Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Nature versus nurture

Why do kids turn out the way they do? Are their personalities innate characteristics or do they develop in response to their environments? This question reoccurred to me recently when I encountered a young man that I hadn't seen since he was nine or so.

Luis (not his real name) was adopted when he was three from a Central American country. He went to Josh's daycare and later was on a soccer team that I coached. Initially he only spoke Spanish but as his mother spoke only English, he eventually forgot all his Spanish. He spent much time on the streets begging for food before being adopted. He was not the least bit shy, which I assumed that he had to be bold in order to eat. I had him in my care several times as he liked to play with Josh who was almost 2 years younger. Typical scene: we'd be in a park and he would see a stranger eating something. He'd go right up to that person and ask if he could have whatever they were eating. Sometimes the stranger would be so shocked, they'd give up the food. He also was very demanding around my house wanting this or that. He seemed coachable. I would tell him that his behavior was unacceptable. He would then ask more politely. He and Josh grew apart. It had been more than 20 years since I have seen him. I did know that his single adoptive mom had died leaving him and his 2 younger sisters without a parent

Last week at the pool, a young man asked if I were Josh's mom. It was Luis with a toddler and 5 year old. This was the part where I vote for nature. His 5 year old Luisa acted just like the young Luis. Not a bit of shyness. She was demanding this and that. Specifically she demanded Oliver play with her even though he had made it clear that he didn't want to. She kept grabbing him. Now I assume she has not had to beg on the street. Even Luis had to keep reminding her to tone it down some. There must be some gene for not having a self-censoring mechanism. She must have it.

Monday, July 30, 2012


I finally found the bottom poppy in bloom. Usually I just find a pile of petals. Very short lived as an hour later, the petals were gone again. All my geraniums are from a 7 year old plant that I bring in the house in the winter. I put cuttings in the front yard so I have about twenty plants fronting my house and three huge containers. Plus I have given many away.

I transferred a bunch of cleome. What an unpleasant task! The stalk is covered with prickers and exudes a sticky, skunk smelling gum. Still the plants are pretty.

I gave Maya a bicycle ride in my newly purchased bike trailer. Would have been easier if I pumped the trailer's tires up. A good workout for me hauling her up the hills. Still she enjoyed it.

Finally finished my photo book.

Sunday, July 29, 2012


For the past year, I've been on a photobook and calendar making spree. I buy them on Groupon and its ilk for an alleged 75% saving. I've used at least 5 different suppliers: with each, there is a considerable learning curve. Typical scene: I buy one of these in April that would expire in July. July seemed so far away but then it comes and I panic.

Aside from the digital photos, I have zillions of 35 mm prints. Some of them are organized in books, one for each of the three kids, then by years, then... everything is thrown in boxes. I want to digitalize everything worth saving. This is taking a while. I also am going to give each child their own photobook. I made a wedding book for Naomi and myself, a Maya book, an Italian book, a combined England and Canada book, a cruise book, an Italian calendar and am currently working on a 2012 vacation book.
http://www.mypublisher.com/bookshelf/orders (some of the books and calendars Naomi and I made are here)

I've made several gifts: a calendar chock full of photos of  great-grandkids and grandkids for my MIL, a wedding calendar for Naomi's MIL, a photobook of Julia (made before I knew she was going to desert my son) and a book of Shanna's life for her recent birthday. Not all have been well received. Julia never thanked me (typical) and Shanna was irritated that I included a photo of her prom date (it was such a good picture of her). My MIL and Naomi's MIL seemed happy with theirs though. I am slowly scanning early pics of Josh and Naomi and putting them into folders. Josh actually seemed hurt that I haven't made anything for him (he would have been the last person I thought that would want one). I have bought several of these as gifts for the kids to make their own.

A good day today.

Soon after I awoke, I went for a 20 mile bike ride. Advantage of early morning Sunday rides? No traffic and no wind. Disadvantage: long shadows that are hard to tell apart from potholes,  and glare. Also: it would have been nice to sleep in. I gardened for a while fertilizing all the flowers, replanting some, and repositioning others. Steve hadn't deadheaded anything while I was gone but the geraniums looked wonderful. Now they look sucky. In a week or so, they will perk up. Then a bento box with Josh. I still haven't got to meet his new female friend (he doesn't want to use the term girlfriend). Then Shanna, Naomi and all the grandkids came over. Chaos as usual. I had bought Oliver some goggles for his swim class tomorrow but his mom had beat me to it.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Le madre sotto le stelle*

* Moms under the stars

 A nice cool night for the Moms. And because of the drought, no mosquitoes which usually drive us inside once the sun goes down. Alas one of the moms could not come.

