A Sore Butt Equals a Happy Heart

My Oh my what a month March was!

Made it to 8,100 ft. elevation without walking. Full disclosure: The bike guide had to help me hoist the bike up for the photo as I was toast!

So, we’re just back from our second—yes, second— get-outta-Dodge excursion. Like animals escaping from a zoo, we bolted outside of the perimeter of our county when Covid vaccinations —including ours—were becoming more widespread. We braved flights in air not once, but twice; first to “Land of the Free” Florida and then to the Saguaro-dotted hills of Tuscon, Arizona. Masks were plentiful, some social distancing too, but for the most part it was business as usual for both states. Everything was open and common-sense practices in effect. It made me think once again how grateful I was NOT to be living under the draconian rules of places like California or New York.

How lovely it was to walk on the beach for a few days with freshly painted Pompeii Purple toe nails happy to splash in still chilly seawater. A drive up the coast to check out the quaint historic town of St. Augustine was also on our weekend agenda. Though it was windy and cold (I had not dressed appropriately for chilly weather) we managed to enjoy a leisurely lunch there and a tour of the Lightner museum as well as a quick stop at the historic St. Augustine lighthouse. Honestly, I could kick myself for dressing in shorts and not bringing a jacket; if I’d prepared properly we would have spent much more time strolling around and learning more about the oldest continuously-inhabited European-established settlement in the contiguous United States. Founded in 1565 by Spanish admiral, Pedro Menéndez de Avilés–who would also become Florida’s first governor, this charming city was a mention by my daughter to consider for the next phase of our lives. At first blush upon arrival, we thought indeed it could be! However, after talking with an overly chatty local over a lunch of delicious fish sandwiches and a crisp Chardonnay, we thought better of it as 81 hurricanes have been recorded in St. Augustine since 1930!

A few weeks after our long weekend get-away to Florida we traveled to Arizona. March 2020 was supposed to be our fifth excellent bicycle vacation with Bicycle Adventures but of course that got summarily squashed due to a global pandemic. Hubby pushed the trip to October 2020 and that too was ceremoniously squashed because of issues with my son. Hubby insisted a third time would be the charm even as I kicked and “screamed” NO! to keeping the booking for March 2021. He needed the mental break in the worst way not to mention being loathe to losing the cycling deposit. As for moi? I had not trained for six continuous days of cycling (truth be told, I had not trained at all!) nor was my mildly depressed mindset interested in…well…frankly anything following all the drama of the past year. I was resigned to my pity-party state, which was, of course, exactly why Hubby, with a stern final voice, insisted “WE ARE GOING!”

So, here I am…just returned from six days in the bike saddle, touring miles upon many miles around the uniquely harsh but magnificent landscape of the Sonoran desert. My butt is mighty sore but my heart is happy and my spirits hopeful in spite of the many unknowns that lie ahead for us. Hours of bright, warm sunshine plus long challenging rides —to include a continual 4.25 hours of an uphill climb to 8,100 ft., up Tuscon’s beautiful Mt. Lemmon in the Coronado National Forest, will do that to body and soul.

This was, one of the rare times, that I said to Hubby: “Yes…you were right.”

There is (particularly for him) bliss in that.

p.s. I’ll share more photos of the week once I figure out why, all of the sudden, my iPhone images with HEIC extension are not allowed on WordPress. Harrumph.

Bicycle Adventures 2021

Obstacle Kind of Morning

Broken glass, despised by cyclists the world over.
(photo courtesy of Purecyles.com)

Glass and nails….glass and nails….glass…glass…glass and…

rabbit’s foot.

Now that was random.

Hmm.  Where is the rest of him (or her)?

I took a nano-second scan for the rest of the body.  It was nowhere in my line of sight.  It would be the fourth roadkill sighting (not including a deer that also met an unfortunate end) of the morning and I had been on the bike for less than an hour.

So…Hubby and I are attempting to get our sorry butts into shape for our upcoming cycling vacation in Scotland.  I’ve been across the pond many times but this will be my first visit to Scotland and our first across the pond cycling vacation.  We are woefully behind on training for cycling miles and miles for seven consecutive days. 

At this point, it is what it isI tell myself.

Our plan for the morning was a forty-mile distance.  Though it began refreshingly cool I struggled to enjoy the crisp spring air as I found it difficult amid the din of highway traffic.  Anxiety and tension pulled on every fiber of my being as eighteen-wheelers screamed past me.  I kept hyper vigilant for traffic as a myriad of obstacles such as potholes, road debris (lots of glass and nails) and downed tree branches from a recent storm that littered some of the bicycle paths and road shoulders.

