Ho Chi Mihnute: Blood Road Documentary

Early in my biking life I knew I was a tortoise and not a hare. It’s okay, don’t feel sorry for me. I’m not a speedster. I compete against myself, and that’s A.O.K. by me.  I’m not a competitive cyclist. I’m a strong, competent, confident commuter cyclist and I prefer touring. There, now you know.

Screen Shot 2017-07-02 at 5.33.53 PMWhy tell you that? Sometimes I wish I was more than a wannabe. I sort of wish I was a professional athlete.  I’ve talked about this before in other posts. I’m not. However, I can support others in their athletic aspirations.

I watched a new documentary called Blood Road and it is still with me. Every July 4th I go for a bike ride through some of the city’s cemeteries and I watch a movie about war. Freedom isn’t free as they say, and this documentary offers a perspective from both an American and a Vietnamese women about the ultimate cost. I watched this documentary a few weeks ago and I’m watching it again. Blood Road is the story of a daughter finding her father long after the Vietnam War’s end. “I feel drawn to go looking for answers to a mystery that been with me my entire life.”

Every frame of this film is spectacular. The unfolding of the mystery of Rebecca Rush’s father, a U.S. Air Force pilot, shot down during the Vietnam War. Extraordinary  “ultra-endurance” biker takes her viewers on the emotional and physical journey she took in 2015 when she pedaled 1,200 miles of the Ho Chi Minh Trail in search of the crash site that claimed the life of her father.

The most compelling aspect of the story are the primary source documents, video and recordings that are shared. Another aspect of the storytelling involves the people who help Rebecca in her quest. When Rebecca meets Huyen Nguyen, a Vietnamese competitive biking champion, and together they traverse the jungles of Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam you see their interactions and genuine support for one another. Also, you learn about the Vietnam War.

War has a lasting impact and Blood Road honors the memory of Rebecca’s father and puts a face on victims of war. The Vietnam War may have ended on April 30th, 1975, but it left a mystery that time and trails mitigate. Yes, I’d love to ride it. How about you?

It doesn’t matter if you watch it on the Fourth. Just watch it.

Available to rent or buy on iTunes.

Have a Happy 4th!

Be safe and get out there and ride.

BG

 

 

Bike Rental: the Leased Commitment

 

DSCN0989Whenever possible, and it’s almost always possible, I rent a bike when I’m away from home. My life would be infinitely easier if I didn’t have this need-to-ride, but it would be bereft of the experience engaging in the world and trying to get a bike to ride around wherever, whenever, for however long. Riding a bike heightens your ability to sense  where you are staying. It’s as though the veil has been lifted and you see all that was, is and could be.

In the U.S.A., the advent of bike sharing in various cities like Chicago, Minneapolis, and Hartford is a preferable option, but not all American cities have that available. Internationally, I’ve rented bikes in Tokyo, Japan and rode around the Imperial Palace. My favorite overseas bike rental experience was in Potsdam. I’ll come back to that later in this post.  Riding though the Tiergarten in Berlin is also a favorite memory. I’ve even rented bikes in Pokara, Nepal too and my husband’s bike ended up getting a flat, but even with that it was a memorable way to see the sights and enjoy a city from the saddle of a bike.

That why this story that Tom Hanks shared with Stephen Colbert had me laughing a few weeks ago.  The bit about the bikes starts at about 6:58 into the clip. It got me thinking about the worst bikes I’ve ever rented. There aren’t too many bad experiences I’ve had with bike rentals and certainly nothing that comes close to Tom Hanks’ story.

 

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My rental in Potsdam during the summer of 2009. 
My favorite memory of a bike rental happened in Potsdam when we were there in 2012. I had been in Germany during June 2009 and I rented several times and went between the hotel and the University of Potsdam. I was there on a Fulbright summer seminar. Our hotel had bikes to rent so I rented everyday and then asked for a deal since I was dropping Euros on so much renting. Crazy American! I was told I could take a taxi or the bus shuttle, but what’s the fun in that?

