Santorini State of Mind

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‎⁨Nisos Thira⁩, ⁨Megalochori⁩, ⁨Greece⁩.

Billy Joel didn’t write this song. I did. The lyrics are in my mind and I have thought about last summer in Greece with about the same frequecy as my bike commute, which is daily. I think about Santorini and it calms me like the humming of a singing bowl. I thought about it last fall as the leaves were changing colors and the air was growing brisk. I ruminated about it when the snow was falling in the winter and in the spring when it sounded like someone dumped a bucket of marbles on the roof as hail clattered and the skies thundered. Memories of my Santorini bike ride got me through.

The whole adventure was both last minute and planned. How is that possible? I would travel to Greece and if I could get a bike ride or two, that would be a bonus. Trip planned, but sometimes you need to be there to figure out the rest. I had no idea if I could pull off a bike ride on the island but I was going to try. I was sitting in the lobby of the hotel and I mentioned the idea to the host. He was not impressed. He was concerned it would be too dangerous. I remember saying, “Okay, sure, but… do you know anyone?” He said he would check. I had the impression that he was not going to check but wait for me to forget about it.

Lo’ and behold there was a travel magazine on the table in the lobby and I was thumbing through it and saw an ad for Santorini MTB Adventures. I wrote down the number and the email. I sent an email first, in which, I described my bike experience and how much I wanted to make this happen. Shortly after I clicked SEND my phone rang and it was a woman who wanted to confirm that there was a opening the next morning. Could I be ready at 9AM? There was jubilation and dancing and I was beaming the rest of the day as like a child on Christmas Eve. I couldn’t go to sleep.

I packed bike shorts and a top because that’s what I do for most trips. You have to get in gear when a bike opportunity rings the bell. The next morning I was waiting at the door at 8:30 for the 9AM pick up as anxious as if this was a first date. Soon I would rendezvous with a bike on a beach and I would see the island from the saddle of an electric mountain bike. Ride on.

Vassili and Katarina were our guides. It was me and a young couple.

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The adventure started at Perissa Beach. I don’t remember much about the beach at the beginning of the trip because all I wanted to do was hike my leg over this bike and get going.

Perissa Beach is in the backgroud. Gorgeous, but at the start of the ride and when I shot this pic, I didn’t even notice the beach. Bikes on the brain!

The e-bikes c have 9 speeds and 4 modes: Eco, sport, tour and turbo. Disc brakes. I have an e-bike that has pedal assist. Same idea but there’s a little more boost in these models. They are a modern day mule and easy to use. Vassili was lead and I followed behind him. I could feel all the commuting miles pay off as we biked up and down and around. The couple followed behind me and Katarina brought up the back.

We puttered around the parking lot for about 10 minutes getting used to how the bikes handled and then we were off. Vassili would take pics here and there and we would also have moments when we stopped to snap a few pics but he strongly advised us to keep both hands on the handlebars and not take pics while we were riding. Okay, who told on me! But it’s true, the terrain is varied and rocky. I knew immediately I should behave myself. I only took pictures when we stopped.

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Santorini is full of those hills that don’t look like much, but suddenly your in the middle of a climb that was so gradual you can almost hear the ground giggling at your attempt to summit without downshifting.

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See how it is. Seems easy enough and then right at the top of the picture it gets steep enough to make you wish for an escalator.

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At each turn there’s a reward of something that you’d miss if you weren’t on a bike.

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Then the narrow alleyway opens up to something else that takes your breath away.

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Our first stop was for a bit of refreshment at a café.

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There were infinite nooks and crannies that demanded attention. We parked our bikes and went exploring.

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The next stop was Gavalas Winery.  We parked our bikes and settled in for a treat which included wine tasting.

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My favorite part was when the guide at the winery, another Vassili said,

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“Fermentation needs patience. While drinking needs company.” Also they wanted a wine that was “Red to your eye, Rosé in the mouth and white in the after taste.” I enjoyed all four wines we sampled.

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My only significant regret was that I didn’t buy some wine or have some shipped. If you like wine, you should check out this winery. I thought I could probably find it somewhere in the Northwest, but I was wrong. 

Vassili the bike guide brought us these amazing “energy” bars.

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Everything does taste better on vacation!

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Then we’re on our way again to see more sights.

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Bring on the oxygen because the views from this spot are spectacular. I was overcome with emotion at truly awesome sights.

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Super steep getting down to a church, but worth it. This is an excursion that welcomes all levels, but keep in mind, there’s sand and gravel and significant climbing in and out of areas like this. Bikes stayed up top and we walked down to the church.

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You can ring the bells!

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The Monastery of Agios Nikolaos in Santorini: The historical female Monastery of Agios Nikolaos is located between the villages of Firostefani and Imerovigli in Santorini. The monastery is dedicated to three saints, Agios Panteleimon, Zoodoxos Pighi (which means life giving source in Greek) and Agios Nikolaos.

