Enjoy The Ride

I usually listen to my iPod while I am riding. Mostly I listen to podcasts or audiobooks. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy listening to music too, and it can be helpful if the beat is in time with the cadence you want to achieve. I just find listening to music to be a safety concern because it is hard to hear what is going on around you. When I listen to spoken audio, there is just a monotone voice with enough “gaps” to hear what you need to hear.

The reason I listen to these podcasts and audiobooks is because I have a bit of an obsession. I have a hard time just living in the moment. I always feel like I need to be doing something productive or learning something, and if I can do something and learn something at the same time then all the better. Perhaps that is why I like to commute to work on my bicycle. It allows me to get exercise and it gets me to work.

The other day I finished listening to everything on my iPod while riding to work and then felt like a drug addict looking for an audio fix for my ride home. I ended up plugging my headphones into my phone and I listened to the comedy channel on Pandora when I left work.

I didn’t get very far when I realized how stupid I was. I know how pleasurable it can be to just ride with no distractions but somehow I seemed to have forgotten that. I immediately put my headphones away and just enjoyed the scenery for the rest of the trip.

Of course, the scenery isn’t always worth looking at. Part of my ride is through an industrial park. I also ride through residential areas and down very congested streets. But there are a number of natural areas that are quite beautiful with plenty of wildlife. I find I notice way more on a bike than in a car and I notice even more yet when I have no added distractions.

On the way home today I watched an osprey fly by carrying a fish and as he flew over a tree that I was about to pass, a beautiful hawk flew out of the tree. I also passed a photographer who had his camera on a tripod and was photographing a stream from the top of a foot bridge. As I passed I noticed what a great picture that was.

I don’t suppose I will learn to completely suppress my desire to learn while I ride but I think I will split the difference and shut my iPod off when the traffic is heavy, for safety reasons, and when I am able to just enjoy the ride.

I’d like to know what you think. What do you listen to, if anything, and when do you listen to it?

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Benefits Of Having Only One Car

Cyclist putting car in trashI don’t know what sparked the idea of getting rid of one of our cars but I do know I was thinking about it around 2006 or so. I thought if I could ride my bike to work we wouldn’t need a second car and we could save money on gas, insurance and maintenance. At the time I was working seven or eight miles from home, too far to ride I thought. Actually, I knew it wasn’t too far but I also knew I was out of shape and I would have to work up to it.

The real problem was that most of the trip was along U.S. 19, the worst road in Florida, perhaps the universe. I put those thoughts out of my mind for a while and the next year we bought a condo and moved ten miles away, in the opposite direction from work. Eventually the thought of commuting by bicycle crept back into my mind and I started looking for a job closer to home. I never found one that would pay what I needed to make but in 2009 my wife’s company offered her a promotion which also came with a transfer to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

We didn’t want to leave Florida so she turned it down but when the manager they hired didn’t work out we finally agreed to move. Rose was going to be managing a 180 unit apartment complex and a free apartment was part of the deal. That meant we would be living on the property where she worked and thus would only need one car. I saw this as my opportunity to downsize and I gave my truck to Rose’s son. We then packed up the moving truck and towed our other car behind.

Once in Myrtle Beach, I eventually found a job about six or seven miles away. The first half of my plan was complete. Now I just needed to find a good route to work on my bike. There was none. That area is very unfriendly to cyclists and from where I was, I had to use Highway 501 to cross the Intercoastal Waterway and since part of the road was limited access, I didn’t dare try riding my bike on it. It didn’t matter, I was able to use our one car to get to work, and sixteen months later, my wife was promoted again and transferred back to Florida.

This time we did not live on the property but instead rented a condo in Dunedin, about seven miles from her work. Again, one car still suited our needs because I found a job four miles away and was able to ride my bike, which is what I wanted to do from the start.

