The Ins and Outs of an Ordinary Life

Sunday, August 21, 2011


Yesterday I went for a ride in Dutchess County. It was a spectacular summer day and the 40 mile ride took us to the lovely town of Millbrook, where we stopped for lunch at Babette's Kitchen. Everything happened according to plan and it was just about perfect.

So today I opted for imperfection, for the unplanned and the unknown. I put on my purple Keens with orange socks. I pumped up the tires on Nirvana, my hybrid, and headed for the Old Croton Aqueduct. I rode dirt.

Construction of the Croton Aqueduct began in 1837 to bring water to NYC. From 1842-1955, the tunnel carried water from the Croton Dam to NYC's reservoirs. Eventually, as NYC's population grew, the aqueduct was inadequate and was replaced by the New Croton Aqueduct. But the 26 miles footpath atop the old aqueduct, from the Croton Dam to the NYC line has remained, and it became a state historic park in 1968.

This was only my second adventure on the aqueduct. I know where it starts, and that it is one trail, not a network of trails on which you can get lost. But here's the thing-- even though it is one trail, it is not a complete 26 mile straight run. There are places where it runs through private property, so you end up on local streets and you have to wiggle around to get back onto the aqueduct. Hence the map.... and the cue sheet from my friend Deb who rides on the aqueduct much more often and knows how to do these wiggling around parts.

The first time I tried this, I navigated about 5 or 6 miles and got lost twice, even with the map and the cue sheet! Today I made it about 7 miles before I decided to turn around because a big storm seemed imminent (I actually called DH and had him pick me up when I saw the big lightening streaks).

I really enjoyed this adventure but it was VERY HARD WORK. First the machine-- fat tires and much more weight really slow you down. I could not believe how I was huffing and puffing going up even little hills. Then the terrain-- tire sucking mud plus the dirt and rocks and you're going nowhere fast. And this wasn't even difficult terrain. Luckily it was mostly really flat (actually the aqueduct was constructed to drop 13 inches per mile). I did have to push my bike up one short but very steep hill. The trail crosses many roads and I had to dismount often, that was a little annoying. Nirvana's little computer has needed a new battery for quite a while, so I have no idea how fast I was traveling, how long I was out there, or more than a general idea of how far I got. But that suited me just fine.... I was rolling along, taking photos, and contemplating anything that came into my head as long as it wasn't important.

The aqueduct trail is surprisingly diverse. There are parts that are very wide,

other parts are single track,

and even sections that are more like a suggestion of an indentation in the grass.

There are stone structures that are the vents and weir chambers, and big signs that explain what a weir chamber is.

In one of the more urban sections, I traveled over some pavement. I even had to carry my bike down a flight of stairs.

I am determined to navigate the entire 26 miles of the aqueduct. I may have to enlist my friend Deb in this effort. She recently led a ride for the club that traveled down through the Bronx on the aqueduct and came back up on the bike path. But of course it was on a day that I couldn't make it. I may try to do it in sections (kinda like people hiking the entire Appalachian Trail). In fact, I'm already considering where to start further south for my third exploration of the Old Croton Aqueduct.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

I Ride For Pie

This past weekend was The Farm Ride, in western Massachusetts. The ride "headquarters" was the North Dorm at U Mass Amherst. About 45 cyclists from my club made the trip, and we all stayed at a crappy HoJos, because the hotel had a pool.

Saturday was the main event, and on an absolutely perfect day, all participants (henceforth referred to as Farmers) had a choice of 27, 77, or 100 miles. I opted for the 27 miler, due to recent back issues. Although I had ridden the day before with no pain, I did not want to take a chance. (I wish there had been an option for something between 27 and 77). It was nice to slow down and appreciate the world we were rolling through. And the pie. The routes were fairly flat, and the roads were beautiful, through the farmlands of western Mass. We rolled into the first rest stop and there were fresh fruit pies, with whipped cream! as well as Oreos, Larabar bites, Fig Newtons, mixed nuts, fresh peaches, bananas, peanut butter jelly snadwiches, and other goodies that I just can't remember. But pie works for me. Eventually we were able to separate ourselves from the snacks and we continued on our journey to the site of the feast. This was the real deal.... grilled burgers, sausage and hotdogs, salads, corn on the cob, and pie... ala mode! and free massages!!!!

