Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Blood Donation

I had to leave my friends at the Farmers’ Market early in the morning for an appointment to donate blood. On the way downtown it started raining buckets. This route takes me through the most tourist/yuppie/cabbie infested part of town and is no fun to get through. Today though, the drivers were very nice and gave me my space. Sympathetic because of the rain possibly? Whatever the reason is was very nice to not have impatient drivers in addition to my sogginess.

I was late for my appointment with the blood drive, but there were very few other people there and the staff didn’t seem at all phased at my lateness. The obese receptionist gave me a certificate to fill out to win $25 of free gas, "something we all need." My helmet was hanging at my sodden hip and I declined saying, "I ride my bike everywhere. Gas doesn’t matter to me." The woman told me I was lucky to be able to ride, but said that she was "too thick to exercise." ?????

The woman who questioned me about my medical history was even fatter. She was probably my age or younger and each breath she took was somewhere between a wheeze and a pant. Her massive breasts sat upon her imposing belly that sat solidly upon her lap, almost concealing her legs. Her fingers looked as fat as Wisconsin brats and a quarter coin could almost certainly pass through her wedding ring. Her labored breathing didn’t diminish her pleasant personality, nor did the groan of effort she made to stand up. I felt both sad for her and disgusted at her body crushing itself in layers of fat.

I was wearing my "Put the Fun Between Your Legs" t-shirt and one of the men commented approvingly of it as my arm was getting cleaned with iodine by an older woman (nurse?). He and I engaged in a wee bit of bicycling chat. The nurse began to scold me about riding my bike after donating blood. I had already told her that donating blood doesn’t really effect me – I’m not a fainter. So laughingly I informed her that my office was only a few blocks away and by the time I biked home my body would be completely fine. She continued her warnings and couldn’t understand that my commute is not very strenuous.

Once my blood was flowing she was surprised at how fast it was filling the bag. She looked at my chart and commented about how healthy my numbers were. Eventually she realized that she couldn’t convince me not to ride my bike home and with resignation conceded that "biking was probably OK for someone as healthy as me."

The experience just left me shaking my head in wonder at the workers. The cause and effect relationship with biking didn’t seem to dawn on any of the women. Could it be...maybe, just maybe.....that biking contributes to my good health, instead of my health making me "lucky" enough to ride a bike? Sure, I was healthy even before I began riding, but it certainly worked to slim down my body and contributes tremendously to my overall fitness.

Move your bodies people! It does wonders.

Monday, June 26, 2006

PRIDE Parade 2006

For the third year in a row I organized a ‘bike float’ in the PRIDE parade for CBF. As usual I waited for the last minute to really do anything. So Saturday afternoon I scrounged around the new CBF office to search for supplies. Stupid.

On Sunday morning Jonathan decided to join the CBF float – which made me very happy. Organizing these things takes a lot of energy and it is nice to have someone to act as second-in-command. Jonathan filled the role well and he kept my spirits raised even though it was raining and soggy outside.

While I was getting ready for the parade, Jonathan looked sadly at the clothes he had with him, because they were boring for the occasion, and eyed my fishnets with interest. I offered him another pair that he accepted with only a wee bit of hesitation. Watching a man try to put on hosiery for the first time is a delightful treat. He was pleased with the fishnets, but still thought his shorts were bland. I encouraged him to try on a skirt and a pair of tiny spandex shorts. He wore the spandex under his shorts but didn’t think he’d have the nuts to wear just them in public. Topping it off was a snug CBF t-shirt. He’s friggin' hot.

On the ride there he was totally digging the looks we got from bystanders – he cut quite a figure: riding a folding bike, wearing fishnets and holding a red umbrella to shield him from the rain. Hilarious.

I bought a 10' piece of conduit at Home Despot to use as the support for the banner. I mentioned that I actually wanted an 8' piece, but they didn’t have any. Jonathan went inside to use the restroom and returned with a pipecutter. Sweetie. He then offered to carry the conduit for the next three blocks to the staging area. This was both 1) helpful and 2) hilarious. I had a heavy box of literature in my basket, making my bike weird to ride, and my messenger bag was chalk-full of heaviness, too. Adding the conduit to my load would have sucked. Jonathan balanced the conduit straight up, resting on his bottom bracket, as we pedaled. It was a pretty phallic sight that did not go unnoticed by people we biked past.

After we were basically ready for the parade and waiting to step off, I started to encourage him to take off his khaki shorts. He blushed and fidgeted, but it was obvious that he wanted to do it. I blatantly told him a few times, "take your pants off," and I could tell that he liked hearing me say this in public. Tehehe. A few more people joined in to peer pressure him and after a bit he dropped trou to the hoots of approval from the gay male bystanders. His blushing was furious at this point.

