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.

Ballooning: Lighter than Air

The inside of a balloon, flipped. It actually reads Woo Hoo as seen when flying outside above this balloon.

Ballooning is one of my fondest pursuits. We’ve had fun with so many people. We’ve shared wonderful experiences, as well as tragedies, with friends, family and strangers in balloons.

That English teacher who opened the world for me through literature was rumored to be writing a book. So, one day I asked her. She said “I think everyone has at least one book in them.” Mine would be centered around ballooning. Honestly, I have started the book. I’ve been writing it for years, but I need to get disciplined to finish it, to make it readable.

I haven’t actually had the chance to be in a balloon for years, but here are some highlights from when I was ballooning regularly. I took all of the photos that I’m not in. The others were probably taken by who ever was standing around with whatever camera I was using at the time.

Hot Air Ballooning (HAB)

The pretty colors and large events that many people think of are primarily in hot air balloons. That’s a Lighter Than Air (LTA) craft with and onboard heater (the burners). Pilots and Aircraft have to be certified by the FAA.

ABQ Fiesta 2001 when they had 1000 balloons. This Adams Pop Top, has a really unique deflation system.

There are all kinds of balloons and all kids of ballooning, from festivals and joy rides to serious international level competition and record breaking flights.

Continue reading

I Put On My Big Girl Pants and Got On the Ski Lift at Natural Bridge

Natural Bridge State Resort Park, Kentucky, near Lexington

Do you ever push your personal boundaries, try to blow past your hang-ups? Or, at least take baby steps? I, the person who would rarely turn down a hot air balloon ride, am afraid of heights. That sounds irrational. And partly, it is, but, not like the person who jumps out of an airplane to get over their fear of heights. I’ll jump out of an airplane right after the pilot hands me a ‘chute, and says they’re leaving because they can’t land the aircraft. Why am I okay in a balloon? There’s no “walking through the fire” element for me there. In the basket of a balloon, I can see the condition of all the working parts. I know which weather conditions are safe. I trust the physics (and most Lighter Than Air (LTA) pilots).

My fear is both rational and irrational. My mother is afraid of heights. She never told me that she was, until I was grown and said that I was. Her theory: I sensed her fear, picked up non-verbal cues, and got it from her. Brains do work that way, but still, that’s the irrational part.

The rational part is my fear of things built by the lowest bidder, or a skimping contractor, or that were inspected by someone with things other than safety on their minds. Physical objects fail, and they fail especially badly when they’re not built to code, or maintained to standards. That goes for buildings, bridges, and roller coasters and ski lifts. As an adult, I’ve stood in line for a roller coaster with friends or family and not known, until the very last minute, if I would get on, or wait for them below. Those rides that mimic a falling elevator? I don’t consider them. I don’t even look in the direction of the screams when they’re running.

Sometimes I Deal with My Fear Better than Others

Once, my then husband grabbed me at the edge of a scenic overlook, and pretended he was going to throw me over. I wasn’t dealing with the fear well back then. Go figure, right? Something in him needed to get a big reaction, or maybe it made him feel strong. I don’t really know. After 2+ decades, I stopped trying to understand, or wait it out, and I ended the relationship.

I’ve been better lately, even occasionally wondering if the fear evaporated. I found out the day after the eclipse.

When ever we drive a long way, I start looking for things to do so we can make the most of resources spent. While doing so, I found Kentucky’s Natural Bridge. It became part of our trip plan.

Then, immediately before the trip, I had a collision with a doe. (BTW, when a deer runs in front of your car, the thing to do is look for pals. I did that, but I thought the other one had decided to turn around. Instead, she leapt and hit the back end of my car).

So, I had 24 hours to report and deal with the incident, to remove the pre-packing we had done. Sort stuff that always stays in the car, reassess- If I don’t need it on a road trip, do I need to have it in the car at all? I had to get an estimate and switch to a rental car, then re-pack. Then, I spent the night before we left Georgia tossing cookies and thought I wasn’t even going to make the trip. Russ thought it was stress. So much of life goes to eleven. I decided he was right. The symptoms passed in less than 24 hours without fever. If I wasn’t contagious it was ok to go, but I started the trip wrung out, none the less.

