Friday, April 29, 2011

like-minded souls

it's possible we say this every april, but here goes anyway:
gosh, it's been a lousy spring.
for bike riding, that is.
apparently it's been great for skiing, and for snowfall, and for drought-resilience.
but pretty lousy for cycling.

what I notice, therefore, is that every time the clouds crack open, the sun shines down, the pavement dries, the snow pulls back away from the bike lanes, the cyclists whip out and head up the hill.
on the crummy days, the 40-degrees-but-I'm-going-to-ride-anyway days, you see cyclists out and about, but you can often count them with just two hands, and they all have the look of someone who is doing what simply must be done.
when small white clouds dance around the sun and the temperature climbs above 50, it takes both hands, both feet, and some remembering to count all the cyclists spinning past.

I am not alone.

how many of us watch the weather, waiting for breaks in the clouds, waiting for temperatures to climb to our minimum-comfort zone, pushing our work and chores around until they fit into our non-riding hours?
this morning dawned wet and gray, but before long the roads began to dry and within hours the sun was beginning to peek through the billowing clouds. it wasn't more than 40 degrees, but I was tempted. an hour, maybe, an hour just here in the neighborhood, no climbing up to the snowline, just a street cruise. however, work kept me pinned, and I let go my fantasy.
had I gone, I would have seen other cyclists.
had the weather been even twenty percent nicer, I would have seen more.
and had it been a gorgeous day, I would have been weaving through them in the bike lanes.

I am not alone.
a little sunshine, a little warmth, and we come crawling out and pedaling up the road, and this very simple thing is why I smile and wave, and feel a sense of camaraderie with every other cyclist out there.
none of us are truly alone, because we all share that little something that calls to us, that pushes us out the door, that fuels us and rewards us and tells us that we are bound to feel better if we just get out on the road and start pedaling.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

what love is all about

I love my bike.

I'm certain I make this clear to all.

but the other day I didn't much care for it, in fact, wanted to hand it off to someone else, perhaps permanently. not exactly a love-hate relationship, but a love-exasperation relationship. at the moment I'm contemplating hauling it into my house and dealing with what needs to be dealt with. I donwanna.

see, what I desire is a bike that will take care of itself: is self-cleaning, self-correcting, and flat-proof. when it's dirty, greasy, muddy, and in need of a new tube and a new tire, I want it to just go fix itself.
which reminds me of what I said to a former partner when he was a mess: go fix yourself.

the difference is this: although I desire my bike to take care of itself, I understand that it cannot. I will clean it, I will wipe the mud off, I will take the old tire off and dispose of it and put a new tube and tire on. I will dry my bike, I will pump the new tire up, and before I ride it again I will lube the chain.
a bike is inanimate--obviously--and incapable of fixing itself.

the partner I guided, I sat with, I shared with, I directed and advised and empathized and through it all, loved. but there came a point where I couldn't clean, repair, and fix him all by myself. animate creatures have to participate; they can't just rest on a rack and wait to be cared for.

ruby is resting right now, awaiting my ministrations. I will eventually go get her, bring her inside where it's more comfortable, and start to work on her. (yes, I know she's really an "it.") I donwanna. but just like in relationship, my choice is to participate, or to be left without a partner.

the other day I was stranded in a snowstorm, wet and chattery, soggy and disheartened, when ruby's tire flatted and the new tube I installed wouldn't play nicely with my CO2 cartridge. nine miles from home, I was ready to hand ruby off to anyone who would take her and fix her and bring her back all better.

but we are true partners, and it's my turn to show what I'm made of.

right now, that's going to be latex (as in gloves), cotton (towels and rags), elbow grease, degreaser, and a thick portion of determination.

I donwanna, but I hafta.

because that's what love is all about.

Monday, April 25, 2011

the devil's agent

" . . . preailing Victorian fashion . . . required women to wear full-length dresses or skirts that hid any 'immodest' display of an ankle. These heavy petticoated garments, however, sometimes using over twelve yards of fabric, significantly confined the physical activities of women. When the bicycle craze emerged in the 1890s, the long skirts and slips hampered safe, comfortable cycling.

