Thirteen Thousand Steps

One day this week I took a longer than usual walk, for training purposes. Since the first day walking at the Grand Canyon will be at least four hours of descent, I’ve been trying to think of places that would be interesting for the longer training walks. The trails around Hospital Lake fit the description.  Hospital Lake, named for the Hayward Area Memorial Hospital which can be seen from nearly every vantage point around the lake, not only has ski and hiking trails but actually has a very cool bike trail designed and maintained by the Chequamagon Area Mountain Bike Association (CAMBA).

ATV trail on old railroad bed

From home, I took the railroad bed ATV trail. Right away I had to take pictures of the fungi and moss. There aren’t a lot of green things growing yet so these plants get top billing. And they are so interesting they deserve it.

Love these colors and textures!
Different!
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And a bit of color.

A short distance on Hospital Road, and then I ducked into the pine woods where I knew I would intersect with a trail. It’s a small enough area that is fairly familiar to me so I wasn’t concerned about getting lost. My motto is “I’m never lost if I don’t care where I’m going.” So true. And if the goal is to get in as many steps as possible…

All the trails aren’t this wide and smooth. This is one of the ski trails.

In opting for whichever trail looked most interesting, I ended up on some I had not seen before. I discovered that some new trails were being made in the woods by workers with heavy equipment – they weren’t there at the time but there was lots of evidence. Part of this forest is old growth pine – trees which always have me in awe of their size and bearing. Guardians of the forest, who have seen a lot of action.

The guardian and his weapons.
Swans on Hospital Lake

Reaching the lake, I got a glimpse of swans on the far edge, too far for a good picture. I counted five and watched them for a while.  On the way out I did try a couple trails that took me in circles, and again I ended up in places I hadn’t seen before. The area is bigger than I thought. Thirteen thousand steps, for me, is 5.84 miles and I was beginning to feel the strain so I headed home. My sis-in-law met me on the way back and we walked home together.

Hospital Lake – beautiful area for walking, biking or in winter, skiing. Try it if you are ever in Hayward.

Pink Cloud and the Man Who Lives in the Woods

20180209_182854630926522.jpgFrom where did this one pink cloud come? So singular and alone it was floating in the path of light coming sideways in the evening.  Is it the evening because it divides the night from the day evenly? That’s what I was thinking about. I had to stop and take a picture of the cloud.

Darkness was approaching, and so was a man on a bicycle. He was a friendly man and called out to me, also on a bicycle, and to the husband who was walking. He asked about the electric bike I was on and came over to show us a picture on his cellphone of another electric bike he had just been looking at. He talked fast and easily about bikes, having put about $4000 into his ride, with special rims on the wheels and a rear approach sensor. He was a serious rider. In fact, he only rode bikes, because he had lost his license a while back.

He was riding home, well not exactly home. He was riding to his tent in the woods. Yes, homeless for the time being but making the best of it. Clean (had just showered at a shelter today), well groomed and nourished, and looking more like a yuppie fitness freak than a vagrant, he gave us several stories of life in the woods. He was a loner by choice and kept his camp clean and decked out – 2 tents, because he had lots of stuff. Oh, and he was a veteran of the Gulf War.

He was employed at Goodwill Corporate for three years now. He had another valuable bike which he kept locked up at work. It had always been a problem to keep it safe while he was away from camp. What was he to do, chain it to a tree?

He wanted to get housing but he just didn’t make enough where he was, and there weren’t any better jobs that he knew of.  He told us where his last three camps had been, and I knew every one of them, had driven/walked by and thought “now if I were homeless I might try to hide in there”.  The place he had been just before Hurrican Irma had been by a creek. That night he came home from work and everything he owned had floated off in the flooded field. He said it was a real pain every time he was made to move. When you have a big camp, it takes quite a few trips to relocate it all. Sometimes they don’t give him much time to do it. He has to leave stuff behind.