The menu: Sushi, Indian treats made from chick pea flour, guacamole and chips, a very tasty salad, fresh corn on the cob, tilipia tacos, margaritas. lots of wine, Italian peaches, and s'mores cooked on the fire pit, lots of gossip and laughter..a good time.

Earlier in the day I learned my birthday buddy's wife was just diagnosed with breast cancer again. Different breast, different kind. She had it about 6 years ago and went through chemo. This is not considered a recurrence but a new primary. So lightning can strike twice. More chemo: more surgeries. I would hate it so much if this happened to me. Once was enough.

Today: garage sales. My finds: a bicycle trailer than can haul two toddlers, a toddler bike helmet and a vase for myself.

More running. I am exhausted.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Sopranos live longer than altos

But bassos and tenors live the same length of life.

I read this little gem in the WSJ science news. Hypothesis? Altos have less estrogen than sopranos and thus have less of the cardioprotective properties of estrogen. Study I would like to see: Do Altos have less breast cancer?

If I could sing, I'd definitely be an alto.

Also: weight charts that make new moms crazy. There are two widely used charts: the CDC chart based on babies born in the 60s and the WHO chart: more recent which includes lots of breast fed babies.

So the CDC chart is based on bottle fed babies and very few preemies (as being born before 34 weeks then was a death sentence). Although breast fed babies gain initially more than bottle (less gastric disturbances) the level off in the 2nd 6 months. They used an example of a breast fed baby who was 5%tile on one chart but 25%tile in the other. Unfortunately her pediatrician used the CDC chart and said that the baby is dangerously underweight so formula must be introduced STAT. The mom stuck to her guns and the baby is just fine but lots of anxiety transpired. Ms. Maya fell into this trap at 9 months with an alarmed pediatrician. A nutritionist whom we consulted assured us she was just fine and did not need formula.

A busy day today. Went running as soon as I got up, showered, immediately went to the rehab unit  to pick my friend up on the far east side, took her to the far west side and got her situated in her home, went back to the far east side to have lunch with my birthday buddy (his birthday is in July; mine April. We are flexible about when it gets celebrated.) Back forth, back forth: made complicated by Ann Arbor deciding to fix most of the east-west routes at once. A fun lunch and lots of interesting beers to choose from. Instead of the $1.25 beers of the North, this beer my friend ordered (no prices shown until you actually get the bill..annoyingly) was $7.95. And he didn't even get a pint but a little vial.

Once the rain stopped enough for me to get to the car, home to make my Italian stuffed peaches. Had to make a lot of substitutions but it seems OK.
Mom's group tonight.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Sue's first facial

I haven't had a whole lot of beauty services performed on me over the years. I now color my hair after chemo turned my hair to gray/white on one side and black on the other making me look even older than I am. See out-dated picture on the side to see how it looked before chemo. I've gotten a few massages and have had just a few mani/pedis. My feet were looking pretty ragged after the bike tour so today I went for a pedicure (shiny coral). Since I am still actively gardening, I am leaving the manicure for the fall but got a facial instead which came with a hand, shoulder, neck and face massage. I already get the foot and leg massage with the pedi and I am in a massaging chair for more than an hour. Somehow the facial makes my face plump up eliminating some of the wrinkles. I assume it will shrink down again by morning.

More firsts for Sue: My first iPad (about a month ago) and my first iPhone (this weekend). I think I am the last of my friends to get a smart phone. Of course, all the kids have one.

 I asked Siri today Who is the fairest of them all?
Answer: You, my friend, are the fairest of them all.

So there you go.
I am not sure how good of friends we are as she often doesn't understand me.

So today was the day of getting together with moms of Naomi's former friends. I went out to lunch and had coffee with one who just lived a few houses away. I really like her and it was fun visiting and seeing how the kids turned out. Shanna used to babysit the 2 younger kids.

And I just happened to bump into the other mom whose daughter played AAU basketball with Naomi and who, with Naomi, would troll the Y for pick-up games against the boys. Together they were very good. They parted ways sometime in high school. Near the nail place is a Thai place that features $5 pad thai only on Thursdays. I was surprised to run into her on the south side as we both live on the north side.

It's been my week of eating Asian. Tues: Chinese lunch Wednesday: Vietnamese lunch Thursday: Korean lunch Thursday night: Thai.

I will take my birthday buddy out to a non-Asian place tomorrow.