Riding a bike between the hotel and the campus gave me confidence to go a little farther afield. I’d sit in the lectures and listen to speakers all day and then hit the pavement and ride around like a kid free from all the cares of the world. I rode around the city area and took shortcuts through other neighborhoods. One day I ended up with a bike that needed some repairs. I didn’t notice it right away, but after an hour the front tire started to shimmy and the seat post twisted with any slight movement. It literally had some screws loose. I did the best I could but dusk was hanging over me like a cloud and the front rim lights weren’t operating properly. The dynamo light sets that were supposed to run when touching the rim malfunctioned. The rim was out of alignment and would drag on the tire and produce no illumination. That means I was on these narrow cobblestone streets with no lights. I felt vulnerable. Plus as the sun sets everything starts to look veiled and all the straße looked alike. Nothing is on a grid so panic started to set in and I didn’t know where I was. 

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I listened. I listened some more. The hotel was close to the U-Bahn and I figured if I could hear the train I could ride toward it, find the station and make my way back to the hotel. It pedaled toward the rumbling metal sounds and after a little while I made it.

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Logging miles with a rental bike doesn’t have to be disastrous. It requires a modicum of planning and ask around for bike shops that provide rentals. I love this topic and I promise I’ll spend some more time on it in the future. Now see what Tom Hanks has to say. It’ll make you smile.

Renting a bike is the least commitment one can make when trying to decide what bike to buy. Instead of buying, you can try out a bike. However, when you’re traveling and you’re not sure how much if any riding you’ll be able to do, renting is the perfect option and a unique way to dig in and see things from another perspective.

Let me know in the comments below if you’ve ever tried renting a bike while on vacation.

Happy riding!

BG

 

Long Weekend Wonders

Nothing like an extra day of weekending. In my neck of the woods, I had sun and clear skies. I had to apply sunscreen for my ride. First time in a while!  I had time for a ride or three. It was enough to get me excited about summer riding. My commute got the weekend off. My other bikes got a little time to play. Time to ride with no real plan is the best way to relax. Drinking in the scenery, the sun and feeling the topography under my tires. There’s nothing like it.

 

The wonders of riding a bike don’t have to be limited to long weekends. Tomorrow I’m back to my commute and I have a taste for summer on my bike.

Get out there and ride!
Happy trails,

Bike Goddess

New Gen Gets All the Fun

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Did you have access to a cycling team when you were in high school? I remember being in my high school math class and there was an announcement over the PA on a Monday morning. Blah, blah, blah and then something about our bike team winning a race. I thought, “Huh, we have a bike racing team?” I had no idea. The team consisted of four to six guys, two of them were in the upcoming spring play with me and I didn’t know that either one even rode a bike. Then what followed was the math teacher saying my name repeatedly to break me out of my dumfounded state of consciousness.

How did I miss this opportunity? I still don’t know, but a friend of mine, Larry,  saw this article and sent it my direction. I wondered why we don’t see more cycling in high school. Find the National Interscholastic Cycling Association (NICA) on Facebook and give them a like. Also you can donate online to help their efforts. Mountain biking is a far more attractive option for our young racers in training. What a great way to learn how to handle a bike and perfect your skills with balance and agility. At the end of nearly every sentence I kept moaning, “Where was this when I was in high school?”

Personally I did not find a place with traditional sports in high school. I was easily discouraged. I enjoyed volleyball the most, but I had the impression I was supposed to be good right away and I wasn’t. I thought you went to practice and learned about the game, whatever the game. I parted ways with the idea that I’d be able to learn a sport and put my focus in other areas. I kept riding my bike to school and work at my after school job.

“A lot of these kids have done football, baseball, and haven’t really found their place in traditional sports,” says Shaun Anderson, who coaches the Cuyuna Lakes team in northern Minnesota. “They find this and it’s given them a home.”

Truth be told, I’m older than the mountain bike, but younger than Gary Fisher.  I’ll donate what I can to help the efforts of NICA! The next generation can count on me to support their riding.

Good job team! Read more about NICA here.

