It's Almost Here...
Ok, so a little time has passed since the last update. Unfortunately, things got busy and there were a few distractions. But, don't think I haven't been training! The 300 Mile Wish-A-Mile bike ride is this weekend. A lot has happened this summer and I hope to catch you up, but I also want to remind you of what's most important. As you read up on my adventure, I hope you will consider making a donation to Make-A-Wish Michigan so that they can help fulfill the wishes of critically ill children.
Fun At the Market
The Downhill Riders, our team for the Wish-A-Mile, had a great day at the South Lyon Farmers Market. Some wonderful friends and supporters of ours donated a bike, a basket of Carhartt swag, and a Detroit Tigers basket. By raffling off these items, and exploiting the charm of our kids, we managed to raise well over $800 in donations during our time at the market. I'm extremely grateful to Tim Davids of the South Lyon Farmers and Artisans Market for letting us have a booth at the market!
Back in the Saddle
Perhaps the hardest part of this whole thing for me has been actually making the time to get on the bike. Or at least get on it and GO somewhere outdoors. During the winter months, I spent quite a bit of time on the trainer in the basement. Unfortunately, the 'winter months' in Michigan lasted up until about mid-June. Of course, that was when we left for summer vacation. Fear not, I took a bike on vacation and I was able to add the Grand Canyon's south rim to my list of training rides. Otherwise, every time I thought I was going to start getting more serious about riding, it seemed like something else came up. Luckily, this last month has finally provided more riding opportunities. Even The Wife made it a priority for me to get out and ride. Despite the fact that she was laid up and supposed to be resting while sick, she insisted I go out and squeeze a ride in. Perhaps that speaks more to my abilities as a nurse that she would rather I just leave her home alone. Whatever.
The rides themselves always proved interesting. I've gotten pretty skilled at being able to leave the house under blue skies and then managing to find myself pedaling through a rain storm. I've also learned that the hours-long pedaling doesn't get my pulse up nearly as much as riding along some of these country roads out here. On each ride, I learn just how close a driver can come to a guy in neon green spandex without actually hitting him.
Oh yeah, did I mention the spandex? I swore when I started this adventure that I would not be wearing the stuff. I am not competing in the Tour de France. I am not setting Olympic records. There is no need for skin-tight clothing on a grown man. Well... Then I went for a few rides. As much as I wanted to be able to wear normal shorts and t-shirts, I was convinced that there might just be something a little more comfortable. After trying a set of bike shorts, I was convinced. I am now the not-so-proud owner of multiple spandex bike outfits. Let me tell you, nothing highlights the flaws of a Dad-Bod quite like cycling gear. It's actually not so bad as long as I am riding. It's when I have to stop and get off the bike. Or, God forbid, talk to a neighbor or somebody I know in these outfits... I am ashamed. But very comfortable.
Only One Thing Left to do
At this point, there is only one thing left for us to do. Yes, us. This is a team effort. I beg, you donate. I am begging you, please. Make-A-Wish Michigan helps critically ill children by granting wishes for them. This requires people like you and me to donate in order to bring these kids a little joy. Please, please, please think about donating just a little bit to Make-A-Wish through my fundraising page. I hit my initial goal of $1,200, and would LOVE to be able to get that to $2,500, by the end of the weekend. On Friday, myself and the rest of the Downhill RIders will join hundreds of other cyclists on a three-day, 300-mile bike ride from Traverse City to Marshall, Michigan. The goal is simply to raise money for kids'wishes. Just click the big red button below... Thank you!
Finally! My first Ride outside
Alright, so I know I haven't updated in a while. But I promise it is not because I forgot about Make-A-Wish Michigan's Wish-A-Mile or lost steam. It's simply that I haven't had much to say. I know, that's very difficult to believe, right? But seriously, my training has been extremely boring. As much as I have been excited to get out and start riding, the weather has simply not cooperated. We have had plenty of days in May with temps in the upper 30's or low 40's. The rain simply will not stop. Just now, the trees are finally getting their leaves. Some of us are convinced that this Pure Michigan summer is going to involve hot toddies and flannel. So I have had to resort to staying inside on the trainer. Biking in the basement is not the most exciting. Even with the benefit of being able to ride while watching The People's Court or any one of the million shows about life in Alaska, I've found it hard to get motivated to ride to nowhere while surrounded by the kids' toys and forts made out of couch cushions.
To make it worse, this 'spring' has involved a lot of homework and studying. Time management has never been a strong suit for me. I am much better at procrastination and cramming. Luckily, The Wife was able to come up with a way for me to do two things I don't love: ride on the trainer AND study. After borrowing a music stand from church, I now had a setup where I could read about exciting topics like police administration or managing public transit while ticking away the miles. The misery or reading really helped to take my mind off the saddle sore. I felt like I was pedaling my soul away.
So imagine my delight this past weekend when we had a few brief glimpses of nice weather! Saturday was a lovely day. Sunny skies. Temps in the 70's. It was a great day to waste catching up on the many chores and projects I had stacking up around the house. Sunday's forecast was not so bad either. The morning was nice and warm, with lots of sun. The afternoon was supposed to bring a little cool down, with some scattered rain. While my morning was dedicated to family time - and I had to get a nap in before working at night - it looked like there was a perfect gap in the early afternoon to ride to nearby Whitmore Lake and back. This would be about a 15 mile ride, the perfect length to test out the bike in the real world and see how it did. As I stepped out of the house, I thought the sky looked a little gray, but I didn't think much of it as I knew a front was blowing through. A mile and a half in, there were some sprinkles. But I could see clear sky off in the distance. This would only be a passing shower. A few miles later, I was pedaling through a full on downpour. What I thought was just going to be a delightful misting had me completely soaked through and through. On the upside, I was able to test out all of my brand new, never-before-used gear in extreme weather. I was able to see just how my brand new bike, helmet, fancy not-bike-short-looking-bike-shorts, and shoes performed when completely soaked. Good news: it all worked out just great. The temperature was just right, so I embraced the soaking and decided to continue on to lovely Whitmore Lake before returning home. Plus the thunder and lightening made up for no music.
