Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Finding a Way; No Excuses

There's an old saying, "If you really want to do something, you will find a way. If you don't, you will find an excuse." Who among us can't admit this as truth? I know it's true for me.

I'm sure I've made my fair share of excuses in 2020, but one thing I've yet to say (at least since March 22nd) is "I can't ride a bike today." I've already gone into detail several times on this blog about why I've felt compelled to ride every day for 256 consecutive days - even if just for 5 minutes - so I feel there's no need to re-hash that discussion any more. What I'd like to start emphasizing a little more is that I've found a way to do this, but I haven't found it alone...

In an ironic happenstance, American Thanksgiving Day was day 250 of this journey. I like when round numbered milestones happen on important dates, but that's besides the point. This one presented a small challenge: we were going to be away from home visiting Rachel's sister and brother-in-law for the long weekend. Her sister graciously allowed me to borrow her bike so as not to break my streak:

An aside, Rachel's sister Jackie is a talented crafter and decorator who regularly writes about her creations on I highly recommend you check it out if you are into either of those subjects. One more aside, the website title is partially inspired by this lovable pooch named Baxter:

I enjoyed spending time with her too last weekend. Don't tell my cats. Anyway...I wasn't just able to keep riding, but I also had the opportunity to explore a new area, and new adventures are the best part of riding a bike, of course. Thanksgiving Day was less than stellar from a weather perspective, but I did manage to get in a solid 7+ miles on the Shaker Median Trail before heavier rains moved in:

It's a trail that weaves through the median of Shaker Boulevard in Shaker Heights (a suburb of Cleveland). As you can see above, the trail parallels the road in some spots before diverging in and out of several wooded areas, some of which are quite dense:

It's not a very lengthy trail either, which made it perfect for a morning ride before we converged on the kitchen to prepare dinner. It made me not feel so bad about stuffing my face a few hours later. 😄

The overcast weather held over into Friday, but of course, I still ventured out for a ride. I originally entertained some lofty goals:

The Lake-to-Lakes Trail in the map above from start to finish is about 8 miles, plus a mile from the house. If the weather had been more cooperative, and if I'd woken up earlier, I might have gone the whole length. In any case, I did get about halfway there, on terrain that was largely similar to the Shaker Median Trail:

I did make it far enough to cross over the border into Cleveland for about a mile before heading back:

I rounded out the weekend with a few shorter rides, one of them being to Cleveland Heights for the most random of destinations:

Why would I take a picture of a random doorway, you ask? Well, my Dad got me into a monthly satire publication called Funny Times, whose office happens to be a 3 mile bike ride from where we were staying:

Of course I happened upon this information and location on days when they were closed, so I couldn't actually stop in, but I still got a kick out of it. On another note, downtown Cleveland Heights seems to have a pretty crunchy vibe to it that I'd like us to explore more on a future visit:

I was also able to incorporate a little bit of history into my riding, as a historic site of a former Shaker residence happened to be about midway between the two trails I'd visited earlier in the weekend:

I know what you're thinking: did I spend any time with the family? Of course I did! We spent the majority of Thanksgiving Day cooking together, Friday was game night, and on Saturday, we decorated holiday cookies:

It was a great weekend that I would have enjoyed even if I hadn't made the effort to ride every day. I'm more than grateful I had the support of family to make it happen. You could say that biking was the icing on the cookies. Yikes what a terrible joke. Anyway, I'm very much looking forward to doing it again.

Our lives returned to normal on Monday, and as the calendar flipped to December yesterday, not much has changed, even after our first snow since March:

The lights on the bike are new, actually. I figured I needed to spice things up a bit in the spirit of the season.

I'm planning to finish out the year strong as I usually do, by riding every day. If you're unaware, I have a tradition that I started a few years ago called Bike Your Birth Month. The story goes like this:

Back in 2016, I was inspired by my friend Todd's tradition of riding his age in miles on his birthday, a tradition I was able to join in that year, and also in '17 and '18. This led me to attempt an annual birthday ride of my own starting in 2016 as well.

Even though that ride went off mostly without a hitch, it was difficult to plan around weather in late December. The next year, I decided instead to attempt to ride every day for the whole month, and my new favorite birthday tradition was born. I realize that riding every day sounds more difficult than riding just one long ride, but if you think about it in terms of daily routine, it's actually much easier to tackle 31 short rides as opposed to planning out one big ride.

I think it's an especially fitting tradition this year in the spirit of always finding a way, no matter what. Starting the month off with 2 days of snow seems quite typical of 2020. There are for sure going to be a few challenges thrown into this month, but I'm looking forward to it. Quick math tells me that if I'm able to finish it out, I'll reach 285 consecutive days of daily riding by New Year's. I've got ideas for a much lengthier "thank you" end of year blog entry for all of you who have helped me keep going this year. 

