Monday, April 21, 2014

Sometimes, I Welcome the Wind

Most of the time, I dread days of riding in the wind. A little breeze is fine, but the strong winds can really get to me and more often than not result in very short rides (sometimes even shorter than the short ride I'd already planned). If Chicago is the "windy city," I'm convinced Colorado during the winter/spring seasons is the "windy state." It's almost a given that if the day looks beautiful and sunny, during this time of year there will most assuredly be strong winds.
*Image found here
Venturing out on a short ride recently, I was aware that the winds were blowing in a spring storm. It is to be expected and I took note as I prepared to take it on. When I know the winds are strong, I frequently plan a rectangular route, knowing that I will experience tailwinds for at least a portion of the ride. Somehow, it seems to get me through the more difficult portions. This day was no exception. I was ushering in a cold that was taking hold quicker than I'd prefer, but wasn't about to let that stop me from getting in a little time in the saddle. In April (a fickle month in these parts), I have to take what I can get.

As I started out, I could feel the winds pushing mildly against me, but I continued on. As I rounded my first corner of the rectangle, I faced the winds head on. After the first mild climb, there is a downhill portion. I knew I was in trouble when the downhill that I normally cruise down at speeds of 20+ mph had a maximum speed of 8 mph. Two cyclists passed me. I shook my head as I wondered how they were able to power through the force. Disappointed in my ability to maintain a reasonable pace, I considered turning around to have the wind at my back, but as I was contemplating this plan, realized that there was a road coming that I could cut through to shorten my rectangle. I had decided that was as good an option as any and carried on.

Then, the shortcut road came into sight. As it did, I was pondering this harsh wind - and life (typical thoughts for me while riding). I thought about how these strong winds are really such a parallel to the challenges we can face in life. When something presents itself as an obstacle or a force to be reckoned with, we can turn around and avoid it all together, we can sneak across through some loop hole or shortcut never really dealing with the issue, or we can face it head-on and deal with the issue at hand. In that instant, I passed on the shortcut and headed into the wind (which I swear must've heard my thoughts and got stronger the moment I made the decision to press on). I felt as though this wind was offering me a challenge and I was determined not to let it get the best of me. I could still see the two cyclists who'd passed me. My mental goal was to attempt to catch them before my next turn (as a side note, they turned around before I caught them). This would surely keep me motivated, I believed.

When I reached the next turn, I shouted for joy. "Ha, ha! I win! You didn't beat me." Okay, so it may have only been an internal exclamation of glee, but it felt good to have won out over this seemingly supernatural presence. As I pedaled through the turn, it seemed as though the wind had shifted. Was I riding into a headwind? Still? Feeling as though I'd lost my mind, I scanned for trees or anything that might be blowing, but there was nothing tall enough to offer a clue. I looked above me and there was a bird, fighting with all his might to head the same direction I was going. "Well, I guess that's my answer," I actually spoke aloud this time. The wind had definitely changed direction.

Thankfully, this was the short stretch of the rectangular route, and I smiled broadly as I hit the next turn. I have realized, however, that sometimes the side-winds are even worse than the headwinds. With a headwind, I know what I'm dealing with - strong and direct forces of nature - and if I pedal harder/faster, I can keep moving even if it's a slow pace. With the side-winds, it almost feels as though the bike could be whipped out from beneath me without warning, and I dislike that feeling very much. Pedaling downhill, I was braking, feeling that the wind was definitely in control, and I most certainly was not. Again, the parallels to life are amazing to me.

In the end, I finished my short ride feeling accomplished despite my mental setbacks along the way. I had cursed the wind as I did it, but near the end realized that sometimes I need these moments to recognize that I am capable of doing whatever I set my mind to do, and remembering just how many similarities I find in bicycling and life's journey. There are always options to give up, to sneak around or avoid an issue, or to take it head-on. I hope that I more frequently make the choice to deal with things in a straight forward manner. It can be very rewarding in the end.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

When - or is it ever - time to stop supporting local biking/cycling advocacy?

