Ch-ch-ch-ch-Changes

I’m not gone! Bicycling has taken a back seat lately, not my choice. The weather’s been great. My bike lock is back on the rack at work, patiently waiting for me to show up and use it. I have a policy of not riding my bike all the way to work when my husband is away on business so I can see the kids off in the morning and make sure the house is locked up and stuff. He’s been on a traveling jag since late March so I’ve been making do with biking to the train station down the street.

For this year’s 30 Days of Biking, I have only missed three days – all this past weekend. But the rides are really short and nothing to write home about. Except maybe the scent of dogwood and honeysuckle that fills my nostrils, the lack of humidity that keeps even sufferfests manageable, and the gloriousness that is riding in just shorts and a jersey. Spring is here at last and it feels amazing.

 

About a month ago my company announced they are relocating to New York City. I was fortunate to be offered to relocate along with the job. You may recall we did this a couple years ago, moving from Colorado to Pennsylvania, for my job. It was a very difficult decision, one that involved a lot of thought, research, and weighing the pros and cons. We recently decided to move with the job – so now my weekends are filled with de-cluttering, patching, painting, and minor repairs as we get the house ready for market.

Fingers crossed for a quick sale where we realize a profit.

But I won’t lie – I miss riding my bike on long rides. Heading out too early on a Saturday morning with nothing but a plan to ride bikes with friends many miles away for a meal. The short ride to the train is like a teaser. Come out and play! Have fun with us! Just need to be patient – right now non-bikey things have to take priority.

And really, once we find our new community, I will need to look up a new bike club. And possibly get a bike share membership to cover “the last mile” of my new commute. And once the house is up on the market or at the latest when it’s under contract, I can head out with impunity until we move.

So you know – keep the rubber side down and see you on the road.

Powerless

This past week our family, as well as over half-a-million other families, were without power due to an overnight ice storm that left a quarter- to a half-inch of ice on every surface already covered by about 6-8″ of heavy, wet snow. School was closed and many trains were suspended for a day. The house got progressively colder as the power outage wore on and the outside temps didn’t get above freezing – starting at a manageable-with-layers low-60s and slowly creeping down every day to a bone-chilling 41* on Day Four. We bailed on staying in the house the night of Day Three when it was about 45* in the house and moved into a hotel. Our dogs went to a boarding facility that still had power.

Driving through our neighborhood after dark was eerie and felt abandoned. Apocalyptic – like people once lived and played here. Now it’s just dark and empty. Every night we were told our power should be back up by very late that night, but sadly that wasn’t the case. And I believe it’s not the energy company’s fault – the sheer number of streets closed due to massive downed trees and wires was incredible. Each day a few more streets would open up, a few more houses getting power again. And we waited. Finally the power came back on very last night. The house was at 41* and falling.

Friends, I share this with you not for sympathy but because spending several days at home in a cold, dark house has been enlightening.  For us, this was a mere inconvenience – we had the means to afford a warm place to go and keep our pets warm and fed. And already I am evaluating options for being able to stay in the house longer and keep it warmer.

We all know there are people in our communities that lack basic services because they can’t afford it. For many, our short-term inconvenience is their everyday reality. Our family has personally been between homes before and the lack of a place to call home is very disconcerting. Unmooring. This needs to be remedied in our community.

That’s why I am proud to be raising funds for Habitat for Humanity Philadelphia’s Ride for Homes. I share their belief that everybody needs a safe and affordable place to call home. Every family contributes to their build and the build of others’ homes. The Ride for Homes is a four-day, 250 mile bike ride from Philadelphia to Harrisburg and back to advocate for more affordable housing and raise much needed funds to assist in building 10 new homes in our community and make repairs to 75 other homes.

My goal is to raise $1,000 to help fund this mission. Will you stand with me to help others have a safe, warm home to come home to?

Click here to give a few dollars to my campaign – no donation is too small. Together we can help those in our community have a safe and affordable place to call home: https://share.habitat.org/laura-kelly-rideforhomes

Thank you for your support! See you on the road (if it ever stops snowing and raining!) …

Homesick

On Jan 5, Singletracks posted this video on their Twitter feed:

… and I got homesick.

You see, Dakota Ridge was my backyard and while I didn’t mountain bike when I lived in Colorado, I know that area well.

