Friday, June 28, 2013

Off to Colorado

It's Friday night. Tallulah and Iris and I are here in Colorado for our big ride. The months of training (and blogging about training) are over. Tomorrow and Sunday, Snowcatcher, the Lizard, and I will be hitting the road with thousands of others to ride in support of people with Multiple Sclerosis.

The other night I happened to mention Bike MS in an email to a blogging friend, and this was her reply:
"My older daughter was diagnosed with MS early last year. It's been a tremendous shock/blow to us all so anyone who does anything to promote it I am so behind. I'll certainly remember you and say a prayer for you to do well!"
What a timely reminder of why we're participating in this ride. Many thanks to this dear lady for her good wishes, and to all of you who have supported me with encouragement and donations. Will you go one step further, and say a prayer for this blogging friend and her daughter?

Thanks again. Next time I'll have some Bike MS photos! :)

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Sunday, June 23, 2013

Priorities, a Turtle Basket, and Riding for Brunch

We had a doozie of a thunderstorm last night. The tornado siren went off, so I packed a bag of necessities in case we needed to flee to the basement - "necessities" being the things I most wanted to keep if the house were destroyed.

What did I put in the bag? My cycling gear, my camera, a crochet project for a magazine, my design notebook, my purse, and - as an afterthought - my one prescription medicine and a spare pair of undies. (I'm not sure what this says about my priorities, but I remember thinking that I've trained too hard to miss my big ride, and though I could borrow a bike if mine were lost, I'd hate to have to replace my shorts, jersey, gloves, helmet, etc. And the crochet project is due to the magazine in a little over a week. And if I want to keep selling patterns I need to hang on to my design notebook, as it contains all my ideas. Cycling and crochet - what can I say?)

Luckily there was no tornado, just hours of stunning lightning and thunder and rain and high winds. This morning dawned clear, to my relief - we had breakfast plans in Madison and I really wanted to ride there and back.

Tallulah and I set out before 7 to take advantage of the cool morning air. Temps are in the mid-70s, humidity is 90-100%, and a strong south wind is blowing. This means a headwind all the way, but I don't really mind as the wind keeps me from melting.

Tallulah is riding in her new custom turtle basket (though it takes a few attempts to get her loaded):

"Dang it!" she says. "I'll get into this thing if it kills me."

"Would you like a little help?" I ask.

"No thanks," she replies. "I really want to do it myself."

With commendable persistence she tries again, taking it a little more slowly this time:

"Sure you don't want any help?"

"No thanks," comes a muffled voice from the depths of the basket. "I think I've got it."

Some grunting and groaning ensues...

...then: "Ready!" she says (a bit breathlessly).

And we're off.

Red-winged blackbirds serenade us all the way to Madison, while mourning doves sit on the power lines to watch us go by. Chicory is blooming now, and bird's-foot trefoil, but I take very few photos (it's too windy, and the air is rather thick). I see some storm damage: large trees have been split or knocked down, and one house has giant pieces of twisted metal strewn over the lawn - a barn roof has been torn off by last night's high winds. (What a mercy none of them hit the house's windows.)

Shadow shot:

Barn shot (with bonus blackbird in flight):

Capitol shot:

The headwind gets stronger as I reach Madison and makes me later than I planned for breakfast. But Mr. M is waiting for me and has snagged a table on the terrace.

We're eating at Sardine, one of our very favourite brunch destinations. Though we only come here about twice a year, the food is always divine, the service always impeccable, and the view always outstanding.

We both order the croque-monsieur, a heavenly ham and Gruyère sandwich dipped in egg batter and grilled until the cheese is melted into submission. Served with spicy mustard, pommes frîtes, and a gem of a salad, it's the perfect pick-me-up after a strenuous bike ride.

Tallulah sniffs at the sandwich and refuses a bite of lettuce ("I don't like balsamic vinaigrette," she says).

While Mr. M and I shovel in the fries, she amuses herself by scaling the water carafe (made from a recycled wine bottle). "Cli-i-imb evvv-ry moun-tainnnnn," she sings loudly.

Heads begin to turn, and I quickly take her down and put her in my upturned helmet. "Shush!" I tell her. "I'm just trying to find my dream," she says.

When the meal is done and our leftover bits of sandwich safely packaged, she emerges to inspect the take-home box.

"Why did Monsieur croak?" she asks. "Was he a frog?" (Not knowing if this is a joke or a serious question, I pretend I didn't hear it.)

