We usually think of it as a bad thing; the end of a romance, a good book, a great concert, or fun vacation. Sometimes, even though they can be emotionally laden, endings can be positive. They can provide long awaited closure to the loose ends in life. They can be the end of stressful events, situations or unresolved dilemmas in life. Endings aren’t always a bad thing.
This has been a year of transitions or, more accurately, conclusions, for me. Endings. Finales. Mostly, life just goes on from one phase to the next, from one event, day or season to the next, without much fanfare. This year, I’ve noticed an unusual amount of endings to things that have been going on in my life, some of them for years. Things I’ve been working on cleaning up and moving off my plate are going away and, with them, the accompanying stress. I find it interesting that while 2012 has been an absolutely disappointing year, at least I can say that a great deal of the stressful chapters in my life are closing.
Since May of last year, I have been working on resolving the situation with my home which has become an overwhelming financial and physical burden for me. The tax break was nice, the hedge against inflation nice, the stress not so nice. Also, the fact that it gave me a negative net worth wasn’t exactly cheery either. I am pleased to note, that this chapter should be concluded by the end of July. That takes a huge amount of stress off my plate. I can’t say I’m disappointed. This signifies closure on one of the most unhappy and nightmarish periods of my life. For many reasons, I’m eager to say goodbye to this home and all it symbolizes.
My second oldest child is graduating from high school this year. We are in the midst of all the last minute preparations to close yet another chapter in our lives. For both of us it is an ending and a beginning of new things; new ways of being with each other as she adjusts to the demands and responsibilities of adulthood. While, she is not necessarily going far away to go to college, her role as a college student and theatre major will mean that she is, for the most part, not around. She will be making more of her own decisions and this reality ends my role in her life as it has been until now.
Another school year is winding down. This is always a bittersweet experience and this year it is even more so. It’s been a bumpy year. While it couldn’t be helped, I do wish it could have been different. I can’t change it now. 11 more days and this school year is a wrap.
For the last seven years, I’ve been driving around an older SUV. I believe the life of this vehicle is nearing an end. When I look at the cost of insurance for my 18-year-old who drives it now, combined with the cost of gas, I am certain that my days of driving any SUV around are nearly over. In fact, this brings me to recognize a fun new beginning in my life: that of transitioning from the car as my primary mode of transportation to the bicycle.
It took me almost the entire year to figure out a routine and how to make the 2.95 mile commute to work feasible, but for the last month, I’ve successfully commuted by bike to work, then to radiation treatments, then out for some riding time, then back home most days of the week. This has been wonderful for so many reasons. Obviously, the savings in gas costs is significant. It also means that I am able to get a 20+ mile ride done at least 5 days a week. I no longer have to worry about fitting a ride in after school or dinner or before it gets dark. I’m looking forward to the day when I can say goodbye to the old SUV for good, replace it with a more fuel efficient economy car then drive only when absolutely necessary. This chapter of car insurance hikes, exorbitant gas prices and spendy car repairs is one chapter I can’t turn the concluding page on fast enough.
The best news this week? Monday, I went in for my radiation treatment thinking I had 11 treatments left. I was informed that I have only five treatments left and, if I double up on one day, I will be finished with treatments on Friday. So now, at the time of this writing, I have only two treatments left. My short, little journey with cancer diagnosis and treatment is ending. I’m going to miss the techs, the bike commute across town, and the great routine I had worked out, but I can’t wait for my skin to heal, my energy to return and summer to finally and officially arrive.
Some goodbyes are just good.
As much fun as the surgical party was, the time spent convalescing wasn’t nearly as smooth this time around. More pain, more fatigue, less weather that cooperated with me getting out on the bike, and more of the daily stuff of life that can just get in the way of feeling 100 percent. That being said, I’m sporting a pretty wicked looking 4-inch scar. I can, at least, still proudly announce that I do have all my original body parts. I’m certainly glad that it wasn’t worse than it was.