As I peddled I found my head and heart were back in Southern California where cycling was mostly joy-filled.  From spectacular ocean views and frequent dolphin sightings, post-ride coffee and muffins with my circle of cycling buddies to year-round perfect weather, it was truly a cycling paradise.  Sure, there was traffic to contend with but somehow, even with all the cars, it was much more enjoyable than my present moment.  

At a stoplight, I take a sip of water and turn to see that hubby has caught up behind me. 

“I’m not having much fun at this today,” I tell him.

He is surprised. “What do you mean? he asks as he squirts water into his mouth from his bottle. 

“The noise of this traffic is almost deafening.  It’s just not relaxing…not like it was in California.”

My photo, taken during our Big Sur ride

“There was plenty of traffic there too.” he reminds me.

“Yes, but not all these monstrously huge eighteen-wheelers,” I reply.

We’re off again as the light turns green. We turn off the main road onto a designated bike path. It’s somewhat narrow and trees hang low over the path so we’re having to duck every now and then to avoid getting slapped in the face by a tree branch. I’m again well ahead of hubby when I see not to far ahead of me that there is a painfully-thin elderly man leaning against a rail. His walker is on the other side of the path. For a moment I think that he is in trouble but as I get closer I can see he’s fine. He’s smoking a honking big cigar and looks to be happy as a clam.

The rest of the ride went smooth enough…save for a mini melt-down on my part. And yes…of course It was dog-related. So dear reader, if you’ve followed a tenth of my thoroughly uninteresting life you’ll remember that my years of cycling in Alabama were so beset with dog issues that I pretty much gave up on the bike for two years. My beauty of a bike languished in the garage collecting dust and I’m sure she pined for her Southern California days as much as I did.

So here we were, with around ten more miles to home…We had already made the turn-around on the bike path back when I spot a woman walking with her dog. The dog, a large brown lab, was not right at her side and was not on a leash. In fact, said leash was in the woman’s hand whilst the dog frolicked in the weeds directly on the other side of the path from it’s handler. I slowed my pace considerably and loudly announced my approach as in: “On your left.”


Hmm. Let me try this again. Slowing more….I now shout: “Coming on your left.”

The woman turns her head. Ah. Okay, Whew….she sees me.

…but she does absolutely nothing to contain her dog. Hubby has caught up now and is directly behind me. “The dog is off-leash,” he says calm as can be. I’m certain he knows that my head is about to explode.

“No shit,” I mumble under my breath trying hard not to let fear overwhelm.

As I cautiously pass the woman, I was fairly sharp in my rebuke (but without expletives, so that’s good….right?) I added, as I peddled away something to the effect that though I’m not confrontational by nature if her unleashed dog would have come within a half-inch of me I’d be calling the police. I’m sure she did not quake in her boots but dog’s off-leash when cyclists are present is not something to take lightly. It can cause considerable harm to a cyclist who is clipped in. I still recall a huge hematoma one cycling buddy received on her thigh (requiring a hospital stay, I might add) as a result of a dog giving chase. And, ever-fresh in my mind is the day I received a healthy dose of pepper spray to the eyes as a cyclist buddy in front of me attempted to deter being attacked by a large dog.

Don’t get me wrong: I am a dog-lover….after all, The Poodle is the four-legged love of my life. And, I love to see pooches happily running free and unrestrained (like the beauty pictured below courtesy of a photo by Jamie Street) but there is a time and a place for untethered freedom and if for nothing else, when you see people on bikes, one should have the courtesy (and commonsense) to immediately properly restrain their pet. Dogs are animals after all. One never knows when they’ll get a bee in their bonnet to do something out of their normal behavior pattern! Like attack a cyclist perhaps.

Photo by Jamie Street on Unsplash

When we rolled into our driveway, I let out a long, slow sigh of relief.

“Another ride in the books and thankful to arrive without a fall,” I said to hubby.

“Amen to that and no flats,” he replies.

Ah yes…no flat tires. There is bliss in that!

Saddle Time

Clearly Commando

I stood at the spot for a good ten minutes. I was hoping she would return.  Perhaps I should give her another five minutes …maybe she’ll emerge from around the bend at which point I could wave her down…..

I thought of walking in the direction she went but given the myriad of paths she could have taken I’d be wasting my efforts not to mention that it was turning out to be another scorcher of a day.  The Poodle was already panting heavily from the short distance we’d covered so far.

