I have a confession to make

Hello, my name is Heidi, and I have a cycling jersey problem.

After The Masher purchase/ride, this will come as no surprise to any of my readers. All three of you…thank you! 🙂

I discovered today that Twin Six has posted their 2012 previews for both men and women. Usually I really like something offered for the guys that isn’t also available for gals, but not this time. In fact, this time I like the guys’ stuff, but love the gals’ jerseys. There is one I must have, mostly because it is incredibly sassy:

The Vixen - back

The Vixen - front

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then, of course, I also really like The Schoolgirl:

The Schoolgirl - back

The Schoolgirl -front

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I just love that little touch of plaid on the back pockets. Speaking of pockets, the T6 pockets are awesome! The jerseys I have all have three sections in the pockets, and the elastic at the top is just snug enough that you don’t have to worry about stuff falling out, even when you cram the pockets full.

No, I don’t work for Twin Six… although I bet they’re pretty cool/fun people to work with.

Finally, I may need to get the 2012 version of The Masher, because it is as awesome as the 2009 one that I have:

The 2012 Masher - back

The 2012 Masher - front

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I might even like this one better than the 2009, which is saying a lot. The Masher I have is my favorite jersey, although last year’s Team Fatty is a close second. I just love the lightning bolts on the 2012! Awesome, and sassy again.

Hmmm, I detect a theme here…

I also like the Speedy Milan, but I couldn’t wear it. I am a terrible liar, and that would just plain be a lie, because I am not speedy. I am built for comfort, not speed.

There is one of the older jerseys that I have wanted for a while, too: The Bird from 2011. That teal-ish color is one of my favorites, and I like the more delicate design. It’s out of stock, and I’m not sure whether I should hope that they have it again. That’s $300 worth of jerseys so far!

Have I mentioned that I don’t have a full-time teaching position, and I’m substitute teaching until I find one? Not a great income, by any stretch of the imagination.

Yeah, well. At least they don’t come out for a while, and they will be available for quite awhile. Maybe that’s how I should celebrate when I finally get a full-time teaching job…

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Dropped, on a no-drop ride

Yes, you read that correctly.

There is a local bike shop (not my usual LBS, but still a pretty good one) that has Tuesday and Thursday morning rides. When I asked about it, I found out that it’s just women. I thought that would be good, since men tend to ride faster than women, and especially faster than I do. I also asked about their normal pace, and was told around 15-17 mph, after an easy warmup on the bike trail. My recent rides have been in the 15-16 mph range, but my speed is not very consistent. I was afraid of holding up the group, and was told that it’s a no-drop ride:  if you can’t stay with the group, someone will wait at turns to make sure you’re going the right way.

I didn’t make the connection that “if you can’t stay with the group” is essentially being dropped. It’s not intentional dropping, but the pace is determined by a few riders, not the group as a whole. I had never done a ride like that before: pace has always been mutually agreed upon in my groups of friends.

There’s the key… I almost always ride with friends. In large group rides, I have always found similar riders that are willing to buddy up for the ride. I enjoy riding with others, but today was a different experience. I was up early anyway, so decided to give it a try.

I was a bit concerned that this would be a group of women who don’t have to work because they have husbands with high-paying jobs… confirmed by the Cervelo and custom Madones…

I was concerned that this would be a group in which the women were friendly with each other, but new riders would have a hard time getting into the clique…confirmed

I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to keep up….confirmed

When I got to the shop, a couple of women said hi to me, but they weren’t overly friendly as a group. Uh oh, I knew that was a bad sign. One of the women hadn’t been riding much, and she was actually friendly, so we talked while we started “slow and easy.”

Right.

My definition of slow and easy = about 13 mph, spinning at a high cadence but low gear, just to warm up my legs. A couple of miles of this, and I can increase speed and gearing, and end up at the proposed 15-17 mph. I’m not fast, just half-fast 😀

Their definition of slow and easy = ack! The one time I glanced at my bike computer during the first mile or so, we were doing 16.5 mph. Other than that one time, I couldn’t look, because I was concentrating too hard on trying to keep up. As Suzanne asked me later, “In what Universe is 17 mph slow and easy?”