What do you think? Wish you had something like this? Were you lucky enough to be on a team in your youth? I would have loved to letter in mountain biking!

Have a great week.

Be safe and get out there an ride.

BG

 

 

 

 

 

Sun-sational Day for a Ride

IMG_0616You know that Mae West quote, “When I’m good I’m very good but when I’m bad, I’m better.” With a few little tweaks to the wording, that’s how I feel about the weather in the Pacific Northwest. When it’s bad it’s wretched and unfair and you want to fist pump the heavens and tell the weather gods to cut it out. But when it’s good you feel like you’ve been cured from something akin to the plague or Dengue fever and you can hear the Hallelujah chorus. It’s as if the gods finally have a quorum and voted in favor of you so the sun shines and all the world smiles. You think this is it, the weather will never be that bad ahhhggainn— wait, was that a rain drop. What? No, not again. You shuffle through your bag and put on the dreaded rain pants.

Even though the morning started out cold and foggy, by the time I got to work it was sunny.

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Today I saw blue skies and for a period this morning there wasn’t a cloud to be seen. It was a weather miracle. Another front is moving through and as I write I can hear the wind’s take-no-prisoners attitude. The neighbors’ wind chime sounds like a toddler got ahold of them and it beating those bells into submission. I’m remembering that a few short hours ago I was enjoying 66 degrees and a light breeze. I’m recalling that I took a 16 mile detour to get home for the primary purpose of staying out in the sun a bit longer. I worked up a bit of a sweat. There’s that other Mae West quote, “I never said it would be easy, I only said it would be worth it.” Some things are more worthwhile for having been difficult. Some days surviving a bike commute despite the elements is worth it. Some days however you just want to enjoy the ride without the struggle against all the elements of nature. You want to see the powder blue skies and feel the sun.

It was  glorious day to ride and I’m greedy for more. Until then. I’ll enjoy my pictures. Of the sun-sational day.

Here’s to warmer temps, blue skies and the sun.

 

How’s the spring weather in your part of the world?

Stay safe and get out there and ride.

Thanks for reading.

Bike Goddess

 

 

 

Hoppy Easter!

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The Easter Bunny brought me this irreverent shirt from TwinSix and I absolutely love it! It’s called “He Has Ridden,” and it’s my new favorite seasonal bike shirt.

Easter in my family of Greeks involves bread baking and an scrumptions spread of traditional village foods.

Yes, there was lamb and green beans, salad and cheese or spinach pies. This year I was in charge of the bread. Tradition dictates that I should make the bread is a braid and red eggs baked into the strands. I tried something different this year. Someone posted something clever on Facebook that showed the dough in a  muffin pan. I think traditions can be updated, so I put half the dough in a loaf and made half in muffins. Same dough, so the flavor is the same. The serving is what’s different. The muffin size was a big hit.

I managed to make time for a bike ride with my dog. He loves his bike rides.

The weather was very cooperative the last two days. Sunny days ahead I hope. So we can all ride our cares away.

About the t-shirt. Twin Six promotes a t-shirt of the month. Their shirts are clever and unique. I’m a pushover for a good pun and I had to share.

Happy trails. Be safe out there and remember to get out there and ride.

Thanks for reading.

Bike Goddess

 

 

Braking for Spring

Last Monday we packed up our car and headed to the coast. We’re only about 90 minutes away from the coastal town of Astoria. It’s named for American investor John Jacob Astor. It’s a small, gritty town that has a great Riverwalk and some amazing sights and sounds.

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View from the Lighthouse boat called The Columbia.

Spring break is a time to put on the brakes and take some time out and maybe even away. I don’t always get out of town. Spring break has a way of sneaking up on me every year and I neglect to make plans. This year I started early and I knew we could do something by either heading North to Seattle or South to the coast. My husband enjoys everything near or on the water, and I just wanted a change of scenery. Astoria became our destination. We started our stay with a bike ride along the Riverwalk.

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Max in his basket on my bike. View of Astoria-Megler Bridge built in 1966.