I was impressed with my ability to dodge potholes, maintain a steady pace, and keep from getting run over. The only thing that didn't work was my headphones. So I was trapped between my own thoughts and the sound of my huffing and puffing. I'd say that it gave me a nice chance to focus inwardly and reflect, but mostly I just thought about how hungry I was. Perhaps the most delightful surprise of my ride was the unexpected wildlife. We live out in the country. There are horse farms everywhere. Hawks, turtles, foxes, and coyotes are pretty regular sights. But the one thing that nearly caused me to fall off the bike was when a peacock popped its head up from the ditch. As I circled back to get a better look, he hurried back into the wooded swamp just as creepily as he had emerged. I thought it must be a sign. This was either a good omen since Hinduism associates the beautiful birds with luck and patience... or it meant I should check out what's on NBC tonight. I think I will DVR Wheel of Fortune.
Aside from being soaked and seeing mystery foul, the rest of the ride was uneventful. I turned around in one of Whitmore Lake's less scenic gas stations, my equipment held up in the rain, and I felt pretty good when I was done getting 16 miles in. Even better, I got back just in time to find an email from the director of the South Lyon Farmer's Market waiting for me. He is going to meet with a couple of us from The Downhill Riders to hammer out the details of our Farmer's Market appearance June 8th. So I have to say that things are coming together. I hope you will consider donating for an awesome cause. You can either click the link below to help Make-A-Wish Michigan grant wishes for children, or you can come check us out at the South Lyon Farmer's & Artisans Market on June 8th. It's gonna be great. In the mean time, wish us luck. And think spring!
the Winter that Won't End
Well, I have to admit, as much as I have wanted to make blog posts, I really haven’t had much to talk about lately. I’m sure those that know me would say that having nothing to talk about has rarely kept me quiet in the past, but I don’t think people want to read a blog about nothing. That’s what 90’s sit-coms are for. Anyhow, I have gotten some exciting, and unexpected, news this week and I think it is going to help me raise some more money for Make-A-Wish Michigan as I prepare for the Wish-A-Mile Ride in July. While I am super excited, I think I might need some ideas from you to help me make this work.
Things have been progressing slowly as I prepare for this summer’s 300-mile ride. I’ve been trying to get in the habit of riding the bike so that I can build some sort of callus that might make me immune to saddle sore. So far, I have had no such luck. While riding a stationary bike beside The Wife – as she runs on her treadmill - is a nice way to kill an hour or so, it isn’t exactly inspiring. The treadmill is noisy to the point that we can’t watch TV. Correction: we can watch TV, we just can’t hear it. So that leaves us stuck with conversation. Basically, it turns into about 48 minutes of us huffing and puffing beside each other in silence while I contemplate my life choices. I thought for sure that the weather would have turned more spring-like by now. Wrong. We've had like one warm day. I spent it trying to find out where the 90 MPH winds had blown my mailbox to. It is supposed to be in the 60’s in a couple of days, which means at least we won’t freeze if the predicted thunderstorms knock out our power. Otherwise, we have been blessed with more cold weather (interrupted briefly by more freezing rain) since my last blog post. Suffice it to say that, except for my initial test ride, I have yet to ride my bike outside.
A Voice From The Abyss
I was just beginning to think that my training might soon lose steam. I felt like my blog updates on here had definitely lost steam. Then I got an email from Tim. While I am not 100% certain, I imagine that Tim found out about me and my quest to raise money for Make-A-Wish through the local Facebook community page for the wonderful area I live in. This may come as a shock to some, but I’ve been known to spend ample amounts of time on Facebook posting and responding to posts on a popular group page for my town. More than a few times, I have allowed my sarcastic charm to get me in trouble. I may or may not have been briefly banned for continuing the myth that a large Swedish retailer was buying property in town and would be opening their newest furniture megastore right in our own lucky little burg. The joy of the internet. We have the whole world suddenly at our fingertips. And yet I choose to troll my own neighbors. Basically, I realized that The Wife no longer found humor in my “humor” and the kids don’t appreciate dad jokes. So I had to resort to going online to try out my material. I thought it was all pretty harmless until The Wife got sick of people recognizing her last name and asking if she was married to “that Patrick guy”. She tried to make it clear that I should stop posting. But I’m a slow learner. Regardless, I believe that is where Tim comes in.
Tim is the Market Manager for the South Lyon Famers & Artisans Market. He reached out to me and let me know that he is hoping to arrange different non-profit groups to have a booth at each of the market days this season. He invited me and the rest of the Downhill Riders to the market this summer to share information about Make-A-Wish and to (hopefully) raise some additional donations on June 8th. How cool is that? Growing up, my hometown had a pretty big Farmer’s Market. Going on Saturday was fun because, unlike a grocery store, you got to feel as though you were connecting with the people who worked to make the items possible. When I found out about the South Lyon Farmers and Artisans Market I was excited to go and check it out. In a small town, the farmers market seems even more personal.
