In the astute words of Jean Hirstfield in The Heat of Autum, “The heat of autumn is different from the heat of summer. One ripens apples, the other turns them to cider.”
My go-to fall recollection is riding my bike through leaves usually near the college campus where my father worked. I would dash from home across the forbidden busy streets and ride to the college and wander like a dog off a leash through neighborhoods and around the campus looking at how it all turned into a Crayola box of colors. I’d ride around taking in the sights and sounds of my little town as if it was all there for my pleasure. Possibly I should have been working on homework, but I knew that I’d have time later for such tasks. The ride was the most important thing and I’d seize the time to explore. Watching the shadows dance on the fences or make the gravestones in the cemetary tall and ominous was part of the pleasure of riding.
For me, it’s the light of the season. Autum light is golden and everything it touches appears gilded. It’s the upspoken star. The supporting character of the day that doesn’t realize how much it’s needed. Autumn light works to compliment the colors around it.
Don’t get me wrong, we’re still experiencing the summer temps of 80s and up, however, the morning commute is a different part of the day and it summons light to come out and play. I can’t get enough of it. I look for excuses to make the commute last a moment longer while I frame a photo or think about how it all interacts to set the day alight. It’s dazzling!
The leaves are starting to change but for the most part the light ripens my smile and puts me in a great mood.
The mornings forshadow the cool temps ahead and with my jacket and gloves it feels as refreshing as jumping into a pool of cold water. The observation of Victoria Erickson, “If a year was tucked inside of a clock, then autumn would be the magic hour.” My mornings are filled with magic and my commute has been a wonderful time to ponder as I pedal.
How is it where you live? Tell me in the comments.
Thanks for reading my blog. I hope you have an amazing week.
It’s the four day weekend and I’ve been waiting for it like it’s a long lost love. Four gorgeous days to not work. Four spectacular, wait what is this pain? Why does my head hurt and did Rocky give me a right hook on the, holy mother of pearls, this pain is like a brain freeze married a migraine and this was their offspring. Needless to say my stunning four day weekend kicked off at Urgent Care where I haven’t been since long, long before Covid and it will end Wednesday with a root canal.
It’s hard to fully capture all that was for the last four days but I will say thank the gods of Olympus and science for drugs because pain associated with teeth is torture hence the whole Marathon Man movie and I can’t even comprehend how people got by without the powers of numbing.
It didn’t start out with my tooth however. I’ll say that things were off a week ago. I didn’t feel myself and my neck and head were not feeling full range and normal. I felt tired but doesn’t everyone feel just a little off? I pushed through and by Wednesday last I had done myself in. I missed lunch and didn’t drink any water at school because masks and Chromebook pandemonium and classes and yeah, I did not take care of myself and I should have done something but what can you do? The long and the short of it is simply that there’s not enough me to go around and everyone is pushed to the max. I messed up. Thursday I felt like I would do better but my jaw was aching and I thought TMJ. I’m grinding and gnashing at night and that’s also part of the package right now. I’ll make it and it’ll be okay. But it didn’t get better.
On Friday I was moderately better. I went for a 10 mile bike ride and took some banned books like Maus and New Kid to the Little Free Libraries near my house and the ride perked up my soul, but not my body. I thought maybe the cold will loosen up my jaw. Maybe I should chew some gum? Sure, let’s put my whole face in the cold air like a big dog with its head out the window of a truck. I felt fleeting relief. Once I got back home and got inside the house, my head felt like it was imploding and exploding simultaneously. I was balled up and whimpering and once “the episode” passed I called the Advice Nurse to find out why I hadn’t heard from my doctor and then they suggested going to Urgent Care.
This is one thing we haven’t done during Covid. Thank goodness that we’ve been pretty healthy and all so this was a first. Husband drove me and waited. I didn’t get seen right away, but they did get an EKG and then like dinner at a fancy restaurant they texted me when my “care team” was ready to see me. By this time the pain feels like it’s starting to pool on the right side and settle in my jaw.
I’m escorted back and wait behind the curtain and I’m feeling okay but there are these waves of excruciating pain that are definitely not okay. What the heck is this? Of course I’m an expert on all things TMJ because I’ve read six articles on WebMD and I’m massaging my jaw. In the faux room across from there there a man who’s had a work related injury and a small cut is becoming a “gusher” and I think to myself that pain seen is easier to treat and mine so I’m wondering what happened to him and he’s talking about tourniquets and clotting blood and the nurse says in a gentle tone, “I can’t tell if you’re looking away because of the pain of the blood.” Oh dear Athena, what is going on over there. I want to fling open the curtain and offer my help but my only training is Gray’s Anatomy, so I’m probably no use to them. I hear muffled sounds and grunts and I’ve been waiting for 35 of the 15 minutes they initially said. I have determined that my pain seems to be most intense below my right ear. Is that my tooth then? Hmm?