And for a few hours, my heart ached to be back in Colorado riding my bike.

Ached I tell you.

Then I fed the fire by looking up the Strava segments for Lookout Mountain and realizing that getting to the top of that mountain was not just achievable for everyone else in the world, but it would be achievable for me. Looked at Google Maps to see the trails crisscrossing Green Mountain.

Friends, I’m telling you. Physically ached.

Last night as I was waiting to pick up my oldest child from an evening school activity, my youngest child and I were talking about how sometimes we miss Colorado. She misses her friends and is sad that one particular friend hasn’t written back in almost a year. One of her new friends reminds her of her best friend in Colorado. We talked about how people move on, make new friends, stop writing letters and leave the old friends in the past. I shared with her about when I moved from Massachusetts to Colorado – I was about her age and was sad when the letters started to trickle off. But I focused on my new friends and eventually, I was able to move on too.

And as we were talking I realized many of my friends are leaving Colorado too now – for Portland, Seattle, Nashville. We’re all scattering across the country. So even if we did go back to Colorado, it wouldn’t be the same.

(well, the mountains would be. And the trails. And the friends I have who are staying.)

The answer isn’t to keep looking back at the past but to look forward and enjoy the times that we have with our new friends … and savor the times with our old friends whenever we can get together again.

See you on the road.

Review: Philly Bike Tour Co

Friends, today is my husband and I’s sixteenth wedding anniversary. Traditionally we took the day off so we could go to lunch together before splitting up between handing out candy and taking the little ones around trick or treating. Our children are now old enough to go out with their friends or stay home and hand out candy – so doing other things for our anniversary is a total option now.

Yesterday I saw a Twitter contest from Philly Bike Tour Co. to win passes on their bicycle tour of Philadelphia today. Of course I re-tweeted and *then* let the husband know there’s a chance we would be going on a bike tour. That’s just how things go with bicycles and myself, really. So late last night when I got the tweet that we had won, I was totally excited.

Philly Bike Tour Co. started fairly recently because there is a distinct void in how to tour Philadelphia by bicycle. With so many beautiful neighborhoods and historic sites in a dense urban area, the best way to get around the city is on two wheels. There are several options for tours such as a classic tour, northern neighborhoods, movie and tv sites, outdoor art, food & beer, and a tour of Fairmount Park. Each tour is rated for difficulty from Super Easy to Advanced – to you can pick the right tour for yourself and your guests. Most of the tours are rated Easy.

Philly Bike Tour Co. is in partnership with Fairmount Bicycles, a woman-owned bicycle shop that specializes in new and refurbished bikes for commuting, touring, and entry-level road riding. Each tour includes a rental bicycle, helmet, and keepsake water bottle. If you bring your own bike, there is a $5 discount.

My husband and I arrived a few minutes early to sign the usual waivers and get situated on our rental bikes. The rentals were perfect for urban riding – the 7 speed Jamis Hudson Sport. The saddle was extremely comfortable, the upright riding position felt confident, and the wide tires rolled over everything we threw at it, including an entire block of cobblestones. Philadelphia is a fairly flat city – we didn’t have to use the gears much at all.

snapshot of us at the Water Works stop
snapshot of us at the Water Works stop

The tour itself was very good. Our knowledgeable guide, Thom, keep the group together and had just enough history behind each stop on the tour to keep it interesting and not like a crazy-long history lesson. We were predominately on streets with bike lanes or on bike paths with a few sections necessary to be either on the sidewalk or taking the lane. Our friendly sweep, Josh, had more tidbits and was a wonderful conversationalist as we pedaled down the street. The pace was excellent – not too fast, not too slow.

There was a mid-tour break for food in the famous Italian Market. Thom had been talking about taco trucks all morning so naturally we gravitated to the Tacos El Rodeo truck at 10th & Washington. We were not disappointed. I had chicken and my husband had carnitas – both were fresh, authentic, and supremely delicious. $4 for two tacos is a great price.

On our tour we covered about 12 miles in a little less than 3 hours and saw many Philadelphia institutions: Philadelphia Museum of Art, Water Works, Fitler Square, Rittenhouse Square, Italian Market, Washington Square, Independence Mall, Penn’s Landing, Race St Pier, Elfreth Alley, Betsy Ross House, and the Edgar Allan Poe House. It was a wonderful time – one that I wish was around when my in-laws had visited this past summer. The tour took me to so many great gems in Philadelphia that we don’t usually get to because we don’t live in the city. I genuinely look forward to taking visiting family and friends on these tours.

