Exploring Wonderful Things

Gracie peers into a hole in the forest wall, catching a glimpse of what lies inside.

Gracie peers into a hole in the forest wall, catching a glimpse of what lies inside.

My daughter Grace is Eleven years old and exploring cycling.  She has an interest that surpasses her friends’ desire to tootle about the neighborhood, and a father who would love nothing more than to ride the rest of his days with her by his side.  Tonight, as we rode the Towpath Trail through Southwest Allen County we saw this hole in the forest wall.  It was like a window into a world most people would never see… (pretty cool eh?)

Seeing Things Otherwise Missed

I told Grace that one of the great privileges of riding is that we see things we might otherwise miss.  We access places cars can’t go.  We cover more territory than walkers/runners.  It really is up to us to seize the opportunity to look around and take in everything around us, to use our senses and look, listen, smell, touch and taste all the richness of life.

Shortly after she said to me, “Look Dad!  Isn’t that beautiful!”

Eagle Marsh is part of the wetlands project in Southwest Allen County, Indiana.

Eagle Marsh is part of the wetlands project in Southwest Allen County, Indiana.

So, what do YOU enjoy about cycling?  I would really love to see a lot of response to this question and people sharing their joy, and (potentially) opening our eyes to new realizations and GREATER fulfillment and passion.  Please.  Share with me (and us) what you enjoy most about cycling and why you keep coming back to it.

As for me and my Gracie, I am blessed to say we both… together…

Enjoyed the Ride!

Rite of Passage, part 2

In preparing for the Tri-State Tour Century Ride I established three priorities:

  1. Don’t ride alone.  The potential for getting lost in Chicago was high and highly undesirable.
  2. Pace yourself.  100 miles is farther than I’ve ever ridden and I don’t want to waste myself early.
  3. Shut off the GPS and get lots of pictures.  There is no way the battery in my phone was going to last the entire day running GPS and Mapping My Ride.  So, forego the detailed analysis of the ride and get plenty of pictures.  The added bonus of pictures is that they force you to look around and (theoretically) enjoy the ride.

So, how did I do?  Let’s find out shall we?

Don’t Ride Alone.

Everybody getting geared up for the big ride.

Everybody getting geared up for the big ride.

I went into this ride absolutely clueless.  I had a vague notion of the path of travel from the 3+ years we had lived in Lake County, North of Chicago, but had no idea now many riders would be going, or who any of them might be.  I knew I didn’t want to get into a situation where I would be lost and alone somewhere in Chicago.  Maps and notes were provided with an emergency phone number, so the organizers were aware of my concerns.  I suppose more than anything I wanted to be sure to meet some new people.  You know me…I need people.

It turned out that 37 of us were registered for the ride.  Hmmm…an odd number. Guess who was the only “single” riding out with the group?  No problem.  I enjoy a good social challenge.  I quickly fell in with the middle of the pack and met Andrew, a police office with the Hammond department and we easily rode together the 18 miles to the first SAG stop in downtown Chicago.  We joined up with Aaron, Tom, Eric, and another gentleman as we rode the next 21 miles through the North side into the suburbs.  39 miles in and I was feeling great!  As a group we were keeping a good pace, chatting about anything and everything, learning one another’s story, and getting it done!  We were all really enjoying the ride.

Cannot believe I rode at least 6 miles on this tire.

Cannot believe I rode at least 6 miles on this tire.

About 6 miles out of SAG stop #2 we were stopped at a light and Andrew tells me to check out my rear tire.  It was all bubbled up and about to let go!  We all checked it out and found three locations were the the rubber and threads had been compromised.  I was out of the group.  They offered to stay with me until the mobile SAG could get there to replace the tire, but when we learned it was “going to be a while” before the rescuers came, I thanked them all for a great ride and sent them on their way.  We exchanged numbers to see if I might catch up to them, but that was my day for riding with this great group of guys.  The rest of my day was spent alone, watching closely for the road markers and orange streamers that marked the remaining 40 miles to Kenosha, WI.  Thank God for the paper maps and keynotes because on two occasions I was off course in totally unknown territory.  Both times I got back on track with minimal loss of time and energy.

