Thursday, May 31, 2012

to balance oneself on a bicycle

as one who has been practicing hands-free riding and hovering at stop signs/lights, balance is an ever-present theme in my life.
and not just on a bike.
balance between work and pleasure, between austerity and gluttony, between expectations and acceptance, between needs and wants and desires and realities.  
balanced is a nice place to be.
it's a place from which one can be patient, accepting, calm, tolerant.
and thus I'm passing along a few words attributed to helen keller (think about that for a moment after you've read the quote, and reflect upon your own fears and fearlessness) which made me glow;  I hope they do the same for you.

toleration is the greatest gift of the mind;  it requires the same effort of the brain that it takes to balance oneself on a bicycle.


Tuesday, May 29, 2012

1895, 2012

having just returned from durango, where I rode my bike--along with thousands of others--to silverton, colorado (incorporated in1885), I thought I'd share some thoughts about bicycling written about the same time silverton was coming to life.  some things remain fairly constant, don't they?

I began to feel that myself plus the bicycle equaled myself plus the world, upon whose spinning wheel we must all learn to ride, or fall into the sluiceways of oblivion and despair.  That which made me succeed with the bicycle was precisely what had gained me a measure of success in life -- it was the hardihood of spirit that led me to begin, the persistence of will that held me to my task, and the patience that was willing to begin again when the last stroke had failed.  And so I found high moral uses in the bicycle and can commend it as a teacher without pulpit or creed  She who succeeds in gaining the mastery of the bicycle will gain the master of life.

frances e. willard, how I learned to ride the bicycle, 1895

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

durango, land of . . . cacti

durango, colorado.
I pictured a dry, rather barren and desolate corner of colorado.  cactus.  big trees along the river, dust everywhere.  cowboys.  you know.
and then I went there, and fell in love.

I'm heading to durango this weekend for the ironhorse classic, a bike "race" (I don't race) from durango to silverton.  silverton is a tiny mining town a little less than 50 miles from durango, up two mountain passes and down into a little valley.
I first visited durango 3 years ago when a friend convinced me to ride the ironhorse classic, this ride that begins the same time as a train sets off for the same destination, the goal being to beat the train.
I haven't managed to beat the train, but the two times I've ridden this I've managed to enjoy the beauty more than enough to combat the pain.  and my visions of a desert land were completely, totally wrong ~ where did that vision come from?

durango is nestled in a groove in the land, thick with trees and rounded hillsides, a bustling little town full of personality and, well, trees.
I can picture myself living there in a small, gabled cabin in the trees, writing, gazing out on the misty valley as the steam rises from the river.

so I'm off to race (I don't race) the train again, in a beautiful plot of country in southwestern colorado.  but shush, don't tell anyone how pretty it is there, because I don't want them to get to my little cabin in the trees before me.
just tell them it's dry and barren, desolate, full of prickly cacti.

Monday, May 21, 2012

life quotes

I often misread quotes.
I see what I want to see, and only later--usually while doing further research into the quote--do I discover that I've misread it.
this great quote by leigh standley (creator of 'curly girls' cards/gifts) caught my eye:
love imperfectly with great delight.
I added it to my signature line on my emails I liked it so darn much.
it wasn't until years later that I found the real quote to be
live imperfectly with great delight.

I like my version better.

and then this morning I saw an ansel adams quote on the library website. I thought, oh, this is perfect, it captures the essence of life, and I can use it in what I want to say here today:
in wisdom gathered over time I have found that every experience is a form of explanation.
in researching the quote, I found it to actually be this:
in wisdom gathered over time I have found that every experience is a form of exploration.

well, I like my version better.
(yes, the library website stated it correctly; I just saw what I wanted to see.)

I find that my experiences explain much to me.
it's possible they're also explorations.

but on to today's subject:
my experience of the salt lake century, where every year thousands of cyclists flood the road: cyclists who ride fast and well, cyclists who ride slowly and well, cyclists who don't ride much at all, cyclists who have a little to learn about road etiquette, cyclists who are gracious, cyclists in a hurry, cyclists who are grumpy, cyclists who are kind and awesome and generous and funny and just about every other adjective you can think of.
and also on the road are motorists, motorists who come in a hundred different varieties just like cyclists.

my experience during this event explained a great deal about human behavior.
we are all innately egocentric, we are unable to understand (and are often oblivious of) others' perspectives, we are quick to criticize others for things we ourselves do, we jump to judgement, we're not all gifted with the same strengths and abilities, we are desperately impatient, and we can never truly see what we look like from behind (literally) or from outside of ourselves, and possibly most important of all: we are almost all of us beautiful, loving people who simply want to be loved, respected, and be part of something greater than just ourselves.

this was all made clear to me as I passed and was passed by other cyclists, as cars whipped around us on narrow roads, as I heard comments float by and offered some myself, as I sat on the grass at a rest stop and listened to the chatter, as I joked and interacted with friends both old and new.
we all have different journeys in this world, and none of them are races. there are no competitions. there are no prizes for getting to the end first. in fact, I think we're supposed to take our time, be peaceful, play well with others, explore a little along the way, and, oh yes, most importantly of all...
love imperfectly with great delight.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

106 miles

rode the salt lake century today.
have many things to say about it but no time, as I spent my afternoon making six cake layers in rainbow colors for my daughter's birthday cake, and now I'm getting ready to take off for a wedding.
so . . .
catch ya tomorrow!

