Archive for August, 2013

PostHeaderIcon LIFE BIKE – Before Horses

I was living in Johnson County, Kansas in the city of Lenexa.  This was the early 90′s.  My golf obsession had ended and my body was getting thicker, maybe wider would be a better term.

Something about a bike caught my attention.  Something about a weight loss exercise program using a bike!  I need a thinner body.  The answer just  might  be a bike! I have stored in my garage, a stylish three speed English bike from my college days, a mere thirty year old or so bike.  Three speed bikes became the new favorite bike for cycling across large college campuses and I still have mine!

From the 1930′s through the 1960′s, English-made 3-speed bicycles were, in some respects, the ultimate in human-powered transportation. They spawned a vibrantly active club culture that has never been equaled. The bicycle provided unprecedented individual mobility to the British working class.

The bicycle industry, centered in the enormous Raleigh factory in Nottingham, was one of the most important in the country. The workers who built these bicycles rode the same kind of bicycles to work.

Raleigh Superbe roadster bicycle

I dug my bike out of the very organized junk pile in the garage.  Imagine a bike that will go three speeds fast.  I took the bike to the bike store to get the gears working.   There were  strange beasts at the bike store.  Drop your pants, they have twenty one speed bikes now!  The bike store bikes were flashy outrageous in their coloring. My English bike is dullard dark green.

I took my dullard green bike home and got on. I was excited to get my working bike back.  It wasn’t exciting negotiating the boy’s bike bar, but  I was excited about getting on a bike.  How many years has it been?  I rolled down my street on a bike!  In a few moments, my hair was flying in the wind and I laughed out-loud.  I’m young again!  I’m eighteen years old, riding this bike around my college campus.  I’m ten years old and riding my bike around the streets of my small town.  Yee Haw!  The wind is smoothing out the wrinkles on my face.  I have traveled about two blocks…a far ride.  That’s when I met, the upward slope.  I can’t really call it a hill.  But, my speed stalled out and I experienced this thing called “struggle”.  As I was struggling to make the bike wheels turn, my mind went back to the bike store with the flashy pretty things that had twenty one speeds.  I NEED ONE OF THOSE!

The next day, I was back at the bike store and I bought a flashy yellow with green slashes of color TREK bike.  I have no idea why I bought a yellow flashy bike.  It stood there calling my name. The sales person told me it was my size and perfect for me.  I bought a yellow mountain bike!

The bike and I were posed on the driveway for a brief second and off I went.  I rode around the block in style.  I laughed out-loud again.  I figured out how to shift…tricky things are these gears.  That took me about ten minutes.  I was ready to face the slope again.  Up we went and I shifted down down down until I got to speed twenty one.  I made it up the slope.  I sailed home in triumph.The rest of the week, I sailed around my neighborhood.  Lenexa had a big neighborhood and one hill.  After a time, I defeated the hill.  I was able to ride up the hill at speed twenty and arrive at the flat cement alive and undaunted.

I started to become a bike fanatic.  I read about bikes.  I studied my bike.  I decided that my mountain bike tires slowed me down when coming up those hills.  I took my bike back to the happy store owner and traded my barely used tires to new thinner and flatter tires.  I did not need deep knobby tread to ride on cement.  I got nice slightly thinner smoother tires.  Oh that made a difference!  I was able to get up the hill at only speed nineteen. I had two speeds left to burn!

Now I was riding all around downtown Lenexa, my neighborhood and another adjoining neighborhood.  I had conquered Lenexa! Neighborhoods became boring.  I’ve seen the same yards dozens and dozens of times by now.  Where to go now?

Shawnee Mission Park beckoned.  I took a car ride to the park.  It wasn’t too far away.  The hills were few and not very steep.  I am ready!

My water bottle is filled and I head off for Shawnee Mission Park adventure.  I was so thrilled when I made it to the park entrance! Thrilled! The park entrance was good enough for the first visit.  I  rested and made the triumphant return home.  My body started experiencing something called calf and thigh tightening heading to muscle.

The next day, I biked to the park.  This time I entered the park.  The park has a paved road that goes around the entire park.  I turned right and sailed down a longt hill traveling at least 100 mph.  Oh wow, now my hair really did sail, all the short curls were straightened in the wind.  This is wondrous and heady.   I sailed down that hill to the big beautiful lake.  What a thrill! In that moment, I became a road biker with a mountain bike with slick tires.

