Monday, September 8, 2014

East Vilas County Solo Ride

9-7-2014. I always think I should haul my bike to work with me so I can ride other places when I'm done seeing patients. On this particular Sunday afternoon, with a perfect 70 degrees and a hearty wind, I finished work in Land O' Lakes and had mapped out about 36 miles of sweet county roads. I parked just off of Highway B at the Black Oak Lake boat launch and town park. A couple of gentlemen were minding the boat landing; likely volunteers trying to prevent the spread of invasive species. As I walked towards the pit toilets to change from scrubs into bike clothes, we chatted for a couple of minutes. Apparently they were "waiting for something to happen" which made me laugh. I guess after Labor Day, there isn't much happening up here. To my delight, there was a paved path to start on towards Highway 45. I rolled through little Land O' Lakes. I like that town. Turning onto 45 South I glanced to the left to see the Welcome to Pure Michigan sign. Hello, Michigan!

My intent for riding alone today is to moderate my speed with no pressure to keep up. I also wanted to see where my thoughts would take me. No music, no company; just the beauty of the Northwoods. For a moment while riding on Highway 45, I felt rather vulnerable. I don't tend to think about the safety of road biking very often, but for a moment the fear welled up within me each time I heard a vehicle approaching from behind.

Awhile back I was on County E for work. I decided E is for Excellent. Exceptional. Enjoyable. It's really a nice piece of road, leading to another small but cute town (Phelps). Although it starts out kind of straight and flat, it soon enters the Nicolet National Forest and begins to curve, twist, rise and fall with beautiful forest lining either side.

Here is a lame picture of County E. Nice climbs, twists, turns and an incredible descent into Phelps. So incredible, in fact that I was all "woohoo!!!" going down the final hill, reaching 32.9mph. We'll come back to why that was a problem in a minute. Check out the picture below.... see the Eagle on the left? Pretty cool. Also, see the flag and the whitecaps on the lake? Yeah. I was about to ride into the wind for a nice long time.

The reason my woohoo-down-the-hill was a problem became apparent when I rolled out of Phelps and realized I was on Highway 17. Not County K, which runs along the north side of Twin Lake. Apparently I blew right past it whilst descending. Never even noticed the sign. Oops! I added a couple of miles on to my route, consulted my paper map, and went most of the way up that steep fun downhill to reach County K. Another beautiful road! It had a very nice shoulder, until it didn't. But, I enjoyed it while it lasted. There really isn't much traffic up here at this time, so I guess the odds are in my favor. As I said, I was feeling vulnerable at times. I dove into this feeling to work through it. I thought about my mom on her Harley, riding thousands of miles every year. Sometimes I worry about her. But, would I want her to stop if I had any say in it? Hell no! It would crush her soul! She loves it! 

County K scenery
I love riding bikes. So, would I like to stick to trails? My legs say no. I would have to stick with 15-20 minutes of trail. That's all my legs will allow in their state of chronic injury at this time. Besides.... I *love* seeing the countryside and going new places. I love just stopping in somewhere for an espresso or to take pictures. I love the rhythm and the sound of tires on tarmac. Birds chirping in trees, random insect noises, waving to passersby, the rush of wind, the sun on my shoulders.... so ditching my road bike isn't really an option. I considered the opportunity t pursue other passions, but I just don't find another activity that brings me such enthusiasm. It's a risk I will continue to take.

Speaking of which, my legs do still really bother me. I thought more about that. It's been going on since 2009 which was the first time I went to a doctor about it. I'll chronicle that in another post. They hurt going into this ride. When I push too hard I can feel the IT bands tightening up, my calves twisting themselves into bigger knots and thus my Achilles' feeling like they're being pinched with something sharp. 
County S. Look out!! Cyclists!!