We enjoyed the eclipse with family, played games, laughed a lot and it was good. It was overdue family communion. But, now, I had the edge of a migraine creeping in, and that week before the trip, the week we had earmarked for getting a lot done on the T-shirts, Russ got a diabetes diagnosis. We spent that week dealing with the news and figuring out a lifestyle change instead.

When the time came, we were iffy about the Natural Bridge side trip. It was only an extra 40 minutes drive, but the weather was damp and cool. That rarely puts us off, but did cause us to opt for a hotel instead of pitching the tent. The truth of it is that we were exhausted.

Natural Bridge day was also Russ’s birthday, so I told him to decide whether to go. All things considered, it was near a coin toss, but we don’t make many trips, and being in nature cures some ills, especially those related to stress. We went.

We climbed up to balance rock first. It was beautiful and inviting, but both of us had lead legs and body pains. We usually want the exercise, but the steep grade wasn’t being kind to my knee, which was tired of being in a car. Russ asked if I wanted to take the tram up to the Natural Bridge. I did. We went to that parking lot. I said “Oh, it’s a ski lift.” Russ asked me if I’d be ok, and I said I would.

It was a beautiful ride with spring ephemerals blooming, turkey pecking at patches of feed in the grass, and squirrels scampering about. My nerves started really talking to me when the steepness of the last section became apparent. If I’m going to do this ever again, I need to learn what keeps the the lift seat from slipping on the cable through steep inclines. When the fear starts, I analyze things like how far the fall is. Is it survivable? How far and rocky is the roll after the fall? Is that survivable? If survivable, would I ever be the same afterward? Then, I ask for conversation before I can go further down that road. Russ like most anyone else who is with me, starts to say soothing things about the safety of components to the ride, then I re-direct. “No, talk to me about anything else. It’s distraction I need.”

On Top of Things

As we reached the top, I noted the proximity of the landing ramp to the edge of terra firma and knew that on the way back down, I’ll have to be prepared for it to feel like the ground just dropped away immediately after my seat scoops me up.

The walk from the lift to the top of the bridge was fairly short and flat with trees on either side. Then the top of the bridge was wide and flat, easy to cross and very open. The wind was gusting on this side of the slope with a drop of rain here and there, and I was in residual fear mode. I told Russ to amuse himself at his own pace. I’d be along. His own pace, of course, is with a ready hand at my side. He’s a keeper.

We explored the bridge from different angles, went through “Fat Man’s Squeeze”, (maybe it’s time to rename that?) met another person challenging her own fears, and took pictures for strangers who reciprocated. People on the stairs and through the squeeze were all very respectful of each other. We had a good time, but didn’t stay long. The rain was picking up, and fears aside, we wanted to take the tram down. Hiking down slippery rocks when you don’t feel good could be its own can of worms.

I asked Russ to take this in front of the rocks behind the steeper incline, even though this is my white knuckle look. My arm is behind his because I’m holding tight to both sides so I don’t move in the seat.

On the way down, I settled pretty quickly after the steep section, but never let go of the death grip I had on the bars on either side of the lift seat, even though that grip was shoving my spine into the back of the chair uncomfortably. Wind on the tram side was much lighter, and it didn’t gust at all until we were pretty near the grassy bottom.

I do think I’ll read (or listen to) some books, watch some videos and do some meditations geared toward getting rid of this fear once and for all. After all, danger is real, but fear is in the brain, and it can motivate all kinds of bad choices.

Have a Glorious Day, and we’ll see you on the trail.

Seriously, Meat Tenderizer

It was Mom wisdom (my mother’s) that lead me to meat tenderizer, not for cooking though. I don’t care for it in cooking. I use it for insect bites. Some doctors will laugh at you for suggesting it, but it is in the recommended treatment listed by Johns Hopkins here, and there’s a simple explanation. Meat tenderizer breaks down protein. If the venom is protein based the meat tenderizer can help. If you get stung or bit by something with venom that isn’t, it won’t.