Fashion designers solved this with the 'reform dress,' but convincing American women that shorter skirts or bloomers were respectable presented a formidable challenge. Both the thought of women riding bicycles and daring such a radical change in dress met stiff resistance in some circles. The Rescue League of Washington formed to fight against women riding 'the devil's agent' and wearing bicycle apparel. The organization launched a national crusade to ask clergymen and women to supress the bicycle craze because of its vulgarity." Linda Lawrence Hunt, Bold Spirit: Helga Estby's Forgotten Walk across Victorian America, Moscow, ID: University of Idaho Press, 2003, p. 85.

we have come a long way, baby.

I'm just about ready to put on my cycling tights, bare a little ankle, and go flirt with my favorite devil's agent.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

on not being home

71 degrees and sunny.

red rock, sweeping vistas, buttes and plateaus and gently swooping inclines. stunning views, sagebrush and wheatgrass and prickly pear cactus.

57 miles yesterday, ending with a swoop down snow canyon, 52 miles today that included a swish around sand hollow reservoir: a utah century (we can't seem to stop at just 100 miles), split in half, which is, I believe, probably the best way one can do a century.

it's a treat to be in st. george, having escaped from the dreary, cloudy, rainy, depressing, wet, gray,green greasy limpopo river---ooops, I mean salt lake valley.


Thursday, April 21, 2011

the story of april 20

once upon a time there was a girl who fell in love.

she married her knight in shining armor, and soon they decided to start a family. when they learned she was pregnant, they were ecstatic. four months later they learned she was carrying twins, and their excitement doubled, if you can imagine that.

it wasn't long until they were told that their identical boy twins needed to be monitored due to a size discrepancy, and within two months they were asked to come in for testing. when the doctor gently placed his hand on her knee, fuzzy images on the ultrasound behind them, she knew that the smaller twin had died.

the young girl's heart broke when this was confirmed, and that heart was hastily pulled together when her surviving son was born, prematurely, two days later, april 20, 1991. tape and bandages and some string wrapped round and round, holding that heart's pieces from falling apart.

it was a gray and rainy day, and the girl spent most of it sleeping and trembling in her dreary hospital room while her new son slept on a warming table in the newborn ICU. it wasn't until the next day that she learned her precious son had suffered a severe cerebral hemorrhage before birth. as he grew it became clear he would never able to completely fulfill the three wishes she had for him: that he would be able to discover the joy of using his intellect, that he would be able to glory in the beautiful world around him, and that he would be able to give and receive love.

he lived a beautiful life anyway.

and in january of 2010, he left the girl and rejoined his twin.

now the girl rides her bike on april 20, she rides her favorite ride, up emigration canyon and down to the reservoir, around the paint-chipped yellow gate, and up toward big mountain as far as she can before the snow stops her progress. at that point she stops, she talks with her son for a few minutes, and she spreads a few of his ashes beside her favorite road.

yesterday she rode in the rain and the sleet, and paused a mile and a third past the gate. she talked to her son, she smiled, she shook the rain from her helmet and she wrapped her arms and tucked her gloved hands into her armpits.

she likes to think her son watches her ride, every time she rides, and she's certain he joins her at times. yesterday he was the tailwind pushing her home, back home into her new life without him, but always with him.

happy birthday jake, happy day, little joe.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

waiting to be told you're good enough

waiting is often difficult.

it requires this thing called patience, which is a trait I swear I wasn't born with. I've been working to develop it, and have increased my stores of it substantially over the years. but I also swear I'm using it up at a pace which far exceeds my ability to replenish. by this thursday it's possible I'll be completely out of it, and start working into the negative. not sure what happens then.
but back to waiting.
the last few months have been filled--overflowing--with waiting.
my son, and thus I, too, have been waiting to hear about college: acceptances, scholarships, financial aid, housing. argh.
I have been waiting to hear from agent after agent I have queried about my book project.
every day I wait for the phone to ring/the fax to spit/email to pop up with orders for my company.
I've spent hours and days waiting for the rain to stop.
each day I wait for the mail, hoping for checks and other forms of good news.
and now I wait to hear from lotoja, to be told whether or not I get to spend the next four and a half months training for the never-ending day-long ride.

it all fits this pattern: waiting for someone/thing/group/institution to tell me (us) they want me (us).

