Stolen Moments in the Sun

Is there a better way to spend a day off than riding a bike?  The answer is no, no there’s not.  When I ride on a holiday, I feel like I’m getting away with something.  I should be at work, but instead I’m out in the air, the sunshine glinting off my shifters and my legs propelling me along smooth, black asphalt strips of bliss.

On Monday, I showed a novice cyclist and her son a beautiful and mercifully flat trial that runs along the edge of Keswick Reservoir.  I love showing people trails they haven’t ridden before.  I especially love showing cycling newbies that they can ride farther than they ever have before.  I got to do both last Monday with friend and her son in tow on a trail a bike.

The day was simply gorgeous.  I pulled on tights and topped my jersey off with armwarmers and gloves, grateful to leave my jacket in the car.  The California sun sparkled off the water and I absorbed its rays and sucked in great breaths of fresh air.  For all my friends trapped in drifts of snow, here’s a little California sunshine from me to you.  Try to refrain from pressing your face up against the screen.

We rode along the old railroad track, now a smooth bike path.  We dipped into the cool darkness of the old train tunnel and yelped and hollered, letting our voices echo off the tunnel walls and bounce back to us.

The bike trail is cut from the side of mountains of rock and out of that rock scarlet flames of manzanita shoot forth.  Manzanita is such a resilient, hearty plant that I couldn’t help but stop for a moment and admire its beauty.

We rode to the backside of Shasta Dam, a sight that always takes my breath away, this mountain of concrete holding back the pulsing waters of Lake Shasta.

Image courtesy of

All told we rode 16 miles with the winter sun shining down on us.  As I pedaled toward the car I grinned, the cold winter air making my teeth hurt.  I couldn’t stop grinning because I knew with every fiber of my being how lucky I was to ride in winter in this stolen moment of beauty in the sun.

Thankful Thursday #30

This week I’m thankful for…

  • hot showers.  I’ve caught a bit of a summer cold and nothing feels better than a hot shower in the morning.
  • my big, crazy family
  • my mom, for gathering my big, crazy family together in one place
  • kayaking with my eleven year old nephew, Ryan.  We saw bald eagle in a nest and he couldn’t stop saying “This is awesome!”.  I love him for that.

  • my little brother, Pete,  who drove 11 hours to make it to our family reunion.  We rode up to Shasta Dam Sunday morning and it was beautiful.

  • Terry for bringing my roses on my birthday and for not complaining that I wanted to go to a local greasy spoon and have brinner for my birthday meal.
  • my friend, Abby, for making me this awesome birthday cake.  Yes, she made the bicycle, too.  And it was Funfetti cake.  Best birthday cake ever.

  • my second cousin, Jack, who sang the cutest version of Happy Birthday to me about ten times yesterday.  He also gave me lots of birthday kisses, including one on the armpit.  Did I mention he’s two?
  • all my friends and family who donated to LiveStrong on my behalf.  I’m $90 from my fundraising goal.  Fingers crossed that I reach it by Saturday.  Fingers and toes crossed that I make it across the finish line Sunday!

Crowing into the Sky

I usually ride with friends.  In fact, I think I can count on one hand the times I’ve ridden solo.  Saturday I’d arranged to meet up with a group of girls for an easy spin on the river trail.  15ish miles, just enough to get out and enjoy the beautiful weather.  Then one by one, most of my friends cancelled.  So Saturday afternoon, when I found myself standing alone kicking rocks at our meeting place, I decided to ride in my own good company.

Sure I could’ve called it quits and stuffed The Rocket back into the car, but I was already clad in Spandex and you know I love Spandex.  Plus I’d been battling a sinus infection all week and I was just sick of being sick.  I, quite literally, needed to clear my head.  And I knew just the road to clear it.  I had a conversation with myself that went something like this: Today I will climb.  Today I will climb the North side of Shasta Dam. I’ve ridden to the Dam countless times, but always from the South side. The North side is bigger, badder and has been beckoning me for months.

I set out along the river, her waters rising up to meet me, rippling right up to the edge of the trail.  The Sacramento is the river of my childhood and as I pedaled her curves, I remembered riding my pink Schwinn on this very trail.  Remember riding bikes as a kid?  I don’t know about you, but my hindquarters rarely made use of my flowered banana seat because being a kid was about speeding over hills, crowing into the sky and slamming on the brakes to make the most impressive skid mark.

I rode along the river climbing beyond the section of trail populated by strollers, scooters and the occasional Segway.  I was in the mountains now, alone save for a handful of cyclists enjoying a nice downhill from the opposite direction.  I thought about turning around and coasting down behind them, but Shasta Dam called to me.  I reached a clearing and there she stood.

Do you see that road to the left of the Dam?  The one that snakes around the mountain?  That was my road.  At the base of the mountain, I shared the road with some ATV’s and some dirt bikes, all of whom were operated by extremely polite drivers.  No, really.  Each and every off-roader, gave me a wide berth on the road.  About half way up the mountain, the dirt bikes and ATV’s raced onto the dirt trails, leaving me alone with the road.  With every turn, it looked like the Dam was just around the corner.  She’s tricky like that, playing hide and seek in the trees, coaxing me further and further up the mountain.

My legs were strong and steady all the way up the mountain to the Dam.  I’m as shocked as you are, since my legs are usually about as strong as partially set Jell-O.  I cruised across the Dam, riding close to the edge and peering into Lake Shasta, who had swallowed the entire tree line.  I turned my bike and peeked over the other side.  Staring down the face of the Dam, I felt my stomach drop.  It’s the same feeling I get when I’m falling in a dream.  Terrifying and thrilling all at the same time.  And yet, I can’t cross over the Dam without taking a glance.  2 more miles of decent hills lay just on the other side of the Dam.  That last bit of climbing was nothing compared to the ascent to the Dam.  I zipped up and over the mountain into town where I crossed over Keswick Dam and slipped back onto the river trail.

The river welcomed me as I raced along the flat side of the trail toward my car.  I was killing the flats and when I looked down at my speedometer, it was ticking away at  18 mph.  This isn’t fast for a real cyclist, but for me it’s a pretty decent pace.  I cranked into a harder gear and whipped my legs faster and faster.  I was really flying now!  I leaned my head back and crowed into the blue sky.  At the end of the ride, I’d racked up 41 miles, but more importantly my head was completely clear.  Driving home, I replayed the ride in my mind.  I held the beauty of the water in my eyes and the joy of climbing mountains in my heart.  I’ll be crowing about this ride for a long time.