Tag: biking

Mountain Biking Family Style

“Oh, c’mon Mom, you’ve ridden over much harder stuff than that!” That’s what you’ll hear if you’re around and I take the bail out, easy way around a trail obstacle. It’s the voice of my kiddo pushing me forward, urging me on, seeing skills and technique in me that I doubt in myself. We’re not your stereotypical mountain biking family….you know the ones you see at trail campgrounds and race weekends. The ones where the husband has been riding for years, the wife picked it up from him (or just watches from the sidelines), and the kiddos have been riding trails nearly as long as they could walk. Oh no. That’s not us. Not at all. At times I joke, we’re like the blind leading the blind.

But a mountain biking family we are.

A bit over 3 years ago after years of being a sloth, I started cycling as a way to get fit and lose weight. Road riding was good. I enjoyed it, but as a new cyclist in a semi-urban area, the traffic gave me pause. Riding paved paths was good, but still something was missing. On a whim in September of 2010, I attended a women’s mountain biking demo event. 2 hours later I was hooked. Convinced Hubby and Kiddo to try some local trails. In June of 2011, the whole family attended clinics at the Midwest Women’s Mountain Bike Clinic weekend. Fast forward two years, we’re a month away from our third trip to this great event. We ride together nearly weekly. Have been season pass holders at Ray’s Indoor Mountain Bike Park the past two winters. Kiddo, now 13 but at 10 years old was afraid to ride his bike fast, will be attending his second freeride/downhill camp at Woodward at Copper in July. We plan vacations around mountain biking. Bought a bike or two (each). Even tried our hands at a couple of races. I won the women’s intro class of The Brown County Super-D, while Kiddo and Hubby both earned medals in their age class at the Fall Colors Festival in WI.

To say mountain biking has changed our lives, brought us closer, made us healthier is a huge understatement.

Last weekend was our first family trail ride of the season. I’d been out riding by myself a few times already this year. In fact having done the most riding I’d done in months combined with starting a new strength training program, I was in need of an easy rest ride. Well, a full rest day, but the sun was shining and the trails were open. Hubby and Kiddo were eager to go. Especially Kiddo. He asked if he could go ahead and push to see how far and fast he could go without stopping. Last summer, our rides consisted of resting at nearly every bench and the top of every climb in our main local trails, the John Muir system in the Southern Kettle Moraine of southeast Wisconsin. Kiddo wanted to see which bench he could make it to before he had to rest. We agreed to do a 5 mile loop of the brown&white trails and meet back at the shelter. Kiddo first. Hubby behind. I’d take up rear (knowing I was going easy and stopping to take pictures). They quickly dusted me. Never saw them after the first descent. Hubby got dropped at the first climb.

I got back to the shelter to find two smiling guys. Kiddo was still breathing hard with a bit of a flush on his face behind his beaming grin. He’d done the whole loop, 5 miles without stopping. Totally clean, no dabs, no feet down. The trail is flowing up and down with a challenging, root filled, sustained climb (yeah, yeah it’s WI, challenging and sustained to our scale). He was so fired up. Kept saying how glad he was he’d tried. That he had to prove to himself he could do it. The pride and passion in his voice made this Mom proud.

Yes, we’re a mountain biking family. It’s gonna be a great summer.

Washington DC…Biking Family Style


One of the joys of family travel is rediscovering the world through the eyes of your child. With Kiddo in 6th grade beginning to understand and show interest in politics and government, a spring break trip to Washington, DC seemed a perfect idea. Planned a trip that included all the typical touristy highlights, along with side trips to reconnect with family (Kiddos sister & hubby’s brother live outside Baltimore).Of course, many of the sites were visited by bike. Others by foot. Or via the use of public transit. Or a combination of all three. We’re a get up and go kinda family with a firm belief that exploring by foot or bike allows a much deeper experience no matter where you are. WARNING: FAILED AT LIMITING PICTURES AND WORDS BELOW. Hang with me. In a complete aside for biking people: All three days I was rented a mixie (being a *girl* and all). And I don’t think I ever stepped through it. Always threw leg over saddle. Old habits.

Our first rental was from the Union Station location of Bike and Roll. We’d taken the subway from our hotel, choosing this vendor both due to location, and we’ve rented from these folks before in San Francisco (read about it). This location only had “comfort” bikes – whose wide, padded saddles are the opposite of comfort when riding all day, just saying. Once we got suited up with the proper sized bike and helmet, off we went.
First stop was the Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum. Spent a couple hours wandering around looking at the exhibits. In our case it was just enough time. We were ready to move on.
Started heading up the Mall, with a couple of photo opportunity stops. First by FEMA then by the Washington Monument.