My Pit Crew at work (Rob Layton)

My Pit Crew at work (Rob Layton)

At this point I  want to thank Rob Layton, Director of Bicycle Illinois and the Tri-state Tour.  Not only did he provide turn-by-turn notes and maps of 100 miles through three states and across urban streets, bike trails, and rural roads, but he checked every inch up to the day before the ride and provided amazing support.  Every SAG had plenty of food, bathrooms and supportive volunteers.  When I called the emergency number and gave my location Rob knew exactly where I was and came right away.  He even replaced the tire for me, allowing me some recovery time.  Rob was DEFINITELY faster in changing the tire then I would have been. Thanks Rob.  Awesome job and fantastic ride!

Pace Yourself

I was doing really well until the tire change. The morning weather was spectacular – about 65 degrees when we set off.  We had started pretty easily through the potholes and traffic lights of Hammond and the South side.  The Lake Shore pedestrian trail was a mess with traffic that kept our pace under 15 mph most of the time.  City riding on the North side was less congested, but traffic lights kept us from getting too crazy.  All this was good in the fact that it kept energy consumption to a minimum.  As I said, the first 45 miles were really pretty easy.  I’m not sure I had even broken a sweat!

However, after my 40 minutes on the side of the road I knew the sweepers couldn’t be far behind me and I didn’t want to ride into the finish with them as my companions.  More than that, I wanted to catch up to my boys and see if we couldn’t finish this thing together.  So I set off at a pretty good clip.  I have no idea what my speeds were (I was saving phone battery, so no MapMyRide on this day), but I was on a bike trail so I kicked it up a few notches and was soon in my steady breathing pattern for a good 18 mph or so (which is a pretty good cruising speed for me).  I short-stopped SAG #3 and  cruised into SAG #4 feeling a bit tired, but no aches or pains and my hydration was good.

In the end I missed the boys in Kenosha, WI, by less than 10 minutes and that felt great!  I had made up about 30 minutes over the course of about 40 miles.  The guys weren’t exactly crushing it, but it was good to know that my efforts had caught me up.  At least the sweepers were never seen and I do know that several people were pulling in behind me as I was leaving each SAG.

Of course, there are only 85 miles between Hammond, IN, and Kenosha, WI.  My Century ride was not yet accomplished.  The Century demanded an additional loop through town to hit the mark.  As I pulled in to SAG #5 to the applause of my wife (Thank you Mary) and an unknown lady she had met while waiting for me, I saw that Eric the Young was still there!  As was one of my guys.  All congratulated me on (almost) catching them!  But my ride wasn’t over and I loudly asked, “Who wants to finish the Century?”  Eric the Young promptly stepped up to the challenge as well as two new friends, Lyndsey and Dierdre.

Meeting people is always a highlight of any Event Ride.  Here I am with Lyndsy, Dierdra, and Eric "The Young" on the Lakefront in Kenosha, WI.  At this point we are about 3 miles short of the first Century Ride for each of us.

Meeting people is always a highlight of any Event Ride. Here I am with Lyndsy, Dierdra, and Eric “The Young” on the Lakefront in Kenosha, WI. At this point we are about 3 miles short of the first Century Ride for each of us.

The pace was easy as we made our priority finishing this Century Ride.  It was a first for all of us and from the first pedal strokes we all knew…we were in this thing together. What a great privilege to finish the day with these new friends.  We made our way north from the High School, then West to the stoney shore of Lake Michigan.  We stopped to look around and get a few pictures, then made our way south through town, admiring the lake shore homes and scenery of rural Wisconsin.  In the end we celebrated our Rite of Passage together!  It was awesome to know that although I may never meet these great people again, we will always share this one moment.  What an awesome…awesome thing!

Shut off the GPS and Get Lots of Pictures

Well… I DID shut off the GPS, and amazingly my phone battery lasted all day! Unfortunately I didn’t get a lot of pictures.  The ride didn’t really allow for it.  The roads South of Chicago were madly in need of repair.  They were terribly and to let go of the handlebars for even a moment was sheer craziness.  Downtown was far too busy for pictures, and by the time we got to Lake County I was hustling to catch up.