Two days ago, the weather relented, and I ventured forth on my first ride after this last surgery. My significant other, my son and I logged 17.04 miles in an hour and 26 minutes. Not too bad for a first day out. The SO kept asking how I was doing and telling me not to push too hard. After my typical sucking air for the first 10 minutes, I was fine. After the first 30 minutes, I was fully warmed up and having a great time. The weather was perfect. Of course, there are some who would not consider overcast and sprinkling weather as perfect, but I was ecstatic to be on two wheels again, with the wind in my face. The ground was mostly dry, large puffy clouds scudded across the sky, every now and then we were hit by a few sprinkling drops of rain, but nothing significant. Fruit trees are beginning to blossom and trees are beginning to leaf out around here. It was beautiful. I was disappointed only by the fact that we started out late and due to time constraints had to head back much earlier than I wanted.
It was good we headed back when we did, though, because my body was screaming at me for going out that far and that hard after two weeks of complete inactivity. I was pretty grateful for a few of the remaining pain meds that night.
It was shaping up to be a disappointing Saturday. Face it, during the school year, for a teacher, the best and most wonderful day to ride is Saturday, weather permitting. Sunday rides have to be shortened due to getting ready for the week. Rides during the week must be shortened due to running out of daytime.
This Saturday, was beginning to look like it was going to be a wasted one where riding was concerned. The weather was perfect, but the night before, my Significant Other broke a spoke on his back tire. We both thought one or the other of us had hit a rock, but no, it was his back wheel. It shortened our ride that evening significantly. Since we were six miles out with no other transportation available he rode the six miles home on it. On the return trip I watched his rear wheel wobble more and more with each mile. We definitely needed to head into the Bike Shop for that repair.
To make matters worse, my bike was creating all sorts of annoying rattles, creaks and squeaks. In particular, there was this loud and very irritating click, click, click on every down stroke of my right pedal. My bike most of the time, is entirely silent when I ride, so I was fairly worried that it was complaining so loudly to me on this first ride off the trainer.
The combination of these woes, cut our ride short on Friday night. It also meant that our first objective Saturday morning was to get the bikes into the shop to see what and how serious the trouble was. We feared the worst, that our bikes wouldn’t be back out of the shop until Monday.
I can go into all the details of what exactly was wrong, but that’s boring for most people and I don’t yet have all the vocabulary to adequately convey what was wrong. In the end, what we thought was going to mean missing a weekend of riding really only ended up delaying our Saturday ride, by a couple of hours. The guys at Marty’s Cycle and Moore literally dropped what they were doing and fixed both our bikes right there on the spot. They didn’t have to do this, but we are so grateful they did. About an hour and $47 later, we were walking out the door with our bikes healed.
We wasted no time getting on the road, since we heard rain was on the way. I figured we still had about 20 miles to go to make our hundred for the week, so we needed to get on the road quickly. After some waffling about whether to take it easy on the greenway or hit the hilly road and head out in the country, we opted for the road. We definitely took the more difficult option. The roads between Central Point and Gold Hill are not for the weak. In fact, there are several really intense, long hill climbs on Old Stage Road between Scenic Avenue and the I-5. These climbs weren’t made any easier by the presence of a very strong headwind and the fact that we were riding hybrids instead of road bikes. Even in our marginal fitness condition, we would climb those hills faster on a road bike. Which, makes me really want a road bike very soon. This in turn depresses me, because I don’t believe that will be my reality for at least another year. But I digress.
We inched up those hills at a whopping 5-6 miles per hour. It was the toughest 5-6 mph I’ve ridden to date. Every muscle in my legs burned (this is good), I was fighting for every breath, and I even felt as though I might vomit at one point (yeah, that’s probably not so great). Then suddenly, about halfway up the climb, I hit the right gear and, crazy as it seems, I was able to almost rest while I climbed. I was still pushing hard, but I caught my breath and kept going. I felt a small amount of comfort when after glancing back I realized the Significant Other was suffering just as much as I was.
The downhill on the other side made it all worthwhile. Except that the headwind slowed our descent significantly. We were still having to push even when going downhill.
It was a crazy ride.
Upon arriving in Goldhill, we stopped in at a little dive bar called the Longbranch Saloon. It clearly was the place to be on a Saturday afternoon. We tied up our mechanical horses and stepped into the local watering hole to quench our thirst and gear up for the ride back.
Instead of coming back the way we came (read, we chickened out and tried to get out of facing those hills again) we opted for the Blackwell Road route home.
