30 June 2010


I'll come back to the ride eventually. It was my first real three-day ride, after all. And there were more adventures. But not today.

Today, I decided around 3 p.m. that I'd had enough for a while. I needed a break. So I told my neighbor Andrew I had an errand to run, picked up my helmet and pocketbook, and headed down to the bike rack.

Nellie Belle rode in on the back of the car this morning. I was running late-ish, and Bri needed the car to make deliveries this evening. But that was fine. It meant Nellie was sitting in her spot in the loading dock, waiting. I strapped my pocketbook under the cargo net, put on my new red-and-pink tropical-floral helmet (fun!), and set out the four blocks to Creation Gardens.

I was back 25 minutes later -- and feeling like I'd had a two-hour break. Creation Gardens is a wholesale "fresh and local" restaurant supplier with a small retail operation on the side. Seriously on the side... The retail store is on a teeny little side street that looks like an alley, just east of the interstate overpass that's just east of Slugger Field. There are two ways to get there from where I work, three blocks west on Main: You can go south to Market, come back east past the interstate, and ride two blocks north -- or you can ride east to Slugger Field, north half a block, east another two blocks, and circle back to the block that's missing. I chose the latter route. It meant I didn't have to deal with any "main drags," and it took me right past the Louisville Extreme Park, which has some really good energy, anytime, day or night. Kids on skateboards and bikes - what can I tell you? Die, obesity, die! :-)

The retail store for Creation Gardens reminds me of nothing so much as Noah's Food Co-Op in Raleigh, back in the '80s when we "old hippies" were still trying to act like old hippies. (These days, we still do, but we're quieter.) They have open shelves, bulk bins, and the stock seems sort of randomly placed -- or at least, the price tags are randomly placed. But I found a couple things that made me say to hell with the price tags. Honest.

My mission was to find some fast salad makings for dinner at Gilda's Club. This is an off week for volunteers, so we'd all signed up for potluck - all of us friends and family and others with ties to cancer - and I was down for "green salad." So... a head of romaine and a head of red leaf lettuce; one red onion; one smallish {pretty!} yellow squash and two small {really pretty) zucchini; two medium-to-small bunches of broccoli; two pints of mixed heirloom cherry tomatoes. And a wedge of Brie - right at 4 oz. for less than $4. Unheard of.

They were going to give me a market basket, but I argued a box would strap better onto the back of the bike. The box they found - a plain white one - held my produce, my purse, and my bike lock, and it provided just enough tension on the cargo net that my rear light was quite secure. I'll use that box until it wears out.

Quality of produce? Well, I can tell you this: I came home with about 6 oz. of mixed chopped squash - maybe half a cup - and about half as much chopped broc. I only sliced about 1/3 of the onion, paper-thin, so the other 2/3 remains. The lettuce and the mixed heirloom tomatoes are all gone. I didn't even offer up the Brie.

And I think I may do a quick veggie stir-fry tomorrow evening with the left-over squash bits, broccoli, and a little onion. Maybe we'll have some tomatoes ripe soon.

18 June 2010

Will it go 'round in circles? - Further Confessions of a Whiny Cyclist

I neglected to mention I was starting to get a headache between Frostburg and the MadDog Line, in addition to the fatigue (which I was kind of expecting, having hit my recent max around mile 16). I also neglected to mention the banana was only the beginning. The second it hit my taste buds, I realized I'd eaten nothing except a dozen or so fresh cherries(at Frostburg) since leaving Roy Rogers several hours before. I was into Negative Calorie Zone - I'd burned more than I'd taken in already since getting up that morning.

So I had the banana, two Kashi bars, a handful of my Better-Than-Gorp trail mix (recipe available on request), and about a quart of water before taking off again. Come to think of it, that may have helped almost as much as Delbert McClinton on the iPod...

The summit was more than half the way to our destination for the evening. 24 miles down, 18 or 20 to go. And from where we were standing, it looked like it was downhill all the way.

Appearances can be deceiving. Granted, it was slightly more level than not for several miles, but there was more incline than decline when there was any "cline" at all. It didn't take me long to burn up the banana and the Kashi bars. And I'm slow anyway.

Along about 6 p.m., we were still several miles out from Rockwood, PA, where Bob had found a hostel. After giving me careful directions to follow the trail to Rockwood, turn right and cross the bridge, then turn right again onto Main Street, he went ahead to check us in before the staff left for the evening - and to see if he could find us a steak or something. He thought he remembered a restaurant...

Only a few miles - I could do that on my own! And I did fine, until I hit the construction zone (closed for the weekend, thanks be to the Almighty) with the big chunks of loose gravel on sand that felt like riding on boulders, immediately followed by welcome signs that listed mostly Rockwood businesses. There was a bridge, and there looked to be a Main Street down there, but I'd only gone about 2/3 of the distance Bob told me. So I located the trail connection on the other side of the road (no small feat) and pedaled on.

The next mile and a half was the worst of the entire ride. In addition to one goodly uphill stretch - again, on loose gravel over sand, short but steep and rough - the trail was pitted, rocky, unkept, with roots and limbs across the middle. I don't know who is responsible for maintaining the trail, but whoever has the stretch along there is falling down on the job.