The Riverwalk is about 5 miles total and hugs the banks of the Columbia River. It’s spectacular and was the highlight of the trip for me. I could have gone back and forth a million times and seen something new each time. Between the creaking docks and the choking sounds of the seal lions it was rich and entertaining.

Here’s the amazing thing about the Riverwalk—It was a Burlington Northern Railroad and built back in the 1890s when Astoria was a real industrial town, and railroads are only built on flat land, and the only flat land in Astoria hugs is right along the mighty Columbia River. I love Rails-to-Trails stories but this one is even better since the placement of the railroad helped preserve the Riverwalk for today’s use. Bonus!

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A fitting picture on the Riverwalk.
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The end of the road. Bike ready to head back.

I’m grateful we had Monday because Tuesday was reserved for exploring Fort Stevens and Fort Canby and then Wednesday we visited the Maritime Museum and Fort Clatsop. Plus the weather decided to have a temper tantrum and wind and rain made bike riding dangerous.

I consider spring break a time to put on the brakes and relax. My Riverwalk bike ride is added to my list of happy places. Such a lovely few hours to remind me that I live in one of the most exquisite parts of the world. Another view of the same might river came on Thursday when I took my Kona for a spin.

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Go down, down, down the hill and through the Safeway parking lot to the Riverwalk.
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Different section of the river.
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Clouds in the river. 

Seeing the Columbia from Astoria as it spills into the Pacific Ocean gave me a renewed appreciation for something I see everyday and take for granted.

Maybe that’s why we all need to put the brakes on our day to day routines and look around at the beauty all around.

Happy trails.

Be safe our there!
Bike Goddess

 

 

 

 

Alterations! Please!

When it comes to fashion, women know all about alterations. Hemming pants, letting out a seam, or taking in a little at the waist or hips. Gathering, ruching, stitching are all part of tailoring an outfit to certain measurements and specifications.

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Why wouldn’t we do something similar with a bike? Last week I met with a frame builder. I will talk more about that experience in an upcoming post. While meeting with him I asked what I could do right now with my current bike to make it more comfortable. I have been riding this bike, the Kona Roundabout, since 2012 and I always experience some measure of neck and shoulder pain. My instinct was to correct the saddle, but in a moment he said the handlebar stem looked too low, my suspicions were confirmed.

Too low? I have always wondered about that but frankly I didn’t want to spend the time or money on a full blown fitting. I suspected as much, but lacked the confidence to say, “Hey, I need a different stem.” My frame builder suggested we go next door to the bike shop and see if they had a stem a little shorter and higher. A slight rise might help alleviate the problem.

The floppy handlebars was one sign I should have paid attention to. Another was that I couldn’t balance without both hands. I kick myself for not talking about it, but there’s always the danger of being upsold something I didn’t need. I did not need new handlebars. I suspected something was amiss, but I lacked the confidence to talk about it and I didn’t think it was significant. For three years I haven’t had the alterations.

The frame builder could see it because he’s seen it before. He lives in the world of alterations and modifications. I think about my mother and her mother and how they could eyeball a suit jacket on my father and say it was too big in the shoulders. It looked fine to me, but after years of watching how they would tailer something to the frame of the wearer, I could see it too. The difference was millimeters, but it fit ever so slightly better which meant it fit like is should, for me.
Kona Stem

This elusive detail might escape the local bike shop.But for the most part it could be that one little adjustment to make the difference between someone riding and someone saying their bike isn’t comfortable. Something may look good, it may look close, but it still may not be the right fit. Does a millimeter make a difference? Short answer is a resounding Yes. This one adjustment means I can ride my bike like it was made for me.

Wish you were riding more? One step is to think about what hurts when you ride? Where and why? Talk with someone about what bugs you about your bike. Maybe you really do need a new one, but maybe there are some alternations to be made to help you and your bike fit together better. The stem change on my Kona was $35. Less than hemming a pair of pants. Probably not, but close. Like the flower? Someone actually left than on the road. It has a home now on my basket!

Happy riding!