Thursday, July 29, 2010

Taking stock

Now that CACTASS is a mere…..13 days away, according to the Watch of Doom, I thought it might be a good idea to step back for a brief moment and see where things stand, so that you, the little people as I affectionately call you, can see what it takes to train to cycle in the Alps. For 10 days straight. After having one surgery after another throughout much of the year leading up to the trip. So, without further ado….

Part one- The Diet

I tried. I really did. I did my damndest to stick to Stillmans, even though it made no sense whatsoever, especially with the parts about no fruit and no Cheez-Its. But I was determined, made even more so by the thought of lugging the equivalent of 10 frozen hams up the Alps.

According to, I averaged 984 calories a day. I don’t know what my daily deficit was when you factor in all the cycling, but suffice it to say it was vast. Vast. I stuck to 100 calories per hour during my rides, I cut out all the foods normal people eat, like cheese, and I went to bed hungry. And for all that, I lost…….(drum roll please)…..

3 pounds. Yes, 3 fricking pounds in a month. And even that’s iffy, since my weight fluctuates from day to day, depending on whether or not I overdo it on the squash or other veggies the night before.

Luckily, alert reader Deanna reminded me of the wonderful diets we stumbled upon when reading the other little book that I found along with the Stillmans plan. “10 Pounds in 10 Days!” this one promised. The one that seemed the most appealing initially was the Bacon and Eggs diet, where you could eat all the bacon and eggs you wanted, as long as they were in equal measure. So, 4 pieces of bacon? 4 eggs. 12 pieces of bacon? Yep, you guessed it, 12 eggs. Deanna didn’t think this made sense, but when I pointed out how easy it was to eat a pound of bacon at one sitting and yet how hard it would be to eat the equivalent number of eggs, she saw the light.

Then there was the strawberries and cream diet, which consisted of…..strawberries and cream. Nothing more, nothing less. I had visions of starting out the day with Bacon and Eggs, then segueing into Strawberries and Cream, and perhaps ending up with Steak and Bacon ala Atkins, but then….then…I found the perfect diet.

Wine and eggs.

I quote:

“For your first meal, prepare an egg any way you want, and open a bottle of wine. Have a glass with your egg. Enjoy!”

“Time for lunch! This consists of 2 eggs, prepared any way you like, and 2 glasses of wine. Bottoms up!”

“You’ve been good all day, so it’s time to partake of dinner – which consists of 2 eggs, prepared any way you like, and yes, polish off that bottle of wine! You deserve it!”

I swear I’m not making this up. This was my and Deanna’s personal favorite, for obvious reasons.

I gauge how successful my diet is by seeing how many times I get The Look from various people. Based on this alone, the diet isn’t working out too well. The other day I made it up to the Madison area to do some riding on the IMWI course, the Verona loop to be exact. And right there where the Cross Plains aid station will be is a great little bike and coffee shop, called the Excruciating Climb or something. Oh yeah, the Uphill Grind, that’s it. I stop in there during my ride to pick up an icy cold beverage, and then I make the mistake of telling the very nice shop owner that I’m “looking for matching jerseys for me and my friend, for our trips to the Alps in August.” And yes, I get The Look, the one that says “Ride the Alps? My friend, don’t you have to be in a shape other than round in order to make it up an Alp?” Then to add insult to injury, this nice man obviously figures me for a newbie cyclist and starts explaining to me what arm and knee warmers are and how to use them, in case it gets cold up in the Alps. Sigh. I want to tell him - my good man, don’t you know who I am? Does the name Tasha the Triathlon Goddess not ring a bell??

The other thing that comes to mind on a regular basis is this: “Yes I’m fat and seemingly out of shape but I’ve been cycling my ass off every day and eating on average 1,000 calories a day but thanks to the cancer drug FatSurly (aka Tamoxifen) I can’t lose a SINGLE FUCKING POUND thank you very much so I’m sorry if I don’t fit your vision of the type of cyclist who can and should be cycling the Alps but hey, guess where I’ll be on August 14th, and you probably won’t?”

I wonder if that would fit on the back of a jersey.