In my curtained cubical a nurse pops in to apologize and she gives me an ice pack and I practically dive for the plastic bag of joy. She says it won’t be much longer but they’ve had some emergencies. Yeah, I get it I say. Bleeding sounds bad.
Veins take blood away from the heart and arteries to, so look at me. Maybe I can help over there? Nah, let’s not offer. But now the person says that a vein was nicked and they’ll tighten the tourniquet until the doctor can come and advise.
Oh, my gods!
Now the nurse asked if the guy has to work on Saturday.
Mumble, mumble from the guy.
“You need to take it easy. We can give you a note. You don’t want to stress this and you’ll need to take some time to heal.”
Swoosh. My curtain flies open and it’s all about me now. He’s Dr. Matt (I thought only chiropractors introduced themselves by their first name. I’m processing the blood guy and the wait did he say Dr. Matt or did he just say Matt? Why can’t I concentrate in here? He’s very tall. Like 6’5″ and he assures me that he’s there to help me. “Tell me more about how you’re feeling?” Turns out his wife is a Gnasher so he can tell but he’s pretty sure that it’s not TMJ because those symptoms don’t just come on like this did. No elevated blood count that would reveal an internal infection. Lymph glands are fine. Heart is great. Blood pressure is great. Yeah, nothing left but the teeth.
Appears that my right molar is discolored and that’s where his expertise ends and I’ll need to make contact with my dentist.
Saturday was spent on pain killers and penicillin with some fitful naps and not much eating. Sunday I begged for some relief. Thank goodness I wasn’t pushed so far over the edge that I sold a bike to relieve my pain, but I had a partial root canal to relieve the pressure and he said the words I was most afraid to hear, “No bike rides for a few days.”
There’s truth in teeth. Seriously if someone wanted to torture me they’d have to go through my teeth. It’s so sensitive in there and even when you’re given some relief you start to confess things. When I was getting my partial root canal and the dentist was numbing and novocaning, he said he’d go give my husband an update on how I was doing. I called after the dentist about my husband and cautioned, “Be careful, he’s prickly and he bites.” When it comes to teeth and pain in the mouth regions I will cave.
Wednesday I get the real deal and the tooth of the matter is that I’m looking forward to putting this four day weekend in the rear view mirror. I know there are better ones ahead.
As far as the guy in the room across from me I can only hope that he took a few days off and his days are brighter also.
Happy Lunar New Year! I like that it’s a new month and another new year. January was intense for me. January is usually the one month out of the 12 that sort of comes with too many expectations and it has this never-ending quality which is overwhelming. It was challenging to ride and you’ve read my ongoing complaints about rain, so January was a slog.
January is all business. I usually set some goals like how many books I want to read this year (100) and how many miles I want to ride (5,000) and other than that I’m going to enjoy the days and the seasons and see what comes. Not too many plans. I’d like to post more on my blog, but that’s a very indefinite goal. I noticed I posted the first part of last and I’ll admit with my Tigers shirt I felt a post coming on. I know if I’m too definite I end up disappointing myself so when the muse speaks I listen and try to write.
What else? Maybe traveling will come back into view, but if it doesn’t I’ll have to be okay with that. Maybe I’ll get the basement of the house finished but it’ll have to be okay if that doesn’t pan out either because I’m content and I’ve learned over the last two years that that’s a gift all by itself.
I won’t hedge my bets this year on anything and I’ll tame the tiger in me a bit and try to nurture the calm instead of getting riled up. That’s important for the Tiger born since we’re often “hungry for excitement” and I agree that I often look for mischief and even when I try to avoid it, well, it comes my direction anyway.
Ox and Goat are considered the “luckiest” signs in the Chinese zodiac and apparently wearing red will bring you luck in your birth sign year. Maybe I should buy a red bike? Riding a red bike would certainly be the luckiest way to celebrate, don’t you agree? Red isn’t my favorite color, but let’s agree that red bikes are attractive. Have you ever owned a red bike? My first bike was red. It also had three wheels, but it was a beauty.
