Sunday, June 23, 2013
For a long time, I've wanted to ride up a mountain just outside of town that seemed so intimidating. Over the years, I've attempted it only to turn back because of the annoying, nagging PITA voice that said I couldn't do it. As soon as the berm ran out, I'd turn around saying it was too steep, I'd be too slow, it wasn't safe, etc.
But a few weeks ago some friends rode the route and all of them liked the challenge. Little traffic, beautiful scenery, and only a few sections had no or little berm.
So I got it into my head that this was going to be the day. Temperatures were to reach 88 today with high humidity, so I planned to get a 6 a.m. start, but slept in a bit and didn't get on the road until 6:45. It was a bit foggy and the air felt slightly cool. I carried about 70 oz. of water in my Cambelback and had two 20-oz bottles of Gatorade, homemade energy bars, and about a half dozen Endurolytes in case my legs started to cramp, which I was really expecting and dreading.
The climb up the mountain was slow--ranging from 3-5 mph. Not fast enough to outrun the annoying gnats and flies that buzzed in my ears and flitted around my face. As I continued on the climb I came to the realization that my perception of the mountain far outweighed reality. Yes, it was steep and a hard climb, but certainly not insurmountable. There was about 4 miles of hard climb, followed by a nice long saddle that was flat before another climb, and then a thrilling downhill for several miles before turning and leaving that particular climb.
Eventually I turned off and followed some more country roads full of rolling hills and two more good climbs before I arrived at Prince Gallitzen State Park around 9 a.m. I rode down to the beach, took off my shoes and waded into the warm water. Only 1 family was there, so I pretty much had the beach to myself. I rested about 20 minutes, and then started the ride home following another route. The temperature was definitely climbing, and I hoped to be home before it reached its high.
The ride back went as smoothly as the ride up. There were several good climbs followed by a long, sweeping downhill. I kept waiting for the debilitating cramps to set in, but nothing happened. I never even felt the "squiggles" which is a precursor to the cramps.
Four miles from home I stopped at DelGrosso's Amusement Park for an ice cold diet Pepsi and a Texas Hot Dog with everything--mustard, onions, and the best hot dog sauce you will ever taste. Of course, after that long ride, it tasted better than ever.
I felt great when I got home, but shortly after taking a shower the exhaustion finally hit. A long nap was in order before I dug into some housework.
The ride was 52.17 miles with 2,683.73 feet of climbing. Time in the saddle was 5 hours, 3 minutes, 24 seconds. The total ride time with breaks was 5 hours, 21 minutes.
Can't wait to do it again!
Thursday, June 20, 2013
I've been riding my bike home on Wednesdays, a 30 mile trip along beautiful country roads with low traffic. It's a fabulous way to decompress.
Since my goal is to do more bike camping, most weeks I ride my Trek 730 and carry 20 extra pounds in my trunk bag to simulate the load I'll carry when I go camping. The first ride home with the extra weight felt really sluggish, and I was relieved when I made it home. But this week, the entire ride felt great, and I considered riding around town when I got home because I still had some energy and legs left. But duty called, and instead, I cooked dinner, did some laundry, and took the dog for a walk. There will be more time for riding this weekend.
Have a great week.
Tuesday, June 11, 2013
For years I’ve been dreaming about riding my bike across the U.S.A. Truth told, I’m not sure if it’s a fantastic dream or a nightmare. The thought of heading off into the unknown is both exhilarating and frightening. The goal is so huge and there are so many decisions to be made—when to leave, the route to ride, equipment, duration, solo or companions, set schedule and route or seat-of-the-bike shorts exploration, accommodations, and the list goes on and on. So, as any SparkPeople member worth their weight will tell you, you can’t tackle a big goal all at once. You have to pick smaller, more manageable goals, work towards them, then add more as you learn about yourself and have some successes and failures under your belt. You can learn more from your failures than your successes.
So, this past weekend, I tackled Goal 1: Take an overnight camping trip on the bicycle. Friday night I made a quick list of gear to pack and began gathering everything. It looked like too much when it was piled in the hallway, but there was nothing that I felt I could leave behind. The gear:
2 rear panniers; 1 handlebar bag, bike tools, spare tube, air pump, 2 water bottles, Cambelbak
Helmet, gloves, bike shoes, 1 pair socks, bike jersey and shorts; 1 pair shorts and 1 t-shirt (served as PJ’s, too)
Camp towel, travel size soap, toothpaste and toothbrush, comb, sunblock
Tent, tent floor, rainfly, air mattress, 2 mylar sheets (saved from half marathon races)
2 bagels, small container of peanut butter, 1 ClifBar, 1 Gu, 1 banana
Total gear weight: 28.3 lbs. Bike weight: 30 lbs.