While I enjoyed going to the farmers market, I never dreamed I would be participating in one. I couldn’t farm sand in the dessert. The only livestock I’ve raised are now in first and fourth grade. I’m told I can’t sell them. And even if I could, I’m certainly not raising any more. Even the fact that it is also an artisans market does not open up any opportunities for me. I’m about as artistic as the person who designs airport bathrooms. I like things sterile, organized, and with random strangers speaking foreign languages thrown in. Yet here I am. With the opportunity to hold down a booth at the market for a whole day this summer. And this is where I need your help. While my main goal will be to share information about Make-A-Wish, I would also like to continue to solicit donations for them. However, I am thinking that I should be a little more creative than just throwing a jar out there and hoping people dump their loose change in. So I am looking for ideas on things I might sell. My idea, at this point, is that I am going to sell bad advice. I know that a lot of people go to the market to get outside and maybe clear their mind. But what if they could also ask me for advice on a pressing issue in their life? I think I’m certainly qualified as an expert when it comes to making poor decisions. So why shouldn’t I share this knowledge with others? Also, we plan to have kids of some of the Downhill Riders there as well. A bunch of them are participating in the WAM Jr. This is an event on the last day of the WAM where they get to ride on a looped track as many times as they can. They are also seeking pledges to raise money for Make-A-Wish. So, if you have any genius ideas for simple crafts or things the kids could make/sell easily, that would be awesome. I would go online and look myself, but every time I try to go to Etsy or Pinterest, I somehow end up on Amazon and about $100 worth of packages show up on my door two days later. It’s crazy.
In the meantime, I plan to keep on riding. You need to Pencil June 8th in on your calendar to come see us at the market (Tim is hoping to theme the day as Bike to the Market Day). I will be sure to let you all know if I solve the saddle sore mystery. Hopefully, I will be able to get outside in the next couple of weeks and let you all know how I do on this new bike ‘in the real world’. Please check back in. And feel free to click on the big red button below!
Crash and burn
Well, when I first set out on this whole biking adventure, people assured me a couple of things. First, I was told that if you really start to ride a lot, you WILL crash. I was also told that, as you learn to adjust to clipless pedals, you WILL get stuck in them. And for what it's worth, getting stuck in clipless pedals essentially means you WILL crash. So I guess I am doomed to crash at least twice? Well, I got the first crash out of the way today. I have to say that, while I knew I would likely wipe out on this bike at some point, I certainly did not expect it to play out the way it did. Little did I know that I would be pedaling along, carefree, when the bike would suddenly fall over for no reason... in my own basement. Yep. I fell over and crashed The Bike for the first time when I was attached to a trainer. I wasn't even going anywhere and I bit it. But, as predicted, I was also unable to get out of the clipless pedals. So when the bike went down, there was no saving myself.
Fast ride to nowhere
As I've mentioned before, I am a bit of a procrastinator. This means that, although I have owned The Bike (it really needs a name) for a few weeks, I have only ridden it about two blocks. I have been waiting for weather that wasn't... well, wasn't Michigan weather. Ever since The Bike arrived, we have had record-breaking Polar Vortex, snow, ice, sleet, 50 degree rain, and more snow and ice. The Wheel of Weather has brought everything except for days where the kids have had to actually go to school. So while the Pure Michigan scenery has been lovely and ever-changing, it has not lent itself to going outside for a bike ride. So the training has been put off. Luckily, my buddy Craig gave me a "trainer" for the bike. Basically, this is just a tripod that attaches to the rear of the bike and holds the rear wheel off the ground, a la Ferris Bueller's famous Ferrari experiment.
Today when The Wife said she was going downstairs to run on the treadmill, I figured this was a great time to set up the trainer and go for my first real training ride. Setting up the trainer was real easy. I mean, there were no instructions, but how hard could it be? You set the bike in the rack, screw a couple of bolts towards each other, adjust the tension on the wheel, whatever. This is easy. I was off. Well, no. Actually I wasn't. I was just pedaling and not going anywhere. It was awful. But at least I had The Wife there. I was biking. She was running. Both going nowhere. And we had her absolutely horrible play list of Pop 40 hits that all the cool kids are listening to. Just as I started to contemplate whether I'd rather be stuck in an elevator with Cardi B, Imagine Dragons, or a leaking canister of cyanide gas, it happened. With no warning, The Bike inexplicably fell out of the trainer and collapsed to the side. Lucky for me, I had not yet mastered the whole "bailing out of clipless pedals" yet. So I also went down with the bike. Luckily, there were no injuries. After laughing it off and figuring out how to PROPERLY secure the bike in the trainer, I was back in the saddle. The mildly uncomfortable saddle.
Blazing Saddle...And Thighs
I have no idea how far I rode, because I don't have one of those fancy computers on my bike. However, The Wife thrice asked how I was supposed to know how far I had pedaled. I am pretty sure that was her telling me to go out and buy a fancy computer. Regardless, The Wife ran 5 miles on her treadmill and I pedaled as hard as I could right beside her the whole time. Luckily, I was able to keep up with her. Oddly, a trainer doesn't allow you to coast. So I am thinking I rode at least 5 miles right? Considering I upshifted a few times, I think I probably rode more like 15 or 60 miles. Whatever, it's not important. What IS important is that I got my first training ride in and I learned a few things. Like I will need to ride a lot more to develop that biker's callus and ease the pain on my backside. I also learned to be thankful for Will of WillPower Training and all he has done to get me into shape in the last year. The fact that I didn't pass out or die speaks volumes about what he has done to whip this over-40 Dadbod into shape. My legs were feeling it, but I could definitely feel the benefits of all those dreaded "leg day" Mondays. Most importantly, I learned that I will need headphones. And my own playlist.
With the first few miles behind me, I am happy to be on my way to killing this WAM charity ride for Make-A-Wish Michigan. Hopefully that stupid groundhog was right and I will be headed outdoors for some actual bike riding soon. In the meantime, check back often for updates. And please consider donating to help critically ill children realize their dreams.
It's here! It's Here!
