Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Did Not Ride In Today

Normally, me not riding in isn't that big a deal . . . but today seems like one. I had made it 8 workdays in a row, and I was very, very proud of myself. The weather this morning was cold (see previous posts as to how that really isn't a problem), so that's not why I'm here. I'm not that tired, either. No, I have to head offsite to give a presentation.

I have to be at a hotel about a 25 minute car ride from the office. By every estimate I can muster, I'm looking at a 45 minute bike ride - in hilly terrain to get there. I have a hard time justifying being out of the office for several hours for a 30-45 minute talk (in addition to the 45 minutes there, and the 45 minutes back -- I'd need to give myself ample time to get myself ready, in terms of not looking like a sweat-drowned rat). So, this sucks.

I will ride in tomorrow - and then not on Friday, as I'm looking to get a head start on a weekend in Philadelphia (although I also am thinking about taking a half day on Friday, which means that I would be able to ride in -- we shall see). However, with all of this -- how do commuters deal with offsite requirements?

Monday, August 25, 2008

Things I Will Not Do

Today begins my second week of "bike every day" madness. I don't anticipate anything coming up that will force me to drive. Next week, we have the holiday on Monday - but I'll have to drive on Wednesday due to choir rehearsal. That said, I should be able to manage those three days - and then I should be able to handle Tuesday through Friday for the rest of the month (can't do Mondays because of symphony rehearsal).

But I am writing because of a disturbing bicyclist trend: leg shaving. I understand, if you're racing, that there may be some psychosomatic benefit of shaving your legs . . . you'll feel more aerodynamic. Heck, you probably would be more aerodynamic - I mean, the drag from all that leg hair might add two or three seconds to a century ride - and those last two or three seconds are the worst!

I realize that bicyclists have nice legs, and that most bicyclists are vain at some level. Heck - even before I started biking, I had nice legs (one of the benefits of being overweight, I guess, is that your legs need to work harder to take you from point A to point B than Skinny Jim's do . . . and when you prefer to walk places than to use a telephone, the steps add up), and right now my calves can best be described as "turkey legs". I'm quite proud of the way they look - but I'm not about to shave, just to make them stand out more.

Today's ride was much nicer than any of the rides last week. Even though I got rained on for a little bit (and I'm half-dreading the storms they're calling for tonight), the temperature never dropped below 55°, and that is a lot more bearable. Still, after last week's temperatures (I'm still convincing myself that it's August), I bought myself some knickers (or really long bike shorts), a few head scarves, some arm warmers, a reflective bomber jacket, and a fleece-lined reflective vest. I will deal with the cold -- it's the dark that scares me.

Friday, August 22, 2008

When I Will Not be Riding

This is my first week with five commutes - and I'm feeling great. Sure, my times have gotten progressively worse (ranging from 1:02:00 to 1:11:00), and the soreness in my legs happens to be at a new extreme -- but I'm quite happy with things thus far. Assuming $3.60/gallon gas prices and 15 miles to the gallon, I have saved myself $48.00. I will have burned approximately 7,500 calories, and I will have given myself a good excuse to be smug all weekend.

But I wanted to discuss when I will not be riding. As I see it, there are always going to be situations where I must drive into work. I'm sure some of the more hardcore riders will belittle these reasons, but I find them legitimate.