I've debated for some time now about whether or not to write about this topic, but it's on my mind so I'm going to attempt to sort out my thoughts and hope for the best. I have attempted throughout my life to support the things I believe in and to walk away from (though I will always listen) the ideas I just can't get behind. That said, it doesn't mean I don't change my mind as information becomes available (or that I may have just discovered even if it's been around for a time), nor that I won't have a change of heart as time goes by. The topic on my mind at present is whether or not to help support the local cycling-advocacy organization.
You can buy t-shirts from the Path Less Pedaled online here
*Image from Path Less Pedaled
I know there are locals who sometimes pop in to read here, which has been a part of my debate about whether or not to discuss this topic. I never want to discourage anyone from supporting a cause or organization s/he believes in, but I also think this is where personal research, beliefs, and thoughts come in to play. I would encourage anyone unfamiliar with their local groups to look into things for themselves and not depend on anyone's opinions (because, after all, that is what this is - my opinion). It is my opinion that there are many local cyclists who don't even realize that this cycling advocacy group offers "membership" within its organization, and/or that the group even exists.

As with nearly anything in life, the organization itself is neither all good nor all bad, but when one side outweighs the other, I start questioning what I'm doing and whether or not I want to continue to offer my very small portion of financial assistance and my physical time to the organization. As I have stated in the past, I don't live in a large city. Denver is fairly close at hand (not by bicycle, but certainly by motorized means of transportation), but this is a relatively small community and as such depends on locals (and visitors, of course) to help sustain business and local enterprise. Having my own business of sorts (I don't have doors to open and close each day, but I depend on local dollars to keep me afloat), I understand that without that support, it is a near impossibility to remain functional. I also believe that a business has to offer items or services that the local population wants to see, have, and support. If that meeting ground doesn't happen, it's difficult to sustain any organization/business.

Okay, so the local bicycle advocacy group is not necessarily a "business" in the true sense of the word, but they really do need to operate as such in order to remain efficient, offer the support/services needed, and if they wish to remain part of changing times, they have to keep up with technology advancements and means of communication. This particular group has a board with officers who keep track of funds and such, and are hopefully spending this money appropriately in the cycling community (though I sometimes question who keeps track of those "keeping track" of such matters).

There are many aspects of this group that could be phenomenal events and resources to the community, but over the years of my awareness of this group, it seems as though very little effort is put into spreading the word about what is available to the community. Some of the many great programs include:
- Farmer's Market (and other summer events) bicycle valet service
- G'Knight Ride, which is a huge event for cyclists of all ages and abilities, that concludes with a large festival of bands, food trucks, beer, etc
- Bike Night which is a cruiser ride in the summer each Wednesday evening (again, for kids and all levels of cyclists)
- Holiday Kids Bike Program providing bicycles to local children during the holiday season who might not otherwise have the financial means to own their own bike

The one exception to the "lack of effort to promote" seems to be the G'Knight ride for which it is difficult not to know about this event if you are a local. Weeks before the event, flyers are posted nearly everywhere, and if you are a part of the e-mail group, information is sent about tickets, how/where to purchase, Facebook and Twitter messages abound, local news articles appear, and so on. During the few years this ride has taken place, it has turned into quite an event for those who ride only on that day, and for those who ride their bikes regularly. Which in turn only proves to me that this organization is in fact capable of promoting events when it sees fit and/or appropriate.

My question becomes, why aren't all of the programs supported in this same manner? For example, I volunteered a couple of summers doing Farmer's Market bicycle valet service. I was happy to do so, loved meeting the people, and even checking out their rides as they shopped for fresh, local food. However, I learned quickly that the list of volunteers was quite small. In fact, it was so small that I felt obligated to show up nearly every Saturday to help park bikes because no one was volunteering. It became exhausting to feel as though I "had" to show up. It was such a fun experience until it became a job, a chore if you will. I was giving up time for long weekend rides to help out because I wanted to do so, but I just couldn't understand why there weren't more people volunteering. We parked hundreds of bikes each week, so there are definitely resources to be tapped. There was no objection to having kids help park bikes either, so it could even be a family event for an hour or two once a month in the summer - but, that never happened. Instead, the few of us who were volunteering often ended up working 5+ hours every Saturday. By the end of the second summer, I was burnt out and no longer wanted anything to do with the valet service - or, if I'm entirely truthful, the organization for that matter.

