The Ride (waiting 2 years for this)

I’m supposed to be in another town teaching for two days. When we canceled this course a year ago, we thought it would be safe after a year. No dice. In-person and hands-on training is not in the cards again. Too many metaphors for that paragraph, though all about gambling.

I request vacation time a year in advance. When the days come up and I have no plans, there is no sense in giving them back. Two days without plans, followed by a day on the bike. I could get to like this. When the word “septuagenarian” not only enters your vocabulary but starts to impinge on your reality, it’s time to think about how to spend a life without going to work every day. As the folksinger Charlie King reminded us “Our life is more than our work and our work is more than our job.”

I was going to do this ride two years ago but it was canceled due to thunderstorms. Last year was canceled due to the pandemic. The ride is a benefit for the Carbone Cancer Center. By the way, you can still donate at https://runsignup.com/half-fast

I’m starting this post before the ride and I have to add one COVID-19 related piece. My employer has now mandated the vaccine. We have until October 1 to get the first shot or be “placed on unpaid leave and terminated by October 11.” There are both medical and religious waivers. The medical waiver is very specific and must be signed by your health care provider. The link to the religious waiver is restricted – as an employee I can’t see it. Maybe my boss can. [Update: I can now see the religious waiver and it just asks me to attest to a religious, moral, or ethical anti-vax stance. – nothing like the Arkansas hospital below.] Most of us were vaccinated in December and January 2020-21. There are a few holdouts. A hospital system in Arkansas is allowing religious exemptions on the assumption that people are objecting to the use of a 40+ year old fetal cell line in the research and development. The CEO of the hospital chain, Matt Troup, had this to say:

“‘(W)e provided a religious attestation form for those individuals requesting a religious exemption,’ The form lists 30 medications and asks employees to ‘truthfully acknowledge and affirm that my sincerely held religious belief is consistent and true and I do not use or will [not] use any of the medications listed as examples or any other medication … that has used fetal cell lines in their development and/or testing.‘” (From Becker’s Hospital Review, Kelly Gooch, 9/16/2021)

The list includes Tylenol, Pepto Bismol, aspirin, Tums, Lipitor, Senokot, Motrin, ibuprofen, Maalox, Ex-Lax, Benadryl, Sudafed, albuterol, Preparation H, MMR vaccine, Claritin, Zoloft, Prilosec OTC, and azithromycin.” (from Ars Tecnica, Beth Mole, 9/16/2021)

So if you are objecting to the vaccine on religious grounds due to your anti-choice stance, stop taking anything in the list above; and be sure to check the full list for the other 11 medications you shouldn’t be taking. And if you are truly religious you will (of course, this goes without saying) check to see that there are no other substances you use which benefit from research involving that fetal cell line, as it sounds like that list of 30 is incomplete.

If you object to vaccines on principle, be sure to NOT get a tetanus shot if you step on a rusty nail. If bitten by a rabid animal, avoid the rabies vaccine on both grounds. A Darwin Award could be in your future!

Big Ring Ride

Wednesday night’s warm up for the century was a fairly easy ride. Part way through I realized I had not yet used the small chainring, so decided to make it a big ring ride and stay on that ring the whole way, just for the hell of it. Saturday was going to be a short ride just to stay loose. Minutes after I changed back into regular clothes, I got a call for an emergency errand so I changed again and did a second ride of the same length. So 30 miles;”just to stay loose”.

The Ride

Sunday dawned chilly so required tights and a jacket for the first couple of hours, then shorts and a short-sleeved jersey for the rest. The wind was supposed to pick up around noon, by which time it would be a tailwind. Right.

We headed into the sunrise, so it was bright until the sun got higher. There was a mass start, complete with a countdown by the MC over a PA and the option to download a tracking app so folks could know where you were at all times. I considered tearing the sensor out of my ride number. All a bit much for me. There were mile markers every mile for the first ten and again at the end – they were from the 25K route, so mile 101 was announced as “Mile 16”. Cruel. All distances were generous (since 25K is 15.5 miles.) The forecast was for early sun, then clouds. The temperature hit 80 (27 C), the clouds didn’t come until well after we finished, and the wind was a factor by 9:30 – by “factor”, I mean “not a tailwind”. The canopies at the rest stops were blowing over, trash receptacles blowing away, the signs (despite being weighted) were falling down, flags were snapping (and shredding) in the “breeze”; and that’s not to mention the effect on the riders. As usual, a great day for a ride; just a bit harder than last week (and despite being only two miles longer, it took a half hour longer).

