Friday, October 31, 2008

friday facts

fun friday facts:

today's vehicle count is in honor of my friend connie t: 7 vehicles heading east up the canyon, 11 vehicles heading west down the canyon.

this morning's star count: 0

this morning's airplane count: 2

temperature when I left my house at 5:30: 55 balmy degrees

number of other outdoor exercise enthusiasts seen: 0

number of big unidentifiable things in the middle of the road: 1

what an odd morning it was: absolutely perfect for halloween. clouds covered the sky, blocking my view of the stars and keeping the temperature up. I could feel the humidity just sitting in the air particles sweeping past my face, and it felt as though I might by riding through the mist of low-hanging clouds. scotland, I thought, then perhaps san francisco. somewhere along the coast, somewhere less inhabited than san francisco, perhaps the oregon coast. I rode for miles without seeing a car or another body. I heard nothing but the rattling of leaves as the wind pushed them into each other, and the gentle crashing of water against rock in the creek.
no hooting owls, no howling coyotes, not even a scampering rabbit or squirrel.
it was a perfectly calm and eerie, dark halloween morning.

my friend connie has a thing about the numbers 7 and 11, in combination. she often finds this 7-11 popping into her life: significant moments, when she glances at the clock and sees that it's 7:11, perhaps a bit of news that comes to her on the 11th day of the 7th month. ( I have a thing about 6:25, as that combines my birth month and day. every time I glance at the clock and see 6:25, I smile and give thanks for my being on earth. ) so I was thrilled with my vehicle count this morning, and give connie this small gift.

as for the outdoor exercising enthusiast count: it has been a weak week for early morning sightings. which could be due to the incredibly excellent afternoon and evening weather we've been experiencing . . . many people might choose to exercise in daylight when the temperature is in the upper 60's and 70's instead of in the dark when it's in the 40's. go figure.
wednesday morning I saw just one runner, mr. christmas tree, with lights on his shoes and in a triangle on his back. yesterday, a lone runner with just a headlamp. and this morning, not another soul, running, biking, walking, or standing. all week, no bikes. no bikes at all.

as for the indecipherable object in the road: I have no idea whether it was a wind-filled plastic grocery bag, a porcupine, or something somewhere between the two. I was coming downhill, at a healthy speed, riding in the middle of the lane because it feels safer than being in the bike lane on the edge of the road, where junk and rocks and dead animals are more likely to congregate. I receive plenty warning from the headlights of descending vehicles, allowing me to move over to my own place (the bike lane) before they get too close. so this big thing in the middle of the road caught me by surprise, as I caught just a glimpse of it as I sped past, luckily a foot or so to the right of its location. porcupine? bag of garbage? hallucination? I'm not really sure, which is one of the fun things about riding in the dark . . . you are often left with unanswerable questions, an excellent place for someone with a creative imagination to be.

Thursday, October 30, 2008


I love manhattan.
I love the people, the energy, the old architecture. I love the ripe smells you encounter walking down side streets, I love the battered taxis with bald tires. I love that no two people are the same, and I love that everyone has their own role to play in the incredibly complex drama that is life on this overly populated island.
I love the city lights, the hundreds of buildings that rise up to rub shoulders with their neighbors, the thousands of windows lit from within. the decorative lights on the chrysler building (my favorite building, ever and always, bar none) and on the empire state building, the simple lights that enhance the elegance of grand central station.
I can see myself, one day, living in manhattan.

and this is where I have to knock myself on the head and say, you can't have it both ways.
so then I think, well, perhaps I could just live there part time.

this morning I was glorying in the fact that an hour's ride can take me to a remote, gloriously beautiful area that fills my soul with peace and joy. I love this area, these acres of wide open land that exemplify freedom and harmony and contentedness. it is quiet, it is still. there are no artificial lights, and often, no human bodies save mine. life is full here, but it is a life with little human intervention, a simple life where plants and trees move through their life cycles and animals make their homes or travel through on their journeys.
if I lived in manhattan, an hour on a bike wouldn't get me to a spot like this.

there is a place in emigration canyon where everything changes. you've been riding for miles through this gently rising, gently winding canyon on a road shaded by trees, when suddenly there is a big U turn and the canyon opens up and the hills that rise to the summit become visible.
in the mysterious morning darkness, the hills are silhouetted, deep dark earth shoved against a slightly less deep indigo sky. stars blink, the world is silent, and the silhouettes stand strong and enduring.
there's a slight glow from the city, so far below, and as you near the top you can actually see, down through the opening of the canyon mouth, a small delta of city life and light. the glow lifts itself up and infiltrates the deep night sky that still blankets us, lending greater contrast to the silhouetted hills.
the north hillside of the canyon is dotted with a smattering of house lights, gradually increasing, as the inhabitants wake and begin their days.
and I am there, drinking in the solitude and the strength of the solemn hills that will carry me through my day.
as I reenter the city, two miles from home, the spread of city lights in front of and below me almost causes me to gasp. and it is at this point that I am reminded of manhattan. the lights, the hundreds of thousands of lives, the buildings, the busyness. though there is really no competition between the two cities, they are both in such strong contrast with the space and solitude that I have just left 15 minutes before that the comparison leaps into my mind.

I love manhattan.
and if I could have an emigration canyon two miles from my manhattan apartment, I might just make that move.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008


have you ever played the game of "which sense would I rather not live without?"
I've had this discussion with myself ever since I was a kid. taste, smell, and touch aren't really even in the game: it always comes down to a tussle between sight and sound.
I think of classical music when this topic arises, and of sunsets and star-filled skies. I think of gurgling brooks and waterfalls crashing down steep canyon walls, and my children's voices.
I usually end the mental exercise in a state of "I give up," because there is not an acceptable answer. sight wins, but by such a slender margin that it makes my teeth ache to even make this statement.

there are blind cyclists. there are deaf cyclists. and there are blind-deaf cyclists.
while I hope to never become a member of any of those groups, my heart expands just thinking that they exist.
this morning, riding under the star laden sky of a new moon, I became a blind cyclist for moments.
on a gradually rising road that I know like the back of my hand, top speed about ten mph (though I couldn't see my cyclometer because it was dark), I closed my eyes and pedaled. I felt the wind, I focused on the turn of my pedals, the push of my quads. and then popped my eyes open to check for safety.
and then closed my eyes again. pedaled, felt the air, the cold, the ripeness of morning, the slight incline of the solid road beneath my wheels.
opening my eyes again took effort. I wanted to stay in that place of different awareness.
not forever, but for longer than I dared.
there are a million different experiences out there, and I am to live just one of them. just one. I have a desire to know different lives, different experiences, different paths, and perhaps this is why I read so much: how else can I begin to know what others go through in their lives? cycling stirs my thoughts, and has exposed me to many new things, but I am still me, living my own life, my own journey.
I don't wish to lead a different life, but I find great joy in learning new things and experiencing the unfamiliar. not for the thrill of it, but for the deepening of my awareness. okay, sometimes the thrill is great, too.
like this morning. in the dark ~ the absence of light ~ and in the dark ~ the total lack of vision. for brief moments, I felt what a blind person might feel while riding on the back of a tandem. for those moments, I had a sense of what it might be like to be my son, cruising through a world without visual clues to make sense of it.
I loved it, during my momentary visit, and I am thrilled that someone decided to try having a blind person sit behind a sighted person on a tandem bicycle.
if I were to lose my sight, my hearing, my capacity to pedal a bike, I hope that I would continue to seek opportunities to experience the world through "adaptive" means. that I would keep finding ways to fill my life with dark cold mornings and warm sunny afternoons, with rainstorms and blazing heat and snowflakes and crunchy leaves.
and, most importantly, whether it be the people from SPLORE, or from Common Ground Adventures, a friend, or a partner, I hope that someone would care about me enough to be my "pilot" on the front seat of a bicycle built for two.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

the weather man

I have a friend who wants to be a weather man when he grows up.
he is, of course, already quite grown, being in his mid-forties. but there are two things going on here: first, our belief that we're never quite grown up, and second, that we all have fantasy careers.
let me tackle the first, first.
age is just a number, certainly not a behavior pattern. and what I've learned over the last twenty years or so is that "old" keeps moving further and further away from where I currently am. in my twenties, I thought women over forty should never wear shorts. yes, I did. now, thankfully, I think that women can and should wear shorts if and whenever they choose. even at eighty. or ninety. or one hundred and five.
but I still feel young. I can't remember what it was like to be the me of twenty-plus years ago, but I know it was different in more ways than just my thoughts about women and shorts. I know I felt privileged, full of that invincibility of youth. I felt somewhat superior to everyone older than me, just because I had fewer years in.
now I see the fallacy, and just appreciate where I am. as I appreciate where everyone is, whether they are chronologically younger than me or older. youth is great; the wisdom of having lived longer is great as well. in fact, every stage of life is full of wonder and amazing experiences, growth and the opportunity to increase our personal strengths.
I don't want to be twenty-something again, but I surely don't feel a handful of years away from the mid-century mark, either. I suppose I'll just keep being thankful that many others have paved a beautiful path for me to follow.

now, for career choices when we grow up. I've written before about my fantasy career: the backup singer. and my friend wants to be a weather man. my kid's dad wants to teach middle school math. I know someone else who wants to move to taos and become an artist.
are we meant to reach these paths? or are they our carrots, things that keep us moving forward, eager, intrigued? for some of us they might just tickle our souls, but for others, they move our deepest selves to pure joy.
I don't truly believe that I will sing backup for a band one day. but I love holding that dream somewhere in my heart. I don't even think I mind that it just stays there. it's enough to just hold it, to know that the idea of it fills me with passion and joy.
will my friend ever become a weather man? I don't know. he speaks of it, jokes about it, follows the weather, knows more than I'll ever know about thermals and fronts and pressure systems. but will he take that leap, someday? I can't know. and perhaps, neither can he.

and now for just one little cycling-related observation: today was a yoga day. and I missed my cycling. for I've discovered that my morning rides give me two gifts: some level of peace, and a sense of accomplishment.
yoga works well for the peace, but it's just not the same for me as far as accomplishment goes. my beloved miguel no longer teaches class, so I am in a period of adjustment, learning to work with new teachers. the focus is different, and I am bending in new ways both literally and figuratively. therefore, I don't feel a very strong sense of accomplishment. I end class feeling like I made it, I did okay, and I guess I just have a long way to go.
which is perhaps the way I felt earlier on in my riding.
and perhaps the way we all feel sometimes in life.

but I'm pretty sure tomorrow morning will find me on my bike, in the dark, earning my peace and sense of accomplishment.

and, perhaps, thinking about my carrot.