PostHeaderIcon LIFE BIKE TEN

The first and biggest bike ride is RAGBRAI!

RAGBRAI, The Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa, is an annual seven-day bicycle ride across the state.  RAGBRAI is the oldest, largest and longest bicycle touring event in the world.

In the beginning, no one imagined that RAGBRAI would become the Iowa tradition it is now.  We at The Des Moines Register thank all the riders who have joined us over the years.  We especially wish to thank the thousands and thousands of volunteers in the towns we’ve visited along the way for their tireless work to show RAGBRAI riders the hospitality that has made our ride world famous. This rolling celebration of Iowa attracts participants from all 50 states and many foreign countries.  It has covered thousands of miles through the years, and hundreds of thousands of riders have hopped in the saddle to pedal part of those miles.

RAGBRAI is a bicycle ride, not a race.  It started in 1973 as a six-day ride across the state of Iowa by two Des Moines Register columnists who invited a few friends along.  It is held the last full week in July.  RAGBRAI is planned and coordinated by The Des Moines Register, and riders who participate in RAGBRAI understand that they do so at their own risk.

The RAGBRAI route averages 468 miles and is not necessarily flat.  It begins somewhere along Iowa’s western border on the Missouri River and ends along the eastern border on the Mississippi River.  We change the route each year and announce the overnight towns in late January in The Des Moines Register. Eight Iowa communities along the RAGBRAI route serve as “host” communities for overnight stays. RAGBRAI is a guest in these communities and we ask our riders to behave as such.

The people of Iowa truly make RAGBRAI the special event that it is by opening up their towns and communities to participants. We hope you can enjoy this Iowa hospitality and join us for a memorable trip across the state.

The event is seven days of riding with an average of 67 miles per day through the Iowa countryside. You may enter as a rider or a non-rider. Anyone not riding a bicycle (a support vehicle driver, family members, or friends riding in a vehicle) must enter as a non-rider. A week-long rider fee is $150; a week-long non-rider fee is $35. A vehicle permit is $35. See section on Vehicle Pass Instructions for Support Vehicle Drivers.

When the overnight and lunch stop  towns are announced, eight towns go into hysteria.  Many, if not most towns are smaller than the number of riders that will be riding into the towns.  Streets are littered with bikes in the lunch stop towns.  Money is coming into town.  Money will be rolling across Iowa.  Food is the number one focus.  Years earlier, my home town of Osceola, Iowa, was an overnight stop town.  The Christian Church placed my mother in charge of serving dinner.  She worried and planned this event every day  (seven months) until it actually happened.  I came to visit on that day.  We had stuff going on in the town square park.  Osceola hosted the Bicycle Museum of Chicago where I got to see a Hopalong Cassidy bike fully restored.  When the first riders started coming into town, I decided to be the person that stood outdoors and yelled at the riders announcing the great church dinner at the Christian Church.  That was so much fun.  The riders stayed at the Fair Grounds and used the high school facility for showers.  It was a huge event and Osceola benefited greatly.

July 19-25, 1992
For the fourth time in RAGBRAI history Glenwood was the setting when the 1992 ride began on July 19. The riders pedaled from Glenwood to Shenandoah for their second visit, then on to first-time overnight hosts, the tiny towns of Bedford (to this point the smallest town on RAGBRAI) and Osceola, both of which did a marvelous job of hosting the ride. After an exhausting ride in rain and headwinds when the riders left Osceola, they entered ‘ Emerald City,’ Des Moines’ nickname and theme during its second time as host of the ride. After bidding farewell to Toto, Dorothy and the Scarecrow, riders pedaled on to Oskaloosa for their second visit there, stayed in Mt. Pleasant (a town that hosts Threshers and Old Settlers Day and is used to crowds) and ended in Keokuk (for the second time) on July 25.

After Lance Armstrong retired from his bike racing days, many years he participated in RAGBRAI.

Fast forward.  I believe I am ready for my own ride across RAGBRAI!  I have rode 1400 training miles to prepare.


Kansas City has a huge bike charity event called the MS 150. MS 150 stands for “ride a 150 miles over a September weekend and raise money for Muscular Dystrophy”.  The people who volunteer for this event are legion wide.  There are practice bike rides throughout the summer to help you get prepared to ride the MS 150.   Often times the rides have their own T-shirts so you start collecting some mighty fine T shirts to show the miles you have ridden.

