Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Comment Moderation ...

Not because of anything my readers have done, but because I've been getting increasing amounts of blogspam disguised as Chinese, I've enabled full comment moderation. All this really means is there will once again be a slight delay between when you make a comment, and when it shows up on the blog itself. Hopefully the jokers leaving spam hither and yon will find someone to both. For those of you who have blogs and get comments in Chinese, or other languages, you might be surprised what you find if you translate them. There is also a rise in the number of badly worded messages of hop and support that have a string of periods after them? Well those are spam as well. The periods contain embedded links to spam and worse, so I'm just going to start deleting those out of hand.

May be incorrect on my part to assume that if you can read what I've written, and understand it, you should be able to reply in kind without embedded links to porn site. Not that I have anything against porn between consenting adults, but it just isn't something I'm into and certain not why, after almost seven years, this blog is still here.

Wow, almost seven years. Hard to believe. So, hopefully only the spammers will be offended by this move and wander off and not any of you.

Thank you all for being patient with me!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Unbelievable ...

So I'm writing another post and the phone rings. For some reason I thought it was Jill, but instead it was my sister-in-law. It's Sunday here, the weekend is streaming along and I'm recovering nicely from my first ride in years. It's been good and quiet, albeit raining today. So of course I wasn't at all expecting the call I got. Just so that we're on the right page, it's Sunday and via e-mail I'd talked to Ellie several times Friday and yesterday. I was completely unprepared for yet another plea from her for money. She had a bill due tomorrow that she's apparently been ... ignoring? So of course, last possible minute she's trying to beg, borrow or whatever the money to pay it before she gets in trouble and loses things. Two years in June I'll be living here, and yet she still calls me at least once a month trying to borrow money from me because she's borrowed from everyone else. I don't understand it. Frankly I have no idea how it is she's not been confined yet, been appointed a case worker who manages her money for her to protect other people and herself from herself. She has if anything LESS bills than she did, and yet she's unwilling to, or incapable of, trying to stick to a budget. Here I and so many other people are working hard to survive and get things done, and she's not even trying?

Me, I've been stressing and saving, and working the numbers and putting things on hold so that I could start riding again. In part because I know I want to and miss it, which means I'm working on taking back things that were taken away from me, and in part because I know if I don't take care of my health, I'm going to lose it. So while the bike was an investment in my satisfaction and happiness, it was really more important in terms of health which is why after thinking about it for more than a year, I finally did something about it.

I just don't get it. I really don't. So now I'm going to get back to the post I'd already started... No real point to this I guess other than expressing my frustration and confusion. I know, I shouldn't allow myself to be put into this kind of position, and I should tell her, in the gentlest way I can, not to ask anymore. Then again, you'd think that the fact I don't have anything to lend her would have sunk in? I've not loaned her money in more than two years that I can think of because I don't have it, but she keeps asking? How does that work?

Sometimes I get carried away ...

or should be?

Yesterday started all wrong. I was startled, actually shaken out of bed by the joker upstairs turning up the music so loud I thought the building was under attack, or that a train was derailing and about to destroy the building. I wish I was kidding. That was noon, I'd only made it to bed at 6, so I'd not had anything like enough sleep yet. But after I got over th shock of being rudely awaked and having to deal with said neighbor who claimed he could do whatever he wanted and I could go to hell, I worked on getting my day started.

Which was when I KNEW! I was all a twitter with excitement. My new bike was not only in, but was ready and waiting for me to pick it up. I was certain of it. So I called my LBS to confirm. Sure enough they'd just put it together and were going to give me a call when I called them. Huzzah! Now it's one of those things you're just going to have to take on faith. I just know things sometimes in spite of having no possible way of knowing. I chalk it up to intution, folks around me call it magic. Either way, it works.

It also solved nicely for me the problem I was having with the scheduled pick up day of the seventh. Despite being almost two weeks away, I knew the seventh wasn't going to work cause it would mean I'd get my new bike wet before I could even ride it, and that had me annoyed. Again, I just know things. I was frustrated because if I waited till the seventh, she'd get wet riding home on the outside of the car and I wouldn't get to ride her. It was going to rain on the seventh and be a crappy day, I just knew it.

Saturday however was PERFECT. Then there was the issue of making sure I had enough to pick her up and still not have to touch my reserve until payday. When it dawned on me, that my credit card would be fine. Again, no way to know that since I'd only just checked my account and there wasn't enough room there. Except they'd increased the limit on Friday the day after I checked it. So of course when I checked again, more than enough room, and yes, somehow I knew before I checked. Lots of knowing going on I know, but the force has always been strong in me, these days it's getting stronger. I don't know why, but my intuition has grown in leaps and bounds over the last couple of years.

So I got dressed, hoped in the jumper and headed over to the LBS totally giddy with excitement! It was a perfect day, early enough to make it to the park for a shakedown, perfect weather oh I was so about to get high! Every bit the junky craving her next hit, her next high, I knew I was going to be flying soon!

