Friday, September 28, 2012

Cycling Across the Pond

After months of waiting, I finally made it Jolly Old England last weekend to see Jim. While I was there, I went to a wedding (not mine, of course) and a Beer Festival, did some cycling with Jim, and took part in my very first Sunday Roast Dinner (many more to come, I hope). Jim had a couple of surprises for me. Naturally, he had a stockpile of Terry's Chocolate Oranges waiting for case the zombieapocalypse occured while in England. Thankfully, it did not and I was able to start munching my way through the delicious heaven that is Terry's Chocolate Oranges. In unrelated news, my weight has increased. He also had a package of Persil detergeant and the softner on the table for me to take home. I love the smell of my clothes after a good tumble with this sweet smelling stuff. I wanted to order it online, but it was far too expensive. And Jim opted out of actually mailing it to me since he felt that it would raise a flag if he sent me a box of white powder through U.S. Customs.

Then, the biggest suprise came later on in the day. For a month, he has asked me to measure my body (i.e., leg length, inseam, waist, chest, etc.). I thought a.) he was buying me a new car racing suit for when I finally get to race his car (or my own); b.) he was buying me a new jumpsuit, which I thought was strange since he didn't ask for my opinion on colors (it's very important for us skydivers to be all matchy matchy when we have picked out our colors); c.) he was buying me a bunny suit, cat suit, or any furry animal suit, which just perplexed me, but he's English...whatever. He walked me in to the garage where I saw two bikes. I didn't think anything of it since the plan was to borrow his neighbor's bike for our cycling adventure that day. Then, he told me it was my bike. At first, I didn't get it (jetlag, lack of sleep, he talks funny, etc.) and then it clicked what he was saying. Jim bought me a bike. WOW! HE BOUGHT ME A BIKE. How freaking cool and sweet is he? I think I jumped on him with a big old hug and kiss and then, kept repeating, "You bought me a bike!" Of course, I texted images to some of my friends and parents to show my new bike that Jim had bought me. If you didn't get it...Jim bought me a bike. He also bought me a new helmet. It was black; it was beautiful; it was mine o' mine.

My new bike. I have named him Grease Lightening. And of course this song will be on my biking playlist. 
On a side note, the helmet will come in handy since the insides in my current helmet are distingrating. However, I was not able to pack the helmet in my suitcase due to detergeant, booze, and chocolate oranges.

The plan was for both of us to cycle up to the Sykes House Farm (about 3 miles maybe roundtrip) to purchase meat for the Sunday Roast Dinner and give me a chance to see this farm. Everytime I come to England and see the sign, I always want to stop. Sykes is part of my family name. I'm not sure if they are actually related to me since Sykes is apparently a common name in England.

I couldn't wait to ride with Jim since he could help me with the gears. Granted, I was ill prepared for a new bike with a new way of displaying the gears; it took awhile to get used to it. As you know from previous posts, I have struggled with the gears and well riding in general. Plus, I've got to say, I have been bored and lonely. So, it was nice to have someone there. 

Jim and I started out riding on his street so that I could get used to the bike, the gears, and well riding the bike on the wrong side of the road. This includes looking for traffic coming from a direction that I am not used to at all. Thankfully, I am used to looking the other way when we walk up to the village, but now I'm riding a bike. It's just different. Also, I had to get used to sharing the road with parked cars and two lanes with cars coming and going, all in a narrow space. 

When we reached a hill, Jim would yell out what gear to to be in at this point. Most of the time, I just plum missed it, but I remembered it for the next hill. And speaking of hills, wow, was I mistaken about the inclines that I dealt with in Houston. Holy moly, England has hills. I struggled. I mean, I am already slow, but I felt massively slower here in England. Poor Jim had to go slow to stay with me and would lose his balance trying to look back for me. 

Finally, we made it up to Sykes House Farm and it was as lovely as I pictured (only saw the sign).  The meat was excellent and inexpensive and the guy that helped us was awesome. He even made me a special bottle of Sykes House Farm Yorkshire Sauce.

That's me at the Sykes House Farm sign.
Thumbs up for a good bike ride.

Yeah, I'm rocking the velcro pant holders with my new bike and new helmet.
After we picked up our goodies, we left for the house. The ride home was a bit difficult since I was tired and the wind picked up. Okay, not that much to English standard, but for me, yes. When we reached the last big hill straight in to town, I had to stop. The traffic was bad, the street was narrow, and the hill was steep. Jim suggested to just walk up it and I was thankful for that suggestion. Plus, we could easily stop at the pub at the top where we usually stop in for a beer on my first day.

Jim stopped for a good photo op.

Coming back from the Sykes House Farm.

You may be used to it, but I'm not. We have lots of cows in Texas.

Loving my bike, my helmet, and our bike ride. 
At first, this was our only scheduled bike ride for this trip. We had a short amount of time and lots to do. But somehow, we managed to
squeeze in another cycling adventure on Sunday before our Sunday Roast Dinner. We couldn't decided between riding to Tadcaster or Wetherby. Each one had their selling points.