There are MS 150 rides in different locations.  You can look at the web site and learn all about the rides.

I started riding in the preparation rides and was able to finish all but one.  Of course these rides occur in the heat of summer.  I had purchased bigger and bigger bottles plus multiple water bottles holders and always struggled to get enough water inside me.  During one of these rides in the hot August month, I started getting chills.  Chills?  The temperature was in the 90′s and I was cold?  I thought that was very odd.  I felt fine except for shivering.  I thought it was odd enough that  I stopped at a volunteer water spot and told someone that I was having chills.  (Volunteers along the route provide water and expertise in medical situations.)   Immediately I was told to sit down and someone plastered me with ice bags. Whoo!   I was given a water bottle to drink and then another.  After a while I felt good enough to let a sag wagon take me back to my car.  (If you sag, you get to ride the sag wagon-a volunteer car that carries non-finishers back to their car.) I had to lay in bed the rest of the day with my eyes glued shut, the blinds down and suffered from a headache and dizziness.

I had suffered heat exhaustion!  I hate heat exhaustion!

After that, I found the perfect solution to keeping hydrated, a camelbak water container.  It’s a long plastic bag filled with water that you wear as a backpack.  There’s a tube that you clamp to the top of your shirt and that’s how you suck the water into your body.  One hand or no hand and you are sucking water into your thirsty body.  You chill the water at home before the ride and you have a nice cool spot on your back.  Not only do you have water, but it keeps your core temperature down for a while.  This is one of the best inventions ever for bike riding!

Later in the summer, I discovered the Katy Trail.  Missouri is taking abandoned railroad beds and making trails to cover the east coast of Missouri to the west coast of Missouri.  That’s the plan.  At the time, the nearest Katy Trail was in Sedalia.  I would drive to Sedalia (fifty miles), get my bike out, ride a number of miles to the end of the trail and back.  Then  drive back to Kansas City (fifty miles).  It was far ways far to call for spouse-back-up if things went wrong. Also there was nothing that could be done if a stray thunderstorm occurred while you rode along. I got to enjoy one of those during my infatuation with the Katy Trail. There was no way to make the miles “from” lesser than the miles “to” (roundtrip). I also learned that hills are to be enjoyed rather than hated.  There are no hills on the Katy Trail so you have to pedal every single foot of the trail.  There’s no rest “coasting”.

I was biking along the Katy Trail.  I had made it to the end of the route and was on the way back to Sedalia.  I was exhausted.  I rode into a small town with a park.  It had picnic tables.  I got off my bike and staggered to a picnic table and sprawled on the top.  I must have looked bad because a nice couple came over and wondered if I was ill.  I agreed that I was near death.  They offered to take me back to the start of the route.  They looked innocent.  I was wondering about dying on top of a picnic table.  I accepted their offer. They delivered me and the bike back to Sedalia. Thank God for good people!

MS 150 - Official Phote!

The first MS 150 ride started in Kansas City and went east.  We rode the black top back roads.  I made it in fine style.  I had no problems.  My spouse served the ride by driving and picking up riders that couldn’t make the ride.  He was a sag wagon.  He was busy during the day.  One guy lost control of his bike and dove head first into a drainage pipe.  He survived.  The people that didn’t make it had equipment problems or got sick from lack of practice miles.  I made it and celebrated about a week after riding into the finish line. I still have my MS 150 medal. That was a triumph for fitness!  I was also a size less in those tight black bike pants!  YAY!

PostHeaderIcon LIFE BIKE SIX

Bike clothes deserve an entire chapter along with bike seats.  Let’s talk about clothes first.

Bike pants are tight and they are foam-lined where the seat hits the road…so to speak.  Bike pant color comes in black.  Summer bike pants go down to the knees and have elastic to make certain they don’t ride up.  It’s important that bike pants stay exactly where they need to be and provide some cushion.  I had to find bike pants that would fit my immense body.  The link that you see here shows a normal bike rider like I had to ride with all the time.  Thin women!  Most road bikers are young and thin.  I don’t look anything like my fellow road bikers.  I hope to look reduce the size of my bike thighs, but first I need to cloth the present body.  Amazingly, I found bike pants to fit me!  I found them in a local bike store.  I was able to get them on my body with only minor tugging and tummy cramming. There is hope for us!  Summer bike pants are short and winter bike pants are long.  I found winter bike pants too.  Shocking!

