Sunday, January 1, 2023

Favorite photo memories of 2022

I am not normally one to post or even really take a lot of photos throughout the year, but I wanted to review a bit of what happened over the last year and what better way to try to do that than with the photos.

In January, we were in Oregon and enjoying our new home area.

Along the Deschutes River
The pup and I spent a lot of time walking and hiking off-leash trails, and even though there was a fair amount of snow through much of it, we enjoyed getting out and playing nonetheless.

We were also busy finishing up the lower level of our newly acquired home. By the end of January, we had finished the kitchen and were super excited to be able to use it fully. Our bodies were broken from the great amount of work, but we were pleased with the results. Renovating is not for the faint of heart though!
The kitchen before we started working on it.
Kitchen after our reno (mostly complete here).
In February, the pup and I had seen a group of geese on the roofs of an apartment building on one of the trails we were regularly walking. One morning, I finally decided to take a picture because seeing them sitting atop the roof reminded me of photos and paintings of farmhouses with chickens on the roof. But, as soon as I stopped to take the photo, our lovely dog decided to bark and charge, so they all took off, resulting in this photo.
B-dog was busy protecting our new home. She spent a lot of time watching out the front window for deer, birds, and any human passers-by, who were met with friendly, but loud woofs.
We also had the opportunity to finally replace the front door on our home. We had already renovated the front room, but had been looking for a door that didn't cost a fortune because the front door was a special disaster. We were pretty sure the former renters in the home had taken some sort of axe or something to the front door as it was full of dents, gouges and the like. But, finally, in February this lovely (pictured below) showed up as a happy surprise. 
The front door before it was replaced.
The front door, after we replaced it.
February was also the month in which I was able to finally answer my question about whether or not the Deschutes would completely freeze over in winter. Although it didn't completely freeze, this day was a pretty fantastic spectacle watching and listening as ice pieces broke and floated down the river.
The Deschutes River, almost frozen through, sort of.
In early March, Sam decided to run a local trail race. He came in third in his division, which was pretty exciting considering it was the first time he'd done a trail run-race. He was also pretty broken at the end and realized that training on actual trails would probably be beneficial in the future, rather than just road and treadmill runs. 
B-dog and I did our own walk while Sam raced, and met up with him at various points to take photos and cheer him on. She pretty much settled in while we waited and chewed on found sticks.
By March, I had picked up my Tern for grocery-getting and other errands. I was super excited to be able to make climbing the local hills with a load much easier. And, I have to say, I still find this bike super useful, so I'm glad to have it!
March is also the month when we finished renovating our main bathroom in the new-to-us house. It was so much more work than we anticipated, but it was also very rewarding to have it completed.
The bathroom before the start of our self-renovating adventure.
The bath at completion of the renovation.
My younger brother also came to visit us at this point in the year, and he was extremely excited to visit the last remaining Blockbuster in the country, so we took him by and took many, many photos, but I think this one was my favorite.
April found us enjoying some sunnier days, which was very nice. B-dog and I continued our quest to hit as many local trails as possible. This is one of her favorites because she was able to run freely off-leash and enjoy.
By the time May rolled around, we knew with certainty that we were going to be leaving Oregon. It was a bit bitter-sweet and we weren't sure how to feel about it. We tried to take in as many sights as possible, but it was always a little sad to know that we were in our final days in our new area.

By mid-June, we were back in Colorado, waiting for our temporary home to be ready for us. We were fortunate to have friends who were willing to take us in for a few days, and B-dog was happy to get to visit with a friend.
We also went back to walking in our usual locations in Colorado. It was nice to have familiar sights, but it was a little strange to be back so quickly.
In July, Sam and I were trying to get back to our tandem riding. after spending 10 months renovating an entire house, we were exhausted and hadn't had as much time riding together as we'd normally get, so we tried to sneak in the occasional ride while we waited to close on yet another house.
Our ride to Carter Lake -- an old favorite.
By August, we were in yet another house and the moving was getting exhausting. This new-to-us home didn't have a work space for me, so we got to work constructing that space.
We also planted some dwarf Blue Spruce trees along one side of the yard. They were super tiny, but hopefully, they will survive and will create some beauty along the perimeter and provide some privacy in the future.
In September, B-dog and I took our first longer-distance pedal with the Burly trailer to one of her favorite trails/swim spots. It didn't go extremely well, but she survived (as did I) and we realized that maybe this could be a good way for us to get around as she ages.
Sam also did another race this month, traveling to Flagstaff, Arizona, to race in the final Barn Burner mountain bike race (unfortunately, this race is being dropped from the Leadville series). He had hoped to qualify to get into Leadville for 2023, but, sadly, that didn't happen.
In October, we had wrapped up construction of my studio space and I was able to finally work in this new space. I was elated after about a year and a half of not having my working area to be able to get back to something normal.
And, by November, I was busy getting back to work because I had multiple markets/shows before the end of the year. The beauty of coming back to a known area is that events are well-known and familiar, but the down side was that I had very little time to produce work in time for the holiday events.
B-dog and I were also well into our old walking routes/routines. We walked on this particularly lovely morning without a soul in sight... it was pretty wonderful, really. The beauty of the cold days in November is that most don't seem ready to deal with it, so we had the luxury of open space to ourselves.
December didn't have a ton of memorable photos because I pretty much worked through the month. But, we had a particularly cold snap and B-dog and I decided to try to go for our daily walk anyway. It was so, so cold though (weather apps stated that it felt like -26F, but actual temp was -12F). My eyelashes were literally freezing together, so it was tough to keep my eyes open, but my glasses were fogging up if I wore them to try to protect a bit. We were both ready to wrap it up pretty quickly though, and I snapped this photo at the end of our adventure. At least she was still happy (or maybe, grateful, that we were done).
We crammed quite a bit into the year, but not nearly the number of activities that we really wanted to get in. There was not anywhere close to enough riding or working out, but completely renovating a house for the first half of the year, then looking for another home and having to build a work space occupied the majority of the latter part of it.

It's hard to know what is coming for 2023, but hopefully, things will balance out a bit and we can find more time for riding and the things we really want to accomplish. Wishing you and yours a very happy New Year! I hope you have your own memorable moments from the past year.

Thursday, September 22, 2022

Dear Motorist: A Short Letter to Anyone Who Drives

You don't know me, but you more than likely are acquainted with or related to some facsimile of me, and even though we may have no direct connection, I am making a plea to you today: please stop driving inattentively and too fast.You are going to kill someone. It's only a matter of time.

You may wonder how I can say this with such conviction, or you may see the same issues yourself as you mosey down your daily path and think that it's a rarity, a situation that transpires because of one person's reckless behavior. You may believe that you would never hurt or kill someone while driving, but if you ever drive with your focus on something other than the road around you, if you ever speed, if you ever roll through stop signs or yellow (or red) lights making a right turn, if you have ever not come to a complete stop when required or not fully looked in all directions, if you've ever had a moment during which you've swerved/drifted into the shoulder or bike lane, you may be the next murderer behind the wheel.