Riding on the Silver Comet, and other places I occasionally get stung. I have a pretty significant reaction to wasp bites. Last time, I looked like I’d gone in for over the top lip fillers, and the bright redness on my pale skin was impressive. I was bright red and swollen and smarting for a week. You know how it is when you know it’s going to be okay in the end, but in the mean time you want to scream and crawl outside of your skin? Bigger than “normal” reactions mean that at any time, the next sting could be worse, possibly anaphylactic shock level worse, and epi pens might not be a good solution for me because I have Raynaud’s Syndrome.

It hadn’t been happening terribly often, so when it did, I found myself looking for Benadryl and meat tenderizer after the fact. Finding unseasoned meat tenderizer last minute has been nigh impossible. So, I ordered straight papain (an enzyme from raw papaya that is the active ingredient in some meat tenderizers). It’s expensive, but not as expensive as a Dr., or hospital visit when you don’t have health care coverage. I put together a kit with papain, a Band-Aid, Benadryl and sanitizing wipes for my bike bag and put the remaining papain in my freezer.

I got stung yesterday. I was mad when that paper wasp lit on my leg and stayed till he stung me, not scared, mad, just like the time I flipped over my handle bars. The flash of anger wasn’t over the potential pain. It was the anticipation of possibly being debilitated. Did I have my kit? Of course not! It’s mid-March! I had taken it out when I cleaned the bike bag. I thought about getting it back in, but it’s March! I wasn’t rushing.

So, I cut the ride short, called Russ to tell him to pay attention to whether he got my “I’m off the trail” message and headed to the car. It was swelling and red enough that I thought any trail user who looked at my leg would notice from a distance. Before I got to the car, it was really stinging and my toes were tingling. I was concerned. My kit was in the car. I had gotten it that far. I mixed my “good stuff” pure papain with water from my water bottle, applied it, covered it with a cute Welly bandage (because they stick so well) and took a Benadryl. About 15 minutes later the pain was seriously decreased, and another 15 minutes later I called Russ and told him things had become a non-event, that he didn’t need to pay any special attention to a call he might receive from me. I took Benadryl last time and was miserable for a week. The difference this time was the meat tenderizer, the good stuff, not the grocery store weak sauce.

It used to be years between stings, but now I’ve had 3 in less than a year’s span. The kit will stay in the bag now, or I won’t ride. I stopped for an errand on the way home. Another wasp brushed my arm. I backed away, pulling my arm back, thinking WTH? Where are these guys coming from?!?! I think I’ll put together a kit for my purse too.

Tuesday Trippin’ January 2024

For a little extra cheer, my MIL Tongue or Snake plant in bloom*

January had a lot of “more of the same” as December, but also some differences. We’ve had temperatures colder than my tolerance, some with rain in 3, 5 & 10 day runs causing the dread interruptions that really mess with my equilibrium. I’ve been better at staving off the exercise endorphin highs and lows with the stationary bike. Some time back, my grandson built me a computer deck that attaches to the stationary bike, so I can write while moving. I’ve really gotten good use out of that. I spend a lot of time multitasking.

These monthly updates for the project are going to change a little. They were originally designed to give a progress report in prep for our Kickstarter goal, as keeping supporters up to date on progress is a requirement. The best way to establish that you’re willing to do that is to start, and be consistent, especially when you’re unknown to the market, like us. I’m still going to be consistent and it may well still lead into a video.

But, in recognition of a few things, this segment will become more about what I do to stay healthy as I age. One reason is that the video project is feeling more distant to me now than it ever has, at least in its current form. I’m not so sure I need to put my body through two century (100 mile) rides a week anymore. It might even be more interesting to more people if the video project became more accessible. If people can see themselves doing a thing, it might be easier for them to get behind it. In addition to that, we all have bodies, and we are all aging, no matter the current number is, it’s getting bigger. Some of my posts may be specific to women, but half of us are female, so that’s fine.

I’ve been following Gurdeep Pandher. Sometimes he shows up in my feed just when I need the very stress reduction that he wishes to share. When he does, I take the time to click and watch him dance, and I receive that gift. Sometimes it’s just simple dance. I think I get the easiest attitude adjustment from those bits, and that is really nice. But then, sometimes there is a lot going on, like in this cultural fusion video, and that’s it’s own little trip. I’m going to count following Gurdeep as the first way I share to stay healthier as I age.