I have to admit, I did have the idea of stopping the Tamoxifen for a while. Yes, it’s true. Gave it serious consideration. A couple of months, what could it hurt?

Then last week I went for my mammogram, and while they usually take a lot of films, this time I kept going back out to the waiting room while my doctor looked at them, then got called back in for more films. Not just once or twice, but four times. Four. And I could see on the film where they had circled an area and were honing in on that, where there was some kind of spot. Or smudge. Something. And I thought – no. Not again. Not all this shit starting over. Please, just let it not be The Cancer again, and I’ll be as fat and surly as I need to be, for as long as I need to be. Bring it on, really. Whee, fat! Yay!

In the end, when I saw my doctor and asked what all that was about, she made some mention about how it was a “new technician, who wasn’t sure how she needed to do the films” or some such malarkey, which in the back of my mind I was skeptical about, because it was my doctor who kept asking for more films. But you know, I decided to accept it, because I do trust my doctors.

And I have to note, that while this weight is going to make it damn hard to make it up an Alp, if FatSurly keeps the cancer at bay, I’ll take it and be happy. I won’t say I’ll shut up about it, because hell, I need to have something to write about in my little blog here that’s sweeping the nation. But in case there was any doubt - even though I complain about shit, because that's the little schtick I have going on here, I’m happy to be alive. Truly. Life is good. Being alive is a glorious and wonderful thing, and every day I appreciate that I'm here. And I’ll do what I need to do to keep it that way.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some eggs to boil and a bottle of wine to open…

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Scenes from Stillmans

Delavan, WI

Deanna and I have ventured up here for the 4th of July weekend, and naturally, after planning out our weekend and making sure we include the Carp-O-Rama in those plans, in keeping with the holiday we meet up with Mike M. to go to a Chinese restaurant. I’m pretty sure I can find something appropriately tasteless and boring ala Stillmans there. Of course, it’s not long before trouble arises.

Deanna, to the waitress: Say, these Happy Chinese Puffy Goodness Delights on the menu, are those the fried dough things rolled in sugar?

Waitress: Yes they are.

Deanna: Great, we’ll have a whole stack of them!

I sit there steeped in virtue as Deanna and Mike stuff ball after ball of fried doughy goodness down their gullets, and wait for the weight to instantaneously start dropping off. After all, I think it’s a cardinal rule that the amount of weight you lose and the speed with which you lose it is indirectly proportional to the tastiness of the food you’re foregoing. And fried dough, well, that’s pretty much my favorite food in the world. Along with pizza, Cheez-Its, mochi, Annette’s chocolate nutella cake, donuts, barbecue, and pancakes. And of course cheese, which kind of goes without saying. Anyway, I wait for the 10 pounds to dissolve from my hips. And wait. And wait. And start pouting, while Deanna and Mike give me gloating, sugar-encrusted grins. I hate them.


“Stan” and I decide to go to the new Superdawg in Wheeling, to mark our birthdays, and in preparation I haven’t eaten all day, so that I can have my mai tai when we go to Bob Chinn’s next door afterwards. I’m determined to stick to Stillmans, so instead of the glorious Superdawgski – “nestled in a box with French fries” – I instead have the delightful yet boring SuperChickenski, i.e. a grilled chicken breast on a bun. Stan, being an intelligent human being, orders the Superdawgski, and….

Stan: Hey, should we get some onion chips?

Me, muttering: I’m on a diet.

Stan: What’s that?


Me, adding: But you go ahead, don’t deprive yourself.

He adds the onion chips to the order, and there we are chit-chatting away, eating our food, me gnawing on the chicken breast sans bread, when…..

Stan: … my viewpoint on Avogadro’s Number has always been a little bit different from the mainstream scientific thought, in that I think…..wait. What’s this? What happened to the rest of the onion chips?

Me, grinning sheepishly: Oops.

Okay, so sue me, I had 6-7 onion chips! I don’t know why I even bother with the damn diet anyway. Let’s see, I “cheated” with a handful of delectable fried onion chips, which when added to the chicken breast, water, and mai tai I had the rest of the day still doesn’t amount to very much. My reward? Gained 2.5 pounds the next day. I hate life.

