It's a new year and time once again to give a new look to this blog. New graphics and colors. Same bike writer!

This blog is created not only to track my own progress on my biking journey but it is intended to also assist others who have either osteo or rheumatoid arthritis or both like I do. I hope as you read about the progress I have made that it gives you inspiration and hope that you can overcome the dibilitating effects of these conditions.

If your doctor agrees that you should be capable of expanding your limits read on and don't be afraid, just listen to your body and give it challenges. Biking is a great non-impact form of exercise and greatly enhances flexibility and range of motion.

It's not a substitute for Doctor visits, taking your meds or otherwise getting off your health plan but it auguments what your Doctor does for you and can give you a better quality of life. Go for it!

Friday, July 29, 2011

Week #17 Mileage

Mileage for week #17 of this outdoor riding season was 40.88 miles.  A bit shorter than the last few weeks but we've had some rain and I wanted to ride tonight but a family dinner was planned and that takes precedence.  I should be good and rested up for some nice long rides this weekend.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Deer Flies

I've really grown to love riding the dirt roads around my community but the deer flies in the last couple of weeks have been awful.  I found a link on a biking forum that I visit and it was a product that attracted them and captured them.  I big sticky flesh colored fly tape that you wear on your helmet or hat.  I found the claims to be a bit hard to believe but needed to try something because those flying teeth could spoil a nice ride.  They are not only persistant but vicious and swarm.  Their bite is not only painful but they itch like the dickens.  I'm not allergic to them but I get a reaction that is more than just a bite.

It's hard to outrun them even on a bike and they are as annoying as all get out.  If you've ever been pestered by them you are not likely to forget it.  I ordered the patches a few days ago, they came and I had to try them out tonight.

Results, saw some deer flies, had one bite and saw some of them disappear once they flew behind me.  See for yourself.

I had my first encounter with a dog tonight.  It chased me for about 20-30 yards barking furiously, I turned my head without looking the animal in the eye and mustered up my sternest deep voice and shouted very loudly "GO HOME" about six times.  I tried to look and sound fierce and literally growled out that command.  I don't know if I intimidated the dog with my low growling voice or if it got bored or if there was an electronic fence in play here but I am very glad that this did not turn out bad.  I pack pepper spray but little good it does zipped in my rear trunk bag.  I should probably carry it clipped to my shorts.  I could not imagine using it unless there was a very close encounter and I was getting bit or about to be bit.

It can be fierce out there!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011


Niece Lisa at a riverside stop

When I first started riding I loathed hills.  I can't say they are my favorite thing to ride right now but I don't dread them like before.  As with any kind of obstacle it takes time to learn how best to deal with it.  There are many ways to ride up one.  You can attack it with force, speed and power or you can "spin" up one.  Or some type of combination of those methods.  Knowing yourself, your efficiency level on that particular day and having the correct equipment are major factors.

The brute force method of powering up a hill can work if you are strong, feeling at your peak on that day or moment and you have built muscle necessary to do the work.  The mind plays a role as well and can defeat you just as easily as the obstacle.  Spinning up a hill puts you into the lowest of all your gears, takes time and can be nearly as exhausting from the high cadence as the power method.  You aren't going to get up a hill without work and it won't be as easy as pedaling on flat land.  There is no magic wand but practice, technique, understanding how to use your bike and it's gears,  knowing yourself and knowing the hill will be an ally.  When you accept that you've passed your first hurdle.  Again, you can mentally defeat yourself if you aren't in the right mideset to spin.   

"Know thine enemy" this can be your most powerful tool.  If you want to get better at riding up hills you need to ride up them and not avoid them.  Period.  Practice makes perfect.  Well not always perfect, but makes you better at it for sure.  If you continue to ride the same hill and wait for your nemesis hill to get easy you will have a long wait.  If you continue to tackle higher and harder hills, in time when you revisit your earlier routes you'll be surprised to find that climbs, inclines and hills that you had a hard time with are easier.  I've had this experience first hand many times over. 

A revealing example of this took place this week.  On Monday I revisited a route that I had classified as difficult, challenging and hilly.  I had not been on this route in a few weeks and had been riding other hilly routes on dirt roads.  I was feeling very strong that day.  I flew up some of the lesser hills and managed the steepest of climbs without trouble.  Everything seemed to click with utilizing the momentum from the previous downhill correctly and making the most use of all the gearing available on my bike and most importantly using it timely.  All the components were in concert, mental, physical and technique clicked to make this happen.