“Well, that’s unfortunate,” I say to The Poodle as I bag my good intention and we continue towards home. “I’m sure she would have wanted to know that little piece of information.”

As I walk home I think about my preference and the flak I sometimes receive from going against the grain as it were.  I’m okay with that but it’s interesting how my preference irks folks.  I suppose It’s all about them wanting to show how “right” they are.

Okay, I am SURE you’re scratching your heads…..as in….Where in the world is she going with this?

So as I walked The Poodle this morning I spotted a woman out cycling.  She had just turned the corner not far in front of me.  I’ll admit to feeling wistful in that moment.  I haven’t been in the saddle (cycling) for a year now.  Between the move, family issues, and all the home repairs  going on (not to mention feeling just a wee bit depressed over being miserably out-of-shape) there just hasn’t been a good time.

As she cycles by I turn to look at her and it’s then that I see….

Oh my! That is particularly bad. In fact, the worst I have ever seen.

She should know.  How could she not know?!

Someone needs to tell her.

Which is why I stood for over ten minutes hoping she’d be cycling back in my direction.

Alas, I did not see her again.

Perhaps some of you die-hard cycling folks know what I’m referring to.  In fact, I’ll bet my next paycheck (Oh…wait…I’m not working now)….well, you get my drift.

So for those not in the know…..

Her cycling shorts were COMPLETELY threadbare in the back.  And yes, the material was so worn thin that you could see her derrière, bare as the day she was born.

In a nutshell:  The cycling world is somewhat divided on the issue of wearing undies under cycling shorts.  Those in the “commando” camp assert that its more hygienic to go sans underwear since there is a chamois pad that fits close to the body which is specifically designed to absorb sweat. It’s thought that wearing underwear doesn’t allow for sweat absorption, which may increase one’s chances of developing a urinary tract infection (UTI).    But really, their most compelling reason is to prevent chafing in the nether regions.   While I can absolutely attest to the merits of these arguments, the other camp–those who do wear undies– mostly women, simply feel more comfortable, modesty-wise.  If rides are short, wearing undies is more convenient when changing from bike shorts to other attire if, for example, you’re heading into the office.  In addition, that extra layer keeps bike shorts cleaner which means fewer trips to the washing machine, with an added bonus that your bike shorts lasts longer.

I’m sure you’re chomping at the bit to know….

Which camp am I in?

Suffice it so say that I’ve tried it both ways–from 100 miles in the saddle to ten, and I still feel more at ease with undies on.  With all the miles I have put in the saddle, I have never had a UTI.  Saddle sores?  Well…of course, but who hasn’t?!  Still, chafing is entirely manageable since I use plenty of Butt Butter (yes…folks, that’s what it’s called).  Multiple and generous applications of butt butter definitely helps keep the chafing down.

Butter to prevent chafing in one’s nether regions….


And why, might you ask, don’t I prefer the favored commando approach?

My personal preference is to strike a balance between modesty and function.  Obviously, I could have plenty of pairs of cycling shorts/pants in my cycle drawer and I could (and do) closely inspect them for wear before putting them on.  Still, I’ve seen far too many butts due to thread-bare cycling shorts.   I honestly don’t want the unintended consequence of barring my buttocks–as lovely as Rocket-man thinks it is– to the world.



An unintended consequence of going commando…..

Mega Pet Peeve

Another hot and ridiculously humid day today in middle-earth land. Instead of spending it indoors, which was my first inclination, I subjected myself to the heat with a morning cycle ride with a group of ladies. We cycled just shy of 39 miles, finishing minutes before noon, with the sun beating down upon us through blue skies and clouds resembling puffy white cotton balls. There wasn’t a dry woman amongst us; we were all drenched with sweat from head to toe. How lovely it would have been to fall backwards into a swimming pool à la the Lipton ice tea plunge. Remember that? Thankfully the ride was uneventful…meaning, no dogs gave chase and heart rates didn’t soar off the charts out of fear and peddling for one’s life.