 

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View from just outside the church doors.

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Selfie time. The ride was about 15 miles total.  I saw sights that I wouldn’t have seen any other way.

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This is the famous black beach. It  is actually a sharp pebbly one and I strongly recommend proper footwear. If you’re there in July it’s very hard to walk on with your bare feet. The sea was gorgeous. Plenty of comfortable seating available.

Perissa Beach is where we started. By the time you get back to the lounge chairs you are ready for a dip in the water and a cold beverage of your choice.

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This is the look of contentment.

Would I recommend Santorini MTB Adventures? Without hesitation I would recommend them! I loved every second of the bike ride. I was sad it came to an end. This would hold me over for a few days. I would be heading back to Athens after Santorini and yes, I found bikes there too. More in another post about biking in Athens.

Santorini is in the Cyclades islands in the Aegean Sea. Way back in the16th century BC it was devastated by a volcanic eruption, forever shaping its rugged landscape. Jules Verne wrote about it in 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea in 1870. There’s some perspective for you. Since this trip many details of life have garnered my attention. Sometimes we get lost in the minutiae of the day.  But in the quiet or even busy moments between the storms I have been able to get myself back to a Santorini state of mind. A few hours that transformed me and my perspective on life. We all need places like that. I can get myself there with each and every pedal stroke on any day, rain or shine. I hope you have a place like that too.

Thanks for reading. Now, get up and get out there and ride your bike!

Bike Goddess

P.S. I am heading back to Santorini this summer. More MTB adventures await, I hope.

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I really do love Santorini! 

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Sights on a New Year

IMG_8098I can see clearly now, the rain is gone,
I can see all obstacles in my way
Gone are the dark clouds that had me blind
It’s gonna be a bright (bright), bright (bright)
Sun-Shiny day.

Sing it Johnny Nash (not Cash), but songwriters Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff had a way with words. The fact of the matter is that I picked up my new glasses and I can see clearly now both far away and near, off to the left and the right, and thanks to this nifty prism in the lens my eyes are not wandering around making me see two cars when really there’s only one. I can really see! Zippity do da!

The moment when the glasses were slipped into place and I could read a sign across the street was magical. I’m as picky about my the frames on my face as I am about the ones I ride, thus it has taken me about a year to get my prescription filled. What a great way to start the new year! New eyes, new vision, better focus, setting my sights on a whole perspective.

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I’m the one in the blue frames. That’s my mom on the right and I have no idea who’s behind us. 

I had a great year for riding. My goal was 3,500 miles. As the sun sets on the penultimate day of the year I have 4,585 miles and 411 activities. I feel good about that. I’ll set a goal of 4,000 miles for 2018 and 415 activities. I blogged once and sometimes twice a month making this the best year ever on the blog. Go team! If I can increase that by one or two more posts during the course of the year, I will count that as a success. You’ve been a factor in motivating me to write more.  Thank you for following this blog and commenting or just clicking that star. It makes my week!

December 30th is always an excellent day for shopping. After I picked up my new glasses I did a little shopping and at one of my favorite stores the salespeople were asking about plans for New Year’s Eve. I live in the Pacific Northwest and one customer said that her family celebrates “East Coast” time and they’re in bed at 9:30 p.m.. Another said that she has two kids and they play Battleship, eat popcorn and are tucked in by 9 as well. That’s about my speed too. I’m Greek and one tradition I’ve maintained in our family is making a the New Year’s bread. You bake a coin in the dough and toast it up on New Year’s Day for breakfast (whomever gets the coin has a prosperous year.) Once that’s done I’ll have a bike ride and my husband, dog and I will have a quiet evening eating grilled cheese sandwiches, soup and salad, followed by some Champagne cupcakes and Prosecco.

When actors or writers are asked what role or book they like the most they often say, “The one I’m currently working on.” I am grateful for every day I’m healthy and able bodied enough to ride. Every route is a learning experience and every time I ride even the commuting route I see it differently because of the light, time of day, weather—my glasses! I like almost all the rides I take. There’s a few this year that I think about on those really snotty days. Santorini and Athens. I thank the universe for my trip to Greece, summer 2017. It provided some of my best biking memories of 2017. I have been drafting that post for a few months and I resolve to share it soon.

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Nisos Thira, Agios Georgios, Greece @SantoriniAdventures

I can see clearly now and I have my sights on more biking and adventures in 2018. Let’s do this! Happy New Year!

Cheers!

Bike Goddess

 

 

 

 

Glad Ridings to All

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Merry Christmas! There is something magical about snow on Christmas Eve. It’s a child’s dream to see a blanket of white. Everything gets quiet and soft except for the sound of fat tires eating up the powder and making tracks. In truth I lasted only 1.3  miles of neighborhood riding, but still it was an epic ride. A few people in cars giving me sideways glances as if I am “that crazy neighbor” who bikes places they wouldn’t drive to. That’s okay! I love the sound of the tires compacting the snow and moving like a beast on the surface. Awesome!

