Montag, 29. Juni 2015

Cycling the Absinthe trail

Me and my brother-in-law posing
for Velojournal in 2008
now entering Switzerland

My husband Ivo was raised in a cycling family. The family bike tours began on a back seat on his father's bike, then those weird attached bikes on the back of his father's bike, then they had their ever-bigger bikes, as they learned the tactics to power up hills (mostly cursing and/or trying to beat one another) and how to pack in calorie-rich foods before getting back on the bike and climbing insane peaks and then zooming down the other side.
Ivo at his annual Sept bike race
I was raised in a hiking family. We were walkers. My mom was proud of the speed of our little legs as early as 5 years old. I remember inviting friends to come to our house after Kindergarten and as we trudged home, our friends would begin to complain , asking, "how much further?!?" Meanwhile we sang "following the leader" and tramped along, touching plants and asking mom those questions that can only be properly considered on a long walk with one's mom.
Where Ivo and I meet is the joy of "wanna go ride bikes?" As a kid, going to our friends houses and proposing the plan of riding bikes aimlessly was a regular fun afternoon. When I was 8, I taught my best friend to ride a bike. I ran along side her bike as she rode down our slightly sloping street. At first I held on and then I let go and ran along side her, shouting encouragement.
When Ivo's family do a bike tour, his father will not be satisfied unless they get well over than 100 kilometers behind them in a day. When Ivo and I "go ride bikes," the idea is fun, and the result is an amazing sense of togetherness. Ivo is so amazing at slowing his speed for me if need be, we encourage each other while heading up hill, and when energy is flagging, we have an impromptu dance party and find a peppy song to sing aloud or in our heads to keep a good tempo.
Me in Rapperswil
Ivo in Holland
Two years ago, we rode bikes along the coast of Holland for our anniversary. The anniversary before that, we rode bikes along the Vierwaldstättersee. Last year, we just did a little day trip around the lake of Zürich. This weekend, Ivo and I rode from France back into Switzerland, for a Velojournal article. Velojournal is a cycling magazine for everyday cyclists. We rode the absinthe trail, which is pushing for a big tourism boom in the region in association with the history of their heritage drink.
We started in Pontarlier, France and moved along the trail until Couvert, Switzerland at a leisurely pace with lovely breaks. We chose to go in this direction because there was one super steep incline and we wanted to go down it instead of up it.
Me in Luzern 
Saturday night in Couvert, we were making alternate plans, in the event that Ivo had to rush home to write an article about the Greek financial crisis. Luckily, someone else took the article and so we were able to take our time and make our way along an enchanting gorge. This meant that we could stick to the shady, cool paths and only had to contend with the sun and heat once we'd already gotten to Boudry. We rode a boat to Neuchatel and had lunch and then ran our bikes up the hill to the train station. (I had my 3rd flat tire in two days and there wasn't time or equipment to patch it before we headed for the train home.
There's trouble for a non-practiced tourer cycling long distances with a unique bike seat. (I have a special crotchless bike saddle, that is made of two ovals and has to be set very low on the bike. This makes hills particularly difficult, because I have to work different muscle groups to power up the incline.) And I can get cranky when I feel that I'm not going fast enough. But Ivo encourages me, slows down and will even push his bike with me if I can't do make it up the hill. Ivo kindly lets me ride behind, so that I've got cover from the wind and I get a great view of his attractive, muscular backside.
When we got married in July of 2007, we emphasized the understanding that we'll always be growing and changing and that we won't be traveling the same path with one another, but paths next to one another; we want to respect one another's separateness. But the togetherness that I feel when I'm out riding bikes with my husband shows me how much fun it can be when we're on the same path, supporting and repecting one another and reaching the same goal.

Worried about the
weather the 1st morning

me finishing the 1st flat's repair

Ivo fixes 2nd flat

We made it to Lac Neuchatel

made it to the train

Freitag, 19. Juni 2015


I've been trying to spend less time with my earbuds in, in an attempt to be more present and to better feel my place in a community. In the past, I've really been rewarded by it. But I tend to rely on the English language podcasts I listen to for homesickness. And there are so many walks with my dog, that I want to feel like I'm doing else as well. (Not very mindful of me.)
Today, I was practicing unplugged life while walking my dog behind the school yard by my house. There were city workers mowing the lawns on riding mowers and I saw the kids on the playground watch with fascination. But then, when the mower was on the other side of the lawn, the children had furrowed brows and were shouting at each other and kept squatting down to look for something in the grass.
I'd heard their shouting, dropped my dog leash and asked if they needed help. They were so distressed and told me that they were worried for a little frog that they couldn't manage to scoop up. So I jumped the short fence and grabbed the teeny tiny toad and handed it over to one anguished children. By this time, the riding mower was quite near to us, but the driver had slowed to allow for our rescue. It felt like a real endorsement of my earbudless dog walk. I felt like a member of my neighborhood and connected to the people around me. Let's see if this lasts. 

Montag, 8. Juni 2015

Timehop - a gift in the German sense of the word

"Gift" means "poison" in German. And my Timehop app on my iphone can be a gift or be giftig. Nostalgia is similar to "Heimweh" in German. "Heim" means home and "weh" means pain. 
I'd not used Timehop before this year, and now that I have, I'm reminded daily that Ivo and my trip down Rt 66 happened in June 4 years ago. 
According to Timehop, we were in Amarillo, TX 4 years ago today. We spray painted Cadillacs that were positioned to resemble Stonehenge. I went and read our blog from that time (Ivo and I had a a wordpress blog, in which we recorded our experiences of our year in the US together) and was surprised by the evenness and relative lack of emotion in our New Mexico posts. I'm quite proud of typically over-sharing self. The posts don't nearly betray the emotional roller coaster of nearly becoming parents to a possible epileptic daughter. Today is her birthday and I think of her every now and again. Mostly it goes like this "I wonder what she's up to now." and then I send her love and hope and good wishes for her and her parents. 
I remember when my mom was nearing the first anniversary of her cancer diagnosis. She was asking about my thoughts of how to deal with anniversaries of painful things. I wonder if having been ill in the past is why I think of "life before ____________" and "life after ___________"; why I give weight to the fact that I've lived without a lower intestine longer than I've lived with one; why I so understood mom when she was dreading the anniversary of her diagnosis. I've tried to remember my advice to her when celebrating her birth and death days this year. And I think that Ivo and I do a great job celebrating our twoness in observation of the children who weren't. When we miscarried, the due date we'd been given was October 13th, my sister and nephews birthday. I'm grateful for that built in celebration. 
But for now, I shall delete my Timehop app and move forward instead of looking back for now. Or at least try to.