Friday, December 28, 2012

Got Tears? Buy Underpants.

I've always been a firm believer in making the most of what you've got.  Got rotten bananas? Make banana bread. Got a stomachache? Take it as a chance to lay around and read a good book. Have to wait in a long line? Meet a new friend. You get the point....

Anyway, apparently I'm wearing off on Big E. Our Christmas tree tipped over a few days before Christmas. No problem. He turned the whole room into a tree.
We don't have a fireplace. No problem. He found the yulelog on TV.
Which leads me to this question- do you think Santa can come in through the TV? Because somehow he got into the house and left me not the usual one, but TWO stockings on the end of my bed. Of course, these means I woke up with presents all over the bed. Thankfully the big man must know I kick all night so he didn't put anything fragile in there.

Big E only got one, but his Santa has a bit of a problem figuring out what will fit in the stocking so he got a few extra presents instead.
Really Santa? You thought that jar of pickles was gonna fit in there?

All in all, a very sweet Christmas. I was a bit sad to not have the usual pair of underwear my mom used to give me, but I made the most of that too. Turns out they put all the fun Christmas panties on sale the next day.....

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Let It SNOW!

This blog started with a trip a couple of years ago. That trip started with the longing for seasons. San Diego didn't have seasons. I wanted seasons. I'm finally getting my seasons. I know some people hate them, especially winter, but for me each one brings some new adventure without ever leaving town.

Saturday night/Sunday morning brought us a little snow. The boys let me tag along on their ride. I nearly rode my legs off trying to keep up. I hung on for all of minute. I had an absolute blast making snow angels anyway.
Sunday afternoon brought a little more snow.
Thankfully I've seen so little snow in my adult life that shoveling still counts as fun. Especially since I didn't take Big E seriously when he said I should pull into the street before I shoveled all that snow off the van. So.....I shoveled the driveway twice. By choice. There was a snowblower in the garage. Maybe I could make a little side cash shoveling sidewalks?

Or perhaps the city could pay me to shovel parking lots?
Good thing Big E put a shovel in the van, because you never know when you might need to make a parking space for yourself at the trailhead. Unfortunately, I made much more progress with my shovel than I did on my bike Monday morning. Maybe I can get Big E to mount a shovel on the front of the Mini Muk?
Yes, there are boot prints next to those tire tracks. This is called push-a-bike. It's not nearly as fun as ride-a-bike, yet infinitely more fun that being indoors.

Someday I might be able to ride in a foot of the fluffy stuff, but Tuesday I opted for skis. Good thing.
Maybe next I'll try the hills...

Friday, November 16, 2012

Sippin' Life Slowly

On my run today, an old man hiked past me. He wore jeans and carried ski poles. Around his waist, he sported a harness attached to his dog. He jogged a bit after he passed me, perhaps to bridge a gap in case I wanted to race. He needn't have worried. I savor my trail runs. Racing them would be akin to guzzling an entire bottle of expensive scotch.

As I climbed the rest of the hill, I heard gunshots. Possibly a neighbor securing dinner for a lot of nights to come.... When I reached the top, I turned right and encountered two deer. The one closer to the trail stood frozen, one ear cocked. I moved closer, wondering if someone had placed a statue all the way out here. She refused to move. When I got close, I froze too. As we stared each other down, she twitched only once. After a minute or two I made the sound Big E taught me. Deer make this sound to warn each other, he'd said. I thought she would run, but she came closer. She seemed to sniff and then slowly pranced off with her friend.

I continued on, marveling at the amount of snow that's been made on the ski hill, scaring off some bunnies and listening to the evening sounds. The sun had nearly set, leaving the prairie with a slight glow. A crescent moon, the kind my sister and I always called a fingernail moon, was above my head. The last bit of sun and high moon gave me just enough light to finish the trail.

I turned on my headlamp for the last mile on the road, mostly so the few cars out could see me. There are no street lights out here. Porch lights are rare. As I made my way up and down the last few hills, I noticed the hot and cold pockets in the air. It was as if the warmth of the day and the chill of the night were having a little show down. By the time I ran up the driveway, the night had won.  I lingered a bit outside, taking one last little sip...

Friday, November 9, 2012

Thompson for Prez

I was driving through state number five of six on Monday and listening to the speeches on CNN radio when I came up with the brilliant idea that I should run for president. I heard the two candidates would visit eight states between them and figured if I can do six in one day without an airplane I've got one up on both of them. I mean, really, could either of them manage to drive through rural Michigan without hitting a deer, skirt Chicago at rush hour and avoid getting pulled over by one of the 1,000 cops lining the freeways in Madison (the prez was speaking) all in one day?

