Monday, October 31, 2011

Day 42: The planets align

Day 42 miles to/from work: 26.8
Total miles for S4S: 1119.6

We are not doers; we are deciders. Once we decide, the doing is easy.
                                                                                                                   -Ralph Blum

This is really hard—the last ride, the last post* of Sweating for Shelter. It's like saying good-bye to an old friend after amazing adventures of inner and outer discovery. The focus and discipline of S4S have been simultaneously exhilarating and exhausting, creating a confluence of regret and relief that this particular chapter is ending. But enough of the maudlin contemplation—you're undoubtedly anxiously awaiting the weather report.

Odd stuff, it was. Silver beauty and I started with sun in the east, threatening darkness in the west, and temperatures in the low 40s. The forecast was for a drop of 5 degrees by the time we got to work but with the compensating promise of cheery sunniness. The forecast, not surprisingly, told a half-truth. The cloud cover soon shut out all signs of the sun as my toes turned to ice. My friend Jan in Rockport, Texas, periodically reminds me, "I don't do cold!!!!!" (Exclamation points hers.) So for Jan and some of you other cold-phobics, it's hard to explain how a ride that's a little chilly and not optimally comfortable can be a thing of beauty and personal enjoyment. Other than my frigid digits, the coolness felt like a sweet breeze passing through me, clearing space for the day. I savored every moment, and with each landmark I passed, thought about the other 41 times it had greeted, taunted, embraced, and cheered my journey.

Along the bike path that is a primary portion of my route are cosmic signs, each with a picture of and information about a planet. I love these for their beauty and quirkiness. They are also symbolic of this project. I had been such a terrible procrastinator about biking to work and practicing my craft of writing. I wanted the motivation to consistently do both (not necessarily together). I wanted to do much more to support animal rescue.

That last weekend in August when Jazz and I were out for a run, the idea for S4S downloaded in an instant. And truly, the planets aligned. Each of you so kindly and enthusiastically embraced the project and me. When I say I couldn't have done it without you, it is no exaggeration. If I had only committed to myself that I would bike and write every day, I'm pretty sure that ultimately I would have been as much of a liar as

To know I have such support—people who believe in me and are willing to put money on my doing what I promised, money that will touch other people and animals in ways none of us will never know—how could I not get up each morning and take Silver Beauty for the next chapter of the adventure? No matter how late the hour, I wasn't going to miss a blog post, with many of you telling me that you actually want to read about how this is going and that you make it a part of that most sacred of rituals—your morning coffee. As inadequate as these words might be, I can only say "Thank you."

The ride home was like a ghost town with hardly any traffic and... oh yeah! It's Halloween! Go figure. It was fun seeing the yards with lights and pumpkins and kids in costume. The air bore the harbinger of winter, but was still pleasantly cool. As I sailed down hills, I felt like I was riding the last big wave of autumn. I counted down the last miles of S4S; and when I finally put Silver Beauty on her rack, it was with the sense that we had done a good thing.

Today I had a lovely email from my sweet sister Jo sending congrats on the finish of S4S. Her last sentence was: "If the animals you save only knew to what extent you love them...." If only they did, Jo, that would make it just about perfect.

*I will do one more post with pledge/donation info and when/where for the S4S celebration.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Day 41: Cold Snap

Day 41 miles to/from work: 26.8
Total miles for S4S: 1092.8

The only way to treat the common cold is with contempt.
                                                                                      -Sir William Osler

I awoke to two sets of cold symptoms—one in my head and the other outdoors. Even the sniffling, sneezing, and coughing couldn't detract from the beautiful sunrise. Wearing my bathrobe, I grabbed my camera and went outside in mid-30s temps to capture the moment. At that point, it wasn't like I was going to catch a cold.

Scott, already established as our S4S Hero, first found a decongestant for me, then assembled a take-to-work package with every cold remedy known to pharma. It was as though he were lovingly packing a lunch with all the food groups. "Here's some Airborne chewable. Zicam with zinc. Hall's mentolyptus lozenges. Sudafed...." I was set.