Monday, October 27, 2008

musing on a day off the bike

the following came into my life a couple weeks ago:

hold on to what is good, even if it is a handful of earth.
hold on to what you believe, even if it is a tree which stands alone.
hold on to what you must do, even if it is a long way from here.

I could probably stop right now, because those three lines are so full, so rich with wisdom and possibility, that what I can add is truly superfluous.
but I can't stop, because that's not who I am.

first I have to share this example of just how literally I take everything.
I read the second line, and thought, okay, I guess some people believe in trees. that they see a solitary tree, and feel the strength, the power, the rootedness, the deep spirituality of a single tree. okay, I get that.
it wasn't until perhaps my third or fourth reading of that line that the meaning sunk in: oh, they mean your beliefs may be standing alone, without support. that what you believe in may be criticized, negated, made small or even outlawed, that it may have no support from anyone or anything else. and that you must still believe, if that is what you are meant to believe.
sometimes I don't know where this literal thing came from; it's like a blanket I constantly have to remove from my back.

but it's the third line I love. no matter how far away it is, you must move toward it. you must hold on to it, you must remain the you who was placed here for a reason. no matter how very far away it may sometimes feel. for as far away as it may seem, it is within you, as well, which is as close as it can possibly be.

this Pueblo blessing ends with these two lines:

hold on to life even when it is easier letting go.
hold on to my hand even when I have gone away from you.

I often wonder why it is that Native American peoples expressed so much wisdom about life and our physical world. how did they retain their rootedness when so many other cultures moved away from that and placed their focus on less holistic goals and concepts?

perhaps my love of cycling helps connect me to the beauty of the earth, with its handfuls of dirt and solitary trees.
perhaps the miles and miles I cycle are moving me closer to where I will go to do what it is I must do.
perhaps my cycling has helped me to understand the importance of holding on even when it seems easier to let go.
and perhaps it is giving me the steadiness to remain upright even when that which I love moves away from me.

159 miles in this week: I am exceedingly grateful for this amazing, "Indian summer."

hold on to your own dirt, your own trees. and keep moving in the direction of what you must do.

Sunday, October 26, 2008


100 days . . .
I've reached another milestone: today I am handing myself a 100-day chip.
because like a person in AA, I have made a commitment and stuck to it. and, like a person in AA, I benefit from receiving outer, verbal and/or physical acknowledgment of achieving a milestone.
and also like a person in AA, I have a long time to go before my next one.

in AA they start off with 30-day chips. not all AA chapters are the same, but in general you receive a chip at the end of 30-days sobriety, then at two, three, four, five, and six months. the next chip is typically after nine months, and then again at one year. after that can be an 18-month chip, then they become annual.
rewards are heavier in the beginning, when it's logical that one needs more support. the acknowledgments taper off as one moves deeper into the program, with the idea being that one doesn't need quite as much acknowledgment as one settles into their sobriety.
like toilet training, once we start peeing correctly every time, we're less likely to receive M&M's for doing so.
well, here I am, giving and receiving my 100-day chip. and since I'm in charge, I get to decide when the next one will be awarded.
logic tells me it should be at one year, while my inner child is insisting that 200 days is well worth another reward. my adult self is quite capable of living another 265 days before giving myself kudos, but that little girl inside me is thinking some kind of acknowledgment 100 days from now is exactly what she needs.
as I count it out, I see that my 200th day of posting here will arrive on february 3rd.
I'm thinking my inner child may be right.
because all through these first 100 days, I have had a huge external reward: my bike rides.
this may not seem logical to you, but in susan's world these things are connected. I ride, I write, I ride again. my writing here drives me to ride again, to soak in that inspiration. and my riding fuels my writing. so, although my rides aren't truly a reward of my dedication to writing, they are a side benefit, as it's not as easy to write about cycling when one isn't cycling.
got it?
today's reward was glorious: I rode to draper, taking wasatch boulvevard until it swoops down and meets 17th east, then eases around and down to 13th east, until it meets with highland drive somewhere in the heart of draper. I love wasatch boulevard. not for it's wide shoulders (which come and go) or its smooth asphalt (which comes and goes and when it goes, disappears in great chunks), but for its views. at different times, you have a view of the entire salt lake valley, or of draper and the jordans, or of places I don't even know the names of. from wasatch boulevard you look down on a crazy quilt pattern of multi-colored trees. and this time of year, every hillside and mountain slope and tree along the edge of the road is glistening with bronze and gold, with deep yellows and intense reds. fall colors are not my favorite, but I can't help but be amazed by the ochre, umber and sienna display.
a rich reward indeed.
and come february 3rd, I will have had many, many days without that reward.
so it stands to reason that my little girl self will be made giddy and joyful if I surprise her with some kind of "200-day" treat.
the perfect reward would be a trip to somewhere warm and beautiful so I could ride my bike.
but I may settle for 200 M&M's.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

52 degrees

clothing for an afternoon ride, heading up emigration, temperature at home 52 degrees:

sports bra
cycling tights, capri length, standard black
ankle socks
short sleeved jersey, orange print
wind jacket, neon green
fingerless gloves
toe covers on shoes

stuffed in pockets: arm warmers, headband for descent

outcome: sweaty at times on the way up, chilly at times on the way down, did not need headband, on average, perfect.

clothing for late afternoon ride up big mountain, temperature at home 58 degrees

sports bra
cycling shorts, black
ankle socks
short sleeved jersey, white with red trim
wind jacket, neon green
fingerless gloves
toe covers on shoes

stuffed in pockets: arm warmers, headband for descent

outcome: a little sweaty on the way up, freezing at top of big mountain, cold all the way home, incredibly thankful for headband.
note to self: next time wear capris and bring full gloves.

clothing for early afternoon ride up emigration, temperature at home 62 degrees:

sports bra
cycling shorts
ankle socks
short sleeved jersey, Lotoja 2008 design
fingerless gloves
toe covers on shoes

stuffed in pockets: arm warmers, wind vest

outcome: perfect on way up, used arm warmers on way down, absolutely perfect temperature for a fall ride and clothing choice was superb.

I own just about every piece of cold-weather riding gear I could ever need: I have full booties to cover my shoes, and long thick "tights" with wind-panels on the front of the legs. I have a skull cap, and I have my well-loved and very-well-used arm warmers (which are an awful lot like long, dramatic fingerless gloves: I feel incredibly sexy when I wear them).
but I'm really not excited about dragging these things out and making them part of my everyday wardrobe.
and that is why I am squeezing in every last little ride I can this fall. I plan as if every ride may be my last . . . my eyes searching every hillside and every inch of sky to try to imprint the sights in my brain.
for now I live by the weather channel, I skip a few chores, and I revel in the glory of the changing hillsides and vistas.
and I carefully put on exactly what clothing I think I'll need to wear, then stuff a few extra things in pockets, and just say a little prayer that mother nature will protect me for at least one more ride.

