Driving and Biking in the Big City

Archive for August 2012

In search of the Yeti on Kingwood bike trails

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When the kids were younger and we all were biking from the same starting point (home), I devised a game for our competitive souls. It was a point system based on the uniqueness of the creatures we might see along our bike rides. The goals were to keep us biking more, to help us stay alert to our surroundings and, as is the Hensley way, for someone to win.

Bizarrely, my family full of athletes and varsity players from an extremely competitive school system consider me to be the most of competitive of all of us. How can that be true? I never played anything but intramural sports in school and women’s tennis in Kingwood. Oh, that’s right. Women’s tennis in Kingwood might be more competitive than all of the sports in the school system. We won’t even mention the tough neighborhood block of hellions who raised me – the youngest of them all and a girl to boot.

On really slow and hot bike rides, the Hensleys had a version of this game where we couldn’t head back to the house unless we saw a certain number of bunnies. Two would be a short ride; four even longer.

To play our bike riding game, we first had to devise a list of expected sightings. Deer being the rarest and, therefore, the highest scoring. That is before we spotted the coyote on the gully with an innocent bunny in his mouth. We listed bunnies and turtles, of course. Snakes were big point earners. Nutria and possums. I once saw a family of raccoons, mama raccoon and two babies, holding hands and walking under an underpass. Game over for the other Hensleys.

We ruled out people and dog sightings because those are so common. Then, we decided that birds were too numerous to count. Of course, we gave points to more unusual birds like egrets, herons, falcons and hawks.

Finally, we kept an empty blank at the bottom of our score card for incredibly rare sightings of whatever that all of our family members could agree would be worth the points. Then again, our family has never truly agreed on anything, so I’m not for sure this caveat was ever used.

These days it’s mostly me and My Precious (my smart phone) along for my bike rides. I’m still looking and when I come home with a tall tale, I like to show my proof.

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Written by commuterchroniclesdbh

August 27, 2012 at 6:57 pm

Tour de Pink training begins

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This week, I pulled myself out of Big Johnny’s recliner and from my 75-degree perch in front of the big screen television to hit the bike trails in support of breast cancer research, patients and survivors. My team captain at Baylor College of Medicine reminded me that I only have about five weeks until the Tour de Pink on September 16 at Prairie View A&M University, just outside of Houston.  I have done this ride every year since its inception in support of girlfriends, tennis partners, relatives and all the women I know who have faced breast cancer. I also do it in support of the many docs and researchers I’ve met at BCM who work hard every day and are so dedicated to finding a cure.

Denise and Laura at finish line

I typically sign up to do about 60 miles but am not really great at long distance cycling. To do this with some semblance of dignity, I must bump my exercise routine up. I should double what I’ve been doing this long hot summer. My first step this week has been to bike most days. In this heat, that’s easier to write than it is to do.  I have done five- and 10-mile routes and then paused on Wednesday for swimming. It has been grueling and painful every leg of the way. I have felt tired at work all week but slept like a baby at night.

The Tour de Pink is a family affair for me because different members of my family have ridden with me or supported my unit as my personal sag wagon. Laura and I crossed the finish line together one year. Trav snoozed in his truck, took pictures and brought us water all along the way. This year, Big Johnny is riding with me and has trained with me every day this week. This weekend we need to bump up and try a 20-mile ride. It will be a killer. We are definitely recreational riders, so don’t think we will push too hard. If we get exhausted, we will stop at La Madeleine for breakfast or Sonic for a Route 44.  I started this ride in the days before Streak and before I became more of an avid biker. I used a purple hybrid those days. Then, one year the hybrid fell apart on the day before the race, and I used Blue Streak, my cruiser with mountain bike wheels and a big basket. I was quite comfy for that race but definitely brought up the end of the line.

Nell in uniform in Hyde Park

Streak is actually a legacy gift from John’s mom, Nell, to whom I originally dedicated my breast cancer advocacy.  Nell died at age 89 just a few years ago but after first surviving a tough Texas childhood, World War II as one of the few women officers and life as a single mom in the “Father Knows Best” era.  She not only lived a full life after surviving breast cancer but she walked normally after a stroke, survived Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, just to name a few.

In the next few weeks I will need to take Streak to the cute guys at Bike Barn and get him all oiled up and sleek before the ride. This year, I have the feeling I will need all the help I can get.