The husband was getting antsy, tired of standing and listening and it must have been obvious. The man’s  name was Jody. He apologized for talking so much. It was just that he didn’t get to talk very often, especially to strangers who didn’t know anything about him and asked questions that didn’t sound threatening. He rode off on his really cool bike. I’m not going to say that I didn’t think about offering him a meal next time he rode by, or a shower, or maybe a yard to camp in next time he got chased out. I did think of those things, but he sounded like he was handling life pretty well so I said nothing.

“Back in the Day”

Back in the day…

Something about those words makes me cringe with premonitions of stories about how high the snow banks were or how many miles it was to walk to school. Now I am guilty of using it all too frequently as I write. Guess what – EVERYTHING has a back story. EVERYBODY has a back story. That’s what we call it today, if we are kind.  I think the back story is often crucial to understanding things about the present story.

A long time ago, in a land far away (Bradenton, Fl) the husband decided to buy a man toy called an E-Bike. He has always found gadgets intriguing, especially if they were energy saving and had some practical use. This bike was an early exploration into transporting oneself using electricity, much like electric cars are today. It was only available through car dealerships and was the social experiment of the day. It was pretty, shiny blue, feeling of quality and fully decked out with lights, various indicators on the handlebars, locking mechanism, gears, horn, and all kinds of gear bags made to fit. Sweet.

The plan was to ride it the seven miles to work, along a busy highway. I guess there was a bike lane in some places but it was often hazardous with broken glass and other tire-puncturing trash. The traffic went by, close and fast. It was often raining, or hot. The plan didn’t last long. But being the oddity that it was, the bike was pulled out pretty often and demonstrated to curious friends and family. It rarely left the driveway.

My own most vivid memory of using it was when I visited frequently with an elderly lady who lived five or six miles away, mostly through residential areas. I got some exercise, because I could pedal it like a normal bike. But, its real advantage was in the take off moment at intersections. Instead of having to go from my resting/waiting pose to that awkward effort of quickly powering through the crosswalk with dozens of eyes watching, I could just touch the little lever and smoothly zoom away with no effort at all.

The real reason I remember this time had nothing to do with the bike however. It marked the first time I lost a cell phone out of my back pocket and spent hours retracing the the route looking for it.

Years later, the husband gave the bike another chance. The office had moved and was not even two miles away so once again he was riding it to work. One day, there might have been a light rain making things slippery, he rode across a railroad track which crossed the road at an angle. The front tire got caught and he crashed and tumbled. It was a trauma for the husband and for the bike. Neither has ever been the same, although the husband has recovered acceptably.

For the past year or so, I have enjoyed biking frequently for fun and exercise. I would be doing so now except I have lent my $60 pawn shop bike to a friend who had no transportation. Not knowing when I would ever see my bike again, I turned my attention to the E-Bike, sitting forlorn and flat-tired in storage. With the heavy battery removed, and the broken parts held in place with a bungee, it actually rides pretty well. I was pleasantly surprised this week on my first outing with it. The seat had shock absorbers, the handlebars straightened up nicely, it went quietly, and unlike my pawn shop bike, the brakes worked. It’s a go.

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It’s still a pretty color due to hardly ever leaving the garage for years.

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A few covers missing, a couple bungees holding the empty battery compartment shut. It works.

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Some of the clip on instruments are missing but it still has a strangely “techy” look, I think. Looks are so important.

There is a satisfaction in bringing an unused thing back into use.  I also appreciate the back story of the E-Bike and the chance to think about other back stories, and the whole concept of histories and how they might inform the present. Just sayin’, “back in the day” might become a frequent theme.

Today’s Brain Health Moment

Considering that the brain is the consistency of soft butter (eeek…) and any blow to the head can jostle it against the skull, not to mention that the skull is not indestructible itself, I decided that today, before my ride, I would dig out the old bike helmet. This is also part of my heightened awareness campaign.