I can recall one summer during which a valet service was supposed to be available to event-goers at another location, and the only message ever appearing on Facebook/Twitter was one stating something close to this - Since no one wants to volunteer, the valet service is canceled. I don't know if this is the best message to send out, particularly when I'm not certain anyone ever saw a request for help at all. I recall saying something like if I had known about the event, I would've been happy to come and help for an hour or so. The reality is, there seems to be little consistency in advertising for assistance as well as when it comes to promoting events, nor does there seem to be effort to find new ways of reaching people.

Their website is yet another issue. Often times it goes without updates for many, many months. Sam offered his help at one point to get the site in better shape and was never contacted. He offered again to the president directly at another juncture almost a year later and there was still no attempt to get in touch. There are a lot of "techie" people in the area, so it's not that Sam needed direct involvement, but in our digital age, websites are frequently the main source of information disbursement. In fairness, I have noticed that the site has at least been updated at some point in the recent past, but it is still severely lacking in information and updates. As of the moment of this draft, the home page still shows the 2013 Holiday Bike Program on the main page. I suppose I just expect a little more of the group in terms of keeping on top of things. I don't think instant updates are a necessity, but at the same time it only makes sense to have the next upcoming event at the forefront, I would think.

My intention is not to bash the local advocacy group, truly. I understand that running any non-profit or group such as this is no easy task. I want to believe that the intentions are good, but the effort level to promote the group and its programs seems sub-par. Most people don't have endless hours to donate, but I think many people are willing to give up an hour or two over the course of a year to help support a good cause or group...They just need to be reached. Perhaps a better PR/Marketing person on the board of directors could help with this?
Although I don't have the answers, I am frustrated to know that there is a local cycling advocacy group and to simultaneously realize that there doesn't seem to be enough effort to promote it and the causes it is intended to help, promote, run, and support. In answer to all of this, I decided last summer not to renew my membership with this group. The renewal itself is a small amount of money and of little significance to the overall picture, but I am finding it difficult to support this group recently because of my personal experiences and opinions. I find it particularly painful because of my love of cycling and of this community - and because I want to see this community truly be known as "Bikemont," as the stickers they put out a couple of years ago proclaim.

I suppose in all of this I simply don't know how to respond or to act. I have offered my time and money only to see if go unappreciated and seemingly to a lost cause. I don't expect personal recognition for anything I do or give willingly, but I would like to know that the efforts are not in vein and that it is going to support advancements in our community. What do you think? Would you continue to support a group that doesn't seem to be keeping up with the needs of the community, hoping that matters will change down the road? If you are a local and are brave to comment, what do you think of (or were you aware of) our local advocacy group? For those of you out of the area, do you have a good local bike-advocacy group and/or do you have suggestions for improving a group already in place?

Monday, April 7, 2014

First Impressions of "The World of Riding a Bike"

Sometimes it seems as though the more I read about riding a bike (be that on blogs, in magazines, or somewhere else), the more complicated it becomes. There is a bit of a conflict for me in that riding a bicycle is so simple and one of life's great pleasures, but there are times when I put myself in the shoes of someone who may not have been on a bike for awhile and I think that if I were doing research or looking into matters before venturing out on two wheels again, I'm not sure it would ever happen.
*Image found here
At times, it's not even the articles or posts that unnerve me. I believe that the intention of most of the authors is to show either that riding really is a simple activity that almost anyone can do, or they are simply pointing out inequities or potential issues on the roads. However, the comments that often come with these write ups are often more disturbing than the posts themselves. People can be downright mean, intimidating, or threatening, and I can easily see how getting on a bike could be daunting, as I myself am a bit rattled by the commentary I see somewhat regularly - and that's knowing that a lot of it is just folks blowing off steam or believing it's okay to say whatever s/he thinks or feels because s/he can hide behind his/her computer screen.

