Here Comes the Sick Drop

old turnpike road
Old Turnpike Road in Drums, PA.
I stopped for a quick tug on some Gatorade before thundering down this extremely steep descent. About halfway down is a nearly 90 degree curve to the left, definitely putting it on the scary side. Although a straight shot on 309 would make my morning commute a little shorter, I'd miss banging down this fun hill too much!
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Increasing My Methane Footprint

Since taking my place among the ranks of the mighty +Bike Commuter Cabal, I've now ridden to work twice, and I solemnly swear that I will do so again. I have thwarted the evil oil companies and saved Mother Earth... and it's not even lunch time, yet.

herd of politicians, bulls, bullshit, methane factory, greenhouse gas, greenhouse contributers
Q: What do politicians and bulls have in common?
(Image of politicians in session courtesy of
However, I had baked beans -- the magical fruit -- for dinner last night, and you know what that means... Yes, I managed to decrease my carbon footprint while simultaneously increasing my methane footprint. And methane, as we all recall from Earth Science class, is another greenhouse gas -- a potentially silent, but deadly, greenhouse gas. (Sorry. Sometimes this blog goes to weird places.) I wonder what good 'ol Washington State Representative Ed Orcutt, who wanted to impose a tax on cyclists for breathing too hard, thinks about that. (If only we could tax stupidity. Christ, we'd have a surplus the likes of which has never been seen...)

But wait! There's more! Not only am I using my bike to get to work, I'm using it to perform errands -- errands that upstanding, everyday people like yourselves might do by car.
Errands such as:
  • buying cat food
  • clothes shopping
  • depositing money in the bank (instead of spending it on gas)
  • get lunch (which converts into methane, unfortunately)
All very normal, regular things that regular people (see what I did there?) would do on a regular day. Except, I did them on a bike, which increases my smugness level to 11, which is far below Al Gore but still above the SUV driver that came dangerously close to me, this morning. Come not near to me, for I am smugger than thou!

As we count down the days to April, my commitment to 30 Days of Biking and Team +Loving the Bike remains ever present. Part of me is busy trying to figure out how to go about doing my normal routine without resorting to a car while another part of me is just desperately looking for any excuse it can find to get on two wheels. The rest of me, however, needs no excuse; I'd go out and ride in circles around the block for lack of anything more productive to do. It's just a matter of planning ahead and figuring out my limitations. Until then, I'm just here, contributing to the overall amount of methane in the atmosphere. Sorry. (You'll thank me when we no longer have Winter because of all the greenhouse gas!)
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Reaffirming My Appreciation for Rule No. 5

When I remember some of my journal entries from long distant September, it's hard to believe I ever thought 66 degrees was "too cold" to enjoy a ride.

Oh, MY GOD. You crybaby! HARDEN UP.

This morning, in observation of Rule 5, I ventured out into a chilly 28 degrees and just kept on going. Hazleton to Beaver Meadows, Tresckow and back. I even went a little out of my way to pick up cat food. A 17 mile commute just to get to the corner grocery store. I'm sure my cat would do the same for me. (Probably not.)

Now, coldness is one thing, but what would a ride into glory be without a few snow flurries and freezing headwinds? As I rode into Tresckow, a bitterly cold gust blasted me in the face, holding me back as I struggled to keep my pace. This was one of those turning points where I thought, "Why the hell am I doing this? I'm supposed to be enjoying myself; this is like punishment!" And then a thought occurred to me. "Is this worse than the soul-sucking depression I feel when I can't go for a ride?"

I didn't even need a moment to consider the answer. I knew it was better to be on the bike than to be on the couch. "You can sit on the couch all afternoon, after you get home," I told myself. "But right now? It's 'GO' time. Time to shine, time to harden up, time to crank the pedals and conquer that next hill. Over that next hill, the clouds are gonna break, the sun is gonna come out and the heat on your back will make you forget all about the cold. Over that next hill, the ride will be good again." And it was. Somehow, miraculously, that's exactly what happened.

And then the cloud cover came back and I was freezing, once again. C'est la vie.
bike ride winter spring cold weather riding biking
"I have to warn you, this is about to get very personal, but, my nipples could cut diamonds, right now. #justsayin I am sofa king cold."
So, there was that. Even as the temperature climbed into the mid-30s, it was still really cold. Meh.

