SAG, but not Saggy

Today is another drizzly riding day, but I’m staying dry in my car as I am volunteering for SAG support in a training ride series I participate in. SAG is an acronym for Support And Gear. Today I will be part of the vehicle support team that can help carry tire pumps, medical kits, and can transport cyclists back to the start if they run into mechanical trouble or just run out of steam.

I’ll admit that I would rather be on my bike with everyone else, but I’m so appreciative for others who volunteer thier time to support all the rides that I have been on so I feel great that I can give a little of that bike love back to others.

But not to worry, I’ll be back in the saddle logging the miles tomorrow. And tomorrow is already looking like a lovely spring day in Texas!

Ride on!

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Dreaming in Green: Peak a Boo-Boo

When was the last time you experienced absolute and utter joy? 

Maybe you felt it on your first sip of your morning coffee, or it was puppy kisses that made you smile, but for me it happened when I finally reached the summit of Healy Pass in Ireland!

This is pure joy!

Except, as it turns out, the hill I just climbed was not Healy Pass. I just thought it was.

I would actually reach the summit of Healy Pass an hour and a half after this celebratory dance on the side of a random highway. What I had conquered were two smaller climbs.

And there’s nothing worse than a pair of falsies.

While riding up Not Healy Pass I reached the blazing speed of 3.1 mph which is very likely the bare minimum speed anyone can go without actually falling over on your bike directly into traffic. All of this due to a fairly steep grade and a headwind blowing at approximately a zillion miles per hour.

At the end of this effort I was ecstatic! I couldn’t believe that I did it! I made it to the top without falling over and I DANCED from the sheer joy! I suspect the tourist busses passing by were confused, but probably appreciative of my interpretive Irish jig of happiness too!

After my celebration and when I was able to breathe normally again, I got back on my bicycle and went on my merry way totally thrilled that I had gotten through the hardest part of my ride so early in the day.

Until approximately 40 minutes later when I saw a mountain of switchbacks rise up the countryside in front of me. And I knew I had messed it up.

But this is the view from the top of the real Healy Pass.

Healy Pass itself was beautiful. It was a challenging climb in where I looked down those switchbacks to see the tremendous, albeit slow progress I had made. Along the way many fluffy sheep gave me a creepy side-eye stare me (with their disturbing sideways eyes) as I slowly rolled by. That alone was a little motivating to get to the top.

Finally, the celebration at the top was still pretty good, but a lot more cautious. Just in case.

Because, every now and again, even a seasoned cyclist sometimes gets it wrong.

Dreaming in Green: Tea and a Toasted Special

The first thing I learned while in Ireland is that the locals will tell you a rule, and the immediately disregard it. They are habitual line crossers!

They will tell you all about the rule, and then they immediately break it! And I love this! I absolutely adore it, and hope that I can bring a little more of this Irish spirit to my own life.

The following is one such story:

It was about 10:00 in the morning, and it was the first day of my trip in which the intermittent Irish rain arrived. I was about 31 miles into my ride and had just climbed the Ballaghisheen Pass.

The cold and soggy ride up the Ballaghasheen Pass

After conquering this challenge the reward is riding downhill! But, speeding down a wet road on two skinny tires at high speeds is scary! 

I was white-knuckling it and riding the brakes hard through beautiful wide open landscape. By the time I reached the bottom of the hill I was soaked and was cold in my bones.

Shivering, and with my toes in a puddle that used to be my shoes, I pulled into the small hamlet of Glencar. I noticed a few cars in a parking-lot next to a little hostel/pub, a good sign that it was open (something I had rotten luck with throughout my trip!). I leaned my bike against the building and shuffled inside.

I started peeling the soggy layers of bike clothes off my frozen limbs and a weathered man enjoying his morning Guiness immediately questioned my sanity for riding my bike in that weather. “Doesn’t look like a fun thing to do.”

Well, he wasn’t exactly wrong in the moment.

The barmaid appeared:

Barmaid: What can I get you?

Me: Do you serve lunch?

Barmaid:  Well, I can’t serve you lunch. But I can make you a toasted special.