  1. The West Shore Symphony Orchestra
    I am a bassist. While I'm still dealing with the after-affects of an elbow injury, I recently started playing again for the first time in years. The problem with being a bassist and a bicyclist is that it's really, really difficult to carry around a six foot tall instrument while pedaling. It looks like every Monday, during concert seasons -- I will be driving into work.
  2. The Winter
    I am not afraid of the cold (and yes, I know that "cold" cannot be defined by "cold August mornings"). The staff at Ice Bike have more than enough information and reviews to ensure that I would be able to brave about any weather situation comfortably and safely. No - my issue with the winter is the damn dark . . . as it is, I will commonly find myself riding shortly before sunrise or dusk -- dark enough that I wouldn't dream of wearing my sunglasses. At these times, I turn on my flashing head and rear lights -- but that doesn't mean that drivers are paying attention. 5:30 AM in December is practically pitch black . . . as is 5:30 PM (nevermind that I am lucky if I get home by 6:30 PM). I'm fairly confident that I can keep this riding up for MOST of the year -- but I have a feeling that my legs will be dark from mid-November to mid-March. Well, I'll work on the stationary bike, just to keep muscles from atrophying -- but, I probably won't get on the road much. Maybe in time, I'll feel better about riding in the dark. I don't think it will happen this winter.
  3. Choir Rehearsal
    For much the same reason that winters are not going to be good for my riding plans - choir rehearsal is likely going to get in the way, too. I'm the organist at Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Cathedral, which is a 9 month a year gig. It looks like, this season, we're going to rehearse a couple of times a month on Wednesday nights -- which means that I won't be getting on the road until 10. I may ask the choir director (who lives in Carlisle) to take me home (placing my bike in the back of her van) on these days . . . but I'm going to at least let the first rehearsal go by before I really figure out the plans there.
  4. When I need new clothes
    I keep most of my work clothes at the office these days. I have a 20 mile ride, each way. Dress shoes, dress pants, dress shirt, belt, and tie probably weigh four or five pounds all together (this on top of the backpack with the laptop in it). That's weight that I don't need to carry. Keeping everything at the office works really well -- except when it is laundry time. I think I can keep about two weeks worth of business clothes here. Hopefully, I can time the need to pick up/drop off clothes with the times that I have to drive in for bass-related reasons.
  5. Other Appointments
    There aren't too many times when I need to be somewhere "not easily bike accessible" immediately after work -- but these situations come up . . . hopefully, they'll be few & far between.
  6. Injury / General Tiredness
    Fortunately, in the few months that I've been playing around with this bicycle commuting thing, I've been relatively injury free. After some major rides, I've been pretty sore - but never to the point where I dreaded getting on the bike. That said, there have been times when I just told myself that I was "too tired" to bike into work. I think that's why I forced myself to do this all week - just to tell myself that it could be done. Now that I've done it, I'm going to try to do it more & more often. I figure, at some point, the soreness leaves - the problem is that each day I seem a little more sore than the last . . . but after a weekend, I think I'll be able to get right back on the roads next week.
  7. Weather Conditions
    While "winter conditions" aren't really a concern this year, as I'm not planning on riding in the middle of winter, thunderstorms aren't a whole lot of fun to ride in. If they're calling for abnormal amounts of rain, and it's crappy weather in the morning, I won't come in . . . but the weather druids are wrong more often than not -- so it's that morning call that really dictates what I'll do.

So, that leaves selected Mondays for symphony practice, selected Wednesdays for choir practice, and truly crappy weather days. I'm hoping between those, the "injury/tired" days will disappear . . . we shall see.

In other news, I think I'm going to stop by the tattoo place on the way home tonight. :-)

Child John to the Dark Tower Completed

Well, just finished Stephen King's Magnum Opus, and I loved it - even the "not 'Happily Ever After'" ending . . . it just seemed to fit. Ka is a wheel . . . as is the Dark Tower.

I guess I'm left to think what my own dark tower is -- what am I to reach for? I do think I have some great work inside of me -- part of me hates that I've never found the discipline to actually orchestrate the symphony running through my head -- or the novel that I know I can pen out. Of course, with a child coming, is my tower fatherhood? No, I think not -- fatherhood is certainly important - much like the beams. The tower falls without the beams. Fatherhood will shape my great work, but I don't know if it will be my great work.

I think what I find most striking of this entire series is King's just "this is what I'm doing" approach. I mean - it's awesome to create a story based on every story that has crossed through your head, place yourself into the middle of said story, belittle yourself, turn the major events of your own life into key plot points, and not make it ever seem cheap is quite a feat. I really, really enjoyed these books. Even if you haven't liked King's works (and lets face it, I don't think anybody out there has failed to read at least a single King work), this is different. Sure, there are parts horror -- but parts love story, and suspense, and science fiction. All in all, it was just really fun literature.

I will say that getting through several of his other works made my experience different than somebody who might be coming in blindly. In 'Salem's Lot, you know that Father Callahan's story isn't really complete - in fact, you think he's a bit of an asshole for fleeing . . . seeing him again felt good. The eeriness of the post-Captain Trips world of The Stand made you shiver (speaking of The Stand - are all of the survivors those with The Shining, or is it that everybody "Shines" a little?). And tell me - were Pennywise and Dandelo the same . . . or at least of the same species?