Alanis Morissette would be so proud. Although I wasn’t buried in spoons while desperately in need of a knife, I had gotten my fancy new toy at a most inopportune time. Yep, my bike finally arrived from Milwaukee! It made the trip, but not without delay. As you are all aware, the Polar Vortex did a number on us this week. As I stalked the bike’s every movement, via the FedEx tracking site, I got a little worried when it failed to show up as scheduled on Monday. At some point, the truck magically disappeared somewhere between here and Toledo. Thankfully, by Tuesday afternoon, the package made its way to the house. Just in time for windchills in the -30’s. Great day for a bike.
Some assembly required...
Luckily, I didn’t have to worry about staring at my new toy - all sad and unable to use it, due to weather. Nope, I noticed that the box my bike came in was considerably smaller than any adult sized bike I had ridden before. Clearly, there was some assembly required. Despite knowing nothing about bike assembly, I was undaunted. Over the next few days, I picked up a couple tools and set in. How hard could it be? When I opened the package, I noticed that the bike shop included everything. There was even an extra set of pedals and, get this, a totally free extra piece. For some reason, they threw in the metal faceplate from an electrical outlet box. Since the package DIDN’T include any instructions, I wasn’t quite sure what to do with this. I’m thinking it is part of some kind of a riddle and the answer will dawn on me a few hundred miles into enjoying my new bike.
I have to build my shoes?
Once I finally got the courage to dig in, assembly was actually pretty easy. The wheels, handlebars, and cyclery knick-knacks all went together without much trouble. Perhaps the most difficult part of the installation was putting the shoes together so I could use the clipless pedals. Clipless pedals… These are going to need their own blog post in the future. Anyhow, I was pretty proud of taking on the job of bike mechanic on my day off, but I did not know that I would also get to play town cobbler. After about 45 minutes assembling the bike, and another hour building my sweet new shoes, I was ready to ride. Well almost. It seems that the air for the back tire was left wherever the instruction manual was. So after borrowing a bike pump from the neighbor, THEN I was ready to ride.
The Test Ride
The first test ride went pretty well. Luckily for me, the Polar Vortex from earlier in the week had departed and left us with temps near 50. What better weather to go for a test ride than mid-40’s with melting ice and slush? It was great. The whole family joined me for a quick jaunt through the neighborhood. The kids bundled up. My son hung his FM radio on his handlebar, so we could rock out to some Top 40 hits. The Wife even humored me, but made a point of reminding me how ridiculous a family bike ride was in February. So we kept it short. The bike felt great. Smooth. Super light. Definitely a different ride than my mountain bike. And it felt fast. I liked it a lot, but there was one thing I had a hard time getting used to. I couldn’t pedal and turn the wheel too sharp without hitting my feet against the front wheel. I assumed that this was simply a result of the different frame geometry. Apparently, road bikes must have bigger wheels or shorter wheelbases, or maybe you were meant to go so fast on the bike that you would never need to turn the wheel much – just lean into the turns. Nope. After consulting the all-knowing google, I found that the rookie assembling the bike had set up the handlebars with the fork facing backwards. It was a quick fix and now the bike really rides nice, now!
So my next challenge will be finding the time for longer training rides. I may even have to resort to a trainer so I can ride in the basement until spring gets here. I can’t wait to pedal alongside The Wife on her treadmill so we can both spend hours racing to nowhere while watching Bravo. My other goal is to figure out these clipless pedals. On the up side, I have figured out how to get OUT of them. But getting my feet locked in has proven to be quite the challenge. Luckily I have lots of time to figure it out. I’m just excited to actually have something to ride other than the big-wheel I found on craigslist. Be sure to check back in soon. I hope to update as soon as I spend some serious time in the saddle. Or when I find cool new stuff to upgrade on my bike. Or when The Wife changes the Amazon password and takes away my credit card. Either way, more to follow!
It’s winter in Michigan. The wild temperature swings have left us with an inch or two of snow on the ground and tons of ice on most of the sidewalks, parking lots, and back roads. Apparently, the side roads are bad enough that today became SNOW DAY NUMBER TWO. As much as I love The Kids, having them home really put a damper on my plans for what should have been a day off in the house by myself. First off, they hate watching People’s Court and Judge Judy, so my daytime TV game was already shot. Second, they seem to want to be fed. Regularly. If it isn’t breakfast, it’s lunch. In between my stints as short-order cook, I tried to occupy them by telling them to go do some homework. Of course, they didn’t have any. I think I need to head into the school (whenever they finally reopen) and discuss the need for more rote memorization, times tables, workbook pages, and handwriting on that ugly gray-brown construction paper with the dotted lines on it. You know who DID have homework? Mr. “I should Take Grad Classes…It Will Be Fun”. Yeah, I have another research paper due. It’s not the paper that stresses me so much as the “research”. Apparently college professors STILL don’t like when you just make stuff up. So I finally gave the green light on video games. They quickly disappeared into the basement and would have happily stayed there for days playing “Fart Attack” on Xbox. I swear, that’s a real thing - and they love it. Anyhow, by that point I was pretty well distracted and repeatedly got sidetracked from my super-exciting paper on sexual harassment in the workplace (spoiler: sexual harassment is bad, even if you are both the same gender).
The next thing I knew I was cruising all the same internet haunts for a bike to ride this summer. As of today, I only have 182 days until I start my three-day, 300 mile, ride to help raise money for Make-A-Wish Michigan. The Wish-A-Mile (or WAM, as the hip kids seem to call it) is fast approaching! Normally, I am what some would call a procrastinator. The Wife likes to point out that I had to literally drive across the state to apply for the police academy because I waited until the day the application was due. I tend to put off projects until the last second because I think I work best under pressure. I don’t, by the way. I just work faster under pressure. But it works for me. And If there is anything I WON’T procrastinate on, it is buying new toys. So with (most of) this week’s reading done for my project, I set off to check Craigslist, LetGo, Facebook Marketplace, and pretty much any other reputable and less-than-reputable place I could think of for a decent bike to ride. At this point, I was considering simply buying a set of thin tires and wheels to put on my 15-year-old Trek mountain bike and calling it good. But there she was… I had seen her a few days before. She was still available and calling my name. Pretty much the model I had been looking for, but used. And far away.