I am a person who rides bicycles, a cyclist, if you prefer. You may now be rolling your eyes and saying to yourself that you see cyclists "all the time" who "run stop signs" or "ride carelessly." You may be telling yourself the long-repeated and still-erroneous statement that I don't "pay for the roads" because I'm on a bicycle. In truth, I would take this moment to remind motorists that cyclists were the ones who originally lobbied to have paved roads long ago. 

I will also say that I see the same things you do, and I see motorists do the same (or worse) far more often, and motorists are in two-ton machines that have the potential to do far more harm. Two wrongs do not make a right. We teach children this saying from a young age. We also ask them if they would do something just because a friend engaged in an unsavory activity. 

Yes, cyclists sometimes run stop signs or lights. Sometimes a cyclist may perform a lane change that seems unsafe, but I assure you most of us are far more concerned about our physical safety and do our best to be predictable so that you don't hurt or kill us. Most of us are very aware from our time on the roads that you don't like us, that you believe we are taking up your space or you think we don't "belong" on the roads. I could remind you, as others have over the years, that a person on a bicycle is taking up far less space than a person in a motorized vehicle. I could point out that we are not polluting the environment with the same intensity of a motorized vehicle - really, there's not much pollution to speak of for a bicycle. But, that is not my purpose today.

Cyclists come in all sorts of bodies and from all different backgrounds with different purposes on the road. Some are traveling to school, work, or to run errands. Some are out to exercise or clear their minds. Some are young, others are old, and a whole range in between. We have MAMILs (middle aged men in Lycra) who are riding their rides, there are racers and professionals out training, there are young children who are getting their first glimpse of freedom as they ride to school or to a friend's, there are moms and dads pedaling with their kids to make trips around town, there are group riders and solo riders, and so many more. People on bicycles dress differently too. Some wear stretchy tight clothing for aerodynamic and anti-chaffing purposes, some ride in work or everyday clothes, others choose to ride in gym clothes or baggier clothes, and there are so many other variations possible. Some of us (most of us other than young children) also drive, at least occasionally, a motorized vehicle. But what we all have in common is that we ride a bicycle, and we all want to arrive safely to our destination.

I could recount my personal tales of motorists coming very close to killing me (and there are many), but the stories have been told so many times in some form by others that I doubt it would make a difference in anyone's mind. I'm just another anonymous, faceless person. Until it's personal, most people don't seem to want to change. So I ask you to do this: make it personal. When you see a person riding a bicycle, imagine that s/he is your family member or friend, someone you love and care about. Would you want a stranger to show him/her/them consideration on the roads, to allow them to go about their business without harm? Would you want to be the family member who gets the call that your loved one has been killed or injured because of an inattentive/reckless/drunk/high/speeding driver?

My own mother has told me repeatedly that she worries every morning about my (and my husband's) safety while riding our bicycles.  She knows that we spend a lot of time on our bikes and having only shared a few of the many, many incidents I (and we) have had on the roads, she frets that one day she will get that call she dreads - one or both of us has been hurt or killed. I hope that day never comes, but after experiencing the roads first hand, I know her concerns are valid.

The answer is not, however, for people who ride bicycles to stay off the roadways. I do believe we can all share the space and reach our respective destinations without anyone being harmed. Safer passages are always nice, but realistically I know they are not likely to happen in most places - at least in the foreseeable future. That doesn't mean they shouldn't be built or fought for, but we - motorists and cyclists - are going to have to find a way to live and travel together peacefully, and without the ever-increasing threat to cyclist's lives.

My intent today is to plead with you to slow down, to take a breath when you're frustrated or in a hurry, to realize that wherever you are going, even if you are late, it is not worth someone else's life, to drive more cautiously when there are slower moving beings in the vicinity. If we start to live by the philosophy that we yield to and have patience for more vulnerable and slower road users, it would end so many needless injuries and deaths. I ask you to remember that when encountering someone on a bicycle who makes a questionable move on the road, it is not a reason that their life should come to an end. We are all human and have all made errors in judgement at one point or another. When you are in the heavier more dangerous vehicle, it is your responsibility to ensure you allow enough space and to slow down when passing safely isn't possible. I assure you the few seconds you may lose will ultimately be a far more acceptable price tag than the potential loss of life. 

Thursday, August 18, 2022

Movement & Exercise are not punishment

I was riding along the other day, blissfully pedaling on a somewhat cooler summer morning (a rarity these days, so it felt extra special) and realized just how much I was enjoying the ride. These occasions happen now and again, so it wasn't particularly significant, but I was soaking it all in and truly enjoying each pedal stroke. Some days simply offer a special feeling, as though I could ride forever. The perfect collision of temperature, body-readiness, feeling capable, and equipment function, I suppose. If I were to try to create it, I couldn't, but when it happens I try to enjoy every single moment to its fullest.

Having this sort of ride happens once in awhile, so it wasn't necessarily unusual, but what occurred to me as I pedaled is how often I have participated in movement -- be it running, walking, working out or even riding -- and it has felt like torture.  Sometimes it happens because my body is overworked and I am forcing myself to keep up some sort of idea of routine. At other times it may be that I have an injury and I am trying to "suck it up" and carry on. And still other moments I find that it is because of some perceived pressure I feel from others -- whether it is real or imagined. 

I have shared a bit of my past and childhood in this space at times over the years, and I know that some of that likely plays a role in how I perceive movement to this day. We were not a particularly physically active family when I was a kid, and when I did start to exercise it was only because I was being body shamed and thought that I had to do something to get fat off of my body. It was never about enjoying the activity (though I did enjoy at times), but rather had more to do with the idea that I had to lose weight and the way to do that was to work my body until I couldn't move any longer. Some of it may have been self-inflicted, but I have no doubt that outside sources were the main cause of this behavior.

The last year for me has been an exercise in not being able to maintain much of a routine. With all that was going on, it wasn't realistic to throw in one more "thing" to the mix. During the height of the pandemic, I was probably one of the few people who worked out and rode significantly more than I did pre-pandemic. Work was fairly non-existent for me and it seemed easy to fill the hours primarily with riding. I rode two to three times as much as I would have prior, and I wasn't slacking off prior to the pandemic. There were days though when I felt I was doing it out of some sort of imaginary obligation. I wasn't doing any real work and I didn't want to sit at home doing nothing, so I pedaled and hoped that it would help my mental state. Most days it did. But then, nothing extreme is maintainable over the long haul.