We pay our bill, thank the server, and head over to Machinery Row, the handily-situated bike shop next door.

I'm in need of new handlebar tape, and this brand immediately catches my eye:

(I wonder if Snowcatcher's husband The Lizard uses it?)

Mr. M's eye has been caught by a bike with wooden wheels...

...while I wander around and look at the old cycling posters on the wall:

Machinery Row Bicycles, and Sardine, where we ate brunch, are located in a set of historic buildings that once housed implement dealers. The original woodwork and floors have been lovingly restored and add great character to both businesses.

Statutory bike shop shot:

Our business concluded, it's time to head home. Mr. M climbs into the car, and I get back on the bike.

If it was too windy to take photos on the way down, now it's just too hot. Though I have a lovely tailwind that makes the ride seem almost effortless, I want to get home and out of the heat as quickly as possible - so I just keep riding, admiring wildflowers along the way, but stopping for none. About halfway home, a few welcome clouds roll in, providing a bit of cooling shade.

A good ride with a strong finish, thanks to a great meal and a tailwind. Also my longest ride ever (until next weekend).

Miles today: 66.7
Miles this year: 932

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P.S. If you thought a tornado might be coming, and you had to pack a bag of things to save, what would you put in it?

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Friday, June 21, 2013

Cloudy With a Chance of Yarn

The skies were dark this morning, and the forecast full of thunder. Today being a day off (from paid labour at least), it was a great treat lie in bed and hear the storm come crashing and rolling in, to watch the lightning flashing through the blinds, and to reflect that I couldn't possibly take a training ride in all this weathery commotion. (I'm having a bit of cycling burnout right now.)

Stormy weather is baking weather, so a blueberry-apple crumble was added to the breakfast menu.

What a lovely colour blueberries turn when baked ... divinely dark and juicy purple, staining the apple juices with a rosy blush.

Also on the menu were scrambled eggs with goat cheese and fresh-picked chives. Such a treat to have fresh herbs again, growing outside the kitchen door.

Such a treat to use my  great-grandmother's plate, and to be reminded of my mom, in whose cupboard it sat for decades.

Mr. M and I ate in the porch. We watched the lightning flicker behind the grey clouds, and listened to the sound of falling rain.

"I hope it rains all day," I said. "A nice soaker rain," he agreed.

Then the postie turned in to our driveway. "Are you expecting a package?" I asked. (Usually the mail is delivered to our mailbox across the street.)

"I don't think so," said Mr. M. He got up and leaned out the door to take the delivery, which included a box addressed to me.

"It's from Astri! I forgot this was coming!" (I had recently won Astri's Summer Guessing Game.)

Inside the box were my prizes:

Three skeins of luscious "Cloud 9" yarn by Cascade (how appropriate was that?)...

...a bag of Lindt white chocolate truffles (mmmm), and, inside the card, one of Astri's justly famous crochet roses (purple of course - she knows me well):

The perfect ending to a perfect morning. Thanks Astri! :)

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Sunday, June 16, 2013

Two More Rides & a Dairy Brunch

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Wild roses cascading pink
Tall pines cool in their own shadows
Ice cream on a sticky day

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And the training continues ... only two more weeks until Bike MS. (This is my only excuse for the recent excess of cycling posts, also for my slackness in answering your comments and visiting your blogs.)

On Friday and Saturday I did back-to-back 45 mile rides, just to see if I could. (I could.)

Friday is beautifully sunny and mild - the kind of day that gives June a good name, and makes you glad to be alive and outdoors. To see blue sky overhead, green trees all around, and a (comparatively) smooth road stretching out before you... see tractors in the fields, and tall grass waving in the wind - this is happiness for a Wisconsin cyclist.

In one pasture a cow is standing on top of the feed wagon, enjoying the fresh hay in the middle while others nibble from the sides.

Or perhaps it was giving a dinner speech? I don't think it appreciated being photographed, as it stuck its tongue out when I snapped the shutter:

I've been meaning for days to get some photos of these little beauties... I made sure to take my break where they were thick along the roadside. These tiny pale pink asters rejoice in the name of Daisy Fleabane, and aren't nearly as large as they appear on screen - each blossom is only 1/2" - 3/4" wide.

And that's all she wrote for Friday's ride. A good strong 45 miles, and for the first time I didn't dread the distance. It's starting to feel normal. :)

Saturday's weather is less pleasant, being cloudy and very humid. But cloudy skies make for good flower photos, I tell myself.

