photo of Kelly

The beginning and end photos from my 30-day DietBet. You can’t see much, if any, difference, but I can feel it!

Like so many women–and you know what? It’s not even a woman-thing. Like so many people, it is always my desire to just drop a few pounds. A month ago, I got back on the horse. I began going to the gym again three or four times a week. A couple of weeks ago, I figured out an alternative bike route to my office that is a little further but which I can ride in the same amount of time. I toned down some of my consumption habits. I joined a 30-day DietBet game.

Let’s start with the DietBet. For those of you unfamiliar, it’s a website where you pay money into a multi-person game to bet that you will be able to lose a certain amount of weight. You win by meeting the target, and the pot is split by everyone who made it. For the 30-day game I just completed, the goal was to lose 4%. For me, that was 8 pounds (3.6 kg). I’m not going to lie–I joined that particular DietBet because Karina Smirnoff was the host. You know how much I love Dancing with the Stars!

I went to the gym regularly for the first few months of last year and it felt great! I dislike running, but trotting on the treadmill has kind of become my thing since I discovered the Couch to 5K business two or three years ago. It only takes a couple of weeks for me to begin seeing and feeling the difference, so that’s my approach every time I start over. I fell off the wagon (er, treadmill?) when I went on vacation last July and spent the next three-quarters of a year subsidizing other people’s memberships. But my weight also crept up to the highest it’s ever been, and so finally last month I started going again and have managed to get back in the good habit.

Feeling the inspiration on foot, I also try to bike a little more, too. From about March through about October, or for as long as the snow holds off, I bike commute to work every day, a 15-minute ride through the heart of downtown. I don’t really think of it as exercise, even though it is, and so have been trying to go out for a long ride at least once on the weekends, and a medium ride in the evening every now and then if it’s not too hot.

Perhaps you are a fan of the NFL (National Football League) and know that the Minnesota Vikings are building a brand new stadium where the Metrodome stood until last year. I guess it’s going to resemble a giant, glass Viking ship. All I really know is that they didn’t spring for bird-safe glass. We’ll see how that plays out. The area of downtown adjacent to the stadium site is also going through a major redevelopment, and shiny new office buildings are rising from the backhoed rubble of a number of former surface parking lots.

Well. All of this construction activity has wreaked havoc on the very streets that I use every day in my commute. There are closures and detours which, unless I want to go significantly out of my way in one direction or, in the other direction, ride on a busy artery with cars only thinking about the freeway access a half mile ahead. Even the quieter alternative a couple of blocks beyond that is under its own construction of a sewer project. There is no good way to bike that particular vector.

Thus, I finally broke down and tried the route that takes me along the Mississippi River bike path to a bike commuter trail to the western suburbs. I can enter and exit within blocks of home and the office. I had balked at using it because it is a longer distance, and when I’m commuting, I’m all about not wasting time. But it turns out that, even though it’s 3.25 miles versus the 2.5 miles (5.2 km vs 4 km) of the downtown route, it doesn’t take me any more time because there are only a couple of interactions with streets and I don’t usually have to stop even once, and I can just go. Riding this route for the first time was an epiphany! It’s easier, it’s so much less stressful, it’s scenic, and the longer distance fits in with my increased activity desires.

photo of several meals

These are a few of the quick (usually about 30 minutes to prepare), delicious, home-cooked meals I’ve been making.

The final component of the last month has been to be more mindful of when and how much I’m consuming. For me, the largest part of that is to cut back on the beer. Instead of three or four, I try to keep it to a couple. And instead of my favorite double IPA or big stout, I often choose ones with lower alcohol content. Along with that is the realization that it also helps to eat a lighter supper earlier rather than later. Gorging on a burger at the bar is a whole lot different than freshly preparing a meal of more sensible foods (that I actually like better anyway). A staple has been a few ounces of salmon, a pile of asparagus, and one-half cup or less of a whole grain, such as quinoa or my new favorite, farro. I have resumed documenting everything that goes down my gullet in the Lose It! app. I don’t necessarily try to meet the calorie budget that it suggests, but the act of tracking eventually causes you to more carefully consider your choices.

So doing all of these things consistently for the last five weeks paid off. I surpassed my DietBet target and lost 8.8 pounds (4 kg), and won $49.68 on my $30 bet! My stamina has increased so much from the treadmill trotting and wobbly bits are coming a little more under control. Mainly, I just feel better and that is very satisfying. The knowledge that this happens when I keep up with things is what gets me through the afternoons when I’d rather just go home (okay, that, and that I’ve been watching 30 Rock while I trot to distract myself).

But it’s my desk-neighbor at work who put the extra little spring in my step today. She’s 23 and just out of college, where she was a competitive swimmer and is still someone who you would call an athlete. A couple of weeks ago I was moaning about being sore from my first session of strength training the day before and we had a brief conversation about my activities at the gym. Well, today she asked me how it all was going and was astonished when I said I had gone fourteen times last month. We talked a little more and I mentioned that I had lost about 7 pounds (3.2 kg). In response she uttered the five words at the top of the page and that is the most gratifying and motivating thing of all!

