Friday, July 31, 2015

My bike is starting to fit like a glove... or maybe it's more like a catcher's mitt:)

     So I told you my bike was as customized for me as I could possibly make it; now the true test was to see if it made a difference. 

     One of the biggest challenges for me as far as riding a bike, is not to make my brain and muscles get mad at each other.  If I over work my body and become over heated my brain gives my muscles the silent treatment, causing them to go on strike.

     It's my right arm and right leg that have become the rebellious ones over the past few years, but with the way the pedals work, my right foot can free load from her twin if she needs to.

     Unfortunately, my arms aren't so lucky.  If my right arm turns into silly-putty, Ole' "south paw" can't take up the slack.  I have to try my best to make everyone happy, and not putting the weight of my 300 pound cement body (metaphorically speaking) on them helps a lot.

     As you can see in the picture below; this was when I was taking a casual short ride at Wild Wood Park.  My arms were okay because I wasn't over heated, though they were obviously over extended.

        However, if you look at the tedious ride I took in Detroit where I rode 23 miles with out a break, I can tell you one thing; my arms were ready to fall off.

     But after I changed my stem out you can absolutely see a difference when I ride.  the picture below was from my 22 mile ride on the North Coast Inland trail last week.  My arms were certainly not over extended, and as a result, after the entire bike ride I still had a smile on my face.
     It took a little effort to find the right stem, but I'm glad we kept trying until we did.  Just like life; you can sit back and complain about all of the challenges, or you can go out and find the silver lining; I choose the latter:)

Have a great weekend!!


Wednesday, July 29, 2015

I'll go the distance if it's worth it.

       Out of all of the bike trails I've been on these past couple of years, I have to say, the North Coast Inland Trail is my absolute favorite.  It starts in Elmore Ohio, and a good portion of it goes through wide open country, with cornfields surrounded by white fluffy clouds. 

      I rode on it last summer and it felt like a dream scene from the Movie "Chitty-Chitty Bang-Bang",  where they floated up into the clouds.  

     This trail is about 24 miles from end to end; which means to cover the entire route and make it back to the start would be almost 50 miles.  It's impossible to get the whole trail in on a typical day, including the drive time to get there and back, so we only rode 12 miles in, and then 12 miles back that day.  

     The memories of this beautiful trail made me desperate to see the second half, but I knew I had to drive almost an hour to Fremont Ohio to pick it up; and then there were the two or more hours it took to ride the trail it's self.

     We finally found a Sunday morning where we had some time and headed to Fremont.  I set my GPS for the trail and when we were finally in the middle of the town of Fremont, I was informed we were there.
        This was not a bike trail!!  I drove an hour for this?!?!  My riding buddy who knows all of the trails well explained to me we had to ride through town before we picked up the second part of the trail.  

     This made no sense to me.  We drove an hour to ride through town?? I could have done that in Toledo... I wasn't in the mood to ride the city streets; I wanted fluffy clouds!  He said if we wanted to experience the entire trail we had to ride through town.

     You know how stubborn us Scorpios are... I DID NOT want to ride on any stinking city streets; not today...

     As we drove a little further we arrived to the spot we ended last summer, and this was where we would continue on to finish the trail, but again... we had to go through town first...
         As "persistent" as I was being about riding in my "fluffy clouds" a suggestion was soon made that we just ride the half we did last time and forget about the second half.  I was tempted, but figured it was crazy to drive all that way only to do the same half, so I reluctantly gave in to riding through town. 
     As we were sharing the road with the cars, we saw bike trail signs along the way.  I think I may have grumbled once or twice that this is not a bike trail...  We were riding on a road without even a bike lane, with cracks and loose gravel everywhere...

    Before long we came to a quaint little neighborhood with a park in the middle of it.  This was closer, but still not a bike trail...

     Then I finally saw the sign for the "official"  bike trail ahead.  Could all of my patience have finally paid off?? 

     I believe it did, because we were now crossing the Blanchard River...

 and the view was a far cry from the city streets I just left.


          I found my white fluffy clouds and all was good again:)

       the rest of the trail was a lot like the many other nice trails I've been on, and it was well worth the ride to get there.

     One thing I'm starting to learn is, if you want to experience the good things in life; sometimes you  have to ride through traffic:)

Have a great day!!


Monday, July 27, 2015

My Frankenbike is finally coming together!

          I really wish there was  such a thing as a bike that is "one size fits all", but life isn't "one size fits all", so why should I expect a bike to be... I knew the only way to make that happen is to make a "Frankenbike".

