Monday, September 28, 2015

A Three Day Hiatus from Driving - Day 2

Sis didn’t want to spend the entire trip sick and in bed so she went out riding with us after breakfast. Our destination – Hair of the Dog Brewing. Remember, we reside in the Eastern Standard time zone so beer after breakfast makes sense. Actually, we often ride for beer and breakfast back home. Ever had a “Beermosa”? Check out  Rivertown Brewing.

At least this time we knew where we were going. We found the bridge to cross over the river to the east side of Portland. Velo was a little ahead of Sis and I so he wasn’t around when….WHOMP!...the seat on Sis’s bike fell. She tried to keep pedaling because there was nowhere to stop on the bridge ramp. Remember we were riding our folding bikes so when the seat falls, it really falls. It looked like she could have given herself a pair of black eyes from her own knees. Not to mention one cannot pedal uphill when the seat is that low. We had no choice but to stop and walk the bikes to the top of the ramp. We must have really looked like a couple of doofeses, walking up the side of the ramp. Velo was still oblivious to the whole dilemma Sis and I had gotten ourselves into. He was already at the other end of the bridge with no way to turn around. We had no choice. We had to raise her seat so she could make it across the bridge.

So, here we were, two middle-aged women, on the side of the bridge, in street clothes, working on her bike. We finally made it across, found Velo, and continued on.

We hadn’t gone far and Sis’s seat was slowly sinking. At least this time we were on a trail and not in the middle of traffic. We raised her seat and tightened the quick release this time. I am not sure what happened, but she threw her leg over the top of the seat only to fall backwards with the bike on top of one leg. We’ve all done this before, right?. You’re lying there, on your back like a turtle on its shell, surrounded by other cyclists, and you just can’t get up. She got up, her seat finally fixed, and TaDa, we were lost. Just a little lost, though, if there is such a thing. (You’re either lost or you’re not). 

We found our bearings, headed towards Hair of the Dog, and in the end it was well worth the trip. I had a glass of Adam, the first beer they ever made, and a great Turkey and smoked mozzarella sandwich.

We left hair of the Dog and started our tour of the River Trail in downtown. We rode to the other side of the trail to find the brand new, car-free Tilikum Bridge. I felt privileged to ride across it in the first week of its opening. In case I forgot to mention, we were in Portland to see how we may be able to take ideas back to our hometown of Cincinnati and the Tilikum Bridge will definitely be a discussion topic.

Portland’s Saturday Market was really hopping so we walked through the vendors. Cosmic Garden Designs was there with a host of useful, handmade items, including some really cool bike handlebar bags. Because they are all made "upcycled" they reduce waste, most are one of a kind, and they double as a cross body bag when off the bike. I had to put that plug in there for a very dedicated and conscientious craftperson, Tika Bee.

For dinner we went brewery hunting again. We found Rogue Brewing, but I ended up passing on the beer for a Pumpkin Spice soda. It was fantastic. It would be an awesome mixer with apple cider or cinnamon bourbon. 10Barrell Brewing was on the opposite corner so we stopped there for one beer before heading back to the hotel for the night. Score – three craft breweries in one day. I love Portland!

#portlandbybike #roguebrewing #hairofthedog #saturdaymarket #10barrellbrewng #tilikum #cosmicgardendesigns #ternfoldies

Friday, September 25, 2015

A Three Day Hiatus from Driving - Day 1

Sometimes being in the right place at the right time can result in a phenomenal, unique opportunity. That is exactly how I ended up on a streetcar/light rail tour in Portland, OR with John Schneider of the Alliance for Regional Transit in Cincinnati. A historic library, an evening to hear about the streetcar progress in Cincinnati, and wa-la, an airline ticket to Portland.
Well, what the heck. The streetcar tour was only scheduled for one day. Why not take my folding bike in a suitcase so I could tool around town on two wheels? Velo Junkie and Sis were travelling with me so we all took the Tern Foldies, which made for some pretty interesting travel moments.

