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Goldilocks and Life Choices

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Sometimes the decisions you make alter the direction of your life forever. We make decisions every day. Most of the time we do this without thinking and these decision don’t dramatically affect the course of our lives. At other times, the decisions are huge and they change everything: whether or not to marry, to stay in a marriage or relationship, to take or refuse a job, to move from one location to another. When we are younger, especially if we happen to be making decent money and we don’t have children, reversing the impact of any decision is much easier. As we age, we may gain seniority in jobs, making it more difficult to relocate because doing so means taking a significant pay cut and/or losing some job security. When children become part of the family, their security, well-being, and safety, among other things, must be considered.

I’ve always wanted to live in a city. Not just the suburbs, but right in the city where you walked to the corner grocery, picked up the Met from down the corner, and really had no need for a car except when you were leaving town. I made some decisions early in life which, I think, may make my dream of ever living in a city an impossibility. At least, it may be impossible until I’m too old to be able to negotiate a move and adjusting to a new lifestyle. Now that I have children and a decent job with a level of stability, the likelihood that I will ever relocate, to a city or anywhere, is next to none. In these circumstances, it is easy for the adventurous spirit to feel a bit stuck.

Sometimes, even when we make decisions that take us away from our dreams, we still make pretty good decisions though we might not realize this at the time. Sometimes, our dreams and goals change or we add other dreams and goals into the mix. We then realize how our earlier decisions, which seem to be taking us away from what we wanted actually brought us closer to where we really wanted to be anyway.

The cost of living in a city, almost any city these days, is much higher than living where I currently live. Moving would mean a job change, loss of income and job stability, all factors I’m not thrilled about encountering. Health care services available in my area are outstanding and, for the most part, it is exceptionally convenient to get around almost anywhere by bike which is something I’m committed to doing as much as possible for as long as I possibly can. It’s a far greener and less expensive mode of travel. Quite frankly, I’m also a bit unhappy with the costs of vehicles and gas. Riding my bike is my way of protesting all of this excess damage to our environment. Plus, each mile I ride makes me stronger. I’m getting in shape. I’m training for old age which isn’t for cowards. The bike helps me get around, and combines my workout with my travel and entertainment, thus saving me time. I could definitely still ride in a city and I’m no stranger to that. The convenience of cycling here, though I don’t live in a city per se, makes me feel just a little less stuck in life.

Way back in the day, I did live in a city and I did live near a city. This city experience was short-lived and I’ve never gotten the city bug out of my system. Choices I made took me away from that life. Results of those choices keep me away now. Sometimes it makes me sad to think that as I age the likelihood that I may never realize my dream of being immersed in city life. There are days, and quite a few of them, where I don’t feel the least bit despondent about this. Yesterday was one of those days.

Southern Oregon, in my opinion, has perfect weather all year round. Winters are mild and snow rarely ever falls on the valley floor so riding year round is not only possible for the fair weather rider it is enjoyable if you have the right gear. If you like snow, there’s entry to experience most years just about 40 minutes away.

It rains in the winter and spring, like most places in western Oregon, but just when we are all just about ready to be sick of the rain, the sun emerges and bathes us in golden 80-degree brilliance which is perfect cycling weather no matter what time of day.

Throughout the year, there are only a few “too hot” days and not that many “too cold” days. Most of the time it is Goldilocks weather around here: just right. For a noob cyclist healing up after radiation treatments, who is about to reach that fateful half century date on the calendar, and who is working on getting shape via bike there really is no better place to be. Sure, it’s not the big city, but I think I’m okay with that. The decisions I made back in the day which took me away from city life and the ones I’m making these days which keep me here are turning out just right.

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Suddenly Summer, But Some Sad Stats

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There were rumors all week that this weekend would sport some glorious weather. I almost didn’t want to get my hopes up because the last several weekends boasted predictions of sun, but the actual weather, while rideable, proved somewhat disappointing. Further, it rained consistently all week long. I wasn’t holding my breath.