Eventually, because my hours were cut, I started working in Tampa, about seventeen miles away. I was back to driving again but fortunately Rose’s work was on the way so I would drop her off and continue to work. After a few months of that, we moved to where she works and my trip was cut to nine miles (ten by bike). I wanted to ride to work again but It was farther than I was used to and I was worried about my back. My solution was buy a recumbent bike and ride to work without the concern of back pain.

You know the rest of the story as far as the bike is concerned but what I don’t mention is the occasional car problems and conflicts that arise. For example, last week we had an issue with the car on Thursday evening. My wife used that time to complain that we need two cars but on Friday morning I dropped it off at the repair shop across the street from our home and then rode to work. Problem solved.

Today Rose took the day off from work and needs the car. No problem, I can ride to work. But she wants me home early so we can do something together. That’s a problem so she will have to drive me to work and pick me up, but that is a problem of convenience, not necessity, and it is hardly worth the added cost of an extra vehicle.

So having one vehicle is not a good solution for everyone, and it can have it’s drawbacks, here is what I have found to be beneficial:

  • You pay less on car insurance. We save even more because Rose is now the primary driver and women have a lower rate (unlike at the hair salon).
  • Less maintenance cost. This can be significant, especially in older cars. Plus, you have one less car to clean.
  • Less vehicle taxes and tag fees. In South Carolina, I had to pay property tax on my car.
  • Save on gas. This mostly applies if you use a bike as alternative transportation.
  • Incentive to exercise. There are some days when I don’t feel like riding to work but Rose needs the car for something so I take my bike. Later I am glad I did.
  • One less car payment. I actually forgot to add the most obvious benefit and had to come back and put it in.

I don’t want to tell people they should only have one car, everyone’s circumstance is different, but if someone is thinking about it, I hope my story helps. Please let me know what you think.

Familiar Strangers

After two weeks on the sidelines I am finally able to ride again. It not only feels good to get exercise and be outside again, I also like seeing some of the people along the way that I have passed countless times.

There is a recumbent rider, possibly even older than me, who has a route almost exactly the same as mine but in the opposite direction. There is also the woman who works as a crossing guard near an elementary school that always says “hi” when I pass. At the other end of the school zone is a man who waves to everyone that goes by.

Then there are the people on the trail. One guy is overweight but working hard to slim down. When I pass he is walking while lifting hand weights. He always says hi to me, so do the two older women that are out for their morning walk. Then there is the women who is riding her bike with a mat rolled up on the front of it. I assume she is going to an exersize class. She never fails to say hi. There are several others too, but I don’t want to write a list.

Most people I see in the morning but there is a regular in the afternoon. He is an older man than walks very fast with a golf club in his had. He holds the club out and rotates it while he walks. He is the only person that avoids eye contact, but some people are just introverted, even in old age, and I certainly don’t think less of him for it.

It occurred to me that I almost feel a friendship toward these people even though I have never stopped and talked to any of them. It is just nice to hear that warm hello several times a day.

The other thing I noticed is that people are such creatures of habit. Many of the people on the trail, I assume, are walking for exercise. They walk the same trail, in the same direction, everyday. I don’t know what is normal but that would bore me to tears. I would want to mix it up and go one way one day and another the next.

It is true that I ride my bike the same way everyday, and I have tried to change it up a bit, but any other way to work is just not as safe. I suppose if I could find a safe second route, and then alternate between the two, I would double the friends that I don’t know.

How Much Water Do We Really Need To Drink?

water-drop-with-ripple-in-public-domainSince I live in the land of the free and the home of the lawyers, I want to start out by saying that I am not a health expert and I am just writing down my thoughts, so please don’t take anything I write as fact because suing me won’t get you much.

I have learned much lately about natural health and I have found as many different opinions on the subject as there are people giving opinions. To filter through all these opinions I try to imagine what our prehistoric ancestors would do, and any advice I see that is different than what those ancestors would have done is probably flawed, in my opinion. Of course, since our world is so different, there are some things that we must also do different to stay healthy. It is a very complicated subject.