I was off the back of the group immediately, as there were four women riding in a group at the front, pretty much ignoring that there was anyone behind them. I held with the woman who hadn’t been riding much until we got to a hill, then I fell behind. I have noted before that I don’t do well on morning rides, and today was no different. By the time I had gone just shy of three miles, the group was out of sight. At that point, I realized that the ride was not going to get better. I quit. I turned around and headed back, but I wasn’t upset about it. If nothing else, I have learned my limits this year: I can push myself, but only so far.

They didn’t intentionally leave me behind, they are just faster, more competitive riders than I am. It was a good learning experience for me, and makes me appreciate my regular biking buddies more than ever. I still have hopes of one day actually being “athletic,” but that time is not now. Not yet.

It will come.

 

Next week’s ride…the ultimate combination

Thanks to the Bicycle Federation of Wisconsin and their wonderful publication of Wisconsin events, I am doing a group ride next Saturday. I must do this ride, for so many reasons. Take a look:

photo courtesy of Trek

Yes, you read that correctly – photo courtesy of Trek, as in Trek bicycles. Their high end bikes are made in Waterloo, WI, which is approximately two hours drive from here. The ride is called the Chocolate Chase, and as they say,’What’s not to love about this ride?!’

There are a few reasons I want to do this ride, some more obvious than others:

1. Chocolate. This is the most obvious reason I would drive two hours for a 20 mile ride (I usually ride much further than 20 miles if I drive that far to get there). I love chocolate. This ride has chocolate at every rest stop. mmmmm, chocolate. As Andy would say, ‘I will ride for chocolate.’ Yup, me too!

2. The fees/donations from this ride benefit Gilda’s Club and a group called Team Survivor Madison. Both are cancer support groups, for anyone affected by cancer. This includes families and friends of cancer survivors, as well as cancer patients and survivors. Gilda’s Clubs were formed in honor of Gilda Radner, who died of ovarian cancer. Gilda was a fighter, but ovarian cancer is commonly known as a ‘silent killer’, because by the time it is detected, the disease is often too advanced to treat effectively.

When I was not quite twenty-three years old, I was diagnosed with stage 1a ovarian cancer. At such an early stage, removal of the tumor is the only treatment required or suggested. I was blessed. One of my doctors called me her miracle girl: not only was I very young to have ovarian cancer, it was also caught very early, so I was still able to have children.

I would have benefited from the kind of contact offered in groups like Gilda’s Club, and helping with funding for their free services is a form of paying it forward to me. A cause dear to my heart.

3. Driving two hours to do a ride that will take less time than the drive did is crazy enough to really appeal to me. I also talked Suzanne into doing it with me, so I will have my best biking buddy along to enjoy the ride and chocolate.

Next March will be my twentieth anniversary of being free of cancer. I hope that the people who benefit from my registration fee will be able to say the same someday.

I can’t deny the mental benefits of chocolate, either…

My favorite ride – with music

The ride

Let me preface this by saying that I was really looking forward to my ride today. The weather was beautiful, and this morning I was feeling like my legs were just itching to get out there. I waited to ride until fairly late in the afternoon, though, because it’s my favorite time to ride. For lunch, I made BLTs. They sounded good, and I used whole wheat bread with plenty of lettuce and tomato. I figured that would keep me going for awhile, even though I didn’t ride until a couple of hours later.

Well, yes, it worked. I guess. Ugh, too much saturated fat! But I didn’t feel hungry.

I did feel fat. And slow. Especially since today I was doing the route with The Hill. It’s not a terrible hill by most standards: 8% grade for part of it, but not all. The problem with The Hill is that it is deceptive…there are three false summits. I have only ridden it a few times, so today I was thinking there were only two, and that the third was the real top. No such luck. But, following is why I actually managed the hill without too much difficulty.

The Music

Until today, I have never ridden with headphones, mostly because I like the sounds of the birds. I ride in a fairly rural area, so it’s pretty quiet, and I enjoy the peace. I decided to give music a try, for a change. I listen to music all the time at home, and thought it might be a nice addition to my ride. I am also tired of the high-pitched buzz of cicadas right now.

