First Official Bike Event of the Year, Completed!

The sign pushed under our hotel room door the morning of the CASA River Century Ride did not make me feel any less anxious – the town was under a boil water advisory. Water Boil AdvisoryWe had already prepped our water bottles with water from home, except it wasn’t enough and The Mechanic had used tap water to fill the last. Uh oh – should we be worried?!

Despite that and my general anxiety about not feeling properly trained up for a 50 mile bike ride in hilly West Virginia, it turned out to be a perfect day! We got started a bit late, but the ride (we did the Jefferson loop, having done the Berkeley loop in 2012) immediately put us into a good frame of mind by touring us past the Potomac River and some local Civil War ruins, then along the Shenandoah River. It was a lovely morning, and the predicted threat of rain was in fact a gorgeous warm partly-cloudy day. There were some short steep hills before the first pit stop at mile 18, where we were able to enjoy the Shenandoah and peanut butter and jam sandwiches.

The miles until the 40-mile point pit stop were mostly just rolling hills, full of fields and trees and puffy white clouds in blue skies. For the most part there was not much traffic, and we were barely on major roads, and since we were moving slow, we rarely saw other cyclists. We saw peacocks, cows, brilliant red oriental poppies, purple and lavender flowers of some kind, horses with their foals, lots of cardinals, Civil War battlefields near Harper’s Ferry, and tons of beautiful green trees. I love this area. I just wish I could have stopped to take pictures of everything, but we never would have finished!

M&Ms at the 40 mile pit stop! They knew the way to my stomach, err, heart!

M&Ms at the 40 mile pit stop! They knew the way to my stomach, err, heart!

Despite lack of training, we did pretty well. I had some mysterious pain up my lower back for a while, and had to keep standing out of the saddle to relax it, and the work-related shoulder pain was not helped by the aggressive bike position, but it was all manageable. The Mechanic had to switch to a more supportive knee brace but reported that his ibuprofen diet during the week had helped with minimizing the pain. (Geez we are old before our time!) On the RoadBut we made it! I am very pleased, especially since doing this ride was on my list of New Year’s Resolutions. 50 Mile LoopElevation ChartAfter the ride, we threw some normal clothes on over our bike shorts and headed to the all-you-care-to-eat lunch provided by the ride organizers. On our way, we were stopped by an enterprising young lady who was selling loop band bracelets to support CASA, so of course we bought bracelets. I had one custom made in some favorite colors.  BraceletWe also discovered a cool piece of space satellite-looking interactive art next to the Shepherd University Center for Contemporary Art – a giant metal piece that actually rolls when you push it. I was so tempted to stand in it and let it circle around, but didn’t want to hurt their art (although I bet plenty of college kids have tried this). Interactive ArtThe boil water advisory was still in effect; the cafeteria drink machines all had giant signs written on them and one of the employees told me about the water main break in town. I hope they get that fixed soon! Luckily, it didn’t seem to extend to the restaurants, because later we hit our favorite bakery, the Sweet Shop Bakery, for a celebratory cupcake, and had dinner at Domestic, with no water problems.



The other treat that the day had in store for us was that the Shepherd University Little House was actually open! We have admired this tiny house so many times, but the only time we have been there when it was open was our wedding day last year, and I was afraid I couldn’t get in the door in my wedding dress. Turns out I was right – I barely fit in in a skirt and tee-shirt! The Little House is even tinier inside, and I almost felt a bit claustrophobic, especially once I went upstairs – I couldn’t fit up there so just peeked in the rooms from the middle of the staircase before backing down. It’s a bit shabby and run down, which makes me sad, but I bet it’s hard to keep up.

It poured rain while we ate our delicious dinner at Domestic, but cleared up nicely for our drive home. We stopped again at the Silver Diner in Tyson’s for more food (I’m sure I ate all the calories I’d just burned off!), and were home in bed before 10pm, exhausted, a bit sore, and definitely happy.  Now I need to find a fall half-century to complete!

Spring Sewing Plans (Fail)

At last it’s turned into Spring!

Once again, I am completely in love with the giant flowering trees in Arlington. They make me so happy!

I wish my sewing projects made me as happy. I came back from SoCal ready to start the projects I have mentally lined up, and yet – complete fail. I don’t have enough of anything to get started! I really wanted to make the McCalls 7099 jumpsuit first; the fabric I have my heart set on was listed on as being back-ordered until April 3, so I was sure I’d be able to come home, order the fabric, and start altering the pattern. But no – now it’s just “temporarily unavailable.” I called and they couldn’t give me an ETA. Bummer. So down the list it goes.

