PMC 2016 Review

In the following post you are going to see a lot of pictures of my ridiculous face and maybe attempt to understand my flavor of humor.

Please try to keep in mind that this event brings me to tears every chance it gets.

I push it all to my legs.

Background

In 2008, my niece, Meg, was diagnosed with Leukemia. That was the year of my first Pan-Mass Challenge. I have ridden since and plan to ride forever more. My wife registered for her first PMC three years ago, doubling our efforts and support of the cause.

No one could blame her for not registering earlier, we’ve had two children and two lost pregnancies since 2008. Our youngest, Molly, was about 2 1/2 when Julie started training for her first PMC. Training and fundraising consumes much of our free time so we’ve integrated both into our lives.

Biking For Transportation and Sometimes Training

Most of you know, I ride where I need to go. That doesn’t mean I’m always riding fast, but I think it helps me hold a reasonable baseline of fitness. I will spend 30 minutes on a bike instead of 15 in a car every single chance I get day or night, rain or shine. The time savings is not a benefit when you weigh all the other factors. My life is “busy”, just like everyone’s and perhaps riding to work and the grocery store are the only opportunities I’ll have to “work out”. I feel good and get to enjoy the outdoors1.

At the risk of sounding preachy2, you should consider getting where you need to go by foot or bike. Short trips3 for a gallon of milk don’t need to involve also bringing a 4,000 pound steel box with you. Get some bags or a back pack, pedal slow, and get yourself there. You’ll feel good, remove some poison from the air, reduce ‘traffic’ for fellow drivers, save a parking space, and maybe… just maybe you’ll inspire an on-looker to do the same. Before you know it we’ll all be high-fiving each other from our bikes instead of flipping the bird and honking from our cars.4

While all of this riding keeps me feeling good, it’s not really enough to get me ready for PMC. I still need to fill out the rest of my training with some longer and more challenging rides. Usually this means I extend my work commute to 60 minutes or so, add some hills, and push as hard as I can. But it also means some long organized road rides.

You can see my entire ride log here on Strava.5 The most notable “training” rides this year were:

NOTE: If you’re reading this on magnetbeans.com and you see some pathetic 4.5 rides in the right hand column and you’re thinking to yourself, “Self, that’s pathetic. I thought he rode his bike far. I could do THAT.”, please e-mail me at RandyJames@magnetbeans.com to ridicule my lazy commuter routine and I will gladly ride to your house and remove the valve cores from the tires on your car.

Day #-1 – Thursday

Every year, weather permitting, our Team’s Captain, Dave Christmas, hosts a party. He has a pool and the kids love it. However, Max loved it a bit too much and somehow sprained his ankle. So, with hours before we were to drop him off at his grandparents for the weekend and days before we all left for a biking vacation6 around Martha’s Vineyard, he was in an air cast. Kids.

My only worry was that he wouldn’t be able to ride around Martha’s Vineyard the following Tuesday. However, we put those worries aside for Monday as there was really nothing to be done. I was certain there would be some complaining right before or after playing in the ocean all day. My prediction turned out to be very accurate.

Speaking of the children, we needed to find a home for them since Julie and I are riding together for the entire weekend. As this is only our third year, we are still improving our strategy in this regard. Last year we kept them (the kids) until Friday morning. That was a bit of a mistake. This year, in a stroke of genius, we opted to be rid of them Thursday evening. It was glorious.

I was working Thursday, so I didn’t get see the kids off, but we FaceTime’d later just to make bed time that much more difficult for the grandparents.

Then, at 8PM, I started packing like a maniac in a race against the clock. The idea was to get to bed by 10PM because sleep is difficult to come by PMC weekend. I was unsuccessful.

Logistically, we pack our bags and send them down to Sturbridge with team members. It’s crucial this process is not messed up or we’ll be stuck carrying tons of stuff on our bikes Friday. Worse would be to pack some crucial piece of biking equipment, like our shoes, and be stuck without them.

We didn’t mess it up.

It’s also worth noting that I acquired an awesome rack bag that just clicks right on. It’s super cool and carries a reasonable amount of stuff. I brought it with us on Friday. I’m considering bringing with me Saturday and Sunday next year. I can imaging carrying a big battery and a bluetooth speaker to play some music all day. Perhaps a tad annoying to nearby riders. That would really be determined by the playlist.

Kids Bob 34

My Steel Stallion

I wish I had a name for my bike, but that just seems stupid. Here it is. All cleaned up and sporting my new carry-much bag. Sir Rollsalot.

Day #0 – Friday

Today is the day we ride from Maynard to Sturbridge. Something different this year, we had a third join us for the journey. George, a fellow Team Lick teammate, was planning to ride down from Acton and wanted to come along. Why not.

With my extra special shiny new bike bag available and no official support for us should something go wrong, I decided to pack it full of supplies. Something like this:

  • Socket set
  • Allen keys
  • Cable(s) (for brakes and shifters. They are different)
  • Brake pads (both disc and regular)
  • A brake rotor (the disc kind)
  • Many different length spokes
  • First aid kit
  • Knife
  • Tape (electrical and medical)
  • Chain tool
  • Extra derailleur
  • Big battery for recharging phones
  • Lunch & snacks
  • And… a change of clothes for each of us because we’d beat our bags to Sturbridge

I may have left something out. We didn’t end up needing any of it, which is good. But it’s always better to be safe than sorry, right? I was a Boy Scout after all. Be prepared, we’d say. That always seemed a bit too broad. A person could become pretty paranoid about being prepared for every possible situation. I’d feel so much less stress if we could change it to, “Bring Water”.

George arrived at our house around 9AM and we headed out to no great fanfare.

About 30 miles in, we danced with catastrophe when Julie took a spill. In the hunt of a special path we ventured down a less than smooth road. I watched as Julie hit, not one, but several dozen large dips in the road then veered off toward what could only be called a large concrete block of doom. As Julie vaulted the handlebars and cartwheeled over the block, my mind ran rapidly through the inventory of my awesome new bag wondering if I would have all the parts and tools to repair the damage being done before my eyes.

Out loud I say, “Are you alright!?”

Then, “Don’t move the bike. I need to inspect the damage.”

Julie was fine. Mostly.

Part of me was interested to see how fast I could replace a broken spoke and re-true a wheel. Most of me really wasn’t. But you never know if you’re really prepared until that moment arrives. I had plenty of water though.

It turned out, over the next few days,  Julie had tweaked her neck muscles quite a bit. I’m not a doctor, but I think it was when she flew over the bars and rolled through the grass.

Good news. The bike was OK. We ventured on.

And this, my friends, is where the pictures begin.

You see, the “rear facing” camera on my iPhone seems to have stopped focusing. So, I decided the only way I could reliably capture the weekend’s experience would be to use the “front facing” camera to take fantastic selfies throughout the weekend.

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Lunch time in the quaint of town of Barre. Or Barre Plains? It’s one of those.

It is about 50 miles to our lunch stop in Barre and only 20 before Sturbridge. We should maybe make lunch a bit earlier but there really is nothing before Barre. That is to say, no civilization. No stores for getting more water or food.

And, with only 20 miles to go after lunch it’s an easy push to the finish (start)!

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Take my word for it. This is Sturbridge.

Finishing the ride for Day #1 doesn’t mean the day is over. There’s no time to rest! It’s already 2PM (or thereabouts) and we have plenty more to do. Mostly eating, but also registering, tagging the bikes, and also lots more fundraising. The team sells temporary tattoos to the other riders and they are happy to pay because we’re all in this together and all the cash goes to the same place (Dana Farber, people. Keep up).

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I made $200/hour doing this. It’s not sustainable.

Here’s the rest of the day, in pictures.

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Registration – CHECK

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Dinner(s) – CHECK

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Alarm set for Saturday “morning” – CHECK

Day #1 – Saturday

Crazy, right? You’ve read this far and we haven’t even started the actual PMC.

I am getting really good at this packing for this stuff though. Granted, I took ideas from other people, but I tell you, using ziplock bags to organize clothes is a brilliant scheme. We wake up at 3:30AM and the bus leaves the hotel at 4AM. This gives us just about an hour to put our luggage on the trucks (that go to Bourne), find our bikes and line it up in a nice starting spot, eat breakfast, try to poop, and return to the bikes for the national anthem and the official start at 5:30AM. The bags help save time and unnecessary anxiety.

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I’m shiny because I put sunscreen on at 3:45AM

Oh, OH! I almost forgot.

This Pan-Mass Challenge has been brought to you by Tile

Tile™ is basically this 1 inch square keychain looking gizmo that people usually put on their keychain. If you lose your keys you can tap a few buttons on your phone and the tile will beep. If you lose your phone, but have your keys, you can push a button on your tile to find your phone!

Well, I don’t actually have any keys so I don’t have use for a keychain. And I only have a Tile™ because my employer thought they would make a nice employee gift.

Guess where I put it. Guess. Guess.

Guess.

Guess.