So hey, folks...only 29 days left in 2020! We're almost there. A calendar change doesn't mean that everything is going to automatically get better, but remember back in April, a lot of us weren't sure we'd ever make it this far. Let's keep finding a way.

Thursday, November 19, 2020

With Love, From Your Past

I've hit a bit of a writer's block of late. Last time I checked in here, I mentioned that I've been riding every day, but nothing about these rides have really been that spectacular, nothing really to write home about. The best news I have to report is that the streak is still alive, and well past 200 days at this point. I'm not stopping as long as I can help it.

On or about day 235 of the streak, I took a solo weekend trip back home to PA for a couple days to visit my Mom, Dad, and some friends along the way. I made it a point to detour south to Philly to stop in for a ride before I headed back to Ohio. It was only about an hour, about 11 miles or so, and I didn't do anything but ride. Still, it felt like a noteworthy ride even though I didn't have a grandiose destination or goal in mind. I honestly struggle for words to describe it:

With all due gratitude to my loving family, and with all appreciation for all the things I do have in this life, I still miss Philly so much some days it hurts, and I can't get past it. I don't know that I ever will. I suppose I need to keep on riding until I do, or until we can get back there...

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

A Ride A Day Keeps Insanity Away

Today is the Autumnal Equinox. I've always "celebrated" equinoxes to some degree. I'm not sure of the exact reason why, but I find the idea of balance fascinating. This one was a little extra special for me.

In an odd coincidence, I'm still holding on to my longest consecutive streak of riding a bike at least once a day (currently at 185 days), a streak that has nearly spanned the last two equinoxes. The Spring equinox had passed three days prior to March 22nd, the day when Ohio Governor Mike DeWine issued a shelter-in-place order due to COVID-19, the day when my life was first altered by the events of 2020.

It's been exactly 6 months since that day, and I've been on a bike for every day in those 6 months. For those of you who have regularly visited this blogspace, you may have noticed that I haven't actually checked in here in quite some time despite all that riding (stats may follow later if I feel up to it), and there are a couple reasons why:

  1. Most of my rides aren't anything special. It could literally be a lap around the block in the morning or evening just to get my legs moving or to wind down at the end of the day. "Nothing to write home about" in the most literal sense of the phrase.
  2. I'm not riding a bike to create content for the blog. In fact, I've rarely done that in the 5+ years I've kept this blog going.
So why have I kept on riding? Sanity. It's that simple. Even if I only get 5 minutes a day, 5 minutes of sanity is sometimes all I need. You could also call it balance. You might also know that I totally planned on hitting 6 months of consecutive riding on the equinox, the ultimate day of balance. OK, maybe not. Anyway...

As I mentioned above, most of my rides haven't been spectacular, but there have been some good moments. Rather than go through a lengthy photo stream of the past 6 months, I decided to pick my favourite photo from each month, plus a photo from this morning:

A beautiful, crisp late March morning in Grove City, several days after the streak started.

I stumbled upon this temporary plastic sheeting mural in the Hilltop area of Columbus on a ride home during 30 Days of Biking in April. Side note: this was the first 30DoB I've ever spent solely in one state.

Social gatherings were still limited in May, but since it's pretty easy to be socially distant on a bike, some friends and I decided to have a small group ride with a brief end stop for an outdoor adult beverage at Grove City Brewing.

In yet another 100% planned event, I found myself in Manhattan on day 100 of this streak. Thanks to CitiBike for helping me keep it alive through the end of June and into July.

I ended July with an all-day 60-mile solo adventure around Columbus. It was sorely needed on many levels.

I'd somehow visited three states during this streak before August rolled around, but I visited one of them again (Indiana) when my girlfriend and I decided to take a camping/float trip to our neighbor to the west. By the way, camping is another great socially distant activity.

Make that four states, as the family and I visited my hometown on Labor Day weekend after nearly 6 months away.

And finally, a view of my bike inside the warehouse after my morning commute. The sunrise was much more beautiful than the picture would indicate. An industrial park isn't necessarily the most photogenic of locations, but you get the point.

I'm not going to go too in-depth on riding stats because a) I don't feel like it. b) I'm not sure you actually care, and c) I'm not actually training for anything...but I did want to share one number with you: 200. Because of all of these mostly small rides adding up, I'm about 200 miles ahead of my distance from last year at this time, and just over 200 miles away from my total for all of last year (with thanks to Strava). Doing the littlest of things can make a big difference.