     The bike I had been riding was too heavy, and the tires were too wide, causing total exhaustion; so I got a road bike that was lighter and had thinner tires.  Even though this bike was designed by a woman, for the average woman, it didn't make it perfect for someone like me, who is anything but average...  so I started tweaking it.  I was happy to find my pink, but now it had to "fit".  Of course, the most important thing was to understand how my bike worked; and that meant simple things like learning to  fix a flat...

   Or putting air in the tires with out popping them...

     After my first melt down I had to get in-line brakes so I no longer panicked when I had to stop on a dime. 

      Then I started messing with my pedals to help with my "crazy foot".  

     Of course, there was my seat; moving it down and forward made me feel more in control... and now I've been making several attempts to shorten my reach so my arms don't go numb so fast.  

    Remember, my old stem was about three inches out from the frame and level, which caused me to stretch forward and ride with stiff elbows. All that weight on my straight arms caused them to get to the point of trembling, which took away from some of the enjoyment of riding.  

          We thought we could fix the problem by shortening the stem...

      Though we soon realized the handlebars weren't standard size...  
This would have been a great idea, if only it worked...

     But it isn't in my nature to settle, so we ordered a new stem that was shorter and made for over-sized handlebars.  An added bonus was that it was also angled upwards; making the reach even shorter.

     The stem came in, and it was back to the bike shop to see if it fit.  I was so happy to find out it did!  Notice how the screws actually meet now.

     This picture lets you see how different the stems are; but looking at it you would never know anything was changed. 

      I'll admit, this is becoming a true "frankenbike",  but I seem to have a "frankenlife" as well.  When something doesn't work the way it should, I try my hardest to improvise.   What ever it takes to live my best life is what I plan to do.  And just because it isn't normal, doesn't mean it isn't perfect. 

     Now the true test will be when when I hit the next trail and see if this helped; and I promise that will be very soon:)

          There are a lot of things in my life I have no control over; but at least I know my bike isn't one of them:)

Have a great day!!


Friday, July 24, 2015

They say knowledge is power, but ignorance can also breed knowledge.

     With as crazy as my life is, I try to take things as they come up, rather than stress about fitting them all in my schedule.  From weddings to graduations, no matter how organized we are, we still seem to end up with some sort of conflict.

     As the invitations came in, I glanced at them, marked my calendar, and filed them away.  I didn't look closely to the venues, but I could figure that out later.  One wedding was the son of my friend who's Jewish, so I assumed it was at a synagogue somewhere.  I've never been to a Jewish Wedding and I was anxious to learn more about the culture.

     My friend had told me the wedding was in Grand Rapids Ohio, and suggested I give it a "dry run" to make sure I could find it, but I had my handy GPS; I had it under control.

     The day of the wedding I typed in the address and hit the road; still anticipating a Jewish wedding.  It turns out it was being performed at the Nazareth Hall.  I had never been to this hall nor did I read much into the name, but it sure didn't sound Jewish.

     Seeing the outside, it also didn't look like a synagogue, but who was I to judge...

      As I was escorted in, I noticed this looked more like a church than I would have thought...

     It wasn't long before I discovered the bride was Lutheran and the service was Lutheran as well.  It looked like I wasn't going to experience a Jewish wedding after all.

     The Reception hall was beautifully designed and indeed vintage.
     But I had no knowledge about this historic building.

     The detailed architecture looked as if it could be over a hundred years old; with finely crafted moldings, not found in modern day construction.

     As the night went on I learned this establishment used to be a boys military school back in the early 1900s.  I became more and more intrigued about the history behind this place that I had for some reason never been to; though I've lived around 25 miles away all of my life.

     When I first arrived my mind was more focused on other things, rather than the building it's self, but as I was leaving I paid closer attention to the  artistic design of the building and found it amazing.
      The next day I knew I had to learn more about this hall, so I did some research, and learned it was built in 1929 and indeed was a boys military school run by catholic nuns; incidentally, I went to a catholic elementary school, back in the days where nuns were teachers.  After about seventy years this military school was closed down; though a decade later became the hall it is today; hosting weddings and many other events.

     So I went expecting to gain some knowledge; however my ignorance caused me to gain some wisdom I wasn't expecting.  Oh... at the end of the ceremony, they did break a glass and shout "Mozel Tov", which is a Jewish expression meaning "good luck".  So I learned a tiny piece of Jewish  tradition after all:)

     This only proves; just because you don't know everything doesn't mean you don't have the power to learn it:)

Have a great weekend!!


Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Our eyes are the window to our soul; but what else is behind these windows??