After explaining to me that a toasted special is in fact, a sandwich, I thought about the barmaid’s statement:

You can’t serve me lunch, but you can make me a toasted special?

What?! How is that not the same thing? Is this a rule? What does this even mean?

Oh I don’t even care! YES PLEASE A SANDWICH!

I silently thanked my lucky stars to have this line-crossing rule-breaker here to help.

Barmaid: Would you like: ham, ham and cheese, or ham, cheese and tomato?

Me, starving and sopping wet: Yes, please, ham and cheese would be lovely!

Barmaid: Toasted?

Me: Oh yes please!

Barmaid: And would you like tea with that?

Me: Yes, yes that would be amazing. Thank you.

Can we talk about tea for a moment?  Oh tea. Where have you been all my life?

Maybe I should have led with this because many of you dear readers are British, but this was the first time I really understood the wonderful, comforting and warming power of tea. And now I get it. Tea has officially become a constant in my day-to-day life.

I am so grateful for that small pub on a soggy day for introducing me the glory of a toasted special and tea.

So it seems that Irish silver linings are served with ham, cheese and tea.

 

Dreaming in Green: Irish Flat

What a lovely cycle! ~245 miles of the lushest, greenest, and possibly the wettest quilt of colors making up the Irish landscape. Around every corner it felt like one section was prettier than the last. Breathtaking!

Actually I should rephrase that to say: It wasn’t just breathtaking, rather it was breath gulping! All of it required sucking in massive amounts of oxygen into pitiful, panting lungs.

Before my trip to Ireland, my last minute additional training schedule, unbelievable heat and humidity and an unexpected massive hurricane interrupted my normal training, so I hadn’t been on the bike in the three weeks preceding my trip. I knew there would be some fitness to recover, but honestly I still felt MEGA confident in my previous training for the AIDS/Lifecycle. I knew I could do the ride, it might just be slower than normal. Besides, we were going to ride the Southwestern Irish coast, I mean how hard could it really be to ride on the coast?

Now let me tell you about a few of the ways that I’m an idiot:

Fail #1: Had I given any actual thought about literally any of the pictures I’ve seen of Ireland’s gorgeous green scenery, I would have realized (but didn’t) there is almost nothing flat about Ireland.

Honestly, what about this gorgeous picture tells you to expect any amount of flat terrain?! Nothing.

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So why would I and did I expect on some level for there to be flat riding in Ireland?

  1. Because I believe in kindness.
  2. Because I reasoned (illogically) that I would be riding on the Irish Coast – therefore, 0 degrees of elevation, therefore FLAT.

Does this look like a flat coastline sitting at 0 degrees elevation? No. no it does not.

IMG_3165

No, this is Irish Flat.

That’s what I started referring to it as. Irish Flat. While the hills started shortly after I left Killarney, the descriptor came on Day 2 of my ride.

Day 2 ~ 56 miles / + 3172 feet — This is the day we had to combine two routes into one, and It turned out to be a very big day.

Normally this day is broken into 2 to allow for some additional sightseeing and overall pleasantness. Here is how the two routes were described (so I wasn’t worried really):

Part 1: Gougane Barra to Glengarriff (~20 miles / + 1010 feet) was described as “a very easy ride, being both short and mostly downhill.”

Part 2: Glengarriff to Kenmare (~36 miles / + 2162 feel) “Here you leave the coast, turning north towards Healy Pass. The climb is steady but not too steep and the views from the top are glorious. The little gift shop / refreshment halt may be open, but don’t depend on it if the weather is inclement.”

I read the first description more than once and thought: AWESOME! Love me some downhill! No problem this is going to be totally cool.

Fail #2: What I failed to put together, is that this mostly downhill doesn’t mean that it is actually downhill if the ride also includes 1010 feet of climbing. Meaning, if this ride is described as “mostly short and downhill,” then there is going to be some seriously steep uphills to get that elevation gain. Otherwise it would say – Elevation, not + Elevation. Cheeky fail.