Some people take to drink, others drugs, still others risk taking whatever the drug of choice is for them. For me it's biking. It's that confluence of sensation, effort, movement and more that gets me into "the zone" as it's called and tripping. Time and space vanish as for an unending moment in time I'm transported to this nearly perfect state. And I wanted it again. I missed it, needed it. Craved it like the addict I am. It had only been made worse by the taste I'd been given a few days before. Yes, again magic I know, but it worked for me.

So I'm at the LBS, and there she is sitting on the floor waiting for me. I got closer and I really started to burn with joy. If you've been with me on this little adventure I was fraught for a time with the decision of what color to get. Purple stripe, or Black stripe. I settled on black because black goes with everything and it would draw a lot less attention to the bike. But I really stressed about color. And then there she was:

You can see on the right how lucky I got? Yeah, bike is black, but the striping is purple. Oh my, she is so pretty! The rest of the stripes on the frame are purple as well. Turns out she's a really good looking ride because it's subtle, gloss black with a liberal splash of purple in long, clean lines. As it turns out MORE noticeable than purple stripe which would have been gloss purple with black stripes. So after finishing the paperwork, loading the extra stand I go for the house to hold her out of the way inside, I carefully mounted the bike rack to Jumper one, and then placed my new baby on the rack, ready to head off to Winton Woods Park for a shakedown cruise. I was moments away from finally being on a bike again! Made my way to Winton, parked, took Serenity off the rack and set about my first lap around the lake.

It was an utter embarrassment. Epic failure the like of which they might even write songs about. How bad? I pushed, huffing, puffing, and fighting my way up the hills trying to figure out the gearing, rolling down the hills not going too fast for fear of problems. Long on the brakes, short on the flying. I'd forgotten to bring the album with me that I wanted to listen to on the first ride, forgotten to turn on the tracking system that would give me metrics on speed, course, distance, elevation and put it all on a nice neat Google map. And then, at the end of the first tortured lap, I pulled to the side to turn the tracking software on, put down my foot to stand up and promptly fell over. Yup, leg came out from under me like it was made of latex.

Sure, I'd have the strength to make it the almost two miles around the lake, but my legs while stronger than I had hoped after so many years of neglect had no tone to them whatsoever. "Wait, you want me to push you and the bike two miles up and down hills and them remember how to stand up? What are you smoking woman?" So down I went, Serenity still between my legs, and hard. So much so that the frame smacked the inside of my thigh right above the knee with enough force to leave a massive ugly bruise like someone had hit me with a bat.

Thankfully I know how to fall correctly so the only real damage was the bruise on my thigh and a little scraped skin near my elbow. It could have been so much worse.

And of course I lay there on the ground like a loon laughing! Finally I composed myself, got my legs untangled from Serenity, stood up, picked her up and put down the kickstand and brushed myself off. Took out the magical little phone in my pocket and turned on the tracking system, mounted up and started on my second, first lap this time tracking it for posterity. Thinking to myself that when next I stopped, to be more careful about standing up mindfully and started around the lake.

Didn't make a complete lap before I stopped again, my insulted muscles complaining about the continuing abuse. After all brand new ride, new gearing system I'd never used before, new push button shifts I didn't know HOW to use correctly yet, and the seat too low all conspired to leave me in pain and out of energy going up another of the hills. SO I stopped and sat down, for a while. Lovely bench over looking the lake, perfect weather, early enough in the day to be able to manage my goal of three laps on the record.

So I sat for a bit and let my body recover some. Finished that hill by walking up, mounted up and started riding again. Made the rest of that first lap without incident thankfully and then stopped at the same bench to recover some.  The shot above left is Serenity waiting patiently for me to myself together enough to continue on.  Finished a second lap, and then a third on the record which was my goal for the first ride, and noticed some problems I'd have to watch the next time I rode to see if she needed serious attention.

Now I promised everyone that I'd take it easy on my first ride, that I'd limit myself to three laps which would be five miles.  What I'd not taken into consideration was the fact that with three laps on the record, riding to and from the parking lot, and that first unrecorded lap, it came out to seven miles.  Oops, I got carried away.  Plus to make matters worse I was going to work me way around the lake like I usually do, which makes the grades harder. So note to self to take the ride counter clockwise next time, and go a bit easier on myself, sticking to my plan of five miles.

All in all, still a blessed day that started out all wrong.  It's now two weeks to the day since I picked her up and I'm finally finishing this post.  The nasty bruise on the inside of my thigh is now just a ring of purple the size of a small pancake and it should be gone in another few days.  Since then I've been out a number of times, have put a total of 24 miles behind me and am having a wonderful time.  But more about that in another post.  I have another I need to get out today and wanted to finish this one first.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Sometimes I surprise myself . . .

Over the span of years, I've studied a great many things. Eastern arts have been high on the list of things I gravitate towards. Meditation is part of my daily life, as is Reiki. Reiki is an Eastern healing art/science that can and does provide serious, measurable results. Which is probably why more and more doctors and hospitals are retaining, and even training, Reiki practitioners. Reiki is also a wonderful course of study to be undertaken for anyone on their own healing journey.