———-

Addendum: Because I want to keep the momentum going, I joined another DietBet game. This one goes on for six months with a final target of a 10% loss. There are monthly official weigh-ins with their own mini-targets, and you can win those, too. I tried one last year with little success, but I feel like I have a better attitude now. Stay tuned!

Why do I torture myself year after year? I willingly go to a place where I get to hang out with 150,000 of my closest friends. I spend a hot summer day outside in the sun. I tolerate waiting in long lines for the ladies room. I eat battered, deep-fried, junky food. What is this torture? Why, the Great Minnesota Get-Together, of course!

Any self-respecting Minnesotan will trek to the Minnesota State Fair at least once each year. I have friends who go multiple times. Take my friend Jen A, for example, whose husband is in the Army. They got stationed in Guam for three years. A year ago he left a month before Jen. Jen waited until after the Fair. And when has she come back for a visit? To coincide with the Fair. She has been there just about every day. I don’t know how she does it. I go for a few hours and I’m done in. Think I’m joking about attendance of 150,000? Look at this. And I went on the last Sunday. The last Sunday usually goes over 200,000.

These just in:

Quotes from Jen (which I include because I truly am impressed by your desire, determination, and stamina, and I know you were doing what you love to do): 1) “After a 15.5 hour day yesterday, I’ve logged 67 hours at the fair this year. A record for me. One day to go. (Sunday).” 2) “My last day at the fair. 16 hours for a total of 83 hours over 6 days. That’ll do.”

2014 State Fair breaks all-time attendance record. Thank goodness I didn’t go on Saturday, attendance 252,092.

So this is the fun I had at the fair.

photo of overheated Kelly

When I bike to the fair, I am hot and miserable before I even pass through the gate.

Biking to the fair.

Just like going to the fair at all, biking to it always seems like a good idea before I do it. It’s a four-and-a-half-mile ride, most of which is on a dedicated bike- and busway. Easy route, but even if the temperature isn’t too hot, I get overheated. So I’m at a disadvantage before I even get through the gate.

I should also mention that the fair encourages you to not take your car. As could benefit me, there are three bike corrals. Unfortunately they are at the three corners of the grounds other than the one where the transitway spits me out. Getting to a bike corral adds a half-mile onto my ride. But I’m glad they have them because it takes a lot of the thinking out of arriving at the Fair.

Anyway, I had a couple of personal connections at the fair.

Personal connections and vegetables in general.

My coworker’s grandmother enters vegetables every year. And she wins every year. Look at those Yukon gold potatoes! Jen (a different Jen) helped harvest those winners. And since I love vegetables, you get a photo of the west wall of the Horticulture Building. And who wouldn’t be impressed by giant pumpkins, Charlie Brown?

photo of potatoes

Blue ribbon Yukon Gold potatoes dug up and sorted by my coworker, grown by her grandmother.

photo of giant pumpkin

It’s the Great Pumpkin!

panoramic photo of vegetables

These are a few of my favorite vegetables.

photo of Larry's painting

A little purple goes a long way.

I also managed to find my nextdoor neighbor Larry’s painting in the Fine Arts building. As my mentor Chris Gargan always said, a little purple goes a long way. Or was that John Ribble? It was twenty+ years ago.

photo of mini-donut beer

Mini-donuts! In beer form!

Beer.

Natch, it didn’t take me long to acquire beer. Unlike last year, Lift Bridge Brewery made PLENTY of their Mini-Donut Brown Ale. It sounds so wrong, but it works. This year there was also a s’mores beer replete with a floating marshmallow, and a lager that came with blueberry frozen foam.

photo of Kelly with beer

Kelly visits a beer exhibit. Yes, a beer exhibit.

A great thing about the Minnesota State Fair is that it keeps up with the times. Whether it’s an evening of Minnesota bands, sponsored by The Current, or craft beer, the fair is all over it. Back by popular demand for the third year, was the Land of 10,000 Brews exhibit, also in the Horticulture Building. This is where there are six options for four-beer flight from Minnesota breweries. The selections vary daily. Sometimes there’s fancy stuff, but mostly it’s a way to support our burgeoning craft beer industry.

[Update from the interim between writing and posting: Some asshole robbed the exhibit at gunpoint a couple hours after the Fair closed for the year. Armed robbery of over $10,000.]

photo of double-wide stroller

Does she look like she’s actually having fun?

Major annoyances.

I’m pretty sure I ranted about this last year, too, and every year before that. If it’s not old enough to walk under its own power, it’s most likely not old enough to really comprehend, and therefore actually enjoy, what is going on at the fair, and should therefore be left at home. Your doublewide stroller isn’t doing anybody, and I mean anybody, least of all you, any favors. Tell the truth. Do you actually enjoy pushing that thing through the throng, having to constantly apologize to the crowd around you for needing non-standard space accommodation, the crowd which is already annoyed by the rest of the crowd? Are you having fun when the tot is screaming because it wants cotton candy, or is over-stimulated, or is over-tired? And when it falls asleep, well, what was the point anyway?

photo of parade float

It’s a parade. Yay.