I have this fantasy that someday the mail will pile up, I'll avoid my phone, I'll have to hire someone to deal with my email because everyone, at the same time, will decide they want me.
doors will open, I will be ushered through. offers will come to me, I will be begging for peace and quiet and time to go ride my bike by myself, whenever and wherever I want.
for now, though, my son and I wait. we wait for the powers that be to make their decisions, to assess and evaluate our offerings. and we work to strengthen our cores, those parts of us that hold our self-worth and esteem, so that we can take the answer when it eventually comes. we steel ourselves for the no-thank-you's, the not-this-time's, the not-a-good-fit explanations. and we hope for the yes, we tell ourselves we've earned it, we're good enough, we are the right one at the right time.
I receive no's daily, delivered by silent phones and pleasantly understanding emails.
I take these in daily, and patch myself with a little more mortar, then I go ride my bike.
knowing that someday I won't have time to ride my bike, and I'll look back at today with longing.
yep, that's how it goes.

Monday, April 18, 2011

a break in the clouds

it's rained all day.

about 5 o'clock I saw a break in the clouds: I made a run for it.
not my best decision ever.
let's just say I got wet.
very wet.

but I did have a glorious two miles without rain, out in holladay, with a beautiful storm-driven tailwind at my back . . .
of course, you know what that means, and I paid the price all the way home.
the scary thing? I returned home soaked, dirty, a bit cold, and so very glad I went.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

go until the snow

my friend ivy is training for a race, and thus offering us---her biking friends---multiple opportunities to "go for a ride." she thinks we'll all be in great shape by the time her race rolls around: I'm not so sure. I might just be plain old exhausted if I keep following her around.

example: saturday's ride. she sent an email out friday, alerting us to her plans and welcoming our company. it was to be a hill day, her coaching instructions being to go climb as many hills as she could.
for eight hours.
her plan was to start by climbing city creek canyon as far as she could, until the snow blocked her path. then on to emigration canyon, and up east until the snow blocked her path. next would be millcreek canyon, until---you guessed it---the snow blocked her path. after that would be big cottonwood, a canyon which is only blocked by snow after the road ends.
I was up for a significant ride, itching to have something under my belt longer than a ride to draper and tougher than just emigration. so I signed on for the ride, planning to keep riding until I felt I'd hit my limit. unfortunately, I started to feel my limits closing in on the way up the first canyon . . . I had hoped that ivy and crew might be riding at an endurance pace, but it seems that ivy has increased her endurance pace to something that puts me in oh-gee-how-long-can-I-maintain-this pace.
I survived city creek. and emigration, past the gate toward east, down to george washington park, and back up little mountain.
all the way down emigration I debated how much more I wanted to do. our original 6 riders had pared down to 3 by then, and one more was leaving us at the bottom of emigration. that would leave me and the ivy machine, and I was torn. the thought of riding up 3 canyons 'til the snow stopped me in mid april was hugely appealing. I also was eager to head up millcreek, not having been there since last fall. I wanted to see the snow, to see if one could ride past the gate, and if so, how far.
but my legs were moaning. whining, really, and well, hurting. oh, yes, no, yes, no.
we turned left at the bottom of the canyon and my mind pulled me south, my grumpy legs reluctantly revolving around and around. those legs moaned all the way to the mouth of millcreek, when they stopped the moaning and began shouting. no! no! I refuse to go!
5 miles, I told myself, that's all. it's 5 miles to the gate, and the likelihood of there being visible pavement after the gate is slim to none. way too much snow up there. 5 miles, susan, you can do this.
I have never, ever, climbed that canyon as slowly as I did yesterday. but did it I did, limping up, and cruising down feeling like I had conquered my own small battle, mind over muscle.

and that is the story of go until the snow.
the epilogue is that ivy continued on, riding south again, heading up to brighton and snarfing a cheeseburger before heading back home. I, myself, was plenty proud to wiggle and wimp my way home, where I fed myself like I'd climbed 4 canyons instead of 3. no cheeseburgers, but just about everything else in the fridge.
73 miles, somewhere just shy of 6000 feet elevation gain, in mid-april. not too bad. perhaps if I keep following ivy around I'll get in great shape. or perhaps I'll just get exhausted.

