Saturday, June 29, 2013

The Airplane Notebook

With our trip to the Short Wing Piper Club convention in Saratoga Springs, New York right on the horizon, I realized it was past time for me to write down hotel reservation information and the like. I set off in search of a nice little notebook to write things in and discovered what I call The Airplane Notebook. It's a smallish, spiral bound, blue notebook with lined pages. The cover has a cut out with a little silver airplane in the window. I picked it up in about 2005 to use as a travel journal for our SWPC trip to Vancouver, Washington.

I haven't taken The Airplane Notebook on every trip to the SWPC Convention but it has gone with us to most of them. It's also traveled with us on other trips, too, like a flying trip to Custer, South Dakota one October, as well as a trip I took via commercial airline back to Washington State to write about Stewart Systems, a environmentally friendly airplane paint system.

The Airplane Notebook turned out to be more of a place to jot notes about our trips than it turned out to be a journal. That's okay. I ended up finding the pages of the book a little small for writing. But they are perfect for taking notes about hotel reservations, for jotting down flight times and for writing about people we have met along the way.

A lot of the notes in my Airplane Notebook have to do with the weather but there are other bits that remind me of our flying adventures and the fun, and challenges, we've had along the way.

Here's a note from our 2006 trip to the SWPC Convention in Kingston, Ontario, Canada: "We are in Sault Saint Marie, Canada. Arrived yesterday. Waiting now to go to the airport. Woke to 600 OVA (overcast) so need the skies to life before we go."

And one from our trip home from Vancouver, Washington, in 2005: "We are on the ground in Gillette, WY waiting out scuddy weather. I flew the first leg from Bozeman. Rose and Ryan were both crabby." Rose was six years old that year. Ryan was three. Our trip to and from Vancouver, WA involved 30+ hours in our little airplane.

In 2008, the convention was at Telemark Resort in Cable, Wisconsin. We were in the resort's restaurant waiting for breakfast, watching airplanes arrive from the window when I wrote, "A Pacer arrived about a half hour ago. We're hungry." Guess who arrived in that Pacer? Turns out the pilot and co-pilot are distant relatives of mine that I'd never met before which resulted in this note, "I went for a walk with my newly-found relative, Betty."

I picked up the notebook this year thinking it was too full and I wouldn't have room to write my trip notes in it this year. I was happy to discover there's enough blank pages that I can use it again this year. Already I have written in my hotel confirmation number for our place in Saratoga Springs. I've taped in hotel reservations for New York City (we plan to go there for a couple of days) and notes from an email from our friend, Karl, about where to eat while in NYC.

At this moment, we're waiting out the weather in a little airport FBO in Rushford, Minnesota. Will we end up flying all the way to Saratoga Springs or decide to fly our Pacer back home? If we fly back home will we decide to drive all the way to Saratoga Springs so we can get to the convention? Hard to say. But no matter what happens, I'm sure I'll be able to look at my Airplane Notebook next year and see the notes I wrote about the trip along the way.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Vacation State Picture of the day - 6/25/13

We're gearing up to go on our annual vacation to the Short Wing Piper Club convention. There's always a lot to do before heading out of town and this year we're feeling a little more behind than usual.    The Pacer's annual just got signed off tonight. Owen and I both have to get current in the plane before we head out on our big trip with the family to Saratoga Springs, NY. We have to pack, of course. We have to deliver Rocket the dog to the kennel, George Lucas the Guinea Pig to my parents' house and Zelda the Leopard Gecko to the reptile sitter. Owen's been busy with work and I have been, too. So we're all kind of running around doing our best to get ready to go and feeling more than a bit frazzled.

Well, that's all the more reason to look for some Vacation State of Mind moments in our days!

I snapped this shot of Ryan a couple of days ago because I realized that I was in a perfect Vacation State right at home.

Here are the perfect little snippets of that morning:

  • I had breakfast on our deck with my son, Ryan (Rose, my daughter, is on a mission trip so I have the fun of some alone time with Ryan while she is gone)
  • My dog, Rocket, was curled up at my feet
  • The temperature was perfect
  • My coffee was good
  • I had wonderfully fresh fruit for breakfast and good Greek yogurt
  • Ryan and I were relaxed and enjoying some nice Mom-Son conversation
  • Here I was in Minnesota in late June and the grass, I noticed, was as green as I would expect it to be in Ireland
  • Green grass is beautiful
  • We live on a grass airstrip (it's the wide expanse of grass beyond way behind Ryan) and one of our neighbors took off flying in his Cessna 182 so we had the treat of some airplane noise (a lovely noise when you are into aviation and live on an airstrip)

These are things that a person experiences on actual vacations, I realized. I mean, people would PAY to sit out and have breakfast on a deck and watch a little airplane take off right behind you and here it's happening in my back yard! These are things that when experienced one at a time are a real treat yet, when I get too caught up in my list of things to do, could easily go unappreciated. Fortunately on that morning I was able to take in the special moments and things surrounding me and realize that, yes, life is good even when I'm not in some exotic location on a fancy vacation.