LARD (Long Ass Ride Day), # whatever

In spite of the extra weight making me feel like I’m toting around 10 frozen hams with me, I continue the daily riding in the somewhat futile hope of making it up the Alps. Or even an Alp. I just want to make it up ONE Alp please.

And naturally, I’ve had every mishap known to man. The flat tires. The rip in the tire instead of the tube. The shifting problems. The meth head. The extreme heat and wind. The poor fit on the bike that makes every ride a new study in pain. I think today is the day, after the gazillion mile ride in the heat and wind, that I make it back to my mom’s and say fuck it to Stillmans, and have some cheese and a Coke as my post-ride recovery snack. Where are the purported 15-25 pounds I was supposed to lose in 2 weeks? Not here, my friends, not here.

The birthday party

I’ve been tracking my calories religiously, and in spite of the occasional lapse, I have yet to go over 1600 calories a day, and that includes the GU and such that I use on my rides. So basically I’ve been running a serious calorie deficit each and every day.

And tonight, in preparation for Robyn’s 40th birthday party, I’ve had my usual austere meals of roasted chicken and zucchini, with a few blueberries thrown in for good measure. Just in case there’s something worthwhile to sample at the party. Like, say, cake? Ah yes, Nettie has made another one of her delectable creations – a chocolate Nutella cake. Who can resist?

I idly make the comment - as I eat my tiny sliver of cake – that this is the first not-on-my-diet food I’ve had in eons, since I’m not really counting the post-90-mile-ride-ounce-of-cheese as a lapse. Right after I say this, I’m met with silence by Colleen and Bridget, who give my fat little self The Look, and I can see the thought bubbles over their heads clear as day: “Umm, right, who are you trying to kid?” That hurts.

Body for StillButter?

An astute friend posts the following video to FB, which I immediately glom onto, as this could be the key to everything:

You see, I could handle the fact that Stillmans doesn’t allow, well, much of anything. No Cheez-Its. No cake. No pizza. But….no fruit? No. That’s just not possible.

But I soon realize that by combining Stillmans and its stinginess – I mean austerity - with the Butterfield Plan and the free day, and throwing a bit of Body for Life in there as well so that I have another free day, that leads to this: a diet where I can eat whatever I want for 48 hours – including my beloved bonBONbonbons - and then get by on the Stilmans’ 3 olives/day the rest of the week. Score!

I will report back.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Conversations with my mom

This morning, as Kona and I were getting ready to head to the forested/prairie 68-acre dog park:

Me: Mom, do you have any bug spray?
Mom: No.....but I do have dryer sheets!
Me: ????

For the record, waving around dryer sheets as you're walking through the woods not only makes you look like a total loon, but does absolutely nothing to repel mosquitoes.

You know - in case there was any doubt.......

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

A primer on towns

Of course, this will only be useful to those people who follow my same bike routes – in other words, twos of you – but still, you never know when you might find yourself in the hinterlands of IL or WI and say to yourself, “self, now where can I find the best donuts in the world?” and here I am, with just that kind of useful information.

But first, a PSA for those people who like to admonish me for wearing an iPod when I’m cycling. Umm, really, I don’t care, okay? I like listening to music when I’m riding, and belting out the tunes on those barren country roads, serenading the corn. As for the argument that “you need to be able to hear when trucks are coming up behind you” – well, that might be helpful for you folks who ride 2 or 3 abreast in the middle of the road. But me and my ilk, we already ride as far to the right as possible, so whether or not there’s a truck coming up is irrelevant, since there’s still nowhere for me to go, unless you’re suggesting I ride off the road every time I hear a truck. No? I didn’t think so. The music makes me happy, and I’ll take happy anywhere I can get it these days, thank you very much.

Besides, I find it ironic that the same people who give me a hard time about the iPod are doing things that are far more dangerous, particularly to others, like texting while driving (Deanna).

Anyway, where were we? Oh yes, towns that are evil, vs. towns that are not. Let’s start with the evil ones.

