Saturday, November 28, 2015

Famous First Words of a Reluctant Cyclist

I run a lot. Would like to ride more. Want to meet?

The famous first words of what would lead to a relationship with a Velo Junkie, a collection of bicycles, and enough material to write a blog about cycling. But it can't end there. Now the concept of a business has arisen out of our many hours spent together on two wheels.
Since that fateful internet dating message we have travelled many miles by bike, crossed Lake Superior and the Atlantic Ocean, rode across Iowa and in Sheffield, UK, and tried everything from a tandem bike to a folding bike. We have also completed one marathon in San Francisco, CA and half a dozen half marathons all over the US including New Orleans, the Smoky Mountains, Pittsburg, and the Purdue Boilermaker.
During these past eight years there have been many other "famous first words", albeit maybe not as life changing as that very first correspondence.

I know a flat ride!

Being new to cycling I wanted to contribute to our adventures. Velo was planning all of our routes so, come fall of our first year I had a great idea. My family had traditionally traveled to Indiana for church festivals and chicken dinners. There was one in Batesville on Labor Day so I suggested we drive to Brookville and ride to the festival via SR46. "It's flat" I said, not bothering to check the elevation before we took off. Well butter my butt and call me a biscuit! There are hills in Southeastern Indiana.
It was nearly 100 degrees in the shade. When I got to the top of the longest grade, which was about 3 miles long, my face was scarlet and my scalp felt like it was shrinking. Velo, not knowing how far behind I had fallen, was a speck in the distance. I finally cried uncle, stopped and dialed him up on my cell phone. "Are you going to wait for me?"
At least we had a good meal and a three -mile downhill on the way back.

I want to do L’Eroica for my 50th birthday.

I meant the ride in Italy, but lo and behold, the inaugural L’Eroica Britannia was being held that year and we can speak the language. Yeah, like that stopped us from getting lost in Sheffield, and Bakewell, and Beauchief, and the Peak District. We rode around the area, sometimes on the wrong side of the road, on our vintage Mercians for several days leading up to the festival and the big event. The festival was amazing and the ride, glorious. We enjoyed ourselves immensely. Just writing this makes me want a Bakewell tart.

Of course a junkie has to feed his addiction. We had to find the Bob Jackson factory in Leeds, which proved to be a little tricky, and the Mercian store in Derbyshire. Sometime between then and now Velo acquired one of each brand new and custom made.

If you ever want me to ride RAGBRAI this is the year.

I didn't have to say that twice. Before I knew it we were in the lottery and
contracted with a charter. Of course we were selected, and so began the planning.

I won't bother with the details of the obvious aspects of RAGBRAI, such as the 20,000 riders, the endless cornfields (it is IOWA), the vendors in every small town whose populations quadrupled when we rode in, or the beer gardens. I will mention how good the ice cream was every day. 
Beekman's Ice Cream

I want to share a few of the memorable moments of Velo’s and mine. Like the day we woke up to 30 mph winds, driving rain, and temperatures in the 40s. This was July in Iowa. Considering the temps are usually in the 90s, I did not complain. I hate heat. I did feel bad for the folks on tandems, though. Unfortunately, you must trudge on because you have to make it to the next town.

Next on the list was my first Century. I rode a total of 109 miles that day, but my GPS died at 99 miles. I know; I know; if it isn’t on Strava, it didn't happen. 8-(, I cursed. I wanted to exact my revenge on the GPS gods. Beekmans world famous ice cream and Velo throwing a toilet made it all worthwhile even if Strava was clueless. 
  Last, but not least, poor Velo ended our ride early on the last day. As I was just buzzing along I heard behind me “Rider Down”. It never even crossed my mind that it was Velo. That stuff only happens to me. Ah-ha. This time is wasn’t me! Secretly I was ecstatic for me when I saw him carrying his bike up the road but devastated for him. His front wheel got caught up in a seam in the road and threw him off. The wheel looked like a wobble plate and he looked like somebody who just lost their best friend. I was so saddle sore I was glad to stop 30 miles short of the finish, especially since no one was hurt except Velo's ego, (and the aforementioned wobbly wheel of shame). The SAG ride back, now that was another experience all together. After waiting in the sun for the van for over two hours, we climbed into a hot, stuffy van full of other casualties, most just exhausted. Once the van was full the driver had the chore of snaking through those 20,000 remaining cyclists. During a stretch of traffic caused by hordes of motorists arriving to pick up riders one girl jumped out of the van, made a bee-line to the woods, and came back much more content. Hey, when you gotta go, you gotta go.