Life is good right on my deck at home.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

The Big Hill

I went out and bought a gravel bike a week and a half ago - a really cool Salsa Vaya 2 - and now I have it in my head that I can do a 50 or even a 100 mile gravel race/ride. Seems reasonable, I tell myself. All I have to do is get out and ride gravel, tackle lots and lots of gravel hills and build up my endurance and milage bit by bit.

So today I planned to go on a gravel ride of some length, maybe 10 miles. Turned out that lawn mowing,  helping my 11 year old son drive the lawn tractor, gardening, and sending my almost 14 year old daughter off on a week-long youth mission trip filled up most of my day. By 8:30 I realized it was a short ride or no ride so I decided to go. I didn't even change out of my gardening clothes. I just put on my helmet, gloves and bicycling shoes, grabbed a water bottle and headed out on Zippy (that's my Vaya's name) for a short spin.

I thought I would just go down the flattish gravel by my house and call it a day but I decided I would ride what I call "The Big Hill" for the first time ever on Zippy, turn around, ride The Bill Hill again and head back home. I've never ridden The Big Hill out and back on any bike without having to stop to rest or get off to push. But I did tonight.

Yay! I rode The Big Hill!

The Big Hill - looking south
But, it's funny how the brain works, or at least my brain, because by the time I got home I was frustrated because I was tired and hot and felt very, very, slow. My ride was short, a mere 3.3 miles. My average speed was only 10.4 mph. I started looking at numbers and started comparing myself to the fast guys and gals and got myself all feeling bad, feeling like I can't do a 50 mile, let alone a 100 mile gravel ride when, really, as long as I keep working at it, I probably can.

It's kind of like my "big hill" in life is comparing myself to people and psyching myself out of starting something before I even start. Like I'm just sitting at the bottom of a hill on my bike and decide to stay there and never start pedaling. Or maybe it's more like I start to compare myself when I'm pedaling up a hill then quit and start coasting backwards. Yeah, that would be a mess - coasting backwards down a steep hill. Crash! Boom! Ouch!

So I have work to do - some wonderful personal development work and some ride my bike so I can go on a 50 mile gravel ride work. 

Something tells me the riding the bike part will be the easier of the two :-)
The Big Hill - looking north. The longer climb.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Funnest Bike Ride Ever!

Here I am riding Bear following Ben in the RBNC. Photo ©Marty Larson

Last night I went on a super fun bike ride. I think it's safe to say it was my best bike ride ever. And by best bike ride I don't mean that I went a ton of miles, set a speed record or did anything that would be considered extraordinary among "good" bicyclists. By best I mean I laughed and smiled more than any other bike ride I've been on. By best I mean funnest. And I know funnest is not a real word but I don't really care because "funnest bike ride ever" seems to be the best way to sum up my ride last night.

What did I do on this funnest bike ride ever? Well Owen and I loaded up our fat bikes (Owen's Mukluk  2 and my Beargrease named Bear) and drove on down to Milltown Cycles in Faribault and joined in on a Tuesday Night Ride. Milltown has these rides on most Tuesdays. Sometimes they ride gravel. Sometimes roads. Sometimes they ride mountain and fat bikes in River Bend Nature Center (awesome place). Last night was a River Bend night. And boy am I glad I decided to go!

We had a good sized group of eleven riders (three women!) of various riding abilities from a guy who bought a mountain bike a week ago to people who do exceptionally well in bike races. On a lot of group rides "various riding abilities" means trouble - riders with less experience (slowish like me) get left behind or aren't even welcome to join in on a ride with fast riders - but not on this ride!

Here the experienced riders helped the newer riders. Faster riders would wait for the slower ones to catch up. No one was left behind. There were opportunities for the faster gals and guys to do some more difficult trails while others stuck to the easier trails but we always regrouped. And we always felt like a group and not like some riders were "better" than others even though they were indeed more skilled.