It was cold, but I was dressed for it. (You should have guessed that by now.) Since sunglasses fog up in the cold, and my safety goggles provide no glare deflection, I wore tinted ski goggles. I was attired with several layers of tops and tights, wool socks under neoprene booties, a balaclava, neck gator, and lobster gloves. Stylin'.

What an utterly gorgeous day. Severe clear blue skies, CAVU (ceiling absent, visibility unlimited). Every day is a good-to-be-above-ground day, but this one was particularly so. I pedaled off, happy to be here, and with a death grip on my bandanna.

Do you know how hard it is to blow your nose wearing ski goggles and big, clunky mits on your hands? Challenging, to say the least. I finally resorted to doing the occasional bandanna swipe and developed a rhythm of sniff-sniff/breathe, sniff-sniff/breathe—all nicely coordinated with the pedal strokes. Despite the tribulations of being a phlegm factory, the  ride to work was surprisingly quick and pleasant.

By the time I left the office, the sky had become ominously dark, with a thin halo of light at the horizon. The ride was an experience in weather Tourette Syndrome—angry outbursts of wind epithets were followed by the spitting of nasty bits of rain. An uneasy calm would ensue for awhile, then the whole process would repeat. The wind was at my back, and the rain did not get serious until I was safely at home. Another good ride despite less-than-optimal conditions.

Ahhhh... So good to be home with two days of rest in the forecast. Have a wonderful weekend, and be ready for our last S4S ride on Monday!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Day 40: A toast to the hero of S4S

Day 40 miles to/from work: 27.1
Total miles for S4S: 1066.0

The real act of marriage takes place in the heart, not in the ballroom or church or synagogue. It's a choice you make—not just on your wedding day, but over and over again—and that choice is reflected in the way you treat your husband or wife.
                                                                                                                              -Barbara de Angelis

For the past two months you've been reading the daily reports about all manner of weather tedium and the gear/attire carefully selected for biking in every climactic nuance. This morning I couldn't access the Internet, which meant no weather info. I could make a good guess about what to wear; but the small details of having one layer too many or too few, the wrong socks, or unsuitable gloves could make a big difference in just how much kvetching you would have to endure after the fact. (See? It's all about you.)

When Scott learned of the situation, he stopped his morning ablutions and immediately went to the basement to apply some kind of shock therapy to the router. He then planted himself at the computer, fully dedicated to ensuring I had every meteorological detail of the day. This is my husband:  the hero behind—and sometimes at the forefront of—S4S.

Many of you know him and need no introduction to The Hero aka Scott Zimmermann. All of you have caught glimpses of him as he has made cameo appearances in S4S blog posts. What you haven't seen have been the many evenings that he has cooked dinner after I've gotten home late, tired, and sweaty. "No, you go upstairs and get into warm clothes. I'll take care of this." Or the follow-up when I start to clear the table, and he insists, "I'll do dishes. You get started on your blog." The miles he's walked the dog because I've become derelict about what used to be routine runs with her. Scott often stays up past any sensible bedtime so he can read a post as soon as I've published it.

This project has been all kinds of wonderful. It has also been all-consuming and in many ways a disruption to the comfortable routine of our home life. Scott has been inhumanly patient, never complained, and been unfailingly supportive in ways both large and small.

Some of you have shared what S4S has meant to you—that it has inspired you, changed your perspective, given you something to read with your coffee, and motivated you to change a habit or two. My friend "Cyn" (Lisa Jeanetta) even referred to it as "proving you can work miracles doing what you can, with what you have, from where you are." As the S4S community, we have all accomplished it together; but I want to pay special tribute to Scott—the unsung hero of cameo appearancesfor being instrumental in making it possible. Thank you, Darlin'. I am so lucky to have you as a friend, life partner, and unflagging supporter and cheerleader. You are The Best! Here's to you, my hero.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Day 39: Lead

Day 39 miles to/from work: 26.8
Total miles for S4S: 1038.9

You can lead a horse to water, but a pencil must be lead.
                                                                                                 -Stan Laurel

Dense, dull gray. Leaden.

