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#Napastrong

 

NapaFire

I live in Napa, CA. On Sunday, October 8, 2017, some of the fiercest wildfires in history broke out on one of our mountainsides. It quickly spread due to unprecedented winds gusting to 60-70 mph. Napa and several surrounding counties, Sonoma, Solano, Lake, and Mendocino have suffered unimaginable losses of human life, animal life, property, and livelihood. Luckily, my family was spared. Sadly, many whom we know, were not.

In the face of this devastation, I have also seen incomparable kindness, love, compassion, volunteerism and generosity. Napa will survive!

I had the opportunity, due to a work commitment, at the end of this week of fire, to visit one of my favorite places. I fell in love with Pacific Grove when I arrived in California 27 years ago. It is all together beautiful, energizing and peaceful. After a week filled with smoke, anxiety, and unknowing, it proved to be all that and more. I had thrown my bike in the back of my SUV before leaving home, just in case. It turns out that we had almost a full free day on Saturday, so of course, I rode. I was off before most of the tourists were even awake. I took in the sunrise, and I rode along one of the most beautiful stretches of coastline one can imagine. 50 miles and 4 hours later, I felt renewed.

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And just as the lone cypress is resilient against the odds, so too will be Napa. We will recover. We will love and help each other. We will move forward. We are #Napastrong!

Song of the day:

Ride on!

 

Does God Ride a Bike?

I don’t know if God rides a bike or not, but I’m pretty sure He’s out there with me when I do. The evidence is overwhelming.

  • He’s there every time I witness beautiful sunrises and sunsets.

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  • He was there when I biffed on the road while climbing the mountain. I’m pretty sure he pushed me out of harm’s way.
  • He was there to help Charlton find my cash/ID pack and save my epic ride.

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  • He’s there showing me beauty where I thought there was none (think Nebraska).
  • He’s there when I feel just enough soreness to feel alive and like I really worked hard, but not enough to stop altogether.

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  • He sends angels to watch over me.
  • He reminds me how wonderful my friends and family are.
  • He protected my bike when I wasn’t smart enough to secure it to the bike rack before taking off in the RV.
  • He sends comfort, food and shelter at just the right times and in all the right places.
  • He puts smiles on our faces even when we’re not really feeling it.
  • He speaks to me through signs.

His majesty is everywhere!

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John Muir once said about hiking – “I don’t like either the word or the thing. People ought to saunter in the mountains – not hike! Do you know the origin of that word ‘saunter?’ It’s a beautiful word. Away back in the Middle Ages people used to go on pilgrimages to the Holy Land, and when people in the villages through which they passed asked where they were going, they would reply, ‘A la sainte terre,’ ‘To the Holy Land.’ And so they became known as sainte-terre-ers or saunterers. Now these mountains are our Holy Land, and we ought to saunter through them reverently, not ‘hike’ through them.”

I too, saunter, just on a bike (Mr. SAG would say “wander”). Everywhere I ride is Holy Land and I am in awe!

Song of the day:
Ride on!

A Day in the Life

It doesn’t matter how many miles I ride or how fast I go. Just being out there is exhilarating. I usually ride on my own, solo, for hours on end. So, some of the most common questions I get are; “What goes through your head while you are riding?” “What do you think about?” “Don’t you get bored?”

I really don’t get bored. I’ve even ridden the same 4-mile or 9-mile loops over and over and it doesn’t bore me. I notice small changes happening throughout the day and think about how remarkable it is.

To give you a sense of what goes through my head, I tried to capture some thoughts as I was attempting my latest 24-hour challenge. Here goes…

6:20 am.

  • Here we go!
  • Wow, it’s still pretty dark!
  • It’s pretty cold. Glad I wore my long tights.
  • I’m kinda liking this tail wind! Oh, wait. I’ll be going into the wind in about 10 minutes. Ugh!

7:00 am.

  • I love watching the sun rise.
  • Why would you be laying on a bike/walking path, in dark clothing, doing yoga?!
  • Squirrel!
  • Oh good, the organized century riders are out on the road, not on this bike path!

8:00 am.

  • Hmm. I’m getting a little hungry.
  • Good morning! (Said to another rider.)
  • 32 miles. Not too bad.
  • Squirrel!

9:00 am.

  • There go more riders. Must be the metric century start.
  • This is like deja vu!
  • This banana tastes really good!

10:00 am.

  • Nice to see some friends out!
  • Hi Kathy.
  • Hi Penni.
  • Well crud. They are having the family fun ride of 12 miles go right along the bike path with me.
  • Should I jump out onto the road for a couple of hours?
  • This head wind out of the North is going to wear me down today!

11:00 am.

