Monday, January 25, 2016

Riding Vicariously (or "When Pigs Ride")

This framed art adequately depicts my endearment of cycling in the cold. "When Pigs Ride"

Jeni Jenkins of Uncaged Bird Print and Design Studio
First I must express my apologies. I have been writing this blog since July and have attained a good number of followers. I have tried to describe at least one ride per week, or some other event involving bicycles. I hope you will forgive me for being void of any cycling shenanigans, but it is January (stated with tears streaming down my cheeks). I am the Reluctant Cyclist, and, as the name implies, it takes some urging to get me moving, especially in inclement weather.

Salsa Full Suspension Bucksaw 2 Courtesy Jim's Bicycle Shop 
I know there are those of you who wait for the whims of Old Man Winter. You bring out your fat bikes and your gravel bikes and adorn yourselves in lobster gloves, balaclavas, Gore jackets and winter boots. I, on the other hand, prefer to sleep in on winter weekends, especially when the temperatures can’t surmount freezing. 

I have collected a list of reasons to shy away from pedaling in the foul weather. I will kindly share my rationalizations in the event any of you would rather put your feet up and enjoy a latte rather than exert yourself in a possibly ill attempt of enjoying winter.

Obvious excuses:
·         Fear of slipping on the ice
·         Poor visibility
·         Too cold
·         Threat of hypothermia
·         I have the flu

Not so obvious excuses:
·         Excruciating pain in my teeth caused by the icy wind
·         Snot rockets are more frequent and dangerous
·         Salt on the road is bad for my bike
·         I have to keep the fire going at home
·         The snow is prettier looking out from inside

I do have one vice, though. I can live vicariously through the cycling addict I affectionately call Velo Junkie, or Velo for short. For every excuse I have for not riding, he has one for riding. The only things that will ground Velo are heavy precipitation and sub-zero temperatures. Even then I occasionally have to talk sense into his stubborn crank-head.

We have come to an unspoken agreement. During winter weekends I will generally walk 5 to 7 miles and he will ride somewhere. As much as I would like to be rolling, strolling is more my style when hazards are present. Velo, on the other hand – well, let’s just say he’s crazy.

Here are just a few pictures of his winter wandering I lifted from his social posts.

Eli's Barbeque

Blank Slate Brewing

Fortunately, for me, the forecast is looking promising next weekend.  Thank goodness. I need some blog material. I may just bundle up and go for a ride.

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

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Wednesday, January 13, 2016

My Many Moods of January (In Only Two Weeks)

Winter didn’t arrive in Cincinnati till almost the second week of January and I made the most out of the first fourteen days of the year. Even with the unseasonably warm weather we only managed to get one bike ride in. It was not a long ride, nor an exceptionally eventful one, but a ride just the same.

During the first two weeks of the year the “mood-o-meter” around my house pegged at both extremes, exuberance and despair. OK, maybe not that dramatic, but let’s just go through the ups and downs one at a time.

You know from my previous post that we hailed in the New Year with a wedding. Having the whole family in town to croon Auld Lang Syne at midnight was a treasure to behold. We celebrated with the Bride and Groom, taking full advantage of the open bar. Overall, the feeling on January 1st was jubilant, albeit very sluggish.

January 2nd wasn’t so jubilant. As a matter of fact it took a major downturn when we went to fix a leak in the ceiling only to find the stack pipe corroded along the entire horizontal section. The house is over 100 years old and we don’t know when the plumbing was added. Between the house shifting over the years, the shoddy pluming work, and sitting vacant for several winters, water had apparently pooled in the old cast iron pipe and, well the rest is history… I will spare you what the bathroom looked like after he pulled the pipe and just show you the pipe itself.

January 3rd was a Sunday and covered a range of emotions. My mom, who had adored Mary, the
Blessed Mother, had passed away in 2015. As a sort of tribute I have been going to St. Mary’s Church to keep a candle lit as a vigil to her. The Church was beautifully decorated for Christmas so this Sunday’s Mass was a glorious yet solemn affair. Per our traditional ritual during the season we bid God and Mom fairwell for the week and headed to Taft’s Ale House for football. Our Bengals were triumphant and on to the play-offs.

After Sunday the week fell in line with post-holiday humdrums. Even though the temperatures were tolerable, the days were too short to delight in any cycling after work. Instead, all I could do was watch and re-watch my year in Strava. 

Friday, January 8th was an up day and the office crowd was all abuzz about the record PowerBall lottery jackpot. Everyone had different plans for when we won our riches. Rescuing dogs, buying cars, and building estates to name a few. The heavy burden of buying the office numbers fell on me. How could I face my colleagues if I failed to pick the winning ticket? Fortunately I was spared the agonizing embarrassment because, once again, there was no winning ticket sold. Read all about it on our company blog here.

