Sunday, August 30, 2015

#PutMiamiOntheMap at #50WestBrewing

I had another cool adventure this weekend with Velo Junkie and my Gunnar. My alma mater, Miami University, had an event at several locations around the city, north, south, east, and west, called Put Miami on the Map. Not to be confused with the University of Miami in Florida. (Miami, Oxford opened its doors to students in 1824. UofM didn’t open till more than 100 years later.) The party on the east side was at a brewery. So, even though we live on the west side of Cincinnati, we decided it would be more fun to ride to the east side.

It was about a twenty mile ride to 50 West Brewing and the Reluctant Cyclist started out true to her name. We have a 6% (+/-) grade right out of the gate. I never do well on hills until my lungs and heart get together and figure out a rhythm they can both be happy with. On top of that, my front wheel was slightly out of true and had a little bit of a wobble. Of course I blamed my discontent and discomfort on the Gunnar, and Velo patiently waited for me to stop grumbling.

Once we crested the hill it was smooth sailing, except it got too hot, my seat was too low, we had to ride through Bengal’s football traffic, yada, yada, yada. Velo really is a saint to put up with me at times.

About halfway there we stopped so I could get my Coca-Cola to keep my sugar levels from crashing and I became as wobbly as my front wheel. The heat and humidity were making us both sweat Lunken Airport, Cincinnati’s first commercial air field. A few commercial flights still leave out of Lunken but it is mostly used by private jet and small craft owners. Lunken is short for Lunkenheimer, a once prominent family in Cincinnati, but we can save that story for a history lesson later. I’ve included a picture    of their house in Cincinnati for reference, but I won’t be riding a bike there any time soon. It sits at the top of one of Cincinnati’s best known hills, Mt. Adams. Just outside of Eden Park.
profusely, so we were losing valuable electrolytes by the minute. This was right before entering the bike-way through

Back to the ride, after the airport it was on through Fairfax to Mariemont, home of 50 West Brewing.  #50westbrewing

By the time we got to the Brewery the temperature had reached about 85⁰F and the humidity about 95%. A cold beer was the perfect reward for the early afternoon ride. I had a Lemon Bus Drop, a pale ale with just a hint of citrus.

50 West is known for its Micro Bus named Penny Lane, which unfortunately caught fire and has been retired to the back of the building. 

The new micro bus is named Eleanor Rigby, but she was busy and not available for viewing. I guess we will have to make another trip to the brewery for her debut. There was, however, a busload of people on a brewery tour across the city. I may have to look that up sometime.
I was excited to get the chance to hand out my new business cards for “The Reluctant Cyclist” to  
some new friends. I was sitting with several other Miami Alumni and found out that most of them had also graduated from the Farmer School of Business, some from the same program as me. Go Hawks!.
50 West is a common destination for cyclists on the east side of Cincinnati and we ran into a group of ladies riding from Milford enjoying the summer Saturday with a beer. More new friends, some friendly cyclist banter, a picture or two and we were off headed back to the west side.

Again, just as when we started out, there was a steep hill almost immediately after leaving the brewery parking lot. This time the two pale ales made me forget about the wobble, it was extremely slight anyway. The Reluctant Cyclist was in a favorable mood, the ride was half over, and we were headed home

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Cincinnati by Bike (Part 1)

In the last several years Cincinnati has become a draw to urbanites who prefer not to own cars.

The mission of the City of Cincinnati Bicycle Transportation Program is to make bicycling an integral part of daily life in Cincinnati, so that persons of all ages and abilities utilize bicycles for all types of trips. The City works toward this goal by planning, engineering, and implementing bicycle facilities, and by educating the community about bicycle transportation.

The Bicycle Program has successfully implemented many projects, including striping 23 miles of bicycle lanes, installing over 450 bike racks, creating 20 miles of shared-use paths/trails, upgrading 231 miles of streets with bike friendly stormwater inlets, and installing 5 miles of shared lane markings, or "sharrows."