Bike shirts are loud and outrageous in color.  Bikers like to be very visible out on the highway.  We like it when cars see us.  Bike shirts are fun.  They are longer than a T-shirt and have elastic around the bottom.  We like our bike shirt to stay secure.  Most shirts have pockets on the back. Road bike people ride those bend-over handle bars and their back is the handiest place to have a pocket for energy foods.

Bike seats.  There can be a lot of pain with a bike seat.  Accordingly, inventors have invented a wide variety of bike seats.  It’s all about pressure.  I think I’ll leave it at that.  I ended up with a total of four different bike seats before I found the one that could take me long distances.  It’s all about pressure.  The bigger the seat, the more the pressure is spread out.  Some of these seats have removed the more serious pressure points.  Enjoy looking! I wonder what happened to all my prize bike seats.

Bike Seat Bike Seat Bike Seat I did purchase #2 and #3, but ended up with a wide gel seat.  Spreading out the pressure was the secret for me.  If you have nothing better to do, reading the reviews for men’s bike seats is sort of fun.  Go ahead read a review.

Gloves:  You must wear gloves when you ride a bike to help with the pressure.  Gloves have gel support for bike riders put a lot of weight on their hands.  We don’t use most of our fingers, the pressure is on hands.  These gloves have been long developed to put gel where it is most needed!  These gloves will give you the idea of pressure points on the hands.

There is nothing too humiliating in this story, other than that thought of a Rubenesque red-haired woman perched on a two joined gel-filled thimbles.

PostHeaderIcon Why are you here? What are you doing?

Memorial service today for  Bob Chrisman.  Turns out, he affected perhaps a million people’s lives.  Affected them in a very postive way.  He cared about each person he knew and came to like.  He truly cared.

The moderator of the memorial service told us that Bob’s circle of friends were separate and apart.  He had different groups of friends and in most instances, the circles didn’t intersect until he was in Hospice…and just now at his memorial service.

For instance and for me the most moving testimony to Bob’s influence on the world was…

The manager of the Taco Belle on 87th and Prospect (I think).  A young woman on the heavy side, cried and told us that Bob didn’t care about her size or what she looked like.  He treated her with utmost respect and admiration.  They developed a friendship and she began developing friendships with people he brought into the store to eat.  A couple of times, Bob called the CEO of Taco Belle to tell the cooperation president what an amazing person they had.  She cried harder and told us her store was due to be remodeled soon and Bob would not be there to see it.  The sanctuary was full and this young woman was first up and able to tell this story in a manner that most professional speakers would have been proud.  Her speech started us all on a journey of the amazing life.  Bob cared for us all and he affected us all.

His neighbors spoke. Bob’s fellow writers spoke and shared his affect on their lives.  We got to have one of his stories read to us.  Google Bob Chrisman and read his stories.  His life experiences will affect you too and many lives to come as his stories are discovered. The Internet never dies and neither does the author.

A butterfly was flitting about and landed on a drop of water in a large lake.  That landing made the slightest lightest of waves.  An alert fish leaped up and swallowed the butterfly.  Another fish decided to make a meal of fish #1 and so it went until fish #52 was hooked by a family.  The butterfly made a big ripple and ended up feeding a nation.  (Yes, you need a little bit of imagination and belief in small things make big results.)

We were all there tonight… food people in the various places Bob dined, bus riders, co-workers, gay groups, neighbors, and fellow writers.  Bob made a huge ripple in the world.  I only hope my contribution to the human race can be a smattering of the life that Bob contributed to humankind.  Bob’s Memorial Service was a life changing event.

I ask me, “Am I affecting people now”?  I answer, “Yes”.  I ask me, “Can I affect more people?”  I answer “Yes”.  I ask me, “Can I affect more people in a positive uplifting feel-good way?”  My answer is “Yes!”  Care about people.  Let them see that you care.  Appreciate people.  Appreciate the person behind the counter at Taco Bell, at the gas station, serving at the restaurant, your medical providers and your friends. Care about people.  Bring joy into lives.


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