That’s right! My bike, of course. It fit snugly under my seat for one purpose and one purpose only: to help me find my bike in the sea of other bikes Saturday and Sunday morning. I will tell you now that this worked swimmingly. I didn’t even bother trying to remember the row/aisle/slot/area/color I left my bike in. I simply used my phone and Tile™ to beep my way right to my bike. This may sound ridiculous but it’s amazing how many people lose their bikes in the morning darkness.

Bike in hand and under foot, we headed out to great fanfare.

I find the beginning of day one a bit claustrophobic. There are so many riders, it takes an hour or so before we have spread out sufficiently to have some wiggle room. From the starting line we are easily three or four people across and taking up all of route 20. But that’s also why we leave at 5:30 and have police escorts and such.

I don’t like being all bunched up. I get anxious. I can’t pace myself. I want to pedal away from the group and I did. The excitement got the best of me and I scooted my way past the packs setting a pace that I couldn’t really maintain for the entire day.

I did leave Julie behind, again, but she wasn’t alone. I was alone. I pushed too hard and wore myself out by the lunch stop. I was riding too fast to drink enough. There were always people right on my wheel and I never wanted to break pace to drink so I didn’t do it enough. In addition, I skipped the first water stop in favor of making some time.

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I don’t know the guy behind me we all have the same shirt.

My plan was to get to Bourne early to pick out a good tent spot but it didn’t work out. When I stopped for lunch I was so tired and dehydrated that it took me 30 minutes to drink and eat enough before I felt better. And by that time, many other riders had come in, including Julie! So, I used that opportunity to rest and recover more and waited for her to finish eating.

We left lunch together and crossed the finish line together. There really was no reason for me to speed away in the first place. Turns out.

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In the upper left. That’s the finish line in Bourne. I promise.

It was a beautiful day. No rain, a bit hot, but very enjoyable. We parked our bikes, grabbed our bags from the pile and hiked the 1/4 mile to where we would setup camp and get some more food. The walk, while short, is a bit of added torture for those still in bike shoes with the slippery toe clips.

I setup the tent and took a shower in the dormitories. Usually I shower in the shower trucks. This was a change of routine for me but a shower is a shower.

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We sleep four in there no problem.

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The other dudes wanted to be in the picture too. I said no.

I met a new team member this year. Young guy, maybe 22. Compared to the usual 67+, he’s pretty young. He had a really nice, really old bike that I can’t remember the make of. Big pedal cages on it and tennis shoes on his feet. Tennis shoes! It was fantastic. Didn’t slow him down.

Well, he was camping too and setup his tent near ours. I made a note of which tent was his as things started to fill in so I could be sure he was awake the next morning. Knowing who and who not to wake up is a risky game to play at 3:30AM

Ryan is his name.

Day #2 – Sunday

3:50AM – Ryan wasn’t awake.

The rest of us up, dressed and almost done packing. I was getting worried. But it’s dark and I was second guessing myself about which tent was his!  I *thought* I had it right and crept in for a closer look.

A tiny little one man tent. I poked my head inside. “ryyyyyaaaaaan.”, I whispered.

Nothing.

“Ryyyyyaaaan.”, a bit louder. Still nothing.

“RYAN! BREAKFAST!”, I almost shouted. Nothing. Amazing.

What do I do? It seems really rude to wake someone up at 3:45AM on a Sunday. I know I’d be pissed. On the other hand, he wasn’t here to sleep. But it was his first year and he might be a bit grumpy.

“RYAN, THE GINGERBREAD MAN IS HERE TO SEE YOU!”, I shouted right over his face.

“YES, I’M HERE! HELLO!”, he awoke. I scooted back to avoid becoming the victim in a potentially bad situation of disgruntled waking and/or unintentional head smashing.

Turns out he had earplugs in. But now he was up, so off to breakfast we went while he dealt with his disorientation and packed his bags.

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Guess how I found my bike. Tile™

I met a man, a different man, Sunday morning. He needed help finding his bike.

“I put it right here,on the end of Purple 4!”, he says.

“There are a several Purple 4s.”, I say, “Did you try the others?”

“This is where I left it! Someone moved it!”, he says. With a bit of a tone.

“If you say so.”, I said as I used my Tile™ to make my bike chirp loudly. “Since I have my bike now, and some time, why don’t I help you find yours. What’s it look like?”

“Blue Cannondale with a red stripe.”, he says.

“This one? On the end of THIS Purple 4 aisle?”, I said.

He needs a Tile™.

 

Sunday’s ride up Cape Cod is nothing short of amazing. We start on the canal and enjoy endless scenery as the sun rises. Then we turn east and head toward Rte 6. Next to Rte 6 is a road called “Service Road” that is one of the many highlights of our weekend adventure. It’s miles and miles of rolling hills that would be daunting to the uninitiated. We leave it all on the those hills and put it back in at the first water stop where we regroup for more.

Julie and I met up with her mother who was on the side of the road cheering on us and all the other riders. No time to dawdle too long… we carried on.

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The road looks abandoned. That’s only because we are miiiiiiilllles ahead of everyone else.

The official photographers actually picked up Julie and I together. From behind, but together. I think they could have made my butt look a little smaller in post processing. Maybe added some sweet muscle tone. A little skin color. Speed lines.

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Speed lines would really bring this picture home.

At the very last water stop, we got this pretty cool team picture. It’s not everyone because there are officially somewhere around 125 of us. But they put me up front because, well, you know.

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Me and my bike, bottom left.

And then, before long, we were in p-town enjoying the fruits of our labor. Two hundred sixty or so miles later and the fun was only just getting started. Ahead of us lay some army tent showers, a party boat ride, and a bus ride all the way back home. I know what you’re thinking. Why don’t you just bike home? If we had more time, I suppose we could. Perhaps one of these year, Julie and I stay the night in p-town, then ride back around the cape and home again. It might take another two days and we wouldn’t have all those awesome volunteers shoving fluffernutter sandwiches into our mouths every 20 miles or so but I think it could be fun.

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So delicious.

Another option might be to ride home from Boston after getting off the boat. To do that right, we would need to take an earlier, faster, boat from p-town to Boston to allow enough before dark. It’s only only 35 miles from Boston to home.

Something to think about.

Post PMC Vacation

It’s becoming tradition to vacation right after the PMC. We arrived home late Sunday night without the kids. Monday morning I drove to my parents’ house to pickup our kids and then on to pickup my niece and her cousin. The people moving trip took until about 2PM and we arrived back at our house to pack the car to the tippy top with bags, tent, bikes, skateboards, etc. Tippy tippy top. Monday we pack and rest. Tuesday we leave.

The car stay on the mainland. We park it in Woods Hole and put everything on the bikes, ride to the ferry, take the ferry to Martha’s Vineyard and ride off to a week or biking and beaches.

Instead of rambling on about every little detail, I’ll leave you here with our picture album.

Thank You Thank You Thank You

The date is already set for PMC 2017.

Julie and I owe this experience to all of our family, friends, and supporters. We couldn’t do it without you. Thank you so much for supporting us and the fight against Cancer.

As I write this, the PMC is $39 million dollars toward our $46 million goal for 2016.

The ride is done for now but the fight continues. If you so desire, there is still time to contribute.

Donate to Julie or donate to Randy

Until next year, ride on baby.

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  1. Enjoyment of “the outdoors” is usually ruined when a driver attempts to kill me and/or spews a lot of exhaust into the air I’m breathing. []
  2. I have definitely been accused of this before []
  3. How short? That depends on you, really. Under 5 miles should not be an issue. []
  4. I’m an idealist, maybe. []
  5. I track almost every ride. I usually leave the  grocery runs out. []
  6. “Biking Vacation” means on bikes, not a vacation from. []

PMC 2016 Begins! (Year #8)

It’s a new year and that means it’s time for PMC 2016!

Skip all the rest of this nonsense and show your support

Donate To Randy Donate To Julie

(We can balance funds later, so please don’t worry about who’s ahead/behind.)

Read my review of last year’s PMC

What is the PMC?

If you’re already well aware of what this is and why I do it, please move on to the next section to enjoy my post-PMC James family updates.

As for the rest of you, the PMC is the a very large sports1 based fundraising event where 100% of the proceeds2 make it to Dana Farber Cancer Institute in Boston.  We bike to show our commitment and to enjoy the ride.

You Guys Are Awesome!!

What your donations have done so far.

Year Randy Julie
2009 $5,732.01 -
2010 $5,851.70 -
2011 $4,995.00 -
2012 $9,308.66 -
2013 $8,220.00 -
2014 $5,871.45 $5,158.48
2015 $4,598.83 $7,200.00
2016 $0 $780.00

GRAND TOTAL: $56,936.13

The best.  You guys are the best.

 

Why Do We Ride?

I’ve written many times about my niece passing.  Her battle was too long and her life was too short.  This is the least that I can do to preserve her memory and support research and care to improve life for others.

Post-PMC Winter Summary.

I liked recapping the year in the PMC 2015 Review so much, that I’d like to do the winter version as an introduction to PMC 2016.

I learned something this winter that may seem obvious to every single one of you reading this.  Eating and drinking too much makes you fat.