January 9th was another day that covered the spread of the meter. In the late morning the weather was pleasing so Velo Junkie and I went for a ride. The nice weather also brought out the tailgating camps around Paul Brown Stadium. People had begun consuming alcoholic beverages at 1:00 for an 8:00 game. Oy vey.

I reluctantly ventured downtown and across the river to Carabello’s Coffee. Honestly I was worried about the hordes of football tailgaters we might encounter downtown. Much to my dismay, my fear was confirmed when a large group of disrespectful, jersey-clad, inconsiderate, party-goers crossed the street against the light, forcing Velo and I to brake in order to avoid a collision. Luckily, my super-hero reflexes kicked in and the catastrophe was thwarted.

I rode the Salsa with my new, shiny fenders because there was still a bit of standing water about. We had a peaceful lunch before heading back when we came across a herd of wooly mammoths gracefully grazing on the side of the road.

After an uneventful yet enjoyable ride Velo and I needed to eat dinner and get ready for the evening. We had tickets for the Bengals’ game against the Steelers. The weatherman was predicting heavy rain and falling temps. Good thing we have a cycling wardrobe for all weather of which several layers fit nicely under the team gear.

The game started slow. The mood turned dark when the Steeler’s scored. There was a whole lot of hugging and yelling when the Bengal’s moved ahead. Ultimately the game was decided by the officials, the Bengals were out of contention, and we were drenched to the bone. 

January 11th cast a melancholy mood across the globe when we found out The Goblin King had passed from this life. R.I.P. Mr. Bowie, Ziggy Stardust, and your many other personas.

January 12th was no brighter. The world is full of heartless idiots and, try as we may, we sometimes cannot impart compassion. My state has no recourse for animals left chained in the cold. With temperatures dipping into the single digits I tried to get this man to take his dog in. I contacted the SPCA who paid him a visit. I lay awake that night praying for his poor, freezing pup and gave each of my pups an extra hug. I can only presume he took his poor pit bull in because he survived the night. My sister saw him back out on his chain the next day.

January 13th – Nine years ago today I met Velo Junkie, my partner in life, love, and cycling. He has a way of making me laugh. And, even though I wonder what I did to deserve this crazy person, he always serenades me with some romantic ballad of which he has morbidly twisted the words.

Tonight was no exception:
(To the tune of “Danny’s Song”)

Even though our eggs are runny
Doesn’t mean our food is funny 
Tell me every day our bread is gonna be all white

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Saturday, January 2, 2016

Velo Junkie’s Rapha Festive 500 Challenge
Happy New Year All. 

You are probably wondering why I am writing about Velo Junkie’s adventure instead of my own. Well, While Velo was out gallivanting around southwest Ohio on two wheels, the Reluctant Cyclist had a very long list of other challenges that had an end date of December 31rst.
I want to share this year-end ordeal because I am very proud and a little envious of his determination. 

The Rapha Festive 500 is an annual challenge to ride your bike 500 km over the days between Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve.  I probably would never commit to the challenge even if I didn’t have a son and a daughter who were both in a New Year’s Eve wedding. Maybe I worry too much, but I guess that is what mom’s do. I was determined to make sure my kids were on time for every scheduled event, had the proper attire and accessories, and looked absolutely stunning when the time came.

If we compare notes from the week it’s obvious why I couldn’t complete the challenge even if I had wanted to.
Reluctant Cyclist
December 24
 28 miles, 60 degrees, sunny, Christmas Eve dinner
Work, Christmas Eve dinner with family
December 25
 28 miles to Waffle House, 50’s, rain
Rode to Waffle House with Velo
December 26
37 miles, 50’s,  light rain
Pick up daughter, Grocery shopping
December 28
42 miles, 45 degrees, pouring rain
Work, accessory shopping for wedding
December 29
63.9 miles, 55 degrees, windy, overcast, dinner with family, movie
Work, pick up bow tie for son, dinner with family, movie
December 30
68.4 miles, 50’s, overcast, wedding rehearsal dinner
Work, wedding rehearsal dinner
December 31
44 miles, 35 degrees, overcast, wedding
Took daughter to wedding parlor for hair/make-up, brunch and shopping with sister, dropped off dress at parlor, wedding

Since this is a cycling blog I thought I would interview Velo for details about his adventure. Forgive me if I interject some of my excitement from the week. It’s not every day your niece gets married on New Year’s Eve and both of your kids are in the wedding party.