At least I didn't have it as bad as these dudes:

So, what have we learned?
First of all, 66 degrees isn't cold. Even if I have an extremely high tolerance for heat and an extremely low tolerance for the cold, 66 is MUCH more preferable to 28.

Second, I love my cat. All the other cats in the neighborhood should be super jelly. Like, totes, fer sure.

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Why I've Committed to 30 Days of Biking

turnpike, interstate, i-80, bridge, sky, west, overlook, pa, pennsylvania
My view this morning on my way to work. Looking
over I-80 West from the Old Turnpike Road bridge.
Today, I commuted to work via bicycle. It's not the first time I've done it, but it's the first time in almost 10 years that I've even attempted to try. It's easy to say that I only had to ride 18 miles, but the journey to get "here" has taken years. I feel good, and I feel even better about not spending money on gas, but that's not the point. The point is to get active, to get healthy, and you can do it, too!

I made a commitment to get in shape in 2012. I had been eating healthy since May and successfully lost 40 pounds, but I was still above my body-mass index and had been looking for a way to be more active. Up until then, I only ever took the bike out for a spin around the block. I never really tried to push myself and would call it quits after 10 miles. I had no idea how people could ride for 30, 50, or even 100 miles. It just seemed so unreal. That's when I decided to push myself, to enter an event and train myself to ride extended distances. I chose
the Flaming Foliage Festival as my event, and focused my efforts on getting ready to ride 30k by October.

Eventually, I made my goal. I was regularly riding distances of 50 miles and easily completed the 30k Flaming Foliage ride. Since then, I'm happier than I've ever been in my life. I mean it when I say that I believe my bicycle has saved my life. It has kept me active, kept me fit (falling below my BMI for the first time in 20 years) and gave me a pressure release valve that allowed me de-stress when things got out of hand. Any time I feel down or distressed, I just go for a spin, and it clears my head. That's why I believe in projects like 30 Days of Biking. This simple machine that has been saving my life... I believe it can save the world. At least, I believe, it could save Luzerne County.

Today, the Citizen's Voice published a story about a study that found Luzerne County to be less active and less healthy than the Pennsylvania state average. The study reports that we have lower incomes than the state average, which is believed to be the cause of higher anxiety and depression cases in our area. We're poor and miserable, and that leads to poor life choices, like smoking, drinking and over-eating.

I live in Luzerne County. I am considered to be living below the poverty line, and I know, first-hand, the effect this has on anxiety and clinical depression, because I've been living with it most of my life. I've never been an alcoholic, but eating to feel good has been my crutch for far too long. It's so easy to just sit around, eating and feeling bad about yourself. It's a trap, and it's one of the leading, preventable causes of death in this country. So, what can you do?

Get outside and go for a ride.

I can't promise that riding your bike will change your financial situation, but it can change your life. (Any kind of moderate exercise has the potential to make you feel better, but I just find that biking goes well with my love of nature and exploring the outdoors.) Along with a boosted mood comes changes in outlook and attitude. A cleared mind can gain better perspective, allowing you to see solutions to problems that you thought were unsolvable. Then comes the best part: physical adaptation. As your body adjusts to doing more work, you'll find your regular work load becoming easier to handle. You'll lose weight, feel good and feel better about yourself -- and feeling better about yourself will prompt you to make even more positive changes in your life. Just taking the first few steps (or rides) can unlock the motivation you need to go beyond anything you thought you could do before, unlocking limitless potential. This isn't some new-age, crystal-gripping hippie speak, it's a fact. There are decades of sports medicine research that can back up these claims.

I made the decision to get in shape, setting small goals and checking them off as I achieved them. With each step I took, I found that I wanted to take more. The further I went, the further I wanted to go. You still have plenty of time to get ready for April. Make the pledge, commit to riding each day in April. You can do it!
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Rider's Log: First Signs of Spring and A Quick Reminder About Sharing the Road

main street tamaqua street beaver meadows tresckow pa pennsylvania
The road to Tresckow, leading out from Beaver Meadows.
Did you get out and ride, today? I know I sure did! It feels so good to be back on the road.