And that was just inside my head. Once again, sleep was in short supply following Last-Chance Tuesday (networking with rescues to save shelter animals scheduled for Wednesday morning euthanasia, as detailed in Saving the Gator and Another Close One), turning in at 1:30 am and arising—or grudgingly stumbling out of bed—at 6:15 this morning.

Exterior conditions were in perfect sync with my interior landscape, plus the added bonus of a chill wind. Oh boy! Let's get on a bike! From the beginning it, surprisingly, wasn't too bad. Employing leaden legs and mind to grapple with a cantankerous wind did not make it a pleasure cruise; but the routine of rhythmic motion melted away the miles and got me to work.

When a bus passed me with the sign "100 Lives Lost to Breast Cancer Every Day", it made me consider that tragedy—then wonder about other types of loss. How many lives or fractions thereof are lost to inertia every day? How often do all of us get caught up in busy-ness and demands that have no real meaning or simply procrastinate taking the first step for something that would matter to us? I believe we each have a parade to create and lead—or maybe many of them—and so often they never take form. "How stupid would I look? How many people would I annoy? How many people would change their opinion of me (or confirm the worst)?"

The Nike logo "Just Do It" is simple and brilliant. Great marketing, but also a mantra for livin' the dream. Most of the things that, with our last breaths, we will be grateful to have done will probably not happen out of the blue, when we're well rested and excited to do them. They will be those things that even when it's uncomfortable, inconvenient, and the last thing we want to be doing, we nevertheless "just do it".

After almost six decades, I'm still trying to figure out what I want to be when I grow up, but S4S gives me a glimpse of how I want to live
—being on the edge, pushing the envelope, seeking the support of a community of loving and like-minded others. Let's keep this community going as we support each other in seeking our personal and collective parades and dreams and "just doing it" whatever that takes. There is a parade waiting for each of us to lead with flair, energy, and our unique brand of whackiness. Without us
without you—that wild, colorful, inspirational event that might have been, which could have drawn countless others into its fabulous and creative vortex,  will only exist as an empty street with some elephant droppings. If you're sitting on the sidelines, get the lead out of your butt, pick up your baton—and lead.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Day 38: I have biked 500 miles, and I have biked 500 hundred more

Day 38 miles to/from work: 26.8
Total miles for S4S: 1012.1

Who travels for love finds a thousand miles not longer than one.
                                                                                                               -Japanese Proverb

At home while getting ready for work, I half-mindedly wondered why the dawn was taking so long to show even thin streams of light in the east. The dawning that finally occurred was in my blonde head. Oh. It's not all Mary Sunshiny because it's raining, overcast, and freakin' dark with that angry cloud cover. Drat.

By the time I left, the rain was light enough to use only my screaming yellow windbreaker for protection, but threatening enough to pack my rain gear. The temperature felt relatively tropical at almost 50 degrees. After only a few miles, the rain stopped altogether and left a quiet hush, as though the world were holding its breath. The remainder of the ride felt like moving through the calm stillness of a Buddhist monastery.

During the afternoon, I had a scoop from Jan Viney at DCHS on our pelican and beaver friends: "Over $4,500 and counting has been raised for our special beaver and pelican patients. The pelican is officially blind in her right injured eye, but she is continuing to eat well and remains in good spirits. The beaver's hind leg injury is being closely monitored and medical decisions and relocation options are being discussed for him. We'll keep you updated! Thank YOU for your support of our companion AND wild animals!"

With apologies to The Proclaimers for ripping off/paraphrasing their song title—but (and really... you must click the arrow to the left for the full effect of this moment and to be part of this celebration) it seemed appropriate for this S4S milestone. On the return ride home I passed the S4S 1000-mile mark. (Are you listening to the music? C'mon. Click the arrow. Sing along! Par-tay!) When my odometer read 14.7, I stopped Silver Beauty, gave a little whoop (which scared a passing runner), took a couple pictures, and—well, it's not like I had a magnum of champagne with me—I got back on the road to home. I can't say it enough that you have been with me every pedal stroke of the way in this labor of legs and love. Thank you ever so much.