Following Gurdeep has helped me in another way too. He recently released a video about positivity. It’s a hoot! I recommend you watch it. It’s less than 4 minutes long, but he says it took him a year and a half to put it together. After scrambling to put our video together, starting from scratch and jumping around hurdles along the way, I believe that. What’s more it helps me cope with some of my feelings of failure and helps me to keep going.

So, there’s our change up, and we’ll see where our new slant on the old direction takes us.

Until next time, have a glorious day and we’ll see you on the trail!

* I bought this plant from an estate sale. The pot was huge, not garden variety huge. I mean really HUGE. The man who sold it to me was afraid to let me carry it down the stairs from the back deck. I wasn’t completely sure I’d make it myself, but it had belonged to his wife and he wanted it to live. When I got home I wasn’t able to get it out of the car alone. I’ve since divided it into so many smaller pots and given them away to a lot of people. The plants divided from this pot are the only ones I’ve ever had that bloomed. I’ve figured out that at full bloom, they last less than 24 hours, so I snapped this picture last night when I saw it.

Acknowledging the Great Big Giant Elephant

Did you know that motivation follows action? It stinks. It should be the other way around, right? High action individuals never need to notice because there’s always action producing endorphins and feeding inspiration. Like the desire to ride a bike. It springs naturally from the endorphins you got last time you rode (unless you didn’t). Endorphins from any action make you want to repeat and receive the love again, a circular pattern that feeds itself until something breaks.

You have to start the cycle though. I think of it like the pull cord on gas powered lawn mower. For strong people, starting is thoughtlessly easy. But, I can’t reliably pull fast and hard enough to make the motor turn over and get things going. Russ mows and now we’ve gone electric. But, before we got the electric mower, I was never going to be a reliable second, unless someone was home to help me start the mower. There are so many ways we are each other’s safety net.

Why it Matters

Difficult starts and interruptions kill momentum, break the inspiration/action feedback loop and lead to rough stretches. Missing targets leads one to avoid the pain of failure. And there are so many things that also need doing. Unlike my example, sometimes someone to help you start isn’t enough.

I’ve literally been trying not to write this post for years now, (Russ read and approved more than one version). It seems important to address the elephant in the room, though.

We’ve been planning the video cycling project since before the pandemic, writing about it here, postponing our deadlines, moving slowly toward promoting it and kicking ourselves over delays for stated and unstated reasons. Still, we haven’t submitted to the funding process. There are a few reasons that go beyond insecurity and fear of the test. There’s stress we’ve been up front about. Then there’s that stress we talk less about, absent some details for privacy (not just our own). Often it feels like the real problem is too many responsibilities.

A meme in my feed recently said “I hope you win the battle that you never tell anyone about.” I liked it for the kind wishes, but I liked it so much more for the acknowledgement that most people have more to deal with than what they let others see.

Russ, the Giant Teddy Bear

Russ is the glue that holds our family together. The problem is that Russ hasn’t been ok. He wants to be. He’s called it a “funk”, but if it was just a funk, we’d be funded and done with the project, and on to something else.

Russ has been down hard and fighting for air. It’s difficult for people who have never suffered depression to understand. I’m down pretty hard right now myself, and I don’t even understand, not as deeply as he feels it. It’s a very lonely place to be.

In the absence of healthcare coverage, we tend to research the most legitimate information available. After Russ discovered that “freeze” had been added to the “fight or flight” scenario he recognized it as his stress response. “Fight, Flight, Freeze or Fawn” is the current full list of threat responses.

It makes so much sense for these more recent threat responses to be recognized. “Freeze” isn’t always such a bad coping device. It’s is the opposite of rash. It prevents every mistake except inaction. Inaction creates its own problems though, and “freeze” may be the hardest stress response for outsiders to recognize as any kind of a response at all.

And then…

Depression and anxiety are more challenging with added stress and the world reached new levels of being turned upside. In middle school, I remember wondering what it was like to have brothers and cousins on opposite sides of a war (like the US Civil War, or when families were divided by the Berlin Wall). People everywhere are reflecting on that again. No one really knows how deep the current rifts and chasms, both near and far will get. Many people are too distracted, busy or stressed to let themselves think about it.