I am a Reiki practitioner, and credit it in part with my survival and growth after unspeakable, horrific trauma and abuse.

Used regularly both Reiki and Meditation can become as natural and expected as breathing, and provide surprising benefits. It has been known for sometime that advanced meditation can connect one with their higher self, and even with other planes of existence. This is long documented fact and I shall not endeavor to reproduce the wealth of study data here as it's not relevant. Be it enough said that I've been meditating for most of my life, so I've developed a certain comfortable facility.

Reiki is something newer to my life, but no less significant or powerful a modality. I'd been interested for a while, but it was only when I'd realized I really needed to do this for my own healing journey and survival that I did something about it. I first started serious study of Reiki in 2006 and reached Master/Teacher level in 2007 for the first time. Since then I've continued to grow and study, and have been certified as Master Teacher in two different disciplines by two different Masters in three different lineages. My goal eventually, as time and money permit to add one more Master/Teacher certification to that. Then I'll have triple lineage and have grown enough perhaps to seriously consider opening my own practice.

One of the things that is learned in the Reiki II course (or level) is the distance symbol and it's use and application. In Reiki I, one is usually taught how to "beam" or project Reiki across the room. The distance symbol/practice dramatically extends that range. In fact it is almost ironic it is called the distance symbol, because in effect it removes any and all distance between practitioner and subject. Space and time become irrelevant, one can send Reiki to, or receive Reiki from anywhere, or anywhen.

When coupled together, advanced Reiki and Meditation is very much like time travel. Now, before you go thinking she's finally gone right around the bend give me a moment to explain. First of all, while I ascribe to a lesson, a precept a Sensei of mine taught me years ago, I have achieved a certain level of comfort and adeptness with both Reiki and Meditation enough to forward my experiences some. Back then Sensei suggested that I meditate upon my own place in the universe to try and find out just who I am and what I really know for certain. What I learned was interesting, the short version, which pleased Sensei very much was that I am no one and I know nothing. Which isn't nearly as horrible as it sounds. It is an invitation to the universe to fill me with light, love, purpose and gifts of abundance. It is also not always as easy to be as it sounds. Simply stated, it is a way to help balance what Freud referred to as the trinity of self. Id, ego and super ego. While many forms of Eastern thought advocate a complete surrender of the the ego, and the ensuing loss of self in the process, that is a road, a path I've walked far more often than I'd like. Almost always with disastrous results. However I digress. My point simply is this: I have learned and practiced enough that I can realized real, tangible benefits for direct, or even indirect intent.

Many in the mystical community often recite, as if a mantra, that energy follows intent. I wonder at times however if they really understand that at a deep and personal level? I know until yesterday I didn't really appreciate it nearly as much as I do now. For as much as it is about will power, or the ego, the self, directing thought and thus energy toward something or someone, what about when it really clicks? When you have an "ah ha" and "oh my" moment all in one for no other reason than you where trying to imagine something and make a point to savor it when you get there? Kind of a mental note to self to do something at a future point? You with me so far?

Okay, if you're still here, with Reiki you can initiate a connection to send healing energy to anywhere at any time, distance is not an object. With Meditation you endeavor to connect with your higher self. By melding the two, you can share thoughts, feelings, and experiences with any of your past or future selves. Surprisingly easily. Thankfully because Reiki will let you do no harm, and because time heals all wounds, one does not need to have an advanced degree in temporal mechanics to safely navigate the multiverse. The American Monk, Burt Goldman would, and does, refer to this as Quantum Jumping. For an 80 plus Monk, he's one really smart guy. For the technically minded, I'm simply modulating a Reiki carrier with additional information. Not unlike in radio where a carrier wave is modulated to send signals that can be understood on the other end. Frankly it's pretty cool!

Now I'm a sensualist near as I can tell. This simply means that how something, or someone feels, is at least as important to me as any specific details. I'm also naturally highly empathic, and highly intuitive. This makes for a powerful combination, and in some people, can lead to addiction, substance abuse, and death. Thankfully (I think) for me, I'm a reality junky. So I've never been tempted toward mind altering substances or recreational drug or drink use. Put me in the middle of a field of flowers beside a river on a perfect day, and I'm higher than a kite. Really. I'll get the whole doped up look to me and I'll have paying any attention to anything else. Then again, that's actually a type of meditation called mindfulness.

Okay, wow, this is getting deeper than I'd planned it. So lets just boil it down some for a moment shall we? I'm a sensation junky, and even my imagination can be more real, and tactile than many peoples day to day lives because everything is important. How it feels, how it move me, how it touches me and stirs my soul are often more important than little details.

So yesterday started off hard. My mood was way down, and I was even experiencing something like withdrawal. For what? A good bike ride. Yes, I'm serious. As I've mentioned in previous posts, I get into what some people might call "the zone" while I'm mounted up and moving out. Again, flying through the countryside on my bike on a perfect day, and yeah, high as a kite. So as regular readers will know, I've been working up to getting back on a bike, and this has been a long, building process for me.