On Tuesday I rode another section of this route with as many hills and possibly a tad bit more challenging.  Physically I was more tired than I felt, when I returned home I checked my log and realized that I'd rode 8 straight days with no break.  Clue #1.  Being physically past a peak it showed up in technique and in using my skills and tools. I did not fare as well on the second day.  I had frequent stops and those were a result of faltering with gear selection and timing.  I was not as mentally in tune because I was physically  out of tune.  Knowing yourself makes a big difference in whether you feel defeat or not.  If I wasn't tracking progress and logging time I could easily have felt crushed by this turn of events from one day being very successful to the next day not having much success.  Instead I learned a lesson about paying more attention to my training routine.

I am finding more parallels to golf as I go along this new path.  Just like golf is a game of mental attitude as much as physical fortitude, so it is with any sport.  I golfed for many many years and I made great progress when I learned to think my way around the course as much as using brute force through the end of my golf stick.

I rode yesterday with my niece Lisa, photos above

Monday, July 25, 2011

Oh What Fun - A Contest!

Find out how to play here

This came just in time one of the events is to go on a group ride and I did that just yesterday!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

1140.98 - A Year On The Bike

The official mileage for a year's worth of riding is 1,140.98 miles from July 24, 2010 to July 23, 2011. Wow! What a journey it's been.

Starting with a desire to once again lead an active and athletic life I started out with a tenative purchase of a used bike from craigslist. Considering the problems I have with arthritis, my knees, one total knee replacement surgery, rhumatoid arthritis, joint pain and flare ups, biking seemed to be the most viable choice being that it is a non impact activity. RA causes more than pain and stiffness in joints, it can cause severe fatigue, respitory problems and be debilitating in general. Combined with moving to a career that is more sedentary than how I have worked all my life spelled disaster unless I changed something and added in some physical activity.

I fell back in love with biking immediately.

I rode a lot as a kid and young adult, spent too many years away from it and it was almost like learning all over again.

I wobbled.
I fell.  A lot.
I frustrated myself.
Hills and heat beat me up pretty good.
I kept riding.
I wouldn't quit.
I've gotten strong.
I am a bike rider with 1,140.98 miles under my belt for this first full year of riding!

I feel more energetic than I have in years, my health is improved dramatically, my pain is greatly diminished and mostly non existant with the exception of occasional flare ups. Riding has impacted my body, mind and soul in a positive way with a big increase in energy, stamina and peace. Riding puts a big smile on my face.

I celebrated today with a group ride with a group who rides the back roads around Domino's Farms. We had a 7.5 mile ride today and I had a chance to meet new people and ride with a biking friend. Photo is below but we had a few camera shy people who are not pictured.

Over the last year I have explored nooks and crannies through bylanes and byways in my neighborhood and for miles around. Trails and parks have become a second home and certain barns, meadows, flower beds or people waving a hello have become familiar and comfortable sights. Ponds, creeks, woodlands, and the lakes have their own unique fragrance and sounds.

I've been soaked in rain, nearly cried over steep hills, I've had mechanical failures and been helped out by friends and strangers. I've celebrated milestones along the way and I've felt the sting of defeat.  I've learned to carry tools and spare parts and how to fix my bike and how to fix a flat. Through all of this I have learned a lot about myself and about life.

I love my bike!

Pictured from left to right Me (Deb), Heidi, Ed, Gabriella
riders who are not shown are Deb A and Chris
Caption edited to say "riders not shown are Deb A and Chris", not Andy
Stats:  Began riding July 24, 2010, last day of riding in the 2010 season November 13, 2010 (we had a long warm fall) total for the first outdoor season of riding was 613.31 miles.  First ride of the new year March 19, 2011 and March 21, 2011.  A poor spring allowed for 4 more days of riding before April 15.  Riding regularly started on April 23, 2011.  Total mileage up till July 23, 2011 is 527.67.  For a grand total for my first year of 1140.98.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Riding The Width Of The Township

We've had a break in the heatwave, at least for now.  Who would've thunk that I'd ever think the mid to upper 80's were a cool off?  It was a relief to walk or ride outside without it feeling like it was stifiling, even mid day it was noticably more tolerable by far.  It had been cloudy much of the day and the sun brought out evening humidity, but riding was in the cards and it was a great ride, albeit a sweaty one.

I rode the back roads for the width of the township tonight.  For those unaware townships are laid out 6 miles by 6 miles.  Without the benefit of straight roads the ride was a bit over 14 miles.  It's a great way to wrap a week of riding with a total this week of 48.5 miles in 5 days of riding. 

