Saturday, July 23, 2016

An Exercise in Fortitude

Let me preface this story with the reason I registered for the Young’s Dairy Charity Ride. Every year Young’s Jersey Dairy in Yellow Springs, OH hosts a bicycle ride to benefit four different charities – Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, United Rehabilitation Services of Greater Dayton, South Community Positive Health Options, and, the reason I chose this ride, Alzheimer’s Association.
Last year, on this very weekend, my mother entered the hospital for the last time, as noted by my sister on my FB post. She passed away before month’s end. Like many older adults she suffered dementia and confusion. Unfortunately, society accepts these maladies as a normal part of aging. The Alzheimer’s Association wants to change that. Their mission: To eliminate Alzheimer's disease through the advancement of research; to provide and enhance care and support for all affected; and to reduce the risk of dementia through the promotion of brain health.

As you can imagine, my emotions were affecting my attitude, though not outwardly visible. Last year I was on the last day of a week-long ride when my sister called with the news . I felt helpless. I was hundreds of miles away in a remote area of Michigan’s UP, on a bike. It was 60 miles to the car, then a ten-hour drive home.

This year I was determined to find a ride that raised money for the Alzheimer’s Association and I would travel as far as I had to in order to participate. Wouldn’t you know there was one just a few counties away?

The ride started early so Velojunkie and I had to set the alarm for 4:30 a.m. With five dogs, two cats, and two goldfish to tend to, getting bikes and bags loaded can be tumultuous at times. We made it to the ride in plenty of time. With the bikes off the car, I started assembling all the gadgets I use for riding and blogging – bike bag, camera, computer, water bottles, etc. First oops! of the ride – I couldn’t find my bike computer. I knew I had it but it wasn’t where I swore I had put it. I looked everywhere and finally checked the first place a second time. Eureka! It was right where I thought it was. How did I miss that?

We walked our bikes across the highway to the start. That was a mistake because, had I ridden to the start I would have discovered that, by some unknown rhyme or reason, my saddle had been moved, the angle changed significantly. Unfortunately, I didn’t discover it until I jumped into the ride. I refused to stop to adjust it, that would have put us lagging behind all the other riders. I figured I could make it to the first rest stop and make adjustments there.

The longer I rode the more defined the maladjustment became. This was a saddle that I had been riding for over a year. I had it perfectly adjusted for my comfort. It should have by no means been touched. I may never know who or what moved it, but I was getting angrier and angrier, and each mile was getting longer and longer as I attempted to find a comfortable position for pedaling. My emotions were on edge anyway so I had to direct my displeasure at someone, and poor Velo was the only soul by my side.

I took solace in the fact that the weather was superb for riding. The humidity had all but disappeared and the temperatures stayed below 80 for most of the day.

All of the rest stops were sufficiently stocked with grapes, strawberries, cookies, corn chips, trail mix, and more. Something salty, something sweet, and something cold to drink.

First stop, adjust the seat. Ride a little way, better but still not right. Frustration. Feeling some pain now. Who the hell touched my saddle?!

Second stop, adjust the seat. Ride a little way. Better but still not right. Becoming more painful. This was supposed to be an awesome ride and a test of fortitude. But, because someone jacked up my seat, it had become an exercise in endurance accompanied by implements of torture.

At the next stop Velo thought maybe my seat needed to be moved back a little farther. He thought it looked like it was up as far as it could go and thought that might help. God love him, he tried. Now the tendinitis in my elbow started to flare because I was extending to reach the handlebars more. And sitting was still painful.

I know. You’re wondering why I am smiling in all of the pictures when it seems the cards are always stacked against me. We all know that “the worst day on a bike is still better than the best day at work”, right?

We made it to the lunch stop, a succulent array of pasta, pulled pork, salad and cheese curds. Bussing it from the lunch stop to skip the last 23 miles of the route was one of the ride options and my insufficient training and tendonitis had convinced me this was the distance I should pursue. The bus was waiting for the 60 mile riders so Velo and I took our seat for a short jaunt to the next rest stop. Our driver, Don, turned one way only to find the bridge was out, then he turned the other way for the detour only to come across a mobile home that had come off its trailer. Luckily the bus and bike-trailer were able to get past the calamity, but, because of the detours, Don was forced to drive the same route as the cyclists. I enjoyed my nap on the slow bus ride and felt refreshed when we reached the last rest stop, just 7 miles from the end. I decided I rested enough to finish the route on my bike for a total ride distance of 65 miles.

