Thursday, July 31, 2014

Taking the Lane: How Predictable!

First order of business, today is the last day to log your miles for the National Bike Challenge for the month of July. So if you have not already log those miles. Further, if by chance you have not signed up yet, it is not to late to be a part of this movement.

If you look on the National Bike Challenge website, you will notice that there is tab you can click on about bike safety. One the points made is the importance of being a predictable cyclist. What this means is biking in way such that your intentions are clear to the cars, pedestrians, and other cyclists around you. It is a really easy way to keep yourself safer and to not annoy those around you. (Think about how much love that pedestrian who suddenly walks into the middle of the bike path.)

It is something most of us could always get a little better at, myself included. For me, I can get lazy about signaling and such when I am tired or stressed. So here are a few tips on being predictable.

Hand Signals

Motorists (should always) use turn signals and break lights to communicate with divers around them. This always for smoother traffic flow and reduces accidents and when used consistently. It is also something that we have all come to expect. (Think about how annoying it is when someone forgets a turn signal.) Bikers have their method of communicating their intentions in the form of hand signals. A diagram of the signals can be found bellow. Most of us who have been cycling for awhile are very familiar with the hand signals, but I will admit that I did not know what they were until I was about four month into commuting. A few notes about hand signals, most people expect you to signal by pointing to the direction you are turning. The left handed right turn signal is not as commonly used. I have also seen people indicate that they are stopping by putting a hand up. This is technically not correct, but look out for it. Also, if you are cycling in heavy bike traffic (awesome) take care not to be so exuberant with your signally that you hit the person next to you.

Also, one further note, it is up to those of us who have been cycling for longer to make sure the newer cyclists and newer drivers are informed on hand signal meaning and usage.
Hand Signals
(image from

Look Ahead

Remember when you where learning how to drive and you were interacted to always look ahead and anticipate the actions of others on the road and keep an eye out for obstacles? Same idea applies on the bike. Roads these days seem to be strewn with a series of obstacles. So far in my own commute, I have had to avoid pot holes, broken glass, ceiling tiles, banana peels, hammers, knives, plywood among other things. I promise you that I am not commuting in the suburbs of London not a video game. Sudden swerving is sometimes unavoidable, but if you know there is an obstacle coming there are a few things you can do to give the motorists plenty of time to react to you moving into the center of the lane.
What my commute sometimes feels like
Let me give you the following scenario. You are lucky enough to have bike lane to travel on for your commute and up ahead you see that some cars have parked in your lane and you will need to move into the center of the road. Do you wait to merge until you have almost approached the park vehicles or do you merge earlier? The correct answer is to merge well before the obstacle and as soon as you see a gap in the traffic. To do this, signal that you will be entering traffic. Check to make sure the path is clear, and gently guide your bike to the center of the lane, ensuring you are far enough away from the parked car to avoid getting doored. This has also given the drivers behind you plenty of time to respond to having a slower vehicle in the center of the lane. I use the same technique for entering the center of the lane when I know that a section of road will be littered with potholes. However, this only works if you have either noticed the obstacles well in advance or are familiar enough with this stretch of road to know that they are there. Which leads me to stress the importance of looking ahead and anticipating the unexpected. This keeps everyone safer.Another time to consider moving closer to the center of the lane, is if you see a car about to turn onto your road from a side road. It has been my experience that these drivers often pull further forward than they should and this could keep you from suddenly swerving into the middle of the lane.

Traffic Weaving

Traffic weaving is practiced by both cyclists and motorbikes alike. This is when a two wheeled vehicle does things like weaving in and around a line of slow moving traffic, or making a third lane when none exists. The legalities on this practice vary from state to state and country to country. It is not a safe practice and is not recommended even when legal. Drivers will not know how to anticipate your next action if you are weaving around cars. It is better to wait in traffic than to jump unexpectedly in and out of it. Along those lines, it is neither legal or safe to weave on and off the sidewalks to get around slow moving traffic. Just do not do it.

Quick Thinking

There are times when you are cycling that the unexpected will happen and you will have to react. There could be a sudden obstacle in your path or you encounter unpredictable behavior from someone you are sharing the road or path with. In this case, do a quick check, if you have time, before you swerve to avoid. If you have cyclists behind you and you need to do a quick break, try to let them know verbally, if you do have time to signal.  It is important to realize that this does not count as being an unpredictable cyclist in these cases.

So there you have it, a few tips on being predictable on the roads.

Is there anything I missed about being a predictable cyclist? Feel free to leave it in the comments below.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Taking the Lane: Sharing is Caring!

My exercise adventures have stayed more bipedal than bi-pedaling this summer, so I wanted to take the opportunity to discuss sharing the road with cyclists from the point of view of a driver. I may not be riding much right now, but I’m sure as heck an advocate for those who do. A little knowledge goes a long way in staying safe on the roads.

