Saturday, August 31, 2013

Energy Drinks?

I went for a long ride today. It was all on our trail, so very familiar terrain and nice weather.  It did start to get a bit hot towards the end.

At any rate, at 25 miles I just bonked. No, not a crash, but an energy crash. Unfortunately, I had 5 miles more to go to get home. I started getting chills, my stomach was queasy, and my muscles were shaky. I stopped in the shade and watered up --which I had been doing all along -- and ate half a KIND bar.

I also started noticing a visual anomaly, one of those jagged lines that occurs with migraines. No headache, but definitely distracting.

I slowly did about 2 more miles and pulled into one of our local bike shops that also has a coffee bar. After a caffeine infusion I slowly finished the last 3.

Brutal.  Now -- I'm supposed to ride in a long event next Saturday. What should I have in my bottle instead of plain water to restore whatever I'm depleting.  Any ideas?

Wildlife observed today:  lots of fuzzy white caterpillars, a chipmunk, and scads of young kids on bikes.

Accidents observed: two -- both because cyclists were going too fast for trail conditions.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

And Round 3 to come

Went back to the cataract specialist today.  He was able to clearly explain the options and risks.  Before we go ahead, since I am very severely myopic in my left eye, he wants to do a full glaucoma work up. That will be in September and then in October we'll go forward with the surgery.  Left eye, then 2 weeks and then right eye.  Unfortunately, I have two rides scheduled in October --the first the Columbus Day weekend. I've paid for the entry and the hotel the night before, so I think I'll ask him if we can do it after that one.  That means I probably won't be able to ride in the Great Pumpkin Ride like last year.  That one has the most AWESOME pumpkin soup at the first pit stop.  Sigh.  Maybe if I volunteer to help they'll let me snag some.

Here are some pretty roses from yesterday's ride:

Entrance to the garden. It's a mosaic and stained glass creation.

This looks yellow, but it was more peachy colored than this photo shows.

A red and white -- those aren't sun spots!

And finally, we're told that when something good happens, or we exercise, our brain releases endorphins which helps us enjoy the pleasure of the experience even more, and has a calming effect.

Conversely, we're told that near misses and scary things produce adrenalin, which revs us up, allowing us to fight or flight.

So which experiences do we remember more of and better? I'm asking because for all of the kind and friendly drivers I experience when I'm biking, it's the jerks that I remember best. I think the same is true for them -- for all the bicyclists they see who are being law abiding commuters, it's the one that runs the red light that they remember.

I'm sure there's some psycho/social study that could be made of this phenomena.

Do you remember the details of awful things better than wonderful things?

Monday, August 26, 2013

The Arlington Loop

I went to Arlington to ride with a friend leaving from her house.  Boy, when I got to her neighborhood I knew I was in trouble.  It's called "Potomac Overlook" ... which means it is HIGH above the Potomac on the Virginia side.  And to get there, my car was using gas, not switching to the hybrid side of things. In bike terms, that means hills.  No, let me correct that == HILLS!!

And there were definitely hills.  Oh my goodness.  We only rode 27 miles but lots of hills.  And actually, although it was a beautiful blue sky day, and only 88, the sun got very intense around 11.

I love riding from Arlington though, because these views are what's within easy reach by bike.  There were few tourists today since Congress is out of town and lots of school kids went back today. That makes for nice biking as there are fewer clueless people wandering into the bike lanes.

East side of the Capitol.  Look at that blue sky!

This is the Washington Monument, decked out in its scaffolding for the repairs due to the minor earthquake we had a while back.  I think it looks like it's wearing know, those awkward teen photos? Nowadays I see a number of my contemporaries wearing braces though, so who understands the minds of dentists and orthodontists other than their accountants?

And on that subject, $10.5 million is being spent.  Okay, I understand it's Washington, Father of our Country.  But jeez, if you've read what he wrote, you'd know he would rather feed and educate people than erect any kind of monument to his name or reputation. And this figure, $10.5 million, would stagger him. He wanted the new capital to be near Virginia, but he did NOT want it named for him. A man of vision and humility and generosity.  Mount Vernon, his home, was more busy than any hotel or boarding house in America at the time. He was practically bankrupted by his service to the country, long after he had left the presidency. Would it make sense to honor him by saying, "Sir, we will spend the money, instead, on the descendants of your slaves and others yet disadvantaged by the color of their skin or the origin of their birth?" I know, I know -- what then would we do with the blasted monument.

