At Last, Mountain Biking!

At last, I have tried mountain biking. And I can say that it did not start off well. It just barely ended on an up note. Someday, somehow, I must get over my fear of falling and smashing in my teeth.

The Mechanic and I went camping near Harrisonburg, VA, just overnight, for his birthday. Ironically, most of the bike-y people I know were not far away, doing the Shenandoah Mountain 100. From the scraped up arms and ribs I saw at work today, a good time was had by all.

Even a place for disabled hunters to go!

Even a place for disabled hunters to go!

Our campsite was a “no facilities” park, Slate Lick Fields, that catered to campers with horse trailers, and the location was indeed full of horses. We got the last available campsite, at the end of the road, which was perfect – large, fairly flat, and next to a lovely stream. The campsite was next to the access road to the reservoir, which was where we went for my First Ever Mountain Bike Ride.

Definitely no facilities.

Definitely no facilities.

Slate Lick Lake, which they are draining to do repairs.

Slate Lick Lake, which they are draining to do repairs.

Because it was a reservoir, rather than a lake, it was uphill to get there – which mean downhill coming back. I didn’t like that part at all. The trail was full of very large pebbles, and I was terrified of slipping, so I walked down most of it. The flat parts were mostly okay. The Mechanic was convinced I wouldn’t like mountain biking.

However, after brunch at The Little Grill Collective in Harrisonburg, we went out to Hillandale Park, a park with mountain biking trails that The Mechanic has talked about before (a lot).

"Green space packed with activity areas"

“Green space packed with activity areas”

Although I asked to walk the train before we got the bikes out, I was encouraged by what I saw – packed dirt, not loose rock. So we got the bikes out. The Mechanic wisely opted against offering unsolicited advice, and let me go at it my own speed, and this paid off. I didn’t get pissed off, and I eventually felt more comfortable with the bike (did I mention this was the First. Time. Ever. on this bike, too?), and on the trails. I did get off and walk over the biggest rock clusters in the trail, but by the time the heat and humidity did us in, I was beginning to get more confident about going over roots and small rocks. Yay!

In fact, I’m looking forward to trying it again, and soon, before I lose my nerve. I think that I could eventually begin to slowly lose my fear of smashing my face. Hey, I had a lot of dental work in junior high and don’t want to do that again! (My mother would thank me for this as well.)

Lessons Learned:

  • Uphill, ironically, was more comfortable than going downhill. Am I the only one here?
  • Letting me work through it on my own was the best way to learn.
  • Being confident on one bike doesn’t automatically mean I’ll be confident on another bike.
  • Perhaps wearing a skirt on a mountain bike isn’t the best idea. It kept catching on the nose of the saddle. This, of course, leads to the last lesson:
  • I need new clothes in which to mountain bike!

What do¬† you do to help get past fear of something you really want to try? I’m open to tips! (And I just solicited them, so no worries there!)

Feeling better!

Feeling better!

Once I get past the fear, hopefully I'll love mountain biking almost as much as The Mechanic!

Once I get past the fear, hopefully I’ll love mountain biking almost as much as The Mechanic!

Europe! But First, a Mountain Bike

Frantically cleaning house and packing, then repacking, then purging unnecessary items – yep, it’s almost honeymoon time! The Mechanic and I were forced to reevaluate our packing lists when we realized that not only does the weather forecast for Zurich show cooler and rainier weather than we expected, it seems to be the same for all of the Lake Constance region for the next week. So out came the sandals and shorts and skirts, and in went more long pants and oxfords. I’m sure this means that by the last week of our trip, it will be miserably hot. That’s okay, I plan to shop!

High of 61*F and 100% chance of rain on the day we plan to do some hiking.

High of 61*F and 100% chance of rain on the day we plan to do some hiking.

In between cleaning and packing, our betta, Raleigh, has come down with some fishy malaise, and we aren’t really sure what to do about it. So with days to spare, we’ve been obsessively staring at him, trying to determine if there has been any change, no matter how slight, to his health. Our neighbors, who are watching our apartment while we are gone, have been primed to not be surprised if he dies – “It wouldn’t be the first time I flushed a fish,” one said.

Weird spots, swim bladder bulges, and an inability to hold his tail up - luckily there is plenty of greenery for him to drape himself on.