About three miles out, I was starting to question my judgment. At about four miles, I became convinced I had ridden right past Rockwood. I finally parked the bike at a little bench with a shelter - they're all along the trail - and had myself a Swiss cheese and ginger preserve sandwich and another quart or so of water, and I prayed. I was pretty sure, I told the Universe, that I'd missed my turn. If I didn't locate myself before dark, which was coming fast, I'd be sleeping out here by this bench, getting myself a stiff neck and a nifty case of grass-itch. (Never mind what might break out on my nether parts if I had to go into the brush for potty.) There was no map, no direction, and no clue in sight, but I needed one. Just a clue - just a little hint I was going the right way. Or that I needed to backtrack.

Wiped my sticky, ginger-preservey hands with a towelette, lifted up Nellie Belle, and prepared to mount. And before I could push off onto the trail, three near-teenagers (on the upper end) came around the nearest past bend. Two girls and a guy.

"'Scuse me," I said, in my best Southern Lost Person voice. "Rockwood is back that way?" I pointed the way I'd come, half saying, half asking.

"Rockwood's up that way," one of them answered, and they all pointed up the trail in the direction I'd been going all along.

I thanked them most kindly. And I felt much relieved. No miles wasted. Whew!

I don't think I'd gone more than another mile and a half before I saw Bob coming back down the trail toward me. It was dusk by then, but I recognized his "gait" on the bicycle.

He hadn't found a restaurant, but he'd found the hostel. He had the passcode to the door, so we could get in even though the staff had left for the evening. And he'd found a general store right on the way, and they had sandwiches and sodas and ice cream.

I thanked the Lord for my brother (and his good raisin'!), tuned out the screaming coming from every muscle between my belly and my knees, and followed him the last three miles to Rockwood.

Stay tuned to this station for more Adventures of a (Whiny) Cyclist...


15 June 2010

The Ride, Part Deux: Confessions of a Whiny Cyclist

SO... (and BTW, pictures are on my Facebook page! If you can't open them, send me a friend request.)

The first few miles weren't bad - nothing worse than what I tackle on my commute to and from work. The grade was anywhere from about 1% to 2%, and there was plenty of shade. It was hot - mid '80s - but when you're riding, you kick up your own personal breeze, so you don't feel the heat until you stop. (When you stop, though, for a "hydration break," it does seem like the water goes down your goozle and straight to the pores...)

After we crossed over the highway, it got a little steeper. Gradually, at first, so I didn't notice I was getting tired until my upper thighs caught fire. Still, there was shade, and the trail surface is good, so I was able to keep on truckin'.

The trail follows the old railroad bed - some of it still in use for freight, some not - from Cumberland to Pittsburgh, so when there is an incline, it's gradual. The difference is this: Around here, I encounter inclines daily that are between 3% and 6% - but they rarely go more than a quarter of a mile. The Great Allegheny Passage between Cumberland and the Eastern Continental Divide probably never exceeds 2%, but it's a continual 24 miles at an average of 1-1/2%. In fact, the Website claims the grade never exceeds that, but I'm pretty sure some of those stretches were a little more - just not long stretches. Rarely, though, does it level off to zero. And after a while, it becomes a very LONG 24 miles.

Somewhere along the way, I gave Bob clearance to ride ahead, hoping he could get a phone signal and find lodging for the evening. Shortly after he took off toward the rendezvous point at Frostburg, I encountered a blast from the past: a real live, honest-to-God steam engine - in service. There's a tour train that uses the tracks - when I heard it coming, I knew what it was. I haven't heard that sound in at least 40 years, but what a beautiful noise. If you've never heard the vibrant crescendo of a steam engine whistle, you haven't any idea what you've missed. I stopped and waited - and yes, there are pictures.

Met Bob at the Frostburg trail head, where he was collapsed on the grass. Looked like a good idea to me - I stretched out and took a little cat nap, after shedding my shoes and socks. My toes resent being cooped up in hard shoes, and 18 miles out, my ankles were beginning to take serious exception to the hard edges of those hard shoes. After a bit, Brother Bob got on the cell and located a hostel in Rockwood, MD, with beds for the evening. Then we put our footgear back on and headed for the summit.

The Mason Dixon Line isn't quite to the top. Nevertheless, I found a lovely, big flat rock whereon to stretch my weary body and eat a banana. The two guys who were a ways ahead of us (after passing us around mile three...) were coming back down as we cooled off, and Bob heard them as they flew by. One said to the other, "Damn, that banana smells good!" It made me laugh.

And since I know banana peels are great fertilizer for roses (try it sometime!) and other flowering plants, I do not consider my next move "littering." The rhododendrons will thank me.

Almost at the summit, I chalked up Injury #2 when I came at the concrete pad next to the, um, facilities at an angle. In every fall, there is a lesson; the lesson for this one was, "Head on is best." The angle caused me to flip my bike, and I landed on the same elbow I'd smacked on the asphalt a week earlier. (Lesson for that fall: If you must ride in sandals, make sure your panniers are set well back, out of range of the dismount.)