After 7 years of training for an athletic event, I can draw you a picture of what my weight/fitness level looks like throughout the year.  Here it is.

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Look at that.  Look at it!  Why does beer have to be so delicious. WHY!?

I’m going to work on this a bit, I think.  I want to be under 200 *all* year.

Winter Activities (In pictures)

Aside from my revelations about how consuming more beer/calories makes me fatter, we’ve also had a productive winter.  You may notice some of our activities involved sugary foods.  If you ask me, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years are too close together and too tightly associated with delicious foods and drinking merry drinks.

In mostly chronological order:

We made gingerbread houses!

We made gingerbread houses!

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Molly turned 4.

The kids don't watch movies.

The kids don’t watch movies.

We biked, of course.

We biked, of course.

I at a lot of junk food.

Halloween creates a lot of “leftovers”.

A LOT of junk food.

This was originally supposed to be a holiday gift.

Molly is learning to ski (away from having her picture taken).

Molly is learning to ski.  And hide from the camera.

I have been riding near this lake.

I have been riding near this lake.

And sometimes *on* it.

And sometimes *on* it.

Always Riding

I still ride just about every day by way of commuting to work  ((I don’t work weekends.  Usually.)).  I’ve been working at KAYAK for just about 3 years now3, and I have never4 driven to work.  It’s a strange thing to be proud of to be sure.  There were certainly days where driving would have been more convenient.

I’ve ridden in very cold rain, very heavy snow, and very scary lightning storms5.  There is only one occasion that I would prefer to not ride.

  1. When I have a fever.  Or a stomach flu.  That sort of stay-in-bed stuff.

Once or twice I had gone to work feeling OK and been knocked down with a fever half way through the day.  Going home is the smart thing to do.  In hindsight, it probably would have been smarter to call my wife.  Next time, I’ll try to be smarter and never go in at all.  After all, I wouldn’t want to break my streak.

Coming Soon, Brazil!

My good friend, Michael Patrick Carpenter Jr. is very luck to be marrying a fantastic woman who also happens to be from São Paulo6.

We are taking the whole family there in April to participate in the wedding.  It’s only 10 days, and it’s early in the season, so I’m not worried about missing any training rides or anything like that. But this is going to occupy  our free time for a while.  Traveling to another country takes a lot of preparation.  Planning flights, learning the language, studying maps, shopping for bathing suits.  We have about 2 more months to learn as much as possible to make our stay go more smoothly.

Thank You!

Your support makes this work.

Love you guys.

  1. By “sports” I mean biking. []
  2. “Proceeds” == Your donations []
  3. I think it’s really 2 1/2, but it will be 3 by PMC time []
  4. I did spend a week running to work as a “challenge”. []
  5. The scary part isn’t the lightning, but the risk of a tree limb falling making me the inside of a tree-person-bike-earth sandwich. []
  6. I’m getting better with the åccęnts []

PMC 2015 Review

To all of our donors, supporters, family and friends, this is for you.

This was my 7th consecutive year riding in the Pan Mass Challenge and Julie’s 2nd.  I’m glad she has joined me and I hope we can both continue to ride for as long as we are able.

Because my recounting of the event may become repetitive, I’d like to wrap it with a bit of a life update.  Not unlike a holiday letter.

Here it is.

TL;DR;

A very very short summary for those that are time constrained.

  • Julie and I thank you loads and loads for your support.
  • I enjoyed riding the bike I built this summer.
  • We rode 3 days and about 260 miles in amazing weather.
  • Immediately following the PMC, we spent another week riding bikes to/from the beach.
  • I will continue riding to work all year round.
  • A contest winner will be picked September 1st!

This year was perfect.  It didn’t rain, and a bee didn’t sting my face1.

Pictures

Go here to see my public Facebook album of all our PMC 2015 pictures.

The Numbers

Randy Julie
  • 2015 $6,499.45
  • 2014 $5,871.45
  • 2013 $8,220.00
  • 2012 $9,308.66
  • 2011 $4,995.00
  • 2010 $5,851.70
  • 2009 $5,732.01
  • 2015 $5,631.00
  • 2014 $5,158.48

Total to date: $57,267.75

That’s a pretty decent blow, if you ask me.  We’ll keep riding.

Training

My employment at KAYAK has brought me plenty of joy and continues to provide the perfect (for me) bike commuting experience.  There are at least three distinct routes that I may take on any given day depending on how hard I’d like to work or how late I am, winter, spring, summer and fall.  As the PMC approaches, I will choose the longer and harder routes more often and push to beat my times from the previous days.

In 2014 I tracked 320 hours of biking.  Some were easy, of course, and it’s nothing like the accomplishments of the “Iron Cowboy”, but it’s a crap load of biking.  The only way I could fit that in without sacrificing family time is to replace something I already had to do, like commuting.

Max, my son, who is now 7, enjoys riding anywhere he can.  We bike to soccer practice, baseball, basketball, and everywhere else possible.  Soccer and baseball were on the same morning this year and quite far apart.  We had to run out of soccer, jump on the bikes, and ride fast to the next town to make baseball2.

Molly will be 4 in October and is not far behind.  She was pedaling her own bike just after her 3rd birthday.  It’s possible that I’ve given Molly less incremental instruction because, well, she’s the second child.  She gets dragged up to the level Max is.  She is still younger than Max was when he first pedaled and she is improving rapidly.  But I’d like to spend more time with her building her confidence and skill.

More than anything else, I commute.  Like the rest of you schlubs, I work five days a week.  Instead of spending 20 minutes in the car, I spend 45-60 minutes on my bike.  Every day.  Each way.  All year.  And I love it.  Sun, rain, snow, lightning, and all.

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Who remembers how cold it was last winter?

In addition to training muscles, I figured I’d also try shifting my sleep schedule this year.  Wake up time is about 3:30AM Saturday and Sunday.  So, a week or so before the ride, I started setting my alarm3.  Each day, I shifted it 15 minutes earlier until I was waking up at about 5:00AM by Thursday.  This was close enough, I didn’t want to actually get up at 3:30AM and get ready for work.  Did it work?  Maybe.  I’m not sure.  I think so.  I couldn’t really tell, but I’ll try it again next year anyway.

Vacation

I’ve started writing this to you from my in-laws house on Martha’s Vineyard, following the PMC4.

Last year I woke up the morning after the PMC and rode right to work, leaving Julie at home with the kids to recover from an awesome, but rainy, PMC weekend.  Well, neither of us liked that abrupt transition back to reality.  So this year, and forever after, we’ve decided that vacation begins immediately after the PMC.

This is relevant both in regards to the “holiday letter” aspect of my update, and the fact that we ride bikes through the entire vacation.  Martha’s Vineyard is covered in bike paths that are terrific compared to the nothing that’s available most everywhere else, but mediocre compared to the infrastructure available, say, in the Netherlands.  I’ll take what I can get.

The ferry to Martha’s Vineyard can be difficult by car.  During the busy summer hours, most boats are already sold out.  But they will let bicycles onto any boat.

The trails make the island very accessible by bike and we like the added adventure.  The only issue is getting all of the luggage from the parked car to the boat and to the house.  Next year, I may need to acquire a larger trailer to accommodate the increasing load.  We brought my niece, Carly, and her cousin (from the other side) with us.  That added two extra bags and two extra bikes.  It’s all in there though.  Including a large tent, sleeping pads/bags, skateboard, Molly’s bike, lacrosse sticks, baseball gloves, cameras, laptop, and many other vacation accessories.

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One major problem with this idea:  I had to do bike checkups/tune ups on all of them before the PMC, in addition to the PMC bikes!  With work during the week, a Friday departure, packing to do, and kids to wrangle, it was tough to squeeze in.  But, it all worked out.

Here it is, vacation, in a nutshell.

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It’s going to be fun, no need to worry girls.

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What could possibly go wrong?

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IT’S ALL GOING WRONG GIRLS!!

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RUN! SAVE YOURSELVES!

The Bikes

Our house has no garage.  The basement is full of Julie’s woodworking things and the ceiling is too low for me anyway.  So, last summer, we set out to build a new shed (to replace the old one)  that could serve as storage for our bikes and yard things as well as a little bike shop so I could keep up with fixing the many bikes we have accumulated.

As of now, our inventory looks like this:

  1. Julie’s mountain bike – mostly for towing the kids and/or riding around town.
  2. Julie’s road bike – mostly for the PMC and long distances.
  3. Randy’s commuter bike – just a Trek mountain bike with lights and such.
  4. Randy’s “fat tire” bike (a Pugsley!) – because… I like it and it’s awesome.
  5. Randy’s old road bike that’s too small and doesn’t get used (I need to fix and sell it).
  6. Randy’s “pump track” bike re-built from old parts.
  7. Randy’s BRAND NEW SHINY ROAD BIKE!
  8. Max’s red bike – he only has the one.
  9. Molly’s pink bike – Used to be Max’s blue bike.
  10. Molly’s red bike – $20 on craigslist.org.  We’ll be getting rid of it soon.
  11. Molly’s balance bike – which is now actually under the butt of another young friend5.
  12. The kid’s trail-a-bike.
  13. Chariot “cougar 2” trailer – for towing the kids
  14. An old Burley trailer for towing luggage or groceries or whatever.