If I were just starting out on a bike I can only imagine the sort of thoughts that might run through my head. Everyone seems to have a story (at least one, but often more) of an altercation with a motorist, and as a group, we talk a lot about lack of bike lanes and safe places to ride. While I do believe these conversations are necessary to begin to change public perception and the actual structure of our road systems, I find myself wondering if (at least at times) it goes too far.

I have many fond memories of riding a bike in my childhood, and I think there are a great number who share similar recollections of their youth, but we also realize that there is more motorized traffic to contend with today - regardless of how recent or long ago our childhood took place. There are also certainly more distractions for people on the road when taking into account cell phones, fast food stops, and the plethora of gadgets available in cars today. Even cyclists seem to be distracted by GPS devices, cell phones, and the like, which creates a world full of people moving down the same roads, but not using all of their focus on the task at hand.

For me, there was a gap between the time I stopped riding a bike as a kid and the time that I started again in adulthood. Really, the first influence for me to start riding again was Sam. He had always taken off to ride with friends in the mountains, and although I had little interest in mountain biking at the time, he was quite encouraging of me to get back on two wheels. It helped that within a couple of years of his influence, I started finding blogs like Let's Go Ride a Bike and Lovely Bicycle!, whose authors were sharing their personal stories of transportation riding, pleasure rides, and so on. I liked that riding seemed so normal and non-athletic, and it seemed that truly anyone could be doing this. As I recall, these stories were inspiring and/or inquisitive in nature, but I don't recall reading as many derogatory comments. But, perhaps this is just my perception or me reliving my start through rose-colored glasses, and perhaps the same commentary has been there all along.

Ultimately, I think it could be easy to allow some of these conversations to influence whether or not I ride a bike, but I choose to accept that there is an inherent risk with doing almost anything most of us do on a daily basis - however, I don't start out each ride with that sort of thought process. Riding a bike feels very normal and mainstream to me until I read something that causes me to pause and rethink that perception of reality, so I can't help but be curious in regard to the thoughts of others. If you were just starting to ride (or maybe you are just starting to ride and have some first hand experiences to share), would you be afraid or intimidated by some of what you read about cycling or riding a bike? Does using the terminology "cycling" versus "riding a bike" affect the way you feel about riding? Who or what were some of your first influences when it came to riding a bike? Were these influences encouraging as you took your first pedal strokes (whether starting again or for the first time) or were there times that the message received was more intimidating than helpful?

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Thankful: An Update on Life

It's been quiet here for a bit, and I feel the need to apologize. While I realize I don't owe anyone an explanation, I do seem to share so much of what's taking place in life here, that it only seems fitting to fill readers in on at least some of the details. Life has been in a bit of turmoil (I don't want to be overly dramatic because nothing that has happened is as life-altering as some have had to experience) but writing here has just had to take a back seat. After Sam returned from his mini-adventure with the new job in California, and we realized that we were staying in Colorado after all, we attempted to get out of the sale of our home, but unfortunately, there were a lot of circumstances that were simply out of our control.  The buyer wanted to carry through with purchasing the house, and we were left to wait things out. The theme for my mental state over the last few weeks has been kind of a que sera sera attitude.
Que sera sera
*Image found here
As stated in a former post, we couldn't exactly start looking for another home because there was always the possibility that the buyer could back out, or that the house wouldn't appraise. Surely (as my thought process seemed to go), our house was in no way worth what this individual was going to pay for it. Please don't misunderstand. I love our house and we've worked hard to change and add and do all the things that make it feel like home, but it's a small place that has limited potential. Although I didn't want to live in a fantasy world, I thought that the odds were likely in our favor, and that the appraiser just wouldn't see the value in the house - particularly as his job is to assess the home on facts, not emotion - and I was certain that this would be our means of staying right where we were.

