My favorite ride

I think every cyclist has a favorite ride. You know the one: the go-to ride that always feels good, that challenges enough but not too much, that is the one you would always ride if you had time. My favorite ride is all of these, as well as rural, quiet, and beautiful.

I had the time to ride it on Thursday afternoon, and the weather was gorgeous that day. My idea of the perfect weather for riding is dry, 70s to low 80s (has to be dry, not humid for low 80s), and partly sunny, with some pouffy clouds. I got ready to go, and decided to wear my Team Fatty kit, because it is the most comfortable kit I have, not to mention the fact that I really like it. The only potential drawback is that the shorts have light pink running up a large portion of the legs and over the hip: I am not sure if this area is light enough that it will become translucent if worn in the rain. I also mixed up some of Andy’s magic potion in one of my water bottles (the same thing he put in one of my water bottles for the Vermont ride, which is probably what helped me recover during the ride), and I was good to go.

The first part of the route heads due West, which is also the direction from which bad weather approaches. As I started out, I noticed that there were some dark clouds to the north. I wasn’t concerned, since they didn’t look too threatening, and I was determined to do the ride even if the weather was iffy. The sun was shining through the clouds, and it was quite pretty, so I stopped to snap a quick photo:It was getting pretty dark to the north, and I was beginning to wonder if it would be smarter to do my usual short route instead. The first four and a half miles are the same for both routes, so when I got to the turning point I pulled out my phone to check the weather (there’s an app for that ­čÖé There was some rain coming, but nothing severe, so I stayed with my original plan.

The wind was crazy! I couldn’t tell which direction it was blowing, because it seemed like a headwind to my face, but I was cruising along in a high gear with low effort. My legs have definitely gotten stronger over the summer, but not enough to ride at 16-17 mph in a strong headwind. When I made one of my turns, I suddenly had a very definite tailwind. It was awesome! I cruised up a long hill at 16 mph without gearing down, and putting in minimal effort.

I wasn’t quite halfway through my ride when I felt a few raindrops. Other than wondering what my shorts were going to look like, I wasn’t concerned. If it rained hard, I would just put in some time cleaning up my bike later that evening. I hadn’t realized just how badly I needed to ride until I got out and really started to relax. Fortunately, the rain didn’t amount to more than a brief shower for part of my ride, and I was glad that I hadn’t taken my short route.

The ride passes through areas of farm fields, and as I came around a bend I noticed four Sandhill cranes nearby. I stopped to see if I could perhaps get a photo of them. I did, although it isn’t terribly clear:

While I stood there watching them, they did a little “dance,” with two lifting their wings and jumping in the air. If you look closely at the photo, you can see that two of the birds have their heads tilted back. It is the wrong season for their mating dances, so I am not sure what this type of communication means, but it was breathtaking anyway. Watching this brought peace to my heart, and I finished my ride feeling lighter inside.

Maybe it’s my favorite ride because in one way or another I always lose the stress of day-to-day life on the ride. There have been times that I have suffered through the ride, but even the suffering clears everything else out of my head. Whatever the reason, I am now determined to make time to ride it more often.

 

Rocky the frog

When I took a zoology class last semester as part of the teacher certification process, I acquired an African clawed frog. We bred a pair of frogs that my professor had, and ended up with hundreds of eggs. Many, but of course not all, developed into tadpoles, and I and the other students got to keep some. We all thought it was super cool, and I ended up with my $75 set-up for my free frog! He is now about three inches from snout to the end of his feet, and he provides great entertainment for Boo the cat. He is very “tame” and will eat out of our hands and swim into my palm if I put my hand in the tank. He doesn’t have teeth or a tongue, so it doesn’t hurt when he bites, but it’s pretty startling.

I had smooth, large gravel in the bottom of the tank, because apparently these frogs will eat anything, including small gravel. You can probably sense where this is going, can’t you? The other day, I bought him some new pelleted food, which we fed to him in a clear spot in the bottom of the tank. One day we fed him, but apparently the gravel wasn’t cleared away. The next day, Aaron said, “I think the frog swallowed a rock. His stomach is all funny.” Sure enough, his stomach was enlarged by quite a bit, so I gently felt his abdomen. It had a distinct hard spot, right around the stomach area. He also hadn’t been acting quite right for about thirty-six hours, so I figured that he had indeed swallowed a rock.

I called my vet to see if there was anything I could do, and she referred me to another vet who is a specialist in exotics. At this point I was feeling a bit ridiculous, since it is just a frog, after all, but I wanted to see if there was a chance it would just pass through his system. After giving it another day, things still weren’t right, so I took him in to see the vet. A three inch frog. To the vet. What a softie! I couldn’t bear the thought that he was suffering, and I didn’t want him to die. It’s amazing what an attachment I have developed to this foolish amphibian, even though I still felt ridiculous.

After the vet heard the story of how I got him, and the fact that I’m a biology teacher, she said I could come back and watch them try to remove the rocks. They had to lightly sedate him, because he’s so slippery and wiggly. Once he was calm, the vet put a thin catheter down his throat so she could flush the stomach with saline. The saline wasn’t even necessary – apparently that was enough to stimulate emesis (sounds better than making him throw up!), and he spit out not one, but four rocks!

The drama resulted in a name for the frog, and the knowledge that he is indeed a male. A voracious one at that!

Bluebirds!

I have a bluebird house in my backyard, but have only had bluebirds nesting in it a few times. We waged a war with house sparrows a few years ago, and the house stayed open all summer just to keep the sparrows away. I had bluebirds nest in the house two years ago, but not last year. I saw them near the house this spring, but wasn’t home enough to see them regularly coming in and out of the house. I opened the birdhouse to make sure the sparrows hadn’t built in the house, and had a very pleasant surprise! This is what I saw:

Bluebird eggs, 2011

I knew these were bluebirds because the nest is very neat (sparrows are slobs), and the color of the eggs (sparrows’ are tan or off-white). In my experience, they normally lay only four eggs, so five eggs really fill the nest. Of course, they don’t all necessarily make it, but I took a quick peek today, and four of them have hatched:

Bluebird babies 2011

You can still see the fifth egg behind a couple of the babies, so it will probably hatch tomorrow. The babies are fairly hideous, but I love their little downy heads and the quiet cheeping when I get near the box. They will grow quickly, and will probably fledge in just a few weeks. In previous years, the parents and young have stayed in the neighborhood for the remainder of the summer. I love their sweet chirrup to each other, both when the male is courting the female, and when the adults are “talking” to the babies. More photos to come as they grow!