These lovely women don’t know how close I am to hanging up my bike because of the unleashed dog problem in my area. Or maybe they do. I’ll admit that I talk about my fear nearly every ride. In my defense—should you think I’m a wee bit off in the head—I have been attacked by a dog and that experience is still so fresh in my mind even though it happened three years ago!  So all rationality goes out the window when a dog comes running after me and I turn into an emotional mess. Believe it or not, I do try not to become overly fixated about these “redneck” dogs. Still, often the fear catches a hold of me and once it does, I just can’t relax.  And yes, I have a cute little stun gun that I got on Amazon.com in my jersey pocket.  One would think this would ease the tension a bit but little good is it when a dog comes charging out of nowhere; I’m clipped in… and when there is an angry dog at your heels in a flash, there is simply not enough time to safely respond to the situation with the stun gun.  God help me if my vocal cords fail me.
Case in point:  Last weeks’ ride featured a large dog that came out of nowhere. In the blink of an eye he was out in the road, determined to get a piece of someone. Our very accomplished ride leader successfully yelled the dog out of her way and we thought the dog was retreating but apparently he had second thoughts about the whole thing and decided for another go of it. Barking wildly and clearly not friendly, he aimed for the next in line, which was me. He was a breath away from my right ankle. I screamed so hard that I thought I had damaged my vocal cords.

This is so NOT fun people.

We stopped not even two minutes later as we saw a parked patrol car. The officer was sitting in his car doing something on his cell phone. Our breaths were still somewhat labored with emotion from the encounter as we reported the incident. We were met with a languid, unconcerned response.

“You should call animal control,” was all the officer said. Seriously. It took everything I had not to unleash an expletive or two. A fleeting image of being behind bars in an Alabama jail cell came to mind so I thought better of it. I did manage a mildly cloaked sarcastic response: “Thank you for your help officer” before riding off.

Folks, I’d really love to be able to enjoy the Alabama countryside (and, for those who know me, that’s a huge thing for me to admit!). It’s no joy to be constantly scanning for Cujo-like dogs whose purpose in life seems to be to terrorize cyclists. Some of the ladies, long time locals, are of course very familiar with all of the various cycling routes so they know where the bad dogs are. They often alter routes to avoid dog encounters. But invariably, despite planning and precautions there is a bad dog encounter. It’s not unusual to hear: Where did he come from? That dog (or worse, plural—those dogs) wasn’t there last week!

Alabama Barn

Alabama Barn

Though I still fiercely miss the beauty of Southern California, there is much beauty to behold in the Alabama countryside. There are acres upon acres of soy, corn, and cotton fields. There are beautiful barns–some bright red, some strikingly white, and there are the old, fallen down ones too.  There are quaint little white churches and farm homesteads as well as dilapidated abodes which cause my mind to wonder as to the history behind their life and sad decline. Beautiful Crepe Myrtles dot the countryside and when they are in bloom it seems the entire countryside is awash in pink and white.   And, It’s always lovely to pass by lush green pastures where cows, seeking respite from the sun, rest their hefty bodies under the shade of trees, or horses …casually strolling in their fenced-in pastures, their long tails gently swatting at flies as they nibble on whatever treat is before them. And lets not forget the occasional goats, donkeys and chickens, and even Alpacas and Llamas. One such farm is a favorite on our route, where a good-sized herd of these animals live a sweet, cozy life on a farm that spins their wool into lovely yarns for sale as well as scarves and such. So cozy is this place that it is in fact the Cozy Cove Farm and this ride has been dubbed the Mama Llama ride. This setting, and more, are interesting sights to take in and enjoy during our morning or evening cycle rides.  But for me, always on the lookout for bad dogs, I’m often too tense to take pleasure in the beauty around me.  Sigh.

Llama beauty

Llama beauty

Our ride leaders—ladies and gents alike— do an awesome job of planning and leading rides in the Huntsville cycling community. They are working hard to establish Alabama as a cycling friendly state. We currently rank an abysmal 49th in that department (thank God for Mississippi!).  But it seems to be a difficult task making dog owners accountable for their pets which is beyond my comprehension. Cyclists are getting injured because of dog attacks!  I pray every time I get on a bike that someone doesn’t lose their life because of a dog taking them down. And, paraphrasing here, as one gal put it: It’s sad when you’re more afraid of dogs than cars.

Suffice it to say that irresponsible dog owners is one mega PET PEEVE of mine!

Lazy Streak?

I’ve got a lazy streak.  Really?  Yes.  There. It’s out.

Rocket-man would disagree of course. “You’re anything but lazy,” he says. “You’ve run 29 marathons, five ultra-marathons, and you’ve completed two triathlons.” OK. So, I’m obviously not talking about physical activities. Yes. I used to be extremely active. Not as much as I’d like now, as most of you know, due to the abysmal state of my knees. But, truth be told, for a while now I haven’t had the fire in my belly for taking myself to a new limit in terms of endurance activities. Perhaps that would change if my knees cooperated…or, maybe not. In my 58th year I don’t need to prove my physicality, even to myself. Case in point, our recent five-day cycling trip to Maryland.

