Friday, October 30, 2015

Mobility Assistive Devise: The Operative

We have all experienced the seeming injustice of paying exorbitant overage fees to fly with our bikes even when they meet airline size requirements. Guns, snowboards, golf clubs, and huge, heavy who-knows-what's inside are not subject to bike fees that range in the neighborhood of $250-$350 dollars one way, a fee sometimes even greater than the price of the ticket for the traveler!

Traveling to Chicago in early October would be the first time I would fly with my ICE trike, Hiello. 

I was not hopeful rolling in an extra large, HUGE, hockey goalie bag 44" x 24" x 24" with the frame bubble wrapped, the seat and various bike sundries nestled in the free space.  The 700c rear wheel and dual 406 front wheels were in my ZIPP wheel bag. 

My first bag was checked in with an expected $25.00 charge. 

The Goalie bag rang up at $150, the wheel bag at $160. To get it home the total would be $620!! Another reason why cyclists drive across the country with their delicate cargo for events!!

I had taken pictures of the bike in its various stage of disassembly, printed them and placed the portfolio in the goalie bag for discriminating TSAs.

Then there was the question: 

TSA: "What's in the bag?" 
Me: A mobility assistive device.
TSA: "Open the bag." I did.
TSA: It's a bike!!
Me: It's a mobility assistive device!!

Back and forth we went neither of us budging.

Me: I have epilepsy. When my seizures are active I can't drive. This is how I get around. Here is my physician's statement. 

TSA: What's in the other bag? Wheels for the mobility assistive device.

Ticket Agent: Ok, ma'am; enjoy your flight; your device bags fly free.

My first choice would not have been to transition to a trike, but my gratitude that it allows me to continue to ride under my circumstances trumps any frustration with TSA or diminishment in my performance. 

Thank you United. My hope that there just may be a bit of reasonableness in the airlines has been encouraged. 

Saturday, October 17, 2015


I was inspired by my friend, Jefferson Rogers, to pursue an R-12, a Randonneuring challenge of riding a Randonneuring-sanctioned event of no less than 200k (125 miles) and no more than 1200k (750 miles) every month for 12 consecutive months. He started his R-12 in January 2014, I started my 12 month run seven months later.

My Randonneuring goals are quite modest: I would do only 200k's and I would do them only out of Tucson since I was unable to drive to remote starts due to my epilepsy that was still not managed with medication. Starting my R-12 in August was a bit challenging given that I live in the Sonoran Desert. All R-12 randonneurs will face weather perils, it's just a matter of which ones: heat, sleet, wind, tornadoes, monsoons, darkness, or.....

Randonneurs can ride with other Randonneurs and achieve RUSA credit for their event, but riding with a non-RUSA member during a qualifying event would be disallowed, as would be any crew support along the way, and repair of any mechanical issue by a "professional". The heart of Randonneuring is to be self-supporting/self-sufficient.

Since there were only 3 sanctioned routes that started and finished in Tucson, I decided I would expand my own route options by designing several new routes and seeking RUSA (Randonneuring USA) approval. Today there are six 200k's and one 300k and two point-to-point 200k's, one that starts in Tucson and finishes in Phoenix, and the second starts in Phoenix and finishes in Tucson.

Since my seizures were still not well controlled, I had concerns about being in remote parts of the desert alone. One of the many gifts of living in a cycle-centric region is the ready availability of cyclists who love the longer rides and who are Randonneurs. With a bit of advance planning I had the company of at least one Randonneur on all but my 12th R-12 qualifying ride in July, 2015.

I took August and September off after completing my R-12 in July. It felt very much like something was truly missing from my life.  I started my second R-12 October, 2015. I like the discipline, the challenge, and the belief that it keeps me physically sharp. There's a sense of a one-more-in-the-books accomplishment after each month's completion. There is no guarantee that just because I have a goal for the year that the events of the year will make it possible for me to achieve the goal. Miss a month and I must start the count of 12 all over.