Crosswalks-it’s illegal for cyclists to ride through a crosswalk. You’re probably thinking, “hey! Then how the heck do I get to the other side?”. Well, silly, I don’t mean riding ACROSS it, but in it. Trying to be clever and scooting over to the crosswalk to get through a light puts you in the flow of traffic, out, and then back in again. Getting in the flow of traffic as a cyclist is a scary thing for me, so I’m like the Griswold family stuck in the roundabout for hours once I get in there. I can’t imagine wanting to bounce in and out, but hey-turns out, it’s just a bad idea. Bonus pain points? You’re the one legally at fault if you got hit in the crosswalk. Talk about insult to injury!

Right is always right, right?-Unless you’re one of those crazy Europeans, you’re pretty used to traffic movement on the right side of the road. Most of the time, this applies to cyclists as well as cars. Any exceptions to the rule? Always! Stay as near as possible to the right side of the roadway unless:
--you’re passing another cyclist or vehicle
--you’re about to make a legal left turn
--you’re on the paved shoulder of a highway (and if you are, kudos to you. I’ve tried it a few times and just can’t shake that inherent death feeling).
--it’s reasonably necessary to avoid unsafe conditions (hey, look out for that giant pothole!)
--the lane you’re in is too narrow for both vehicle and bicycle to share (go ahead and hog that lane-it’s your right!)
--if you’re on a multilane one way street where the posted speed limit is less than 35, you may hop onto the European side of the road and ride away.

Keep your equipment maintained-sounds pretty obvious, right? But a night or two of being too lazy to charge back up your rear red light or front headlight can make for one surprisingly dangerous return home. The city of Lincoln requires a rear red light when riding at night. Always a good idea to make yourself as visible as possible, and when riding in dusk or dark conditions, you need all the help you can get. So throw on your loudest cycling kit, fire up those lights, and keep yourself safe.And may I suggest this rave-ready bike mod? 

On your left! YOUR LEFT! ON YOUR LEFT!-This one deals more with sharing the road with pedestrians. I’ll admit that I’m on the bike path more as a runner than a cyclist these days, and my feelings on passing seem to be more in favor of whatever activity I’m doing. Yeah, I’m a hypocrite. But it’s courteous to announce your presence with the ring of a bell, a polite “passing on  your left”, or tire tracks across their back. OK, maybe not that third, but sometimes it sure feels that way! As a runner, I can tell you that even if the yell startles me, I still prefer to know that you’re there instead of just zooming past me. But, pedestrians, you’re not off the hook. If you’re in a group, and you get the signal, don’t startle, don’t stand your ground, move over. It’s super frustrating to have to slow down, or even stop, because a gabbing group of people can’t hear your repeated cries for your rightful space on the path.

Play nice!-The simplest rule seems to be the hardest one to follow. I know we all got taught to share in preschool, but those days are far in the rearview mirror and need a reminder every once in a while. The road is a big place. There’s room for cyclists and drivers, I promise. 3 feet needs to be maintained by the driver as the space allowed a cyclist. I have seen both sides of that fence-I’ve been on my bike and had drivers disregard my personal space so bad this weeble wobbled but luckily didn’t fall down, though there was definitely a strong wind trying to knock me over! I’ve also been the driver, and had a situation where there’s oncoming traffic, the lane is narrow, and I’m just struggling to give the cyclist the space they deserve. 99% of the time, there’s no excuse not to give the cyclist all the room they need.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor? --- The Cornhusker State Games Gravel Grinder

A little over a week before the Cornhusker State Games Gravel Grinder I began to seriously entertain doing it.   I had a decent amount of 50+ mile rides and one 61 mile ride.  Looking toward Gravel Worlds in August, I thought this might be a chance to see how well I could manage a long gravel ride. Discussions with Skip (husband and frequent riding partner) evolved into a plan for him to ride it with me so that when Gravel Worlds rolls around, he could race it and not be worried about me.  Skip has raced long gravel races for over 10 years.  This would give me the opportunity to tryout a long gravel race with a seasoned gravel rider as my domestique.  This race was 112 miles which would be over 50 miles more than I had ever ridden. I tried Cyclocross for the first time at age 45, why not a long gravel race at 46?!?!

Heat is my biggest enemy.  Being a ginger with a low sweating ability makes it difficult for my body to deal with the blazing sun and humid heat.  In preparation, I updated my helmet to an all white and light grey one, got a sleeveless white mesh jersey, white gloves, and Pearl Izumi In-R-Cool shorts that are mostly white with a panel of black that is not supposed to absorb heat.    I wanted all that heat to just bounce right off me!  Side benefit: the white, with pink and black accents on everything matches my bike extremely well!

Arriving at the race on Sunday morning, I felt pretty confident but was nervous.  I had my ,“cool kit”, insulated bottles, plenty of bars, endurolytes and my own personal soigneur.  I felt good about my chances.  Funny, I was pretty cold at the 6am start but didn't want to carry my jacket later and knew the heat would come! The race started and it seemed like to me people were rolling out really fast.   I was still trying to wrap my head around the fact that this was actually happening and I was doing it.

The first checkpoint at Wagon Train came quickly at 23 miles in.  Hey, this gravel racing thing is very doable.