I DO have to tell you about one picture I missed, but will never forget.  When rounding a bend on the southern end of the Lake Shore path (right about the area of The Loop) we ran into and through the Chicago “Biggest Loser” 15k walk/run.  There were THOUSANDS of bright orange t-shirts, filled with people who were/were NOT happy to be there, and were/were NOT happy that four guys on bicycles were riding into their sea of humanity.  It was CRAZY, and there was NO WAY I was gonna get ANY pictures of this moment!  HA!

What few pictures I did get I will share with you though…

Pre-ride meeting where I realized I was the only single rider.

Pre-ride meeting where I realized I was the only single rider.

St. Michael's Catholic Church, where Andrew and his family attend.

St. Michael’s Catholic Church, where Andrew and his family attend.

First Glimpse of Downtown Chicago, "My Kinda Town!

First Glimpse of Downtown Chicago, “My Kinda Town!

SAG #1 in Downtown on the Marina.

SAG #1 in Downtown on the Marina.

All were in awe at the simplicity and ingenuity embodied in the Peanut Butter Gun...

All were in awe at the simplicity and ingenuity embodied in the Peanut Butter Gun…

The Marina.  People seemed a bit curious about us.

The Marina. People seemed a bit curious about us.

Beautiful paved trails in Lake County, IL

Beautiful paved trails in Lake County, IL.

Feeling good at Sag #2!

Feeling good at Sag #2!

The path into Wisconsin...FINALLY!

The path into Wisconsin…FINALLY!

I asked if anyone wanted to finish the Century and heard, "We do!" This is where I first met Lyndsey (front) and Dierdre (back)!

I asked if anyone wanted to finish the Century and heard, “We do!” This is where I first met Lyndsey (front) and Dierdre (back)!

Here we are, hitting the 100 mile marker!

Here we are, hitting the 100 mile marker!

It was truly a great day in so many ways and affirms my commitment to cycling, not just as a means toward fitness, but as a social device.  It really is a great way to meet new and fascinating people.  People you may never see again, but with whom you share something special; a moment, a passion, a way of life.  I love this, and I will forever…

Enjoy the Ride!

Rite of Passage

Sociologists will tell you that cultures are defined in some way by their Rites of Passage…

A rite of passage is a ritual event that marks a person’s transition from one status to another.

In 1988, after a year of surviving many things and growing up, I was recognized into the Cadet Wing of the United States Air Force Academy.

In 1988, after a year of surviving many things and growing up, I was recognized into the Cadet Wing of the United States Air Force Academy.

For the professional athlete it may be that first live television interview.  For the student it may be the turning of the tassel or donning of the hood.  For Christians it may be Baptism, for the Jew it may be the Bar/Bat Mitzvah.  For the runner it is the 5K, half and/or full marathon.  For the Native American Indian it was the first hunt.  For the U.S. Marine it is the Crucible.  In all cases the person who enters the event is different from the person who emerges.  Rites of Passage change us.

I’ve had a few Rites of Passage in my life; my first shave (what boy can forget his mother’s words at his first shave, “It’ll only grow back darker and thicker!  Don’t cut yourself!”), getting my driver’s license, my first date, Recognition at the US Air Force Academy, earning my Master’s Degree.  All of them changed me in some way.

The cyclist’s Rite of Passage would seem to be The Century Ride.

100 miles ridden in a single day.  Your typical weekend or neighborhood rider can’t do it.  It demonstrates a level of commitment to the sport in time and training.  Depending on your level of training a Century Ride can take 5 to 9 hours.  Most people cannot fathom sitting on a bicycle seat for that period of time.  Well, based on the responses I get anyway…

Century Sticker

It really is quite amazing how far you can travel in 100 miles.  In my case the ride began in Hammond, IN and finished with an 18 mile loop around and through Kenosha, WI.  It was aptly named, “The Tri-State Tour,” and was a well organized event sponsored by Bicycle Illinois (www.bicycleillinois.com).

I’ll get into the specifics of the ride in part 2 of this post, but for now just let me say that I had a GREAT day!