I knew my current playlist would not be a good workout mix: too much mellow music to really keep the legs pumping. I put together a new playlist, keeping in mind that the music had to have a good tempo. Here is the set of songs that I used (don’t laugh too hard – it’s kind of a funny combination)

  • You Are a Tourist – Death Cab for Cutie
  • Move it on Over- George Thorogood
  • M!ssundaztood – P!nk
  • The Day That Never Comes – Metallica (very unusual choice for me)
  • Movin’ On – Good Charlotte
  • The Mystery Zone – Spoon
  • The Celibate Life – The Shins (I had to add this one, it was way too appropriate)
  • That Was Just Your Life – Metallica
  • Uprising – Muse
  • According to You – Orianthi
  • Why Did I Ever Like You – P!nk
  • Oxford Comma – Vampire Weekend (love this song!)
  • My Bloody Valentine – Good Charlotte
  • Gear Jammer – George Thorogood
  • It’s The End of the World as We Know It – R.E.M.
  • Steady, As She Goes – The Raconteurs
  • Lateralus – Tool
  • Girl Sailor – The Shins
  • ‘Cuz I Can – P!nk
  • With or Without You – U2
  • Got Nuffin’ – Spoon
  • Walcott – Vampire Weekend
  • Triad – Tool

Since I have not posted about music on this blog before, it is not immediately obvious that a few of these choices are highly unusual for me. I very rarely listen to Metallica, Tool,  and Good Charlotte.  All of the others are regular artists, although some of the songs are new to me.

I was riding along with You Are a Tourist playing, when I hit a little bump. My iPod was on “shake to shuffle,” and suddenly I was listening to Gear Jammer  by George Thorogood. After that, the order of the songs was totally random, and there were a few times that I didn’t recognize what was playing.

As I reached the bottom of The Hill, Movin’ On started. The timing was perfect! It was upbeat enough that it kept me going to what I thought was the top of the hill. I have been stomping/mashing hills lately, without gearing down, to build strength in my legs (it works). Today when I saw that last crest, I had to sit down and drop gears. I was huffing and puffing by the time I got to the top, and my legs were really feeling it. But I made it, at least in part due to the song pushing me.

After that, the ride should have been easy. I had The Hill behind me, and the rest of the ride is rolling, with just a couple of short climbs. I was still feeling slow, and noticed that in general I was riding in a lower gear than I have been recently. I didn’t get in the big ring at all, even though last time I rode this route I spent most of my time in 50-18. I chalked it up to a heavy lunch and trouble breathing. I am highly allergic to ragweed, and the sides of the road are full of it right now, in all its flowering ugliness.

Whatever the reason, I was slow for the entire ride. When I was about six miles from home, my legs felt like they were going to cramp. They didn’t, but my obliques did. I had a “stitch” in my side for the rest of the ride, which then made me tense my shoulders. I spent those last six miles (which are flat) alternating between “Man, that hurts!  Why the heck do I have a cramp in my side?” and, “Relax your shoulders, you moron! No wonder your neck hurts!” Seriously, that was my internal conversation the rest of the way home.

Who knows what happened, but I think it’s interesting that the hardest part of the ride (The Hill) became just a blip in my memory. It’s also interesting that I will forget the suffering of the last six miles today, and look forward to riding tomorrow. Glutton for punishment, perhaps?

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 🙂 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.

 

How I know I’m addicted to cycling/bikes

  • When I do laundry, most of it is biking clothes
  • If I’m not riding, I’m thinking of/planning/obsessing about my next ride
  • I take better care of my bike than I do of my car (disclaimer: my bike is also worth more than my car is. Not a super-expensive bike, an old car)
  • My bike lives in my bedroom, where nobody else can touch it
  • I regularly check out other people’s bikes, whether they are being ridden or parked or on cars
  • I have marks on my carpet from setting down a spinning wheel to stop it
  • I regularly have bike grease/lube on my hands
  • When I see others cycling, I think, “I wish I was doing that…”
  • I’m thinking about my next bike even though I know I won’t be able to get one for a long time.

But, the clincher was when I discovered that

  • I have bike grease on my nightshirt…

The Vermont Ride

A couple of weeks ago, the boys and I visited family in Maine, as we usually do in the summer. This time, however, we took the last couple of days of vacation and drove to Vermont to visit my friend Andy and his son Ian. It is a long drive across Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont, but it is incredibly beautiful. I hadn’t made the drive before, so I particularly enjoyed it.

