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Wind

Yesterday evening some of the club bike rides were cancelled (“weather is too uncertain,””stay dry!”). But I kept an eye on the hourly weather forecast and there were no raindrops predicted for our area all evening. And our dear ride leader didn’t cancel.

Five of us went on a twenty-mile jaunt that was punctuated by staunch winds. We ended up taking a route a few of us hadn’t ridden since last year, and it was nice to have a change of scenery. There were a couple hills in the mix, too. As per usual, I was the last to arrive at the top, but I always made it. It always amazes me how much a headwind can slow you down, and the noise of the wind in my ears gets tiring after a while.

On the way back into town we passed the 500 W hill, and I considered asking the group if anybody wanted to join me in another practice run…but I didn’t. I felt that riding into the wind had given me sufficient training for the night.

Hills

Last night my riding (and life) partner and I went out to ride a few hills. Here in north central Indiana you have to seek out hills, and it’s rather easy to avoid them. But in the spirit of preparing for RAGBRAI, I thought I’d better give the ol’ bod some idea of routes to come.

We took off through the Indiana countryside, made a few turns, and headed down a lovely, curvy wooded road that slopes down toward the river. Got to the bottom and rode along til we got to the practice hill, 500 W. It’s a very steep hill that goes straight up; spouse’s GPS reported that the hill was 140 feet high, fourteen storeys. Spouse zipped right up, but I downshifted to my smallest chainring early in, and used my lowest gear, which I usually try to reserve for emergencies. It was a slog…but doable. The worst part of it was how buggy the air was combined with my breathing through my mouth.* Oh, and the fact that 500 W hill doesn’t stop where you think it will–you get to the perceived top and there’s another 50 yards that continue sloping up at a gentler angle.

We rode home via Newman Road, which offers a couple more hills, including one that has a curve so you are never quite sure what’s going to happen. Then we rode to campus and up Hilltop Drive through university apartment buildings. A speed bump at the top added a little insult to injury. And this hill drill included a “mystery hill” that I won’t yet name in case any cycling club members read this (you’ll have to do the ride to find out where it is!). All I will say is, spouse was right that it was a hill I had never climbed, or even *considered* climbing, by bike. I made it about a third of the way up, and he nailed it. I’ll definitely try it again!

First RAGBRAI, hills filled me with dread…but I watched and learned from other cyclists passing me, and as days passed became a much better hill climber.

Second RAGBRAI, I looked at hills dispassionately. I wasn’t scared of them, and felt confident that I could conquer just about any hill on the route, as long as I took my time.

This time around, I haven’t ridden many hills this year, so I was kind of languishing in the fear/avoidance realm, but after last night’s ride I’m starting to feel confident again.

As Chloe always says, “I’ve never met a hill I couldn’t walk!”

* Note to self: Wear lots of lip balm so bugs and cottonwood fuzzies get stuck to your lips instead of flying down your throat!

45 miles in Amishland

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Rick, Gary, & Doug inspect a giant mushroom

Yesterday we cycled in the annual Pumpkinvine Ride in the Amish country of northern Indiana. We arrived Friday evening at the home of new friends Patricia and Pete, whom I had “met” via Facebook through my cousin Dorothy. We planned on camping in their back yard, but when our air mattress deflated, Pat & Pete unfolded their guest futon without hesitation. We all went out to dinner at the new Goshen Brewing Company, which was cozy and offered great food & beer. Goshen seems like a pretty cool little town!

Weather for the Pumpkinvine was excellent. The skies were overcast until about 11:00 a.m., which kept it from getting too hot. We started out headed to Middlebury with our friends Gary and Rick, who suggested we stop at Krider’s World’s Fair Garden along the way. Krider’s Nurseries were at one point one of the biggest seedling supplier in the country, and Krider’s designed this garden for the Chicago World’s Fair in 1933-34. Anyway, it was fun to stop and enjoy the beautiful garden for fifteen minutes instead of intently blasting away on the cycling trail as so many riders seemed to be doing.

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Rick, me, Gary, Doug at Krider’s Gardens

At Middlebury we parted from Rick and Gary, who were doing the 61-mile route, opting for the 45-mile “hilly” route. Doug was interested in this route, although the word “hilly” left me disinterested… But in the spirit of getting reading for RAGBRAI 2015’s first day of 74.3 miles and ***4110*** feet of climb (um, more by a couple hundred feet than the Nepal trek from Tikhedunga to Ghorepani, which I thought was harder than my entire first RAGBRAI), I thought I’d better suck it up and get some hill practice. Turns out the route wasn’t *that* hilly! It was mostly rolling hills, with one big steep hill that started around a curve and didn’t give you a chance to gain any momentum for the climb. I usually reserve my lowest gear for extreme emergencies, and kind of pride myself on rarely using it…but I shamelessly used it on this hill.