Anyway, as I was writing my long reply to a comment on my previous post, I made a mental note to myself to remember and really savor one of those days where I was flying along in a perfect day enjoying being in the moment. Which was all it took. Suddenly I was there, in the moment, flying along, soaking up every bit of the yummy goodness that was the wind in my hair, on my skin, the slight burn in my muscles from going counter clockwise around Shaker Trace and having crested the hill. My heart, soul, mind and body on fire with sensation, the wind, the hum of the tires, the vibration, the corn crowing in the fields I was passing, the voices of the birds in my ears, everything. For a few blissful, blessed moments I was there. I was no longer at my desk penning my comments but I was on the west side of Shaker Trace Trail in Miami White Water Park, lost in that one perfect moment.

And the me then was laughing, high as a kite, and thrilled to be sharing that moment with me as I sit here on pins and needles waiting for the day I can pickup Serenity from the shop. In fact, exactly two weeks from today I'll be at the shop picking her up. In fact, two weeks from this moment in time I'll be finishing my last lap (weather permitting) for the day at Winton Woods. So there I was, on Serenity, flying through the countryside, high as a kite sharing that moment we I/we/she wondered about the future.

Talk about being blown away.

From Shaker Trace Trail a few months from now, to Conzelman Road in the Marin Headlands on the way to the Golden Gate Bridge. Yes, California! There I was, hunkered down to streamline my wind profile and the equivalent of a racing tuck, flying down Conzelman. Another perfect day, the air was clear, clean and smelling of the bay, San Fransisco there in the distance, and the sun starting it's gentle glide into the vastness of the pacific ocean at the end of another perfect day. Again, I was higher than a kite flying along on the road this time, not a trail, and so happy I was drunk with the pleasure and richness of that moment. It was a moment from a few years into the future, when I was half the woman I am now, and yet, all at once, way, way more than I am now. I was stronger, healthier, more confident and felt a level of safety and security that I've not tasted in more than a decade. I looked and felt amazing, and this trip was almost two decades in the making. This moment. Something I'd wanted since I was there with Earl, and so much more. The me then, while she is in no way the woman I was in my life before Earl, she's somehow better, stronger, faster.

And She/I/We knew then, and know now, that we're going to get there, that we made it. And when I do, I'm going to be looking back in wonder. She is even now looking back in wonder. Because she is still no one and knows nothing, but she's come a long, long way from being broken and dead, semi catatonic on the floor of her prison cell in New England. Sure, her heart. mind, body and soul are littered with the scars of her life, but she's stronger, healthier, amazing to me right now. She gives me a level, a taste, of hope I've not known in ... well, really ever. She is so there, taking her month long tour of California. She was going to watch the sunset from the bridge, make her way back to the car, and then head to the Fog City Diner for dinner for old times sake. The day before she'd already rode across the new Bay Bridge and back, and then finished off the day with dinner at the Stinking Rose.

She/I/We have come a long way to go.

Friday, March 19, 2010

An amazing day in so many ways.

It's 02:06 right now, and I'm going to try to keep this uncharacteristically short. Because I need to get to bed soon and if I start seriously writing now, I'll be up for hours.

Today was the end of a process that started a while back and has been growing on me. I bought a bike. This one in fact:
It's a Specialized Women's Myka Hardtail in black. But I'll get back to that later. Right now, like I say, I'd like to keep this short.

So, on the morrow I'll talk about why today was so awesome aside from just actually investing in a decent bike for a change. I'll talk about old flames, new freedom, the surprise of passion and the memories of an old family friend who with a single act of thoughtless kindness, started setting the wheels of healing and freedom turning. I'll also mention a bunch of newer friends who've had everybit as much to do with this today as Sid did. So, now that I've left myself a trail of mnemonic bread crumbs to follow I'll say thanks Sid, where ever you are, and thanks to each and everyone of you who have touched my life with kindness and light for no other reason than that's the kind of people you are! Thank you all, and goodnight!

[More after the break...]

So, to put this in some kind of focus, I'm going to dampen my enthusiasm for a moment to take a short trip in the way back machine. Short because it's something that happened "recently" as in this lifetime recently. I was, regrettably, an abused child. Based on other things I've written this should come as no surprise. My first ever experience with a bike of any kind was at my grandparents house in Jersey and lets just say that wasn't well received. In fact everyone thought it was a singularly bad idea as I stood there in the yard, my knee destroyed and a trail of blood leading two blocks away where my need and the curb came into shall we say close contact?

I'd been bad, after being specifically told that I didn't know how to ride a bike and I'd get hurt, I borrowed one from one of the neighborhood kids and had done grand. Right up until I tried to walk the bike back onto the side walk and opened up my knee. Badly. A year later that trail of blood was still a vivid reminder of just how badly things went. I was maybe 9 or 10? It was a bike in retrospect I shouldn't have been able to ride? But I did, and had a wonderful time. I'd gotten a taste and I wanted more!