Written by commuterchroniclesdbh

August 10, 2012 at 10:51 am

A dangerous ride

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Rainy day photo by Big Johnny

The smell of watermelon, 
Honeysuckle and cotton candy.
A breeze that starts slow and rises higher.
Then, the alarm of birds chirping faster and louder.
The taste of salt and humidity.
A flash of lightning up ahead.
The sound of dried, crashing trees at my back.
The feel of heavy damp limbs across my face

Yesterday’s drought makes today’s rain
A danger to the unsheltered.Thunder screams across the sky
And shakes branches all around.
I race with the birds and squirrels
Just inches ahead of the storm.

I cut from the tunnel of greenery
Onto the chalky pavement.
Away from the falling limbs.
Now only dried leaves dance in my way,
Popping and cracking beneath my tires.

My thighs burn, arms quake.
I push harder and harder,
Faster and faster.
Eyes and ears alert for other shelter-seekers.
Until I turn onto the last leg of my ride.

A light rain finally starts.
I open my mouth and taste.
I open my arms and embrace
The cool, clean feel of triumph.
I coast with home in my sight.

Written by commuterchroniclesdbh

August 7, 2012 at 10:55 am

Extreme sports enthusiast

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Among my newfound friends and followers of Commuter Chronicles are what appear to me to be some extreme sports enthusiasts. Maybe this is because I write about biking on my cool Trek bike Streak. Or maybe it’s because I drive around in my hot red Nissan Xterra, named for Vin Diesel. I didn’t even think it, but clearly I appear to be a bit extreme.

I even had someone say to me the other day that I’d always been a jock. Whoa! Wait a minute. I think I like that. And yes, now that I’m considering it, I’d like say it’s true. I have loved and played all sports all of my life. However, on this side of the old lady mark, my knees have given out and so have my tennis and racquetball games.  I still try to swim or bike every day. But extreme?

The last time I caught some “mad air” was when the neighborhood hooligans strung packing tape across my bike path and I hit it at 12 m.p.h., knocking me for a loop and eventually landing me on my extreme behind.

And, just as I am thinking of my readers who might even understand the term “mad air” and the potential skateboarders and other young Turks out there reading my thoughts, I happen to have what I consider an extreme sports workout. As a matter of fact, I had to call Big Johnny to tell him that I’d pushed my body to my limit at the heat of the day. He needed to be on standby in case Streak and I needed saving. Unintentional or not, I got in a good one today.

My workout went like this. I biked the first five miles to Lake Houston at about 10 a.m., so while it was starting to get hot but still pleasant. I sat on the bench, cooling down and drinking my water. I’d only brought one water bottle because I was thinking this would be a quick ride. It so happens that the drought has caused a lot of trees to be damaged and removed in Kingwood, so my bench was not as shaded as usual. Thus, I rested but it was in the heat. And pretty quickly, I finished all of my water. At the time, I was thinking I had the energy to make a quick dash home and get plenty of water after I arrived.

Now, here comes the extreme-ness of my sporting these days. I happened to make a new, chatty friend just as I turned around to head home. She was wonderful and entertaining with two well behaved and pleasant hounds who loved me immediately. It started with the story of her 16-year-old third hound who had been left back home because he couldn’t make the walk in the heat and ended with the entire story of her 71 years of life.

Long story short . . . her story was not at all short. I walked with her some, petted her delightful hounds and compared philosophies of life. It was a heavy and heated conversation – mostly because we were both getting hotter and hotter as the sun climbed in the sky.

When I finally headed home, my knees were stiff, my water was gone and the temperature had reached 100 degrees. I called John once; he called me three times more. My 30-minute ride home turned into an hour-long chat and another 45 or so minutes of really slow riding.  The heat was killing me. I thought I would croak until I finally found fresh water at Greentree Pool and was saved. The water was even cold and sweet tasting; the water fountain not too icky from kid use. I doused my entire body under the cooling spray.

Then, Big Johnny was waiting with ice packs and cold water. I was totally rejuvenated and ready to play another day.

So, while my sports aren’t necessary extreme, my relationships are. And, the result is the same — over-the-top workouts.

Written by commuterchroniclesdbh

August 5, 2012 at 10:59 am