I decided if I'm going to enjoy the rest of this riding season, I will have to go my own pace. Even if that means more solo riding, or when I ride with other people just letting go of my ego and keeping it around 15mph. So what? I'm not training to race right now. My intention is simply to enjoy a bike ride. Biking is more for my mind than body composition or anything, so what is there to gain by pushing beyond my current limit? I love these disciplines of biking most:
1. 30-100 mile 15-16mph average rides, especially with camping gear and a destination.
2. Riding a time trial bike, which feels better on my legs and also faster with less effort.
3. Mountain biking. I love moving through the woods. Especially on flowy trails!

Sweet! Back on the pike path along County B
I also thought about other things. Specifically, relationships. I'm in a place for the first time in my life where I have an amazing partner. I'm happy to be sharing my life with him. My relationship with self is up and down, as it always has been. I tried some extremes recently to lose weight, which resulted in zero net loss and the gain of rashes & headaches. I thought about what I see when I look in the mirror. I'm sick of my self-talk. I look straight at my abdomen, and that is the tool I use to judge myself. But, who am I, really? I am a strong woman. Inside and out. My legs carry me over miles, up hills, to different cities. They're short but they are strong. I am kindness and caring. Prior to this ride, a grown man was able to shed some tears while we talked about his mother who has dementia and how she may be feeling depressed. I am compassion. I am happiest when I'm in service to others. I am authentic. I am open. I am connected to spirit. I love life and humanity. That's who I am.

Not bad for a Sunday afternoon!
Physically, I feel best when I follow a primal lifestyle. No sugars, no grains, plenty of sleep, plenty of movement. My body composition is best when I lift weights, which I enjoy but neglect.

I am passionate about health and well-being. I spend hours every week listening to health and wellness podcasts and audio books. I love helping patients incorporate healthier food choices and seeing the difference it can make. Recently I've had some positive feedback from patients. I want to make a difference in this life, so perhaps I should pursue the further education I've been thinking of for the past couple of years. I love blogging and sharing photos.

I have decided to enroll in Primal Blueprint Certification as soon as financially possible. I also started a new blog, on the Wordpress format, which will be much easier to organize. The focus is health and well-being. I will have food ideas, what I'm up to for exercise/play, health rants and ideas, and of course adventure stories. It's just a baby blog now but I'll focus on having content up by October 2014.

Yum! Nice ingredients list, too! One of these and spring water fueled the ride.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Three Lakes Area Road Ride

Things I loved about today's ride:

  • Wet roads spraying a mist on my bare legs
  • Every shade of green
  • Pungent forest-scented breezes, far better than any perfume I've ever smelled
  • Visiting for a few minutes with the ladies at Teaching Drum. They age so gracefully and I admire that.
  • Going slow enough to nose breath except on hills, and enjoying the pace.
  • Highway 32 winds around lakes quite nicely.
  • Not one car on Divide Road.
  • Stopping to take pictures and eat berries.
  • Old growth forests.
  • Canopy roads.
  • Sunshine.
  • Singing out loud.
  • Smiling to myself.
  • The hawk that I was close enough to make eye contact with.
  • Pileated woodpecker flew in front of me.
  • Overcoming getting a little lost (name change on a road).
  • Riding on a road named Chicken-In-The-Woods.
  • 2nd best iced coffee I've ever had at the end, since I'd parked at Deja Brew.
  • 53 miles of awesomeness.

Hello, Spirit Lake.

Beautiful Military Road

Teaching Drum, where I stopped to purchase a couple books.

Love the roads up here

Nice ride!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Sylvania Wilderness 2014

This song was stuck in my head during the trip. I think you should play it for background music :-)

In keeping with tradition, I planned a little getaway to the wilderness. In the past two years I've gone by bike. I find the solo time perfect for getting very introspective. The sound of rushing wind and the rhythm of pedaling somehow put my mind in a place where I can contemplate life and find answers to questions. This year I am happily cohabitating, in a loving relationship and at a new home which feels a lot like paradise. However, I recognize that spending a little time alone in nature helps me center and feel balanced. When I brought up the prospect of a couple solo days on the bike earlier this year, I was given nothing but support. However, as my legs continue to be plagued by knots, the likelihood of riding long with camping gear was slipping away. I was frustrated. Until Steve suggested a paddling trip with my new kayak.

