Saturday, June 30, 2007

Get it all out now, please…

With my girls off at a friend’s house for a nice, long play date Friday, I decided to take the opportunity to get my miles in for the day (see #9 of the previous post). I had a nice 20-mile loop waiting for me, plenty of time to enjoy it and weather that was simply exquisite, especially for riding. I should have known it was too good to be true.

I don’t know what I hit. I went back to look for it, but it must have squirted out from the tire after I ran it over. I’m sure it was hard. It would have to be to take a bite out of my back rim like it did. It must also have been sharp, too, because it sliced a nice gash in the side of my tire and caused what can only be properly described as a “catastrophic flat”. A catastrophic flat is one that causes instant loss of pressure (otherwise known as "instaflat"), but which cannot be fixed on the road. This flat qualified not only because of the size of the holes, but the quantity of them, as well. There were 3 separate punctures--two “snake bite” holes from where the rim bit into the tube as it ran over the mystery object, and a nice ¾” gash from the mystery object itself. Coming on the heels of 2 separate trips to the bike shop during the past week, plus other repairs, this just seemed wholly unfair, but sitting there on the side of the road I was left to consider my options while appreciating the beautiful weather.

It is worth noting here that I did not have a spare tube on the bike at this moment. A catastrophic flat, therefore, usually means one of two things: I call for a ride or I walk. Well, as I sat there on the side of the road (enjoying said beautiful weather), I imagined myself on the road in New York with the same problem. It is certainly possible that the same thing could occur there (it has before, on other tours I’ve done). What would I do? Would I call for a ride? No. That would be admitting defeat.

I decided to see if I could actually fix the tatters of my inner tube and ride home. What the hell, I said. It’s a nice day, I said, and my children are being entertained. Plus, there was a nice mailbox there to lean against. I must have been in a good mental place. I’m not sure the situation warranted it, but I was actually enjoying the challenge of dealing with a normally impossible situation. Plus, did I say the weather was nice?

I got out my trusty patch kit and set to work. I proceeded slowly and carefully, the only way one can really patch a tire that has to hold 90psi for a dozen miles. I used all of the patches I had in my kit and the tube of rubber cement was toast by the end, some 45 minutes later. It took three tries to get it right, but the tire eventually held the air it needed. I put the rim back on the bike, adjusted things so that it would turn cleanly (I didn’t mention this before, but whatever I hit, in addition to shredding my tire, actually put the rim out of alignment enough that it rubbed against the frame) and made for home. I didn’t set any speed records, but the cell phone stayed in the pouch.

I picked the kids up and we headed to the bike shop yet again. A new tire and two tubes, please. $47? Charge it! I changed out the useless stuff for the new stuff while the kids played in the back yard, then spent 30 minutes realigning the wheel (it’s nice and straight now, thank you). Another 30 minutes to make some minor adjustments to the shifting mechanism (it was clicking in the high gears), and again, for the 4th time in two weeks, it was as good as new.

I’m going riding tomorrow to do some hill training. I’d like to think I’ve covered all the problems I’m likely to encounter on my trip. I’d like to think that, but I’ll pray to the cycling gods anyway before I head out. And I'll bring an extra tube.

13 for Thursday—Trip Prep (posted late)

Over the next several days, I’ll be putting things in order for my ride to Pennsylvania. I’m doing this trip on a road bike, not a touring bike, so there are different things to consider.

1. Make sure the bike is in good mechanical order. It’s had a number of upgrades over the last month (new bearing assembly, new rear rim, new rear gear cassette), so I’m feeling cautiously confident about this, but I am still breaking things in and there is always a period of fine-tuning that occurs. I’ll undoubtedly be fiddling with the new parts while on the road. The older parts of the bike are in solid working order, but will need to be tightened, lubricated or otherwise loved the day before I leave, just to make sure nothing falls off. It’s bad when things fall off the bike.

2. Check to see I have all the tools I need. I have learned from harsh experience not to go anywhere without certain tools on the bike: Spoke wrench, tire patch kit, pump, screwdriver, pliers, allen wrenches. I know all these are in the pouch now, but I’m going to add some other tools to the “sag bag” that Wifeness and Co. will bring with them in the van when they leave. I’m sure I’ll be able to survive with the minimum until they catch up to me, but I don’t want to have to go shopping for chain parts or rubber cement after having ridden 90 miles.

3. Is the pack packed? Apart from myself and the bike, everything I’ll need for this trip will fit on a medium-sized fanny pack. The trick is to make sure it’s all in there: 1 change of non-riding clothes (shorts, shirt, 2 pairs of socks), prescription glasses (in hard case), rain jacket, wet/dry shoes (so I can walk around—road cycling shoes are for riding, not walking), Advil (I’m not too proud to say I’ll need this), anti-chafing cream (there must be no chafing!), cable and lock (it would simply not do to have the bike stolen), deodorant, shampoo, toilet paper.

4. Peripherals? The gear that isn’t in the pack that will come include the following: Wallet, cell phone, mp3 player (sometimes you just need a distraction), 2 water bottles, handkerchief (you’d be amazed how important this is), route maps and contact info for hotels, extra AA and AAA battery (the first is for the blinky light on the bike, the second is for the mp3 player).

5. Pack the “sag bag”. This is a collection of tools and gear to work on the bike during the last half of the trip, but will include stuff for the rider, as well, such as Icy Hot (for those overused muscles), extra anti-chafing cream (say it with me now, “there will be NO chafing!”), electolyte powder and sunscreen.

6. Get contact info for people to meet in Lock Haven. I’m hoping to meet some of my professors once I reach the end of my journey, and I also hope to pick up my diploma. It’s a big campus. I’ll need to know where everyone is.