Thursday, October 23, 2008


I find myself becoming frustrated when I "put things out there" and don't get a response.
whether it be an email, a letter send via snail mail, a phone message, a request, a thought or wish or prayer, a plea, or even a wave hello: when these things seem to go unacknowledged I struggle.
and perhaps that's why yesterday I got pissed off at the umpteenth cyclist in a row who didn't wave back at me.
it was a perfect day to ride: clear, vibrant blue sky, golden leaves and crisp air, sunshine pouring down everywhere. so the weather can't be the excuse.
visibility was a good ten miles, so it can't be that they didn't see me.
and it was just emigration canyon ~ not a grueling, all-encompassing climb or descent ~ so there wasn't much of an excuse that they were too focused on their cycling.
there was something in the air. something that either made them grumpy, or caused them to be so inwardly focused that they were truly oblivious of me.
and I of all people should allow others to have an inward focus. I spend half of my own life there, so I should be understanding of others' desires to be there. so if anyone I passed on this ride was doing the inward-focus thing, I forgive them their lack of friendliness.
but for the rest of them: pooey on you.

it's difficult to deal with sending things out and not getting responses in return. it can make you feel slighted, ignored, ridiculous. it can make you feel insignificant or superfluous. it can make you feel that your ideas are worth less than those of others, or that you aren't a necessary part of the whole.
as a writer who has sent perhaps a hundred query letters and submissions out over the years, I well know the feeling of being ignored or, better, told no-thank-you. I will take a "no" any day over being ignored completely. but just because I send something out, must I expect them to take the time and effort to respond in return? am I expected to respond to each piece of mail I receive, even those I don't know who ask me for financial support?
and having teen-aged children helps one work through the whole rejection scenario: when one hugs a teenager, one often receives a stiff posture and stoicism in response. yet one knows there is still love inside that body. one must be wise and patient to know it's all about the teenager, not about the hugger.
if I extrapolate outward from these examples, then I should be understanding of all those (#&*$!) cyclists who ignored me yesterday, shouldn't I? perhaps they are just overwhelmed by the number of cyclists trying to wave hello to them, unable to put out that much effort to respond back. perhaps they are in their own inner world, and need to stay there for sake of their mental health. perhaps they are emotionally just surly adolescents who can't acknowledge friendliness for fear of losing face.
now that I have given grumpy, unfriendly cyclists some good excuses for their behavior, I feel a little better. I will hang on to these reasons, and stop picking on them.
but I won't stop waving, because one in ten cyclists is just as friendly as me, and I'd hate to be labeled an emotionally crippled, surly, weak, relationship-challenged person.

riding through leaves

it is cold outside this morning.
according to my desktop weather channel, it is 33 but feels like 27.
and on my way back from driving my girls to school, I passed a bicycle commuter pulling a small child in one of those little bubble trailers. I see him regularly, and of course I've made up a terribly romantic story about him:
his name is george, and his wife died of cancer earlier this year, leaving him to care for his three year old son, ryan. george has always been fit, and started commuting by bicycle from his house in sugarhouse up to research park about 5 years ago. but once his wife became ill and then incapacitated, george had to take on the child-care responsibility as well. so he cheerfully hooked the bubble trailer to his bike, and started delivering his son to the montessori program right up the street from me.
since his wife died, he has rounded up some help from many of her friends, who help get ryan from the montessori school to the regular day care up in research park. he then picks ryan up on his way home from work, cruising downhill past my house each late afternoon.
george was devastated by his wife's illness and subsequent death, but he is doing what he has to do. the miles he puts in on his bike each day to and from work are some of the best hours of his day: on the way up to research park he is working hard, muscles firing, heart and lungs kicking in full gear. this is pure workout, time that thought recedes and instinct takes over. his mind is free from worry, hurt, pain, and loss. on the way home, he gets a downhill rush, feels the joy of being in open air, whether it be sun or rain or clouds or cold. george has all the proper gear for any season, and he's an expert at predicting what he'll need to wear each day. he, too, keeps the desktop weather channel on his computer screen.
as difficult as things have been since his wife died, he still finds joy in small things, and is grateful to have ryan. he sees his wife in ryan's eyes, and he senses her each night as he tucks ryan in. she's still around, just differently, just as a silent presence. ryan tells her goodnight, and that he loves her, as he closes his eyes and rests his head on his pillow with the curious george pillowcase. ryan just loves the fact that his dad was named after a monkey.
something ryan has discovered this fall is leaves. they have three impressive, ancient trees on their front lawn, who have been releasing their leaves slowly over these past weeks. ryan loves to play in them, to gather them up and throw them into the air, letting them float down over his head and body. ryan giggles, then stamps his feet and waves his alarms and lets out big Indian warrior woops. george smiles, and rakes a new pile for ryan.
but ryan has also discovered that some people's trees are way ahead of his: there is a certain street they ride down that is literally covered in bright yellow and pale orange leaves, and not only are they so alive with color, they are full of beautiful noise.
this ryan learned the other day when his dad was pulling him in the bubble trailer: the leaves crackle and snap and sound like little firecrackers when the wheels go over them, and then they scatter and blow away as the trailer passes. ryan laughs and laughs when they do this, and george has started to look for gathering of leaves to ride through, so that he can hear his son's giggles float up to him as they ride along the street, on the way to ryan's school and george's work.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

the how and the when

last week someone asked me how and when I decided what to write here.
the "how" is complicated, so I'll start by answering the "when" question:
about 25% of the time I sit down to write, having absolutely no idea what I'm going to be writing about. therefore the "when" of my decision happens sometime after I start to type.
a good half of the time I formulate some thoughts while I'm biking, and these thoughts start germinating in the saddle and come to some kind of fruition before I start to type. then the process of writing rounds them out to (hopefully) some kind of fullness.
and the remaining 25% of the time I have an idea I am SO eager to share that sentences literally leap from my fingers, whether inspired by something that happened while biking or something from a different part of my life.

now, the "how."
first of all, the gift of having a fairly young, not-widely-read web log is that I can write about whatever I choose to write about. no one monitors my subject matter, and so far my loyal readers have kindly accepted whatever I put out there, whether they like it or not. therefore, from this standpoint I have great freedom and I write about whatever inspires me each day.
second, though, is that I try to write about something that might possibly interest other people. so it's not completely all about me; solipsism can carry one only so far. I try to share thoughts and ideas that have a wider application than to just my own little life.
third, I choose subject matters that excite me. inspire me. make me giggle. astound me. or somehow make me feel connected to the rest of the world.
fourth, it's all a matter of how I feel and experience the world the day that I'm sitting down to write.
fifth, and this is one of my favorite components: sometimes when I'm riding I come up with these incredible ideas, complete sentences that bite and grab with their edginess or clarity. they are sharp, witty, brilliant. I amaze myself. and then ten minutes later they are nothing but a faint memory. I have no idea where they've gone, or even what they might have been about. where did they go? I know they existed, they were real, if only for mere moments . . . and yes, I know it's all about oxygen deprivation.
maybe I should start riding with a dictaphone.

I actually have a list beside my computer of 3 subjects to write about here, because the other day ideas were just flowing and I didn't want to forget them. today's topic is actually from that list, and I used it today because I didn't ride this morning thus had limited exposure to inspiration from the natural world. a list has not been part of my writing procedure in the past, but maybe I will have one more regularly now ~ I don't know.
writers don't come in just one model: there are thousands (and more) of different styles out there, and what works for one may stifle another. what works for me today may not work for me next month.
thus when this friend asked about how and when I decide what to write, I had to think about it. the answer I gave her was much simpler than what I just put you through. to her, I said:
"I go for a bike ride, then I come home and write about whatever inspired me during the ride."
which is probably the best answer of all.

number of times I used some variation of the word "inspiration" = 5
number of times I used the word "I" = 39
number of times I used the word "solipsism" = 1

Tuesday, October 21, 2008


I googled 8000 this morning to see what interesting factoids I might find to share with you, and these are my favorites:

* 8000 is the cube of 20

* 8000 is also the sum of four consecutive integers cubed, 113 + 123 + 133 + 143.

* the fourteen tallest mountains on Earth, which exceed 8000 meters in height, are sometimes referred to as eight-thousanders.

I had never heard of the eight-thousanders, and now I'm fascinated. here is some more information about them:

"The eight-thousanders are the fourteen independent mountains on Earth that are more than 8,000 metres (26,247 ft) above sea level. They are all located in the Himalayan and Karakoram mountain ranges in Asia.

The first attempt on an eight-thousander took place on the expedition by Albert Mummery and J. Norman Collie to Nanga Parbat in 1895; this ended in failure, when Mummery and two Ghurkas, Ragobir and Goman Singh, were killed by an avalanche.

The first successful ascent of an eight-thousander was by Maurice Herzog and Louis Lachenal, who reached the summit of Annapurna on June 3, 1950.

The first person to climb all fourteen eight-thousanders was Reinhold Messner. He completed this task on October 16, 1986. A year later, in 1987, Jerzy Kukuczka became the second climber to accomplish this feat. As of 2007, a total of fourteen people have followed through. This is an extremely hazardous feat; at least four people have died while in pursuit of this goal." (

this following list, however, I find absolutely astonishing:

The climbers that have reached the Summit of all 14 8000 Meter Peaks.

Reinhold Messner (ITA) in 16 years 1970/86, at age 42.

Jerzy Kukuczka (POL) in 8 years 1979/87 at age 41.

Erhard Loretan (SUI) in 13 years 1982/95 at age 36.

Carlos Carsolio (MEX) in 11 years 1985/96 at age 33.

Krzysztof Wielicki (POL) in 17 years 1980/96 at age 46.

Juan Oiarzabal (Spain) in 14 years 1985/99 at age 43.

Sergio Martini (ITA) in 24 years 1976/2000 at age 49.

Park Yound Seok (Korean)

Hong-Gil Um (Korean)

Alberto Inurrategui in 10 years 7 months and 16 days to achieve this feat. All the peaks were climbed without bottled oxygen.