I am normally super picky and like the newest, coolest, toys. But then I remembered that I am 41 years old, and I’m SUPER awesome. So how bad could a one-year-old bike be? Allegedly, she was a floor model from last year at the bike store. I am told she has seen little use. I was half expecting the guy on the phone to tell me that she had only been ridden to and from church on Sundays by a little old lady. But he simply described her as “like new”. So I decided that this is my bike. To make things interesting, the bike store I found her at is located in Milwaukee. Alice Cooper taught me that Milwaukee is Algonquin for “The Good Land”, so I figure buying a bike from there MUST be a good idea. Anyhow, I have to give a shoutout to Keegan and the guys at https://www.benscycle.com/ . When I called about the bike, I explained that I was looking for something for a charity ride and Keegan showed a little love with the price. Now, as much as I'd love to share a pic of this beauty, I think it's a little like a bride and a wedding dress. I feel like it would be bad luck to show her off before the big day. Or at least before she shows up in a box and I know she's real. just like a bride.
So after rattling off my credit card number over the phone to a stranger I’d met on the internet (what could go wrong?), I was told that they will box up my dream bike and ship her to me. I should see her in the next few days. I’m pretty sure she will arrive next week about the same time as the storm which is predicted to bring 3-6” of fresh snow. Can’t wait to test her winter abilities. I am super excited to FINALLY have a bike. I can’t wait to start getting some practice rides in and see what this road bike, “drop handlebars”, and spandex craze is all about. But mostly I can’t wait to take part in the WAM this July.
Now that I have the bike, I am one step closer to completing the mission. But to truly achieve my goal, I need YOU to help me out. Please consider donating to Make-A-Wish Michigan and sponsoring my ride. Make-A-Wish helps to grant the wishes of critically ill children and their families. To donate, please click here. I’ll update you all when the bike comes. Until then, I think I’m off to buy some spandex.
Ok, so I’m not going to lie, today’s post is being made for one reason: I want your money. Well it’s not so much that I want your money, I mean I'd love to just take your cash, but I am asking you to please donate today to my fundraiser for the Make-A-Wish Wish-A-Mile. I’d love to tell you all about the training I have been doing for this 300 mile charity ride. I would love to tell you all about how I am settling in on the new bike and trying to find ways to reduce the risk of saddle-sore. I’d love to tell you how I have gotten to really appreciate the scenic beauty of the country roads around me – the same roads I rush down daily getting from place to place without taking in the natural beauty of the landscape. I’d love to tell you about my first flat tire and how I managed to do a NASCAR-style tire change on the side of the road in record time. But I can’t. For a number of reasons, but more about that later. So instead I am going to ask you to please donate.
Why should you donate? Let me share a couple of stories of Wish kids from right here in Michigan. These are kids whose special dreams came true thanks to people like you who donated to Make-A-Wish. I love the story of Lucas, a teenager with cystic fibrosis, who was able to spend the entire day with the Detroit Red Wings. He got to attend the morning skate, go to a game, and even tour the locker room where he met the entire team (including his favorite player, Henrik Zetterberg). When I thought of Make-A-Wish before, I always assumed it was just about taking a child and their family on a neat vacation to Disney. But then I read about Keenan. Keenan comes from a Michigan farming family and has developed a love for pigs. His wish was to get new digs for his pigs. So Make-A-Wish Michigan worked to get this young brain cancer patient a new barn and breeding facilities for his beloved swine, Peaches and Sally. There’s also 4-year-old Monica from Traverse City. She has leukemia and loves princesses. With the help of Make-A-Wish Michigan, the entire city came together to turn her into a princess and then celebrate a day in her honor. They then put on a parade through downtown – a parade in which SHE got to ride in a horse drawn carriage fit for a princess. I almost didn’t make it through that one as somebody must’ve been chopping onions. That or it’s really dusty in here, whatever. If you want to see more of what Make-A-Wish Michigan is doing to grant wishes, check it out here.
Speaking of things in Michigan, there's a reason I can't share all the stories of my training and biking. Winter has finally arrived. Known for her beautiful lakes, bountiful craft beers, and schizophrenic weather, Michigan has been toying with us this winter. While we had chilly temps (and snow) throughout most of November, it has been unseasonably warm for all of December and most of January. Just as many of us thought we were going to ride this global-warming, 40 degree, gray-all-day weather right into spring break, Michigan hit us with a little reality. The last week has brought us temps in the negative double digits as well as several inches of snow. But because it is Michigan, that wasn’t enough. Within three days, we had a 40+ degree temperature swing and an entire day (and night) of rain. As I type, everything is coated in ice, snow, rain, or some combination thereof. While the kids loved the snow day, the weather has not been optimal for bike riding. Which is fine because, guess what? Still no bike. But I think I’m getting close!
Which brings me to a new revelation. Apparently, The Wife and I aren’t as great at communicating after nearly 15 years of marriage as I thought. Check that. SHE is a great communicator. She communicates at me all day. It seems that I’m not the best at sharing. This was made clear when I mentioned something about just buying a new bike, since I was having little luck finding something used. When I casually mentioned the price range of said bike, she suggested I check out www.huffybikes.com. The Wife is such a good communicator, that even her nonverbals helped me realize the error of my ways. So back to the used market I went. A little more digging and I THINK I may have found exactly what I am looking for. Gently used, one year old, a couple hundred bucks less than I would pay new. Only problem? It’s in Milwaukee. Luckily for me, they are willing to ship at a reasonable rate. While it almost seems too good to be true, they haven’t asked me to pay exclusively with iTunes gift cards and haven’t mentioned being an African prince. So I think I’m good. If not, I will probably be doing all 300 miles in a big wheel.