On less weighty subjects, this photo (I can't crop my finger out of it without hurting the image) is of a cool sculpture at the Botanical Gardens.  Look's called, "pollinators"

And these berries are from the same place.

These, George Washington would have admired...a temple to his importance, not so much.

My BIrthday is in September

My new favorite bike jersey.  Just sayin'

Friday, August 23, 2013

Important Things

I decided to not ride this morning since daughter was going with me to my meeting in Ashburn, and I didn't think she would hold up for 20 miles round trip. Well, not without a lot of whining that I didn't want to hear.  Good decision because it was pouring rain when we finished!

We're having a bit of controversy with one of the groups I'm involved with, and I was reminded, when I got home, that so many of the details we fret over just aren't that important in the big picture.

This is:

Have a thankful weekend.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Just a little bit smug

  1. 1.
    having or showing an excessive pride in oneself or one's achievements.
    "he was feeling smug after his win"
    synonyms:self-satisfied, self-congratulatory, complacentsuperior, pleased with oneself, conceited

    Okay, ouch.  I don't want to live up to that definition.  Sigh.  So I'll just tell you what happened last night and you can draw your own conclusions.

    I had a meeting in the next town over that was starting at 7:30.  I hadn't been on the bike since Friday, so I was very frustrated.  We decided to (all 4 of us) go to dinner in that town, with the bike on the back of the car, and then I'd go to my meeting and ride home on the trail afterwards.  There are several members of the group meeting who ride home on the trail, so I knew I'd have company.

    What we didn't realize was that a storm was on its way!  When we finished the meeting it was 9:15pm, definitely dark.  We walked outside with our bikes and it was raining.  I have good lights (broke down and bought a new blinky tail light yesterday) so I was fine with the lights, but not sure about my visual acuity. Still, the trail is a paved, straight shot from that town to ours.

    One of the guys who serves as a Trail Patrol volunteer rode with me.  We set a medium pace.  We wanted to move quickly, but not so quickly our wheels would skid.  About 2 minutes into it there was a HUGE flash of lightning.  I asked if he wanted to stop and call for a ride and he said, 'nah, we're fine."  Um, okay. He's the TP so I went with it.  There wasn't any more significant lightning after that, so we were fine.

    The trail is beautiful at night, and in the rain there were all kinds of peeper frogs hopping across it, illuminate by our headlights.  I know what you're asking and no, I didn't squish any.  They were pretty savvy.  We did see one deer cross a ways ahead of us, and one ninja (person riding/running without lights) who was pushing his bike. We asked if he needed help and he waved us off.

    I peeled off to head towards home and that's really the only time I was nervous -- not because of traffic or the rain, but because I had left my phone at home so if I had a problem, I didn't have a phone with me. Ouch, stupid, I know -- so maybe I shouldn't be smug at all!

    But, no problems other than having to wipe my glasses occasionally.  Turns out smeary is easier to see through than raindrops.

    Arrived home safely and everyone here acted like I had been missing for days. Sheesh.

    We actually made very good time, and I was pleased with how darn physically fit I felt!  There's one bad hill on the way back, and I even climbed it without wimping out.  I was concerned that in the climb my tires might slip, but they were fine. When I arrived home I felt like I had conquered something I had feared.  That felt pretty good.

    I still want to get my eyes fixed though. At least the frogs would have been in focus.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Round 2 .. next week

Went to the eye doc today, all ready to schedule the surgery.

He did all the fiddling, looked at the photos, and said, "see you in 6 months."

"What?" I asked.  "I thought we were going ahead with this?"

Hmm...apparently he'd forgotten that as an option since the cataracts are still so small.