Mr. Han Want Yong (1966), Ilsan-Gu Kyungi-Do, Korea

Ed Viesturs (American)

Alan Hinkes (British)

Silvio Mondinelli

It is, of course, the ages and years it took to achieve this goal that captures my imagination. The names mean little to me, but the years of planning and training and climbing boggle my mind. I can only imagine the commitment, determination, tenacity . . . all of those traits that I thought I possessed. to what degree these men must have clung to those abilities, I can only begin to imagine.

and this is the joy and wonder of "googling." it opens up new worlds, exposing me to concepts, facts, and ideas that would never ordinarily cross my mind. it broadens my experience and helps me pinpoint my own little tiny place within the whole of the human world.

for I googled 8000 this morning because today my odometer hit and surpassed that number. I have ridden over 8000 miles in the last year and a half. (please remember to deduct those months where snow and cold blanket our little patch of the planet.) WOO HOO !!!
a month ago I wasn't sure I would hit this number before the cold took over, but we have been blessed with some incredibly gorgeous cycling weather.
I hit my milestone this morning in the dark, but I've known since sunday that it would happen this morning, and I knew about where I would be. bill rode with me this morning, and he made me stop at that point, and I shined my headlight on the odometer to confirm the occasion, yes, a big, beautiful 8 with three following zeros . . . he fumbled in his pocket for a few seconds, and then handed me a little plastic something that turned out to be a noisemaker, one of those things you blow into and a long tube unfurls while this horn-sound comes out (okay, YOU try to describe one of those things!)
anyway, we made noise, clipped back into our pedals, and continued to the summit.
which was not one of the 14 highest summits in the world, but a summit, a high, a peak, an occasion, nonetheless.

now, do you think I'll be able to hit 9000 before may 1?
a girl's gotta have a goal . . .

Monday, October 20, 2008


I love that my daughter draws hearts in the dust that gathers on surfaces in our house, and even that she draws them with white-out on the post-it notes in my desk drawer.
this is a good thing in a child.

or in a human of any age.

love hate

yesterday afternoon I encountered more friendly cyclists than usual.
I'm beginning to wonder if they ~ in general ~ are nicer in the afternoon? after coffee, breakfast, lunch, a day of work, whatever it may be, are they perhaps more grateful that they've escaped their day and are out riding, so they're friendlier than the early morning folk?
I actually had a brief conversation with another cyclist yesterday, more than the overly gregarious "hi, how are ya" "good thanks" exchanges I can sometimes squeeze out of a fellow cyclist.
this is what happened:
I'm riding along, up emigration, waving at all the cyclists heading downhill on the opposite side of the road. and all of the sudden I sense another body slightly behind me. I turn to my left, and start to say "hi" to the completely outfitted guy who is pulling up alongside me but before I get much of a word out he animatedly says, "Oh, I thought you were a friend of mine! I just chased you down, oh, how embarrassing." during this monologue I gave a small laugh, smiled a lot, and offered "not at all," before he pealed off and headed back down the hill.
total conversation length: nine seconds?
a huge conversation, and this, on a friendly day.
I thought people said that if you start doing something you love, you'll meet people. people who love doing what you love, and what better kind of friends to make?
I want to tell them that cycling is different.
now that I have that out of my system, I'll progress to today's theme.
I work hard when I ride.
I love it.
and I hate it.
and you must understand that I don't really mean hate: I mean "gosh I don't like this because it's HARD and I want to STOP and I want to sit on the couch and read and I wish I could just QUIT because it's so HARD!!!" that's what I mean by "hate."
and I wonder if all artists/athletes/other normal people feel this way about whatever it is they are trying to master. I am assuming that most of us struggle with the work, the practice, the repetition of learning a new skill. that it's not all glory and joy. that there is pain and effort and intensity and difficulty encountered on the road to mastery.
I am still on the (hopefully steep) upward learning curve. and the (hopefully steep as well) upward training curve. I am hoping that it won't always be quite this difficult, that I won't always be in zones 4 and 5 when I climb emigration. biking buddy bob can do it in zone 3: so I have hope. someday, perhaps, I will be there as well.
and that's what keeps me going. knowing that I have a ways to go. that I am only 2 years into it, that I will continue to improve if I continue to work at it.
someday that learning curve will rise more gently, but I have hopes that it will keep rising for quite a while longer.
at least until I can engage a few cyclists in some meaningful conversations.
at least until I can ride emigration in a low zone 4.
at least until I can experience more love and less hate.

Saturday, October 18, 2008


what we think is going to happen influences our experience of what happens. that's not even quantum physics, that's just reality. we're not influencing the actual events (or are we?), just our interpretation of those events.
I call this mindset. defines mindset as: A fixed mental attitude or disposition that predetermines a person's responses to and interpretations of situations.
by "fixed" I take it to mean that one enters a situation or experience with a particular mindset, not that one's mindset is "fixed" into position and always the same. that may be obvious to all of you, but I still felt the need to clarify it, because my discussion here is all about the fact that my mindset changes frequently.
take yesterday for example. I had a certain mindset about my ride: I was going for distance more than difficulty. I planned to ride toward the south, perhaps to sandy, perhaps to draper, along wasatch. which is relatively flat in comparison to riding up big cottonwood. of course mom nature wanted to make it a little more interesting for me, so she threw in a pretty impressive southerly wind. thus my right out was laughably difficult, and my ride back a (forgive the pun) breeze. at times. because, as mom nature loves to do to me, the winds switched direction while I was up at storm mountain and started blowing in from the north from that point on. geez.
anyway, the winds on my way out were about 20 mph (with gust up to 28), and on my way back closer to 10, so my return ride felt much easier than the way out.
about storm mountain: I had to visit a certain spot up at storm mountain, thus thought I would detour and ride the first few miles up big cottonwood on my way home. that place has some kind of pull on my heart. I don't know what it is, but each time I come down the canyon I am stunned by its sudden appearance, and enthralled to the point I can barely ride my bike. while riding up the canyon, the exposed mountain looks so radically different, and I love it, but it just doesn't grab my heart the way it does on my way down. (perhaps because my heart rate is 183 beats per second, I can't breathe, and my legs are on fire.)
but back to mindset. (you thought I'd forgotten, didn't you?)
when I set out on a ride I generally have a fairly firm idea of where I'm going. and I set my mind on that, mentally preparing myself for whatever it may be: a recovery ride, an aggressive climb like millcreek, a long long ride, or a mild but decent climb like emigration. and I find that my mindsets are very different, depending upon what the ride should be like. key word: should.
I don't have to prepare myself too much for emigration; I have to really talk myself into millcreek. when I commit to riding up big cottonwood, I know I'm in for distance (it's 50 miles round trip) and difficulty.
and when I decide I'm just going to ride out south along wasatch, I don't expect it to be too hard. sure, there are a few hills and rises that send my heartrate soaring, but all in all, it's fairly mellow.
so yesterday, although I knew I had the storm mountain climb to accomplish, I had a mindset of "this is a pretty easy ride." in addition, I was only going to ride about 40 miles, which is significantly less than most of my weekend rides for the past four months or so.
I started out, and then quickly discovered I was fighting the wind. I was riding a good 4-6 mph slower than usual, and it was a lot more work than I wanted it to be. and by the time I reached little cottonwood road, I felt beat up. and this was less than 15 miles into my ride!
and this is when I realized so much of cycling is about mindset. during the logan to jackson ride, the first leg ~ to Preston, Idaho ~ is about 35 miles. both years I have reached preston feeling great, ready to ride the next 171 miles. because I knew that was the plan. my mindset was that I would ride 206 miles that day, and I would just do it.
it's hard for me to not analyze and compare thoughts and feelings, and that is what I found myself doing yesterday at little cottonwood road. 15 miles and I am beat up! that's not even half way to preston! what would I do if I had to ride another 191 miles?? what a wimp!
I was sure a lot stronger and tougher 6 weeks ago . . .
which is when I consoled myself with the fact that it's all about mindset. had I committed to riding 100 miles yesterday, I would have felt a lot differently at the 15-mile point. but since I knew it was only going to be a 40-miler, I allowed myself to feel beat-up and incapable of doing anything more than my plan.
I think they call this self-limiting.
I left my house knowing I was going for a relatively mild ride, and thus that's what my brain told my body to prepare for.
so it did.
and therefore, yesterday's lesson for me was this: be careful about the mindset you create for yourself. I did not think that my mindset was defeatist in any way, but I'm coming to understand that it was. it was in that it limited me, caused me to feel less capable than I am. (note: I am thinking deeply about this, and considering its application to my entire way of being.) wow. I have always thought that I possess an optimistic, realistic, positive outlook on life in general, and my participation in it. but perhaps I limit myself more than I ever realized.
in TV announcer's voice: another bit of soul-searching, wisdom-producing insight brought to you by the activity of cycling.

susan's mindset: an open, always flexing, self-adjusting, positive mental attitude or disposition that does not predetermine her responses to and interpretations of situations and experiences.

on writing

"Many things I would not care to tell any individual man I tell to the public, and for knowledge of my most secret thoughts, I refer my most loyal friends to a bookseller's stall." ~Montaigne