But life, well, life had other plans for us. Six days from closing we got a message from our Realtor that the house had appraised and everything was set to close as scheduled. As we were told, we needed to find another place to go. Before this day arrived, we had started looking for rentals and homes for sale. Unfortunately, both are scarce in this area at the moment and there are individuals battling it out for places that normally would sit for some time. Small homes are renting for hundreds more than they should be, and purchases are no different in that they have escalated to levels we haven't seen since before the crash of several years ago. We were amazed to discover that we were one of 50 applicants at the first rental we saw. Yes, fifty. I couldn't help but believe that there was no way on earth we were going to find a place to go in less than a week, knowing that we have pets and were up against so many others who had probably been searching for weeks or even months.

In all of this, we had a friend offer to allow us to stay in his home until we secured a place to live. It was quite a relief to know that we'd have at least a temporary place to go until something came along. Unfortunately, things quickly became strained and before we even started moving any items in, the plan quickly disintegrated. I won't get into the details of this piece of things because it is a long tale all its own, but suffice to say we were completely unsure of what to do at this juncture. Sam has family to the north east part of the state, but it would be an incredibly long/difficult drive every day for an undetermined amount of time, and they have no extra space (although they very graciously offered to take us in, and we were seriously considering this as an option for a short time).

The timing of all of this couldn't have been worse and only added to the immense stress that was permeating life. Not only were we going to be homeless in a matter of days, but as quickly as we'd spot a potential home possibility, we'd quickly realize that there were dozens of applicants within a matter of a day in each instance. I was coming to understand that we were very soon going to be without a home, perhaps living in our vehicle with all of our things in storage. Having experienced homelessness first hand in the past, I was mentally preparing for what was to come. At the same time, the "whatever will be, will be" thought remained in my mind. I kept singing the songs' chorus in my head when I'd find myself ready to have a break down.... "Que sera, sera... whatever will be will be... the future's not ours to see. Que sera, sera." It has been a mantra of sorts to get me through the tough moments, hours and days.

I was trying to keep everything in perspective. No one was dead, the world was not coming to an end, and in the grand scheme of things, all of the happenings were very minor. I have to say, it's amazing what hope does for a person in times like these though. Any little possibility or small seedling of chance would bring my mood up tremendously. I continued to have people tell me that I "seemed to be handling things so well." What most didn't realize is that I was actually feeling quite fragile and alone. Some would ask why we had put the house up for sale so soon, others wondered why Sam hadn't stayed at the job for a bit longer. In my mind, all of the questions were moot because all we could do was deal with what was happening now. No one can change the past and the only choice was to use those little slivers of hope to believe that something was meant to come our way. I tried desperately to stay positive, but it was easier to say the words than it was to actually believe them.

A few days before our house was to close, Sam spotted a house for rent on Craigslist that seemed to have been miscategorized. He called to see if the house was still available, and set up a time for me to go and take a look. When I arrived, I was informed by the property manager that she'd just sold a house for another couple and had promised them first dibs at this place as they also only had a few days to find a home. She said it would be a downsize for them so they may not be interested, but I wasn't holding my breath, fully expecting that we'd get a call stating that they were going to take the house. With the market the way it is presently, how could anyone turn down any opportunity? I knew that the house would work well for our needs, but knowing that we were dealing with competition, I just couldn't let myself believe that it was even possible we'd end up with this house. To my amazement, within 24-hours we received word that the couple had passed on it. Later I would learn that they had merely missed the time cut off she'd given to them and moved on to us. Thank goodness for little favors.

I cannot express enough the relief felt when we found out that we would have a place to move. It was as if a huge weight had been removed and it seemed that we could finally move forward - particularly because we now were down to a day before we had to start moving. I spoke in my last post about the realization that I would miss sitting in our front room watching the squirrels, cyclists and walkers as they meandered by, but I have to say, I have an even better spot for such things in our new home. I feel fortunate that despite all of the feelings of sickness or being ill-at-ease with the situation, I think we've managed to land on our feet somehow.
Our "mini-city" hill. We had a bit of a haze on this particular eve.
The move has been interesting. Even though we have only been here a few days and are only about a mile from our old home, it feels almost like a different world. I have nicknamed it "mini San Francisco" because the house is on a fairly steep hill that has a decent amount of motorized traffic, as well as cyclists, dog walkers, and the convenience of almost anything we could need within walking distance. Our old street was inordinately quiet, whereas this house almost always has some sort of background noise. Some might not like it, but we were looking for a shake up, a change of sorts, and even though we are virtually in the same location, it really does feel completely different. We are still adjusting to the traffic noise, particularly at night, but we think that this will be a great spot for us to recover from the admittedly mostly self-inflicted stresses of the last month and focus on the things we enjoy once again.

