Buddy's First Trail Ride

My little buddy and I (okay, most of you know him as "Nick") took our first dirt trail ride together on Sunday. It was near 90 degrees and we rode just over 2 miles. Not too many cars in the lot at Luton, so it was nice to not have to worry about people trying to pass us on the trail. In fact, we didn't see anyone out on the trail the entire time. We rode the Green loop to the Blue and finished out on the Green again.

He just learned how to ride a bike without training wheels almost exactly one month ago. Ever since then, he's been riding like crazy. (It helped apparently to get him a new bike, then add some technology to it - a digital speedometer, and then a kickstand.) That first week he took a 3 mile ride with Patti while she ran on the rail trail. This kid is going to be a very capable pedaler.

While preparing for and enjoying our actual ride, I couldn't help but reminisce of days long past (5 years ago) when Marissa and I went on her first trail ride. It was similar (lots of tiny-voice-talking about random things and nature) but unique in its own way. He was similarly nervous about being left behind, but also not afraid to get dirty and crashed a few times - and still thought it was fun. No tears. He just got back up and kept on pedaling. We walked a few hills up and down as needed. He never complained about any of it. Our little "Mr Technology" said it would be "cool if all the leaves of the plants were colored the same as the color of the trail on the map so you wouldn't get lost."

I still can't help but feel that this was a bigger moment for me, than it was for him. With Father's Day coming up, I hope he will remember our "man-time" spent together. Special little trips like this - there will be more, but the firsts are always the most memorable. I also couldn't help but hope mom was peeking in on us as we enjoyed nature and bikes together. She would have loved that.

Happy, happy day. Hot and sweaty, but happy.

Here is some GoPro footage of our ride too. Something I didn't have five years ago, unfortunately.

We got the little 16" Giant on the rack!

Gotta get the picture in front of the sign!

Time for a break! It was hot out.

Another break. Almost finished.

This sweaty kid had fun and said he'd like to come back someday.
I'm pretty sure we can do that.


A New Tradition

New traditions have to start somewhere I guess. Whether out of something glorious or something terrible.

Yesterday, mom would have been 70 years old. Last weekend we should have all been gathering to celebrate such a milestone with a surprise party of some sort. A room filled with laughter, hugs and kisses, cake and sugary pop (or in my case a cold glass of milk) and catching up with relatives and friends. So yesterday was tough, none of that happened. A "regular" day of work full of complaints, stress, drama and overall draining tiredness. I felt I didn't have time to even set aside to think about mom and I was a bit disappointed about that. I felt bad that life was just "continuing on".

However, a few weeks ago I decided that I'm going to start a new tradition - something to look forward to every spring. Something as constant as celebrating a birthday, but not a birthday. Just a dude and his bike, celebrating his love of cycling because of a mom who encouraged him to ride bikes and seek adventure and nature in the first place.

So going forward, every April 5, you will find this man riding his bike in honor of his mother's birthday. As long as I can lift a leg over the top tube, I'm riding. No matter the weather. And yesterday was the first challenge. It had rained all day, a downpour. Flood warnings were out. About two hours before I was to start riding home, the storm split in half. There was this sweet gap of no rain or clouds cutting right up through Grand Rapids. I was going to ride no matter what anyways, but it sure made it nice to not get wet until the last three out of twenty-four mile commute. I couldn't help but to talk to mom while riding, as this was the first time she got to see my route and what I experience on my rides home from work. I felt like a tour-guide for passengers on vacation.

So, the ride was good. My legs felt energetic, my back was great. I was just warm enough. It wasn't a fast ride, and the trail was bare except for a few dog-walkers - so a good ride to just think.

There are plenty of things I can do throughout the rest of the years to "honor" mom - whether it's picking up trash on the roadside, helping someone in need or lending an ear to someone that needs to get something off their chest...but this one day a year is now forever, just for me.


Missing her today

My mom passed away on Monday from a two year long battle with cancer. I'm really missing her today, then I stumbled on this...

This turned out to be our last ride together. She got on her bike after her diagnosis to go for ice cream with friends and also to fetch the mail down our lane. For Mother's Day 2016 I got her a new bike pump. We put air in her tires, she grabbed her bike out of my cautious hands and took off. She wouldn't let me help her. She was just gone. I miss that.

And now, she's really gone.


Welcome 2017!