Thursday morning I got up and went through my normal routine because I was not off of work. It was Christmas Eve, day one of Velo’s challenge. He was excited because the day was going to be unusually warm for this time of year. A balmy 60 degrees, the sun shining, he waited till about 11 a.m. to hit the open road. Traffic was light, and, in hindsight, he wishes he would have covered more ground that day. The weather got progressively worse as the week went on. A family dinner for Christmas Eve created and unfortunate constraint for his Christmas Eve endeavor.

Being such a thoughtful person, he mailed Christmas cards at the post office (better late than never, right?) and delivered a bottle of champagne to me at the office. After missing me at work (I had to run a wedding errand) he backtracked to the east side of town and to Starbucks for his holiday fave, a Cranberry Bliss Bar.

Christmas Day found us alone for most of the day so we took advantage of it and went for a ride together. See my previous post, “A Pluvious Christmas Ride” for details about our Waffle House expedition.

Saturday, December 26th was still unseasonably warm but a little on the wet side. Velo headed out for a ride about the same time I left to pick up my daughter. She was inviting her boyfriend over to meet us and wanted to make dinner so we had to go grocery shopping. Velo managed a 37 mile ride to Harrison’s Tomb in Cleves, OH. This was the day he was out longer than I had expected so I sent a desperate text to find out where he was and if he was still upright. Low and behold, wind and rain had slowed him down and a flat tire on the way home hindered his timing. Changing a flat tire in the rain on a December morning is not a fun thing.  In addition Velo had planned to take his Mom out for Christmas lunch and shopping and to visit with his brother and Family 60 miles away.

Sunday, December 27th was better suited for a canoe than a bicycle. We woke to water running in the back door so excavation of the yard pre-empted a ride.

Monday, December 28th and Velo was diligently back at the challenge. The temperature was still on the warm side but that bonus was negated by the pouring rain. After traveling east and hoping to do a few laps of the Lunken Airport loop, he quickly realized all the water was flooding surrounding creeks and streams so he had to detour around the park only to find high water on Eastern Ave. 

On his way back he had an appointment with a leather craftperson, J.Wan, at Carabello Coffee to discuss a Christmas project I had ordered for him. Though the rain was not as severe as Sunday, poor Velo returned from running errands with just 42 miles completed looking like someone had put him through a rinse cycle. Five of the eight days had passed and he was less than halfway through the challenge with weakening forecasts for the remainder of the week.

Tuesday, December 29th was still warm but very windy. With the time-clock ticking Velo knew completing the challenge was against the odds. Additionally, we had family in from out of town and were meeting them for dinner at 5 o’clock. I had to go to work at 9 a.m. and Velo left on his bike at the same time. His goal for the day was at least 60 miles, which he exceeded by riding to Oneonta, KY. Yep – that’s exactly what I said, “where the heck is Oneonta?” Given the strong winds he decided to take Route 8 east along the KY side of the river.  The road was flooded at Manhattan Beach Marina and the main building was partially underwater. 

Wednesday, December 30th, Velo knew he had to make this day count. The wedding rehearsal and dinner was scheduled for 6 p.m. and   I had volunteered him to be in charge of the music during the wedding ceremony so he had to be on time. He left in the morning at the same time that I was leaving for work again.  The temperature hovered around 50 degrees but at least the precipitation had ceased. His 69 mile ride took him east then north to the Warren County line, where the Butterworth Estate is marked as a notable stop on the Underground Railroad.  On the return trip he stopped at the Branch Hill Coffee Company in Loveland to refuel. 

Last day, New Year’s Eve, with the wedding looming, Velo needed about 40 more miles to complete the challenge. To his dismay the temperature dropped significantly with the high of only 35 degrees. He chose a route to Cleves, back out by Harrison’s Tomb, and a familiar weekly loop we do in the summer to Shawnee Park. On the way west he was treated to a cold wind and a bit of sleet.  I think he had a fleeting moment of doubt some time during this ride. On the way home he stopped for coffee and breakfast at the McDonald's in Sayler Park. All while I was tending to my daughter’s schedule as a bridesmaid, having mimosa’s with my sister and shopping downtown. I scored a dress at Saks Fifth Ave. for my daughter-in-law. A $1,000 beauty on the 70% off rack. The theme of the wedding was Roaring 20’s so fringe and beads were all the fashion.

And now, please join me in congratulating Velo Junkie on his achievement and Scott and Marita(Hergert) Sullivan on their new life together. 

#raphafestive500 #samdmweddingnye #newyearseve2015 #harrisonstomb #velojunkie #newyearsevewedding