Saturday, March 30, 2013

cool stuff

When I'm riding a week-long bike tour I use several sizes of Ziploc bags. The extra-large ones are great for organizing what you're going to wear each day, keeping everything dry come any eventuality. Smaller ones can keep things from leaking, and keep things dry while you're on the bike, like my camera and some cash. But I admit, I kind of feel like a hobo when we're at our overnight spot, head to a restaurant or store, and I pull out a plastic bag to pay. Now, there's something better.

Last August in Telluride, I was having breakfast with a few other guys, and when we pulled out our money I joked about my fancy wallet. Tom showed me his JerseyBin and I made a mental note to check them out when I got home. I ordered a couple of their several different sizes. One is big enough to hold my camera, the other my phone and some cash. They use a kind of zip lock design, but they're much more durable and seal better. And they fit great in a jersey pocket on the bike, pants pocket off the bike.

Then I saw something on the web that I had to try. It's called a butterfly wallet, and it's an ultralight, ultra-skinny wallet. It can hold up to 6 cards and a few bills, and it weighs less than a quarter. It comes in several colors. I ordered what they said was their most popular, black. It's a great size and I think it will be great for biking. I'm not sure if it will keep cash dry on a long, sweaty ride, but even if I have to throw it in my JerseyBin on the bike, it will be great for when I'm off the bike.

Can you tell I'm longing for summer? Happy Easter!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

difficult things

Is it spring yet? You sure couldn't tell by the foot of snow we got last weekend. Which is why I've been doing a lot more thinking about riding, than riding so far this year.

One of the things I love about being a cyclist is that it shows you that you can do something which is difficult, you just have to keep pedaling. I hadn't owned a bike for more than 20 years when I bought a Trek hybrid to ride on the trails in the neighborhood. Each spring I would start out riding a few miles out, feeling exhausted, and heading home. Over time I would build up to rides of 20-30 miles, sometimes more than one ride on a nice day. Then one year I thought I should just keep riding even though I felt like I had nothing in my legs. To my amazement, riding further made me feel better, not worse! Of course, when I can ride, even a little, through the winter, it makes spring riding that much better.

 Eventually I turned some of those 30 mile rides into 50 mile rides. It occurred to me that two of those rides would make a century. So for a few years I signed up for the MS150 out of Kansas City. September around here usually means cool mornings and hot afternoons. After a pancake breakfast hundreds of riders would head out for a hundred mile ride through the hills of west-central Missouri to the state fairgrounds at Sedalia. A spaghetti supper and a massage would leave me in a little less pain than when I got off the bike. The next morning I could really feel what I had done to myself, and made me grateful to "only" have 50 miles to ride that day. But I did it.

When my brother-in-law, Bruce suggested a week-long tour through the hills, and wind, of eastern South Dakota, with mileages of 50-100 miles each day for 6 days, I wasn't sure if I could do that. But I did it. And it felt great! It wasn't easy. There were times when Bruce would tell me to take a wheel and draft off him to fight through the wind, and I could only do that for so long. There were times that the wind, heat, rain, cold seemed like too much to deal with, but I kept going, enjoying the scenery, camaraderie, and even the challenge of what we were doing. As we rode into Mitchell on the last day, drivers were tapping their horns in encouragement for riders finishing a long week, and it was music to my ears.

The next year we headed for Colorado for CRMBT. Driving over Monarch Pass on the way to Gunnison seemed a challenge for the van. I wasn't sure it was something I could do on a bike! But, by the time I crossed Monarch Pass one week later, I had ridden though the Black Canyon of the Gunnison River, climbed McClure Pass, the entire route of the Copper Triangle, and oh yeah, Independence Pass at 12,095 feet. That day included a broken spoke, waiting out a thunderstorm on the side of the road, and riding into Leadville in a cold rain to complete a century ride. Monarch Pass was no big deal.

I learned recently that Deb, a friend I met in Colorado, rode over Independence Pass that day too. And it was her first ever century ride! That is amazing!

I've done 6 week-long tours in Colorado, 3 in South Dakota, and 1 Biking Across Kansas. I've done several century rides in tours and on my own. I've climbed 20 of the 23 Colorado passes over 10,000 feet. I never knew I could do that! I'm not always fast, but riding a bike has taught me I can do hard things. Just keep pedaling.

Saturday, March 9, 2013


 It started while camping with some buddies and talking about trying to eat healthy. Ted mentioned a documentary called "Forks Over Knives".  I watched it soon after that and was intrigued by a plant-based, whole-food diet. I didn't know if I could do it, but I was willing to try. The next weekend, mid-October, I went home to Fargo for a weekend. That was the last time I ate meat. I became convinced that getting my protein from other sources was healthier than consuming animal protein.

Since then I've learned more about being vegan, watching more films like "Food, Inc" and "Vegucate", as well as perusing websites and reading books complete with dozens of recipes for making a vegan version of almost anything you can think of. I've found a soy-based crumble that makes a pretty good taco, but I really don't want a large part of my diet to be "fake meat". So I continue trying different recipes that use fruits and vegetables, grains and seeds, and some great spices to make things I really like.

I also need to remind myself, that the mere absence of animal protein may make something "vegan", but it doesn't necessarily make it good for you. I read somewhere that cinnamon Teddy Grahams contained no dairy, gelatin, etc. so could be considered vegan. The next time I was shopping I read the ingredients, bought a box and took it home. And ate it. Those things are so good, but only once in a while. And in moderation.

Besides learning about new ways to think about what I eat,  I've learned more about where our food comes from. A simple thing like the amount of energy spent to raise cattle for beef being very inefficient left me thinking I could make a smaller footprint on the planet by not consuming it. And the things I've learned about how the animals we eat are treated has only confirmed that, for me, meat and dairy are no longer viable options. I know that the mere mention of PETA would have some classify a person as a radical wacko, but I don't think ethical should be a bad word when we talk about how we raise and process living things for our consumption.

In the same way an American's diet has gotten worse in the last century, the way we get our food has gone astray. It's not family farms and small processing plants anymore. It's huge corporations who insist on faster and cheaper, and government subsidies, without tight regulations, to feed our voracious appetite. I don't want to be a part of that anymore. I'm only doing what feels right to me, but I think that Paul McCartney was right on when he said "If slaughterhouses had glass walls, everyone would be a vegetarian".