Thursday, March 31, 2011

Crazy Weather and Nice People

30 Days of Biking begins tomorrow, April 1st, and I'm ready! I'm actually on vacation right now in Florida. We're in a darling little rental on Anna Maria Island. Normally it's sunny here but today it's raining like crazy. Tornado warnings. Extreme winds. It's weather we are used to having in Minnesota. Oh well. We're hoping things clear up by tomorrow so I don't have to bike in the rain. If it's still raining I'll still be biking. And when it's time to ride I have a nice little island cruiser ready for me. I rented a nice little ladies bike from Fun and More Rentals for Day 1 and Day 2 of 30 Days of Biking. It's pretty - and it even has a basket!

Even with the rain we're having a fine time. We've had to regroup a bit on our plans - instead of hitting the beach today we played games indoors. Rose and I planned to take the island trolley to the store but we haven't had the rain let up enough yet to go anywhere. Granted, the kids are disappointed and Rose was pretty grumpy about the weather this morning. It's hard not to be disappointed - it's her first time to Florida and she was looking forward to spending hours in the sunshine. But, even in the rain, the kids spent some time in the pool today. And now we're settling in to an afternoon of more game playing, maybe some reading, maybe a movie. We'll see.

We love the island life so far. We took the trolley to Gulf Coast Cafe for dinner last night. Good food. Nice view of the ocean. Then we took the trolley to the grocery store to pick up food for breakfast and lunch. It was raining when it was time to leave. Pouring, actually. And there we were waiting under a little shelter for our trolley. And waiting. And waiting. Then a passenger van did a u-turn and pulled up in front of us. A woman rolled down the window and asked if we wanted a ride. We hesitated a moment, we didn't have any idea who these people were, after all, but said yes. The family of six, Mom, Dad and four boys age 9 to 14, welcomed us inside and gave us a ride to our rental. Nice people from Minnetonka, Minnesota of all places. They've had to wait for the trolley before, they said, for a long, long time. Mom said the boys saw us and said "There's a family waiting for the trolley. Let's give them a ride." So they did. And we are so grateful. And really, really wish we could somehow thank them but we didn't even find out their names.

So, to the family of six from Minnetonka, Minnesota, who were kind enough to give us a ride - Thank you!!! And we promise to pay it forward and help someone else soon.

Here's hoping tomorrow is a nice, sunny, day! But really, how can it not be a nice day when there's such nice people around?

P.S. I want to publish some pictures but can't for some reason. Probably because I'm using my iPad for the first time to update my blog. I'll try to post some later. I'm sure you'll want to see a picture of my Island Cruiser bike :)

Sunday, March 20, 2011

A Good Experience at the Lifestyle Bike Experience

Yesterday my family headed to the Mall of America to check out the Lifestyle Bike Experience - an expo type of event put on by HaveFunBiking.com, "Your News Source for Bicycling Information." An article on HaveFunBiking had information about the event. Here's an excerpt of what the event had to offer:

"Those who visit MOA will have a chance to explore some of the latest bicycle opportunities: Try out easy to ride bicycles; find ideas for comfortable clothing; take in a five-minute clinics for safe and healthy commuting to school or work; discover great places to bike; plus... many bicycle related games and prizes."




We would not normally head to the Mall of America on a Saturday afternoon and it was an absolute zoo - we almost turned back when we saw how busy the place was - yet we heard about the event from our friends at Valley Bike and Ski and wanted to check it out.

We're glad we did. The Best Buy Rotunda section of the MOA was full of bikes and bicycling information. Several area shops were there with their bikes on display - I think Valley Bike and Ski, Erik's Bike Shop and Penn Cycle were the shops represented, I may have missed someone. There were representatives from Have Fun Biking, information on bike safety, rides, tours, trails, and events like the Nature Valley Bicycle Festival and Grand Prix. We had a chance to talk to our friends from Valley and met a few new people, too.

