The Guest Star: Hang Gliding

We were in love. We had a wedding. Some might say we had a bicycle-themed wedding but that was an accident. The groom (GVP from the Puerto Rico posts) created a photo display from an old bike wheel and things spiraled from there. It was like a fish bathroom; once you have the fish shower curtain, the matching toothbrush holder, Kleenex box, soap dish, towels, rugs, etc. aren’t far behind.

Any-who. The wedding happened. It was lovely. Then it was time for the honeymoon: three weeks in France, Switzerland, and the Czech Republic. It wouldn’t be a bike trip; maybe a rental here or there but nothing of consequence.

Yes, biking in other countries would be dope. But we wanted to try new things. Cue GVP reaching out to Bernie the Birdman to book hang gliding in Interlaken, Switzerland! Bernie warned us the flight could last as short as 10 minutes; at approximately $500 for two of us, it would be the most expensive 10 minutes of our lives (so far…I’m sure later on we’ll have to pay a higher price for some medical procedure or a kid deciding to go to college…well, basically anywhere).

I checked the weather more for hang gliding day than our (outdoor) wedding day. It looked like rain. GVP called up the Birdman who said the weather gets trapped in the mountains or something (cut me some slack on the explanation of mountainous weather; I’m from the Midwest) and he’d pick us up at the train station. Before we knew it, the van pulled up and we piled in as the Birdman asked, “Did you take a big crap this morning?”

We picked up some more folks and headed to the landing field. We’d be on the second flight of the day and the wait would be about 40 minutes. They loaded up the first set of flyers and the gliders and headed to the top of a mountain. The wait seemed like forever, definitely longer than 40 minutes. Normally I’m a very impatient waiter but, 1) I was on vacation, 2) it was a beautiful day, and 3) I was relaxing under a tree with a gorgeous mountain view. I guess that’s what’s missing from grocery store lines, security lines, and those ridiculous blob lines that form at airport gates.

Then it was our turn! I was excited and nervous. Okay, very nervous. I would be flying with Ed and we were slated to go first. We set up the hang glider (I helped!), did a practice run, and then approached the takeoff spot.

We stood for a while. Then he set the glider down. Then he picked it up. Then set it down. I don’t know how exactly he was reading the wind but somehow he knew it wasn’t ready. Eventually Ed turned to me and said, “Run til I tell you to stop.” Six steps later, I was running on air! Good thing I had already taken a crap that morning or I might’ve needed a new pair of shorts.

It was breathtaking. For all my nerves, it wasn’t scary. It was too exhilarating to be anything but magical. I soared over the tall pine trees and the tops of mountains. I saw a waterfall. I went over the glacial lake. Ed watched the birds to see where we could catch the wind to go up higher. My nose was running and my hands started getting cold. He kept telling me how high up we were in the air but I was too busy appreciating the bird’s eye view to care. I learned how to steer. I felt a little queasy but knew the flight would be over much too soon, so I kept that to myself.

I watched GVP take-off from above. Success! Relief. I was so worried the wind would shift and prohibit him from flying.

My flight continued.

And continued.

And continued.

When Ed finally steered us towards landing (which for a second felt like we were careening to our death amongst the trees), about an hour had passed. We landed and I disconnected my harness, in a state of pure bliss. GVP had already landed and asked me how it was. I said something lame like, “That was cool.” I didn’t have the right words.

Bernie asked if we wanted to buy our photos and videos. We were on a budget so we passed. Then he said, “You guys are on your honeymoon, right?” And he gave them to us for FREE!

Because being a bird is an incredible feeling, that’s why I love hang gliding.


Bicycle Bride

Last year I purchased two items that were too large for me: a dress and a bike. This week, I put each into the hands of professionals in order to change that. Inherently “frugal” (read: cheap), I am new to the idea of customizing anything.

As I prepared for the dress appointment, I noticed some familiar feelings from the bike appointment I already had: anxiety and excitement. At surface value, that surprised me, but once I started comparing the two items these appointments were for, I saw a lot more similarities than I expected:

  • I “got a deal” for both of them which, oddly enough brought them to the exact same price;
  • I knew they didn’t fit when I bought them;
  • They are both a better quality product then necessary;
  • They each have highly specialized purposes: getting married and racing, I’ll let you figure out which is which.