Steve helping me prepare
It took relatively little planning. I arranged 2 weekdays in a row off, gathered the necessary items for transporting the kayak atop the Mini Cooper, and set Sylvania Wilderness Area as my destination. It's less than an hour and a half from home and offers wilderness camping. Another difference this year besides traveling method would be the inclusion of my canine companion, Willow. She happens to fit perfectly in in the kayak. Clothing and food would be hauled in a backpack, tent and sleeping bag in the dry storage compartment. We were to spend one night, paddling the first day to our campsite and then, depending on how the one portage of the first day went, either lake-hopping our way around or going back the way we came.

Journal on departure day
The morning of August 19, 2014, I woke up to rain as per the forecast. I had been anxiously watching the forecast for a week leading up to this, and there was a 70% chance of rain for the area we would be in. I decided I wouldn't let the weather stop me from having an adventure. I never had before, after all. And I do own a rain jacket. The day started with bacon, eggs, coffee, kisses from my sweetheart and a hug from my daughter.

The drive was easy. Through Rhinelander, Eagle River, Conover, and Land O' Lakes all the way up to US2 at Watersmeet, Michigan. I checked in at the Entrance Station, watched their educational video, drove through some beautiful forest and had the kayak in the water by 9:50. Within minutes I had seen two loons and the sun began to peek out.

Crooked Lake boat launch

A pic before I got too grubby

On trips past I'd have some sort of mission. See how far I could ride in day, get rid of mental baggage, meditate on my direction in life, find out who I really am and what I'm made of, etc. I didn't really have any of this. I contemplated purpose to the point of feeling some stress over it. Then it occurred to me that bathing myself in nature is a fine reason. Maybe I'd meditate some. Maybe I'd just observe the beauty and synchronicity of life. I lost myself in the sound of the paddle dipping in the water. I shed some clothing and felt the cool breeze on my warm skin. I breathed in the pungent forest aromas of cedar and pine as I skimmed close to the shore on Crooked Lake. A copper-colored whitetail deer watched us watching it, safe on land, still as a statue. Crooked Lake narrows and widens. Wild rice grew thick on one of the narrows, and I could see a flock of geese ahead. Above, an Eagle soared. It was all so alive. Then, the geese took flight in a raucous flurry of honks and wings beating!

Eagle soaring above, wild rice growing thick in the water.

Picnic lunch was summer sausage and Swiss cheese. Willow was pretty happy about the fact that I was sharing instead of saying "no begging". She is the perfect kayak dog. A far cry from when I took her for her first ride in June and had to chase her down, carry her to the boat, and set her in it. She willingly jumps in now and there are zero signs of resistance.

We paddled for a few hours, checking out bays and keeping a leisurely pace. The weather was holding out but questionable. I was grateful for the map I'd picked up from Sylvania Outfitters on our way in, otherwise I'd have surely missed the portage! It's rather hard to see from any distance and not marked by any signage.

The photo on the right shows the portage to Mountain Lake, and you can see how green the water is here. It was thick with algae.

The portage is a very short one. 13 rods to be exact, although that didn't mean much to me. I unloaded the backpack and carried it over the hill. I put a strap on the kayak to carry it on my shoulders like a purse and within seconds could feel the tendinitis in my Achilles' flare up. My right hip made some weird popping. Now, this boat weighs probably 60# with the tent and sleeping bag in it. I consider myself fairly strong. But, I have crabby tendons. I put the kayak in Mountain Lake and set to finding our camp site. Beaver 2. It was a short paddle and easy to find. To my surprise, I had nearby neighbors. Looked like Scout tents. I could see a couple of men who were dressed like Scout leaders. Cripes. All this way for some solitude and I'm going to have a Troop for neighbors.

I set up the old Bibler tent, journaled, ate a bit and headed up to find the latrine. I'm not opposed to a squat in the woods, but at areas like this, keeping human waste contained is a big deal. I respect that. I do hate to see T.P. in the woods, after all. I filtered some water and by then it was 2pm. Looking at the map, there was a nice hike to High Lake, which I was told is turquoise in color due to it's depth.