The second checkpoint at the Last Chance Bar in Burr at mile 48 still had me in good spirits. It had warmed up but wasn’t really hot yet.  I felt really strong and still like this is not that big of a deal.  Just pay attention to the cue sheets, reload bottles at checkpoints, and keep eating.  

And then things changed.  

The minimum maintenance roads and the topography were an evil I had not yet really met.  I was expecting to meet the evil Heat at some point, but this new foe was trying to break my spirit before Heat even got the chance.  Skip tried to use these opportunities to talk me through the best ways to use momentum in climbing and other climbing strategies.  I can now, a few days post race, appreciate it as all very valuable information and I did make use of it later in the day. At the time I was getting so tired of the up and down, going through the whole range of my gears repeatedly and those stupid dirt roads, I was angry at how hard this course was.  Skip’s encouragement or advice was often met with comments from me like “Shut up”, “Don’t talk to me” or “Shut the fuck up”.  Honestly, I didn’t think he could hear me since I was several yards behind him and the wind and gravel was loud, plus Skip’s hearing is not great.  Not the case.  When I admitted to him the day after the race, what I had been saying, he said, “Oh, I know.  I heard all of that.” Oops.  He had been a very patient man, who is not always know for his patience.  In hindsight, I find it hysterical  that I did that.  That’s not how I normally operate. That just shows how much the race was getting under my skin.

So, from that point on, I was a tale of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde depending on the type of road and the climbing required.  My patient guide just keep offering words of encouragement and advice despite the verbal abuse he was subjected to.  Until I actually used the advice given, I sometimes had to walk my bike up a hill since I had tried to mash it out instead of spinning.  As the evil Heat made its appearance I had settled into my suffering and still needed to sometimes walk up the final part of a climb because I know my heat limits.  Despite me following along with the cue sheets sometimes the target of my cussing pretended the suffering would be over sooner than it really would be.  As the mileage got higher and higher though, I appreciated what I was achieving.  I hated a lot of it but never really entertained the idea of quitting.  I knew physically I could finish I just needed to give myself the breaks my body needed to do it. Skip said afterwards that he knew I could do it but wondered if I would let myself finish it.  

There was a mobile water station at mile 68ish.  I can’t really even remember where that fell in the midst of my angst.  I remember the cold water though.  The checkpoint at mile 80 had ice cold orange slices that tasted like gold.  After that checkpoint I wanted to feel like I was in the home stretch but there was still a lot of race left and the cross wind was going to continue for a while.  

I hated the race and whined and complained every time I could see huge rolling hills in the horizon and knew we wouldn’t be turning anytime soon or another Minimum Maintenance sign. Patient, kind words continued.  On the downhills when I stopped hating I sometimes got teary realizing I was actually doing this and often thought of the phrase "Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor?" from Animal House.

Finally, we got to Princeton and turned onto the familiar Homestead Trail with a tailwind.  I felt reinvigorated and dropped Skip in my full Bike Path Hero mode.  I liked the race again.  Now, I felt like I was in the home stretch.  Skip knew otherwise as he knew what was waiting for us once we refilled bottles in Roca.  In our race postmortem, Skip pointed out that I should have been using that section to recover. Noted.  Bennet Rd completely kicked my ass, I hated the race more than ever but I knew I could finish.  There were lots of shade breaks and probably a lot of complaining. I dumped a lot of water on myself. Still lots of words of encouragement, advise and patience from my sweet husband.

In my own defense, I did repeatedly thank Skip for doing the race with me and for being patient with me (and apparently my mouth).

Finally, we turned into the neighborhood to weave through signaling the end of the race.  Wow, I had done it!  We rolled up to the finish a little over 11 hours after starting.  The after party was over.  The few volunteers that remained cheered our arrival, marked our arrival times on their clipboards and handed us participation medals.  I sat down in the shade and said to Skip, “Shouldn’t I have gotten a different metal?"  There were only 3 women in my category, so a finish pretty much guaranteed a medal.  As Skip went to get the car, I walked over and inquired about how I placed in my category.  I saw the volunteer write “SILVER” next to my name and got a different metal.  An apology was given for not remembering that. I didn’t care, I just wanted my medal!  I earned it!  And we were off to change and to watch my son’s CSG soccer match.

The accomplishment didn’t really sink in until Monday morning as I was riding into work and seeing other people on the trail.  I had a huge smile on my face thinking, “you guys have no idea what I accomplished yesterday.”  Put my medal on my desk and basked in its glory all day.  I went for a slow ride Monday evening with Skip to work and was amazed that really where I felt the race was the heels of my hands and my forearms.

Here’s my true race recap:

Strava reported 9hrs 19mins moving time compared to 11hrs 07min of total elapsed time so I stopped a lot. That 9:19 also includes several walks up the end of climbs.  Average speed of 12.1mph which would have also been lowered by the walking.  I'm very happy with my effort going 50 miles longer than I ever had!

My final thoughts:
  • I can finish Gravel Worlds and will try not to cuss at those around me. :-)
  • I will listen to the advice of people with experience and actually use their advice.
  • I am in great cardiovascular and cycling shape. I can expect my body to do really difficult things.
  • My husband showed a level of patience and support that was amazing and touching.
  • I am a badass.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Boom Boom Pow!