It took him about three minutes to get comfortable and then he began to ham it up and flaunt his body for everyone to see, to the delight of the crowd. G-damn. He tried teaching me a few lindyhop dance steps and broke a few gay boys’ hearts as they realized that he had a girlfriend. We continued goofing around as he tried to let him dip me.

Brian tried to take a few pictures of us in our fishnets as we giggled for the camera:

For most of the parade Jonathan and I balanced the banner as we rode our bikes. This is NOT the most fun thing to do, because you have to pay attention and often don’t have a free hand to wave. I was a little jealous of Jonathan. Normally I am one of the riders in our group who gets the most attention and compliments from the crowd. This year all eyes were on Jonathan, including mine. It was really fun to watch him alternately vamp it up, and then blush and get shy at the catcalls and raunchy comments he drew. He was friggin’ hot.

Towards the end, Michael and Brian relieved us of our banner-carrying duties and we were free to ride around and work the crowd. Fun, fun, fun. At one point he and I were riding together and he reached out to hold my hand. I felt sort of weird doing that, because I felt it wasn’t all that appropriate during a gay event. Oh well....

At the end of the route there were the customary anti-gay, hell & brimstone protesters. As we passed, Thea lifted her bike above her head and all of her literature fell out. As we were helping her pick it up, a protester with a megaphone started shouting at us, "girls can’t you see that this is a sign from God that your lifestyle is wrong?" I was already sort of bent over towards him, so it didn’t take much effort for me to lift up my skirt and wiggle my ass at him. Thea lifted her top. He made some sort of comment that we should know that it didn’t effect him. Then he told us that he hopes we find boyfriends who beat us. WTF? I don’t know how that makes any sense.

Once the parade was over we learned that Howard’s sound trailer had a flat tire, and he was very stressed about getting it fixed. A couple of boys, including Jonathan, worked to help him. I didn’t have any tools with me so I didn’t really add anything to the situation. Apparently what was really needed was a way to support the trailer to remove the wheel. Several things were tried to prop it up, but none were tall/strong enough. Jonathan solved the problem by using the pipe-cutter to chop up the conduit into pieces that were stuck into the ground to brace up the trailer. Such a smart boy. I was tickled by the image of him working while wearing fishnets:

If you suspect that I spent too much time ogling Jonathan and not enough time bicycle advocating, you are absolutely correct.

I am totally digging him and having a blast.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Bike. Dance. Boat.

OK, I'm almost a full weekend behind posting. The upcoming weekend involves more biking, boating and dancing -- plus the PRIDE parade, hopefully an outdoor movie and possibly an ArtCar festival. Oh, yeah -- work, too.

I'm busy -- here's last weekend:

Boating, Biking, Dancing.

This is the trifecta that Jonathan seeks to complete his summer. Pretty hard to disagree with that combination. Last weekend was a great success by that measure. Friday night we met at SummerDance for a set of swing dancing. Goodness -- I suck at dancing. I teasingly threatened Jonathan that as much embarrassment he forces me to endure dancing that night would be returned to him in equal measure during the following day’s "training ride." We agreed and it began to be a running joke throughout the rest of the weekend.

Next we biked to the harbor with Jonathan’s dancing pals and took the boat for a sail. The wind was strong so the boat felt peppy and fast. As usual, the view of the city’s skyline from the water is beautiful – especially as we witnessed the change from dusk into evening. Out in the water the stars in the sky are visible, too – and the noise of the city completely disappears. The night air felt a bit chilly out in the water, but not so cold as to make us reach for additional clothing. As we returned to the harbor the air flowing from the city noticeably became warmer. Ahhh....urban heat islands.

After his pals were all rowed back to shore, Jonathan and I opted to spend the night on the boat. We slept out in the open air, in the shadow of Chicago’s looming skyscrapers, yet completely secluded and peaceful in the privacy of the dark water. The cramped conditions and resulting poor sleep are absolutely worth the serenity of sleeping outside in the gently rocking boat.

The next morning we needed to hustle to meet up with friends for the Starved Rock training ride. We realized we wouldn’t have enough time to meet our friends for the pre-ride breakfast, so we cooked/ate breakfast at my place while we packed and cleaned up. I made us eggs scrambled with sauteed leeks, spinach, garlic, herbs from my garden and blue cheese that we ate along with chilled potato/leek soup, bread and fresh strawberries. Yum.