It's been a really good day. And an incredible journey of 1000 miles.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Day 37: The Mother Nature Casino

Day 37 miles to/from work: 26.8
Total miles for S4S: 985.3

A lot of people would rather tour sewers than visit their cousins.
                                                                                                               -Jane Howard

This was the kind of morning that made even the sewage treatment plant look good. Brilliant sun and blue skies accompanied temperatures back up to the balmy 40s, while the fields emitted that mysterious and distant Mists of Avalon countenance. I'd had a weekend replete with sleep and fun, and I felt great. "And you couldn't wait to get on the bike, right?" Are you kidding? I wanted my car. I wanted to burn fossil fuels and go fast and be to work in 15 minutes. I wanted constant, instant gratification. I did not want to pedal. But... I pedaled.
A corollary to Murphy's Law states that Mother Nature is  a bitch. She is certainly sneaky and capricious. As I was reluctantly pedaling along, thinking fondly of exhaust fumes and resisting the siren song of this alluring day, I passed a red-winged black bird. I kept going, then had to turn around. The bird was beautiful and made it abundantly clear that he found me annoying and intrusive. He chirped bitterly at me and petulantly refused to show his red side for the camera, then flew to another perch a few feet away. Tiring of my persistence, he finally flew away, knowing I would not.

I had barely gone another 100 feet before I was looking at an impressionist painting in 3D. Oh sure, Mom N, make me feel how wonderful it is to be going to work in nature, close to the earth, surrounded by beauty, sweet-smelling air splashing my face interwoven with the occasional odd thermal. Show me your cornucopia of flora and fauna and defy me to get this experience from the interior of an enclosed machine. You win. Bitch. I had no choice but to enjoy the rest of the ride.
Dusk was coming on in earnest when I left the office a little after 6:00.  Mother Nature, the seductress, continued with her coy ploys. Something about the deepness of twilight on a clear evening gives the feeling of moving through space on a stream of silk. Smooth. Gossamer. It is an alternate universe that doesn't exist when the sun is high. Silver Beauty and I shimmied our way in the night with the bright-night-train light carving out our path. Within a couple miles of home, the cornucopia held one more gift—adolescent deer grazing just off the bike path. Their presence was ephemeral and breath-taking.

Deer may be as prevalent as taverns in Wisconsin, but to come upon one and behold it at close range for long moments, particularly without it being impaled on the grill of a car, is an uncommon and moving event.

Mother Nature is the Vegas of life. She holds the cards and stacks the deck. She can be hard and cruel. But when she pays off, it's the jackpot, baby.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Day 36: Wearing stripes with plaid and maybe a little camo

Day 36 miles to/from work: 26.8
Total miles for S4S: 958.5

Once you can accept the universe as being something expanding into an infinite nothing which is something—wearing stripes with plaid is easy.
                                                                                                                                   -Albert Einstein

I had to buy a coat rack for my office. It's actually a "something on which to hang sweaty biking apparel" rack, but "coat rack" is simpler and sounds less... umm... descriptive. Even before the weather started cooling to require more and more layers, draping damp gear over every available surface made my work area look even more appalling than usual.

This morning I wore every item you see to the left (except Austin Powers and the printer), and some that are lost in the forest of layers. At departure time, it was 32 degrees with a mid-20s windchill. But—hallelujah and pass the biscuits!—there was no wind. There was sun. There were 
plenty of blue skies to go around for everyone. It was divine.

I've made mention in various posts that riding a bike with the proper gear for safety and comfort is not for the vain. However, if ever there were a time for the high-vanity crowd to give it a whirl, that would be now. 

Although you will look worse than geeky-horrible-ugly,  you will also be unidentifiable. You can wear stripes and plaid without fear of recognition by the fashion police. Today's temperature brought on a few more layers, including the balaclava. I wore my safety goggles, designed for industrial chemical splashes, but also excellent for biking in the rain and at night. My sunglasses fogged over the minute I stepped outside into the cold, but the goggles worked great. And my lobster gloves—ah, blessed lobster gloves—kept my fingers toasty warm for the entire ride.

I know you won't feel quite complete without the usual Friday mantra, so here goes: My legs were tired. Oh well. Who cares? It was a great ride.