Capron, IL

When I was a wee tot, I saw a movie on tv that scared the bejeesus out of me and gave me nightmares for years. It was called Race With the Devil, and it was about a bunch of hippie-type kids on some kind of road trip in a van, who stumble upon a human sacrifice ritual in the middle of the woods, then wind up fleeing across the country from the devil people chasing them, until they realize they’ve somehow gone in a big circle and wind up in the exact same place with the devil people closing in on them.

You can see how this would be terrifying.

And in their travels, they wound up in some small town where they realized while at the local swimming pool, as they looked up at the people around them, that they were amidst evil. That the people were all actually devil people and that the town was evil personified.

Capron, IL, is that town.

Oh sure, as an adult I used the power of the internets to track down this movie, and dragged “Stan” over to watch it with me because of course I couldn’t watch it alone. Well. Let’s just say that it was embarrassingly bad, ludicrously funny, not the least bit scary, and had Loretta Swit in it for god’s sake.

But, I digress. Back to Capron. Now, I’ve biked past this town many a time, and often wind up stopping into the pizza place to reload on water, perhaps get a soda. I’ve never liked the town – it has that seedy, rundown feel to it in a very Children of the Corn kind of way, that speaks not to a town down on its luck, but rather malevolence.

But Saturday while on my 84-mile ride, I passed through Capron at a point where I really needed some water, especially since it was about 90 degrees outside, and lo and behold, for some inexplicable reason, the pizza place wasn’t open at 9AM. Go figure that one out.

But what is this I see across the street? Yes, a café! Right next door to the “Stum’ble Inn” biker bar, which even I, the fearless of the fearless, wouldn’t venture into alone. Off I go to the café. As I’m going in, two cyclists are pulling up as well, so I give them a cheery hi, and get a curt “hey” from one and a sullen look from the other. Okay then. Walk into the café, say hi to the hostess person, she just gives me a sullen look. I walk back to the counter, see the waitress-type person, say hi to her, get a sullen “hi” in return.

You see the pattern here.

This is where I give them my usual request:

Me: “Can I buy some water and a soda?”

I always ask to buy water, because I don’t assume these places have nothing better to do than to pour water for any random cyclists who stop in. Usually the response is as follows:

Me: Can I buy some water and a soda?

Nice waitress at the Garden Prairie Café: Buy water? Pshaw, I’d be happy to give you some.

Not at the Capron Café. This was her – sullen – response:

Capron Café Children of the Corn Waitress: We don’t fill water bottles here. You can go across the street to the bike shop if they’re open, or down the street to the gas station.

I guess she missed the part where I asked if I could buy some water. Bitch. I clump out of there feeling the nastiness of the place pressing in on me like a shroud. Though in all fairness, there was one person who wasn’t the least bit sullen – that was the elderly farmer sitting at the counter, who smiled and waved at me both when I walked in and when I left.

Clearly he wasn’t from Capron.

My next step was in Wisconsin.

Sharon, WI, aka Bedford Falls

You know that scene in It’s a Wonderful Life where George Bailey goes running through Bedford Falls like a lunatic through the gently falling snow, yelling “Merry Christmas Bijou! Merry Christmas you crappy old Building and Loan!”? One day I’m going to do that in the town of Sharon, which even the crazy guy at the Lobster Boil last year admitted was NOT a bastion of Russian spydom. So it has that going for it as well.

I pull into Sharon, hoping that the place I discovered last year is still there. You never know, as the shops in these small towns seem to come and go like rainwater, and this town has its share of closed storefronts. Case in point, the small bakery/café that closed up, before the sweet shop moved in. Wait, let me get the name of that exactly right, so everyone knows how to find it: Sharon’s Sweet Shop, at 193 Baldwin Street. In Sharon, WI.

I walk in, say hi, and get a cheery hi in return. Of course.

Kelly, the owner: Can I help you?

Me: I need a donut. I was here last summer, when I discovered that you have the Best Donuts in the World.

Kelly: Oh, I remember you! What would you like?