I told him I don't want to be cavalier about this, but it is definitely interfering with my life.  If I wait and avoid night driving until they're big enough to be a REAL issue, I'll lose other skill sets that go with night driving and I'll be afraid to go back out there.

He paused, and said, "wait here."  A tech came to get me to go take some MORE photos. She said, "but your vision is 20/20."  Well yes, but everything has a halo or haze. Would YOU want to be on the road with me?

After the photos, the doc and I rejoined and he said, "The guy who is the REAL expert on this will be at this clinic on Tuesday. Can you come back?"

Well, yes, of course.

Nine o'clock next Tuesday.  Stay tuned.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Political Influence and Cronyism

We have a little controversy brewing in DC.  I know, hard to believe, right?

The City is slowly installing protected bike lanes for the steadily increasing bike commuter traffic. The style is a "cycle track" which runs parallel to the traffic, but separated from the cars by bollards.  It is entirely separate from the sidewalk as well.

On "L" street, it took some getting used to, particularly for cabbies, but after 10 months, everyone has settled down to acceptance and we have seen bike commuter traffic increase. Remember, every bike that's there is a person NOT in a car stuck in traffic alongside those who drive.  Easing congestion...

The proposed, controversial track is on "M" street, heading the other direction. It was all set to go, but a historic AME church is on the block and has objected to the cycle track because it would eliminate 3 or 4 parking places in front of the church.  Yes, 3 or 4 parking places, used almost exclusively on Sunday, have stopped a protected cyclist lane that would serve hundreds of people whose lives right now are at risk in DC traffic. And right next to the church is a parking garage.

DC is still a majority African American city, and any group (like this church) that can wield political power by hearkening back to slavery (yes, slaves and freedmen built this church back in the day) can still get what they want.  That demographic is changing, and I predict that in 10-15 years, this church, too, will cave.

For more details, here's the article:

What is disturbing though is that this back room maneuvering, trading on the issue of race, is way too common in DC politics. There's a sense that it's perfectly fine to be elected and then hire everyone you know for a job in government because you 'owe' them in some way. If you really want to understand why certain parts of DC are still rife with crime, drugs, and a horrible drop-out rate, here's part of your culprit. In short, the people who get elected are beholden to the people who hold power in those areas of town and they can't blame white males for this one. In the meantime, the DC public schools in certain parts of the city continue to make a mockery of education, welfare is a multi-generational issue (not a problem because people are so conditioned to living on it that it is normal), and joblessness due to lack of skills is a certainty.

How does one address this? First, holding officials accountable through total transparency. Second, disallowing any particular voting block -- black, white, gay, straight, etc. from having undue influence. Third, hiring people based on their competence and proven problem solving skills and then letting them do their jobs.  A few years back we had Michelle Rhee here to clean up the schools.  Michelle is of Korean ancestry.  The minute she started holding teachers in the worst areas accountable, she was slammed as racist, accused of trying to hurt black teachers and black kids. Now, Michelle could possibly have been a little more collaborative in her efforts. It is possible though that any attempt to soften the changes would have caused them to atrophy. It has happened many times through many attempts to improve DC schools.  What ultimately ended her tenure was push back from the African American community.  They were unhappy that a person not of their community was holding the low performing teachers and principals accountable. They were even bold enough (or clueless enough?) to say that a Korean woman could not do what they wanted done.

Racism is an ugly thing, regardless of the color spectrum involved. It is NOT sanctified when it is being advocated by a group that has historically been on the receiving end. That almost makes it worse, because they of all people should know what it feels like.

So I see this fight over the bike lane as a microcosm of what goes on every day in DC politics. Everyone's "I gotta get mine" attitude is horribly costly for this city, especially for its most vulnerable citizens.

Okay, back to cycling now.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

LOOKING forward

I don't like riding my bike at night. I don't even really like driving at night. I always thought it was inevitable with age that my sight would deteriorate, but I seemed to be losing too much, too fast.

I whined about it to my regular opthamologist for several years and she just sweetly said, "age, dear."  After a few years of that, I quit going to her. If she couldn't make things better, why pay out of pocket for her to prescribe glasses?

