Monday, April 27, 2015

Celebrate the Small Things

It's been a rough few weeks.  But I don't want to focus on all of that.  I'd rather talk about how the Powell County contingent made a miserable showing at the Redbud Ride this year.
The forecast was rank.  Friday when we went down to London the skies were blue and the sun was shining.  But Saturday—the day of the ride—was supposed to be rainy and cool.  In the afternoon severe thunderstorms were on the menu.  As we slummed around London Friday evening we bemoaned the fact that the ride wasn't going on that day.
Tomahawk had bowed out due to impending rain.  Jeaph and Casey were no shows because he was supposedly sick.  That left Mandy and I and April and Avery.  None of us had been riding enough, two of us had/have jacked up knees and at least one of us was trying to pass a kidney stone.
Truly, at least for Mandy and I, our hearts weren’t in it.
When Mandy’s dad bailed we said if Jeaph and Casey were going we’d still go.  When they aborted we said we might as well go because we still had a hotel room and Avery and April were still going.  When we woke up and it was cold and damp we decided we might as well see how far we could go.
None of our decision were made in naiveté.  At each step of the way we fully understood the implications of the next pedal stroke.  The mood was not with us to the extent that I was the one that held everyone up on ride morning.  Finally as I was trying to wolf down my pancakes Mandy said they were going to go on and I could catch up.  I waved as they rolled away and finished my pancakes with no urgency whatsoever.  And then I chatted with “The” Mike for five minutes before giving chase to the Powell County crew.

Damp turned into rain.  Pissing cold rain.  When I overtook April it was still just moistly overcast.  But by the time I caught Avery in his all cotton kit, no gloves, and tennis shoes the sky was weeping laughter on us.  I hung with him until I caught sight of Mandy a few hundred yards ahead after making the route split.  She went the 59/100 mile direction.  I told Avery I was going to catch her.
She and I rode together through some of the best cycling country around as the rain continued to soak us.  We soldiered on.  We wondered if April and Avery would turn back.  But by the time we reached the first aid station somewhere beyond mile 17 we had decided we were done ourselves.  The only question remained: would we ride 17 miles back to town or bum a lift?
As we debated the issue a SAG truck rolled into the aid station and Rodney announced that the driver could take anyone back to town who wanted to go.  One hitch in Mandy’s breathing and I knew…
“Let’s take the SAG,” I said.  She agreed.  Her asthma was acting up despite the rain.  Spring is the most enjoyable time of year for her.  Spring bike rides double so.  In her defense she can muster through most of the time.  But that combined with the cold and wet and our chronic unpreparedness made the decision to retreat back to London easy.
It turns out April and Avery had bailed too.  Right after I left him Avery had a flat.  But we all had a pretty good time.  I think if the weather had cooperated better we’d have wanted to push deeper into the hurt we really deserved.  But all-in-all it was a good experience.
On the way down and the way home Mandy and I talked about how we were probably just burned out on century rides and if we just went back to doing the 20 to 50 mile rides around home we most likely would enjoy cycling again.  I’m not saying we’ve given up on the century altogether, but for 2015 I think there’s little chance you’ll see “100” on either of our cyclocomputers.
I’ve finally replaced my wrecked car.  The Camry was a decent car.  It got pretty good gas mileage and rode well.  It had a working CD player, nicely tinted windows, cruise control, and rockin’ air conditioning.  These things have never really worked in conjunction in any other car I’ve ever owned.  So I liked it.
My new-to-me car is a 2003 Honda Civic Hybrid.  It’s small, but for the most part has all of the amenities I value in good fossil fuel dependent personal transportation.  And it’s a hybrid.  We drove it down to London, and with the two bikes on a rear rack we got 33 mpg.  This morning on my commute into work I got a whopping 37.4 mpg. 
If I had kept it at 70 mph the whole way instead of starting out at 75 I might have gotten 38+ mpg.  It didn’t take long to realize that holding back 5 mph would increase my fuel efficiency, so I did and watched my average climb.  That’s one cool thing about it too: along with displaying the gas/electric status the console also shows average and instantaneous mpg.
Once my knee is sorted out I’m committing to riding more too.  No more four mile round trips in the car to get milk.  We have the cargo bikes; we intend to use them.  Working on my community’s bike-ped plan has also reintegrated into my thinking the need to focus on advocacy and education and example and practice.
I’ve been experiencing lots of small successes that seem to be guiding me to the bigger payoffs.  It’s easy to get caught up in the moment and roll around giddy on the floor, but I’m trying to hold it all together and stay on top of everything to maximize my utility.
Bike Month is coming up.  Alas, like last year I will be at the KAPA conference on Bike to Work Day.  I will of course take my bike and ride from my room at the conference hotel to the venue.  But there’s mountain biking near there so I’ll get some riding in.
I think it’s time to start thinking about doing a bike commute again.  Last year Mandy and I had agreed I would ride some, but it never panned out with running taking over the obsessive parts of my brain.  Between my new uber-efficient car and this renewed dedication to choosing the bike I could possibly cut way back on my footprint and save a ton of money in travel expenses.
Back on that high horse…

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