Rain! Finally!
The thunder woke me up several times enabling me to remember some of my dreams.  I was on the Michigander with Josh (as an adult) and Naomi and the friend whose mom came to visit me from the East today. Naomi and the girl were still in their teens. We had stopped at a rest stop after only going 10 miles. Josh took off without us. For some reason I took my shoes off and then couldn't find them again when it was time to leave meaning I'd need to ride barefoot (not fun with metal cage pedals). I also couldn't find the girls but the lack of shoes upset me more. I pitched a fit which involved me making a spectacle of myself trying to get everyone to feel sorry for me. I was  crying loudly and actually lay on my stomach and pounded the ground. I was ignored. I then decided to steal someone else's shoes. They were twice the size as mine (you know it's a dream then. No one has feet twice my size) but then had second thoughts because it was wrong.
Not sure what happened next. I awoke again trying to ride a subway or train and was totally confused which platform to get on. I had to make a quick decision and I couldn't undo it if I chose wrongly.

I ran in the rain. I heard thunder so I kept within a mile of here. I only saw the lightning flash a few times. By my count, it was more than a mile away. Still, I avoided wide open spaces.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Back to my usual life

It's taken a while for me to recover especially from the lack of sleep.  One afternoon on the ride, I just slept instead of kayaking down the Sturgeon River. There was one more day of Art Fair left when I returned but I just couldn't motivate myself to get out. Instead, I dried out all the camping stuff. I didn't put it away until today. It was fun fitting that tent into this tiny bag.

I have been busy. And I will have guests! Tomorrow my former neighbor is returning. Her daughter is the one I took on my last Michigander with Naomi. She had to leave when our former employer pulled out of AA. And next week, my college friend who I went to Italy with will be here..happy, happy, joy, joy.

Friday I take my birthday buddy out to lunch and later on, Mom's group. I have bought fresh peaches this morning at the Farmer's Market in anticipation of making a dessert for it. Peaches stuffed with amaretti with marscapone cream? Peach melba? Peach pie?

Monday I spent a good part of the day with my friend who is in a rehab unit following surgery. I sat through her occupation therapy. She gets physical therapy there too, which helps restore her muscles. The OT helps her cope with her new, limited mobility. She has been through so much. I will bring her to her  home in a few days.

I took Ms. Maya to her speech therapy yesterday as Naomi was working. They are also working on other developmental issues. Initially she had poor fine motor skills but now, they are quite good. She is starting to vocalize now..a year after most kids. She had her 2 year check-up. 50%tile in weight and 95%tile in height.

Ms. Tess had her 4 month checkup and weighs now almost as much as Maya did at a year putting her in the 99+%tile.

And the swine company that Steve just quit! Still no pay! The boss was all apologetic about the missing paychecks and promised to mail them out immediately. Well guess what? Steve is irritated but not enough to do anything. He will give them ONE MORE DAY. One of the checks was for work 6 weeks ago.

My flowers mostly survived without me. It is amazing how many weeds will pop up if you aren't around to nip them in the bud.

This morning we had a record low, 49 degrees. But it popped back up to 93 in the afternoon.

As I have been biking a lot, I hadn't been running. I envisioned running a long way on Saturday. Didn't happen. I don't think I even left the house. By eventually, I did start running again and I even biked a bit. Don't want to lose those muscles.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

A Michigander on the Michigander: Final thoughts

Soft water->soft hair: My hair felt soft as a toddler's on most of this trip. Was it because I didn't pack all my products? I finally figured it was that the water was so soft at many of the places. One morning I fretted that I left my comb back at the tent (and I am NOT making another trip back) but then I remembered what would happen as soon as I pack up. I'd have a helmet on.

Helmets: Very necessary. But a woman from the ride got the strangest looks walking around a Walmart in one.

Best ice cream: Alpine Chocolate Haus: Sea salt carmel ice cream with bits of chocolate covered potato chips topped with a whole chocolate covered potato chip.

Weird beer experience that if it is going on down here, I didn't notice: Summer shandys, a mix of lemonade and beer. Every hole-in-the wall place had this.

Nice locals: As I was drinking my powerade in front of a store mulling the consequences of being lost and figuring out that it would probably be OK, a customer joined me at the picnic table regaling me with bicycle trips of his youth and said that if I could do this, he could too and he would start training. On the final day, Rasta Man and I split up. I figured I could take things now at a leisurely pace and went back to the good coffee place in Cheybogan to get my wonderful latte. A local woman urged me to sit with her. She was not on the ride but wondered if I knew the  ride director as they were colleagues years ago. Yes indeedy. I grew up with her. She just lived a block down the street but even though we are the same age, we don't look it. Our campsites would get visits from the local sheriffs and politicians wondering what they could do for us.

Alterations to my appearance: A neighbor driving by today stopped to ask how much weight I lost. I don't know but I know my legs are very firm now. I have lots of new tan lines and very brown knees. I used sunscreen on my face but still got the red nose. My palms were blistered even though I had silicone gloves. I still have no feeling in two of my left fingers though it is slowly returning. I also have lots of bruises that I don't remember getting.