Plan Summary
 The plan recommends 445 miles of on-street and off-street facilities, to be implemented in three phases over 15 years. The on-street Bicycle Network is comprised of striped bicycle lanes, shared lane markings and other on-street facilities. The off-street Bicycle Network is comprised of shared use paths (multi-use trails), sidewalks designated for bicycle use, potential rail-with-trail corridors and connector paths.
Phase I: 2010-2015 (103 miles);
Phase II: 2016-2020 (133 miles); and
Phase III: 2021-2025 (176 miles).

 It is only fitting that Cincinnati become a cycling mecca. The Cincinnati Cycle Club is the oldest cycling club in the region.
 The Brighton Bicycle Club website says, "The Wheel World, published in London, had this news bit from September 8, 1880 “Last Thursday evening, the riders  of the bicycle in these parts assembled at the residence  of one of the members, and formed the Cincinnati  Bicycle Club.”

I was on Fountain Square, the heart of Cincinnati, this past Sunday and there was not a Red Bike to be had. The bikes have become a popular mode of transportation for locals and visitors alike.

I was having dinner in the Clifton area near the University of Cincinnati on a Tuesday night and saw several peddle-pushers riding past and more bikes parked outside of establishments.

More people than ever are utilizing the protected bike lanes on Central Parkway, a main artery into downtown,
and the new Bike Center by the river makes it attractive for bike commuters to ride to work and park their bike in a safe, secure location equipped with lockers and showers.

Yes, Cincinnati is fast becoming a sustainable city and The Reluctant Cyclist is going to be in the middle of it. Follow my page for future posts about Cincinnati's bike community. Exciting times are ahead.

 Bicycle Transportation Plan

Sunday, August 23, 2015


This past weekend was the BikeMS ride in Cincinnati, Venture the Valley. I ride with the Pure Protein Steamrollers, one of the larger teams at the ride every year.

The Ride

The weather was perfect and the route was awesome until about mile thirty-three, when it started circling back on itself to add mileage. Velo and I were riding the 75 mile route. The part through Cincinnati was fun, this was our home turf.
The part on the rural roads north of the city were fun too, until you saw the same stretch again. Velo makes every ride fun, though. He always says something to add life, even if it is inappropriate at times.

I know I’ve said before that I like to stop at every rest stop to stretch, socialize, and look at the other bikes on the ride, so we did. All but one stop had good food. The lunch stop was really good. There was a peanut butter bar with a variety of mix-ins as well as PB sandwiches. The PB, a salami on rye, potato chips and a chocolate chip cookie and I was ready to head back out.

As the second half of the day wore on I started feel it, the exhaustion. Shut up legs! Usually, when I feel my glycogen stores running low I get a can of regular Coca-cola. None of that diet, waste of a good drink, put holes in your brain s**t. I need the Real Thing. Well, being in the middle of nowhere Ohio, there is none to be had. I pushed on.

About mile sixty-five I feel the moodiness coming on and there is nothing I can do about it. I try not to be a total b***h to Velo, but it’s hard. I keep my distance and let him ride ahead with his other com-padre because I know, in my own fuzzy headedness, I wouldn’t be very nice to ride with right now.

At mile 70 we reach the biggest, steepest, *@#%& hill of the day. My heart sinks, my hormones fire, and my eyes fill with tears. It was the perfect storm of body, mind, and soul all declaring mutiny. BONK!!! I walked the hill, reluctantly climbed back on the Gunnar and pushed on till the end.

And now, the rest of the story…

The Day

I had planned to ride only one day, socialize Saturday night, spend the night in the cabin with the rest of the Steamrollers, then head home Sunday morning after the riders all left so I had left my car at the day-one ending location . My son was going to pet-sit for us. 
Before we left the house we saw a Facebook post that my son and his girlfriend had been mugged the night before.
I couldn’t get in touch with anyone, my car was at the end of the ride, and we had to go to make it in time for the ride. I left a dozen messages for people to contact me ASAP.

