Whoo hoo! My first day off from babysitting, while Brent was at work and I had somewhere to go with the children on our bikes. It’s like that dawning dewy morning with tweeting birds and lavender wafting in the windows. Simply refreshing.
It’s the first day of spring and 83F. Here’s the photo tour.
This town isn’t very large, making it a great one for walking and biking. Our common destinations are the grocery (5 miles roundtrip most directly), the school (4m r/t), Marshall University (3m r/t), downtown (5m r/t). The interesting thing about all of these are the routes you take depending on the mode of transportation. It would be rather convenient to be able to walk the same path we bike, or bike the same path we drive, but we can’t/don’t/won’t.
As an example, because it was brought to mind today, our travels to downtown. When we drive to Heritage Station, we would typical use this route (2 miles one way):
We are able to avoid the traffic areas mostly and some tricky blind intersections for turning onto more favorable and direct streets. The road condition isn’t great, but we have learned to work with it by going slow and knowing where there are bumps.
When I went to walk to retrieve my bike today, I began following my bike route, and soon realized it wasn’t fit for walking, so we went this way (2.25 miles one way):
This walking route was still not the best way to go. We came across a lot of missing, broken or narrow sidewalk. Most of the intersections are being replaced with ramps, but not all. I knew it would be as such, so I had Oliver in the backpack, not a stroller. There were roads without sidewalks I had forgotten about, but didn’t care to turn around to find one that had them. Little legs can only tolerate so much walking. Fortunately we were able to walk through lawns and on the street without too much incident with the cars, as there were few.
Thursday last week, Stacy G. and I were presenting the Tour de PATH to the Downtown Partners requesting sponsorship and providing information about the ride. Try as I might, none of my sitter options worked out and I took three boys to a business suit gathering at the CVB. My plan was to occupy my youngest two with sugary cookies from River & Rail Bakery and hope baby L was sleeping or happy in my arms. The plan worked. Children with cookies, baby sleeping. The presentation was quick and successful and we then we loittered about.
We were walked around Heritage Station in the rain, letting the boys run and jump and play. We scheduled another meeting with the Shopkeepers Association and then drove over to Pita Pit to make introductions. Nathan, the owner, had supplied me with some fabulous data about their bicycle delivery service for the LAB BFC application, and I wanted to shake his hand in gratitude and let him know about the Tour. I am still raving about their efforts to support bicycling with their employees and with the community. 80% of their deliveries are by bike in fair weather. They purchased a bike for the shop, and outfitted it with a bread basket rack. They organized a training ride with the Huntington police department and help costumers lock up out back if they arrive by bike.
We arrived in two vehicles and had to pay a quarter to the meter. Not fun. Then Stacy G. and I parted ways. I was heading to Trendy Tots to drop off two totes full of consign-able clothing. I discovered no street side parking, a blocked alley way, no rear parking and a blocked road. I ended up parking on the other side of a four lane and ran across the middle of the street with totes, leaving children in the car. At this point I was miffed at my transportation situation. On the bike, I could have parked at the door. Granted, it was raining, but lightly, and I like the rain. Alas, baby L is too little, and not my baby, so van it was. In and out, in and out. Buckles, straps, sliding doors. 5.6 miles of cruising around town.
All in all, the boys were wonderful. I don’t plan to take them out if I don’t need to, but I held it together for this trip. The largest inconveniences were needing hot water to warm the baby bottle, carrying two of the children, and their bags, changing diapers on the go, and everyone getting off their nap schedules when they fell asleep during the 2 mile drive home. It’s times like these I feel I need to call in a Duggar for consult.
A while back I asked readers for their perspective on cycling when overweight as a response to some interactions I have had here in Huntington with people who believe they are unable to get on a bicycle. This was in conjunction with the locally infamous declaration of our fair city as the most unhealthy city in America in 2008. What I didn’t let on to was that one of those interactions was with my own sister Shannon.
Thanks to @WomenBikeBlogs and other unknown cyber connections I received a few responses. I have continued correspondence with some of them to help put together a larger post for later. Much of the information these cyclists were introducing me to was forwarded onto Shannon. Here is her story.
As a teenager I received a red mountain bike for my birthday. My father preached the importance of waxing the bike and other necessary maintenance. I remember getting the bike out and trying to get onto it. When I finally found my way onto the saddle and journeyed up the gravel lane and back I was scared to death. I didn’t feel light or free in the way I anticipated. All I heard was the gravel pinging against the metal frame and the crunch of rock as my bike waded through.