There was a chilly drizzle, but hiking felt good. We walked through an ancient forest of wise, twisted, gnarly trees. Moss-covered rocks and logs littered the forest floor and ferns were richly green. The random fungus would push through the earth to decorate like accent pieces in beige, red, orange and black. Mosquitoes were thick. I found a raspberry or two and wondered at the beauty of High Lake. In all, we hiked about 1.5 hours. Upon return to camp there was not much to do. I pumped more water and dug out warmer clothes. My hat was smelly :-/. Shoulda noticed that before! Oh well. It was too wet to start a fire in the fire pit. I boiled water for supper and coffee, realizing my relatively new mess kit had bowls but no cups. I brewed a bowl of weak but warm coffee, ate rice and shared with Willow. I practiced meditation for a few minutes with my bare feet in the cool soil.

I contemplated things and wrote them down so I'd remember. They included, in no particular order:
Synchronicity with nature, as in wake/sleep cycles and sun/moon phases.
Playing the fiddle more.
Reducing distractions when it comes to health and fitness. I know what works.
67 days to really form a new habit.
Gratitude for the love of a man who shows me nothing but support and kindness.
My kids, who I was missing!
My keen senses, for which I am very grateful.
Yoga, which I did a little of.

Morning bowl of coffee, anyone?
It was about 5:30pm. I was chilled and damp, so I decided to just go lay in the tent. Nothing better to do. I read an inspirational book, then the user manual for the MSR water filter. I think I was asleep by 6pm! I woke to the sound of rain, and remembered I'd left a few items out which I should bring into the tent. Headlamp on, I attended to that and my full bladder, figuring it was the middle of the night. Oh and by the way, it was not a group of Scouts next door - just a couple of guys who apparently respected my solitude as I did theirs. I checked the time. 9:40pm. Haha!

I enjoyed a bedtime chorus of loons. I'm used to a loon or two on our lake, but here it was a multitude of them, all with slightly different voices. It was incredible. Red squirrels chattered and moved in close, presumably to inspect my camp cleanliness in hopes of finding bits of food.

As per my usual camping routine, I proceeded to wake up every hour or so to roll over due to sore hips. My camping pad is alright but I do get sore. By 6am I had to get up. I heard the rain drops hitting the tent and wondered if it would ever stop? It had rained all night! I packed everything up, put on my rain jacket and smelly hat, and got out to discover the rain had actually stopped; it was just the wind blowing the moisture off the leaves overhead. Silly me. The old Bibler tent stayed remarkably dry.

Mountain Lake was covered in a thick blanket of fog. I was a little annoyed that I could not connect to mobile data, of all the dumb things, but I wanted to see the radar. I brewed up a bowl of strong coffee, wrote in my journal, and packed up camp.

Based on the short portage the day before, I probably *should* have gone with Plan B and paddled back up Crooked to the short portage to High Lake, which is one I definitely wanted to do. My adventurous side took over, though. I was already dealing with pain; might as well go lake-hopping. Our first portage of the day took 50 minutes and was 96 rods. I unloaded the backpack, tent, sleeping bag and pad, and took them to East Bear Lake. I went back for the kayak and picked it up. I realized there was no way I could carry it that far, with or without a strap. Portaging wheels, which I use at home all the time, are not allowed in Sylvania. So I pushed, pulled, and dragged that thing. It was ugly, and it was hard work. Some portages were sandy and gradual. Some were thick muck and straight uphill. The weather was cool and misty. I got lost a few times in the sound of the paddle in the water and then dripping as it rises. Dip, drip... dip, drip... each lake with a character and distinction. Nothing but beauty and nature. Loons, Eagles, Kingfishers, chattering squirrels....

