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Metric Century Anyone? No thanks.

I ran a half-marathon once and it was amazing. The high energy crowds were motivating; the Elvis impersonator at the top of a hill made me smile. There were just so many great vibes there. I haven’t done it since. Why not? I hate the idea of paying to exercise, especially when it’s exercise I could do for free. Now…was the fact that I paid almost $100 a motivator to train? Yes. It was. Did I have a great time? Yes. I did. And yet I still refuse.

Then again, every once in a while I pay to ride my bike. Never a race, just a tour or a large group ride. RAGBRAII in Iowa (which I highly recommend), smaller day rides in and around DC, and most recently, a weekend in Staunton, VA for the Fall Foliage Bike Festival (even though it’s December now, the ride was legit in the fall, mid-October). And I have surprising news, I would pay to be a part of this ride again.

That’s right people. This ride was so fun, beautiful, and logistically easy that I would love to participate again. We strapped our bikes on the back of the car and started our three hour road trip from DC to Staunton. Traffic wasn’t too terrible, which was a pleasant surprise for the Friday afternoon mass exodus. Before we knew it (aka four hours later…DC traffic is still DC traffic), we were pulling the car in front of the middle school and heading to registration. Hello stickers and t-shirts and free food from a local farm; don’t mind if I do! After hitting up the pupusa food truck, we pulled the car around back, did a lap around the track (in the car…which was a little weird), and parked. Tents on the inside; cars on the outside.

It was cold. Very cold. I was wearing more clothes than I have since airlines started charging for checked bags. Unfortunately (and I would say this is the only downfall of camping at a school), fires were prohibited. So we froze. BUT, a benefit of camping at a school is we had access to real toilets and showers. Granted, the showerheads were about three feet tall but it was a middle school after all.

img_0948We’d been planning to do a metric century on Saturday but most of our friends were doing a shorter loop, around 50 miles. That is the genius thing about this ride; there are all these different loops for people to choose from: century, metric century, 50, 30, and a family ride that was 10 miles long with a shortcut that could make it seven. Normally when I go on a bike trip, it’s hard to convince people to come because the mileage is intimidating; not so with this one. Not only were there all these different rides, but they were well marked! Colored arrows along the road, each ride a different color, and an extra arrow after each turn, just so you know you went the right way.

If I had one piece of advice for the organizers, it would be to not use red for the family loop and pink for the 50…especially when they overlap on some roads. I can’t guarantee the six year old with streamers and training wheels on her bike wasn’t doing the 50 but…her parents looked lost.

And then there was the food. The food! Lunch on Saturday and brunch on Sunday were homemade. Yeah. Farm scrambled eggs, fresh pie, and casseroles as far as the eye could see.

Camp one more night, a quick 10 mile family loop before brunch, and then we were on the road back to DC. Not so much traffic this time. Everybody wants to leave on Friday but there’s not quite the same rush to get back on Sunday.

Because there’s nothing like getting in country via bike, that’s why I love riding my bike.

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Here’s to You, Vacation Home Owners

When someone asks if I want to drive two hours to go on a 30 mile bike ride, obviously I say YES! (In reality I said something like, “Why would I want to drive for a total of four hours to bike for approximately two?” but I ended up saying “YES!”…only it probably came out more like, “…sure.”)

After a quick pit stop for a pizza power-up, we were on our way.

The ferry was about to pull away as my friend whipped the Honda into the last available parking space, and by available I mean the car fit after I moved a rouge bicycle out of the way. I quickly shed my sneakers for clip-ins, snagged my helmet as I shut the car door (very Indiana Jones if you ask me), and skedaddled over to the ferry. We made it.

Moments later andimg_1180 hellllllooooo Shelter Island. I clipped in my right foot and away I went up the first little hill. I still can’t clip in with both feet on the Blackfin; despite being on the loosest setting, those new clips are just too tight. When I make the mistake of clipping both feet, my mind screams, “BROKEN CLAVICLE!!!!!!!!!!!!” No thank you Blackfin. No thank you. Gosh, that would be such a nightmare. I miss my old clips.

We headed to the easternmost point which was, of course, beautiful. Since it was late fall there weren’t many cars on the island. That plus the fact that people who own vacation homes don’t have pothole filled streets which meeeeeeans NO DOWNHILL BRAKING NECESSARY! This is huge. HUGE. I am a country girl who lives in the city which means no matter where I am, there are Grand Canyon level potholes, cracked concrete wide enough to grab my tire (= me over the handlebars and on the street), and the like. Not having to brake  is such a treat. 35mph here I come!

img_1178After using the map and making a couple of wrong turns, we realized there are no wrong turns. We’re on a tiny island. We stuffed the map into a jersey pocket and away we went. Good afternoon French ice cream shop, how do you do?! Yes, I will sit your deck overlooking the water while I eat salted caramel and dark chocolate scoops. Don’t mind if I do. (Do I secretly bike so I can eat tons of ice cream? Maybe.)