All the major components of a GREAT ride were present…

  • The weather was phenomenal! Mid-70s with sunshine and just enough clouds to keep it interesting.  We had a bit of a wind off the lake, but it was easily manageable.
  • The setting was ever changing, multi-faceted and fascinating.  We rode urban streets, suburban neighborhoods, beach front and wooded bike paths.  It was metropolitan, it was rural, it was exciting!
  • Stories abound.  There was a lot happening and while I couldn’t record every moment there is plenty I will never forget!
  • The planning and support from ride volunteers was amazing.  More on this later, but let’s just say I am so glad for the SAG vehicle.
  • I made new friends.  With only 37 total riders (and knowing no one before the ride) my choice was simple, either make new friends or ride alone and risk getting lost.  My decision was made within the first 1/4 mile of the ride.

    Meeting people is always a highlight of any Event Ride.  Here I am with Lyndsy, Diedra, (me) and Eric "The Young" on the Lakefront in Kenosha, WI.  At this point we are about 3 miles short of the first Century Ride for each of us.

    Meeting people is always a highlight of any Event Ride. Here I am with Lyndsy, Diedra, and Eric “The Young” on the Lakefront in Kenosha, WI. At this point we are about 3 miles short of the first Century Ride for each of us.

All told I put in about 109 miles on Sunday in a little over 7 hours of riding.  Nope, I couldn’t have done a whole lot more.  I experienced some phenomenal cramping on the way home and later that night.  But I am very proud to say that I did it… I DID IT!

Now I’m looking for new and greater challenges.

That’s the thing with Rites of Passage, they tell us we can do more… BE more than previously imagined.  I now know I can ride the Century.  What’s next?  I’m considering the RAGBRAI for next year.  Perhaps a major ride in Pennsylvania with my friend Greg Petersheim, or Arkansas with my Brother-in-law Jeremy.  I don’t know, but my boundaries are now wider than they were, and that is really fun to think about!

What Rites of Passage have you accomplished?  What epic ride have you enjoyed?  Whatever the answer (and Please… share your answers with us), my hope for you is that you…

Enjoy the Ride!

The Greatest Gift

Two years ago my life was changed in a major way.

WHA?!?!? What's Steve doing here?

I was given the opportunity to borrow a road bike by my neighbor Steve MacDonald. (Read all about it in my post, My Ride)  I’m not sure how to adequately describe all that is encapsulated in the 1,800 miles I’ve put on it since.

That bike has birthed a passion in me; it is alternately a place of solace, peace and rest, as well as a place of pain, fatigue and whatever it is that does not kill me but only makes me stronger.  I’ve grown a lot on that bike and I’ve come to love it.

The bike has never been mine.

When Steve first loaned it to me I told him I didn’t have the money to buy it.  His reply, “I’m not selling it.  I just want you to ride it.”  And I have!  Just this past weekend I literally rode the second set of tires off the bike.  Steve’s only asked to ride it once and when I ask him if I can pay for the bike he simply replies, “It’s not for sale.”

This past Spring he let me get the bike fitted to me.  (Yep, I posted about that too, read A Bicycle Fit for Me!)  That has changed and energized my riding.  Now, even more of the component parts of the bike belong to me.  But Steve was excited to see it.

Guess what… the bike BECAME mine today!

My Bike!

Tonight Steve walked down his driveway to ask how my first Century Ride had gone over the weekend.  I told him it went very well, and the bike handled it all beautifully.  I shared a couple highlights and then Steve looked at me and utterly blew my mind!  “I’ve been thinking about it and I think you should have the bike.”  That’s what he said!  I was stunned and didn’t know how to respond.  I said, I couldn’t do that, he had money in the bike and Steve simply said, “I can see that you love the bike. I think you should have it.  You can’t out give God.”  For my part I told Steve that I had heard that God owns the cattle on a thousand hills, but I didn’t know He owns the bicycles as well.

I have been greatly blessed!

I still can’t really believe that the bike is mine.  Steve is looking for a new bike and more than anything I really would like to ride with him.  Of course, he’ll have some new carbon fiber bike and I’ll have my trusty 2009, Aluminum, Trek Alpha with the carbon forks… and I’ll be loving every minute of it!  Why?  Because it is mine!

Completing the Century in Kenosha, WIIn the next few days I will be posting my blog about my first Century Ride, the Tri-State Tour (see my Bucket List page for a brief overview).  Until next time I’ll be out on MY new bike…

Enjoying the ride!