High Lake was astounding! The water was the color of turquoise. The sun finally peeked out and I just floated along, sharing a lunch of beef jerky and pecans with Willow. I was amazed at how fast it got deep as well as the clarity. High Lake reaches 90' in depth. For a moment I felt a little anxious about that fact. Then, I realized that I was supported. Kind of like life in general. Love and support abound. If you let them.

After the short portage to Crooked Lake, signs of humanity returned. I never saw a motor boat, but several groups of kayaks and canoes.

A pair of loons was fishing on a point to my right. As usual, I gave them a generous padding of distance. They would dive and then come up closer to me. This continued on up through the final channel before the Crooked Lake boat launch. They did not seem afraid, making low noises to each other which I have not been close enough to hear before. I paddled to the opposite side of the channel; they dove and surfaced on that side. Willow quietly watched them. Once we were a ways past, finally, they let out their wails and I had goose bumps. I've never been so close and they are so loud! So beautiful. As I type this in our home on Nose Lake, the local loons have been singing all evening.

This little adventure has helped me to appreciate how good my life is. How fortunate I am to have healthy kids, love in my life, and a job I enjoy.

I would highly recommend everyone take some time to immerse themselves in nature. Bathe in it. Relish it. Soak it in. Return to your life with a renewed sense of spirit.

More photos available on the slide show:


Sunday, May 4, 2014

Nifty Fifty (Well, 49 according to Strava)

Stripping the seat and pedals off of Art.
*Note* The formatting on this post isn't spot on. I'm ok with that.

My eyes are burning as I type this. Why? Well, today was the first of the longer road rides for the year. These are the rides I crave. I had a light schedule today and the sun was finally shining. I was actually so excited about it last night I had a hard time falling asleep, and I was up at 5:30 this morning. I noticed as I was going about my morning business that I felt rather giddy. It dawned on me that what I was feeling was excitement.

Sweet potato mash is my fuel of choice. Today I nailed it. Here's the recipe:
1.5 humungous sweet potatoes
3T virgin coconut oil
A few drops of vanilla stevia
About 1t of cinnamon

Slice the sweet potatoes in about 2" round pieces. Boil them for about 25 minutes or until fork tender. Drain and cool. Add all ingredients to food processor and process until smooth. I put 1/3 cup in a snack-sized plastic bag (until I find a more eco-friendly way to do it). When I want one, I just open about 1" of the zipper part and squeeze it into my mouth. Delicious!

Joining me for today's adventure were Steve on his mountain bike (so he wouldn't be so incredibly fast, which he was anyway) and our friend Phil, for whom this was his first 50 mile ride. He did it on his 1982 vintage road bike (what was the name of it again??). Classic. I was intent on going at an easy pace due to the muscle and tendon issues which still plague my legs. I'm at a loss with that. At this point I just want to live my life. It's nice out.

We rolled out at the crack of about 1:20pm. I was riding a borrowed bike. A Cervelo P2-SL stealth fighter hot rod hang-on-tight-we're-going-to-launch fun machine. I might have a little crush on it. This is the 2nd time I've borrowed this particular bike for a ride.

We made a couple small stops along the way. Every spring I feel I'm being reacquainted with an old friend as I ride familiar roads. It's interesting to note the changes. Water is up on that lake. Horses are not out to pasture on that farm. Fishermen and women are also enjoying this brilliant day.

As we rolled along - usually behind the force of nature who is Steve, on his mountain bike, my mind wandered into that blissful state of meditation. I felt the sunlight showering me through my helmet, down to my toes. I felt the movement of wind, the rhythm of pedals, the sound of tires on tarmac. The pungent aroma of cedar filled my soul. Breeeeeaaaaathe in. I breathed in so deep my lungs couldn't hold any more. I loved the feeling of being independent and yet part of this unit. The three of us friends, sometimes talking and
sometimes just riding. This is biking. I felt overwhelmed with gratitude at times, to be on a bike on an incredible day with friends who I am quite comfortable launching a multitude of snot rockets around. Some were not all that successful. I was trying to breathe through my nose but neglected the Breathe Right strips today. It takes some training to use the nose as an effective method of breathing on the bike.

