The Pictures You’ve Missed

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In my days (and nights) of cycling I have taken hundreds of photographs. I’ve taken selfies, photos of my bike leaning against various backdrops, views from the ride, sun rises, sun sets, moon shots, and friends and family I’ve met up with. You’ve missed seeing lots of photos too. Probably thousands. And you’ve missed them – because I haven’t taken them. I may have been on a hard climb and just not willing to stop to capture the moment. I may have been in my element coming down a fast, long, magical descent. Sometimes the awesomeness of the view changed within a minute because the light changed. Sometimes I just wasn’t quick enough and the moment passed. Sometimes the still photo didn’t exactly capture the exuberance present. And in some cases, I just wasn’t ready to share the experience. So what have you missed?

  • Lighting is so special at times. I remember riding past flowers or trees that have turned colors in the fall and the lighting for a moment at just the right angle makes the colors spectacular. You miss it if you are fumbling for a camera. Barns are the same way. The specialness that calls out to me can change in twenty feet of riding. The right angle with the right reflection or the right background can be gone just like that. I rarely backtrack to take a picture. I either get it or I don’t.
  • I came down a hill in Nebraska on a very hot day and saw a whole herd of cows standing around a pond with one small calf standing right in the middle of the water. They all looked up and stared as I passed. The calf was one of the cutest things I’ve seen.
  • Speaking of calves, as I was riding out my road one day, about a mile from home,  four or five calves were running and jumping and playing around. It absolutely made me smile. Of course they stopped by the time I had my video set.
  • I missed a shot of the full moon salute given to me by a bunch of guys in the back of a pickup truck somewhere out east. You just can’t unsee something like that, though.
  • Clouds look incredible some days. They are especially memorable when a storm is looming. Just watching them move across the sky brings a sense of foreboding. I can always find shapes in them too. Helps pass the miles.
  • You missed the antelope that ran along side me for a couple of miles in Wyoming. They ran in my direction up one side of the road, crossed in front, and ran up the other side for a bit and then crossed back. This continued for a good ten minutes. So fun to experience, but not something to hold in a still frame.
  • You missed the look on Scoobert’s face when he tricked the girl at the ice cream counter into giving him a second doggy cone.
  • I didn’t capture my bike dangling off the back of the RV from a bungee cord when we took off and went to dinner in Fort Collins, CO. I was too shocked – first at the fact that we had left it dangling, and then at the fact that nothing happened to it.
  • I didn’t capture the beauty of all the waterfalls flowing on the way up to Echo Summit, leading to Lake Tahoe. You would miss the mixture of serenity and power, the mist, and the wonderful smells.
  • I also didn’t take a picture when I visited my parents gravesite and left a bike keychain for them (it was a memento that I shared with people as they supported or inquired about my ride). They are buried in my hometown and since I rode through there on my way to the Atlantic Ocean, I stopped to visit. My dad would have been so excited for my big ride. He would have been in the SAG wagon right alongside Mr. and Miss SAG – no doubt. He was always the biggest supporter of any of my athletic endeavors and he would have enjoyed this one.

Suffice it to say that photos are great and I really enjoy taking and sharing them but the best ones are still those that I have only in my memories. Sorry you’ve missed them!

Song of the day:

Ride on!

*Photo Credit: Amy Heathcote

 

 

Be Not Afraid

Do I get scared when I’m riding? Sometimes.

DSC01463When I was in my twenties and riding across the Midwest, I rode solo and through areas where the corn was so high you couldn’t see anything else all around. My mind would play tricks on me and I would imagine all kinds of things jumping out at me. It didn’t help that a film based on Steven King’s Children of the Corn was released in 1984. I didn’t even have a cell phone to call for help if I found myself in trouble. They didn’t exist yet.

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I’ve ridden in parts of the country where storms come up seemingly out of nowhere and are fierce as all get out. I remember one time coming back home with a friend from the South Bend, IN area. A storm rolled through and a huge lightening bolt hit the ground about 25 feet from where we were. I didn’t think I could run so fast. We left the bikes and ran into the truck stop that luckily was near by.