We pedaled onward and upward. We never did find the church that allegedly exists at the highest point but I (for once) am loathe to complain about going uphill because of those sweet downhills. Thank you seasonal islanders for your beautiful, pothole-free roads.

Because of that carefree downhill, that’s why I love riding my bike.

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Bike Week 2016

There are many, many things that bring me joy: being outside, snow days, vacation, spending time with my family, any kind of ice cream (duh). I try to incorporate these into my life as much as possible; while I haven’t had much luck conjuring up a good snow storm, I have been known to eat an indecent amount of ice cream while outside on a vacation to visit my family.

And then there are the joyful things I forget about. When my friend and I were deciding where on the east coast to go camping, I had no idea that camping on a beach where wild horses live would be an option. I mean…that’s amazing, right? Right. All other ideas = instantly tossed out.

We packed up the car (forgetting our camp chairs…again), loaded the bikes, and started the three hour drive. Since avoiding tolls would take an addition 2-3 hours, we decided to just pay extra and were pleasantly surprised to discover there was only one toll and it cost less than $5. Win.

As soon as we crossed the bridge onto Assateague Island, there they were, about eight wild horses chilling next to the road eating grass. Magical. Minus the 30+ tourists getting uncomfortably close to the animals to take selfies. These are wild animals. Some of them have rabies. I also noticed that in the large group, there were a lot of bikers. Not the spandex bikers like us but the leather bikers. But it was a nice day so I didn’t think much of them (other than how obnoxiously loud their bikes are).

We pulled into our camp site behind the dunes, unloaded the bikes, and took off on an easy 60 mile bike ride. I had the Blackfin (a nice bike I bought off my sister a few months ago) It’s so lightweight my baby nephew can bench press it. It’s not really practical for riding in the city because all the stop signs, lights, and potholes, but out there, it was fast. I can understand why Lance Armstrong was doping; going fast is FUN! (But I don’t endorse doping, obviously.)

img_1799Ten miles into it, we hit the outskirts of Ocean City.  The bicycling through Ocean City should be serene. Not only is it flat, blocks from the beach, but there is a full-sized lane on the road just for bicycles. Sounds like paradise. But then there were the motorcycles. Bike after bike after bike after bike. An obscene number of motorcycles. Everywhere we looked. And they were SO LOUD. Lo and behold, it was Ocean City Bike Week. Terrrrrrific.

I love the celebration of one’s hobby but please don’t park 100+ motorcycles in the bike lane just because you can. That’d be great. Thanks.

We crushed the bike ride. We were on our road bikes so we felt faster than fast. Then we turned around. HelLO headwind! Slower than slow. It was so tough we had to make a pitstop to refuel with a funnel cake on the boardwalk. Had to.

When we finally made it back to the park, img_1807we hopped off the  bike path to the road to avoid the horse that was blocking the trail. RUDE! (Jk, obviously the horses were amazing.) Camp didn’t take long to set up (although we did move the world’s heaviest picnic table to a new spot to try to block people cutting through our campsite on their way to the bathroom). Then we headed out to the nearest crab shack for a HUGE dinner. If post-ride to Harpers Ferry was fries on fries on fries, this was crab on crab on crab. Leather was definitely the dress code that night. We squeezed in though…nothing to see here.

img_1810Somehow we rolled our full bellies to the beach for some relaxing digestion under the full moon. Not too shabby of a way to spend the evening. Some might even call it romantic…until we stumbled across a fisherman who had caught an unidentifiable animal’s digestive track. That wasn’t so romantic.

A crappy night’s sleep (thanks to the world’s worst camp neighbors who were up talking/yelling until 3AM), a beautiful walk on the beach, and a three hour drive later and we were back home.

Because riding bikes isn’t insanely loud (like certain other bikes we saw that weekend), that’s why I love riding my bike.

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The 75 Mile Driveway

When I was invited to bike to the historic town of Harpers Ferry from DC, my first question was, “But which bike should I take?” While the trip is all trail, it was a gravel trail. The only experience I have riding on gravel is my parents’ driveway; I couldn’t imagine biking 75 miles on that but, I loaded up the Raleigh with camping supplies and food and headed out.

We hopped on the C&O Canal trail. img_1069A few spots were (annoyingly) overcrowded, like around the visitors’ center, but how can anyone complain about 75 miles of no cars?! It was incredible. People on trails are usually so friendly. Perhaps the friendliest person  was the woman who called out to us. We stopped our bikes as she walked towards us with several small green fruits in her hands. I’ve never seen these and can’t remember their name, but I still decided it was a good enough idea to eat half of one. The stranger held it for me. Up to my mouth. Weird. I felt like in 30 minutes we were either going to be higher than everyone in the ‘70s or waking up in a stupor in a cellar because we’d been kidnapped.

