Love (like?) Winter
December 17, 2010
Somewhat ironic that Kiddo would notice and point out a license plate with that sentiment. Of everyone in the household, he and Kutya the Wonder Dog seem to enjoy winter the most. [Truth disclosure, these three pictures were from last winter…we’ve had snow (not quite this much), they’ve recreated these scenes more than once (I just haven’t gotten any pictures) Yet.]
November 1, 2010
I’ve started to make a bit of a tradition out of Halloween pumpkin carving w/ kiddo. A review of last year’s Halloween post showed we had more pumpkins, and I took a more of a leading role in the carving. This year, kiddo did them all….I just cleaned out the insides and roasted the seeds.
We only had three carved ones this year. Kiddo did one “freestyle”, the others following a pattern. Must say he’s getting the hang of things. Only one type of pumpkins seeds this year – the more savory with a touch of garlic olive oil, garlic salt, hint of pepper. These came out quite well. My kitchen tho, did not fare as well. Apparently, I attacked the scraping out the insides with a fury. Bits of pumpkin flew everywhere. Must have needed to work out some aggression or something…dunno.
Shoulda looked a bit closer at that Milwaukee by Bike map
October 8, 2010
In May or June of 2009, the Bike Federation of Wisconsin did a lunch-n-learn event at my workplace on bike commuting. In addition to a great lecture, question and answer session, they provided each attendee with a packet of info – rules of the road, biking tips and a copy of the Milwaukee by Bike map. At the time, I was only flirting with the idea of taking up cycling. It wasn’t for another month or two that I started riding regularly. However, this was a map of Milwaukee County and I live in Waukesha county. Not relevant to me. Or so I thought. And so, this great bike map was filed away with the other maps in my collection. (I’m a bit of a map geek, like reading them believe it or not, part of my travel and trip planning obsession).
But, the seed was planted to bike commute.
That lunch-n-learn, plus the free helmets my employer gave to the attendees spurred me to finally start riding. First a quick spin around the neighborhood on a men’s mountain bike – which both wore me out and gave me one sore bottom, causing me to learn about women specific design both in saddles and bikes. Soon I was taking my trusty 25 year old Schwinn on longer and longer rides. Since then I’ve added a couple of bikes to my stable. First a road bike, now a hybrid, all-trail bike.
In a testament to how big a part of my life this new hobby/sport/pastime of biking has become, I’ve written several blog posts about biking. In fact I’d say biking may be the most frequent theme or at least mention of any topic (Remember, this blog *started* as a gardening blog. It was biking that took it down the current random path). Discovering the Glacial Drumlin trail, exploring new places around my neighborhood, suddenly realizing I did not live in a flat area, riding the Chicago lakefront trail, riding Milwaukee’s lakefront trail, my first organized ride, rented bikes and rode around California’s wine country, and my recent 1st try at mountain biking.
But still I did not bike commute.
Logistics, carrying clothes, laptop, etc. played a part in my hesitancy But mainly, I wasn’t commuting because I was afraid. Of traffic. That I wouldn’t be able to make it there and back. I should have looked at that bike map. After all, half of my commute is in Milwaukee county. And nearly 100% of the parts I was worried about traffic are in Milwaukee county. For those familiar with the area; I’m talking about from 124th to Hawley…basically crossing through ‘Tosa. North and Watertown Plank are heavily trafficked during commute times, and lane changes and position jockeying at stop lights along State St. scare me in my car – let alone riding.
However, luck would have it that in my search to find best trails to try out mountain biking for the first time, I discovered Hoyt Park in Wauwatosa had an easy MTB trail. This is only 3 or 4 miles from my office. So I threw my all trail bike into my car and decided to give the Hoyt trails a try over lunch.
And tested out riding from the office to Hoyt Park……which led me to discover the Oak Leaf Trail. After a couple of days doing that, and wanting to go a bit further over lunch, I threw the road bike into the car, and continued on the Oak Leaf. Riding past the halfway point to my house. Yes, following the trail versus taking the roads adds a bit over a mile to my ride, but almost completely covers the scary traffic part. And riding more than halfway home and back over lunch convinced me that I could make the 11.3 mile trip each way.
Finally, 15 months after thinking I should bike commute to work, I finally am doing it. And loving it – esp. this one section of the route. It’s beautiful with or without the frost. Love the asters, the solidago, can’t wait to see this small bit of wildflowers in other seasons.
Tho’ my FaceBook and Daily Mile friends are probably tired of hearing me complain about the ride home being harder, more uphill. Which it is. And god knows, I’m much more of the slow, steady and consistent effort ilk than the power up hills type. However, if I want to also take up mountain biking, that needs to change. Using the commute to work on standing to pedal up hills, mashing if necessary, using the downhill by Hansen Golf Course (and bumpy pavement) to practice a MTB descent, up off the saddle, slightly behind the seat, feathering the brakes. Maybe some day I’ll be doing hill intervals on Hillside Dr. on my way home, instead of bitching about it, all the while wishing I could find a flatter route through Elm Grove.
Unfortunately, the long shadows and low sun are reminding me that my bike commuting days will come to an end soon for this season. Not sure I’m up for riding in the dark. Definitely know this route is too hilly to chance in the snow and ice. But know that next year, making the bike commute a regular part of my week will improve my biking fitness, ability to handle hills while relieving stress, and bringing a bit of green into my lifestyle.