Of course, my presidential campaign would probably come to a roaring halt as soon as the public discovered my propensity for spontaneous nudity. Seriously, you know darn well this picture would end up on the front page of every newspaper in the country.
So I'll let that dream go for now.

Now on to the story of why, exactly, I was driving in six states in one day.

On Thursday I headed to Michigan for Iceman, a 30ish mile mountain bike race in Traverse City. After running in the rain and 40mph winds on Thursday night, riding in the sleet on Friday and racing in the snow/mud on Saturday, I figured I hadn't encountered any hail yet so I drove the four hours down south to find some. Why not make the trip complete, right?

Ok, fine, it wasn't really all about the hail.  I wanted to visit my grandma while I was close. I needed an ego boost. She's 94 and likes to tell me how cute I am. It was perfect.

So, after visiting with Grammy on Sunday, I woke up Monday morning in southern Michigan, drove south to Ohio, west to Indiana, north to Illinois and Wisconsin and finally west to Minnesota.

Maybe I should consider truck driving as an alternative to politics? My handle could be Girl Undressed....

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Bonnie and Clyde Take on Hillside

Okay, fine. Mostly it was just Clyde taking on Hillside.  I wimped out on actually wearing the costume for the race. Riding a mountain bike in a skirt and heels just seemed like a bad idea. Especially since it snowed a little.

Clyde decided to wear his suit anyway so he ended up looking less like a bad guy and more like a preacher on a bike.
 Well, at least until he decided to bust out the flask.
I did brave the full costume just long enough for some post race pics.
(According to the crowd, I don't know how to smoke a cigarette. I'll take that as a compliment.)

Then I wimped out and put my winter boots on to enjoy a little entertainment by Evil Kenevil.
Thanks Jamie and Robin for the pictures!

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Gravel, Apples, Beaches, Mohawks....

The beautiful awesomeness of October has continued.
So has my exploration of my new neighborhood by bike. For instance, I discovered the friendliest yellow lab on the planet while riding down this road. Although it's possible that he was just horny and thought I was a dog. You can never be sure. I figure it doesn't really matter as long as he doesn't bite me. I much prefer licking and humping.

I've also visited a number of apple orchards by bike, although I've yet to brave carrying home a peck of apples on my back.

Of course, the Great Lakes girl in me can't stay away from the nearby beach.
Even if it means carrying my bike over some trees:
Even that obstacle couldn't deter us from a night adventure, although I did barely avoid a fall in the river every time I got distracted by the lights on the other side. (Plus, I learned that if I bring Big E along, he'll lift my bike over stuff for me so the obstacles are much easier with him. At least for me...)

Of course, all of this exploration has necessitated the formation of my own personal tick inspection squad. 
Thankfully he hasn't found any yet, because he appears ready to give me a mohawk if he finds one. At least he doesn't have a blow torch....

Sunday, October 14, 2012

More Color, Fewer Words

This time of year, I feel like I can say less. The pics just kinda say it all for me. Within two miles of home I have Afton State Park for hiking, running, biking, snake hunting...:
Afton Alps for skiing and mountain biking:
 And I don't even have to leave the driveway to spot these guys:

Can't complain.....

Friday, October 5, 2012

Friday Night Lights

It's official. There are just too many kinds of bike racing in MN for me to choose just one. After so much fun with cyclocross last fall, I thought that would be my favorite. Then I discovered the long gravel races. After the Gravel Conspiracy I figured I'd rest up a bit for cross and that would be it. Then Richzilla had to go and put on three night mountain bike races. So much for resting the legs...and now I have yet another kind of racing I love. Not that I'm complaining because who can complain about having TOO many bike racing choices?
I especially can't complain when those night races are followed by a bonfire, movies and camping.  Plus, the boys entertained me at 1:00am by attempting to ride the new stockade feature at Hillside.
Heath got the farthest the first time so we marked his spot.
 Of course, boys will be boys so they were back at it the next week. Thankfully, I learned not to scream into the camera this time so you get to hear Richzilla yell at Big E instead.
(Just a note to my Pop- don't worry I don't try this. I have a hard enough time staying upright on the trail!)

Now that the night races are done, I figured I would finally focus on cross. Of course then I heard there's one more gravel race. Then there's Iceman. Maybe I'll have to save cyclocross for December. Oh wait, then there's snow biking....