While we’re on the subject of hindrances to the already crowd-hindering crowd, what about the daily parade? I guess some people watch it, but it seems like it’s mostly meaderers scattering to the curbs to make way. I find it particularly purturbing because on either side of the street it goes down are some of the things I’m most interested in, such as the aforementioned Horticulture Building and the abeermentioned Ballpark Cafe, from whence the Mini-Donut Brown Ale (and many other fine, Minnesota brews) is served, and because I always manage to encounter it. I just want to cross the damned street. Call me a chicken if you must, apropos to the fair.

photo of Kelly with a Pronto Pup

It’s a Pronto Pup. Or is it a corndog. Huh?

Fair food.

Unless you live in a cave, you’ve likely heard of all the any-state’s fair food you can get on a stick. Minnesota’s fair does food on a stick like no other. However, I mostly avoid it. Battered, deep-fried delights are so far from how I typically eat that it doesn’t take much of it to do me in. But I’ll always get a corndog. I don’t like weiners but I love me a corndog. I am a poor Minnesotan because I’m still not sure exactly what the difference is between a corndog and a Pronto Pup. What I do know is that this year I got a Pronto Pup rather than a corndog and I didn’t like it as well. I think a Pronto Pup is more of a batter batter while a corndog is more of a cornbread batter. Next year I shall go back to the corndog.

photo of Kelly eating corn on the cob

Corn!

What never disappoints is the roasted corn on the cob. Minnesota sweetcorn, grilled in the husk. ’Nuff said. Oh, except for that they compost all the discarded cobs.

 

photo of weather radar progression

How much time do I have?

Weather, more beer, more food.

All afternoon I felt like I had blown it with regard to the weather. The day before, Saturday, was a little less warm, a little less humid, less unsettled. Sunday started out overcast and not-warm, but of course by the time I got pedaling the sun came out and the dewpoint started creeping up. The forecast was for a clear afternoon with rain and thunder likely in the evening. It approached more quickly.

photo of Kelly and cutout of Mark Stutrud

Hanging out with Summit Brewing founder, Mark Stutrud. Well, a reasonable facsimile of him, anyway.

I made my move in the direction of the exit when I figured, based on radar panel number three, that I had about forty-five minutes before the heavens would open. I need about twenty-five for the bike ride. Fortunately, the main Summit Brewing counter, in the International Bazaar, is right on the way to the entrance I use next to the bike corral. Summit had a fair-only brew this year, but it was not on offer on Sunday (unless it was at an auxiliary location). Nevertheless, I ordered one of the beers that was available and participated in what was their genius marketing ploy for the fair, taking a selfie with the life-sized cutout of founder Mark Stutrud. I have actually hung out with Mark several times in person, so this was a little weird, and yet, necessary.

photo of tacos

Tacos al pastore y asada.

I had just about decided that I was out of weather-time and had every intention of heading out, when I was dazzled again by what had caught my attention on the way in, tacos from Los Ocampo. I wasn’t exactly hungry, but wanted to eat, and figured that if I ate a little more at the fair, that would be enough for the day. I went for one each of the al pastore and the asada. The nice people sitting on the bench next to me approved of my choice (having vast, it seemed, experience at one of Los Ocampos’ restaurant locations) and gave me a piece of their fried plantains. It was all very good.

photo of approaching weather

Hopefully I’ll beat this home.

I finally, finally, uncorraled my bike and headed home, a little later than I meant to. On the other hand, it wasn’t already raining so I knew whatever happened, I wouldn’t get it too bad. As it was, I only got spritzed on during the second half of the ride. I got home and took my second full shower of the day. I tied my hair up in a different way that proved to be a beneficial way, but that doesn’t really have anything to do with the fair.

I hate this bike!

August 28, 2014

photo of loaner bike

This looks like a perfectly wonderful bicycle. Appearances can be deceiving.

A year ago, I got a new rear wheel for my bicycle and ever since it’s been one broken spoke after another, by which I mean three. But that’s there more than I had in fifteen years with the original-equipment old wheel. A month ago I had a two and now it’s in the shop again with another one. Fortunately, the shop to which I’ve been going, One On One, has excellent customer service and they bend over backwards to make things right with no hassle. When I walked in this time the manager (I assume he’s the manager) immediately remembered without prompting that I had just been in a few weeks ago. He offered to sell me at cost (about half of retail) a sturdier rim with thicker spokes. Okay!

Only trouble is, the loaner bike they stuck me with this time is a real plonker. Don’t get me wrong, I’m ecstatic that they do loaner bikes and I’m grateful that I can keep riding. But of the three different bikes I’ve had in the last year, this one is THE WORST.

I enjoyed the bike a year ago. I particularly liked the handle grips and subsequently got similar ones for my bike to replace the original grips which I had worn smooth. The bike a month ago I didn’t like so well. That was mainly because of handlebars that were shaped and placed such that my thigh would block them whenever I tried to make a turn any sharper than a gentle arc. When I saw the current bike I was leery of its handlebars which appeared suspiciously similar, but they turned out to be okay.

photo of loaner bike's basket

I’ve seen all manner of basket on people’s bikes. I am not a fan of this front-mounted, metal crate. It seems to be original equipment of this model.