Just a great, great read -- now I'm onto Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal by Christopher Moore. An incredible change of pace from where I just was.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

The Plane! The Plane!

So, I'm thinking about a tattoo.

Specifically, I'm thinking about a bicycle chain tattoo. Riding a couple of hundred miles a week means that I have a constant "rookie tattoo" on the inside of my right calf. Each time I stop my bike, I unclip my left leg, and my right leg ends up resting against the chain. I could stop this, but it's become part of my ride, and by the time I think "damnit, I'm smearing grease all over my calf", it's already too late.

The tattoo I'm contemplating would basically make this truly permanent (right now, I can wash off the "tattoo" if I feel like taking more than 2 or 3 minutes in the shower . . . but that's time that I can be spending on the road). It would start at the back of my calf, twist around the inside, ending right before the calf bone (I should know the actual name of said bone, and I probably do . . . but damn if I can remember). The path would look like a chain that is actively cutting into my leg . . . so we're looking at some blood droplets thrown in for good measure.

I know the anti-tattoo contingent out there are quite vocal:

  1. What about when you get old and wrinkly
  2. What happens when you change your mind
  3. Won't you feel stupid when you stop cycling?
  4. You work in a professional environment - you're going to get laughed at!
. Taking each of these in order:
  1. I don't think my calf skin is ever really going to get wrinkly -- if so, something went wrong with the aging process
  2. The whole point is that I'll be very careful about what is designed and what I put on my body -- I've been thinking about this for MONTHS, and if I do go through with it, it will be because I'm confident that I want it
  3. I don't ever plan to stop cycling -- I really am having that much fun out there, day-in and day-out. Injuries heal -- and if I have something so bad that I can't get on a bike at all . . . well, shoot - I'll always have a reminder of something that I really enjoyed doing
  4. The inside of my calf never-ever presents itself at a business meeting

Of course, Duffy has always harbored the thought of a tattoo for herself . . . and has offered to get one along with me. I pass a pretty highly rated place on the way home - I may stop in one of these days to explain what I want, see what I'm looking at, cost-wise . . . we'll see. I'll keep you all posted.

Those Cold August Mornings?

So, I've been ignoring things here . . . and I feel like kicking myself. I haven't given up biking in the least -- just haven't been posting anything about it. To date, I have put 1,596 miles on the bike (those little bicycle computers are really neat), and I'm averaging somewhere between two and three commutes into the office.

This week, however, I have vowed to bike in every day. I didn't have any big nighttime commitments (and the one that popped up -- dinner with family -- was right smack on my way home), and Duffy is about to start school (meaning that my mornings might get a little more hectic with puppy duty). With it being August and everything, this seemed like the perfect time of year to do it -- I am generally on the road early enough so that things aren't too hot, and then I can just take my time getting home, dealing with the heat.

At least, that was what I told myself when this all started. The weather has been beautiful this week -- highs in the low-to-mid 80's, and barely a cloud in the sky. The only issue is that temperatures, prior to 7:00, barely register above 50°. This morning, my little bicycle computer claimed that things dropped to 42° on the way in (as I was biking alongside a swiftly running stream). That is cold - very cold. Heck, it is the middle of August, in Pennsylvania, and I wore a freaking sweatshirt into the office!

Still, though - I'm enjoying the biking . . . a lot. With gas prices pulling back, it isn't quite as painful to drive into the office - but the economics of the situation were never the primary factor. I just like being on a bike and love being able to squeeze a workout into the day without having to find time to work out.

I'm nearly complete with The Dark Tower by Stephen King. I am completely addicted to the story at this point. I've actually been listening to the seven books, on and off, since I started this little escapade, so it is going to be sad to move onto something else. Roland, Susannah, Eddie, Jake, and Oy all feel like friends to me. Oh, well -- I think Christopher Moore is up next, just for a change of pace. I have yet to meet somebody who claims to have disliked any of his books.

For anybody who checks in often - I promise I will get better about posting.