13,298 Calories and More….

I’m now back home in ‘Bama-land, otherwise known as “middle earth” which is my “pet name” for Alabama after moving here from Southern California just over two years ago. I can now say that I’ve cycled California’s central coast. This was a bucket list activity, the seeds of which were planted in part by Breakfast Buddy Ed some years ago. Admittedly, he cycled a longer distance of the California Coast, about 400 miles from San Francisco to Manhattan Beach, and maybe even further down the coast. Plus, as far as I know, he didn’t stay in one hotel along the way! Roughing it was not going to happen for this woman; I need a hot shower and a real bed at the end of a day. I feel no shame in taking the softie–or shall we say sane–approach. I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of my cycling vacation (thank you Rocket-man!).

Jessica's Cheerful touch to every picnic lunch

Jessica’s Cheerful touch to every picnic lunch

Some folks’ idea of a vacation is to go to a destination spot (the beach, say) and totally veg out. Unquestionably, there is merit for that approach, and yes…I have done it. But, there is also enormous satisfaction in the alternate approach….working your ass off….literally. Those six days of cycling allowed us to challenge our bodies, pushing ourselves to a new edge, if only for a day when the ride included climbing for miles and miles. In the process, we burned lots of calories. In fact, I enjoyed a total caloric burn of approximately 13,298 calories during six days of cycling (I could probably safely get away with rounding UP!)….and that’s just calories burned during the ride.  Not too shabby for being 57 and not being able to run anymore.  There were also at least three 4-mile long walks on the beach and let’s not forget hoofing- it though airports and hauling heavy luggage.

Naturally I tried to eat less but I wasn’t always very successful, especially when we got to the Brown Butter Cookie Company in Cayucos. Yes, their cookies were pricey but Oh My God wonderful. I highly recommend the peanut butter cookies.  I’m ashamed to admit just how many cookies I ate that day!  We even enjoyed pie at Linn’s Fruit Bin and Bakery in Cambria, cycling most of it off on the way back to our hotel which included a mighty steep hill.

The Biker Chick gang and moi, plus Rocket-man and our guide Jeff , after eating pie at Linn's Fruit Bin.

The Biker Chick gang and moi, plus Rocket-man and our guide Jeff , after eating pie at Linn’s Fruit Bin.

In addition, our Bicycle Adventures guides prepared delicious picnic lunches and dinners out were fabulous too.

Too pretty to eat!

Too pretty to eat!

And, when I stayed with dear friends at the tail end of our cycling vacation, I enjoyed their cooking as well. Breakfast Buddy Ed filled our growling tummies with a wonderfully prepared grilled skirt steak and baked potatoes (I all but inhaled Breakfast Buddy Ed’s meal) and Biker Chick Silvie prepare the most amazing Eggplant Parmesan I’ve ever eaten!  I wanted a third helping but knew that would be overstepping guest boundaries (darn that rule!). Still, though nothing to hooray about, I managed to lose two pounds. More importantly, I most certainly increased my level of endurance and improved my cardiovascular performance. There were some days that my quads burned well past time off the bike saddle and muscles in my hands and arms were mighty sore from gripping the brakes in scared-out-my-mind mode during those long, steep descents. But, as crazy as it sounds to some folks, this is the reason I do this stuff; I want to be strong–mentally and physically–well into my 80‘s. Point in fact, the father of one of our Biker Chicks, in his eighties, joined us for a day of cycling. How awesome is that?!

Anyhow, wouldn’t it be wonderful to keep these gains throughout the holiday months ahead? That would be a cinch living in Southern California with it’s near perfect year-round weather. Here, in “middle earth”….much more difficult. So the challenge begins: how to stay in shape during the next two months of holiday feasting and on into the new year? I’m already salivating over winter pasta and risotto recipes that I want to prepare not to mention all the sweet and savory fare for Thanksgiving and Christmas.

So, instead of sitting on my bum writing this –and getting caught up in Facebook and Twitter which can suck-up time quicker than a Dyson — I need to skedaddle myself on out the door and into the gym. I’ll get nowhere near 13,298 calories for the week but I’m sure to burn way less sitting on my tush!

Grab the gym bag and GO!

Later… peeps!

Happier than the Sun

Part of our cycling route along California's Central Coast

Part of our cycling route along California’s Central Coast

Oh what a delight to see the ocean again! My heart nearly exploded with happiness, Here I am cycling with my California Biker Chick friends once again.  It’s as if I never left California. And for brief moments along the day, I found myself forgetting that two years have flown by; . I’m still in Redondo Beach and it was just business as usual cycling with this wonderful group of strong, beautiful and intelligent women.  What a treat….in fact, I have to pinch myself.  I’m one lucky woman!