I took the bike out a handful of times with similar experiences. Then the contraption took up residence in the family shed. Biking was not my thing. I did however enjoy rollerblading. This did give me a light-as-air-dare-devil feeling. I loved to go to our local park, slap my blades on and listen to the world whistle by. I didn’t stop roller blading until my freshman year of college when I had packed on some pounds and thinking I was still my agile 15-year-old-self, went down a steep hill at night and landed knees first in a ditch. Haven’t been on blades since.
Fast-forward 9 years. I lead a very sedentary life and have gained a lot of weight since my activity filled, high school years. My days are filled with couch sitting or sitting in class or at work. I got this nifty idea that if my husband and I had bikes we will become instantly trim and insanely happy. After a few weeks of pressuring the husband he gives in and we get a mountain bike for him and a Schwinn cruiser hybrid for me–both from Walmart. At this point we are living in an upstairs apartment. My bike weighs a ton (a whopping 40+ pounds–which I feel is a ton).
After purchasing the bike it stay in our living room gathering dust because I’m too lazy to take it back down the stairs to attempt to ride. When we finally get our bikes downstairs I attempt to pedal through our parking lot. I swear all the children are laughing at me –ha, ha, fat girl who can’t ride a bike–. We ride, maybe a block… my body is hurting, I am so out of breath I think I’m going to throw up. I’m sweating and I want to curl into a ball and die. So I walk my bike back home, husband takes it up the stairs where they both remain for the next 2 years.
I finally give up on the bikes and post them on CraigsList. No one wants my bike but my friend makes an offer on my husbands. Around this same time, my oh-so-influential-older-sister (Stacy) has picked up this strange new biking lifestyle. Me, being the baby sister, I love to do whatever I can to look good in my eldest sister’s eyes. I had scheduled a trip down to Huntington to hang out with them in October but canceled because I was afraid she would want me to bike and walk with her (and other reason).
So, my baby nephew’s second birthday is coming up. I am able to get the time off work and am not in school this quarter so I jump on the chance to go to Huntington. I even offer to bring my bike down in hopes my sister can adjust it so it doesn’t feel quite so much like a torture device. Stacy mentions a women’s only group bike ride and asks me if I’ll attend. I want to please her, so I say yes.
With the bicycle adjustments made, I take a ride up and down the street and I am not so optimistic. I’m out of breath due to the Huntington hills and wrestle with the fact that I feel like I should be in a sumo suit to protect me from demise-by-bike.
On the day of the group ride I get up early so I can go out on the bike and play around. I begin by stretching for a good 20 minutes and get dressed up in layers. I make some final adjustments, strap on my helmet and off I go. This isn’t so bad.
My heart pounding and anxiety in my throat.. afraid I’m going to fail… OFF WE GO! The cool breeze feels good in my hair. Slow but steady. Stacy, then me, then London. Anxiety about hand signals but Stacy seems to be doing that for everyone. She calls out directions and words of encouragement. Pedal, breath, pedal.. oh it’s so pretty. Pedal, stop. Pedal, start. Maybe this isn’t so bad.
We get to the park to meet up with everyone. I hang back with London while Stacy plays hostess. About 15 minutes later we are off again, this time with more traffic, stop lights and all. All the women around me call out things like “car behind,” “pedal fast the via-duct is coming,” “bump ahead.” These women I had never met before, we were a team on this ride. Helping and encouraging, never leaving anyone behind. Once we arrived at our destination I wanted to keep riding, but I hung around drinking coffee and looking at shops. The trip back was more wearing and up hill. But at last, I made it!
Soreness was less than expected on the next day. Surprisingly the palms of my hands brought me the most pain and lasted the next two days. When I returned home, I went riding a few blocks one afternoon. Riding by yourself is very intimidating for a newbie. I think if I was more comfortable with biking, solo wouldn’t bother me. Right now I feel a need for extra eyes and words of encouragement. I never realized before that the roads around here (Mid-western Ohio) do have some incline to them–they aren’t flat. The things you notice on a bike!
The day after my short ride the rear tire was flat and it remains this way. I’ve watched the video’s on how to change the tire, purchased the new inner tube but I am waiting for my husband to bring home the right size bolt remover thingy to get the tire off. I hope to add riding to my list of leisure and stress reducing activities. I loved the high I felt the rest of the day after my group ride. “I feel like I could climb a mountain.”