Eventually all the Farmers made it back to our hotel and gathered around the pool for cocktails.... but that was just to get us in the mood for the dorm party and the Vertigo Martini Lounge. Since most of the Farmers stay in the dorm, that is the logical place for folks to gather and party. Farmers are invited to suggest a theme for a party room in the dorm, and if approved, you receive a "party grant" to fund your extravaganza. My club sponsored the Vertigo Martini Lounge. This is the sign at the door:

Yeah, pants optional. That's why I wore a dress. I can't post any pictures from INSIDE the Vertigo Martini Lounge because most of these people have respectable and high-powered jobs! Besides, what happens in the Vertigo Martini Lounge, stays in the Vertigo Martini Lounge.

When we considered riding on Sunday morning, it was raining. No decisions to be made, other than where to have breakfast before heading home. Since there were no pie options at 9 am on a Sunday at the crappy HoJos, we drove into Northampton to Sylvesters for pancakes. Because if you can't have pie, pancakes are a fantastic 2nd choice, especially with real maple syrup.

Driving home in the torrential downpours was a drag, but it wasn't that far and it was worth it. For the pie.... and the martinis...... and the company of friends.... and even for the 27 mile ride.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Come Ride With Us

This is my first photobook. I was very pleased at how easy this was to put together. Might have to find more reasons to create photobooks, other than laying low because of ouchy back.
p.s back is much better today. I think I will be able to ride on Saturday, although I may have to downgrade to 30 miles. I will take lots of pictures to get started on Vol 2 of Come Ride With Us.

Click here to view this photo book larger

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Ouch! This Really Sucks

I was at work yesterday. I was sitting. I stood up and had pain in my lower back on the right side. The pain got worse over the next few hours, whenever I stood up and tried to walk.
I have no idea what might have angered my lower back. Is this inflammation or injury?
I have never ever had back pain or back problems.
Having back pain whenever you stand and walk around really sucks. Ouchy!

Chiropractor Naproxen Ice Rest.

This weekend is the Farm Ride in Amherst MA. I'm supposed to be riding 66 miles on Saturday. This really sucks.

Over the last few weeks I have been thinking about the need to do other things, like swimming and yoga. Even if it means less time on my bike? That really sucks.

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Solo Photo Safari

I spend a good amount of time on Flickr. One of the many groups I have joined is the "100 Possibilities Project." You take 100 photographs of the same object. I am taking 100 photos of Dolce, my bike.

The weather this morning was drizzly wet yucky. But the skies started to brighten and I decided to take Dolce for a leisurely ride at about 11:00. Although it wasn't raining, it felt like it should have been, because the humidity was at least 100%. Took the elph and my journey turned into a little photo safari, with Dolce as my model. We made stops along the way, whenever the scenery invited a photo. It was fun. I got a few good picturtes that I will add to the Dolce collection. Only need 86 more photos to get to 100.

Saturday, August 06, 2011

Rolling in the Deep

The bike club has 6 levels of rides -- A, B+, B, C+, C and D (A is the fastest and D is the slowest). Each level has a ride coordinator. I am the D ride coordinator. That is the level for which it is most difficult to get rides posted because many D riders -- aka D(ivas), without regard to gender-- don't feel secure enough in their skills to lead a ride. Many of them cannot change a flat, and they worry about that, among other things. If nobody else steps up to lead a D ride, then I will usually post one. All my rides are named with song titles (That also gives me the option of posting a link to a music video in the ride description, which is always kinda fun).

Most D ride leaders try to find "easy" rides, relatively flat (which is very difficult in Westchester County), and usually less than 25 miles. My philosophy is different. I find a ride that is challenging for D riders (and there's alot to choose from) and then I just go slow. I try to push my D(ivas) to ride stronger and longer. Last week I did a hill ride for the D(ivas)-- Hot Fun in the Summertime-- 25 miles with 1800 ft elevation (73 ft/mile is hilly), and today I did a long ride, 41 miles but kept it as flat as I could (54 ft/mile). Today's ride was Rolling in the Deep. Many of us had to dig a little deep to get through the last 5 miles, which was more uphill than down.

Not everyone wants to be pushed to ride stronger and longer. I was glad that 9 D(ivas) came out for the challenge today. The speed of the group did vary quite a bit, which means I often had to wait for the slower people, but I promised 41 slow miles, and I was happy to see them complete the ride.

The only way you are going to get stronger is by pushing yourself. After today's ride, I hope these D(ivas) will not be afraid to take on the challenge of a longer or more difficult (hillier) ride. It's worked for me, although I am still "slow twitch."