It was THE most laid back cycling trip I have ever been on. The roads were not overly challenging and we really didn’t put in a lot of miles on the bike compared to other cycling vacations. First off, it was mighty cold the first few days of our cycling adventure so plans for early morning rides were thankfully dropped in favor of other activities. I was OK with it all, somewhat to my surprise, as there were a lot of different activities to enjoy. We hiked part of the Appalachian Trail (a lovely 7.5 mile stretch that included steep switchbacks AND, an encounter with a snake); we toured the U.S. Naval Academy and the battlefields of Gettysburg, where some 51,000 souls were lost in July 1863 (some 6,000 men perished and the rest were wounded or captured). We also enjoyed a leisurely ride around the monuments in Washington, D.C. In all, It was a refreshing change of pace to slow things down a bit.

Back to the lazy streak.

I actually do have one. For example, I start books and get lazy about finishing them…. in the same year.  I’ve got stacks of books on my nightstand and scattered about the house. I read a few pages of one and then move on to another. I download books to Kindle and start reading with focused delight only to let the e-book languish while I go back to my nightstand stack. As you can imagine, at this pace it takes me a while to get through a book. I’m working hard to change this embarrassing little habit and I’m actually getting better; I finished two books in the last month. I’m feeling mighty pleased with myself.

I am also terribly lazy about laundry. Mind you, I do manage to get the clothes washed but am loath to fold, press and put them away in a timely manner. It’s a chore that has no finish line in sight for heaven’s sake!  Fortunately Rocket-man, years a bachelor, has no problem with folding clothes. I can also be somewhat lazy about cooking. I consider myself pretty darn good in the kitchen (just ask my Italian cousins about my Tiramisù!).  I’ll add a shout-out here to my beautiful and talented sister. She’s a better cook because of her improvisational skills. My ability to whip up wonderful meals goes in spurts.  I make homemade tortellini and love all sorts of risotto recipes.   I’ll prepare lovely dinners each night to enjoy for a week or so and then I fall back into laziness: Let’s order pizza or go out for brunch. Or, how about chips and salsa followed by chocolate chip cookie dough ice-cream for dinner.  After so many years of cooking and cleaning, and cleaning and cooking.  I’m tired of spending a lot of time in the kitchen.

But I do love to eat. I’m half-Italian after all. So it came as a bit of a surprise that I could be a bit lazy about eating, or….more perhaps more specifically…working for food.

I found this out about myself during our cycling trip. Our trip guide and organizer, a lovely woman whose moniker is Hound-dog (judge her not by this name as she is beautiful, inside and out) put together quite the cycling trip for us which included two every interesting gastronomic experiences. The former was as casual as it gets and the later quite the opposite.

Our fearless leader: Hound-Dog

Our fearless leader: Hound-Dog


For now, I’ll stick to our casual dining experience at Avery’s Maryland Grill in Frederick, Maryland. Once there, you needn’t be a rocket-scientist to figure out their specialty. This place is all about crabs and boy did we have a lot of it that night (well, except for me!).

The lot of us, thirteen in all, sat at a long, paper covered table with silverware and our own little wooden mallet (for breaking up the crab) at each place setting. There were also many pots of warm melted butter followed by plentiful baskets of hush-puppies, fries and sweet cornbread. Oh…and least we not forget our veggies, coleslaw. I’ve eaten Maryland crab before and I knew we were all in for a treat. It’s just that I normally get crab cakes and not THE crab, boiled in heavenly amounts of Old Bay Seafood seasoning (a blend of herbs and spices that is also responsible for fluid-retention in humans).

Great for seafood....and fluid retention

Great for seafood….and fluid retention

Hound-Dog did her very best to show the novices among us (including moi) how to extract the meat from the crab. Or, more specifically, how to shell a crab. In fact, she provided detailed instructions, which I watched with rapt attention. Rocket-man needed no instruction (he does have a Ph.D. after all). One of the California Biker Chicks, Ms. Moon, who sat across from me, watched Hound-Dog intently as she expertly showed how to pull apart the crab’s main cavity and clear out the guts and “mustard”…which was thoroughly disgusting to me  Who knew that some folks consider the “mustard” a delicacy!  Ms. Moon’s eyes grew wide in mock horror as she watched Hound-Dog. If Ms. Moon had looked across the table at me, she would have seen the same reaction.  Ms. Nancy who sat next to her was also a good sport, using her crab mallet with genuine gusto. She was having fun and her eyes were twinkling as she pounded away.