I was banned from bikes from that point on, and my father swore hell would freeze before I'd EVER be allowed near a bike. Well, some years later, after my father had BOUGHT my younger sister a bike when SHE was eleven or so, a family friend asked me why I wasn't out riding my bike. My father proceeded to explode as he did so often when I simply said I didn't have one, and knowing the storm coming, excused myself to my room. My father made, as was his want, something of an arse of himself going on about me being a danger to myself and others and how hell would have to freeze first.

A few days later hell froze up solid for the first of many times in my young life. That family friend, a wonderful man with a collection of old Checker cabs showed up at my house and asked to speak to me. Explaining simply that no child should be deprived of a bike, opened the door to his enormous car and said this is for you. May not be shiny and new like your sisters, but it works, and if you treat it well it will keep working. Like his fleet of retired Checker Cabs, it was old, dirty, nothing shiny about it at all. And I was in love the moment I saw it. My father started to explode and Sid shut him down right then and there. He in effect embarrassed my father into not only allowing me to have a bike, but to ride it too!

It was as if the Valkyries had forced open the gates of hell and rode off straight out of hell with me beside them. Not that I was a speed demo, for verily it had nothing to do with speed and everything to do with freedom. With most young people it's the first car and a drivers license. For me, it was then beat up old ten speed. So much so that when most of my contemporaries where worrying cars and driving privileges, I was out exploring the world around me, free and easy on the back of my old beater. So much so that I didn't even bother getting a drivers license or a car until I was in my twenties. That old beater took me everywhere, and far further than "normal" people my age in those days would even thing to go. Within a very, very short time my bike was taking me not only into town, to the library, but into other states. I rode everywhere. I rode to school instead of taking the bus, I even ventured to the roller ring the next state over (it was just over 25 miles from my house) to go skating. That bike and I were inseparable. And I was in amazing shape.

Riding was for me a passion like cars were for most kids. It was escape, safety, FREEDOM, the wind in my hair, the ability to go anywhere I wanted so long as I was willing to ride there and back. It was exploring, and getting away from my Dad. It was being able to spend as much time in the library as I wanted, and even more than one library. I wasn't just passionate about riding, I was a bit crazy according to some. But at a time in my life when I needed something to help me survive and grow, a bike was it. I imprinted on biking the way some people imprint on a parent. In fact I strongly suspect that my Dad hadn't really gotten, even then, the gratification he so craved out of throwing me out of the house when I was 17. He said don't let the door hit you on the way out, and I grabbed what I could carry on the bike and never looked back. Most kids freak out, hide in the neighborhood, and go groveling back to the parent a little while later.

I got on my bike, rode off without looking back and never spoke to my parents again. My Dad because I was so done with him, and my Mom, because she died a year later. I set out the day he threw me out to prove to him just how wrong he was, and did so in spades. So much so that while I didn't get a license or car until years later, I had my own apartment long before anyone I went to high school with. Kinda had to what with being homeless and all that. Which is not to say it was easy, nor did it happen instantly. In fact I spent a winter living under a tree behind a funeral home. But my bike was there with me the entire time. It got me back and forth to school and work and everywhere.

It took me to places I otherwise might never have come, and I didn't have to worry about gas money. In fact my first trip to Boston all by myself was on my bike. At the time I was living in New York. Distance never really made4 and impression on me, because if I wanted to invest the time in the trip, then I could go there. Why Boston? Because we'd been there on a class trip in seventh grade and I wanted to go back. So off to Boston I went. I rode in the dark, in the rain, in the snow, there wasn't anyplace I couldn't go. And I was in amazing shape. I would ride to hide from me problems, to escape my pain, to not think about things.

So I did an amazing amount of riding. I didn't race, because I was about as competitive as a beaten puppy. I didn't go off road because there were so many roads and places to go. I didn't train, didn't set goals in terms of distance, in fact I had a wholly un-realistic relationship with distance. I could and did go everywhere and anywhere. In fact when I was still living at home, and my Dad got pissed off at the chess games a friend and I would play over the phone, I didn't think about it, just got on my bike and road to his house. He on the other hand was stunned when I showed up at his door with my bike. Why? Because our houses were seven miles apart. Took just under half an hour for me to get there.

I loved my bike. I loved riding. I was in astonishing physical shape. While I didn't race, it didn't stop me from hauling arse and covering an amazing amount of distance in equally amazing amounts of time. I even got pulled over by a sheriff's deputy at one point for speeding. He claims I was doing 38 in a 20 mph zone. I didn't have a bike computer, or the fancy phone I do now (heck, cell phones hadn't been invented yet.) but I did have a well loved bike and I was in a racing tuck, going down hill at full tilt. In later years I found that yes, doing that could attain very high rates of speed, but for me it was like flying. And I could get to impossible places way faster than anyone could wrap their mind around.

So, that started my love affair with bikes.