There are more famous first lines but they all seem to have similar results for a reluctant cyclist and a Velo Junkie. I’m exhausted, overheated, frozen stiff, soaking wet, cut, bruised, you name it. Velo, on the other hand, achieved a PR, or just missed it because he slowed down to wait for me. In other words, we have a blast.

 I would be amiss if I didn’t mention that in between 
all the riding we have rescued and rehomed dozens of pound puppies. 
That was my pre-existing hobby and my Famous First Words – Just one more….

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

In Search of Beer - Trains, Gangsters, and Pete Rose

Another episode of “The Adventures of The Reluctant Cyclist and Velo Junkie”. Sounds like the makings of a good novel. There was quite a revelation on this ride – Velo figured out how to share the lead. He denies it, but ask anyone who rides with him and they will tell you – Velo needs to be in front. Even if it is just by a wheel length, he can’t stand to lag behind someone, especially if that someone is slower than he. But, if you watch the video below you will see that he is not always in front of me this time. 

So, November 14, 2015 was a clear, crisp day and perfect for a bike ride around town donning my new red flannel socks. We were, once again, in search of an interesting, inviting, and unique brewing experience. There are so many good beer establishments in the Greater Cincinnati area we could probably head out each day and not have to go to the same place twice in a month.

We settled on Braxton Brewing Company in Covington, KY. The catch, Braxton’s is only about a five mile ride from our starting point so we had to find a way to make the journey a little longer and somewhat interesting. Well that’s easy, after all we can always ride through urban and industrial parts of Cincinnati, pick one of many bridges to cross the mighty Ohio, and amble through historic northern Kentucky.

There are some interesting landmarks in route to the river that you simply don’t bother to think about unless you are travelling by bike (or on foot). Here is a sign for Pete Rose Way, formerly 2nd Street and renamed for the Cincinnati Reds record-breaking player in 1985.

Another is the caboose stationed above the entryway to the Norfolk Southern Railroad terminal. The only way into town from the west side of Cincinnati is to cross over the train yard via one of the several bridges or viaducts.

This time we opted to jump off the road and ride along the park route by the river. The views are much more spectacular because nothing is between you and the river banks, except a rail, as you can see in the video below. Beware of slow moving quad-cycles carrying fluffy dogs, and daydreaming pedestrians, though. There were many people out because of the nice weather. But some people just don't notice cyclists and walk in front of you? I admire pedestrians and am often one of them, but please be considerate of bicycles. I think I must have been wearing a sign that said “Feel free to make me come to a screeching halt at your feet”. All is well though, no casualties.

We made it through the park, went out and back on Riverside Dr. and then made a left on the Taylor Southgate Bridge. This put us out on York St. heading into the heart of Newport, KY and the epicenter of what used to be a haven for gambling and gangsters, thanks to prohibition. Those days are gone but, oh, if the walls could talk. Newport offers Gangster Tours, if you’re into that sort of thing. Long before Bugsy Siegel  created Las Vegas, Newport was the hot spot attracting such celebrities and Frank Sinatra, and the rest of the Rat Pack, and Marilyn Monroe. Read more here
We rode past York Street Café, now an eclectic eatery with visible remnants of yesteryear. In its past it was home to an apothecary on the first floor and some gangster activity upstairs.

We turned and headed east, past one of the most magnificent casinos of its time, now a restaurant, “The Newport Syndicate”. Another turn and we were heading north on Monmouth St., a hotbed when Newport was a boomtown, and again now, during the renaissance of the city. It is really easy to get lost in the imaginary images of gangsters, brothels, casinos, and speakeasies. Why, the Tommy Gun was invented there in 1918 by by one f Newport's own, John Thompson. It was the weapon of choice for organized crime and law enforcement alike during prohibition.