Then the hard part was over. We returned to the SAG at Middlebury where we ate more sandwiches & potato chips, listened to a lovely band called Back Yard Brass, and chatted with a woman named Joanne who has a Betty Foy set up similarly to mine and also purchased from Dick Denning of Celina, OH. Joanne insisted I ride my Betty next year, and to meet her promptly at 9:00 a.m. for the start. Yes, ma’am!

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Elderberries were in bloom all along the route

Turns out I was quite satisfied with riding fewer but hillier miles (subtext: 45 miles was ENOUGH!) . I’m pretty sure this was the first time I ever passed a horse-drawn Amish buggy by bike, and I learned that in Amish country potholes in the roads tend to occur in the middle of the lane where the horses’ hooves strike, rather than on the outsides of the lane where the wheels go. We saw many Amish of all ages riding bikes on the roads and trails in the area. I suspect they mostly had utilitarian purposes for their riding, whereas we were riding for recreation.

Pat & Pete offered me the opportunity to take a nap before driving home, and I zonked out pretty quickly for over an hour. Refreshed, we hit the road, stopping first at the Maple City Market, where my membership at my local food co-op Cityfoods was honored. I was tired last night, but today I feel pretty fit and don’t have any sore muscles.

RAGBRAI is still a few weeks away. I worry about being trained well enough…but I suspect I’m overall stronger at this point than I was two or four years ago for my previous rides across Iowa. I just need to keep riding, and seeking out the occasional hill (or three).

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Funky beehive in Patricia & Pete’s back yard, which is full of all kinds of wonderful garden stuff

RAGBRAI training 2015

IMG_1491 Ride leader Gary waits while I take some photos

I have about a month left to train for RAGBRAI. Last night I did a 22-mile ride during which I felt a little worried about not being prepared enough. Then I realized that I’m probably right where I need to be, and that a lot can happen in the next four weeks.

After a six or seven week hiatus from working with my personal trainer (during which I went to Nepal and then Merlefest) I’ve been working with Matt consistently, even upping my sessions from two to three a week especially for RAGBRAI training. And I am feeling (more than seeing) results: I feel a lot more powerful in my hips while I’m cycling. I spring up from sitting in chairs more easily. My shoulders and back feel strong. When I walk, I feel very tall and straight, no listing to one side–as a matter of fact, I actually feel taller. In short, I’m not too far from strutting around like I’m a total badass. (That usually comes after completing RAGBRAI!)

To do for the next month:

  • Ride most days of the week;  body needs to get used to doing it day after day
  • Aim for a pace of 15-16 mph rather than 12-13 mph;  faster finishes will mean more rest time
  • Seek out more hills (remember, I live in Indiana);  RAGBRAI day #1 has 4100 feet of climb

Here are some pics from yesterday’s ride in the bucolic Indiana coutryside. On Tuesday evenings we usually ride past the Farmers Institute, a Quaker meeting house that was originally a college.

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25 March 2015, Tikhedhunga & Ghorepani, Nepal

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This is a typical tea house room

First night in a tea house (Tikhedhunga) was not overly restful. Our room was above the dining room, which was noisy until 9 or 10 pm…then the entire building shook as people climbed the stairs & doors squeaked & banged open & shut.

Woke up after an hour or two of sleep with a sore throat & runny nose. Don’t feel too bad (yet) tho. Amrit just brought me a cup of hot lemon.

Today is a hard day. 1300 meters of climb up stone steps. I will just go slowly, rest when I need to.
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Later (Ghorepani). It was the hardest fucking day of my life.

P1010242MILLIONS of irregular stone steps going up, Up, UP. Donkeys being herded down to get supplies–they’ll knock into you if you don’t watch it. Always stand near the wall or bank when you hear donkeys coming, NOT the cliff.

The trek was endless. We climbed & climbed for hours before we got to our lunch spot. Then more hours to get to our tea house. The post-lunch trek *was* better than the morning, but not by much.

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Photos cannot do justice to the rugged reality of Nepal’s stone “staircases”

Things I have a hard time fathoming:How people live up here in the mountains & have done so for centuries & probably millenia. There are schools up here, fer crissakes. I feel like I am getting a glimpse into an ancient culture (with wifi).   During today’s downpour I ended up in a hut where a woman had built a small wood fire & was heating water. No electricity in the hut, & there were beds in there was well as the kitchen.
What would it take to clean up Nepal? Pollution, trash everywhere, burning the trash makes more pollution. But approaching lower Ghorepani there was a rubbish bin attached to a tree & there was rubbish in it (& remains of a fire beneath). If Ghorepani can clean up, maybe it’s possible.