High On Bike

A Bellinghamster On Wheels


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Meanwhile Back At the Gorge

royal gorge bridge.jpg

In more gephyrophobes’-worst-nightmare-related news, the Royal Gorge Bridge in Colorado sustained damage from a wildfire, aptly if not creatively named the Royal Gorge Fire, that’s so far burned over 3,200 acres. Yeah, I know this is a bike not a bridge blog but I wrote this while recovering from vertigo that, as it turned out, was the harbinger of some kind of nasty virus. It was better than watching TV all day and besides I just couldn’t resist an opportunity to use the word gephyrophobe again. Who knows when the next bridge will crumble, burn, or otherwise be newsworthy?

But back to the Gorge… The historic suspension bridge—one of the world’s highest—reportedly remains intact, however.  Although the bridge is mostly made of steel it does have some wood planking. I don’t know a thing about engineering but wood planking? Fire Information Officer Mike Smith told The Denver Post, “Even if it didn’t char the planking, the heat from adjacent burning buildings may have affected the cables.”

My first thought after I started breathing slowly and wiped my sweaty palms before continuing to type, was how are they going to evaluate a damaged suspension bridge that dangles to my untrained eye rather precariously over a 1,000-foot gash in the earth? Are they going to send someone out onto the middle of the bridge and if it falls, say “Yup, needs some work”? Again, I have zero engineering credentials, but to me, the only way to do a thorough evaluation is to send about 1,000 WWII-era tanks over the bridge with the evaluators, their families, and their closest friends all going along for the ride. Even then, you’d have to dose me with about five Ativan to go across that bridge, fire damage or no, and it would still be iffy whether I made it to the other side with my sanity intact. Because to me no matter how well constructed, no matter how much steel is used, every suspension bridge is basically no safer than this:

Rickety foot bridge

Case in point, Galloping Gertie.

Galloping Gertie

Speaking of galloping, there is some good news coming out of Royal Gorge Fire; the local wildlife are fairing well. According to authorities, the park’s elk, buffalo, bighorn sheep, and horses are being are being closely monitored and receiving fresh water and feed. But I’m betting that no amount of elk chow will get them to cross that bridge either.

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Sometimes I Just Need to Gnaw on a Big Piece of Meat

Rain dropsIt rained last Thursday…a lot and all day. So much so that we broke a rainfall record. I know! Saying we broke a rain record here in the Pacific Northwest is like saying Florida just broke its own record for how many geezers live there. It’s either amazing or completely banal; take your pick. So with more than just little disappointment, I left my bike in the garage and took my car to the knit shop to hang out with my knitting group followed by a trip to Trader Joes and the pet store to do some shopping. It’s been a long time since I drove a car to these places and it felt strange. It’s not that I haven’t been in my car at all; there are just some places here in town and out in the county where it makes better sense to drive. But if I have a choice, and it’s not pouring buckets of water (or geezers), I’d rather take my bike.

Walking into the shop, I instantly missed feeling flushed and invigorated from the ride through the woods, the wind in my face, and the smell of the fresh air. The only consolation was that I wore one of my handmade scarves and received some oohs and ahhs from my fellow knitters. No one oohs and ahhhs when I wear my cycling gear. Odd. At Trader Joes I missed not having to search for a parking spot even though the bike rack there is usually full, which is cool, but they really need to add more parking for bikes. I missed the exhilaration of hauling my groceries uphill and home even though I took advantage of the opportunity and bought more than would have fit into my panniers. The 25 pound bag of cat food I picked up at the pet store would have been a bit tricky on my bike too as I would have had to strap it to my back using bungee cords and I’d have probably been followed home by about 50 cats.

Doodle NappingThen I got home, put the groceries away, had lunch and took a 1-1/2 hour nap with my cat. It was a super cozy nap, admittedly, but I woke up feeling like one of those big banana slugs you see on the trails. I had pizza and wine later for dinner, felt like an even bigger slug, then drooled in front of the TV for a couple of hours. (My cat decided to continue said nap for several more hours. Cats are sooo cool!) Sure, I would have most likely done all of that anyway had I taken my bike but at least I might have been able to skip the feeling like a slug part.

In a Newton’s-First-Law-of-Motion way, the more I use my bike for transportation, the more I want to use it, and the more I miss it when I don’t or can’t. Although the following Friday morning when I met with my personal trainer to work on my core muscles (which currently suck) I decided somewhat at the last minute that taking the car might be the better part of valor. Good thing too because after my trainer kicked my ass for an hour, (Her motto is “If you don’t leave whining, I haven’t done my job!”) I could barely drive home without crying let alone ride my bike home for almost 6 miles….uphill. But you get the point.

