As you may have noticed, there has again been a distinct lack of blogging by me.
I won't apologize: I was reading!!
I pedaled to our local library on the late start Wednesday at the beginning of this month. With the end time of my morning route pushed back, there simply isn't really a lot of time before the normal start of the afternoon route to justify going home on late start days. So I didn't.
Our library is AMAZING. There is an adorable bronze sculpture outside of two little girls reading on a bench. The inside is bright and airy due to high ceilings and lots of giant windows. There are little nooks everywhere to go and read or study, some of them separated only by a sheet of glass so that you're off by yourself undisturbed, but not truly isolated. There was artwork and interesting displays everywhere. My favorite had to be the humongous dream-catcher mounted in the stairwell made of what looked like loads of colored plastic grocery bags.
So, I immediately went to the lady smack dab in front of me and asked about getting a library card, which she helped me with very easily, and then wandered off to look around. There are little kiosks all over so that you can catch books out yourself, but I knew I wanted to say hi to people that day, so I went upstairs, looked up bicycle touring, and went to the section I thought I saw. After a short survey of titles, I went back and repeated my search. All I had found were books on bicycle mechanics and maintenance. NOT what I was after. This time I paid attention, wrote down the numbers of a few titles, and realized my error. I went to the right spot and browsed, then came up with 6 titles with cover-descriptions of I thought might be what I wanted. Six is the limit for books on one topic. I had until the 24th to read them all.
On my way out, I asked another cyclist who had just locked up next to me where I might be able to get some inexpensive tasty lunch. He surprised me by directing me almost instantly to a place called Our Center (I thought he'd said R Center until I got there). I was extremely hesitant about going there at all, because he'd described it pretty accurately- it was a place that gave out free lunch. I had no intention of taking food that could justly be given to someone who did not happen to have the $20 in my pocket that I did, but he assured me that I wouldn't be doing that. So, I took a chance and followed his advice.
Lunch was great! I had a hot dog (was offered one or two, I was happy with one) small pile of greens for a salad, a scoop of baked beans, a scoop of fruit salad, a cup of milk (or juice or coffee, I think), and a bag of chips. I had declined the chips but someone else didn't want theirs, and all food must be eaten in the building- no hoarding for later I guess. So I ate them. After all that, I was stuffed to happiness. I couldn't believe it was all free. I felt a bit out of place, but looking around, all the people looked pretty normal. Granted, I did see a few folks who fit my idea of homeless bums, but most folks simply appeared to be regular working people who might have been down of their luck or something. Later, I looked around at the people working with me at the West terminal and was a bit surprised to realize that we had a few bummish unkempt types ourselves. Interesting.
So, I've been reading books for a couple weeks or so. I have to say, my selection was a bit hit-and-miss. My titles were (in order read):
Eat, Sleep, Ride
(How I Braved Bears, Badlands, and Big Breakfasts in My Quest to Cycle the Tour Divide)
by Paul Howard 2011
The Female Cyclist
Gearing up a level
by Gale Bernhardt 1999
The Complete Book of Long-Distance Cycling
Build the Strength, Skills, and Confidence to Ride as Far as You Want
by Edmund R. Burke, Ph.D., and Ed Pavelka 2000
The Complete Book on Touring by Bike
by Patricia Vance 2000
The Bicycle Touring Manual
Using the bicycle for touring and camping
by Rob Van der Plas 1987
Touring on Two Wheels
The Bicycle Traveler's Handbook
by Dennis Coello 1988
In summary- only two books really appealed to me- the first one listed and the last.
Eat, Sleep, Ride was a great story. It provided first-hand experiences and the thoughts of the person going through the race. He went into incredible detail (how did he remember all that so vividly enough to retell it??) and it did everything to both increase my excitement about possibly touring someday, and my apprehensiveness about being able to accomplish a tour at all. It seems like such a monumental task- riding a BIKE across the CONTINENT. Which is, if you didn't guess, something I am fairly certain I'd like to do one day. This book was very easy and fun to read, as the author tells the story with humor and with no sparing of details like imagery and feelings. I loved this book. also, it has a great cover, showing a photograph of a rainy trail, and mud-covered bike and cyclist legs with the title right there in easy view.
The Female Cyclist was not at all what I expected. The introduction and foreword were fine and personal, but then the book dives into an endless litany of names and dates of historic female cyclists and accomplishments. As if I care. I'm sorry, but that's not what I'm interested in. Sure, maybe the story of what they individually did and how they did it, but not as presented here at all. This was to set the tone of the entire book, unfortunately. The author then goes into excessive detail in the next chapter about female physiology. Then anatomy and bike fit. The language is long, drawn-out and incredibly boring. There are endless facts and figures and meaningless numbers that I don't give a whiff about. I skimmed through the rest of 300 more pages to get the basic summaries- which I then promptly forgot. I got the gist that the theory that women have different proportions than men such as shorter torsos and longer legs, is completely unfounded (based on a huge long explanation regarding forensic pathologists and skeleton examination). So there- WSD (Women Specific Design) is a bunch of marketing ploys. Anyway, I set this book down in a pretty big hurry.
Next came Bicycle Touring. After the second book, this one came as a much more welcome discussion of touring. While it isn't very personal like the first one, it doesn't go all analytical on you either. There is a great example on how to select a route, with step-b step details of how the author accomplished it herself. All the major topic are covered in vague detail, but without the depth of feeling that I got later on. Its the same stuff that you get reading other books, I found out. She does emphasize the importance of flexibility both in your plans for the tour itself and in the cyclist attitude while out there doing it. The book was relatively enjoyable to read.