In the winter, #3 and #4 get studded tires.  I like having two working bikes for all seasons just in case something breaks.  Bikes are not built like cars.  They break far more often because parts are more exposed to the elements and built to reduce weight and such.  I can fix it, but I don’t always want to that day and I still need to get to work the next day.  So I try to keep two ready at all times.

Bike #7 is the new edition to the stable that was only possible because of the new shed space.  In most of the past PMCs I have ridden the Trek mountain bike.  With smooth tires it does just fine.  But I thought it was about time I had a bike that was setup more specifically for road riding.  That translates to: no front shock, different riding position, dropped handlebars, higher gearing, and skinnier tires (though, not much skinnier).

I ordered a Surly Disc Trucker frameset (frame and fork) and all the parts individually.  The fork arrives uncut, the spokes need to be woven onto the hubs and rims, and handlebar tape only works once, which is kind of silly.  For those that are interested, here is the complete parts list.  I wouldn’t recommend copying it.  The wheels are overkill and very heavy.  I wanted strong wheels that could support my weight, handle dirt, and carry luggage outside of the PMC.  I’m not super fat, but I broke 3 road wheels in the past so I’m a bit nervous about riding something so insubstantial as the wheels you see on road bikes today.  Call me a luddite if you must.

  • 60cm Surly Disc Trucker frameset.
  • 700c Velocity Chukker rims.  36 hole.
  • Schwalbe Marathon Plus – 700c x 38mm
  • Avid BB7 Disc Calipers (front and rear brakes).
  • Shimano 105 STI shifter/brakes (where the shifter are in the brake levers)
  • Some other very ordinary parts – seat, cables, quick releases, etc…
  • Lots of time.

There are several pictures of it below, so read on!

PMC Day #-1

The PMC ride officially starts Saturday, which would be day #1.  Day #0 is obviously the day before, which would be Friday.  But, even before that, there is the Thursday night party.

One of our team captains, Dave Christmas, hosts a “pasta party” every year, the Thursday before PMC.  The team comes, we eat a lot, swim a little, and maybe have some beer.  I had spent the last 6 weeks not drinking just to be a little more tuned up for the PMC.  This is probably the worst idea I’ve ever had in my life, but I stuck with it and skipped the beer during the party.

Probably since last year was so rainy, many of us were checking the weather repeatedly.  Things were looking hot and I’m a sweaty dude.  So, in addition to the not-drinking-beer approach, I put an extra effort in drinking lots of water.  I loaded myself up on water with about 4 full bike bottles and many other assorted not-beers Thursday evening.

The other benefit of the party is that we can leave our gear for the weekend on the team’s bus and it will arrive in Sturbridge safe and sound on Friday.  The only drawback is that we have to pack it before Thursday and be sure we didn’t forget anything.

There is no biking Thursday, but my nerves start to creep in.  I never know if I’m really ready.  My longest ride this year was only 80 miles and I didn’t stick to the training schedule.

I try to slow myself down, drink more water, rest, breathe, relax, and just mentally prepare.

PMC Day #0

Day Zero.  It’s the day before day 1, as we’ve discussed.  Not officially part of the ride, but Julie and I like to ride from Maynard to Sturbridge.  It’s about 70 miles from Maynard to Sturbridge.

Since we have all day, there’s no need to rush, so we usually depart around 9:00AM.  But before that, I pounded another 3 bottles of water.  Large ones.  They are 24 ounces, I looked.

You may be wondering what we did with the kids.  We arranged to have my parents watch them for the weekend, but somehow we didn’t arrange for Thursday night.  So, we had them Friday morning, which was probably a mistake.  For those of you with children, you’ll understand that biking 260 miles can be like a glorious vacation, as long as you don’t have to bring the kids with you.

So, it went like this.  Julie and got ourselves dressed up in our fancy bike clothes6.  Then slathered sunscreen and vaseline in various places.  Filled our water bottles with our favorite mixtures of a juice-like drink .7  Helmets, glasses, shoes, everything on.  Then, finally, lots of food into our shirt pockets.  We don’t wear backpacks or anything, that’d be nuts.  And we could by food along the way, which we actually did, but we also carried several things too.

My mother arrived around 8AM to hang out with Molly, but the boy8 had soccer camp at 9:00AM.9  Remember, kids make life complex.  So, the three of us walked to Max’s school to drop him off at soccer camp.  Him with his soccer gear in a backpack and us pushing our bikes 100% decked out in our ridiculous clothes.  I even had this crazy mirror on my helmet.10

The boy was kind enough to take our picture before we left and that was it.  We were off.  He ran off to play soccer and we road west into what would have been the sunset, if it wasn’t morning.

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The boy did a fine job, except he didn’t say Julie blinked.

I have tried several routes to Sturbridge over the years.  And now, I believe we’ve found a winner in the go-west-go-south route.  It has all of the elements of an enjoyable long ride.

  • Very few major roads/car conflict.
  • Lots of overhanging trees and shade.
  • Beautiful bike trails.
  • An old mill town in the middle of nowhere with a store and park to serve as a lunch stop.
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See. West, then South. You thought I was lying?

We deliberately went straight for Rutland State Park and the rail trail that passes through it.  It is a super cool gravel packed trail that is slightly out of our way, but who cares.  We’re already riding for the sake of riding, why take shortcuts?

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My bike got stuck in a tree. These things happen.

That right there is part of the trail.  That is not a road where we are about to be smashed by an 18-wheeler.  It’s packed gravel, but smooth and fast.  It cuts through some beautiful scenery of lakes and hills and forests and all that pretty stuff.  It was very sad when we got to the end and had to return to a major road in the bright sun.  A shady bike ride can be a wonderful thing.

Around 12:30 we stopped for lunch in a quaint (used to be) little mill town called South Barre.11  The was a grimy little convenience store and a moderately green common, so we bought some gatorade12 and some snacks and had a nice little lunch.
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After lunch we passed a lovely store next to a beautifully lush green common and I made a mental note for next year.

Several hours and a few wrong turns later, we arrived in Sturbridge.  My phone lost all cell coverage in South Barre, but I memorized the important stuff before we left.  In the middle of nowhere, there aren’t that many roads to make mistakes on.  Well, big mistakes anyway.

Another couple hours south and we rolled into the party at the starting line!

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Our bikes resting after 70 miles.

Now that we’re here, it’s time to tattoo people and stuff ourselves until bed.

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I had many “dinners” just like this.

PMC Day #1

THE ALARM IS GOING OFF AT 3:30 IN THE FREAKING AM!

Holy crap, this is the worst – and the best.

We have 30 minutes to be dressed, out of the hotel room, and on the bus to the starting line.  I took someone’s advice this year and packed each section of the event into 1-gallon ziplock bags.  Friday afternoon’s clothes in a bag.  Saturday’s ride clothes, in a bag.  Saturday afternoon’s clothes, in a bag.  Sunday’s ride, Sunday afternoon, you get the idea.

This made it super easy to get ready and be sure I wasn’t forgetting anything.  Friday night, I removed the Saturday ride bag and laid out my riding clothes.  Everything else went right back into our backpack.

Before breakfast, we line up our bikes on the ground to secure a nice spot.  It’s really not that important what order we start in, but the bikes have to go somewhere and the parking area we depart from is only so big.

Breakfast itself is always chaos and I’m constantly checking the time, despite thousands of other people patiently eating and drinking the time away.  Even after 7 years, I’m afraid that I’ll forget something, or eat too much, or not eat enough, or have to poop at a bad time13.

Yum yum yum.

Yum yum yum.

Pretty soon, it’s 5:00AM and we need to line up outside.  The national anthem is sung around 5:15AM and we are off at 5:30AM.

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This is literally what I can see from the start.

The start is a bit anticlimactic as so many people are trying to squeeze out a single exit that we have to walk about a 1/4 mile anyway.

I’m just going to tell you this, because there is no use trying to explain around it.  I lost Julie right from the start.  I mean immediately from the starting line, I lost track of her.  Since we’re all wearing the same shirt, and there were plenty of other people for her to ride with, so I didn’t exactly look very hard.

… 6.5 hours later …

The finish line!

I’m sorry, I don’t have a great story to tell about Saturday’s ride.  It’s basically a lot of pedaling.  I’m not sure how to relay the experience unless you’re already familiar with it.  But, I did  get in pretty earlier.  So I used the time to get the tent setup, shower, and have a beer.

I did put the rainfly on.

I did eventually put the rainfly on.

That’s right!  I promised myself I could break my beer fast after day #1.  Glorious.

So delicious.

So delicious.

Then, I raced back over to the finish line to meet Julie as she came in14.  Look at her.  Not even a little bit tired.  She’s ready to do it again.

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Crushed it.

And then, after lots more food, and lots more beer, it was time to put the bikes and ourselves to sleep for the night.

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Get some rest, we’ll need you tomorrow.

