All posts for the month May, 2012

Riding in a Critical Mass

Published May 26, 2012 by livinggraciously

Last night I attended my first Cleveland Critical Mass bike ride. Don’t feel badly that you don’t know what that means; I didn’t know about it until a few weeks ago. Critical Mass rides happen on the last Friday of the month in about 300 different cities all over the states and in some other countries. Here in Cleveland we had about 400 riders. In other places they have over 1,000.

400 riders strung out along a roadway was an incredibly impressive sight. We must have stretched out close to half a mile. I can’t even imagine 1,000.

The point of Critical Mass is not speed or getting to a destination first. The point is to raise local awareness of bicyclists and our right–nay, requirement–to share the roads. Did you know that in many states, including Ohio, it’s a misdemeanor for adult cyclists to ride on the sidewalk? This is because sidewalks are for walking, and people walking are generally traveling at 2-5 miles per hour. Whereas cyclists are generally traveling at least 8 miles an hour, and easily can be traveling 18, 20, or more. Cyclists are a hazard to walkers. They are operating vehicles, and belong on the street.

And the fact is that cyclists are safer on the street. I have been clipped by a car once on the street, it’s true. But I’ve had many near-collisions when riding on the sidewalk, because people are not looking for a bike on the sidewalk moving at 12 mph when they back out of a driveway or pull up to an intersection. They see me when I’m on the street.

Still, there are people who don’t understand the law who still honk at cyclists, yell at them to get on the sidewalk, and even assault them. A recent instance I read about was someone whose kid was pelted with a milkshake that was thrown from a car window. I’ve had people swerve at me, and someone open a passenger-side door in my face just to frighten me.

I’m not sure where this level of anger comes from. Yes, you might have to slow down and pull over to the left to get around a cyclist. But you’d have to do the same if a UPS truck was stopped there, and I don’t see anyone honking at the UPS guy. I sometimes have a sneaking suspicion that some of the resentment comes from thinking that the cyclist feels superior to people driving the car, or a guilt that the driver feels for driving along, drinking a milkshake while these cyclists are exercising.

I know that I’ve been cursed at with “fatso, get off the road!” As if my wide hips are taking up more space. My very presence offends some people.

I’ve learned to be more assertive in my biking, and also more cautious. I try to stick to roads with four lanes, and to bike toward the middle of the right lane so people don’t try the slip past me when there really isn’t enough room. I also bike at off hours or against the rush hour traffic so that I’m not frustrating tired people who just want to get home from work as soon as possible. I take my share of the road, but try to do so with respect for drivers.

And I obey traffic laws. I stop for red lights. I yield at stop signs–a full stop is incredibly wearing on the knees, so I cheat a bit, but I give up the right-of-way when it’s not mine to take. I signal my turns. I try to be a good citizen.

Still, it’s hard to be a cyclist at times. And cycling alone always seems more subject to verbal abuse than cycling with a group, or even just two.

So last night, cycling with 400 people, was a kind of empowerment. We rode through neighborhoods where kids ran to the fences, waving wildly at us, adults smiled and called out encouragement, and drivers waiting at intersections honked their horns not with impatience but in celebration. We were a novelty, this enormous group of cyclists.

We were a parade.

Maybe the people who smiled at our dinging bells and honking horns and smiling waves will remember us. Maybe when they come along a solitary cyclist pedaling down a narrow street, they will recall the crazy, happy atmosphere of last night’s ride.

And maybe they will be just a little more patient, give just a little more room, and we can all be better citizens on the road together.


Pedal to the Point–so close to $2,000

Published May 25, 2012 by livinggraciously

This is the last day for the initial push for Pedal to the Point, so one final nagging/begging for now, and I promise not to bug you again–at least not until July 😉

I’m getting close to raising $2,000, and I’d like to reach that number before the end of the night. To those of you who’ve already given, thank you SO MUCH for your generosity!

A couple people were having problems with the main page link not leading to the donation page link. I think the site has that worked out now, but here’s the link directly to the donation page.

And thank you thank you thank you!

BBA Challenge #10: Cornbread

Published May 24, 2012 by livinggraciously

This is the only bread in the book that isn’t yeast-based, and I was looking forward to it because it involved bacon. It was a very different recipe from most cornbreads that I’ve had because it included actual corn kernels.’

It was also a huge disappointment. So huge that it honestly sort of threw me out of the BBA challenge mood. I baked this bread in February, and haven’t tackled another bread since.

Now, I can’t blame that entirely on the cornbread. I did get very sick in February, and then I started biking like a madwoman at the end of the month. But I’m not excited about the next bread in the book, which is another sweet fruit bread. So I’ve let the project lapse, with the excuse that I hadn’t written up the cornbread yet. Maybe getting this out of my system will get me going again.

So, what was wrong with the cornbread? It was too sweet for the savoriness of the bacon on top, and I would have used half the kernel corn that they recommended. It just didn’t tickle our fancies.

It’s not even worth a picture. But with that out of my system, maybe I’ll get back to baking.