Anyway, the lovely tour company provided route maps, elevation profiles of the route and even a topological map of the area (this really should have been clue #1 that flat would not be an Irish descriptor). I studied these and deduced that this level of climbing would be totally reasonable because I had already done 3500-5000 feet of climbing during the California AIDS/Lifecycle, and this climbing would only be. between 2000-3000 feet a day. No problem.

Fail #3: My previous climbing experience for AIDS/Lifecycle stretched over 85-90 mile days, so big climbs, but generally at a reasonable grade. But in Ireland, they like to do ALL the climbing in as short of distances as possible! Which means, these elevation gain would be up STEEP hills! Another Cheeky fail.

But everywhere I went the lovely locals told me with their beautifully lyrical accent’s – Oh don’t worry girlie, it’s much flatter that way.

Sure. Irish Flat.

Cheeky’s First Mystery Blogger Award!

Mystery Blogger Award

I am completely astonished and honored to have been nominated for this amazing Mystery Blogger Award (my first time!). Thank you so much to Suze over at suziland too or obsolete childhood for your support! Suze has a really fun blog full of snarky goodness, y’all should check her out!

About the Mystery Blogger Award:

“It’s an award for amazing bloggers with ingenious posts. Their blog not only captivates; it inspires and motivates. They are one of the best out there, and they deserve every recognition they get. This award is also for bloggers who find fun and inspiration in blogging, and they do it with so much love and passion.”

This Award was made by Okoto Enigma.

The rules are:

  • Put the award logo/image on your blog.
  • List the rules.
  • Thank whoever nominated you and provide a link to their blog.
  • Mention the creator of the award and provide a link as well.
  • Tell your readers 3 things about yourself.
  • You have to nominate 10 – 20 people.
  • Notify your nominees by commenting on their blog.
  • Ask your nominees any 5 questions of your choice; with one weird or funny question (specify).
  • Share a link to your best post(s).

3 things about me:

  • I adore end-of-the-world movies, even the bad ones.
  • The right way to start the day is with 2 lattes.
  • My all time favorite dessert is a sticky toffee pudding!

Link to my favorite post, it’s my bike ride from San Francisco to LA for the AIDS/LifeCycle!

Suze’s questions:

  1. If you could have only ONE dream come true, what would you wish for?
    • My dream would be to have a super power: to be able to drink all the coffee I wished at any point in the day and still fall asleep at bedtime.
  2. You have written a novel that is about to be made into a movie. The ONE actor or actress that you would NEVER want to play the lead would be? WHY?
    • Me! Okay, well I’m certainly not an actor, but I would also like to keep it that way. Otherwise, I couldn’t say!
  3. If your mother/father/child asked you to dye your hair pink…would you? why or why not? (that’s the silly one by the way!)
    • Oh! I’ve had pink hair! It also had purple stripes. It was great fun for a summer.
  4. Why a written blog and not a video blog?
    • Someday I would like to add in a video component, but it would likely look like some cool video from some awesome downhill descents or pretty scenery. Someday, but it is good to have goals to grow with!
  5. What is the most important thing you have learned about yourself since you started blogging?
    • Blogging has helped me get a little more social, it has forced me to get out of my comfort zone and I’m quite pleased about it! I have met some lovely people with awesome blogs because of it, and I can’t wait to find out what more of the world has to say. With that said:

My Nominees:

Undertone(s):

blistersandbugbites

booknerdtravels

Nathan Wood

the accidental backpacker

MercuryTwin

Bgddyjim

My questions:

  1. Do you have a goal in mind for your blog?
  2. Why do you blog?
  3. What hobbies do you do outside of blogging?
  4. If you could stock up one thing for a lifetime supply what would that be?
  5. What is a dessert that everyone has to try?

Thanks for reading and all your continued support!

Until next time, ride on!

Dreaming in Green: Cheeky’s Route

3 months, 1 hurricane, 2 plane rides and a train ride later, I arrived at the Southwest Coast of Ireland ready for an epic adventure!