But on a visit to a retina specialist (you don't even want to know how I started at the local military medical clinic to get a work-up for glasses and ended up with a retina specialist at Walter Reed -- but it involved tears [mine, not theirs]), this cute young doctor said, "Oh, well we can fix that."


Turns out I have central nuclear sclerotic cataracts, too small for a civilian insurance company to think they're "worth" fixing, and I'm too young for the insurance companies to say that I have them...But for this guy who is a specialist and sees thousands of eyes, it's something he sees and can fix (or so he said in May).  He told me that he wanted to see me at the end of the summer and he'd take more measurements and then we would proceed with removal.

I, still in search of better night vision (and frankly, day vision too these days), asked, "and then we can order new glasses?"

He looked at me and said, "once we do this, you won't need corrective lenses."

My jaw dropped. I've been wearing glasses since third grade. I can't imagine what it's like to go without them. So of course, the next thing out of my mouth was, "Can we do this tomorrow?"

He laughed and said, no, we'd wait until the fall.

Boy, I held onto that promise because in military medicine, anything that's scheduled a "ways" out may not happen. The doc might deploy, the clinic may reorganize or get full treating active duty folks ... any number of things can mess up the plan, including the paperwork not following the recommendation. But I was ready. I had the date circled on my calendar that I would call them and ask, "is it fall yet?"

And then miracle of miracles, I received an appointment letter FROM them to come back to see him next week.  I didn't have to chase them down and make them do what they promised.

So ... Tuesday is the day to re-evaluate. Can you imagine how excited I am? Even if it's BRILLIANT riding weather, I don't care. My son is going with me to drive home after my eyes are dilated. I hope that I will be clutching a surgery date in my hand!

I wonder if I should ask for good, expensive bike lights for night riding for my birthday in September.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

I Want to Live HERE

The weather is absolutely glorious!  I rode to my prayer group today and they asked if I rode my bike. I replied, "to be in a car on a day like this is a SIN!"  Oh my goodness, when the weather is like this, I think "I want to live where it's like this all the time."

Yesterday was the same.  I took two young friends out on the regional trail to practice their bike safety skills.  One has done a youth triathlon. The other is just learning to ride (she came from Iran last year). Neither one of them was very confident, so it was a good place to teach as the trail is a former railbed so it's pretty straight and relatively flat. BUT the weather was so nice, there were way too many people playing hooky on their bikes and pretending they were in the Tour de France!

We came upon the aftermath of a collision between a cyclist who was going way too fast (he had passed us without a warning) and a runner who was exiting the trail. The cyclist was surprised by the runner's movement to the left and overcorrected so ran off the trail.  I called his wife and he was able to talk with her.  He wasn't hurt badly -- mostly shaken up.  But what a whiner ... felt sorry for his wife.

At any rate, these kinds of interactions always set up interesting conversations in my cycling group.

Any vehicle should travel at the speed that is safest for the conditions. Conditions can include trail traffic! On our regional trail,the rules are clear that cyclists are to yield to pedestrians.

Now you're saying, "but Kelley, aren't you a cyclist? Shouldn't you be on the cyclist's side?" Well, yes I am a cyclist, but I recognize that if cyclists want to be treated as grown ups by police authorities, we need to be responsible whether we are the more vulnerable (on the roads or in bike lanes on the road) or the less vulnerable (sharing the trail with pedestrians). Part of the problem in this country is that everyone wants a "special exemption" category for whatever their issue is.  You name it: gluten free, cyclist, various learning issues ... I have no problem with exemptions that include responsibility. I do not think exemptions should be a free pass to bad behavior.

So, that's my story for today.  19 miles of awesome weather.  SWEET!

Monday, August 12, 2013

Quick Twenty or So

Went out early-ish this morning to get in about 20 miles.  I haven't ridden since last Wednesday with the Babes because the exchange students took up a lot of time!

Last night we went out to dinner with a couple we knew back when I was pregnant with our now 19 year old!  We had seen the husband but not the wife.  He is a very smart, interesting guy with a range of experience that rivals my husband's.  I was eager to hear what he had been up to.