I love it when friends suggest books for me to read. standing in the library, overwhelmed by the thousands and thousands of books that may or may not hold my interest, I ache for referrals. anything to avoid the terrible disappointment of beginning a book with great enthusiasm, feeling that slowly wane, as I turn each page hoping the next will somehow reignite my passion, knowing deep down that it won't, and finally resigning myself to closing the book permanently and having to go find another.
so when a book comes to me recommended by someone who knows me, I am always eager to begin. sometimes I am surprised, most often pleasantly so, as these books are often finds that I would not have bumped into on my own.
the quote above fell into my life thanks to connie r., who told me about a book called Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life. which I am currently reading. which is quite entertaining and quite different than what I expected. and my point in telling this whole long story, is just that I never know where inspiration or insight will come from.
(yes, I know I just ended a sentence with a preposition. written language has relaxed its rigid rules over the past decades, and it is now much more acceptable to screw up the rules on a regular basis. thus I split infinitives like crazy and end sentences with prepositions quite frequently. thanks and apologies to mr. harris, 5th grade, who taught me better. my saving grace is that I am fairly good at not dangling my participles.)
back to montaigne. if he were alive today, he might be mortified to know that his writing style was the beginning of a form that has dribbled its way down through the centuries and led to the kind of writing I enjoy and throw out here on this site: the personal essay. he is considered to be a master of the form, which has been described as "an attempt to examine the world through the lens of the only thing he can depend on implicitly — his own judgment." ah! you can see why I'm attracted to his style. apparently his signature phrase was, "que sais je" which translates to "what do I know?"
I often feel very montaigne-y.

and what does this have to do with cycling?
not much.

what does this have to do with my web log?
just about everything.

when I write, I share a very deep slice of who I am. I explore, I ponder, I sometimes pontificate. I search my soul, I reveal my thoughts and dreams and thought processes. I question, I state, I am giddy, I am weighty, I am laborious. I am more real here than I often am in person.
and that is why the quote I shared above struck such a chord with me. (a big, dramatic, old-radio-drama kind of chord.) it's not that I'm incapable of verbalizing thoughts, it's just that they seem to come out so much better on paper. or on the computer screen, to be more accurate.

yesterday's ride was a great one: I rode with bill, and we went up city creek canyon, then up east canyon boulevard and up to an overlook of the valley. the weather was absolutely perfect, and I delighted in the snow and ice at the top of the grotto in the canyon. and I thought about many things during the ride, and I absorbed many more. my cycling life provides excellent fodder for my writing life, for which I am grateful. it exposes me to new experiences, which reinforces my belief that I, too, should adopt montaigne's personal statement,
Que sais je?

Thursday, October 16, 2008

the truth box

the box of truth is currently not very filled up. you can fix that.

the above is something my 16-year-old son posted on a My Space bulletin board.

putting aside my desire to tweak his grammar, I was stunned when I read his posting. (he has no idea I did this ~ I snuck onto his communication page while he was in the other room, when I was supposedly checking my own email. I did check my email, but then I flipped over to his page and did the sneaky mom thing. luckily, he doesn't read my blog so I think I'm safe.)
he's not one of those kids who share their thoughts with their parents. I have to carefully phrase any question I ask (well, okay, I do this with all my kids) so that I'm not demanding or treading on private space with big spiked cleats. I avoid questions that can be answered with yes or no, as those end the conversation much too quickly and easily. I try to ask just enough to let him know I'm curious and open-minded, but not so much that I bother him. just trying to place that line is a challenge.
so, I'm always completely thrilled when I see something like this come from him. ah! there is thought inside that mind! it's not all about bands and football and complaints about schoolwork and his sisters. it's not all about ipods and razors and IM-ing and TM-ing and online gaming and Xboxes and Wii's and and and . . .
okay, today's posting is another "not about cycling at all" kind of post. I could add a few things here about how cycling allows me an opportunity to connect with my truth, that cycling will, every time, tell us the truth about how fit we are, and that cycling is truly the greatest gift I've received in this decade of my life. and I guess I just did, so now I have stayed loyal to my web log theme.
now back to my son's statements.

the truth box.
wouldn't it be cool if there really were this huge box that people could visit that was full of universal truths? that you could be given one each time you visit, and that you could know with complete certainty that this was truth? but then I turn to "whose truth is it?" are there really universal truths that hold for each one of us? of course you should know by now that yes, I believe there are. I believe that there are myriad universal truths that cannot be escaped. but this is my view, my belief, my perspective, and I obviously don't think like everyone else out there. the millions of people who believe as I believe could possibly be outweighed by more who don't.
this close to the presidential election it's difficult to believe that there are many universal truths that hold for all of us: I am astounded by the difference in perspectives in our world. I do not understand how we can see and experience things SO differently, when we all live a remarkably similar existence.

my son's statements made me think. I am not sure of his intention, but I took it as an offer to all of us to put more truth out there. to consider what we say before we say it. to be certain that our actions speak of truth. that we speak, act, and live our own truth.
the box of truth is not very filled up.
we can fix that.


the alarm went off at 5:15.
it shocked me into a vague level of awareness.
I groaned, deep inside my core.
I got up, because I was determined to experience another moonlight morning bike ride.

the moon hit its fullness peak on tuesday at approximately 2 in the afternoon, but yesterday morning was too cold, so I planned to ride this morning, when the temperature here in salt lake was supposed to be about 47 at ride time. reality was a little more harsh: it was closer to 41. but that is still oodles warmer than yesterday, when it was 37.
and of course these are city temperatures: I really don't want to know what the temperature is in the heart of emigration canyon.
which makes me think about a toy for my bike: I'm sure those fancy cyclometer/heart monitor/altimeter/you-name-it-ometer thingees have thermometers on them as well. so you can know just exactly how hard your heart is working on what type of an incline at what elevation with what wind speed in what temperature. did I forget anything? oh, as well as being pinpointed on a map somewhere with the GPS feature.
I am quite a distance away from that purchase. I'd have to pay myself a LOT more for each post, which would necessitate some other kind of sponsorship.
and it's just as well, because as I said, I didn't really want to know how cold it was out there anyway.
suffice to say, I came home and immediately got in the shower where I let hot water sting my chilled skin for as long as I could possibly stretch those few minutes I had before hot-chocolate and lunch-making needed to begin.
back to my moonlit ride up the canyon: it was perfect. and a little spooky.
these were the spookiest moments, made a little spookier and sillier due to my slow early-morning brain response time:

the body lying by the side of the road, which changed from "body" to "fur covered body" to "dog" to "sleeping dog" (yeah, right, on the side of the road, sure) to "dead dog" to "dead deer."

the dark, two-to-three foot high shape on a gravelled pullout near the bottom of the canyon: it looked like a statue of a skier, crouched in a tuck position, facing the road. this is at 6:45, I am coming downhill at about 29 mph, and although the moon is lighting the world it is still a time of shadowy mysterious shapes. I still have no idea what this was.

the cat who ran across the road in front of me on wasatch, whose body I nearly missed hitting and whose psyche I probably damaged as I shrieked when I saw it seconds before I (almost) ran it over. this was, of course, as I was riding without my headlight because it was just so cool, though I knew it was riskier there in a residential neighborhood than it was in the bike lane going slowly up the canyon.... I did not think the greatest risk would be from a dark and slinky feline.

the three things I ran over that remain mysteries to me.

I could have run over a porcupine, a brick or two, a branch, or an abandoned backpack for all the attention I was paying to the road this morning. how could I focus on the bike lane when that magnificent moon was up there, those thousands of stars, those wickery shadows thrown down on the asphalt, that fistful of vapory pale white that hung over the northeast peak of the canyon until it dissipated and filtered out into the rest of the dark sky?
how indeed.

I'm already checking out the overnight low, because the moon has another day or two of hanging out in that huge, glorious, luminescent state it's in.

see ya in the dark.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008


the day is here!
this is my 100th posting, and I decided this needs to be a celebratory post, so here goes:

this web log has been in existence since July 19. 2008
I have posted some kind of writing each day of its existence
my web log is 89 days old
some days I post more than once :)
I've now been biking consistently for 28 months or approximately 121 weeks
that's 1.35 weeks of biking for each posting
I like math
I will always credit Liz Johnson for the fact that this log exists
she smiles when I say, write, or think that
I'm thinking I could bake a cake to celebrate . . .
but I would want to eat the whole thing

at my kids' grade school they used to have "100th Day" celebrations. some teachers would start the year with an empty jar, and each day would have a student put something ~ like a marble ~ in the jar. then on the 100th day, when 100 items were in the jar, they would have a celebration. my kids often had to bring 100 of something in on this day: 100 paper clips, 100 rubber bands, 100 raisins, m&ms, toothpicks, stamps, pictures . . . whatever they came up with.

if I had put one dollar in a jar each time I posted, I would now have almost enough to buy a new rear derailleur.

I'm thinking I should institute such a practice for my next 100 posts. because I can live without that new derailleur through the rest of this fall, but I am surely going to want it by the time spring rolls around . . . and if I keep posting at my current pace, let's see . . .

by january 23, 2009, I will have posted another 100 writings, and will have just about enough money in my jar to pay for that new derailleur.
but since January 23rd is not really spring, I could keep putting dollars in my jar and work toward some other new treat for my bike, as well. let's see, there are some really cool pedals out there that I've never tried . . . speedplays . . . and I can get some titanium pink ones for a mere $305.