Our friends were just finishing off their breakfast when we arrived. It was bright and sunny and obviously was going to be a hot day. The first leg of our trip took us into the wind. We rode at a conversational pace that wasn’t taxing. Jonathan had just got his bike outfitted for the trip with fenders, a rack and a new rear wheel to replace the wobbly mess that he had been riding on. He hasn’t done any long rides and was sort of nervous about this ride and the actual Starved Rock trip. I didn’t think he would have a problem, but you never can tell.

We all stopped at a farmers’ market in Wheaton for lemonade and to buy tasty things to grill at lunch. The group split up more after this break and Jonathan and I rode in the front with T.C., Josh, Todd and Jim. Still, the pace was mild. By the time the group stopped and met up for lunch it was past 2:00pm and we were hungry and rather sick of being in the saddle. The grill was lit and gads of food were produced from our collective paniers. We gorged ourselves on bread, cheese, fruit and raw vegetables while also filling our bellies with much water.

The croquet kit was set up and Jonathan laid down on a picnic table for his regular afternoon nap. Given the lateness of the day, many people began making plans to take one of the Metra trains back to Chicago instead of completing the ride. Of the seventeen of us who began the ride, only seven of us biked back together to Chicago. This ride went much faster. We had the wind on our back for much of the ride (or it was a pretty wicked cross-wind) and we rode much of it in a pack or paceline. Around Berkley/Maywood it began to sprinkle (which felt delightful on our hot skin!), the wind gusted around us and the sky darkened. A beautiful full rainbow appeared ahead of us. We fully expected to get caught in a storm and drenched, but luckily the storm never appeared.

Once we got into the city I was chomping at the bit to get home – and by ‘home’ I mean the Hbar. Riding through the west side of Chicago never inspires lingering and today was no exception to that rule. Actually, it was early enough in the evening that the vibe felt more festive than potentially volatile like it often does. I’m sure that an hour later would have been less comfortable. There is no way to pass through these miles without feeling conspicuous and drawing attention because we are white. The tailwind, the neighborhood, the knowledge that the Hbar is only a handful of miles away and the desire to get out of the saddle made it extremely fun to ride fast.

Jonathan and I raced through this part of town. I was torn between giving in to the urge to just ride as fast as possible, and keeping the group together. I compromised by stopping for all yellow and even some stale green lights so people could catch up. As we got closer, the group ended up splitting anyways. The huge party that is the annual Puerto Rican festival was taking place. Streets were closed to cars and it was a blast to feel all of the people’s energy on the car-free streets.

We had some food and drink at the Hbar’s beer garden. Delightful. Even better was going home and washing off the thick layer of sunscreen/sweat/trail dust/chain grease and the massive amount of visible, gritty salt that powered my skin and coarsened my hair. It feels so nice to crawl into bed clean and cool after being hot and dirty all day long.

I gave Jonathan a neck/back massage because he said those muscles were where he felt the day’s work. I thought he did he very well on the ride, especially considering it was the longest ride of his life. We don’t really know what the mileage of the trip was, because no one who rode back had a bike computer. It was about 44 miles when we stopped for lunch, but we took a more direct route back to Chicago. My guess is that the ride was somewhere between 70 and 80 miles. It was a good ride – and I am really looking forward to the actual ride over the weekend of the Fourth of July. Fun, fun, fun.

The next day we got to sleep in before meeting my law school friends for lunch in Pilsen. We took a meandering route there with the intention of detouring for interesting sites. We found a ripe mullberry tree and stopped to snack and turn our skin purple with sweet juice. Jonathan hopped up to climb the tree, whereas I grabbed the low-hanging fruit.

We figured out how to use my camera’s timer, too:

Then we went to Pilsen for lunch with some of my law pals. Fun times. I don't see Tara and Isaac enough. Afterwards we went to the Mexican Fine Arts Museum to see the exhibit about African influence on Mexican culture & people. Good stuff.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Mystery Postcard

The correspondence in my life is just getting weirder.

I received a postcard at work with the following text:

For the Life OF Me, do NOT know why you Would Want To have your PICTURE TAKEN With the Femi-NAZI shoes?

CERTAINLY, I hope u don’t Ride with the Femi-Nazi Shoes!

A _ _ [unreadable]

Addressed to me, care of my work address.


I was featured in a recent magazine article about biking to work. My name and work place were published, along with a picture of me wearing a business suit, helmet and heels next to the Breeze.

This wasn’t email or a snarky comment on my blog. This was a postcard with a stamp. Someone put at least some effort into getting this message to me – not to mention looking up the address of my workplace in the first place.

Interesting clues:

The postcard is from the University of Chicago Magazine, and shows a painting of the campus. I went to law school there.

There is a yellow LIVESTRONG sticker on the postcard, indicating a bikey person.

