondale road bike, a Raleigh fixed gear bike, and a mountain bike. My home is littered with bicycles, and I love each one. True, my road bikes all have lots of miles, but they get me down the road. I justify the purchase in that the money is coming from a Pit Bull attack I suffered while on a ride that left me somewhat scarred, both internally and externally. It wasn't a large sum of money as the damage was not too serious, but it is enough to buy myself a new bicycle. Mainly I was glad that the attack did not ruin my enjoyment of cycling or did not do serious, long lasting damage. If I were a young woman, the scars on my leg would bother me more than they do, but I am older now and no longer struggle so with the realization that I was not one of the few born breathtakingly beautiful.

I don't know why I always feel guilty about spending money on myself, as if somehow I am not worthy of the nice things that others have. Maybe it is because my job normally makes me realize how much I do have compared to others or maybe because of the way I was raised. But enough of that nonsense.

The store was a welcoming place where one could browse and lust over different bicycles, clothing, and accessories. The employees arrived at work via bicycle despite the location on a very busy street. I see all types of useful lights and other items that my local store doesn't carry. Every nook and cranny of the store has something on display, and the store is much smaller than my local store, but there seems to be more merchandise. I ponder whether this is really the case or whether it is just that it is new so I am seeing it with fresh eyes. Sometimes when we see something or someone regularly, we miss what is right before our eyes. I think someone once said that familiarity breeds contempt. I like to think it is not true, but I suspect that there is a grain of truth there.

I have struggled with guilt over buying a bicycle from a shop other than my local bicycle shop, but my shop does not carry this bike and does not have the equipment to do the fit that this shop has. I suspect my local shop would have been much cheaper, but this is probably a one time luxury for me and I do so want it to be right. I test ride a cheaper version of the brand of bicycle I am getting and am amazed at the ride. I feel as if I am gliding on the pavement. It has been a long time, if ever, that I have ridden a bike that shifts so crisply. Unfortunate, there are no large hills to tackle, but I am satisfied.

Lynn, the man who fits me, spent about three to four hours with me that day all in all. I had taken my PBP bike, the Trek, with me. He admires the fitting that was done and makes a few suggestions. It is interesting to me to see my cadence and power output become less erratic with the changes. I am glad that he was honest about the fit because I know it is close to right. The only pain I suffered on PBP was neck pain the last 100 miles or so and numb big toes. I can see the change he makes in the line of my back in the mirror. While I suspect he is right and the change will improve my riding, I also worry that it won't and that it will be a problem. I guess this is part of getting a new bike, this worry.

After the fit, I picked out what I wanted on my bike. Every time I asked about the cost, my husband reminded me that this was a one time thing and that I should get what I want. It reminds me of a time in the old bike store when he wanted to buy me a bike that was there and I would not allow it. One of the young men there could not believe it, that I would not allow him to buy me the bicycle, but he also didn't know we had two children to put through college at that time. Now that responsibility has also passed.

I picked not to have my frame painted and to have the the logos engraved. Originally I intended to only buy the bicycle there and have my local shop build the bicycle, but my husband believed this was a mistake and that it would be best to let the one shop design the bike so that everything will match and be put together the way the fit demanded. I had mixed feelings about this, but I value his advice. Still, one of my great fears is that my local bike shop will be angry with me. I struggle over these component decisions because originally I had not intended to make these decisions there, but Lynn guides me through as best he can. With the wheels, I tell him that I need to be able to limp home if I break a spoke or get to a control if I am on a ride. This will give me comfort when I am out on the bicycle that I don't have presently on any bike but my fixed. I do so hope I made the right decisions.

I struggle with the color of the handlebar tape, debating between blue and green. I love both of these colors, but blue wins out. I do so want my new bike to be beautiful as well as functional for I hope that we will spend lots of hours and miles together. I hope to be able to qualify for PBP again and to take this bike with me. As if my Trek were a child, I feel slightly guilty over this because it has reliably taken me over so many terrains and held my hand through the last PBP. It makes me wonder if everyone is this way or just me.

Six weeks gestation and my new bike should arrive. Hopefully it will be all I imagined and then some.