Tuesday, August 31, 2010
So the Pros heavily outweigh the cons and if it didn't take almost an hour to get there, this would probably be my trail of choice. Although, not if I hoped to ride with Josh very often. Josh and I hadn't been on a long ride together since before Ragbrai and it was quite apparent the difference in both our strength and our outlook. After Ragbrai, my attitude toward riding has become much more about challenging and pushing myself and less about pacing myself. I prefer rolling hills to flat surfaces because they are a challenge and also more interesting. Josh, however, did not embrace the hills with such enthusiasm. He had a similar approach to riding as Betsy, something I didn't notice about her until Ragbrai, and him until Sunday. It is the pace-yourself mentality that generally leads to less pedaling and more coasting. On Ragbrai, my dad complained to me that whenever he rides with my mom, he gets ahead of her and has to coast for a long time to wait for her to catch up. When she finally does catch up, he is ready to ride hard again but she feels entitled to her coasting time and refuses to pick up speed to satisfy my dad's desire to push himself. My mom is great to ride with for her conversation skills, her positive attitude, and her colorful bike jerseys, but she is just slow. This won't offend her... she knows she's slow but she perseveres and doesn't try to hold anyone back with her. She just rides at her own pace and you can either ride at her pace or ride without her because she's not riding at yours. On Sunday, Josh had a similar attitude. I, like my Dad, don't care to coast much and prefer to pedal even when I'm taking pictures of myself and others! So when I tried to ride back with Josh and my mom, it was a little frustrating. At one point, I powered ahead, giving myself a quick hard workout and then turned around to meet them. I'm not the fastest rider by any means, and, in terms of sheer strength, my legs aren't half what Josh's are. So it was incredible to see how hard these hills were for him to endure.
As proof of his struggling endurance, Josh's muscles cramped up so badly that he lost the ability to bend his left knee for three or four minutes. We were on the way home on a long, slight incline when Josh mentioned that his left leg muscle above his knee was cramping up. I brushed it off thinking he was just complaining but he started to make weird faces and seemed to be in pain. Then his right muscle did the same thing. He kept pedaling but the constant bending of the leg wasn't helping. Eventually he stopped to stretch and take some advil from my mom's trusty first aid kit. He got back on and claimed to feel much better. It wasn't long before we came upon a steep incline that required lots of muscle power and strain on the knees. About 4/5 of the way up the hill, he sort of toppled over, dropped his bike and hobbled around the path frantically, claiming that he couldn't bend his left leg at all. He was clearly in pain but there was nothing my mom or I could do... we just kind of stood there staring at him. I couldn't help laughing which is sometimes, unfortunately, my natural reaction to stressful and uncomfortable situations. My mom suggested that I massage the muscle which I did but it was putting him in more pain. He started to force his leg to bend but Betsy worried this would cause the muscle to snap. Not being sure whether he'd be able to ride again, we had a frantic few minutes. We were on a part of the path that lead us alongside a semi-busy road up to a bridge crossing over the interstate. This would have been an unpleasant place for Josh to sit alone with his bike for an hour while waiting for us to ride to the car and come back for him. It would have also been an awkward point to pick him up and load his bike on the car. Luckily, after a few minutes, his muscle loosened and he regained control. He decided to get on his bike and pedal minimally. He coasted as much as possible, using what momentum he could gain on the downhills, and got off to walk uphill when needed. That plan worked and we all made it back to the car to head home.
Despite the muscle cramps, the 90 degree heat, and the detours, I really enjoyed this ride. If nothing else, the reminiscence of Ragbrai made it so worthwhile. To some extent, every bike ride makes me think of Ragbrai but there was more on Sunday. First of all, we began with a meaty lunch at Doner Bistro in Leesburg which left me feeling similar to the way I did after the many gyro and hot dog-fueled bike rides I had in Iowa.Additionally, I got to feel that same old thrill that a water tower sighting brings upon approaching Purcelville. Though I like to brag about how we could ride forever and how I love biking so much, I will admit that there were times when the road's never-ending nature was exhausting. At these times, there is nothing like the feeling you get when a water tower comes in sight and you know that another one of those small Iowa towns is just around the corner with excited residents waiting to provide you food to eat, grass to sleep on, and music to listen to. Sunday wasn't one of those rides where I had only the end in sight but I was excited by the water tower, nonetheless.