A Recipe for Soul Food

Some things are just good for the soul…

ImageLike the BBQ ribs I cooked on the grill Sunday night.  Oh boy, falling off the bone.  The corn on the cobb, pasta salad, and s’mores just topped it all off!  All food, in my humble opinion, should please the palate and fill the stomach.  Sometimes good food and great company becomes an experience that truly enriches you.  That’s why they call it “Soul Food.”

Ah, but this isn’t a blog about food is it?  It’s about cycling, and tonight I had a ride that was food for my soul.  Want the recipe?  Ok, here you go.

A recipe for a ride that feeds your soul.

Start with 1 Respected Friend

IMG_4868

Eric Smith is a great combination of wisdom, humility and laughter. I always walk away from time with Eric encouraged and enriched.

It helps that he has a great house in the country and, rumor has it, a pool that is open for swimming to those with VIP passes… or cute children.  Thank God for cute children eh?

Add 1 Unridden path

IMG_4862

To be perfectly honest I’ve grown a little bored with my cycling in recent days.  So I’ve stepped off my well-beaten paths into some new territory North and West.  Unfortunately that means crossing a four lane highway.  Fortunately Eric lives on the other side of the tracks (literally, he really does), so he can be my guide.

Tonights track took us north, into unexplored territory for me.  Now my curiosity is piqued.  I want to ride all the way to Michigan!  We’ll see if I can do it.  I know this, it will be a beautiful ride. That, and I better invest in some dog spray.  There are some MAMMOTH dogs out there!

Gently fold in 15 Easy Miles

Road conditions weren't always the best (can't believe I was wishing for chip & seal at times), but the hills were rolling, traffic was light, and the view was spectacular!

The road conditions weren’t always the best (can’t believe I was wishing for chip & seal at times), but the hills were rolling, traffic was light, and the view was spectacular!

The rains have everything very green and suddenly we live in a world of 75F (23C) days and 50F (10C) nights!  I’m not sure I broke a sweat today.  That makes laundry a little easier.  (You… probably didn’t want to know that did you?)

Add 2 Fascinated Burros

IMG_4866These guys were hilarious!  Our ride was a basic Out-and-Back endeavor so we passed them twice. On the way out they watched us pass, curiosity on their faces.  On the way back I stopped to get their picture because they turned to face us in obvious fascination.  When they saw us stop they began to posture, snort, run around and stop to make sure we were looking at their machismo.  I must say it was comical if not impressive.

I never did get their names.  Please…post possible (and acceptable) names in the response section below! (This should be good)

Mix well…

Put all these together in a bowl of rolling farm land, 10′ tall corn and 4′ tall beans, sprawling horse farms, fishing ponds and… GOATS and you’ve got a ride that nourishes the soul.

IMG_4859

Ah yes, don’t forget the icing on the cake…

IMG_4869A dog that happily welcomes you back with his pull toy in his mouth, a wagging tail, and the light of pure joy in his eyes.  Yes my friends, it was a great ride, thoroughly enjoyed.  And Eric’s parting statement to me was, “Call me anytime.”  Oh yeah, no problem there, I’ll always call, so long as I can…

Enjoy the Ride.

The Man in the Mirror…

A friend of mine once told me,

“Cycle long enough and you will; repair a flat tire, crash, and/or have a meeting with a car.”

It is almost a rite of passage.  Hang with cyclists and the conversation will eventually include one of these three.

Today was my day!

With the “Check Engine” light on and the weather a humid 75F at 7am it seemed a perfect day to don the backpack and commute to the office on ole Red (read A New Adventure to get the details on my commute).  broken-mirrorIt was all going so well until…

  • I heard a loud BANG!
  • I saw shards of glass, plastic, and a small rectangular frame explode past me
  • I felt a thud, like a baseball bat, hit my bum and left knee.
  • I said… well, I’m not sure I’ll post exactly what I said.  It wasn’t exactly “kind.”