And then life got in the way, and I finally got a car, and then Earl wouldn't let me ride, and there was no angels around to shame him into letting me ride. Life marched on, and because I'd not learned anything from my own past, I didn't get back on a bike until after Earl left me. I wasn't allowed to have a bike, much less think about riding one. In fact it was somehow a delicious bit of irony that the bike I did get on after Earl left me was his. Yes, HE was allowed to have one, one his father had bought for him, and a car carrier, that he never road. I couldn't get Earl out of the house to save his life. Out in nature walking, or riding? Yes, he'd go to the beach and lay there. Walk along the lake on the way to or from our room in Meridith. But actually go out walking? Earl? Biking? Never. We were so mismatched when we went to San Fransisco that one time. I wanted to explore, walk, enjoy, and the most I go from him was shopping along the Embracadero, A brief stop on top of Mount Tam, and a little bit of walking in Monterey and Santa Cruz. A couple of brief picture stops on the PCH, but really walk around? Rent bikes and cycle? Hell no. Don't even suggest it. Closest we got when we were together was renting one of those pedal powered touring cars in Monterey. You know, the bicycle built for two that you drove like a car. Even then he wasn't really into it, and those things weigh a ton.

So, it was with some irony that I didn't even realize at the time that when he left me, first thing I did was got on HIS bike and started riding around the area we lived. And again, miles for the little while I was still there. When I then had to flee to Jersey, the bike went into the storage locker and I forgot about it for a while. It come out for a little while, and I rode a little, and regrettably when I left Jersey, it was left behind my sister-in-laws house. When the foreclosure went through, it got loaded into a truck and taken with the rest of the stuff from the house. The carrier still on the back of my car.

So, on the seventh, when I go to pick up my new ride, it will be coming home on that carrier that's in the trunk of my car until I can build the new one I have planned.

This time when I get back on that bike, MY new bike, I'm not going to let it go again so easily. Because this time I'll be embracing a newly awoken passion long gone from my life, and instead of riding away FROM something, I'll be riding TO something. To many somethings. That freedom, that joy, that zone that more than once helped save my heart, mind, body and soul. I'll also be ridding back to that body I used to have. Very few things burn calories like riding a bike does. Plus I'll feel safer in the parks on a bike because on a bike I can easily get away from someone on foot. Bikers I'm not going to worry about, cause we're different kind of folks.

I'm going to start out simple, take it easy, in fact I'm going to star with a park I already feel safe in, because I've been walking there. While walking there I'm constantly being lapped by riders who are flashing past my with a whir as they move round the lake. Soon I'll not be watching with longing, I'll be whirring along myself. And on the first brand new, serious bike I've ever owned. From there I'll work my way up to more laps, better shape, longer distances, and then, well then there's a lotta sky out there. I've already been looking at what's available to be both in terms of parks, rail-trails and even some beginners single track with an eye toward trying that. My friend Laura loves it, so I figure it can't kill me to cautiously explore it. But it's one of those things that I really get about Laura, her love for her bike, and getting out on it.

Of course the rest of my friends are getting what they wished for. I'm going to be getting out of the house a whole bunch more. I have every intension of spending most of the spring, summer and fall in the saddle. I've already got it figured out in my head. Cooler with provisions and grill in the trunk, bike on the rack, a short drive to someplace to ride, and then the day doing that. Ride a bunch of miles, head back to the jumper, break out the gear, grill up a veggie burger and backed potato with a light salad. Take out a book and read for a bit to let the food settle some, then hop back on my ride and head out for some more fun with the MP3 player cranking out some tunes. I already know what I'm going to spin up for my first ride.

So, back to the day that was amazing in so many ways? Why was is so amazing? Because it marked being out of the house more often and longer than I'd been in a long time, following a period of days that involved actually getting out, shopping, talking to complete strangers and for once bing more interested in the answers they could give me than the possibility of them hurting me. Because I spent, at a time in my life when I can barely afford to pay attention, hundreds of dollars on what many might consider a luxury item without even thinking about it. No, that's not totally accurate. I'd been thinking about it for a while. Months in fact the pressure to ride has been building. The NEED to ride building. So today was as if a damn had burst. The research, hard work and ruminations paying off as I not so calmly walked in to the Bike Shop I'd chosen and said to Rob "Your mission today first and foremost is NOT to let me leave here without leaving a bunch of money behind. Do not let me walk out of here without spending money on a new ride. Okay?" He smiled and said I think we can do that.

I knew what I wanted, having had him spend an hour with me previously answering my questions and trying out sizes of frames. In thinking about it I felt the frame he'd had me on was a bit too big, so we went through it again, and I'm glad we did. It was too big. Sure I could have made it work and gotten used to it, but why should I have to if I'm buying something new. Plus I'd done more reading and thinking, and a few more inches of clearance just made good sense. So those and other questions answered it came down to timing and money. I picked that day because they were having a sale that would shave a sizable amount of the price and put together the money for it. However, one of the things I had to chose was instant gratification, or a little bit more patience. For whatever odd reason the chain (it's five stores) only stocked ONE color of my new ride, and NOT the one I wanted. Which meant either paying more to have it shipped to them to build so I could have it sooner, or waiting a bit longer since they were anticipating having to reorder from Specialized after this sale, and thus not have to deal with shipping just my bike. I said sure, I've waited this long, a week or two more will not make that big a difference, especially if it means not paying extra for shipping.