Thinking about these things makes a positive outlook harder, but ignoring them has different risks, and depression happens regardless of how one handles stresses. The kind of widespread pain experienced during the pandemic overloaded the collective psyche while Covid crushed hospitals worldwide.

Our private and inner worlds were challenged and stressed before the world became so “stranger than fiction”. It’s no wonder that we’d come up with a project to help others increase health and deal with stress when there’s little or no money to throw at the broken healthcare system in the US.

Our personal challenges haven’t been at bay during the 20+ years we’ve been together. For a while our outlook was promising. But, the recession hurt, other things happened, and we made some choices that were what we needed to be doing for family, but they involved one of us being under-employed for the last 10 years. That wasn’t helpful for our financial recovery, or financial security moving forward. No regrets. None. But, it did add to the stress load.

Deeply Personal and Different for Everyone

Some people didn’t think the pandemic was even real, and others were confused about what to think. Repeating a history so reminiscent of a pandemic 100 years ago made it even harder to grasp in a modern world. Russ was convinced he was likely to die. Between preexisting conditions, his lack of health care coverage, his essential worker status, his now longer hours, and his exposure through work and living conditions, his known risks were high.

There were so many unknowns, a lot of bad information, a lot of bad acts. Denial and irrational fears were amplified by ugly politics. Extraordinary stress is hell on the immune system. Boom, another risk factor! Russ didn’t die, but his fear was not irrational. It was a recognition that this thing few people knew how to deal with was a bigger risk to him, and that many people who were unconcerned had an uncomfortable level of impact on his risk factors.

It didn’t grip me like it did Russ, but I wouldn’t have said with confidence that I expected to live through it. Our household included exposed “essential employees” and school children, as well as people who were reluctant to follow recommended procedures. I was in a higher risk age group and also without health care coverage.

Some of it was Surreal

Most people had surreal experiences. The most important bit of security anyone gave us during that dark time was when my Aunt met me in Birmingham with a refurbished oxygen accumulator. Meeting her was an eerie trip. The streets were empty. I went to the interstate on an 8 mile, divided 4 lane. It’s normally slow and go, with heavy commuter traffic. But, I wondered for a while if I would see a single car along the stretch. I went through every traffic light,16, I think, and none of them turned red. Under different circumstanced you’d wish for something like that.

There were still very few people on the interstate. I wondered if gas would be available and how strange things might get, especially when I saw a military convoy headed who knows where. We met. My aunt gave me the machine, a package of disinfectant wipes, some laundry sanitizer, and a snack. She was taking care of me while she was taking care of me. Times like these are when people show you who they are.

There was gas. I got home. We were able to order hoses for the oxygen accumulator. Thankfully, no one needed it. But, the peace of mind it provided, knowing that if Russ, or any of the 8 family members who lived in our house before it was all over, went into respiratory distress, they could at least get oxygen as long as there was electricity. That was more priceless than any Visa commercial. Caring stands out when tragedy has become so ordinary for so many. Others not caring left it’s mark at times too.

Russ eventually caught Covid and later caught it again. Thankfully, it was after vaccines were obtained and treatments were developed. He made it through with care that cost hundreds of dollars that we had, instead of hundreds of thousands of dollars we didn’t have.

Mom had her dark experience just this summer while in rehab after a fall. There was an outbreak. Mom had been vaccinated and had good meds. Getting Covid after things were better made all of the difference for her. The quarantine was scary and some people didn’t make it, but Mom did. We recently celebrated her 90th birthday.

Four weeks back, I had my round with Covid. I was the last person in our house to catch it. I wondered if all the cycling gave me micro exposures that boosted my immunity, but never made me really sick. Or, if how often I wash my hands with housework was the reason. But really, who knows?

The pandemic was like life in that everyone is going through it, yet every person’s struggle was/is unique. So, I don’t know what to do, or write, or how to explain it when things aren’t on schedule with the project. Some people adapted, put things out quickly and leveraged all the change (for better or worse).

Some people have bounced back with double energy. Me? I still don’t know if continuing to pursue the project is what I should be doing. Can my dream really make a difference, or should I do something else. I know the project could help us, and others. I know he/we can do the job, but can he/we get the job? (flip on Joe Versus the Volcano intended).

