Friday, August 30, 2013
Tuesday, August 28, 2012
Saturday, August 4, 2012
Moving on to college, I made a very conscious decision to not run competitively. I could feel the strain of keeping up with such a great team, both physically and mentally, and I could sense that it was time to ease off a little. Since I was planning to pursue a degree in Mechanical Engineering, I also saw that winning the state meet would probably be the highlight of my athletic career in any case. I would still run, to be sure, but it was very nice to be able to train and run races without having to worry about anything but my own satisfaction. It also allowed me to focus more on running longer races, and I completed several half-marathons. Still, I felt that I wouldn't be able to keep it up forever without getting hurt.
Then a few more changes came along. I graduated with my bachelor's degree, got married, and moved on to graduate school. Most semesters in my undergrad, I lived within walking distance of campus. For grad school, we bought a house a few miles away from the lab where I work. This prompted me to start riding a bike to work when the weather is conducive (most of the warm months). Growing up, my family was into cycling in a big way. When I was quite young, we rode in a couple organized weeklong tours of Ohio on our custom made three person bike. Later, we rode single bikes on weeklong rides from Lake Michigan to Lake Huron/Erie across Michigan's lower peninsula.
Something clicked. I dusted off the old road bike I'd acquired through some kind of squatter's rights from my dad. On a trip home, my parents caught me eyeing up the ancient Schwinn tandem that had been collecting dirt and rust in the barn since I could remember. They decided that they probably would never ride their slightly newer Dawes tandem anymore, and it was in much better shape. We managed to get it down to Indiana, and I spent several weekends replacing cables, adjusting brakes and saddles, and tightening chains. My wife Ashby was a good sport throughout the restoration process, once walking four miles back home with me after a snapped chain stopped us cold on a steep uphill.
Now the tandem seems to be in reliable shape, and we're set to do our second Wabash River Ride toward the end of this month. Last time we managed the shortest 33 mile route on our single bikes, but this time we're hoping to do one of the longer loops. It's nice to have found a sport I can do with Ashby thanks to the tandem. She's even worked up the courage to do solo rides on the back roads near our home, and I've noticed that she's much more confident riding her single bike now. She tried running several times, but it just wasn't her thing. Now I think we've finally found a sport that we can do together. It's nice to have rediscovered cycling. I plan to continue running the occasional 5k, but I'm having too much fun being back in the saddle to think about that right now!
Monday, December 5, 2011
As we set out from the livery in the morning, we quickly came upon a bridge running over a shallow patch. A couple of canoes and their occupants were getting off to a good start jettisoning the day’s lunch and everything else including the human cargo, all while doing an admirable job of blocking any reasonable passage under the bridge. By some minor miracle we made it around the ongoing carnage without so much as scraping bottom. It made me a little nervous about my decision to tote the camera, because I realized that the greatest danger may not be within my control, but in the hands of the many people on the river who seemed to be experiencing much consternation in their efforts to float successfully with the current.
Now, I don’t consider myself by any means an expert river runner. I’ve piloted my share of small watercraft, mostly of the human powered persuasion, but the last time I’d been in a canoe was over a year ago. Still, every time we passed a raft of canoes clinging desperately to one another for defense against the inevitable collision with shore, floating debris, or another such conglomeration, we’d always get a compliment on how expert we appeared, along with an inquiry into the water resistance of my camera. It began to strike me that it doesn’t require much beyond a mote of ambition and a willingness to learn in order to keep a canoe’s bow pointed safely downstream. What’s more, once you aren’t constantly trying to avoid taking an impromptu bath as a result of an unwanted rendezvous, you end up able to enjoy the scenery to a much fuller degree. Why were we the best at this?
After lunch, as we continued on our way to the extraction point where we’d meet the summer break high schooler in a decades old Ford van who’d take us back to the livery, the comments about the camera and it’s abundant dryness kept coming in. About this time I started replying, at least in my imagination, that I kept the camera dry the same way I kept everything else on my person and in my vessel dry. I found it hard to believe that so many people who presumably were able to successfully navigate the interstate highway system and a labyrinth of back roads to arrive at this remote stretch of river could be so helplessly unable to control their fates once afloat and responsible for their own route planning and safety within the confines of the river banks. What was it? Is there no more desire to be proficient? There seemed to be an unspoken mournful acceptance of mediocrity, to which we were the exception; us, with our vast canoeing experience of many hours.
As we pulled our canoe onto the river bank at the end of the day’s trip and waited for the van, I took note of the overwhelming dryness of my camera. My plan had succeeded, and I had captured many wonderful images of family and friends and the scenery along the way. It still bugged me that so many people considered it an impossibility to maintain an upright position while canoeing. I know some people aren’t as coordinated as others, but it seemed to me that many people weren’t even trying. Is it that they don’t want to make others feel bad, and so degrade their own performance in a self reinforcing spiral of sudden immersion (not unlike the one that forms when you drain your bathtub…)? In a desire to commiserate about the difficulties of maintaining an upright orientation, do people actually strive to compromise their stability? Shouldn’t we strive to be a better one, whatever we are?
See, the way to prevent your camera getting wet is to keep it out of the water.
Sunday, March 13, 2011
Tuesday, February 15, 2011
Since then my backpack has traveled a lot of miles, though a few less than it’s owner. It’s been on beautiful mountain hikes, climbed the Eiffel Tower, and of course attended classes. It’s survived the ravenous jaws of middle school lockers, treacherous northern Michigan winter walks to school, and been unceremoniously crammed into the back of various vehicles for the long treks home from college. Still, apart from losing a couple of the frilly bits on the zipper pulls, it’s always ready when I need it.