In the past, I have had trainers tell me that I should develop a routine so that when I have days (or weeks, months) when I don't feel like doing the work, the routine itself will carry me through the difficult time. In some sense, I understand this thinking. As someone who likes to and wants to be able to do things, but is not in any way, shape or form naturally athletic, if the base training isn't present, it's very challenging to pick up one day and do the thing - the activity, whatever it is - with any sort of capability. However, I think this thinking in general can be a bit flawed. 

When I have the idea that I must carry on, regardless of how I feel, it creates pressure or a sense that no matter what is happening, even if I am injured or exhausted, I need to stick to the routine. Granted, most trainers will build in rest days to a training program, but I do think it can become something that creates a mental pattern in which I start to think that more is better, and when the day comes that I cannot necessarily continue at the same level (due to time constraints, aging, injury, or whatever the cause), it can feel as though I am now a lesser human. Or, at least I know that is how I have felt over much of the last year. Logically, I know that isn't the case, but it's difficult to control what the mind wants to believe without significant work to do otherwise.

I have stated in the past, many times over, that my life has felt like a struggle for balance. I suppose in some sense it is what most humans are seeking. I often wonder if balance is really a thing at all and if in truth I am chasing something that doesn't exist. Maybe life is just a series of overdoing one or two things for a stretch of time and then returning to others, or adding in new interests or activities? Maybe balance is just a myth created to give humans something to hope to achieve in times when the world feels chaotic.

What I have realized, however, is that even if balance is never achievable, movement should not be punishment or feel like punishment. There may be times, moments or certain activities during which I wish to push myself harder than I normally would. Sometimes, it feels good to go beyond what I thought possible, to make it hurt just a bit, to stretch beyond what I would normally believe my limit. But, I know that when movement starts to feel like a punishment, it will definitely not be something I want to do regularly, and in fact, may be doing more harm than good. It's why I have tried my best to find activities that I enjoy, at least most of the time (there will always be those tougher days), and am reminding myself now that it's okay if I am not who I once was or able to do what I once did. I am doing what I can do now and if/when the time is right, I will do other things or more of the things I did once upon a time. 

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

A Year in Central Oregon

A few months ago, I started drafting a list of items comparing Oregon to Colorado. I'm not entirely sure what it was that sparked the mental need to make a list, but after having a rough day it seemed an appropriate activity in the moment.  The list wasn't really for a specific purpose, but I was coming to understand some things about our surroundings and I find comparison lists helpful for clearing out my mind. 

When we arrived here, we spent about three months roaming to different places to "live," a week or so at a time, while we waited, trying to find a home to purchase. When we found a place, it was a complete wreck, but somehow knew that it was the place for us. We then spent eight months fully immersed in the house we bought, tearing it up, replacing everything, fixing things that no one else would bother to repair. Finally, in the last few weeks, it's started to feel complete, whole, and as though we could actually spend some time enjoying the space. 

On a hike with the pup on part of the Deschutes River Trail a couple of weeks ago.

All of the work has come at a cost (as I've mentioned) to our physical state (particularly me, as I've spent most of my days working on the house - though I know Sam isn't far behind). I've not ridden the way I normally would. I haven't worked out as I typically would. My dominant hand has had so much stress and strain that I wake each morning, unable to release the clenched fist I've made in my sleep. These things take a toll on my mental and emotional state of being as well, and it causes me to question decisions. But, having the opportunity to see the fruits of our labor, I can start to settle into routines again. 

After moving from Colorado to Oregon late in spring of 2021, I couldn't help but make comparisons. Superficially, visually, it's easy to think of them as similar places, going from one high desert to another, but the more time we have spent in central Oregon, the more I have realized how different it really is from our prior home. Different doesn't necessarily equate to bad, but the opposite isn't necessarily true either. I did (do) definitely prefer the cycling spaces in Colorado, despite the plethora of bike lanes here in Oregon. 

Riding is probably the biggest, most important difference in my personal, everyday life. Before we moved, we were told that cycling here in central Oregon is some of the best. I would argue that it depends on the type of cycling one does. There are certainly innumerable trails to ride and mountain paths to explore, but road-riding for any distance seems to be much more challenging. While I enjoy riding trails on occasion, it just isn't what I spend most of my riding time doing. The roads here are rough with few exceptions and as is the case in many cities across the US, motorists seem to believe that bike lanes are used to drive in and through at their leisure, or park in because they can't be bothered to find another space to use.

We came to Oregon because of a job opportunity for Sam that was, as presented, too good to pass up. I wasn't thrilled about leaving Colorado, but I agreed that the job was one that simply couldn't be turned down, and trying to be adaptable and not sulk about who/what would be left behind, agreed that we could make home anywhere. I still believe that to be true, but I also understand that there are certain areas of life that I had grown accustomed to and the change to a new area was more challenging than I had anticipated. Still, I was prepared to see the move through and figure out ways around the challenges of a new place.

A few months into Sam's job in Oregon, things started to turn. There were signals and signs that things at work were not quite as they'd been portrayed pretty early on. We forged ahead though, believing that everything has its ups and downs. By the new year, we were both completely aware of the reality that this "great job" was not going to exist in the very near future. It's not an easy thing to come to grips with a reality that we would, more than likely, be making a move again.  

Sam searched for work locally for a couple of months. The reality is that we're in a somewhat isolated area, and being able to find work that could sustain life was going to be a challenge. We believed we were here for a reason though and even though this new-to-us place had become somewhat tainted with the lies we'd been told, we hoped to not have to make a big move yet again and so soon. 

Not having much success with his job search, Sam broadened things to look pretty much anywhere in the US for jobs. His experience would no doubt land him something that was reasonable, but I really wanted to make sure that he found something where he'd be happy and able to grow with an organization. It's what I'd hoped for him here in Oregon as well. 

We reached out to a few friends who we thought might have connections that would be valuable for job searching, and there were many interviews over the weeks and months, but nothing panned out. It was upsetting, stressful, disheartening, but I believed that when the right opportunity came up, it would be clear and obvious. Sam hoped to find something remote so that we wouldn't be forced to move immediately, but he hasn't had the best luck finding those sorts of jobs in the past, and it didn't go particularly well this time either.

Eventually, what felt like the right opportunity presented itself. Try as I might, I couldn't help but find myself laughing about where the job is though. It isn't a remote job (though Sam is working remotely for the time being until we can get settled again), but we are headed back to the very same city we left in Colorado. What are the odds?

We've both run through an array of emotions and more than anything, neither of us is looking forward to having yet another project house. We already know we will have another project house because nothing is even remotely affordable. There's always hope... but we're both realistic about the current state of things and know that odds aren't on our side to avoid another big project. 

We've tried to also contemplate what the lessons are in this whole mess. I always believe that things happen for a purpose, though it isn't always entirely obvious what those reasons are. Certainly, we've both gained additional house renovating skills (though I'm of the belief that we would've been fine continuing on without those additional skills). I'm pretty convinced I've packed on pounds as well -- though I refuse to weigh myself. But, not finding much time for physical activity, how could I expect anything less? For Sam, I think the move helped him realize exactly where home is, but for me, the reasons seem a little less obvious or tangible. 