The thing is so awfully uncomfortable that I went to the internet to see if I could figure out a better adjustment. Of course there were many good tutorials there, but I still couldn’t quite be satisfied. This is my helmet.

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Title is good. At least they mean well…

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Just poly foam, that’s all. Might make a good container for an orchid plant…

Amidst all the instructions on knob turning, strap shortening and pad fitting I discovered my helmet is the simple version – no knobs, no stabilizing strap, no pads. Pretty much no protection. I wore it anyway, just in case it might ward off a falling tree limb or something. It makes me look like a serious biker, kind of.  Lol.  I will be putting a new one on my Amazon wish list.

Here are some more of my rules for sharing the roadway with whatever is out there.

  1. Always assume you are invisible to everyone especially cars driven by the very young or very old. Everyone.
  2. Signal your intentions clearly, especially when there is someone who needs to know.
  3. Always know who is behind you – use your mirror.
  4. Aim for intersections with stoplights to cross busy roads.
  5. If there are two or more cars waiting to do something at an intersection, stop, feet on the ground and wait it out.
  6. Wear a helmet, don’t wear floppy things that will get caught in gears or wheels.
  7. Check tire pressure and brakes before starting out.

Can you think of more? I need all the help I can get.

It Happened So Fast

wp-1475003441376.jpgThoughts at the beginning of what would have been a bike ride…

(Early morning, September 26, 2016)

No! What’s happening?! The pedal is flipping and I’m off balance. I’m going down hard. The handlebar is going right into my neck. Bad place to hit.

It’s over, that was quick. How suddenly things can change. Hurts, hurts.  Is there any way this could be fatal?

Don’t panic, you are still thinking, for the moment… That’s a good sign. Hold still, wait.

That was quite a poke in the neck, really hurts. Hope no major vessels were torn.

My hand on my neck might be stabilizing something, I’d better not move it yet. Wait.

It’s really peaceful and still, just sitting here. Look how nothing else has changed. Sunshine, trees, a butterfly. I’m not losing consciousness, must not be bleeding internally. I am so aware of still being alive and so aware of how quickly I could have been dying. God, thank you and please help me not be injured badly.

(3 minutes)

It must be okay to move. I can’t feel anything changing in my neck. I can feel the abrasion now, stinging. Swallowing hurts a little. I suppose I could worry about my airway, but I don’t feel swelling. Not yet. I’m going to stand up.

I wonder what this looks like, need to go in the house and look. Hmmm… right over the jugular. How did that not tear something? Thank God for skin and a tough body.

I feel funny, rattled, sort of fearful. Is this a fear I should conquer by getting back on the bike right away? I should at least pick it up off the driveway.

The wheel won’t turn and something is bent. (Thank God, I can’t ride it!)

Why did this happen? What will I do differently if there’s a “next time”? There’s no one else at fault, just me. I think I was moving too fast – just didn’t see that the pedal wasn’t flat before putting my foot on it. Need to check everything deliberately.

Is there any way this could mean I’m getting incapable? I’m not used to accidents. Have they been happening more often because of changes in me? I’ll bet that thought will occur to others. I’m going to put it on hold for now.

I should put an ice pack on my neck and forget exercise for today. Going to take it easy, just sayin’…

 

What a Wonderful Morning!

I’ve been home for two weeks in a row now which seems unusual to me. I’ve been riding my bike for exercise almost every day and have logged 40 miles this week – not a lot for an avid biker but for a late middle age woman, it’s not bad.  I have almost established a habit for my Saturday bike ride. My motto is “twice the distance at half the speed”. It makes for a relaxed and interesting ride since I plan to explore a bit or go somewhere different each time.

I live in a city that is full of mobile home parks and they are wonderful places to ride.  On the weekend, there is almost no traffic to worry about once you enter a mobile home park and when you do meet someone they most likely are walking or riding in a golf cart, they wave.  Saturday rides are not just for exercise, they are for calming the mind, stirring curiosity, and enjoying the sunshine and breeze (when you ride a bike there is always a breeze…). Come with me.

