Thursday, April 30, 2015

Thoughts on grieving - introspection warning

For many years I have been telling grieving patients and friends that they needed to be nice to themselves because grieving was hard work.  So I wasn't exactly unprepared for this, but some things have still taken me by surprise.

It is hard because it is new and because it is unfamiliar and because it isn't really something you can share with anyone else.  At times it is rather all-consuming and occasionally it becomes embarrassingly public.  For someone that is not accustomed to showing emotions publicly, is used to being "in control" of her life and is terribly introverted it is a trial. 

I understand the emotions and how powerful they are and I didn't expect in any way to be exempt from them.  But I have to admit that I didn't think they would affect my daily life quite so much or quite so unpredictably. The tears that come in the cookie aisle of the grocery store, or while discussing the gas bill are quite annoying and frustrating, confusing too.

But the biggest surprise and the hardest to deal with has been the effect on my brain.  I've  been calling  it  mush-brain and find that it greatly resembles the effects of early pregnancy - loss of focus, scattered thinking, scrambled memory.  For someone who prided herself on being attentive, thoughtful, organized and logical this has come as a huge surprise and an enormous bother.  I can't manage several trains of thought like I used to.  My memory has gone from being a sieve to more like a colander.  My sentences have big gaps where I have forgotten the word that belongs there.  I have to make lists of lists so I don't forget to make the lists.

I KNOW this fades over time, but I really expected it to move faster than it has.  It is especially a problem when I get tired, either mentally or physically.  Once that happens, I have a zero threshold for frustration and almost non-existent problem solving skills - then comes the weeping.  And once it starts it is devilishly hard to stop.

So.  The bike tour.  I learned very quickly that fatigue causes me more problems than I really need or want to be dealing with.  The fact that I haven't been able to ride much over the winter means I have to work harder to get in shape.  The two things do seem to be at odds with each other, don't they?  Since I came on a bike tour to ride a bike, I've been concentrating on that and it is going quite well, I'm not as fast as I'd like to be, but I can do a 60 mile ride in the highest gears.  But the other reason to come on the tour is to socialize with friends and meet new ones.  I've done quite a bit of that too, sometimes with the help of my Southern Tier friends running a bit of interference for me and keeping the conversations light.

The past two weeks I have been figuring out how to manage my energy so I can do both without a major meltdown.  It often means judging how many things I can balance mentally at one time  - like narrow shoulders, head wind, dogs - and not wind up totally flustered and overwhelmed.  It sometimes means  limiting my exposure to and participation in large groups.  It occasionally means skipping a ride or taking a nap, or going for a quiet walk by myself.

I am slowly coming to realize that I might have to do this kind of self-management for a while longer and that it just has to be ok.  Mostly (actually completely) it has to be ok with me and it has to not matter to me what anyone else thinks.  Funny that I've never much cared what other people thought, but now it kind of bothers me that someone might think I ride in the van  or avoid some types of rides because I'm not a good enough rider to do this tour.  

That's ridiculous.  I am considering the thought further evidence of my impaired thinking and letting it go at that.  Back on the bike tomorrow.

PS - We are in Blackshear, GA - a lovely little town and a very nice hotel. 

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

THIS is what touring is all about

I rode in the van as planned today after first knitting on a sock while we waited for the downpour to pass. The riders had left earlier, so they weren't so lucky and most got drenched.

After the downpour came some unexpected construction with no accommodation for bicycles.  The van escorted a couple of the riders through, but most had already solved the problem by going in bunches and taking the lane.  For my non-cycling friends that means that you occupy the middle of the lane just as if you were a car until there is a safe place for you to ride.  It's sometimes scary because drivers don't like it, but sometimes it is the only safe thing to do.

We passed through rural country for the most part and soon covered the 50 miles And crossed from Florida into Georgia.  Border crossings are traditionally celebrated on Woman tours tours with a Margarita party.  Our guide Denise, I'm happy to say, makes a very nice margarita.  Then Anne taught us to salsa dance - you do remember that we have our meals in the parking lots of our motels, don't you?  

A reporter from the local paper came to visit with us and we will be the feature story in next week's edition.  Did I mention that this is a small town?  Your history lesson for the day is that the town of Folkston is known as the Folkston Funnel because all railroad freight going into Florida comes through here - 60 trains a day.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

What. A. Day.

We left St. Augustine this morning prepared to be rained on.  But it never happened. We had cool, cloudy and breeeeezy weather as we moved 60 miles up the coast.  The ocean was much choppier than we had seen it anywhere else.

We rode along the coast, passed some HUUUUGE houses belonging to the obscenely rich and perhaps famous (or infamous). Wound through neighborhoods of the merely ridiculously rich.  A fascinating conservation/protection area for a totally different type of resident.

But the whales and turtles weren't home, so we left our calling cards and moseyed on down the road.   What all these neighborhoods had in common was that they protected us from crosswinds that were building throughout the morning.  When  we reached the spot  to cross to Amelia Island,   WE GOT TO RIDE THE FERRY!!!!  Not far, but still so fun.

After docking we started to run into stronger headwinds, relieved when we could get off the road and on to sheltered bike paths but pretty much constantly 12-15 mph.  The farther north we moved, the stronger they got. We also encountered a completely different kind of beach, fine white sand and a huge variety of birds.

As we traveled the last 10 miles or so the winds picked up into the 20-25mph range and the riding was slow and painful - no  fun at all.  But........ I'm including a happy picture to end this post.  I finally got a good picture of a manatee mailbox.

On to Georgia tomorrow - and our first border-crossing Margarita party!