No, the beef I have with this bike is the basket. Look at it. It’s a monstrous metal crate. It makes for very front-heavy balance, which has taken some getting used to (I’m on day four with the bike). The shop guy touted it as a feature and boasted that he once carried four large pizzas in/on it. But more annoyingly, this mega-basket makes it practically impossible to maneuver through a doorway without banging and bashing the door and the frame. I have to go through two doors at home and two at the office. That’s a lot of bangers and mash (yes, yes, I know what bangers and mash really is).

photo of spring on loaner bike

Have you every seen one of these springs before? Neither have I. You must be really incompetent if you need that much help going in a straight line.

The balance issue is exacerbated by a weird feature I’ve never heard of in a bicycle. A strong spring joins the front wheel to the frame. This apparently is to help keep the wheel straight. Is this bike model for people who can’t grasp the basics of steering? Is it for people who really dig rid no-handed? I don’t get it. What the spring does for me, in combination with the front-mounted crate, is to make my steering go all wobbly when I remove my left hand from the handlebars to signal a turn. And while we’re on the subject, you do not signal a right turn by sticking out your right arm. You signal a right turn by up-bending your left arm at the elbow. Similarly, when I am properly signaling my right turn and you, the pedestrian, are standing on the corner looking at me, I am not waving hello to you. You’d be surprised how frequently either of these scenarios occurs.

But I digress.

A minor quibble is that the loaner bike only has eight gears. It’s true I’ve always said that I don’t need the twenty-one speeds that my own bike has because I only use four or five of them. But that many speeds allows for subtlety, I have realized. The difference on the loaner between the easy gear that I use for accelerating and the next, harder one seems vast by comparison.

The shop is waiting for the new wheel to come in. That won’t be soon enough for me.

photo of loaner bike

Winter weather, whoa!

April 11, 2013

Image

Spring has not sprung. I was willing to overlook the fact that I wore longjohns and a parka to the Minnesota Twins baseball season opener. I don’t even mind that I can’t wear shorts yet—though many break them out as soon as the temperature hits 40F/5C. This is Minnesota, after all.

Mother Nature teased us with mild daytime highs last week. They were a little below average but still warm enough for people to wear shorts and to inspire me to drag my bicycle out of the storage room. It was an exciting development to pedal to work for the first time in months. After work I stopped at the local bike shop to enquire about a spring tune-up. I was told of my bike’s immanent demise, that I would be lucky if the thing didn’t fall apart right under me, and that with the labor and parts for the required complete overhaul, it would be less than $100 more to just purchase a new one. But I digress.

My friend Jon is hardcore and bikes everywhere all year. Even he was optimistic enough about the weather to make the switch from his winter beater bike to his nicer summer ride.

None of this was meant to be. The temperature went back down to around freezing and for days we listened to dire predictions about a late winter storm. Yesterday the drizzle began. Jon showed up on (I think he said) his wife’s beater bike because he had stored his already. An Instagram friend lamented that he’d have to switch the summer wheels on his car back to the winter. People do that? Another friend, Brad, was not looking forward to his #30DaysOfBiking ride after he got home last night.

I had been keenly radar-watching all day. The system was moving very slowly and Minneapolis was above freezing. I brashly predicted that the forecasts of six to twelve inches of snow would not materialize, that it wouldn’t be nearly that bad. I’d had a meteorology class in college in 1983, after all. Were you even born then? You would have seen me walking my dinosaur.

By the time I went to bed, the radar had bloomed. I knew I’d wake up to whiteness in the morning. I did.

ImageFortunately, the temperature hasn’t been spending much time below freezing. There were about 3 inches/8 cm of slushy snow on my sidewalk and it was raining snow. On the radio, the traffic updates reported slick entrance and exit ramps, and “too many spin-outs to mention them all.” I knew that in downtown Minneapolis where I live and work, things would be sloppy but the urban heat island effect would preclude too much slipperiness. What I wasn’t expecting to hear was that light rail trains were not in service because of ice build-up. In the eight winters that I’ve lived where I can use the light rail, I’ve never heard of service being suspended for any weather-related reason. Metro Transit does a nice job with the rail line. And really, the buses, too.

I personally was not put out by this storm. I don’t drive my car very much, and I certainly don’t drive it to work. I train, bus, bike, walk. I got to work this without too much inconvenience, except for having to wait while the Brothers Deli cooked my breakfast because I failed to phone ahead.

Image

“Look closely ….. that’s the amount of rain we received last year June through October.” Photo by Bossy Acres. They grow organic vegetables. Get some this summer.

Sure, I might wish for milder temperatures and dry roads so that I can continue riding my dilapidated bicycle. But let’s all of us put aside the selfishness of our personal comfort and conditions for a moment and think about the bigger picture. Though it sucks to get a major snowstorm in April, for sure (and let’s face it, if it were 50F/10C and had been raining for a week, we’d still be whining), let’s remember the inconvenient fact that since last summer, Minnesota is in drought. Our late snowfalls and slow temperature warm-up are a boon for the farmers who put food on our tables. The slower melt reduces flood risk, which means more of the water can be absorbed into the ground rather than just running off. In a couple of months when you’re walking around your local farmers market in your Crocs with your wild children, you’ll be thankful.

