The world has flipped upside down and I don’t have a name for it. Stay at Home sounds so cozy. Quarantine isn’t quite right. Social distancing has been overplayed and doesn’t describe the situation well. Coronavirus or Covid-19 are too jargony. I need a name for this time that both describes the situation and doesn’t hit you over the head with a virus.

I thought about the Time of Solitude, but like quarantine, that isn’t quite right. I have a roommate and I have friends that I video and phone and text with. There is no physical contact though and that affects me. It reminds me of breaking up with the Sailor and being alone for so long after. I wanted that time to get to know myself, but it was lonely. I did get friend hugs then though and now those are all virtual.

One of the worst things about this global crisis is the unknown. How this thing snuck up on us, was shrouded in misinformation and seen as some people overreacting. It’s been building slowly, each step painful, and now we are sheltering in place. Going out only to buy food or get a little exercise. Maintaining 6 feet of distance from anyone who does not live in your house.

I’ve had time to get used to it now. As things were ramping up, I often had little break down moments. Crying or almost crying, staring blankly into space, overwhelmed by the possibilities. Reading the newspaper line by line in awe of what we are experiencing.

It’s moved from a concept, to people I don’t know, to friends and family of people I do know. It’s becoming more real and closer with each passing day.

I’ve been riding my bike. For the first week, it seemed okay to ride with friends if we kept social distance. Now I ride alone. I bake, I do projects, I fix things right away instead of waiting. No sleepovers with the man I’ve been seeing. No seeing him at all. We text and we call, but we have to wait.

One thing that’s been helping me cope is the Yale Coursera course The Science of Well-Being. It’s free and takes up to 10 weeks to complete, but I finished 2 weeks in one last week. The professor, Laurie Santos, emphasizes the need to be intentional about the good things you experience each day. No matter how small. The things that you think give you happiness–career success, money, material things–don’t really. You always want more and think that happiness lies in the future when you achieve that larger paycheck, that higher grade, that promotion. In reality, happiness lies in enjoying the sun on your face, the apple blossoms in the spring, the way the light hits that leaf just right, your child dancing and singing in the living room to Baby Shark.

I’m sitting

We’ve been talking

But now sound is rushing in and light is rushing away

The darkness creeps in from the edges

Creating a perfect tunnel vision

I tell you “something is not right”

The bathroom as a refuge, maybe there things will return to normal

I stand and the world turns sideways

I become aware

People asking me if I’m okay

Have I eaten today

Taken anything unusual

Yes! No! What?

A woman looks at me with concern, asking questions

Another hovers

A man moves in and then back, the women have it under control

It takes an aggravatingly long time before I can sit up

And I have to lay back down

The darkness takes me again for a moment, but I’m the only one who knows

Or that’s what I think

You are there, nervous, afraid

Later, you will Google symptoms and diagnose me over and over

Trying to find an answer

I get into the chair, apologize for taking people from their dinners

From their dates

From their conversations

I put some food in my mouth, chew, act normal

Just in time

A paramedic with a stretcher enters and is shooed back out at my request

More embarrassment

I’m counting minutes until I can leave

Until the eyes will stop watching

Until I can be myself again

How will I trust my body, my brain, not to betray me?

I get to my feet and leave that place

I don’t look back

I struggle with this time of year, like many. Being an atheist, I celebrate the holidays for family. It’s a good excuse to find goodies for the kiddos and to shop, which I hardly ever do anymore. I mostly enjoy the decorating and music, although certain over the top displays and opinions can send me into a negative jag.

As I embrace my life as a somewhat single forty something, I find myself enjoying my alone time more and more. I do date and have a regular fella. We enjoy each other, but we are both in a phase of our life where we are working on erasing debt, planning for an uncertain retirement in 20 or so years. Not to say this won’t change, but for now, we are not planning on a future together or even on a short term future beyond our next bike adventure. I like coming home to my bedroom where I can sleep in peace. I also like the absence of drama.