Friday, April 15, 2011

amazing, fabulous, powerful people

I'm sure you've had this happen.
you meet someone, somewhere, and then you bump into them (not always literally) somewhere else, some time later. you remember them, but they have no recollection of ever meeting you before.
they look at you with a blank expression, shaking their head, and tell you it's nice to meet you.

I've had this happen numerous times, (and I have also been the blank-faced one.) and upon first reflection I question myself: am I so unmemorable? I have a forgettable face? I just blend in with the crowd and am of no interest to them?
further reflection reveals the truth: it's really all about them.
it has nothing to do with my face, my personality, my very self. it's just about whatever is going on for them: they're preoccupied when they meet you, they're at a stressful point in their life, they're overwhelmed, they're forgetful, they lack certain social skills, they purposefully ignore cool and fabulous people. whatever.

what brings this to mind today is that while I was out on my glorious, early-spring ride today I exchanged smiles with a woman coming downhill on her bike while I was headed up. I've met this woman oh, perhaps four times now. met as in, introduced myself. she rides on the same Bad Ass Cycling team as I do. we've ridden stretches of rides together.
and she never remembers who I am.
this morning I could tell she had no idea who I was, and the cool-great-wonderful thing is that it didn't matter. I've finally figured out that it's all about her and not about me. she just isn't good at remembering amazing, fabulous, powerful people who introduce themselves to her.
hey, no one's perfect.
at least she has the good sense to ride a bike.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

peeing etiquette

I'm quite certain emily post never wrote an essay about bicycling etiquette.
and even if she had, she probably wouldn't have covered the topic I need to have covered:
The Proper Way to Deal With Male Cyclists Who Are Relieving Their Bladders.

I never know what to do.

they are out there in just about every event I've participated in, back to the road (usually), hand(s) occupied, stream sometimes visible.

emily would be appalled, I'm sure.
then she would tell us to ignore the spectacle.
which is what I do, mostly because I'm caught somewhere between being disgusted and being envious.

today, however, I found myself in a strange position, and was saved only by the fact that the men doing the peeing ignored me.

I rode my usual ride up emigration, down to the reservoir, then east to the gate. the snow has pulled back gradually over the past few weeks, and each time I slip around the locked gate I check the mileage to see just how far I can get before the road is blocked by a frozen white barrier.
two days ago I could ride four-tenths of a mile, but the temperatures have sucked every bit of ice from the reservoir---it had an ice cap covering a good sixty percent of it two days ago---and dried up more of the road. I could see where the bare asphalt ended as I approached the snow, and I could also see two cyclists stopped, standing by their bikes at the side of the road at that point.
I drew closer, as I always like to ride to the very last point of surface I can, and as the shapes became distinctly male, it also became clear that they were peeing. their backs were to me, and I came close enough to see a pretty strong stream of pee arcing into the snow beside the road. I didn't know what to do.
did they hear my coasting click-click-click as I slowed my approach?
did they assume there could be no one else nearby?
did they not care if there were?

I wanted to say hello, I wanted to not be there. I wanted them to not be there.

so I turned a bit earlier than I would have liked, and headed back toward the reservoir.

emily, what's the answer?


Monday, April 11, 2011

the great escape

here's a not-so-secret secret:
I have been in intensive therapy for the past almost-five years.