Health wise I have seldom felt better in a very long time.  I'm feeling very strong and energetic.  My shortness of breath is all but gone, the only time I had that was in hills or sprinting away from the deer flies which were maddening in places tonight.  I'd sprayed myself before I left but next time I'll really lay it on thick.  Those pesky things really distract from the serene beauty and quiet of these backroads.  Most of what I road was pastoral except for a portion on the way to the longest  dirt east west road. That portion travels on a pretty winding high speed road with no bike lane or paved shoulder.  The rest was on dirt roads and they were nearly empty for miles on end. I am surrounded by beautiful countryside and it just takes getting off the main paved roads and onto the dirt roads to experience this.  Amazing what awaits out your back door.

If I didn't rediscover the love of biking, I wouldn't know this existed.  Lucky me!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Central and Mid West is Baking in This Heat

Wow - it's torrid out there!  Temps hovering near 100 and heat indexes far over that, I heard a report that the devil called and wants his weather back.

I have been riding, but it's with caution and late in the evening about the last hour of daylight before sunset.  We had storms and I had an RA flare up on Monday.  My elbow and wrist were mostly useless and in a lot of pain but it subsided with some care.so there was no riding but I did get out yesterday and today for a two day total of 18.5 miles.  Tuesday it was incredibly hot but the humidity was not as bad.  I had sat in air conditioning for so many hours at work without venturing outdoors that my body was super cooled and despite the temps I hardly broke much of a sweat.  Today was another story, the humidity was very high and I'd done several errands in and out of my car before the ride that I was already heating up before I got on the bike.  It poured out of me but it really does feel good to sweat at times.  It feels like your body is being cleansed, so long as you make sure you're replenishing with lots of water. 

As mysteriously as my shortness of breath came on a couple of months ago, it has all but disappeared now.  I still get that way from hills and serious inclines but that's to be expected.  I guess my theory about the heat and humidity is shot.  However there is something to be said for acclimatization, this heat has been going on for some time, I believe it's our third spell.

My one year is coming up soon on Sunday and I have a "meetup" ride planned with a group that is going to ride north of Dominos Farms in the back roads.  It's billed as a leisure trip with a breakfast stop and those who want to continue for a longer ride can do so after the stop.  Don't know another person going but so far 9 persons are signed up.  Might be interesting and a good way to mark the date with a somewhat organized ride. 

Tomorrow is supposed to be the hottest day of the week and with night time meetings for work riding will be out.  Storms are in the forecast for the next four days after that so riding will be done during any windows between the rain.

Tip of the day Drink lots of water!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Huron River Day

July 17, 2011
Paddling along the Huron

My Godson and nephew Andrew spent the weekend with Aunt Deb and we had a great day on the Huron River.  Our morning started early before the extreme heat, we loaded up and headed to Gallup Park, got off an early bike ride followed with paddling lessons for kayak, canoe and paddle board.  I was up for two out of three but opted out of the paddle board as I don't do things on my knees since knee surgery and issues.   Canoeing was just fine as I've been a canoeist since my teen years.  The kayak on the other hand was incredibly wobbly for me.  Andrew took to all three like a pro and did very well like he was born on them.  We took another bike ride in a different part of the park after our paddle and when it heated up too much we stopped for a dip in the river to cool off.

Later in the day we went to his other aunt's house about 25 miles upstream on the Strawberry-Portage chain of lakes for tubing and swimming behind their ski boat.  It was a day of fun in the sun.  As hot as it was the only place to be outdoors was in and near the water to cool off the sizzle.

No camera with me today.  Boo.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Heat Returns

It's early morning or late evening riding for the foreseeable week, the mercury is rising right along with the humidity.  I got to Kensington at 9:36 and made the 9.1 mile loop in 58 min.  Total time on the bike was 1 hr and 11 min so I had some rest periods in there.  An hour earlier would have been ideal and had me back before it started heating up but it was still early enough to beat the real heat of the day.  At places where the path takes you into open meadows with no cover is where the heat will get you, at that time of day the wooded areas provided cooler shade still and it was georgous along the lake.  Beautiful park to ride in.

Here is a link to the route Kensington ride for some reason the mapping site missed the last section of my ride so there is some mileage variation. 

Friday, July 15, 2011

Longest Mileage Week This Season

A ride up the lake tonight and various places around town capped of my highest mileage week of this riding season.  Yesterday was a car free day, everyplace I went in town was by bike.  Weather temps have been more moderate, humidity has been lower and I am feeling very strong and have not had the shortness of breath that I was experiencing most of the last 6-8 weeks.  It's nearly a year since I first started riding again and I am pondering how to mark the occasion with a special ride or week.  Hmmmm.