Monday, September 24, 2012

Hillbilly Living Room

 I must admit, after being a bit wary of Minnesota my first few months here, it's starting to grow on me a bit. (Not that I'll ever get used to the horrible drivers, but I think I can live that. Maybe...) However, city life just wasn't my thing so when the lease was up, I moved to the country. I just went ahead and skipped right on past the 'burbs and found the most remote place possible with a reasonable commute. (After all, I must limit my exposure to the horrific driving of the Minnesotans.) Usually the first half of my commute involves more passing of tractors than cars so I think it's gonna work out just fine...

Fortunately, I can afford a bigger place in the country. Unfortunately, I'm a bit short on furniture. 
Big E suggested I buy one of those camp chairs for two. I think he was kidding, but I'm thinking it might not be a bad idea. Now if I could just build a campfire in the living room...

Living in the boonies comes with a few perks:

Of course, there are a few oddities as well:

There's something about me living in the boonies that always seems to involve dead rodents.... I've upgraded (I think) from rats to flying squirrels to bats.

In the meantime, Sam is enjoying some cyclocross riding without the extra dozen or so pounds she had to lug around on the Gravel Conspiracy.

So many kinds of riding, so little time....

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Gravel Conspiracy

It's done- three days of gravel road racing, somewhere between 290 and 300 miles, a little bit of bush whacking and tons of fun.

I'd been half excited about and half terrified by this race all summer. Honestly, I was looking forward to all the miles of riding. Granted, there were going to be two days in a row longer than I'd ever ridden in a day, but I was oddly psyched up about that many hours on a bike. On the other hand, I was completely convinced I was going to be stomped to death by a moose.

I know, I know, I need to get over this whole animal fear thing. First it was the pig at Ragnarok and now it's the moose.

Anyway, I survived day one without being stomped to death. I even went to the front once after of few miles down the road, just because I figured it would be my only chance, ever in my life, to either lead a race or ride by Big E and yell, "Why you going so slow?"  I mean, if I was going to die by moose stomping, I had to at least accomplish these two things first, right?

After camping out the first night, we set out for our longest day on Saturday. The boys definitely didn't roll out in a nice, easy paced pack like they did the first day so I was alone from the get go. (Great, perfect opportunity for that moose to get me.) After riding alone most of the morning, I was happy to see Joshua, The Head Conspirator (HC), at mile 70.
 I was tempted to linger there for awhile and drink hot cocoa, but when he told me Big E had left a few minutes before, I hurried my butt up.
 This is me laughing because I told them I was trying to catch Big E because I figured he'd have a flask. Really I just wanted to be near him and his big biceps so he could protect me from that killer moose. 

So, I took off down the road, hopeful to catch people and found myself alone, yet again, for another 35 miles or so. The route got more remote at that point and I was headed down a forest road covered in fallen trees. It briefly occurred to me that maybe this remote road wasn't such a great idea alone, but my headstrong side pushed ahead. Then the road ended, right there in the middle of the woods, where all the angry moose live. Not to mention bears and wolves. 

Thankfully for me, right at that moment, while I was deciding whether to risk bushwhacking alone or to just turn back, three guys popped out of the woods, followed by Big E. He did not look happy. Apparently, they'd been bushwhacking for an hour. Since their route hadn't gone anywhere, we all headed off into the bush another direction.  Eventually this group of five became about 12 as we picked up more guys who'd been lost.

Now, I know this might be every girl's dream to be lost in the woods with a dozen fit men. It might even be mine under different circumstances. Unfortunately, it's not all that exciting when they're all grouchy. On the bright side, I knew had Big E, his biceps and 10 other people to protect me from the big bad moose.

Long story short, we backtracked, made it out to the main road and headed into Ely.  The HC headed out with the moving truck to initiate a search for anyone behind us who might be lost in the dark. I had high hopes that he'd find them quickly because all of our dry clothes were in the truck. I was so hopeful, in fact, that I jumped into  a hot bath at our rented house, thinking I'd get to wear dry clothes when I got out. An hour and a half later, I lay in bed naked, deciding whether to skip dinner or suck it up and put the wet kit back on. Of course dinner won out. 

The next morning, I'll admit, I wasn't too wide awake at the start.

Thankfully, everyone else seemed a bit slow to start too, so I got to ride with some company for the first 10 miles. Of course, I couldn't hang with the fast crew after that so I was back to being moose bait. 