Regardless of whether I am on two wheels or three (I am pretty sure a unicycle is out at my age), I will be riding 300 miles in three days this summer to help raise money for Make-A-Wish Michigan. These tax-deductible gifts will help to grant wishes for critically ill children. As much as this is a fun adventure, I can’t shake the stories of the children mentioned above. Specifically, I can’t stop thinking of the parents of those kids. They all mention how special it is to see their child smiling and forgetting about sickness, even if only for a day. I hope you will help bring that joy to more families. Please donate by clicking here, and share with a friend!
Good News, Bad News
Well, this first week has brought me good news and bad news. The good news is that I’m surrounded by some truly great people who wasted no time in donating money to my quest to support Make-A-Wish Michigan through the Wish-A-Mile Bicycle Tour. I can’t thank you enough! Selfishly, when I signed up – and by signed up, I mean finally gave in to the peer pressure from Jason and Andy – I was only thinking about myself. Could I ride that distance? Could I find the time? Could I do the training? I had overlooked the real purpose, which is to help children suffering from critical illness and to bring a little joy to them and their families. I am thankful to those who appreciated how important this is.
But that takes me to the bad news. Now that I have put it out there and started getting donations, I guess I really gotta do this. I won’t lie, when I signed up on New Year’s Eve I was still not 100% committed. My neighbor, Jason, exploited my love for adventure. He may have also exploited my decision-making abilities after a few drinks. Either way, as much fun as I knew it would be, there was still a part of me which thought I would say yes to stop the nagging and then maybe ghost them later. But now here I am. Being supported by great folks who donated their hard-earned dough. I can’t say no to that. Plus, I have now made it my personal mission to find a bike and the gear necessary to do this. Because if there is one thing I love, it’s buying gear for a new hobby.
In the week since my first post, I think I have made some real progress. I mentally committed. I registered on the Wish-A-Mile fundraising site. I got donations. I even went out and found my first official biking shirt. Now, it isn’t full-on spandex, but it is a tight-fitting shirt that I can wear during cold weather training rides. Well, that is, I could wear it if I had a bike. The bike is the one thing I don’t have yet. And from what I am learning, it would seem to be one of the more essential pieces to successfully completing this ride.
Shortly after signing up for the Wish-A-Mile, I found out that Performance Bike was closing all of its stores and liquidating. Unfortunately for me, I was the last of the vultures to arrive at the nearest location. Bikes were picked over. They had gotten down to selling off the actual shelves, individual sprockets from used bikes, and the size smedium long-sleeve shirt mentioned above. As you may have read in previous posts, my used bike search was not going so hot. January in Michigan doesn’t seem to be such a great time for bike buying and selling. So it was off to a real bike shop (that wasn’t going out of business) to see what I could find.
My first, and so far only, stop was to the local bike shop in town. These guys are great. Since moving to this small town, we have bought at least five bikes from them. From that time in 2007 when The Wife and I decided we needed bikes because we were going to be hip, active, young people, to the first training-wheel bike we bought for our son, to the mountain bike he now rides, and the lovely purple cruiser our daughter enjoys, these guys have been our go-to source for bikes. The only part I was not looking forward to was going in and admitting that I needed something - but didn’t know what. You see, I hate not knowing stuff. And I really hate admitting it. I love spending money on new toys, but I like to feel as though I know what is out there, what I need, and what I want. Road biking fits none of those categories. I mean, sure, I will probably spend some money, but I still know nothing about what my options are or what I need. I have been getting a slow education, however, from the interwebs.
I met with one of the shop owners and explained that I needed a bike for a three-day charity ride. I described what I thought I wanted, and then gave my price point. While the owner was nice enough to not actually laugh in my face, he made it clear that what I was looking for did not exist at that price point. Bad news? I’m not likely to ever find the bike I want. Good news? I may end up riding an actual unicorn for three days. He gave a brief rundown of different styles of bikes and suggested he have one of the other employees follow up via email. Being the full-service business they are, I got an email with more specific information and recommendations within an hour or two.
The one thing I thought would not come into play during my bike shopping (or this whole charity ride, for that matter) was politics. But, as The Wife has pointed out for nearly 15 years, I was wrong again. It would seem as though tariffs and Chinese trade issues have affected the bike industry especially hard. So even if I find the right magical bike in my price range, it may be difficult to actually locate because of delays in shipping and trade. Awesome. I considered going to China, buying a bike, and bringing it back with me. But, again, The Wife pointed out just how wrong I can be. So for now, it may be back to the used market. In my job I see reports of stolen bikes all the time. They have to be resold somewhere right? Kidding. Mostly.
At this point, I have plans to hit a few more shops to check other brands and perhaps see if they are willing to trade a decent bike for a really charming 6-year-old who never stops talking. But in the meantime, I have come up with a new theory. We do still have the bike trailer from when we used to pull the kids around behind us. I think if I keep working out and get into really good shape, I can fit into the trailer AND have room for a case of beer. Since Neighbor Jason is in such good shape, I will let him pull me on the ride. I think between the beers I can offer, and my super-awesome motivational skills, he will do just fine. And technically, I think it still qualifies as me biking.
In all seriousness, I assure you I will find a bike and ride this thing. Even if it is a 1980’s era Huffy. I hope you will please consider donating to the cause. You can click here to make your donation to this wonderful charity. Please check back for updates as I finally get a bike and start to train.