I know that I have learned that I am far less relaxed than I had believed myself to be. I have always seen myself as pretty easy-going (and I still think that is true in many portions of life), but after living in an area where the vast majority of people have no sense of time or personal responsibility, I think I am far more, for lack of better delineation at the moment, Type A than I believed myself to be. I like to get stuff done. I mean, yeah, I like to get stuff done so that I can f*ck off, but still, I want to get that stuff completed. I am grateful though that I know I am (we are) willing to work hard at the things that are important to me (us) and to those I care about.

I have also been reminded of my father a lot while living in Bend. I've mentioned in the past that we came here to visit in the late 80's/early 90s (I want to say it was 1989 or 1990, but we've debated this a bit within the family as we have different recollections of the summer of our Bend visit). We've passed places that I know with certainty we visited when we were here and it brings up a lot of emotion, having lost my dad just over six years ago. In some ways, it makes me feel closer to him, and in others it causes me to regret the many, many years we lost together. We didn't have much of an adult relationship and while we'd both made peace by the time of his passing, it's sad to think about the lost years that we could have had. In reality, I talk to him so much more now than I ever did when he was alive, which is both sad and not so in the same breath. 

Me and B-dog walking a path along the Deschutes River.
*Photo courtesy of my brother, who recently paid us a brief visit.

Our experience living in Oregon has had some highs and lows, but we are both entirely grateful to be in the process of heading back home to Colorado. I am thankful for the experience here, but I can't wait to ride in Colorado again, and although I am not looking forward to the extreme heat, winds, and potential/likely fires, we know that it is home. Hopefully, this time we'll have the opportunity to stay put, permanently. At least that is the hope. 

We don't have an exact timeline for our return just yet, but we remain hopeful that by mid(ish) June, we'll be back in the area, and hopefully will have found home again by the end of summer. I am also hopeful that life won't be quite as transient this summer as it was last and that life will pick up again fairly easily and quickly... but, I also know that is a hope and not necessarily what will take place. But, I look forward to hopefully having the opportunity to share more rides again in the relatively near future.

Saturday, March 26, 2022

Tern HSD - It's Electric!

I have found a new love. 

And I fear that I have become completely obsessed.

But first, let me go back a bit to tell the tale of how this all started. For readers who have hung in with me during our 2021 move, you know that it's been a bit challenging for me to sneak in rides since the move. Don't get me wrong, I still ride, but with time constraints when engrossed in a complete house redo/renovation, the usual carve out of time just isn't there. My life has become consumed by house fixing and I spend most of my days doing work to repair this severely-neglected, old house. 

Over the last many months, I have found that not only have I lost my cycling strength due to not riding as frequently, but my many ailments have compounded that loss of strength. To boot, we have moved ourselves to a nice little hilly area where it's nearly impossible to go anywhere and avoid some sort of climbing (a skill I'd mastered, living at the base of the Rocky Mountains somehow - of course, there was more flat land to be found there, too). I've just never been a great climber, and when I'm prepared for it, the work can be done, but it's definitely not my strength.

With our move, the typical going-to-my-bicycle-to-run-errands has pretty well diminished to near-never. To be fair, a lot of this is due to what I'm picking up when running errands these days, but I wasn't feeling great about what had happened. Not only was I not riding much for sport, but I'd also pretty well eliminated my transportation riding. Ugh.

One day, I decided to ride to the gym to work out. I was feeling a little jealous watching Sam do his rides to the gym every morning and then continuing on to work. I kept telling myself, that used to be me - I always rode to the gym and to run basic errands around town, but it's amazing how easy it is to fall into habits without even realizing it has happened. The need to grab some giant load of materials often meant that it was easier to drive and then pick up what was needed on the way home, rather than taking my bicycle. It doesn't help that we're on the opposite side of town from the home improvement stores and that there's no direct/easy path to get to them via bike (well, there is one if I ride on the highway - but that is its own special nightmare). It is doable, but it takes some effort and frankly, as drained as I have been, I just couldn't muster the energy needed to make it happen. Granted, it's a lame excuse (I'm not denying that), but it is reality.

Anyway, I decided to ride to the gym and took my road bike. It was not my smartest idea, but I was thinking it would be easier to ride and I'd get there faster, but I remembered quickly how much better it is when one is more upright in position for city riding. I have a more upright bike I could've chosen, that has a rack and a bag, etc, but it weighs twice as much and I didn't want to fight with the hills. 

I've been thinking a lot about electric bikes as well and how I believe they have a real chance of changing the minds of more people when it comes to getting around. I have always thought that an electric bicycle wasn't something I needed or wanted. I've never objected to others riding or owning them, but I guess I felt a bit like it just wasn't something for me. I like the idea of getting around under my own power, the work that goes into that, but after test riding an e-assist bike, it really changed my thought process. I realized how beneficial it can be for a variety of people - both those who are fit and those who are perhaps still working on fitness. Maybe now was the perfect moment in time for me to look into an electric-assist bicycle for transportation? 

So, I started doing homework, investigating, digging, reading, and trying to figure out what would make the most sense. I wanted something that would be able to carry stuff - more stuff than I'd normally carry on a bike. I wanted to be able to get a few bags of groceries, take packages for drop off, and things of that sort. Perhaps a cargo e-bike made sense? Years ago I'd looked at Yuba, so I took a look at those again, but it seemed like a lot of bike - as though it made more sense for someone with young children being transported regularly. Still, it was a possibility. I'd seen some good things about Benno as well, so did some research on those too. Of course, there are tons of options to look into from Rad Bikes to Blix and so, so, so many others. I'd also seen and read a bit about Tern, but honestly, I pretty well glossed over them because I just didn't like the idea of the 20 inch wheel size. I've always thought that folding bikes were adorably cute, but I have also always thought I'd feel like a circus bear riding a tiny bike, such as the Tern.

G.E. rides a tiny bike... or at least my mental image of what I look like on a tiny bike.

All the research was giving me a headache though and one can only read so much before actual rides need to happen -- and I did think it was important to ride the bikes I was interested in to get a real-world opinion of how they could function for me. Fortunately, we have an electric bike store in town and they happen to stock a slew of brands, so I could test ride to my heart's content. Not one to ever turn down a test ride, I was off (with poor Sam in tow for this slightly unnecessary adventure).

Upon arrival at the shop, I was feeling pretty set on the Benno brand, so that was what I wanted to ride first. I did ask if there was anything that the shop thought I should test out and they recommended the Tern. I listened as the shop worker described the good things about each of the two and recommended that, since the two of us were there, that we take one of each, and then we could switch out to see if there was a preference for one over the other. So, we were off on our way, me on the Benno Boost and Sam on the Tern HSD P9.