     Our eyes tell us a lot; it's true, but if we look well beyond them, we learn so much more.

     As anyone who knows much about MS will tell you, vision loss is one of the first things that can happen with this disease.  The optic nerve is damaged due to the attack on the myelin in the brain.  

     Of all of the symptoms of MS, this is the one I've been very fortunate to dodge.  After 30 years I remain optimistic, though make it a point to have my eyes checked on a regular basis, so I can be aware of any changes that might occur.

     It's funny how it's called an eye exam, yet no amount of studying can change the results.  I suppose I could stay up all night memorizing the eye charts... but I'll take the sleep and let my eyes do their job.

          Modern technology has sure come a long way.  As you can see, the technician can take pictures that go all the way back to my optic nerve, letting my Eye Doctor see a clear view of any damage. 
       If there was damage due to my MS it would show up in the form of Optic Neuritis.  In this case the optic nerve would appear pale pink, or possibly even white. 

     In this photo of my eye ball (I think that's the technical you'll notice my optic nerve is very bright pink; then again, look who we're talking about... is there any other color but pink?!  If I was down to my last nerve, MS would surely be on it...
     I was thrilled to find out my eyes looked exactly like the eyes of someone without MS.  And now I'll just continue to hold out hope that they stay that way.  Besides, I have enough other things going on, so I'll just count my blessings.

     And my Doctor also doubles as a magician; look, he turned my blue eyes to almost all black!  Of course they'll be back to blue in a few hours...

          There's only so much we can do to keep healthy and the rest we have to leave up to fate, but if there's anything I've learned, it's that we have to accept what life gives us and be thankful for everything we have.

Have a great day!!


Monday, July 20, 2015

Life isn't perfect but I have my bike!

     There are a lot of things in life that come and go, but I really can't imagine not riding my bike.  If I can ride at least once or twice a week along with my daily workouts I know I'm doing everything in my power to stay healthy.

     So Sundays seem to be a great day for a bike ride, and I can usually find one or more crazy people to ride with me for companionship as well as safety.

     This past Sunday was supposed to be one of the hottest and most humid days of the season, but I knew I would only feel the effects for a short while after a ride, and I know life is too short to make excuses.

     Once again I had a ton of definite maybes to ride with me.  But bike riding isn't always at the top of people's list when trying to get all the "important" things done to try for that "perfect" life.

     I started to think I was the only person who realized life isn't perfect, and sometimes we have to let the chores go and just "live" once in a while.

     Being it was just me riding this time, I went to my old safe and cozy standby which was Olander Park.  At least I didn't let the heat stop me from "living".

     When I got there I discovered there were many others who weren't about to let "everyday life" get in the way of living it either.
                                       There were people out kayaking...  
                                     and fishing...
                         and quite a few just out walking...
     I'm sure these geese were feeling it, but they weren't about to let the heat stop them; they actually looked quite happy:)

      As I was making my laps around this one mile loop surrounding the lake, I kept passing these same three ladies over and over.  We all smiled and said hi each time we passed.
     By the tenth time around I heard one of them say "if we're going to run I need to stop and pull my hair up..." I thought to my self "what a perfect time to ask them to take a photo since they're stopping anyway...and maybe I'll make some new friends while I'm at it". 
     As is most always the case, they were absolutely happy to help me.  We talked for quite a while about my blog, The Bike To The Bay etc. I discovered they were visiting from Kalamazoo Michigan, a little over two hours North.  Proof, kind people come from all over:)

          If you ever think you're all alone, and no one else is trying as hard as you to live their best life, just go out into the world and you'll see... these people are everywhere:)

Have a great day!!


Friday, July 17, 2015

Where would I be with out MS??

          Looking at my face I seem quite normal, and If you knew nothing about me you would think my life appears to be pretty typical.

           Then I get on my bike and you say " there's a girl who is very athletic and probably runs circles around the rest of the world."  And in my mind, I do!
          Hide all of the bike gear and bionic paraphernalia and you might think "here's someone whose full of sass; she most certainly gives back anything the world dishes out." 
          But throw on the nerve zapper and I become more vulnerable, yet still, I appear to have everything under control.
     Add the brace and I become a moving target for a world full of curious people.  To think there was a day I wanted nothing to do with this nuisance of a disease, and if you were to observe anything different about me I might tell you it's all in your head; not mine (ironically, it is in my head).

     But the day a friend encouraged me to quit running away from this disease and own it was the day my life actually had meaning for the very first time; and now what you see is absolutely what you get!   

     Sometimes it's nice to just stand there, smile, and let the world run circles around me:)

Have a great weekend!!