The excitement is an obvious feeling: I’m excited to marry my fiancé and I’m excited to be able to use this fancy bike. But what about the anxiety? For the bike, I was nervous he would tell me that nothing could be done to make it fit and I never should have bought it in the first place. As for the dress, I was nervous she would tell me that nothing could be done to make it fit and I never should have bought it in the first place. I worried I would forget the clothes and shoes I had to bring to each appointment. I fretted the seamstress and bike mechanic would be rude and make these experiences awful instead of fun and exciting.

What ended up happening? Everyone was perfectly friendly, accommodating, and knowledgeable. Duh.

My local bike shop mechanic did not shame me out of the shop, but instead did the reasonable thing and asked what I wanted out of the fit. Since I don’t race, I told him I want to be more comfortable and to put less pressure on my hands so my fingers stop going numb (after some research I learned I crush the ulnar nerve in my hand; feeling can take weeks to months to return). He worked with me for the next 45 minutes adjusting the saddle position (up and slightly more forward), the stem angle (negative to positive), the handlebars (so the brakes were closer to me), and perhaps most importantly (although many may argue the saddle position is most important, which I agree with in most instances but for this bike, I disagree), changed out the stem for a shorter one so the bike will fit my T-Rex arms. Adios over-extending; hello, sweet ride.

While it’s always a little nerve-wracking to have someone sticking pins in clothes I am wearing, the seamstress also crushed it. Wedding dresses are a little different than bikes (shocking, I know); you want to buy them a little large because it’s easier to remove fabric then add it. Makes sense. She calmed my fears by saying she could easily hem it and take the sides in. I didn’t stay to watch all the magic happen: cutting, hemming, seam ripping, stitching, etc., but from all the measurements she took that day, I’m confident it will come out as well as the bike did.

I have follow-up appointments with both for last minute tweaks AND in total, the appointments were the exact same price. How is that even possible?! Maybe it’s destiny that I should ride down the aisle…

Now spring needs to arrive ASAP so I can put them both to use!

Because when it’s beshert, it’s beshert, that’s why I love riding my bike.





About a year ago I started asking around to see if people wanted to go on a bike camping adventure. Once I rounded up the usual suspects (Fiancé, Dad, Brother) and heard from an unexpected addition (Uncle), we settled on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

The first step was to decide if we wanted to register for the League of Michigan Bicyclists’ group ride or venture out on our own. We wanted to have a lot of family bonding time so we opted to strike out on our own…sort of. Fiancé contacted the League and, as luck and Michigander kindness would have it, they sold us their route maps for $10!

After a few questions were answered we were practically on our way!

  • Are there bears? (Yes.)
  • Do they come in the campgrounds? (Not usually.)
  • Are there restaurants? (Yes. Local joints.)
  • Are there grocery stores? (More like convenience stores.)
  • Is there cell phone reception? (Ye,s but you might pick up Canadian towers.)
  • What is the weather going to be like? (Colder than you think.)
  • Is the population really that small? (Yes.)
  • Are people as nice as everyone says? (Yes.)
  • Am I really about to go on a week-long bike ride with four dudes?! (…yes.)

I found campsites, mostly conveniently located…although our first three days would end up being over 70 miles each. After consulting with the group, everything was booked except for DeTour Village State Forest which was first come, first served (that freaked me out more than a little bit since, where the heck would we GO if it was full; there were no other campgrounds anywhere nearby). Straits State Park, our start/end point, allowed us to leave our cars for the entire week FOR NO EXTRA COST. I practically dropped the phone when I heard that news. I mean, helLO! I live in DC; you can’t park for 15 minutes here for less than $20.

Now if I could just convince Dad to lighten his packs so he’d roll without an additional 50 pounds, we would be set.

Our journey began. Fiancé and I took a relaxing road trip there and I’m going to be honest with you, I think the Andy Warhol Museum is overrated. Also, while Detroit’s food scene was on point, I had no clue it would shut down completely for the July 4th holiday. After our final pit stop to check out the world’s largest Christmas store, we headed to Straits to meet up with the others.