Yesterday was solstice. I had lift tickets for The Summit at Snoqualmie from their big sale after Thanksgiving. Too bad it rained all night on Friday. The snow conditions weren’t too bad, but the base wasn’t deep enough and there were runoff ruts that showed up in annoying ways, one time sending me flying. At least I got to test my new bindings. They pop out just fine, I’m happy to report. I went with my roommate and we were both testing out new skis. We had to avoid thin spots, but mostly enjoyed the short runs they had open.

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It was snowing heavily the second half of the day, so I think the base will be better soon.

After getting home, I went out to do some shopping and got most of the gifts bought. I did almost all of my shopping in my neighborhood, except some socks I’d gotten directly from Defeet. I’m not great at making a list and checking it twice, so I still have a few more things to get and I need to get a package in the mail for my son, although the main part of his gift is in the mail already. Thank goodness for shops that gift wrap and ship!

I also stopped at the fabric store and got some fleece to make myself a sleeping pillow. Not for my head, but to hug and keep my arms/hand from going numb in the night. I’ve had various stuffed animals over the years that have served this purpose, but the most recent–a blind bunny I got from my niece–has seen better days and as I was sewing up a mend the other day, I thought “why don’t I just make my own?”

On the way home, I stopped at Bitterroot, a restaurant in Ballard named after the Bitterroot Valley in Montana. My roommate, who is from Montana, met me there and I treated him to a birthday dinner (it was a few days ago, but he was neck deep in work then.)

All in all, an excellent day. Here’s a snap of the sunset from downtown Ballard on the Solstice.

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I realized I never checked in about my med stuff. It was benign, which is a great relief. Now on to the fun stuff.

I hiked around Mount Shasta in June, which feels so long ago now. It was a really quick trip, but one I’d always dreamed of. As a child we’d go visit my grandparents in California and we’d pass Mount Shasta on the way. I was always wowed by it’s snowy peaks and would sometimes daydream about what it would be like to ski down those slopes. Of course, in my dreams it was like a regular blue run, but long and more fun.

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One of my brothers suggested this as a 3 day trip. Shasta is a 10 hour drive from where we live, so that’s a tight turn around. We were joined by my cousin and my brother’s brother in law (say that 10 times fast…) met us there. Another brother came from Reno and met a friend there, but we didn’t see them until our second day.

After the long drive to get there, we set off on the Bunny Flats trail immediately after getting our permits and hiked up to Horse Camp just before dark. It was a beautiful place and we got a good spot under a tree that didn’t have snow. People rave about the composting toilet there and for good reason. It was clean and fresh smelling. There’s a stonework lodge that seemed well equipped. This location is maintained by the Sierra Club Foundation.

We slept until … 3am? maybe 5. I no longer remember. Probably because I hate getting up that early. But since the stars were still out and it was summer, I think it was 3ish. We left our camping equipment behind and just brought our layers, some winter climbing equipment, and some food. We hiked up to Helen Lake, which is where my other brother had camped the night before. Despite our early start, there was a line forming at Misery Hill just as the sun was coming up. The landscape was breathtaking, although it was hard to take pictures because of the dim light.

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Helen Lake covered in bright tents.

At this point my merry band had just myself, my brother and my cousin in it. The brother in law had gone ahead after we arrived at Helen Lake. The other brother and friend were somewhere ahead of us. I still had energy, but we were getting tired. I would point at a landmark on the hill and say, “let’s go there, then we can decide if we want to stop.” and finally we hit that point where we decided to turn around. The wind had picked up by that time and was making moving upwards a bit harder. 

I never had the plan to summit. I wanted to enjoy a hike in the snow on childhood favorite memory. Now I have a new snow filled memory to add to my collection.

The hike down was so gorgeous. It was only 9am when we stopped for this “summit beer.” But you can see what I mean. The coozy is more to protect my hands from the cold than to keep the beer from getting warm.

Here’s a link to the album if you’d like to see more. We camped the last night on National Forest land, which was a first for me. I almost did it again on my Olympic Peninsula bike camping trip in August, but luckily we found a mostly abandoned campground instead.

More about that trip later.