Boom Boom Pow is an all-women's adventure racing squad that's part of the Sheclismo family. Stacey, Tina, Jeri, and Char are currently the first and only all-female squad to compete in the 4-day Cowboy Tough race.

They've made it through the first night and are going strong. You can track them here, under team #500.

Happy trails to BBP, and to all the women taking the wheels, mats, lakes, and trails this weekend, in the Cornhusker State Games, the Rapha Women's 100 or whatever other amazing adventures they might be on.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Taking the Lane: The ABC's of bike maintenance!

So you have a bicycle. You have been commuting and hopefully joy riding all over your town. You have mastered the balancing act of keeping up your appearance for work and toting groceries home at the end of the day. But what about that bike! There are tons of moving parts on that bicycle, but I am going to run through the three most important pieces of information concerning bicycle maintenance. This advice could be the difference between a safe, comfortable commute or a dangerous, dissatisfying commute. 

First piece of advice is to check the air pressure in your tires. This should be done weekly at a minimum! The sidewall of your tire will be the location to check for the recommended pressure rating. You will want to stay within this range, most likely right in the middle. 
Now that you have figured out how much air to get into the tires we need to figure out the valve on your inner tube. There are two types of valves associated with bicycle inner tubes. First is a schrader valve, just like your car tire valve. It can be used with most types of pumps, including those not designed for use with bicycles. The second type of valve is a presta valve. This is a bicycle specific valve. It will work with mainly bicycle pumps. It can also be adapted to work like a schrader valve. 

The presta will need to be opened to allow air in, and closed for daily riding. Now why do we want to add air to our tires weekly. Number one reason is for an improved ride quality! You won't be dragging around a flat tire, causing more wear and tear to you and the rubber. Number two reason, which is just as important is to prevent flats. You will be much more susceptible to pinch flats while riding a tire with low pressures. 
If you hit a rock or pot hole the tire will pinch the tube against the rim, resulting in a flat. Nobody wants that!

Next piece of advice is to make sure the brakes on your bicycle work. This possibly should be the number one tip. Reason for that is because surely you can get most bikes going, but stopping is more important to you and those around you! 


There are a couple things you can check over by yourself concerning brake pads. First thing is to make sure the cable connection between the brake levers and pads is actually there and strong. If there is no cable the brakes cannot work. 

Next thing you could check is the wear indicator line on the brake pads. If the line does not exist or the pads seem to be almost non-existent it is time for new pads! 


Lastly the most important thing you can do concerning brake pads is to take it to your local bike shop and have them check over the brakes as a whole. Personally I work full time at a bike shop and I never adjust my brakes without having one of the mechanics check them over before I leave. If your local bike shop does not offer free safety checks I would recommend finding a new bike shop to visit!

Last tip is to check out your chain and gears. These are the other piece of equipment propelling your bicycle. No matter how many gears you have the most important thing you can do for this area on your bike is LUBE THE CHAIN! This will prevent rust and keep everything running as smooth as possible. 
mmm lube that chain!

The chain is doing a lot of work and the lube will ensure smooth shifting and pedaling. There are many different types of lube. It is important to stick with the same lube and to wipe off the excess of whichever kind you choose. A towel or old t-shirt will be necessary for lubing chains and keeping things clean. 

Chains love lube. Keeping them lubed will allow for your bicycle mechanic to keep the gears running well and will prevent unnecessary replacement of parts before it is their time to go! 

This is just a simple start to bicycle maintenance. These checks should be done weekly, if not more often, especially in adverse weather seasons. Air, brakes, and chain checks will keep your bike rolling as smooth as can be, making for a much happier you!

p.s: If you would like anything to be explored in more depth please let  me know! I love taking the time to explain the little bit of bicycle mechanics knowledge that I have acquired from my bicycle shop!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

TAKING THE LANE: Reasons You SHOULDN’T Ride Your Bike To Work

Let’s face it. There are some die hard people who ride their bikes nearly everywhere.  Every errand, every trip to/from work. In the rain. In the cold. On the street. And let’s admit it, they kind of rub it in your face they are so eco-friendly. Always blasting off all the reasons you should ride your bike.  Talking about the calories you’ll burn, the feel good hormones you’ll get, the gas money you’ll save, on and on.  Annoying aren’t they?  Well I’ve decided to write an article about why you should not commute by bike.  You can throw this list in the face of the next hippie biker touting off all the great reasons they ride as to why you don’t ride.

1. Commuting by bike takes extra time you don’t have.  Let’s face it, you are a busy person.  Right now you are probably spending a considerable amount of time driving to work, finding parking, walking to work from the parking area (why can we never park right by the doors the cyclists), then you have to spend time driving across town the gym for 50 minutes, and still drive home in time for supper.  If you bike you will not have time to go to the gym and you will waste all the money you are paying in monthly gym membership fees.  So there are two reasons wrapped into one: No extra time and wasting money by biking.