With the completion of this month's Rndo event, my 70th Birthday 300k, the planning for next month's event begins: what date will work for other already calendered events? What route? Who might want to join me for this next one?

I have now done 4 Rando events on Hiello, my ICE trike. He definitely adds an element of difficulty to the mix: the third wheel adds significantly to the rolling resistance; he doesn't climb as well; and being that much lower I am more conscious of my vulnerability, especially after dark.

All that said, the call of the challenge rings in my spirit. My second R-12 is underway.

200k and Wilmette

We lived in the Chicago area for 40 years before retiring to Tucson in 2011. Kirk's last church (United Methodist Pastor) was in Wilmette, 2 suburbs north of Chicago on the lakefront of Lake Michigan. With one son and his family in Tucson, the other son and his family in Eugene, OR, and our daughter and her family having moved 6 months ago from the Chicago area to Southern California, there is little draw for either of us to continue to return to Chicago to visit. 

And so, I wanted to return one more time to seek closure on some very rich roots and years.

Who could possibly have known my Birthday 300k in Tucson and my trip to Chicago, which would include a 200k with Jeff leaving out of Ridgeland Center, WI would be in the same week! 

At 70, I wondered how recovered I'd be to ride one of Jeff's favorite 200k's, The Fennimore Frolic  just 7 days after the 300k. Able to ride I was, but I set no performance record. We finished in just under 11 hours. I'm definitely slower on my ICE trike, Hiello, but seem to have accommodated to the long, steady mountain grades of the Southwest. The 7-9% with pops of 12-14% northwest of Madison, WI were quite a bit more challenging on my trike. Jeff was a most gracious host and hung back with me while the other 9 riders scampered ahead.

But time aside, it was a beautiful fall ride: dense, dense fog for the first couple of hours hanging over the hilltops and reducing our visibility on the ground to about 20'. Starting temp was 37, a temp that Tucsonans would never venture out into to begin their ride, unless, of course, it was El Tour de Tucson. By midpoint of the ride we turned out of the 20 mph steady head wind, the fog had lifted, and the temperature had warmed by 10-15 degrees. We could now see our surround of Fall foliage under our wheels and gracing the trees while rolling glacial hills were nameable far in the distance. 

Back in Wilmette after the 200k I began a delightful whirlwind of visiting friends of many years and favorite routes. Hiello was road worthy on crowded Lakefront multi-use paths full of segways, bike shares, and distracted tourists and road worthy on the streets of downtown Chicago in rush hour. Some were in town to run the Chicago Marathon, others to cheer on their favorite runners, and still others just here to soak in one of the most livable large cities in the country before the sky turns gray and the wind slices through to your core beginning exactly the day after Halloween. The gray and cold will chill the bone and soul till sometime in April, and that's why we retired to Tucson.

Wednesday, October 07, 2015

70th Birthday 300k (192 miles) Ride

                                                   Susan, Jeff, David

It has been a long while since I have posted on Bentwanderings. It is not for lack of cycling activity, that's for certain. But, when you live in a place like Tucson where you can ride 365, there are fewer epics to write about and the dailies are more often heart-stopping sunsets, cactus blooms in the Spring (that is likely to come in February), endless wind, dramatic monsoons, desert-desiccating heat, and critters like rattlesnakes, cyote and Javelina. Facbook has become an easy vehicle to capture many of my dailies. Now, however, I want to capture my most recent epic event: my 70th Birthday 300k on my 4 month old ICE Trike.

I knew I wanted to mark my 70th in a way that would be significant for me. I just recently completed my first RUSA R-12 and for a brief moment I thought maybe I should complete a 600k and add another 100k. But, seeing that I have never completed a 400k or a 600k, a 700k was, well, totally unrealistic and just plain stupid.