I finally found out that he was OK, he had been jumped for the pizza he was carrying. Apparently some jerk was on something and randomly attacking people. His face was swollen, he had a nice shiner on his left eye, and a goose egg on the back of his head where he hit the sidewalk. Needless to say I didn’t spend the night.

I did stay for the barbecue dinner catered by AlabamaQ. If you ever get a chance to come to Cincinnati it is worth a trip to their restaurant. The Turkey Tips are fantastic.

I headed home about 9 p.m. and was ever so happy to wake up in my own bed on Sunday. I still had a residual headache from bonking but some ibuprofen and coffee seemed to do the trick.

The Bike

There may be one more long ride left in the Gunnar as it is right now. As soon as this season is over all of the old Sram Red and Force components are coming off. They are worn out to the point where the front shifter takes more strength than I have to shift back to the big ring. They have been on since I got the bike four years ago, and they had already been on one of Velo’s bikes for a while prior to that. Feel free to comment if you have a suggestion of what I should switch to. I am open to recommendations.

The Venue

The ride was organized very different from the past several years in that it was a destination ride. It started in Bellevue, Kentucky on Saturday morning, headed north across the Taylor Southgate Bridge into Cincinnati, and
proceeded to the rural roads of Lebanon, Ohio. You can see the route below if interested. Parking was in a separate lot from the luggage truck, was in a different place than the start of the ride. Less than optimum for a thousand or more cyclists, but we managed. The worst day of riding is still better than the best day working, right?

Lower rider turnout was attributed to the route change. In previous years the ride started at Camp Kern both days, a YMCA summer camp, and finished there both days. Riders could arrive Friday evening to set up camp, socialize, and go to sleep early. This year we had to arrive the morning of the ride. Instead of getting to sleep early Friday night, Velo Junkie and I ended up working late and having to arise earlier than usual to maneuver through the starting line logistics.

I believe the numbers of sponsors and supporters were down as well so the comradery at the kick-off festivities were lacking the oomph it had in the past. Change is good but can be difficult and I think a lot of people wanted to see how it would all shake out before committing. Hopefully they return next year.

All in all, a great ride for a great cause

#BikeMS #AlabamaQ #VenturetheValley #pureprotein #steamrollers #pureproteinsteamrollers #shutuplegs

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Today is my Birthday and I have become an Expert

 Warner Bros.

Today is my birthday. After all these years I have finally realized what I am an expert at.  I am an expert procrastinator and rationalizer. I did not adopt the title “The Reluctant Cyclist”
because I am the first person to the starting line. Nor do I spend late nights catching up because I finished a project ahead of time, even though I may have started it well in advance. Nope! I am the person dragging her feet then trying to catch up.

Warner Bros.
I am an expert at finding excuses to not start. It’s too hot; I’m too tired; I have other things I need to tend to. Or how about “I’ll start with the smaller projects so that I can get those out of the way”? I go through a mental conflict, and make up excuses, to justify not undertaking the opportunity at-hand. Let me give you an example. ---My mom was in a nursing home and I really did not enjoy visiting her there. That left me feeling self-centered if I chose to go for a bike ride on a Saturday morning while she was sitting in the nursing home. So instead I would tinker around the house all morning till it was too late to do either. So I didn’t visit her, but at least I didn’t selfishly enjoy myself either. In the end, I had nothing to feel good about. I would eventually visit her on Sunday and ultimately, never find the time to revitalize myself. It’s a shame we interpret “recreation” as meaning fun, when in fact it literally comes from the word re-create.

 United Artists
I think too many of us feel that we should not allow ourselves the time we crave to take long bicycle rides or walks along the river because there is always something nagging at us that needs our attention. Laundry to be done, a report to write, yard work, transport the kids, or visit our parents, something distressing to make us feel guilty about satisfying our own needs. And they are needs. Not just wants or desires, but legitimate needs. Today I promise myself I will take care of myself in order to be better equipped to tend to others’ needs.