Me: Hmm, decisions, decisions. How about one of those coconut sprinkled ones?

She gives me my precious donut, which I carefully carry over to a table.

Kelly: And there’s plenty of water there in the machine, so help yourself. Here, this is where you get it. And there’s the ice. Me, I’m going to have some of my mom’s special Southern tea. Would you like to try some?

And she pours me a big glass of icy cold tea, as I sit down with my donut.

Now, all this would be wonderful enough, this hospitality, but probably wouldn’t be enough to compel me to ride 42 miles in one direction just to stop there.

The donut, on the other hand. Well.

Me: Omg, these are still the best donuts I’ve ever had in my life. What do you do to them? I know they’re baked, but honestly, they’re insanely good.

Kelly, modestly: Why thank you, you’re too kind. I really don’t know, it’s my mother’s recipe, I guess I just bake them with a lot of care.

It’s a good thing I didn’t ask “What do you put in them – crack?”

The donut isn’t too puffy, not too dense, practically melts in your mouth in bite after bite of sweet doughy goodness. I can’t say that I’m a donut connoisseur – okay, maybe I can – so I know my donuts, and these are literally the best donuts I’ve ever had anywhere, ever. More than worth the bike ride up here.

We chat some more, as I remember that last time I was here Kelly was telling me about her plans to put in a fryer and start serving lunch. Whereupon I discover that soon she is in fact going to be serving lunch, including hamburgers from fresh meat, not frozen, with homemade buns, all made using her grandmother’s recipe.

Note: lunch will start happening in about 2 weeks. August 1st. Yes, I’ve made a mental note of this.

I leave, and as I wave goodbye to Kelly, it’s like leaving an old friend. On my way back, I have one more stop, this time in Garden Prairie, not at the café since that’s just open for breakfast, but at the Prairie Pub. Which is also a bar that looks kind of like a shack, but is a good example of why not to judge a book by its cover. Unlike the Stum’ble Inn, this place just looks a bit shack-like, not evil, and sure enough, as I’m going in, a woman walks out who looks like she works there, and gives me a big cheery smile and a hello.

Then I walk in, and another cheery bartender is more than happy to give me water and soda and to fill my water bottles with ice, all with a chipper smile. So this is another town that is not evil.

To sum: Sharon, WI and Garden Prairie, IL = not evil. Capron, IL = evil. Don’t say I didn’t warn you…

Saturday, July 10, 2010


Those of us with cancer often debate the minutiae of it. As in, which date do you consider your Cancerversary? Date of diagnosis? Well, in my case even though the official word came on 7/12/08, the doctor pretty much said it was cancer on the day he did the biopsy, the 10th. Is it the day of your surgery? That implies that once the lump is out, you’re cancer-free, which to me is silly, since you still have chemo or radiation or whatever else is coming down the pike. Day of last rads treatment? While I did have a celebration that day complete with a Fuck Cancer cake, that too seems weird, given the surgeries to come and 5 years of FatSurly, which makes it seem like a cruel joke, to proclaim that rads is the end.

So in my case, I’ve always considered 7/10/08 my Cancerversary, i.e. the day I knew I had The Cancer. Last year I marked the date by going out to dinner with my friend Peg, and having all sorts of bad-for-you food and drink, and it was lovely. This year, I’m going all out – I’m determined to embrace a Highly Carcinogenic Lifestyle all day long, which includes of course my beloved

grilled meats, alcohol, and whatever other toxic substances I can think of. Perhaps I’ll even have some soy milk, which is akin to death in a carton for the highly hormone-positive-tumored like myself.

If you’re wondering why anyone would choose to celebrate the day they were told they had cancer, well, that’s a good point. But I don’t really see it as a “celebration” of sorts – it’s more of a big ol’ fuck you to cancer, and so it seems appropriate to celebrate it by embracing a hedonistic existence, one that cancer has no part of. Hence, the charred meats, hot dogs, maraschino cherries, mai tais, etc. Not that far from my usual diet, come to think of it.