I know an older gentleman who states his age by subtracting from 100. I think he is 20 now via that math. That gave me an idea: 100 minus 70 equals 30 add a zero equals 300. All I had to do was create a 300k RUSA route out of Tucson and VOILA: my Birthday 300k.

And so began the planning.

My gratitude list since I retired and moved to Tucson is way longer than any list I gave to Santa when I was a kid. Being able to ride 365, being a Randonee in a way that works for me, and having two handsfull of Randonneuring friends are just three on my gratitude list.

Finding a date for my Birthday 300k took a bit of doing: a date that fit the calendar for the 6 Randonneurs who wanted to be a part of the ride, all of whom would be traveling from out of town or state, and finding a date when the University of Arizona would not be playing at home thereby filling all the available hotel rooms.

While my actual birthday is October 18th, October 3rrd was the date that met the above criteria. By the time October 3rd came, 3 of the 6 riders had either taken ill or were in an active recovery mode from serious cycling related injuries.

Jefferson Rogers, my friend from Chicago, and David Brake, one of my Phoenix friends would join me. The three of us, my husband Kirk, and David's wife, Kristy, had dinner at Neo Malaysian Friday night and did a bit of planning for Saturday. Both spouses would be in the ready should there be a ride stopping event for which a rider needed to be picked up. Equally important was that we NEEDED to have a celebratory birthday cake at the last Control before the Finish. Kirk took on the finding of a Gluten free, Vegan cake that met my dietary needs.

Our route started and finished from the Country Inn and Suites near the Tucson Airport. All the riders overnighted there on Friday. 3:00 a.m. came early for us to ready for a 4:00 a.m. start.

While we had 20:32 to complete the ride for RUSA credit, we didn't want to have to be in the saddle that long AND we wanted to do everything possible to be off Empire Mountain before the dark of night. The first 5 miles down that mountain is a 5% grade, full of switchbacks, 15 sets of rumble strips and a fair amount of bidirectional traffic even at night.

Our route is one I know very well having ridden it many times with PAC Tour and on various Brevets, and 200k's. But this was my first for cobbling all the segments together into one ride, one route.

Basically, we would begin and end from the Tucson airport, ride through the Tohono O'odham Indian reservation and the San Xavier Mission, South to Nogales through Tubac and Tumacacori, Patagonia, Sonoita, and turned around at Whetstone. We would pass through Sonoita a second time and then head North up and down Empire Mountain and back to the airport/finish. Birthday cake would be served in at the Quick Mart in Vail (AZ) on the hood of our car.

Enduring memories of the ride:
     ----Fellowship and commitment to the success of the ride by all 3 of us and our spouses
     ----The quiet of 4:00 a.m. ride out in South Tucson
     ----A family of longhorn cattle alongside of us on Mission Road (open range), in the wee hours of civil twilight (twirise??)
     --- The 3rd Control in Nogales, AZ, with Nogales, Sonora MX within sight
     ----The buzz of activity at the Circle K, our 3rd Control in Nogales that made Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving at Walmart, almost pale
     ----The joy of a most supportive tailwind heading East on Rt 82 from Nogales to Whetstone (about 50 miles) where my speedometer read between 20-25 mph)
     ----The agony of the 20 miles of a 20+ mph headwind on the return from Whetstone to Sonoita.
     ----The gratitude for summiting Empire Mountain with still light in the sky
     ----The "Oh no, well here we go" descent of Empire Mountain in the dark of night
     ----The gratitude of a safe descent and the turn onto the "quiet" relief of the I-10 Frontage Rd
     ----Birthday cake on the hood of the car

     ----The final 20 miles at an average speed of 20 mph beating our ETA at the finish.

Over the last 14 years of riding one or another of my recumbents, and after coming back from 11 years of disabling back disease in the 90's, this 300k is one of my to-be-savored-memories for life to come. When I am 30 years from 100 clearly my opportunities for epic rides are measured. The satisfaction of successfully completing such a ride and being able to share that experience with good friends is a truly a treasure.