It was Sam's first experience riding an electric bike, so it was fun just to see what he had to say. When we stopped to switch bikes he said, "Wow! That was a bit startling in full-blast mode." I just smiled. Moving among "eco," "sport," "tour," and "turbo" it was easy to feel that there is definitely a difference in the level of assistance being provided. 

The features of these two bikes were quite similar, but the Tern felt a bit more steady to me (and to Sam). This could be simply because neither of us are tall, so being closer to the ground with the 20" wheels of the Tern helped us each feel more stable with a lower center of gravity. But, when returning to the shop, I knew that the Tern was a much better fit for my needs/wants. Still, I wasn't loving the idea of the small wheels. It seems silly to get hung up on such a little thing (no pun intended), but it was a difficult mental barrier to get over.

When we returned to the shop, another employee recommended that I test out the Tern HSD S8i (the internally geared option), which is the same bike with a Gates belt drive and 8-speed Shimano Nexus hub. I didn't really think that was necessary, but after asking if it would feel different, the shop recommended giving it a try. 

I haven't ridden or owned an internally geared bike for a number of years, but didn't have a real objection to trying it, so off I went with one of the shop employees for another ride.  I started to think about the potential benefits of an internally geared city ride with the belt drive, such as making weather a little easier to deal with, being able to shift from a stopped position, not needing to lube a chain, and so on. But, I also didn't object to the derailleur either. It's not that big of a deal to lube a chain, and I don't need to shift from a stopped position as (at least most of the time, unless I'm having a lost-in-thought moment) I do know how to shift, and the fenders make dealing with weather easier on either bike. 

One thing I did recognize as the two of us rolled along the trail next to the river on a gloriously sunny afternoon -- I was falling in love with this bike. 

Uh oh. 

I forgot about the mental image of looking like a circus bear riding a tiny bicycle and I was just... enjoying the ride. I was picturing riding to the grocery store, delivering packages to UPS/FedEx/USPS, and, deity help me, I was even imagining getting a dog trailer to pull Miss B-dog to parks, trails, and the river -- all without ever getting in a car. Each of these brought a smile, and all of it made me picture life getting back to something resembling what it used to be in the not-so-distant past.

I do have some level of restraint (though some might argue otherwise), so we left the shop without a bicycle. Sam and I chatted as we walked away about the possibilities and what could make sense, so I said I would do more research and make some sort of decision in the not too distant future. We watched a few video reviews at home later that evening and I read a bit more, but I could feel that I had already made my choice.

I didn't sleep that night. I tossed and turned and obsessed about how great this bike had the potential to make life. It is a lot of money to spend on a bicycle, so I was also aware that it would need to be viewed in more of a car-replacement light, and in less of an n+1 type of light, and I think that made the most sense. Anything that allows for less driving, I am happy to lean in that direction.

The next day, I felt ill as I mentally debated whether it would be worth the cost, but knowing that Sam was okay with the purchase, I headed to the shop. I asked a few additional questions, and inquired about accessories they had available, and then... made the purchase. Ack! This was a big purchase, but I really believed it had the power to change not just a mode of transportation, but my currently diminishing enthusiasm in regard to riding. I knew that my excitement about riding would return at some point, but this was something that had potential to get me back on my path quicker.

When Sam got home, I heard him state as he clomped up the back stairs to enter the house, "You made up your mind the minute you rode it. I'm not sure why we even left without it." 

I realized he'd seen the Tern as he'd parked his own bike and I couldn't help but smile... he wasn't wrong.

To address something that I know will bother some, I'm going to touch briefly on the electric piece of this bike.  Perhaps one of the reasons some people object to electric bikes is the perception that there is no work involved in riding. We've all heard the term "cheating" in reference to those riding electric bicycles, but there are such a wide variety of options, that I don't really think it's great phrasing to use (not to mention that anything that gets someone on a bike shouldn't be thought of as cheating). People often tell us we're cheating when riding our (non-electric) tandem bicycle (though, anyone who thinks this is cheating should really try riding it), when that is not the case at all.

This particular category of electric is e-assist. There are some electric bikes that have a throttle (akin to a scooter or motorcycle) and allow a rider not to pedal but still maintain momentum, however the electric-assist type requires the rider to pedal in order to get any benefit from the electric part of the bike. It truly is just a bit of a boost to help with wind  - or hills - or lack of fitness, if/when needed. It should be fairly obvious that when carrying a load of cargo on a bicycle, the assistance could be quite beneficial. Who wants to run errands and be dripping in sweat after climbing a few hills with that extra weight? Maybe it's okay in some circumstances, but there are many times when having a little boost would be very appreciated.

The Tern HSD S8i is not lightweight for a bicycle, but is fairly light for an e-assist cargo-ish type bike. The stated weight is around 57 lbs (without racks, bags, etc), which, for anyone who's weighed a standard road bike will attest, is certainly stout; but when compared to some other electric options weighing in at over 100 lbs, it's truly more of a featherweight by comparison. 

What I find super useful on this bike (beyond the e-assist, which is definitely a fantastic feature) is all of the potential carrying spots. This particular bike is outfitted with a front porteur rack, a rear rack, double panniers, wired front and rear lights, a kickstand, a bell, and the potential to add other options (like a seat for kiddos, if needed, or a flat bed rack for additional carrying capacity). For such a small bike, it really packs quite a lot. While a lot of these things could be added to most any bicycle, it all seems to come together nicely on the HSD, and it has a fairly hefty carrying capacity at 374 pounds. 

I had plans to ride the HSD on its inaugural post-purchase ride to the gym and to drop off a few items at UPS; however, it was snowing that day and, silly as it sounds, I didn't want to have our first ride together in the snow. I know, I know, it sounds so nonsensical, but there's something about making the first trip in the snow that just seemed disrespectful. It's not that I won't ride it in the snow or rain, but I didn't want that to be our first. So, instead, it ended up being the following day to get a few groceries. 

The purchases that day fit easily into one of the panniers, along with my wallet, the bike lock, and a few other small items - with space to spare. I was struggling a bit with the cafe lock, and finding a suitable place to lock the bike itself up was a challenge, but other than that, everything went splendidly. 

The second ride was to the gym, during which I threw my packed backpack into one side of the panniers, after which Sam and I rode to pick up breakfast bagels and a coffee. I realized quickly that it would be nice to have some sort of cup holder, so went on a hunt for one that would work well because strapping it to the front rack with a bungee was less than ideal, as was evidenced by the liquid remaining on the rack when we stopped. 

Subsequent rides were very similar, until it was time to head to the grocery store again. The next trip to the market the panniers did a decent job, though they still weren't absolutely packed to the limit. Each one will fit two bags of groceries (at least), which is great as I typically don't buy more than 4 (maybe 5) bags of groceries in a single run.