 

I took a long vacation, with a short work stint in the middle. Then took a long weekend. I’ve had a few adventures.

My friend and I went bike camping to Tolt MacDonald Park in Carnation WA. It was a glamping trip really, since we got a Yurt for the two nights (you have to book 2 nights). It was fun and relaxing. We spent time on the river and I rode Stella around the trails a bit. On the way back, as a way to avoid a mile of 10% grade, we took a very flat detour that added a few miles to our ride, then also added miles by using the Burke Gilman Trail rather than the 520 trail. It was very pleasant, although I am pretty sure that I was just as tired as I would have been if we’d done the hills.

A few days later I flew to Reno to visit family, especially my one year old nephew. We had a nice hike and visited a few breweries. I got to spend some quality time with the little one.

I worked for 3 days, then took another 5 days off. During that time, I did some intense Bike Bingo-ing. I often revisited locations with friends as they went around. I got a blackout and some awesome prizes.

I also attended a bike/walk rally for safer streets with a couple of silly bananas. I gave out my thank you notes for a bingo square that day. It would have been cheating, except that everyone was so interested in Bike Bingo that I think it did the job well.

Next time I’ll tell you about hiking around on Mount Shasta!

I finished up the mud flaps and attached them earlier today. I’m pretty happy with how they turned out.

 

I also put in some new locking skewers and seat clamps on both Stella and Dark Star. Now I won’t have to worry about my wheels when I’m out and about. The new winter bike also got fenders, so no skunk tail for me! #teamfenders

I’m making some mud flaps for my friend. She saw the ones I made on Instagram and I would certainly benefit from her having them ;) We rode to Capitol Hill together for a birthday celebration and I came home splattered. Luckily it was after the party.

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I decided to make the colors a little bolder on this set. This is before conditioning. More to come.

My friend noted that my bike was spitting at him. I’d totally forgotten that my fenders have no mud flaps anymore. The rubbery ones that came with the fenders had come loose and I’d removed them because they were rubbing on my tires. Time for new mud flaps! Just in time for the drought.

I decided I wanted to make them. I’d made from plastic before, but they didn’t last very well and don’t look especially nice after a few rides. I decided I wanted leather for Stella. She’s a good looking bike and deserves nice looking mud flaps. My roommate had leather that he hadn’t used, and he gave me a good chunk of it. I made a stencil of the shape and size I wanted and cut the leather with heavy shears.

I could have either stained the leather, or just conditioned it and it would have looked great. As I was looking up staining, I realized I’d have to go shopping, and I thought about the permanent markers taking up space in my room. I don’t use them often because the colors bleed on most paper, but they’d be great for this project!

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They are raw cow leather with a snake skin print, which I used to inspire my artwork. I let the ink sit overnight, although it probably wasn’t necessary. Next, I used Kiwi Mink Oil (which I’ve had for years and use on my waterproof leather boots) to condition them. I found that the oil wasn’t absorbing, and on the advice of my roommate, I put them in the oven for just a couple of minutes at around 175°F. That soaked the oil right in and I did that 2 more times. Again, I let it sit overnight.

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The oil did darken the leather, which I expected. I now kind of wish I’d used darker colors. Next time! These are still super cool and I think I could take a better photo of them when the sun is higher.

On Friday, I plan to drill holes in my fender to accommodate these and use some rivets that I have from another project to attach them. I may have to go get some that are longer, which wouldn’t be the end of the world because then I could get some that will match the bike better. The rivets that I have are bronze and everything on my bike is stainless or black.

All this is distracting me nicely from thinking about the biopsy I’m not able to get until early June. My doctor feels confident that the lump is benign, but we still have to check.

 

Sometimes things just pile up and contrive to drive you down.

Everything is great in many ways and I was feeling fine until last week. I had a slow buildup of stress around some outreach for work. Nothing was going wrong, it’s just the party you agree to go to but you can’t cancel on because you aren’t feeling social. And a lot of work goes into outreach and programs, but that’s not a big deal because I could do that in my sleep. And sometimes I do! Stress dreams. I even enjoy outreach. I get to see what my community is up to and interact with people for a short time about something I love. But it’s still a stressor.