Next on the list is Vogue 9087, which I want to make partially with reflective fabric and partially with some blue ditsy floral print – something more affordable than Liberty of London, my first choice. But I can’t find anything I totally love – my only local fabric store options, JoAnn Fabrics and G Street Fabrics, are disappointing and I’m not in love with anything on either. Or any other fabric website I’ve checked out. Of course, I don’t actually own this pattern yet anyway, so I’m clearly not in that big of a rush. Come on, Vogue Patterns, have a sale already!

Next on the list is culottes. Occasionally I think that the smart thing to do would be go to a store and try on some different styles, to see what I like best – longer or just below the knee; pleated front or gathered or plain; drapey or more constructed; solid or print. But I’ll probably just go with Vogue 9091, version B with the flat front and just below the knee. That length seems best for biking in, and since I have an aversion to 1980s-reminiences pleated fronts, I like the waist on this version. I was thinking of doing this in micro-suede, maybe tan or maybe burgundy. I can’t decide which color would work best with my existing wardrobe. I’ve ordered fabric swatches from (seriously, they should make me a spokes-stitcher at this point), but until I order this pattern, too, I guess I’m not in a hurry.

Vogue 9091 Culottes

Vogue 9091 Culottes

What, then, instead?! Good question. I have noticed a need in my casual spring/summer wardrobe for a blue skirt, so I might just make up a pattern for a lightweight denim elastic-waist skirt with pockets, and use some of my cool reflective rick-rack as a sort of petticoat trim, peeking out from under the hem. At least that fabric should be easy enough to pick out at JoAnn’s.

In other sewing fails, the orange reflective fabric that I used on my latest Liberty of London for Target duvet cover top is basically falling apart. I wore it for the first time on Easter, and just washed it this weekend (cold water, line dry). I’m completely disappointed at how the material is basically self-destructing! The other colored reflective fabric I have, all purchased from B&J Fabrics in New York City, haven’t done this. I’m not entirely sure what to do to fix this.

Disintegrating as I look at it!

Disintegrating as I look at it!

I suppose that it’s possibly better to not have a sewing project(s) distracting me this week, since there is other stuff going on. Plus, The Mechanic and I registered for the CASA River Ride in our favorite little town of Shepherdstown, WV. Again we will do a half-century. Short bike rides to work and not much else means that we both really need to start getting some miles in! I dusted off Donner, my long-neglected road bike, today, and went for a short spin. I forgot how light and nimble he is compared to Fauntleroy, the commuter bike. Four weekends to gear up for 50 miles?! We can do this! Road Bike



May, the Momentous Month

It’s May, a month full of lovely things!

It starts off right away with my birthday. Last year was the big 4-0, and I decided that from now on, I shall only turn 35. So this week is my 35th birthday! hahaha… They say you are only the age you feel, right?

How you doin'?

How you doin’?

May is also Bike Month! League bikemonth_bike

As you may guess, I will be working on Bike to Work Day in Arlington on May 17. I’m already looking forward to it. It’s a shame I have to wear work-branded stuff, because I’d wear some of my reflective fashions. Unless I make something between now and then. Hm…

Here Bike to Work Day is promoted by Commuter Connections and the Washington Area Bicyclist Association, and BikeArlington is one of the sponsors. We at Arlington Transportation Partners work the event and try to encourage regular bike commuting by hoping that individual cyclists will talk to their HR reps about providing bike benefits, covered secured bike parking, showers, and more.

Last year's Bike to Work Day, in non-fashionable reflective gear

Last year’s Bike to Work Day, in non-fashionable reflective gear

May is also the kick off for the National Bike Challenge, and this year, we have a much improved bike team! There are three more regular bike commuters in my office, so we should have a pretty strong team. Add in a few coworkers who will ride occasionally to work, but mostly on the weekends, and we could actually challenge the Bike Arlington Team! My team is currently in third place, unbelievably, but it’s only been practice miles. The serious stuff begins now!

The other thing I’m kicking off this month is a really crazy idea – I registered to ride the Sea Gull Century through the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s Team in Training program. I wanted to ride the Sea Gull Century last year, but ran out of time to properly train. I’m hoping that by doing this, it will force me to train all summer. I was told that they have trainers and nutritionists and so on to help, and that’s what I really need/want.

Sea Gull Century Logo

Sea Gull Century Logo

The part I’m actually the most nervous about is the fund raising. I have to raise $1900 by the middle of September, eek! I’m considering donating reflective sashes to people who donate certain amounts, but I don’t have enough reflective fabric! Apparently there is a point in July at which I can decide if I want to continue, so I hope I can raise at least half the amount before then. I’ve never done any kind of fund raising before, so I guess we’ll see how this goes!  (Here’s my donation page, should the spirit move you:

All this talk of training reminds me that the CASA River Ride is also this month – May 18, so just about two weeks away. I did it last year (albeit with more training), so I’m sure I can do it again, but it might not be pretty. Well, the ride is, which is why we want to go back.