Religious diversity in Rockdale – two Lutheran churches within shouting distance

Thanks to all the donors for the ride! Shouts out to Mark (California Alps Cycling), Tim, Candice, Celeste, Patti, Vikki, John (A Midnight Rider), KR, all anonymous donors, and anyone I forgot, missed, or couldn’t identify. Thanks to blogging friends I have met only online. Thanks to 50th reunion classmates who are partying while I am riding (stay safe and have an extra beer for me).

The last miles contained tributes to people with cancer. RIP Jerry, Carol, Geoph, Kate, Lloyd, Mary and the rest of you. This ride is to stop that list from growing.
High clouds appeared around 3 PM.

Woolly Bears

Around here, the woolly bear caterpillar is said to predict the winter weather. This caterpillar is generally brown in the middle and black on the ends. More black is said to mean a harsher winter. I saw four on the ride – two with narrow black bands and two that were all brown with no black on the ends. That is supposed to mean a mild winter. I had to look this up, because I thought it was the other way around. One source said a small study confirmed the folklore. Another said the relative sizes of the color bands actually shows what last winter was like. A third source claims no correlation. We’ll see.

Adopt-a-Highway

Due to the lack of motorized transportation (the van brakes broke and no longer brake), the cleanup of our adopted highway is postponed to Sunday, October 13 and will honor the birthday of one of our riders who will be off to Spain and miss all the fun. Come and join us to clean one of the most beautiful miles of road in the county.

The next day will be the Half-fast Fall Ride. We’ll miss our weary traveler off in Spain but hope for another great ride, great food, and some fall color. Great camaraderie goes without saying. We’ll let you know how it went.

The reports are in and The Ride (the benefit for the Carbone Cancer Center) had its best fundraising totals yet. One might say this is remarkable since we didn’t even ride (canceled due to thunderstorms with torrential rains), but maybe that’s why it did so well – no day of ride expenses (but they must have had a lot of bananas to donate to the food pantry). Thanks to those who donated on behalf of the Half-fast Cycling Club, and all other donors.

The Ride 2019 Fundraising total

Floods are back. We usually have spring flooding here, if at all. Last year the river was out of its banks in August. It looks like tomorrow the banks will no longer hold. We know someone who had to sleep overnight in her office due to flooding last night.

Full service Hotel

The Ride

The night before The Ride, the forecast for ride time is a 90% chance of rain. During the course of the day, that dips to as low as 75% briefly. If this were a ride just for fun, I’d bail about now. But this is a fundraiser, and folks have donated on my behalf. I feel a responsibility toward them. Besides, 70 degrees and rain is way better than 40 degrees and rain. So I readied my gear, with some choices for weather: do I wear a rain jacket and pants to stay dry from the outside, or do I forgo the rainwear, figuring at that temperature I’ll get wet from the inside if I wear waterproof clothing? Do I wear the raingear so I’ll stay warm, or will it be warm enough to be a non-issue? Maybe if I just wear shoecovers to keep my feet dryish and warm. Regular jacket? Long sleeve jersey? Leg warmers? I tossed them all in the car. It’s not that far to the ride start, but do I want to add 18 miles to a 102 mile ride, arriving at the start already wet, and riding home wet? No; I’ll drive to the start and be able to dry off and change clothes before I go home.

Four nights in motels, four days sitting in conference rooms, not in the saddle for more than a week – probably not the ideal training, but I can say I was tapering so as not to be over-trained. Yeah, I can say it.

After a quiet night, the first thunderstorm rolls in at 4:30 AM. A flash flood watch is in effect. The forecast has been revised to 100% chance of rain most of the day, dipping to 80% from 10-11. The time comes to leave the house. No lightning at the moment, but the rain is coming down so hard I can barely see the car parked at the curb. I’m not so sure I want to drive in this weather, much less spend 8 hours out in it. And it’s still dark out, which does not make it more inviting. Decision made: I wouldn’t let a knight go out on a dog like this. Responsibility is one thing. Foolishness is another. As I said in a post a month ago: “I mostly want to ride that day”. Well, that day is here. I mostly don’t want to ride. The money I spent to register and the money donated by others will go to cancer research whether I’m on the road or not. [See below!] Since I’ve already had a double espresso, I probably won’t be going back to bed.

The half-fast fall ride is just around the corner. You can pretend you’re donating in honor of that, if you’d like. It’s still a long bike ride, just no support unless you count the resturants we’ll be stopping by.

It rained for 12 hours. Only a bit of flooding, at least from where I sit. I stayed in all day to prove I’m half-fast. I didn’t just lie around and drink beer and watch football (or eat bon bons). I have a short-term job. I’ll work for 14 hours later this week. To do that, they required 4 hours of computer-based training. I spent the morning staring at a computer screen for courses on data security and workplace harassment. At 6 pm I finally went out and got my stuff from the car. The sun was shining.