I thought it might be my friend Arline – an interesting dyke with a somewhat militant streak who doesn’t hesitate to call me out when she feels I am betraying the grrrl gender. [specifically, she hates my frequent use of the term ‘chick’ to describe myself or other women]. She also went to the U of C, so it sort of made sense.

However, the use of femi-nazi seems completely backwards, and Arline isn’t one to make such a weird error. My mental image of femi-nazi shoes would be completely practical, sturdy, no-frills, no-heels, ugly as sin shoes. The author of the postcard instead seems to imply the opposite – that I am furthering the oppression of womyn by submitting to and perpetuating the torture, restraint and control of womyn through misogonistic footwear.

Arline denied the postcard – but did share in the giggling and opined that it was a freaky letter.

Damn it – unless the author contacts me again, this will remain a mystery. Maybe NOT having contact is actually better. I really don’t have time to deal with a stalker or freak, and my hackles rise pretty quickly when I get scolded for not being enough of a feminist.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

The Julep's Long-lost Brother!!

On Wednesday night I left work to help Katy plant/water/weed at Eckart Park. She somehow is in charge of the planting at this park. She is awesome and volunteers so much in so many different communities. Love her.

I rode Northwest on Milwaukee, but instead of getting into the left turn lane approaching Grand, I stayed to the right to go to Eckart. A bike parked on the sidewalk caught my eye – it was kin of the Julep! In some excited combination of skipping and stumbling, I scrambled myself and the Breeze off of the street and onto the sidewalk to investigate further.

The resemblance was eerie. The most noticeable difference between this bike and the Julep was that it was a standard men’s frame instead of the dainty step-through Julep. It was the Julep’s brother: mint-colored Schwinn Traveler, fixed gear conversion and the kicker: red friggin’ handlebar tape.

I was beside myself with dorky delight as I marveled over this bike and excitedly bounced all over the sidewalk to ogle it. Smaller differences started to catch my attention: the stem of this bike was longer, its pedals had cages instead of clipless, the gear ratio was much lower – so it rides brakeless, the rims are deep-V, the red bar tape has faded to pinkish. Goodness.

I pawed around in my bag to find not only paper and pen, but also paper clip to secure the note I eagerly scribbled for the owner. When I realized that I had my camera I actually squealed with joy. The joy was short-lived: as soon as I turned it on, my camera’s screen informed me: CHANGE BATTERY PACK, and then went completely black.

My mind was racing at the injustice and the silly randomness of the whole situation. I peered into the window of the bar that the bike was parked in front of, hoping to see a patron who looked like this bike’s owner. The bartender saw me and beckoned me inside. The bike didn’t belong to anyone there. The bartender wanted to be helpful, but it was pretty obvious that I appeared crazy. He couldn’t understand the desire, much less the urgency, to find the owner of a bike that was similar to mine.

Anyway, I was late for garden-duty already, so I reluctantly left the boy-Julep. No one was there at the garden, so I sped home with a plan. Acting quickly, I put my camera battery in the recharger and swapped the Bianchi’s front wheel back onto the Julep in hopes of a photo shoot.

Alas, by the time I returned, the boy-Julep was gone and I was sad. So close – will I ever see this bike again? It was not there when I looked this morning, either.

However, I did get an email from the boy-Julep’s owner:

I got a kick out of the note you left on my Schwinn tonight.

Very cool that we have the same bike. I reciently saw another one locked up down town by the river (w/ derailers). It's the only other one I've seen in Chicago.

I got mine a couple of years ago. I was working at Faster and some messenger abandonded it out side when he quit. I saved it from the scrap metal guys. I totally love it, the color is like a bad prom dress from the 70's!

Also, I'm all about step-through fixies. I was trying to get my friend to build one. I've never seen one.

Thanks for the note.

Stay Up!

The handlebars aren’t red in this picture (and I don’t remember it having fenders....), but see for yourself:

The Boy - Julep:

My Beloved Mint Julep:

Without doubt, I will creep this guy out and ask to meet him so I can take pictures and go for a spin with our cute little bikes. I'll try to hold off for a while though.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Open Mouth; Insert Foot

After grabbing breakfast on Sunday morning, Jonathan and I went for a lingering walk around the neighborhood. I hopped up onto his back to get a piggy-back ride and made horse whinny noises as he bounced me on his back. I wanted him to trot instead of just plod along, but he wouldn’t, even when I kicked in my heals and egged him on with, "tck,tck" sounds. He laughed that I was trying cue him like a real horse, but he still wouldn’t trot, "you aren’t nearly as petite as you look."