I rode home was with the same windless, cloudless conditions of this morning, except for an additional 20 degrees. It was the perfect end to a biking week. 

As someone who loves dark, gnarly, chewy beer, MHL is not exactly the official beer of me. But this billboard, with its "Get ready for weekend!" feel, is on my route; and it always makes me smile. Also, the guy pictured looks like my friend Dave Erickson—made famous in S4S for originating the "I'll double my donation on the days you bike in the rain" pledge. I emailed Dave to ask about the resemblance, and he replied, "It’s not me. The only camo clothing I’ve ever worn is a Santa hat." Thank you, Dave, and all of you on the S4S Team who make me smile every day. Happy weekend!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Day 35: A pelican and a beaver walk into a bar...

Day 35 miles to/from work: 26.8
Total miles for S4S: 931.7

A great wind is blowing, and that gives you either imagination or a headache.
                                                                                                                       -Catherine the Great

As Silver Beauty and I departed this morning, we enjoyed  all the benefits of: 43 degrees. Windchill 35 degrees. Winds 17 mph gusting to 35. In yesterday's post, I described the weather as not user friendly, further embellished with such adjectives as "gray, windy, bone-chilling". Today's forecast  made me long to picnic in those idyllic conditions. I not so much rode as wrestled my way into that antagonistic, ice-bitch of a wind, yet with enormous gratitude that the earlier forecast of rain was not part of this scenario.

Even with the benefit of wearing stretchy "Magic gloves" yesterday, my fingers were numb, red Popsicles by the time I got to work. Today my Castelli neoprene gloves saw active duty. My hands still got cold, but not as cold, and not as early in the ride. But enough about the elements and the gear for staving off the elements. Check out what's new at Dane County Humane Society (DCHS).

Yesterday I received an update on the DCHS Four Lakes Wildlife Center (FLWC). If DCHS were "just" about saving dogs and cats, I would still consider it great work. They are indeed doing that, but their scope includes so much more. Two previous S4S posts detailed how DCHS is helping victims of domestic abuse through their SAAV program and facilitating transformation in both prison inmates and the dogs they train through the Second Chances program. As if that were not quite enough, they also rehabilitate injured wildlife through FLWC.

"A juvenile pelican was abandoned by her flock in northern Wisconsin. [Who knew we even had pelicans in Wisconsin? lz] She has an eye injury and will need to be monitored by FLWC for at least a month while her future placement is arranged. DCHS is hopeful to find transport to a warmer climate or to another wildlife rehabilitation center that is better equipped to care for her over the harsh winter months. The pelican eats approximately three pounds of fish daily, costing DCHS $50 a day." [Dear Lord, we could all eat at Lilliana's complete with wine for a week's worth of pelican fare.]

"An adult beaver was found by the Yahara River with a laceration on his side. Exceptional Care for Animals was able to repair the wound, and FLWC is now monitoring his recovery. Once stable, the beaver will need to be transferred to a facility [for further recovery]."

These are more examples that whatever comes through the doors of DCHS is taken in and cared for. Let me say yet again, thank you for being instrumental in the success of DCHS with your pledge to S4S. You can see all the good that you are doing in so many ways with your support.

The ride home had some sun and more blue skies than gray to accompany the tailwind—nice companions to have on a bike ride. When I got home, my lifetime companion was back from his business trip,making it a truly happy Thursday!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Day 34: On Wisconsin

Day 34 miles to/from work: 29.3
Total miles for S4S: 904.9

I don't think Wisconsin should become known as a state where we shoot cats.
                                                                                         -Former Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle

User friendly:  what this morning was not.

It wasn't a bad morning by any means. Although short on sleep—now the standard—I felt good. Getting ready for work went smoothly, Jazz and Oreo seemed marginally grateful to be fed (okay, not even a little, but at least they didn't act pissy), and all was well with the world.

However, the great outdoors presented a gray, windy, bone-chilling day determined to emanate hostility. Rather than focus on the hypothermia and frost bite (my fingers went numb even with gloves, but 
honestly, the ride wasn't that bad), I want to put the lens on Wisconsin and how I fell in love with my adopted and adoptive state.