2. You probably don’t even have a “commuter” bike.  There is no way you are going to spend money on another bike.  People would look at you funny if you rode a mountain bike or road bike as transportation to and from places.  Especially those people commuting on their 1983 Schwinn, or those fat tire bikes.  I’m not even sure they can be trusted on the trails anyway.

3. Trails!  Another reason not to commute by bike. Where do these trails even go?  And there are other people on the trails you will have to maneuver around with saying things like “On your Left” when you pass.  You would have to brake, or might get passed by someone.  That’s just too scary.  Plus they wrap all around town and are just confusing. There is no way to figure out how to ride one to get to your destination.  It’s not like Google Maps has an option to show you the best bike route to take instead of a car route.  Plus local bike stores very likely don’t carry maps of local trails.

4. Which brings me to my next reason you should not ride your bike. It’s not safe.  You will likely have to ride on a main road.  There are all those quiet side streets with little traffic on them right next to the main road, from which more cars will eventually emerge and further congest the main road you are riding on.  And drivers and dangerous.  They have all that road rage going on from being stuck in traffic, stuck at red lights, getting cut off, and dealing with road construction and congestion.  You don’t want to deal with those people!

4. There is no way to drop your kids off if you ride a bike.  How do you get your kids to daycare if you ride a bike?  How will they get to school on their own? Are you expected to strap them to the handle bars?  C’mon.  We all know there is no way to haul kids by bike or to even let them bike on their own.

5.  You might sweat.  No one wants to deal with your sweaty stinky body.  You are most likely one of those people who really stink.  I bet when you sweat at the gym, people evacuate all gym equipment next to you for fear of throwing up from the rancid smell.  There is no way you can show up to work after breaking a sweat.  Yep, you are that stinky.  You probably can’t use something like baby wipes or sports wipes, or use a shower at work.  That kind of stench just can’t be wiped off your body.

6.  Let’s assume that you actually can make it to work without breaking a sweat, how are you even supposed to bike to work in your work clothes?  You can’t.  Can. Not. Be. Done.  Your skirt will be flying in your face, or your work clothes are so tight and restrictive you can’t even get on the bike. We all know there is no way to ride to work in a skirt.  And there is not a chance you can even change into clothes after getting to work.  You can’t stash anything at work in your locker or office/cubicle area.  Or wear a backpack with supplies in it.  You cannot realistically ride a bike with a backpack on.  You’ll fall over.  Can’t. Be. Done.  And no one bikes in heels.

7. What happens when you start biking and burning extra calories?  You will probably get extra hungry and have to eat more food.  No one likes eating more food and not gaining weight.  No one.  I don’t even need to discuss this further, because the only alternative to this would be to eat the same amount of food and lose weight and that is a subject we don’t like to talk about. Look at the people in the photo above. They couldn’t keep up with the calorie burn and their clothes just fell off while cycling. True story.  I wouldn’t make that up.  I’m feeling a little uneasy just thinking about this and need to move on.

8. You could get a flat tire. Women are incapable of learning to change a flat.  We are.  It is not in our DNA.  So let’s assume you get a flat and are smart enough to carry a spare tube and tire levers, and perhaps a cute tiny bike pump, or one of those even tinier CO2 cartridges in a bike bag under your seat, it’s all pointless.  You can’t learn to change a tire.

9. It will probably cost a lot of money to commute by bike.  When it’s time to change your tires it will get pricey.  We all know how much car tires cost. Bicycle tires will probably cost just as much.  And a tune up can’t be cheap.  And the gas money you’ll spend!  Oh, no wait, sorry, there isn’t any gas to buy.  Ok, nix that one, I’m sure there are plenty of other expenses, like perhaps buying new clothes because your old ones are too big (assuming you couldn’t eat enough food to keep up with the calories burned), and you’ll end up buying cool/cute cycling clothes that make riding even more fun/comfortable.  It’s adding up really fast.  I’m pretty sure with gas at $3.60 a gallon even not filling your tank nearly as often wouldn't pay for a single super awesome bike accessory like these.

10. Helmet hair.  There is no known way to deal with it. I would bet your hair takes many, many styling products, and tons to time to perfect.  You can never pull it back in a braid or ponytail, or don a hairband.  You can’t pull that look off as a professional look at work.

By now you have a pretty good list of reasons not to commute by bike (which can’t be refuted).  I think this top 10 list is probably all you need should you feel cornered on why you don't commute by bike, even just once in awhile.  If you think of any more reasons you shouldn’t commute by bike, please post them in the comment section below.  I know there are more reasons out there, and we need to discuss all of them so that someone can come up with ways around these problems we face.  Until then, stay off the bike.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Taking the Lane: Oh, the Things You'll See!

Commuting has become more than "just transportation to work" for has become a form of transportation for my mental health. It gives me a smile -!

It took a couple years, of riding back and  forth to work, for me to realize I was surrounded by some amazing things and wasn't appreciating them. I began to stop and take a picture of things that I thought were unusual things, things I thought others would enjoy, and things that just made me think  hmmmmm.
I ride across Woods Park every day and the scenery changes just that often. I have stopped countless times to take a picture of the trees, whether it is because of their spring blooms or their brilliant fall colors. These are the pictures I send to people that have moved away from Lincoln, my way of saying "see what you are missing!".