Finally, I felt Ragbrai in the small town life that was Purcelville, Virginia. I had never been there before but it was a small town in every sense of the word. Well, obviously, there was the water tower. There were also many antique and consignment shops, one of which we perused. There was one high school, whose paraphanalia was sold by the only sports store in town. Just throw in 20,000 people with their bikes and we could have been in Manchester, Brit or Algona.
Though this wasn't Ragbrai, it's fun to know that these small towns exist and to see how close they are to DC. On the way home, my mom and I talked about an idea she and my dad had to ride from DC to Leesburg, stay in a Bed and Breakfast, and ride home the next day. Hopefully this idea becomes reality and hopefully Josh gets his muscles under control so he can join us. Sunday's ride = Pro Pro Pro!
Sunday, August 29, 2010
Upon arrival, we were told our start time was 5:20. We were given instructions on what to do and a packet containing these items. We had 2.5 hours to finish the race, if it took us longer than that we'd be disqualified. The packet contained: a card with ten checkpoints and their addresses, a map of the area with little bike doodles on the location of each checkpoint, two spoke cards, and two pbr wristbands for the after party. We had until 5:20 to figure out our route. We also had to come up with a team name. We were The Great Graffiti Tequilla Conquistadors because of our colorful outfits, our love of tequilla, and our drive to conquer the hill that afternoon. We had our route selected in no time and were lined up to start. It was hard for people not to have similar routes because of the proximity of certain checkpoints to the start line and the proximity of others to the finish line (the race was not a loop, it started and ended in different places). So at the start, it was really like a race, with most people going in the same direction, over grassy patches, avoiding trees, trash cans, and other bikes on the Eastern Mark plaza. We got to the first stop, Frager's Hardware, in no time but neglected to do the task (throwing baseballs at the target on an empty dunk tank with nobody sitting awaiting a dunk) because there was a slow line. We would have been more inclined to do this had their been some real dunking involved. On to Wisdom, the next check point where we completed the task of painting our team name on a canvas mural. That was easy. Third stop: Capitol Hill Bikes on 8th street SE where we had to lube one of our chains for the task points. I lubed Ingrid's chain, after which my fingers turned blue. It may have been a prank? Next was Peregrin Espresso by Eastern Market, where Ingrid high-fived the owner for extra task points (too easy!!). Fifth stop: Tunicliff's Tavern at Eastern Market where I pumped a bike tire from 0 to 85 PSI for task points. At Tunicliff's, there was an opportunity to sing karaoke for 25 bonus points. You better believe we weren't passing up that opportunity. We had a choice of four songs, three of which we didn't know, so we sang Under Pressure by David Bowie. Ingrid and I both can not sing for our lives but we do it anyway, especially together. We were a step above awful but it was fun and points were awarded for completion not for one's ability to carry a tune. This is us waiting to sing Karaoke. We moved on to the sixth stop, Pour House, which has a dear place in my heart. Pour House is DC's Florida game watch location and is, hence, one of the first bars I went to after moving back here with Josh and one of our most frequented bars last fall. Finally, Pour House offered a more challenging task, three opportunities to correctly answer a question off a trivial pursuit card. We missed the first two: naming the musical instrument that could also be used by a lumberjack, and naming some movie that neither of us had heard of. We got the third by naming six independent countries in South America. We sped on to the 7th stop, Schneider's of Capitol Hill. We're not sure what Schneider's is because we didn't have to go inside and had our eyes too focused on the prize to care about finding out. We were excited that the place was called Schneider's, though, and wished Ben had been cool enough to join us on this ride! The only task there was to fill up our water bottles. I am all about adequate hydration and was excited to fill up with cold water but I wanted to be more challenged by the tasks! With full bottles, we continued on to Metro Mutts, a puppy store on H Street. On our way, we saw lots of people stopping at a Yoga studio a block before it so we stopped to get the task out of the way early. Ingrid, the talented Yogi, did downward dog expertly for the full 15 task points. We got our cards signed at Metro Mutts and rode to Fruit Bar where there was, unfortunately, no task to complete. We went to the last stop, Sova, where there was also no task, and were at Atlas Theatre, the finish line, by 6:05. At the finish line, Ingrid told the people collecting our cards that we had biked 14 miles from Maryland before even starting the ride and requested that we get bonus points for it. They noted it but didn't give us points.