Weird spots, swim bladder bulges, and an inability to hold his tail up – luckily there is plenty of greenery for him to drape himself on.

And while all this has been going on, The Mechanic finished my mountain bike, Sopwith Camel! I’m very excited! I tried it out briefly the other night, before it was put away for a while. It handles so much differently than Fauntleroy, and the straight handle bars and trigger shifters might take some getting used to. I’ll have to do a longer post at some point to show the Start to Finish of the bike, but for now, a few photos will have to do.


And now – off to close up the bags! See you later!

I think this is the smallest carry-on I've ever used! Note the BikeArlington water bottle for size comparison.

I think this is the smallest carry-on I’ve ever used! Note the BikeArlington water bottle for size comparison.

All this stuff in one large travel pack!

All this stuff in one large travel pack!


Today’s Dick and Jane Bike Commute

On my way to work this morning, I felt like this:

“Argh! I’m dirty and aggressive because I’m a boy!”

On my bike ride home, I felt more like this:

“What IS she wearing?!”

Let me explain.


  • I usually bike the Custis Trail to Ballston then take surface streets to work, then the reverse on my way home. Because I didn’t do any riding this weekend, I decided to take the Custis the entire way, because it is hillier, and thus a bit more challenging.
  • Because I knew it would be hot and sticky, and that I would shower at work, I wore shorts, my favorite moisture-wicking tee shirt, and sporty shoes.
  • I don’t know how else to explain it, but dressed down, cruising up and down the hills on the trail, and picking up some decent speed, made me feel like a boy. I felt tough, aggressive, strong… on a powder blue “sit up and beg” bike with Dutch pullback handles. It doesn’t matter what I looked like, it is what I felt like. And I liked it. I like the speed, I like the toughness, I love standing on the pedals as I bounce over the rough asphalt. This is why I think I will like mountain biking, even if I tackle it slowly and cautiously. Once I get comfortable, I’m free to be tough. And feel like a boy. Why is it that being “tough” and dirty equals acting like a boy?


  • Because it was hot and sticky, I rode my usual commute home, so I would have a kinder, gentler ride.
  • I left my business clothes on, as I usually do after work. I see no reason to change – either I’m going straight home, where I will change anyway, or I’m going out, and I want to look nice.
  • As I pulled up to one traffic light, I noticed another woman on her bike slightly ahead of me. She was riding a cute vintage looking white bicycle; I never got close enough to see what brand. I’m guessing an Electra. Matching fenders and rack, with what looked like the Ballard Market Pannier. She was also wearing a short black skirt and a cute ruffled white top, and ballet flats. Her helmet looked like one of the cute Nutcase “Street” helmets, with an all-over pattern, but again, I didn’t get a good look.
  • As I passed her, I caught myself eying her the same way women eye each other in bars, in stores, in restaurants, everywhere. Comparing what she was wearing (and riding) to what I was wearing (and riding). If you don’t know what I mean, ask a woman. Women always seem to compare themselves, and in fact, dress more for each other than for men (as if men will be able to tell where our clothes, shoes, and purses come from, duh!). It totally made me think of the 1939 movie “The Women.”*

    Dick and Jane in Stereotypical Roles

I laughed at myself – such a complex personality ride for a short 9-mile RT commute! Very Dick (if he was into mountain biking) and Jane (all girl) – if that is an appropriate bipolar comparison. Jekyll & Hyde didn’t seem right, since it’s not good versus evil, or even two personalities of someone of the same sex. I’m not the only woman to have this dual personality, am I?!

“My nail color? It’s ‘Jungle Red,’ dearie.”

Maybe it’s not feminist enough, but I like being able to label one part of me “boyish” and another part of me “girlie.” I’m not a tomboy, although I did like climbing trees as a kid, and like hiking and so on. But I’m also not one of those women who refuses to leave the house without a full face of makeup. I think it is okay to straddle both worlds – I do the same with other things as well. I’m creative but love structure; I need some repetition but get bored easily. I love short skirts, and clunky boots. Short hair and lots of jewelry. And so on…

Maybe this is why I’m trying to combine my two sides with bicycle fashion – sporty yet stylish. And all me!

*If you haven’t seen the movie, I strongly recommend it. It’s all about men, without a single man in the movie. It’s all about women being catty to each other, and learning about themselves. All while wearing Jungle Red nail polish. Brilliant!