If you live here, you're already livin' The Dream, and 'nuf said. If you're not a homey, I hope my pictures with every blog post have given you some idea of what a beautiful, diverse state this is—even though you've only seen one teeny 13-1/2 mile sampling of it.

In April 2002 I was preparing to move from Sacramento, California to Austin, Texas. "Uh, hello? Austin, Texas isn't exactly where you wound up." For a blonde with a bad sense of direction, landing in Madison was an easy mistake to make: state capital, university town, humid summer. (January demonstrated that the winters are the distinguishing characteristic between Austin and Madison.)

Before embarking on the intended move to Texas, I had sold my house and wrapped up my job in Sacramento. Free time and open road beckoned for me to take the big honkin' road trip of my dreams. For three months I drove all over the USofA and put 15,000 miles on my car. I came through Madison and spent five magical days, during which my feelings for this city and this state were like falling in love with a person. I could no longer imagine living anywhere else. Within six weeks I had a job and owned a house here. I later learned that both my grandmothers were born in Wisconsin, so probably some primal drumbeat was thrumming through my reptilian ganglion and brought me back. (Fade with Twilight Zone theme....)

As much as I loved my life in Madison, those first few years I often lamented, "if only I could find a man I love as much as I love this city". In 2006 I met Scott. So my life here now is about two great loves.

And one bicycle. Silver Beauty taxied me on a couple after-work errands and then home through a still somewhat unkind and cold wind. But I was bundled up in cozy layers, ear warmers were in place, and—of course—my bright night train light led the way. Happy to be home. Happy that home is in this place that I love.


Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Day 33: Safe on second

Day 33 miles to/from work: 26.8
Total miles for S4S: 875.6

Saving the life of one animal may not change the world, but the world will surely change for that one animal.

This is how my morning started—a gorgeous sunrise over the lake and cleaning the kitty litter box. I have spared you pictorial evidence of the latter. When Silver Beauty and I set out, it was 37 degrees and mostly clear skies.

For those of you who are regular readers here, you know that every Tuesday is "Last-chance Tuesday", when some of my Texas friends and I are wildly networking the Carrollton, Texas shelter 
animals that haven't been adopted or tagged by a rescue and face Wednesday morning euthanasia. This morning at 12:30 am, I was emailing a rescue (Casa de Perro or CDP) about Miss Piggy, a pitbull in need of rescuing. And she was heartworm-positive. And had kennel cough. (Just how sweet a deal is that, huh?) She also had $200 in pledges from networkers, plus a sponsor who said she would cover the heartworm treatment. Miss Piggy had her fan club. The fact that she was a dog was good enough for me; and with a name like Miss Piggy ("Never eat anything heavier than you can lift"), in my book that was a mandate to save her.

When I got up even before the sunrise and checked my email, there was no response to determine the Divine Miss P's future. I texted my buddies about the lack of rescue response with, "So what's wrong with this guy? He's not up after 12:30 and before 6?"

Silver Beauty and I were sailing along when my cell phone rang. I pulled off the path onto the edge of a field. It was Mike from CDP, saying he would take Miss Piggy as long as the person sponsoring the heartworm treatment would let him use his own veterinarian. In addition, he would take Knight, a black lab and also a Carrollton inmate. Woot! Double score! I called Joe at Carrollton animal shelter to let him know, then called my friend Leticia so she could get the heartworm sponsor in touch with Mike. Then I just laughed. I was on my way to work, standing off the bike path in a field in Wisconsin, shivering in 37 degree temps, spending 20 minutes talking to people in Texas I've never met about a dog I've never seen except in pictures.... I was thinking "This is both so funny and so cool! And we're saving lives!" All in all, a fantastic start to Last-Chance Tuesday.

It was a ride with a cold headwind, and I didn't care. Miss Piggy was safe. Knight got into the bonus round. Life is good. Life is life.

There is something about 50 degrees at the end of October that does not equal 50 degrees in early October. When I left work the temperature was in the mid-50s. It didn't matter. It was cold and raw. The harbinger of winter. But winter with a tailwind. That made for a quick and reasonably pleasant ride home, despite the rawness.

