Fat, Pretentious Bicyclist

Thursday, June 25, 2020 0 No tags Permalink

How I became a fat, pretentious cyclist…and why you shouldn’t hate me.

I know you hate me. You yell things out your window at me. You wait until you get up right behind me and lay on your horn. Thankfully, so far, I have yet to have anything thrown at me but I know the more miles I put on, the more likely I’ll be hit with a projectile. Probably you are mumbling to yourself about how my padded bike shorts make my legs look like sausages in casings. To you, I’m just another fat, pretentious bike f*ck. But let me tell you how I came to be this way.

I got my Trek Navigator 300 bike sometime between 2001 and 2003. I’m sure I have the paperwork somewhere. It was around $400. And with that, I got a helmet because safety is important and I don’t want a closed-head injury. That’s all I had. I didn’t ride very often at all. I didn’t especially even like to ride. I wore shorts and a t-shirt.

Time marches on. I aged, like one does. I had a tragic skateboarding injury. That led to pursuing other kinds of exercise. I have a Y membership and swim. I occasionally stand up paddleboard. And last summer, I dragged out the old bike. To my surprise, I liked biking better this time around. I’m biking in the neighborhoods of my childhood. It’s generally peaceful and relaxing. And as I am on a diet and trying again to lose weight, it should theoretically be helping that. But as I’ve put on the miles, I’ve had to add some things to my bike. Believe me, I don’t like adding all of the accoutrements as every bit takes more time and makes the activity less of a childhood pick-up-and-go free feeling. The more hassle, the less I want to do the activity. That’s why I don’t paddleboard as much as I’d like.

The first addition was SPF rated shirts. I don’t want to prematurely age. To that I added gloves to keep the sun off my hands, and a neck gaiter, because I don’t want a wrinkly neck. Simple changes.

Then I added a rear-view mirror for my handlebar. As I am riding local roads, I want to know what’s coming up behind me. I also started using hand signals – even though I almost NEVER see motor vehicles using them during my travels. I want people in cars to know my plans. I also added a bike bell (cute and kitty-themed), mostly for when I’m on linear park as I don’t want to come up on a blind curve and be hit or hit someone.

Now, although I am putting in some good miles, I am fat and on a low-carb, low-calorie diet so I don’t have a lot of extra ooomph to make me go fast. I am a slow rider. I am also rather uncoordinated. For those of you on a low-carb diet, you’ll know that one needs to drink a lot of water. I could get my little water bottle OUT of the cage while riding, but do not have the coordination to put it BACK. And when I would try, I’d drop it in the road and have to circle back around, get off my bike, put it in the cage, get back on and start up again. So this year, I bought an Osprey hydration pack, one of the little backpacks with a water bladder that you wear and drink through a tube. And you know what? If I keep hydrated on my ride, I don’t wind up with a blinding headache all afternoon. But this addition I fear has pushed me from looking like a fat middle aged woman on a bike to a fat pretentious cyclist.

The final step in the process happened last Monday. It was hot. In fact, the last week of rides were all rather hot. And you know what happens when you put on so many miles and it’s extra hot? You are required to take a few days off biking, avoid sitting, and start looking for padded bike shorts. This itself is a challenge. Bike shorts are not made for fat people. And if you get a size that actually you can wear, it’s not pretty. I warn others to avert their eyes lest they turn to stone.

I believe my final step will be getting a flashing head and tail light. When I see other bikers with them, you can really see them coming and it might make it just a little easier to be seen. And with that, my transformation will be complete. Born out of both the need for safety – especially with people in large vehicles who hate me for simply biking – and for my own comfort.

I did not add these items to belong to some elitist club of bikeholes. I’m just trying to get a little exercise on my lunch hour. I try to represent the bicycling world in a positive way. If the sidewalks are clear of pedestrians, I hop on there because I don’t want to be in your way either. If there are people on the sidewalk, I ride in the bike lane or on the extreme side of the road. I use my hand signals. I probably see you before you even notice me. I double and triple check for traffic before I enter intersections and while I am going through. So far this summer (since the end of May), I’ve put on 265 miles. Last year I hit just over 600 May – October. I average 12 mph and normally ride an average of 15.5 miles, all on my lunch hour. I’m not worthy of your hate.

Misc. Updates

Monday, June 8, 2020 0 No tags Permalink

It is feeling much more like summer these days. I did finish the monarch garden, with the exception of edging as I am still waiting for that to ship. With COVID-19, everything is taking forever to ship. The governor opened the State of Michigan today, and everyone is walking around like there never was a virus. I’m kind of surprised that there are still shipping delays at this point. Mom is also working really hard on her garden and it’s looking great. We haven’t had much rain, so we are having to water nearly every day. I’ve also been biking regularly, and have put in 125 miles so far.