As can be seen, there is still more room inside the panniers, if carrying more items was necessary. My reusable grocery bags are fairly large themselves (they have more capacity than the typical paper or plastic grocery bag), and they fit side-by-side inside without issue.

There is also an interior mesh pocket and a second pocket with a zipper, which I find very useful for a variety of purposes. They pocket without the zipper is great for holding a cable lock, gloves, a mask, and other smaller items that may get lost inside the main compartment.

Please forgive my dirty-looking hands. I'd been grouting tile and despite all of my hand scrubbing, couldn't get the grout haze off my hands. :(

The zipper pocket is good for things that may have a tendency to move around a lot that get misplaced inside the main compartment, such as keys, cards, and items of similar size.

As for things I find a bit unsatisfactory or challenging (after all, nothing is perfect), I will say that it's a tad more difficult to maneuver this bike than I anticipated when getting into/out of areas (like storage, parking, etc) that are more cramped. For such a small bike, it's a bit of a pain in tight spaces. This may be partially due to the front rack, but even before the rack was on, I didn't find it super easy to move. Because of the weight, I don't want to pick it up unnecessarily, but find that I often must, simply to get it where I need it. It's not a deal-breaker, but it's also not ideal. If I lived in an apartment with stairs, I definitely wouldn't want to be hauling it up and down - but perhaps that is just me and the fact that I've grown used to having bikes stored at ground level.

Another flaw I've found is that it sits so upright that I wish it was just a bit leaned forward (just a bit). It's nice to have a view of everything around, but when I take longer in-town rides, my backside feels more pressure than I'd typically want. Usually, city trips mean lots of stops though, so I can make do with the bolt-upright position on the bike -- though I probably wouldn't use it for touring or things that took me far outside of town. Again, for some this may not be a flaw at all, but for me, it's not the best position to ride in, particularly over longer distances. I'm still fussing a bit with positioning on the bike, so hoping to find a good spot for me to ride that relieves a bit of pressure, though in my experience, this is simply the nature of an upright bicycle.

As has been mentioned in reviews, I find the cafe lock on the rear wheel a bit challenging, though not for the reasons most mention. Many have found it an annoyance to have to leave the key in the lock when riding, but honestly, I don't mind that aspect. I have a much bigger issue getting the key into the lock and then releasing it. I have discovered that it often sticks and doesn't want to budge. With use, it seems to be getting a little easier, but I find that I need to allow extra time to deal with potential problems, and inevitably, it's uncooperative when I'm in a hurry. The solution seems to be not to use the cafe lock for the rear wheel, but this leaves the bike vulnerable to battery theft when unattended, as the key is coded for both the battery and the cafe lock, and must remain in the lock when unused.

In retrospect, I probably didn't need to have the internal hub and belt drive for this bike, but I don't regret it (at least yet) either. I do appreciate that it will require a little less maintenance, and when having more than one bike, that can be a nice feature.

Despite any of the things that may seem derogatory, I really do like this bike! I am thankful to have it to use for daily purposes and it's been an excellent addition to the bike fold. I also appreciate that both of us in our household can use it, though I will likely be the primary user. 

Has anyone else had the opportunity to pick up an electric bicycle? What do you like and/or dislike about it? Would you buy one again? Would you do anything different regarding your choice? Would love to hear about others' experiences, if you're willing to share. 

Wednesday, February 16, 2022

Bike lanes and sidewalks

Life is... well, it's likely taking some turns in the coming months. I'm not at liberty at the moment to discuss any of it, nor do I really have many details, but my mind is having a field day with all of the potential outcomes. As a person who likes open options, I find myself playing out scenarios and possibilities, but in the interim, there is so much that must be done, and my body is exhausted. I wish I could say that it is from riding so much, but as I pointed out to Sam just days ago, my cycling miles from January 2021 to January 2022 dropped off. 


Like, by ninety percent. Ugh. 

It's funny how life upheaval can change so much of the usual routine. I'm also amused that as someone who likes open options and change, I do have parts of life for which I appreciate having a schedule or routine to depend on. When those things get disrupted, destroyed, or completely obliterated, I find the rest of life feels more chaotic than it normally would. I mentally struggle, which quickly turns into physical stress... and then, well, it depends on how quickly I come to that realization as to how it all gets handled. 

Last week I rode more than I have in a very long time (and it wasn't even close to as much as it would've been just a short three-quarters of a year ago) but it felt -- fantastically normal (except for perhaps a bit more saddle soreness than I'd normally experience). And yet, I am still struggling with finding balance between fixing our project house and the rest of life. I have not made art since, oh, around March of 2021 (although Sam keeps reminding me that the house is an art project all its own), and I haven't even bothered to try and find any sort of part-time gig (to replace or continue on with substitute teaching).

Last week, I pretty much opted out of the project house and focused on riding and other activities. We had a warm winter week in central Oregon, finding temperatures close to and right at the 70ºF mark and I wanted to take full advantage of the weather. Yet, somehow I still felt guilty spending several days during the week going for relatively short rides and ignoring the work that I know needs to get done. But, I know both my body and brain needed a break, so am trying to cut myself a little slack.

On the subject of cycling, one thing I've noticed here when riding is, as I pointed out early on, there seem to be quite a number of cycling lanes. Although I see bike-specific lanes in cities more frequently in the last decade or so, I still wish for more protected cycling lanes/areas.  When I find them, they are such a joy -- even as someone who doesn't necessarily mind riding in motorized traffic. Just being able to relax the body and mind a little in traffic is always welcomed.

This path (above) that B-dog and I walk regularly doesn't have a protected bike lane, but I do appreciate that thought was given to various forms of transportation. There is a sidewalk for walking/running, a raised bike lane for riding, and a lane for motorized traffic, and it runs on both sides of the road. It works seemingly well here, particularly as it's a lower speed limit spot, but more than once I've witnessed SUVs, trucks, 16-wheelers and other vehicles that have driven up onto the bike lane, making it one of those spots that I'm always a little leery to ride through without having full focus on motorized traffic. I would think that adding a protective barrier would make this more ideal, but because (as with most of the US) focus is on the convenience of drivers, I don't think that will happen any time soon. Adding a barrier would encourage drivers to actually drive the speed limit, whereas now, they are able to whip through, often 10-15+mph over the posted speed limit.

As can be seen in the same photo, cropped in a bit (below), people also like to use this area to park their vehicles, or use it when they break down (or hit one of the roundabout barriers, as I've personally witnessed). I am aware that the trucks parked here are doing city work, but there are literally parking spaces on the other side of the road at a public park, as well as plenty of residential street parking one to two hundred feet away that could be used if they were willing to take a few steps to the work area.