There were also people from the National Sports Center Velodrome there, pedaling fixies (bikes with one speed and no brakes) on trainers (these were "rollers"). Did you know we have a bike race track in Minnesota? And that it's been here for 20 years? I didn't. I'm hoping to get up there - it's in Blaine, about an hour or so from my home - and check out some racing this year.

The highlight of the afternoon for us was watching stunt rider, Chris Clark, maneuver his Giant STP over people, onto huge plywood boxes, across wood bridges and through the air. He did this all in a very small space and all with great precision and skill. It was fun to watch him! After his show, we got to meet him and talk to him about how he got started doing "freeride" bicycling. He autographed a bike water bottle for Ryan and gave him a Giant Bicycles t-shirt. Ryan put it on when he got home and hasn't taken it off since.


Even for a family who is pretty in the know about bicycling, there was enough new information for us to make visiting the Lifestyle Bike Experience worthwhile. I do wish the publicity for the event would have been more thorough - I struggled to find information on the event on the internet and really wish a schedule would have been published stating Chris' name and the times he performed. I also found the MOA venue difficult - it was hard to hear and so crowded - but I can't think of a better site off hand.

All in all, the Lifestyle Bike Experience was a good experience. I'm sure it stirred up a lot of excitement for bikes and bicycling. I know it did for me and my family!

Friday, March 11, 2011

First Ride of 2011

I took my Specialized hybrid to Milltown Cycles a few days ago for a tune up. While it was there I had Ben and Curtis put new tires on it and a set of fenders.

Replacing the tires was a no brainer - they've been on the bike since I got it, in about 1994, and the rubber was literally crumbling away. The tread was also very smooth, not just from wear but by design, and I wanted to get something that would work for riding gravel. Ben suggested a tire with a smoother tread in the center and a bit more tread - and therefore grip - on the outer edges.
New tires for the gravel roads - complete with dirt from my morning ride!

I decided to put on fenders because I want to seriously start riding the gravel roads near my home. Without fenders gravel, mud, and dust from the roads sprays up all over my back, my legs and on the bike. Ben suggested a nice inexpensive pair of fenders for my bike and I told him to go ahead and put them on.

I dropped off my bike on Saturday and Milltown had it back to me within a few days. Ben and Curtis do nice work. They are also very friendly and great in the customer service department. They know my name - I like it when I can walk in a shop or call and the people remember me. Oh, and they have a lot of cool bikes at Milltown and Ben keeps an awesome blog about bikes and biking. Be sure to check it out.

I couldn't wait to try out my "new" bike so went for a quick ride this morning. Today marked my first ride of 2011. My first ride with my new tires and fenders. My second ever ride on gravel. I only rode for two miles - that's all I had time and energy (I've been sick) for. But, even though it was windy and riding gravel is a challenge for me, it was two miles of pure heaven.

I'm happy to report that the tune up made my bike ride like new. All of the squeaks and groans it was making last year are gone. The tires gripped the gravel roads well and didn't slip around in the soft spots or on the wet patches. The fenders kept me and my bike almost completely free of dirt and grime.
My old Specialized newly tuned up and sporting with new tires and fenders.

I often worry about riding my road bike on roads with a lot of traffic and no shoulder. I'm surrounded by quiet gravel roads out here in the country and they've been begging me to ride them. And now that I have a bike that works well on gravel I'm set to ride even more than before!

Of course, I'd love a cool gravel bike, maybe a Surly Cross-Check, but my sturdy Specialized will do the trick for now.

Dream Bike - Surly Cross-Check Cyclocross bike - in my color!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

30 Days of Biking - Round 3

Guess what? I'm going to do it again - The third round of 30 Days of Biking starts up on April 1st and I signed up to ride my bike every day for 30 days. I'm crazy like that.

I can honestly say that 30 Days of Biking has changed my life for the better. I suppose that sounds overly dramatic. But it's true.