Tip #1 – It doesn’t matter if you can fit the folding bikes in a regular suitcase. Three adults with five suitcases will not fit in a Toyota Prius, even if you don’t save room for the driver. The Prius Taxi driver finally admitted defeat. MEEP-MEEP! And all I kept thinking about was that time we fit our high school softball team in a Beetle with people stacked three-high.

Let me mention that I had more than one agenda for this trip. Cycling, street car riding, and craft beer tasting. (Tasting = a pint or two with each meal except breakfast)

Time to assemble the bikes. After assembly the wobble in the wheels was more than a little obvious. Off we went on foot to find the REI for a spoke tool to true them up a bit. $180 later I had some new bike commuting clothes, new socks, and a spoke tool.

Poor Sis was getting sicker by the minute. She went back to the hotel to hibernate for a good part of the day. Velo and I walked; and walked; and walked. He had one place on his agenda for the weekend – Tanner Goods. He’d had his eye on an all American-made bike bag and was successful in procuring one. 

We ended up at Deschute’s Brewery for a late lunch. Imagine that. Let’s see, a flight of six tastes for each of us. Our gracious server, Ken, even brought us a complementary, seventh taste of a peated Scottish ale, of which I held him accountable for the pint I couldn’t leave without. We were off to a good start. Found our way to VooDoo Donuts before we headed back to the hotel to grab the bikes and hit the streets for a short ride before sunset.

I thought the Hotel Clerk said “turn at the first light”. Velo heard “turn at the first right”. I hesitantly told him I would follow his lead. When he asked ”what’s the worst that could happen?” I responded “you lead us into a den of thieves”. Uh-huh. We ended up in a street with streetcar tracks designated “Buses Only”, made a U-turn onto a one-way street, cut across the tracks and ended up……in one of Portland’s tent cities of nomads. I am not saying they were thieves. They are actually very cordial and nonthreatening. The point is,we went the wrong way.

Finally made it out for a late dinner at Bridgeport Brewery. They had a brew dedicated to the new Tilikum Bridge, so I tried that one. Too bitter for me but I couldn’t hardly keep my eyes open so I drank it. I took most of my pizza back for sick Sis.

#ternfoldies #portlandstreetcar #cincinnatistreetcar #bridgeport brewery #deschutesbrewery #voodoodonuts

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

A Cyclist Takes a Long Walk in the Mountains

What is the connection between a pair of running shoes, a Sole Dude, and a refrigerator on wheels?  Ha.  That was my weekend vacation.

Let me start by saying the trip was one of endless hilarity, but I also had a very proud moment that I want to share.

Every year Velo Junkie and I find a ½-marathon to run. We try to pick one in a fun and interesting place and make a weekend vacation of it. This past weekend was the event and we found ourselves in the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee. We didn’t go by ourselves this year, my  sister joined us along with my teenage daughter and two teenage nieces. Hence Velo’s new nickname, the Sole Dude. Poor guy. My family has so many females in it that Velo often finds himself in this quandary.

Since there was six of us travelling we reserved a Ford Expedition (or similar) to haul all the people, luggage, food, and folding bikes from Ohio to Tennessee. It just so happened the car rental company didn’t have an Expedition (or similar). They offered us a Ford Flex. A big, white Ford Flex. It looked like a refrigerator on wheels, so we affectionately nicknamed it “the Fridge”. Now I was rolling down the highway with the Sole Dude and the Fridge, my sister, and three teenage girls who had never run a 10k, much less a ½ marathon.

I’ll give a shout out here for Dogwood Cabins of Townsend, TN. Our home away from home for the weekend was perfect. Except it did not have much sound insulation between the rooms and I found out that my sister talks on the phone ALL NIGHT, EVERY NIGHT. The amenities were great and the view of the mountains beyond the golf course was exquisite. It sat atop a vertical incline that caused more than little concern about the race course. In other words, we were screwed. Those folding bikes we brought, they weren’t going to be unfolded. I couldn’t have made it up one of those hills with a mountain bike, much less my little 8-speed Tern.

We went to pick up our packets. This race touts itself as being zero-waste, which means no cups. Instead you get this small contraption called a hydra-pouch. You squeeze the top to open it so you can fill it from a spigot. It has a small funnel on one side to drink from. I looked at it and thought “Hmmmm. I can carry this on the bike for those times you just gotta pee and there’s no toilet in sight.” I never did master the damn thing and spilled more water down the front of me than I got in my mouth.