PMC Day #2

We had day #0 together, that’s something, right?  Listen, it’s really really hard to stay together.  There are so many friggin’ people15.

I lost her again.  But, not for the entire day this time.  Day #2 is supposed to be lots of togetherness fun.  We take the day in intervals, riding, then regrouping at water stops.  Our team is all wearing the team shirts. All 100+ of us.  It’s easy to find team riders, but still a bit hard to find my wife.  And I want to be 100% clear about this, I am not trying to imply that she is slow.  In fact, at one point, she stopped to see her mother whom I had passed by accident16.  I stopped to wait for her after I realized my mistake.  A few minutes later, she flew right by me and waved, but didn’t slow.

20150802070512_IMG_9242I figured, OK, maybe she’ll slow and wait up ahead a bit, so I hopped back on my bike and rode after her.  Faster and faster, passing many people, including a large portion of my own team, there was no sign of her.  She didn’t wait!

Eventually, I caught her.  I asked her what she thought I was doing on the side of the road and she said, “I thought you were waiting for someone else.”

So, there you have it folks.  There is no need to concern yourself with whether or not the James family is riding together.  We are a couple of totally independent spirits that can manage just fine on our own.  Next year, I think she may actually try to race me.

The weather, camaraderie, and love of this cause brought us to the finish line well before noon. We had several hours to kill before the boat would depart to bring us back to Boston.  It went, as it always does, a little something like this.

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The pretend finish line, right next to the real finish line.

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Now, this is what I call brunch.

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AM

We were home again the next day and I had some extra team tattoos.  Molly is a big fan, despite her current mood here.

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That’s it for PMC 2015.

Thank You

It would be easy to quit, to let next year just slide by without registering.  And the year after that.  To buy a car and drive to work when it’s raining or cold or I just didn’t feel like riding.  Not one of you would fault me for it, I know.  Everyone understands how hard it is to ask people for their hard earned money year after year, and how easy it is to give yourself a “cheat” day or just skip a workout for any reason.

PMC 2016 registration opens in 5 months and I will be first in line.

Seven years participating in an event that I enjoy so much but wish didn’t need to exist.  Each year holds a special set of memories that I try to record here for you an me.

2009 – The year Meg was diagnosed.  I registered and rode alone.
2010 – The first year my father rode.
2011 – My first year riding with Team Lick.
2012 – We lost Meg on July 4th, a month before the ride.
2013 – My knee hurt quite a bit, and my bike broke, leaving me with 3 gears.
2014 – My wife rode for the first time, a bee stung my face, and it rained the whole weekend.
2015 – Built a road bike to ride, instead of my mountain bike.  Absolutely perfect weather.

I owe these experiences to you, my supporters, donors, family and friends.  Without you, I could not be a part of this great event.

Thank you so super duper much, with all my heart.

Until next year.

 

Contest

We haven’t forgotten!  In just a few days, I will have a computer program randomly pick a winner from our combined list of donors and we’ll be in touch!

  1. Last year a bee did, indeed, sting my face []
  2. We never made it on time. []
  3. I don’t use an alarm normally. []
  4. But it’s taking me forever because I can’t stay focused. []
  5. She complains all the time that she wants it back, so I ordered her a larger one []
  6. We both wore our matching 2014 PMC jerseys (shirts) as you do on day #0 []
  7. The water purists are cringing. []
  8. His name is Max. []
  9. Or maybe it was 9:30AM, I can’t remember []
  10. The mirror is super helpful in large packs of riders and so I can the things coming up behind me: wife, cars, trucks, deer, bears, etc. []
  11. Someone told me it’s pronounced Barry []
  12. Suck it water purists! []
  13. The morning bathroom lines are horrible. []
  14. I was a tad late. []
  15. Super great people, I mean.  They are all awesome people. []
  16. Sorry, mom, really. []
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PMC 2014 Review

“Since its founding in 1980, the PMC has successfully melded support from committed cyclists, volunteers, corporate sponsors and individual contributors. All are essential to the PMC’s goal and model: to attain maximum fundraising efficiency while increasing its annual gift. Our hope and aspiration is to provide Dana-Farber’s doctors and researchers with the necessary resources to discover cures for all cancers”

That’s what it says on their website.

We are here to raise money and then ride bikes. Not the other way around. In fact, we make a commitment to PMC to raise a minimum of $4,300 each! (They’ll take the difference if we don’t make it!) Serious charity and serious riding.

As such, when my wife registered to ride PMC 2014 with me, we were both a bit nervous about reaching the financial commitment. After a bit of discussion, we both registered. Her first and my 6th PMC. What had we done.

Before I go on, I’m happy to tell you that we did make it and we owe it all to you. And you. You. And that other guy over there.

Thank you so much for your support. You’ve done good1 and ensured our ticket to ride.

And now, on with our story…

Training

Monday morning, after completing the PMC, I carefully removed a single strand of spider silk from the front tire of my “fat bike” and pulled it out of our temporary shed2.  After apologizing to the spider, I rode it into work along the shorter of my two favorite commuting routes.  Five days later, on Saturday morning, my wife rode almost 50 miles, for fun, with many of our team members.  I restated my regret to that spider each morning for the rest of the week, after he or she had rebuilt the previous night.  Perhaps I should park the bike in another spot.

The point is, training for PMC is a year-round endeavor.  That is, if you want to enjoy it.  Many people ride with very little preparation, but they will and do have a miserable time, sustain an injury, fail to finish, or all of the above.  A training schedule is provided by PMC to help new riders prepare and, as you can see, it’s a bit nuts.  They suggest 3-4 “medium” rides during the week in addition to “long” rides every weekend for the 12 weeks leading up to PMC.  Most first year riders, myself included, try very hard to stick with this schedule.  Then, realizing that 20 hours a week of riding requires some additional hours of recovery which builds into disgruntled spouses and missed appointments, we cut back a bit and gauge our own fitness levels against previous years.

Personally, the majority of my training came in the form of getting back and forth to work.  I had to get there anyway and since driving is like being trapped in a rolling metal tomb surrounded by anonymous, narcissistic strangers that would sooner see you spun into a ditch than pay head to your right of way… riding seemed like a nice alternative.  I keep to the trails to avoid those same vehicles.

Most days the ride is about 40 minutes each way, but always challenging.  This, plus a handful of extended commutes and some long weekend rides thrown in turned out to be enough.  I was happy with my strength and endurance during PMC and came away no worse for the wear.  In fact, pay close attention to the number of times I mention my knee in this post.  This is it.  This is the only time.  It wasn’t a problem at all.  I think because I kept up on my stretching for the duration of the weekend.  Whatever it was, things worked and I was as happy as I could be.

As for the “off-road” part of my commute, a picture is worth a thousand words and a video is worth some number higher than that.  I suppose maybe 24 x 1000 x the numbers of seconds in the video… a bit over 5 million words.  Since I’m not going to write that many here, you’ll just have to imagine them while you watch. I strapped on a (borrowed) go-pro camera and made this video, just for you.

(watch in HD!)

Looking back on the year, I’ve had some adventures, to say the least.  In 2014, so far, I’ve ridden 2,539 miles in 216 hours (mostly off road), crashed at least a dozen times, bent my iPhone with my hip, and broke one bike frame with my head (though, it was likely about to break before it hit me in the head).

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I actually cried, this hurt so much.

Then, about 6 days before PMC, while on my last long ride, a bee stung may face at 20MPH.

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The bees can smell your fear.

Thankfully, the bee venom worked its way through my brain and out again before Day Zero.  I could have done just fine without the incredible headaches that came with it, however.

Enough about me, this was Julie’s first PMC. As such, she exhibited some of the typical “first year jitters” I mentioned earlier.  “Should I follow the training schedule exactly?”, “More?”, “Less?”, “I need a new bike!”

Actually, she did need a new bike.  At registration time she owned only a mountain bike and, despite my example to the contrary, did not want to ride it 2503 miles.  So now we had another task that needed completing before PMC time. Julie did a fantastic job scouring Craig’s List and pulled through with an awesome bike at a fantastic price.

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Mom, your back tire is way low. You’re slacking.

As for her physical readiness, she loves biking and rides when she can, but she knew it was going to take more.  With two kids, we had a bit of a time issue on our hands.  Riding together was almost completely out of the question.  Julie went for long rides most weekend mornings by herself or with the team.  Only once did we get to ride together before the PMC.  We rode 75 miles over Mt. Wachussett and she had me worried that I was the one who hadn’t been training enough. Later I realized why she had an advantage riding up hill: our 80 pound weight difference.  So I filled the hollow tubes of her bike with molten lead to even things out a bit.

Day Zero

I shouldn’t have been so hard on Betty4 last year.  Despite her narrow minded confusion, she served a purpose and served it well.  Getting to Sturbridge from Maynard by bike includes about 47 million turns. Unlike a car, it’s not convenient to follow visual navigation queues from a device.  Betty’s sweet voice was the perfect solution. I am not sure why I thought I could make it without her this year, and I came to regret it.

