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Sunday, February 17, 2013

Chipping Away at Plan B

Traffic Skills 101 online course--done! Now I need to do the hands-on portion, but from what I'm finding, this may not happen any time soon. Interestingly enough, there is no League Certified Instructor (LCI) in the Twin Cities. Additionally, there are no classes scheduled within the next 60 days for anywhere near me. Thankfully, I was able to find the name and email address for an LCI who lives in Urbana. I sent her an email, asking if she would be agreeable to setting up a day/time for the hands-on portion. Hopefully she'll respond quickly, saying, "Why yes, I'd love to be your instructor." Once I get this part of the class finished, I can then sign up for the LCI seminar. The wheels, they are a'turnin'.

At one point while taking the second quiz of the online course, I sat back and complained, "This question is asking about something that wasn't even covered in the chapter." I selected the answer that made the most sense to me, but I selected wrong. When I got to Chapter 3, I read the information that went with the question I missed. That doesn't seem quite right. I passed, though, and passing is what matters. Now I can move forward and continue chipping away at Plan B.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Step #2 of Plan B

I began step #2 of Plan B. Step #1 was to begin learning basic mechanics/bicycle repair. I've had two classes so far and need to schedule the third. Since the weather has been so cold, the garage has been frigid to the point of being uncomfortable to work in. I'm hoping The Weather Channel people are right in that we'll see the end of the cold come the end of February. They keep saying March will be above average in temps, so I'm really banking on this. They better be right. I need to have another session. While I wait, I decided to go ahead and take step #2: becoming a League Certified Instructor (League of American Bicyclists). Before I can attend an instructor seminar, I have to take the online Traffic Skills 101 course, so that's what I'm doing.

Chapter 1 covered the different parts of the bike, basic bike fit information, and equipment. I read through it, well, I skimmed a lot of it, then took the 6 question quiz at the end. I'll be honest--I was a bit worried that I might get a question or two wrong since I didn't read the material closely. Since I don't know if I'm allowed to miss any, I was crossing my fingers that I got them all correct. I was dreading clicking on the Submit button, but I had nothing to really worry about. I answered them all correctly. 100%! Now I'm into Chapter 2. And I'm digging this. Realizing how much I know about the basics makes me incredibly happy. I know I can confidently offer advice to someone just starting out.

The nice thing is being able to do the class online. I can go at my own pace, and when I'm finished with the online portion, I can contact a certified instructor out of Champaign or Chicago to complete the hands-on portion. When this is finished I can sign up for the instructor seminar. Once I have the certification, I will be able to offer classes right here, perhaps through our local bike shops and maybe even through my college's Community Education program.

So goes step #2. I'm happy with Plan B and how things are going. While Plan A is the ideal, I've set it aside as I'm just not confident in being able to get the funding needed to make it happen. Plan B is doable. Who knows, maybe after finishing the steps of Plan B I'll have what I need to pursue Plan A more confidently.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

My Birthday Date

I have a date for my birthday, March 5th. The film showing is to raise money for a bike give-away initiative, and I was asked to speak about my experience cycling across the US. Can't think of a better way to spend my evening.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Odds and Ends

How about that Notre Dame/Louiseville game last night?! Five OT's! And Notre Dame walked away the victor. A really fun game to watch. Then there was the Purdue/Michigan State game, which saw my Boilers dig a hole they couldn't get themselves out of. Not fun to watch at all.

No cycling for two weeks now. The first day I didn't ride the temp was 2 degrees with a -18 degree wind chill, the wind blowing furiously from the northwest. The next few days the temps remained bitterly cold, so I decided to wait out the weather, hoping for a warm up. Then last week came, and I was called upon for child pick-up duty in the afternoons. With my schedule, driving was the better option. Now, the rain has moved in. Cold, heavy rain, and wind.

Not cycling has made me lazy. I haven't done anything remotely physical these last two weeks. I feel like a slug. I'm afraid all the work I put in the last year is going to be undone. I have a trainer I could set up, and I have a dreadmill I could use, but I just can't find the gumption to get myself to follow through. I'm afraid to get on the scale to see what the damage is. While my clothes are still on the loose side, I know it won't take long for that to change.

What's helping me keep the weight under some kind of control is, at least I believe, the fact I no longer eat grains, legumes, or dairy. In November, a friend asked me to do a 30 day challenge with her. She had turned to the Paleo lifestyle, and she wanted me to give it a try. Always up for a challenge, I said sure, why not. That first week I lost 3 pounds. When the 30 days were up, I didn't weigh in, but I could see a marked difference in how I felt between noon and 3 pm, and how well I was sleeping. Before doing the challenge, I used to get so tired and have awful abdominal pain between noon and 3 or 4 pm. After the 30 days, my energy was noticeably better and the pain was gone. Also before doing the challenge, every night I would wake up around 2 am and have a tough time getting back to sleep. After the 30 days, I was sleeping through the night, not waking up at all. I mean I was sleeping hard. These changes were enough for me to say I'm going Paleo all the way. I am still Paleo, loving the energy in the afternoons, the no abdominal pain, and the sleeping through the night. Occasionally I miss bread, so I do allow myself to have a bagel or a slice of bread once in awhile, but overall, I can live without it. I don't miss the dairy at all. While I love, love, love yogurt, I don't pine over not eating it any longer.