Most of my pictures are of animals or birds, I will do a u-turn to go back and get a picture of some unusual critter I see on my commute...somehow I am much more amused by these than my friends.

My new favorite is "Bob Marley Bunnie". Bob lives at 48th and Benton.....seriously this rabbit has dreadlocks on the bottom half of his face - he is amazing and he is quite aware of how amazing he is, as he appreciates my attempts to get his photo!

People, though, seem to be the ones that make me most happy. You see, if I stop to take a picture of you it's because you have made me smile :)

Commuting by bike has increased my memories, and really made me aware of all that is around me. I actually don't need to look at the pictures any more as these photos are in my mind and I can see them any time I want!

Take the bike to work and once you are familiar with your surroundings, start enjoy the scenery! You will have a mind full of wonderful photos! Enjoy the ride!!

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Joy's BRAN Adventure

 BRAN (The Bicycle Ride Across Nebraska) is a 7-day tour from the west to the east of the state, traversing 450ish miles and taking a different route each year. Many Sheclismas have taken on the journey over the years, and this year, Joy went on the adventure. Here's her journal. 

BRAN. It was appealing to me the first time I heard about it. I wanted to go last year but due to my job situation, it wasn’t possible. This year Adam and I decided we would try it out. With the click of a few buttons, we were registered. The weeks leading up to BRAN kept me anxious and I was constantly updating my “BRAN Checklist” of things to buy and things to pack. How many jerseys will I need? How many pairs of socks? Do I need to bring gloves? Will two t-shirts be enough? Will showers be available? Can I do laundry on this trip? These questions and many others were keeping me busy as I was constantly unpacking and rethinking my necessities. The days started passing by quickly and I was organizing all of my gear up to the last minute.
                  On Saturday morning (in Lincoln) it was pouring when we woke up at Adam’s parents’ house. The plan was to hit the road as early as possible and arrive in Rushville around 5p.m. As we were getting ready to load up the truck and head out, Adam’s brother ran upstairs and announced that the basement was flooding. All five of us ran down to see what was going on. The window well was full and water was gushing out of perimeter of the window, pouring down the wall of the basement. It took a half hour and three steam vacuum machines to get the mess cleaned up. Apparently that’s not the first time it had happened because the steam vacs were already near the problem window when we got downstairs.
                  Around 7:30, two schipperkes (small bat-like dogs) two cyclists and two South Dakota-bound vacationers boarded a pick-up truck hauling a camper and set out towards the panhandle. Adam’s parents were nice enough to coordinate their vacation days with ours in order to drop us off in Rushville on their way to Chadron, Nebraska and then Yankton, South Dakota. I spent most of the drive playing Tetris on a Gameboy (thank you Richard) and laughing at Adam when he would doze off, his head swaying forward and back and side to side as he drifted into blissful half-sleep. I also did my best to avoid the awful schipperke breath by gently pushing the dog’s panting face toward Adam.
                  We were 20 minutes from Rushville when Richard (Adam’s dad) noticed strips of rubber flying off the side of the camper. We had lost a tire. Adam and his dad jacked up the camper and switched out the tire while Dixie (Adam’s mom) and I watched for traffic. We were encountered by a sheriff who turned his lights on so the traffic would see us from far away. He basically just watched as the tire was being changed. He looked at Adam and I and, pointing to his head, asked if we were cyclists. We were wearing caps at the time. We both smiled and nodded. He jokingly asked if we were required to do some sort of mental health screening before BRAN. I laughed and said “No, we know we’re crazy!”
                  Once the tire was on, we were back on the road.  Even with a couple dilemmas, we made it in time to collect our BRAN t-shirts, luggage tags and a few other goodies. Rushville welcomed us with bikes on every corner in town, spray painted white and tied up to light poles. It was interesting, to say the least.  We found a place to set up camp and went to the bar for dinner.

The following is a detailed journal of our BRAN adventure!
First overnight stay in Rushville. Expecting rain…

DAY 1 - Rushville to Cody
Windy, wet, cold with temps in the upper 40’s
69 Miles

Adam and I stopped at EVERY SAG (Support and Gear). Some of them had hot chocolate and coffee witch really hit the spot. We finally took a long break in Merriman at The Sand Bar. It was warm and the longer we stayed inside, the less we wanted to go back out into the cold rain. We consumed some liquid courage while standing next to the heater, used the bathroom and left. When we rolled in to Cody, we were in search of our bags and warm showers. The locals were nice enough to let us sleep in the high school which was a true blessing. We were able to stay dry and warm through the night after a long day of riding in the cold rain. They even dried our clothes for us! Angels.

This was our temporary home in Cody-Kilgore High School.