Grrrrrr. [For the record: 127 lbs; 35-28-35]

"Put me down," I demanded repeatedly to no avail as he chuckled and tightened his arms around my legs to keep me from squirming off his back. He then carefully walked directly in the middle of the sidewalk to prevent me from reaching the fences that I unsuccessfully tried to grab.

When he finally set me down he dug his hole a little deeper by saying that he was going to have to start training with sandbags so he can give me good, proper horsey rides and maintain my impression of him as a strong guy. ggggrrrrrrr.

He recognized the sparks in my eyes but wasn’t deterred from continuing the conversation. He tried to explain, "you’re not fat – and I didn’t say you were – I was just surprised at how heavy you feel compared to how small you are." Grrr. Grrrr. Grrrr.

His attempts to explain his comments were half-cute – the other half made me want to smack his confused face as he used words like "solid" "muscular" and "dense" to describe my body.

Yes, yes, yes – I know, I know, I know. I know that my weight and my clothing size don’t seem to match. I know that muscle weighs more than fat. I know that I carry around more muscle than most women and therefore seem surprisingly heavy. I know all of this.

But I also know that there is a well-known understanding that you don’t tell women they weigh a lot. No. No. No. We don’t like to hear it. Not one little bit. I was quite the fatso in high school and the suggestion that I am fat hits too close to home. Not Funny.

I biked with him back to his home in Hyde Park a short while later. We were in somewhat of a hurry, so I opted for the Bianchi instead of the dork bike. We kept the pace brisk, but comfortable, for most of the ride. There were several times when I shot past him, daring him to race, knowing that he wouldn’t be able to meet the challenge. I don’t know that he realized the connection between my riding and his earlier comment, but I am fully aware that I was being a brat because of his earlier comments. If he dares talk about how much my muscles weigh, he is damn well going to be made to feel the sting of trying to keep up with them.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Special Delivery: Kryptonite

A perfect set of circumstances ocurred unexpectedly. I was running a wee bit late for work as I tried to unlock the dork bike from the fence – the lock simply wouldn’t budge even after wasting precious minutes struggling with it.

Finally, I ran back upstairs to put on a pair of cleats and then to the basement to grab the Bianchi. Together we made good time into downtown.

Early in the morning I received a large box from Kryptonite. I started to dance around with giddiness and tear into the box as people at the office watched me warily.

As I expected, the box contained NINE u-locks that were keyed to match each other. For me: four mini -Ulocks and one standard size, and then a mini and a standard for each of my brothers. Yippeee!!

I wasn’t honestly expecting these to arriver for many more weeks. Now I won’t have to worry about swapping locks or carrying the right key for the right lock for the right bike. Joy. Joy. Joy. Also, even though it will only happen a few times each year, it will be super-convenient when my brothers come into town. I will just leave them a bike at the El station, and they will have the key to unlock it without any advance planning.

Most importantly, the Kryptonite locks have a sliding ‘dust cover’ that will keep the water and crud from gunking up my locks. The way I currently mount my lock on the Julep is perfect for causing rear tire spray to be flung directly into my lock. Yuck.

To make this even more perfect, since I rode the Bianchi, I have a rear rack with bungee cords all ready to strap this box of locks onto.

Perfect. Perfect. Perfect.

My keychain just became lighter. Plus, I will have a surplus of keys, so even if I lose one or two keys, I will still be able to free my stable.

Darwin Award Nominee

I saw a dumb woman almost get hit by three different trains at a wide, multi-track railroad crossing. Many of the train crossing deaths in the region occur because people wait for the first train, but don’t realize that it obstructs the view of another train coming from the opposite direction -- and walk unaware into its path. This was what happened this morning. I yelled when I saw the risk the woman was taking as she crossed the track directly behind the train that just passed and stepped onto the next track. We heard the furious blow of the loud horn of a second train coming from the opposite direction. The woman jumped backwards to barely miss getting squished. My heart was up in my throat from witnessing this close call.

The woman however didn’t seem phased by it. As the end of this train passed, she walked back onto the tracks – and again nearly got hit by a train coming from the opposite direction. It happened one more time before the gates finally lifted and there were no more trains approaching. The first time I yelled in warning when I saw what she was about to do – the other two times I actually started to want her dumb life to end.

I was dumbfounded by her stupidity. I’m sure that after the close call with the first train, it would take me months before I would even think of crossing the tracks when the gates are down – and certainly I wouldn’t proceed before I could see that there weren’t any trains from either direction. Not her, though.

She has a future as a Darwin award contender.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Milestone Anniversaries

Several one-year anniversaries snuck past while I was preparing for trial.

Many important changes happened in April/May 2005, and the year in between has been pretty damn cool.