Beyond that, like I said before, it's about finding that peace of mind every single day, even if it's only for a few minutes. I still struggle to find that on a daily basis, as I'm sure many of you do. I encourage you to find a way, whatever that way is. And celebrate the smallest of victories when you find them. Riding a bike every day for 6 months may not mean much to anyone else, but on this day, I'm grateful that I've done it, and I see no end in sight. Happiest of Autumns to you.

Sunday, July 26, 2020

I Needed This

A great man once said, "Something given has no value."

OK actually, it's a quote from one of my favourite bad movies. You can consider it a paraphrase of the "give a man a fish" axiom. I totally agree with the meaning behind it, but that doesn't mean that gifts can't be valuable.

For example, I was given a gift of alone time this weekend. Those of you who are family people can understand how uncommon it is to have such an occurrence. Rae was out of town visiting friends, and Faith is visiting her grandparents, so I had two nights in this house with just myself and the cats here in Grove City. I know some of you out there probably don't like the feeling of being by yourself, but I'm one to embrace it when I do experience it on the rare occasion. I do think a little "me" time is seriously undervalued in today's society.

Anyway, I chose to embrace this gift by using another gift that was given to me by my mother 4.5 years ago, my bike:

In case I haven't told you this story before, here's the Cliff Notes version: I had a bad crash in late 2015 that rendered my current bike mentally and physically incapable of being used by me. Mom picked out the Trek you see above and gave it to me as a Christmas/Birthday gift that Winter. To say she's gotten her money's worth would be an understatement. According to Strava, we've logged well over 8,000 miles together.

With favourable weather and not much else to do on Saturday, I decided to take a much-needed long adventure ride around the greater Columbus area. I had exactly one destination in mind, but the remainder of the trip would be seeing where my bike could take me. Initially, trails would be the theme of the day:

That's taken from a stretch of the Camp Chase Trail near Galloway, about 8 miles from my house. For those of you who know me, I'm not usually the type to drive to a trail head and take the bike from there - I prefer to start and finish from my house if at all possible. Sometimes that means adding 8 extra miles and a little bit of nerve-racking on the road's usually worth it. Anyway, I decided to pause for a water break once I linked up with the Scioto Trail and reached downtown Columbus:

This is always one of my favourite views. It reminds me very much of the approach to Center City Philly from the SRT. I was about 14.5 miles out at this point, so it seemed like a good place to pause for a minute. From here, I headed east via the Downtown Connector, a trail that I'd not previously experienced even after living here for 2+ years:

That was hard for me to believe. I ride everywhere, right? In any case, it led to my only "real" destination, which was another trail I'd not yet experienced before yesterday, the Alum Creek Trail:

If you look closely, you can see the highway on the right of the above picture. This trail has been somewhat haunting me on an almost weekly basis, because I see it all the time while I'm driving around for work. I have been saying for a long time that I needed to get over there to ride it. Check.

The trail itself is much like any other rail trail, mostly paved with a few sections of gravel and boardwalk. It runs mostly parallel to the Alum Creek (hence the name) and winds its way through some woody terrain at parts:

I had to pause once again when I saw this sight to my left, about 20 miles into my ride at this point:

It happens to be the baseball field for Ohio Dominican University. I envision people running the trail during baseball season and stopping here to watch an inning before heading on their way. In a weird twist of normalcy, this field probably WOULDN'T be busy in July because College Baseball is well over by this time of year. But I digress...

Behind me, there stands a new-ish bridge that made me feel truly spoiled to be riding this trail. I don't think people acknowledge often enough how much work goes into making green spaces for us cyclists and outdoor enthusiasts:

After that, it was more woods and fresh air for a few gorgeous miles:

And eventually, 26 miles in, I reached what I had loosely determined to be my farthest point out, Forbidden Root Brewing in Easton:

Shocking, right? Steve goes on a bike ride and ends up at a brewery. I'd actually fully prepared myself NOT to make this my destination. Because of the recent unpleasantness, venturing to a destination only to find out it's closed is something that happens almost weekly to me. I guess I should learn to call ahead. In any case, my backup plan was all manner of trail snacks and a towel so I could have a pseudo picnic in the woods along the trail. It wouldn't have been the worst thing to happen, but this was definitely a better option:

I did sit outside, but around the corner in the shade. Common sense, right? It was about 12:30 and already approaching 90° at that point of the day.

I can never decide on beers when I go to a new brewery, so I grabbed a flight (and of course some food). It includes a beer named Snoochie Boochies. If you know, you know:

Not pictured: the 3 glasses of water I drank in addition to this. You can give me shit for ordering a grilled cheese at a restaurant, but it was exactly what I needed in that moment. Gruyere on sourdough? It was fantastic even if I knew it was unhealthy. I'd eventually burn it off, right? I had a long ride home ahead of me.