Overall, if you are in the Philadelphia area – live, work, or visiting – take a tour through Philly Bike Tours Co. The bike shop is top-notch, the staff friendly, the tour guide and sweep helpful and knowledgeable. Prices range from $45 to $65 per person, including bike rental, helmet, lock (if needed), water bottle (to take home) and a sense of happiness in the City of Brotherly Love.

**Disclaimer: This review was in no way influenced by the prize passes for the tour. I was so thrilled with the tour I asked if I could review it on my blog. **

Catch Up

When we last left off, dear reader, I had just put my dog down and was helping my kids work through their grief. Since then much has happened, which is what happens when autumn rolls around. The cycling is exquisite, everyone is back to school routines, and life starts to slow down for winter.

 

  • I took the week of Sept 2 ff work. Between Labor Day and the High Holidays and my in-laws coming to visit, it didn’t make sense to shoehorn work in as well. Add in our dog dying and it was a much needed week off of responsibility.
  • I rode my bike a lot that week. It’s really cathartic. Long rides with the bike club; short rides for lunch with my son; medium rides with my step-father-in-law. It was so nice to simply wake up, throw my leg over the top tube and pedal out of town without any worry.
  • I ran a five-miler back in August and promptly hurt my foot. My chiropractor has been adjusting it and I thought I was in a good place, but a 5k proved me otherwise. Back off running for another two weeks … then I can try again. Lots of rolling with a tennis ball to keep things loose and not “crunchy.” PS – having your foot adjusted feels WEIRD.
  • I completed the Scenic Schuylkill Century for the second consecutive year. 103 miles with over 6800′ of climbing. I felt like a mountain goat charging up those final hills. This ride deserves a recap post.
  • I took Electric Dream Machine to the shop for a tune-up (chunky shifting) and ended up getting her new bar tape and a new chain as well. 2500 miles and only 50% worn on of the original chain feels pretty awesome. I feel like a Spin Master.
  • I also found a saddle that doesn’t hurt my butt after 100 miles. It’s an old school Terry Butterfly Ti I found on eBay for $36. You have no idea how relieving this is.
  • I made a lot of cookies. Chocolate crinklesMolasses. They are all gone now.
  • I bought the last few items I need to make my first attempt at blueberry jam.
  • We selected a hand-made custom urn for Nixon, painted to match her exact coloring. We’re expecting it sometime next week. Until then her ashes are just hanging out in the kitchen and it feels kinda weird. Last night I missed her snuggling up to my feet when I went to bed. Not cry-my-eyes-out missed her … just missed the reassuring weight on her curled up at the bottom of the bed.

 

That week reminded me how much I love unrestricted time. Time to explore, time to play, time to simply be. Far too often I get wrapped up in my everyday life of work, the kids’ school stuff, and housework. Never mind the annual house maintenance that needs to happen like yard work, cleaning out the garage, fixing the downspout that disconnected last October during Hurricane Sandy (*cough cough*).

If I could find a way to still get a paycheck and ride my bike for fun all day, I’d be all over that.

Anyway – I’m still around. I haven’t been riding as much as I want these past two weeks. I haven’t even been bike commuting! And I kinda miss running (but that’s between you and me). I have my BikeMS: City to Shore ride coming up next weekend so I need to get out an ride at least a little bit to keep the legs fresh. Then I’m looking to October to squeeze in some fun weekend rides … maybe do the Central Bucks Covered Bridge Tour again.

 

See you on the road!

 

 

Dialed In

My earlier post and poll was a barometer for my gut. I had signed up for an event through my cycling club that would take me from pastoral Pennsylvania in the early morning hours through northern New Jersey for lunch and into Brooklyn, New York for dinner. I’d get a shower and then dinner with friends, marveling at the fun we’d had all day, before boarding a motor coach bus back to the small river town where we started. It wasn’t cheap and came highly anticipated by newcomers like myself and repeat riders like my friends.

It was going to be awesome.

Then my husband had to book a business trip back to Colorado. He decided to stay the weekend to see our friends and relax a bit. He didn’t think about the plans I’d already made.

