Out of Place

I am the least conventional thinker I know. I’m willing to conform when appropriate, just sometimes clueless about where that proverbial box is.

I had a pre-calc professor who lectured on convention, how the quadrants were always numbered the same way, starting with “I” in the upper right, continuing counter clockwise with “II” in the upper left. He spent 5 minutes saying that we followed these standard conventions so that everyone would know what to expect and do. He continued that there was nothing wrong with being unconventional, unless you happened to meet an unconventional thinker (going against traffic) in a Mack Truck.

On the Trail

This past week, I’ve been riding like I did before we put the video project on hold. It felt good but tiring because I was also restricting calories to loose the extra pounds that are still, somehow, hanging on.

Tuesday, I started at Big Creek Park in Roswell. Just after I started, still in the Roswell section, there was a private car on the path.

This isn’t the first time I’ve known a car to be on this trail in Roswell. About 3 years ago, several excited walkers and cyclists warned me to be careful because there was a car on the trail. I never saw that one, but I did report the claim to the mountain bike (MTB) team manager, because sometimes they use the greenway to go between MTB trails, or for cardio.

I don’t think the team manager believed me. Days later, I asked an officer patrolling the trail if anyone had reported the car. He said “No. If there had been a car out here, we’d know it.” He was ultra-confident, but I had seen the faces of the people warning me. I didn’t push it.

I rarely put myself at risk of selfie suicide, but after that experience, the first thing I did when I saw this car was to whip out my phone and get the proof.

The car slowed to a near stop. I passed. No one was excited this time. Perhaps because this car was moving so slowly, or maybe because they had seen it happen before. It occurred to me that the driver actually could have mistaken the paved path, 12 feet wide in most places, for a place they were allowed to drive. Who knows?

There are a lot of boardwalks in Roswell, and they weren’t built for automobile traffic. Getting stuck out there could be a real mess.

A car on Big Creek Greenway in Roswell

Moments later I saw someone pushing an adult trike up one of the bridges that passes over the stream. These bridges create small, but relatively steep hills in the otherwise flat winding streambed trail. The person on the trike clearly had a degenerative disease and the person pushing was helping them to get their physical therapy.

Should the two of them have met the car, it would have been like meeting that unconventional thinker in the Mack Truck. Following convention and behaving predictably doesn’t matter in so many places where people get all hung up about it, but on the trail it does.

What should you do? I follow “If you see something say something” only so far as I think it could prevent harm.

We all have bad days, miscommunications, distracting thoughts, missed guesses as to the speed or intentions of others. We find ourselves in situations that are unfamiliar and have to stop to figure out what to do, where to go, how to adjust.

Children don’t always do what their grown-ups say. Grown-ups don’t always read signs or know trail etiquette. Some pets are perfectly trained and others lead their owners around and around. Some groups are trying to negotiate a perfect storm of these things, or not thinking outside the conversation they’re having.

You didn’t expect the trail to narrow without warning right after a 90 degree turn, where the kids (and adults) like to watch through the grates as cars pass overhead, just at the grassy shoulder turns to rip-rap made of 2 ft stones? (Haynes Bridge Overpass in Alpharetta). There are a few distracting things inside that pretty short distance. They sometimes cause people to crowd and linger in the space.

It isn’t reasonable to assume that all trail users can hear cyclists or other people with wheels call their pass, even when they don’t have their ears stuffed or covered with audio devices.

People turn around, or step into a piece of trash to pick it up without looking or warning just as cyclists or skaters come up beside them. Faster trail users can’t reliably guess the age or mobility of slower trail users in a split second as they pass, especially on a curve. At some point anyone with wheels is going to be closer and faster than some of those without are comfortable having them.

There are even wildlife surprises on the trail sometimes. Have you ever really wished that squirrel would just decide which way to go ad do it, so that you could too? There’s a doe. Where’s the fawn?

And that guy who does double the speed limit on his Onewheel (electric unicycle), his knees, shins, wrists and elbows are padded in motorcycle grade safety gear (but no one he might collide with is). I’ve even seen a guy on a manual unicycle going faster than I knew was possible. It surprised me that his speed and mass intimidated me.

For all these reasons and more, convention (trail etiquette and rules), intention (kindness) and attention (knowing what’s going on in shared multi-use space) makes all the difference.

Some trails have specific rules. It’s always a good idea to read any that are posted, even if you’re experienced.

Going to the trail during low traffic reduces the number of interactions, but it is never ok to assume you can break with safety protocols because no one else will be out there, not even when you’re three counties out in the country during the pandemic.

Anything can and does happen, and if you assumed you were the only person out there, it will catch you more off guard when it does.

And if you’re that road cyclist who’s been taught to take control of the lane, remember to leave that attitude on the road while you’re on the trail. You are the fast, heavy, thing with momentum when you’re here.