  • I think I’ll have a PBJ.
  • Ahh! Water. Time for re-fills.
  • It’s getting warm. Maybe I’ll dump my jacket after this lap.
  • No. You know if you’re thinking of taking your jacket off, go another hour.
  • On your left! No, your OTHER left! OMG!

12:00 pm.

  • OK – dumping the jacket.
  • Can’t wait for this “organized” ride to be done.
  • I think I’ve seen that person before. They must be doing some laps too.

1:00 pm.

  • I shouldn’t be riding by that restaurant all day. It smells really good.
  • Squirrel!
  • It’s a beautiful day, except for the wind!
  • I hate the wind!
  • How should I set up my activity tracker (for work).
  • Hey! That’s Aaron Comfort Dog! Hi Aaron!

2:00 pm

  • At least the wind is calming down.
  • On your left!
  • People need to pay attention while they are riding!
  • I wonder how many bottles of wine that vineyard produces.
  • I love the smell of crush!
  • Really? That restaurant is smoking meat? Yum!

3:00 pm

  • 100 miles down. I’ve got to stop stopping and chatting!

4:00 pm.

  • I can do this. My bottom isn’t even sore.
  • My quads are a bit tight. I think I’ll stop and stretch after this lap.

5:00 pm.

  • Hi Andie! Thanks for riding with me!
  • Wow! I can’t believe she’s doing this, and she’s 7 months pregnant! I don’t think I could have done this.
  • I miss Miss A. I hope she’s enjoying Rwanda.

6:00 pm.

  • This pizza tastes really good. Thanks Andie! Better not eat a lot. I’ve got many miles to go.

7:00 pm.

  • Getting Dark!
  • Time to put my high vis on.
  • Pick up the speed!
  • Hey! Yo! (Yelled at truck speeding into my path from across the road)

8:00 pm.

  • It gets chilly when the sun goes down.
  • Maybe I need my over gloves again – hands are a little cold.
  • Squirrel!

9:00 pm.

  • Huh! Not a soul out here, but me.
  • I kinda like this solitude.

You get the idea. I think about what’s out there visually. I think about what other people are doing and why they are in my way (LOL). I think about things I need to do at work. I think about my family. I think about how I feel in the moment. And, all day long, different songs go through my head. For me, things I see, smell, hear, or think about, trigger songs – mostly oldies (My goodness! When did songs from the 80’s become oldies!) or ones I listen to on K-Love.

With that said, my song of the day:

Ride on!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

More Courage

Does it take courage for me to cycle 100 miles? No. It does not. Does it take courage to cycle 200 miles? No. It does not. Does it take courage to cycle 3500 miles? No. It does not. All it really takes is a bit of fitness and mental craziness stamina.

It takes courage to stand up and fight against cancer.

It takes courage to live with and fight against MS.

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It takes courage to fight and win against leukemia.

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It takes courage to stare down Parkinson’s Disease and keep riding.

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It takes courage to fight diabetes, heart disease, ALS, chronic pain, depression and so many more of life’s medical challenges.

Since I can ride, and enjoy doing so, I feel privileged to be able to help others fight by raising awareness and funding for their causes. Yesterday, I had a special opportunity to bring awareness to Pediatric Cancer research.  I challenged myself to ride for 24 hours to highlight the need and raise some funds. I didn’t quite make the 24 hours due to a flat that I didn’t have the courage to change in the cold and dark, but we were able to raise over $1000.00 in honor of a special person who lost her battle with cancer 3 years ago, while starting a full on war. Molly W. had way more courage than I could ever hope to have. The ride wasn’t a total loss either. I rode over 200 miles (35 after fixing the flat in the morning), and I had fun with friends who came out in support to run or ride for a bit.

Pics of the day:

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Song of the day:

Ride on!

Lighting the Night

I was blessed this week to be part of an ‘IncredibLLS’ team that walked to light the night to raise funds for leukemia and lymphoma research. We raised our lanterns to honor those we have lost and to celebrate those who have survived.

I walked because I lost a dear friend to leukemia several years ago. Gail was a PT I worked with in the first clinic I worked at in California. We were in a small space and our office and treatment areas were cramped, but if you ask any one of us who worked there, it was the best place we ever practiced, because of the people. Gail was part of that team and she was one of the nicest people I’ve ever known.

I walked because Danielle fought bravely and survived her battle with leukemia. She taught us all what true faith is and how to face struggles head on with no holds barred.

I walked because I could. And I’m proud to be part of a team that raised over $5000.00 for leukemia and lymphoma research.

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Song of the day:

Next up: I’ll be riding for 24 hours next Saturday (September 23) to raise funds for pediatric cancer research. You are welcome to donate by going to this site: https://greatcyclechallenge.com/Riders/MicheleArnold

Ride on!