Of course, it’s kind of hard to keep The Cancer totally at bay. After all, I see it every day when I look in the mirror – something I hate to do since I hate how I look, seeing someone so not like the me I used to know. And I know that most people who haven’t had cancer won’t get this – and those who have, will – but you think about cancer every single day. Will it come back, when, when will the other shoe drop? You see women you’ve come to know - sparkly, funny, sharp, wonderful women – who started out with the same or better stats as you, have a recurrence, or wind up with mets. And then they’re gone, and it leaves a huge gaping hole in this world that they once so rightly occupied, and you’re reminded just how tenuous your grasp on any of this is. There’s never really any “moving on,” because that doesn’t exist in the world of BC, especially BC in younger women. People just don’t get that.

And it’s especially bad when you have doctors who don’t believe in scans. “No scans without symptoms” – which I personally think is asinine, because by the time you have symptoms, you’re kind of pretty far along. But I did talk my doctor into a bone scan recently, which showed no signs of mets – though I do have arthritis. WTH? Still, I’ll take it. So while I could still have cancer elsewhere in my body, at least it’s some comfort to have more information. And it makes me think about things like life, death, and living like you’re waiting for the shoe to drop.

Now, I’m still certain that eventually The Cancer will get me – after all, I don’t know any young women who had Stage II, Grade 2-3 BC in the form of a 3cm tumor, who didn’t have a recurrence or mets. And yet…yet…..maybe that day won’t come in 2 years. Or 5. Or even 10. Maybe I will have time to do all the things I have yet to do, to live the life I have yet to live.

I woke up this morning thinking about the fact that it was my Cancerversary. And in spite of all the crap that I’m still dealing with, the scars, the side effects from the drugs, the stupid medical bills, etc., I felt pretty happy. Happy to be alive. And I felt something that was almost wholly unfamiliar to me, at least in recent years.

I think it was…..hope.

* * * * *

Right now I’m leaving to go on a 100-mile (I hope) bike ride, which – knowing me and my “luck” – will be replete with the usual flat tires, crazy meth heads, and torrential downpours.

And it’ll be a glorious day to be alive.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

My life as Ronco commercial

The disaster that is this ride continues unabated, as I sit down on the concrete bridge to wait for pickup, and hear a loud *CRUNCH.*

“Oh god no,” I think, “please tell me that wasn’t what I think it was.”

Yep, it is. I want to weep and gnash my teeth and wail, as I reach into the back pocket of my overly long jersey and pull out…….a bag of Cheez-Its, in a state of complete disintegration. Oh, the humanity! Is there no justice at all in this world??

Dejected, I sit back down, and decide to call my friend Stan (aka “Keith”) to tell him about my latest tales of woe, because I know he appreciates hearing about such things. He in fact has a great idea, i.e. that I work the Boobages to see if I can get something out of this whole fiasco – like a ride, since it’s now been a while and there’s no sight of my mom. I unzip the jersey a bit, and seem to get more fulminating glares from old geezers Hank and Mabel as they go cruising by at a sedate 25mph. Alas, no one stops, which I guess isn’t a bad thing necessarily.

Though I do find it interesting to note that a cab slowly goes past and asks if I need help – though the police car doesn’t even slow down. Figures.

I get off the phone with Stan, and who’s that calling? My mom.

Mom: I’m lost!

Me: How can you be lost? It’s just T-stop, left, right, left, right, left.

Mom: I turned on some road and the first road was to the left so I kept going and now I’m on Leach Rd. somewhere which is the way to Wisconsin.

Me: What in the……did you go all the way to the end of the road? Where could you have possibly turned?

Mom: I don’t know, there was some 4-way stop sign.

Me: 4-way? Mom, that’s not a T-stop.

Mom: Okay, I’ll backtrack. Bye!

On the bright side, at least I have plenty of snacks. And water. Since I only got 11 miles into my ride. And a bit of useful info:

· Lara bars - I tried the cherry one, and it tasted like they took a bunch of dried cherries and smushed them together. Too cherry for even a fruitaholic like me.

· Clif Mojo bars – Omg, this thing was so good it seemed like a glorified candy bar. But of course it’s WAY healthier than that because it has the word “Clif” in the title. Buy this.