This is my latest gouache painting and reference photo from an old Sunset Magazine. Again, I wouldn’t say I’m showing improvement, but I am enjoying the process so that is something.

This old abandoned house has been catching my eye. I expect it will be torn down this summer. It was built in 1911. All of the windows are gone, and it’s owned by the Land Bank. J. Charles Lee, superintendent of the Battle Creek Box Company, resided in the home up until his death in 1931. Mr. and Mrs. John Swainston were listed as owning the home in 1937, Mr. and Mrs, David Stebleton in 1939, and Mr. and Mrs. Victor Soules were listed as living in the home in 1942. The home was owned by the Fox/Black family (Jessie Fox (mother), Viola (daughter) – died 1990, Gerald (1973) and later Lillian Black) from 1946 until it was lost to the county treasurer in 2019. It looks like Lillian had been living on Highland Blvd from 2016 – 2018, when she passed away. It is likely this house, 466 Capital Avenue NE, has been empty since 2016.

Paintings and Garden Updates

Monday, June 1, 2020 0 No tags Permalink

Like everyone else, this week I have been struggling with the state of our nation, racism, and the horrific death of George Floyd. When I watched the video, I was instantly reminded of the video of the beheading of Nick Berg. I felt physically sick. The only thing to break the COVID-19 news cycle since March, and instead of being the uplifting SpaceX manned dragon capsule launch it was the horror of another police brutality event.

I tried to get some painting done this weekend. In fact, I finished these two small studies, referenced from old Sunset Magazine photos. I’m not thrilled with either one. I will count them both as more practice, as certainly my thoughts are that I will improve with lots of practice over this year. Maybe painting is the only good thing that will come from 2020? I find such a peace in it. And I really do love working with gouache.

In other news, this year we are putting in a new garden around the vegetable garden. It’s a monarch way station. Here are the first two sides papered off. So far I have them both planted and mulched. I am waiting for my edging to come in so hopefully I can get that done this next weekend, then paper off the third side and see about planting that as well.

Ah, June at last. The weekend was exceptionally cold, dipping to 43 this morning. But it is supposed to warm up now. This morning the sky is bright blue. The lilac outside the shelter is blooming. I’ve been biking some here and there and hope the weather will allow for more now that it is June. I’m still having great difficulty concentrating on reading, so I’m not sure I will have an official summer reads program but will update with the books I am reading. Is anyone even out there any more?

Ocqueoc Painting & Bird Updates

Tuesday, May 26, 2020 0 No tags Permalink

I continue on with my gouache odyssey with this latest painting. The reference image is a photo I took of the field from my Grandparents’ place back to the woods, taken when Mom and Kirsten and I were last up north. I am pleased with how it turned out. I wish I had more time to paint.

I have also been spending some time with bird photography. Above is the female oriole, and below is a cheeky robin. We had our first hummingbird on May 21, quite late this year. Next update should be the garden expansion. We are putting in a monarch butterfly way station.

The Westerner Hotel

Monday, May 18, 2020 0 No tags Permalink

The WESTERNER HOTEL
161 Colorado Place (U.S. 66) Arcadia, California
Phone: Douglas 7-3501
Luxurious Rooms and Suites. Beautiful filtered and heated swimming pool. Family Santa Anita Race Track across the street.
1/4 mile to Golf Courses
3 miles East of Pasadena
15 miles East of Los Angeles

This place no longer stands, unfortunately. Carol Libby and Karen Hou have a post on it here along with some earlier linen cards from the old place.

New Paintings & Misc. Updates

Tuesday, May 12, 2020 0 No tags Permalink

The weather has been odd this May. The past few days have been incredibly cold, 20 degrees below average with freeze warnings. I have yet to plant anything at all. They are predicting a week from now it will be 84 degrees. So much for spring, right? In happier news, the orioles have returned. We have at least two couples and the males seem a bit territorial. The hummingbird feeder has been up the same amount of time, but no hummingbirds spotted yet. Everything is still shut down until the end of the month due to COVID-19.

This latest painting is a very small study in casein. A friend on Instagram had posted the photo of her cat and suggested it was worthy of a painting. It seemed to me to be a good opportunity to try out a new medium.

I painted this gouache from a photo I took last year of our garden for Mom for Mother’s Day.

National Postcard Week 2020

Monday, May 4, 2020 0 No tags Permalink

It’s National Postcard Week 2020, and once again I designed and will be sending cards. The smallest package I could order was 50, and once I added up all my addresses that turns out to be the perfect amount.