One Step Forward

The risks were real, and some remain. The depression was and is real. We do a lot of DIY. It’s great that we can. Russ fixed a frozen pipe in the house before it became an insurance claim, but we’re not working on the project while he fixes our pop up problems, or someone else’s. It has all been big, real and debilitating, and I’ve had my own stuff to deal with too. Russ has been there for me in so many ways, but in others, I felt alone. He wasn’t present in the moment, or ready to move on. He spent a lot of time ruminating on fears he had no control over. He’s not mental health care averse, but there’s nothing in the budget to cover it.

It was so incredibly important to have income during the pandemic. It was important after too, but Russ lost his employment in January. Just as it seemed like things might settle a bit, boom, again! He went from “essential employee seeing a light at the end of the tunnel” to lost. Russ has made the most of his 6 jobless months in some ways, but in productivity, he froze. If he could retire to stay at home and cook and play with the grandchildren, he’d be in bliss, and he might be faring better if that were possible. Ironies abound. Not needing to pursue anything could loosen the stress and free up the mind space to… pursue anything.

And Then, Again

With all of this, we’ve come to and temporarily past the point of cancelling the project so many times. As much as we want to help anyone who’s interested in our project to get stress relief, escape, fitness and/or entertainment value from the project, there’s also a self-interested aspect. The project will have significant demands and stresses, but it will also do the things that we want to do for others for ourselves as well. It would lessen the impact of not having healthcare coverage (unless one of us has an accident riding).

We could benefit from a year of the heavy duty riding that is part of the project, letting all those demons work themselves out as we peddle. I hiked a lot when I was going through my divorce. I’d head for the woods, and after a day on the trail, whatever was weighing on me when I left had mostly lifted. It would be nice if Russ’s six months of unemployment had given him a head start on that, or progress in any form it might take, but that isn’t how it happened. Russ really does have a freeze response to threats. (And I have attention deficit, but, that’s another story).

I’m enough of an introvert that not being ok through the isolation was a real surprise to me. It piqued my interest in forming relationships and I desperately want to accomplishing things. The project is a two person job, and doing it without him wasn’t a step I was willing to take. I would ride and write to keep the project alive, but I still spend a lot of time feeling like I was alone or in hover mode. Recently, I started just doing things. It took a lot for me to just say I was going to do something and invite him along rather than asking what he wanted to do and make a joint decision. I didn’t expect him to, but Russ came with me. Most of the times I’ve really need him to, Russ has met me at least half way.

Things are getting better. Russ is working. It’s a financial band aid for our personal life and a mixed blessing for the project. I say band-aid because at this point, if both of us were working, that would just be a bigger band-aid. Americans spend twice as much on healthcare as other rich nations and still have a decreasing lifespan with poorer care. My healthcare.gov quote for next year was over 22K per year, even though I’m physically active, and some covered years I never went to a doctor… Seriously, in the last 10 of the years that I was covered, I don’t recall ever meeting a deductible. That’s rate is hard to accept.

Seeking employment that would move me toward having disposable income, or eventual retirement, rather than just paying for insurance for part of a catastrophic health failure requires that I get not just full time work, but demanding employment. Age and sex discrimination is real and my hodgepodge background doesn’t help. If I were lucky enough to get employment that would benefit the family rather than just cover personal health insurance, it would also require abandoning some other responsibilities I have been taking on, but how confident am I that I can get through another year without catastrophic coverage? If I had the coverage, would the cap be below the cost of whatever health failure I had? Riding a bike, even if it were a new high end bike, may well be the biggest healthcare bargain there is.

The T-Shirts

With all these questions and challenges, we’re taking a side step into t-shirts. We have a theme and hope the T-shirts will have at least as much positive impact as we want the video project to create, as well as some needed financial relief. After that we’ll re-visit the trail video project. Hopefully the t-shirt project will produce enough income to make up some of our losses and then, perhaps, to allow me more time to pursue the video project.

We’ll see.

Tuesday Trippin’ October 4

The Riding

When I wrote the draft for this post, I started it talking about how It feels really good to be back riding on a regular schedule and I’m really grateful for the time I’ve been able to spend on the trail. Well, it turned out to be a resistant strain and now I have the big deal antibiotics that come with warning about increased risks of things like an aortic aneurism. I might not survive that if happened while riding miles away from my car, and can’t afford to have treated with my lack of health care coverage if I did.