I’ve heard that one of the cycling rules of the road is that you always have a map and a repair kit with you. At minimum, you should know where you are going, shouldn’t you? We had the repair kit, but we had no idea where we were going. All I knew was that if I took Blackwell Road in far enough it was going to come out somewhere near I-5 and Central Point and I could probably find my way home from there. The SO was following me blindly, trusting that I knew where we were going. Little did he know…
Blackwell Road proved to be just as challenging as Old Stage Road in its own way. The climbs weren’t as steep, but they were longer. Trying to avoid the work, and really wishing by this time that we had some more level terrain to deal with and no wind, we turned onto Tolo Road. Around the corner, there it was, another hill and beyond that one, another. At this point, my entire body felt like mush and I wondered seriously if we were going to make it home without having to get off and walk…or call for help. Just as we wondered if we should turn around and head back we saw Scenic Avenue in the distance and knew we were within 3 miles of home. From the intersection ahead, the ride was going to be a nice downhill ride leveling off once we reached town. We knew we were going to be okay.
We rode the hardest 25 miles we’ve ever ridden since beginning our cycling adventures. We hit our highest speed on a downhill of 29 miles per hour, which means we were flying on our bikes, and dead if we’d fallen. We returned home tired, but happy, because we’d pushed ourselves way out of our comfort zone and succeeded.
We stepped up to a new level in our riding. Hill work is now going to be a regular part of our riding. It has to be. There’s nothing more painful at first, but it is so rewarding when you crest that hill knowing you still have gears left to shift and energy left to ride.
When we got home, I turned to the SO and said, “You know, that was a really hard ride. How many people do you know that could have stayed with us on that? I think, other than the guys at the bike shop, I know about two. Those two would have dusted us, but other than that…I can’t think of anyone who could have done 25 miles uphill both ways like we just did.”
Not too bad for an ole fat lady pushing 50.
I lived in Albuquerque, New Mexico for a brief couple of years in the early ’90’s. During that time I fell in love with the Southwest and with Byrd Baylor’s books, The Way To Start A Day, being one of my favorites. This last weekend, due to school budget cuts, ended up being a three-day weekend. Since we had Monday off and since rain was forecast for later that afternoon, the Significant Other and I decided to try something new. We avoided the ease and predictability our beloved greenway and ventured forth on the open road. It was an excellent choice for so many reasons. I’ve documented our ride in words and pictures, with Baylor’s book as my inspiration. I’m calling this The Way To Start A Week.
The way to start a week
is to get up early on Monday morning while others sleep,
and greet the sunrise with a smile and a cup of coffee; cream, no sugar.
Revel in in the cloudless blue of the early morning sky,
feel the chill March morning air,
inhale the fresh scent of dew and cedars.
Give thanks for being alive and having the ability to enjoy it.
Take your time dressing, but not too much time, the day awaits.
Find your favorite bike shorts and
slip on the Bontrager tights that were well worth
the hundred bucks you spent on them.
Slip into the cold weather gear given to you by a friend
since she saved you hundreds
and extended your riding season significantly.
Fill the water bottle,
grab the camera,
select the playlist,
and with your favorite riding buddy, find a road you haven’t traveled before.
As you ride, be glad that you can.
Even if it is cold. Even if it is hard, with the cold air biting through your
Balaclava, freezing your nasal passages and numbing your fingertips through gloves.
After about a mile stop,
take some pictures,
and take off the first outer layer.
Things heat up fast on two wheels.
After about 4 miles, stop for more pictures, a water break and to take more pictures. You’re in no hurry.
Decide to head to a historical old town.
It isn’t far now.
You’re over halfway there and feeling good.
The hills that you could climb a year ago are nothing to you now
You’re stronger and less fearful.
The occasional car whizzing by no longer intimidates you.
You can do this.
And you enjoy it.
select a place to enjoy a leisurely lunch while gazing out the window at passersby.
Laugh and enjoy the fact that you have overcome
caring about how you look in public places when
wearing padded pants
and sporting helmet hair, though you still quickly check
the rear view mirror of the nearest car to make sure
you don’t have bugs in your teeth.