Julie and I got about half way through our 65 mile jaunt to the start and took a break to have a snack.  There were so many ways to get lost between here and there. After finding at least 7 of those ways, I decided to give Betty another shot. A nearby gas station has some $10 headphones and just like that, Betty and I were reacquainted again.  There was no doubt that she had matured in the last year. My heart leapt a little when she began whispering those sweet directions in my ear. However, she still refuses to tell me how much farther we have to go, answer any of my questions, or look me in the eyes when I told her how much I love her.

Julie: “What’s she saying now”
Me: “To go left.”
Julie: “Then what?”
Me: “Betty, what’s next?”
Julie: “Well?”
Me: “She won’t answer my questions.”
Julie: “How much farther?”
Me: “I don’t know.”
Julie: “What’s Betty saying?”
Me: “She only tells me when to turn.”

Me: “Turn right.”

WHOA, I almost left out the best part.  Betty thinks bike paths are fair game, as they should be.  But sometimes her handlers don’t give her all of the information she needs to make an informed decision.

Betty: “In 600 feet, turn left.”
Me: “Betty, WTF, there is no road there.”
Betty: “In 200 feet, turn left.”
Me: “Hmmm”
Better: “Turn left.”

It was a bike trail!  Better still, it was a packed gravel, wooded, quiet and long bike trail.  Julie’s road bike may not have been precisely the right tool, but she made it just fine.

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So much better than dealing with cars/drivers.

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With tunnels, even! ECHO!!!!

Thanks so much, Betty.  That really made our day.

We arrived in Sturbridge not long after and enjoyed the festivities, ate, then headed back to our hotel to prepare for the weekend ahead.

Before we tucked in for the night, I showed the rookie the ropes.  The next morning, there is a critical turning point where our bags go on a truck not to be seen again until we’ve followed it 112 miles to Bourne.  The best approach is to pack the bag the night before.  Layout your riding clothes, shoes, under carriage lube, and water bottles.  Everything else goes in the bag.  In the morning, you simply get dressed and go.  This includes the helmet.  There is no point in carrying around something that already fits nicely over your dome.

A little preparation goes a long way in preventing something small but catastrophic. Like throwing your bag on the truck with your bike shoes in it. Which I’m sure has happened. Not to me.

One last thing before bed. Julie had the fine idea of using pips cleaners5 to add some decoration to her helmet. I followed suit, but made one larger and more robust, of course.

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Here we are at the very end of the ride. Helmet hearts still in tact. We love and miss you, Meggy.

Day One

Goodness.  Getting up at 3:30AM doesn’t really feel like actual sleep ever occurred.  I let Betty sleep in.  We weren’t going to need her today and she had earned a break after her splendid display of navigation half a day prior. Julie and I slid into our sexy riding gear and headed out in the dark to wait for the bus along side our hotel, and team, mates.

At breakfast (4:30AM), the room was littered with people chattering about the weather.  Would it rain? What are the chances? 10%? 20%? 80%? Does it matter? What kind of damage could a little bit of water do?

By the second water stop, many people had been hauled away and treated for hypothermia. Apparently cold rain can do quite a bit of damage. Some accidents happened. They always do, but none for us. We rode on.

Julie and I only had two days to practice riding together and on neither of them were we surrounded by 5498 other cyclists. As I wove my way around some of the slower riders, Julie would get caught in a group. After finding a clearing in the masses, I would slow up my pace and wait for her to find her way through. We got better at it and the crowd thinned out as the day went on. It’s not a race. We didn’t have anywhere in particular to be. Why not enjoy the ride? Still, there is something to speeding as fast as you can around roads free from vehicular traffic and it’s hard to beat down the competitive urge to catch the person in front of you.

It rained, as we discussed. Sometimes hard. To avoid becoming one of the hypothermic, I began to jog around the water stops while waiting for teammates to arrive, have a snack, and depart again. You might think it would be colder in the wind on the road, but this was not the case. The heat we generated from powering through the miles more than compensated for the difference. I thought this experience provided as nice example as to why people get wrapped up in those thermo blankets after finishing a marathon.

Six hours of riding later, we pulled into Mass Maritime academy. Julie was teetering on the edge of freezing, so we needed to do something about that. Unfortunately, I didn’t know there were hot, indoor, showers just inside the building near the finish (they haven’t been open before). Instead, we trudged through the cold rain a quarter mile to the campsite and tried to get setup. Again, bad decision. Setting up a large tent in the rain is a terrible chore that usually results in a tent full of water.

Julie was shivering quite a bit more, so we abandoned that effort and found her a hot shower in the dorm and a place to change. Then a beer.

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See. Water on the tables. Rain ponchos on.

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Proof that it was raining. Though, this is not Julie or I. We didn’t pay photographers to stake out the course and wait for us personally. Next year.

I was a bit upset about the continued rain preventing the setup of our accommodations. What should have been an afternoon of eating and drinking and general merriment turned into a continuous search for another place to reside. Many other people had the same idea, to abandon their tent plans and the dormitories filled up fast. They packed four people to a room that normally hold only two. This was going to be terrible.

Defeated, I gave up on the tent setup for the time being and decided to sit and eat and drink and fuel up for the next day. I was still in my bike clothes and needed to shower and change. Thinking back now, I don’t think I ever did shower. The rain rinsed me pretty well.

Finally, at around 4:45PM, there was a break in the rain. After checking the weather radar map, I realized that the break should last at least 20 minutes or so. Plenty of time to get the tent setup! Sometimes, it’s these little things that make all the difference in the world. Our tent home was so welcoming and comfortable and dry and I was happy. What was turning out to be a miserable afternoon had quickly turned around.

As it happened, the rain did not come back with any significant force.

Near bed time, we packed our back again as we did the night before, set the alarm for 3:30AM, and tucked in for the night. Julie (and our two tent mates) went out like normal people, but I couldn’t sleep. After wandering around the campus for a while and listening to a book for a while, I finally settled in around midnight for a gloriously refreshing 3.5 hours of sleep.

Day Two

The MMA campus is big. Our bikes are parked near the entrance, but the activities and accommodations about a quarter mile south, closer to the ocean. Every single year, I think that there are places to fill your water bottles near where the bikes are parked. Maybe this is because some years there has been. This year there was not.

After breakfast we put our bags on the truck and headed out front to fill up our bottles and grab the bikes.

No water. It was almost time to depart. Frustrating.

Looking back, we probably didn’t need it anyway. It was cool and we had just had breakfast. The first water stop was only 26 (or so) miles in. I don’t recall drinking from mine before the first water stop.

We split up. I went to get the bikes and Julie went to get water. This was a bad idea. I couldn’t find her bike in the dark with the lights shining in my eyes. I thought she had said “green 3” when in fact she had said “purple 3”. They don’t sound the same, I know. Eventually I found her bike, then I couldn’t find her.

The team left without us, but only moments before. It didn’t matter. We had the whole day to catch them. In the end, it only took about 20 minutes. They always stop at the end of the canal to take a picture with some old man and no one understands why.

The weather Sunday was nice. Overcast with a few showers here and there but nothing sustained. I don’t wish for sunny skies on these weekends. Five to seven hours of pedaling in the sun is not good. Not good at all. This was almost ideal. My only concern was the potential for winds chopping the seas and making our boat ride home nauseating.

Some time after the last water stop, but before the finish, what I believe was the worst crash of the day occurred very nearly in front of me. A man swerved erratically, possibly after hitting the rider in front of him, and ended up on his back in the road in front of a motor home. Thankfully, the motor home stopped in time. A member of our team, who happens to be an EMT, was right there stabilizing him and ordering onlookers to call 911. We found out later that he escaped with a concussion and probably some scrapes.

Sadly, this alumni rider returned this year because he is currently undergoing chemotherapy for what his doctors consider and incurable brain tumor. We wish him the best.

While Ben, the man with the brain tumor, was on the ground waiting for an ambulance, we had to move on. He was being taken care of and about 4,000 riders were stacking up behind us so it was time to go. We pressed on slowly at first then, after some miles, back to normal pace. We really had no idea, at the time, how bad off he was, but he wasn’t moving, that was clear enough. It’s impossible to shake that off without any residual feelings.

The finish comes up fast and it’s all over. There is a mad rush to get your bags and shower in, what amounts to, a tent stolen from the set of M.A.S.H. with dozens of other naked men.6 At least they are all athletic.

Then it’s another mad rush to get the bags packed correctly again. This time, for “civilian” wear. Street clothes. From the time we crossed the finish line to the time we had showered and loaded the bikes and bags on the truck, only about 30 minutes had passed. We were on foot again, like normal people. Several hours lay ahead of us before the “party boat” would leave Provincetown with us on board. In the mean time, we ate, drank, then strolled through town making our way closer to the pier.

Many people, much smarter than us, had booked accommodations in Provincetown and were beginning a long vacation on the spot. “Duh.”, I hear your saying. “Of course. That’s just obvious.” Thank you. Yes. Next year, perhaps.