We made the traditional pasta dinner Friday night and turned in early. Sis got up in the middle of the night to call someone, and then again in the wee hours of the morning. Saturday morning arrived, the day of the race. The prediction was for rain and scattered thunderstorms, but Mother Nature was smiling that day and provided a cool, sunny morning. I really love that old gal sometimes, when she’s not pulling one of her pranks. The three teenagers were pretty anxious and nervous, and with good reason I might add. In the end the course was uphill, but only about 700 ft. over the 13.1 miles.

We got split up almost from the start of the race. My daughter was anxious to put some distance behind her so she took off with Velo. My sister and her kids were somewhere behind me. I think the conversation went something like this - “Mom, I can’t walk that fast.” “Well I can’t walk that slow. I’ll see you at the end.” I don’t think I see Mom-of-the-Year Award in her future any time soon. She eventually turned up next to me and we walked for a while. At about mile 6 the boredom of walking overtook me and I had to run. I caught up with my daughter at about mile 8. We decided we would finish together. As the miles faded away our mother-daughter bond strengthened. I will cherish the moment we crossed the finish line together for a very long time. At least until we do it 
again because now she’s hooked. She wants to join a running group and do better next time. YES! (Pat myself on the back.) I introduced her to a lifetime of adventure, endurance, and a feeling of achievement.

I was just as excited when our last girl came into sight because then we knew we had all made it. It was all smiles the rest of the day despite the aching legs. At least until we decided to drive to Gatlinburg and got stuck in Pigeon Forge traffic caused by classic automobiles and every make and model of pick-up truck imaginable. We finally made it to Gatlinburg only to be swarmed by hordes of Tennessee Confederates, knick-knack shoppers, and surveyors of fudge.

#GSMhalf  #Gatlinburg  #dogwoodcabins

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Pick your Poison. Hills, Heat, or Headwinds

Pick your Poison. Which adverse element causes you the most misery?

Sports scientists actually managed to quantify the degree to which heat and dehydration affects sports performance. Published in the sports journal entitled, Sport nutrition: an introduction to energy production, researchers claim becoming dehydrated by as much as five percent can lead to a reduced physical capacity of up to 30 percent.

If you read about me you know I was a runner before Iwas a cyclist. I am not sure how the chart below translates from running to cycling, but I found this very helpful when training. It just gives a baseline performance reduction as the temperature outside increases.

So what forecast makes you the most reluctant to even start your ride? 

If you know there are hills in today’s ride, or you look at the hill profile and see few hills but they are real doozies, do you just want to ask the SAG vehicle to tote you and your bike past the hills and you’ll take it from there?

What if the newscast was calling for 20 to 25 mile per hour winds out of the west and that is the direction you will be heading? And, oh yeah, the terrain is flat and you are surrounded by …..nothing? You are 100% vulnerable to Mother Nature.

Here’s another scenario. What if you are about to take a nice ride in the Midwest, surrounded by cornfields as far as the eye can see? The temperature in the morning is a nice 75⁰ F, there is not a cloud in the sky, but there is not a shade tree in sight either. And the temperature is rising steadily till it hits about 95⁰ by noon. You are sure someone will eventually find you and your bike morphed into one homogeneous puddle on the pavement.

We’ve all signed up for rides that sounded great at the time. Then the day comes along and we are asking ourselves “what was I thinking?” Do you forego the adventure? Or do you muster the energy to carry-on, shake your fist in the air and say as loud as you can (without looking like a total fool), “IS THAT ALL YOU GOT?!!!”

I have a hard time saying which is worst because I have fallen victim to each 
unforgiving element.