Of course, the driver who had just hit me with his/her passenger side mirror would never know what I said because they never stopped, never even tapped the brakes, he/she continued on driving at around 40 miles per hour.  The mirror was totally gone, with nothing but the wires hanging out the side of the car.  I stopped on the side of the road to regather my wits and see if all of my body parts were still present and accounted for!  When I turned to look behind me the road was strewn with debris from the impact, it was amazing I was not thrown from my bike into traffic or one of the trees lining this portion of the road.

The brain always wonders, “What if…”

  • What if I had been 2-3 inches further out into the road?  (I was honestly within 3 inches of the edge of the pavement)  I would have met his fender not his mirror.
  • What if he had been driving a truck or large SUV?  That mirror would have been head height.
  • What if it had tossed me into the tall grass that lines the ditch along the road side? I could have been laying there for some time.
  • What if I had broken a bone or been cut badly? I’m not sure I could have gotten my backpack off and accessed my phone.

What if…what if…what if.

The realities are fascinating to think about.

I was hit hard enough to destroy the mirror on the side of the car, nothing of the mirror or its base remained on the car (from what I could see).  Yet, I was not thrown from the bike.  No bones were broken, I was able to continue the ride the remaining 6-7 miles.  After a 10 day of sitting and walking at work, I was able to ride the 13 miles home in the evening.  I was not killed, as so many are (My uncle in Georgia reported that they have a case similar to mine right now.  They have the broken mirror but no driver.  The cyclist did not survive the crash).

Someone was watching over me…

When I was a kid my parents taught me that God watches over me.  I teach my kids that God watches over them.  Today I was reminded that yes… God watches over me.  For that I say, “Thank you.”  I am reminded again today that all of life can change in the blink of an eye.  No matter how careful I am or safely I ride, ultimately it isn’t up to me.  I am thankful… ever so thankful… that I and my family, my friends both near and far are being watched over.

Something to think about as you are enjoying your ride.

Corn!

Sometimes I wonder if I haven’t mis-named my blog.

I chose the URL “musingsofanamateurcyclist” for many reasons:

  1. I tend to think a lot when I ride.  I’m a muser, my thoughts stir me up and change me in some way.
  2. I’m NOT a professional.  I am most definitely an amateur and if you’ve seen me, know me, or have ridden with me, you understand that any professional riding is saved for a different lifetime.
  3. I am a cyclist.  Though honestly, a NEW cyclist, I have a growing passion for it.

I had an epiphany on my ride last night.

Seven foot high on the Eleventh of July! (yeah, ok, now you know... I'm short!)

Seven foot high on the Eleventh of July! (yeah, ok, now you know… I’m short!)

Perhaps I should change the URL to “musingsofaRURALcyclist.”  I do a LOT of riding in rural Indiana (and it isn’t hard to find the rural parts of Indiana, let me tell you).  Last night was no exception, I rode my 35 mile out-and-back to Ossian.  It’s a great ride and I was struck by the enormity and majesty of the corn this year!  It’s been a perfect mix of wet/hot for corn and the crop is stellar!  They have a saying when prognosticating about the corn crop, “Knee high by the Fourth of July,” means it’s gonna be a good year.  Well, what about 7 feet high by the Eleventh of July?  What does THAT mean?

I means a lot of things and I was about to learn a few on this ride.

I took full advantage of the setting sun…

I know the sun hits the Western horizon right about 9:30 pm and figured with a 7pm start I had plenty of time.  I knew I would be stopping several times for pictures and at my parents’ house to say “hey” and catch up a bit, but 2 1/2 hours is plenty of time. More than anything my late start is indicative of something I’m learning; riding gets better as the shadows get longer.  The air cools, the colors change, and the world goes quiet. (Perfect…minus the swallowed bugs.  I’m sure they hated the experience no less than I did.)

IMG_4714As I rode with the corn towering over me it seemed to grow taller in the waining light.  Toward the end I rode in deep shadow as the sun was cast over me.  It was amazing to see, to sense, to be a part of.  So cool.  I’ll definitely head out again into a warm summer evening with the sun falling behind the corn, just to experience it all over again.

Nope, I’m not a professional rider.  I won’t break any records for speed or win any races, but i will definitely…

Enjoy the Ride!

Morphin…

Sometimes I feel like I’m caught in the spin cycle; going around and around and around.