Well, if I had to rate 2016 a score I would give it a 7 out of 10. Okay, maybe better than average, but not everything I had hoped it would be. I completed 3 out of my 6 goals I set from last year, so I've rolled the non-completed ones into this year and added a few.

I did not make it to 2,000 miles last year like I had hoped. Almost 1,400. Meh. I guess it was a decent improvement upon 2015, so I will take that. I did ride the 24 Hour Challenge and met my mileage goal. Thumbs up. Thumbs DOWN for not losing weight. Didn't work on that as hard as I should have. I've already begun working on that so far. More on that later. ODR (one day ride) to Sturgis...does it count partly if I have the route scribbled out? Just have to do it I guess. Commute to and from work at least once a month for all 12 months of 2016. Complete. And, the last one...run a 10k with Patti. Check. I thought I retired from running again, but then I signed up for another 10k this year over Memorial Day weekend. Patti talked me into it.

So here is what I'm shooting for in 2017: Two mountain bike races, still looking for 2000 miles, Ride to Sturgis, 10k run, lose 20-30 lbs and continue the commute streak.

As for the whole 10k thing....maybe I will just run one a year and keep that streak going too. It's too much work to retire, deal with all the media hype then come back...negotiate contracts, press appearances and re-work product endorsements. Ugh. So I guess I'll just be a mediocre runner and make one special star appearance per year until no one notices any longer.

Oh, and this will be the year that I ride past 10,000 miles since I've been keeping track in 2009. That is decent I guess.

As for the weight thing...so since I tend to do things rather bizarre fashion, here's what I decided. I'm sick of being a tub of goo and fat. I decided that for all of January, I'm going vegetarian - but not totally veggie, I'll add some fish. I just want to see what happens. Will I get angry and hate life. Good chance of that. Will I be lethargic and zapped of energy. Doubt that. And that's really what I need right now. I did my kids a favor and cooked up a pound of bacon for New Year's Day morning, boy that was hurtful. I was good and resisted even a taste. (I will tell you though, I almost spread the bacon grease on some bread and ate it!)

Anyways, we'll see how this goes. I also finally "checked in" to the Planet Fitness. I had re-upped my membership back in September I think when they were running a special, but never bothered to go in since. I guess when it's only $10 per month, it makes it too easy not to commit. The problem is getting up at 4:30am to prepare and go in before work. I really do need to do it though. Maybe I'll go after work some times too to mix it up.

I did get in a few riding miles yesterday during the Hair of the Dog Annual New Year's Day ride in downtown Grand Rapids. It was the usual good fun. After a few miles we stopped in a weird off-beat parking lot where were met by the Michigan Coast Riders, who furnished some cookies, pretzels and get this...FREE BEER!! Cases of PBR, All Day IPA, Miller High Life, Butt Light and Strohs. Free for the taking.

After this rather lengthy stop (it only seemed like a long stop, because I had no one to talk to) we rode about a mile to The Point (a bar), then stopped for more beverages. I snuck a roadie in my back pocket before I left the party bus and warmed up inside sipping my imported beverage (since I brought it in from outside, right?). The expected time of departure was one hour later. Ugh...I've got no one to talk to. So I finished the beer and headed out on my own. Back to the car I went and headed home. It was fun, but didn't have the time to be standing around listening to the voices in my head. At least this way I had time to get home and take down all the outdoor Christmas lights, tree and other thing-a-ma-bobs - so that was good.

Glad 2016 is over, but really cautious about expecting a lot out of 2017. This will be Patti's last full year of school, where she starts her residency - which is almost 1.5 hours away. Ugh - its going to be painful for all of us, even Patti as she's going to have to deal with me being whiny. Then I'm also kinda worried about mom. She's up and down, really tired. She's tired of being tired. That's been going on for a few months now. The kids don't know but there is a fantastic trip we'll be taking with mom and dad in February to a special place in Florida and then Patti and I have a date weekend planned in Chicago for a Blackhawks hockey game and stay downtown Chi-town. That gets us to March....let's hope we make it that far first in one piece before I go planning too much more for the rest of the year.

Happy New Year everyone. Hope I see you out there on the trails/dirt roads.

New Years Day breakfast: eggs, onions on tortillas and a little mustard. It was actually really yummy.

Vegetarian Chili. Basically almost like how I make my chili but without about 2lbs of random meats.

Pretty ingredients for the chili.

Hill race prep. You can see the riders at the base. This is one of few REAL cobble stone roads in Grand Rapids. I rode up it as fast as I could and I was bouncing all over the place.