So, day one of cycling California’s central coast was an easy-breezy 31 or so miles from Marina Dunes Park to Carmel along route 1. I’ll swear I was happier than the sun as I cycled along the ocean. Stunning vistas….spectacular colors of blue…from light to dark and greens sometime as deep as emerald, greeted us once we made our way to the ocean..  My heart flipped in somersault fashion as I cycled along the coast.   I loved the dramatic ocean sprays as water crashed into rocks. and I almost envied the Seals sitting on rocks basking in the late morning sun.  Ah what a life you’ve got Mr. Seal,  I thought as I cycled passed the last one sitting a top a rock.  And later in the afternoon, I loved how the light danced on the water making in sparkle as if gazillions of diamonds had fallen from the heavens.

Since I’ve been away from California and big cities in general  for over two years. I’ll confess to being overwhelmed by seeing so many people out and about.  Good grief….am I that isolated living in “middle earth?” I thought to myself.  I remind myself again that it’s only temporary….like so many things.

There were parts of the path that we were cycling on as we made our way out of the urban areas that were clogged with people and I was  nervous as I negotiated the path trying not to hit anyone or be hit. in the process.  There were so many people of every shape, color and age out in the streets…cycling, walking, leisurely strolling, running, skating….surfboards or morning coffee in hand…..or leashed, happy tail-wagging dogs..  The place was abuzz with activity  with people–and cars–  everywhere!   True,  it was Sunday and to be expected on a gloriously beautiful day,  but this is the life I remember from my eight years in California. No matter what day of the week or what sides of the tracks one lives on,  there are  active,  vibrant people out  truly  embracing, in what ever way they can , what life has to offer.    THIS is California. And yes….it’s easy to do with perfect weather nearly 365 days of the year.

The next several days of cycling will include adding more miles to the day and  lots of climbing.   Legs and hearts are sure to be tested..  I’m ready…and if my legs give out, I’ll still be happier than the sun.  The ocean has  already thoroughly lifted my spirits..

Bliss, bliss…bliss.

Return to California

The day started early, even before the chickens were up. Before dawn broke Rocket-man and I were on a plane headed for California, San Jose to be specific. For two days leading up to our departure I couldn’t help humming that song from the sixties: Dionne Warwick’s Do You Know The Way To San Jose…. It’s now stuck in my head in one of those endless loops….

So Rocket-man and I are finally taking a week to kick back (sort of) and spend some quality time together. This will be a working vacation, physically working our bodies that is. We’ll be cycling for six days from Big Sur to Santa Barbara with Bicycle Adventures. This will be our fifth cycling vacation, our third with Bicycle Adventures. They offer a great service and we’ve enjoyed every one of our trips with them (I’d include the link to their website but I’m having technical issues with this old iPad!). And sidebar….what happened to my photos?! AY, ay….Seems I didn’t get them synced? I’m definitely having user issues. Oh well. It is what it is, I say!

Back to topic….

Mind you, I am in not shape to be cycling six consecutive days. My knees are shot and I’ve put very little time in the saddle due to the family issues that have dominated much of my time this year. So this should be an interesting week. I’m looking forward to the challenges for sure, but mostly I’m excited that I’ll be cycling with great California friends–terrific women–the Biker Chicks, once again.

So, within an hour of being in California my heart is lighter than its been for a few months. I love being in a city again with lots of restaurant options and an eclectic mix of people, shopping, and architecture. It’s lovely to be back to the land of palm trees and beautiful weather (although it’s awfully dry because of drought conditions). And, in a few days I’ll see what my heart has been yearning for since I left California two years ago: the ocean. “My” ocean.

The downside of being back in California? It’s expensive. That’s not something I had forgotten. In fact, it was one of the reasons we decided to leave the state. Still, I thought it was just a tad ridiculous to pay $21.00 for a five minute taxi ride from the airport to the hotel. And, at the hotel store, an additional 10 cent charge because I didn’t provide my own bag for my purchase. Continue reading

Organ Music?

I’ve been officially 57 for not even a week now and so far it’s not been altogether exciting. In fact, it’s just a bit depressing. I’m really not trying to be a chronic complainer here.  My knees are particularly unhappy at the moment and I’m wondering if I’ll even get through six consecutive days of cycling on our upcoming Bicycle Adventures trip. Cranky knees aside, It’s just that this week seems to be about organs, and unfortunately, I don’t mean the musical instrument.