Across the way, I spotted this neat little sculpture/archway in the commons area of the adjacent shopping center:

I have no other details about it. Just had to share because it made the destination seem all that much more "right." My only gripe with this experience is that I couldn't find any bike racks. That's probably the worst thing that happened yesterday, which is pretty amazing.

What followed wasn't necessarily a bad experience, but it was pretty stressful at times. Instead of backtracking, I decided to head west on Morse Road, which has a bike lane. I'll say this much, it's certainly a lane:

It reminded me of Delaware Avenue back in Philly. For those of you who haven't ever experienced that, picture cars regularly violating the 35 MPH speed limit next to an un-buffered unprotected bike lane. Not ideal. It probably wouldn't have been so stressful if I didn't also have 20+ pounds of cargo in my panniers (I decided to grab beer to go, which added to the weight of the extra water and supplies I was carrying).

Nonetheless, I am an experienced cyclist and I survived, eventually making it to Clintonville and opting to stop at one of my favourite bike-centric breweries here in Columbus, Lineage Brewing:

I actually had no intention of stopping here when I set out in the morning, but my route found its way just two blocks north of here and I couldn't NOT stop. I was 34.5 miles out at this point:

You can read the Lineage Brewer's cycling story on their website. They were one of the first breweries I visited when I traveled to Columbus more than three years ago, and I still own a pair of cycling socks I bought that day (also not pictured, but I did wear them yesterday in a strange foreshadowing).

I headed toward the Olentangy Trail from there to make my way closer to home. I ended up back on the Scioto Trail heading for downtown once again before I intended to head south back to Grove City. I ended up taking one of the best pictures of my day completely by accident as I was pulling my phone out to take a completely different picture:

Apparently I had left my phone in selfie mode, and I have my phone set to take a picture when touching the side volume buttons when the camera is open. As you can see, I was having a great time. I'd built an epic playlist for the ride and the right music on the open trail combined with the slight adrenaline-fueled euphoria was...I actually don't have a word. And what was I trying to take a picture of? Just the city, for whatever reason:

What a day so far. I bumped into a couple random people at Lineage and one of them said "Oh, so you're also a cycopath." I laughed, but they were totally correct. They said there's definitely a cycling high, similar to a runner's high. I get it.

I decided from there that I would make one more stop before a final push home, because I'd yet to stop in at Taft's Brewpourium since it opened in the Hilltop:

If you're concerned that I'm drinking a lot of beer throughout this process, know that I consumed more than twice the volume of water throughout the day as I did beer. It was so hot that I'm sure I sweated most of it out anyway. I had a small snack there too (tempura cauliflower - not pictured) before I headed for home.

This is definitely crazy, but once I'd arrived home, I realized I still wasn't completely satisfied with my day. I was somewhere close to 50 miles of biking at that point and I really felt like I could hit 60 (I didn't set a goal - I just felt like I could go further). So I did. After checking in on the cats and using the facility, I got back on the bike and pedaled around Grove City for a bit. The wind had started to pick up at this point, and I was finally starting to feel fatigue. I did make it to one of my regular stops for a quick Saturday night cap at Hop Yard 62:

I rounded out my day by heading briefly westward to take in the sunset at Breck Community Park:

And one final stop to pick up dinner at Grove City Brewing before finally heading home with 60 miles in the bag:

I titled my ride "I needed this," because I did. I'm not a cyclist training for a race or any goal really, but I love to see how far I can push myself. I don't set goals. I just love to ride. That said, I couldn't tell you the last time I've gone for more than 30 miles (even though I came close in New York earlier this month). There's just not enough time in most days for me to do it anymore. Long rides are very soothing to my soul for whatever reason, and I need them every now and then. To think. To appreciate. To literally "ride things out."

My girlfriend doesn't like to admit that we sometimes need some time apart, but she knows it's true. I walked in my house yesterday evening reeking to high heaven but ultimately a happier, more appreciative person for all of the things I have in this life. For example, Faith won't be home until next week and now I only have my girlfriend to play board games against until then. Haha! But seriously...

One of the most difficult things that has arisen out of the COVID situation is that we've not really been able to take time away from each other to spend by ourselves. When the opportunity presents itself, I will encourage everyone to take advantage of it. It's that whole "Absence makes the heart grow fonder" thing, right? We all need to miss each other every now and then, and we all need time to re-charge ourselves. I'm happy I was given the gift to do so this weekend, and there's no way to put a value on that.

Have a fantastic week, everyone. Be safe and be healthy.