In fact most of the rest of the day was stops for quick exploring of monuments, reading plaques and taking pictures. The World War Two Memorial, Vietnam War Memorial, Lincoln Memorial.

A spin around the reflecting pool brought us to the Martin Luther King, FDR, and Thomas Jefferson Memorials. Sadly we were a couple of weeks too late to enjoy the cherry blossoms.
The day was getting long, so it was time to head back to return the bikes. But first a swing past the White House.
A great day of sightseeing. Much, much more seen, much more enjoyable, cheaper, healthier and fun than a bus tour.
On another day, we rented bikes from Bike and Roll’s Alexandria location, opting for their Combo bike rental, Mount Vernon tour and ferry package. In this you bike 11-12 miles on a bikeway along the Potomac to Mount Vernon, receive tickets to the site, lock your bikes up on the grounds and take a ferry back to Alexandria.
It was a nice easy ride, great for families. Mount Vernon is such an interesting place to visit. The gardens, the plantation house, the glimpse of how for Washington and others of his day their lifestyle only existed due to slaves.
The ferry ride home was also quite enjoyable (even if I would have liked to bike a bit more).
Equally enjoyable were the oysters and beers when we got back to Old Town Alexandria.
Other trip highlights were visits to the International Spy Museum, and using their GPS enabled “Spy in the City” handheld to go on a walking spy adventure around the city.
Plus visits to the Ford Theater (make reservations!), the US Capitol, The Library of Congress, Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, Fort McHenry (oh say can you see….), seeing friends and family, catching Uncle Mike’s band perform, meeting cousin Wrenn’s fiance and hanging out with big sis, a Food Network inspired trip to DC-3, a visit to Dogfish Head Brewery, and another bit of biking this time along Ocean City, MD boardwalk.
Yes a busy week…that’s how we roll…and how we like our vacations!

Read all the way to here, and wondering why I wrote a recap of a 2012 spring break trip in spring of 2013? It has occurred to me that maybe if I either deleted or finished all the partially written drafts I have hidden behind the scenes of this blog that I might feel like writing more. Take away some of the pressure created by evidence of procrastination. Or some such. I have a tendency to start a post, give it a title, throw in a picture, and then get stuck – usually because I can’t figure out how to limit the # of pictures or words. Looking at the list in the draft folder, a few were easily deleted. Others I would like to finish.

This recap of our spring break 2012 trip to Washington DC fit under the need to finish category.

National Bike to Work Week

Ok, I admit it. I’m pretty much a fair weather bike commuter. I started bike commuting last fall and rode until the Friday before “fall back”, the switch from daylight saving to standard time. In the fall, I enjoyed riding the 11 mile route in the cool temperatures, and found the early morning frost to be a beautiful addition to the ride. However, I just am not comfortable riding in the dark, nor on snow and ice. So once the time changed, the commuter was put away for the winter.

My schedule and the rainy, crappy weather have been on a collision course for weeks (yes, refer back to the fair weather thing, and add rain and winds over 20mph to the snow, ice and dark list.) I travel extensively for work, often only going into the office a couple of times a week. But I was determined I would ride my bike this week – that no matter what it took, I would commute at least once during National Bike to Work Week. Thankfully, today, on the one day I was in the office, the weather cooperated.
Beautiful sunny morning. Enjoyed seeing a duck pair playing in water on the trail.
Ride in was great. Loved seeing my helmet and gear in my office. So much so, I kept moving it around, so others would notice. On my own little influence others to ride mission around the office.
I’m fortunate in having half of my route off road on Milwaukee’s Oak Leaf trail -both for the views of the Menominee River…… 
And because it takes me off the road – I sure am glad I wasn’t sitting in that traffic above the trail!
Loved the ride. Makes me happy to get the 1st of many bike commutes in for 2011.

Day with Kiddo…..1st ride of the Spring

This has felt like the winter that wouldn’t end. Combine that with some unusually busy weekends, and a focus on training for a half marathon, and I just haven’t been out riding. Kiddo and I were home alone this weekend, while Hubby was down at the Masters. As we planned our weekend, Kiddo suggested we go mountain biking. When I explained the trails were closed because they were too wet, we discussed riding Milwaukee’s lakefront trail. We’d done this last year, this same weekend, and I’d written it up here. I knew the South Shore Half Marathon was Sunday, and was worried the lakefront trail would be too crowded due to the race. I’ve been wanting to try the Lake Country Recreational trail, so this is where we decided to ride.
The 13 mile Lake Country trail runs along the southern end of Pewaukee Lake and Lake Nagawicka from just west of Hwy T in Pewaukee (the trailhead is close to Country Springs Hotel on Golf Road) through Delafield and on to Oconomowoc. This is a good map of the trail.
After airing up the tires, and giving both our bikes the once over, my first challenge was loading the bikes. I’ve never put the hitch rack on my car, and didn’t feel comfortable attempting without a demo – the vision of rack and 2 bikes falling off on the highway was a bit too scary. Throwing my road bike in the back of the car is easy. But my hybrid is bigger, heavier, more unwieldy, and a second bike adds to the difficulty. I can never remember front wheel first or back wheel, but somehow I got them both in, using an old yoga mat to protect the paint and drivetrain of my bike.