Here's a short, three minute video to highlight some of the tour.

We looped around, crossed another bridge and found our way to Covington, KY, home of Braxton Brewing Company. Have you ever been reading a map to figure out where you are so you can then figure out where to go? Only to look up and see that you are already there?  That is how we came to find Braxton Brewing Co., and we weren't the only cyclists there today. 

  Every town around the Greater Cincinnati area is having a rebirth and breweries seem to be part of the infrastructure.  Covington is no exception. Braxton’s claim to fame is the fastest wifi of any brewery, cold brewed coffee in addition to a line-up of great craft brews, and BYOF (bring your own food). It was a hopping joint for the middle of the afternoon. The beer was exceptional, I had an Auto, a German style Dunkel, and the pretzels were as big as my head.

#braxtonbrewingcompany #newportgangsters #insearchofbeer #thereluctantcyclist #velojunkie

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Bike Apps - Are They Useful? or Amusing?

  Bike Repair Free

This seems like a really cool app. This is a recount of my first exposure to it.

After a friendly disclaimer about not being responsible for over-tightened or loose nuts and bolts the app opened with a menu of bike topics. I was particularly curious about what was included in “What to Wear”.

Eureka! No more guessing about what ensemble to en-robe myself in when the temperatures change.

Well now isn’t that just kitschy? For a mere $3.99 I can unlock everything in the app. But right now only the wheels section is unlocked.

Let’s head on over to the wheels section to see if the information is valid enough to make me want to spend my hard-earned cash on the rest.

"Wheels" is under the “Tips and Tricks” header. Upon opening the wheels app I have 17 troubleshooting options to choose from. Since I just ordered new Mavic wheels let’s take a look at what is covered by “My Mavic rear wheel makes a howling sound when freewheeling at high speed

 First a brief description of what the problem could be. Then a description of the solution. And then, when you press the “step by step” button, a full color image of the wheel with instructions is revealed. Yowza. Pretty impressive. Makes me wonder just what might be revealed in the “what to wear” section (ROFLMBO).

Let’s look at one more solution in the wheels section. “How do I move one cassette to another wheel?” Same sort of deal as with the screaming wheel. Description of the problem, solution, and illustrated, step-by-step remedy. Whoa. What’s that? "Related Tips and Tricks"? Ah. Another teaser. 

I so wanted to see why the cassette was getting rusty. But alas, it will cost $3.99 to access that jewel.

Just for fun let’s open another section from the “Tips and Tricks”. How about Miscellaneous?

I clicked on each tip but all of the tricks were locked. You guessed it, $3.99. However, in my limited opinion, every one of the miscellaneous issues could be fixed with duct tape.

What about the Section header “Guides”? Looks like only the Wheels section can be accessed again. Pretty much what you would expect.

Instead let’s bravely wander over to the “miscellaneous” tab again. Hehe.
Well what do we have here? A “59$ Bike Repair jersey” I guess we now know what to wear, we just need $3.99 to unlock it.

There is this cool, visual glossary available with the free app. 

And a section to keep the history of your bike components and maintenance. Only one bike can be entered in the free app. To add more - $3.99.

#freebikeapps  #bikerepairfree  #miscellaneous  #unlockeverything

Should I unlock the App for $3.99

Monday, November 9, 2015

Eight Simple thoughts on Friendship

I didn’t ride this past weekend. It wasn’t because the weather was wet or falling temperatures, anyone who knows me knows that doesn’t stop me. Instead, I chose to spend over twenty hours in a car to drive to North Carolina. I was only a little reluctant about the long trek, mostly because I wouldn’t get to lay my head on a pillow until 3 a.m. The kiddo’s big week at school was this weekend, too. She was part of the crew for the major production. So I stayed up late Thursday night to see Beauty and the Beast, the musical, got up early to go to work Friday, stayed till after 4 o’clock, and finally got on the road about 5:30 p.m.
This all came to pass because a week or so go I was hanging with a friend of mine, you have met her in previous posts - her nickname is Trekkie. In a whim of spontaneity, she and I decided we would take this road trip. I had seen a Facebook post that one of our mutual friends was going to be showing her pottery at the Carolina Designer Craftsmen Guild. Marti Mocahbee is her name and we had not seen her for fifteen years or more. (If you like pottery, or are in the market for a beautiful, handmade piece, be sure to look her up HERE.)

