“In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.” - Albert Einstein

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Knowing the Times

Long ago in a galaxy far away . . . . I think it's a safe bet that Star Wars will go down in history as part of our culture's list of great stories. It's a good story and exciting to watch. A & E channel did a story on the making of Star Wars. I don't think I'd ever realized how ground-breaking a movie it really was. One line from the show hit me and stuck with me. As part of the deal Lucas made with the studio, he got the rights for all the merchandising associated with Star Wars. The commentator said, "George Lucas knew the world was changing. The movie studios hadn't realized it yet." Lucas made many millions from the sale of Star Wars merchandise.
I had forgotten that Star Wars was born in the late 70s. America was recovering from an unpopular war, facing double-digit inflation along with high unemployment. Pessimism was high and the future was uncertain. But Lucas saw what others could not or would not: that he could tell a story that would be compelling and fun and that people would love. The success of Star Wars was even beyond his imagination.
I would never suggest that our society is in the kind of malaise as we faced in the 70s. (However, I do think Obama would make Jimmy Carter look like an effective president by comparison.) But I sense that we may be at the place where people like George Lucas will find opportunity and hope where others see doom and gloom. Jesus chided the Pharisees because they couldn't discern the signs of the times. While the media is saying that we're even short of hand-baskets for everything that is going to hell in them, I want to be one that sees the great possibilities others won't.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Riding through the woods on a summer's eve.

Robert Frost would have found more to ponder had he stopped by the woods 6 months later. My favorite time to ride the bike trail is just before dusk on a summer evening. The woods come alive as the sun begins to set. You never know what you might encounter.
Tonight, as I came to the top of "the hill", I passed a snake lying in the path. The markings looked like that of a copperhead, so I stopped to check. It was indeed a copperhead, the first I've ever encountered in the wild. I hadn't passed anyone on the trail. I doubted anyone would be in danger of stepping on him, so I left him to find his own way back into the brush.
I stopped at a bench further up the trail and watched the sunlight fade in the valley below. As I headed back I saw a man walking the same path I'd ridden a few moments earlier. "Did you see the copperhead?", I asked. He told me he'd almost stepped on it lying in the middle of the trail. I decided I should do some snake wrangling and keep any other evening walkers from getting bitten. I grabbed a long stick and rode along like a modern knight on his way to a joust. The copperhead in the middle of the trail was not the same one I saw. He was smaller and not in the same place as the one I encountered. I stopped a safe distance away and touched his tail with my stick. He coiled and faced me. Since he wasn't going to just crawl away, I swept him off the trail with a gentle swish.
As I headed back down the hill a large owl glided over my head with a whisper of his wings as he passed.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Glossary of BAK terms

I hope to be able to keep this blog up to date as I ride the BAK this year. For the non-bicycle touring readers I've included the following definitions of terms :

bent a contracted form used to refer to a recumbent bicycle. Riders of bents are called “bent riders”. This term is an oxymoron, however, because “bent riders” ride in a reclining position while riders of upright bicycles (DF or diamond frame) ride bent over.

bonk – to run out of energy. This condition usually happens from lack of carbs when the body runs out of fuel. It is similar to marathon runners’ experience of “hitting the wall”.

Canus Chaseus - a small dog only interested in trying to bite your tires or any dog you can outrun. Not to be confused with the Canus Biteus which is a dog fast enough to catch you and wants a piece of your leg.

captain – the lead rider of a tandem bicycle.

century – riding 100 miles in a single day.

chamois butter – also called “bum butter”. A salve used to help DF riders cope with the chafing of their “bum” on the saddle.

cleats – special shoes with metal inserts to snap into clipless pedals. Cleats and clipless pedals lock a cyclists foot to the pedal enabling him to pull up as well as push down. The foot is unlocked by twisting the heel to the side.

clipless pedals – special pedals made to lock in bike shoes with cleats.

cold – the water that comes from the showers.

crash – falling to the ground while riding your bicycle. Opinions vary as to what constitutes a crash. Most agree that any road rash, bleeding, or bruising as a result of falling is a pretty good indication that you did in fact crash. However, if you fall while barely moving and don’t have any marks to prove it, you probably didn’t experience a crash.

DF – abbreviation for a “diamond frame” or “upright” bicycle.

drafting – riding close behind a rider or group of riders so that they break the wind, allowing you to maintain the same speed as the lead rider with much less effort. To accomplish a good draft you must ride with your front tire about 12" behind the rear tire of the rider in front.

flat – a word non-Kansans use to describe Kansas if they haven’t ridden a bicycle across it. Flat is what Kansas residents use to describe a bike tire with no air.

gym rats – people who sleep in the school gymnasium.

hot shower – a mythical legend told by long-time BAK riders. Some veterans claim to actually have experienced one of these, but the claims have never been proven.

overnight town – town where BAK spends the night.

paceline – riders riding in a tight line so that the person in the lead provides a “pull” or a “draft” for the riders behind. Air resistance is the greatest barrier to speed for a bicycle, so riders in a paceline expend less energy and go faster. The members of the paceline usually take turns “pulling”. The disadvantage for riding in a paceline for the BAK is that you only get to see the rear tire and butt of the person in front of you.

pie – premium fuel for all BAK riders.

pulling – taking the lead to break the wind and provide a “draft” for a rider or riders behind.

railroad tracks – if you don’t ride across perpendicular to the rails, see “crash”.

Rashus Ouchem - the pain that one experiences for many days when one does not wash all the soap out of their riding shorts.

saddle – what a rider of a DF bicycle sits on.

SAG – rest stop where you can get water and snacks. The most common explanation is that it means “support and gear”, but it could originate from the posture of tired riders when they dismount their bicycles.

SAG in – to ride the SAG wagon to the next overnight town.

SAG wagon – vehicle that picks up riders who are unable to go on because of being too tired, injured or experiencing mechanical breakdowns.

seat – that the rider of a bent bicycle reclines on.

stoker – the rear position on a tandem bicycle: also called rear engine, rear admiral, she who must be obeyed.

tent city – what the green space around the school or community center in the overnight town becomes.

toe clips – bicycle pedals that have a plastic or metal bail allowing the riders toe to be held to the pedal, allowing him to pull up as well as push down. Not as effective as clipless pedals and cleats.

wheat field – large restroom facility. This definition applies to any field of tall crops.

wind – air moving from Missouri to Colorado. Not to be confused with “tailwind” which is air moving toward Missouri.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Second Breakfast

It's hard to ride for a couple of hours without breakfast. Last night Brenda suggested that we make crepes for breakfast. I told her I needed to eat something before my bike ride but that I'd make them when I got back. So today I had first breakfast and second breakfast. I found an easy recipe for crepes online and we've become hooked.
Here's the recipe:

1 cup milk
1 egg
1 egg white
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
sugar - tsp. optional

Put the milk and eggs into a blender. Blend for 15 seconds or so until froth forms on the top. Add flour and sugar and blend a few seconds until smooth. Cook in a small to medium omelet pan on med. high heat. Butter or spray the pan with each crepe. Pour a few tablespoons of batter and tilt the pan in a circle to spread the batter thin.

We put either ricotta cheese or cottage cheese inside along with strawberries or other fruit.
It is a great second, or even first, breakfast.

Exceeding the Speed Limit

It's not often I get to exceed the speed limit on my bike. But my training route takes me to a hill that has an 8% grade. When the wind is from the north I can hit the speed limit of 35 MPH on the way down. With a slight tailwind or a clam day I can exceed the speed limit. Today I hit 41.3 MPH. I don't think I'm in danger of being pulled over for speeding, but it sure is a fun ride.