The rest of the evening was entirely predictable—I got sucked into the rescue operation. And it was a success. Five cats and one more dog, tagged by rescues. Once again, Wednesday morning the Carrollton Animal Services executioner will be sharing office space with the Maytag repairman.


Monday, October 17, 2011

Day 32: Bright Night Train

Day 32 miles to/from work: 28.8
Total miles for S4S: 848.8

She's a bright night train layin' brand new track.
                                                                    ~ Paul Cebar

You need background music for this post, so please, indulge me. Click the arrow on the video to the left and enjoy one of my favorite musical artists, Paul Cebar, as you read.

I mentioned in an earlier post that I got a 1000-lumen light for Silver Beauty last week and just charged and installed it this past weekend. The bike "headlight" I had been using was 300 lumens. If you have been driving your car at night while having someone run in front of you with a birthday candle to light the way, you have some idea of the challenge I faced on those evenings I came home in the dark. Although Silver Beauty and I left for work this morning in the light of a dazzling sun, I was almost giddy at what awaited me on the return trip.

My legs were far better than Friday, but not fully fresh. Saturday Scott had mercilessly prodded me on a ride (17-mile round-trip) in gale force winds with promises of good beer and great company. Not like that took a lot of lashes with the bull whip. First we biked to a bar (but not a biker bar) near campus and watched the Badgers going all Hannibal Lechter on Indiana's ass. Then we rode to our friends', the Wiesners', house for their annual Homecoming party. It was awesome, with all the fun, interesting people (including the host and hostess) and excellent beer anticipated.

Sunday I did nothing more active than what was required to haul my body out of bed and get it to places that provided food and drink.

The ride in this morning was a chilly 40 degrees, but I was dressed for it. The tiny bit of headwind was docile compared to the gale force wickedness of Friday and Saturday. The sun was bright, the sky was blue, and riding a bike once again felt like a child's gift rather than a grown-up duty. The going was a little slower than the norm, but completely enjoyable.

Then... at last, time to ride home for the big spotlight show. At 5:30 the sun was starting to dip and the sky darken. I had to go by Walgreen's, so that gave twilight more opportunity to set in.  Way before I took a little detour by Machinery Row bikes, my new light was flaring in full force. Oh, the glory! No Hollywood klieg light has ever shown with such radiance. I offer my abject apologies to oncoming cyclists and runners who were struck blind and fell to the side of the path. I am not certain, but I think I saw three shepherds approaching, shielding their eyes and shrinking back as Silver Beauty and I blasted past.

Now I know how locomotives and their conductors feel cutting through the black of the night in a luminous blaze. Ethereal. Liberated. On fire. I am eternally grateful for the great good fortune to even once experience being a bright night train. (Well, for great good fortune and free shipping from They're not always easy to distinguish from one another.) I'm fired up at the very thought that I might very well experience that luminescence again tomorrow.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Day 31: Friday'tude

Day 31 miles to/from work: 26.6
Total miles for S4S: 820.0

You never have the wind with you—either it is against you or you're having a good day.
                                                                            ~ Daniel Behrman, The Man Who Loved Bicycles 

It's Friday, and you know what that means! "Would you like cheese with that whine?" You have the formula down by now and could probably write this yourself, but let me give you the Reader's Digest condensed version first. "I'm tired. The ride was hard. Whaaa. Whaaa. Whaaa."

Okay, here's the novella-length version. I did not want to get out of bed this morning—even less than I want to get out of bed on any weekday morning. Falling lower on the chart of things I found desirable this morning was getting on Silver Beauty to ride. When I proposed S4S, I said I would do it—I didn't promise to always like it.
The temperatures were back down to the 40s, and the north wind came with a sharp bite. This was compounded by the fact that it was a head wind, creating a literal and figurative uphill battle for the entire ride. Of the 62 rides I've done since September 1, on the scale of best to worst, this one would definitely rate as #62.

The good news: the sun was shining. I am healthy and can ride. Even feeling like Grinch on a Bike, I felt grateful for the gift of freedom of movement.