Cheeky Backs it up: I had planned my trip back in June, but when my departure date came I was watching Hurricane Harvey unfold around Houston. I was very lucky and came away with very little damage to my house. But there was some impact to my trip which would be cut 2 days short of the original plan. I had planned for 9 days of riding, but it was now cut to 7. Honestly, with the tragedies others suffered I can’t complain.

The tour company that planned the routes worked with me to help modify my new shorter schedule and we decided the best approach for my self-guided tour would be to combine two days of our routes into one longer day, and cut another day entirely. No problem! I was up for a little extra challenge. After all, I was feeling MEGA confident after my training for the AIDS Lifecycle just 3 months earlier, and I was excited to see as much of this incredible country as my legs would allow.

Okay! Now time for epic adventure!

I picked up my rented Fuji road bike in Killarney, changed out the saddle and pedals I had brought from my own bike at home, made a few more quick adjustments for size and fit and pedaled out the door. The sun was shining (awesome!) and the following day I would set off for an epic adventure riding the Irish coast, and a nice portion of the Ring of Kerry, through some gorgeous forests and up many mountains.

Quick view of the Itinerary, route, mileage, and expected climbing.

Day Route ~ Miles ridden / Elevation Climbed
Day 1 Killarney to Gougane Barra + an additional ride around Lough Allua 49 miles / + 3070 feet
Day 2 Combined two days into one —> 56 miles / + 3172 feet
Part 1: Gougane Barra to Glengarriff 20 miles / + 1010 feet
Part 2: Glengarriff to Kenmare 36 miles / + 2162 feet
Day 3 Kenmare to Waterville 38 miles / + 2454 feet
Day 4 Waterville to Killorglin 36 miles / + 2047 feet
Day 5 Killorglin to Dingle 35 miles / + 1624 feet
Day 6 Dingle Loop 0 miles, a rest day for my legs that felt like raw hamburger.
Day 7 Dingle to Tralee

Tralee to Dingle: happily took the train

30 miles / +1250 feet

Bikes on a train!

When it was all said and done, the route map looked like this:

Killarney-Tralee-GarminMap-2017

Wait, did you see that average speed?! I was clocking it in at a blazing 6.4 miles per hour average! When it was all said and done, the route map looked like this:

Honestly, I’m not a fast rider (after all, one of Cheeky’s core values is: If you can’t be fast, you still can look fast. So precautions were made and I wore my fastest looking socks throughout the trip). But 6.4 mph is significantly slower than my normal pace.

In fact 6.4 mph is darn-near fall off your bike slow!

There were a few occasions where I forgot to turn my Garmin computer off while stopped, so my little computer  logged a chunk of 0.0 mph speed while I was eating lunch, but it really doesn’t matter that much. I intended to take a slow pace on this trip. Why rush through this gorgeous landscape or pass up opportunities to meet some amazing Irish people along the way?!

Well all of that is true, but what I haven’t told you is this: because of my quick planning and because I’m a little bit of an idiot, there was A LOT more climbing than I expected.

Which brings us to our story for next time about a little phenomenon I like to call “Irish Flat.”

Dreaming in Green: The beginning of a cycling adventure in Ireland!

One of the best things about riding a bicycle is that by your own power, you can get yourself to an entirely new place, it just takes the time to do it, and a will to keep moving your legs.

This past June, I rode my bicycle for 7 days in beautiful California, cycling 548 miles ( from San Francisco to Los Angeles. This experience that showed me how much I am capable of, even if slow. Like a good Sous Vide, I ride low and slow, but I keep moving! This challenge opened my eyes to the realization that if my legs could take me through the hills and valleys of California, my legs could take me anywhere!

I have always been enamored with the lush greenery of Ireland, or at least what I knew of Ireland from pictures or movies. And since I always enjoyed riding my bike, a friend in college once gave me a bicycle guide-book for Ireland. “Someday!” she encouraged.

But I never thought that riding a bicycle through Ireland was something I could do; it was something for those extreme adventurers, not a weekend rider like me. I was resigned that if I ever visited this beautiful country it would be seen through a car’s windshield. But after my experience riding the AIDS LifeCycle a seed was planted. I thought, I just road 548 miles through hilly California! Maybe I could ride my bike around the Southwest coast of Ireland too.