We biked. And camped. And biked some more. We ate pizza and fudge and ice cream since we’d be “burning it off tomorrow” (I gained weight this trip so…so much for that). We took the ferry to the carless Mackinac Island and were promptly overwhelmed with the sheer number of people on bikes. We toured the island at a snail’s pace, ate some fudge, and took a nap on the next ferry out. Relaxing is exhausting! We realized how heavy our bags were and started dumping things in the car before heading out, even Dad! It rained. It was sunny. It was hot. It was cold. We were hungry; we were too full. We biked on.

I must say, it was pretty amazing to only see one Starbucks and two fast food restaurants

(if anyone asks, I did not confirm or deny that we each ordered our own pizzas at Pizza Hut). And the people, the people were so sweet. During a lightning storm a couple welcomed us into their home and chatted us up for the better part of two hours.   One night a neighboring camper saw us roll in on our bikes and, not only did he bring over some wood for a fire, but he built it too. (He topped it with Doritos which are apparently super flammable although he told us Fritos are actually the best…or would that be the worst? I don’t know. Most flammable.)

And the nature. Stunning. Hello Lake Michigan, my old friend from my days living in Chicago, delightful to see your other coast. Lake Huron you say? Nice to meet you and your calm waters. And then Lake Superior…while a bit frigid I couldn’t resist stopping in, even if just to pay my respects to the late, great Edmund Fitzgerald. We saw two lighthouses and the beautiful tannin-dyed waters of the Upper and Lower Tahquamenon Falls (don’t worry, I still don’t know how to say it).

Just like that, it was over. Adios delicious breakfast places with the nicest staff on the planet. Sayonara perfect sleeping temperature for camping (40s-50s at night in JULY!? Amazing). Adieu highway shoulders littered with wildflowers instead of garbage. Au revoir ease of access to fudge. Goodbye scenery straight out of a Bob Ross painting (but for real though, look at the side by side) —>

Because biking is an adventure, an escape, a way to bring people together, a way to take some time for yourself, a vacation, that’s why I love riding my bike.

For the Love of Biking

I love riding my bicycle. I think that much is obvious. So when a ride is advertised as “celebrating life on two wheels,” You can probably assume I’m interested.

In 2016 I was. For sure. I was meeting my fiance’s friends for the first time. I was looking forward to having a ride without cars since DC traffic is inSANE. It was the inaugural event. Besides the super-early Sunday start time and a somewhat expensive but still doable entry fee, what was not to love?

2017’s bike ride was a different story. I see those same friends on the regular now with intramural softball, dodgeball, and bocce. While I’ll always feel slightly endangered on some of the streets here, I bike on the regular. The entry fee, while still doable has increased and just seems too pricey for a measly 20 mile bike ride. Granted I’m all for supporting local bike organizations and giving back to that cycling community but this was just out of proportion. And even though the ride organizers had assured everyone they had solved the bottlenecks that plagued last year’s course, I just wasn’t into it.

Then, that fiancé found out if we volunteered for two shifts at packet pick up the day before. Doing 8+ hours of handing out packets didn’t seem worth it to me. I thought sleeping in and riding the trails sounded better but I didn’t want to burst his bubble so of we went…all day.

Packet pickup was definitely improved but the overall day did not. In 2016 it was a party: artwork on display, music blaring, free key chains at REI, snacks. This year it felt dull (then again, last year I wasn’t there quite so long).

After earning our free ride, we woke up early on Sunday. Don’t get me wrong, it is always nice to get out on my bike, even when it’s not, but I was not feeling it. We had a decent bike ride; however, the snacks were sparse, the route still had pointless (and dangerous) bottlenecks just so we could cross a bridge and come back the same way. That was very frustrating. What was also frustrating is how other riders didn’t move to get out of the way until an ambulance was directly behind them. Come on people.