For week #15 I have 56.15 miles.  Yay!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

A Break in the Weather

Yay, very low humidity and temps in the low 70's.  Gorgeous day for riding and I took full advantage of it with a rare weekday afternoon ride!  Rode with Deb A out to Independance Lake, did the loop and back.  Shady lane dirt roads, pleasant temps, riding with a friend and feeling strong today. 

I did not experience much shortness of breath today and that has been a nemesis of mine for the last month and a half.  I'm not sure if it was due to having a light snack before riding so that I had energy to draw from or because of the lack of humidity or some combination of both of those things.  Whatever the case I felt stronger than I have in a long time and got up the two hardest inclines in the park today with no trouble.  Round trip was a tad over 12 miles.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Hot and Hotter!

It's only Tuesday and it's been a really hot week starting with the weekend.  The middle section of the US is steaming.  Saturday and Sunday were a case of get up early and out the door or don't think about it.  I got out and got some miles under my belt before it steamed up.  The matching high humidity only made matters worse.  We hit 100 and with the heat index it was well over that.  Monday was another scorcher however we had a rain storm blow in and it cooled them temps off enough to sneak in a decent ride.  Today was another never mind day with the heat turned up on high. 

Tomorrow we are supposed to get relief.  I might just have to re-arrange my work day schedule and take advantage of the cooler temps and lower humidity on the forecast.  On tap for the morning is the low 60's.  Yay!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Three sisters and vacations

My Sisters
Light House at Grand Haven
Downtown Holland Shopping
We three sisters
Michigan's most photographed light house in Holland

I had the pleasure this week of getting away for a few days with my sisters.  Sisters rock!  We headed to the shores of Lake Michigan at Grand Haven, Holland and Saugatuck.  Miles of sandy beaches, oh the stores to shop in!  Sights to see and share with them and memories made.  Giggles and fits of laughter highlighted the trip.  The warm afterglow of our time away lingers on and cheers me.  When we returned and they drove away it wasn't even ten minutes and I was missing them.

Even with the getaway I had four days of biking this week for shorter mileage for Week #14 at 28.04 miles.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Happy Birthday USA

O beautiful for spacious skies,

For amber waves of grain,

For purple mountain majesties

Above the fruited plain!

America! America!

God shed his grace on thee

And crown thy good with brotherhood

From sea to shining sea!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Whitmore Lake - a slice of small town America

Our little town is so unique and so typical at the same time of all small towns across the midwest of the USA. 

Holiday "doings" as my Mom and Aunt Ruby used to say, festivities abound from 5&10K runs, a splash n dash sprint to the lake for a swim and sprint back, "We the People" readings from the founding papers, fireworks! ski show, parades, Kiwanis Chicken BBQ, banana split eating contest, Freedom Festival with bands and conservative speakers (surprise announcement from a Congressman announcing his bid for the Presidency), loads more and lots of splashing in the lake.  Yup, this is about as Americana as it gets.  A small town with a broad red white and blue stripe running through it.

A nice bonus of enjoying bicycling is that this has been a car free weekend so far, all my errands and volunteer duties are easily accomplished by bike.  Giving the car a rest.  Got up early today and got in a ride around the lake before it started heating up.  Now it's off for some boating!

"Oh, say can you see by the dawn's early light

What so proudly we hailed at the twilight's last gleaming?

Whose broad stripes and bright stars thru the perilous fight,

O'er the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming?

And the rocket's red glare, the bombs bursting in air,

Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.

Oh, say does that star-spangled banner yet wave

O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?"
Francis Scott Key 1814

Friday, July 1, 2011

Around the lake - the short way? (Post edited)

Thursday pm I reversed my ride and rode clockwise around the lake taking a route I did last year but in reverse.  I had thought that I might be able to find even yet another way through without going through the "jungle" portion of the trail.  I could not find that passage last night, if it even exists.  The jungle portion consists of a mosquito infested and thick brush segement that you need to walk a bike through including lifting the bike then myself over some pretty tall deadfall more than chest high.  I made it and was very glad to get out into the sunshine and away from the buzzing bugs.

All in all with my commute, a couple of trips to the Farmer's Market and to a friends house to visit I had in a tad bit over 10 miles yesterday.

Post edited to add weekly total.
Today ended week #13 of 2011 outdoor riding season and I made 44.79 miles in 5 days of riding.