In the hopes that Andy and I could get in a bike ride, I took along my kit, pedals, and shoes. We are close to the same height, so his road bike is about the same size as mine. He graciously allowed me to use his road bike, while he used his cyclocross bike, which is a bit slower. Having him as slow as possible is very  important when I ride with him, as he is speedy and I am not. Anyway, I forgot/didn’t have room to take my saddle, which was, ahem, somewhat disconcerting. We had time to go for a ride the day we got there, so got geared up and ready to go.

He cruised down the lawn to the driveway. I started to, but immediately discovered that the saddle was way too high, and walked down instead. He made the necessary adjustments, and away we went. The first stretch of the ride is a gravel road and all downhill, which is no big deal if the gravel is well packed. It wasn’t, so I took it pretty slowly: unfamiliar bike, guy’s saddle, gravel…enough of a combination to make me nervous. Oh, and I was supposed to do my best not to crash his bike. No pressure. All was fine until I came to a sharp curve that happened to have very loose gravel. I skidded sideways, wobbled, nearly floundered, and yelled a bad word. I recovered without falling, and noticed that Andy had stopped and waited up ahead of me to make sure I didn’t wipe out. Finished the gravel without further incident.

Once we got out onto the road, it was nice and smooth, although there is no shoulder and traffic is passing at 45 mph. It was a little rolling, but there weren’t really hills, just easy riding. I didn’t have a bike computer, so I didn’t know how fast we were going, and I was trying to keep up with Andy. That was my first mistake. I learned later in the ride that even though he was ahead of me, he would slow down to wait if I fell behind. I had a slight cramp under my right rib cage, but attributed it to both the different bike geometry and the heat.

The beginning of the ride was both easy and significantly downhill, but it was hot. I suddenly felt truly miserable and had to stop, but I assumed it was just the heat. I had chills, and my heart was pounding. I know my face was beet red, but that happens even when I’m not too hot. Andy very patiently waited for me, and made sure I drank plenty and cooled down a bit. I couldn’t figure it out, though: I don’t do very well in the heat, but I almost never feel that bad, especially on an easy ride. We kept going, and came to a lovely hill.

Or, it would have been lovely if I had been feeling okay. It isn’t a very large hill, and normally would have been one that I could handle without any problem. Not this day, though. I got halfway up, and absolutely had to stop. I know, I know, it’s only worse if you stop on a hill, but my legs felt like they could not go any further. I said some bad words again, out of pure frustration with my body. I finally had a chance to ride with Andy, and my body just would not cooperate! Andy was the epitome of patience and reminded me how to beat the hill. I said I wanted to either die or jump in the stream that I could hear. Never mind that the stream was down a steep slope. He said we had a couple of options, but had to get back to the house somehow. He offered the option of me turning back to the town we had just passed, and he could come pick me up. Or we could keep going. Stubbornness won out. I still wanted to die, but was going to do whatever I could to make it up that stupid hill.

I had to stop again before I made it to the top, but I eventually made it. Andy would ride ahead a little way, then come back to check on me. I didn’t mention to him how much I appreciated that: having someone who feels fine right next to you while you are in agony doesn’t make it any easier. At one point, he rode just a little way in front of me, and suddenly was back. He told me that the point where he had turned around was the top of the hill, and cheered me on. If I hadn’t felt so miserable, I would have been mortified that it was so hard for me to climb that hill. From there it was seriously downhill. As in, I think I just hit the highest speed I have ever gone on a bike and surpassed the speed limit downhill. Surprisingly, I wasn’t nervous or afraid of crashing.

We got back to the town that is about six miles from his house, and stopped for a couple of minutes. I was feeling much better, and actually was enjoying riding again at this point. We had already been out much longer than planned, so we split up. He is a strong rider, and would be back at the house in just fifteen or twenty minutes. The plan was that I would continue behind him at my own pace, and call him if I wanted him to come back and pick me up. Did I mention that I’m stubborn?

He was quickly out of sight, and I plodded along behind. Since there was no rush, I took my time and checked out the wildlife along the way. There was a bit of a hill on the way out of the town, and I started up it. Halfway up the hill my legs were protesting, and I didn’t want a recurrence of wanting to die. I decided to get off the bike and walk for a bit.