This year’s theme is Maxy and quarantine. This has been an interesting year for sure. We are now required to wear masks when we go out in public. The shelter has been shut down since March 17th.

I believe this motel could be the one Mom, Dad and I stayed in when I was young and we went to Niagara Falls, Canada for the first time. I only remember it had something to do with lucky or clover.

Clover Leaf Motel
Highway 20 & 3A at Queen E. Way
3514 Lundy’s Lane
Niagara Falls, Canada
43 completely modern and air-conditioned units. T.V. in every room. Wall-to-wall carpeting. Private tiled showers and tubs. Family units, swimming pool. 3 miles to the Falls. Telephone (416) 354-1849.

Spring Birds

Tuesday, April 21, 2020 0 No tags Permalink

The spring birds are here, doing their thing. Above is a yellow-rumped warbler at the suet feeder in our backyard. I’ve not seen one of these before.

The bluebirds are already nesting at the shelter, with eggs in the nestbox.

So are the tree swallows. They are really pretty birds, and they are lovely in their flight patterns. They’re not shy of dive-bombing you if you get too close to the box, though.

Temperatures have been consistently colder than normal last week and this week, and predicted into next week as well. Today’s high should be 62, and we will top out around 42 instead. It looks like we will be tracking closer to normal the beginning of May. Things are still in lockdown for COVID-19, but we’re unsure when that will end. There is pressure on Governor Whitmer to open things back up here in Michigan. Not sure what will happen with the greenhouses at this point. Everything feels rather up in the air.

Latest Paintings and Misc. Updates

Monday, April 13, 2020 0 No tags Permalink

Apparently there’s an entirely new version of WordPress, with blocks, and I will need to get used to it. Fine. At least the website is back up, after having some issues on the transition from Lunarpages to Host Papa or whatever it is now. The techs were great though. I’ve continued painting. The above acrylic is from a photo I took several years ago when Kirsten, Mom and I went up to Mackinaw City. I’m fairly pleased with the way it turned out.

This above squirrel image is a study in gouache, from a photo I took last year in Boston. I’m still doing every other painting in acrylic and gouache. Last night I sketched the next gouache study, from a photo I took many years ago in North Carolina. My only regret in my painting is not having the energy/time to paint. If there’s the time, I seldom have the energy.

March and April 2020 will be remembered for COVID-19. Facemasks, scary grocery shopping trips where there aren’t enough goods like dried beans, yeast, canned goods and toilet paper. Not making eye contact with anyone as they are seen as disease carriers. “Social Distancing” and staying a minimum of 6 feet apart. Non-essential services shut down. The shelter closed to the public on March 17 and we laid off front desk staff members on March 24. All meetings are conducted via Zoom. My schedule is close to normal, and the kennel techs are working normal schedules. I FaceTime with Mom each night and Bob talks to his Dad on the phone. We had to cancel our spring Martini event for work and greenhouses are shut down. As of yesterday, there were 71 cases of coronavirus in Calhoun County, 23,993 cases in Michigan and 1,392 deaths in Michigan. 558,999 total US cases and 22,154 US deaths. Worldwise, there have been 1,872,073 cases and 116,098 deaths. Who knows when things will go back to ‘normal’ or what normal will even look like.

Painting Update

Tuesday, March 3, 2020 0 No tags Permalink

I am continuing along with my painting, and really enjoying it. Above is a piece I repainted over like three times. Still only happy with some of it; the boats, reflections in the water and pier poles turned out as I had hoped. The buildings, not so much. It is another opportunity to determine what I enjoy painting and what I probably won’t do again (buildings).

I follow a lot of artists on social media, and became interested in gouache. I decided to try a few little fast pieces with gouache. Here is the first.

It is really different to work with than acrylic, but I enjoyed the process and think I may do a gouache in between each acrylic study.

Here is my last work, a still life.

Making some kind of progress, I guess. Again, I really enjoy painting and probably so far prefer acrylic. I think I will do another gouache next, but with a very busy week in store I’m not sure when I will have time. Soon, I hope. I find I am having to train myself to really look at things, especially shadows. If I do what I normally do and just get a quick look and move on, I miss all kinds of subtlety just by thinking I know it already. That’s a good metaphor for all of life’s interactions, I think.

In weather news, the past few days have been a bit warmer and we’ve had some snow melt. Mom has seen robins, but I haven’t yet. My Christmas cactus is blooming for the second time in just a few months. We’ve done some projects at Mom’s house, including painting the bathroom in preparation for new tile and replacing the light in the eating area. Today is Maxy’s 17th birthday.