It’s rare to have snow right now, making it even more special. In 2017, January was the month I rode the least. I got a Wahoo and set it up in the basement. I learned I like being outdoors so I didn’t use it much after January but this year I am going to use it at least once a week for distance and speed. Foreshadowing of some resolutions. Commuting is going well, but the weather does put a damper on the day when you’d like to just have a good workout. A sweat fest of spinning. I did ride more miles in 2017.

 

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January my time was only in the teens. We had record snowfall and school closures pushed the end of the year to June 26th. Longer rides and more miles in the summer months, but October was spectacular too!

I’ve never been the rabbit in the story of the Tortoise and the Hare. Even as a child when I would hear the story, I thought that the tortoise had the best pace. Slow and steady, but that doesn’t mean I don’t like speed. I do! But I don’t want to get injured or break something in the process which could sideline me for months. I’m the tortoise; cautious and slow. I don’t ride to keep up, I ride to set my own pace.

Before 2017 I used mass transit every morning to get to within 5 miles of my work. Then I’d ride. Now, I go the distance and ride in the morning and afternoon. That amounts to 20+ miles per day of commuting. I know some people do more, or less, but this is just right for me. When the weather is cooperative, I’ll add more to the ride home.

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Santa was on track with me this year. I love my slippers! The Wahoo Elemnt is going to be great. I plan to use it today on an indoor ride. Can you do that? I paired it with everything and I’m excited to give it a whirl, but remember that snow I talked about earlier? It’s iced up quite a bit and I’d like to play it safe and spin up a sweat inside. There are cookies in my future today.

Adding to the blog more often and planning out my posts was another goal this year. It has helped immeasurably to hear from you.

Readers, I wish you the best today and everyday! Thank you for following this blog and sharing your adventures and interests. Glad ridings to us, everyone!

As we wrap up another Christmas, I can’t help but wonder what’s ahead. You know what it’s like when you’re on a road and you can’t quite see as the road bends and yet you keep pedaling onward. Forward.

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Until next time.

Season’s greetings and glad riding!
Bike Goddess

Long Weekend Wonders

Nothing like an extra day of weekending. In my neck of the woods, I had sun and clear skies. I had to apply sunscreen for my ride. First time in a while!  I had time for a ride or three. It was enough to get me excited about summer riding. My commute got the weekend off. My other bikes got a little time to play. Time to ride with no real plan is the best way to relax. Drinking in the scenery, the sun and feeling the topography under my tires. There’s nothing like it.

 

The wonders of riding a bike don’t have to be limited to long weekends. Tomorrow I’m back to my commute and I have a taste for summer on my bike.

Get out there and ride!
Happy trails,

Bike Goddess

New Gen Gets All the Fun

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Did you have access to a cycling team when you were in high school? I remember being in my high school math class and there was an announcement over the PA on a Monday morning. Blah, blah, blah and then something about our bike team winning a race. I thought, “Huh, we have a bike racing team?” I had no idea. The team consisted of four to six guys, two of them were in the upcoming spring play with me and I didn’t know that either one even rode a bike. Then what followed was the math teacher saying my name repeatedly to break me out of my dumfounded state of consciousness.

How did I miss this opportunity? I still don’t know, but a friend of mine, Larry,  saw this article and sent it my direction. I wondered why we don’t see more cycling in high school. Find the National Interscholastic Cycling Association (NICA) on Facebook and give them a like. Also you can donate online to help their efforts. Mountain biking is a far more attractive option for our young racers in training. What a great way to learn how to handle a bike and perfect your skills with balance and agility. At the end of nearly every sentence I kept moaning, “Where was this when I was in high school?”

Personally I did not find a place with traditional sports in high school. I was easily discouraged. I enjoyed volleyball the most, but I had the impression I was supposed to be good right away and I wasn’t. I thought you went to practice and learned about the game, whatever the game. I parted ways with the idea that I’d be able to learn a sport and put my focus in other areas. I kept riding my bike to school and work at my after school job.

“A lot of these kids have done football, baseball, and haven’t really found their place in traditional sports,” says Shaun Anderson, who coaches the Cuyuna Lakes team in northern Minnesota. “They find this and it’s given them a home.”

Truth be told, I’m older than the mountain bike, but younger than Gary Fisher.  I’ll donate what I can to help the efforts of NICA! The next generation can count on me to support their riding.

Good job team! Read more about NICA here.

What do you think? Wish you had something like this? Were you lucky enough to be on a team in your youth? I would have loved to letter in mountain biking!

Have a great week.

Be safe and get out there an ride.

