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!


Caroline said...

Darn, I have been following the blog with less bike stuff!

I shall have to read it through again but it touched so many nerves. I lived on my bike too, it was my only life before I left home. There is something that happens to the body when it is functioning on the bike which lets the mind run free and clear, something which I miss. I was not driven out like you but left a state of neglect, I did not conform to what they wanted, hoped for so I felt like an unwelcome guest who has overstayed their expected visit. My bike was an old wreck which my father bought for less than the equivalent of $1 and I had to figure out how to fix it myself which as it turned out was probably the only good thing he ever did for me. It only had 3 speed hub and weighed a ton like a lot of modern off road bikes but that just burns more calories per mile!

The roads were less crowded with traffic then and most drivers had ridden bikes and gave them some room, the roads are really scary here now and no one gives an inch so I only really like to ride off road so guess I should try and find some decent long rides. My biggest sacrifice was to take up with someone who hates bikes, that took a long time to decide and my waistline has never been the same since. I had started to get my legs working again on a stationary bike which I bought for my wife to recover after a leg operation long ago then i got called in to get a lump taken off my knee! just when I thought I was going to be ready when the spring finally arrived. My real reason is that I fear what may happen now that I am finally on hormone therapy and can't afford to buy any more clothes, don't want to be any bigger than already too big!

Looks a nice bike, hope you get back into being as one with the machine and the fitness returns. How we dreamed of having music in our ears on those long rides in the past.

Roll on the 7th.

Caroline xxx

Samantha Shanti said...

Oh Caroline, be careful what you wish for Luv, there's a good chance this blog is going to become very bike focused in the coming weeks and months. It'll be about biking, there will be talking of biking, places to go biking, places I've gone biking, and what I've seen and done while biking. Really, you'll tire of the biking!

Actually modern off road bikes way much less than you'd expect. My new beastie ways a whole bunch less than my old beater. Then again my new ride is a precision aircraft aluminum frame and has all the new light weight alloy stuff in her to make her light, strong and fast. Mind she's no high end carbon fiber bike, but she's still yar, and not one of those monstrous steel behemoths.

As to road issues, yeah, traffic scares the crap out of me too these days. Which is funny, because back in the day I used to draft semis on the highway. I only wish I was kidding.

Yeah, taking up with someone who hates bikes, I can so relate, Earl hated pretty much everything and anything I liked. Couldn't even get him to go out walking much less riding. Thanks be, I no longer have that problem in my life.

So as to the knee Luv. If you get a decent bike, that is fit to you properly, and take it easy, you'll actually be doing your knee a favor. Cadence, and leg extension are so important, as is riding within your limitations. Take it slow and easy, your knee will actually strengthen and heal, and over time you'll be able to do more.

I don't know what part of the UK you're in (you may have told me at one point but I forget things so easily) but there are places to ride that don't require traffic, parks and old reclaimed trail lines and the like make for some smashing easy going riding. There's also miles of beach and boardwalk riding you could do too. Take a day trip out to Brighton. Pack a lunch, and ride up and down the shore, Oh what I wouldn't give for a spot of that!

Plus there are websites like:


that you can look to for information about where to go riding. And, if you'd like, once I make them, I can send you some of the riding videos I'm going to be making this spring, summer and fall. You'll be able to sit on the stationary and go riding around place on this side of the pond for the hell of it. How twisted will that be? Just imagine, being there in your flat in the middle of winter, riding along the Ohio river in the summer?

Well riding will help speed your metabolism and keep weight off, and strengthen your knee even after having work done on it. Just remember to start slow, take it a bit at a time, and you'll be fine. Before you know it you'll be lean and trim again, and have amazing legs again.


Samantha Shanti said...

... continued ...

Ah, music. Yeah, all those years ago I so wanted to be able to take along something to listen to. Now, I have massive amounts of MP3 space in my phone, and it can stream stuff down from Pandora or Imeem with no commercials. I can, and soon shall, spend the whole day out on the trails, listening to entire albums worth of music as I ride along. Right now, I'm kind of envious of me. Cause I know she (that future me) is flying through farmland, woods, and along the banks of the river listening to music, having a great time. She's in the zone and enjoying it. But I'll get there . . .

Oh, wow, oh!!!

I was about to say that I'll get there and I'll think back to today and send myself (the me now) some of that amazing feeling. Which is when, like an orgasm, the waves of feeling from then, came and caught me now. Oh dear, I needed that. I was just saying to Laura I was in withdrawal and my new bike hadn;t even gotten here yet. And now as I write this, I'm flying down a hill through some farm country on a perfect day, savoring the wind in my hair and on my face, the humm of the tires beneath me, sitting back and letting gravity take me down the long hill heading back towards New Hope Road. Hot damn, that's rocking the joys of Reiki!