 Secret rest stop. I found this can of hot chocolate in the back of the van just behind the can in the picture. It was delicious.

Inside "The Point" bar. Full of bikers.
Pretty sure in the previous picture you could see that there was more than 80 people in there.

Cool pano of the secret rest stop.


Commute #12: December - Mission Complete!

Well, I was lucky that the weather broke for a few days just before Christmas. Two days after Winter Solstice (day with the least amount of light), I made my last trek of the year and the last commute to meet the goal I set last year of doing at least one trip a month to and from work, for each month of 2016.

I was not motivated at all to begin this last journey. Lots of the snow the past few weeks left me to decide where to car-rack my bike to in order to begin the journey. I was tempted to get the most out of it that I could by staging my bike at Russell Road where they end plowing of the trail. That is just shy of 4 miles from my house. However, knowing that I hadn't been doing much of any riding this fall/winter, I didn't really think my legs were going to be up to it. I also was also worried about my exploded back I had in the last month and had to put on the studded tires for this trip as it was still kind of icy even where it was plowed. Those tires have so much rolling resistance, it's like pedaling uphill both ways.

So the trip in to work was "meh". I really couldn't wait for it to be over. All 15 miles of it. (roll your eyes here - gee, Tony, tough). The ride home was much better. There was little to no traffic as many people had Friday off from work due to the holidays. My legs felt much better and the temps were much more mild. Ended this 12 month journey in a pretty good mood.

Happy for it to be over? Maybe. It just gets kind of boring. However, now that I've done that for 12 months, perhaps I should just keep it going for as long as a I can, and make it "my thing". We'll see how January and February goes. If I can make it work through December through February, the weather usually isn't much of an issue the rest of the year.

This concludes my riding for 2016. Hoping the weather is sort of okay (at least) to do the Hair of the Dog ride on New Years Day. That's only one week away, then we're on to 2017!


Commute #12: In Jeopardy

Well, I'm getting nervous. I have 2.5 weeks to complete the mission I set one year ago...commute to and from work at least once a month for every month in 2016. I am 11/12th's complete.

So far December has blessed me with a herniated disc in my lower back (almost back to normal now) and most recently a 24-48 hour stomach virus. I've eaten only bread-like substances since. Also the temps have driven themselves down to the twenty's and there is snow and ice everywhere. The low tonight is going to be 9. That's a "niner". Single digit. Nine. Got that?

I'm going to have to find the optimal 24 hour time period to pull this all off - and if needed, sacrifice my toes and fingers doing so. Wish me luck!


Commute #11: November

I've been super lucky this year that this fall has lasted so long and been unseasonably warm. And it helps that Fall is my favorite of all the seasons. I won't have the chance to ride home tonight, but temperatures are expected to hit the mid-60's today then it's back to the Michigan November standard of mid-30's rain/snow by Saturday. So I guess then it's "so long, Fall".

The ride home yesterday was good. Temp was near 50 or so when I left and near 40 when I got home. I was cold when I got home though, mainly my toes. Hot, sauna-like shower helped. At least there was no wind so to speak. And it was DARK. I only saw a few other cyclists and a few runners/walkers. Some fog patches were rolling in by the time I got home and riding through those clouds makes it feel like they're 10 degrees colder. Real spooky to ride through.

I don't know why, but I hate this stupid drive-thru Christmas light show thing at Fifth Third Ballpark. Actually, every year I'm giddy to want to hate it. So weird. Got there today and realized it wasn't open to the public yet, so I had the whole thing to myself. Had to stop a few times to take pictures of course. There were some workers out there quality-checking the dumb light things, they didn't even see me. Can't believe they charge $17 per car to drive through this thing. And people keep coming back for more.

I really expected to see many more animals, mainly deer, on my commute. But there was nothing. I think I saw one rabbit in total. No birds, bugs, nothing. Void of life mostly, except for me. I didn't even see our usual church members taking their run and walk this morning, nor the guy with (no more) dogs. Sometimes my mind wanders and I started to think "what if I was suddenly the last man around?" I guess I'd have to go break in somewhere and get a beer! Or seven. Or a bakers-dozen even. And I certainly wouldn't need to be on my way into work. What am I doing? Just then, I'd see a car or some lights somewhere and that feeling would slip away.

I've had to wear some of my winter gear for my rides recently. I guess after this one, I'll have to get out the full-bore winter gear and get ready. I think the big chill is coming. Already wishing April gets here quick.