Ahem.

Image

“Priority parking shoveled out.” Photo by Harriet Brewing. They make Belgian-style beers. Go drink some.

This is Minnesota. If you’re going to live here, you must have a sense of humor about the weather, whatever it is and whenever it’s occuring. Just look at this photo posted by local brewery Harriet Brewing. They know people like Jon will still be out on their bikes, even in these shit conditions. This too shall pass.

Weather without you

July 14, 2012

Img_018071

With all of the bike riding I do (by which I mean my eighteen-year span of bike-commuting to work), you’d think that I’d have had some bad luck with the weather at some point but I haven’t. I ride during the not-cold season, which for my personal tolerance of conditions here in Minnesota means when the temperature is above freezing and below 95F/35C. I used to bike through the winter down to about 15F/-10C but I’ve gotten soft in my old age. For eleven years, my commute distance was 2.75 miles. For the last seven years it has been a mere 1.75, a paltry twelve minutes of my time.

One thing that has never put me off from biking to work is rain in the forecast. As long as it’s dry in the morning, I don’t care what’s going on for the ride home. My general guide as to whether it’s raining too hard to embark on my homeward journey is car windshield wipers. If they’re only on intermittent then I’m good to go. In addition, my office windows look out to the direction from which the weather approaches. And thanks to iPhone and the WeatherBug Elite app I can zoom in on the radar, practically down to my block. Plus, I was a meteorology major for a term in college. These are all fine qualifications, right?

What I’m sort of trying to say is that there aren’t usually too many surprises. That’s not to say that I’ve never gotten wet because I have; sometimes I make an informed choice to set off even though I know it’s likely that the approaching stormfront will have its way with me. Such was the case this afternoon.

I’ve gone both ways. Sometimes I’ll hang out at the office (or a nearby bar, ahem) for an extra while to wait things out. But other times—especially if it’s after 4:30pm aka close enough to quitting time—I’ll boldly inform my boss that I’m leaving NOW.

Img_018068

Today it could easily have gone either way. For most of the time it was pretty clear and sunny (and hot). We were dedicatedly working away on a Friday afternoon when we noticed—at exactly the aforementioned 4:30 no less—that there was doom and gloom on the near-horizon where previously there had been none. Three of us were on bikes. We lost all ability to focus on work and instead obsessed with looking out the windows and snapping photos to post on Instagram.

Img_018066a

Initially, I assessed that the rain was moving in quickly and that the line would pass quickly. I resolved to stay at the office for what I figured would be about an extra half hour. But then it got to be 5:00 and nothing had happened yet. That’s really close enough to bail out on the situation, especially on a Friday!

Img_018070

It was like the storm decided to play chicken with me as soon as it realized I had decided to leave that instant. In the time it took me to stuff my things into my backpack I could see that the line of rain had barreled up to within about a half mile (a perk of being on the 11th floor). I should have sat back down but it was 5:00 on Friday. I would be traveling in same direction as the storm. The strong tailwind would help me ride fast. I took the gamble.

Img_018073

It was already spitting when I exited the building. A block into the ride while I waited for a red light, it started raining in earnest. There was a building with a lovely, wide overhang across the street and I briefly made a move in that direction. Then I decided that it was hot enough, that the rain actually felt refreshing and wasn’t too annoying thanks to the visor on my bike helmet, and that it was only for ten minutes. I pedaled on, lightning be damned.

By the next stoplight the rain had let up already and I was glad I hadn’t wimped out. But by the next light it was raining hard again and I got to experience something I never have in all my years of bike-commuting—I got hailed on.

Luckily the hail was only pea-sized and the rain never went all the way to torrential. That’s not to say that a few of the hailstones didn’t sting when they hit my hands and legs, or that I didn’t get soaked. They did and I did. But after I got home and changed into dry clothes, I took comfort in engaging in two things that I love to do—sitting outside on my steps (or in my doorway alcove in this case because it was still sprinkling) and writing a blog entry, both made better with a refreshing beer in hand (Stone IPA in this case)!

Img_018080

Aside #1: If it’s not lime green I don’t use it. You think I’m joking.

Img_018082

Aside #2: I was visited by Molly the neighbor cat. She is a gorgeous and friendly beast.

Oh no, no snow!

March 10, 2012

Img_015535

It obviously doesn’t come as a shock to anyone that we’ve had a mild winter this year. As you may recall (and if you don’t, please review here), last winter was quite a different story.

I don’t do a lot of necessary driving in my car, so snow or no snow it’s not usually too much of a deal to me. Having said that, it kind of seems like when it does snow, three out of four times it’s on a bowling night. But maybe that’s just me being overly sensitive because I don’t do a lot of necessary driving and when I do drive, it’s noticeable when the conditions are less than optimal.

Regardless, my party line is that if it’s going to be cold, I think it should snow. But this year, I don’t even get that. It hasn’t been cold and it hasn’t snowed. We’ve had about three inches altogether so far. Okay, that’s an exaggeration. We’ve had about ten. I haven’t looked it up but I think that’s pretty close to the truth.