I laid my biking clothes out and loaded all the gear onto the bike so I could get on the road by 6 a.m. on Saturday.
Saturday morning I awoke at 5 a.m., skipped my morning shower since I was soon going to be hot, sweaty, and mildly smelly, and ate 2 scrambled eggs, a bagel and O.J. for breakfast. Gave D.H. a peck, and was on the road at 5:57 a.m. The sky was overcast and the air was cool—perfect conditions for a ride to Prince Gallitzen State Park, which was approximately 24 miles away.
The first hour of the ride was mostly flat and I didn’t mind carrying the extra weight. The second hour was all uphill. The mountain road starts off with a gradual climb and easy rollers, but the last third of it is steep. The ride is beautiful, though, so I kept my focus on the scenery—streams, mountain laurel (not yet in bloom), small farms—all typical rural Pennsylvania scenery.
A deer’s movement deep in the woods caught my eye, and a heron surprised me when it glided out of a creek and proceeded to float upstream through the dense forest—it looked as if its wings might have been brushing the tree limbs. I’ve never seen heron in such dense woods. The not-so-pretty side of wildlife was visible, too—roadkill. One deer and two porcupines. You really appreciate the foul smell when you are only riding by at about 4 mph. Some things are better in a vehicle.
When I finally crested the mountain at the tiny village of Lloydsville, I raised an arm in triumph. I pedaled the entire way without a stop. The next section, the last 45 minutes, was a series of rolling hills with long downhill sections and shorter uphill sections.
My first destination was to a friend’s (Linda) camper about 10 miles from Crooked Run Campground where I would be staying. She has her camper permanently set up at a campground and had told her neighbors about her crazy friend who would be arriving sometime in the morning by bike loaded with camping gear. As I pedaled up the campground lane, numerous people said hello and were clearly surprised when I rolled in at 8:45. One gentleman said he had taken bets that I would arrive around 6 p.m.!
The morning was spent in relaxation and with a great big cup of hot coffee—boy did that taste good. After lunch, we drove up the road for some guilt-free ice cream. Then we drove around the lake with Linda pointing out where Bald Eagles are nesting and some other points of interest, including where I could turn off if I wanted to take an alternate route home. We played Scrabble in the afternoon (she won) and chatted with her neighbors.
About 3:30 p.m. I got back on the bike to head over to my campground. There were two routes I could go, unfortunately, I picked the hilliest with strong headwinds. When I arrived at the camp check in, the rangers were interested in where I had biked from and my final destination. Just a few days earlier they had a cyclist on his way to Johnstown, PA, just a day’s pedaling away. He had started in Oregon. If only I had arrived earlier—I would have loved to talk to him about his trip.
The ranger asked the usual check-in questions, including “are you camping with a tent?” (I’m straddling my bike, still have on my helmet.) I responded, “Well, I started out pulling the camper, but realized after just a block, that there was no way I was going to be able to pull it up the mountain, so I turned around and got the tent.” He appreciated the humor.
I had my pick of sites, so I chose one that had a view of the lake. It didn’t take long to set up the tent, and then I walked down to the lake and waited for Linda to pick me up so we could go out to dinner.
By then, the day was catching up with me, so I headed to bed just before dark. I couldn’t decide what to do with the pannier that held the food. I decided it was safest to keep it in the tent with me. It seemed like only minutes until I heard “skritch, skritch, skritch” near my head. I lay there hoping it would go away, but to no avail. I was worried that the raccoon might get bold and actually paw the tent (It’s mostly mesh, and wouldn’t take much to damage it), and then I was worried it might be a bear. Despite my fear, I got up, opened the tent, and set the pannier on the picnic table. Of course, no raccoon (or bear) was in sight. The worst that could happen is that I’d be out breakfast in the morning, and there was a restaurant just 5 miles, so it was no big deal.
Back into the tent, eyes closed, beginning to drift asleep and what did I hear? That rascally raccoon making a second attempt at the food! Again, I crawled out of the tent to check things out—I wasn’t sure what to do next. I did not bring any rope to tie the pannier in a tree. The pannier was not on the picnic table—it was on the ground and about 2 feet away. Now I was really concerned—I wouldn’t have been too put out to lose breakfast, but I did not want to lose a pannier. My solution was to thread my bike cable lock through the pannier so it couldn’t be stolen, and I wrapped it tight with a bungee cord and went back to bed. And sure enough, moments later I could hear the raccoon wrestling with the bag. Before I could get out of the tent again, all went quiet. I waited, but there was no noise. Then, five or so minutes later, I hear a woman in the next camp circle yelling “Shoo, scoot, get out of there!” and clapping her hands vigorously. Then I hear her closing or boxing things up and opening and closing a car door. I wonder if the raccoon ever did score some food.