I am superstitious. I’m Greek, so I was trained in the ways of my grandmother, my yiayia, that itchy palms mean money coming your way and you enter a house with your left foot and you always spit to bring good fortune and toss salt behind an unwanted guest and they’ll leave. I think a red bike for good luck makes sense. There’s one Greek superstition that involved the color red. If you and someone else are talking and you both same the same thing at the same time, like when you say, JINX, well to the Greeks that means that you and the other person are going to have a big argument so you touch red cloth to bread the spell. I know, right? You can’t make this stuff up. A red bike seems to make the most sense.
As the sun sets on one month and we get closer to Spring, life starts to feel less dark. Yes, there’s more light and we’re waking up out of hibernation and it feels good. Winter won’t last forever and we can all roar into another month. I may not see the sun often enough but when I do I try to take a picture so I can remind myself that it’s going to be okay.
Thanks for reading. Greeks also like to say, “Good month” or “Καλο μηνα” at the start of each month. That’s less a superstition than it is a good omen. Now where’s my evil eye? (called το ματι in Greek. Wards off the bad stuff.
I ride my bike. I ride many places people don’t bother to drive. I ride and I ride some more. I don’t love riding in the rain but I do because it’s the Northwest and sometimes the forecast says it won’t rain but it does anyway. I draw the line at ice and freezing temps because we get this stuff here called black ice and it’s every bit as nasty and treacherous as it sounds. Black ice is unseen because it blends in well with the pavement and then suddenly you’re on your arse spinning like a dervish and wishing you’d never ventured out into the wild. You get the gist. If my safety is compromised I won’t ride outside that day. I’ll Zwift in the safety of my basement. That’s called a “virtual ride” and I’m prone to doing those when the weather is having a hissy fit and I feel like something less complicated.
Which brings me to the topic of miles. Do you log your miles on Strava, MapMyRide or similar type of app?
Strava and I became acquainted awhile ago back in 2015 at about the time I bought myself a stunning carbon fiber Cannondale, named her Luna and decided she was just too dang pretty to be outside in the rain all the time. She’s so pretty with a lavender frame and white rims. I know. I need a therapist. Luna now is my Zwifty bike. I do enjoy the maps and the data Strava provides albeit for a price, but that’s fine. I like that it does the number crunching for me and overall I’m a satisfied customer. But..
Data doesn’t lie. I might FEEL like I had my best year ever in the saddle and I count any day that I can bike as a big win, but the data tells another story. Strava says that as of this writing I biked 4,586 miles. Which is a pretty low number for me. Also that there were 77 days in which I did not ride or I’ll say, I didn’t use Strava, which happens. But 77 days seems really high. In find that inconceivable. I wasn’t injured this year. I didn’t take any vacations or huge swaths of time off. I doubt that number, yet it’s there. It adds up even though it does not add up in my mind. Which means that somehow something is amiss. I bike everywhere and on average 77 miles per week. That means 4,004 miles a year. Given that, Strava nailed it and then some. Even though it feels like I logged much more. Strava doesn’t measure feelings. Like many things right now in an ever on-going pandemic activities feel different for inexplicable reasons.
Is this some weird algebra where solving for WHY means I need to compute my commutes differently. People who know me find these numbers a little off, so it’s not only me. I don’t care, but yet I do, you know? I know I ride and I ride for my life and I don’t have anything to prove (except maybe to Strava) but still it’s like getting an B+ instead of an A-. Or worse yet the teacher hands you the paper and says the dreaded, “You can do better.”
Here’s what I remember. I usually set my annual goal at 5K. I’ve reached it twice and even exceeded it. Sometime last Spring I recall that my miles were really off in Strava and I eliminated the “goal” and it said something to me like by doing this I was resetting the Strava-odometer, so maybe that had something to do with it. I’m trying to spin this in a positive light because sometimes effort isn’t measured in Strava in the same way it’s measured in life. How about I’m down 20 pounds since March? That’s kind of a big deal and even though I changed the number in Strava it’s not like someone emailed me and said, “Whoa there, that’s excellent and you must feel lighter on the pedals now too.” I have two bikes that went over the 10,000 miles mark and one of those bikes I’ve had since 2019, so that’s an accomplishment.
Measures of success are data driven but when we interpret the data there are factors that the data doesn’t document. Like, I just remembered that a bike I ride to and from the grocery shopping I don’t often record that data. That right there could be a few miles. See, I’m doing it again.
I know that many bloggers I follow cite their Strava stats often. We do that in part to show how easy it is to rack up the bike miles over being in a car or on mass transit. It’s a way of evangelizing about how much we love to bike and how easy it is to replace day-to-day activities of four wheels with two.