During your meal, you laugh and smile,
enjoying delicious sandwiches with thirst-quenching beverages.
The miles make them taste all the better.
You observe the retired ladies, dressed up for lunch…
they must be in their 70’s or 80’s.
You think of your grandmother, who always dressed up
It’s not a given, but you’re on the right path.and you hope you live long enough to do the same.
so you decide to live life…
to the fullest of your ability and today is part of that plan.
On the way home, you skip the easy road,
and you opt for the one ahead
that sports a rather long hill.
You take it.
You make it. And you’re not even riding your fastest bike.
A year ago, you had to walk up stuff less daunting than this.
Not this time.
You feel the burn…
you inhale each breath and
experience the pounding of your heart
Nothing feels better.
You’re healthier than you were.
You’re happier than ever.
You are your own person.
At the top, you celebrate this realization.
You take in the valley you call home.
The rest of the ride is almost entirely
You’re riding in the right gear,
no matter what the road
and it is an exhilarating adventure.
This, you whisper to yourself as you ride up to your home,
is not just how you start a week…
It’s how you live a life.
I hate the show Hoarders. Beyond the fact that I feel this program capitalizes on human despair, misery, and mental illness, it just hits a little too close to home for me. In my last marriage, I was married to a hoarder. It didn’t help that from childhood, I myself have been a bit of a collector or, to be more direct, a hoarder. The truth is, the show makes me very uncomfortable. While my hoarding was never that extreme, I see the situations on TV and often think that under certain circumstances, maybe, I could have ended up like that. It kind of makes me shudder.
What’s different for me, is that while I do have the tendency to hoard (think: a garage full of stamps and scrap booking and craft supplies or a closet full of shoes and handbags), I am also a neat freak. My hoarding was always somewhat contained because of this. Even so, in my last marriage, my hoarder husband and I managed to create a disaster that almost looked like an episode from Hoarders. It took me almost 5 years of dedicated effort, numerous truck and trailer loads to the local Goodwill or landfill, the help of many people and the dedication of one wonderfully and meticulously ordered man. My life now, while not entirely minimalist, is drastically changed. It feels great.
Old tendencies do die hard, don’t they? Since starting on this cycling venture, I can see my hoarding temptation begin to rear it’s ugly head. To begin with, one can never have too many cycling shorts…or jerseys. The desire to bury myself in all the cool cycling gear is something I have to resist every month on payday. My strategy? I pay all the bills for the month right away, and since there is never any money left over for such delights, my inner struggle is abated…temporarily.
My desire for gear and cycling accessories, which can easily amount to a small fortune, is nothing compared to my recent desire to accumulate bikes, an “illness” that can easily cost a large fortune. I take responsibility for my own weaknesses. Lately, I’ve fallen off the wagon and given into my hoarding desires once again. I’ve become a bike hoarder.
My demise began innocently enough with the purchase in 2010 of my hybrid bike; a Specialized Ariel Elite. You can see pictures of it all over this blog. I call her Ariel, and she is still my first love. Of course, The Beau had to have his own bike so he purchased his own hybrid, a Specialized Crosstrail. This brought the household bike total from zero to two in about six weeks. That Christmas, my daughter’s own Hot Rocks Specialized bike joined our fold, followed this last summer by my son’s Specialized mountain bike and my college daughter’s beach cruiser. In a very short time, our family became a 5-bike family. This really isn’t such a hoarding problem, because, really, one bike for each member of the family isn’t such a problem as long as you have the garage space, is it? (Never mind, that I did rent a small storage unit to store camping gear and Christmas decorations so the bikes would fit in the garage.)
The trouble really started when a friend of mine decided she wanted to try riding with us. She was able to get her semi-recumbent bike from her ex and, since she is an apartment dweller living in a third floor apartment, it just made sense to store the bike in our garage. She gave me permission to ride it at any time. I took her up on that and have discovered a new love.
This crazy-looking bike is a miracle bike. If you ever had any image issues or hang ups about how you look to the world this bike gets you past that instantly. Anyone riding it looks completely ridiculous. Anyone riding it also elicits envy from onlookers because not only is the bike all sorts of fun to ride, it looks like it is all sorts of fun to ride. Let’s face it, on a day to day basis we envy those who are having fun when we are not. When I’m on that bike, I’m having all the fun, everyone else? Not so much. Yes, 10 miles on that bike and I was striking a deal with my friend to officially take ownership of the Fun Wheels. This is where my bike hoarding really began. I now had two bikes for just me.