Where I was; where I’m going

Published May 23, 2012 by livinggraciously

Yesterday I wrote a little about how I’ve been making changes in my life and that I had chosen not to write about them in this blog. Today I feel compelled to expand on that a bit so that readers can really understand what riding in the MS Pedal to the Point 150-mile ride really means for me personally.

Last August I underwent a minor medical procedure. Prepping for that procedure meant stepping on a scale, something I had avoided for a couple years. During that time I had also pretty much avoided all exercise as well. But the scale was a moment of truth. And the truth was, I weighed 299 pounds. One pound short of 300. By far, the most I’ve ever weighed. I was shocked and dismayed, and determined not to let the scale tip over to that next number. So I started eating better, cooking more at home, staying away from junk food.

But not working out. That took another month, because it just seemed overwhelming. Oh, I took a couple short walks, but it was easy to tell myself that I’d exercise “later”–a time that never came. Then in September I realized that my size was having a negative effect, to be blunt, on my sex life. There were things I wanted to do that I was no longer capable of doing.

Sex is a great motivator.

September 19 is the date on which I embarked on a campaign of seriously taking care of myself. Since then, I have gone from being someone who could barely tie her own shoes to someone who just biked 41 miles on Monday and is going to bike another 20 today. Through sensible eating–and never dieting, mind you–and exercise, I’ve lost 60 pounds. I’ve gone from barely squeezing into a pair of size 24 jeans to slithering into a size 16 dress. I have a lot further to go. But I’ve come a long way.

And I’m very much aware that the odds of long term success are against me. Study after study shows that almost 95% of people who lose weight gain it all back within 5 years. That’s scary to me, because I’ve done it before.  Yoyoing is a part of my personal history since college. I don’t want to fail.

So I am not focused on weightloss; I am focused on fitness and health. The weightloss has been a wonderful side effect, and one I’m quite happy to enjoy, but even more important to me is that I may still be 80 pounds overweight, but I can ride 41 miles, and by August I will be able to ride 75 miles for two days in a row. That is my victory state, not a number on a scale.

Also? The sex is awesome.

Changing my life, challenging myself

Published May 22, 2012 by livinggraciously

When I first started this blog in December of 2009, the focus was going to be on changing my life and my body far more than on things like cooking. I abandoned the blog as I abandoned that project, and it sat idle for a very long time. As did I.

I got back into blogging here about the same time that I started working out and eating in a more healthful manner, but I decided then that I didn’t want to let this become a place where I obsessed about my exercise and fitness, so I’ve avoided those topics for a couple reasons. First of all, I’ve been down the “shaping up” path before and eventually lost the battle, and that’s a boring thing to write about. Secondly, because I think there is too much emphasis on having the perfect body and I don’t endorse the kind of crazy behaviors that such an emphasis tends to encourage.

But I can’t escape that these changes have become a part of me, particularly when I am doing something like training for Pedal to the Point. It’s been such a focus for me that it’s kind of shut down my blog writing, because I didn’t feel like I could write honestly while avoiding those topics.

So I’m outing myself. I confess that I exercise regularly these days, and that it has helped me to get in better shape. I also continue to eat rich, tasty foods, eschew all forms of “lite” foods, use butter, eggs, and sour cream, eat meat, and have still lost weight. I will probably be writing a lot more about that part of my journey going forward.

In the meantime, training for Pedal to the Point continues. Yesterday I rode 41 miles. You go a long way in 41 miles! The ride out is the worst, really: every turn of the pedal takes you further from home. When we got to the 10-mile mark–a usually turnaround spot for me, part of my mind really thought we were halfway there. But no, instead of heading downhill on the bike trail, I turned upstream. The second 10 miles started okay, but halfway through that I was flagging a bit. By the time I reached twenty, I was only pedaling about 10 miles an hour and thinking, “Man, this is going to be a LONG ride home.”

Then I found myself racing along at 16mph. Turns out I’d been going uphill all this time! That was a welcome relief. In all, it took me three and a half hours to bike the distance.

I’m not biking today. I think I’ve earned a day off. But I’m still looking for more donations for that lighter, faster bike! Please consider sponsoring me for Pedal to the Point during this week when the bike prize is available. Thanks!

Pedal to the Point!

Published May 21, 2012 by livinggraciously

I mentioned a while back that I am training to participate in  Pedal to the Point, the MS bike ride, in August. And that this is a fundraising event. I have biked over 500 miles so far this year, and am excited about the ride.

But now is the first time that I will be asking you for donations. And this next five days is a particularly important period for donation gathering. You see, the MS Society is running a contest May 21-25. The person who raises the most money in the next five days will win a Raleigh racing bike.

Now, I love my bike. But it is not fast. And a good, fast bike would be awesome. I doubt that I will be the person to win the bike, but if you are thinking of donating to me, this will be the week to do it.

And it’s a really excellent cause. MS is a debilitating disease that stole my wonderful grandfather from me and left behind a sad shell of a man. Some wonderful progress has been made, but more is needed.

If I win the bike, I will complete the century ride on the first day of Pedal to the Point. Heck, if I get to $2000, I will attempt the century, even on my current bike.

So if you are able to donate, even $5.00, please consider making the donation this week. My donation site is  here. You can read more about what the ride means to me there. Thank you!

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