Unfortunately, his wife is one of those women who, as soon as the guys start talking about anything interesting, tries to have a side conversation about inane stuff.  I had already looked at their daughter's wedding photos, and their son's most recent photos and caught up on the social stuff.  I was DONE, but she kept pulling me off to talk about stuff that I just don't care about.

I think that's one of my pet peeves -- and I see women do it far more than men -- starting side conversations when someone else at the same table is talking.  This wasn't an 8 foot table. It was in a booth with the 4 of us.

My husband NEVER says bad things about people, even if he's thinking it.  When we got in our car and headed home I told him the mom had said her daughter had been a bridezilla B&tch.  He said, "I'm not surprised. She has always had her dad wrapped around her finger. And how could she be otherwise with the example her mom sets?"  Ouch, very harsh words from him, indeed.

Then I got irked at him because I hadn't wanted to go to dinner with them and he practically BEGGED me and then I didn't get to listen to the important part of the conversation!  After a while I realized he had wanted me there so they COULD have a conversation. That rat knew I was going to get pulled off to the side! Grrrr.

In other news, yesterday was our Senior Pastor's last day.  He has decided to leave the ministry for a season and move to somewhere else so he can prioritize his family. It was very abrupt because his kids need to start school in their new location but it leaves the church in a bit of an upset!

So...I have a good excuse for not posting lately and a good reason to go 20 miles this morning!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Leading From Behind

What an awesome, awesome day.

My womens bike group rides on Wednesdays, and I had promised our leader a good ride of about 20ish miles.  Last night, we all got an e-mail that our leader had gotten injured yesterday but we were to carry on.

And we did!  Met the ladies at Vienna and then took them on a tour of "my" stomping grounds.  It was so much fun to lead from behind. This was possible because the first seven miles were familiar territory, being our regional bike trail.  I could tell them, "hold up at County Parkway."  When we got close, I zoomed up to the front and waited until everyone gathered.  We turned off the regional trail and went north on the County Parkway trail which very quickly became a great place to stretch out our legs and lungs.  Once again, I could say, "Go, go, go to Sugar Maple!"  Everyone held up there and we turned to go into one of the awesome stream valley parks.

At this point I did take the lead because there are many opportunities to get lost back here! I was a little bit intimidated to ride through this because the current was strong .. so I showed them how to walk across.  This is Sugarland Run --isn't that a great name?

The next one was tamer and we rode right through ... thus no photos! But when we did that one we were in "Folly Lick" stream valley park.  These local stream names are as old as ... well, this is Virginia, so many of those names go back to those folks who made America out of a former British colony!

Every part of this adventure was on either a designated bike trail, designated bike lanes, paved stream valley park trails or quiet streets.  It was heavenly!

The skies remained overcast so the temperatures were bearable and the humidity was ... well, normal for August.

We finished at a Greek restaurant and then visited the newest local bike shop.  One of our group (whose awesome road bike was stolen off her FRONT PORCH while she ran in for a drink of water) test rode a new bike.

By the time all was said and done, I'd ridden 27 miles...and was still smiling!  YES! I love a good day in the saddle!

Isn't that just a beautiful sight?  Strong women, cycling along, enjoying life to its fullest.  At this point they'd done about 18 miles.  Sweet...

Monday, August 5, 2013


Sometimes when I'm out on a ride, I experience a sweet, fresh, cool breeze that blows across the trail or road, with no apparent source. It's always a delightful surprise. I call these micro-climates. I guess if I took the time to investigate them, I'd see a natural wind tunnel that runs across a water source or something. But I prefer the mystery, and the surprise.

I woke up this morning thinking about the micro-climates in my house, particularly in my bedroom. Even though it's summer, and my house is kept at about 73, sometimes in the evening when I get in bed I can't get warm. If my feet are cold, I'm cold. So I keep a pair of fuzzy socks that are easy on/easy off nearby.  I also have a second blanket because sometimes I want that weight, if not the extra heat.

But in the morning, the blanket and the fuzzy socks are inevitably on the floor beside the bed, and I wake up overly-warm. When I saw them this morning, I decided that at least in my house, I'm generating my own micro-climate!