I've changed therapists a few times, from a rather heavy, stable, predictable gal to someone a little more streamlined and frosty, to my current therapist, a gal named ruby who is sleek and slender, sharp and responsive, understated yet subtly persuasive, and always ready and available for a session.
the best thing about my therapists is that they all--all--work outdoors. none of this sit-on-a-couch stuff. they're into movement and nature, and they've all been extremely tolerant of less-than-perfect conditions.
they don't mind getting a little wet.
they don't mind cloudy skies and temperatures in the 40's.
they don't even seem to mind those 100 degree days, though I'm tempted to believe they prefer heading up canyons when the air gets that hot.

I've been with ruby for over two years now, and have spent so much time with her you'd think I wouldn't need her anymore. but the thing with this kind of therapy is that it becomes a regular, almost standing, appointment. it's more like yoga and meditation: daily practices that heal and soothe, center and relieve one of stress and anxiety.

ruby and her predecessors have helped me learn many things, not the least of which is that I am capable of more than I thought I was.
I've also learned:

  • no matter how long the road before you, the only way to shorten it is to move forward.

  • one's mind will opt out long before one's body will.

  • the only way to get up a hill is to start pedaling, and keep doing so until you reach the top.

  • the less baggage you carry, the easier it is to move forward.

  • some baggage is necessary for caring for yourself along the way. it's okay to carry a little.

  • rewards you earn are more enjoyable than those just given to you.

  • we all need an escape at times.

  • what hurts for a little while will ultimately make you a stronger person.

  • it doesn't matter whether those rivulets running down your cheek are tears, sweat, or a result of wind-irritated eyes. it's all good.

  • before you can go anywhere, you have to be where you are.
and then this:

all the training in the world won't get you anywhere unless you possess and exercise some courage.

the initial investment in my therapy made me gulp, and changing therapists can be expensive, too. but the daily expenditure is minimal, and mental health is truly priceless.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

no more no

I have a new life philosophy.
I have decided not to accept "no" anymore.

I've spent years in this meek, subservient place of "okay, whatever you say," and it's time for that to end. I've reframed, I've accepted, I've been nice. I've been kind, supportive, understanding, patient, enduring, tolerating, one big ball of acquiescence.

it's time to start expecting "yes," and not putting up with "no."
the world is forewarned: I expect nothing less than everything from now on.

does this strike home? do you ever find yourself just sitting in a place of mediocrity, going along, tolerating, dealing with what is because that's all there seems to be? I woke up the other day to realize that I'd fallen into this (terrible) place of not expecting anything better than "just okay." here's an example:

my son is applying for college, and his number one pick has placed him on their waiting list. they promise nothing, and make it clear that those on the waiting list have somewhere between a zero and a 25 percent chance of making it in. oh, probably not worth sitting on that list, might as well just say "no thanks."

my reaction was WIMPY!

the me who just woke up the other day has a different response: of course he'll sit on that waiting list, and he'll call them and write a letter and let them know that he intends to be one of those who get admitted. why not?? why give up a dream just because someone says, "well, maybe . . . "

I'm also in the process of securing an agent for my book. (not trying to find one, securing one.) so far, many have said no thanks. but I'm not done. not at all. I will find one, because I will no longer take "no" as a permanent state of the world. I am done with that.

so there.

I just registered for lotoja. this will be my 5th, and I am going to kick its butt this year.

so there.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

that 206 mile thing

it's here.
officially, I'm two days late in commenting on it.
I have five more day before I'm too late to sign up.
and I don't really want to talk about it.

maybe that's because it's gray outside, ugly and windy and disheartening to someone (me) who wants it to be gloriously spring. it's hard to dredge up enthusiasm for a twelve-hour bike ride when I only want to be snugly wrapped in a blanket, sitting on my couch, reading a book or perhaps even dozing.

my legs are tired. my hips are in that painful transition back into yoga, where their ridiculously-tight selves are being asked to loosed up and relax. (yes, I could still add more pigeons to my life.) I've squeezed in a few bike rides lately, alternating between toe covers and full booties, braving the temps the other day by wearing capris instead of full tights.
I'm tired of full gloves.
I'm tired of headbands, beanies, and jackets.
I'm tired of goosebumps and shivers and ice cream headaches from the cold.
and I'm really, really tired of gray.