And those traffic grade head lights? Trails are closed when you need those. I’m not talking about the low intensity lights that you can’t switch off on bikes like the Synapse. I’m talking about the high intensity lights that are competing with car headlights to be seen. Those are too bright to shine in the eyes of people that close. There’s a little bit of time, just before the trails close when it’s just dark enough for people’s eye to be adjusting to the low level light for those lights to blind people. Blind people aren’t as good at staying out of your way.

Understanding the needs and capabilities of trail users unlike yourself makes trail mishaps so much less frequent.

It is the responsibility of everyone to follow the conventions that keep us all safe in the space, but it is especially the responsibility of the strongest, fastest, heaviest and ablest users to make sure that they don’t harm others.

I understand how hard it is to pay attention and be conventional sometimes, especially in a place you may have come to for escape and distraction. I make so many mistakes myself. But, I accept that safety is important for everyone on the trail. Conforming to general and local rules, regulations and etiquette, considering others and being predictable reduces pain and makes all the difference. I hope you’ll join me in giving it your best effort.

Keep it safe. Have a glorious day, and we’ll see you on the trail.

Tuesday Trippin’ February 28

The Training

Training is going well, but, living so far from the trail and riding more often is time consuming. There are so many things we feel pressured to complete. After our last three rides Russ has winced when he noticed the time. I don’t like that he feels that pressure, but It feels a little bit confirming for all the times I’ve ridden alone and been shocked that the day got away from me. By the time we load bikes, drinks and gear, dress, drive, ride and reverse the process, then shower, clean bikes gear and kit, it’s a 6-8 hour bite from our day and it isn’t always conveniently placed to better meet other obligations efficiently. Some days it feels like that is all we can accomplish in a day.

The reward for all the time it takes is that Russ is getting happier and happier with his riding. There’s a lot of tough work ahead for both of us, but we’re on target for the project.

Other than really feeling the time it takes on a big level, the most remarkable thing I can think of about this week’s training is the weather.

We’ve been hearing frogs since mid January and last week we saw a snake on the path at Big Creek. Apparently the first snake bite of the year is often reported in January in Georgia, So, they do move around a bit when it’s cold. But, we live in the north end of the state and actually seeing one out on the paved trail in February was a first for me. (This one was non-venomous.) Spring just feels like it came on in a rush.

Two weeks ago I was in severe physical distress when I failed to protect my hands well enough from low temperatures on an early morning ride, and this week I’m so happy about digging out the fingerless gloves, or riding without any, so I can take photos without having to take off the gloves.

You can’t really prioritize riding at the same time that you prioritize getting pics for the website, but some things are worth stopping for. If the electronic sensitive gloves don’t work (and they never do), the time it takes to whip out the phone and take off the gloves usually costs you the shot.

The Project

We’ve been busy, but aren’t ready to share results. You know that day when consistent work comes together in what seems like, but isn’t, a sudden moment? Yeah, we’re not there, but it may be just around the corner. I know we’re accomplishing things and doing good work, but that big rush of satisfaction in getting someplace isn’t here yet.

Our primary non-training foci have been to get 1. The t-shirt researched (which brand to offer, which company to use for screen printing, how to promote it) and out there. 2. Prep for our big stock reduction sale. 3. Do the million little things that that finish off websites, campaigns and projects. It’s those things that show planning, preparation and readiness for the success that we’re working on.

Until next week, have a Glorious Day, and we’ll see you on the trail!

Tuesday Trippin’ February 1

Well, we got Covid in the house. Again. Russ and I have spent some time in camp chairs in our bathroom working on the video (because there’s more room in the bath than there is in the bedroom) doesn’t seem reasonable to have more room in the bath, but that’s the way it is. With 7 people in the house and Covid, well, you just have to make things work. The thing to be thankful for is that the vaccinated people have had light cases and the boosted people have, so far, been negative/unaffected. I hope it lasts.

According to Johns Hopkins Georgia is dropping off of the 184K new cases per week high (but not quickly enough). My granddaughter is bouncing around at home on her second pre-school closure. I love every minute I get to spend with her, but having the schedule upended is inconvenient. I feel qualified to write a hilarious comedy bit right now, but I’d have to do it anonymously, to protect the innocent, and wait until people everywhere are ready to laugh before I publish it.

I did get a couple of rides in between one thing and another. The last was late and at Big Creek Greenway. I almost didn’t go. I didn’t think I had time, and I was talking to my mother as I drove. I made the mistake of starting a new subject just before parking. I was kicking myself for planning badly. But I got in an almost full length ride, and there were deer in large quantities, both in a field where they tend to hang out, and crossing the path right in front of me.

Popular “Kodak Moment” on Alpharetta Big Creek Greenway

These guys are reliably here during some seasons. I feel like I should go back and set this up properly with the Nikon and the tripod, but I don’t have one of those honkin’ big telephotos that weighs 3 times as much as the camera body, so, I suspect this will forever be that “easy” shot I never like my version of. And, it’s the shot all the passers by take. I tend to like the road less traveled.