Thus reassured, I opened the next book in the pile titled simply The Bicycle Touring Manual. This one again, goes into excessive detail, but in a good way. The details are all relevant to actually touring- someday I may really need to know all about the construction of a bike frame and the materials and all. What I did get out of that particular section is the differences out there, and why one method of frame construction was a higher quality (for instance- double-butted tubes are like the seamless single-thickness tubes, but being thicker at the ends allows thinner tube walls along the length of the frame tube- you get increased strength for less weight, which is why those higher-quality bike that look identical are NOT priced identically). This would be a great book for referencing when you go to choose a touring bike, the bags to pack your stuff in, when you get everything together and have no idea how to stuff it all into those seemingly tiny bags. I read nearly this entire book without skimming over much. I learned a great deal that, while I don't know specific, I know enough about a ton of topics to be able to ( I think) confidently assemble the stuff I might need to go on that dream-tour of mine and do it without too much extra hardship from ignorance.
And the best book to end that stack, after such an exciting beginning, was Dennis Coello's Touring on Two Wheels. He wastes no time in the introduction in explaining that he originally turned down the request to write a touring book, saying he knew my thought when opening the cover: "'Oh, Lord. Another book on cycle touring.'" But, as stated in the subtitle, this is a book more in tune with the person who wants to travel. They just happen to be doing it by bicycle. Immediately, I was reassured, and this book did not disappoint me. He goes into slightly less detail than the previous book, but he goes into more explanation on WHY you would want one option over another. He clearly states several times when giving specific advice that he is talking about his own personal preferences, and that he doesn't know everything in the world there is to know about what he's talking about. He is extremely personal in his writing, as if he's standing there talking to me, and yet he's not trying to tell me that this is the one and only right way to do things. His style also appeals more to what I feel like I would want to do on a tour- not wear Lycra and spandex but regular clothes, meet people along the way, have an exciting adventure rather than just covering the miles from point A to point B. His language is easy to understand and his approach to mechanic work and tools is great. Near the end I found out he was a teacher, and I wasn't really surprised. He reminded me very much of my favorite one in all my schooling- my physics teacher Mr. Dunn. I highly recommend this book as well.
I was sort of surprised to read these older books, written just after I was born, and finding nearly nothing changed from the world of today. The technologies today for high-end components were already out back then, and I don't understand. Cellphones have changed so much- floppy disks became tiny little thumb drives, and computers... just wow. It seems like such a let-down to realize that people on the forums today, including me, are asking the exact same questions today that were being asked and answered back then. Have bicycles advanced at all??
I had the idea after reading all this that I could plan my own mini-tour for the near future. My immediate family all resides in Colorado Springs, less than 200 miles from here, and I get more than a week of Thanksgiving vacation. My idea was to make that trip as my first-ever bicycle tour. November would be cold, but if there wasn't snow it would be completely doable (even with a little snow, maybe). A car makes the trip in only 2 hours, if I needed to bail out. Perhaps my family would go with me part of the way (my mom has already expressed an interest in going with me). I doubt we would go camping in that weather, so hotels might be needed, in which case the cost could also be split if I had company. Or, if we felt really adventurous, my mom I think has all the stuff we used to go camping with. I dunno. If we were really awesome, we'd only need to spend one night out on the road. More likely the trip might take several days. I ran this idea by my husband and he didn't think the idea was a good one at all. We'll see what happens I guess.
In the meantime, I've also apparently successfully kicked the butt of my first cold. I made it all the way to October! I did have to call out sick for an entire day (which I spent literally in bed sleeping for nearly all of 24 hours) and the next morning. I wasn't sure if I could bring myself to get up at 4:30 in the morning to face the cold dark, so I didn't try. It seems like I've escaped with only a stuffy nose to show for the onslaught of germs. I don't have a cough, and my energy came back full-force on Wednesday.
I decided to take the long way home. I had thought about extending my bicycling commute, but because its fun and to see if it was possible to at least cover the distance required to make it to the East terminal (in case a route opened up- I'd rather pedal all that way than continue in my current position!). Instead of going straight to work and back home after route, I extended the trip home so the round trip is a very weird-looking sort of circle. I go deliberately out of my way, then head home. It's strange to see the same road names twice, but the route itself was so refreshingly new and exciting. There are prairie dogs (which for some reason I consistently want to call groundhogs) RIGHT THERE. I could have touched one. There are new parks with fun art to look at. New bridge tunnels to zoom through, and construction to watch develop as they improve the path. New people and doggies to see! Also gravel! Part of the route home is along the LoBo (Longmont to Boulder) trail, which I've heard mentioned a lot, so it was nice to realize where it was.
Anyway, not only did I make it, but I annihilated the hill too, which honestly looked really scary. So, I did it again this morning. I admit, my legs were not as strong this time. Today was a Legs and Back workout too, so I (probably wisely) decided to go the shorter way home. I'll probably try it only once tomorrow too, but maybe next week I could go 13 miles morning and afternoon. (The trip to work is 4.5 miles, the long way home is 8.5, to total 13!)
Stay tuned for my next post- the story about how I got my pumpkin last weekend, and probably pictures of it carved!!