A couple weeks ago I lamented our Summer weather pattern in Indiana (see my post entitled, and in Today’s Weather…), and yes, it continues.  I’ve been trying to get into a rhythm of riding 3-4 times a week.  However… the storms are in a pattern of hitting us just about every night.  Now, before this degenerates into (more) moaning about the weather let me move forward.  Today, the storms went NORTH and I hurried home to change my clothes and hit the road!

With visions of 30-40 miles, or hill climbing, in my head I walked in the door only to remember that tonight was the scheduled community ride on the bike paths through our area!  Daddy had a decision to make…quickly; a) offer an alternative to the eldest daughter and fulfill my desire, or b) follow through on what I had promised and take the opportunity to invest in my eldest.  Not much of a choice really, I offered Gracie ice cream tomorrow night so I could go on my ride tonight!

NO…I didn’t!  I’m not a moron! I took my second, and ONLY, option!  Besides, I wouldn’t actually WRITE about taking option A if I had.  C’mon!  Give a guy SOME credit!

Yep, the plans changed.

That solitary 35 miles turned into an 8.5 mile ride with two lovely ladies.  Originally it was supposed to be just me and Grace.  She’s my 11 year old with a budding interest in riding with her dad.  I’m trying to do all i can to nurture that interest short of buying the $780 Cyclocross bike (recently reduced to $550) she so strongly desires.  That’s part of why these little rides are so important…they are an investment!  She asked if her soul-sister Katie might join us to which I answered, “of course!”  Thirty minutes later there are three bikes in the drive, tires fully inflated, helmets strapped on and we are off to the trails!

We had a lovely ride.  The girls followed my directions in learning how to ride with traffic on the trails.  We explored places they had never been before and they climbed their first out-of-the-neighborhood hill.  I was very proud of them and encouraged them on!

Mid-way water fountains are the Bomb!  (Do the kids today still use that phrase?)

Mid-way water fountains are the Bomb! (Do the kids today still use that phrase?)

The girls recognized our locations after a while, choruses of “I know where we are,” rang out from time to time.  What I cherished the most were those moments they saw things one can only discover from a bike.  The trees, creeks, critters, etc. one cannot see from the comfort of the car.  I think my smile gave me away.

The plan for a bike ride morphed into a Daddy-Daughter(s) date.

Seriously!  Does ANYONE belt out One Direction tunes better than a pair of 11 year old girls?  "That's what makes you Beautiful!"

Seriously! Does ANYONE belt out One Direction tunes better than a pair of 11 year old girls? “That’s what makes you Beautiful!”

Is there any better way to cap off a strenuous ride then dinner at Moe’s Southwest Grill?  I think NOT!  I found myself playing chauffer to two giddy girls belting out One Direction’s “That’s What Makes You Beautiful.”  With the top down on the ‘vert I did gather some amused gazes, and I WAS quick to point out the girls hidden in the back seat to explain my choice of music at such high volume.  They sang and I laughed… and mused at the charm of this moment as a dad.  In a dad kind of way this was awesome!

The plan for a Daddy-Daughter(s) date morphed into a sleep over.

I love Katie.  She isn’t my kid, but she is my kid’s soul-sister, of that there is no doubt.  She is respectful, she is obedient, and she knows we love her.  I sincerely hope these two little nut-jobs spend the rest of their lives together in some way.  They are good for each other.

Yeah... this was all staged.

Yeah… this was all staged.

Even now they are in Gracie’s bed doing whatever it is that 11-year old girls do that makes them giggle then go silent when dad knocks on the door.  I want to encourage that sisterhood at every turn.  Truly, what IS the most important thing in life if not those relationships that nurture us (and allow us to nurture them) for a lifetime?

Life is just like a good ride.

You never know what’s gonna happen until to you just get on and get going.  If you do that you will see things you may have never seen otherwise and might never see again.  It’s a chance to invest in yourself and others.  And the life long relationships you are blessed with along the way make every hill, head wind, tumble and tough day worth it in the end.

Today was a good day to be a dad.

I’m so glad I tossed the plans and took the ride.  I hope you have a ride like I did…SOON!  Please, tell me (us) all about it!  Until then…

Enjoy the ride!