That risk is increased with exercise. That big long multipart warning sheet didn’t say how much exercise increased the risk or by how much. Regardless, I plan to reduce the risk as much as I can by as much as I can in those things I have a choice about. My exercise until the drugs are out of my system will consist of walking to the bus stop to collect a grandchild.

Having significant illness, enough to disrupt my training schedule for some time, is a little unnerving right now, but the break is needed. i’ve been sleeping 9+ hours lately, very unusual for me.

The Video Remake

We need to rerecord the audio for the intro vide. Not everything in the old one is up to date. I’ve written and rewritten what I have to say. I’ve spent hours reading and re-reading, looking for rephrasing that cuts out words, but still communicates. Then doing it again and asking myself if it will hold attention as long as it should. Letting time pass and taking a fresh look at things again. I think it’s ready now, but I’m waiting on my voice to return to normal. The audio needs to be the base, and the pictures and video all needs to come in at the right time in the audio. I hope by the end of this week I’ll be hiding in my closet for the sound absorption and talking into the mic.

That’s about it for today, happy trails.

We’re Doing a Safety Video

Normally, when I get up for the Sunday “twenty miles and home before anyone else gets up” ride, the crowd hazards are pretty light (now that the Pandemic overflow appears to be waning). Then, some rides I think if I only had cameras running already, I would have the entire safety video shot in one ride. Today was that day, the one with boat loads of opportunity for the video. If Russ had been with me, he’d have called out “DA alert” several times.

I said “Hello” or “Heads Up” intently to at least 3 adult riders coming at me in my lane without looking. The little kids who didn’t stay in their lane don’t count because It’s our job to look out for them. But, on that subject, there was the Mom who’s kids moved over right when she said, just like she said, but Mom didn’t have the dog on the leash under control, so I still had to stop and then Mom still fussed at her kids for “not getting over”.

Then, there was the guy who was playing music loud and weaving at first, but he got straighter as I approached. I called out “Passing on your Left” twice, really loud to be heard over his music. He straightened up in time for me to pass him and then turned left off the path right in front of me just and I pushed hard on my peddle for the pass then quickly followed with the brakes. I’d be surprised if he ever knew I was there.

And, there was the woman who was weaving and texting. She was all over the place and riding so slowly she was having trouble keeping the bike upright. I caught her on the fly and she was still on the phone, but had at least gotten off the bike. She gets kudos for that, but she was standing on a paved strip at a sharp “s” curve on a hill. It was right where people who get surprised by the curve turn out to avoid crashing into others. Some days…

So, the safety video will be our little thank you to everyone. Hopefully it will be fun and funny. All the people who support us will get a link with a short update when it’s done. Unless they opt out for some reason I can’t imagine, even the people who choose to support us with no reward will get this.

Tuesday Trippin’ May 10

Training wise, last week was significantly better than expected. Weather lined up for me to ride immediately before and after, and the break was only 3 days. In April the break was 4 days and we had 3 days of rain immediately before. We walked about 3 miles on a trail during the April trip, but I didn’t take hiking shoes. I ached from unusually low exercise when I got home.

I mentioned the need to shift over to walks for recovery exercise just before this trip. We ended up dong that. The Pensacola Bay Bridge is under re-construction, but the pedestrian-bicycle path on one side is complete. The bridge is 3 miles long. The first night we walked about a mile and a half. The second, we walked 5 miles.

Russ on the Pensacola Bay Bridge

5 or more miles is the length of walk I originally planned for recovery walks. That may be a touch on the long side, but I used to be able to do 5 miles pretty easy at any time without prep. Lately though, I’ve done more yard work, which technically qualifies as recovery activity I suppose. But, it’s been a few weeks since I’ve even walked around the neighborhood with my granddaughter on her scooter. I’ve been spending all my cardio time on the bike. The bike is awesome, but I need to make myself walk for the change in activity too.

I really wanted to walk the whole bridge in both directions, just because it seems complete, but when I looked back from the 2.5 mark at how far away the starting side shore seemed, I decided to turn back. I could have made the extra distance, but in the end, I was glad that I turned when I did and Russ was too. I expected soreness the next day, but there was none and my feet felt really good, like a bit of cross training was the thing I should be doing.