Last night I dreamed that I was biking over the crest of the Rocky Mountains. Though it was Todd with whom I had been discussing biking every day in April and he mentioned he was “Riding the Rockies” in June—May?—June?—May?—you’re not missing the Small Batch Revival, are you?—it was actually Jon, Christine, and Chris who were my cycling companions in my dream. And it wasn’t the Rockies, but a mash-up of Rib Mountain in Wausau, Wisconsin (okay, Granite Peak, whatever), and Lutsen Mountain up Duluth, Minnesota-way. It was “Riding the Rockies,” but all I wanted to do was get to a roadside motel, such as the Big Orange Moose place in Black River Falls, Wisconsin, and have a Hacker-Pschorr, which I enjoyed when I got stranded in Mauston, Wisconsin, last year.

But I digress.

The point is, it has been unseasonably warm this year. That’s something you’re probably almost as sick of hearing about as the running commentary on the “front-runner” in the Republican presidential-nominee circus. 

I continue to digress.

Because of the warm temperatures, when I heard about a bike-every-day-in-April challenge I thought, oh, I can easily do that. In the non-winter season I do bike to work every day, and the challenge will get me out on the weekends, too. Though I prefer to walk home from work because it’s a very relaxing interlude, I can’t overlook the time savings of riding my bike both in the morning, when I would catch a ride on the light rail or the Number 7, and in the afternoon when it’s thirty-five minutes for the walk versus ten for the bike ride. Also, the downtown-traversing bike ride is a whole lot more stressful. But, because of the warm temperatures this year, I anticipate that I’ll start biking earlier, such as in April. Or on Monday.

Look at this forecast for the next week. Tomorrow I will take my bike over to the neighborhood shop and top off the air in the tires. How can I resist the lure of these temperatures?

Snow emergency? This whole winter has been a false alarm.

Snow_forecastf_blog

 

Snow_forecastc_blog

Creepygpsmap_blog

Maybe it’s a little unfair to call it “creepy GPS tracking” since I’m the one who installed the app on my iPhone and turned it on for the express purpose of tracking my bike ride. If you were a reader already last summer and saw my bike ride reports, know this: the maps that I included were all hand generated by me. 

A couple of months ago, my friend Jack who was already out biking in, of all places, Scotland, turned me on to Cyclemeter.app, one of the three flavors of app that Abvio Inc makes to track your activity at three different paces (walking, running, biking). I haven’t delved into why different apps are necessary for different speeds. Someone else can figure that out if they’re curious.

(Not because it was Scotland per se, but because it would have been Scotland in March, and that seems a little early to be galavanting around on one’s bicycle that far north.)

Anyway, I embraced Cyclemeter as an easy way to get a map of where I’ve gone. I had tested it on a couple of previous short rides that didn’t involve stops. Saturday was the first time I’ve used it on a longer ride. As I said in last night’s entry (to which you can refer for details about the highlights on tonight’s map, other than the toilet which is mentioned below), I didn’t plan on all the stops and wandering around that I ended up doing. I left the app running the whole time.

When I got home, I had Cyclemeter send the map data to Google Maps. I looked at it and at first glance I thought, great, that’s where I went. Then I zoomed in and things got the aforementioned creepy.

It followed me around the Midtown Farmers Market, and it followed me following the deer. And it captured all of my movements in Minnehaha Park where I ended up spending an hour or so between the Falls and the band I listened to for a while. I didn’t think too much of it. I was mostly pleased that even though it’s the bicycle version of the three apps, it kept working while I was walking, too.

The creepiness crept in when I noticed that in addition to tracking my general walking around, it also managed to capture my every move inside the bathroom, which was my original reason for getting off the bike path and going a little ways into the park. The GPS shows you that I used one of the northern stalls and then had to walk a few feet to the center to use the sink. I exited and started walking around.

Had I thought about it beforehand, I wouldn’t have had any reason to believe that the tracking would pause while I was in the bathroom. A satellite doesn’t know that I had to pee like a racehorse. Next time, though, I will try to engage the pause feature. I don’t mind a little privacy for certain things.

Creepygpsmap_closeup_blog

Map and satellite image © Google Maps and affiliates

Img_011444

Last Saturday, all I was planning to do was ride my bike the ten minutes to the nearby Midtown Farmers Market, eat the farm egg sandwich with asparagus pesto, greens, maple vinaigrette, and Parmesan that the Dandelion Kitchen food truck was making, and bike the ten minutes back home. No such luck. The weather, though slightly on the warm side for my personal preference, was simply wonderful and I couldn’t help but stay outside.

This was my first time visiting this particular market. I go anywhere on Saturday mornings, it has been to the Mill City Farmers Market to visit another favorite food truck, Chef Shack. But this Saturday, Dandelion Kitchen’s tweet about that egg sandwich caught my eye and I thought, why not? I’ve often enjoyed their lunch creations downtown during the work week and I was excited to try something different.

It was delicious. I bet they’d sell a lot of those egg sandwiches at lunch, too.