Beginning the New Era, my clunky hybrid The Tank was stolen on April 8, 2005. Very, Very Sad. But this was the kick in the pants that finally forced my ass onto a road bike. The Bianchi replaced The Tank mere hours later. He brought with him the challenge of clipless pedals/shoes. Despite my fear, I learned how to clip in and out with little incident. I also began riding fast on my speedy new bike. It was fun to watch the speedometer register previously unbelievable numbers. Taking a whole lane and keeping up with traffic rocked my world.

I didn’t feel comfortable leaving the Bianchi parked outside all day at work, so another bike quickly joined the stable. I walked an unrideable old Schwinn road bike home from Working Bikes to use in a Cycling Sisters’ workshop, "Convert your bike to a fixie" at West Town Bikes. I stripped it of the rear cassette and small chainring, got it a new track wheelset, removed the rear brake, tightened the chain and named the reincarnated bike the Mint Julep.

Riding her was frightening at first, but soon I learned to enjoy riding a fixie and figured out how to slow her down safely. She got an upgrade of new BB, smaller cog, chain and clipless pedals and I learned how to install these things. This is by far the bike that I know most intimately. Nearly every piece of her I have installed, adjusted, fixed, cleaned or somehow tinkered with. We’ve seen many places and ridden many rides. I prettied her up with streamers and wicked red handlebars. The Julep is my go-to bike: fast, cute and ready for anything. She has done a century ride, the alleycat races, parades, Critical Mass, boring commutes and was with me every cold winter mile. She is my pride and joy.

I have learned bike maintenance from the Julep and she helped introduce me to the previously unapproachable messengers. She draws compliments from a wide variety of people on the street and is always a joy and a thrill to ride. The Bianchi is now relegated to the basement most of the time – but when he comes out to play, he gets ridden to fun new locations. He is my special-occasion touring bike. He carries everything I need on his back and gets me out of the city. Both of these bikes have been in my life for just over a year and I feel like together they have helped bring about many changes. They have expanded the distance and scope of my riding and helped to bring many new people into my life.

Not long after the Julep was born, I also invested in the Handlebar. This was probably not the wisest investment, but I totally dig it. Having a project like the Hbar is fun – even when it means painting over graffiti in the men’s room on the Fourth of July. Being part of the Hbar makes me feel all warm and fuzzy. Plus it has definitely introduced me to cool, new friends and greatly expanded my friendship with the other owners. Love It.

Exactly a year after falling in love with fast road bikes, I have come full circle with the Breeze – a bike much slower and cumbersome than even The Tank. Now both the Julep and the Bianchi spend a lot of time in the basement, while the Breeze sees the city. I don’t worry about losing fitness, because even slowly pedaling the Breeze around takes a bit of work. My cute little dorky basket bike is just such a treat to ride. She makes me smile and I don’t have to prove anything with her, but just enjoy the ride. Apparently after a year in the drops, it is time to remember the fun of slowing down, seeing the view and just plain having fun.

Besides, it makes riding hard and fast all that much more thrilling! I think I have the best of all worlds and look forward to what I will learn and experience in this next year.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Nose Bleed Sex [Warning: TMI]

Too Much Information! Adult Content! Beware!

There is a topic that I have been omitting recently: Sex.

I'm dating someone.

There are several reasons to give pause and hesitancy to this relationship. However, they are all Completely, Utterly and Totally Destroyed by the fact that the sex so far is abso-fucking-lutely Amazing.

Last night we had 'nose bleed' sex. A handful of times in my life, mere minutes after really good, strenuous, vigorous, extended sex, I have randomly started bleeding: the needle site from donating blood earlier in the day re-opens, a cut that was healing spontaneously begins bleeding, a couple of nosebleeds, and once a blood vessel in my eye popped. This is totally gross and weird. Since I'm not a doctor I can't explain it, but I suspect it has something to do with heart rate, increased blood pressure and muscles pinching off and later releasing blood vessels. I bruise really easily and bleed really quickly during donations, so I already suspect my blood is thin and flows quickly.

Anyway, last night we were cooling down from another mind-blowing, exhausting, sweaty sex session, when my nose started bleeding. It has been years since this happened and I had completely forgotten about this quirk of my body. Not only was he not weirded out by my nose bleed, but again acted sort of proud once I explained it.

So far he is as perfect a sex partner as I could wish for. He is completely uninhibited and seems to enjoy my pleasure as much, or even more than I do. He lets me writhe wantonly atop him seemingly forever until I am exhausted and worn out. Instead of being disgusted by the heat radiating off of me and the sweat that soon slicks my body and hair, he seems to take pride in it. He follows my lead like a champ, but also controls and moves my body like he has trained for it. After we both catch our breath, cool down and re-hydrate, Round Two is the rule rather than the exception. GodDamn.