But no, not this year. Instead, I had just ridden over 250 miles, slept as many hours as I had consumed beers and in less than 18 hours I would be on my bike again pedaling into the office. Reality was crashing back down on me at full speed. But I have experienced it before and was ready for the post-PMC depression to set it.

The ride was awesome. Our team was awesome. All of the riders and volunteers are awesome.

And you, our supporters, are awesome. You bought our ticket to this awesome adventure and did good for the fight against cancer at the same time. For that, I thank you very much.

Until next year, enjoy the ride.

p.s. – I did find a few pictures of me actually riding. Don’t yell at me for not knowing where Julie is. I’m sure she was somewhere having fun.

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Hello.

 

  1. In the benevolent sense, not the ungrammatical where well should have been used instead. []
  2. Parkinson’s Law of Triviality had to use the details of a bike shed as an example of something too trivial to warrant concern.  At least when compared to planning a nuclear reactor.  Nevertheless, we are building a bike shed and will let no detail go unscrutinized.  As such, it has been many months since the previous shed was torn down and will be many more before the new one is complete.  Our temporary shed is a tent.  A giant spider is making quite the living in it. []
  3. I may interchange 192 and 250 here and there.  192 is the official mileage, but we added 65 when we rode to the start the day before. []
  4. Betty is the lady that gives you turn by turn directions in google maps. Yes, that IS her official name, don’t try to look it up. []
  5. I had never cleaned a pipe with these tiny colorful wire thingies, have you? []
  6. Women in the women tent, obviously. Though co-ed wouldn’t be such a bad idea. []
MegRoad

I Remember You, Meg.

Two years ago today, my brother’s daughter, Meg,  succumbed to the illness, and treatment of, Leukemia.  She was 7 years old.

After her diagnosis, I found solace on my bike.  In 2009 I rode my first Pan Mass Challenge.  That year, the cycling challenge was unknown to me so I followed the training schedule like any dedicated overachiever would.  In the years since, my readiness has fluctuated mildly, but I have always managed to be prepared enough.  I love riding, despite the physical pain it has caused.

I recent years, my family cut back to one care and I’ve since committed to commuting by bike.  This has brought a great deal of joy for me.  Even when riding in snow storms.  Especially when riding in snow storms (see the weather for that day).  Being outside, in the woods, under the sun, rain or snow every morning and every evening is my time to breath and think and remember.

When I’m on my bike, I remember her.  I remember Meg.  Or at least, I think I do.  I think about her.  I have plenty of time.  I do need to watch out for trees, and turtles and deer at times, but I also think about Meg, her family, her friends, and the people who cared for her.

I started riding my bike because I knew no other way to help her.  For three years I rode with her in my mind.  Those thoughts pushed me forward, kept my legs moving, and got me up hills.  Frustrated.  Angry.  Sad.  Hopeful.

 

And then she was gone.

 

No more frustration and hope.  Only anger and sadness.

Today, I set out to publicize my feelings in some clichéd way.  After all, I didn’t practice bike-writing my kids’ names across parking lots for nothing.

The image that title’s this article was written as gracefully as I could manage across a vacant parking lot near my home while riding a bike with no seat.

Leading up to this day, I had grand plans to trace “MEG” in an open field deep in the woods.  Unfortunately, when I reached the field, I found it to be so overgrown that I would have either come out with Lymes disease, or stayed in with a broken leg at the bottom of a hidden sinkhole.  Dejected and apologetic, I set out to the only other large open place I knew of, a parking lot.

Three miles from home, the bolt connecting seat to bike sheared off.  Pondering if I should focus on weight loss instead of fitness, I picked up the pieces and set off again, seatless and standing.  It took a few minutes convince my brain to fear sitting and thus avoid damaging my boy parts but I was successful and considered it good practice, of some kind.

With the seat in my cargo shorts, I rode and wrote as best I could.  The kerning may leave something to be desired and double tracing the ‘E’ makes it look sloppy, but overall I think it turned out OK.  Perhaps someday I’ll find a larger area that will allow me to draw letters and/or shapes that are miles across, instead of only a hundred feet or so, as these are.

Until then, and forever after, I will ride on and remember you, Meg.

100 Days To Go

After 5 years of riding the Pan-Mass Challenge, I didn’t think twice about signing up for a sixth.

I will always ride.  Though it is plausible that some year I will injure myself severely enough and close enough to ride day that my mobility will be hampered.  Not withstanding those circumstances, I can’t see a reason that I would not participate.  I will be old, gray, wrinkled, pedaling nonetheless from Sturbridge to Provincetown.  Stopping only for water, peanut butter and fluff, beer, and maybe a shower at the end.  Maybe.

My life; My family’s life, revolves around this event.

Training and staying in shape is time consuming, but fun.  Fundraising is time consuming, necessary, but not quite as much fun.  My son and daughter spend a great deal of time drawing pictures (which they love) and posing for the camera with their drawings, so that we may do just a little something for you and the people that contribute their earnings to the cause.

This year, my wife is joining the PMC to ride 192 miles with me and all of the others.  We both have our work cut out for us to prepare physically and we will work hard to get there.  With both of us riding, we have doubled our fundraising goals and we need your help to get there.

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We need you to make all this biking worth something.  We need you to open up your wallets and give whatever you can to help support Dana Farber Cancer Institute.

Go now and donate $25, $50, $100, or whatever you can afford.  Every dollar helps.

Julie – http://pmc.org/JJ0087
or
Randy – http://pmc.org/RJ0036

Tell your friends and family.  Ask your employer if they will match contributions.

We appreciate anything you can do.

Thanks so much.

-Randy & Julie

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Year #5! No wait, it’s #6!

In 2009 I made a blind leap into a new adventure.
In 2010 my father came along for the ride.
In 2011 I joined an actual team and we rode together.
In 2012 Meg died.  I miss her.
In 2013 We made some awesome pictures together.1

In 20142 we are going to crush it as a family.

My fantastic wife will be joining me, and the rest of Team Lick Cancer, for the full 192 miles from Sturbridge to Provincetown.  I can’t wait.  She’s going to be great.

I can’t thank you enough for your support in the past.  And we are going to need it more than ever if we are to reach two goals!  Don’t worry about which one of us you donate too, we can balance the funds later.  Do check with your organizations for a company match though,  it can be a tremendous help.

Ride on baby.

Donate Now

  1. The pictures will continue.  And this year, Molly will be contributing her awesomeness to the mix. []
  2. Yes that’s a link to this page.  Don’t click it. []

TAX TIME! – And The Role of Virtual Machines

It’s 2014 and we all know what that means:

  • Gym – 3 times a week.  You owe it to yourself, gurrrrrl.
  • Post christmas shopping blowout sales on all bedazzled underthings.
  • And taxes.  Taxes.  TAXES!  TIME TO START ON YOUR 2013 TAX RETURN!

I will proudly squeeze body into a bikini this summer and my underthings don’t need any extra bedazzling.  But my taxes need to be done on time and in order.

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Almost 2000 Miles

Screen Shot 2013-12-23 at 10.37.13 PMSurprisingly, the days begin to get longer just as we officially begin winter.  Conversely, this means that the shortest, most depressing, day of the year is now behind us.1  It almost feels like summer is here already!  Right?

I think the Christmas holidays, for most people, fill the emotional black-hole created by seemingly endless darkness and cold rainy days.  It’s certainly fun to eat, drink and generally maintain a high level of merriment.  And with only 2 days before that blessed morning of gift wrap and whimsy, we are having some of the darkest, rainiest and most miserable days one could imagine.  And yet, I absolutely loved being outside today.

Today was my last day of work until after the new year.  And like every day since my first day at this job in August, I rode my bike to work.  It was wet, but not cold, because I’ve learned how to dress well enough to stay warm, but I’m too cheap to buy appropriate rain gear.  It was also dark and the pain in my neck fairly severe.2  I’m not complaining.  I loved it.  Every minute of it.  On my way in, I turned down a couple of new roads, just to make extra loop through an unfamiliar neighborhood.  On my way home, I stopped in the woods and just stared at a family of 9 deer who were all staring back at me.  As the fear crept up on me, that they might decide a deer stampede would kill some time until dinner, I showed my dominance the way any highly trained woodsman know is best.  By saying, “Hi Deer!  How are you?!”

The deer ran off, and I rode off.

Like every day, I record my ride via the Strava app on my phone (On days like this, my phone goes into a ziplock back or it would be ruined by the water).  I believe that I have recorded almost all of my rides for the year with.  After arriving home, I looked at my total for the year.  I am currently at a total distance of 1,947.0 miles.3  But,  with the holidays and some travel coming up, I may not be able to record another 53 miles by next Wednesday to cross 2,000 for 2013.  If I were not taking 3 days off of work, I would gain almost 40, leaving only 13 left to reach this goal that I only now just made up.

So perhaps I can reach 2,000 by doing a couple of long rides in the woods in the next week.  And maybe I should.  Why not?  The 3 pounds of sugar I will consume in the next 48 hours will certain merit a few extra minutes of exercise.  But this almost milestone got me thinking about what I could do.