Bugs: Not many. I bought antimosquito wipes but only saw one mosquito. I did get bit by a black fly and a probable deer fly, the latter through lycra leaving a huge red welt on my butt.

Oversharing: I ate dinner a couple of times with a father and daughter (24) rider couple. The dad was telling me a detailed story about a cancer scare long ago (no I didn't say I had cancer to start him off). While he is telling me this, his daughter has the WTF look young people are so good at. It turns out she never knew of this story.

Serious riders: When this ride started 20 years ago, it was mostly trails. I don't know of any other ride in the country that features mainly trails (please enlighten me, random reader, if this isn't true). Still to attract riders, now they have a paved road option. I would guess half of the riders had road bikes and never touched the trails. Some of them were hellbent on seeing how fast they could complete it and formed draft lines. At dinner they discussed a rider that would draft but never pull (take his turn up front). I have only been in draft lines a few times. By myself, I would be able to cruise at 18 mph (when I was young and on a road bike..in races I averaged 20 mph) but in a draft line, 24 mph. But it is no fun and you have to pay very close attention to the wheel right in front of you or else. All you hear is road noise, like a hive of bees. I wasn't good enough to pull though we formed an impromptu one once at the end of a long day. We were off the main roads (lost!) and had to stick together. We were battling headwinds. Despite me being a woman, I was the strongest and pulled for them all. These days are gone as evidenced by me coasting for 30 miles in granny gears.

Lost..in a car!: I really wanted to go to Cross Village after the ride. Rasta Man was reluctant because we had no map. I figured if we just stuck to the shore, how hard could it be. In the past I had biked from Cross Village to Mackinaw (as had he). The reverse couldn't be hard. Well. This 15 minute out of the way side trip turned out to be 45 minutes driving in circles with Rasta Man wanting to abandon the plan if only we could figure out how to get out of this. We did find it eventually and I think it was worth it.

Not everyone was happy: I ate dinner with a couple and their 14 year old  son. I asked the kid if he was having fun.
No I am not.
His mother added that he would forever remember this as the summer his mother made him ride a bike 250 miles. She was not apologetic. I told him that I made my 10 year old son do 280 miles and by the time he was 14, he had convinced 3 of his friends to do it with him and the 4 of them did it 3 times.

No I am not your reincarnated sister-in-law: One woman seemed especially fascinated with me. It turns out that I look and act just like her beloved sister-in-law who also was her best friend. She had died young years ago. She took pictures of me to show the folks back at home that I had come back.

Bicycle anxiety: Could I do this? Will I be able to stop if I had to on the steep downhills? Could I climb 550 feet in a short period of time? Will the bike hold up without a tune-up? Can I tolerate 50 degrees in a strong wind and rain?

80 year old riders: There were presumably 4 riders over 80. One was asked why he did this? Because I can. I ate a few breakfasts with probably one of them (maybe she was in her late 70s). Her son tried daily to talk her out of this even trying to scare her with a possible bear attack but she does this ride every year. She has had many challenges in her life and yes, this ride is a challenge but one she could control and feel good when she overcame each challenge as it came along. It made her feel so good about herself and life in general. Amen sister.

A perfect bicycle moment: Day four. It is cool and we have been snaking through pine forests. The air is fragrant with wild flowers. We are on the top of a hill and can see just hills and hills of pines. I push off and down I go for 10 minutes? Don't know. I am going impossibly fast but it just feels so good with the air rushing all around me.

The Zen of bicycling: I could do this, I am doing this, I am doing this and I feel good.

Monday, July 23, 2012

A Michigander on the Michigander: Part Three

The Daily Routine: After a few days of this, I felt like this is my life now and forgot all about how it feels to sleep in a real bed at night. I hear zippers about 5:30 am just as it starts to lighten. I try to doze until 6. I grab my coffee mug, bag of toiletries and biking clothes, find a potty, grab a coffee from Rosie, and eat a leisurely breakfast. Then I clean up, don the biking clothes and return to my tent homestead. I pack everything up and take the tent down. Hardest part? Trying to make everything fit in the bag. The biggest enemy are air bubbles formed by not folding the tent properly. The bag that holds my tent, pad, sleeping bag, chair and books is the biggest and heaviest. Fortunately it has wheels and I can fit the lighter clothes and toiletry bag on top of it. The trucks don't open until 7 and often there is a line to get in it. We have to climb a scary, maybe slippery ramp with our bags (balance issues). I can throw the lighter bag up high where they want it but need help heaving the heavier bag. I then get water and am on the road by 7:15. Rasta Man does everything in the reverse order packing things up before breakfast. I did that once as rain was supposed to come early and the dining hall was some distance away (biked there). I bike until 2 or so although on the short day, we were in town by 11 am. Once I get into camp, I am loathe to get on that bike again until the next day even if it means a whole lot of walking. I set my tent up as soon as possible to dry it as usually it is sopping wet from the dew (except for the windy night) and then take a shower as I am usually dripping with sweat and grime.