I will have to write more frequently if I want them on my bike by spring.

or give myself a raise.

regardless, I am pretty darn pleased to have hit 100. I'll have to celebrate again when I reach 100 days: I don't think I'll have a hard time convincing myself to celebrate that one as well. october 26, not too far away ~ I'll try to think of something more exciting than what I've come up with today to celebrate my
100 days of being a web log owner.

the raise is definitely going to happen. this is the cool thing about being one's own boss.

happy 100!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008


last thursday night my car battery died.
it died in a most unusual way for a battery to die: it committed suicide.
now maybe this isn't a strange thought for most of you, but for me, it's just not up there in the "what I expect a car battery to do" list.

thursday night I went into my garage to get something I keep stored there. I opened the door, flipped on the light, and immediately heard a kind of a clicking noise. I paused, my eyes and ears searching the garage for what it could possibly be. I saw nothing unusual, but continued to hear this rhythmic sound, which seemed to be coming from the northwest corner of my garage. there were two cars in my little garage, so everything was packed in tightly, and I wiggled my way over to that area, where I listened even more carefully. my ears finally told my brain that the sound was coming from under the hood of my car. hmmm.
now I have to backtrack and tell you about the ghost in my car.
I bought this car (I just can't bring myself to admit it's a minivan, so I will continue to call it a car) four years ago, from a nice couple who had been its only owners. I should say, at the time of purchase I thought they were a nice couple. I have since decided that I need to qualify that statement, and perhaps call them a usually nice couple who were more concerned about unloading the vehicle than they were with being completely upfront about its history. which is probably how almost all of us are when we're trying to sell a car.
I hadn't had the car long before the ghost made its presence known. I was driving, on my way to one place or another, on the freeway. suddenly the electronic locks clicked, locking the doors. then they clicked again, unlocking the doors. then silence, as my mind raced around, trying to understand what had just happened. then, click. click. click-click, as it did a quick lock-unlock sequence. click-click.
then nothing.
I smiled. it had to be a ghost.
to keep to the point of the story, I won't go on and on: suffice it to say, there were numerous times my car decided to unlock itself. or lock and then unlock itself. the ghost in the machine.
so, back to thursday night: my first thought was just that the ghost was just back at work.
and then I opened the door, and saw a feeble little "door open" light come on and weakly flash in time with the clicks.
I tried the key: dead. nada. muerto.
three males later, we found a fuse that was playing mexican jumping bean, causing the noise. we pulled the fuse, the sound stopped, and I still had a dead battery.

yes, there is a point to this story: when the AAA guy came the next morning, he explained to me what had happened. apparently a battery recharges as you drive. if you don't drive a lot, the battery can find itself living in half-mode: carrying a charge, but never recharging itself completely. the mechanic told me this will ruin a battery. so what the car does when it detects this situation is to set off an event that will drain the battery completely, because a completely drained battery has a better chance of new life than a battery living forever in half-mode. (can you tell that these are MY words, not his??).
so my really intelligent car made this fuse go crazy, in an effort to drain the battery and thus, heroically, save its life.
and I'd thought it was just my silly ghost at work again.

the moral of today's story:
we humans are just like car batteries. it's destructive and sometimes deadly to live in half-mode. it's not okay to just partially recharge ourselves. we need to engage in activities that fully recharge us, on a regular basis, otherwise we risk living in this dangerous half-mode.
our bodies, like my car, when pushed to that certain point do have "suicide plans," and that's when we end up hospitalized or in some kind of treatment facility. and those are best case scenarios.
I have lived in half-mode. there is a saying about "filling the well," that you can only keep giving to others as long as your well has something in it. and therefore, you must find ways to fill your well. enough sleep, proper nutrition, exercise, laughter, joy . . . all of these contribute to a full well.
but I have reached points where, like my car battery, whatever things were recharging my battery were only doing it partially: I never made the long-enough drive that recharged me completely. and I lived in half-mode. which is an exhausting place to be.

this past sunday morning I went to yoga, and during the warm-up phase our instructor asked us each to set an intention for what we wished to gain during our hour of yoga practice. I thought of a friend of mine who often attends a class called "restorative yoga." I like that idea, and thus I chose restoration. I chose to be fully restored by that morning's yoga class. I had had a run-around, sit-and-watch-my-kids kind of day saturday, and the rest of sunday would be busy as well, so I decided that I would leave yoga class restored. and thus I did.

and these two events are why I decided to write about restoration today. because without being restored ~ check in with any old house you see ~ we absolutely fall apart. in little ways, in insidious ways, and in great ways.

I choose to walk ( and ride ) a restorative path through the rest of my life.

Monday, October 13, 2008

spin class

I have hit my cold threshold.
back to the JCC, indoor workouts, weight room, elliptical machine, and spin class.
during my first bike-riding fall, I had a temperature cut-off of 30 degrees. last fall I increased that to about 40 degrees, and I think I'm going to stay right around there this fall and winter. I have done many things in my past that I'm just not willing to do to myself any more! and riding in 30 degree weather is right up there at the top of my list.
I often see commuters out there on their bikes, and I just tip my figurative hat to them. wow. I just don't wanna do it.
so I re-entered the spin room this morning, and it felt familiar yet intensely foreign. I don't think I've been in that room since sometime last may . . . I have been so lucky to have been outside riding all of this time. putting on my spin-class shoes felt strange, as did choosing a bike, changing out the seat for the kind of saddle I like best, then adjusting the seat height and position for my own unique body. I'd almost forgotten which little holes the pegs needed to go into . . . it has been a very long time.
the JCC ~ from what I hear ~ has just about the best spin room in the city. not because of the sound system, the bikes themselves, the towels, the huge water thermos, or even the dated posters of Lance on the walls. no, all of that is probably interchangeable with just about any other spin room. what the JCC has, however, is something that keeps my experience on a level I can tolerate and even sometimes glory in: a wall almost completely full of windows that look out west over the city.
I always choose a bike on the south side of the room, middle row, right in front of the window. we look out over the outdoor pool, through a row of sedate, officious pine trees, and down into the city itself. when I start, at 5:30, I am the only one in the room and I watch the city lights sparkle and throw their energy up to the sky, which is thick and heavy and dark. sometimes I watch the moon, and feel I am one of the most blessed people on the planet.
when it rains or snows or otherwise throws moisture around, we have front row seats on this display; we watch storms move their way across the valley. during the fall before the pool is drained or filled with snow, and in the spring when it is newly filled, I watch the water reflect light and move back and forth with the wind, ripples slapping the concrete edges.
regular 6 am spin class at the JCC is run with the lights out, save for a small lamp by the instructor's table. thus we have this secret view, and we watch the sky gradually lighten, the tiniest bit, as the clock moves closer to seven am. in the spring, we enter in the dark and leave in the light, having been able to watch the entire lightening process through our windows on the world. this time of year we enter in deep darkness and leave in slightly decreased deep darkness.

and it's just not the same.

of course. it can't be. but today, first class in months and months, hit me hard. though I love the view and my ability to still be connected to the world out there, I am sitting in a room filled with loud music not of my choosing, sweating like it's 110 degrees and I've drunk a lake in the previous hour, twisting a knob in an attempt to recreate the resistance of cycling up a hill.
gone is my peace, gone are the sounds of rumbling creeks and hooting owls. gone is the moonlight ride, gone are the chilled cheeks and tingling toes. gone is the time of meditation and inspiration, the counting of cars, the search for new sights and experiences.

what I have instead is a good, hard workout, some comraderie with the other spinners I know, and more warmth than I know what to do with. I come early and start on my own so that I can get as long a workout as I want for myself, and I tilt my heart monitor so that I can see the numbers by the dim light coming from the instructor's lamp. I work, I sweat, I play the game, and I usually like at least half of the music. (okay, not today.)
and I sigh, and think about the summer mornings when I rode at sunrise, in beautiful 70 degree weather, up the canyons that ring our eastern valley. I smile as I type this, and I thank God for our ability to conjure up memories complete with sound, smell, and feel.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

small acts and candles

I began this web log on July 19, right in the heat of cycling season. I chose to create this site for a couple reasons: first, to force myself to write at least something on a consistent, daily basis, and second, to give me an opportunity to "put myself out there," sharing thoughts about an activity I love, following that Christian (? not sure how many other religions hold to this same tenet) belief that we are supposed to let our light shine out for the world to see.

"this little light of mine, I'm going to let it shine . . . hide it under a bushel? no! I'm going to let it shine!" . . . those are words from a song we teach our children: what kind of an example am I to them if I don't live by those words as well?

so, I'm letting my light out, and the world can choose to enjoy and make use of my light, or not, and either choice is fine because my light is still exposed and contributing to the greater light in the universe. I am doing my part.

I don't put my thoughts and observations out there to make you all agree with me, but to just share my perspective on the world. for it is by being exposed to and finding some understanding of others' perspectives that we come to participate more fully in the world. if we continue to just walk our own narrow path, never listening to or experiencing that of others, we are limited in how and what we give back to the world.

if I help to challenge a thought someone holds, or expose a new thought, then I am helping to increase understanding, awareness, and ultimately compassion in our world. and I truly believe this all begins with one simple candle and one simple mind. as mother teresa said, there are no great acts, just small acts performed with great love.

