Riding my bike on the Boise Greenbelt, I’ve peddled farther from home than I’ve been before. The day is hot, flirting with 100 degrees. In the distance, mirage-like, I see light glinting off what looks like — from this distance — a ginormous set of braces.
Maybe it’s the heat inside my helmet, but my mind conjures visions of a lemonade-type stand with ice-cold beverages for sale. (I’m wearing a one-gallon CamelBak full of cold water, but this makes for much better reading)…
Hard-packed dirt on many long stretches, the greenbelt is not all smooth blacktop. Streaks of sweat trail my dust-covered calves and ankles as I pedal closer to what I’ve confidently determined is a sanctuary for refreshment…
…only to discover that the shimmering flashes of light I’d seen earlier are from sun ricocheting off razor wire surrounding a storage facility. Oh, the disappointment!
Like fools gold, just because something looks alluring doesn’t mean it’s genuine or valuable.
Have you ever experienced “all that glitters is not gold?”
Many of you know that Len and I are avid bicyclists. One of our favorite bicycle paths in Crystal Lake, Illinois had a heavily trafficked roadway to cross. A clear case of “the shortest distance between two points is a straight line.”
Over time and tragedy the city decided to build a bicycle bridge that takes peddlers above the traffic. They found that the safest distance between two points—at least in this case—is a curved line: up and over!
There are times when taking risks is not a good idea. There are, however, times when a little risk taking is healthy.
Our friend and avid cyclist, Nan, told us about another gorgeous bike trail that she and her husband, Dave, found. The trailhead is in a tiny little town in northern Illinois called Hebron.
On Monday we, too, rode the trail and discovered that it was flanked on one side by breathtakingly beautiful wetlands. And just out of view for a good camera shot without a zoom lens, but well within earshot, there were hundreds of Great Blue Heron and wild turkey. They were singing. We couldn’t tell if it was a combined effort of both types of birds, or if it was one, or the other. Regardless, it was startlingly magnificent to be serenaded in the crisp morning air.
A little further down the trail, we came to the sporadic placement of several manmade nesting boxes. We’re not sure what type of waterfowl they’re for, but we’re fairly confident they’re not meant for the Great Blue Heron or the wild turkey as neither of them could possibly fit into the small circular entrances.
On the return ride, we were gifted to see the same birds, but this time there wasn’t a sound—not a single peep. It was hauntingly quiet. Either they were all asleep, or choir practice was over! Regardless, it was again done in unison.
We hadn’t known until Monday morning that Great Blue Heron hang out with wild turkey. If it’s true that “birds of a feather flock together,” what type of “birds” do you hang out with?
A couple of weeks ago we traded in our 1990 Suburban and or 1996 Volvo and purchased a new-to-us Toyota Highlander. Quite by accident, the one that fit both our price and mileage range also happened to match the exact color of our bicycles — champagne!
We had a 2-inch hitch installed so that we could use the bicycle rack we purchased at REI’s “garage sale.” Every time we drive our bicycles to a trail head, we are, in fact, giving them a piggy back ride.
Some of life’s loads, while heavy, can enhance the joy factor. Others are detrimental.
What type of load are you giving a piggy back ride to?
The mornings of riding our bicycles in short pants and sleeves are done and gone. We’ve consistently been greeted each dawn by 43-45 degree weather. Add in the speed of a bicycle, and we’ve got some additional wind chill to contend with.
And while outerwear is certainly important, it doesn’t compare to the importance of what’s inside the final layer:
Moisture wicking briefs and sport bra
Capilene long underwear – top and bottom
Under helmet skull cap with ear flaps
Yep, it’s what’s on the inside that really counts! This isn’t just true for outdoor sports; it’s true for life as well. You’ll recall that Ralph Waldo Emerson said:
“What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies with in us.”
1 – BICYCLE RIDE Sunday we rolled out of bed at 4am and arrived near Wilmot Mountain in Wisconsin by 6am to get our wrist-bands to ride 50-miles of the Harmon Hundred bicycle ride.
It’s very early and plenty cold; about 49-degrees. Roughly 5 miles into the ride we hear gun shots! Oh Lordy! we think. We look around only to see a duck blind on the side of a hill. At this we cheer the ducks and geese on: fly, Fly, FLY! Then it dawns on us, some hunters are wont to drink and hunt simultaneously. In our high-visibility yellow jerseys we make pretty easy targets; we pick up the pace!
Len Riding Point
There are two designated rest stops on the 50-mile route. Long before we reach the first one, we’re overcome by scent mirages. We’re both certain that we smell French toast, waffles, pancakes, warm maple syrup, honey-whipped butter, raspberry jelly, and hot coffee. Our minds are playing wishful tricks on us.
First Rest Stop
In the state of Wisconsin, courtesy dictates that you give “a” finger (not “the” finger) when you pass another person. This is true whether you’re on a tractor, in a truck, or on a bicycle. It’s easy; you simply lift your index finger, while nodding and smiling at the other person until they’re past.
Giving "A" Finger (Not "The" Finger)
When we got to where the second stop should have been mile-wise, we realized that we missed a turn. I’m no longer sweet, loving, kind, and thoughtful. Rather, I’m tired, sore, cranky, and hungry. After multiple additional miles, we arrive at the second rest stop, butt weary.
Second Rest Stop
Our total ride was 62 miles, not 50. We averaged 11.34 miles per hour, with our fastest speed being 28.67 mph. The actual riding time—pedals in motion—was 5 hours and 26 minutes.