We skedaddled out of the after-party, not wanting to spend money on food and already loaded down with all the free bike lights we could carry. I will say getting to try out my new cycling accessory was terrific: da brim. Yes I’m aware they seem a little dopey but it is perfect for sun and does alright in the rain.

Because biking is free, that’s why I love riding my bike.


My Bicycle is a Time Machine

I got off my bike, climbed the dark staircase, stripped off my sweaty clothes, and climbed right into my sleeping bag; 20 minutes later, I started to feel my feet for the first time in two hours.

How did I end up there?

The C&O Canal Towpath, what a cool bike path. It’s a national park. It stretches for 184.5 miles. It links up to other trails so you can basically bike as far as you’d ever want to. There are free campsites along the way with water and latrines. It’s basically flat. It’s away from traffic. It’s in nature and not through the city. What else could a person want from a bike path?

A house.

There are locks all along the canal. At each lock is (or was) a house for the operator of that lock. Six can be reserved and rented out. Back in November we decided the first weekend of April is when we’d make our maiden voyage. Surely it would be warm enough by then for a nice, flat, 30 mile bike ride followed by a stay in a house without electricity or running water.

Our mistake.

Halfway there we stopped at the Visitors Center/Tavern and warmed up while we watched the welcome movies inside. My panniers were loaded with warm clothes and a sleeping bag and I was so grateful we wouldn’t be camping outside that night. We’d missed the rain but there were GALE WINDS. I’m still not 100% sure what that means because I’m a biker and not a boater but what I do know is that my weather app had a gust of wind picture on that day instead of a sun. I also know that, in an attempt to protect my feet from the wind I wrapped them in plastic bags and shoved them in my sneakers, a throwback to my childhood where there was snow but no snow boots that fit.

(Please note: while very effective at keeping my feet dry when I was little, the bags did nothing to help me with the wind as an adult. If anything they just trapped the sweat inside which was no bueno when I took the bags off.)

Anyways, we somehow eventually made it. I don’t think I’ve ever biked slower.

Once my sleeping bag warm-up was over, I put on my leggings, sweatpants, carhart socks, slippers, long-sleeve t-shirt, sweatshirt, winter hat, wrapped myself in a blanket, and headed downstairs for dinner (cold sandwiches which tasted amaaaaaazing) followed by half a dark chocolate candy bar. Yum. Then my fiancé successfully taught me how to play checkers. There we were, just two people playing checkers by lantern light until we were tired enough to go to sleep. I wouldn’t have changed a thing about that Friday night…except maybe the temperature.

Not only does this place not have electricity or plumbing, it also doesn’t have box springs. You know the old expression “sleep tight, don’t let the bedbugs bite.” While I think many people now know more about bedbugs than they ever wanted to, we were experiencing the “sleep tight” part of that saying. That’s right, our mattress was supported by ropes. There was one loose one which we never did figure out how to tighten but, it was actually surprisingly comfortable. I don’t know what people back then were complaining about (besides the disease, hard work, and lack of modern amenities, but I don’t blame those on rope beds so that’s neither here nor there).

Then again, maybe the lack of plumbing got to them. I can’t lie, when I woke up in the middle of the night and needed to pee, I glanced at the (I’m assuming decorative) chamber pot and considered the convenience but that was only for like one second…two max. (Don’t worry, I went outside.)

Lucky for us, the ride home the next day was beautiful.

Because a trip to the 1860s is a mere bike ride away, that’s why I love riding my bike.

Tip of the Day: Don’t Bike with Your Eyes Closed

I consider myself a pretty safe cyclist. I try not to run yellow lights (unless I’m seriously just about to make it). I stop at red lights and stop signs (unless it’s basically totally practically clear). I wear bright clothes, reflective gear, and currently have five different lights on my bike. And I always wear a helmet.

But sometimes things just… happen.

I vaguely remember learning to bike in my parents’ front yard. I don’t remember if it was the first time I was biking or the first time the training wheels were off but I remember falling. A lot. Luckily the grass was soft and I wasn’t deterred.