I immediately started researching companies that could help me do what I have for years thought to be an impossible dream. Now to be entirely clear, because this was a late-planned trip my research hit the level of “just enough to get it done.”

I was drawn to a company called IronDonkey bicycle touring company because their services included  setting up custom routes for a self-guided tour in the Southwest of Ireland. After some back and forth setting exchanging ideas and requirements I was sold on the possibility of gorgeous cycling vacation. They would provide the routes, some digital route maps for my Garmin 820 Edge Cycling Computer & GPS (this was the greatest tool for the trip, turn by turn instructions!), and IronDonkey set up cycle-friendly B&B’s along the way.

And just like that, the vacation was planned and the countdown began.

Shout out to all the procrastinators reading this – the silver lining of last-minute travel is that you don’t have to wait very long for your adventure!

Which bike should I buy? Part 1: Cruisers, Hybrids, Mountain bikes, Road and Touring bikes.

Have you looked at the huge selection of bikes out there and wondered where to even start? What are the different bike options available? Which bike would help you might meet your goals? Cruisers, Hybrids, Mountain bikes, Road bikes, and Touring bikes, oh my!

Today we are going to talk about these different types of bikes, and which could help you meet your goals.

What type of bike is right for me?

Cruiser/City

Hybrid/ Cyclocross Mountain Road

Touring

Riding paved and smooth surfaces

Yes

Yes Yes, less efficient on roads Yes

Yes

Riding paved and unpaved trails, grass or gravel

Yes

Yes Yes No

No

Trail riding, obstacles

No

No Yes No

No

Mileage/Distance

Low

Medium Low High

High

Speed

Slow

Medium Medium Fast

Medium

Commuting

No

Yes Yes, but less efficient on roads No

Yes

Comfort

High

High Medium Low

Medium

Handlebar style

Upright/Flat

Upright/Flat Flat Drop

Flat/Drop

Weight

Heavy

Medium Medium Light

Medium

Carrying loads

No

Light loads Yes, with some modification

No

Heavy loads

Let’s explore each of these categories of bikes in more detail:

812Bzbwdgh1L._SX450_

image from Amazon via https://bikesreviewed.com/cruiser/best-cruiser-bikes/

Cruisers/City bikes are great for casual riding, cruising on paved or smooth paths, and comfort. These are typically large bikes with limited gears and wide tires and an upright geometry geared for comfort. They tend to be heavier bikes and are great for shorter distance riding. When you’re riding a cruiser, you’re riding to see and be seen on a boardwalk, a park, or around town.

 

71RCbHoi2BfL._SL1200_

Image from Amazon via https://bikesreviewed.com/hybrid/best-hybrid-bikes-2017/

Hybrid/Cyclocross bikes are designed for comfort by providing a cushy saddle, somewhat wider tires with smooth tread appropriate for paved trails or very light off-trail riding. These have flat or even upright handlebars and some even include a slight front suspension to increase a rider’s comfort. These bikes aren’t as heavy duty as mountain bikes, and are not as fast or efficient as a road bike, but are great for short distance commuting, general purpose riding and especially if you want to carry some small loads with you.

Cheeky Fun Fact: A hybrid bike was the gateway that lead me to road cycling today!

The hybrid bike I purchased from my local sports store was very comfortable, to sit on with its cushy seat, upright geometry and flat handlebars. I rode it everywhere around town and often rode it on a paved path to get to work, at the time this was a 5 mile ride each way. A 25-30 minute ride was the best way to start and end my work day!

My hybrid bike handled great on the paved path and because it had slightly wider tires with more tread it also handled well when the path had washed over with gravel, dirt and debris. Great for my goals at the time!

200120Giant20Yukon20SE

Cheeky’s very first mountain bike – Giant Yukon SE from 2001

Image from BicycleBlueBook.com

Mountain bikes are great for trails and mountains. They have wider knobby tires for increased traction and stability on the trails. Mountain bikes are heavier than a hybrid or road bike, and many include shocks/suspension for absorbing all the bumps off-roading provides.