Luckily though, the fruits were harmless. The trek continued (with many stops and snacks). We took a short ferry ride and then kept pedaling. The C&O Canal trail is awesome because there are free campsites along the way; we pulled over about three miles north of Harpers Ferry, quickly setup camp, and biked back to town so we could nosh on some food. So many fries!

img_1081Sunday we ditched our bikes for a bit and hiked up to the overlook. My legs were not happy with the incline. We finally made it though and the view was killer. It’s quite a cute town with the adorable population size of 290.

On to our next activity: img_1092the lazy river. We’d picked what we thought was a close place, but ended up being up and down two brutal hills. They dropped us in the river and we floated. So relaxing. The cool thing about this place is that they’ll bus you from the end back to the beginning as many times as you want; you just have to be back to the end by 5:30 or they charge you extra. We thought we had enough time for a second run…and we did, but barely. If we hadn’t aggressively paddled the last 15 minutes, we wouldn’t have made it. Nothing lazy about it!

Another fry-fest, topped off with some ice cream to go so we could go on the ghost tour. Those of you who know me know that being scared isn’t my thing, but it seemed like a good idea at the time (afterwards there was a rule we couldn’t discuss any of the ghost stories we heard). I don’t believe in ghosts but the man made some pretty compelling arguments and that town has seen more than its fair share of tragedy.

I did not sleep well that night.

Monday morning it was back to biking. I love to bike. Obviously. However, the last 10 or 15 miles on that gravel trail broke me. I wanted to give my bike a Viking funeral in the river just so I wouldn’t have to ride it anymore.

Because a biking trip doesn’t have to be all about biking, that’s why I love riding my bike.

(And maybe because it allows me to eat an obscene amount of ice cream.)

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RIP the Fallen

A lot has happened since that magical Puerto Rico bikation (bike + vacation). My fleet has changed pretty drastically since then.

Shiny Schwinn was returned to Amazon due to 100_5839 the fact that it began to show rust within one week of use. I’m grateful for the beast of burden it was in Puerto Rico but after that experience I’ve realized folding bikes aren’t for me. Not only are they heavy but those tiny 20” tires make me feel like a circus clown.

IMG_2066Creamsicle (an orange folder) was also returned. Citizen’s customer service is excellent and they allowed me to return it well past the return date. While it was a cute bike, I couldn’t justify keeping it based on color alone. Taking the wheels on and off to change flats proved to be next to impossible. From now on no quick release = no purchase! I didn’t like that the back fender was riveted on or that after one tire change the nuts and bolts were almost stripped. No thank you!

Since I spend a lot of time in DC now, I purchased the Cereza, IMG_2641a gravel worthy bike with fenders and a back rack already installed. Cereza means “cherry” in Spanish and, while the bike itself is blue and silver, it was purchased around the time of the elusive blossom schedule of the cherry trees around the tidal basin (which I frustratingly KEEP MISSING). Sadly, Cereza was stolen from my friend’s apartment in a burglary. After only a few short rides, Cereza is gone.

After hauling Bow, named for the delicious Boudin Bakery in San Francisco, from San Francisco to Cincinnati to Chicago to Frederick,
MD to DC…it has been sold! It was a good road bike that made being in San Francisco much more fun; I’ll never forget those hills! I had to make some IMG_0583sacrifices and let Bow go for someone else to enjoy out on the open road. I did get one last ride in at the DC Bike Ride: me and thousands of new friends biking through the streets of DC eeeeearly in the morning…I guess that’s the only time of day the police were willing to shut down the streets. All in all, a fun day.

They all served their purpose but in the end, had to go.

Because finding a new bike to ride is a great feeling, that’s why I love riding my bike.

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Gracias Puerto Rico!

We hightailed it out of the forest and made it to the nearest town’s bakery for breakfast by 6AM. That is an early-morning record for us. Our asses were beyond sore; thank goodness chamois butt’r exists. (In case you’re unfamiliar, it is basically butt cream.)

Speaking of butts, pretty sure I mooned about 20 people. I had to pee and thought this one tree on the side of the road would offer enough coverage. It did not. So people of Puerto Rico, you’re welcome for the show! The rest of the day was pretty uneventful, except when GVP was being chased by a dog. I just kept pedaling at my slow speed and was pretty much left alone. I did almost had a meltdown because I thought I’d miscalculated the miles again and it was going to be over 30 miles instead of the 21.3 I was mentally prepared for. Crisis averted though; it was 21.3.