The after party didn't start until 8 so we had almost two hours to kill and what else were we going to do but start drinking? We went to The Pug, a bar down the block for chips and a beer. We ran into Ingrid's work friend, Claire, and some of her friends who had also done the ride. After an hour or so, we went to check out H Street Country Club early and got more chips (amazing nachos!!) and beer. Neither of us had been to H Street CC and it is pretty sweet. The food was really good, there is a lot of space and, well, there is a DC themed mini golf course inside so that pretty much explains it. Also, this is what their bathroom doors look like.
Come 9 o'clock it was time for prizes to be awarded. They began with honorable mention and the first was "This team gets mention because they biked here from Maryland! The Great Graffiti Tequilla Conquistadors". We got Pedal Pushers t-shirts and a PBR gift bag with a t-shirt, tank top, bike bells, trucker hat, and some other pbr logo goodies. It was exciting and go Ingrid for notifying them of our commute! Here we are on the left after receiving "honorable mention" and awaiting our prizes. There were prizes awarded for the quickest to finish, dfml team, most creative name, and most overall points for all male team, all female team, and co-ed team.
Our original plan was to bike home at the end of the night but the combination of drinking beers and having already biked 20 miles for the day pretty much turned us off. Winning the prize for biking there re-inspired us for the trek, however. It was a pretty easy ride to get from H Street to the mall and then on to Georgetown. On the way, we accidentally turned onto Pennsylvania Ave. instead of Constitution and were so excited to be using the new and controversial bike lanes for the first time! I have biked the capital crescent trail so many more times in my life than I could ever count but never after sundown. I was a little ambivalent about it and it was scary but also pretty cool. Cool because it was only us and even being in such an urban area, we were in the woods in the dark feeling so isolated from everything, barely able to see or do anything but just talk and ride. Scary because it was so very dark and we could barely see and we could have hit a crack and crashed or had someone jump out and accost us and we never would have been seen again. We had bike lights, which I've ridden with many times but always on roads where there are street lamps so I never realized how truly ineffective they are for lighting one's way. I know their purpose is more to alert cars and other bikers that you are coming, which they do, and that is probably the most important thing. But they were nearly worthless on the trail where they did little more than dimly light the few feet in front of our tires.
While we were riding home, still downtown, Ingrid said we should do this more often... ride through the city at night. I agreed, it is so much more peaceful, and a really cool way of seeing the city at night, especially the mall and other areas that are obnoxiously congested during the day. After completing the ride, which took almost twice as long as the same ride did earlier that afternoon, I still agree with her. I think the only thing I'd do differently next time is ride home through town.
At the end of the day, we were exhausted. So much so that I almost passed out without showering. The day was so much fun though and so different from any other day. I am really a fan of this Hill and Go Seek race and I hope that the District 6 government continues the tradition for a second year. My only suggestion would be that there be a task at each checkpoint and that the tasks be much more challenging and competitive. Most of the tasks were easy enough that everyone could do them and it would take everyone pretty much the same amount of time. So the biggest thing to set any team apart would be their bonus points for early registration or for referring a team. Maybe it sounds like I'm just bitter and making excuses for why Ingrid and I didn't win. But I don't really care about that. I just felt, even during the ride, that their needed to be more competition. This would also ensure that the ride take longer and teams wouldn't finish so quickly. For their first year, though, the whole thing was such a success and everyone seemed to have lots of fun. Whether it changes or not, I'll probably do the ride again next year. Ingrid and I tasted the blood of life and that is what really counts!