We were so fortunate to have help from friends and family when it came time to move. Truly, I don't know what we would've done without them. I thought I would have a difficult time saying goodbye to our old house, but as things came down from the walls, books came off the shelves, and nick knacks were put into boxes, I realized that it wasn't home anymore. Through it all, I knew that it was merely a "thing," and that a house is not a home, but rather home is what, where, and with whom we choose to make it. The box itself is of little consequence. I was a little sad to say goodbye to my studio, the garden, and our newly finished kitchen, but again, I realize these are just things - and all things that can be replaced in time and in another location.
A little piece of the yard. I think it will be even better as the foliage begins to come in next month.
When I walked into the new place on moving day, with two friends at my side, they were excited about our new space. I couldn't help but think they were merely appeasing me as the house smelled musty, surfaces were dirty, and I had a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach about all of it (not because of the house, but simply because of all that had transpired so quickly). When we entered the backyard, one stated that she knew where the summer BBQ parties are going to be held this year, and commented on very much liking the yard... Which, frankly, just made me smile - both outside and in. Whether known to them or not, those little encouraging comments throughout all of this have made all of it so much easier. When I had minor breakdowns about the very real possibility of having to give up one (or more) of our dogs, they offered hugs and suggestions - or just listened to me cry about giving up part of the family (as a side note, I am happy to report that all pets have and will remain with us).

As we finished taking all of our things from one house to the other, it seemed fitting that the last load to transfer was done by bicycle. My trusty Hillborne was loaded up with his trailer and I carried over the last remaining items - two of which just so happened to be our dog waste bucket and shovel. It's funny the looks one gets when riding down the road with what seems like non-typically transported-by-bike items. I wondered what others thought I was doing as the combination of items could easily be construed as being up to no good. I couldn't help but giggle a bit as I rode down the road, poop bucket strapped to the top of my trailer, and severe head winds blasting me, leaving (I'm certain) a trail of stench for anyone coming behind me. "That's right," I thought as I pedaled toward our new home, "leave all the shit behind you because you're on to better things."  I arrived feeling grateful, blessed, and loved by those around us, and I don't think I would've wanted the last trip to be any other way.

Life is starting to settle in now. It's amazing that so much transpired in a matter of less than two weeks. Hours often felt like days and days moved forward like weeks, especially with so much left to the unknown. As quickly as the stress and madness entered, it seems to have dissipated just as quickly, and for that I am beyond thankful. Who knows what is coming down the road, but for the time being we are grateful to have a place to lay our heads, our family together, and a reminder that even though we can't always control every little moment or situation, life is what we make of it. If this is the most difficult time of 2014, I will happily accept it and move on to what awaits us on the other side of this event.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Springtime