I’ll admit this wasn’t what I had in mind for dinner but I sincerely wanted to make the effort to learn how to eat crab.



I can do this…YES…I CAN.

I looked down the table at our cycle mates. Everyone was having a grand time. There was plenty of laughter and enthusiastic oohs and ahhs as folks were getting the hang of extracting the crab-meat. Those ladies that were novices were quickly getting into the flow of things, heaping crab shells and carcasses into bowls until they were soon over-flowing. I was mighty impressed with some of my Biker Chick friends; Ms. Laurie B. was consistently extracting meat with almost laser focus while another Biker Chick, Hermosa, was enjoying great success as well.


I gave up after 4 and a half minutes. Literally.  Can you tell that I’ve got a streak of instant gratification in me?

Note to self: If you want to hone your survival skills in the off-chance of being stranded on a deserted island you’d better get better at foraging for food.


Rocket-man was in his own world, happy as a clam with his pile of crabs and he wasn’t about to stop to help this damsel in distress. I was thoroughly frustrated and very hungry!  At one point, in my crab-induced crabbiness I thought about throwing my wooden mallet at him but naturally—and lucky for him— the moment was fleeting.

Crab Mallet.  It's good for breaking apart crab legs...or possibly using as a weapon.

Crab Mallet. It’s good for breaking apart crab legs…or possibly using as a weapon.

Every crack of the crab leg yielded such a pathetic amount of meat! I could barely get enough crab meat to dip in the warm pot of butter. It seemed like a tremendous amount of work for very little reward!   So, throwing sensible diet efforts completely out the window I started scarfing down hush-puppies, french fries, and cornbread dipped in the melted butter. Do not fear; I did have some healthy fare…coleslaw (I even stole Rocket-man’s serving while he was too busy rooting out his crab meat).

Ah…butter and cornbread…..Heaven.

Thankfully I wasn’t the only one who gave up the fight. Ms. Moon didn’t last long either. I’ll admit that I was green with envy over her brilliant resolution to the problem at hand. She ordered crab cakes.

Why didn’t I think of that?

Slap myself upside the head I did, later that night, as I laid in agony in my hotel bed, my stomach in a world of distress because of all the fried food I had all but inhaled in my hungry state (food I rarely eat).

Still, it was a night of fun, laughter and wonderful camaraderie. I had a Crab-Happy blast with the total experience (really, folks!) and perhaps, If I can muster up just a wee bit more patience with the process, I’ll definitely try it again…honestly!

Well….minus all those belly blasting hush-puppies, that is.  Lord Have Mercy; It’s a wonder my bike didn’t break under the weight of those hush-puppies the very next day!

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!

It Couldn’t Be Any Better


Day four of cycling along California’s Central coast ended with a wine and cheese gathering just steps from the ocean in Pismo Beach. Rocket-man and I had already enjoyed a 4-mile walk on the beach, perfect after a 50-mile day on the bike. My legs were definitely feeling the effects of four consecutive days of cycling but true to the acronym provided by our wonderful Bicycle Adventures guide Jessica– No “FOMO” (Fear Of Missing Out) –I wasn’t about to pass on the opportunity to enjoy a beach walk–feet in the water all along the way–just as I had done nearly everyday for eight years when living in Southern California. There were sand dollars everywhere. I picked up five or six along the walk to share with the group later. But mostly I was intent on soaking-in the ocean view. I loved watching birds skittering about in the sand looking for food and I just couldn’t get enough of the water, powerful and soft at the same time, glistening in the late afternoon sun. I’ll admit that at times I felt a melancholy tug at my heart; I’ve only got this experience for a few more days then it’s back to “middle earth.”

The sunset was absolutely spectacular…breathtaking really….as our group gathered together to enjoy the wine, beer, cheese, crackers, and fresh fruit that our guides had provided for us. We laughed about this or that as we snacked and shared our thoughts about the day’s ride, all agreeing that the long, downhill section with the wind at our backs was the most exhilarating part of the ride.

The stunning sunset was just another unexpected gift for the day and a thrilling way to end another day with wonderful friends. It just couldn’t be any better. I wish everyone could experience a day this way. But no matter the circumstance, to me the take-away message about any day is to find a moment….and that is all it needs to be…one moment…that fills your heart with joy.

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