Starry nights: Especially in the smaller towns (especially Atlanta), there are no competing light sources. One night I got out of my tent and just stared at the zillions of stars. On the night the Northern Lights were predicted, it poured.

Rainbows: On the morning out of Onaway when there was allegedly zero chance of rain, we see the Western sky lit up with rainbows (see my photo). Beautiful. Then it drizzled for an hour but I didn't care. Less sweat my body would need to produce.

Wildlife: As we were in the elk capital of Michigan, elk sightings were almost guaranteed. According to the elk map, we weren't really in the prime area. No elk, no deer even though I see lots of them on my training rides. I did see a dead porcupine. I heard turkeys in the tall grass adjacent to the trail, but when I stopped to investigate, they went silent. I heard loons in Indian River but couldn't see them. I thought I saw the beaver swimming near its elaborate dam near Vanderbilt.

Dehydration: This was a big problem for the first three days. I have ridden when it was 90 before long distances but it didn't seem to bother me. Maybe because it was so humid too or maybe because I am now so large or maybe because on the trails, I am not treated to the breeze I would generate on the open paved roads. I had a hard time with my water balance. I would sweat copious amounts. Back in the showers, salt would fall from my face. One day I knew my headache was due to an electrolyte imbalance. I didn't need to pee on the rides, not a good sign but convenient as I hate waiting for a portapotty. Also it meant I didn't need to get up in the middle of the night (not fun when camping). But it cooled down. One day I worried it would become too cool ( I hadn't packed any warm clothes as the long range forecast did not predict any coolness. This forecast was wrong by quite a bit).

Rain: Unlike the southern part of the state (and most of the Midwest), this area has had plenty of rain as evidenced by the lush grass and crops. Lots of the rain fell on us (and downstate remained hot and dry). Travelling up to Mackinaw by car, it poured from Gaylord up to Indian River. We had a few hours of sunshine in Mackinaw City in which we were able to walk to the beaches and parks but around 6, yet another hour of torrential rains. Fortunately it was dry (sand drains well) when we set the tents up and we went to Wilderness St. Pk for the sunset (too cloudy). From midnight on, it rained steadily until 7 am. The tent could not handle it. It drizzled Monday morning and rained most of Thursday. Friday, our last day, it was cool and sunny with the wind on  our back. Perfecto!

Stay tuned for final thoughts...

Hen and chick bloom

I thought for sure that this would have finished blooming by the time I got back but no, the blossoms are only partially open. It is almost 2 feet tall now. I had to stake it as it is so top heavy. I have two more hen and chicks that are turning into roosters with their semi-obscene erections

Sunday, July 22, 2012

A Michigander on the Michigander: Part Two

Bicyclist Hunger: How can one be ravenously hungry just hours after one ate?
 This is a common occurrence among us bikers. It led Josh to begging strangers for food and being happy to devour a dusty rice cake that had been lying in their backpack for who knows how long. It led me to eat Funyuns, numerous protein bars, and cheese whiz on top of rice, stuff I would never have touched if I hadn't been biking. It makes food especially tasty. I've eaten meals at little hole in the wall places and thought, how great is this food. I would return at some point not biking and eat the same food thinking what was I thinking? There are some exceptions to this. Naomi and I stopped at Paula's cafe in Indian River on our first ride 9 years ago and thought the food was fantastic. Would it be so just riding in a car? Yes it was. Thumbs up to them. Also our post ride Polish feast at the Legs Inn Friday. Yeah I was especially hungry but it was so, so good! There was an article in the WSJ yesterday about riders on RAGBRAI (ride across Iowa). Although they expend 5000 calories a day, the food tents set up along the way turn them into gluttons that actually gain weight overall. Initially I tried to avoid  the greasy breakfasts meats but found I needed something slowly digestible to stave off hunger. The day we stopped at Atlanta, there was no convenient place to stop for lunch. Yeah we could ride the mile or so to  town but that would be work! I tried to wait until dinner. Everyone else had the same idea. People were lined up at dinner and went into a feeding frenzy. Not pretty.