The trail runs along a right of way under Wisconsin Electric lines. The first 3 or so miles are paved, a bit further down the trail changed to crushed gravel.

Views ranged from golf courses to marsh to lake views. Though suspect once the trees leaf out, lake views will be limited.

 Kiddo and I enjoyed our time out on the trail. Being the 1st ride of the season we realized we could use a bit of work on our endurance. Nonetheless this ride whetted our appetite for more. We’re both excited to hit other trails, make a family ride a weekly event. 

As young as you feel (or act)…..

With the exception of 21, birthdays which bring you to an age ending in a 1 are not exactly milestones. Milestones would be the ones ending in a zero, the ones signifying a decade passing…30..40..50..60.. Or the ones ending in 9, bringing the “I’ll stay 29 forever” mentality. In fact, the namesake of my junior high school, comedian Jack Benny, made a whole schtick out of being 39. So much so, that our team name was the 39ers. Seriously, google, it, in Waukegan, IL there is such a school, my father taught there for much of his career, my brother and I attended.

This picture is of me, yesterday, on my most recent 1 birthday, a birthday on which a friend tweeted “no way you were as cool then as you are now”. The weeks leading up to this birthday had caused me to acknowledge the change in me over the last couple of years. And to reflect on the birthdays before.

I was excited about turning 30. At that time, I’d just been promoted to my first true management role. 30 felt like a good transition, an age to take me away from the uncertainty and indiscretions of my 20s. Five short years later, everything had changed. 35 was a tough birthday. I cried much of the day. Was at a miserable place in my life – unhappy marriage, feeling stuck in my career, obese, health problem after health problem. Unable to see a bright future. I felt old, really old.

In hindsight, attending a school where I was a 39er, seems to have been karma for me. Set up a bit of fate.  Not in the “I’ll lie and say I’m 39 forever” sense (tho’ it has crossed my mind), but in the idea of challenging conventional age wisdom. The point where I started to get it right. The age I got re-married. Not too long before my 39th birthday, I discovered I was pregnant. Was going to have my first child. An unexpected surprise, but one I am thankful for each and every day. I don’t have any memory of hand wringing or fear over turning 40, was probably too far into the sleep deprived world of the mother of an infant to care. Never really thought of it as a milestone.

Seems like the next few years passed in a blur. Career moves by both my husband and I moved us around a bit. I got settled. Maybe too settled. Slipping once again into a life by rote. Comfortable, yet increasingly uncomfortable. Sedentary. Health issues creeping up as my weight crept back up. Slowly coming to the realization that if I continued down this path I would not be able to keep up with my son. That my health, my weight was affecting the things I loved. Many of the activities I enjoyed, visiting amusement parks, gardening were becoming harder and harder. Unable to do horseback tours or ziplines, because I was over the maximum weight limit. Beginning to avoid or dread activity. Knowing this 39er was about to be a 49er….it was time for a change, time to once again challenge conventional wisdom around age.

Heading towards my 49th birthday, I changed. As my weight went down and my fitness up, I gained back confidence in myself, in what I could do. At 49, I finally got scuba certified, entered and completed my first half marathon (and my second), began to re-discover the joy of cycling, bought a road bike, learned the empowerment of fitness.

 
Turning 50 didn’t slow me down either.  This was the year I truly began to believe the mantra “you’re only as old as you feel”. That being fit not only changes your health, it changes your life and how you see things. Opens up so many more possibilities. 50 was the year that being active became a part of who I am. Another half marathon. Renting bikes while on vacation, trying mountain biking (and getting my first couple of battle scars), while Kiddo learned to snowboard, I re-learned how to ski.

Here’s to 51….the year I will complete a triathlon, run a couple more half marathons, finally run my first 5k, continue to learn to mountain bike, continue to bike commute, hopfully, try a zipline or two. Continue to set an example of a fit, active lifestyle for my son. Continue to bring activity and fun into my family’s life. Maybe inspire a person or two. But mostly, relish the freedom and agelessness being fit provides me.

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