For years I have been hearing that we should all have at least eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day. I then heard that we should have half of our body weight in ounces. This made a lot more sense to me and for the past five years or so I have been trying to drink six bottles of water every day.

That much water requires some effort and lately I have been trying to imagine our early ancestors drinking that much water and I don’t think it is possible. After all, they didn’t  carry water bottles around with them and I suspect they were too busy foraging or hunting to spend too much time at the local stream or river. So how did they get enough water?

Many shows about early humans that I have seen depict them as hunters. They will show a group of men with spears going after a Wooly Mammoth and then they will show them bringing back the feast to the rest of the tribe. What they don’t show is when they all stop to get a big drink of water. If an anthropologist is reading this perhaps they could shed some light on the subject but I think that  things were a bit different.

I believe we were not hunter-gatherers but rather gatherer-hunters. I believe we primarily forged for food eating whatever was easy, such as fruits, vegetables, berries, nuts, seeds, mushrooms, etc. When those things were scarce, then we turned to hunting to prevent starvation.

It is in these plant based foods that early humans got their water. The amount varies among individuals but in general, adult humans are close to 60% water. Many, if not most, fruits and vegetables contain an even higher percentage of water resulting in a net gain for anyone who eats them.

I am not suggesting that everyone should switch to a 100 percent raw, vegan diet, I certainly haven’t, but including a high percentage of these foods in your diet is, in my opinion, a great way to not only improve your health but also get more fluids in you without having to worry as much about how much water you are drinking.

I typically bring to work a large salad and between four and six fruits. I eat the fruit throughout the morning, have the salad for lunch, and then, if I am hungry later, I will snack on some nuts or trail mix. Later, when I get home, I will have a normal meal with my wife. It is not perfect, but my health has improved quite a bit these last few years. I still try to drink a lot of water but I try not to stress as much about counting the ounces as I did in the past.

As I said, I am not an expert and I welcome any other opinions on the matter.

Injured Reserve

My ankle is still a bit swollen after almost 2 weeks

My ankle is still a bit swollen after almost 2 weeks

I have not been on my bike since my accident the Monday before last. It happened just before I got to work and I was able to ride home with some discomfort but I felt worse the next day and even now, my ankle is still swollen and tender and it hurts to sit. As I mentioned in my last post, I can sit leaning forward but I can’t lean back, which is what I have to do on a recumbent bicycle.

I seriously thought of buying a cheap conventional bike that I could ride until I healed but my wife frowned on that idea. I also thought I would be better by now. Unfortunately it looks like I really did “bust my ass.”

I have a doctor’s appointment on Monday. It was supposed to be just an eleven year check-up (yes, it has been that long since I have been to the doctor) but now I think I will have something else the doctor can do that does not involve rubber gloves and Vasoline. Although, since I am turning 50 this year, I don’t think I can avoid the unpleasentries. Makes me wish I had picked a female doctor.

I guess I will need to find something to do while I am recovering. Perhaps I can do maintenance. Can’t wait.

The Curse of the Clipless Pedals

In spite of the title, I really do like my new clipless pedals but I have come to realize there is an added risk of injury while using them. From the time I bought my recumbent bike until I bought the clipless pedels eight months later, I fell off my bike a total of zero times, although I did have one or two close calls. In the 30 days since putting on the clipless pedals I hit the ground four times, and this was during a month were I had many problems getting out on the bike and only logged about a hundred miles.

To be fair, the first fall was not unexpected as I was trying to get used to unclipping. The second one was when my chain fell off and I lost my balance. The last two happened Monday morning within a block from my work.

I mentioned before that there is a small percentage of my ride where I use the sidewalk instead of the street because, until yesterday, I thought it was safer. I was on the sidewalk, not far from my work when I spotted a kid (I want to say “little bastard” but this is a family blog) coming toward me on his bmx bike like a bat out of hell. He was peddling as fast as he could and he was traveling in anything but a straight line. I slowed way down, expecting him to do the same, but he just kept coming as fast as he could. It was like a game of chicken and I lost.

