Friday, March 28, 2014

Going Solo

"Who are you training with?"

That's what a nurse asked me last week when I was at the doctor's office. Simple question. Logical, too, I guess. It took me by surprise, though, since I'm so used to doing things on my own; it never occurred to me that I would/could train in any way but on my own. My answer: "No one. Everyone I know is working. I'm training by myself." She seemed as surprised by my answer as I was by her question.

I am well practiced with pursuing projects and adventures on my own. Of course there are benefits: There is no need to compromise differing dreams, visions, and agendas. Everything happens on my own timetable. There are downsides too, though: All energy, enthusiasm, and get-up-and-go has to come from me. There are times when I wonder how much more I might accomplish if there was some compatible "other" sometimes supplying a spark of enthusiasm to help overcome the struggle against inertia.

Forcing Spring

If spring is dragging its feet, maybe we can force it along?

U.S. Coast Guard cutters went up the Kennebec today. The earth shook, a distant rumbling got louder, the cats and I exchanged questioning looks, and then deep horns blasted. Since nothing else is out on the river this time of year, and no one could be close by and miss the thunderous noise, why blast horns? Maybe for the benefit of all the cars chasing the cutters on shore. (Yes, every year dozens of cars go by my house, following along with the cutters' progress.) I appreciated the notice; it gave me time to get positioned with my camera.

Before the cutters went by, the river looked as it has all winter--covered by ice.

Then, two cutters churned through, side by side.

They were quickly followed by a solo cutter.

And then a cutter went by in the other direction.

Hours later, another pass.

After all was said and done, the river hardly looked different--still covered by ice.

Dream Insight?

"Use the day to open your awareness to the next."

As I bridged that moment this morning between dream/sleep and awake, that sentence resounded loudly in my head. It was very compelling, like a command. The next what? I'll be mulling this one over, for sure.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Predator Drama

On my bike ride today, some birds were acting strangely, which had me looking up in the trees more than usual, when I saw this! I nearly crashed into a snowbank in my scramble to stop pedaling and get this shot before one or both eagles flew off.

On my next lap around, only one bald eagle was still in the tree; I didn't see the other one at all. Then, on my next trip around, one eagle flew two low, lazy loops before landing back in the tree, while the other one called/talked to it the whole time. On my next trip around, both eagles were flying low figure-8 swoops, right overhead. When I left them behind, I figured nothing would be in the tree, but there was a third large bird there! At first, I thought it might be an immature eagle. But, then, I realized it looked larger than an eagle--so maybe it had actually chased the eagles out of the tree. I'm not sure what kind of bird it was; it had a white chest, but most of the rest of it was mottled brown. As I tried to take its picture, it flew off (of course!); I thought I'd caught its flight in the following shot, but I guess I missed it. (I think it's out of frame to the right.)

I missed the bird drama on the rest of my ride; when they were around, they helped distract me from how cold I was. I froze out there today! Without the birds for distraction, I thought a lot about how many things I must have missed these last few years when I didn't spend much winter time outdoors. I also wondered how much I will fat bike during a future winter when I don't have an upcoming epic tour as motivation.

On my last loop around, in a totally different spot from the eagle spot, there was a huge black bird with a red head sitting in a tree. A turkey vulture maybe? Didn't get a photo of that one, either.

I was surprised to find this photo on my camera when I got home. Apparently I managed to capture my own shadow when I was scrambling to photograph the flying bird.

5 Degrees F (Day -20)

Really?! On March 24?

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Sometimes Still Images Just Don't Cut It

While out on my ride yesterday, I tried to capture the water that was gushing and splashing out of a culvert and gurgling and sparkling under a large log. Too bad; none of that movement or sound gets conveyed in these still images.

Apparently the danger of flooding has risen significantly, and the Coast Guard will start cutting the ice on the river next Wednesday. Hopefully I'll catch that excitement--and also see open water before I leave on my trip.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Fellow Adventurer

I'm not the only one in the family heading out on an adventure this spring. My son started hiking the Appalachian Trail at Springer Mountain in Georgia a few days ago--and he's blogging about it. Way to go, Arlen!

We will both be traveling many hundreds of miles in the eastern United States, going south to north through many states...and we will not come anywhere near one another.

Getting Health Certified (Day -24)

Another person who was planning to do what I'm planning might think: "I should see a doctor for a checkup before I put this 57-year-old, overweight, stressed-out, desk-potato body through an intense training program and an 1800-mile bicycle ride."

