I’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.
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!
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 I want to see if I can.
Because I can.
Because it’s fun!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
It might seem like a bit of overkill, but it gives me and Mr. SAG peace of mind. Be safe out there!
Revival. Sometimes it happens by circumstance. Sometimes it comes by choice.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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…
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!
I love watching the sun rise.
Why would you be laying on a bike/walking path, in dark clothing, doing yoga?!
Oh good, the organized century riders are out on the road, not on this bike path!
Hmm. I’m getting a little hungry.
Good morning! (Said to another rider.)
32 miles. Not too bad.
There go more riders. Must be the metric century start.
This is like deja vu!
This banana tastes really good!
Nice to see some friends out!
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!
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!
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.
I shouldn’t be riding by that restaurant all day. It smells really good.
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!
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!
100 miles down. I’ve got to stop stopping and chatting!
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.
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.
This pizza tastes really good. Thanks Andie! Better not eat a lot. I’ve got many miles to go.
Time to put my high vis on.
Pick up the speed!
Hey! Yo! (Yelled at truck speeding into my path from across the road)
It gets chilly when the sun goes down.
Maybe I need my over gloves again – hands are a little cold.
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.