Time to try something new, a bit of mountain biking………
September 25, 2010
In one of the many biking forums I pop into from time to time, I discovered there would be a Women’s MTB Skill Clinic at the Fall Color Festival. TrekWomen’s Demo team was doing the clinic (and providing some great demo bikes) while the festival itself is hosted by the South Kettles chapter of WORBA (Wisconsin Off-Road Bicycling Association). The Fall Color Festival is a mountain bike event held annually at the John Muir trails in the Southern Unit of the Kettle Moraine State Forest of southeastern WI. The festival consists of several races of varying length, a children’s ride, and of course, the women’s skill clinic. Oh, yeah, and a beer garden…….. How could I resist?
I’d emailed the Trek Fit for Women team the day before to ask about a demo bike for the clinic. Lindsay Bradley of Trek emailed me back that she’d hold a Trek Fuel EX 8 WSD ( a sweet, sweet full suspension model) for me. Because I sent my height and weight, she even had the proper size bike selected and had pre-set the hydraulics. All that was left to do was swap out to SPD pedals.
Wasn’t really sure what to expect with the clinic. After all, I’ve only been biking for a bit over a year, and with the exception of a few loops around the Hoyt trails in Wauwatosa, WI (a project by Metro Mountain Bikers, the Milwaukee chapter of WORBA), I’d never been mountain biking. I was worried that my lack of experience would hold back the rest of the group. And that I’d be the oldest by far. Didn’t need to worry about either. Of the 9 or 10 women in the group, I’d guess 5 were in their 40’s or older. There was a variety of levels of experience in the group with other beginners like me. I, though, was the only beginner wearing click in shoes. And on that note, let’s just say while I would never ride without them, I have done myself no favors with my road bike habit of clipping out well in advance of stops. That is not an effective habit for mountain biking, and I desperately need to develop more of a second nature of clicking out quickly (more on that in a bit)!
We began the clinic in the brand new skills section of the John Muir trails. Lindsay was our instructor. Here she made sure everyone understood how to shift, how to brake (gotta work on that single finger thing), explained about momentum over obstacles, standing and riding with pedals level, always looking 30 or so feet ahead and a variety of other tips.
We made several laps around the skills course. Signs entering the area explained this is a work in progress – to date three wooden skill obstacles are built. Lindsay augmented the course with a small log for us to ride over, and a section of 2 4×4’s laid parallel about 8-10″ apart. It was this narrow obstacle that gave me the most trouble. Lindsey reminded me to look ahead, not down. Mentally I really struggle with keeping the bike on a narrow path. The look ahead hint makes a huge improvement. Did have my first fall in this area – solely due to having to stop quickly as someone balked at an obstacle and not getting unclipped. Scared the other women, bruised my ego a tad bit, but jumped right back on.
Once we were comfortable here, it was time to ride a trail. We were somewhat limited to where we could ride because the races were still running. Had a bit of confusion at the beginning, accidentally ending up on the race course where several riders flew by our group. Found the brown trail. Formerly known as the red trail, this is a great beginner trail. A couple of gentle rock gardens, some fast downhill sections (remember I’m a beginner), a punchy uphill section. Took a bad line in the sharp turn leading to the uphill section, rear wheel caught a big root as I turned and spun out from under me. Once again, didn’t get a foot out fast enough to catch myself. Fall two. Did I mention I need to work on un-clipping fast?
After the ride, we went back to the skills area, where Lindsay demonstrated how to change a flat tire, and patiently answered all of our questions. Questions which ranged from bike repair and maintenance, full suspension versus hard tail, 26 vs 29, best group rides, bike clothing and gear.
As to the festival itself….very nicely run. Bikes and bikers everywhere. Riders of all ages and sizes.
Beer and food. Highly recommend going if you are in the area – it’s the annual fundraiser for the trails, and a darned good time.
Unfortunately, I was in the clinic during the main races so don’t have any pictures from those. However, was fun to see the kids taking over the course in the afternoon.
Even with that fall (ok, 2, but who’s counting), really loved the day. Mountain biking brings an entirely different aspect into riding. On the road, there’s a rhythm to riding that becomes almost hypnotic, mindless; while mountain biking requires a constant connection with the bike. Getting off your saddle, shifting weight forward and back, holding pedals in a position to not hit rocks or roots, finding lines. All provide a challenge, a change. Still love the road bike, but can tell I will do more of this style of riding. Having the opprotunity of learning this within a group of women was a bonus, a huge bonus. (Thanks, Trek!!) And they even gave us gifts, and not to mention let us ride some great bikes.
Continuing a childhood tradition….
August 15, 2010
Growing up midway between Chicago and Milwaukee gave us the option of taking advantage of what both cities had to offer. The Milwaukee Zoo, Christmas window shopping on State Street, and in August, the Wisconsin State Fair. Now that we live in the Milwaukee area, I am able to continue this tradition with my son. We’re not big ride people, choosing instead to skip the midway and focus on the barns, the exhibits – and of course the food.
At least the traditional Wisconsin state fair food….the roasted corn and the cream puffs. The chocolate covered bacon, deep fried Milky Ways or deep fried Oreos, just aren’t calling our names. In fact, if you asked the kiddo, he’d tell you that deep fried Oreos sound like one of the grossest things *ever*.