We rolled into our last camping location at lunchtime. I checked in at the Cerro Gordo National Parks office and paid for one night. One of the employees said he’d seen us biking yesterday. How cool is that? Local celebs? Not quite but we did run into a few people at restaurants and gas stations that said they’d seen us the day before or earlier that day. Kinda cool.

After we enjoyed our LAST mofongo with fries and sodas, we headed to a shady spot on the beach and relaxed. We did a little swimming and a lot of people watching. I swear we saw a guy who looks just like Bernie Sanders. Maybe he was taking a vacation from the campaign? There was also a guy we nicknamed Leather. I wanted to pass him our leftover SPF 90.

100_5899Our campsite was beautiful (once we moved away from the first spot we picked with the rotting dead iguana). This was the best campsite (which we deserved after the horrors from Cambalache); the bathrooms were usable but the showers looked like a scene from Saw so we decided to hold off until the Ritz the following day. We set up on a bluff overlooking a cove where waves crashed all night; we headed out to some rocks and enjoyed the panorama of nothing but ocean.

IMG_470219.5 miles to go. We packed up our things one last time and headed out. I’m not going to lie, for being under 20 miles it was still rough. Everything hurt. GVP kept me motivated with his positive attitude though and we finally made it to the ferry to Old San Juan. We wheeled aboard and were at the Ritz one annoyingly long cab ride later (it’s way too dangerous to bike from Old San Juan to the hotel).

I have never had such a glorious shower.

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GVP’s things are Chicago bound!

Then it was down to business: making cocktails and packing up the bikes. GVP would take his home in his suitcase. My brand new Schwinn had started to rust so I was shipping that sucker right back to where it came from. We ordered two large pizzas, which we devoured and subsequently felt sick. No regrets though. Isn’t the first time I’ve done it and probably won’t be the last.

GVP realized his flight was cancelled due to a blizzard in DC so he dealt with that (two day layover with ME in Chicago! So much for him never going there in the winter!).

Because GVP is fun to bike with, that’s why I love riding my bike.

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Arachnophobia Anyone?

We decided to treat ourselves by sleeping in until 7AM. After all, we only had 22.3 miles to bike that day.

However, we couldn’t leave the campsite until we had a good ol’ fashion photo shoot. This place was by far the weirdest place we stayed. There was a playground off the beach that had cement dinosaurs, farm animals, a blonde wonder woman, a giant hand, and more. How did kids play on this and not get hurt? In the U.S. it would definitely be a lawsuit.

Even though it was only 22.3 miles, it was still a hard day. I should have built in another rest day but I hadn’t so we pedaled on. The waves on the north shore were the biggest we’d seen after Culebra. I also saw the grossest bathroom to date that day. Desperate times though.

IMG_0160We stopped for lunch at this huge restaurant and had the best fish tacos of my life. Then there was a minor panic as we thought I’d lost GVP’s wallet. He’d given it to me that morning to hold and it was nowhere in my backpack. I searched my panniers. Nothing. After a few minutes of him assuring me he wasn’t mad (I wouldn’t have blamed him if he was and I’m sure he had to have been, at least a little), I FOUND IT! It was in my backpack in this little zippered part I normally don’t use; I put it there so I would remember where it was. Ridiculous.

It was of course another beautiful day. We stopped at a bakery for dinner and then headed to Cambalache State Forest where we were spending the night. I’d applied for a permit ahead of time as required and while they cashed my check, they never sent me the permit. I printed off a copy of the cashed check as proof and we headed to the office. Of course no one was there. Who works on a weekday at 3:30? After rolling my eyes so hard I thought I’d pass out, we wheeled our bikes a mile into the forest and set up camp under the picnic shelter in the camping area.

It all started out so great. We were there early. There weren’t many mosquitos. One of the bathrooms was unlocked. There was a shower house! What could go wrong? GVP went to check out the shower house. It was creepy, twists and turns around cement walls to get to the spigot with a drain below it. Then he looked up. In the rafters were tons of HUGE spider carcasses! We’re talking 4-5 inch long legs here people! Needless to say, we did not shower that night.

We only saw a couple of dead bodies in the rafters of the picnic shelter. We carefully zipped up our bags and didn’t leave anything out, just in case one had made it through the fumigation. We decided we would leave early so we could be out of the woods by daylight.

There I was sleeping when a quiet noise woke me up. I didn’t know what it was so I turned on my flashlight and looked outside the tent. There on our tarp was a spider. Please note that this spider was so big that it walking on our tarp WOKE ME UP. I woke up GVP who said it was fine. He wouldn’t be so calm when he had a close encounter in the morning! Let’s just say when he was untying the tent our friend was there waiting. GVP poked it with a stick to encourage it to move and it SWATTED AT THE STICK! We were out of there real quick after that, before it could get its friends together for an attack.

Because you don’t always know where you’ll end up, that’s why I love riding my bike.