Stay Gold

They say that nothing gold can stay

with each falling leaf

drifting down–

damp with rain

and brown.

Wheels munch and spit out

gold through spokes

digested down

to the trail’s edge

where brown

covers gold.

My eye catches

the fading light,

riding through gold–

alighting

and landing in my heart.

Gold stays.

Riding with the New Normal

Early on Sunday morning, it’s hard to tell that things aren’t how they should be. There’s frost on the ground, the air is crisp, leaves are falling, and the sun is rising higher in the sky. I checked my bike for any issues, examining the tires for small leaks and affixing lights under the saddle and in the cockpit. Water bottles were in place and the GPS was “on” as we set out for a short 20 something mile ride to the Philadelphia Museum of Art and back before the kid woke up for the day. Sort of normal…

I stashed a mask in the back pocket of my jersey and wore a buff just in case I got too close to other riders or runners on MLK Drive, closed to traffic since the start of the pandemic in order to open up more space for people to get outside. Bikes are in short supply with the high demand, and more people are riding than ever, which is a nice break from being inside. A few cyclists posed for pictures like we did in front of the Rocky Steps, but the crowds of summer are mostly gone now, leaving a few intrepid athletes to run up the steps unhindered.

It’s a new normal now. Mask in hand or on my face, I make sure I get outside, even as the weather turns ice cold. I turned off all notifications on my phone and leave it on silent without vibrating. I deleted the Facebook app and set a time limit for using all of the apps. I scan the paper instead of listening to the news, and for the first time ever, I have a campaign sign in my front garden for all of my neighbors to see. I read a book at night or watch reruns of the “X-Files” with the kid while we await the new season of “Stranger Things” to be released. She has limited her phone use too, which is so important to give her a break from the screen since she’s home all day in virtual school. It’s weird having her upstairs all day attending class. Definitely, not normal.

Making time to get outside, putting down the phone, and going for a ride with Phil makes me feel as if I recovered my brain from the depths of social media, the doom-scrolling, the feelings of inadequacy with the picture-perfect lives portrayed on Instagram. My phone is face down with alerts only from my “favorites” list, and I couldn’t be happier. I’m kind of back to sort of normal, like early 2000s normal, before the phone, politics, and the pandemic took over all with less anxiety. Things may never get back to the way they used to be, but do we really want that? I don’t. Go outside. Ride. Run. Be with the people you love. And when the opportunity is there, run up those steps to get it. You can do it.

First Day

About once a week or more, I’m up at the bike shop, chatting with Anthony about upcoming rides and bikes. It’s always about the bikes. During the past year, I’ve been a Trek Women’s Advocate for my local shop and have led rides, planned events, and made videos about bikes with the goal of getting more women out on the road and trails.

Because when more women ride: more families ride, more kids ride, and more people will continue to ride. Women are the forces of change in the cycling world.

Now, I am still the women’s advocate for the store, but I also work there. Yesterday was my first day, and I’m thrilled to be able to talk to other cyclists who come into the shop about bikes, bike accessories, and how to properly fuel while out on a ride. If you have questions, I may not have all the answers, but I’ll learn more and more about bikes as time goes on.

Of course, I’m still coaching athletes, who I often see at the shop. Ride on!

City to Shore Epic Ride

Ever since I moved to the Philadelphia area and heard about the Bike MS: City to Shore Ride, I knew it was something I wanted to do. Hopping on your bike from home with a small backpack to carry snacks and then riding 90 miles to reach the beach is very much like backpacking and heading off into the wilderness for a few days, or it’s like taking a small carry on bag, stepping off the train platform in order to ride to the airport for a trip abroad. In other words, I loved it.

There’s freedom in leaving your car behind and traveling as far as your legs can take you. I packed lots of snacks as if I were doing a full IRONMAN, had some spare cash, my phone for emergencies, two tubes with three CO2 cartridges, and some extra masks. I checked my lights and secured my bike radar just before heading over to Lou’s house in Narberth where our trek from the city to shore began.