                  It was interesting to see the school class sizes starting in the 1930’s with just 5 students graduating. Through the years the class sizes grew gradually and at some point Cody High became Cody-Kilgore High School and the class sizes grew faster. Kilgore is another small town located 15 miles east of Cody. As we were looking though the photos, a local pointed out a student and said “Look at that stud!” It was him from 30 years ago!
                   We learned later that only 60 riders made it all the way to Cody. Every time I saw a person in the back of the Penske Truck with their head hanging low I felt more motivated to keep riding. It was DAY 1! I was not about to quit. I feel like that first day really set the bar. I do not regret suffering for 5 hours in the rain! However, the next morning we were rather stiff in the joints.

DAY2 – Cody to Springview
Longest day
Temps in the upper 50’s and an overcast sky
85 miles
Looks like we weren’t the only ones with brunch on our minds!

We stopped in Valentine about 25 miles into the ride and split an omelet with hash browns, toast and coffee. In Valentine, all of the street signs had hearts on them! We hit the road after our second breakfast of the day and stopped in Sparks, Nebraska, 18 miles east of Valentine. There was a small convenience store and bathrooms. Adam bought two post cards so we could write home. I sent mine to my dad and Adam sent his to his Grandmother. As soon as we got to Springview, we found the local bar and had a pitcher while we wrote our post cards. At camp, we met Barb and Steve form Grand Island. Barb was the nicest person I met on this trip. She called us kids and said “I love the way you respond to kids!” She had us take a picture of her and her husband and we learned that their kids live in Lincoln.
Post-ride drinks and post-cards

DAY 3 – Springview to Atkinson
Lots of hills! Niobrara River crossing and Cowboy Trail (Elkhorn River crossing – portage)
Temps in the 60’s – 70’s Blue skies and white fluffy clouds
60 Miles
Crossing the Niobrara River

Day three was the day we were recognized as Lincolnites because I wore my Sheclismo kit and Adam wore his Joyride kit. Many people asked us if we were doing Gravel Worlds. One woman asked me how to train for 150 miles of gravel. I told her to look for Gravel Girls on Facebook and invited her to join us every-other Thursday for some vitamin-G! I also told her that there are many ways to train but I’m no expert, I just ride a lot of gravel and hope that I will be prepared for the heat of the summer. She thought I was absolutely crazy when she asked me what bike I would be riding and I looked down at my road bike and said this one!
Reppin’ our home town

                  Adam and I decided to hop on the Cowboy Trail near Bassett. The trail runs alongside the highway for quite a few miles. The Elkhorn River starts near Bassett, and basically comes out of the ground. Adam was determined to show me where it began. We noticed right away that the trail was difficult to ride on and hoped for a gravel road that would lead us back to the highway. We came across a sandy road where a farmer had parked his truck. I asked him what the conditions of the road were and if we were better off staying on the trail. He said it was very sandy for about a quarter of a mile but it got better after that. We took his word for it.

Cowboy Trail

 A mile later, the sand was so thick and wet that we had to walk or ride in the grass, both options were slow and as we continued, we grew frustrated. I kept thinking ‘Why did that farmer tell us the conditions were good?’ We were finally able to ride slowly as the sand became more manageable and at one point I noticed a group of cows following us. They were fenced in but had a lot of land to roam. I couldn’t tell if they were angry or just interested in our company. Adam teased them a few times giving his best cow impressions and one cow responded with anger, from what I could tell. It was a MOOEEHHHOOO like I had never heard! They all started whipping their tales and looked like they wanted to charge. We kept riding and eventually their fence did not allow them to follow us any longer.

We found out that the road curved toward the highway but we would have to get though a flooded area to reach it. Once again, why did that farmer tell us to go this way? I’m sure he was expecting us to turn around and continue down the trail. Instead, we took off our shoes and socks (which we learned to do when we rode Almonzo 100 prior to this trip) and walked our bikes through the flooded area. The water was refreshing and when I realized that we were basically walking through the Elkhorn River I thought ‘This is totally worth it!
Alright. Let’s do this.

Later on down the road…
A spinning teeter-totter!

DAY 4 – Atkinson to Verdigre
Stiff wind out of the south
Temps in the 70’s
67 Miles
                  Breakfast was short and sweet. I had a coffee and a pop tart just to get me started. We were standing outside of the quick shop and we saw Josh who we had met in Cody. He joined us and continued to ride with us for the rest of our trip. Josh was originally from Lincoln but had moved to Colorado where he was a first grade Spanish teacher. He made the trip more interesting and thought our music was enjoyable. Adam had a speaker in his jersey pocket that actually sounded pretty decent. We listened to everything: chilled out with Simon and Garfunkel, tapped our handlebars to the rhythms of Mos Def sang along with upbeat Michael Jackson, got weird with some Weird War and head banged to The Sword.
Our new friend Josh!

We got our fuel, now let’s go burn it off.

Before we reached O’Neill we hooked up with another Lincolnite, Derek who we had met on a Nacho ride before BRAN. So we had a nice group of four with the stronger riders (Adam and Derek) taking the windy side. We stopped at a cafĂ© called The Blarney Stone in O’Neill for brunch before tackling our 40 mile stretch to Winnetoon. What a creepy little town! I wouldn’t want to be there after dark. Just saying. We had a few beers there and I picked up some more post cards. Then we had a short 9 miles to Verdigre. As we approached Verdigre there were lots of rolling hills and I recognized the woman ahead of us as Barb from Grand Island. We chatted and giggled the rest of the way, a great way to end the day.
A nice group of four heading to Winnetoon.

