Sunday, May 29, 2011

It's Taken This Long . . .

How long has it taken to finally add words to an empty Blog? Too long.

I intended to memorialize my efforts to become a bicycle tourist, then life interfered. Funny how that happens more (or so it seems) as I get older. Validates the Blog's title, I guess. Recovering from my too recent detached retina (more about that later) I can see well enough to us my PC, so now is the time to start.

Contributing to making a start was my ride with one of the slower Cycling Club groups. Twenty-two miles of pleasant back roads was my first ride with people I did not know. As with many interest groups, I know little about the others except what comes from their choice of equipment and the way in which they perform. In general; nice bike and decent people, all.

The ride was easy and met the group's standards. Their name is Hokey Pokeys and the overall pace lived up (or down) to the name. What wasn't so easy was getting home from the starting/ending point. Having given up automobiles as regular transportation, I had to cycle to there and back. Had to? Yeah, it is all a part of the challenge of doing something from which it is difficult to walk away unless I finish it.

I cycled 53 miles, total. The final ten were difficult, but not burdensome. The whole episode was exactly what it should have been' tough but something I can do. Not that I will be doing 50 plus miles regularly . . . OK, maybe I will. You see, this all leads up to the goal of touring by bicycle with the first long distance effort planned for the East Coast; Oldest City to Oldest Brewery, by way of the Outer Banks. A month of 12 miles an hour. Some nights in motels, some in a tent and some where ever I happen to be.

Often, I thought about hiking the App Trail, but the time and effort investment was more than I could ever make. No, I am simply not interested in sticking my arthritic toes into hiking shoes and abusing myself that way. Driving was a driving force in my life for, well, most of my life. Reaction times and vision issues (more about that later) made that less likely. After all, who wants to drive slowly anywhere? Or, maybe it became a lack of interest? The right car?

This is a bike tolerant community. University towns are like that I suppose. Students on bike. Professors on bikes. There are bike lanes and bike routes and the majority of drivers are at worst tolerant of bicycles. Intermittently, over the past several years I commuted by bicycle, an eleven mile trip one-way. Two summers ago I began doing it full-time. The Escort blew a head gasket and seemed not worth trying to repair. So, ride four miles to put my bike on the front of a mass-transit bus (all are equipped with a two-place bike rack), then cycle the eleven miles home. "What do you do when it rains?" "Get wet." "What do you do when it's cold?" "Get cold."

"What's someone your age doing riding a bike everywhere?" That was the underlying question. And the only answer, ultimately, is, "Because I really like to ride." And I do. For all this time I rode my '86 Schwinn High Sierra, Mountain Bike, which I'd turned into a nice commuter; bar ends, road tires, rack, panniers, lights. I could easily do the eleven miles in less than an hour. The Head Mechanic, Dave, at Bikes and More, my favored shop, doubted the Schwinn would make the trip, or maybe more accurately, that I would make it riding the Schwinn. Of course, I WANTED a different bike, but . . .

Six hundred miles and a month later, I can now talk about my new ride. The High Sierra has return to its off-road preference and I manage the much different mood created by a Novara Safari. I used to say that my High Sierra was a pick-up compared to more modern commuters and touring bikes. SpUtes (sport utility vehicles) and and sports cars is what most people rode. I was envious, but only moderately because I KNEW what I wanted. Only one other bike had sirred my interest, but at $1600 the Salsa Fargo was more money that I wanted to spend, when half that much bought what I had determined was perfect? Perfect once I raised the handle bars and changed seats.

Will I actually cycle the East Coast? Probably. Will it be in the Spring 2012? Possibly. There are a lot of things to acquire first; tent, cooking equipment, additional tools, maybe even sponsorship.With the bike and a refurbished Wind Netbook in-hand I can focus on the life style and living items I will need. Yeah, it'll happen. Fifty-three miles proved I can do it.

Vision issues. Had cataract surgery in November and December 2010. Went from 20/40 and 20/30 right and left eye to 20/20 and 20/15. Needed magnifiers for reading, but who doesn't after 40? One of the possible problems with cataract surgery is that detached retinas are not uncommon following the surgery. I scored. Slowly I began to see something creeping upward across my vision, then 70% was gone, just like that! "You need to have this done now!" said the retina specialist to which the VA people sent me. Soon after, he was sticking pokey things behind my eye repairing the retina's tear. After two and a half weeks the right eye is back to 20/40. There is fogginess that will dissipate over time. Optical debris, the doctor called it, that'll be "gobbled up like Pacman" according to the doctor.

What's someone your age doing planing to ride the East Coast? Refusing to give-in to the passage of time, is all.