I know, that made no sense. Reiki is an ancient healing technique that allows one to send healing energy along through time and space, so that distance, be it physical, or temporal doesn't exist. With practice, one can send specific feelings, even thoughts as well as healing energy. It's a wonderful thing, and something I often forget I can do. But not right now. Wow, this is great, I'm really bilocating here... All at once riding in that park (it has an eight mile paved trail with only four road crossings, and they are slow, quiet country roads too.) and sitting here typing this note.

... continued ...

Samantha Shanti said...

... continued (last part) ...

Well that answers the question of getting one with the machine again. Yes my dear, that is just how it is not too far in the future. A bit further into the future, I'm liking who I'm seeing, the me then is lighter, both in weight and heart than I am now. I can feel it. Strange though it may sound I can sense time along a continumm, and this is a great direction I'm going in. Holy Hannah, I've not had a moment like this in a while. I'm a bit dizzy now and light headed from the rush.

I know you think me daft now, gone straight away round the bend, but really, this is bloody wonderful! Wow. This makes the waiting a good bit easier. Wow, yeah, another moment I just shared with myself, and this one I don't quite believe. I'm lighter (MUCH) and coming down the road from Mount Tam to the Golden Gate bridge as the sun is starting to sink into the ocean. Racing down, in a tuck, leaning into the curves doing 45kph down the hill to get to the bridge and ride across as the sun sets after a day of riding around Napa and the Marin headlands. Wow, check me out, I'm half the woman I am now. Lean, fit, strong not just physically, but mentally and emotionally with way more confidence and less fear than I have now. She's been out there for several weeks camping and biking around California. She's already been over the new Bay Bridge and back. How cool! Oh dear, she's even thinking of moving there... Again. Oh dear. But wow, is she hot or what? I can hardly imagine getting there from here, but I know it's all because of this one bike... Yeah, and I guess Serenity sticks as a name for her, cause that's what she's named then.

Oh my, I'm so glad I stopped to write this now, just made my entire day so much better!!! And not for nothing, I can't imagine how I'm going to afford the clothes she's wearing then... But I know I'll get there. Oh, and she's planning on going to the Fog City diner tonight, interesting. Cool!

Thanks Caroline for getting me to write this, and enjoying this little multidimensional jaunt. I have to let Burt know about this, he'll love it.


Caroline said...

Now you are getting me going! I shall have to try and work something out for my trip to France, the family bikes are rubbish after all I taught the kids when they were young.

Drafting used to be so much fun, my favourite was to chase buses and see if I could take the dirt off the back of the buss but not the paint! Perhaps I was a bit mad back then with super fast reflexes, not going to try that again.

Not going to tire of bike blogs! So at least one is going to read them with enthusiasm.

BTW, Scotland, east coast of Fife near Dundee.

Caroline XXX

Samantha Shanti said...

Ah, France, think there are traffic issues by you? Oy! France is murder!

And you could, for when you come home, take a look at:

Seems there are some 500 kilometers worth of trails and old rail lines by you too! Where there's a will, there's and or ... way! You can do it, find a trail near you, mount up and enjoy yourself.

As to being a bit mad, that makes two of us, but I never tried to touch whatever I was drafting. I certainly wouldn't even think of it now.

Something else to keep in mind. There's no law saying you have to go invest in a new machine. Realistically I probably could have found something cheap in need of attention and gone from there. I've had all beaters in my life before, so I don't know that it in reality would have made that much difference. So just because I bought anew one, doesn't mean you have to just to get back into cycling. In fact it was only a bit of unexpected luck that let me even consider a new ride as I was considering finding something used and cheap.

It was going to happen sometime soon regardless of the money, cause the need to ride was just really pushing at my heart and soul. So if it hadn't been this bike, it would have been something.

Caroline said...

There is an old railway line from my small town heading to the bridge which crosses the river to my nearest city and by pestering a friend who is my local area councillor I got it designated a cycle way with some improvements then when some money came up for grabs she got it paved!

My heart is still in it if my fitness has fallen, my bike still exists and is a nice touring bike and still kept running like new after more than 35 years thanks mainly to the expensive Italian parts. Our trails vary at random from my paved section to a logging track through the forest in the other direction which can be a wheel breaker! I also have a small folder but I then got a very small car and it fills the luggage space but is good for short rides. I have been dreaming of an off roader since I tried one on holiday many years ago and nearly got one when I had a health scare which I thought was my heart then the season was over and the money gone!

Going to keep an eye out for the pump and get them tuned up. look forward to hearing of your adventures.

Caroline xxx

Caroline said...

I am in the top right!

Caroline xxx

Samantha Shanti said...

You are in the top right of what my dear? I think I missed something...

Caroline said...

The map on the trails link, many of the trails are road based. You should see the state of the roads here after the bad winter, more hole than road so off roader is becoming a minimum requirement to ride the road!

Caroline xxx