A part of me would love to be able to give up my car all together just like a part of me would love to become a vegetarian. It’s doable but not practical given the American culture, my lifestyle, the weather, and the fact that sometimes I just need to gnaw on a big piece of meat. So I do what I can as much as I can and not worry about the rest.


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Chasing The Smoke Monster

Smoke MonsterOver the winter, I binge-watched “Lost” on Netflix. I didn’t watch it when the series came out because…well I’m not really sure but I thought it was more of a reality show like “Survivor,” which I’ve never seen and never will. I like my reality real and I like my TV to be not real. But I get the concept: People on an island who, through a series of designed challenges, have to outlast and outwit everyone else. So even though skeptical about “Lost,” I decided to put my “Survivor” snobbery aside and give it a chance. That and I had pretty much gone through just about everything on Netflix I was interested in. I have no idea what smoking crack is like but I’m pretty sure it’s like watching “Lost.” OMG! You just have to have more and you have to have it now.

To sum up the six seasons briefly, there’s a commercial plane crash, an uncharted, mysterious desert island, polar bears, a kid named Walt, a handsome but psychically tortured doctor, named Jack, a fat guy with a heart of gold, bad boy Sawyer who’s best line is “Son. Of. A. Bitch”, plucky Kate, John Locke, the professor and Mary Ann. Led by Jack, some of the survivors of the crash are trying to get off the island by various means, including a raft, submarine, and nuclear bomb. Some, like Locke, want to stay creating lots of dramatic tension. Then there are the local inhabitants of the island who are trying to thwart them at every turn when they’re not trying to kill them. Now we come to the smoke monster, a sort of guard dog of the island and if you haven’t seen the series (and haven’t guessed) is made of smoke when he’s not taking on the appearance of dead people. Speaking of dogs, there’s also a yellow lab who just sort of runs around, licking Jack’s face in key and poignant scenes. Anyway, the smoke monster makes this loud, eerie sort of bellow when he’s riled up causing everyone to run like hell and hide in some coconut trees lest they get caught and get bashed to death against a tree. It’s all very “Lord of the Flies” meets “Gilligan’s Island” by way of “Survivor” if “Survivor” weren’t a fake reality show and took place in Jurassic Park.

The cool thing about the smoke monster is that it sounds just like the trash trucks here in Bellingham. The cool thing about the trash trucks here in Bellingham is that the company is totally into bicycling, the owner, Paul Razore, being an avid cyclist himself. So on trash day when out riding my bike and I hear that familiar bellow I half expect to see the smoke monster roiling out of the woods and I’m totally transported to a distant island for a few, sweet moments. I know. My imagination runneth over. But that’s what’s so cool about riding, it clears my mind, frees up my imagination, and anything can happen.


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Vertigo: Not Your Cute and Cuddly Harbor Seal

I missed a couple of really good days for riding last weekend because I had a touch of vertigo. I started Friday morning out fine. Our friend, Sara Henry, from Vermont was crashing at our place while she attended a book convention called Booktopia at Village Books. Interestingly (or not…your choice), Sara is the one who got me into cycling years ago when we both lived in Nashville and belonged to the same writing group. Now she’s busy writing novels like Learning to Swim and A Cold and Lonely Place while I’m blogging about not being able to ride because I’m sick.

Anyway, shortly after breakfast after Sara and I continued to catch up, the vertigo struck. I don’t get vertigo often. I think the last time I had it was well over 5 years ago. But let me just say, it sucks. If you’ve never had it, it’s like being seasick minus the adventure. And I know seasick. I can get queasy just looking at waves. One time when I was out fishing on the Oregon Coast in gently rolling waves, I was characteristically yakking over the side when a huge sea lion surfaced about 10 feet away. Big sea lions are not the cute, cuddly harbor seals I was more familiar with. This guy was positively monster-esque. It snorted. I screamed. Fortunately, I managed not to aspirate my lunch at the same time. Unperturbed the sea lion hung out for a bit then slipped beneath the surface again. I continued to chum for fish and a mighty fine time was had by all.