How could you not want to have a beer at this pub in Tadcaster?

But in the end, we chose Wetherby since we could ride on this bike path that used to be a railway. Not only is that just cool, but it would also shield us from the wind and light drizzle. So, we headed out.

Jim and I getting ready for our bike ride.
 I felt better on the gears, but still very slow. The ride was me trying to keep up with Jim, dodging dogs and walkers and well, other cyclists, and not dying. Even through all of that, the scenery was beautiful. I couldn't take my eyes away from my surroundings. It actually reminded me of our canal boat trip.

It was cold and raining when we started.
We made it to Wetherby just in time for the wind to pick up slightly. I was tired and all I could think about was resting. I made it clear that I wanted to stop at a pub for a beer before we headed back home to make dinner.

I'm having a Beck's Beer in front of the sign.

I swear he asked me to do this.

It was about a 7 mile roundtrip bike ride...I think. Well, I'm going for it anyways. We came home and made a delicious pork tenderloin with crackling (spelling?) and my first ever homemade pecan pie.

Monday, September 10, 2012

First Real Milestone with Cycling

This past weekend was awesome weatherwise for us Texans (well, Houstonians since people often think that what happens in one area of Texas happens to all areas). We had a cold front come in, which means that we dropped down to the 80s on Saturday, 60s that night, and 70s/low 80s on Sunday. Plus, the sun was shining both days. We basically had our Spring weather hit in September, which quite frankly, never happens. I wanted to relish in this wonderful outdoor temperature by getting outdoors as much as possible. I even turned off my A.C. and kept the balcony door open (when I was home, of course).

I have slacked all week with my cycling. It's like the Weather Gods wanted to punish us with intense heat before the cool front came. I guess they wanted us to appreciate it more. So, I waited for the humidity and heat to dissipate before going out, which meant that I sat on my tush coming up with every excuse in the book to not go biking and those excuses won. But I could not waste this weekend temperature by staying indoors.

Saturday, I rode around Rice University for a rough total of 7 miles. It was a nice relaxing ride although, I had some issues with drivers. I was finally feeling my gears the way they should be feeling when I ride. I was beginning to understand just how they worked and ended up with a more productive ride than ever before. I still can't go up a hill or incline without going super slow. I also found out that the insides of my helmet are falling apart and black grit fuzz stuff falls on my face. I noticed it on my fingers and arms usually when I wiped my forehead or something. I tried to do the best that I could, but there was really nothing I could do. So, I kept it going and hope people wouldn't look at me funny. I did get some looks. When, I got home, my entire forehead was black and I can only hope that it looked like a black bandana or something. Otherwise, I was just a freak that got carried away with the camo warpaint.

And then Sunday came. I was feeling the call of the cycle again with much better weather than the previous day. I had a good amount of time before the Texans started to play (right by my apartment). I grabbed a bandana that I got from the Susan G. Komen race and put on my helmet. Nice. I headed out the door ready to ride to my goal point where Brays Bayou hits 610. However, I got about a quarter mile when I realized that I forgot my water bottle. There was no way that I would make it to the my turnaround point without water. So, I went back home to retrieve the bottle and then officially got on my way.

I began to really use my gears and watch them. Everything felt different and better. I even got to pass a couple and caught up to someone that had sailed past me (didn't take a break, because I could see him). There were loads of people out, which was good and bad. I had to stop a couple of times to let a runner go by and the cyclist behind the runner on a skinny trail. I also did my ab work out at that gym thing in the park (50 crunches, 50 bicycle crunches, 50 scissor kicks, 60 second plank, and 2 sets of 25 arm dips).

I was just biking along to my music (one ear, of course) and enjoying the outside. Before I knew it, I was passed the point where I turned around a couple of weeks ago. And then, I got to 610. I was so happy that I made it there; I felt great. I even contemplated going alittle farther, but since this was my longest ride ever, I probably shouldn't push it. It's a good thing that I turned around when I did. There was so much wind against me on my way back home; it was hard and I was tired.

I made it home in 1.5 hours, which is not good, but not bad for me. Afterwards, I did 2 sets of squarts with arm curls.

So, how far did I go? I had to know exactly. I was thinking maybe 6 miles one way, but it turned out that it was 6.9 miles. I roughly biked 14 miles and I couldn't believe it. This was a major milestone bike ride for me. Maybe now I'm finally getting this whole cycling thing. Maybe.

My next bike ride will probably be in England when I head to the Sykes Farm (you know it) to pick up the meat for my first Sunday Roast dinner. It's supposed to be an easy one or that's what Jim claims. We shall see since I will have just come in from America on that day. Oh, we also have our infamous swim competition. He used to swim hardcore back in the day. I just have powerful arms that move me across the water like Phelps. Yeah, I so got this in the bag.