Friday, May 18, 2012

may 17

ok, I know, I messed up.
first, I posted on the 15th, forgetting that my new guideline is to only post on prime number days.
second, I didn't post yesterday the 17th, which is a prime number day.

on the 15th I simply forgot my new rule.
on the 17th I plain old ran out of time.

and part of why I ran out of time is that I had to make two trips to the bike shop: to take my rear wheel in for a hub repair, and then later to go pick it up. WHICH is a beautiful thing and has earned the crew at CONTENDER BICYCLES on 9th south in SLC my undying gratitude!
bike shop boys are slammed this time of year, with everyone wanting to get their bikes in shape for riding.
and contender's clientele comprises a lot of serious riders who probably have the same intensity as I do about not wanting to give up a bike for more than half a day.
what, leave it overnight? are you kidding? how can I ride the next morning? I need it!
so I was thrilled when shawn took my wheel, my name, my phone number, and called me three hours later to tell me it was ready to go.

I don't always choose contender: I have a favorite bike shop boy at BINGHAM downtown, and my newest tire came from BEEHIVE on 15th and 15th, but as this wheel came from contender I thought I'd let them fix it. I'm all for loyalty, but there are just too many good shops--and people--around this town.

but the main reason I ran out of time yesterday is that it was my daughters' birthday: my babies are now 16 years old. 16!!! we won't talk about what that makes me.

so, sometimes I forget my guidelines, and sometimes the rest of my life takes priority over posting. work, bike repairs, children, cooking, cleaning, grocery shopping, oh, and actually getting on the bike and riding.
with my newly stabilized hub and rear wheel,
which is ever so nice.
thanks again, shawn.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012


deep in man's soul must be planted a desire, a need, a drive to connect with other humans.
we are not meant to be alone, and there is some little innate seedling inside our souls that sends out joyful shoots when it feels connection.

and like so many of our traits and drives, these inner workings are programmed at a cellular level and outside of or underneath or above or just simply out of our control. subconscious, unconscious, these are deep dark places we can't completely understand, and we are left to just accept that these drives exist, tame them when necessary, rejoice in them when they work to our favor.

my little connection-seedling sprouts when it sees cairns.

I have no idea who built the first cairn, or where it happened---it's been posited that the first came to be during the bronze age---but I can suggest that the "why" had to do with communication.
nowadays and around here they often mark hiking or mountain biking trails, or---as seen in emigration canyon---someone's mailbox.
but they can also be used to send private messages to friends, hey, this is where I turned, or yep, you're on the right path, keep following.

riding up big cottonwood last sunday I encountered a cairn on the side of the road, a small one of only 4 or 5 stones, an obvious message to someone.
and my romantic soul just blossomed.
although I was alone on the road at that point, it is a very well-traveled road with cars, motorcycles and bicycles flowing up and down regularly. but there's just something about this private message that said to me, ah, a fellow human took the time to create a small beauty in this communication to another human.
I was here, I thought of you, I'm sending you a message.

when I'm on a trail in the middle of nowhere (not truly, of course, for I'm not quite that much of an adventurer) and I see a cairn I feel that same tug, the message that a fellow traveler has been this way, and marked the spot for one reason or another.
they took the time to leave a message, to build a piece of art.
I don't try to be pleased by this; it just happens.
my soul sprouts green tendrils that tickle and make me smile and rejoice in the fact that yes, I am not alone,
yes, there are others who have been here,
yes, someone else finds beauty in the communion created by a neat stack of stones.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

where I live

well, I had planned to write and post today, but I became distracted by the warm temperatures, the clear blue sky, the road that stretched before me . . .

and here I am with nothing more to say other than after a weekend of riding up city creek canyon, millcreek canyon (to within a half mile of the top before being thwarted by snowbanks), emigration and big mountain, under blue skies and with the warm air and sun on my skin . . .
I am one of the luckiest people on earth,

and I wish the same for you all.

Friday, May 11, 2012

was that today?

sometimes on days when I've gotten up and on my bike at 5 am for a ride by the time it reaches 6 pm I can't remember what it felt like to be riding that morning at 5 and it seems as though my ride happened the day before.

Monday, May 7, 2012


yesterday I rode up to brighton ski resort.