The ride home was the polar opposite of this morning's foray. That north wind, blessedly, had not changed direction; so between the downhill grade and a tailwind, filing a flight plan might have been in order. It was great! Knowing we had reservations at Christy's Landing for a fish fry made it all the sweeter. Let the weekend begin! Laissez les bons temps rouler.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Day 30: Composting gas money into gear

Day 30 miles to/from work: 26.8
Total miles for S4S: 793.4

According to, the rain was supposed to stop by 7:00 am. By 7:30 it was still going strong. When Silver Beauty and I set out, we were fully geared up—I with my rain jacket, rain pants, and industrial goggles; Silver Beauty with her seat encased in a plastic grocery bag. Within two miles I was roasting, and the rain had mostly subsided. I pulled off to the side of the bike path, took off my helmet, removed the goggles, stripped off the rain jacket, took off each shoe followed by the corresponding pant leg one at a time, and stuffed everything into a pannier, then replaced the helmet—all while balancing SB. I wondered what this looked like from the office building I was facing.

This project has been meaningful in so many ways, but it has also fueled my addiction to "gear", as well as the need for serviceable tools. Since I started S4S, I got a great rain jacket $150. Rain pants $110. A 1000-lumen light that will cut a swath like a night train $90. And $130 for new panniers when my old ones finally disintegrated.... It is not cheap saving money on gas. Perhaps it sounds like I'm complaining, but the opportunity and "need" to get mo' bettah, cooler, efficient gear:  priceless!

I was happy to leave the office in the light of 5:30 instead of the dark of 6:00 and rain—the sun was shining, wind blowing, and temperatures had dropped. It was chillier than I had expected, but a bright ride home. No dark. No rain. Just easy ridin'...and home.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Day 29: Do the Inuits have 38 words for "wet"?

Day 29 miles to/from work: 27.3
Total miles for S4S: 766.6

I've never heard a meteorologist give a forecast for "dank". "Cloudy with a 50% chance of dank." "Highs in the 60s with increasing dankness." Dank was not in the forecast; but when Silver Beauty and I set out this morning, that is decidedly what it was. Rain from last night and early this morning left every outdoor surface reflecting a dull wetness, the air felt as leaden as the overcast sky, and fallen leaves lay dispiritedly plastered to the asphalt. Dank.

The ride ahead held a damply depressing outlook, and I harbored dim hope for evading the threat of serious mildew action. Without much enthusiasm, I climbed on Silver Beauty and started pedaling.
Rote muscle memory pushed me through gray-toned landscape. Then a couple miles in, I realized that the temperature was politely non-intrusive. The breeze was soft and accommodating. A little sunshine would have been nice, but otherwise it was just damned pleasant. Midway to the office, I shed sleeves to bare arms (not to be confused with "to bear arms"—no munitions were involved). By the time I got to work, even El Sol had made an appearance.

From my office I watched the day follow an arc of progressive vivacious brilliance, then sullenly descend from its apex to dark skies and rainfall. Yuk. It was after 6:00 when I left the office, happy for my rain jacket and waterproof panniers; not so much for the rain. In another post I related the utterly failed experiment of using swim goggles as rain eyewear. Soon after, I ordered some clear, "splash-proof" safety goggles, advertised to be vented to avoid fogging. If they were good enough to protect one from the splashing of industrial chemicals, my theory was that they would do just fine in the rain. And they did.

In fact, I did just fine in the rain as well. After the initial resistance to the whole idea, I embraced the thought that it was just rain. Not cold. Not blowing. Certainly not dangerous. Just rain. That shoe-sloshing thing just leant an added dimension to the event. And wasn't I the intrepid adventuress to be biking in it?

Riding in the rain and dark, even with bike lights, was not such an easy self-sell. I went slowly and was very careful, while feeling grateful that a deer did not jump across my path as occurred last night.

When I got home, I eagerly sought the final immersion therapy of the day. Dorothy was right that there is no place like home—and after getting both sodden and grubby on a rainy ride, that haven was made even better with the comfort of a hot bath.