Aside from being stubborn, I do not walk hills. Ever. I will stop in the middle and rest, but I won’t walk them. This day, I had just had enough of fighting with my body, and decided to walk a bit. I clipped out left foot first, as always…

I didn’t notice that the verge sloped quite a bit, because there was tall grass. As I leaned slightly to clip out my right foot, I tipped over. Totally. Both legs up in the air, which naturally clipped my shoe out. The grass was high and soft, I was unhurt, and it struck me as tremendously funny. I lay there for a minute, just laughing and hoping that nobody had seen my ridiculous fall. No such luck. It’s Vermont – people will stop to help you no matter what. A car pulled up and someone called to me to ask if I was okay. I was laughing, and answered yes, so they pulled away. Thank goodness. I had experienced enough embarrassment for one ride already!

Stood up, dusted myself off, and walked a short distance. I climbed back on, finished the hill, and enjoyed the rolling area back to the house. The gravel drive was still tricky, but easier going uphill than downhill. I was feeling so good that I stopped to move a baby snapping turtle off the road:

Baby snapping turtle

I finished the ride without further incident, and felt good that I had persevered. I still couldn’t figure out why I had felt so miserable, until Andy said he suspected I had ridden too hard too soon. Yup, I would say that was the problem, even though I didn’t realize it at the time. I had tried to keep up with him, and I should have started at my usual pace until I had been on the bike awhile.

Valuable lessons learned:

Listen to your body, even when you don’t want to hear it

When you ride with a friend who is a much stronger rider than you are, and he is patient and kind, and doesn’t make you feel stupid despite the fact that the ride is pretty easy, you have a very special friend indeed.

Don’t use a man’s saddle if you can help it (if you are a woman, of course). My, ahem, girl parts were a bit sore for a couple of days.

Chamois cream is wonderful, especially on hot rides.

Despite the sections of misery, it was a good ride. Every ride is a good ride.

The best laid plans…

I started this post a couple of days ago, then didn’t finish. Even though it describes Tuesday, I’m still going to post it, because it totally sums up my typical style. What a weirdo…

I did end up going for a ride, albeit 14 miles instead of the 22 I had planned. I didn’t leave the house until 7PM, and as I left I realized that even if I rode at a fairly good pace, I could potentially be riding on a bad road at a dangerous time. You know the time: just at dusk, when the light is beginning to fade, and it’s hard for drivers to see cyclists. I didn’t wish to add a car/cycle accident to my list of adventures, so I took a shorter route. Here is my pre-ride post…

It is Tuesday, which prior to teaching certification was “shirk your responsibilities day,” with Amy. Since it’s summer vacation, we have been able to shirk a few times, and we had plans to do some quilting for today. That isn’t the problem: the plans for quilting didn’t change. I told Amy last night that I wanted to go for a ride this morning, so she was coming over this afternoon instead.

I should know better.

I don’t particularly enjoy riding in the morning, and today was no different. I ate breakfast, had coffee, and checked my e-mail. I had plenty of time to go for my usual 22 mile ride, take a shower, and be presentable by the time she got here. Right. So did I?

No, of course not. That would have made too much sense, and it would have taken advantage of the beautiful weather. I thought I could go for a ride tonight instead, as long as I leave by about 6:30 (I always try to leave plenty of time in case of a flat, bad weather, swarm of locusts, whatever)…

What a dork.

The Masher Ride

A couple of months ago, Alicia at Pedals and Pencils and I conspired to do a ride “together”, despite the fact that we live approximately 2000 miles apart. We first met online through involvement with Team Fatty, which is pretty awesome by itself. Elden’s Fat Cyclist blog is how I was first introduced to Twin Six: Alternative Cycling Apparel, a super-awesome company that has become my absolute favorite source for cycling clothes. That’s saying a lot, too, since I (ahem) own quite a few jerseys.

Alicia and I decided to do this ride “together” with several stipulations. Since it was The Masher ride, we of course would wear The Masher jerseys, and ride on the same day, at approximately the same time. We also agreed to link to each others blogs, although I must admit that Alicia is a more eloquent writer than I am. Twenty-five miles, snapping photos every five miles, in all our matchy-matchy goodness. You have to admit, The Masher is pretty awesome in all its stripey wonder…

What could be better?

The Masher jersey

Of course, yesterday I found the perfect pin to go with this photo of me, but it’s a little late…

forget Victoria...

But I digress. I did not have matchy-matchy socks to accompany my jersey, so I improvised.