The night spent at Ohio Northern University was one pleasant surprise after another. Spacious dorm
rooms to lodge in, free ice cream from Young’s Dairy in a variety of top flavors, cold beer for a minimal donation, nice walking trails decorated by replicas of Remington’s famous sculptures, (full of PokeStops, too), and a banquet dinner in the ballroom. I was exhausted from the early morning rising and the long ride that I was having difficulty keeping my eyes open at the dinner table.

The dorms were very spacious. Not what I remembered from my college days. Velo and I had our own dorm equipped with a kitchen, a private bath, and two bedrooms. Each room had a twin size bunk in it furnished with clean sheets and a blanket. All I cared about was that it was soft and clean so it met my requirements perfectly. Velo’s bunk, for some reason, was about four feet off the ground. Velo, if you don’t know, is not a tall dude by any stretch of the imagination. He is also not very bendable so observing him climb into his bunk was my night’s entertainment.

Day two was starting out hot. We were served breakfast in the cafeteria with the cheer leading camp. Don’t get excited – these were all 8 to 14-year-old cheerleaders. I had already determined we were going to take the optional bus ride for the 25-mile move-ahead. The bus was full this time; I guess a lot of folks wanted to try to get finished before the sun was high and the heat got unbearable.

I had yet to get my seat correct and was just about to throw in the towel. This ride was supposed to be meaningful and dedicated to my late mom. But I had to keep tweaking my seat to the point of discouragement. About halfway through day-2 I may have finally gotten my seat adjusted. The route, though a little different, was a lot more of the same, vast corn fields, typical northern Ohio farms dotted with livestock and churches, and long county roads. After 60 miles in the heat and sun I was soooo glad to reach the finish-line celebration and the car.

If you want to see how a charity ride should be done, come join us on the Young’s Dairy Ride in 2017.

Thank you to all who donated to the cause. You Rock!!!

To find out what happens next week follow the Reluctant Cyclist by Email:

#youngsdairycharityride #nicejob

Thursday, July 14, 2016

A Rally Ride, a Rainy Race, and more short stories

Where has summer gone? I had so many goals for the year. Unfortunately, summer is halfway over and I am not halfway to meeting my goals.

With the Young’s Dairy Charity Ride fast approaching and our week long trip across Ohio just over a week away, I was getting more than a little worried. That’s when Velo Junkie and I decided enough was enough. We had had enough of house renovations and teenage driving lessons; enough of the daily grind and boring meetings; enough of everything that was keeping us from the great outdoors.

On June 26th we joined a group of riders for the final rally ride sponsored by Young’s Dairy. Our first, their fourth. A 60-mile ride starting in Yellow Springs, Oh.

On July 2, the Saturday before Independence Day, Velo and I opted for a training ride with our friend, Rick, aka Pedal Pusher. He will be joining us for our Ohio-to-Erie trail ride and is sorely lacking sufficient training as well.

On July 4th Velo and I joined a 5k at Buffalo Trace Distillery in Frankfort, KY. Free bourbon tastings for all.

July 9th took us to Blank Slate Brewery for a pint. Velo wanted to try out his new Kleen Kanteen growler.

So let’s take a closer look at each one of these events through the eyes of the Reluctant Cyclist.

Rally Ride

The rally ride, the whole 60 miles of it, was an exercise in endurance. From the early morning awakening, to the 70-mile drive, to the steamy, 60-mile ride. The day began muggy and humid with the promise of 95-degree heat before we finished. I decided to bring one of our Camelbaks and fill it with ice, but I was lamenting the fact that I couldn’t find the smaller one and how I thought it would be preferential. Velo, in all his wonderfulness, found the smaller unit and tossed it in the car. Close to our destination we stopped at a convenience store to fill the bladder. No mouthpiece! Water was streaming out as fast as we were putting it in. I would have to survive without the cooling effects of ice melting on my back.

We arrived late so we were the last ones to take off. It wasn’t long before the sun was high in the sky and I felt as though my scalp were shrinking. My genetic makeup is weird in that I don’t perspire very much. Which is a good thing in stressful situations where you should never let them see you sweat. Not so desirable when you start to overheat. I need to carry water to pour over my head to lower my body temperature, and without the Camelbak, I was mildly water deficient.