yesterday the sun shone brilliantly for hours. everything seemed possible: I even thought about visiting the lotoja website and signing up. today gloom has resettled itself upon us, and there's no way I'm going to

the grass outside my window is greening up nicely, but it's also bent over sideways, and a few straggling leaves dance past every now and again. bare branches bend and dip, and my terribly brave daffodils bob and dance, their stems more resilient than I can imagine, having survived the blizzard last sunday and continuing to lift their heads skyward.
I should pay attention to those daffodils.
it's not just their heads that lift high, they are lit by a life force that begins in their roots and continues upward, strengthening the stalk and enabling this cheery, faithful, tolerant, irrepressible life form to thrive regardless of what the world throws its way.
take a lesson, susan.

gray comes and goes.
sometimes it lingers longer than I'd like it to. sometimes it colors my world in a way I wish it wouldn't. sometimes it's so thick I forget that there's blue up there, above it, just waiting to have access to my space again.

206 miles isn't really that far, is it? and twelve hours isn't really that long to ride a bike, is it?
nope. not really.
it's all possible.
if those darn daffodils out there can do it, so can I.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

fissures, explicated

saturday, fissures.
a crack runs across the reservoir surface, south to north, dividing the icy crust in two.
the storm moving in later today will bring rain, then snow perhaps, upon the reservoir, but I am certain that the crack will not repair.
next week the reservoir surface will have two large floating ice sections, gradually diminishing, and soon there will be tens if not hundreds of smaller segments, floating, drifting, decreasing, melting, slipping away into the body of the reservoir itself.
and then, dear friends, it will be officially spring.

Sunday, April 3, 2011


a western meadowlark, yellow chest shining, it's cheerful song dancing across the road.
a prairie falcon, sitting atop a narrow, bare tree, seemingly immobile, perusing its vast, austere estate.
a yellowed, weathered rib cage, likely cervidae, off to the right side of the road, shocking me by its abrupt appearance: how long has this been there?
wind pushing steadily from the south, the west, determined, undeterred from its path.
the reservoir, frozen still but losing its battle with spring, ice pulling back from shorelines, fissures opening across its expanse, surface rough and uneven.
early april in dell canyon, the hillsides having released their snow, the life beneath ground not yet showing itself, not yet sending up shoots and blades of green.
perfect riding weather, temperature in the upper fifties, cool enough to remind me it's still early in the season, warm enough to allow capris and fingerless gloves and a head that's bare under my helmet.
though I love the falcon and the chipper song of the meadowlark, it is the fissures in the frozen lid of the reservoir that capture my interest, my soul. they decorate the top, one here, another there, no rhyme or rhythm to their placements, and the glance into the depths below that they allow is simultaneously flirtatious and dangerously seductive.
a dash of dark amidst the eighteen shades of white that compose the textured glacial surface, each fissure is an opportunity, a space between, a place to initiate change.
leonard cohen would tell us a fissure is where the light comes in; I first see the fissures here as exciting, a sign of progress. I liken this to personal growth: we cannot move forward until a crack appears and we widen it, splitting it apart and letting what's new and fresh, different, better, make itself known.

today I saw the season's first earthworms, plump and curled, brought to the pavement by last night's rain and snow.
the seasons change, often slowly but always, inevitably. ice melts, snow fades, plants send forth new shoots.
fissures happen.
things change.
we grow.
and we eventually find ways to let the light come in.

Friday, April 1, 2011

how to measure a female

well, with a tape measure, of course. and her numbers better fit into that ideal 36-24-36 model.

and that was my joke for the day. now back to topic.

since yesterday I discussed measuring a man, it's only logical that today I look in the opposite direction.
how do I measure a female? almost completely by the sincerity of her smile.
that is the only way I have of knowing how genuine she is, which in turn tells me how safe I am around her, and how much I want to get to know her.
and there you have it.

now let's all go ride a bike.