I have great love for my writing, for my cycling, and for the relationships we create with each other. and that is why I write as I do, why I share here as I do.

now, this is not anything like what I sat down to write here today.

this is an example of how there are times when the thinking mind can be undermined. I was going to write about this morning's yoga class, the snow, and my need for a better program of cross training. and I even began that way, as I mentioned the date I started this site, and how it was peak cycling season at that time. I was then going to move into how things have changed, now that it's october 12th.
but you can see what happened instead . . .
I could go back and change it all, revert to my original plan, just junk all those other thoughts. but I won't, because I believe those "other thoughts" came out of my fingers for a reason.
so I am done now, off, my point made and not wanting to be belabored.
I am heading out the door to go do a small act, one I will do with great love.
as I did my yoga class this morning, with great love for myself, because guess what? that counts, too.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

snow, volleyball, soccer, basketball and lacrosse

the title of today's entry could have a subtitle: Things That Keep Me From Cycling.
summer is such a delicious season, full of sunshine, warmth, and time. what it lacks is snow and team sports, and as such, it's just the perfect season for my cycling self.
fall, spring, and winter, on the other hand, are full of those TTKMFC: primarily, my children's sports.
this morning I spent 2 hours watching my daughters play volleyball. which was fine, as it was windy and cold and wet.
this afternoon, I spent an hour and a half sitting outside in the wind and wet (a little mix of sleet, rain, and snow-ish stuff) and cold, watching one of my daughter's soccer games.
some days obviously contain more than one thing from the TTKMFC list.
but the soccer game was played at a field directly west of the mouth of millcreek canyon, which ties nicely into my story about yesterday's ride . . .

the temperature dropped about 10 degrees yesterday, leaving our high in the city about 50 degrees. which is tolerable riding weather, especially when the sun is shining down on us. since the weekend weather prediction was pretty gloomy, it made sense to get a good friday ride in. and since the season is winding down pretty quickly, it made sense to get a (possibly) last ride up millcreek canyon in.
now 50 degrees in the city means . . . significantly cooler at the top of millcreek. we started from my house a little after 4:00.
I wore my full tights, a long-sleeved warm jersey, a jacket, my headband, and full gloves. and I brought arm-warmers for the ride down.
the sky was clear above us as we rode up, and I was sweating quite a bit for the first two-thirds of the climb. the temperature kept dropping, degree by degree, as we climbed higher up the canyon, and by the last two miles I was fairly consistently cold. at times the sun dropped behind clouds, and by the end, the twists and curves of the canyon walls kept us separated from it even when it wasn't hiding behind those clouds. by that point my sweat had cooled off so that I was cold and damp, a delightful combination if it's above 75 degrees, but not such a great combination when it's in the upper thirties.
at elbow fork, which is perhaps 3 or so miles from the top, a cyclist was stopped on the downhill edge of the road, blowing on his hands, his cheeks and nose bright red. "It's really cold, coming down," were the words of encouragement he offered us. hmmm. no surprise, and I didn't really want to think about the down when I still had all that up to do.
it was a tough up, by the way. maybe it was the cold air, maybe it was the end of the season, maybe it was the time of day: something was making it a very challenging climb for me. I'd like to think it's just because I couldn't breathe through my nose since it wouldn't stop running, but it's possible I was just having a wimpy day.
nevertheless, I reached the top, where I circled the parking lot until my heart rate climbed down from the stratosphere and settled into only a slightly elevated zone where I was at least able to speak words out loud. I circled a few more times, then, finally certain I wouldn't drop dead if I were to stop, I stopped. I pulled on my arm warmers, watched my breath for a minute (yes, really), then steeled myself for the downward plunge.
it was cold.
really cold.
you know how you get a headache from eating ice cream too quickly?
I had the headache without the pleasure of the ice cream.
I couldn't talk, or even move my facial muscles, as they were frozen into position. literally. who needs botox? a nice fast ride down a canyon when it's 35 degrees ought to freeze those muscles for a good week or two.

so this afternoon, sitting at the base of the canyon, looking up into it, I thought of where I had been less than 24 hours before. I watched the blanket of clouds come down, covering every foothill and mountain on the eastern edge of the city, and lost my view of even the very mouth of millcreek. the clouds, grey and fog-like, settled in for a while and then, their work done, pulled back and up, once again revealing the hills. what had been brown and dotted with green, red, and gold was now dusted with white. as if a giant bowl of confectioner's sugar had been sprinkled over every ridge, there was snow visible on every surface I could see.

when I left the top parking lot of millcreek canyon yesterday I knew it may be my last visit of the year. I tried to drink in every aspect of the mountains, the trees, the hills, the foliage on the ground. it will soon be covered with snow, and soon they will close the gate that stretches across the road halfway up the canyon.
millcreek will then become a haven for hikers and snowshoers, and it will rest under it's thick blanket of snow, peacefully, so quietly.

and I will go watch my daughters play volleyball, and soccer, for a little while longer. then they will play basketball, and toward the end of that season my son will start playing lacrosse again. and when it's just about time for his first game, I will be pumping up the air in my bike tires, digging out my long tights, skull cap and full gloves, and I will try to weave a little riding into his season.
because truly, there are not too many TTKMFC.

Friday, October 10, 2008

this is me

do you ever find yourself surprised by where you are or what you're doing?
say you're going along, doing whatever it is you're doing, and all of the sudden you think, this is amazing, that this is me, doing this. whether it's spending an enormous amount of money on a luxury item, climbing a mountain peak that's been on your wish-list for years, driving a car you never thought you might own, walking through a small village in vietnam, bungee jumping . . . just something that seemed a far distance away for a long time. and then, there you are, having the experience.
some people are really good at setting goals for themselves, but I am not one of them. and perhaps when you have a goal, it's written down, you've been thinking about it for a long time: maybe then it's not so surprising when you actually reach it. maybe those people don't experience what I do, the "oh my gosh, this is really me, doing this" kind of feeling. it's a feeling of excitement, and of awe. it's exhilarating. it's a re-working of my self-image, as I incorporate this new experience into Who I Am.
yesterday morning I had another dose of "this is really me" thinking. I was at the base of little mountain, right by little dell reservoir. I know I've described this spot before, but for some inexplicable reason it is just a magic place for me. the road down from little mountain summit meets with route 65, and it is a huge space of asphalt with rarely a car around. to me it's peaceful, and I keep thinking of that movie title My Own Private Idaho. I've never seen the movie, and I know the subject doesn't really fit my usage of the name, but I often think of that title when I'm cycling, alone, in such a spot as this that I've just described. this place is My Own Private Idaho. there are cars out there, sure, and I can see I-80 by the mountain dell/east canyon exit, so I know I'm not far from a major freeway. but there are also acres and acres of raw land, stretching seemingly forever in all directions. there is the reservoir, and there is a big, beautiful piece of asphalt on which I can circle and circle and circle, as I drink in the quiet, the natural beauty, the solitude.
the "this is really me" at this spot has a lot to do with the fact that cycling is still so new to me. three years ago that would not have been me. and cycling has given me this amazing gift, of teaching me that I am a constantly changing being. that me, 3 years ago, couldn't experience that exhilaration, and now this new me can. and me, three years forward, will be having experiences that the me of today would never predict or even fathom.
how cool, to be this ever-changing, evolving me!
jewel, the singer, wrote and recorded a song in which the refrain is "I am becoming." I think of this frequently when I'm having the "this is really me" feeling. we are not static beings: every encounter and experience changes the who of who we are. how great is that? that the me of this morning will be different tomorrow because of what I do, see, hear and absorb throughout this day.
I'm with jewel: I am becoming.

Thursday, October 9, 2008


I want to write about coffee this morning.
but to get there, I have to start with Atlas Shrugged, which I am currently re-reading. if you're not familiar with it, this book is Ayn Rand's 1168 page classic, a philosophical novel, or what I call a really really long fable.
the protagonist is Dagny Taggert, a beautiful, intelligent, driven, productive, capable, amazing woman. who smokes. seemingly constantly. she is forever lighting a cigarette, smoking one, having one lit for her, buying cigarettes, lighting one for someone else . . . now I know this novel was written over 60 years ago, but didn't they even have a clue back then that smoking was not the best thing for your health?
what I've decided is that Dagny was Ayn's semi-autobiographical creation, and that Ayn herself was a committed, determined, heavy duty smoker.
okay, that said, now I can turn to coffee.
I drink a lot of coffee every morning. and like the question I asked of myself last week about cycling: is it an addiction? or just a strong habit? and what does it say about me if it is an addiction?
was Dagny addicted to cigarettes, and if so, does that take away from the competent, capable, truly astounding woman she was? was Ayn Rand addicted to cigarettes, and if so, does that make her any less of a philosopher, writer, intellectual, and truly astounding woman that she was?
I love drinking my coffee. I make a small pot each morning, and it has become a very special routine for me. I take one of my favorite mugs, and pour into it an ounce or so of milk. then I warm this for 19 seconds (laugh all you want: I know my idiosyncrasies), and then add coffee and artificial sweetener (another no-no) until I have a mug full of sweet, hot, dark brown fluid that warms me up and makes me smile.
I usually end up zapping my mug in the mircrowave a few times before I fill up again, as I sip on my coffee for hours, in between writing and reading and working and making hot chocolate and lunches and driving kids to school and cleaning the kitchen and doing laundry and whatever else comes up each morning.
my coffee is a caf/decaf mix: 1 to 3 is my current ratio. for me it's not all about the caffeine, it's more about the ritual, the routine, the habit. so I try to just do a little caffeine and a lot not. but here's the thing: I don't really know how significantly I am hooked on this stuff. because I don't want to stop making and drinking my coffee.
could I give it up? I'm sure I could, if I had to.
will I give it up? not unless I absolutely have to.
about the only time I will forgo coffee is when there's neither milk nor artificial sweetner that I like. (I detest splenda, can tolerate equal, and definitely prefer the little pink packet kind.) my mother-in-law used to have a little bottle ~ like the kind you get prescriptions in from the pharmacy ~ with saccharin pills in it, these itsy bitsy teeny little white things that would dissolve in liquid. those are okay with me, but I always felt like some kind of a drug addict when I used one.
you know I am desperate for coffee when I drink it black with real sugar. ick.
you know I've completely lost my mind when I use cream. ugh.
(please pardon the break: I just returned to the computer after leaving for the kitchen to refill my mug of coffee.)
on mornings like this there is also something about holding that warm mug between my hands, feeling the heat through the smooth ceramic surface, knowing that the liquid inside will warm my body and give comfort to my soul. this small event contributes to my sense of well-being: to me it means warmth and security, comfort and luxury. no matter what the rest of my life holds, at the moment I sip from this mug I am safe, warm, happy, and have all of my needs met.
that is a pretty amazing gift from some water, some beans, a little milk, some saccharin, and a beautifully shaped piece of ceramic.
so, like Ayn Rand, I may have certain traits and habits that seem to belie the "I have it all together" posture I present to the world. or like Archilles and every other character in Greek mythology, I, too, have my tragic flaws. and I suppose if drinking my mugfuls of coffee each morning is on that list, I am happy to have it remain there because guess what?
I love my coffee ritual.
especially after a 23-mile early morning ride in the 40 degree dark.
mmm, mmm, aah.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

