Wednesday, June 21, 2017

It Doesn't Matter How Many Miles You Ride

Deception Pass, September 2016

Last fall, during Bike MS Washington, there were policemen stationed at either side of Deception Pass to control the flow of cyclists and cars across the bridge. When I reached the bridge on the homeward leg of Day 1, the policeman asked, "How far are you riding today?"

"Only 60," I replied.

"A lot of you are doing the 60," he said. "But you all say it as though you're embarrassed. Why is that?"

"I guess we were all hoping we could go farther," I said.

Crossing Deception Pass

Cycling, like most activities, has its instant camaraderies, its friendly ambassadors, and plenty of cheerful encouragement between enthusiasts who meet on a common road. It also has its snobberies and self-appointed elite, who gauge a rider's worth by his equipment, clothing, mileage, speed, and - if you can believe it - the smoothness of his legs.

Even for those of us who belong to the former group, there's a certain shamefacedness in admitting that we don't ride hundreds of miles every week. (Some of us don't even ride one hundred miles a week.)

I think this is partly due to social pressure, and partly to aspiration. The social pressure needs no explaining; it's merely the cycling variant of keeping up with the Joneses. The aspiration, however, is harder to deal with.

Once you get a taste of longer rides, and realize that yes, it is humanly possible to ride x number of miles and survive, you want to keep going. The numbers cease to frighten; instead they become alluring. Twenty, forty, sixty, eighty - heck, why not a hundred? Why not a hundred and twenty? It's a kind of Rockefeller-and-money thing: you always want a little more. And, if you're like me, you always feel a little inferior in the company of those who have achieved it.

Rest stop, Bike MS Washington 2016

After my surgery last month, the transport tech who wheeled me out of the hospital (I could have walked, but you know how hospitals are) was wearing a bike-print headwrap.

"Are you a cyclist?" I asked.

"Yep," he said. "Are you?"

"Just a hobby cyclist," I said apologetically. "My rides are mostly short. I've never even done a century."

"I've done, let me see, five centuries since my knee replacement," he said cheerfully, "and I forget how many before that." He went on to tell me about some severe back and leg problems he'd suffered through, the many surgeries he'd had, and the riding he'd done before and after each.

"I dream of training for a century," I said, "but life seems to keep getting in the way. Every year I think 'maybe this will be the year', but something comes up to prevent it. So I do my little 15- and 20-mile rides, and keep hoping."

"Hey," he said. "It doesn't matter how many miles you ride. Some people make a big deal about distance, but as far as I'm concerned, if you're out on the bike, you're a cyclist. Getting out there is what counts."

Then Mr. M pulled up with the car. I got out of the wheelchair, thanked the tech, climbed into the car, and went home.


I've thought about the tech's words a lot since then. Recovery was supposed to be fairly quick, but in some ways it hasn't been. For several weeks I couldn't ride at all, and when I did get back on the bike, it didn't go well.

So now I'm starting from scratch, and things are slowly (oh so slowly) improving. I can ride a mile without hurting badly afterwards. Maybe next week it will be two. (Meanwhile the flowers blossom and fade, and the year is flying by.) When I get frustrated, which happens on most sunny days, I try to remember a fellow cyclist's kind words:

It doesn't matter how many miles you ride. Getting out there is what counts.

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Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Old Yarn, New Yarn, and (what else?) Wildflowers

I'm not a hoarder. Really I'm not. Except, perhaps, when it comes to craft supplies and UFOs. It's hard to let go of all those crafty bits and bobs because, of course, they might come in handy some day.

That day finally came!


Many a time, whilst cooking eggs, have I looked down at the cast-iron pan and said to myself, "I really should make a cover for this handle." (Then my thoughts jump ahead to something else and I forget all about it until I use the pan again.)

A few mornings ago, as the eggs scrambled (possible soap opera title?), it struck me that wool, being naturally fire-resistant, would make a great handle cover. Felted wool. Hmmm. Hadn't I just seen some in the crafty hoard stash?

Why yes - a failed eyeglass case. Just the right length too - it only needed a bit trimmed off, and some taking in around the edges:

And a lazy daisy for added beauty. Bingo!

A few days later, rooting through a pile of fabric, I came across another piece of felted wool. (No idea what I had planned to make with it.) Perfect for the other cast iron skillet!

I rashly cut into it, and promptly found that the piece I cut was too short. So I franken-stitched it together with the piece trimmed from the eyeglass case (which of course I had kept because it might come in handy), then seamed the long edges into a tube and stitched one end shut. It turned out kind of cute, I think:

A minor triumph for crafty hoarding.


My favourite nephew and his wife just returned from Iceland, and a few days ago he sent me a package. A large, lightweight package. Could it possibly be ...

Yes, it could! Icelandic wool, straight from the source. And some delicious Icelandic chocolate.

What a lucky aunt I am. :)


Sunday is hot and sunny and gorgeous - a little foretaste of summer. A good day to try riding again.

There's a bumper crop of buttercups this spring. Don't they look cheery against that blue sky?

These particular buttercups are growing at the edge of a marsh. Just behind them, almost hidden in the tall marsh grass, are several flag iris:

And completely hidden in the grass are some waterfowl that make a sort of grunting noise - possibly merganser? As I can't see them it's hard to make a positive identification.

A tiny flash of pink at my feet is a flower that looks like a member of the pea family. Later research suggests Marsh Pea (Lathyrus palustris):

Across the road a blackbird watches me from an aspen full of wind-tossed leaves:

(What a welcome sound is the rustle of leaves, after so many months with no leaves at all.)

A mile up the road are some large drifts of tiny white blossoms - stiff sandwort, I think:

A season or two back I remember seeing one sandwort plant here, and this year there are several square yards of it. You never know which wildflowers will star on the annual stage.

Just a few feet away is a new-to-me flower, later identified as Hairy Penstemon (P. hirsutus). It seems to be past its flowering prime, so I feel lucky to have caught it:

Back on the bike, with Tallulah keeping a wary eye out for cars:

Meadow Anemone are very large and plentiful this year:

Some wild grass going fluffily to seed:

Hoary vetch (much more beautiful than its name):

Last week Mr. M saw a large, smooth-shelled turtle (on a different road). I'm now approaching a spot where I saw a similar turtle a few years back. So I'm keeping a lookout, in case I get lucky again. And what do you know:

I can't tell if it's the same one I saw in 2013 - the size is pretty close, but this one's shell is more scarred. Do turtles have territories? If they do, this is probably the same one. Another sighting and I'll have to give it a name. ("How about Erda?" says Tallulah.)

Locust trees are flowering now, their sweetness stealing through the air:

Tiny fruit of field pennycress:

Later I pass what looks like black or dark brown flowers growing in a field:

They turn out to be dried blossoms of some kind. Does anyone know what they are? (I'm stumped.)

Just up the road is another marsh, with what looks like small yellow flowers on red stems growing up from the water. A little research suggests they may be bladderwort, a carnivorous plant (and another new-to-me flower):

Here endeth the first ride of June.


What's blooming in your neck of the woods?

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