That was sometime in December, 2011, I believe. In January, I saw this cool YouTube vid where people had taken a picture of a bike in NYC everyday for a year and gradually watched the bike disappear. So, of course, this sounds like a brilliant thing for me to try. I began scouring Craigslist, and by the end of the day I acquired a rusted, vintage, blue Schwinn 3-speed. Perfect for my “Year of The Bike” garden photography project.
I now had three bikes of my own, while everyone else had only one.
It gets better. Ever since last August, when my daughter purchased her beach cruiser with the balloon tires, I’ve been wanting one. One might ask, “Why?” I would respond to this inquiry with the explanation that I am learning that bikes are like shoes. You need a different one for each different occasion. The beach cruiser is a different kind of fun than Fun Wheels, and Garden Bike, though it is cute and cool and has gears, is too small and completely unrideable. I want a balloon-tire cruiser with a step through bar and a dorky basket on it so I can ride down to the corner liquor store or neighborhood sports bar for some adult beverages. (Wait. I forgot. I am not drinking hard liquor anymore since my diagnosis, and the soft liquor is the death knell to my 50 Less By 50 plan.) Revision: I’d really like a dorky looking beach cruiser around so I can ride it to the gym or grocery store for milk and bread or maybe even ride it to work. But I am way off the beaten bike path here.
Just this last week, I happened to visit a friend’s house. As I drove up, I noticed this cool, old, single-speed Huffy with big balloon tires in the front yard. Jokingly, I said I wanted the bike, obviously thinking that my friend would then tell me the story about how she got the bike and all the fun she’s having on it. Instead she said, “Take it!” Clearly, I thought she was joking. I mean, bikes are becoming more the rage now. Even in my small not-so-progressive city where most people still drive everywhere, even to the corner store, there is a small but growing bicycling contingent. Just yesterday, the weather broke. I saw someone on a bike at every corner as I was running errands. Beach cruisers, like my friend’s, can run $250 or more on Craigslist. I know, I’ve been looking. Daily. Here my friend was, offering me this great looking bike for free. Turns out, a friend of hers had abandoned it and she was tired of it sitting in her front yard. The Beau was stunned when I turned to him and asked for help putting it into the back of the Durango. The Youngest was just as shocked when she saw us unload it after arriving home.
That’s how we scored this beauty:
Sure, it needs some work. While the bike looked great just standing there in the yard, we discovered that it needs some serious cleaning, oil, and new wheels. I’m getting new grips, a new seat and a beautiful, white, dorky basket on the front. I’ll do more to improve it eventually, but this is about all I can afford right now. I dropped the Blue Cruiser off at my local bike shop yesterday, and it should be ready next week. Total damages are still significantly less than the same bike in good repair sells for on Craigslist. I can’t complain about that.
I now have four bikes of my own. We’re now an 8-bike household. I’m definitely a bike hoarder. With this last acquisition, a small seed of hope is sprouting in my hoarding, little, rationalizing brain. Maybe, I’m not really a hoarder at all. Instead, maybe I’m really a Bike Magnet!
If that’s the case, I’m now going to focus all my magnetic powers on that road bike I want. I saw one in the shop yesterday. Beautiful. My favorite colors even: black and white. Of course, I’d change the white bar tape to another color, like black. White handlebar tape never stays white. The price tag on this beauty? A mere $7,000 and some change. Yeah. Since the readership on this blog isn’t large enough to garner sponsors who will gift me with products for review, and since I am a single mom with limited financial resources, four children, and two (almost) in college, I’m going to need some serious magnetic power in order to get that bike from the stand in the bike shop to the stand in my garage.
I think it’s good to have dreams, even if they are of the pipe variety.
I left this post as a draft on my cell phone. Before 10, this morning, the guys at the bike shop called informing me that the bike was ready. We went out for a long ride and picked up the Cruiser after. I’ve included an “after” picture below. I think it looks beautiful!