Monday, April 27, 2015

Rest day in St. Augustine

And what a difference a couple of years makes!  Last time we were here the place was underwater because it rained 10 inches in about 18 hours.

Today was warm and overcast - not too hot.  I was able to get an appointment for a massage for my shoulders/neck.  Janelle is a woman with magic hands.  Previous massages have left me kind of "meh" but this woman was able to find every sore/tense spot and make it release and relax.  We'll see the ultimate outcome tomorrow if I can keep my shoulder where it belongs instead of up under my left ear.

After that I wandered around, bought the perfect purse,  visited with the lady in the stamp shop, enjoyed a trip  through the antique store , people watched in the old square and took a few pictures.

There's something about the first  rest stop that sort of marks the spot between getting ready to tour and settling into the routine of it.  It's also the point where I finally figure out how I need my bags arranged in order to live out of them for the next six weeks.

I've had great roommates thus far and expect that to continue.  Rotating roommates is one of the best parts of these tours - you get to spend one on one time with some very nice people on the tour and if there are some you don't mesh very well with, you don't have to share with them very often.

Assorted pictures of things I enjoyed looking at.
Yellow fever cemetery
for non-Catholics

Gate to early settlement

some variety of chamomile?

Not always sunny in Florida - minutes
after our latest innundation

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Fort Lauderdale to Jupiter

Lost a post in here somewhere but now we are in Vero Beach.

Won't be riding across any drawbridges while in the "up" position

The tour has been spectacular, my riding not so much. I did 33 miles yesterday and 22 today but today I added in a walk over two big bridges.  Not because I didn't think I could do the climb (I could, probably 6%) but because I wanted to stretch the muscles that were tight (quads) and limber and strengthen the ones I don't use on the bike (glutes, calves, hips, back).  I think it worked pretty well but it was work.  I added in some complexity by alternating walking normally with walking pigeon-toed and walking like a duck.  Probably a good thing there was a barrier between the road and the sidewalk - wouldn't want to cause  too many accidents.  This bridge also featured a two lane bike path.

Florida does have some nice bike-friendly laws/policies.  We've been on bike lanes most of the time and it is a LAW here that drivers observe the 3-foot rule.  That occasionally means that they get in the way of traffic coming the other way, but they stay clear of us.

The weather has been alternating between hot, wet and hot plus wet.  We havn't been rained on too often, but it is constantly threatening.  I am loving the flowers, the blue skies, the new birds and animals.  I watched pelicans fishing today, taking off from the water together and then diving as if they were in a water ballet.  Didn't see them catch anything, but maybe they were waiting for tips and/or applause.  I have not seen a manatee (a good chance tomorrow though) but I have seen three manatee mailboxes.  Yeah I know,  hard concept to grasp, I'll try to post a picture.

My fantastic, supportive friends at home are taking beautiful care of my house and the cats, I wouldn't have been able to do this without them.  Thank you so much, Barb, Roger,  Erin, Chris and especially Kim.  You have no idea how much this means to me.

PORT ORANGE - Saturday, April 25

Have had some computer issues, thus the double post.  The bridge calisthenics seem  to have been helpful.  I managed 45 miles today mostly at 14-16 mph (there may have been a little tailwind).  I was able to keep up with the big girls and that was a nice feeling.

Still no manatee but we did see an Osprey nest up close and a farther away picture of some kind of something on Cape Canaveral.  I would have loved going on that tour but this is as close as we got.  Might have to come back.

Osprey nest

Cape Canaveral

As with the Southern Tier, a great group of women.  This time learning names is easier because we only have a few that haven't been on other tours, so if you are wondering who someone is, someone near you probably knows.  A very strong group of riders, so I will have plenty of role models.

St. Augustine tomorrow and then a rest day.  It will be nice to actually SEE the town, last time we were here, it rained 10" in 18 hours.  I'm keeping the fenders on the bike because I think that is the magic talisman that is keeping the rain off our heads.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Ready to roll.

The tour is now officially underway.  

We've had our orientations, we've had our send off banquet, we've gotten our safety triangles and our compimentary water bottles.  We have gotten to know the guides/chefs we have had a chance to spend time with out 34 new best buddies and we have had solemn discussions regarding weather and traffic.

There are so many women that have been on previous tours together that there have been many happy reunions and the folks that are new to this have lots of support and lots of friendly hands to welcome them and show them the ropes.

However each tour is unique and now what we see is how all the people and circumstances combine to shape this one.  Again I am reminded of something I learned two years ago - there are 34 women here and each is on her own tour.  

We are united in our excitement and our love of cycling but each of us brings something different to the equation and each of us will take something different away.  We each have our own approach to this shared journey and we will each experience it in our own way. The one sure thing is that we will all grow and we will all learn.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Counting down...

Into the last week of preparations and I am finally realizing this trip is actually going to happen.

The pet, house and yard sitters are all engaged and ready to keep things managed while I am gone.  The bike shipped out yesterday and will be waiting for me when I get to Florida.  Conveniently, the bike shop is across the street from the hotel.

After the long , cold and difficult winter, it will be nice to relax in the sunshine and get reacquainted with old friends while looking forward to meeting a bunch of new ones.  I know I am not really prepared for the long days of riding but right now it doesn't really matter.  I will do the best I can, ride at my own pace, enjoy the scenery and the company and do what I need to do to take care of myself.  If that means days in the van or bump outs in the SAG,then that's what I will do. The tour is much more than the riding.

I don't anticipate any problems with cell or wi-fi access this time as we will not be traveling across hundreds of miles of lightly populated desert and mountains.  I am hoping to include pictures in these posts but I still haven't figured out the smoothest way to do that.

Back to my lists, there are still a few things to check off.