Img_011445

There were a few other food stands at the market, so I went back for more. I decided to also try the Caprese kebab and the curry satay chicken from Kabomelette. I don’t know how I was expecting the Caprese to be prepared—I guess as a kebab I was thinking it would be hot—but it was the only thing it could have been—mozzarella balls and grape tomatoes on a skewer. I think those fresh mozzarella balls might be one of my favorite forms of cheese. The curried chicken was quite good, too.

I will try the other food stands the next time I go back.

Img_011456

When I finished eating, I had a ten-second debate with myself about whether to take the long way home, aka, do the ten-mile bike ride loop. It was a debate because I hadn’t packed my bike the way I would if I planned to be out for a while; in the end, I knew that if I went home to re-prepare I probably wouldn’t go back out, so away I went south instead of north.

I was rewarded within a mile. As I approached the corner of Hiawatha Avenue and 46th Street where the bike trail jogged off into a less-concretey setting, a young deer came trotting out of the brush looking as if it had a mind to cross Hiawatha. I was able to cross 46th quickly enough that I could shoosh it back to where it had come from. A few yards on and I could still see it between the road and the nearby houses.

I went off-road and stalked it gently to see if I could get some pictures. It was obviously an urban deer because it didn’t seem too concerned by me. We had a few stare-downs and I could see that it was a young buck with about six-inch antler sprouts. He eventually waggled his tail at me and sauntered back into the undergrowth and I decided it was time to move along.


My loop took me through Minnehaha Park. After dilly-dallying at the market and communing with the deer, I found myself in need of facilities and availed myself of the some in one of the pavillions. When I came back out, I noticed that Minnehaha Creek was flowing more energetically than I’m used to seeing  it when I ride east from Hiawatha. I let myself be hypnotized by what could be considered mini-rapids and walked my bike along the bank for a ways. I came to a footbridge over the creek and went up on it. I looked over the other side and suddenly realized that I had accidentally come upon Minnehaha Falls.

No kidding, that’s the first time I’ve ever been to the falls in person in the twenty total years I’ve lived in Minneapolis which is just crazy. It’s a landmark location. For the second time in the day, I made the decision to take my time. I locked my bike up and explored, along with a hundred of my closest friends.

Doesn’t matter that there were crass people and screaming kids all around me. Doesn’t matter that to go down and then back up, I had to negotiate about three storeys’ worth of short, stone steps. Sometimes, the aesthetics still win.

Img_011471

I found out that the hoard of other bikers I was seeing on the trail, most of whom had little number tags pinned to their backs, were participants in the Tour de Cure for diabetes, the finish line of which was in the park. As part of the festivities, the cover band Stitched was playing. I sat and listened their interesting range songs, which included Bon Jovi’s “Wanted Dead or Alive” and the Ohio Players’ “Love Rollercoaster.” I liked the guy’s voice.

Img_011475

I finally got going again and went my merry way north along the Mississippi River. When I got near the end I decided that I was too hot and tired to deal with the long, steep hill that I knew awaited me to get up from the river back onto the streets in my neighborhood, so I peeled off into the side streets which were a little less direct but much more flat.

As a result, I was able to ride through the Milwaukee Avenue Historical District, a charming example of urban preservation. The houses were built in the late 1800s and rehabilitated in the 1970s. The street was turned into a pedestrian mall and when you walk (or bike) along it, you totally have the feeling of being in another era.

Img_011480

I got home and realized for the first time in the nearly four hours that I had been out that oh yeah, it was sunny and I hadn’t put on sun screen because I had only been planning to be out in it for twenty minutes. Fortunately, it never felt as bad as the crisp to which it looks like I’m fried here. Still, it was shocking when I first saw it.

Img_011489

I showered and refreshed myself, built a fire with which to cook, and enjoyed a few Summit Gold Sovereign Ales while sitting on my steps. All in all, I consider it to have been one of the most enjoyabledays—partly because it was ninety percent spontaneous—I’ve had in the last few years (London vacation last summer notwithstanding). Hurrah!

Img_011487

Learning to fly

June 6, 2011

Poohsticks_blog020

I had occasion today to recall being brave enough to make my first bike ride without the training wheels. I don’t remember exactly how old I was, but I can tell you exactly where I was.

This might take a while and I might ramble.

When I was still a squirt (say, ages three through six), we’d spend the summers in Bloomington, Indiana, because my dad was working on his doctorate degree in music theory at Indiana University. It took a while because he only did summers. During the school year, he was a professor of music at Ohio Northern University. That’s a whole other topic, ONU.

There were a few kid milestones that happened during those summers at IU. I won’t claim to remember if they’re in chronological order. But they did happen. Oh blargh, now I’m calling my mom to check. Hang on …

Okay, it was during my ages three through seven that I went. My dad went one additional year without my mom and me.

The main milestone I want to focus on is learning to ride a bike, or more precisely, the day I ditched the training wheels. Because I do remember it. What I didn’t confirm with my mom just now was how old I was, but I feel like it was the summer when I turned six. (I was one of those fortunate kids whose birthday is in the middle of summer and no fuss was ever made in class during the year.)