The first day of fall dawned beautifully, with clear sky, crisp air, 55 degrees (13 degrees C). A perfect day for a ride; just a day late.

The PBS country music series is back on. Last night was a reminder of the social consciousness of country music in the 60s. Loretta Lynn wrote the song “The Pill”, in which she stated her refusal to be a brood hen anymore. (She had four kids by the age of 20, six by the time she wrote the song – which the label refused to release for a few years.) She also addressed the issue of marital rape (though not in so many words) with this song:

Merle Haggard sang of turning “21 in prison, doing life without parole”. (He was actually in for 15 years and did get out on parole.) People know him for “Okie From Muskogee”, far from his best song. He also sang of a man on death row. On his way to the gas chamber, he asked to have a buddy sing his last request – “Sing Me Back Home”. He sang of his “Mama’s Hungry Eyes”, growing up as a dust bowl refugee. But among his most poignant was the song of a single parent, pretending that the birthday gift for his daughter was from the absent spouse who didn’t bother to remember.

And in 1964 Johnny Cash released the album “Bitter Tears” about the mistreatment/genocide of First Nations people by the US Government.

Breaking News

Call me a wimp no more. I just checked my work email and The Ride was canceled. It wasn’t just me. (Interesting: at 1:01 AM they notified me the ride was canceled, at 6:01 AM they reminded me to sign up for Live Tracking and at 6:23 AM they notified me again that the ride was canceled. And I’m always checking my work email at 6 on Sunday mornings.)

Frenchtown Rock

This area used to be home to the mound builders, including those we call the Mississippians. The Ho Chunk called this home. In the 1800s, German and Norwegian immigrants moved in. Then there was a small settlement known as Frenchtown. As usually happens, one person moved into the area and told others. Soon (in the 1850s) there was a small enclave of French immigrants among the First Nations, German, and Norwegian people who were already here.

image from Big River magazine

The other night I went for a ride on Frenchtown Road. It was hot, after a few weeks of fall-like weather. It was humid, during a brief break from the rain – a flash flood warning was issued just before I sat down to write this. One good thing about Frenchtown Road, riding on it always makes me think about Bob Marley.

I am a doer, not an organizer or a fundraiser. As a result, my fundraising for The Ride has been pathetic, and the ride is this weekend. We’ll see if I’m in any shape to ride after four days in motels and conference centers, talking instead of riding. I’m going to ask again for donations, as this hit close to home recently. Thanks again to Vikki for being the first donor on the half-fast page. The Ride is a fundraiser for the Carbone Cancer Center, and one of the half-fast riders recently had a biopsy for suspected cancer. That person doesn’t have cancer, but it reminded me that one needn’t look sick, feel sick, or seem sick in any way to have cancer. It is an equal opportunity destroyer.

Some rides come with unexpected thrills
Moonset after Fri the 13th full moon

It’s a beautiful evening for a walk, but I’m in that god forsaken wilderness made up of motels and chain restaurants; a landscape designed exclusively for the automobile. I walked to and from a nearby restaurant, strolling through parking lots and meandering entrance roads – the sort that are supposed to feel “organic” I guess; curving paths that might be intended to seem like they acknowledge the landscape, but are merely someone’s perversely poor attempt to do something other than make a straight road. Can we tell them there is nothing wrong with a straight road, when the landscape is open and flat? Okay; I know that’s not all it is. Those roads wander apparently aimlessly but not really aimlessly at all. The point of roads through shopping centers is to get you to drive past as many of the stores as possible in order to get you to spend more money. If it’s hard to find your way out you’ll drive past even more of them.

So while hanging out in cheap motels this week, I’ve been watching the Ken Burns series on country music on PBS. The most recent episode featured one of the best recordings around -the incomparable Patsy Cline singing one of Willie Nelson’s greatest songs:

I learned something new on the show. The song “Family Bible” was written by Willie Nelson. I was introduced to the song not by the original 1960 Claude Gray recording (which didn’t credit Nelson as the writer), but by the 1971 release by Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen (lest you think I’m a purist).

That album also brought the (in)famous country tearjerker “Seeds and Stems Again Blues”. This was a great crying in your beer song about lost love and lost everything else, with an obligatory spoken verse and a sobbing steel guitar, but maybe if it were written by the Onion (actually Bill Kirchen and Commander Cody). They don’t seem to want me to embed this video, so find it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GNWw2NFo_ec

Rather than give Commander Cody the last word, I’ll also add that it’s time to clean our adopted highway again. We’re looking at Sunday, October 6 at noon tentatively. Let us know if you can make it. The Dane County Highway Commission will supply the safety vests, gloves, and trash bags. The Dane County drivers will supply the trash.