  • “Hardtail” mountain bikes include only front wheel suspension
  • “Full Suspension” bikes include suspension on the front and rear
  • “Rigid” mountain bikes don’t have any suspension
  • If a Mountain bike is calling your name, bikesreviewed.com offers up reviews for the best in 2017 Mountain bikes

Mountain biking is a ton of fun and requires a different mental skill set than road riding. You have to be alert to every coming obstacle while planning your next power burst or executing a quick turn on a sharp corner of a trail. Very different from riding on a long stretch of a smooth road on a road bike. It is utterly satisfying to complete a great trail ride, and you just feel like you can conquer the world!

In the area I went to college I had easy access to fun-to-ride fire roads and some seriously technical mountain biking trails too. My first mountain bike was a Giant Yukon SE that I saved and saved for. It was a hardtail beauty with disc brakes for quick stops.  It was perfect for my mountain biking needs for a long time. But after a bad crash, having the options of a 10 foot drop off on my right filled with sharp rocks or a barbed wire fence on my left, in which leaning left was an easy decision considering the alternative. I have since decided that I would focus on road riding as my main biking pursuit in the future. That said, Mountain bikers are total badasses!

200120Lemond20Nevada20City20Triple

Cheeky’s very first road bike: a used 2001 Lemond, Nevada City

Image from BicycleBlueBook.com

Road bike – If you have a need for speed and want to ride some longer distances on a paved surface a road bike will be the bike for you!  Drop handlebars for increased aero-efficiency, The design puts the rider’s body at a more aggressive geometry than a hybrid and typically includes drop handlebars to further increase the aerodynamics.

I started with a hybrid bike, but after about 6 months of commuting back and forth on that hybrid I found that I wanted to go farther, to explore more of the routes and roads in my town, and I wanted to go faster! My goals had changed and my hybrid was no longer the best option to help me meet my need for speed! Speed being relative.

I sold my bicycle on commision through my local bike shop and found a second-hand aluminum framed road bicycle with drop handlebars that promised improved efficiency and speed! It was a beautiful blue 2001 Lemond Nevada City, that I lovingly christened  “the Lemond.” I was less creative with names back then.

I still love this bike, but it has since been loaned to a family member to get them rolling on their cycling journey.

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Image from BikeRadar.com

Touring Bicycle – A road bike that is designed to be a road-riding, heavy load carrying beast! In addition to drop handlebars and a lower gear range (which my Cheeky friends lovingly refer to as the turkey platter of gears rather than the normal dinner plate of gears a road bike offers. A larger range of lower gears means you can spin/pedal at a faster cadence which is easier on your knees and makes climbing hills more pleasant!) this bike has mounting points that can fit panniers/cargo racks and fenders. It is the bike you need for lugging heavy loads of gear up hills for the ultimate long distance, self-supported rides. Because a rider will be on this bike for days and days at a time, it offers a more relaxed geometry than the design of a road bike to keep a rider comfortable for the long stretches of distance riding. I definitely see one of these bikes in my future!

There is a world full of lovely bikes options that will help you get rolling. Identifying what your bike riding goals are will help steer you toward the bike that will meet your needs.

Cheeky’s next post, Step 2. Which bike should I buy? Part 2: Tips for bike buying will cover important tips to keep in mind when you’re looking to buy a bicycle, questions you should ask, and some of the benefits of working with a local bicycle shop rather than Craigslist for your purchase.

 

Cheeky’s first 545! Riding my bicycle from San Fransisco to Los Angeles in the AIDS/LifeCycle

Do you remember June 3rd, 2007?

I do. It was the first year I volunteered for the AIDS/LifeCycle. I stood in the parking lot on a chilly San Francisco morning and watched rider after rider kickoff for a 7 day, 545 mile trek over the hills and valleys of California to ride to LA. All this to raise money to support the fight against AIDS. I thought, “These people are nuts! 545 miles is SO FAR.” And I immediately put it on my bucket list.