I really hope we're not jumping the gun, but it definitely feels like we've seen the worst of Winter, and Spring is on its way. Well, knock on wood... it's supposed to snow later this week.

I decided to take a somewhat familiar route, today, riding through Tresckow (via Beaver Meadows.) I had a filling breakfast, packed a few Clif Bars (Mmm... white chocolate macadamia nut!) and filled my bottle with Gatorade. I wanted to be sure I was ready for this ride.

I didn't go crazy with my route planning -- just a 15 mile out and back. I would have welcomed a longer trip, but I'd be lying if I didn't admit that I was a little worried about cramping up, again.
That experience is something I'm still very conscious of and extremely eager to avoid going through ever again. Did I simply overdo it, or was it a sign of a deeper problem I should be aware of? I just really hate the idea of being stranded in the middle of nowhere and in too much pain to ride home. The good news is, I didn't cramp up, at all, on this ride. My hamstrings were a bit tight much later on in the day, but nothing like the crazy pain I had the other day.

There isn't much to report about this trip, aside from some jackass blowing his horn at me while I was in the lane. I'd be more annoyed if it didn't help prove the point that I was riding to be seen, and he definitely saw me.
Next time, (and for anyone in the same situation as this driver) slow down. I will cut to the right and let you pass as soon as it's safe for me to do so. There's a lot of gravel on the shoulders, and the edges of the road are usually very jagged or full of potholes. Once it's safe to pass, you have the right to cross the double-yellow lines to get around me. No need to shout or blow your horn. Remember: cyclists are entitled to 4 feet of space when being passed. If you think there's enough room to sneak between me and an oncoming car, there isn't. Again, slow down. Let's act like civilized adults and share the road, ok? It's not going to ruin your whole day to have to wait to pass me; I'm only inconveniencing you for a few moments.

Ride safe! And by all means, enjoy this wonderful weather we're having. Who knows how long it'll last until Spring officially gets here?
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Dealing with Severe Leg Cramps on the Bike

cramps, muscle spasms, muscle pain while riding, electrolyte, carbohydrate, proper hydration, muscle cramps while riding bike
No, not Krampus. CRAMPS.
Some days, I'm surprisingly ok with failure. My thought process usually follows, "I tried something, it didn't work, I learned from it and moved on." Then, other things, I'm not ok with. Not completing a ride, for example, usually gets me royally pissed off.

It's been almost 2 months since I last tried to ride to Mountain Top and back, and I've been patiently awaiting my second attempt. Since then, we've had snowstorm after snowstorm, with temperatures dipping below 0 for several days straight -- not the kind of weather I'd like to be in for a 36 mile round trip. But now, things are getting better. The sun is staying out longer, we're days away from pushing the clocks ahead and the temperatures are slowly rising into the 40s and 50s. We're not quite there, yet, but it's close. Close enough that, on Tuesday, I saw my second chance at a successful round-trip ride to Mountain Top.

Apparently, I'm woefully out of shape. I went for a nice 12 miler on Saturday, and even with snow pelting my face and a wickedly cold head wind that chilled me to the bone, I felt good enough that an extended ride didn't sound too crazy. And, judging how I felt when I got to the NEPA Geeks office in Mountain Top, I was right. 18 miles? No problem! The ride back, however, was like a ride into Hell. My body was simply not ready for a 36 mile round trip, and dealing with severe leg cramps on the bike was the price I had to pay.

I guess I needed a stern reminder about hydration, electrolyte and carbohydrate replenishment, because I still haven't learned my lesson from the last time this happened.

Let's look at what I think I did wrong:
  • Didn't eat before the ride.
  • Didn't eat during the ride.
  • Didn't rehydrate.
And I might as well add "Didn't train enough beforehand," to the list. Jumping from 12 miles to 36 kicked me square in the ass and dumped me on the curb to sit and think about it for a while, almost literally.

As my calves cramped up and involuntarily convulsed, I did my best to sit on a guardrail and keep them at heart-level. (For some reason, I thought keeping them elevated would help, and it did.) Then my quadriceps joined in the chorus of pain. Less than a few miles from home, my right hamstring pulled taut and sent me into the dirt. At least I was only walking at this point, so I didn't hurt myself more than I already had. It was a bad, bad scene.