I’m not sure what I will settle on as the right distance for a recovery walk, but on the bridge with all the wind, it seemed more like a primary exercise day, which was fine for that week when I had less opportunity to ride. Some sources say 20-30 minutes is enough for recovery. But, more could be needed after a century ride than shorter forms of exercise. The key will be in how the rides are going. As long as my body feels better and my stamina is not reduced, it’s likely the right amount of recovery exercise.

If the recovery walk is shorter, it will fit better into a still photography day than I first anticipated. That may not reduce my project hours any, but it should improve the photography rewards. It is easier to carry a camera on a walk that only needs 20-30 minute intervals of elevated heart rate than one that needs 1.5 – 2 hours.

The Silver Comet and Chief Ladiga Trails are not alone. There are beautiful hiking trails on both ends of our project, including portions of trail that may be added to the Appalachian Trail. I’m excited about the potential.

I’m going to leave it here for this post. I’ll put some of my other thought in separate posts. Have a glorious day and we’ll see yo on the trail.

Tuesday Trippin’ March 22

Well, the website is down and my sysadmin is in the hospital with his wife and new baby. There are no reported problems at WordPress. I don’t know when he’ll get to finding out what’s wrong, so I’m writing my post in a word document and hoping that my site is backed up, or that there is some small problem that won’t require much time or long to get to. And, when all is said and done, I’ll get over the embarrassment of not knowing if the site is being backed up and know for sure, and hopefully that won’t be knowledge painfully got. Since I don’t know, it’s a total fail on my part if I’ve lost all that I’ve written there for…. How many years? Some of those years I totally skipped though…I’ve only ever been consistent since I decided to pursue this video project.

I’ve been looking back at last year’s posts to guess when this year’s blooms will happen, so I don’t miss the flower shots I want to take, and we’ve still been taking extra shots of all kinds to make the introduction video better. Our base video was taken in winter. It’s a good time to ride (sometimes), but I want year round shots in the video about my year round project.

That baby my sysadmin and his wife just had is my granddaughter and while I can’t wait to personally greet the newest addition to our family, I am not at all ready for the 8th person in the house to come home today.

As busy as everything is, I also made some personal time. My son remembered that we made Ukrainian Pysanky eggs when he was young and asked if we could do that this year. He thought of them as Easter eggs when he was young, but this year he wants to be sure to make some that are yellow and blue, like the Ukrainian flag. I got my first supplies at The Ukrainian National Home in Hartford CT back when we lived there. I couldn’t find a similar brick and mortar place to walk in locally. I have a Ukrainian friend who might have been able to help me, but it was one of those 2AM things where, if I was going to be up that late, I was going to check another thing off of my list. I bought from shops that were actually run by people with Ukrainian heritage as much as I could. Some of the things were out of stock though, and part of my supplies will come from Amazon.

Originally, we did the whole egg method where the egg just dries out gradually, and you and your nose hope that you never ever break one. This time I’m going to try to find Goose eggs to blow out. It will be an adventure, both because I’ve never decorated bigger eggs or empty eggs, and because I’ve never eaten duck eggs. Have you ever seen an Emu egg? Those things are gorgeous!

The Cycling Part

The season is here in North Georgia, for cycling, photography, anything you’d like to do out doors. Our predicted last frost this year is March 30, but there haven’t been any overnight lows below 32 in the 10 day forecast for a week. I’m slowly putting some of my potted plants outdoors and the pollen is about to blow up. The humans trying to be smarter than nature is to blame for that being worse in urban areas than it is in the countryside. It’s counter intuitive for people who realize that most pollen comes from trees and crops. Here’s the article I usually link on that.

We were relaxing a bit over the winter with few rides when the temperatures weren’t comfortable. Building back up can cause stiffness in older riders and pain like plantar fasciitis. Absent an app that I like, I’ve been setting phone alarms with titles like “plantar stretches, sit ups, dishes” When it goes off, I’ll leave the computer to do those things. It’s been working pretty well to keep me on target and my plantar pain is not as bad as it has been at other similar times.

That’s about all I have for this week. See you on the trail!