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Years ago, I was riding on a remote country rode in Ohio late at night. Unfortunately, my bike light ran out of juice (back up batteries were used up as well) and it was difficult to see anything. The moon was not bright that night. I can still remember the odd clomping sound coming at me from a distance. I was so relieved to finally see the dim light on the Amish buggy and be able to connect the sound to the horses hooves.

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I’ve reached 62.3 mph coming down a hill on a bike. That can be a bit scary on a 25 mm wide tire! It’s exhilarating at the same time, though, so scary hasn’t stopped me.

My bike has slipped out from underneath me when the rear tire hit sand on the shoulder while climbing a mountain road – I fell into traffic coming up behind me. An angel slid me out of the way. It has happened on wet railroad tracks as well. I’ve since learned to walk across wet tracks. You don’t have to tell me twice!

I’ve been chased by dogs and was once bitten.

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I’ve been on roads where triple semi trailers have passed so closely that I swear I could have reached out and touched them.

Since Mr. SAG now calls me Wrong Way, you know I’ve been lost!

All of these experiences were scary but we can’t let scary stop us! If I had, I would not have accomplished what I did this past year. Happy birthday to me! Since my last birthday, I’ve ridden across America on the way to 7,632 miles (about a thousand more than my previous best when I was 27). That includes 40 centuries (100+ Miles), or if using metric, 68 metric centuries (62+ miles) and 210,340 feet of climbing (7 1/4 times the height of Mt. Everest). That’s way more climbing than I’ve ever done since most of my previous riding was in the Midwest.

Along the way, with your help, I’ve raised over $12,000 for organizations like Bike the US for MS, The Great Cycle Challenge, The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, Tour de Fox for Parkinson’s Disease and Tour de Cure for Diabetes Research.

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Song of the day:

Don’t let fear stop you. Ride on!

OK – It’s Not Really The Climb

DSC01211I’ve told you why I take on various challenges. It’s the climb. But when I think about what I really like about cycling, for me, it’s all about the thrill of the descent.

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There’s nothing better than working really hard and building up a sweat climbing a long steep hill, knowing that you are going to essentially get to free fall down the other side. I love the feel of racing down the hill or mountain. It’s thrilling! It’s magical! It makes you feel alive. Every time. There’s nothing like it!

 

 

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Song of the day:

Ride on!

 

 

It’s the Climb

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People often ask me; Why ride across America? Why ride for 24 hours? Why climb that hill? Why try to go farther? Why try to go faster?

Because.

Because I want to see if I can.

Because I can.

Because it’s fun!

Why not?

I’ve always been one who has been overwhelmingly, intrinsically motivated. When I was growing up, I loved to play basketball. The church parking lot across the street had a basketball court. Perfect! I would shoot hoops for hours every night. I would tell myself I couldn’t go home until I made all the shots “around the world”. All of you who play, know what I’m talking about. If I missed the very last shot, I would start all over again. Again and again. Sometimes I wouldn’t go in until I made 25 free throws in a row. Then 50. Then 100. And so it went. Personal goals, doled out by nobody but me, for me.

It’s been the same for me on the bike. Pick a goal and go for it. Ride 100 miles. Ride 200. Ride 100 miles in under 7 hours. Then under 6, and under 5, and under 4. Ride for 24 hours. Climb this hill. Climb that hill. Ride across America. And so it goes. Personal goals doled out by nobody but me, for me.

I love the journey to get there. I love the starts and stops and the little victories. And oddly enough, I love the pain of not making it and trying again. I also love the things you learn (mainly about yourself), the people you meet, and the places you see along the way.

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I suppose that’s why.

Song of the day:

Ride on!

SAFETY

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Safety is a language spoken fluently in my household. Mr. SAG is in the police and emergency response business. I work in healthcare. My training is in physical therapy, but having specialized in orthopedic manual therapy for over 30 years, my joints started to say “no more”. With ergonomics expertise in my repertoire, I transitioned into employee safety about ten years ago. We both train people in our community on how to be prepared for and respond to emergencies through the CERT program (Community Emergency Response Training). We are also both private pilots and safety is taken into account before and during every flight. We have food and water storage that can take us through at least 72 hours and go bags are ready in our home. Emergency kits are in each of our cars and we have one packed that we take on the plane. Miss SAG even has one in her dorm room since she’s been trained from day one.