Thursday, August 26, 2010
Wednesday, August 25, 2010
Saturday, August 21, 2010
I really wonder how these bikers survive and enjoy themselves in this city. Its not so bad in Brooklyn but I feel like riding in Manhattan would be a nightmare. There seems too much congestion on the sidewalk and too many crazy angry drivers on the streets to feel welcome and comfortable anywhere. But people do it. There are bikes locked up everywhere and plenty of bikers on the road. I'm sure if you're not afraid of the traffic biking would be great for commuting but it would be a challenge to find real rides around here because what are you going to do, bike in circles through central park? That would get old fast. I also have to wonder if you have to be certifiably crazy to bike on the streets in Manhattan. For one, practically nobody wears helmets, which really upsets me. I want to yell at them like I did at the juggler on ragbrai but I'd like not to be responsible for causing any distractions to their already haphazard situations. Second, people ride their bikes the wrong way on one way sreets! And it's not like I saw one person do this and made a sweeping generalization. In the 36 hours I've been here, I've seen at least five people riding the wrong way, mostly without helmets. I am very much an advocate for biking and bike inclusion but it upsets me to see people so blatantly and dangerously breaking traffic laws when I try so hard to obey them. You have to follow the same laws as cars do or you can't expect to ever be accepted onto the road with welcome arms. Or to have anyone want to favor you and build you bike lanes.
While being in the city without a bike reminds me of how great and convenient they are, it also makes me appreciate the more open spaces on which I can ride at home and the higher level of safety and respect with which people ride on the streets in dc. I don't think today is the day for me to venture to, and across, the Brooklyn Bridge. I will wait for a time when Lucy is here to help me accomplish that. I think I'll run in prospect park, meet Inna for lunch, explore the city, and then meet up with Nicole, all the while remembering and appreciating the comfort with which I can ride bikes at home.
Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry
Thursday, August 19, 2010
I've been back several times since, once as a tourist with josh and the shaws and the rest as a visitor of my dear friend Inna. Visiting Inna is always nice. Well, obviously, because I get to see Inna. But also because I get to feel like a normal person in a city, not one of those fanny pack toting, sneaker wearing, picture taking americans. Well, who am I kidding, I'll always be a picture taking American but, with Inna, I'll do it in thrift shops and byob french restaurants not jumping in front of every famous landmark you can think of.
Which kind of picture-taking American will I be on this trip, you ask? Well, your answer is... Both! I am meeting Inna and her friend Katie tonight and staying with Inna. We will spend as much time together as possible tomorrow and saturday but she will be passing many daytime hours writing in the library so ill have some nice time wandering the streets on my own. So, actually, ill be a third kind of picture- taking american this weekend, the kind that doesn't because she is a normal person just living in new york. Or something like that. When I told Josh that I'd be on my own tomorrow as well as saturday, his first reaction was this "don't spend $263,626,727 wandering NYC". Well don't worry Josh, my budget is only $163,626,727.
Anyway, on to my third role as a NYC visitor. Saturday night and Sunday, I get to be the touristy tourist I once was with Sam and Nicole. And the best part is- drumroll please- that I get to do this with none other than Nicole!! She and her sister, Kristin, are on holiday up there next week and I'm crashing their party. We will miss Sam but she is in LA doing cool film things. We are going out for Kristin's birthday and having a picnic in central park. And maybe more. Nicole is my other best friend from florida (besides joyce and josh) And she has not made many "I love lucy" headlines recently because she didn't do Ragbrai (and I don't live with her) but now is her time to shine! She is truly special, she lives in Tampa, she just moved back there from Gainesville after finishing her masters in health education, she is planning to do teach for america next year in charlotte or nashville. More importantly, she loves to cook- especially things from her rachel ray cookbook, she does pilates and other womanly gym classes, she has less clutter and junk than any girl I know, she has a really good voice- and loves karaoke, she refuses to wear skinny jeans, she loves board games- mainly because her team always wins, and she has just souped up her bike rosa that I handed down to her last year and is planning to join a bike club in the tampa area. Most importantly, we are going to be together in two days!!
I don't usually like to leave home this frequently. I haven't had a normal work-free weekend with Josh since before I left for Ragbrai. And, of course, this was going to be my first chance to ride Charlie long and hard. But I love Nicole and haven't seen her since May so how could I ever pass up such an opportunity?! And I love the prospect of being a part of Inna's busiest week preparing for year two of law school. (Oops!) I miss Lucy and Charlie, and a normal relaxed life with Joshua but, if you haven't gathered, I'm so very excited about the weekend ahead, and the many versions of tourist Carrie that will partake in it. Rest assured, all of them will take plenty of pictures to share with you.
Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry
Monday, August 16, 2010
Wednesday, August 11, 2010
That's right, Inna is perfect in all ways but one. She doesn't know how to ride a bike. It has been my goal for a long time to teach her but it is easier said than done. In the summer of 2008, Stephanie and I tried to teach her in Gainesville. We used a small bike of mine with the seat as low as possible. We were on a flat, neighborhood street with no cars around. We had Inna sit on the seat and pedal while Stephanie and I walked alongside of her, each holding one handlebar. She pedaled fine with us supporting her but as soon as we let go, she lost balance and couldn't continue pedaling. She fell over, scraped her knee, and was done with it. I give her credit for trying. It was plainly evident how much harder it is for an adult to learn to ride than for a kid. Kids are fearless and couldn't care less about another scrape on the knee. Adults are not. Inna did care about a scrape on her knee, understandably so. Once she fell, we didn't push her to keep going, as a parent might with their child. I did secretly hold out hope that that wasn't the end, that I'd get her to try again someday. This isn't a secret anymore. I think someday has come and it is appropriate for me to push her to keep going. So I do, verbally. If you think that I want Inna to learn to bike for selfish reasons, you're not entirely wrong. I always want to ride bikes with my friends. But I also just think biking is awesome and don't want her to be missing out on something she might really enjoy. She thinks biking is cool and wishes she could do it so I am going to be like the parent and help her get over that grown-up fear!
I have so many reasons to visit Inna. And all of them will draw me to her before biking will. I just hope that one of these days, a visit can include another lesson. Inna has two of the most killer "never-have-i-ever" lines, never having ridden a bike and never having lived in a house. With New York in her future indefinitely, she may be able to get away with NEVER living in a house but I will try my best not to let her get away with NEVER successfully riding a bike. Whether she does or not, though, she will continue to be one of my favorite friends to be young or grown up with and I cherish all the memories we made this summer. Once upon a time there was time but there will always be time for Inna.
Tuesday, August 10, 2010
Saturday, August 7, 2010
Josh and I rode to Bethesda this afternoon for linner and exploring. We stopped at big wheel bikes on the way home to look around. All the fancy bikes just made me more excited. Josh is in a weird place with biking. He's strong and he can bike far and it's fine but he just doesn't love it like I do. Not even close. Forty miles on a bike for him just gets old. And he had surgery in his tail bone a few years ago so prolonged pressure from a bike seat can irritate it. He's not a fan of his bike so that doesn't help. His bike is like ten years older than Lucy and is my old bike that I regrettably kind of forced on him at the end of college because I thought the bike he'd been riding all year was in way worse shape. It turns out, he misses that bike a lot and isn't a big fan of the Nishiki. Oops. My new purchase is making him wonder if a nicer, more efficient and reliable bike might make a lot of difference in how much he likes to ride. Part of me thinks this is great, that a new bike would encourage him to ride more often and probably make it more enjoyable for longer periods of time. The other part thinks that it is stupid to spend a couple hundred dollars on a nice bike if you don't already love biking and want to do it all the time. It would be nice if Josh loved biking as much as I do and awesome if a nicer bike could make this happen. But biking is biking and, though a nice bike would make it smoother and more enjoyable, you either love it or you don't. Though he's very sweet to join me in rides to Georgetown and Alexandria, I might have to find another companion for my century rides. And for riding across America (already found in Joyce). Maybe when he joins me on Ragbrai someday, which he has agreed to do, his life will be changed by his very own Lucy 5.0 and his eyes will be opened to how amazing and perfect riding a bike really is. Until then, you can find me riding with or without him, and whoever else wants to join, in style and speed on my fancy new trek!!
Friday, August 6, 2010
Monday, August 2, 2010
Sioux City, where the first Ragbrai departed from in 1973, and where our first departed from in 2010
Joyce and I were so into our TREKs that we forgot to take more than these two pictures with them. Here they are in all their glory...
No more Iowa to ride on...
Late birthday cake waiting for me when I got home, courtesy of Joshua.
The route looks accurate, he couldn't name all the towns though :)