The second rest stop was a little more than 30 miles into the ride. At that point we could have stayed on the bike trail and reached lunch in 10 miles, or we could have followed the mapped route for a 20-mile spin on the road to lunch. I still felt pretty good and wanted to prepare for the official ride, which offers an 83-mile option, so we picked the road route. Can you say “STUPID”? Ugh. I wanted to be done. We still had 10 miles after lunch and I was waning fast. My back and neck felt as though they had been bound in shrink wrap, my knees had the consistency of wet noodles, and my concentration had been tested beyond all reasonableness. We had to stop a few times for a stretch but fresh ice cream from the dairy was calling. Always have an end-game, a reason for reaching the finish line. Today is was ice cream.

We’ll still have to see about that 83-miles. I may opt for the shorter route.

River Ride with Pedal

Our friend Rick (Pedal) was itching to get some miles under his belt and happened to be free at the start of the holiday weekend. We all needed some workouts prior to our week-long journey together so we elected for a 30-miler out and back along the Ohio River. Again, it was rather dewy and hot. No surprise, July in Ohio is likely to be on the moist side with the mercury approaching the limit. I tend to be the limiting factor when Velo and Pedal get together, so I had to express a gentle reminder on the outset that I refused to spin full-throttle the whole way. Threat noted, Velo stayed with me even when Pedal was feeling good and rolling on, which explains the lack of photos for this section of the blog.

I was riding my Salsa because it is the bike a will need to ride for the weeklong tour. The Salsa, though very utilitarian, is like pedaling a dump truck when compared to the effort required for the lightweight frame of my Gunnar.

Our destination was United Dairy Farmers in Sayler Park, along US 50 East, for a milkshake. I tried really hard to say no to the cold, sweet, creamy goodness but the little devil on my shoulder said “Go ahead. You deserve a milkshake”. So a shake it was before our return trip over Hillside Ave., a rolling, residential street one block north of the river.

Buffalo Race

I had other plans for July Fourth. I used to run a lot more than ride. Buffalo Trace Distillery was hosting their fifteenth 4th of July 5k. I didn’t have to mention bourbon twice for Velo to agree to the race. After a rough morning of trying to figure out who was going to manage the teenager in our absence, we headed to the hotel on Saturday for a good night’s sleep before the race. Frankfort, KY is not too far, but far enough that we didn’t want to have to drive it the morning of the race with a gun-time of 8:00 a.m.

After a light breakfast from the hotel we gathered our luggage and started for the car when we were stopped by two young Kenyan’s waiting at the door for a taxi. They appeared to be very fast and they needed a ride to the race. Through broken English they confirmed they were very fast indeed and that they hoped to win the $3,000 purse for the race. Later that day the race results proved them right. They took first and second place in just over 13 minutes. Congratulations my friends. Nice job.
The air on the morning of the race could have been cut with a knife. It had rained just enough to create a cloud hanging about waist-high. I, as opposed to our speedy friends, was glad to finish in 38 minutes. All excuses aside, I never excelled at running and had pretty much abandoned the sport in recent years.

The end-game for the race was quite different than the two recent rides, yet just as rewarding. Since the race took place at the oldest bourbon distillery in Kentucky we would be amiss to leave without a taste of the fruits of the still.

White Dog was the clear, virgin whisky that hadn’t seen the inside of a barrel yet. I think it removed a layer of flesh from the back of my throat on the way down. Buffalo Trace Bourbon was a blend, and a very good one at that. Eagle’s Rare was single batch and aged at least ten years in oak barrels. Apparently the distillers wanted to create something that didn’t need to rest nearly as long as bourbon so they came up with Wheatley Vodka. I recommend it if you are a vodka person, but I seldom consume the stuff. Our last taste was Buffalo Trace Cream. This was excellent by itself, but mixed with their Dr. McGillicuddy’s Root Beer…I think I just found my new favorite dessert. A bourbon laced root beer float.

Tried and True, Blank Slate

After a very busy holiday weekend and then a short but busy work week, another Saturday came along. Since all the responsibilities had been neglected for the holiday the previous weekend, we had a few tasks to attend to. After working on the old house for several hours in the humid heat  and then restocking the groceries for the upcoming week, we were determined to get a ride in. Velo wanted to try out his new Kleen Kanteen growler so we took a short jaunt over to Blank Slate Brewery, Velo’s favorite tap room.