 

All Grown Up

I started cycling about 50 years ago. My family of six used to ride around town together. People said we looked like Disney on Parade! We had a variety of bikes and you just grabbed one to go with. A couple had banana seats with high rise handle bars. There was a vintage Schwinn, a Raleigh touring bike and a tandem to choose from. There was no “bike fitting”. You just rolled.

While in high school, I rode my bike to school, to sports practices, to work, and to volunteer opportunities. It gave me a sense of independence and freedom. I bought my first road bike (a Trek) with money earned from babysitting and working as a lifeguard. I thought I was something else when I rode twenty miles.

In college, I continued to ride and would easily adventure out for fifty to a hundred miles at a time. I fell in love with distance riding back then. The big difference between then and now, though, is back then, we didn’t have cell phones or satellite trackers. If you broke down and were stranded, good luck! No wonder my mother didn’t want to know what I was up to. She would worry way too much.

After college, I worked in the Chicago area, and I found a friend who would ride with me. We had regular old steel 10-speeds with drop handle bars but we were fast! We typically rode about four hundred miles per week including two hundred plus mile rides. You ride that many miles, you tend to get strong and fast. We generally rode a 25 plus mph pace. We pushed until we were able to ride our hundred mile training route in just under four hours.

I’ve probably ridden close to fifty thousand miles including my trek across America earlier this year. And that’s with about twenty five years away from riding all together. In all that time and over all those miles, I’ve ridden with plain platform pedals or with toe clips. I never had any desire to even try clipless pedals (yes – those are ones you actually do clip into), until now. For whatever reason, I decided to go clipless. Maybe it’s Mr. SAG’s fault for once again bringing me to REI. When I go to REI, I always find something to come away with. This time, it just happened to be new shoes and clipless pedals. Now mind you, there is no research that shows that clipless are actually better or more efficient than platform pedals. There are just a lot of anecdotal and subjective opinions. It’s funny, now that I have them (and I’ve ridden just over a hundred miles with them), I sort of feel all grown up! I no longer feel like a kid grabbing any bike that’s handy. And I do like them. For me, I’ve gained about 2 mph in speed and they make it noticeably easier to stand out of the saddle when climbing.

They took a little getting used to. Clipping in was especially different. With toe clips, you lead with the toes. With a clipless system, the cleat is more towards the mid foot. And luckily, I haven’t forgotten to or been unable to clip out when stopping. Oh, but I’m sure there will come a day!

Song of the day…

Ride on!

 

Courage

What is courage?
The Merriam Webster Dictionary defines it as mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty.
Ernest Hemingway defined courage as “grace under pressure”.
Winston Churchill stated, “Courage is rightly esteemed the first of human qualities because it is the quality that guarantees all others.”
And according to Maya Angelou, “Courage is the most important of the virtues, because without courage you can’t practice any other virtue consistently. You can practice any virtue erratically, but nothing consistently without courage.”
I learned what courage is from a seventeen year old girl. Molly Widner lived life to the fullest and without fear despite having a diagnosis of cancer at such a young age. She fought bravely and showed us all what courage looks like in the flesh. Molly died three years ago but not before showing the rest of us how to live.
Molly died in part because she had a rare cancer and there just wasn’t enough research that told her doctors how to treat it in a young patient. Only 4% of research dollars is directed toward pediatric cancer research. It’s time to change that. Don’t get me wrong. All cancer research is important. September is Blood Cancer Awareness Month and on September 16, I’ll be walking with Team IncredibLLS in the Light the Night Walk to support blood cancer research. I know plenty of people who have survived various forms of cancer and many who have not, including my mom. I know how impactful a diagnosis and treatment can be. And I know we are all hopeful for a cure. But when cancer strikes a child, it absolutely breaks my heart.
September is also Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. One of the things I’ll be doing to help raise awareness and funds is a 24-hour cycling challenge in Molly’s name. On September 23, I will be riding a nine mile loop along the upper part of Napa’s Vine Trail for 24 hours to see just how many miles I can ride.  You can join me too. Come and ride a loop or two and I will try and keep up! If you would like to donate and have your dollars directed specifically toward pediatric cancer research, my link for The Great Cycle Challenge is live. Great Cycle Challenge USA is a national Children’s Cancer Research Fund (CCRF) fundraising initiative. I participated in this event in 2016 and 2017. Rides are uploaded throughout June, but donations are accepted any time. They are a great organization with one goal: end childhood cancer. I’m giving a dollar for every mile I ride on the 23rd. I am hoping to do a triple century – I’ve never done that before. I hope I have the courage!
For Molly:
Ride on!