I admit I was mad at first, then disappointed. I struggled with whether or not to leave my kids at home while I headed out on the ride. They are certainly old enough to stay home alone for a day and we have wonderful neighbors who would gladly be there for them if they needed it.

But I couldn’t shake the feeling that I needed to stay home with them. What if what if what if.

So I decided to listen to my gut and not ride. Like most cycling events, this one comes with a no-refunds policy so I reached out to the organizers to ask if I could donate my spot to a cyclist who wanted to go but couldn’t afford the fee ($75). They loved the idea so I posted to our social media outlets. I had a taker very quickly who was overjoyed at the opportunity. Another cyclist was so moved to donate his spot as well due to a last-minute change in plans and I was able to put the second cyclist who responded to my post in touch with the organizers.

Beautiful how those things work out. I no longer felt upset about missing the ride because some very deserving folks were able to go now. But I was still a little sad to miss the ride all my friends are going on today.

I studied Kabbalah for three years under the excellent Dr. David Sanders at Kabbalah Experience in Denver, Co. There are so many layers to Kabbalah but one of them is being in tune with the universe and paying attention to the signs of what you need to be doing. I am a firm believer that when once you have tuned in to the universe the signs of what you should do become clearer … And the most in tune you are, the clearer the signs become. For example, when was being laid off and the job in Philly opened up at the last possible second, I knew in my gut moving my family across the country was the right thing to do for us. It would be hard and was probably one of the more difficult things I’ve had to do in adult life but I know on another level that we need to be here for now. I don’t know why but that will come in time.

To that end, I was taking a lunchtime walk with my bike commute friend and explaining my dilemma. I mentioned that for whatever reason I probably should stay home, that I didn’t know why but I wouldn’t be able to enjoy the ride knowing my kids were home without anyone if they needed someone.

Sure enough, this is the week my middle dog got very ill. She stopped eating, she lost her energy, and she was drinking a lot (and peeing a lot too). A trip to the vet yielded nothing. A second trip to the vet yielded her to be hospitalized for a day for intravenous fluids and pain medications. She perked up and we brought her home. She spent Friday much like her old self. But yesterday she woke and wouldn’t eat. She moped. She started to drool excessively. I called the vet and they gave us an afternoon appointment.

I rode out to meet some friends for a fun ride, knowing I was on a time crunch. I made great time into the city, where we met up with a woman my commuter friend works with. We invited her to join us on the trail and she agreed. We took the speed down and enjoyed a social ride to the cycling themed coffeehouse where we met up with another cycling friend who is recovering from an IT band injury. I was explaining how no one knows what’s wrong with my dog but I had to get back to take her to the vet.

We departed a little later than intended and once we got to the end of the trail and back on city streets I realized I needed to book it home. We kicked up the speed but our other friend couldn’t keep up so my commuter friend agreed to stay back with her and he’d catch up to me later.

I’ve never ridden so hard ever … A total sufferfest. Heat, humidity, cranking a solid 22-24mph for almost 8 miles mostly uphill (my Garmin averaged each mile around 18-20 mph). I thought I was going to puke. Got home in time to take a very quick cool shower, shove a protein bar in my mouth, and get my dog to the vet.

This visit gave us the reason she was so ill with no hope for recovery. I had to make the difficult decision to allow her to move on. I gathered my kids and we said our goodbyes. I stroked her ears until she stopped breathing. She was 10 or 11, we don’t know. We rescued her from a shelter that told us she wasn’t getting any visitors because nobody wants a hound dog. She was the right dog for our family. She is survived by our two other dogs.

This is why I couldn’t go on the ride. Because my kids needed me to be home today as we work through our grief.

 

our last few moments with Nixon
our last few moments with Nixon. RIP girl – we loved you

 

See you on the road.

 

Dilemma

Let’s say you are a family girl (or guy) and have put a few events on your ride calendar – paid the fees and are making plans with your friends to slay some epic rides. You’ve been really looking forward to these rides.

But a last-minute change to your significant other’s plans means to go on one of the rides you’d have to leave your kids without adult supervision for the better part of a day. They’re good kids for sure – you have no doubts of their abilities to just chill for a day – but should (g-d forbid) anything happen, you’d be a state or two away until your significant other got home.