One chain ring Sue: I have a 3x7 or 21 speed bike. The rear derailleur works just fine. The front? Not so much. The bike is 20 years old and I can't remember when or  if I had it tuned. I know I had the road bike tuned and the other bike that Naomi used. For the first two days on the trail, I kept myself on the 2nd ring, too afraid of the chain coming off. This was fine but on the third day, against the wind and up the hills, I had to switch over to the granny ring, not easy. I was too afraid to switch back. I needed the granny ring for the 550 foot climb but after Lewiston, we just had little hills. Higher gears would have been nice and I tried but the derailleur just would not cooperate. On the flats and the downhills, I just coasted as the wind was pushing me. I pedaled only on the uphills or if my speed dropped below 12 mph or so. People of course zipped right by me but I would have needed to spin way above 100 cpm to go faster. Rasta man left me in Lewiston as he didn't see me sitting by the lake so I didn't worry about slowing him down. The next day we were back on the trails requiring more work and lower gears though we dropped 770 feet. On the last day when I left the trails to go along Lake Huron with a tailwind, I did get into the 2nd ring finally so I was able to cruise at a reasonable speed. The third ring? Maybe someday. Josh used it when he had the bike.

Itinerant bicyclists: Listening to some of the others, life seemed to be just one bicycle ride after another. Do they work? Have families? Didn't seem like it.

Are there only Michiganders on the Michigander?: No sirree. CA, TX, CO, FL, NY were represented along with our border states and country.

My presshttp://www.petoskeynews.com/gaylord/news/pnr-michigander-bike-tour-riders-catch-their-breath-in-gaylord-20120720,0,127677.story?track=rss Well my name is spelled wrong and they didn't put the picture of me and Rasta Man that they took. They did put my buddy Pitbull's picture in though. I got much more press from the Munising paper years ago plus pictures

stay tuned for part 3

A Michigander on the Michigander: Part One

Tents:  I figured that I didn't need my 6 person tent (the person they have in mind must be Maya sized) plus the tent bag needed to be replaced so I bought a 3 person tent on quick sale for $25. I already had a 3 person tent at home but I had lent it to an irresponsible person who put it in the washing machine to remove any possible Sue germs turning it into the psoriasis tent with all the waterproofing flaking off (no the person did not offer to replace it). My tent was impossibly compact and yes Steve was right, I will never be able to fit it in its bag. Downsides of this tent? Many. It can only handle light rain, no windows so no flow through ventilation, no quick set up. Initially it took both of us to set it up and much time but as soon as I learned never, NEVER pull on shock-corded poles but only push them through the channels, I became pretty fast and independent. Its waterproofing was tested when we had torrential downpours the first night. Water dripped on my head while I tried to gather everything onto my little pad as water pooled on the floor along the sides of my tent. No sleep that night and it rained hard until 7 am so I didn't want to leave the few square feet of my tent that was still dry. It worked fine through mild showers and could handle the dew. On the very hot night, ventilation would have been nice. I could have left the rain fly off but rain was a possibility.

Sleeping bag: Only needed it one night. Having the down one that took up half the space would be nice but it has been MIA  for 11 years. My Thermorest is similarly gone. I used a cheap knock-off that if over-inflated, would form big air bubbles in uncomfortable places or under-inflated (easier) would provide only a little cushion for my near 60 bones. Plus it is twice as big.

One jersey Sue: At home I have at least 7 jerseys plus I bought one at the ride. I packed one for each day. However I did not try them on. Apparently forty something Sue was a much smaller person. I could not even get into these things without circulation being cut off. My new jersey did fit and I washed it every afternoon for the next day. Same problem with the shorts. Rasta Man, a very light packer, used the one shirt, one short system all week. I did change the sox.

Lost: This was on the road (hard to get lost on the trail). I had left Alpena early that day to beat the heat. I figured Rasta Man would catch up as he isn't as old and fat, had skinny tires and plus he had a 1000 miles under his belt already for the year. The roads are marked with orange Ms  but if you miss one, you are in big trouble. I was battling a headwind, kept my head down, and missed a turn. I wondered after several miles, why no one was passing me or why no one was ahead of me. The interior of NE Michigan is very sparsely populated. We are given a map book but it only covers the roads we are to be travelling plus roads within a half mile. I was headed in the right direction and knew that sooner or later, the road would run into the route near a town Hillman. I stop at the only store and ask where Hillman was? A long way plus I would need to turn off the main road to get there. Could you be more specific on what  'a long way' is?15 miles? I was also told there was a gas station between here and there in case I needed more supplies. I threw a couple of cold Power Ades in my backpack as there would be no water stops and it was very hot. I had a cellphone to report a bike break down but reception is very spotty up north. I saw only one other rider (we had orange bracelets) but he was riding so slowly, I couldn't stand it plus he was not friendly. The other riders emerged just before Hillman and I managed to shave 4 miles off on the most difficult day. Heading west into a very strong west wind was not fun. We were mostly going up hill. On the few downhills, we actually had to pedal.