Spring has sprung, and it's a beautiful day in northern Colorado. We are currently on a roll of warmer but windy temperatures and are due for a bit of snow over the next several days too. I look forward to this time of year with anticipation because it means that soon I won't have to bring or wear an overcoat, trees, grass, and other foliage will soon be turning varying shades of green once again, and the never-ending dryness that abounds comes to an end. Our poor tulips started coming up a few weeks ago, and I'm always amazed at how they are able to survive the snow that is still to come and will continue to push their way to full height as spring marches on. I love this time of year because I know the parts of winter that I don't much enjoy will soon come to a close. The weather isn't quite hot yet, but I also rarely need to wear multiple glove layers or trudge around in snow boots. I feel life springing back to what feels more normal to me personally.
The tulips are coming - ready or not!
When I think of spring, I picture several months of mild temperatures, but I know that is far from what takes place for this region. In reality, we will continue to whip back and forth between mid-60 degree days and snowy, 30 degree days. These are just the facts when it comes to living in this area. I have slowly grown to accept this and my idea of spring has somewhat changed because of it. Instead of waiting for the snow to end, I have learned to appreciate days like today that fall in between the colder days. I understand now that this is spring in Colorado. Suddenly one day, and seemingly without warning, it will simply be hot and I will wonder what happened to the mild spring I had anticipated. I will ponder how we could have only had a couple of weeks of mild weather and then find myself in the depths of summer heat, forgetting that we experienced many beautiful, sunny days throughout March, April and May.
One of my favorite views from our yard in the spring.
I am particularly grateful for this spring in Colorado. Never has this place felt more like home to me, and never have I been more unsure of what is going to take place over the coming weeks and months. When Sam left for California a couple of weeks ago, I was prepared to say goodbye, but finding it difficult to come to terms with the reality of moving from this area and leaving our home. The job that seemed so right, so perfect, and so full of possibilities took a quick turn, and Sam realized just how different what he was told and what he was doing (and going to be doing) would be. Listening to his senses, his instincts, and acknowledging what was taking place physically in front of him, Sam elected to let the opportunity in California go, and return to Colorado. Which means that what we thought was going to take place in regard to moving is not happening, and we will be staying in the area.
Last spring, we planted many berries and vegetables in whiskey barrels. This spring, these may see a different use by their new owner.
A new conundrum had developed, however. With Sam's return to the state, our home has been under contract and is set to close at the end of the month. As the seller, there is currently no opportunity for us to be released from the contract with the buyer, and unless they opt to back out of the contract, or the house doesn't appraise, the sale will move forward. It has left us with unwanted/unneeded stress and unsurety. While there are extremely few homes available here at the moment (which creates its own issues), we are unable to proceed with anything because of the possibility of the buyer backing out.
Already seeing signs of spring in the grass turning green again
And, so, we wait. We wait and we pack. We play out scenarios of getting to stay in our home. We attempt to decipher what lessons are to be learned in all of this. But, in all of it, we understand that we have zero control over the present situation. Decisions were made, and now the consequences have to be dealt with as we move forward.

I sit frequently in our living room as I type posts and do other work. We are fortunate to have windows surrounding this spot of our home. I get to look out at the trees as they change through the seasons, the birds as they chirp and hunt for food, the squirrels as they bounce across branches and telephone wires, people walking their dogs or riding their bikes - I see all of these things and I become (probably more than I should be) emotional realizing that this spot of quiet, this place of reflection may not (and likely will not) be part of our lives in the very near future. I think about the garden just started last spring and how the whiskey barrel garden experiment was so short lived. Of course, we can attempt these same things in a new spot, but it was somehow easier to say goodbye to this space when moving to a completely new area.  Realizing that we will be in the same city, and not living in our home is far more painful.

There is nothing to feel sorry for ourselves about in all of this, nor do I expect (or want) others to have pity for us. As I said, decisions were made and we proceeded with what seemed the best option for our future. Wallowing in those choices now does nothing to move us forward. We wanted change and a bit of a shake up, and perhaps that is exactly what we are in for - though just not in the part of the country we anticipated. I have so much to be grateful for, including our time in this home, in this space. Spring is a time of renewal, of change, of beauty, and much like the season itself here in Colorado, we are in for some varying conditions over the coming weeks. I hope that I can look at these changes through the same glasses as I am able to view the spring season this year. I want to welcome the change and be inspired by all of it, knowing that this isn't necessarily a negative or a positive, but simply part of life and choices made.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Happy St. Patrick's Day

Wishing you a fun and safe day. Whether Irish or not, hopefully you'll get to enjoy a great day riding your bike {and don't forget to don some green :O)}.
*Image found here
Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Platform Pedals: Is a Stiff Cycling Shoe Really Necessary?