In the day following our nights together my body is trashed and exhausted. All the muscles in my body are weak and sore. The commute to work requires effort and perserverance -- and I hope for red lights so I can rest. I get passed constantly, and my typical competitiveness doesn’t even blink. Wonderfully pathetic. My hip flexor muscles are nothing but pulverized goo; my quads and ass feel deep-down sore –as if I raced hard in the drops yesterday; arms, shoulders and back give me the impression that I went weightlifting; muscles in my feet are even sore; my head feels too heavy atop my noodly neck, and; my abs and the muscles between my ribs are tender and cause wincing pain with every laugh or deep breath. Basically, I am a wreck and my muscular body is replaced with jello.

I am also completely ravenous the following day. I think sex depletes my glycogen stores completely and I need to seriously refuel. I probably eat twice as much as I do on a normal day, and yet I still feel famished.

Despite my weak, sore, useless body, I am content as a kitten sleeping in the sun.

This is shaping up to be a great summer.

Sorry for the TMI – I hope everyone enjoys great sex, too!

Friday Lameness

The horror/joy of Saturday’s ride completely overshadowed the disappointment of Friday night:

I made plans to meet with my friend Chris to work on the cookbook and begin experimenting with vegan lemon bars right after work. Later I would meet up with Isaac for a drink or two.

At 4:30 in the afternoon my office received a dreaded DCFS call – and I was next in line. Ugh. Before I left for the Evanston Police Station, I alerted Chris and Isaac that I had to bail from our plans.

While I didn’t appreciate having my plans ruined, I was sort of happy about getting in a nice ride to Evanston – luckily I brought the Julep that day, so I could ride fast enough to make the timing work. Unfortunately, I only brought my small messenger bag, was wearing tight jeans and my newest pair of clipless shoes.

On the way up to the station the shoes were the biggest problem. I don’t know what is wrong with these shoes (Lake), but they slip off the pedal as I try to position them to clip in. The cleats are recessed like all of my other shoes, but somehow these shoes are very awkward to position correctly. It feels like two inexperienced teenagers with braces trying to kiss – with just as much pleasure and threat of danger, too. The sole under my arch is super slick and if I miss engaging the cleat, my foot often flies of sideways – thereby aggravating the already unpleasant feeling of riding in the drops in tight jeans. Blech. Weirdly, once the cleat is basically in the correct place, they are very easy to clip in.

Basically, I didn’t feel very safe for a large part of this ride, which rode smack through traffic dense neighborhoods during Friday afternoon rush hour. Lots of clipping in and out, stopping and dodging the clueless drivers. Not all that fun – except of course for passing the cars like crazy as they were gridlocked on the congested streets.

I got to the police station, changed into my suit and met with my ward. Unlike most experiences, these cops were very cool and friendly. While waiting, I took out my shoes and multi-tool to fiddle with my cleats. I pulled them back towards the heel, hoping it would help the situation.

Then I got to observe the line-up – my ward was not identified! Yippee!

Another clothing change, and I was back on the road again. The cleats worked better in this position – but they still aren’t great. The slippery part of the shoe is getting scuffed from scraping on the pedal, so there were fewer times that my foot slipped off the pedal.

The main problem on the way home was my messenger bag – it was stuffed tight with clothes and my file. It rubbed hard against my spine and I could feel my back bruising. (I bruise ridiculously easily). Between the tight jeans and my tender back, I wasn’t enjoying the ride very much. Plus, at one point a group of young thugs on bikes decided to ‘escort’ me while providing running commentary on the shape of my ass and what they’d like to do with it. I lost them as soon as I hit a nice string of green lights, but damn, I wasn’t in the mood for that bullshit.

By the time I got home I wasn’t in the mood for trying to meet up with friends. I ate some food, played with Blackie and went to bed.

Thrilling, isn’t it?

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Grueling Hills -- I Should Know Better By Now!

Salt stains on my helmet straps from the day's sweaty ride.

On Saturday my friends, Grant, John, Michael and I took the Metra train up to Harvard, Illinois. From there we biked to Lake Geneva, WI. The ride was going to be around 60 miles round-trip and several parts were supposed to be quite hilly.

A while ago I got a flat on the Julep, and instead of fixing it, I stole the Bianchi's front wheel. In the morning I put it back on the Bianchi, oiled his chain and was excited for bike touring season to begin!

At first I felt great and easily rode along in front with Grant. This was my first long ride since I injured my achilles tendon back in February. I was excited to shake the lead out, but also nervous about keeping up with the boys.

