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.


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.


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.



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.


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.