My Gunnar was in the shop getting a tune up for the upcoming charity ride so I chose my vintage Mercian for the ride. I hadn’t had him out in quite some time. I was extremely pleased to find the old lad still had pep. It was a glorious ride and I concluded I really needed to get him out of the stable more often.

Next ride…..

            Young’s Dairy Charity Ride

To find out what happens next week follow the Reluctant Cyclist by Email:

#Buffalotrace #youngsjerseydairy #merciancycles #blankslatebrewery 

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Dad’s Day 2016 - a Bike, a Beer, a Burger, and a Cupcake

No matter how many times you travel the same route there is always something new. Especially in a city that is experiencing a major transformation. We followed a path we have ridden so many times I believe there may be grooves in the pavement from our bike tires. Today, about 3 miles in, we come across a festival on the riverfront, in Smale Park to be exact. There, smiling at us, about 12 feet tall and 10 feet in diameter, a giant, red, Air Heads balloon. We detoured to get closer, only to run into a “NO BICYCLES” sign. Booooo!  

Oh well. That wasn't the main purpose for the ride anyhow. I wanted to test my climbing legs. I have some pretty serious tours in the near future and have been sidelined from riding for many unavoidable events. Traveling for work. Prepping for presentations. Managing a house remodel. Teenage driving lessons. And on and on and on.

So this weekend VeloJunkie and I needed to get in at least one long hill. It was Father’s Day weekend, and although Velo, affectionately known as Jim around our house, does not have the same DNA as my kids, he is the best example of a dad ever. His favorite thing to do is ride his bike so I wanted to ride with him as far as he wanted to go in celebration of Dad’s Day. 

Anybody can be a father. It takes a special kind of person to be a Dad!

One of the best hills in Cincinnati for cyclists is Delta Ave. It connects Columbia-Tusculum to Hyde Park via Mt. Lookout. It starts at Riverside and ends at Erie. Riverside, being on the south end and true to its name, hugs the Ohio River. It is very common to get behind boats being towed, as there are many docks along the way. Riverside also boasts a fair share of motorcycles, dog walkers, and other cyclists on any given sunny, summer day.

Before embarking on our climb I made Velo take a moment with me to hydrate at the bottom of the hill. I’ve been known to get a little wobbly in long climbs. (And grumpy. And reluctant.)

Just about half way up there is a traffic circle to announce Mt. Lookout. The name says it all. It is a great place to look out over the river. However, it is not at the top of the hill. The upward momentum doesn’t end until you reach Erie Ave. But once you crest the summit, the coast on the other side generates speeds surpassing 30 mph. Until we reach Murray bike path. Excessive speed on the bike path is, let’s say, moderately frowned upon.  

Enjoy this short video of our ride.

The path dead ends into Mariemont, a planned village around two historic districts. It is a collection of Norman and Georgian style buildings surrounding the village square, which is an example of English Tudor architecture.

Dily Deli, setting right in the middle of the square, was the perfect setting for lunch. After sharing a burger I snuck away to the Sweeterie to buy a giant, peanut butter cupcake for Velo’s special day. Of course he shared it with me, being the perfect gentleman he is. (Ahem)  

Content now with fat and sugar pulsing through our veins we left the tree-lined streets of Mariemont for the industrialized community of Fairfax,  home to Kellogg's manufacturing, Cincinnati Paperboard, and Pruss Construction.

The opposite side of Fairfax, via the Armleder Connector, is the historic community of Columbia-Tusculum. We had just completed a loop, one we have done many times, and were headed westward toward home with only one more stop. 

Velo’s favorite tap room, Blank Slate, was in sight. Home of fantastic malt and hop creations such as Shroominous, Fork in the Road, Rising Up, and my fave, Pinango. The pineapple-mango infused ale hit the spot on such a warm summer day. 

So tell me, who could ask for a better Dad’s Day than a bike, a beer, a burger, and a cupcake?

To find out what happens next week follow the Reluctant Cyclist by Email:

#airheads #velojunkie #fathersday2016 #blankslatebrewery #deltaavenueclimb #dilydeli #sweeterie