Lastly, Angel Baby has a band competition coming up. He plays the sax, and recently he auditioned for the high school band director to determine which level band he would be placed in for next year as a freshman in high school. He made it into the second level. I didn't know anything about the different levels, but another parent assured me being in the second level as a freshman is very, very good. The band director then offered to give Angel Baby a private lesson once a week at no charge, saying he believes Angel Baby has real talent. I've always wondered. When Angel Baby started playing the sax four years ago, he very quickly learned how to read music. I've listened to other kids his age struggle with reading music, but Angel Baby very matter of factly reads off the notes then plays them as if it's nothing. One of my favorite things to do these days is listen to him play. I love having a musician in the house.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Wooed and Won Over By A Bicycle

I've started working on my next essay/article, and I'm so excited. My intent with this one is to explore how the bicycle has allowed women to take control of their own destiny, and I hope to do this through the voices of the women with whom I was privileged to ride beside last summer, as well as articles and books I'm finding as I research. One book I will refer to during my piece is How I Learned to Ride the Bicycle by Frances E. Willard. I'm about a third of the way into this little gem and have marked several passages that speak to what I'm hoping to accomplish within my essay/article.

So far, one of my favorite passages in How I Learned to Ride the Bicycle is this: "Gradually, item by item, I learned the location of every screw and spring, spoke and tire, and every beam and bearing that went to make up Gladys (the name she gave to her bike). This was not the lesson of a day, but of many days and weeks, and it had to be learned before we could get on well together. To my mind the infelicities of which we see so much in life grow out of lack of time and patience to study and adjust our natures to those of others, though we have agreed in the sight of God and man to stand by one another to the last. Many will not take the pains, they have not enough specific gravity, to balance themselves in their new environment. Indeed, I found a whole philosophy of life in the wooing and the winning of my bicycle."

I've read this passage quite a few times now, not only for the melody I hear through construction of the sentences and the choice of words, which I find incredibly satisfying, but also for the message. With anything we undertake in life, learning the in's and out's of said undertaking make it fuller, richer. I've now had two bicycle mechanic classes, the last one this past Thursday at a friend's--who jumped aboard my "I want to be a bicycle mechanic" wagon--where the two of us were walked through how to put a bicycle together. My friend had all the parts for his new BMX bike, and after three hours, the parts were all fitted together to create his beautiful ride (well, all except the hydraulic brake line which popped out of the brake lever housing and thus created the necessity for bleeding the line before it could be put back together). Now that I know more about how the pieces fit together and how they work together to allow me the opportunity to roll along the streets of my city or countryside, enjoying the sights and sounds around me, the more I appreciate the machine that is the bicycle.

It is this appreciation for the bicycle and what it has allowed women to do, specifically the women of last summer's ride, that I want to reflect in my new piece.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Moving Beyond the Used Car

Ever since I was 16 and received my driver's license, I have driven used cars. I have never, ever bought a brand, spankin' new car. Until yesterday. And the car I bought isn't even for me.

Now that Lovely Beautiful Daughter is working three jobs, I just couldn't stand by and watch her put over $100 of her money into gas every 10 days or so. Our ten-year-old SUV is sucking her dry. In addition, the two used vehicles I'd bought for her over the last five years ended up being more trouble than they were worth, the last one running for a month before it died, never to be resurrected no matter what was tried. After that little debacle, I thought long and hard about the situation. Since she's working, and her brother is just a few months away from getting his license, I decided to buy a new car the both of them could use. Lovely Beautiful Daughter is going halvers with me on the payment, and Funny Delightful Son has offered to chip in once he gets a job this summer. While I don't need them to help pay for the car, I do think having them help will show them how important it is to take care of something that costs this much.

When Funny Delightful Son went to the garage this morning to see the Nissan Versa we'd brought home last evening while he was out with friends, the excitement in his voice and the wonder on his face made me completely happy with my decision. Lovely Beautiful Daughter, too, is smitten with the black beauty now occupying the bay the SUV used to. The poor SUV has been relegated to having to sit out in the elements, something it has never had to do.

Being able to do this for my kids has made me very happy. I know a lot of parents would most likely tell me I should make the kids work for and buy their own cars, and I do understand their position. My thinking, though, is I'm capable of doing this, both are going to chip in and help, and together we'll buy our family's first ever brand, spankin' new car.