That means I’m going to take this as a lesson in data keeping and I’m going to keep on spinning and continue to ride, ride, ride into another year of riding. That’s the point. Don’t let the data get you down. Let it drive you to new goals and then I guess the other lesson it to check in on the data and see what it says about your riding. I started my day spinning the data negatively. How could I have failed so badly? It’s not what I feel I did, but I know I commuted and I rode and I did all that I normally do on a bike. This year Strava didn’t capture all that I accomplished, but what app really can?
Have you ever experienced a data disconnect? How did you handle it? Did it change anything about what you do?
Get out there and ride your bike!
Thanks for reading my blog. I appreciate it! Bike Goddess
Rumors of ghosting my readers are false. As terms go it seems that “ghosting” is new. In the essence of full disclosure, ghosting means is to abruptly cut off contact with someone without giving that person any warning or explanation for doing so. I didn’t mean to fall into the well of silence. However the way I understand it, ghosting also means there’s another step. Even when the person being ghosted reaches out to re-initiate contact or gain closure, they’re met with silence. I hope that is not the case readers, so let me assure you that I am still here and all is well. As I was drifting off to sleep last night I starting feeling ever hopeful again. I thought of the beautiful Emily Dickinson poem which is often cited as a quote, but it’s actually a poem:
“Hope” is the thing with feathers – That perches in the soul – And sings the tune without the words – And never stops – at all –
And sweetest – in the Gale – is heard – And sore must be the storm – That could abash the little Bird That kept so many warm –
I’ve heard it in the chillest land – And on the strangest Sea – Yet – never – in Extremity, It asked a crumb – of me.
All that to say that each day I gain the tiniest bit more hopeful. Like taking a deep breath and feeling like I will rise. It has been a challenging time to be an educator. The demands at work have been like a headwind in my soul. Each day more daunting that the last and I wish I wasn’t such a pond of exhaustion at the end of my work day.
I wish I could eek out a sentence of two in the evening instead of spending another hour or more getting lessons, the school news or whatever ready for the next day. Yet, it’s not only that part. As an on-the-side blogger I am always trying to figure out when to write and how much and how personal and on and on. There’s always a siege of self doubt and second guessing about my writing. While I have been writing in the last several week it has been negative and I don’t want that out there. It’s easier to be hopeful and optimistic when you’re rested, fed and feeling satisfied with yourself.
I wish I could plan and execute my ideas and not be so ready to excuse my lack of writing with the aforementioned exhaustion and criticism.
I wish I was the type of person that didn’t need to be perfectish at work and could somehow hold back enough of the essence of moi to spend on what I want to do later in the day, week, month.
I wish I could shift into a personal gear that would allow me to be more me for myself than for others.
Wishes become realities when you do the work and figure out how to make the time and track stand in your own lane waiting for the light to turn and you take off, ready to fly.
Now Albert Einstein had a good quote about that, “Learn from yesterday, live for today.” I don’t want to ghost you, or myself. I want to be present and start hearing that little bird again and I make my way through another Gale.
How many miles does it take for you to know you have the right bike? I was thinking about that today when I took the adorable Brompton out for a ride. I always figured she’d be *just* the travel bike, but that’s silly because she’s such a wonder of engineering and she rides like a goat eats grass. She’s efficient and sturdy and she can go places other bikes can’t. I have hit the mark where my Brompton, (I call her Katniss) has 200 miles and I’m thrilled I have this marvel of a bike.
It took less than 200 miles to discover her talents. Today she seemed to be calling to me to take her on a trail not too far from my home. It’s wooded and rife with nooks and crannies that are fun to explore. It follows a creek and there are a few bridges to cross and it’s enchanting because there are grasslands and glens and city neighborhoods all around you.
With its low center of gravity I feel nimble and quick on my Brompton, like Michael Flatley Lord of the Dance on wheels. I didn’t think I’d go on the trail today. I was riding around and then I went down a hill and knew I was close to the trail so I meandered about like I was looking for my glasses in the dark and found an entrance I’ve never used before. A little more and a bit more still and then I was on the trail and I kept going. The bike felt amazing. The ride felt solid and commanding. Note that I ditched both the saddle it came with and the Brooks Cambium for a Specialized saddle and all is well in the nether regions. I say this because saddles always need a few more miles of testing than bike frames require. Sometimes you have to try a few to find the right fit for your tushie. Here’s a link to the one I really like right now. The picture makes it look rather wide yet notice it on my bike. I love this one and have put this saddle on three bikes.