We started out riding a single track trail (that's a narrow trail) that was kind of difficult. I was totally unprepared and in a high gear and found myself going up a steep hill and came to a standstill and had to push my bike up the hill. That was a somewhat un-fun moment because my stopping meant the guys behind me had to stop (sorry guys!) but they were good-natured about it. The single track was challenging. We even rode through a stream with rocks and stuff (my feet got wet because I had to walk through it). Honestly, had I known we would be riding relatively difficult trails I might have stayed home but once we started there was really no turning back. And once we got going I really started to have fun!
Milltown's Tuesday Night Ride in the RBNC. Photo © Marty Larson
After the single track stretch we rode some double track (wide enough so you can ride side by side), some grass trails and even some paved trails before heading back to double and single track trails.
We rode around for about an hour and I was feeling pretty comfortable. I discovered that if I talk to the people while I'm riding I kind of forget that the trails are kind of difficult and I'm getting tired. I also discovered that the best thing to do on downhills is to laugh out loud and scream. Why? Because it's really fun to laugh out loud and scream when you're riding downhill (and it's a little bit scary so screaming made me feel better).

Along the ride one of the riders asked me if I am going to ride the Almanzo, a 100 mile gravel race on my new gravel bike (I bought a Vaya 2 from Milltown last week. More on that another time)  Let me say this, it felt so good that this guy, Ben, who raced the Tour Divide (that's a mountain bike race from Canada to Mexico. Ben did really, really, well, by the way) takes me seriously enough to ask me if I'm considering a 100 mile gravel ride. That's really cool!

I admitted to Ben that the thing that holds me back the most from riding the Almanzo is fear. There's the fear that I'll just completely not make it 100 miles but the bigger fear is that I will get a flat tire and find myself stuck not knowing how to fix it. The other Ben on our ride (the Ben who introduced me to fat bike riding and is also Milltown's owner) overheard me talking to Ben and said something like, "Myrna, you've got four bikes now and it's about time you got comfortable changing tires."  He's right, of course. I need to learn more about taking care of my bikes. I've been avoiding it in part because I just feel so overwhelmed with life and taking care of everyone and everything else that I'd much rather have someone else take care of my bikes. I mean, do I have to take care of everything?! It feels like it sometimes. And I just don't feel like I have enough leftover energy to learn something new. But I guess it's time I switch gears and learn.

Case in point - guess who had a flat tire about 15 minutes later? Me. Doh! I picked up a tiny thorn in my big fat tire and got a flat. Thankfully we were close to a road so could pull out of the woods and change the tire on gravel (fewer mosquitos than in the woods and more room). Thankfully Ben had a spare fat tube (uh, I wasn't exactly prepared and didn't have a spare. Neither did Owen. Double Doh!). And thankfully Ben was kind enough to talk me through how to change a tire and did most of the change himself (he will be getting a six-pack of beer from me as a thank you) and we were back on the trails in short order.
Coolest Picture Ever taken by Marty Larson on the Funnest Bike Ride Ever
The flat tire was an un-fun moment in this funnest ride ever - but no one complained about waiting while Ben changed my flat, or told me I was stupid for forgetting a tube, or made me feel bad (I can feel bad without any help, thank you very much) about not really knowing how to change my tire. It was getting late so we headed back towards Milltown. The flat was soon forgotten and soon I was smiling and laughing again.

Did I mention I rode through mud, some puddles and a couple more streams? And did I mention that I screamed a lot and laughed a ton? And that I could pedal up all but two of the big hills? And that by the end of the ride I was splattered with mud? And that we were out riding for about two hours and went 10 miles or so? And that this ride (even with a flat tire) was the funnest bike ride ever?

Yep. It was. It really was the funnest bike ride ever. And a lot of the reason it was fun was because fun people were on the ride. Thanks to all of the fun people who made me feel so welcome on Milltown's Tuesday Night Ride last night.

And thanks again, Ben, for changing my tire.

See the cool pictures in this post? They were taken by Marty Larson, a nice guy and darn good cyclist who is also the manager at Tandem Bagels (a bike-themed bagel shop!) in Northfield. Go there sometime and eat their food. You will be happy you did. You will be really happy if you eat a snickerdoodle cookie like I did today. It was yummy.

Coincidence? I don't think so! - Just today I discovered a post on the Salsa Cycles website that hit home with me and had some great advice. Click HERE to read Hey Ladies: First Steps to Confidence

Monday, June 17, 2013

Even a Slow Start is a Start

Way back in January I set a biking milage goal for the year - 1,407 miles. Why the odd number? Well, my friend from high school, Kate, wanted to keep bicycling this year so decided to set a goal for herself to bike enough miles to equal riding from her current home town of Poulsbo, Washington to our childhood home town of Richfield, Minnesota. I saw her post her goal on Facebook and made a comment. Kate encouraged me to do the same challenge - except I would "bike" from Richfield to Poulsbo so we could virtually meet somewhere about half way.