How hard can it be to find a bike?
Okay, so I have taken the first step. I committed. I even went and created the page where you can all go to donate money to Wish-A-Mile. I figured the next step is pretty obvious. I need a bike. I mean, I have a bike… but it is probably 15 years old and it’s a no-frills mountain bike. It makes its way into the truck for each of our camping trips. It probably has a million miles on it by now, albeit in .5 mile increments around the neighborhood or through a campground with the kids. It’s a great bike, and it’s in solid shape, but I think I need something a little more suited to a 300 mile tour across Michigan. Spoiler: I know NOTHING about road bikes. I know so little about road bikes, that I have now learned I may not even want a “road bike” I may be looking for something in a whole new category I have never heard of before. Luckily, there is Jason (the neighbor who roped me into this ride). And the internet. What could go wrong?
Woah! I feel like my dad saying this… but do you have any idea how expensive bikes have gotten? For the last two days I have been shopping Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, Letgo, and the like (read: super shady online black market) for a halfway decent used bike. I have yet to find anything priced less than what I paid for my first car. Granted, at $500, my ’85 Escort was a real steal. But I don’t think I have found a legit bike with non-flat tires and younger than me for under $700. That got me thinking… ‘If I’m spending THAT much money, maybe I should just buy a new bike’. Wrong. I’m pretty sure that in order to buy a sweet new bike, I will have to sell organs on the dark web. But again, that’s where Jason comes in. I’m pretty sure he knows just how much I want to bail on this whole ordeal. Almost daily, Jason texts me a couple of bikes that he has found online. They are usually in super nice parts of town and have the serial numbers scratched off, but he compares the selling price with what a new one would cost.
Unfortunately, all of these have been sold by the time I contact the seller.
I figured if Jason could find these bikes, so could I. So I set off on Craigslist. Then Facebook Marketplace. I even set up an account on Letgo. I figured I would just search “road bike”. I found quite a few and then realized something important. I know NOTHING about road bikes. So when I see cool specs and details about a bike, I have no idea if they are even good or not. Luckily, I have a few friends who seem to be into this whole “biking” phenomenon. I have been messaging my friend, Nancy, pretty much any time I find a bike to ask if it is any good and whether the price sounds right. Each time, she mentions something new that I have never heard of. I try to play it cool, then immediately google to find out what the heck she was talking about. Her best advice? Be sure to test ride the bike, no matter what. That’s a problem.
Apparently, with road bikes, one of the coolest accessories you can buy is a super-sweet set of pedals. Pedals are so rad, and user-specific apparently, that many new bikes don’t even include pedals. They know you are just going to go out and get your own. I’m sure it has nothing to do with the industry wanting to make money off one more sale before you can cycle off into your own spandex-clad dreams. Nonetheless, a few used bikes I have seen for sale mention that the pedals are not included. So, uh… How am I supposed to test-ride? Honestly, I know so little about the bikes, that it is probably pointless for me to even waste everybody’s time by showing up and pedaling around the cul-de-sac of some shady neighborhood pretending like I know what I am looking for while wearing Gap dad-jeans and a pair of hiking boots. Besides, I don’t think shady neighborhoods even have cul-de-sacs. I would probably get schmucked on the side of a busy 5 lane road while the erstwhile seller strips the accessories from my truck. All while I pretend to test drive a piece of equipment I know little about in hopes of a sweet deal. My point is this: actually, I forget the point. But what comes first the bike or the pedals? Do I buy a bike then go out and find pedals I want? Or do I need to go out NOW and buy pedals so that I can test-ride the next two-wheeled dream I find online?
But it isn’t just pedals. Because pedals are specific not just to the rider. They are specific to the shoe. So if I am buying pedals, I need to buy the right kind of shoes that clip into my new pedals. As my past mountain bike riding was about 20+ years ago, technology has changed. Mark “shoes” down as something else I know nothing about. And let’s be honest. If I am buying shoes, they should probably match the bike, right? Or at least my riding clothes? So do I buy a whole riding outfit now? And do they make stuff for riding bikes that ISN’T spandex? Because, while I am confident in my abilities on two wheels, I do not intend to try out for the Olympics or Le Tour de France. I’m quite sure that I can wear something which leaves a cloud of mystery about the loins while also being able to be comfortable and efficient. Do they make such clothing?
All of this has me thinking two things. The first is to just quit. But since Jason knows where I live, this isn’t the best option. The other is that maybe I should just buy a new bike. However, the goal here is the charity. As much as I would love to get sucked into a new expensive hobby, now might not be the time. So back to the used market we go. And this is where irony sets in. Finally, after all my exploits in selling my worldly possessions online, I get to be the one haggling and bothering people with stupid questions. I have found that the used market is just as annoying on the buying end as it is on the selling side.
There are a lot of bikes out there. But as soon as I find something totally awesome, it turns out that there is some detail which makes it a no-go. Specifically, sizing. Let me tell you this: if you are a little person, NOW is the time to buy a bike. All of the decent bikes I have found seem perfectly sized for smurfs and people employed by Keebler. Apparently, at least from my internet reading, sizing is a thing. And a mildly important one. It would seem as though once people in the 6’00” height bracket find their bike, they are not want to sell it. So the occasional bike I HAVE found has been sold out from under me.
Then there are the sellers. They are just as annoying as the buyers. I have tried to be as nice and patient and friendly when contacting sellers, but seriously. If you sold the thing three weeks ago, why don’t you take down the listing? Or if you listed it yesterday, could you maybe please respond to my inquiry? There have been at least three bikes in the last two days where I knew almost nothing about them, yet was willing to drive an hour with cash in hand. But the seller never responded. Now that I think about it, perhaps I should rethink my impulsive shopping habits.