7. Make sure Wifeness brings the laptop. How else am I supposed to share this whole experience with you?

8. Pack the tourist clothes. Once the trip is done, the whole group will be travelling to Hershey and its environs to explore and relax (they will explore, I will relax). I’ll want comfy clothes and real shoes.

9. Ride a little every day through Sunday. This is important because it will condition my body for what’s coming. Twenty miles per day is adequate here. Also, I’m still breaking in the new equipment, and I want to make sure any mechanical issues are resolved before it matters.

10. Do NOT ride Monday or Tuesday. These rest days are imperative. I’ll spend these days doing chi kung and stretches to relax everything and store up the energy and sleep I’ll need to make the first couple of days go smoothly.

11. Review the route. I planned a route that I believe is free of traffic and construction issues, but a final check for these will ensure that I don’t have to add miles unnecessarily. It’s easy enough to change things before I leave, but a lot harder to do so once I’m on the road. More on the itinerary later.

12. Touch base with students who are working over the summer. I have a number of students I’m advising as they complete work from the spring semester for my class and others’. I don’t intend to do anything with them during the time I’m on vacation (that’s just not fair), but I do want them to keep working. A little direction before I leave will help them to be productive.

13. Go to bed early on Tuesday. I want to be out the door by 7am on Wednesday, so I have the bulk of my mileage in before it turns hot (assuming the worst). It’ll feel weird, especially after 3 years of going to bed LATE, but I really don’t want to be fending off heat exhaustion on day 1.

I’ll share more about the details of the trip with you in the coming posts.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Blog Backlog

For what will be the last time, I’ve had to go underground to work on graduate school. More about that later. For now, just know that beneath this post will appear the numerous things that I’ve either started, but not had time to finish, or wanted to start, but not been able to put into words. A couple of entries are already down there. Nothing much, just some stuff to catch you up. More will follow as I get it written. Thanks for sticking with me!

Lock Haven or Bust!

I leave in a week on a bike trip that will take me from Wayfarer House to Lock Haven, PA. This trip will take me 6 days and will cover about 400 miles. I’m doing it on my racing bike, not a touring bike (I like light and fast, with thin tires and aero bars), and I should be covering between 75-90 miles per day. In the days that follow, I’ll post more information about the ride, my route and my preparation for the adventure. Won’t it be nice to check in every day and finally see new postings?

I’ve been asked by a number of people if I really think I can do it. Well, I know I can ride that far for consecutive days. Last week I rode from Wayfarer House to my school (60 miles roundtrip) two days and, though there was some bugs discovered that need to be worked out by departure time, the ride itself went fine. I’ve got a bike that is in good shape. I’ve got a body that is in decent shape. I’ve got a route that is challenging, but achievable. There’s a lot working for me. I don’t honestly know if I’ll make it the whole distance, but the point is less about making it than about enjoying the journey. I guess we’ll find out together in a week or two if I was successful. Keep reading!

Did you hear that?

That was the sound of my M.Ed. portfolio going live, and me letting loose three years of graduate school stress in one moment of shuddering release. I posted it online for my professors to review at 1am, and I don’t mind telling you that it was a little anticlimactic not to hear the earth-shattering kaboom when I pressed the enter key. Actually, I think it was more that I’d been running in overdrive for the last month putting the portfolio together (and trying to stay on top of all my teaching stuff), and I simply wasn’t able to slow down immediately. The coffee I’d had at 9pm also might have contributed, as well.

I came into my M.Ed. program expecting to be able to work on setting up the school Wifeness and I are putting together, and I got a lot done on this project during this time. I have a much clearer sense than I did before about what the next steps are, and I’m more convinced than ever that we will create something that has lasting value for many people. I’ll say that I’m proud of the work I’ve done over the last 3 years for this degree, but it is really only the first step in a very long journey. We take the next step soon, when we actually create the non-profit organization that will act as the framework for the school. Stay tuned for more on that in the coming months.

I’m looking forward to having my evenings (relatively) free for the summer, and to being able to go to bed at a (relatively) decent hour. It’s going to take some time to adjust my biorhythms, though. The habits of three years will not be immediately expunged. Fortunately, I have a number of little projects to fill the time until that happens.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

The quote, by request, belatedly...

A math teacher had just given his class a two part project. At the time, there were about 3 weeks left of school and, according to Rachel, this project would have taken most of those 3 weeks to complete. The phrase described before was uttered in exasperation at the news that she was still going to have to do the assignment, despite her pleas. This was her response.

“This project you’re giving us at the last minute is so pedantic, and it fucks students who are trying to get serious work done before the end of the year.”

I’d have given her credit for the project just for this sentence. The math teacher chose not to, but did acknowledge her creative and accurate use of both advanced and vulgar English vocabulary.

Saturday, June 2, 2007

The Vast and Varied World of Language

Thank you to Rachel for demonstrating recently that it is possible to use ‘pedantic’ and the F-bomb, use them well, creatively and (in my opinion) appropriately, and use them in the same sentence. It is worth mentioning that Rachel is a 10th grader at my school. Gratefully, the sentence wasn’t directed at me; I don’t have her in class this year.

I’m pretty sure I didn’t know what ‘pedantic’ meant when I was in the 10th grade. I’m absolutely certain I would not have been able to combine it as well as Rachel did with an F-bomb. I’m a big fan of the creative and intelligent use of language—in all its forms. I care more about the ability of my students to use their words well than I do that they respect all the rules of language. Don’t get me wrong: I absolutely think it’s important for people to know how to speak and write effectively, and that means knowing the rules of the language they’re using, but there is some wisdom to the contention that students will learn those rules if they’re taught to think about how to use language creatively.

Do the English teachers disagree?