Well the year has gotten off to a slow start for me. I rode my fat bike through the winter but fat bike miles are slow to add up, especially fat bike miles on the icy snow! I got in a good number of miles during April for 30 Days of Biking. And then it snowed. And rained. And rained. And rained. And I really didn't get out on my bike much. So here I am almost to mid-June with only 241 miles logged and am virtually just over the Minnesota border into South Dakota whereas Kate has logged about 450 miles at is virtually in Montana. Kate is making decent progress but I have had a pretty slow start on our bike mileage challenge. But you know what? Even a slow start is a start!

Here's our map showing our progress on our virtual bike ride across the country. Kate's points on the map are green. She's starting in Washington and "riding" east. My points are blue. I'm starting in Minnesota and "riding" west. 
Kate, by the way, is no stranger to biking a lot of miles. Back in 2006 she, her husband, Ron, and their daughter, Elizabeth who was then just six years old, biked 4,401 miles in 102 days on a triplet bike (that's a three person bike). You can read about their incredible biking journey from Jacksonville, Florida to Poulsbo, Washington at "You Can Do Anything."

Such a ride doesn't seem possible to me at this point in my life. But, then again, riding even 5 miles in one day didn't seem possible to me when I first started bicycling less than four years ago. Now, however,  I can get on my bike and ride 20, 30 or 50 miles in a day without much trouble and five miles is pretty easy (most of the time).

Do you have a goal that seems impossible? Well, get out there and give it a go! Worried you can't reach your goal? Start anyway. My theory is even if you start on your way to a goal and don't quite make it it's better than not starting at all!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Vacation State - Look Up

Look Up - beautiful balloons in my back yard

It's been three months since I wrote about my Vacation State of Mind project - a project in which I decided I would pretend I was on vacation for at least a moment each day and look at the things around me as though I'm a visitor instead of a person anxious to go somewhere else.

I meant to post pictures and updates of my Vacation State project several times but, well, I haven't. But I am posting something now!

Here's something that has put me in a Vacation State of Mind many, many times since I started my project - I can always get a Vacation State moment when I Look Up.
Look Up at the ceiling of the Pantages Theatre in Minnapolis

Let me explain...
I spent a January Term in England back in 1996 and one of the things I remember most about that trip was something a tour guide said. I was on a group tour of Oxford. As we were walking around Oxford our tour guide said that one thing we should remember to do as we walked through Oxford is to look up. When you look up, he said, you see all sorts of great things in the architecture of the buildings. You might notice paintings on a ceiling. Gargoyles looking at you from above. All sorts of cool things that you would not have noticed if you kept looking at the things at eye level.

Look Up really hit home for me while walking through one of the buildings. I looked up and saw a bust of author J.R.R. Tolkien. Our tour guide mentioned Tolkien studied at and later was a professor at Oxford and I realized that I was standing right where Tolkien may have walked. The realization gave me the chills and is one of my favorite memories of my month-long trip to England.

Since then, I've made a point to look up and see what wonderful things I can discover in building architecture. I haven't found any busts of Tolkien but I have discovered amazing details in buildings - dates and names above doors, gothic creatures carved of marble, fancy filigree trim at the top of buildings - wherever I travel now. It's pretty easy for me to imagine I'm on vacation to some exotic location when I look up and see wonderful architectural details on old buildings.

But what about when I'm not in a great town with historical buildings?  When I'm in a town where the architecture is new like my home town of Richfield? I find that if I take a moment to look up I see the sky, the clouds, maybe the sun shining through trees and those views also remind me that wonderful vacation like moments can be had right at home.

Take a moment to enjoy a Vacation State of Mind - Look up!
Sculpture Garden at Anderson Center in Red Wing, MN
Double Rainbow - another Vacation State wonder in my own back yard

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Signs of Spring

We've had such wet weather lately that I haven't been out on the bike much. Last Sunday was gloomy again so I decided I was going to ride my Beargrease in the rain because my need to move exceeded my desire to stay dry. I had a few changes to make to my bike before the ride (Switching out a stem, putting ergo handle grips on and adding a front fender). That all took some time and by the time I was done the rain had stopped. Bonus!

Bear and I headed out on tar to a short, somewhat hilly gravel loop near home. With my lack of serious riding I am out of shape so was glad I had my iPhone along as it have me a perfect excuse to stop and take pictures (and rest) along the way.

I had a great ride, albeit short with a few stops. But really, isn't the ride more about stopping and enjoying the scenery than going fast sometimes? Actually, I think going slow is under appreciated when it comes to biking. When it comes to life. So slow I went. And often I stopped to take pictures to remind me that spring is on the way.