“The only Winnetoon in the world.”

DAY 5 – Verdigre to Laurel
Overcast skies in the morning, clearing in the afternoon
63 Miles
                  At 4 a.m. an obnoxious generator woke us up. I looked outside to see what was causing the ruckus. It was a place serving breakfast out of a mobile kitchen. My first thought was I’m NOT buying my breakfast there! We tore down camp, drank some coffee and hit the road. I realized very quickly that I had over-dressed for all the hills we had to climb out of Verdigre. We originally left with Josh and met up with Derek a few miles in. It’s nice to ride with a group of four. This day flew by.
Good-bye Verdigre, hello hills!

We stopped in Hartington, 20 miles from Laurel and had a couple beers. When we got to Laurel we were greeted by the locals and we all received a goodie bag. After setting up camp we hopped on the Trolley (a trailer with hay bells pulled by a truck) and went to the local bar for a couple pitchers and fried food. The local pool was open and it was free to swim so we all did a few tricks off the diving board. It was a funny sight: cyclists with awesome tan (or burn) lines swimming in their cycling shorts! Josh did an awesome sideways front flip. Perfect every time! We ate dinner at the Pizza Barn and called it a night.
Sweet hat. Seriously. I want one.

DAY 6 – Laurel to Lyons
Wind out of the south with temps in the 60’s-70’s
70 Miles

                  I woke up around 4:30 a.m. and checked out the high school to see what was for breakfast. On the menu: egg, sausage and cheese biscuit or oatmeal with walnuts, raisins and brown sugar. The oatmeal was fantastic and yes, I also had a biscuit. It was a little chilly when I got up but I kept in mind that the sun would be shining soon and I dressed accordingly.
The wind was at our side so we had our nice three person echelon going on for the first 20 miles or so. Adam yelled “South/southeast formation!” and we lined up with Adam taking the wind, Josh on his left hip, trying to stay in his draft (Josh’s upright positioning on the mountain bike certainly didn’t help) and me staying in Josh’s draft and occasionally coasting to take pictures. Josh was kicking butt for being on a mountain bike this whole trip. I can’t imagine riding across the state on those tires. He had style and that’s all that matters. Besides, I can identify with the “Run what you brung” philosophy, for cyclists.
New buddies!

When we got to Lyons we found the grocery store and bought some IPA. This was the first IPA we could find on BRAN! Those small towns just don’t carry good beer. It was a tasty treat to say the least. We ate pizza and chips and went back to camp. The wind had picked up and did not die down all night. A tent near us had collapsed due to a broken pole! We knew the last day was all head wind so we were in bed by 8 p.m. in hopes to leave town as early as possible the next morning.

DAY 7 – Lyons to Waterloo
Very gusty wind out of the south WIND ADVISORY
58 Miles

                  I did everything I could to stay in a good draft but with the gusts, it was hard to stay completely protected. We stopped at every SAG and stuffed our pockets with granola bars as we scarfed down Rice Krispy Treats and bananas. Josh was always excited to see Oreos. He’s a vegan so he lived on mostly bananas and Oreos. He always had his own personal snacks too. Like dried mangoes which were absolutely amazing!
                  We were stopped by a train a few miles from Elk City. It wasn’t so bad considering there were port-a-potties on our side of the train tracks and to our surprise, a SAG on the other side. There was a group of riders that seemed to be riding at our pace so we asked to join them. We (Adam especially) needed shelter from the wind. This was the largest group we rode with the whole trip. It was awesome!
Let’s work together.
                  At 11:15 we arrived in Waterloo. Thank goodness we were done with the brutally windy day. They were serving hot dogs, brats and polish sausages with all the fixin’s.  Poor Josh could not indulge in the pork fest. We met Josh’s dad who lives in Lincoln and had him snap a photo of us. What a great picture! Adam is clearly chewing on a hot dog and I’m hiding my last bite behind Josh’s back. I look abnormally small next to him. I think we were all equally satisfied with finishing and the picture says it all.

                  Overall, I had a great time on BRAN. Part of me was sad on Sunday morning when I realized I wouldn’t be riding 60 miles to a small, friendly town in the middle-of-nowhere Nebraska. Then again, I was grateful to have slept in a real bed with real pillows and no strangers snoring in a tent next to me. I will probably do BRAN again in the future, and maybe Tour de Nebraska one of these years. I am so glad my bike didn’t have any mechanical problems and I am thankful that the temperatures were on the cooler side. I had one flat tire on Day 4 but other than that, it was smooth sailing in the bicycle department. Other than some lower back pain and slightly fatigued leg muscles I feel pretty good. I just need to schedule a back massage and stretch more often to get back in the groove. On a happier note, we met a great friend who made the trip very worthwhile. Josh, we will not forget your kindness and positive attitude. Ride on!

I thought this was real. It was at the top of a hill. I almost asked him if he was ok.