FYI... this is the look you get when you say something silly like, "Let's go another 6 miles!"

FYI… this is the look you get when you say something silly like, “Let’s go another 6 miles!”

Happy Birthday America!

This is such a common sight in Indiana that it is easily overlooked and under-appreciated.

This is such a common sight in Indiana that it is easily overlooked and under-appreciated.

Oh beautiful, for spacious skies,
   For amber waves of grain.
For purple mountain’s majesty,
   Above the fruited plain.

America, America, 

   God shed His grace on thee.
And crown thy good,
   With brotherhood,
From sea to shining sea.

It somehow seemed appropriate that the lyrics to America, The Beautiful, would be running through my head as I woke up today.  Immediately I knew why; a) it is July 4th, the 237th birthday of my country, b) I ride under spacious skies and past amber waves of grain on just about every ride I take.  So today’s ride, while not-too-spectacular on paper, was all about the scenery.  I wanted to take in the world around me from the saddle of my bike.

After all, that’s what cycling is about for me…

freedom, independence, and enjoying all that passes by and under the bike and me.  Indiana has it’s own beauty and charm.  I don’t always appreciate it and find myself wanting to explore other places, but today it was amazing.

This is a typical country home in Whitley County, IN. Not really farmers, but folks not wanting to live in the suburbs.

This is a typical country home in Whitley County, IN. Not really farmers, but folks not wanting to live in the suburbs.

If you celebrate US Independence Day, then “Happy July 4th” to you!  Wherever you live and whatever you do, I hope you get the opportunity to just look around on your next ride.  Whether it’s your first trip down this road, or your 1,000th, take it all in.  And when you do…

…Enjoy the ride!

and in Today’s Weather…

We’ve hit the summer weather pattern in Indiana.

majesty

Post-storm majesty.

Everyday the temperature hovers between 85 and 90 degrees.  This warm moist air percolates throughout the day and collides with heavy cold air each evening to create towering cloud formations and strong storms.  After the storm the sunset bathes the clouds in splendid shades of orange and red.  Those clouds not getting the sun are tinted shades of purple and royal blue, augmented by the heavy gray of the rain clouds.  Throw in a rainbow or two and you’ve got nature at its most powerful and magnificent!

Unfortunately, you also have a pattern that isn’t the greatest for riding after work.

This is what it looks like when my riding opportunity is slipping away.

This is what it looks like when my riding opportunity is slipping away.

Each day I keep my eye to the sky, watching it build, and wondering what my chances might be.  Right now I’m riding about 50% of the time I am available.  It can be a bit maddening, but the beauty really is outstanding.  I love a good storm, so sitting on the porch with a beverage, watching the rain and the wind and feeling the rumble of the thunder isn’t a bad thing either.

I finally had the chance to ride on Thursday!  The day was sweltering hot so I knew a good sweat was coming, but at 6 pm the skies were clear and I was ready to go.  So, I headed out without any specific route in mind.  The 15-20 mph West wind determined that for me and I headed for the hills of Aboite Center Road.

About 8 miles into my ride my goal was established for me.

Right on time, storms brew in the Western sky.

Right on time, storms brew in the Western sky.

It was building…FAST!  I was just turning the corner onto the North leg, the far side of my circular route, and I wasn’t going to turn back.  I began to do the math, I had 12 miles to go, four of those were North/South riding, gaining me nothing in terms of reaching home first.  Most of these storms move about 35 miles/hour.  So, I was gonna have to ride about…  I don’t know!  Forget the math, the race was on!

Did I make it?

The clouds gathered over my house immediately upon my arrival.

The clouds gathered over my house immediately upon my arrival.

Yep!  I made it just in time.  The rain started falling about 15 minutes after I arrived.  A “typical” ride became an adventure, and was well worth it!

Sometimes a good ride ushers in a better evening.

Gracie, the Garden Gnome and me watching the storm.

Gracie, the Garden Gnome and me watching the storm.

I spent the rest of the evening on the porch with my eldest daughter, Gracie.  We watched the storm, enjoying the thrill of the lightning and the rumble of the thunder.  We had an amazing time together, a tremendous Daddy-Daughter event.  I enjoyed the ride…and the storm!