So, back to our plucky heroine (me) on Route 176, waiting, apparently in vain. I start laughing at the ridiculousness of this all. Then figure another half hour has gone by, so I call my mom.

Me: Mom, are you still lost?

Mom: I have no idea where I am. Here, I’m at a farm, talk to this farmer lady.

Me: Hello?

Farmer Lady: So where are you? Your mom has no idea where she is.

Me: Yeah, I think she doesn’t understand the concept of a T-stop. I’m at 176 and Franklinville Rd.

FL: Oh, your mom is way far away from there. She’s by the Huntley High School.

Me: The Huntley High School? So she’s back where she started?

FL: Seems like it. I’ll give her directions to 176.

Me: Thanks!

I wait, and wait some more. Now, my mom is east of me, so I expect to see her coming down 176 from the east. Instead, after about another 30 minutes, I see her pulling over on the shoulder…….having come from the west? What in the world?

I load my bike into the car, and take the wheel, to ensure we make it back to Huntley during daylight hours.

Me: Mom, how did you wind up coming from the west?

Mom: Well, she said to take 176, so I know how to get there from Marengo Rd., so that’s what I did.

Me: So… took Marengo, which runs parallel to 176, then turned on 176 at the point where it curves around, and then backtracked to where I was?

Mom: Was that wrong? Oh, that was all after I stopped and asked the construction workers where I was, but they were Russian and said they were from Chicago, so they don’t know any of the roads out here.

It’s silent in the car for a moment.

“Well,” I say brightly, “thanks for picking me up! (mumbling – even if it took 2 hours)

After all, beggars can’t be choosers, and if you’re stupid enough to leave your tire-changing stuff at home while on a long bike ride, you need to be grateful for whoever’s willing to pick your sorry ass up.

We meander back, me completely ignoring my mom’s attempt at directions (“Don’t you want to turn right here?” “Umm, and go in the exact opposite direction of Huntley? No.”), and then after getting back and freshening up, this is where my life segues into a Ronco commercial. As in, “But wait, there’s more!”

Yes, even my innocent ride to Starbucks is fraught with peril. Because I also decide to go to a bike shop in Fox River Grove to get a larger behind-the-seat bag to make sure I can’t ever forget some part of my tire-changing ensemble, and wind up on meandering River Rd., behind a car going the speed limit of 25, as am I, and in front of an idiot tailgating me like he thinks that’ll make me speed up.

Suddenly – cue dramatic music here – what do we see but a huge deer bounding across the road right in front of us! Guy in front of me slows, as do I…which is good, because 3 seconds later we have the trailers, i.e. fawn and Papa Deer, also gracefully bounding across the road. In order to avoid the collision, guy in front of me stops, as do I…..and I look back in time to see Asshat going too fast to stop, because he’s obviously not paying attention and has his head up his ass, and I hear the loud screech of brakes and only because I had NOT been tailgating the guy in front of me, there’s just enough room for me to lay off the brake for a second and move up just enough to avoid the squishing.

My first instinct is to jump out of the car and beat the guy behind me to a pulp, but instead I make a random turn and pull over, so that I can do a search and rescue for my heart, which has jumped out of my chest and is gamboling about in the woods. Really, that’s how close it was.

Needless to say, after going to the bike store I hightail it back to Sun City, where I resolve to not leave the house again today, if not for days on end. Usually my point regarding messages from higher beings is that I don’t understand what they’re trying to tell me, and they should try sand writing or alphabet soup or something. Today? Yeah, I had no problem whatsoever figuring it out.

Knowing when to pack it in

I wake up this morning with my usual verve and vigor, ready to head out for the 80-mile ride I have planned for today. Though there are thunderstorms already, and more predicted all day. Bah. I spit in the face of thunderstorms! Okay, I check and lo and behold, a mere 5 minutes later the storms have apparently cleared out from the forecast, and it’s just going to be cloudy and humid all day. Sweet. Off I go. I take enough supplies with me for the predicted LAR (Long Ass Ride), including some bars from Trader Joe’s that I’ve decided to try – all in the name of bringing valuable information to you, the little people. That’s just how I am.