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The traffic was intense on this street…

There are a thousand ways to do pretty much the same type of housing. If you don’t believe that, you need to ride through a mobile home park to convince yourself it is true. I’m not a big fan of mobile homes to live in myself, but I love to look at them, at their porches, their landscaping, their ramps, their weird colors, roof lines, windows. The mystery house of the morning was the usual basic shape but the street side had only a garage door. Both other visible sides had no entryways. What’s with that? There is a reason hermits don’t go to mhp’s to live, mainly that they are very social places and people live to decorate their entrances with pink flamingoes, flags, name signs and plants. But no visible entrance? I couldn’t figure this one out.

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On to the next attraction – the champion camphor tree. Pictures do not do justice to its hugeness. Nature always inspires me and I am in awe looking at this tree. The sign explains.

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Bradenton was on national news lately with heavy rains that flooded the area. This next picture shows a drainage ditch that filled to overflowing and did flood the parks that I rode through.

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Can you imagine water rising to cover the road? It did.

Commonly there is a fence of some kind around each park, but if you know where to find them, there may be gates or walkways connecting one to the other.  I crossed a shaded wood bridge over the ditch to the next park.

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Doesn’t it invite exploration?

Without having to cross any major roads or deal with busy traffic, I finally made my way through a small golf course to this destination. I love shakes…

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One hour, ten miles – it was a great ride. Getting out and doing something active, just for the fun of it, is important for people of any age. I find it is essential for me. It made a wonderful morning, on a wonderful day.

Do you sense this need? What do you do that meets it? I’d like to know.

 

 

Well, Imagine That!

It is cold chilly here in Florida today. We get a few days like this every year and although I like to be able to go outside without breaking into a sweat, I often use the temperature drop as an excuse to stay inside more.  But as I’ve written, I’ve been riding my bike lately and have actually been knitting a hat to keep my ears warm during my morning adventures.  I’m going out, cold weather or not.  I am encouraged and inspired by a blogger I’ve started following at www.bikelikecrazy.com.  My five miles in the sunshine doesn’t measure up to her daily 10 mile commute to work in snow and ice (yes, she does that).

I’m also thinking a lot about my imagination, which needs exercise as much as my body does.  It is a good thing to be totally present in the here and now, which is where I feel I have been for quite a long time.  Doing life, dealing with its circumstances and spending time with the people accessible to me, has been my focus.  Writing about life takes time and imagination, and has not been my focus.  I haven’t been writing.  The few things I’ve cranked out have been a struggle and I’ve not gotten much satisfaction from them.  I’ve told myself that this is probably a stage to be expected.  I should not be upset with it, but I should expect it to pass.

So, in my imagination I am writing a book, a very satisfying book.  It begins with people living ordinary lives, but with a sense of calling or higher purpose.  This sense carries them through difficulties of all kinds, and grief unspeakable at times.  This sense frames their everyday activities in a meaningful way.  It makes them examine every relationship with others with a keen eye as to what might be happening. The enduring quality of this “sense” means it is picked up by their children, and their children’s children.

Some of this I do not have to imagine because it is contained in the diaries and personal letters of my ancestors.  I am thankful for their attention to recording what they experienced. The things they have written have made a difference to me – one person, many generations later.  The thought that one person in the future might be encouraged by something I write is reason enough for me to be diligent.  My imaginative effort does not have to include fame, book deals and sequels in order for me to want to do the work.  However, it also doesn’t hurt to imagine those things since they are pretty safe there and it gives me practice not fearing them.

Someone in times past was inspired to write “now to the one who can do infinitely more than all we can ask or imagine according to the power that is working among us”.  I think that inspiration came from a God who wanted us to imagine not just mediocre, impoverished imaginings, but big, creative and challenging ones.  Practice in doing that is what I need, and a good time to do it is while I’m on my bike.