The real shot to get was on the trail itself. A 10 point buck and two does crossed less than 10 feet in front of my bike, and I almost missed seeing a 6 pointer that didn’t make it across in front. The points on the smaller deer were quite small, not nearly so majestic as the buck I got a better look at…if I’d only had a camera running…

I really appreciate Big Creek. I’ve been going there for around 7 years, since we bought the current house. It is in a direction that has allowed me to ride when I otherwise wouldn’t have been able to and the streambed is cooler than the Silver Comet in the heat of the summer. The crowding that kept me away early in the pandemic has eased and it’s about 10 minutes closer to home than the Silver Comet. Now that I’ve found the completed extension, I get to do a few hills which feels like a much better workout than the flatness of rail and stream beds. The greenway is a good bit shorter, and has a different character, but it has a lot to recommend it.

Karen Goes, Cycling

I’m not an athlete, but riding a bike has been a part of my life since my sister promised she wouldn’t let go, then I rounded the cul de sac and saw her down the street. When I was in high school, I’d ride up to the nursing home to play checkers with my great-grandmother. It made her smile so big. Then there was the time I rode my bike over to the next town where they had a Pizza Hut back before I knew anyone else who would do something like that.

Later, I rode my bike to campus at the first college I attended. I’ve used cycling to work my way through some of the most demanding stresses of my life, but building up to rides that are more challenging has been relatively recent. We did a century for Russ’ birthday one year. There were sights in the countryside I wanted to photograph during the ride, but I was busy riding, and it was too far to drive back later….too far to drive someplace I just went on my bike. That was a strange new feeling.

City traffic keeps most of my miles on local trails, and I get to see nature that awes me. One day in the Paulding Forest a pileated woodpecker flew beside me for 20 yards while I was riding the Silver Comet Trail, and the turkeys out there… Usually when they’re out, I only see 1 or 2, but one day I saw a rafter so big, I’m not even going to give the number. You won’t believe it.

Before the pandemic I was riding more on Big Creek Greenway, a path in a stream bed north of Atlanta. I didn’t know there were otters at Big Creek until I saw them there. One of the coolest sights was when a Great Blue Heron flew from the stream below to rest on the railing of a bridge I was approaching, and then, just as I made it onto the bridge, it flew on across, about 10 feet from me. It would have been nice to have a picture to share. Deer are often out on many trails and very popular with trail users.

My interest in photography is almost as long-term as my cycling, but personally, I don’t always choose to try for a shot. Sometimes I choose to live it. For Example, one time I took a member tour with my children at the zoo early in the morning. The male lion came right up to the thick plexiglass. He stretched up and put his paws on the glass above their heads. There he was nose to nose with my children. Neither backed away, they just returned his gaze. I had my camera around my neck. I briefly thought about a picture, but I didn’t want to live that moment from behind the camera. I’ve seen some cool things on the trail though, and I want to record the ones I see next for other people to enjoy and the only way I’ll get some of them is if the camera is always going.

Sometimes the interesting things I see are people, all kinds. A person on stilts, on a penny farthing, a unicycle, a guy on a home made stand up bike with no seat, from the near exhibitionist to an introvert walking with his head buried in a textbook. They all come out to enjoy the trail.

One day noticing a woman tethered to her phone (not as in listening to great music and working out in the zone, but, as in, really never letting go of being connected to the device). I wondered, do those people get the same benefits from being out on the trail as people who are attuned to their surroundings, or is it merely cardio benefits and vitamin D for them? And, where do the less obvious benefits of being in nature come from? I listened to Nature Fix by Florence Williams after I heard about it on a radio program, but that was just timing. There are so many other books dating from “When we began to see ourselves as separate from nature”. I read other books too.

I thought; the person who isn’t connected to some of the benefit of being in nature misses out on some of the physical and mental health benefits (and some of the safety in being alert). That’s a choice people make, and they get what they are looking for from the choice. That’s okay. But, I got to thinking about people who are in the opposite situation, people who would be fully in the environment if they were able. Maybe there’s a way for people who are homebound or don’t have the resources to get out in nature regularly to gather some benefits of being outdoors.

Personally, I don’t just manage to get myself back on the bike when the outdoors is part of the picture, I want to (most days) ;). How can people who would attend to nature and their surroundings if they could be there get some of those benefits? What if I video, a large amount of trail time and captured some of the more extraordinary wildlife sightings as well as changing seasons to provide a varied distraction for people to watch while exercising, meditating, or even as background mood while they are working?