Recently I had the rear rack added plus bigger wheels on the rack for when I take her into a store. At 200 miles I feel like my Bromptie is ready for anything. I do have a few bikes in my life because I love bikes and cycling. I don’t want to limit the Brompton to travel only so I was riding and wondering about commuting to work with my Brompton. People do it. I don’t know about that yet because I haven’t tried it. I hear people travel the world with their Bromptons and while I can’t do that quite yet I can say that she’s capable of any trips, even if it’s to the store or work.
I’m happy to have a Brompton in the fleet and I’d tell anyone who’s thinking of getting one to do so. They are spectacular machines that deliver a great ride.
Thanks for reading and following my blog. My bikes and I appreciate it. Have you ever tried a foldy bike? What did you think of it? If you have any questions please post them in the comments. I’d love to hear from you. I’m new but I’m loving the Brompton ways.
If you’re looking for urban perfection then follow the trail to the 606. It’s an oasis for cyclists, runners, walkers, dogs, cats, birds, you get the gist. When I got my introduction, I thought, “Is this heaven?” The response, “It’s Chicago!”
My affinity for Chi-town, the Windy City, Second City, started at birth. My mother’s side of the family hails from Chicago. When we would visit nearly every other weekend I loved the tuk, tuk, tuk of the L, and I adored how when I stayed with my grandparents, we’d walk everywhere. Mostly to get bubble-gum ice cream outside the Sears Robuck. My Yiayia (Greek for grandmother) would hold my hand and we walk slow and steady so I could drink in the sights and sounds.
This post isn’t about the Memory Trail though, it’s about the 606, a.k.a. The Bloomingdale Trail. If you use Trail Link I’ve linked the map. At 2.7 miles you might think, “Meh, what’s the big deal?” Yes, it’s short in length but long in personality, character, art, landscape and history. It’s elevated too. Read that bit again. It’s elevated. Like heaven.
The eyes have it all and this ingenius art installation called Bird Watching by #JennyKendler from 2018 is stupendous. There are 100 photographs of birds’ eyes watching and each bird is named on a placard labeling the installation. I spent about 20 minutes studying it all and watching families interact with it. Pure joy!
As I was riding I couldn’t help but think that this trail is one of my new happy places. I’ve uncovered a secret. My cousin’s hubby told me about it and while he’s not a cyclist, he is a train guy. He’s an expert on all things rail and when he first told me about it I started to research it on Trail Link and then I wondered how I would ride to the trail. This is often a challenge when you hear about a possible trail and you’re lost when it comes to navigating easily to the trail.
It’s easy enough to get to if you’re staying/visiting/living in the Lakeview East area. I had some directions from him which I checked with the Maps App and Google Maps and it worked out pretty well. There were a few busy stretches but I don’t recall a street that didn’t have a bike lane. There’s a small portion on Cortland that could use some paving but all in all I arrived in under 20 minutes and then spent a few hours exploring the the 606.
It’s on Chicago’s northwest side and it’s built on an old rail line, hence the elevated bit. It sits about 20 feet above four of the city’s neighborhoods: Humbolt Park, Wicker Park, Logan Square and Bucktown. You get a distinct feeling that you are one with the world as you traverse effortlessly atop the city as if you are a rare bird trying to decide where to build a nest.
On your left a mural and on your right an art installment then oh is that another mural and wait a statue and on and on for nearly 3 miles. The perfectly paved trail is 14 feet wide so there’s plenty of room for everyone. It wasn’t crowded and I had plenty of room even whilst people were walking with double strollers, big dogs, little dogs and inline skaters.
I regretted every picture I didn’t take, so I tried to take many pictures, but it’s hard to capture it all. There was a point when I was riding and these exquisite blossoms were waving at me and I felt like I was being caressed even visually massaged by the color orange. My senses were like fireworks on the 4th of July.
Chicago has an impressive trail system. According to Trail Link there are more than 200 miles of on-street protected, buffered and shared bike lanes. The 19-mile Lakefront Trail is possibly the most well known, and the 606 is worth exploring. Chicago is a great place for cyclists. Why is it called the 606? That’s the first three numbers of the zip code and the areas it goes through. The 606 is just one more reason to love Chicago. The 606 is worth riding again and again and in different seasons. Oh, there’s an idea! Yes, dear reader, I will return to the 606 and next time I write about it I’ll include more video.
Can a trail be inspiring? Can a trail infuse you with enthusiasm? I think so. The 606 is inspiring. Well done, Chicago!
How about you? What trails have stayed in your memory. Share a trail you love. Thanks for reading. Get out there and ride your bike!