I'll tell you a secret: Concrete has a LOT less "give" than asphalt. Who'd've thunk?

By this time, I was not only the proud owner of a still slightly bloody shin and a throbbing elbow, but I also had flames shooting out of my extreme upper thighs. I broke down. To this point, I'd determinedly kept the headphones in my bag, choosing to listen instead to the woods, the train, the breeze. That last few miles, though, it was only Delbert McClinton on the iPod that kept my feet pushing 'round in circles.

And with that, I'll say, "Nighty-night - more later, kids!"

10 June 2010

Monday, May 31, I achieved another milestone in my life as a cyclist. I rode 42 miles a day for three consecutive days - one of them mostly uphill.

And I only hurt myself twice!

On Friday, May 28 - Mom's 82nd birthday, by the way, and sorry I missed it, Mom! - I met my kid brother Bob in Cumberland, MD, for a three-day ride. Made it safely, in spite of heavy rain - and a rainbow that stood still long enough for me to get pictures, which to my mind cancels out the whole "bad weather" thing. The bike rack went in the car and the bike in the trunk about halfway there; the straps on the rack kept getting slack, and I was having scary visions of Nellie Belle flying off in the middle of I-64 and causing a wreck, thereby getting me sued and ruining my weekend.

Item #1 on the birthday list: a Saris bike rack. Don't need a 3-bike model like Bob's - a 2-bike model would be fine. Even a solo would do nicely.

We had dinner at a little Italian place just north of exit 40 on I-68. His lasagna looked yum. My spaghetti and meatballs was good, except it wasn't spaghetti. I know cappelini cooks up faster, but let's face it - something commonly known as "angel hair" just isn't substantial enough to stand up to a hearty meat sauce. That's okay - the sauce was really good, and I got what I was after, which was a healthy load of good carbs and protein.

Saturday morning was the beginning of a good lesson in packing light. I went through everything I'd loaded for the trip and pared it down by a quarter. My panniers, handlebar bag, and seat wedge already topped out at a total of 20 or 25 pounds, which Bob granted was remarkable - especially given that I hadn't really tried to keep it light on the first pack. Among the items I eliminated getting it under 20 lb:
• Two small notebooks (I usually carry three on trips - one for work-related flashes of genius, one for personal brilliant insights, and one for lists)
• About half of my first-aid gear - a major leap of faith
• And two bottles of Magic Hat "Wacko" summer brew, which I'd planned to wrap in my towel so they'd travel safely - just a little reward each evening on the trail

Things that made the cut:
• The current crochet project (cotton mesh cycling gloves, my own design)
• The "lists" notebook
• Two changes of non-cycling type clothes
• Paperback copies of books-in-progress:
o The Cider House Rules, by John Updike
o Blessed Unrest, by Paul Hawken
o and Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, by Douglas Adams
• My towel (refer to Hitchhiker’s Guide if you don’t get it)

Okay - technically, the towel is an oversized washcloth – about 9” square – but it turned out to be quite adequate.

Breakfast at Roy Rogers – I kept the tray liner for the guy in the next cube at the office, who has fond memories of breakfast at Roy Rogers when he was a kid. Roy Rogers now has wi-fi, as advertised on the tray liners. Ol’ Roy may not be spinning in his grave, but he’s mystified, I’m sure.

BTW, I’m not wild about Roy Rogers’ burgers, but I definitely recommend their breakfast menu. They have real eggs, not something out of a milk carton-looking thing. And their breakfast fries are recognizable slices of honest-to-goodness potatoes. With skins on. The croissants aren’t bad, either - all the way ‘round, if you’re looking for good carbs and protein, Roy definitely works.

Found our way to the trail head, parked and registered our cars, and then Bob convinced me to duck into the cycling shop and get a pair of gloves. (I have no idea where my old ones are.) He was right – it was worth the $30 in the long run – but I wasn’t expecting to spend that before we ever took off. I could’ve gotten a perfectly serviceable pair in Louisville for less than $15. Oh, well. Guess I need to crochet faster.

Leaving the cycle shop, we ran into a guy who’d been at RR earlier – Larry Brock. He’d been at the Del McCoury concert at the Cumberland fairgrounds the night before and was going back that evening. He was wearing socks with the Grateful Dead skull and lightning bolt emblem – fit right into our little family, he did. He assured me I was going to love the trail between Cumberland and the Eastern Continental Divide - coming back...

Right after that, I took a little spin around the shopping center and sustained injury #1: hit the loose gravel under the bridge, braked too hard, lost control, and tipped. As my feet came down, my left shin connected with the splash guard on the back of the front fender and made a not-so-neat 1 ½ inch gash right over the shin bone. Flashback to July 2009 ... But I knew exactly where my first-aid supplies were, and there was no fat or bone showing through, so no panic. Patched myself up and pedaled on.

(Definitely not pretty, though. It’s going to leave a scar.)

A bit past noon – later than we’d planned – we hit the trail.

To be continued ...