Yesterday I rode the Tour of the Towns in Prince William County.  It was their inaugural event. In their favor, I'd say the organizers and support people were very nice and friendly. On the other hand, the suggestions for improvement include:

  • Get the ride OFF Route 1
  • Have more support, clearly designated
  • Better and more visible signage
  • Better and more abundant sponsorship goodies
Betty and I rode 37 miles before it was all over!  Bunny went the shorter (27) and slower route with a newbie who had never ridden an event and who was on a borrowed (heavy) bike, without bike shorts. Ouch. She finished, but ouch.

Right at the beginning of the ride a guy collapsed just ahead of us.  We called 911 and the support wagon. Once we saw he was in good hands, we moved on.  When we finished, they told us the guy refused help, and got back on the bike, determined to finish the 100 miles!  He started WAY late for the 100 (we started late but were only doing 35).  He may still be out there somewhere today!

I'm sort of kicking myself because we didn't get any photos -- but the route wasn't very scenic, so not a whole lot of opportunities to do so. The really scenic part was on the Marine Corps base, but they'd asked us to not take photos while there.  Oh well.

Today is supposed to be lovely, and I have a local route to check out, but I think I'll keep it under 20!

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Just Get on Your Bike and Ride

I knew I wanted to get in a longish ride this morning as I'm doing an event ride tomorrow so I needed to stretch my muscles.  As the early light of dawn filtered in I thought, "in a while"...and then it got dark as cloud cover moved in.  I continued to lie abed and wait to see if the weather would improve -- purely for visibility's sake, of course.

Finally, I gave up and just got ready, putting on one of my bright yellow jerseys, and headed out.  God rewarded my perseverance with an exploding bush -- a burst of goldfinches as I rode by. I'd never seen them anywhere but on a feeder so that was cool.  Made me wish I had a helmet cam.  He also gave me a good Samaritan who gave me excellent directions to connect from where I was to where I wanted to go, without having to go in heavy traffic, and with the delight of a fairweather crossing.

And, I think I got hit by six raindrops in 16 miles.  So it was definitely worth going.  Now for a shower and a meeting this afternoon to prepare for the exchange students.  They arrive next week!

This year's crop:

3 from Austria
1 from Bangladesh
1 from Chile
1 from Finland
1 from France
2 from Germany
2 from Italy
1 from Japan
1 from Korea
1 from Norway
1 from Qatar

Should be an interesting year!

Friday, August 2, 2013

The Very Long Road Home

Went out to the Maryland shore for a bike ride on Wednesday with the Babes on Bikes. This is a group I ride with most Wednesdays.  The whole trip was a series unfortunate adventures. Examples:
1.  Three of the ladies driving together got lost, so were running very late.
2.  Our leader couldn't get her bike unlocked when we got ready to ride. Had to find a nice man from the visitors center who had bolt cutters.
3.  About 20 miles in (it was supposed to be about 22 miles), our leader misread the cue sheet and we turned RIGHT instead of LEFT.
4.  After we finally turned back, one of our members had an accident.

But, on the other hand, the weather was glorious, the butterflies were plentiful and beautiful, Nancy wasn't badly hurt, and the extra 10 miles didn't kill me.  Only 3 of us completed the entire ride (out of 9) so felt pretty good being one of the 3.

So here's our motley crew trying to get started. The guy in blue behind the pole is cutting the lock. Our fearless leader is in pink.

I figured with 4 or 5 women over there he didn't need me to add supervision!

The town we were in, North Beach, is lovely. They have a wonderful, dedicated bike path (which was not part of our ride ironically enough) and a quaint downtown area. It's very small so I imagine on weekends, it's packed with tourists. For a Wednesday morning though, it was perfect.

In the end, I rode about 35 miles. Much of it was hilly. I earned the Mexican food we had afterwards, and drove home feeling like I had really accomplished something!

No riding yesterday -- shopping with my daughter instead. Today, the weather doesn't look too good, but we'll see later. On Sunday my friend in pink from above and I are doing a 36 mile ride in Prince William County. I'm in charge of the cue sheets.