I had a (woo hoo!) tail wind on the way to the mouth of the canyon, and then a tail wind (woo hoo!!) almost all the way up the canyon.... these are always beautiful things.
until you turn around, of course.

but this story isn't about that.
this story is about the store at the top of the climb, the Brighton Store and Cafe which has been there since the first time I went to brighton ski resort, probably 23 years ago (and how long before that it had been around, I don't know).

an old, weather-darkened A-frame wood building, the Brighton Store and Cafe had a sign out front proudly declaring the elevation (8645'), sold awesome brownies, and had employees who would fill water bottles with ice for you, or serve you hot chocolate or tea by the fireplace as you tried to warm your core.
they sold t-shirts and nutri-grain bars, licorice ropes and silly what-nots with "brighton" painted on them. cold ice cream bars, big huge cookies, GU's and gatorades and mountain dew and popcorn balls.
there were benches out front, tables with umbrellas, on the asphalt of the parking lot, where we could sit and soak in the sun, munch our treats, rehydrate.
the bathrooms were clean.

and I write of everything in the past tense because it is no longer. when bob, andy and I rode up at the end of march, we saw that it was closed, but it wasn't until yesterday's visit that it became reality.

when I reached the top of the canyon yesterday, I rode past the no-longer-store and waved at two cyclists who were lying on the asphalt of the parking lot, their bikes propped against the thick wooden posts holding the brighton ski resort sign. they were soaking in the sun, sans chairs and table.
there was nowhere to buy a drink, a granola bar, a big fat cookie.
there was nowhere to use the bathroom.
there was nowhere to sit and savor the joy of being at the top of the hill.
there was only a sign that stated "child care" and another that simply said "closed for the season."

a cycling favorite is gone; a landmark has quietly shut its doors.
a tradition---to eat, drink, rest at the top of the climb---has just been removed from the local cycling world.

it just doesn't feel right.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

lucky me

this is one of the things I love best about my early, early morning rides this time of year:
when I get home, I appreciate everything more.
things we usually consider "normal," things we often take for granted, things we forget to notice:

  • coffee tastes heavenly

  • heat is luxurious

  • the hot shower tops the list of my favorite things ever

  • dry, sweat-free clothes are sumptuous

  • wheat toast with peanut butter tastes decadent

  • my grumpy teenage daughters are gifts from God
I appreciate every single thing in my home because I have it to return to.
I've been part of the world as it's awakened, I've been freezing, I've worked my muscles and heart and lungs until they ached, I've been filled with and enveloped in crisp, clean air.

and then---lucky me---I get to return home.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

me and scarlett o'hara

my legs are tired this week.
and today is my day off the bike.
so I got to sleep in (yummy), and go to yoga (so good for me), and recover (I hope).

but what happens to me on days like this is that I start thinking about the weekend's rides, and a thought ribbon starts going through my mind:
it'll probably be a big ride on saturday with lots of climbing and oh my gosh, my legs are tired, I'm not going to be able to do it.

what the heck am I doing?
it's thursday, I don't have to ride anywhere today, in fact, I am resting my legs today.
susan, let yourself enjoy today.
stay right here, don't even go to tomorrow, let alone saturday.
knock it off!

the other night my almost-16-year-old daughter was stressing about her upcoming AP test, a spanish test, another project that's almost due, volleyball practice, her peer court commitment, on and on . . . I told her maybe she could think as scarlett o'hara does at the end of gone with the wind: tomorrow is another day.
I'll think about that, I'll create a plan, I'll tackle all of those issues tomorrow.

today I'm going to just be where I am---right here, no thoughts of being anywhere else---then I'm going to go to sleep, and then tomorrow I'll wake up to a new day.
by saturday I'll be ready to climb hills again.

me and scarlett.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

3's a charm . . . or something

I woke up to rain, a green and gray world, shiny black pavement.
but within a few hours the clouds began to separate and the roads reclaimed their mottled asphalt appearance, the gutters ran dry: time to ride.
a tailwind pushed me up the canyon, and fought me on the way down, but my music kept me cheered and the sun played hide and seek, shining enough to keep me from being coated in goosebumps.
all was well until I was a mile from home, when suddenly my back wheel did a little slide-y dance on me. huh? a few calm rotations and then it did it again. what? do I have a flat?
then my ipod died.
I pulled over, sure enough, flat rear tire, dead ipod.

it's possible it was a message from the universe. or more accurately, from my bike.
I'm not sure what role the ipod is playing---possibly just to tell me to stop singing and pay attention---but I'm quite certain there's a message in here about my rear tire:
I've had 3 flat tires in the past month.

yes, I am buying a new tire today.
I might be a slow learner, but I eventually get it.
the ipod is charging, the new tire will go on tonight: I'm ready to take on the rest of may.