It may not seem like a big deal, but when the few spaces that are put in place for more vulnerable road users aren't respected as such, it does make people less likely to use the space. Plus, if I (or another walker, runner or cyclist) had been traveling on that side of the road, the only way to pass would be to enter the motorized traffic lane.

Not unlike this Twitter thread from last week.

As stated in my comment on Twitter, this is not a problem exclusive to Columbus. It seems to happen anywhere and everywhere, and yes, if this same closure were to happen where people drive, there would be an instantaneous uproar and solutions would be found immediately.

Sadly, as a cyclist and pedestrian, these are very common encounters when trying to navigate most cities. Bike lanes are used as a staging area for road closure signs, delivery drivers use bike lanes and narrow shoulders as their parking area, sidewalks are fenced off, forcing pedestrians or those riding on sidewalks into traffic lanes, and then people start to give up and instead get in their cars to drive because it becomes too much of a risk and too difficult to deal with not to be in a metal box. 

Although I didn't take a photo, I did recently encounter a fenced off sidewalk which had large, directed signs, pointing cyclists and pedestrians to a workaround path for the construction zone. I was honestly a little surprised to find this, but it made navigating around the area much, much easier, and I couldn't help but think that this is how every blocked bike lane or fenced off sidewalk should be dealt with on a regular basis. 

It seems as though the answer is pretty simple to this problem, but my presumption is that closures don't inconvenience enough people to make it worth the time and effort to put in a safe passage area during the length of construction or work projects. Yet, it almost feels more like a chicken or egg argument. Not enough people are cycling or walking, so no one bothers to put in alternative passing areas, but people don't feel safe on passageways because they've encountered the scenes above too frequently.  

Perhaps as fuel becomes more costly and the climate crisis is becoming unavoidable, changes will start to be seen? Unfortunately, it saddens me to say that it is more likely that things will continue on in the same manner, but I do hold on to hope that as more people use alternative forms of transportation, safety for all travelers will come to the forefront and change will take place.

Monday, January 3, 2022

A somewhat late 2021 wrap-up

Happy New Year and welcome to 2022! 

My brain (and body) have been somewhat occupied for the last several months, so I know I've missed out on posts that may have normally been written, but because I feel a need to brain dump 2021 for my own sanity, I thought writing a summary might be helpful for me to let it all go. Is this what I should be doing right this moment? Absolutely not, but sometimes sanity has to come before other matters.

January got off to a beautiful start in Colorado. This photo above was on one of our daily dog walks only a few days into 2021, and I was feeling so very grateful to live in a beautiful place. I was also continuing my near-daily rides that I'd taken on as a coping mechanism during the pandemic. We rode on the weekends, too, and were shocked at how little snow we were getting.

This photo was taken the last day of January on an unseasonably dry winter ride we had taken into Thornton, Broomfield, Superior, and other southern-to-us areas.

In February, I was able to get my first-round Covid vaccination shot because I was employed with the school district as a substitute teacher and they desperately wanted to get us all back in the classroom. I had agreed to come back as soon as I was fully through that process, so was excited to be able to get vaccinated relatively early, though I felt bad in some sense because I wished I could've given it to Sam who was going into the office daily. 

We were still able to ride quite a bit too because, though cold, we really hadn't received a ton of snow.

By mid-March I'd received my second round vaccination and had been through my post-shot two-week period, so I was ready to go back to subbing in classrooms. My first day back was so exciting that I actually took a selfie to commemorate the day. Being able to do something "normal" that wasn't exercise, riding a bike or walking a dog was very exciting!

We also took a tandem ride one weekend that resulted in a weird tire bulge in our usually-tough Schwalbe tires.

Afterward, several others noted that they had experienced or had seen similar photos of others who don Schwalbe touring tires that had similar issues. We crossed our fingers that this was a one-time weird moment and put a new tire on the tandem.

Right after this ride, we also received a pretty decent helping of snow. Certainly, not uncommon in Colorado to get a large snow storm, but when our brains were ready for spring to start, having this much snow come in at a moment when spring was days away was not what we wanted to see out the window in the morning.

The good about March was that I was starting to find something resembling normal again. I was working on art again, back to substituting in the classroom, and everything else we'd been doing during the pandemic seemed to still be happening as well, so I was a happy lady.

By April, things took a bit of a turn. The first downer was that we knew our Labrador was getting to a point that we were going to have to make some decisions. I really, really didn't want to accept this as I'd watch her napping and had hope that she would continue to be the fighter we knew she was. But, her liver was failing, she was completely blind, and she just didn't have the life she once did.

While we put those thoughts to the back of our minds, we continued to ride as much as we could, experiencing some really dry (though often windy) spring days. One of our favorites was to visit this bikeway, above, that runs parallel to Highway 36 into/out of Boulder/Superior/Louisville/Westminster.

In late April, we discovered that we had a broken, clay sewer line at the house and that we'd need to have it replaced. It was (in my mind) an insane cost for something that we have to have (and that is just a pipe), but I know that there were a lot of people involved and that everyone needs a paycheck, so we took it on the chin and moved forward.

The next day, Sam found out that he was being offered a job in Bend, Oregon, and a lot of discussion happened in a very short amount of time. Within a week, as we started into May, our house was up for sale and Sam was making plans to go to Oregon to start his new job while the dogs and I stayed behind to get packed and take care of business in Colorado.

Strangely, I was very focused (an unusual trait for me). I knew what needed to be done and was doing my best to stay on task. Still lingering through was the thought of our Lab-girl. There were many, many discussions about how we would transition her to a new place, particularly as she was completely blind, but also taking into account her other ailments and age. We had a plan in place, but as we continued to observe her daily actions, we knew what she was telling us and as gut-wrenching and heart-breaking as it was, we knew we were going to have to say goodbye to our companion of just shy of 15 years. 

A photo taken from my Studio window of B-dog as she sat on the back flagstone.

As much as we knew that it was the right decision, I will likely always carry guilt about this choice made for her. Our Golden-girl wasn't really sure how to behave after the fact and she seemed a little forlorn (or maybe it was my projection on to her), but it was sad to watch her try to adapt to a new life without her housemate.

Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunate for my mental state), I didn't have much time to linger on these thoughts as we had a lot to get done. I decided to have one last open-studio/sale outdoors in late May with a friend who makes jewelry, and tried to sell off as much of what I had as possible to make packing up the studio a little less painful.  

Sam was also ready to head out for his time alone in Oregon, and he packed up our old camper-trailer and headed out west to begin a bit of new life and a new job. Meanwhile, B-dog and I went to work with more packing, giving things away, and donating as much as we could so that we'd be prepared for the move after the house sale closed. 

By June, we were nearly ready for the move and were waiting for Sam's return to put all of our belongings into shipping pods that would be stored until we found a new place to live. I was oddly calm, despite having a lot to do and knowing that we were leaving the state we'd called home for nearly two decades. My presumption was that this was a good sign and that it was time to find a new place.