The Very Welcomed and Rare East Wind: The prevailing winds are west, southwest so it wasn't much of a surprise when we had a west wind heading out of Alpena to Atlanta. The trek from Atlanta to Gaylord was going to be more arduous with a 550 foot climb, mostly in one 5 mile stretch. We were in an Atlanta bar (beer: $1.25; not in Ann Arbor any more) watching a Traverse City station listening carefully for the weather. A NE wind! Hallelujah! I hoped what was good for TC was good for the interior And actually it was more due East and strong (even better!). They graph the distance versus gain in elevation and it looked like a vertical wall between Mile 15 and 20. I envisioned getting exhausted spinning in first gear for so long. I was pleasantly surprised to find myself actually going 20 mph with no effort during this dreaded 5 mile stretch.
Downside of an east wind? : Rain!!!!!

Rosie the Coffee Lady: She'd get up every morning at 5 am to start the brewing process of very excellent coffee. We were asked to bring our own mugs. I've been on rides in which just one pot of weak church lady percolated coffee that quickly ran out was all that was provided so this was a huge treat. Plus Rosie is very nice. I did stop in Cheybogan twice for a really tasty latte across from their Alien Park with the ceramic salmon.

A Very Welcomed Respite: Halfway through the ride on its hottest day and tiring of the anemic swill beer that appeals to the lowest common denominator and to Northern Michiganders apparently, the lovely couple I met in Italy picked me up at the Alpena campground and treated me to some good beer and a nice meal and really nice company. They have a cottage about 25 miles north of Alpena and knew from this blog that I would be nearby. The husband presented me with a sweet pea bouquet as they are rare down state (but all over the place here. It was fun catching up with them in air conditioned comfort. I heard that I had missed the best dinner back at camp but it was served in a sauna setting. After dinner, I got a personal tour of Alpena of its pretty waterfront, Victorian homes, its museums. I have never been here,  sticking to the West coast of Michigan like most other Michiganders and the FIPs (what some west coast people call the people from Illinois).
I was telling the couple about my trials of keeping ants out of my hummingbird feeder. They say they don't dare use one up there as their neighbor had a bear destroy theirs.

The trails themselves: No thanks to the efforts of the group that this ride supports, Michigan has the most miles of trails of any state. We went on two this week: the North Central and the NEST trail (northeast state trail). Compared to trails I have been on in earlier years, they are like I-94. As they are old railroad beds, they are graded to avoid steep climbs and downhills. The NEST trail is 10 feet wide with numerous signs warning of the 'narrow' bridges which seem to be 9.5 feet wide. However no signs warning of the many bars placed at intersections to keep ATVs off of them. My body tightened  in fear every time I passed through these. The principal users are not bicyclists, hikers and runners but snow mobilers. I assume they remove the poles for them. They are crushed limestone and it takes some additional effort to continually plow through the loose gravel. With the effort it takes to go 10 mph on the trail, I'd go 14 mph on the paved road. On the first year of the ride, we had sections of single tracks through shoulder high weeds going over little hills of piled up railroad ties. Whoop-tee-dos, they were called. Other years, through very loose sand or gravel or what was worst, just plain ballast. I had extra knobby tires for those days. My friend managed with semi smooth tires of medium width (easier to go fast on pavement). My hands would cramp up from having to hold on to the handle bars so tightly for control (much more so than on the roads). But they went through pretty land. On the last day on the final stretch before Mackinaw City, I took the road so I could see Lake Huron better. The roads between Alpena and Gaylord? I encounter more potholes going the mile on the road behind my house than the entire 95 miles total on those roads. The road in which we had the screaming 2 mile downhill was thankfully smooth as can be. Nothing worst than hitting a pothole at 40 mph. I thought of my friend Dave whose funeral I attended last year who lost control on a downhill.

Michigan is just one big sand dune: This what I overheard some New Yorkers say at breakfast one morning. It's between those Great Lakes. No, no , no. I pointed out that there are sometimes almost 220 miles between the lakes (as opposed to zero miles at the Straits).The soil around my house and most of our county is clay not sand.

I will resume at some point...tired of typing.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Scenes from a bike ride

From Paula's Cafe in Indian River. Every square inch of shelf space is stuffed with hundreds of teapots. Naomi and I had stopped here on one of our rides. Very yummy food even if you are not biking. 

Mackinaw Bridge from the Huron side. We spent the day in Mackinaw City before the ride the next day

At night, we drove to Wilderness St Pk on Lk Michigan in hopes of a good sunset. Too cloudy

Cute park in downtown Cheybogan full of aliens. Across the street was an excellent coffee place I stopped at twice. Yum.