I had a hand-me-down bike, an old Schwinn from a neighbor. I thought it was copper, my mom said it was maroon. On that momentous day, I was riding up the diagonal sidewalk between the two apartment buildings—the one where we lived, and the other one where my little best friend Angie M lived (Angie was a year older than I). Somebody, probably my mom, I guess, because my dad would have been in class, noticed that I wasn’t putting any balance on the training wheels and said, okay, let’s take them off. And we did. And that was it.

The other thing I remember about that day (and I’m sure it’s entirely possible that I’m blurring events together because, let’s face it, that was forty years ago) is that along that sidewalk, just about where it met the other diagonal sidewalk with which it made an X, I came upon a squirrel that wasn’t too frightened by people and seemed willing to let me walk up to it with outstretched hand. One of the other adults present sternly warned me not to interact with the skwerl because it might be rabid and if it bit me, I’d die. There was some other thing about stray dogs peeing in the sandbox where we kids liked to play. Yay, adults and their scaremongering.

Other things I remember about those years, definitely not in chronological order:

My mom and I would play Poohsticks on one particular little bridge over the Jordan River which ran right through the middle of campus. As you’ve learned, in addition to rabbits, I have a history of Pooh.

We did spend one entire year there, so I attended kindergarten. I got along well with my teacher. She’d walk me home sometimes. In class, I learned the classic “My Napsack on My Back” song (val-da-ree …) On the walks home, she taught me another song that had slightly naughty words, that her husband disapproved of her teaching one so young as I. Maybe she wasn’t my teacher. Maybe she was just a friend of my parents’.

I remember vaulting off a stone wall that I’m going to estimate was at least six feet tall. There were four or five of us kids doing it. We had no fear of mortality.

Angie and I came to be in possession of a shopping cart for a couple of days. We pushed each other around in it, and we turned it over and made a fort out of it.

Angie and I also set up a lemonade stand on the other side of the apartment complex on a busier street. We made a little bit. Angie figured it all out and I remember feeling like I didn’t walk away with as much as should have been my fair share, you know, probably $2.25 instead of $2.75.

IU might also have been where my interest in science kindled. For whatever reason, my dad the music professor had a class in a lecture hall in the geology building. In the lobby was what to me seemed a moon-sized globe, as well as a two-storey pendulum. I found them both to be fascinating. I attended class with my dad one day, and it was on that day that a rare earthquake occurred, the only one I’ve ever been witness to, thankfully. It wasn’t much, just enough to be felt and to cause everyone in the hall to look at each other in “did you feel that?” wonderment.

I think what this boils down to is that I really fondly remember my time at Indiana University. You know, and my childhood.

Notrainingwheels_tyler_blog

 

Post script:
My dad’s doctorate thesis was not approved. He did not get his PhD. Years later when I myself was in college, I took an editing class. We had to come up with a long manuscript to edit and I convinced my dad to let me use his thesis.

Top photo: me, by my mom.
Bottom photo: a youngster who freed herself of training wheels today and was the inspiration for this post but who shall remain nameless, by her dad Tyler, an acquaintance of mine. If I had one of myself peddling around at that age, I would have used it instead.

Bike_ride_map_2010sept4

I only intended to go to the Mill City Farmers Market to get something to eat from Chef Shack. I did, and then on my way back, I got a sudden bee in my bonnet to just go on a little bike ride. So I did. And paid attention to the undersides of bridges.

These are all bridges over the Mississippi River between St. Anthony Falls Lock & Dam and Lock & Dam No. 1. There are three not pictured because I didn’t get the idea right away.

Img_7284_img_7122

Bridge to nourishment: bacon beer brat from Chef Shack.

Img_7128-1

Photo 1: 10th Avenue

Img_7129-2

Photo 2: Remains of the I-35W bridge that collapsed in 2007 are still spread out on the Bohemian Flats near the University of Minnesota.

Img_7133-3

Photo 3: I-94

Img_7135-4

Photo 4: Franklin Avenue

Img_7152-5

Photo 5: Railroad bridge between 26th and 27th Streets . I would seriously doubt that it’s still used for train traffic.

Img_7154-6

Photo 6: Bridge to hydration

Img_7162-7

Photo 7: Lake Street

Img_7170-8

Photo 8: 46th Street. This one seemed quite cathedral-like to me as I stood under it.

Img_7176-9

Photos 9–12: Bridge on the Mississippi: Lock & Dam No. 1. I had a little staycation with this as I hadn’t realized that you can walk all around the facility. There is a catwalk that bridges the two locks (it seems only the 9-footer is used), and then it’s quite parklike on the dividers between the various channels.

Photo 9: Bridge to observation, catwalk

Img_7177-10

Photo 10: The 6-foot lock, which doesn’t seem to have been used any time recently, as there were some quite large shrubs growing in the far end of it on the wall.

Img_7191-11

Photo 11: Bridge to dinner, if you’re a spider.

Finally, I leave you with this video of the dam’s waterfall. That’s a blue heron flying around. There were also white herons, ducks, and geese.

There were more bridges on the second half of my ride, but unfortunately, my battery died while I was enjoying the Lock & Dam. Maybe I’ll go out again this weekend to capture those.