So I’m on my usual Huntley-Capron-Sharon route, and am about 15 minutes in when it occurs to me that I forgot to attach my seat bag with my spare tube in it to my saddle. This doesn’t concern me too much though, as in all the thousands of miles I’ve ridden, I’ve never once gotten a flat. Even though on every ride I have all the necessary tire-changing stuff. Except this one. (Note the clever and subtle use of that literary technique known as foreshadowing here.)

I’m going down yet another tranquil, bucolic country road, when a car approaching from the other direction starts sidling over into my lane. Sidle sidle sidle. I get as far over to the right as possible, as now it looks like they’re planning on running me over. As they start pulling alongside me on my now tiny strip of pavement, an arm starts waving out the window, and then out of the window pokes the head of a gap-toothed lanky-haired skank who’s probably 25 but looks like she’s 50, and as she’s grinning like a complete moron, yells “What the fuck are you looking at???” This, as she’s on the wrong side of the road with her car an inch away from me.

Now, as we all know, the first rule of cycling is to not get engaged with idiots, but to just respond in a cool and collected manner, so as to not risk an altercation. So in this vein, I don’t take the bait by answering her, but merely respond with my own question: “What the fuck are YOU doing trying to run me over???”

She’s now stopped the car and is yelling expletives at me for some reason, so again, I respond in my usual calm manner: “Fuck you! Drunk much? Meth much? WHITE TRASH MUCH???”

As I continue peddling along and yelling back at her, I keep looking back, and her car remains lurched across the road at a drunken angle, and she’s gotten out of the car and headed to the back of it. Probably either to pull a shotgun out of the trunk, or to pee on the road, or perhaps both. I keep trying to look back, and since I’m not sure if she turned around to follow me and run me down, I pull over into a farm’s driveway, ready to go screaming for Farmer Assistance if needed. These people are the salt of the earth – and even better, they probably all have their own supply of guns.

After a few minutes, I see no one coming along, so I head off again. Then as I make one of my turns a little while later, yet another car coming from the other direction pulls over. What the hell, I think to myself – is this Pick On Tasha Day? Not this time though.

Sweet older woman: Excuse me, have you seen the garbage truck go by?

Me: Nope, not at all.

Woman: Thanks!

I swear, even I can’t make this stuff up.

I continue on, and turn onto 176, a busy road that I stay on for about 3 minutes. Or usually do, before I make another right-hand turn. Right away, there’s (yet again) a car trying to pass a truck in a no-pass zone, so I get further over to the right, on a concrete bridge where there’s actually plenty of room, but the pavement is pretty crappy. Suddenly I hear a loud whistling/popping sound that sounds like a car has blown something and is going to veer over and flatten me. Of course I pull over, only to discover it wasn’t car, it was me with a flat tire. Of course! I put in a call.

Mom: Hello?

Me: Hi mom, it’s me – what are you doing?

Mom: Having breakfast.

Me: How do you feel about picking me up when you’re done? I have a flat, and no way to change it.

Mom: Where are you?

Me: It’s simple. You know the road that goes past the garden and then you hit Harmony Road?

Mom: You mean 20?

Me: Umm, no. You get to 20 if you keep going on Harmony. This is just turning left onto Harmony Road.

Mom: Marengo, the road that goes to Wisconsin?

Me: Umm, no. That’s if you go right, to the high school. Just go left. Left. On Harmony.

Mom: Okay, left on Harmony.

Me: Yeah, and then the first right onto Seeman. Then you follow that all the way to the end, to the T-stop. Then go left. And then the first right. So basically you just keep going to the end of the roads, then go left and turn on the first right. Going constantly north and west.

Mom: Okay, so a right on Seeman…..

Eventually I think my mom’s got it. It’s really pretty simple. Go to the very end of these roads – to the T-stop – then turn left and then right. Piece of cake, yes? I hunker down, figuring my mom will be there in about 15 minutes or so….

(to be continued)