I am not going to tell you all the details about our trip, driving from Cincinnati to Raleigh all night long is a not-so-fun adventure. November means the sun sets early and the deer are very active on the dark, rural highways. Have you ever driven along a highway and seen eyes reflecting back at you from the side? Creepy!!!

Rather, I want to tell you my thoughts on friendship and maybe impart some genuine thoughtfulness. 

Now for The Reluctant Cyclist’s thoughts on Friendship:

  1.   Friends are a priority.
  2. If for some reason you think about an old friend, take that to mean you are supposed to reconnect. Whether something happens that makes you think of them, you hear their name mentioned somewhere, or you see an advertisement that they will be exhibiting at a craftsman’s guild 500 miles away, it is a sign. 
  3. You don’t necessarily need to drive 500 miles, a simple phone call may be sufficient, but there’s nothing quite like being there.
  4. When those old friends are all women the conversation will eventually be about hot flashes.
  5.  Real friends may change addresses, partners, or hair styles, but they never really change. We all have short hair now, two of us have a different spouse, one of us is a grandma, and we all live in different houses than we did when we met. But the conversation picks up right where it left off, usually about the other neighbors from the old street.
  6. It’s a good idea for old friends to start new traditions.
  7. You may never know the reason you met, but something would be missing had you never met. If we would not have moved onto Worthington Ave. way back when we would not have known the quirky circle of friends who lived there. And, not only would we have missed out, but our kids would have never known the “best times” of growing up.
  8.  Middle-aged women driving long distances need to make many stops.

Now that I’ve fed you all my cheesy thoughts on friendship, the true test came as Trekkie and I turned for home. We were once again confined to the interior of a Subaru Crosstrek for 500 miles. 
250 channels on the satellite radio can’t thwart the monotony of North Carolina to Ohio. The dilemma was that we started to eat and drink out of boredom. Of course the more we drank the more we had to stop. And then, true story – we thought maybe listening to a football game would help the time pass. In our effort to find the New York Giants game on the radio we missed our turn onto the AA Highway in Kentucky and added nearly an hour to an already excruciating drive. We never found the game and finished the drive listening to “Forensic Files” on HLN.

Now, I guess Trekkie and I need to head to the west coast…

#martimocahbeepottery #AAHighway #friendship #trekkie #thereluctantcyclist

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Transportation Routes are Different than a Walk in the Park

Cincinnati has an issue on the ballot in a couple of days to create a charter amendment to fund Parks with very little oversight and no input form the people who live there. We would all love to see more funding for parks and I am not going to get into the political, or even financial, shortcomings of this issue. I want to talk about the multi-use trails that are included in this proposal.

We talk about providing safe avenues for pedestrians and cyclists. Cincinnati has many families living on the outskirts of the city and in some of the surrounding suburbs who do not own a vehicle. These trails and walkways are not a “walk in the park” to them, they are a very necessary form of travel into the city center and back home. Whether by choice or life situation, these citizens need mobility.

The city should not be lumping bike and pedestrian routes into an issue for park funding. Any infrastructure that is to be installed to move people throughout the region should be considered a function of the Department of transportation. Since when did walking or riding a bike to work or school become recreational?

We have sped up our city streets so much in past years that the safety of students and adults alike is threatened. That is not a park board issue. Wasson Way and River Trail West are means of safe transportation for people, just like River Road, Westwood Ave., and Columbia Parkway. Stop treating people who prefer not to, or cannot afford to be a part of our car-centric society as if they don’t count. We vote, too.

I will let someone else discuss the ridiculousness of giving all the decision making power for such issues to the Mayor. 

#issue22 #rivertrailwest #wassonway #cincinnatibybike