With a bad case of vertigo, it’s like you’ve been sucked into a vortex where everything is spinning and rolling and closing your eyes does nothing to mitigate it. So there you are wishing you could die because the vortex won’t stop and hoping that when the next wave of wracking nausea overwhelms you and you hurl your Cheerios topped with strawberries that you actually hit the big metal bowl your husband put beside the bed so you won’t have to hire a carpet cleaner the next day. No refreshing sea breezes, no National Geographic moment, just you, the relentless dizziness, and your big metal barf bowl. BORING!

Fortunately, Friday’s vertigo was mild and everything was only a little wobbly kind of like when you have that extra glass of wine you promised yourself you’d forswear. Ira had to drive Sara to Village Books for the convention. I felt okay enough to ride shotgun but only after assuring Ira I was most likely not going to yak and promising him I would roll down the window in time if my assurance was for naught. The vertigo eventually subsided but I spent the rest of the next two days being completely useless, reading other bike blogs, writing this post, and generally feeling like dreck.

Sara was a great sport about it all and I really enjoyed spending time with her. I’ll get back on my bike again as soon as I can drag my carcass off the couch.


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No Place Like Home

Santa Rosa Bike Rack

Ira and I dodged a bullet last week by being in Santa Rosa, CA, visiting our son and granddaughter thereby missing Bellingham’s heat wave that saw temperatures edging close to 90. We were doubly lucky because Santa Rosa’s temperatures were hovering in the mid to upper 70’s. It would shave been wonderful biking weather but alas my bike was home.
I thought about biking a lot while I was down there. It was hard not to—there were a lot of cyclists on the roads taking advantage of the flat landscape and numerous bike lanes. To all outward appearances, it seemed to be a very bike-friendly city complete with cute bike racks gracing the downtown area. I would have been envious except for one thing—the traffic! Seriously, between the amount of it, the general lack of courtesy, and in some cases the blatant hostility, it was a bit of a shock. Even walking in a “marked crosswalk” with a toddler in tow doesn’t guarantee that traffic will stop for you. It was quite a different reality from what I’m used to here in Bellingham. The thought of riding a bike even in an established bike lane in that environment was enough to give me a huge case of the willies. Our son, Dan, only lives three miles from work and could easily bike to work, but he won’t. He’s no wimp; he used to do triathlons. But Santa Rosa has an unusually high number of bike fatalities each year and while a good percentage of those happen in more rural areas, not all of them do.  
So while I did think about cycling a lot down there, I contented myself by playing with my granddaughter and spending time with Dan, all while enjoying some really lovely weather. I may wish there were more cycling amenities here at home but frankly, I’ll take    the slower, friendlier pace anytime.


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Cronage

Cronage
‘Cronage’ (krone-ej): The physiological process by which a woman enters her third stage in life—that of the Crone, representing wisdom and repose. Okay, so cronage isn’t a real word. It’s one I made up to describe my personal journey through menopause. Interesting, amusing, and absurdly unpredictable, cronage is a wild ride. Just about the time I think I’m almost through the process, Mother Nature reminds me: “It ain’t over ’till it’s over.”
July has been particularly brutal. After having gone 6 months without a period, I’ve had two already this month both with excruciating cramps that turned me into a whimpering mass of misery that even Ibuprofen couldn’t quite tame. I can take and laugh at the night sweats, hot flashes, and hard to come by sleep. I can even deal with the unpredictable periods. But those sadistic cramps I could do without.
The Janus StoneYesterday was day three of said cramps and I’d had enough. I had a couple of books to pick up at the library and even though all I wanted to do was curl up in a fetal position and wait out the cramps, I decided to hop on my bike and ride to the library. Seven and a half strong miles later, I felt great. My cramps were nonexistent during the ride and while they did show again a little later, I was still on an emotional high from the ride. I used to have a male gynecologist whose only answer for cramps was to exercise. He was unsympathetic and unapologetic. I didn’t like him much for it but he was right to a point—exercise does help. I had a few hours respite after my ride, felt better for it, and had a new book to read.


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Junuary and A Cough

We woke up this morning to another Junuary day—heavily overcast, threatening rain, and chilly. It would definitely be a fleece pullover kind of day except that I’ve been waylaid by a nasty cough probably brought on by allergies. The good news is I’m not sick. The bad news is I feel like I’m sick. So instead being in a fleece, I’m tucked in under several blankets, surrounded by my cats, my knitting, and a good book. Except for the cough, I can’t really complain (even though I’m probably vying for the Most Pathetic Award as it is). It could be a lot worse. We could be having a gorgeous summer day (summer is never a sure thing here until after July 4th) where I’d feel even more pathetic because I’d want to be on my bike.