Silly me with the ceramic salmon in Cheybogan

Aloha St. Pk

Bar in Onaway we went to

Rainbow out of Onaway

My companion aka Rasta Man with his Steeler's colors
Bags of potato goodies in the Potato Capital: Posen. I opted for Funyuns.

Tent City

I liked this set up. A cot/tent combo

Bears in Atlanta

Atlanta: Elk Capital. I do have an elk map

Me in Atlanta Jail

Public works map of Michigan best viewed from above. Route 612 6 miles west of Lewiston on Google Earth

Lake  in Lewiston: a rest stop

Hopefully they weren't pumping poop, purple or otherwise. They were collecting water from the shower truck. I had a panic attack in the shower truck because I thought I was locked in this tiny steamy stall.

Rough map of where we went if you click on this. It actually was the 21st anniversary as the ride started in 1992. 10 year old Josh and I were on it.

Alpenfest in Gaylord. The Sugar Bowl restaurant has been there forever. My brother and I walked there a couple of times as kids staying just outside of Gaylord

Pretty Gaylord flower bakets

Beaver Dam outside of Vanderbilt

Rasta Man waiting for me to stop taking pictures of beaver dams

My $25 tent and camp chair in Indian River

Old Topinabee train station. So many of these towns have disappeared once the trains went away

Sweet peas and daisies along the path

About 8 miles left in the ride. You can barely make out the bridge

Lake Huron looking south

Baggage to pick up at the end of the ride

Lunch in Cross Village overlooking Lk Michigan at the Leg's Inn

Lots of flowers

Leg's Inn: named for the old stove legs on the roof. Just full of wood carvings and animals

Friday, July 20, 2012

Back from Bicycleland!

I'm Back!

This is what I faced this morning on my trail ride along Mullet Lake headed north to Mackinaw City with a tailwind. The cry of the loons, the coolness of the air (for a change!), sweet peas all in bloom around me, does it get better than that?

So I made it: 252 miles of which 160 miles were trails. Some days were horribly hot, one night  of torrential rain, one day of all drizzle, very scary hills, 45 miles of riding uphill into a headwind, some totally isolated areas in which all you could see were pine trees and hills in the mist but I made it. But on the absolutely hilliest day that I dreaded, we were blessed with a rare east wind that made it so much easier.

Forty year old Sue had no problem with all this. She rode single track paths through shoulder high weeds, through sand pits, much greater distances, etc but pushing sixty Sue has been through a lot and to top it off, there is just too much of her to love and to haul up 500 foot climbs. I wasn't the oldest or the fattest or the slowest there. I met a lot of people on the ride who at first glance one would say, no way this person could do this but they were going to try.

Lots of pictures; lots of fun...lots of discovery.
Stay tuned!

Friday, July 13, 2012

Packing anxiety

Miss Maya joined me for breakfast on the patio. Most of her hair growth is on the back of her head. It looks like she is bald at the temples but they are covered with reddish-blond hair. While we were sitting there, a baby bunny hopped on by our feet.

Last night I dreamt that I had forgotten all of my clothes and had to go back to get them. I kept being distracted on what to pick out, I think I missed the ride all together.

Organizing for this ride had been hanging over my head all week. Not sure why I let these things bother me. I had written a master list to double check. Biggest worry, finding bags big enough (we are limited to two) to carry all my stuff. We went to several stores to find enormous duffel bags but failed. I finally decided that the biggest space hog was my 6 person tent. I found a cheap 3 person tent for $30 and now I can make everything fit. Hope I can figure out how to set it up.

I used to be a master planner: Camping with 20 girl scouts for a weekend? Yep I was able to organize all the many supplies, including for 8 meals and craft projects. This should be much easier.

I checked the long term weather. The lowest temperature will be 54 in Gaylord. There is a chance of rain on Sunday but we should be OK the rest of the week. No real windy days though riding into Gaylord against the west wind and climbing to 1360 ft from the 587 feet of Alpena will be a workout for this one.

I will be off line on my trip. Don't want to risk my iPad.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Paddle Board Yoga

This type of yoga is a new one for me. My cousin is below on her lake in western Michigan.

Kissing cousins

Tess at almost 4 months

Very happy baby
Shanna and the kids have been hanging out here while Ramy is gone. Kids are a lot of work plus Maya was here part of the time. It is back to being hot here. I got one last bike ride in today before it became too hot. I tried to go up those hills as fast as possible. They are probably nothing compared to the ones around Gaylord. The trails, which is what we will be riding 4/6 days are old railroad beds. Trains can only handle so much of a grade, about what I can handle.

We will have a truck at the start point giving out Pure Michigan Ice Cream.

Any guesses on the flavor? Not cherry but carmel apple.
Well sounds good anyway.


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