When I was somewhat new to cycling Velo Junkie signed us both up for the Hancock Horizontal Hundred, the flattest ride in the world. I might be exaggerating, but not by much. He thought if we
Hancoc Horizontal Hundred Hill Profile
took our Cannondale Tandem I might find it more enjoyable and the wind a little more tolerable. He could not have been more wrong. If you hate headwinds, don’t register for the Hancock Horizontal Hundred. Let me save you from yourself. It’s true that riding into a headwind is easier when you have the power of two peddlers, however, at some point you need to turn a corner. Now, instead of that streamlined vehicle cutting through the oncoming forces you become like a semi in a hurricane. At the end I didn’t feel accomplished, or empowered, or even gratified. I felt like someone could knock me over with a wet spaghetti. I thought my knees had genuinely become disengaged and I looked more like a marionette with loose strings than a cyclist. 

Then we decided to take a trip on the Katy Trail in 2011. The trip was planned, we had nice accommodations for each night of the ride, and we were meeting up with a couple of friends who  were going to ride with us. Did I mention our eleven year old daughter was going along? It was a self-supported trip and Velo was carrying the kiddo’s bags. Our trip was planned for June. If you don’t remember, 2011 was the year the Missouri River flooded and temperatures set records reaching triple digits*. 

The Katy Trail runs through a whole lot of corn fields for long stretches with little to no shade. What was really cool, though, was that we were riding the train from St. Charles to Sedalia, our starting point. A real rails to trails experience. As we were stepping off the train we realized we left our helmets and gloves in the car. A minor setback? Or an omen? The first day out Kiddo overheated. Luckily we were close enough to our destination that we could get her to the hotel and air conditioning. Our friends were meeting us in the next town and we were able to have them bring their car instead of taking the train. We made the best of it, but really, it was a disaster as far as cycling goes. Did I mention I had just torn the ligaments in my ankle and was riding with a brace and carrying my air cast with me? Kiddo hasn’t ridden a bike since this fateful trip. She has dubbed it “The Tour de Misery”.

Now hills are different all together. I can ride hills, especially if they are rolling. I do live in Cincinnati for heaven's sake. And you have to climb hills toget the best views. I've included a few shots fromatop som significant hills in the Peak District in England.  

My motto is “I’ve never met a hill I couldn’t walk”. Since I was a runner before I started cycling I cannot find any shame in walking up a long and steep hill. Quite honestly, walking beats falling over because you’re going too slow and then lying there like a turtle on its shell because you can’t get unclipped. So I think I would say hills are my least dreaded adverse condition. Rolling hills, OK. Long hills, not so much.

 I would vote that heat is the worst. Heat and headwinds together? The Reluctant Cyclist is not getting on the saddle. No way. No how.

*An unusually warm air mass established itself over Missouri during the first ten days of June with oppressive heat impacting the state and several high temperature records being broken. Temperatures averaged 8-10 degrees above normal during the period and it was the hottest June 1-10 period since 1934. Most locations experienced 90 degree plus temperatures on a daily basis and some locations in the Bootheel witnessed several days with triple digit heat.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Fitting a Folding Bike in a Standard Suitcase

Hello all you Foldie Enthusiasts out there.

I found myself travelling to Portland, OR and I wanted to take my bike with me, because, quite frankly, you shouldn't be caught in Portland without a bike.

At the recommendation f Velo Junkie, I purchased a Tern Link D8 folding bike for this purpose fromJim's Bicycle Shop in Cincinnati. Then I purchased a Samsonite 31" Flight Suitcase from Amazon for approximately $175. By using a standard size suitcase I will not have to pay any extra luggage fees.

It took a while and not less than a few tries to get the bike situated in the suitcase to where the case would close easily. I thought I would share this video with you so that, should you find yourself in the same predicament, your life may be made a little bit easier.

A few things to mention:

  • The Tern Link D8 comes with fenders and a rack. These will not fit in the suitcase. If you must have them you will either need another suitcase or a larger case. A larger suitcase will most likely incur additional airline fees.
  • Let the air out of the tires if you are flying. This is so that they do not burst in the belly of the plane.
  • Place all small items in a secure container. There is a very good chance the TSA will check your luggage and they don't have time to find nuts and bolts that fall out.

Happy Cycling Travels from The Reluctant Cyclist

Click HERE to see video "How to fit a Tern Link D8 folding bike in a standard suitcase" on Youtube.