I steered off the sidewalk to avoid a collision. I probably should have yelled. “Slow down you young wipper snapper,” but I guess I am not ready for that yet. Since I had already slowed down too much, when I hit the grass I was going too slow to keep my balance and I tried to unclip fast enough to catch myself, but the half second delay was too long.

I wasn’t hurt, just a little pissed at the…kid. I got back on the bike and traveled another two or three hundred feet until I was just across the street from my work. I looked behind me and saw there were cars coming but I had plenty of time to cross so I turned to the left and my rear wheel came out from under me and I hit the ground hard.

I was in the middle of the road with cars coming so I quickly got up, even though I was in pain, and limped to the center of the street. By then one car had already stopped and the others were slowing down. I was in too much pain to be embarrassed. I limped across the street, unlocked the door and brought my bike inside. I then had to sit down because the adrenalin had made me nauseous.

At first I attributed the accident to being distracted by what happened three minutes earlier but my co-worker pointed out something that made much more sense. He said the grass I rode onto was probably wet. That would explain everything. The bottom of the wheels had dried from the short ride but the sides were still wet, so when I leaned into the turn, the wet part of the wheels contacted the road and down I went.

It is just another example of how one bad thing can lead to another. I think the next time something happens that is bad enough to speed up my heart rate, I might just stop for a few minutes before resuming.

The ride home was difficult because, besides my leg being cut up, my butt hurt like hell. I pushed my seat forward a little because sitting forward was fine but leaning back was painful and this allowed me to push back farther in the seat so I was less reclined. Unfortunately, as a recumbent rider, less reclined in still reclined. It was the first time since I owned the bike that I would have traded it for a conventional bicycle.

I am still relatively new to the clipless pedals so I am sure I will get better at unclipping but I believe there will always be a slight delay and I will have to accept that risk. I also think it is possible that sitting upright on a conventional bike might be less risky. I don’t know. Perhaps someone with more experience could leave a comment on the subject. For now, I think once my butt heals, I will continue what I was doing but perhaps I will try to anticipate problems a unclip a bit sooner.

 

Is it Bad to Ride While Sick?

In my last post, I was disappointed that I was unable to ride my bike for a full week. I finally got the parts I needed and repaired the problems and was ready to ride to work on Tuesday, almost two weeks ago. I woke up that morning with a bit of a sore throat and thought, “Great, any heavy breathing I do will make this worse.”

I got up, made coffee, took care of the cats and did my other morning chores and by the time I needed to leave, I felt ninety percent better. That is usually what happens when I start to get sick, it goes away before it gets bad. As a matter of fact, I can’t remember being sick in well over ten years.

It was a chilly morning so I dressed as warm as I could and headed to work. When I got there, I didn’t feel bad but I could tell I was not quite well either. The next morning the sore throat was back and I had developed a cough, congestion and sneezing to go with it. I was finally sick after all these years.  I don’t know if the bike ride helped push me over the edge but I think it is likely to be the case.

I drove the next day and seemed better as the day went on but the next morning I was worse again. I think lying down was bad for me but it just happens to be how I sleep.

That Thursday Rose and I took a two-day trip to the east coast of Florida, New Smyrna Beach, to celebrate her dad’s 80th birthday. I saw the pattern develop that I was sick in the morning and mostly better in the afternoon. That pattern continued all last week, with the worst day being Monday.

By Wednesday I was sick of driving and thought about getting back on the bike. My only fear was that doing so could cause this cold to last even longer. I don’t know it that would have happened. For all I know, the exercise might have done me some good. In the end I chose not to chance it and drove to work the rest of the week.

I now feel the cold breaking up and I am getting better. I am still coughing but if it continues to get better, or at least gets no worse, I should finally get back on two wheels tomorrow. Good thing too because I am one of the few people who puts on weight while sick.