Having always been a bit of a wanderer, it was starting to feel as though maybe we'd over-stayed our welcome, though there was a part of me that knew I was going to miss Colorado.

As mid-June came, we were ready for all of us to make the move to Oregon, so our house items and all but a few belongings were sent off to be stored until we were ready as we headed to our new area.

We lived in our camper trailer, moving from campsite to campsite every week or so because there, as we soon discovered, weren't any places for us to set up long-term. Our camper doesn't have a bathroom and really was meant more for bike-race type camping trips, so the space isn't vast by any means, but we were figuring out how to deal with the small space and limited "stuff" until we could secure a new home.

That would also be more of a challenge than we anticipated, despite our immediate start upon arrival. Even finding an apartment to rent was impossible, as we hadn't anticipated the number of people who arrive to this central Oregon city in the summer months (and already had plans for housing - unlike us). Our agent was great though and showed us absolutely everything we wanted to see, no matter where it took us.

Throughout June and July B-dog and I did a LOT of walking. We walk every day in normal circumstances, but this was next-level walking during which we explored anything and everything we could find. Although I didn't record most days, we were walking a good 12-14 miles every week day. 

The good thing for miss B is that the river is just about everywhere we'd go, so she'd always get to go for a swim and cool off at some point (often several times). 

Initially, we looked for homes daily and made an offer on a place that was a complete wreck. Honestly, it was close to uninhabitable. It had been rented for several decades prior and not well-cared-for, and we were pretty convinced our agent thought we were insane to be purchasing the property. I think we questioned our sanity a bit as well, especially because the house had been listed as a development property, with the seller believing the house was destined for demolition. But, near the end of August, after a sketchy escrow period and a near-loss of the house right at the end, we ended up getting precisely what we'd hoped to avoid: a giant project. 

But, this is who we are - people who seem to (at least somewhat) enjoy taking on something no one else wants and making it into something that is hopefully better than it started when we found it. 

*Photo credit to Sam       
A visit to the local Lava Lands hiking area

The summer months (especially July and August) brought a lot of smoke, as it did to most of the western US. The skies often looked as they would on a cloudy day, except that it was smoke. If we hadn't been wearing masks because of the pandemic, we likely would've been anyway because of the difficulty breathing.

The smoke cleared earlier here than it has been the last couple of summers in Colorado though, and by late August/early September, most days were smoke-light or smoke-free, which was a welcomed change. 

By late August, we had closed on the house and were into our renovations. We started from day one and haven't stopped since that time, other than for very brief moments. Sam goes to work, while I work on the house and then Sam returns home and does the things that require his touch/assistance.

A couple of rooms as they went through their changes. They both still had work to be done at the point of these photos, but we were grateful to start being able to get to somewhat live in the house at this point in late September.
It's hard to describe all that has gone into these rooms (especially the unseen) without a lot of detail, but things were much worse than were visible on the surface. We are so grateful to have the opportunity to save something destined for demolition though!

We also attempted to get back to riding somewhat regularly, which was more of a struggle than we anticipated. I think it's easy to get upset with ourselves when we can't manage to get all of the things completed that we hope, but sometimes have to remind ourselves that there are only so many hours in a day/week and something has to give sometimes when there are too many things to get done. 

Then, the weather turned earlier than we expected and that limited our riding time as well. Plus, we were getting pressure from friends/family who want to come and visit, so we were trying our very best to get as much work done as we could as quickly as possible. Ultimately, we had to tell everyone to just give us a bit of a break as there are only two of us doing the work and we can only accomplish so much. 

By October, leaves were changing and fall skies were a regular occurrence. We had close to renovated four of the rooms in the house as well. However, at this point, our riding was even more limited. Sam was riding to work, but my time was pretty much limited to our once per weekend ride on the tandem. 

When November rolled around, I started to truly realize that we actually live in another state and all of the things I had emotionally pushed down, not wanting to deal with (or lacking the time to deal with), started to come up. I missed my dog that I felt I had killed because we were moving (even though that really was not at all the case), I missed my Colorado friends and home -- not the house so much, but just knowing that the things I was so used to being near were no longer there, and I wanted desperately to have a ride in my old stomping grounds. I started to understand just how much I had taken for granted all that was at my fingertips, and just how much it all really meant to me. 

Fortunately, I had planned a trip back to Colorado for a couple of days in December to help out a friend and to hopefully clear out some of the emotion I just couldn't quite let go. Getting to walk my old home area was so wonderful and getting to see some friendly faces was the absolute best. I only wish I could've seen more people while there and had the opportunity to take my bicycle with me to ride. I realized that even when I don't get to see friends regularly, it's nice to know they are around and it really stinks to be in a new place with no familiar faces. 

When I returned home, I received notification from the state of Colorado that I had been exposed to someone who tested positive for Covid through the state notification app that I still had active on my phone. I was not pleased as I have done my best to stay away from people for the last two years unless outdoors, and, of course, the one time I went somewhere since this started, I had potentially exposed not only myself but Sam and those he works with (as the notification came a few days after my return) to testing positive. I had been masked while there, but it just frustrated me that this is still something that requires so much caution. Because of the date of exposure, I knew that it had to be either at the airport or on the airplane, but there wasn't anything I could do except to quarantine and get a test to see if I had been infected.

Thankfully, I tested negative (as did Sam), but it was a good reminder that we are not through any of this mess. The nice thing, I suppose, is that when home I have very little exposure to other humans.

December snow days in central Oregon.

I know that in the coming weeks/months, I have to start doing some things outside of fixing the house because I will never meet new people when my days revolve around dog walks, big-box home improvement stores, and working in the house, but there is still the part of me that has a hard time believing that Oregon is home. It's a lovely place (as I know I've stated), but it just doesn't feel like home - at least yet. Maybe it will in time, but that remains to be seen. 

Mileage-wise, riding has taken a severe plummet in 2021. I ended 2020 with 9,000 miles of riding, but 2021 dropped significantly to just over 4,600 (and most of that took place before summer hit). Miles on foot didn't take the same drop, but that was likely due to the reality that B-dog and I were attached at the hip for several months, which allowed us to get a lot of steps in throughout summer, most of which weren't recorded so I'll never truly know how many miles we covered.

This year ahead still holds quite a few question marks. I don't currently have a work space (nor have I been able to find a place locally that sells the supplies I need), I haven't gone back to substitute teaching here in Oregon, and there are still a lot of things to accomplish in regard to our project house. There are also some questions about where things will go with Sam's job. Truthfully, I don't mind questions though - who wants to have all the answers - but I'm curious to see where 2022 takes us. 

I hope that 2021 was kind to you, or as good as a pandemic year can be, and that you were able to fulfill goals and experience new things. Please feel free to share your thoughts/experiences from 2021 as well. Happy New Year to all!!