If you have some advice or encouragement for my sister, please leave it in the comments. If you would like her to keep writing about her cycling experiences as they occur, and I know I would, let her know. Anyone who has ever tried to do something new or taken on a health challenge can sympathize with the need for support. It sometimes feels more simple to give up and give in, but the longterm costs of such a choice are insurmountable.
We certainly enjoy the River and Rail Bakery on occasion. We like a quiet, unique place that is welcoming to the whole family. That it has good coffee, something sweet, live music events, and a rail to lock our bikes, just adds to the warm vibe. The building is the old rail station and I can’t get over the brick work, parked trains and cars converted to shops. It’s a real Huntington treasure and treat to visit Heritage Station.Our family had a special treat of our own this weekend when close family friends drove down for a visit. I helped arrange a ladies breakfast with Karen, my visiting friend, and two others at River and Rail on Saturday morning. Yet our good time didn’t end there. We walked the shops. It tickled me to find so many unique items, many hand crafted, most of them local. Of course I didn’t buy a thing besides day old breakfast cookies (1/2 off!) and a mocha, but I loved everything I saw.
We stumbled into Finds and Designs, newly relocated to the shopping district. The feel in this location was more appropriate to the vintage merchandise. Everything felt like it belonged in my home, and yet nothing in my house is vintage or retro.
MiAppa retails all local artisans and runs a bit like a co-op. The artists and craftsmen run the shop and keep it open for business. They had a gallery side for two dimensional works and a side full of fiber art, wood working, glass beads, jewelry and more. This was my first trip in here as well. My friend Kari Newman has been trying to get me in for ages! She makes the most charming glass beads and often demos her work at Heritage Farms, where she was on Saturday.
Next door we wondered around Common Ground, another local talent shop. It was full of practical re-purposed pieces. My favorites were the tin tile magnet board and wooden frame chalk message center. Functional and fun. In the back of the shop was a garden center of sorts. There were a lot of fresh gift ideas for green thumbs. My mental note list was growing so long I had to take pictures of everything.
We strolled through a few more shops then said good bye to our pals before suiting up, mounting our bikes and rolling home. Oh yes, Karen agreed to bundled up for a 29 degree ride. This was her first time on a bike since she was about 8 years old. I liked her pace. Very slow. I didn’t come home exhausted, I came home and laced up my tennis shoes and tried to go for a run (it didn’t work out too well). Our trip was about 5 miles in all. We left in the freezing cold and come home in the low 50s. Such is a December day in Appalachia.
We spent a relatively warm afternoon at home, while Karen and kin visited with other friends. Then we turned over the engine on our van, Highspeed, and drove to Ashland, KY (35miles round trip) for the Wonderland Lights. It was one of Avery’s birthday wishes to be with his two best buds. The trip to Ashland allowed us to meet back up with Karen’s crew and Avery’s other friend’s family. His actual birthday is a couple of weeks away.
We strolled about, took the tractor-train through the park and oohed and awed with the children. We skipped seeing Santa in the cabin this year and passed by the free cookies and hot chocolate. Avery’s wish included Baskin Robbins, so we headed back across town in search of ice cream cake. 14 people finished off the largest cake in their case in less than 15 minutes. 9 happy hoppy children, 5 bliss and Oreo filled adults (we were missing one child at a sleepover and one adult called into work).
BR was inside a gas station. The ideal impromptu birthday party, right? Well, it made for a convenient fill up, since gas was $3.22/gallon in KY. I will work up our fuel economy later, but I could tell with the little math I did last night at the pump, it wasn’t good.
With our friends here for one night and two days we didn’t really have a lot of places to go. We enjoyed our time at our house most of this morning, on this unseasonably warm December day. It was mid 60s people. We kicked all the children outside and called all the neighbor children over to join them. I turned off the heat, opened the windows and traded stories with our friends. They left near lunch to see old neighbors and then headed home for school and work tomorrow. We spent the remainder of our day “spring” cleaning and preparing for our week.
We were very happy to host such a wonderful family. It is the brightest and best parts of our lives to fill our home with friends. We are warmed to share all we have and thankful their children so graciously filled our children’s beds. We are grateful to have the space to accommodate five more loved ones and most of all the time to enjoy our lives with them. Thank you Karen for always being so understanding and adventurous. We look forward to our next visit your way.