We split from John in Sharon, WI and planned to meet back up with him in Crystal Lake, home of the hills. The miles started to really wear on me and I felt like I was working hard to keep up...grrrr..... My pride was getting bruised, so I tried to stay in the drops and just grit my teeth and keep pedalling.

Grant said that the road around the North side of the lake was gentle hills, but that the Southern side had some massive hills. I thought the plan was to go North, refuel at lunch and then hit the Southern hills. The 'gentle hills' kicked my ass and I watched Grant and Michael put distance between us after just a few hills. Even the downhills weren't fun, because I couldn't seem to rocket down nearly as fast as the boys did. Normally most guys can go faster down hills than I do because they have more weight/momentum -- but these two flew past me on the downhills as they coasted and I spun a high gear to try to match them.

I soon felt like shit both physically and mentally. My body was tired -- lungs gasping; legs burning and weak. More than my body, I was demoralized by my poor showing. The last time I rode with Grant I pulled him for several miles going 25mph, midway through the second century in two days. My suckiness and the lonely, horrible riding on this ride crushed my pride. I was prepared to tell the boys that since the 'gentle hills' kicked my ass, I wouldn't be able to join them on the massive Southside hills.

At lunch I solicited advice for hill-climbing and learned to my delight that we had just done the grueling Southside hills. Whew!!!! My spirits climbed and I hoped that lunch would pep up my legs for the ride home.

Not to be. The pace we rode for quite a while after lunch was about 20mph and I was hanging on for all I was worth just to keep up. When we hit another patch of hills, I got dropped again and had to dig deep to get up the hills, feeling more and more exhausted and unhappy. There were several times that I seriously considered walking my bike up a hill. Totally unacceptable, but my muscles were on fire and I was exhausted. Instead I just continued my struggle to pedal uphill.

When I caught back up with the fast boys I swallowed my pride and asked that we slow down the pace. Grant was surprised and mentioned how strong and fast I had been in February. I explained that I had barely ridden more than my commute/errands since then because of my injury. They slowed down the ride, thankfully.

Still, I was working my ass off to keep up with them during the now conversational pace. I figured that my legs were just trashed from the day's hills. I felt horrible about myself and vowed some serious time in the saddle to get back into bike touring shape.

I was so glad when we got to the train station in Crystal Lake so I could rest my poor jello legs. The deep sunburn on my back couldn't even dampen my joy at being able to rest on the train. Grant and I talked about how much I sucked and how I might have to bail from the 200+ mile single-day ride he was organizing a few weeks out. Disappointing and Humiliating.

When Grant and I grabbed our bikes to get off of the train in Chicago I joked, "wouldn't it be funny if we discovered something wrong with my bike to explain how much I sucked today?!" Jokingly I lifted the front wheel to give it a spin:

The Wheel Only Moved An Inch!!!!

Grant knows my sometimes poor maintainence of my bikes, and he also recognizes (but can't understand) my inability to realize that something is wrong when pedaling is too hard, after I rode for several miles last year with wheel rubbing hard against the brake because of a broken spoke.

We loosened the brake so that the wheel spun freely and Grant shook his head in disbelief while muttering, "Jesus, woman."

I was absolutely delighted and felt my poor riding and lack of energy on the day's ride was justified. I guess I got more of a workout on the ride than I should have. Riding the Bianchi back to the neighborhood from the train station felt awesome -- effortlessly fast. It was like riding a new bike -- a total joy! I felt a big goofy smile on my face from both the pleasure of easy riding and from not feeling like a sucky-loser-failure.

Truth be told, after discovering the problem, I'm pretty pleased with my performance on the ride. Grant's odometer read over 70 miles round trip, most of which was a pretty fast clip -- plus all of those damn hills. Adding in the extra resistance from the brake rubbing on the rim makes my riding pretty good for the day.

I feel good about the touring season ahead, and instead of bailing from the upcoming 200+ mile ride, I am again excited about it.

In the future when I suck more than I deserve to, I seriously need to check whether there might be a mechanical explanation. This scenario has happened far too many times for me to not learn from it. This ride took the cake for me being clueless and out of touch with picking up on clues from my body. Had I learned of this rubbing wheel earlier, I would have probably had a blast riding fast with the boys, instead of the unpleasant, grueling ride I experienced. I should know better.

Luckily there is the whole summer ahead for fun, fast riding.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Minneapolis, Here I Come!

I will be in Minneapolis the second weekend in July (7/8 - 7/9)to visit my big bro.

If any of the Twin Cities bikey-bloggers want to get together again, please let us know. Maybe we could take a ride together!

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