Add to that a possible health issue that I went to the doctor for and have to go back because of software failure, wasting both work and personal time.

A person biking was hit by a car driver on 35th, where our illustrious mayor decided that we don’t need bike lanes after a long advocacy fight.

I just want to go ride my bike in the country without any cars around me. Will someone tell me where I can do that?

Vacation starts in 12 days! :)

Here are a few fun things from hiking and biking that I’ve seen lately. Life really isn’t so bad.

Dear 35th Ave NW, you could have been so much more. I know you feel shiny with your new asphalt and your bright yellow and white striping. It must feel great to have those car tires rushing over you smoothly at high speeds, the rumble of a disused muffler punctuating the sunny summer day.

But think of all the people walking and riding who would have graced your surface if only we’d designed you differently. Those streamlined lanes encourage high speeds and make the street feel unfriendly to those souls not wearing 2 tons of steel. The heady speeds dissuades the jockeys of the majestic automobile from interrupting their frolic with the need to stop at cross walks, intent on their next destination. Purposeful or lazy walks and rides will not travel your road, replaced by revving motors and the honks of the entitled.

Can you picture this? A vibrant community of neighbors and businesses united by walkability. Shopping and conversing, the voices of children raised in laughter are just a few of the activities that would happen. Our lovely canopy of trees sheltering your new pavement as families bike to shops and say hello to friends and neighbors.

Now the shops will be limited to customers who will drive and park in the cracked parking lots available at every business. People walking and biking will avoid the noisy, dangerous, and polluted area, taking their hard earned dollars with them. Especially knowing that many of these businesses wanted this dark, barren landscape, despite the voices of their neighbors. I hope there are enough people dedicated to their cars who will sustain those businesses.

Actually, I hope they all fall to dust.

I had a very good day off yesterday. I spent the morning tiding up a few ends and pieces, then went out to the garage and worked on the derailleurs on Stella, the Kona Sutra. My front has been traveling too far–and I didn’t get that fixed, so I will need to take another look at it on Monday. My rear has been skipping and making noise, but still mostly shifted okay. Once I started in on it, things seemed a little more messed up. I realized I didn’t have the full range and that shifting was off by at least one ring. I ended up having to adjust the cable, and since I don’t have a tensioner, I had to push the derailleur to where I thought it should be, hold the cable and bolt in place while turning the allen wrench, then try again over and over until I finally got it. The cable end was pretty frayed by the time I was done. I then realized I was late and couldn’t test it.

So I took Dark Star out for a ride instead. That bike is just so delightful after riding my Kona fully loaded with commute gear for weeks on end. It’s just always ready to go with minimal worry. The brakes are always perfect, things shift just right, it’s light and fast. Add a little air to the tires or lube to the chain and off I go. The frustration of working on the derailleurs drifted away.

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I rode up to Kite Hill at Gas Works Park and met a friend. We sat and watched the people. Someone walked by below with a huge hundred dollar bill under their arm. Someone else had a picture taken in front of the chain link fence.  A young couple with kids argued about their destination, top of the hill or the playground with broad gestures.

We had lunch at the Pacific Inn and then I left him to ride up Stone Way. I had tickets for the Tilth Edible Plant Pre-sale, but that didn’t start for an hour, so I stopped for gelato and socks on the way. I do love socks.

At the plant sale, I met my best friend and we followed each other around to the different areas and chose just a few plants. I got sweet basil, mojito mint, and a variety of tomato called pineapple which is supposed to grow large yellowish orange tomatoes with a sweet flavor. These plants should compliment the seedlings I have popping up in the planters now. More tomatoes, a variety of peppers, lettuces, cucumbers, carrots, green onions and lemon balm. It’s fun seeing their little green heads pushing out of the soil.

I finished off the evening watching Star Trek: Discovery with my roommate.

The best thing is, when I rode Stella to work this morning, my rear derailleur worked like a dream.