Sassy socks

I thought they added the proper amount of sassiness to complement my jersey, even if they did look dorky with my white road shoes. Fully kitted, I was ready to ride.

The Interurban Trail/ Harrington Beach loop

Because there was road construction on the road I normally ride, I decided to do my favorite easy ride instead. I was originally planning to do a challenging ride, but wimped out at the last minute, and rode the interurban trail instead. The trail is mostly flat, so I took a little detour to Harrington Beach, a lovely state park on Lake Michigan. There were a few hills, and plenty of good scenery to add some interest to my ride.

I started off from a parking lot in the next town over, so the beginning of my ride wasn’t very exciting:

Beginning of ride

The trail runs through farmland and is fairly open, and on a windy day the riding can be tough despite the flat terrain. I have ridden in winds that have nearly knocked me off the trail. This day was just slightly breezy, which was welcome due to the humidity. After a few miles, I left the trail, and rode on a deserted road toward the beach. My five mile stop overlooked a farmer’s field, as well as the interstate:

five miles...

Not terribly exciting, but it was very peaceful. The next five miles were more interesting, as they were on a road that I had never ridden. I stopped before five miles to take a photo of something Alicia probably didn’t see.

It's Wisconsin, you had to know there would be cows...

I made a short detour to the lake before I got to the state park, just because it was pretty, and there was a great hill to cruise down (and climb on the way back)

Lake Michigan

From here, I continued to the state park, which has a super-duper amazingly annoying road with seams every ten feet or so from concrete under the pavement. The ride down the road went ka-chunk, pedal some, ka-chunk, pedal a little more, ka-chunk, and so on. I felt like my teeth were going to be rattled out of my head! The ride through the woods was pretty, despite the miserable road

I was lazy when I got down to the parking lot. I didn’t even walk down to the beach, just made a quick loop and headed back up the bumpy road. I hit the ten mile mark on the way out of the park, in a really boring stretch, so I also took photos of the trees and sky at that point. It was a pretty day, after all!

Mile ten

From here it was back out to the trail, and north for a little while. Being the science geek that I am, I had to stop and check out this little guy:

Ah, nature. Even if it is just a toad!

I also tried to take a photo of a garter snake that was sunning itself in the middle of the trail, but by the time I got back to him, he slithered away.

Mile fifteen happened to fall at one of my favorite points along the trail. There is a wildlife preservation area that contains a wetland right along the trail, and I almost always see or hear interesting birds in the area.

Mile fifteen

As much as I enjoy riding the trail, at this point I was beginning to resent the road construction that prevented my from riding my usual route. The one positive note was that I was cruising along at a fairly good pace (for me. I believe I have already established that I am not particularly fast, and another post in the works will only reinforce that!). Mile twenty came up quickly, and this was the one stop I was quick to leave…

Mile twenty

It wasn’t the sound of the trucks, although they were loud. It wasn’t the smell of diesel, although I don’t care for that either. It was the fact that there is a sewage treatment area right after this factory. Blech. I always rush through this part of the ride.

Shortly after mile twenty, I was saved by an unknowing stranger. I was bored and thinking about what a dull write-up this would be. Until… a fellow cyclist came up behind me, said the usual courteous, “On your left,” and pulled up alongside me. He was friendly, and talked to me for a minute or so before pulling ahead of me. I decided that I was going to at least attempt to keep him in my sight for as long as possible. Awesome. I am nothing if not stubborn and determined.

There are occasional stops along the trail, where the trail crosses various roads. At the first one, he glanced from side to side to check traffic, and must have seen me out of the corner of his eye. I noticed his look of surprise, but we weren’t that far beyond where he had passed me, so he must have dismissed it as chance. I was not riding on his wheel, but I was only a few meters behind him. As we progressed through several more stops, I noticed that he glanced back a few times, because he couldn’t seem to lose me. After about four miles of this, he began to speed up, and I finally slowed down and let go of the chase. I didn’t take a picture at mile twenty-five because I was too busy keeping him in my sight.

So thank you to the unknowing stranger who helped me finish my ride in proper fashion. See, I was riding in high gear, at a relatively low cadence…

I ended my ride with a smile, thinking of Alicia riding in California, and looking forward to hearing about her ride. What’s a couple thousand miles between friends?

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!