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Given that background, one would hope safety comes into play when I cycle. I do my best – if not for me, for Mr. and Miss SAG.

People frequently ask about what I bring along on my rides keeping safety in mind. So…

It starts with a checklist. I learned somewhat the hard way that at least for me, at this point (age) in my life, a checklist is essential. And it starts with a safety check of my bike – tire psi, bolt tightness, chain/derailleur, lights – and then all the things I should have with me.

I believe lights are essential. I run one or two blinking red lights on the rear and a blinking or steady white light on the front. My lights are rechargeable, but I have backup ones that run on batteries. I carry solar and rechargeable usb power banks just in case.

 

I ride mostly solo and long distance so I have a satellite tracker and back up phone aps that send signals for Mr. SAG to see where I am at any given time. If my phone is out of commission (charge or service), I can still send customized messages asking for help.

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Spot Gen 3 – Satellite Tracker

I take fuel and water on every ride – unless I’m doing the 5-mile loop around my house. I take plenty of water with me whenever I ride. I have the ability to take 3 water bottles if necessary, and on really long rides through the middle of nowhere, like Nevada’s route 50, I carry a Camelbak. I also have a life straw in my trunk bag just in case.

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I usually have some form of fuel with me. If I’m out on a hundred-mile or more ride, I pack meals. Otherwise, I usually have a banana or orange, some nuts and dried fruit, some Clif bars (or similar) or Clif blocks. I usually don’t eat much, but they are handy to have if you get into trouble.

Other items I have along: first aid kit, sun screen, lip balm, space blanket (extra from my plane kit), jacket, multi tool, extra tubes, mini pump, chain master link, duck tape, air horn/dog deterrent and maps available on my Garmin device and phone aps.

Aside from all that, I wear high vis/reflective clothing, reflective ankle straps, a helmet, gloves with good padding and glasses (either polarized for sun, or clear lenses). Sometimes I use Cat-Ears which are wind noise reducers. They are the things that look like side burns. I didn’t think they did all that much until I stopped using them. They really make quite a difference!

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It might seem like a bit of overkill, but it gives me and Mr. SAG peace of mind. Be safe out there!

Song of the day:

Ride on!

Revival

Revival. Sometimes it happens by circumstance. Sometimes it comes by choice.IMG_7237 (2)

This past weekend I rode one of my fairly regular training routes. It’s a 32 mile loop with a fair amount of climbing – about 1600 feet and gets up to a 12% grade in parts. It takes me out along one of the roads where fires raged two weeks ago. They are actually still smoldering a bit in some places around the valley as they are not yet fully contained. There is evidence of the fires in the sporadic charring seen, and in the fire crews still maintaining watch, and in the PG&E crews hard at work restoring normalcy (power) to areas where it was lost. This route doesn’t go into the heart of where the fires actually burned ferociously, but already, I am seeing signs of revival. It will be a long hard road for some, but it will come.

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My Ride.

Fall (or Autumn to some) has always been a favorite time of year for me. I am from upstate New York, and the colors of Fall are astounding. When I see them around the Valley, my longing for home is always revived. I love the smell of fallen leaves. I love wearing shorts with a bulky sweatshirt on breezy, clear afternoons. I love the feel in the air that says change is coming. And if it weren’t for recent events, I love the smell of smoke telling me people are snuggling with families by a warm fireplace. I don’t always enjoy the feel of acorns crunching under my feet or tires, though. I love the knowledge that after fall and winter, nature will revive us with the fresh smells and brilliant colors of spring – my new favorite time of year since living in California.

My revival began in the fall, about four years ago. I chose to renew health and fitness levels and revive quests for adventure once thought lost. What a ride it has been! I am reminded every year though, that sometimes revival involves hard work and conscious decisions. It can be harder to get up and work out every morning when it is dark and cold outside. It can be harder to get a ride in after work when the sun fades so quickly. It can be hard to make healthy food choices when the season says “bake!” But onward we ride. Revival doesn’t always just happen. It can be a long, persistent journey.

Song of the day:

Ride on!

#Napastrong

 

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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!