Just a few days ago I had a follow-up with my dermatologist. I’ve been using a gnarly prescription cream on my arms and face to address keratoses. It’s the downside of being a red-head. Life would have been a tad easier on me if I’d only been lucky enough to inherit my mothers olive skin and dark hair.

The skin is the largest organ in the body and a good 50% of mine is fighting the effects of sun damage. I’ve been fairly diligent with sunscreen application from my mid-twenties on, so it’s those childhood blistering burns on my back, hands, arms, and nose to blame for the majority of this damage. My dermatologist started me on this prescription cream regimen some months back. It’s strong, awfully nasty stuff.  So nasty that after just several applications my skin looks something like pepperoni pizza. For a couple of days I even wore cotton gloves to hide the ugliness. I didn’t want folks to think I had some strange communicable disease. The protocol during the initial start involved two sessions of two weeks on and two weeks off. Frankly, It was all that I could stand getting through two weeks. I certainly felt like a wimp. While I was in Arizona for months dealing with the family crisis and ensuing mamma-drama I started loosing chunks of hair, far greater than normal. Let’s just say I was losing enough hair to fully cover dear Rocket-mans’ bald head.

“This is really freaking me out,” I wailed to Rocket-man as I stepped out of the shower on a recent morning. While he noted that there indeed seemed to be a lot of hair on the shower floor he honestly wasn’t concerned.

“I’m the one with no hair,” he laughs pointing at his head.  “You’ve got plenty of hair on your pretty head sweetie. You’ve got nothing to worry about.”

I laughed with him.  “If only I could take all this hair I’m losing and put it on your head,” I said as I scooped up the hair from the shower floor with a tissue.  “……but no…really, I don’t think you’d even look good with a full head of hair,” I added.  Rocket-man smiled and gave me a big hug.  I’m so glad my husband has a sense of humor.

Honestly, I attributed the hair loss to stress.  I’ve certainly had more than enough of it from all those months of drama and physical work following my step-father’s passing. So when I went in for my follow-up last week I was frank with the doctor telling him that I wasn’t sure if this regimen was working considering that my skin still looks red and mighty agitated even after nearly two months of stopping the cream application.

“It doesn’t look like any of this is healing.” I said as I pulled up my sleeves to show him my arms.

“Hmm. No…. I think it’s doing fine,” he says scanning both arms. “This is how your skin is supposed to look. And yes…it’s strong stuff, but the chemotherapy is working.”

Chemotherapy?!

I felt like a complete idiot.

“Chemotherapy? I don’t recall you ever stating it that way. You mean the actual function of this cream is chemo treatment?” I asked.

“Yes.” replied the doctor.

Maybe this is one of those ignorance is bliss moments. I’m not sure it would have done my head any good to deal with the “C” word all the while I was dealing with mother issues in Arizona.

“Well that explains that!” I said, brightly.   I told him that I had been losing hair and thought it was due to the stress of dealing with a family crisis. I had actually looked up side effects of the cream on-line and it mentioned that hair loss at the application site (in this instance, my arms) may be a side effect. But my hair loss was on my head and I certainly wasn’t applying the cream there.

The doctor went on to say that most likely my hair loss was a combination of stress and the use of the chemotherapy cream.

Lovely.

“Give it another month or so and you should see an improvement in the hair department,” he said. “Meanwhile, If you’d like I could give you an injection to tame that redness on your arms.”

No thanks.

And the other organ you’re asking?

It’s the one that is about 6 ft. long and tubular (amazing, eh?); it works to eliminate waste products from the body.

Yep…that one.

Nothing spanks (pardon the pun)  d-e-p-r-e-s-s-i-n-g than to have to make an appointment for a routine screening procedure at a place called the Digestive Diseases Center. Truly, it’s messing with my head. Couldn’t the docs have come up with a better name for their practice than that?

In any event, now it’s all about staying very close to the bathroom. It’s a good thing there is a Deepak Chopra book nearby to bring calm to my fraying nerves, as well as an entertaining read given to me by a friend; Ros Chast’s memoir titled “Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?”  While it is not a book about the “C” word, the title alone, I think, is fitting for this occasion. And, later today I’ll have to drink two batches of disgustingly nasty swill in preparation for that lovely gold standard procedure….Colonoscopy…. that starts my day bright and early tomorrow.

The silver lining? I’ll expect to get on the scales tomorrow and see that I’m several pounds lighter.  Even better…my innards will be spic ‘n span, clean as a whistle.

Now that–and pretty please, zero polyps–will be cause for a musical celebration, organs and all.