The next time I wasn’t so lucky. I took my beloved purplish bike with the streamers in the handlebars and spoke beads on the front and back tires (pause for nostalgia) up the driveway to the neighbors’ house. I wanted Katie to come play Barbies with me; she hopped on her bike and followed me to my house…maybe a little too closely because before I knew it I was splayed on the ground with two knees full of gravel. I swear 20 years later there are still some little pieces floating around in there.

Then there was the time I tried to bike in a straight line with my eyes closed. Hello ditch. (Cut me a break, I was only like…11, tops.)

Probably my most embarrassing cycling accident was in 2015. I was living and working in San Francisco for a few months. I proudly rode my bike Boudin to and from work every day. It wasn’t even that far…maybe two miles. Maybe. Probably even less. The morning weather was, per usual, perfect so I was biking in my work clothes with no fear of sweating or being too cold. I’m not going to say it wasn’t stressful because it was. San Francisco is exploding with public transportation and pedestrians so my rides often concluded with prying my white-knuckled grip off the handlebars (and recovering my breath from the last couple of hills).

But there I was, pedaling along quite well, kind of dreading a boring day at the office. All of the sudden, my bike had come to an abrupt halt and I flew over the handlebars and landed in the middle of the intersection! I will forever curse those streetcar tracks! My bike tire had lined up with them just perfectly so it fell in and got stuck. While I don’t have any epic pictures or traffic camera footage to share, I’m sure many people do. I was lucky enough that it was a red light so I didn’t get squished by any oncoming traffic, which also gave people plenty of time to whip out their phones. I picked up my bike and walked to the sidewalk to assess the damage: nothing hurt but my pride and my dress pants.

Of course there have been other terrific moments of bike safety. I was following my oldest sister too closely. When she stopped suddenly I rammed her, fell off my bike, and subsequently made a Band-Aid for my knee out of toilet paper and duct tape so we could keep going and get our miles in for the day. One day a car love-tapped me on the left shoulder/ribcage/thigh. (Don’t worry, the bike was unharmed.)

Biking has its perils; that’s for sure. But because the juice is still worth the squeeze, that’s why I’m going to keep riding my bike.


I Bike to Work (Even in the Winter)

Look at my options. I don’t know if you know this but I live in Washington, D.C. and parking downtown isn’t cheap. I guess I could take public transit but ANYone who has EVER been to D.C. knows why I’m not doing that. D.C. public transit is one of the main reasons I never wanted to live here. Expensive. Unreliable. Crowded. Stops running at like midnight. How is that even allowed? Top all that with a bunch of people looking 100% miserable on their way to and from work. Sounds like a great way to start and end your work day, right?

Then there’s my commute. Biking to work is amazing. I love the freedom of it. When I’m ready to leave the house, I leave. When my supervisor lets me out of work early, I don’t have a train to wait for. It wakes me up in the morning and clears my head at the end of the day. Some people will say it’s part of their workout but…I’m not exactly doing time trials so I’m not sure it “counts” but whatever.

It’s perfect really. In the fall and spring. Winter and summer can make it downright miiiiiiiiserable.

Winter Woes

  • I layer up so much I start sweating halfway through the ride;
  • When I breathe with my balaclava (facemask) on it fogs up my glasses (which I use to block the wind from my eyes) so I have to choose seeing or a covered nose;
  • I usually have a ring around my face from the balaclava for about an hour;
  • The snow-plowing efforts (or lack thereof) of the city.

Summer Struggles

  • Humidity;
  • Helmet hair;
  • Deciding on whether or not I need shorts on under my skirt, sometimes deciding I can still be ladylike without them, and subsequently flashing oncoming traffic.

I am super lucky that there is a parking garage attached to my office where I can lock up my bike. Not only that, but there are locker rooms on the main floor with showers. I’m not sure how comfortable I would be changing in front of my co-workers but desperate times and all. To be honest though, usually I just throw on some extra deodorant, change, and let it ride for the day. I think there are a lot of my co-workers who don’t even know I bike to work; who knows what they think when they see me coming and going. When they finally figure it out, they’re both incredulous and a little jealous. How could they not be when the words “single-tracking” don’t ruin my day?

Because biking to work is the antidote to zombie-commuting, that’s why I love riding my bike.