Video doesn’t capture the whole outdoor experience and it can’t provide all of the outdoor benefits. But, it can offer sights and sounds. At bare minimum, video with natural audio could help provide a more enjoyable experience for people doing indoor cardio, people who can’t get out, or can’t get out as often as they need or want. Maybe it will help them with the motivation to get back on that stationary bike or other cardio machine. It’s a good option for background noise while meditating, doing anything really, It could even be used for some types of natural or social science with species counts or other observation counts.

I want to collect video that could be used to give a varied seasonal experience for the homebound, or those who don’t get to travel for trails as much as they’d like to, an experience that is closer to the nature happening just outside the window. Whether it is used for the natural aspects, or as just a resource enough different from whatever they are already doing to help with motivation, it could be useful to so many different purposes.

I remember being on the staircase in my last house. My knees made a gravely grinding noise that my daughter heard. I knew I had bad knees, but I didn’t know they were so loud. Since starting to ride longer distances regularly, they don’t make noise, and they only hurt when I’m not riding, or when I’m building up after a break. They were grinding 30 years ago and now they aren’t. That seems like plenty of motivation, but it’s pretty easy to think right now is not the time. I have this other thing to do. If I couldn’t cycle outdoors, I’m not sure I’d have the motivation to keep going. It seems like having better knees would be enough, but people really aren’t going to continue to do things they can’t find a way to enjoy or at least tolerate. If my video helps people who have my problem or some other problem, those who can’t get out there in person to get out there in spirit, that would make me pretty happy. The more people I could help the better.

A base goal is just the start. It would be to film a roughly hour long ride. At the lowest level of funding, the project would provide equipment, subsidize rides that I already take, commit me to filming them and commit me to producing rewards. I would capture video that would provide an experience for people that changes weekly with the seasons. Stretching that single hour to video the full Silver Comet and Chief Ladiga trails is the whole plan though. That is the target I have my sights set on.

I had been building up to my plan, researching successful Kickstarters. There are really so many articles out there and personal stories out there with business advice, personal advice and breakdowns on all the ways running a Kickstarter is different from what many people expect. But, soon after the shelter in place order was official trails closed across the state , or had controlled access due to overcrowding. Big Creek was overcrowded, but not closed. The Silver Comet was closed in the two closest counties. The plan needed to be altered before I even got it out in front of people and I thought my project was on indefinite hold. I settled into sheltering. And, I thought I was doing fine.

I was so wrong.

A friend posted about going out past the two closed counties to ride the Silver Comet (SC) where it was open. She’s someone I’ve worked Support and Gear (SAG) for on overnight rides for the entire length of Silver Comet and Chief Ladiga trails. Together they make the longest paved paved path in the Rails to Trails (RTT) system that’s ridable year ’round. I’ve always tried to limit the amount of gas and transportation expense I was willing to use in order to cycle. It seemed too much to drive that far for a bike ride, and spending more time in the car than I do on the trail is not desirable.

But, after the second time she posted about it, she told me I should go once a week. It would be good for my soul. That sounds dramatic. But, Russ and I went out there for what turned out to be a ride that was both pathetic and necessary. 12 miles was all we had in us. But it was a very important 12 miles. I felt alive again after not having realized how far from that I had drifted. I said to Russ “If I get sick, you need to remind me that there are things I still want to do.” I didn’t know that my voice would to tremble when I said it. I started going out often, and as I did, I realized that my project is more important now than ever, and that I have to build back up to spending more time on the trail than I do in the car, even when I have to drive this far.

So, now I’ve edited and planned. I have tiered goals depending on the level of support we get, and I’ll continue to edit and plan and edit again. Sometimes I edit my writing a lot as I try to be clearer about what I’m saying, sometimes because I learned a little more, sometimes because conditions changed, edit and plan, whether it’s the full Silver Comet project, or some combination of local trails. I’ll stay flexible as conditions change and plan, then edit.

This will be a stretch in many ways. I’ll be happy enough to have the base goal fund, but the big dream since that day has been to make the full project “super stretch” goal. At the highest level of funding, I will film the entire Silver Comet and adjoining Chief Ladiga trail in two directions weekly.

For this, I will have to reach a level of physical output that I have never before sustained in any of my 61 years. And, though the project goal is to get a year’s filmed record of the longest paved RTT trail in the country, I really expect it to consume me for 2 more years. Building up (increases in mileage of 10% per week are recommended) will take time, and I’ll likely suffer setbacks. I won’t be able to stop that level of riding abruptly either. I expect to fill in weather or other unavoidable gaps that may happen by continuing to film as I slow my level of riding gradually.

I’ll be sharing my best film shots with supporters and doing some digital photography stills with different themes. Some of the unbelievable things I see while riding are wild life, and some of them are crazy stupid. I should get plenty good footage for a multi-use trail safety video too.

I do understand that this will be grueling at times and there will be days when I wonder what I was thinking. Be careful what you ask for, right? I’m looking forward to the challenge, and working through it to the other side.

Thanks for reading.