The first model of the day is a lovely blue flag iris, which is one of several growing in the ditch just down the road from our egg supplier's house:

Across the road is this mystery blossom, which looks like some kind of wild sweet pea...

...but is probably just some stray alfalfa.

Around a few corners is a long stretch of road, overhung with trees and glorious with wild roses spilling down its banks:

They are a deeper pink this year than I've ever seen them, and breathtakingly lovely with the forest behind them.

Up on the high prairie, a field of soybeans stretches away in the straight rows dear to a farmer's heart:

I turn a corner and pass this picturesque gate (which always makes me think of "The Last Battle" by C.S. Lewis, and the gate through which all the characters pass at the end of the age):

Then down a curving hilly road, past the field where yesterday a cow stood on a feed wagon (the field is empty today), across a green, green valley, past tall pines standing dark and cool, up another hill, the sides of which are speckled purple with spiderwort, over the top, then down and up and around several corners to where I see what looks like a small Humvee in the middle of the road. It sinks down as I pass and I realise that this is what a Snapping Turtle REALLY looks like:

I am careful to keep a good distance between us as I don't want to get nipped. (Tallulah stays in my pocket and won't even stick her nose out for a peep.)

Miles later, a blackbird sits on a telephone wire under brooding eastern skies...

...while just down the road, looking hopefully westward to where the sky is lighter, sits a robin:

I pass a cheery stretch of Canada anemone, springing like stars from the verge:

Just down the road, the cow vetch is blooming thickly, climbing up the tall grass towards the sun:

Today I'm making a special stop at this farm along my route:

June is National Dairy Month, and here in Wisconsin, the Dairy State, it's celebrated with rural pomp and splendour. Farm breakfasts and dairy breakfasts are taking place all over the state, and I'm about to visit one.

After parking my bike, the first thing I see is, appropriately, a cow:

There are chickens to pet...

...bunnies to admire... wagon rides...

...and more cows, all spick-and-span in a tidy barn, with hay strategically placed to encourage photo ops:

Brunch is being served in a brand-new pole barn, put up especially for the occasion. I pay my money and am given a plate and a ticket for ice cream.

On the menu are: pizza, cheese, grilled cheese sandwiches, milk, and ice cream. ("No veggies?" says Tallulah. "Not a one," I say. "It is a Dairy Brunch, after all.")

There are actually a few other cyclists here - quite exciting for me as I rarely see other cyclists:

(I'm glad I'm not the only one wandering around in Lycra shorts and an odd-looking shirt with a zipper down the front.)

I eat a slice of pizza, but this is what I really came for... cream, from a locally famous maker with a charming name and logo:

The ice cream fully justifies its reputation - it's delicious. I offer a taste to Tallulah, but after a sniff she declines politely.

Refreshed by the starchy, high-fat snack, we wander out to look at more farm buildings.

A wagonload of sightseers takes off just behind us.

We head for this barn, a lovely specimen of its kind.

As we enter, barn swallows fly overhead and out the other side (too fast for a photo).

We stop to admire the young stock:

In the next room, the floor is intriguingly grooved:

A small boy says to his even smaller sister, "Be careful in here, because concrete can sweat, and I don't want you to slip." (What a sweet brother.)

Milking machines:

Another view of the patterned floor:

And a last photo of the sweetest calf:

"Well, Tallulah," I say, "we've miles yet to ride, and the day is getting on. Time for us to be going."

On our way out, we stop for a glimpse of these vintage tractors:

Then it's back on the bike to finish our ride.

Yellow hawkweed is abundant this year, and we stop some miles later for a few photos:

It's stickier than ever now, and we're looking forward to getting back to the cool house.

One very last shot - a favourite jumble of farm buildings (which came out slightly fuzzy, giving me an excuse to play with the photo editing features):

And a few miles later we're home.

Another good ride. It's a great confidence-booster to have comfortably ridden 45 miles two days in a row. But it does take up a lot of time and energy - I will be glad when the pressure to train is past.

A special thanks is due to my dear Mr. M, who has put hours of work into maintaining Iris during this busy riding season. He's glued up her tires and replaced her pedals, ordered and installed a new rear cluster, installed new brake pads, re-wrapped the handlebar tape, kept the chain lubed, and lovingly performed many other mechanical tasks that are beyond my comprehension. He keeps this old girl going (both of us old girls), and we are very grateful. :)

Combined miles from Friday and Saturday: 90
Miles this year: 832.5

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