So I scheduled to pick her up on April seventh. All shiny and new. Gave Rob my credit card and said okay, take some money away from me now please. And one two three I walked out of there with a receipt for my new bike and the other accessories I bought from them, got in the car, and set off to explore another area park that has one trail that is almost eight miles long. Not only way I out shopping, and spent hundreds of dollar that could possibly have been better spent on saving to get the rest of the stuff in the locker out here, but I intentionally went to someplace I'd never been before to do some exploring. Some pictures from there are on my Flickr site if you wish to see them. While there are I actually approached a complete stranger to ask him (yes, a guy no less) some questions about his bike rack. Mainly because it was similar in concept to what I'd been drawing up in my head.

You see I have a trailer hitch on the jumper. And I've been planning on getting a cargo basket to help make cleaning out the storage locker easier. That is going to set me back a couple hundred dollars. Now of course with the new bike coming, and my need to take it around with me to the places I'm going to go riding, I want something good to safely transport the bike. Yes, I have a trunk mount, but it just straps onto the car and the bike then hangs from it. Less than ideal, and not very secure. Yes, I can and shall temporarily run a locking cable between the bike, frame of the trunk mount, and down to the hitch which is mounted to the car. But long term I want something more supportive and secure. My friend Laura has what I consider and ideal bike rack that it hitch mounted and really supports her bike. When I started looking at those however it dawned on me that it was, in essence a hitch mounted cargo basket specifically for bikes.

So the wheels started turning. Spend a couple hundred on a cargo basket, then several hundred more on something else that plugs into the hitch and have to swap them out? For the most part I'll be moving the bike way more than cargo. But I couldn't figure out why I couldn't simply bolt something onto the cargo basket when I wanted to use the bike, and take it off to move cargo? having a background in engineering didn't help, as I started designing an affordable custom made solution on the drawing board in my head. [The question isn't "Did she just say she has a drawing board in her head?" No, that's not it at all. The question is "You don't?" LOL]

So of course having this churning in my head, to watch this guy and his bike pull in with part of my idea already built and in use, I simply HAD to ask him about it. Turns out a friend of his whipped it together in his shop and he's been using it ever since. It works great. And it's bolted onto his hitch mounted cargo basket. When he need to move cargo, four bolts and the pieces come off and it's a regular basket again. Otherwise it holds his bike upright and steady without it dangling from a couple of bars hanging off the trunk. He also gave my information about the trails there, which direction had easier grades, or faster speed, and about how long it takes him to get around. When he wants it easier, he travels clockwise, when he wants it harder, counter clockwise and it takes him about 40 minutes. Which given all the available data means he's taking it easy in terms of a workout in general. Then too, he doesn't have any weight to lose, or shape to worry about getting in.

So I'm going to start easy at Winton Woods. Get to the point where I can fairly effortlessly make five or six loops and then head over to Miami Whitewater Forest. I'll start with a few loops of the shorter inner trail, and then take on the 8 mile trail. My goal then is to get to the point of being able to lap that trail three times in 90 minutes. That's still not really pushing it compared to what I used to do, but good enough for the season, and certainly good enough to reach my other goal for this season. Dropping two dress sizes. Given my history, this is a nice realistic goal for the next six months. By then I'll be able to afford an indoor training mount, and keep riding all winter long. By this time next year, my evil plan is to have lost more than two dress sizes and out of the extra large range. Actually depending on the cut I'm currently either extra, or extra, extra large and I don't really like that much. Plus there's stuff I'd look wonderful in that doesn't come extra large. I need to fix that!

So, I'm making plans, getting out of the house, taking better care of myself and even putting a new project now instead of funneling it all into saving to finish an existing project. Nothing short of astonishing for me. So, an amazing day in so many ways. Hopefully by now I've not bored you into a coma!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Good days do come too . . .

I know it's been a while since I've posted, but I like to follow, when I can, the maxim: "Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than open you mouth and convince everyone."

That and sometimes I just don't have anything all that amazing to share. While I don't think what I'm about to share is all that amazing, it makes a nice counter point to my recent post on "A Mile in her shoes" talking about getting out more.

Despite that Friday being abysmal for me, Saturday the sixth came and I was a woman with a mission. Was was bound and determined I was going to drive 220 miles round trip to pick up a game piece in a game that has, at least on the surface, no intrinsic value. Thankfully Jumper one is really amazing when it comes to gas, and most of the 220 miles was highway driving. So I figured at an average of 36 miles to the gallon for the trip at 1.50 a gallon, it was worth the nine dollars in gas for me. Yes, really, a buck and a half a gallon. I have shopfu! The grocery store I was at has prices very close to the other big chains in the area, but I get fuel savings with every purchase that add up. So I never pay retail when I fill up the jumper.