I’m not writing this because I have the answers. Heck, I sometimes wonder how my own kids have survived my sometimes crazy, always unpredictable work-life balance. I have often fallen victim to that old adage “if I can’t do it all I just won’t do anything at all”. We work really hard at finding an excuse to not work at all.

So why do we deny ourselves the things we so desperately need to revive our minds and rebuild our bodies? Why do we think we do not deserve one day, or even half of a day, out of our weekend to ride a bike? And if we take the time for ourselves, why are we tortured the entire time by thoughts of unfinished chores or the needs of others? Finding time and energy on work days is more difficult than weekends. We get home from the office, or the hospital, or the factory and we immediately start making sure everything is in order for the following day, and that everyone else is okay.

– “Hey lady! Wake up! (Knocking on my own noggin) Only in being true to yourself and nurturing your own healthy needs, can you even begin to be of value to others.”

Now stop reading and go ride a bike!

Friday, August 14, 2015

Writing and Riding

Writing a blog can be a lot like riding a Bike!

Riding a bike can be a lot like writing a Blog!

Hmmmm. Perplexing thought.

Which phrase, if any, do you agree with?

I compare the century ride to a post that is long and can be difficult to get through? When I'm finished I feel exhausted but accomplished.

Or the short post that is like the five mile jaunt to the store and back. It’s not even long enough to get your heart rate up. Was it worth my time? Can it even be called a ride?

Then there is the perfect mix of hills and pondering. Rolling terrain that repeatedly sparks your interest and requires some exertion, till you get to the top and the exhilarating, freewheeling excitement releases you to rush to the next sentence, gazing periodically at the speedometer to see just how fast your bike can go.

I feel as though the reason I am reluctant to ride some days is similar to writer’s block. Either there are too many distractions, sort of like an urban commute full of traffic and lights, that I just don’t want to deal with. Or a tour through the country will not be riveting enough and my thoughts will wander. So I have this internal debate of which is the lesser of the two evils until I have talked myself out of riding (writing) all together. Do I really want to unfold the bike at all?

I revel in having a purpose, a destination, or a reward. Writing for the sake of writing, or riding for the sake of riding, is meaningless for me.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Vintage Bikes and Bison Burgers

The second weekend in August Velo Junkie and I do an 84 mile round trip to get a Shewman at Scotty’s Brewpub in Muncie, IN. What is a Shewman you ask? A Shewman is the best bison burger on this planet. It is well worth riding 42 miles one way by bicycle to enjoy with your favorite craft beer, brought to you by Three Wise Men brewing.

The burger. ½ lb. bison burger topped with cheddar cheese, bacon, jalapeno slices, and - wait for it – Peanut Butter. The peanut butter melts into a smooth sauce. Nothing satisfies a hungry cyclist better than a Shewman.

This year the rest of the tour left us laughing and scratching our helmets a little.

We decided to ride our vintage Mercian bikes. Mine is the Red Stada Speciale. Velo Junkie’s is the Purple Vincitore Special with the barber pole. Both were built in Derbyshire in the 80s. Therein lies one of the peculiarities of the tour and the root of some memorable matters. The old gentlemen are a pleasure to travel with but can be somewhat ornery. 
Our adventure was almost entirely on the Cardinal Greenway Trail, a successful, 60 mile rails-to-trails endeavor that stretches from Richmond to Marion, IN. We stopped in Muncie for lunch, which is about 42 miles from Richmond. After lunch we headed back for the 84 mile round trip. 

Did I mention the trail is surrounded by corn? As a matter of fact, people in Indiana really like their corn. There is the occasional bean farm for as far as the eyes can see, and one pig farm, but, by and large, it is corn. I wore my jersey from RAGBRAI 2014 to see if I could blend in. Can you see me?