Since then I have moved away from California, but I had never forgotten the “Ride to End AIDS“. So, this past June, 10 years from that fateful day, I got on my bike at the San Francisco Cow Palace and started pedaling down the Golden state to raise funds that support the life-saving services offered by the San Francisco AIDS Foundation and the Los Angeles LGBT Center.

This ride, and the journey up to it, changed me for the better.

 

AIDS LifeCycle 2017 GarminMap
Cheeky’s Ride down the Golden State, AIDS/LifeCycle 2017

It changed me physically

I trained for 8 months gradually adding mileage and hills to my riding regiment. I gained a lot of muscle, came to feel healthier than I’ve felt since my days as a kid, and I earned the most ridiculous tan line on my thighs you’ve ever seen. My bike shorts are about 3 or 4 inches longer than my normal shorts, so I’ve gotten to show off that tan line a lot!

I got stronger, I became faster and there were days where I felt like a well-oiled machine racing up steep hills (then stopping for pie afterward)!

Top of No-Name hill
Cheeky at the top of no-name hill. I gave it plenty of colorful names.

It changed me mentally

There were so many good days! I saw beautiful scenery during the Winter, Spring and Summer. I came to appreciate how amazing a bit of shade feels from a passing cloud, and how refreshing a few drops of water from a rogue sprinkler feels on the hottest of days. These reminders helped revive my soul.

While riding my bicycle I got to see so much of my state that I would not have likely visited otherwise. Small towns, open fields and pastures. Places that cars see as a means to an end. But I got to really see these places, to smell the sweet scent of wildflowers on the breeze, and talk to dozens of cows as I coasted by. It was wonderful to let my mind quiet, to hear the gentle hum of my bicycle tire gliding across the road, and the birds chirping in the leaves overhead; a freedom that only two wheels can offer!

Spring has sprung!
Wild flowers blooming on the side of a country road.

But there were long days too.  Sometimes it would require a 1.5 hour drive to our training ride destination, 6 hours of active riding (like I said, I’m still not the fastest rider, but I keep moving!) plus more time for breaks and rest, plus another 1.5 hour car trip home. It was hard to get up at 4:30 in the morning for those training rides, but I had the support of my friends and loved ones so I got out of bed.

And there were hard days. When I first started riding again it was hard to sit on the saddle, because it is a hard saddle! And it was even harder to get back in the saddle the next day! Ouch Ouch Ouch! But the pain went away, and I got stronger.

But the hardest was my very last training weekend in May, 2 weeks before the big ride. I expected to ride at least 150 miles over Saturday and Sunday, one last training push before my bicycle was shipped to California. I had just come off a rest weekend and knew that if I could bust out this 80 and 70 mile day, I would be totally successful on those California hills! But it didn’t work out that way. Instead I eked out a mushy 40 miles that Saturday, and a painfully slow 30 miles on Sunday which felt even worse. I. Was. Devastated! I was supposed to be at my prime, but that was it, training was done. My confidence was absolutely shot. How was I possibly going to make it the 109 miles required on the Day 2 route?!

I got on the plane anyway. I went to California and I set my mind to do my best. I promised myself would go in my sous vide style: low and slow. After all, it’s a ride, not a race. And so I set off and kept pedaling, and pedaling, and pedaling. And I rode 109 miles on day 2!

The hard days have shown me how much I am capable of, even if it is a slow journey.

Most unexpected thing that happened: It changed my heart

The best part of my experience, over and over again I got to see the best of humanity. I was continually overwhelmed by the generosity of friends, family, and even strangers along the way.

People gave their support in so many ways: some were able to contribute to my fundraising goals, a few committed time and knowledge to help coach me, others volunteered to support training rides, and they were all joyous cheerleaders who encouraged me all through my training. There were even people came to cheer for all 2200 riders, every day, in big cities and in tiny towns during the AIDS/LifeCycle. People showed up with handmade signs, some waved and many yelled thank you for riding!

All of these people are the best of humanity. I feel so lucky and humbled to get to see these examples of people helping and supporting each other. We are all part of the AIDS/LifeCycle Love Bubble! And I can’t wait to do it all again in 2018!

Has riding changed you for the better? Share your story in the comments below!