One year on from the abyss

As you may remember, one year ago things were not looking so great in JLo’s world (yes, I just referenced myself on the third person. Jimmy like his chicken spicy.) Three years of wandering around like a caffeine-addled, sleep-deprived extra from Night of the Living Dead finally caught up with me, and I ended up here. Not much fun, Jimmy didn’t like it one bit.

Since then I’ve done a petty decent job of turning things around I think. I eat better, drink less coffee (though still too much – more on that in a bit), and, most importantly, sleep A LOT more. Since my glorious, blissful semi-retirement ended in January though I haven’t been able to exercise as much as I would like, and I still drink a bit too much coffee, though more out of workday habit than actual need. By the time I get home, I can exercise or spend time with my kids, and the latter will always win out. I think, however, I’ve come up with a reasonable solution: bike to work.

The more I think about it, the better this is sounding to me. It’s around 12 miles door to door from my house to my office, which means at a moderate pace with traffic I can make the ride in under an hour. The route can be a bit scary at rush hour since there’s a ton of traffic, but it’s basically a straight shot down Alafaya Trail, on roughly 6 miles of multi-use sidewalk/trail, with a bike lane available the rest of the way. There’s about a quarter of a mile with no easy cycling option available between Waterford Lakes and Colonial Drive, but with some caution and vigilance it is manageable.

I kill several birds with one stone here. I end up getting in 25 miles a day on the ride, get to skip the frustrating drive into work (Deep down I really don’t like driving at all. I’d happily live someplace with real mass transit options and never buy a car again in my life.), and don’t have to worry about missing time with my kids in order to exercise. As an added bonus, we save some money in commuting costs and I’m not tempting to hit the DD drive thru for coffee every morning. When I started calculating the savings from riding vs. driving, I realized that my weekly coffee expenses outweighed gasoline by a significant amount. That’s really sad. A big, wet wall of sad.

Since the route is a mixture of surfaces with obstructions, debris, and possible pothole/curb jumping required, I realized that my road bike wouldn’t be cut out for the job, so I went down to visit my friends at Orange Cycle, and they hooked me up with an affordable ride suitable for the commuter wars, a 2015 Specialized Crosstrail Disc. It’s been so long since I’ve ridden a bike with suspension that I forgot what it is like to hit a bump and not feel it reverberate all the way up my spine. A handful of rides in and I’m getting to know my new friend well. She needs a name. My first instinct is Neko, but we’ll see (FYI, this is foreshadowing.)

Ain't she pretty?

Ain’t she pretty?

I took her out for a few test rides to check out different route variations over the weekend, and then committed to a live fire test on Friday. The ride in was pretty great, in that I felt good and didn’t get run over on the way, arrived on time, and wasn’t so much of a sweaty mess that I wasn’t able to make myself presentable for work with a short trip to the men’s toilets to change (no shower in our building, but between the sink, some baby wipes and other essentials it wasn’t a big deal.) From a safety standpoint I basically just ride with the assumption that everyone in a car is out to kill me, and that seems to work. And it’s not a stretch to think that way, so people getting into a car in East Orlando seems to automatically transform the nicest, meekest little old lady into Stuntman Mike (You can’t see me but I’m high-fiving myself for such and awesome Kurt Russell reference. I live for stuff like that.)

Overall I was pretty pleased, until it was time to go home. I looked out the window and saw this:

I'd call that sky a combination of ominous and foreboding. Thank you expensive liberal arts education for that word power.

I’d call that sky a combination of ominous and foreboding. Thank you expensive liberal arts education for the word power.

That’s the downside of a cycling commute in Florida during summer. The rain I don’t mind so much – give me a rain jacket, some lights, and a waterproof bag and I’m good to go – but the lightning is another story. Thankfully the lovely and talented Mrs. Lo texted me about that time and offered to pick me up on her way home from work. So, no harm no foul, Mother Nature.

Despite the weather setback, I’m planning on doing another Friday test run next week and then expanding my days riding until I’m hopefully a full time cycling commuter beginning in October. That would give me  an automatic 125 miles a week on the bike, leaving me free to do one long ride on the weekend on my road bike and helping me stay in shape for the next Bike MS ride in May. Wish me luck.

*****

Ok, it’s mix tape time. I’m going to refrain from tempting fate again and retiring the Awesome Mix series. Instead this week it’s a mix from one of the most underrated bands I can think of, The New Pornographers. If you’re not familiar with their music, they are a gloriously ramshackle mixture of Fleetwood Mac, Belle and Sebastian, The Beach Boys, Big Star, and a Joss Whedon screenplay, with endlessly listenable power pop songs overflowing with big guitar hooks and sunny, joyful harmonies. It’s pretty much impossible to listen to this mix and walk away feeling anything but happy and positive, which is a rare thing these days. So much talent in this Canadian, indie rock “super group,” the brainchild of Carl Newman, and the perfect vehicle for the lovely and talented Neko Case when she gets the urge to indulge her pop vocalist side. (Her vocals on the tale end of Bleeding Heart Show are especially great.) Think Arcade Fire with none of the pretension (That’s not a shot at Arcade Fire – never change guys) and 100% more Pet Sounds-era Beach Boys.

Here’s a 15 song primer, all ridiculously great guitar pop songs, perfect for a tale end of summer Saturday.

 Cheers.

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Posted on September 6, 2014, in Cycling, Music and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. I cannot believe it has been a year, and I am so excited that biking to work is an option for you. May all your commutes be smooth and humidity-free! Oh wait. You live in FL. 🙂

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