In the meantime, I have learned of a whole new thing. Cyclocross. I don’t honestly know exactly what it is. But it seems to be the idea of a road bike that you can take on trails. So they have the wheels and handlebars of that old 10-speed from the 80’s, with that frame from the low-priced hybrids of the mid-90’s. And the price of a new car in the early 2000’s. I think this is the bike for me. Mostly because it encompasses all of the eras from which my favorite music was made. But also because I like the idea of justifying a ridiculous expense with the notion that “it’s good for more than just one thing”. The real lesson here is that if you know somebody selling a road or cyclocross bike which would fit a six-foot-tall guy with a dad-bod, I am your sucker.
If you don’t have a bike, I would be more than willing to hear your advice on what you think I should get. I’d be even more grateful if you wanted to come with me while I check out a bike. It might be helpful to have somebody come along who knows what they are looking for. Even more helpful if you bring along a set of pedals… Aside from that, the MOST helpful thing you can do is to help me raise money for children suffering from critical illness. PLEASE donate to my charity ride to help Make-A-Wish Michigan. You can donate here. Thanks!
it's just like riding a bike
When people ask me about my hobbies, I usually try to avoid telling them about my true passions of watching Wheel of Fortune or drinking beer. Instead, I always default to telling them that I really like to bike and ski. However, it has dawned on me over the last few years that I really haven’t done those things mush since I was in college. In the last couple of years, I have been able to take the kids on the slopes a few times. Lucky for me, they love it and there is probably a solid future for me swimming in that money pit as they grow older. However, since we live in Michigan, our ski season is very limited. Which is probably why I used to be so into biking. You can do it in almost any weather. You can do it pretty much any place. And, once you have a bike, it doesn’t have to cost you anything. When I was younger – say, twenty years ago – I DID do it all the time. I rode my bike everywhere. I loved being on a bike. It’s where I felt most confident and in control.
As many of you know, our hobbies of younger days often take a backseat to different activities once we get married and have kids. In fact, they sometimes get bumped from the backseat to the rear cargo area of a three-row, nondescript, family-friendly SUV. They then get buried under strollers, diaper bags, t-ball helmets, broken crayons, sippy cups, and an unbelievable amount of Cheerios. Such was the case for me. As much as I loved being active and outdoorsy, I got busy with work and kids and being married. Of course, once I got fat and out of shape, it was even more difficult to get back into the swing of things like going for a bike ride. Never mind the fact that my equipment was every day becoming more outdated and dust-covered. If I even had any spandex bike clothes, they certainly wouldn’t fit. While I really wanted to get back into biking, I just couldn’t seem to find the time.
Luckily I’ve gotten to that magical point where my kids can now do things like put on pants, make a bowl of cereal, and find their favorite show on Netflix without assistance. Gone are the days of diapers, sippy cups, naps, and strollers. While I hate to see them grow up so fast, I do not miss any of the aforementioned accoutrements of parenting (well, I miss naps a lot). I love the fact that I can finally say “get in the car, it’s time to go” and expect to find two kids in the backseat with at least one hat and three gloves between them. Combine self-sufficient(ish) kids with changes in my job duties, and I would seem to have a little bit more time on my hands. Last year, I made some lifestyle changes which helped me lose some weight and get in better shape. I’m starting to lose excuses NOT to bike.
And that’s where Jason, the neighbor, comes in. Jason has participated in the Wish-A-Mile Bicycle Tour for the last three years. This is a three-day, 300 mile, ride which is a fundraiser for Make-A-Wish Michigan. In fact, it is their largest fundraiser of the year. Riders raise donations to help make transformational wishes come true for Michigan children battling critical illnesses. I know others who ride in this same ride, but none has dogged me like Jason. After the first year he rode, Jason immediately started telling me that I need to ride with his group the next year. “Yeah, sure” I said. But in reality, I don’t have a road bike. My 15 year old mid-priced mountain bike is probably not what I want to do 100 miles a day on. Plus, summers are tight in our family. The Wife does a great job of filling any free time with adventures and activities. And I definitely don’t own any spandex. But each year Jason got a little more tenacious. And others on his team joined in. Andy started telling me how easy it is and that finding a bike would be no problem. After hearing them both hound me for years, The Wife chimed in with “you should do it!” Of course I should. SHE isn’t the one riding 300 miles.
Then they found my weak spot. At the New Year’s Eve party (which happened to be Jason’s birthday party), Andy and Jason waited until just the right number of beers to point out that I could register much cheaper if I did it before midnight. Ever the bargain hunter, I was sucked in. Mind you, I still have no bike. I don’t know if I can get the time off. And I certainly don’t own enough spandex, yet. But by 11p.m. I was signed up. Worse yet, I was never into road biking. Even when I did bike, back at the dawn of time, I was a mountain biker. I feel like I know nothing about the sport. Nevertheless, I have decided to give it a shot. I did some long rides where we spent all day biking from one camping spot to another. Granted I was 18 and had zero responsibilities, cares, or aches and pains, but I did it. How hard can this be? It’s like riding a bike.
So that brings me to today… 10 days after commitment, realizing that maybe I made a mistake. I need to start training, I should probably find a bike, and I NEED to get fundraising. Luckily, Jason texts me almost daily with great finds on bikes. More to come on that later. What I really need is your support. I would LOVE it if you would consider donating to the cause. I have committed to raise AT LEAST $1200. That’s $4 per mile. I really hope you will all consider throwing a buck or two towards making dreams come true for kids battling illness. You can find my donation page here. In the meantime, please check back for updates to this blog as I stumble my way through learning to ride a bike again. ac