End Of The Ride
2 – BOOK SIGNING We get home in the nick of time for showers and decent clothes before we’re back out the door and off to the Lakeside Legacy Arts Park (the historic Dole Mansion) in Crystal Lake where our friend, Kris Hayden, hosted a book signing for her newly published book, “Under the Eaves.” Here’s a LINK to her website if you’re interested in learning more about her book. From here we continue on to …
Kris Hayden Far Right (Short Dark Hair and Glasses)
3 – BIRTHDAY(S) PARTY … a multiple birthday celebration for Eoghan, Kayley’s brother-in-law Ryan, and Kayley’s grandmother, Effie. As you can see, a good time was had by all.
Birthday Celebration - Effie, Ryan, and Eoghan
Kayley and Eoghan
Kayley and Eoghan - Smoochin'
YAHOO! It was a whirlwind of a day, and we enjoyed ourselves tremendously. When we got home we crashed saying, “Yahoo, tomorrow we’re closed! We’ll just sit like two bumps on a log and contemplate the speed at which hair grows on our knees—nothing more strenuous than that!”
While riding our bikes through the Heartland, we see lots (and lots!) of silos. For you city slickers who may not know what a silo is, they’re ginormous storage structures for silages and high-moisture grains used for livestock feeds.
[Discussion while bicycling]
“Len, you know that today, right now—this moment—is our life, right?”
“You know how those farmers are storing food for their livestock for the winter months?”
“Are you drinking it all in—tucking these memories into your heart like a treasure for this winter when it’s 40-degrees below and we can’t get outside?”
“Well, why not?”
“Because you’re taking dozens of photographs and will show them to me over and over again. I won’t possibly be able to forget!”
“Laurie, if you stop pedaling one more time we’re gonna have a domestic.”
As we came around a bend in the road we averted our eyes because right there on the side of the bike path was a farmland hussy—a topless silo! Listen with your heart,
The law of gross tonnage is usually thought of in terms of the maritime world—an unwritten, yet accepted nautical law that has everything to do with common sense: “If it’s bigger than you are, get out of the way.”
As bicyclists we, too, have this law. Together my bike and I weigh well-less than 200 pounds. A car—even a small one—weighs a heck of a lot more! In the state of Illinois it’s a law that vehicles passing a cyclist must give them at least 3 feet of space.
It’s a nice law to have on the books, but in our real-life experience, sometimes we’re lucky if we get 3 inches. But when push comes to shove, regardless of the written law, the unwritten, yet accepted law of bicyclists dictates, “If it’s bigger than you are, get out of the way.”
“Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving.”
“Life is like a ten speed bicycle. Most of us have gears we never use.”
–Charles M. Schulz
“Whenever I see an adult on a bicycle, I have hope for the human race.”
“I thought of that while riding my bicycle.”
–Albert Einstein on the theory of relativity
“Nothing compares to the simple pleasure of riding a bike.”
–John F. Kennedy
“Chasing records doesn’t keep me on my bike. Happiness does.”
–Lance Armstrong after his third Tour de France victory
“Melancholy is incompatible with bicycling.”
–James E. Starrs (sometimes referred to as the father of Indiana Jones)
Wasps don’t adhere to the law of gross tonnage. Even though we weigh thousands of times more than they do, they’ll still chase a bicyclist down and sting him right through his glove!
The day started out like any other non-law-breaking day. We woke up and were going to take a nice 20-mile bike ride. However, when we got to Elgin, we got to thinking, “We’re not going to have that many more nice biking days this season, let’s ride just a little further.”
Riding along, minding our own business, thinking we’ll do a 30 mile ride instead, we came across a barricade on the bike path.
We came across a barricade in the path
WHY? we wondered. We looked around and not seeing anyone, asked ourselves, “What’s the worst that could happen? It’s not like they’re going to confiscate our bikes and throw us in jail, right? Let’s just go take a quick peek and see WHY the path is closed.
Where there’s a will, there’s a way …
Where there's a will, there's a way
We find that they’re replacing the bicycle path — it doesn’t exist — so we’re walking our bikes next to the tracks. We can see another barricade a half mile, or so, ahead that’s stopping bicyclists from coming through the other way.
We’ll just sniggle around that barricade when we get there and keep going.
Walking our bikes next to the tracks
We can see that they’re building a new bike path and a bridge. We stop to admire the work. This is going to be fantastic when it’s finished!
They're building a new bike path and bridge
All of a sudden we hear something in the distance. It’s getting louder and has kind of a rumbling feel to it.
We turn to each other wide-eyed and say, “Oh crap! What’s that noise?” as we realize it sounds like a train!
Scrambling as fast as we can, we make it down into a work area with our bikes and turn to see a trolley ambling along, passengerless, the conductors smiled and waved as they passed.
Oh Crap! What's that Noise?
When we reached the “Stop, or I’ll gnaw my arm off now” point, we realize we’ve gone a little over 26 miles. Not too shabby.
Then in dawns on us, we’ve got to ride that same distance all the way back!
We’re so hot (90-degrees) we can hardly stand it. The little “rest area” we stop in has a water spigot. I turn it on, take my helmet off, and stick my head and shoulders gratefully under the cold running water. (yes, my eyes are still black and blue from the “gargling incident”) …
Laurie after sticking her head under cold running water
Len turns to me with a great big grin and says, “I think maybe we shouldn’t have left The Shire, Pippin.”
Len says to me, "I think maybe we shouldn't have left the shire, Pippin."
By the time we got back to Crystal Lake from Geneva, Illinois, we’d ridden 53.36 miles. Our legs are still wobbling!