I’m putting on my hat and getting to it. WIN_20160207_120517

On Riding a Bike

When do I really get serious about taking care of my body?  I’m asking the question because I really don’t know.  So many years have gone by when other things came first on my list.  There was only so much time and other things were urgent.  And didn’t I get enough activity in the course of daily living? I wasn’t a couch potato.  I lifted, pushed and pulled, walked and ran and stood up most of the time.  I had a young body and it took care of itself (because it had to).

Time has changed a few things.  Specifically, my blood pressure is higher and I think it’s having effects on other systems, like my vision.  I don’t want to start medication and deal with all those side effects, and of course, there’s the problem of my hating to swallow pills which I avoid by never remembering to take them. But I can exercise. Walking would have been my first choice but after feeling a few twinges of pain in my right knee, I’ve switched to riding my cheapo bike.

Because I am on the way to being more serious about exercise (I’m not totally there yet…) I give the bike ride a priority place in my “somewhat retired” daily schedule.  Morning, right after the gate to the nearby mobile home park opens for the day, I strap on my fanny pack, turn on the health app on my phone and get going.  It’s a fairly safe place to bike a large loop and not surprisingly, I am one of the fastest things moving on the road.

Biking in the mobile home park reinforces my desire to take care of myself seriously.  There are lots of people there who are trying to be active.  Many of them have been “not serious” longer than I have judging by the fact that their exercise consists of riding to get coffee and donuts at the clubhouse in their golf carts. The other bikers I see are usually stationary, talking to their neighbors.  Lots of people are walking but it’s the kind of walking where you can hold hands with your walking partner and take long looks at scenery.  And today I saw an elderly woman, probably the most serious exerciser I’ve seen there in a long time, who could barely stand upright and had a decided list to the right.  But she was moving as best she could.  Every time I think, “get serious now or this is the next version of you”.

I’ve had people (the husband) say “well, you’re not getting much exercise riding a bike here in Florida where it’s flat”.  But they are wrong.  First of all, it’s not flat.  I know there must be some kind of incline when I ride east.  I imagine there might be one riding north as well (because north is “up” on the map). And then there is wind resistance.  Pushing air is exercise and don’t let anyone tell you differently.  It’s true that wheels make moving easier but they don’t move by themselves – as evidenced by the husband’s bike which has not moved an inch in months.  I push hard and go fast and I feel the burn.

Which brings me to the part where I challenge myself, to keep it interesting.  My health app SHealth, Shea for short, is my co-conspirator in getting serious about my health.  In fact, she nags me to the point of irritation.  I’m always being asked if I want to record my sleep, or add a meal.  And she gets downright bossy when it comes to exercise.

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Yeah, just be more active yourself!

Shea gets on the job when I’m biking and talks me through the whole painful process, starting with a little five second countdown.  At each mile she announces my progress and tells me how long I have to keep going to reach my goal, which is five miles, at my present speed.  Behind the scenes she is mapping where I’ve gone and the places where I’ve gone the fastest.  And in a world where I will take any little bit of encouragement I can get, I love hearing her sweet voice at the start of the last half mile “Almost there – you can do it.”

Today I broke a speed record with my fastest ever average of 10.6 mph.  I found out that several of my gears actually work and I really booked it (going west, remember the incline) which brought it up, along with the fact that I didn’t have to wait 5 minutes to cross the highway before getting to the gate. If I get much faster I’ll have to leave the park where the limit is 15 mph.

I sweat when I bike so don’t tell me it’s not a workout, and do encourage me to keep it up.  It only takes half an hour and I’m breathing hard the whole time.  It’s better than a pill for my blood pressure – certainly doesn’t have as long a list of adverse effects – and it does make me feel a little more serious about taking care of myself.  (But it doesn’t mean I’m not looking for a used golf cart. Those things are handy.)

