The 2019 Climb

A clear NW sky with the majesty of Mt. Hood in the background.

Climbing hills are an inevitable part of cycling. They are challenging because of the obvious reasons; keeping oxygen in your lungs and the struggle of the getting over the hill to the next part of the route. You are required to do more than just pedal. You probably have to alter your pace and push yourself to do more. As they say, Hill, Get Over It! Life too, is full of hills, climbs that are exhausting and take everything you have without the benefit of a vista to Instagram your accomplishment. In the cycling world, races are often won on the climbs. That said, 2019 was a climb. My year was a 16 percent grade hill.

The hardest part of 2019 was the death of my dad on September 1st. That said, I can’t let the sun go down on the year without talking about Anderson, Indiana where my dad was a history professor at Anderson College (now University) and I learned to ride.

My dad did not teach me how to ride a bike. He tried repeatedly to help me, but I couldn’t master balance. I hated training wheels and even when I tried to use them I’d still manage to fall. It had to be hard to watch. I’m sure he was frustrated and scared watching me flail about and then careen into a curb. One spill resulted in a massive gash on my right kneecap. I remember the blood and the crying. That episode sidelined him from the process. All his efforts and mine were finally rewarded when my mom took me out to ride on a deadend road across the street from where we lived on Myers.

I recall the moment of zen when balance was achieved and I could ride without falling. What an accomplishment! A cyclist was born! I like to say my mom taught me to ride and my father taught me how to adventure. Both are essential ingredients to all that I am.

My mom and I went back to Anderson, Indiana for a memorial service for my dad. There’s a challenge to returning to a place from your past. I was worried about the time that had passed. We left before I started high school so everything about my start in life is in Anderson. It was homecoming week at the University and the planets aligned and for a few days I was a Hoosier kid again remembering not only my dad but how Anderson was the perfect place for a kid to grow up.

My parents and I left Anderson in 1976 when my father took a different job, leaving Anderson University and moving to the Pacific Northwest. We left at a time that was a perfect bridge to my future. I say that because hindsight is 20/20 and I remember wanting the move desperately. I was ready for something new. Anderson was the perfect place to grow up. It was my Stars Hollow (Gilmore Girls) or Mayberry (Andy Griffith) or Narnia. I had nothing but time on my hands, air in my tires and places to bike. I biked everywhere and I did, sorry Mom. I biked places I probably shouldn’t have and I fibbed about having done so. But in my defense, Anderson was my adventure. I went everywhere.

Going back to Anderson was a trip. I could see myself across the great chasm of time and very little was changed. Once our travel plans were set I knew I needed a bike. As I often find myself researching the local bike shops, this one, Buckskin Bikes caught my eye. First, the name and then the location; my hometown, Anderson, Indiana. I thought I’d text the store and reserve a bike for the weekend of my trip. I heard back right away. I don’t know why, but I was over the moon when my phone exclaimed an answer. I was asked about my bike preference. Did I want a cruiser or a mountain bike? My first thought was a banana seat BMX, but I opted for the next best thing, a mountain bike.

I found the shop on 11th Street and met Ben. He went to Anderson U and one of his profs, Dr. Strege was a former student of my father, so honestly, he felt like kin. We spent time chatting about Anderson and politics and the need for better bike lanes and I felt like I could run for City Council (as my dad did) and win on the bike platform alone.

Ben, Thank you for your kindness and a bike.

You

Sweet ride, indeed! You had me at the Kona Bikes Welcome mat.
Quick check on the bike before I took off.

Once I had the bike, a helmet and a lock I took off. I rented the bike for a couple of days and I let the bike and a few basic directions be my guide.

Oh, Anderson!

The White River Trail did not exist when I was growing up. Not in any formal sense. I rode my banana seat bike everywhere and I’d like to say I helped pave the way for the trail, however, now, what a great addition. I hope the city of Anderson continues to build it beyond what it is right now. Finish off some of the spots that dead end in a ditch or the mud forcing you to turn around instead of going forward. It’s picturesque and worthy of more attention.

Just like that. Paved and then… not.

Also, while I’m on the rant, there’s no reason that Scatterfield Road needs to be so hostile to anything besides a four wheeled vehicle. I thought I could handle it but I was scared for my life. The auto traffic rivals the Indy 500! I wish I was joking, but I’m not. Peds can hardly cross the street with a light. It’s wretched and if one of the guys at the bike shop hadn’t mentioned Columbus Avenue, I might still be trying to cross Scatterfield Street. Even the idea of staying on it to get to our hotel was dashed when someone yelled at me to “get off the road, stupid.” I pulled over in the Mounds Mall parking lot to see if I could figure out a way to get around it.

Columbus has less traffic and eventually there’s a bike lane, but there’s not much road to share.

Anderson made me a cyclist and also made me fearless about exploring on my own. I always felt safe in Anderson and I still do with the exception of the aforementioned road. It’s mostly flat too. I rode 18 miles on the first day with my Buckskin Bike rental. Then we got busy with dad’s service.

My dad was never far away.

I wanted to shared all this with my father, of course. He would have thoroughly enjoyed the trip down memory lane. We tried to visit all the old haunts, but I’m sure we missed a few, including Steak ‘n’ Shake.

Anderson University is an exceptional ecosystem for learning and my father is remembered as an exceptional professor. While he was growing his career, I was growing. I loved riding my bike to the campus and seeing him consort with his students and hold court telling stories of his adventures. I made daily trips to the campus on my banana seat bike to go up and down the little hills of the campus. I didn’t know at the time what an unique opportunity I had growing up in a small town where everyone knew my parents and I could roam around for hours just being a kid.