As prime riding season approaches, it's definitely worth taking some time to acknowledge the fact that I need to ease back into this sport, do plenty of stretching before I ride and make sure I have plenty of water and food during the ride. I've also read from a few sources that eating Tums with calcium can help ward off cramping. Not sure about that one, but if it happens again, it might be worth a shot. Keep your eyes peeled for Krampus, and here's to hoping that it never happens again!
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#30DaysofBiking Registration Kicks Off Today - I've joined Team #LovingTheBike

"30 Days of Biking" is an initiative to get people around the world to commit to an entire month of biking, every single day beginning April 1, 2013. The registration kicks of today, March 1. To register, sign up at
I've already signed up and have pledged to ride for Team #LovingTheBike.

One of the bike bloggers I follow and read regularly is Darryl at In case you don't recall, I wrote a response to a post he published several months ago called "Using the Full Lane: A response to Darryl at" about the issues of bicycle safety, and why I believe cyclists should be encouraged to take the lane whenever possible. While our philosophies were slightly different on that issue, fortunately, Darryl's post about signing up for #30DaysofBiking and riding with Team #LovingTheBike is something we can both see eye-to-eye on, unconditionally! I'm very pleased to lend a hand in the effort to help the team win this year.

What's great about #30DaysofBiking is that the emphasis isn't on how much you ride, but how often you ride. What that means is that anyone can do it, even if they only ride a few miles a day. Getting people up and riding, committing to a healthier, happier lifestyle is what this is all about.
Signing up is easy, just take the pledge to ride every day for 30 days. Signups end on March 31 and the challenge begins on April 1. Even if you don't plan on joining a team, please sign up and make your individual effort count! With all of us committed to this, no one is truly riding alone.

You can follow 30DaysofBiking on Twitter and use the hashtag #30DaysofBiking to help spread the word. You can also follow Darryl on Twitter and even my Twitter account, if you're so inclined. If you decide to join, let us know!
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2012 Giant Defy 5 - I'm just burnin', doing the new bike dance!

Regular readers of this blog (all 2 of you) might remember that I found my dream bike at Valley Cycles back in October. After months of scrimping and saving, I finally brought it home!

giant defy 5 defy5 road bike bicycle instagram

Dave, the owner of Valley Cycles, gave me a fantastic deal on this bike; just an unbeatable bargain. He made sure the bike was fitted properly and that I would be comfortable while riding it (as any good bike shop should do) then gave the drivetrain a good adjustment and had me ride it around in the parking lot for a bit. Everything was just as it was several months ago, when I first took this bike for a test ride -- just a few good cranks, and I was blasting off. I couldn't wait to get this thing home and go for an extended ride.

My first ride around town was a short, 2-mile sprint. This is my first "real" road bike, so I have to take some time to adjust to the drop bars and reaching for the brake levers. All in all, I only almost killed myself twice.

The side-streets in Hazleton are a mess. Many still have piles of snow on them and even the ones that don't have a fresh coating of gravel on them, making the ride an unsure one as the thin tires try to grip the pavement. I hate to admit that I didn't exactly engage in the most safe riding practices, either. It's been a while since I've ridden in heavy traffic, and my skills have deteriorated a bit.

The thing that surprised me was the number of drivers who waved me through intersections and patiently waited for me to cross streets -- and this was even as traffic was ramping up for rush hour. Maybe Hazleton is becoming more bike-friendly? Certainly not the streets, but the drivers are at least less willing to throw things at me.

I'm happy to report that the Defy ascends like a dream. Even after sitting out from serious riding for a few weeks, I was tackling challenging hills with with ease and grace. The bike is aluminum, but still the lightest bike I've ever owned. Seriously, it shocks me how light the bike is.

Snow was beginning to fall as I headed home, but that didn't stop from taking some time to make a Vine video, celebrating that "new bike" smell.

Another notable thing about yesterday's ride was that I was able to squeak it in right before February was over. My commitment to make at least one ride a month, no matter the weather conditions, remains in tact!
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