Lou raised money for MS research and planned the route that took us across City Avenue, down MLK drive, past the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and down the Parkway to Race Street where we would ride over the Ben Franklin Bridge, one of Philadelphia’s many bridges and my favorite. I was lucky enough to make a donation to his fundraising page and to come along for this ride. As we rode down the Parkway, I was reminded of the similarities between Philadelphia’s street layout and the Champs-Elysees in Paris as we rounded the circle onto Race Street. Next, we rode over the Franklin Bridge, a suspension bridge that links Philadelphia to Camden, NJ and is painted light blue, a nod to the Delaware River below. Once in Camden, we wound our way through the wide city streets to the Cooper River Trail to get off the roads for a bit.

After we left the Camden and the surrounding area, we entered the Pine Barrens region and followed the Pine Barrens Scenic Byway for awhile before stopping for lunch at the Funky Cow in Hammonton, NJ. We were barely half way to our destination in Sea Isle City on the Shore, and for most of the time in the Pine Barrens prior to lunch, I had no idea where we were. The road curved through the pines and white sand soil. I could smell the sun warming up dropped needles scattered next to the smooth tarmac. For a time, I questioned if I was still on my bike or back home with a cup of coffee in hand, but the wind through my helmet and the endless pedaling told me that I was indeed still perched on my bike. We made a stop around mile 25 at a fork in the road that was basically a sandy triangle with a wooden fence far enough away from the road. Other people have stopped here before, which was apparent by the blown-out flip-flop and empty mini bottle of Fireball. Why is it always Fireball? Each mini bottle along our route was indeed a bottle of Fireball. I wondered if the guy we saw raking the forest was doing that to pick up pine needles or empty bottles of Fireball.

The two bridges out along our route also brought me back to reality. At one point, we could see the concrete barriers across the road. Lou suggested we ride up to the barrier to see if it was indeed out since the only way to Hammonton was on a busy road rather than the small country road we were on. It was clear that the bridge was definitely not passable, and in the distance on the other side was what looked like a stray dog picking its way through the underbrush. Maybe it was a deer, maybe it was indeed a stray dog, or maybe it was the Jersey Devil? We didn’t hang out long enough to find out. That way was not the way forward, so we backtracked to another road.

The road switch-backed over railroad tracks and opened up to a five lane highway. This is where the GPS decided to “recalculate”, leaving us undecided if we should turn left from the middle of this highway or cut back across and go right. There was no safe place to stop on either side of this road, so we stayed in the middle turn lane for a minute. The slipstream from passing cars buffeted our bikes. We ended up going to the right and back on the winding roads through the Pine Barrens to eat lunch at the Funky Cow a mere four miles away.

Arriving in Hammonton around mile 40 for lunch was certainly a treat. The Funky Cow specializes in waffle sandwiches–perfect for a meal in the middle of a 90 mile ride. Upon ordering, the cashier asked if I was splitting my sandwich with Lou. I laughed under my mask and told her we just rode 40 miles or more and were only half-way to our destination. I would not be sharing my sandwich because I’m terrible at sharing anything at restaurants: I ate all my whole BBQ chicken waffle sandwich just like I would eat the entire brownie sundae I was supposed to “share” with someone else at the table.

For the rest of the ride, we rode through the pines in search of a Wawa for one last stop. There were none. Every intersection brought hope of a Wawa that wasn’t there. In fact, we didn’t see a gas station or store until we arrived in Tuckahoe, our last stop to refill our bottles and get some more snacks to eat because the ones we brought weren’t good enough at mile 75. We road through Mays Landing, and the roads opened up a bit. As we got closer to the Shore, the scent in the air switched from pine to stagnant salt water of the wide brackish marsh. I couldn’t see the marsh for the pines.

Eventually, we made a left and there was the causeway rolled out like a red carpet to Sea Isle City–the sight I was looking forward to all day. We picked up the pace and rode over the drawbridge to the beach, giddy and euphoric that our ride was almost over. When we dismounted at the beach house, Lou handed me a cold beer because that’s what you drink after one epic ride. I would certainly do this ride again, but not the next day. Phil and Sophia picked me up from the Shore, and Lou rode the 90 miles back home the following day because he’s awesome like that.