We rode on, at times Phil and I watching Steve ride the gravel shoulder just for fun, hopping curbs when we were in town and random logs on the roadside out of town.


So, why are my eyes burning?? My eyes are burning due to the wind on them. It turns out in an aerodynamic position, my sunglasses aren't very effective. It's a good burn, though. My legs are tired this evening. My calf is tight and enjoyed a soak in hot Epsom salt water. My mind is at rest. I love this feeling of contentment.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Who, by Laina Lyman

Sharing some of my daughter's writings....


The urge to pick up a notebook and write;
To look at a blank sheet of paper and fill it with simple words.
What is it that feeds this desire?
Is it the way the black pen and the white paper except each other so easily?
Or is it the challenge of being able to fill the whole page?

Maybe it’s just the feeling of holding a pen and a notebook out of school;
Knowing that a piece of paper and a pen can be of much more use.
Much more use for what?

Maybe it’s a way to get your feelings out,
Maybe it’s a way to pass time when your bored.
There is one thing that is guaranteed,
Paper doesn’t judge.

Paper does not reflect your image;
It reflects your emotions.
Your imagination and your knowledge,
Your feelings and your deepest fears,
Your thoughts.
Paper reflects you.

Begin with a simple, “Hello, my name is..”
You may find yourself unable to stop,
Or you may find yourself stuck,
Asking yourself, “Who am I?”

Well, who are you?

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Anvil Lake Ski Trail

Ah... nature. With the sun shining brightly and temperatures finally out of the single digits, it's time to get outside! Today I took a little adventure. I have been hearing about chickadees that will eat out of your hand at the Anvil Lake trails near Eagle River.

"If there's a light in everybody, send out your ray of sunshine" - from Sunshine Song by Jason Mraz
I went with a bag of bird seed that I swiped from my hens' supply, a bottle of water, and an energy bar. I was happy to be wearing 1 less layer than usual. The trailhead was easy to find and I figured I would set out on the "easy" West Trail, then perhaps take "Nine Mile", which is rated Intermediate, back to the car. No Strava. No heart rate monitor. Just me and nature.
Glitter snow
Conditions at the time were mid-20's for air temp and slick! I would say Anvil Lake is groomed more for classic than skate. Skating was marginal for a few reasons: hikers, dogs, snowshoers and a ridge of a few inches about 2/3 of the width of the trail, for the entire skate-groomed section. It was mildly annoying, but I was more in it for the adventure today than the workout. 

The forest is very beautiful. Brilliant sunshine made the snow glitter and I paused for a few photos on the way to the cabin, where the chickadees supposedly are.

West Trail dumps into a central area with a cabin and outhouse. The downhills today were scary fast. I went trucking right past the cabin until I could come to a stop. There was a couple enjoying the birds, and I wandered to a spot a little distance from them. With my mittens off, I scooped a handful of birdseed and held it out, waiting and still breathing with some effort from the difficulty of the "easy" West Trail.

It was truly amazing. Chickadees and nuthatches ate out of my hand for about 20 minutes. The following are a video and many photos. I will write about Lake Loop and East Trail after.

If I had to pick a favorite photo, this is it.

What an amazing experience. Communing with chickadees :-)

Lake Loop

From there I went in the direction of Lake Loop. It appeared to be pretty much groomed for skate. Until it wasn't. Military and Lake split and at that split, Lake turns into class only. Apparently classic and snowshoe. And hill. It was 3k of narrow ups on a path that had been snowshoed, fast downs in the classic tracks for the most part, double poling and falling. Lots of falling. I think it was 5 times in 3k. Here's Ninemile Lake:

And some interesting scenery:

Lake Loop

Back at the cabin where the trails merge, I hopped on East Trail. Similar to West Trail. Hilly, kind of groomed, and via a connector to West I was able to get back to the car with about 12k. 

I would recommend going here with classic skis, black oil sunflower seeds (the chickadees have a distinct preference for those), a bottle of water and a camera. Lovely!