I've become a more active person because of 30 Days of Biking. I've never thought of myself as an athlete, still don't, really, but I certainly have changed my activity level and I exercise almost every day now. That's a pretty big deal for me. I even think exercising is kind of fun. I certainly think bicycling is fun - though I'm not yet fond of going uphill.

I'd like to believe I've also become a more positive person - probably because of the wonderfully positive people I came to know through the challenge. People like Darryl of www.lovingthebike.com who shared his bicycling knowledge and encouraging words from the moment we connected on Twitter and has since become a friend. People like Cassi from www.shebicycles.com who set a goal to bike not just 30 days but 330 days and is kind enough to share her friendship - and great photography - with me even though we've never met in person. Oh, there are so many other people I now know because of this bicycling adventure, people who have supported me and shared their positive thoughts. I can't mention them all or I'd be here all night - and I'd certainly miss someone. And I don't want to do that.

One of my favorite resting spots along the Cannon Valley Trail

30 Days of Biking has also been a great thing for my family. They supported me as I rode my bike Every. Friggin. Day. (a 30 Days of Biking mantra) last April and biked with me every day during the September challenge. We grew as a family as we biked together. We made memories, most of them happy - like biking the Sakatah Trail and stopping to see Wolley Bear caterpillars along the way. Some of them a bit sad - like Rose crashing on our last day of the September challenge. But whether great or slightly sad all of them are memories we now share. All of them helped us grow. All of them are part of who we are now. And that's pretty cool.

So, I'm doing it again. This 30 Days of Biking thing. Because good things happened when I started biking. Good things could happen to you, too! So feel free to sign up for Round 3 and join me - and hundreds of others around the world - and start 30 Days of Biking on April 1st!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Writing News

I don't often blog about my writing work but figured I would today. Why? Well, I had a story published in the March issue of Minnesota Good Age and I'm excited about it. In addition to that news, I've been writing for a new online publication, Northfield Patch. Oh, and I'm taking a Mother Words writing class taught by Kate Hopper and have been to two writing events at The Loft.

Lots of writing stuff going on and it's all good!

But, I don't want to stay up too late or write too much so will focus this entry on the Minnesota Good Age news.

A while back I pitched a story to Good Age's sister publication, Minnesota Parent. The editor didn't go for the idea but asked if I was comfortable writing for the over 50 audience, the target market for Minnesota Good Age. I responded that I was married to a member of the over 50 crowd (Owen is 55 - hope he doesn't mind me announcing that) so, yes, I was comfortable writing for that audience. Much to my delight, she assigned me to write a story about Michael Brindisi and Michelle Barber of the Chanhassen Dinner Theatres - a powerhouse couple of the Minnesota theater world.

I had fun interviewing Michael and Michelle early last December - they are exceptionally nice people - and waited somewhat impatiently for the story to run. The story, titled "I Do! I Do!" (a nod to the show at the Chanhassen by the same name) came out just a few days ago. It's on the front page and is the feature story! I was excited to see that - I guess it didn't dawn on me when the story was assigned that I was going to be writing a feature.

My story and Robb Long's  great picture on the cover of Minnesota Good Age

A great picture by photographer Robb Long accompanies the story. He does exceptional work and has shot for two other stories I've written for Minnesota Parent (Let's Go Fly! and The Minivan Makes the Man). I love his work and am honored to have his pictures with my words. His website, www.rlimaging.com, is worth checking out. As a fan of bikes and bicycling, I especially like his pictures from the Downtown Journal story by Gregory J. Scott, Winter Warriors.

The editor at Minnesota Good Age, Kathleen Stoehr, was super to work with as well. And guess what? She assigned me to write another profile which should run in the April issue of Minnesota Good Age. I'll leave you in suspense as to who I got to write about this time but will tell you this...it involved another great interview with an extraordinary character - and I left the interview wanting to buy a scooter!

A Stella from Genuine Scooters. Photo from Genuine's website - www.genuinescooters.com