I'll be honest, it was a long day. After somewhere between 125 and 130 miles the day before (my computer got reset by the bushwhacking!) my legs were tired. I didn't make the day any shorter by getting a flat and then adding on a few extra miles of "sightseeing." I suffered. I loved it though. I knew, even when I thought my knee wouldn't push down on the pedal anymore, that I'd finish this day.  At that point, the only thing that probably could have stopped me would have been that stomping moose, and even then I would've put up a pretty big fight. 

The last few miles were all down hill. I'd stupidly left my jacket in the truck partway through the day. I was left with a shortsleeve jersey, arm warmers, a hat and some toe warmers that I stuck to my stomach. (No, toe warmers on your stomach do not keep you warm when you're riding downhill in the cold.) Still, when I made the last turn into town and I knew I'd finally get to be warm, I felt a pang of disappointment.
Fakin' a smile at the finish right before I realized I couldn't lift my leg over my bike!
I thought I'd be elated. I thought I'd be relieved it was over. I did feel those things, but the disappointment was there too. It was over, my little (okay, my huge) adventure was coming to an end. My new friends would all be heading home and there'd be no more miles to ride, no more stories to share, no more jokes to tell. (Well, at least not until next time....)

When I told Big E this later, he smiled and said that was The HC's point all along when he organized this race. So thanks HC for putting on an awesome event that allowed us all to have an adventure and make some new friends along the way. 

All pictures, except the last one that Big E took, were stolen from The HC. Thanks for that too!

Monday, September 3, 2012

Sweet Dreams...

"If you want to have sweet dreams, you have to live a sweet life." Barbara Kingsolver

August was certainly a month for living the sweet life.  Somewhere between packing to move out of my apartment, acquiring a new office space and starting a new teaching job, I managed to log a heck of a lot of miles out on the trail. Of course, since I'm still severely uncoordinated on a mountain bike, I also acquired this the night before I started the new job:
My new boss gets cool points for finding this amusing.

Thankfully the swelling had gone down by the time I went to surprise Pop by visiting him in my favorite place on earth.
Okay, so maybe Mama Liz isn't making is look so appealing in her winter clothing, but I didn't say it was warm in northern MI, I just said it was beautiful! 

Of course, upon surprise arrival at their cabin, I was greeted by Amanda, the super guard dog:
Of course, I didn't think this licking was so cute after Pop informed me that the reason the vet put the cone on her head was to keep her from licking her own paw because her mouth is so full of nasty bacteria. Excellent. I'll be disinfecting my lips daily from now on....

The sweet life continued in MI with a lot of fun laughs with friends, some early birthday celebrations and a lot of time on my favorite trails.

I believe I once thought I could never ride this...

I mean, really, where else in the world could you be mountain biking and end up here? Not that I wasn't tortured by a few miles of uphill in the sand to get there, but then aren't some of the best things in life often hard to find?

I returned back to MN just in time to continue celebrating my birthday (who doesn't like to celebrate for a whole week) with a race on the actual day and food so good Big E licked the plate the day after.
Note to self: Don't dare this guy to do anything you don't actually want him to do in public.

Can't say it was a bad August! September started off fabulous so far too with a driveway bonfire:
complete with ghetto guac:

Sweet dreams!

Monday, August 6, 2012

True Romance

Since I'm a girl, when I asked Big E to go for a full moon ride with me on Friday night, I was sort of hoping for something like this:
You know, we have a nice dinner, then we ride our bikes out to the lake and the moon rises and all is right with the world. In fact I was hoping so much for this that I completely ignored Big E when he reminded me of the weather report during dinner. I also ignored him when he pointed out the lightning off to the west as we started our ride.

In my defense, it still wasn't raining when we reached Lake Minnetonka. But then, we couldn't smooch in the moonlight either because the moon was buried beneath clouds that should've been a warning to me to stop ignoring the weather report and the lightning.

What can I say? I'm stubbornly hopeful. Or maybe hopefully stubborn? Either way, instead of my romantic moonlight kiss, I got to ride the last few miles in something like this:
Just pretend the light in the picture is lightning and add in some 50 mph winds.

Of course, I added to the romanticness of all of this by nearly riding head on into the curb. Rumor has it I made some sort of tortured cat noise right before I somehow managed to get my body off the bike before I faceplanted.

Thank goodness, because it would really suck to end a romantic evening with a road-rashed face.

Instead, it ended in the bar with a little whisky, hot cocoa and Bailey's. Who says a little rain has to ruin an evening?