BG

 

 

 

 

 

Belle Days

Remember that post… about the new bike? In the last few weeks I’ve had the opportunity of putting a few miles on the new bike, 125 to be exact. My spring break was a stay-cation and my goal each day was to ride at least 15 miles. The week was mostly about Belle, the Trek Stache 5.  The weather was agreeable enough to warrant a roadie day too, but ideally, I wanted to take Belle off road and see how she handles in different terrain. Did I mention I couldn’t have ordered better weather? A few days were in the mid and high 70s.

I had a blast riding the Stache around town and introducing her to all the spots that are made for a fatty. I rode in dirt, sand, and gravel: loose and packed, through potholes of all sizes and in grass. I also tried hay, bark dust and a few puddles. This bike is more fun than I ever expected. I’m head over wheels about how she moves on a path. I’ll ride to the summit of a mountain and shout:  I. Love. This. Bike!

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She enjoys every terrain type and veers off road like a puppy sniffing a path. I find myself looking for challenging terrain just to see how she handles. When people describe a bike as agile, I always get a picture of a bike dancing like Gene Kelly in my mind. This bike is limber, nimble and ready for anything ahead.

Here’s a little video of one day :

There’s this long stretch of road at about :47 which I rarely use on any bike. On this bike, I only notice how well the bike handles and how I’ve missed being on the road. The bike makes you feel topnotch on any topography. At 1:47, I decided to dive into some gravel and roam around a construction area. Ridiculously fun! I let the bike propel through holes and even the slightest pedal action had me secure in whatever lay ahead. Cut me a slice of awesome because it was fun, fun, fun!

Want to know how train tracks feel? Like absolutely nothing! The bike makes me feel like I am a kid again. I thought the tires might be too much for just riding around. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Three-inch tires are amazing. First, you don’t have to worry about anything. It reminds me of the joke, “Where does a 500 pound (fill in the blank) sit? Anywhere it wants. A bike like this will go anywhere and climb anything. It has one speed: go!

Spring break was a teaser. I ready for summer and more time riding Belle.

Hope you’re having fun and riding the day away.

Happy trails.

BG

 

 

Ride Away

I ride to work out my worries. With each revolution I get stronger in my body and soul. I gain balance and control. The air gets sweeter and a smile comes back to my face. I find myself again. I imagine the freedom of being a kid with nothing to do but pedal around waving and smiling and feeling free.

My daily commute is predictable yet miraculous. The route is nearly the same to and from school (I’m a middle school teacher/librarian), but for some reason I always see it through different eyes. I’m happy to zig and zag through the same neighborhoods and find the same people walking their dogs at almost the same time. We wave and sometimes I stop and say hi. A week ago I saw the two Scotties being walked behind this fenced area that I didn’t know you could walk through. There’s a tall wire fence. Upon closer inspection, I saw that on the left side you could get over the curb and enter the area. Apparently it’s owned by the city and  it’s a haven for mountain biking plus there’s another area even bigger two blocks east, the lady told me. I rode over there and lo’ and behold there was this dirt path. IMG_4908

I was on my Kona and the path looked better suited to a mountain bike. I have gone by this area hundreds of times and this was the first time I saw it: Bike Narnia.

Today the world was shining and bright because the sun was out for the first time in days. A friend wanted to ride home with me and then I said I’d get my mountain bike and ride partway back with her and check out the trail.

Belle is the new bike. She hasn’t even been mine for a week yet but the Trek Stache 5 is amazing! This was the first time on dirt and I felt like I was in another world. I time traveled back to when I was 10 and I rode my banana seat bike way, way out of bounds and didn’t even care if I got caught. It was worth whatever punishment. But I didn’t get busted. IMG_4973

The Stache 5 handles like she’s leading me. Despite her 3 inch tires she’s responsive and agile. I felt like she knew more about the dirt than I did and she was just telling me to trust her. The ground was wet and muddy in spots and I climbed over some big rocks and tree limbs, but the ground was dense and spongy. The disc brakes were easy to control and if anything I felt like a skilled biker as I stood up or pivoted right or left on the trail.

The best part was seeing these two kids about 8 and 10 on their BMX bikes. I moved out of the way. They thanked me and said I had a cool bike. Which of course means … I have a cool bike because kids don’t lie about that kind of thing. I followed the trail here and there and it brought me out into a neighborhood. It took me a few seconds to recognize where I was, but it was a street I had gone down but never looked into this whole fenced area.

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The thing about biking is that it can be simultaneously predictable and surprising. I like that when I’m on a bike I see things in the world with fresh eyes and I can find a renewed sense of wonder in the simplest things. I guess you can say that about running or walking or anything, but on a bike it feels like you’re flying. It’s pretty rare to see someone grimacing while riding a bike. The bike action seems to connect people with their inner youngster and you want to be friends with everyone.

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Today was amazing!

Happy trails!