Somewhere in WV during last year's CASA River Ride

Somewhere in WV during last year’s CASA River Ride

We end Bike Month with something very non-bikey. We are going to see “Wallenstein,” a play by Friedrich Schiller, at the Shakespeare Theatre Company.  I am excited to see a play, at STC, and a play I know nothing about. I know a bit about the main character, Albrecht von Wallenstein, a highly motivated and skilled military leader in Bohemia during the Thirty Years’ War.* This war was one of many I studied in grad school, since Early Modern European History was my first focus (the degree is actually in Modern European History, with a focus on 19th century Germany). A German historical figure? Count me in! A love earlier than the love of biking, believe it or not.

Most of my Master's Thesis books, German history and language

Most of my Master’s Thesis books, German history and language

Add to these events friends visiting from out of town, horseback riding, Amtrak Train Day, and the EU Embassies’ Open Door Day, and it’s quite the month! I will need Memorial Day weekend to recover!

In the Danish Embassy last year

In the Danish Embassy last year

*It’s very improper historian to use Wikipedia as a source, but it’s harder to offer you my text books for further research.


Reflective Floral Tux Pants, At Last!

I’ve been having motivation issues lately – lack of motivation. I’ve been eating too many desserts (three a day isn’t that bad, is it?!), and I’m having a hard time getting motivated to train for my upcoming half-century. Okay, work has been crazy lately, so I could blame my sweets weakness on that, but know I can’t – I know better. And I’m really looking forward to a weekend in Shepherdstown, WV, to do the CASA River Ride, but I haven’t done more than 30 miles a day on my road bike all year. (I’m not the only one who loves Shepherdstown – See this blog postfrom Chasing Mailboxes DC. I’m so inspired/intimidated by the miles they do every weekend.) Yet I didn’t feel like going out on the bike today, which would have been the smart thing to do. Instead, I slept in, then hunkered down this afternoon with a sewing project I started back in January – my reflective floral tux pants!


I bought the fabric for these pants while I was in New York in March, so I guess I haven’t been working on them that long, but I did buy the pattern in January. The fabric is super soft corduroy, my favorite fabric. IMG_4839

They were not a difficult pattern, but I did a muslin mockup first, at the encouragement of my stitcher/seamstress Facebook friends, and I am glad I did. I still made a newbie mistake with the corduroy though, and cut the pockets out with the nap upside down, dammit, and I made another mistake that I’m not going to share… Hence the label I always use:IMG_4837

This is why I don’t think I should sew for other people, at least, not until I get more practice!

The reflective piping up the tuxedo stripe is subtle, yet it still shows up well with the light. The print is brave but the colors are somehow neutral enough with the gray that I think I can wear them with a variety of tops. They look great with my Merrell bike heels, but I’m not sure at the moment which other shoes will work. It will depend on the top, I suppose, but then again – the silver reflective Cole Haan loafers I like would be cute with them too.IMG_4841



And now that this project is wrapped up, I need to focus on re-motivating myself. My birthday is later this week, so I’m going to use that as my start-over point, the perfect time to clean up the eating habits, get back on the road bike, and buckle down to get some miles under my padded bike shorts. Since I’m also registered for the Seagull Century this fall through the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s Team in Training, I will need some serious hours on the bike (as well as some massive fundraising, which scares me more than 100 miles on the bike, eek!).

How do you motivate yourself for something you want to do, know you need to do, yet just can’t get around to doing? I’m open to tips and pointers…


My Big Fat Bike Weekend

It’s the beginning of my big fat bike weekend and I’m so excited!

First and foremost, tomorrow is Bike to Work Day and its a huge deal in the DC area. The last I heard was that 12,000 people have registered for a pit stop, to pick up their tee shirts. There is a nice “sibling rivalry” going on between Arlington and DC, to see who gets more cyclists, so we’ll have to see what the final numbers end up being. I will be working in Ballston, at the pit stop at FreshBikes. I’ve heard rumors of unicyclists performing….

Also this weekend The Mechanic and I are heading to West Virginia for the CASA River Ride.

We are going to do a half century, and I have been studying the two options, since there are two 50-mile loops. The Berkeley loop is shorter (48 miles) but according to the elevation charts, has a bit steep climb in the middle.

CASA Berkeley Loop

The Jefferson loop is longer (55 miles) but has steady rolling hills. I think I prefer that. Plus, it has three pit stops! That will help.

CASA Jefferson Loop

I am disappointed that I haven’t had more opportunities to train, not as I’d hoped. I can do 50 miles, but I had hoped to be in better shape so it wouldn’t be as painful or as slow. Guess we’ll see what happens on Saturday!

We are staying in Martinsburg, WV, for the whole weekend, and I’m looking forward to some small town quiet as well. Sunday I think we will go to Harper’s Ferry, which should be fun, I’ve always wanted to go there.

Off I go! Whee!