Sleep eluded me for a good part of the night—the improvised pillow (my clothes in a bag) was absolutely horrible and led to a pinched nerve in my neck by morning. The mylar blanket was not a good idea. It made a lot of noise when I turned and twisted, and there was some condensation, though it did keep me warm enough.
At 5:30 a.m. I broke camp and by 7 a.m. I was on the road. I stopped at a general store for some coffee to have with my bagel, and headed home. It rained a bit, but it felt refreshing and was a better option than the hot sun.
I learned a few things on this trip. First and most important—I like bike camping and am strong enough to do it. I wasn’t confident that I could climb the mountain on the heavier bike with gear. Second, I need to add some gear and clothing: pillow, sleeping bag liner, camp stove, rope, walking/hiking shoes, a jacket, and camera. As I get more experience, there will probably be a few more additions, maybe some deletions, but they will all have to literally be weighed for comfort vs. weight.
The pillow and sleeping bag liner arrived yesterday; I hope the camp stove arrives before my next trip, which is yet to be scheduled. My next adventure (Goal 2), is biking from home to Prince Gallitzen for a night or two, then onto Black Moshannon for a night, and then back home.
Sunday, April 14, 2013
Plans fell through for a bike ride today, so I took advantage of this fabulous spring day to try one more long run before the Flying Pig in May. With my Garmin strapped on and set to 5:1 intervals, I headed out the door with a general route in mind, but no specific goal for time, distance, or speed.
What a day it was! It was wonderful to run just for the sake of running. Remember when you did that as a kid? I headed to the park and watched the kids fishing on opening day and then ran through the park passing cyclists and folks out walking their kids or their dogs. Then I headed out of town on a back road.
I listened to the gurgle of small streams, the humming of lawn mowers and the roar of power saws, watched dried leaves dance across the road, and fishermen casting, and said hello to people raking their yards and washing their cars.
When I reached a convenience store I stopped to buy more Gatorade and use the bathroom. Then I turned around to head back into town thinking that I had run about 6 miles.
The run back was mostly flat, but with some head winds. But nothing could ruin the run--the tailwinds powered the first half of my run and the headwinds provided a little challenge and cooled me down. About a mile from home, I began to really feel the run, but by that time my mantra was: 1 mile? I can do anything for 1 mile.
I wasn't sure how far I had run, but it seemed to take quite awhile. After a hot shower, I uploaded the data and was delighted to find that I ran 13.52 miles in 2:46. Guess I'm ready for The Flying Pig.
This ranks as one of the most enjoyable runs I've ever had. I wasn't trying to beat a record, to run a certain speed or distance. I let thoughts flit through my mind and leave of their own accord. If you asked me what my thoughts were today while running, I wouldn't be able to recall. But I recall that I had no worries and just felt happy the entire run. It doesn't get much better than that, and days like this are what keep me running.
Saturday, April 13, 2013
Today was the official opening of the Penn State Community Gardens. This is my 2nd consecutive year of attempted gardening, and my 3rd year of plot "ownership." I first had a garden there in 2008, and had some beginner's luck. There was more arugula, spinach, lettuce, hot peppers, and tomatoes than 2 people could possibly eat. Neighbors and co-workers appreciated the abundance. All went well until the end of the season when I took a week's vacation and came home to find that everyone's gardens had been devastated by late blight. I'm so glad we had some early tomatoes to enjoy, because the destruction from the blight was overwhelming.
Last year's garden belonged to the rabbits, groundhogs, and birds. I harvested several kohlrabi, grew a few flowers and herbs, several zucchini, and had moderate success with cherry tomatoes. The critters, though, ate much better than we did. The critters grew fat on broccoli, strawberries, beets, mesclun, cauliflower, flowers, beans, and peas. But it didn't slow them down one bit.
This year, I am planning my revenge. I bought chicken wire and stakes to fence in my plot even though there is a 6' foot fence and rabbit fencing around the entire garden area. There's not much I can do about the overhead attacks from birds. I'm starting flowers, heirloom tomatoes, spinach, zucchini, and strawberries indoors. The tomatoes, strawberries, nasturtiums and zinnias are nesting snuggly in their pots tonight. Spinach, beans, zucchini and some others will join them in a couple of weeks.
We are going to have to wage all out warfare on the groundhogs. One of the tasks today was picking up litter in the woods next to the gardens and taking a groundhog hole census. I walked about half of the wooded area and counted more than a dozen large holes--a couple I swear were big enough for me to crawl through. (Check my photo gallery for a picture of the enemy.)
The garden leadership--Penn State students--have great plans for improving the gardens this year. They are going to bring in bee hives for pollination, add bird feeders around the garden, and reserve two plots, each 10' by 15' to grow food for the local food bank.
Let's see how my garden grows.
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