We made it past the corporation line of Muncie only to pick up an ambulance on our tail. No matter how far we got to the right it would not pass us. Even when we turned corners, it stuck with us. We were getting a little worried that maybe we looked so haggard the driver thought he had to pick us up. Thank goodness Scotty’s was close.

After our fantastic lunch, did I mention the Shewman? OK, just checking. With our appetites satiated we headed back towards Richmond. The roads in Muncie were quite like a mine field and poor Velo took a crater a little too hard. His seat fell to the frame and he resembled the County Bear Jamboree (his words). 

Remember those gentlemanly vintage bikes. Their age proved to be significant when we couldn’t find a wrench to fit the nut to tighten the seat clamp. Velo was able to pull the seat up to where the frame was tight around it and it stayed put for a while. At that point his goal was to get to the Dollar General about 20 miles from Muncie, hoping they might have the British sized Allen wrenches. He took off without looking back, leaving me to keep up.

Now, my idea of a fun tour is to stop every ten to twelve miles for a drink and a stretch. After fifteen miles of pedaling full throttle I finally insisted we stop to take a break. Remember this is almost sixty miles into the day. I told Velo that I needed to stop to stretch the tight parts and put the loose parts back together. Neck and shoulders were stiffening while the lower extremities felt like noodle-knees.

And, alas, no wrenches at Dollar General. He twisted the seat into place again and off we went, luckily, to have no more issues with the seat. Your thinking we were in the clear now, right? Nope. About a mile from the finish line I, the Reluctant Cyclist, got a flat tire.

There was new blacktop on one of the roads we crossed and there must have been some debris from the equipment. I picked up a shard and my tire just whistled. I tried to let Velo know, but he was headed for the car and oblivious to my cries for help. Actually, I was rather relieved to get out of the saddle, but my noodle-knees made the going rather slow. When Velo finally came back to see what happened and offer to change the tire I refused. I could walk out one mile just fine.

And so it is, the fourth annual Richmond to Muncie tour via the Cardinal Greenway is behind us. Mark your calendars to join us next year on the second Sunday in August.

#cardinalgreenway #mercian #thereluctantcyclist #velojunkie #scotysbrewhouse

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Closer to Heaven

The Cincinnati Cycle Club has an organized ride every Thursday evening that begins at the monument for William Henry Harrison’s tomb. It is endearingly called “The Tomb Ride”. Velo Junkie and I join every chance we get.

The ride is about 20 miles, + or – if you go out and back. It can be 24 miles if you choose to challenge yourself on Dugan’s Gap, a road with about a 250 ft. climb and up to 11% grades. On the other side of the climb there is a magnificent downhill coast with steep grades on a winding road. I, being the Reluctant Cyclist, avoid hills like the plague. Especially in 90⁰ F temperatures. I tend to overheat when exerting too much energy and then have to pour water over my head to reduce my body temperature. My face turns bright red, my scalp feels like it is shrinking, my heart wants to beat out of my chest, and it just isn’t pretty.

This past week I had a very special reason to push myself to the top of the hill. You see my Mom passed away on Sunday and I needed to get closer to Heaven. There is a beautiful statue of Jesus overlooking the Ohio River Valley from atop the hill. Mom always pushed me to get to the top in her own special way so I drew on her strength to finish the climb. I overheated, had to pour water on my head, and my face was still beet red when I got to the bottom, but I did it. It was as close to heaven as I could get. I was singing this song to get me up the hill…

Way over yonder
Is a place that I know
Where I can find shelter
From a hunger and a cold
And the sweet tastin' good life
Is so easily found
A way over yonder, that's where I'm bound
I know when I get there
The first thing I'll see
Is the sun shining golden
Shining right down on me
Then trouble's gonna lose me
Worry leave me behind
And I'll stand up proudly
In true peace of mind – Carol King

So, of course, this is the day my goofy Cateye GPS jumbled the data and said this ride took place on July 23 instead of July 30. Probably Mom's idea of a joke. Below is the ride so you can see the climb.

Peace be with you.