quantum physics

if everything is working well on my bike, I hear very little from it as I ride along.
a noisy chain means I need to clean, degrease and lube it, and other noises generally mean I need to take it to the shop. (aren't I an amazingly gifted diagnostician?)
occasionally, however, I will be riding along and suddenly hear the sound of my tires, and it always catches me by surprise.
this happens when I am riding past a concrete barrier, a guardrail, or some kind of fencing, and this "wall" will bounce the sound of my tires back up to my ears while I pass. and depending upon the type of material the wall is made of, the sound changes.
a concrete barrier or wall will throw back a steady, thick-ish sound, while a guardrail with spaced metal posts will give me a rhythmic whoosh-pause-whoosh-pause-whoosh sound. a metal guardrail will echo back a thinner sound, and on those rare times I pass close to a wooden fence, I get a more dampened whirring rubber sound.
and each of these times, I am on the same bike pedaling in the same manner. yet the sound reflected back to me is remarkably different.
ooh, just imagine where I am going to go with this!
I am a pretty consistent me, just like my riding is a pretty consistent pedaling process. yet what the world reflects back to me is not always the same. sometimes I am given feedback that I'm great, I'm wonderful, things are good: I see smiles and hear kind words and have people respond to me in positive or loving ways. other times what I get is quite different: I am ignored or talked down to, yelled at or told I'm not doing things well at all. and all along I am still this fairly consistent me.
which tells me that people and circumstances I encounter in life are going to take in what I give or put out, color it with their own selves, and bounce back at me a combination of my action and their internal process. sometimes I come back quite clearly to myself, and at other times what I get back is only vaguely similar to what I've given out.
the life lesson here is just to be able to differentiate between clear reflections and muddy ones. a clear one can make you feel pretty good, while a muddy one can cause you to question yourself and your actions. it takes a strong, grounded person to accept all the feedback the world offers, separate the wheat from the chaff, and stay true to their path. I think this is something most of us work on for a good portion of our lives.
I am a strong, consistent, valuable me, regardless of what feedback the world bounces my way. I am the same, whether I pass concrete walls, wooden fences, or guardrails made of wood and metal. I am me, regardless of how the world responds to, reacts to and interprets me.

and then again, I am what you perceive me to be, aren't I?

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

anniversaire heureux

today my bike is two years old.
well, it's actually older than that, but it has been in my possession for two years, today, and thus it is a day of celebration!
this is the story of how I came to own my bike:

once upon a time I owned only a mountain bike, and I rode that mountain bike up and down the streets, determined to get my body and mind in shape. I discovered that I enjoyed riding this bike, and that I loved the peaceful mornings and the feeling of being on my bike. one day, I went to a bike shop to look for some new bike shorts. as I was paying, the nice salesman asked me questions about what kind of bike I had, and where I rode it. I told him I had a mountain bike, but that I only rode it on streets anymore, not having been on a trail for at least a year. to which he replied, gee, why don't you get a road bike?
speechless, I just stared at him, and finally just smiled and said, yes, someday, I should, shouldn't I?
"why don't you get a road bike?" well at that time, I could come up with about a thousand reasons why not, and they all had dollar signs in front of them.
but as the weeks went by, that little question hung out in the back of my mind. why don't you get a road bike? why don't you why don't you why don't you . . .
so I started looking at road bikes. and learned what a "drop bar" bike is. (duh: it's a bike whose handlebars drop down, as opposed to mountain bikes whose handlebars just go straight across.) and felt like an idiot. and test rode one, feeling like the wiggliest, least stable thing on two wheels. I worked on the financial end of things, and came to a place where I figured investing in a bike was really an investment in my health (little did I know just how far that little investment would go.)
and finally I went to a store determined to buy a bike.
it was REI, because the other bike shops I had visited just intimidated me too much: too many guys who knew too much about something I knew too little of. contender, canyon bicycles, bingham: it didn't matter; they were all full of guys who knew everything there was to know about bicycles, and I'm not sure they thought old women like me should be riding one, anyway.
it was the first friday evening in october. I'd been there at REI the week before, and had been given a pretty good education on different bikes that were available and likely to be appropriate for me. lots of bikes were on sale, as it was the end-end-end of biking season. which was good. and the nice salesman, after a good hour or so, helped me choose a beautiful silver cannondale that I got quite excited about.
"let's get you out there, let you test ride it." my heart fluttered, my pulse raced.
he found a helmet for me, took my driver's license in case I absconded with the pretty little thing, and walked me out to the front doors of the store.
where he stopped, looked outside, and said, "uh-oh."
I looked out, and saw a curtain of water falling from the sky.
"I don't think you're going out in this."
crushed, I followed him back to the bike shop counter, and handed the helmet back over to him.
"can you come back tomorrow?"
deep sigh. "okay. will you keep it for me?"
he nodded, and walked my pretty new silver cannondale off to the back room. I watched him go, feeling like a parent who had just left their newborn infant with a brand new babysitter.
the next day, october 7, I showed up at REI ready to ride. the sun was out, peaking through a handful of clouds, and I was excited to see my new bike.
at the counter a different salesman went off to get my bike, then got me a helmet, took my license, and walked me to the door.
he leaned the bike my way, then said, "uh-oh."
I looked outside: the sky was clear. I looked back at him.
"let me see you straddle this bike."
I did.
"okay, I'm going to hold it, I want you to sit and hold onto the handlebars, and pedal."
I did.
"I can't send you out on this bike."
my heart dropped down to my shoes.
"this bike is too big for you~ let's go back there and take a look at what else we've got."
he wheeled my pretty silver bike back to the racks of bikes, and I drug my feet, made heavy by the added weight of my heart, along behind him.
he put my beautiful shiny silver bike away, and started to look at what else was there on the floor. I moped. soon he left to go look through paperwork, searching for what bikes on the floor might be in my size. I stared at the pretty silver bike I couldn't have. I moped some more.
he came back out and showed me a few other options, then returned to the filing cabinet. then came back, and showed me another possibility. none of them were pretty shiny silver bikes. and then he pulled another bike out from a rack, and said, "now this is really similar to the other one, but it's a tri-bike." it had aero-bars on the front (narrow bars, parallel to the wheels, that shot out from the middle of the handlebar so that you could rest your forearms there as you rode your triathlon.)
it was a cannondale, but it was a frosty pale blue, not a beautiful shiny silver.
he had me sit on it, he adjusted the seat. I sat again, he measured this and that. he had me pedal, he adjusted something else. forever and a day later, he said, I want you to go ride this one.
and I did.
and that is how I came to own a frost blue cannondale tri bike. they replaced the double ring crank set with a compact double for me, helped me find a flashing tail-light, had me fill out a county bike license form, polished it up (okay, not really), and sent me on my way.
for its anniversary today, I think I will degrease and lube the chain and the rear derailleur, and maybe even give the whole bike a little wash. it could also use some new handlebar tape, maybe that would be a nice little present for it . . . maybe I could even find some tape in a pretty silver color . . . for although I love my bike, there will always be the memory in my mind of a beautiful shiny silver bike that was almost mine.

Monday, October 6, 2008

what I saw

today a little critter ran across the road in front of me, and I had never before seen such a thing out in the wild . . . it had a reddish coat, a white underbelly, and the end of its tail looked like it had been dipped in black ink. I had to come home and search the internet because I didn't know what it was.
I started with lynx (forgetting they are in the cat family), then went to mink (too big) and then ferret (not quite but almost), and finally discovered that what I had seen was a . . . .

weasel. running across the road by mountain dell golf course.