 

Another Wild Ride

I left for work this morning prepared to hitch a ride north with my employer, to go to Gainesville for the weekend to get my car back. “Being prepared” consisted of having a stuffed backpack. However, early on I began to feel that it was just too soon for me to be rushing off again for another long weekend. Truth is I felt guilty that the husband had no clean socks or underwear and I didn’t even have any laundry soap in the house to remedy the situation. Things needed to be done. I needed to stay home at least another 24 hours. Lucky I had the bike with me, huh?

So this time I rode the bike with a backpack on – makes a bit of difference in balance. All the way across the bridge I kept thinking about falling over in a freak accident and tumbling over the rather low railing into the pass below and being sucked out to sea in a rip tide. (been watching too much Anne of Green Gables). As before, I just barely made it to the bus in time.

I think the husband is going to make me take the bike back. Do pawn shops take things back? I don’t know.  I felt kind of bike-stupid going into this whole thing but (my excuses – next) that feeling has only been magnified times over.  As I mentioned in the previous post I wanted something cheap that rolled and that is pretty much all I got. Now that I have had time to closely examine this bike I realize that in order for brakes and gears to work there have to be cables coming from them, attached to the mechanics below.

Gear shift on left moves easily (because it has no cable) Gear shift on right doesn’t move (rusted ).

Why did I not see these missing cables? Because they were missing? Again, I don’t know. I also think the frame is too light for me and perhaps I should not have valued flexibility over stability. Stability is much appreciated when vehicles are a mear 24 inches off your shoulder and blowing past at 50 miles per hour. Made me miss my car.

Anyway, all the above, plus having forgotten my sunglasses and having to squint for an hour and a half, created the perfect recipe for a headache which I’ve been trying to get rid of the rest of the afternoon. Live and learn, right?

Adventures on a Bike

I’m speaking of the kind of bike that one pedals with their own power. I decided I needed one because the county buses have a cool bike rack in the front. With a bus AND a bike I can get anywhere I need to go within a reasonable time, or so it would seem.

The first adventure was not actually on the bike, but rather buying the bike. I looked on Craigslist and could have spent all day calling people and seeing the one bike they had for sale but, I saw a bunch of bikes advertised by a pawn shop all in one place. Somehow that made sense. And the shop was only about a mile away, even better.  The bikes didn’t look nearly as good in person as they did in the pictures but I finally found one that fit my parameters. It looked light enough to lift onto the rack on the bus. It had brakes.  It wasn’t ridiculously hard to mount. That was about it, oh, and it was cheap. I bought it. The salesman was kind of surprised.

Today, the husband took me and my bike in his truck and dropped us off at work. (My car is presently out of town visiting a relative.) When I finished my daily duties it was nearly 1 pm giving me almost 10 minutes to get to the bus stop. No dallying allowed – I pedalled as fast as I could manage and just barely made it. I am not in shape for racing 2 miles, including up a Florida hill (bridge) so I’m just saying I was mighty glad to sit in a cool bus and catch my breath. I did good putting my bike on the rack and I watched to make sure no one took it off, hoping to steal it. That really does happen sometimes.

The next thing I learned was that when you disembark the bus you must remember to put the bike rack back up if you have the last bike on it. If you forget the driver will honk at you – a bit of an adrenalin rush there.  I had a choice of routes to finish the trip home. One was short and had no sidewalk and sandy shoulders on the road. The other was sidewalk all the way but longer. I chose that one, partly because I had noticed a strange wobble in my front tire and didn’t want to be close to traffic in case I had a “fall over”.  The long way became even longer as I tried to cut through a couple trailer parks that had no cut-throughs. The wind was blowing briskly in which ever way was opposite the way I was going. I don’t think my bike has any gears that make pedalling easier.  It has levers and one of them moves but nothing gets easier.  I was getting seriously tired and didn’t know if the bike was going to make it – kind of like riding a dying horse. But I did get home, right befoe a rain shower, thank you Lord.

I may have to ride the bike again tomorrow. I’m not sure I’m looking forward to that.