Not me. My thinking was more like: "Okay, so my blood pressure has gone up a bit these last few years--but it's not dangerously high. I don't take medication for anything. If I pay close attention to my body, I should be fine." I plunged into training without another thought.

Through the Affordable Care Act (thank you, Obama!) I have a new healthcare plan that provides better coverage than I've ever had previously, and it's actually affordable as well. Unfortunately, however, this plan requires referrals for everything. (My previous plan no longer required any referrals.) When I tried to get a referral to see my chiropractor, I was told I couldn't have one unless I saw my primary care physician--since I hadn't seen her in over four years. Thus...I back-doored my way into a pre-trip checkup.

I saw my doctor today. She was enthused about my trip and had no concerns. The visit confirmed that I have, indeed, lost 20 pounds since I began training, and my blood pressure is fine (116/68). They took blood--to test for cholesterol levels, liver functioning, thyroid functioning, etc. I assume the results will be fine. I think I'm certified to go!

Monday, March 17, 2014

Signs of Early Spring (Day -27)

1. Even when the temperature is COLD (15 degrees F when I began my ride today), the sun is higher and stronger now, so dirt roads can still turn mucky.

2. Riding past the cow farm--which during mid winter is quite pleasant, even if windy due to the open fields--becomes a bit of a stink fest about now.

3. Road riding this time of year (which I did last Monday when the weather was warmer and the roads were dry) entails riding through endless grit (which clogs up the whole drive train), trying to avoid the worst of the potholes and frost heaves, and mostly riding further into the road (to avoid the snowbanks and deepest piles of grit along the road's edge). The good part was that my bike felt very light (compared to the fat bike), I felt strong, and I could ride 1.5-2.0 times as many miles as I can in the same amount of time on my fat bike. (All fine and good; now my road bike is in the shop getting a total overhaul for my trip.)

4. Even while all bundled up and freezing, spring birds are singing. Or are year-round birds singing springtime songs? (There you go, folks: My ornithological ignorance on full display!)

5. The barrels and piping are out--for collecting maple syrup. This year it's so cold that the syrup barrels I've seen have all been wrapped in insulation! Never saw that before.

6. Normally, ice out on the river would have occurred by now. Most ice outs are not that dramatic--either because the ice melts gradually or, more often, because a Coast Guard cutter breaks up the ice before it can get jammed behind bridges and cause flooding. When ice out happens all at once, it is thunderous, dramatic, and quick. The boulders of ice chase and bounce over each other; all is still and quiet again less than two hours after it starts.

It's been especially cold, so the river is full of ice still--even though it's getting quite thin. I held my breath the other day as I watched someone on a snowmobile speed down the middle of the river. People do the most stupid things! No cutter has ruined the ice yet, either. Here is what it looked like when I was on my ride today:


This photo is from the dramatic ice out of 1996: 

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Some Days I'm Just a Hack

My brother, who is a runner, says that some days when he runs, it goes well and he feels great. In other words, he feels like a runner. Other days, it's a struggle, and he feels like a hack. Today was my day to feel like a hack. After weeks of riding almost every day and feeling great (even if a bit cold), today I felt all wrong. I did the miles, but it was a grind. I didn't pass any walkers today, so hopefully nobody heard me singing, groaning, and giving myself little pep talks. May tomorrow be a better day!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

It's Cold!

How is it possible that it feels colder to me in March than it did in February? I have become accustomed to having my feet turn into solid blocks of ice while I'm biking--and having that limit my riding to an hour or an hour and a half at a time. Yesterday, not only did my feet freeze, but my hands did as well--and I only lasted half an hour on my bike. (I admit that it occurred to me about 10 minutes into that ride that I had bought the moose mitts for a reason [so why wasn't I using them?] but I was too stubborn to go home and retrieve them.)

Today I took a smarter approach. First, I actually used the moose mitts for the first time. They work great! My hands stayed toasty warm.

I also wore my rain covers over my shoes for the first time because it occurred to me that they might serve as a wind break. My feet still froze, but I managed to ride for an hour and a quarter, so I think the shoe covers helped.

When I left the house to go to the gym today, I scared a bunch of turkeys in my yard. They scrambled up the hill, acting all spooked and stupid. They are the oddest creatures.