Path at Anderson University campus.

He made trails with his teaching methods and I just made trails. He was always one to use all tools at his disposal to make a point or drive an idea into the minds of his students. He taught like a conductor leads an orchestra. I felt like I was bundled up in love and I seriously considered what it would take to move back to Anderson. But it’s funny because I missed my Northwest life. I missed my routes and my home. One does not have to exist without the other though. Anderson is in me and it helps me climb the real hills and the ones that life puts in front of me in the metaphoral sense of the word.

It’s hard to imagine starting a year without my father in it. He’s been a part of all my years; every birthday, every day, every mile. Thanks Dad.

We end 2019 with a slow roll into a new decade. We’ll adjust our pace to manage whatever is ahead, even if it is a hill.

Thanks for reading and here’s to a Happy New Year!

Cheers!
Bike Goddess

Adding Up, Counting Down

The year end countdown begins. There are numerous tasks that get counted down at this time of the year. The days are easy, but there’s are also miles, number of books read (or not read), weight loss or its opposite, pounds gained. We tend to countdown days to a vacation, or the days before the start of a season for a sporting event (TdF).

Of course, there are news stories, births, deaths and everything in between. This time of the year there are demands on our time that often don’t get on a schedule. There are cookies to be eaten and a variety of tasks that demand vigilence. The new norm is being the busiest person in the room. Sometimes we forget to countdown because we’re busy adding up. My whole working life has been about achiving some sort of balance between school and life. Most days I fail on that count, and yet I continue to try.

No big surprise, but balance for me is achieved on two wheels. It’s like those photos you see when someone is standing in the middle of the photo but there’s a frenetic city scene behind the subject. The technique is called shallow depth of field. Shallow depth is a wonderful oxymoron. When I’m trying to be the subject of my own photos, I can always count on my two wheels to help me find balance and focus within the blur of life.

2020 Full speed ahead!

The temperature today is hovering around freezing. The sky is chalky and dull. It’s not raining but it isn’t sunny. I scheduled myself for a massage and it was wonderful to relax and have my muscles stoked. I rode my bike and it was surprising how few people were out. As I count my miles and calories and add up the books I’ve read and friends and family members, I think about what awaits. A new decade on the other side of the next week will reset my miles and my goals for another year. Moving forward with hope is one thing, but sometimes hope is not a bright shiny day. Hope can be persistence. As the saying, “Keep on keeping on,” gets utilized, I think that’s good. That’s moving forward.

Whatever you celebrate, however you celebrate, be sure to beat the drum and count the seconds to another decade. Celebrating is an essential part of counting down. How do you feel about setting goals in the new year? Tell me in the comments below. Thanks for sharing some time with me today.

Until next time.

Ride.

Bike Goddess

Ahead of Pace, mostly

Hot tea in the thermos was the best idea I’ve had in awhile!

On Strava, if you are doing well and meeting or exceeding your goals, I like the way it says “Ahead of pace.” It makes me feel good. My only competitor is myself so I am passing my goals and ahead of pace. Such a simple thing, but it fills me with glee.

I set my Strava mileage goal to 4K this year and I’m hoping if everything continues as planned, if I can keep my current mileage pace, I’ll see 5K or more by year’s end. That too, will fill me with glee and ready to start 2020 fresh with some new mileage goals.

Do you follow many vlogs? I don’t, but lately I’ve been getting into a few that are interesting. A few of them inspired me to give it a try. I’m not ahead of pace on vlogging since it was something I wanted to start a few years ago but didn’t carve out the time. There’s that quote about it’s never too late to be what you might have been, or something like that. I decided to stop making excuses and get on with it.

Over the long weekend there was an event that is one of my favorite ways to kick off the holiday season and I thought, why not. Get ‘er done. The weather was very cooperative and the time seemed right to give it a shot. The event is a drive thru light show at the Portland International Raceway. I’ve been in attendance at least five times and once I went by car! The auto experience sucked. Really gross. Cars moving like molasses on a raceway with people honking to go faster or slower. The fumes from gasoline gave me a headache as I recall. Totally gross. I never, ever thought I’d go again. But then I heard about the bike option called Bike the Lights. Instead of drive thru, it’s bike thru! Yahssss! It’s $7 per person and it’s perfect. Yes, it’s cold but the ebony sky backdrop and the twinking lights and stars (if it’s a clear night) are brilliant.

The eBike Store had an event to meet up at the store and then ride the 2.2 miles from the store to PIR and so I did it. I usually go on my own, but this just seemed perfect.

It also gave me the perfect topic for my first ever vlog.

Tunnel of lights.

I was reminded of the joys of riding with people and gawking at lights. Your pace isn’t about competition or commuting, it’s about being together and enjoying the ride. Hearing children bellow carols like the Twelve Days of Christmas or Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer and listening to parents reminding their children to stay to the right was also part of the chorus. Hearing converations about which display was the best or most creative. No one had their phones on for any other reason that capturing the moment. Sweet! There was one sound that I didn’t quite recognize, but when the kid passed me wobbling left and right on his training wheels, I smiled and remembered the triumph of learning how to balance and ride my bike. I also saw a man on a pennyfarthing bike. Watch the video if you want the details. Wonderful night and an event that makes you simultaneously shiver from the cold and smile at the communion of the crowd.

Bike the Lights is a tradition that gets me in gear for the holiday season. It’s the one thing I must do. How about you? Any bike events that are a must on your schedule for the season? Leave me a comment. I’d love to know more.

Happy December eve.

Stay warm and get out there and ride!

Bike Goddess

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