Next year, considering 48 weeks of work4 at 12-14 miles/day (round trip), I should be able to hit 3,000 miles even before considering any extra training for and participation in the PMC.  All told perhaps I can hit 3,500.  Or dare I say 4,000?  No, I don’t dare.  I think 3,500 is stretchy enough of a goal that we’ll stick with that.

Merry Holidays and a Happy Everything!

  1. If you’re an early riser, however, you may note that the sun will continue to rise later for another couple of weeks. []
  2. I have no idea how I did it, but I pulled a muscle in my shoulder/neck.  Probably from juggling the kids. []
  3. I don’t think the .0 is accurate. []
  4. Gawd.  That just sounds so terrible.  48 weeks of work. []

Spokes and Words – Another Podcast!

AlbumArtwork-256I am now the proud host of two podcasts that cover two of my favorite things.

Being a dad and biking.

I’ve already mentioned Dad’s Being Dads in a previous post and that is still going strong.  But now, with the mountains of time available to me after the kids go to bed, I’ve ventured into another topic near and dear to my heart, biking! Specifically, biking for transportation.

It’s called, Spokes and Words.  A terrible pun, but it stuck and we kept it.

We try to cover maintenance, safety, flat tires, back flips, chicken fights, and all other sorts of things that go hand in hand with riding a bike to get to where you want to be.

I’ve been commuting to work, every day (yes), since I promised that I would (If you don’t believe me, just click on that Strava thing on the right and look at my calendar). And while the same path may be getting a little boring day after day, the various anecdotes of almost hitting dear, crashing into stumps, and riding through the snow provide some entertaining fodder for the show.

My co-host, Mike, is hardcore.  His family gave up all their cars and they live in CANADA.  Where it’s really cold.  And snowy.  And they have kids to cart around and groceries to shop for.

No cars.

None at all.  Crazy.

Give it a listen.

I Started A Podcast – About Being A Dad.

In which Chris (my co-host) and I talk about funny happenings, helpful products, tricks we have learned, and how terrible we are at this stuff.

It’s called, “Dads Being Dads” (dadsbeingdads.net … .NET! Some jerk is sitting on .com)

If you’ve already read enough and simply want to give it a listen, or perhaps a 5-star rating without listening at all, here is the site and iTunes link.  We will be publishing shows every week, recorded at night and in fear that we might wake one of the 5 children between us.

By my estimates, there are probably about 1 billion dads on the planet at any given moment.  In my opinion, we don’t talk enough together about being dads.  Chris and I enjoy it and we hope that you might get something from listening to us make fools of ourselves one hour a week.

If we end up angering some of you, or if you think you have something to add, let us know.  We are always looking for good subject matter.

If you’re this deep into the read and still wondering what exactly a podcast is, I applaud your commitment.  In short, it’s talk-show that is pre-recorded and distributed over the internet.  Apple & iTunes provide a nice directory of shows and the means to subscribe to them.  I can’t think of a better introductory show for you to try out than ours.  There are many tools for listening.  If you have more questions, I’d be happy to answer them.

We have a website and some artwork that Chris has worked very hard on.  Some of you may have noticed that it is actually an old picture of me throwing my niece into the ocean.  I would have done that before I was a dad, but no one needs to know she isn’t mine.

DBD-Logo-001-250ThrowingCarly

We are also working on some new intro music, as the current music is just stolen from iMovie.  Perhaps that music will be so great that you’ll listen to the show just to hear it.

Certainly many of you reading this won’t be interested in the show, and that’s completely understandable.  But I would appreciate it if you forwarded it along to people that you think might.  The more listeners we get, the longer we’ll be able to continue doing this.

Hugs and Kisses,

-Randy

 

Owies Last Too Long

Screen Shot 2013-10-27 at 12.04.21 AMWay back in the summer of ’12 while riding for fun and fitness, I had a little accident.

I love my family and fortunately, I am able to earn enough money so that my wife can stay home with the kids, run the household, and have some fun keeping them busy.  We get a beach pass to a nearby lake that the kids love, and they spend a large number of days there each summer swimming and digging the day away.

One sunny Saturday, I woke up early to head out on a long training ride.  The plan was to divert from the course later in the morning and meet my family at the beach.  I made it to the beach on time, but the pain in my arm from the crash made it difficult to enjoy the day.

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Road Rage

1I5I8760-1-road-rageWhen I drive my car, I’m happy as can be.  All tucked away in my cozy steel box, listening to a book.  That other car that just cut me off, please, come right in, I’ll give you some more space.

Oh, look, there is a land rover going 107MPH in the middle lane, half a mile behind me.  Why don’t I just move over and let you speed on by.  Safe travels, my friend!

However, when I ride my bike, I’m not in a big safe steel box and I don’t have a 350 horsepower engine to speed me out of the way of the other rolling death machines.

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Terrible Driving Tip #2 – The Truth About Speed Limits

R2-1 Speed Limit 50I’m not a conspiracy theorist or anything.  But our government is trying to kill us.

In 1994, the movie Speed first debuted.  A cinematic beauty where Keanu Reaves and Sandra Bullock brought the action and adventure right into your living room.

Bill Clinton was inspired by this movie’s concept and saw an opportunity to mitigate a looming American crisis.

We were too damn slow.

A secret, insidious, deal was made with automobile manufactures that year.  One that would change the way Americans drove.  Forever.

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Bike Gear: Big Apple Tires

I’m a pretty lazy person.  It’s true.

I don’t want to spend a lot of time doing anything. If you want to lecture me on an 8-hour work day, please feel free to do so.  I don’t want to do that either. Working for money is another topic we’ll get to eventually. For now, just consider that I’m mixing up the contents of that 8-hour day sufficiently enough to keep it exciting.

Perhaps ‘lazy’ is the wrong word. I need a thesaurus. Hold on…

That didn’t help.

I know. Let me explain it this way: I eat peanut butter and jelly every day. Every. Day. And it’s delicious each and every time. I like familiarity.

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Terrible Driving Tip #1 – Parking Lot Lines Don’t Apply To You.

Parking lot lines are for the parked cars.  If all you need is a double espresso mint mocha latté cappuccino, those lines are most certainly not for you.

Take whatever path your car drifts along, while you are texting, that ends in the fire lane within eye contact of your favorite barista (whom you were texting with on the way in).

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Despite the rumblings of your fellow shop goers, this is really best for everyone.

 

Big Fat Old Man Butt

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After Saturday morning soccer, Max and I usually hang out to play for another hour or so.  Last weekend he and I and some other kids were kicking balls against the plywood wall with the goal posts painted on.

I’d like to think I’m one of the “athletic dads”.  As such, I have fun playing and running and stuff, not just sitting in a beach chair and waiting for the games to be over.

Accidents happen when you’re mixing it up with a pack of five year old.  In this case, a stray ball hit me in the back of the leg.  No big deal.  No harm no foul. etc.

“HAHAHAHA… I HIT THAT OLD MAN RIGHT IN HIS BIG FAT BUTT!!!!”

Whoa.  What old man?  That poor guy, that kid should probably… HEY!

“Pardon, me?”, I said.

“Huh, what?”, said the tiny little offender.

“Where is the old man with the big fat butt?”, I asked.

“Oh. Ummm.  I was just talking to myself.”

“So, you’re and old man with a big fat butt?”

“I have to go now.”

That’s RIGHT!  I WIN! WOOOOO!
U-S-A!! U   S   A!!  YOU ESS EIGH!!!!

Biking in Heels

After re-posting this video to Facebook, I got caught up thinking about the possibility of actually living in the Netherlands.  While slightly bored, I searched google for “biking Netherlands”, and stumbled into a post on this site:

http://bikinginheels-cycler.blogspot.com

The site was so interesting that I clicked the heading so I could start from the latest entry and just kept clicking “older posts” until I realized I had spent 30 minutes scrolling through pictures and stories about mixing bikes and life.

The bicycle advocacy represented there is admirable, and it happens to be the blog of a woman who runs a bike shop in nearby Cambridge called Bicycle Belle that:

sell[s] city bicycles that are set up for everyday life- with chainguards and fenders to keep your clothes clean,  racks to carry your stuff, lights for showing you the way, and kickstands to keep them  in place when you stop to smell the roses.

I don’t get to venture into the city often, but I plan on stopping in next time I do.

You should too.

Turn 65 Get Money

“Grandpa is retired. What do you think retirement is?”, I asked my 12 year old niece.

“It’s like when, umm, you turn 65 and you get money.”

Technically, she’s still 11, but we’ve still got some work to do.

How do you teach a twelve (eleven) year old all there is to know about money without them losing consciousness 3 minutes into your lecture?  Challenge accepted.

First, let’s review what “retirement” really means.  Retirement is simply the point at which you no longer need to work for money. Maybe you still work because you want to, but you don’t need to because you’ve saved lots and lots of money. When you save money, you can lend it to the bank and the bank will pay it back to you plus some more in interest!  If you lend them enough, the interest they pay you can get big enough to pay all of your bills!

Retirement.

Simple really.  Even a four year old (grown man) could illustrate it.

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