I've written fairly extensively over the years regarding my inability to make peace with clipless pedals. It's not that I can't use them, that I don't understand how they operate, nor that I don't comprehend the benefits they are supposed to provide. However, I just do not like them. I don't like the idea of being attached to the pedals, and even though I've gone back and forth with them on my road bike(s) at various times and for a variety of test periods that stretched from a day to several weeks and months, I just can't seem to get comfortable with the idea. I can use them when forced to, but I find that I don't enjoy the ride and I'm constantly worrying about forgetting to unclip. Ultimately, it's just not worth the stress it creates. I also realize that I am in the minority and that nearly all individuals who ride for long periods of time on the road most often end up using some sort of clip mechanism on his/her pedals.
*Image found here
Not only is it challenging to find pedals that aren't extremely large and/or heavy platform pedals, I've always struggled with the type of shoes to wear when riding. I can quite easily wear every day shoes to ride my bike, but when the rides are longer, or for fitness/exercise, the cycling is simply different and more extended and it's a challenge to find appropriate gear for my feet. What has typically taken place is that I find a cycling shoe that is intended for mountain biking and simply do not put the clips in the shoes. It works, but it's not ideal as I find myself slipping because there usually isn't enough grip between whatever pedal I'm using and the bottom of the shoe's surface.

My understanding from reading and talking to others has always been that a stiff shoe is nearly a requirement for long distance/road riding, but I've never entirely believed in the benefits to the rider.  Some research I've been doing as of late has brought to light another idea when it comes to platform pedals (whether a rubber block pedal, a touring pedal, or something else - basically, any flat pedal that doesn't require the rider to clip into a small surface that doesn't support the foot). It has been suggested that the only need for a stiff shoe when riding is because of the clip factor and the small surface of the clip mechanism, and that if one is cycling on a platform pedal that supports the foot, more damage can actually be done to the foot when using a stiff shoe because it isn't allowed to move the same way it would in an everyday shoe.
I decided to experiment with this a bit just to see if it rang true for me. I went on a ride with my typical cycling shoe and another ride in shoes that I'd generally just wear around to see if there was any difference. Granted, it's a limited scope for a test, and certainly not the most scientific, but I was interested to see if anything would feel different. I'm not in prime cycling shape at the moment due to the chaotic nature of weather this season, but it was worth it to me to see what results would show. One of my biggest complaints when I return from long road rides is that my feet always hurt. It's not the shoes (they're actually quite comfortable), but once I cross the 20 mile barrier, my toes become numb and my feet just begin to ache. I couldn't help but wonder if some of this had to do with the shoe choice and pedal combination.
So, what happened? I suppose my results were more inconclusive than anything else. When riding in the cycling specific shoe, I experienced what I typically do while riding: my feet tend to slip off the pedals (because I'm not clipped), after several miles, the outter rim of my foot goes numb as well as my toes, and my feet began to ache (almost like a muscle spasm). When I wore my everyday shoes to ride, my feet didn't slip off the pedals, however, I experienced similar (though not exactly the same) pains in my feet after a longer distance. It could be possible that simply riding in a fairly non-squishy tennis shoe could be the best route, or it may be that my issues with all of this have nothing to do with the pedals or my shoe attire, and there are other things causing the problems. Additionally, my "everyday" shoe is not one that I would choose to use for a long ride more than likely, if given a more appropriate option.

I'm continuing to experiment because I am fascinated by the idea that the stiff cycling shoe when riding on platforms isn't really the best choice, but I am curious what others have experienced. I know that I am really an oddity when it comes to road riding on platform pedals, but I'm curious if anyone has noticed any difference between shoe choice and the pains and aches of your feet - Even if you just use platforms around town, I would be interested to know if you have different experiences when using various shoe types.  I think the theory makes sense - if you have the platform to support your foot then a stiff shoe is potentially doing you a disservice - but I am interested in the more practical application and whether or not this has been true for others. I suppose, if nothing else, I'm learning that I really do have to do my own experiments rather than relying on the information that is so readily accessible on the web, and truly trust my own experiences and findings.