Now, for a bit of background. My late husband and his whole family were golf fanatics. Apparently I wasn't taking it all that seriously because I thought the idea of chasing a little ball around in nature and not keeping score was just about perfect. Clean(ish) air, sunshine, the great out doors, take a long a picnic and it would be perfect. Why keep score, it just adds stress? Do it for the fun, the outdoors, the sunshine, the pure enjoyment and let someone else get all worked up over scores. Plus I never could see the point in winning a game by intentionally losing. You know the whole he who ends the round/game/match/whatever you call it with the lowest score wins thing. Earl and his family took a dim view of my view and claimed this was a serious game for adults and I wasn't giving it enough respect. Making matters worse my "short" game, even when I wasn't being serious, was a killer. The one time Earl and I played I creamed him even by getting stuck on one of the holes. I in effect pulled a "Tin Cup" and still beat him soundly. That didn't go over very well at all.

So anyway, in principle golf sounded nice. Explore new places I'd never been to and otherwise would have never gone to, and go out of the house and relax. Woot! Sounded ideal even if I was doing it wrong. So we didn't become a great golfing couple like his parents. Oh the horror. Quite by accident one day I came across the idea of geocaching and fell in love with the idea right then and there. Everything good about golf and more, without competing per say or even keeping score. Plus it isn't limited to just golf courses. All you need are either pretty good mapping and navigation skills, or a GPS. Having both is just a bonus.

Geocaching has taken me to places I'd never have otherwise gone to, met people I'd otherwise never had any reason to know, and given me hundreds of hours of relaxation walking around in nature looking for things that other people have hidden for me to find. Woot! I've even managed to get other unsuspecting folks into geocaching simply by enjoying it myself and having them along with me a time or two.

So, that said, because I've been caching now for a goodly number of years I have some history in the game. Tools of the game include being able to watch movements of special game pieces called travel bugs. These travel bugs move from cache to cache, leaving a record of where they have been and the people involved in the game. They can be watched, so that you can see where the bug has been and get notifications of it's movements.

Five years ago my sister and I found one such bug while she was out visiting. She was also very new to the game since I'd only just exposed her to it. Bugs appealed to her as well, and she decided she'd take a few back with her when she went home, giving the bugs some movement, and getting her to keep caching when she got home. The game also appealed to her because like me, she doesn't get out much, and the thought of staying in the game as a way to get out more made sense. Because I added the bugs she took out west to my watch list, I got to see how they made their way around after she released them. On of the bugs in particular we had history with recently showed up as being fairly close to me. At least close enough that it could be a one day trip.

So that was my plan. I'd get up, drive nearly 100 miles one way to find this "bug" hidden in a park by a river, and then head back. Wound up getting up much later than I'd planned, but that was due to getting to bed problems. Along with everything else I'm dealing with, sleep is problematic to say the least. So I'm chasing daylight as I'm heading north and west of here to go looking for the cache that has the bug I wanted. But I am out of the house, I am out, and going, somewhere.

Eventually I make it to my destination, Selma taking me effortlessly from the highway to within a few meters of the cache. Who is Selma you ask? Well Selma is the name I've given to my phone, which these days is so much more than a phone it defies simple objectification through a descriptive name. Yes, it is an excellent communications tool, allowing me to simply and easily converse via voice with anyone I choose. Or via email, or SMS, or Facebook, Twitter, Chat, Voice Chat, Video Chat or any number of nearly unlimited means of communications through this one device. It's also a nearly unlimited connection to everything on the internet too. It allows me to do nearly everything and anything my home computer does and some more. It will effortlessly guide me, in clear, crisp and very audible Queens English to places I wish to go simply by asking. Not through the flashing of indicators on the display, but actual spoken directions. If I'm in a mood, it will speak to me in other voices. Including (ack!) American English. It is more than a thing, more than a tool. At least for me it's more than that. It is the countless decades of millions of people working hard toward building a better hammer so to speak. It is generations of work, millions of live world over coming together in a spark of insight and function that is the realization of the claim that computers will one day make our lives easier and more productive. It is about the size of a credit card.

But it was that gentle, polished, Queens English that sparked in my head and heart a thought when I looked at it and said "Take me too 3500 Eastview Rd, Franklin, Ohio." Being my mother's daughter I couldn't help but add please to my request. And it all came together right there. Selma from "Time Trax." Back a number of years ago I enjoyed watching the TV show, and dramed of a day when I too could have a credit card sized computer and communications system like Captain Darien Lambert. The heck with Star Trek stuff, I wanted the whole thing. I wanted SELMA. Well given current technology this is much closer than I'd have ever dreamed of having readily available to me so soon. So, SELMA it is.

Anyway, Selma takes me from the highway to the nearest parking area to the cache, and I get to simply enjoy the drive and not have to look for road signs, or really get overly involved in where I'm going. I get to enjoy the scenery more. When and where it's time to turn, Selma lets me know. If I make a mistake she instantly recomputes the course and brings me back on track in no time flat. Once at my destination I switch to cache tracking and much like a Star Trek Tricorder gives me distance and bearing to my target with a satellite map view of my current location and the target overlaid on the screen. It's a simple matter then of walking the few meters from the Jumper to the cache site, unearthing the hidden cache, and collecting the travel bug I came here for.