I am not a fair weather cyclist nor am I wimpy when it comes to riding, but I decided pretty early on in this cycling venture that a career as a downhill racer was something I was just a bit too old for. I tried some trails. I even braved some single-track around a lake in the mountains near where I live and I was actually getting the hang of it. Mountain biking and downhill definitely have their positive points, especially if you are a thrill-seeker. It just took me one good spill, where I missed a turn on a switchback and ended up coming off the bike, to convince me that I was leaning toward becoming a roadie. (This was the same ride that drove home the importance of being in the right gear and underscored, yet again, that timing is everything. Shift into gear before you hit the incline.) I ended up putting the bike down in thorns and rocks and landing on top of the bike. This put the bike in the shop for a new wheel which took out two days of riding last summer.

Mountain biking definitely increases my odds of needing repairs on the bike, at least while I’m learning. This is something I have no patience for. I want to just get on the bike, put my head down and ride. Coming off the bike, for any reason except food and beverages, is annoying. The fact that I am pushing 50, less agile than I used to be, and very unskilled when it comes to technique, means that mountain biking is also potentially life-threatening. Of course, any kind of cycling has its risks, but for me, it seemed clear that road was probably going to suit my temperament and patience level better than the trail…unless the trail is relatively smooth.

So, while I’m not courageous enough to try to excel at technique on the trail, I’m certainly willing to ride in just about any conditions except snow, ice or standing water from torrential rain. The weather forecast, for the most part, is irrelevant. But there is just something about riding with fewer layers of gear on. So, I found myself hoping again that this weekend’s forecast would be as predicted. It was, but in spite of the beautiful weather, our riding this weekend was pathetic.

Friday morning the weather was a bit spotty, but by Friday afternoon it was rocking a nice 70-something degrees. We were delayed in getting out due to tube replacement and repair, but we still got in 17 miles. One of the tube repairs didn’t hold so toward the end of our ride the SO had to keep stopping to pump up his tire. That was frustrating, but at least we could roll home instead of walking.

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Saturday dawned clear, exactly as forecast. Sadly, due to being out in the middle of the night because of an emergency with one of our cats, the SO, was not feeling up to hauling himself out of bed at 7, in order to repair his tire and be on the bike by 8 so that we could meet up with the Velo Club for the 23-mile ride we’d planned on. That was pretty disappointing because we couldn’t ride later due to having a number of things planned. Saturday ended up being a wasted day where cycling was concerned.

Saturday evening we entertained a good friend at our place. The SO picked up a bottle cheap red wine and we barbecued hamburgers, sipped wine and sat out on our back deck in the shade of cedars and talked for hours. I think it was midnight before we turned in.

Cycling Tip # 348: Too much cheap red wine and a late night will ruin all chances for a morning ride.

Sunday dawned bright and clear. I, on the other hand, couldn’t even wake up until ten. It was another couple of hours before my head stopped hurting and I could get moving. I was determined to ride, so at about 1:30 in the afternoon we rolled out.

Cat’s Cycling Tip #487: Cycling with a hangover is painful.

Okay, I didn’t really have a hangover. Wine, of any kind, just doesn’t agree with me anymore. I end up with a massive headache and a sluggish feeling for a good 24 hours after, even if I only have one glass. Though I had no headache nor nausea, I was feeling that sluggish feeling and this made the riding a challenge today. Add in the fact that it was midday and 86 degrees, and I had the makings of a grueling ordeal instead of my usual enjoyable time on two wheels.

We decided to just slow things down and not push. The effort of pedaling was challenge enough. By about mile 11, I was beginning to feel much better, still weary, but much, much better. The rain began to fall during our last mile and a half. Big drops. Hot rain. It felt great.

We ended up cycling 39 miles for the weekend which is dismally pathetic, in my opinion considering it was such perfect weather.

I’m already looking forward to next weekend.

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Slowly Getting Back in the Saddle

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.