Michigan and more

Just like the wheels on my bike, my mind is spinning with several thoughts — so here goes:

* Seeing red

In a February posting titled "Sunday sermon," I preached about the importance of using flashing lights while riding a bike. This point was again reinforced for me the other day as I was cruising on the Litchfield Road coming into Hallowell. A motorist pulled up alongside me and said, "Those red flashing lights are great. I could see them from a long ways back. Thanks for using them."

We cyclists talk about how helmets provide protection, but with lights it's all about prevention. If you pay attention to only one thing I've written about on Pedal2Page, make it lights and please fasten one to your bike. Believe me, they work. And they should be "always on" — even in daylight.

* Fun in the mud

Despite the unwelcome return of snow in the last few days, it is springtime — which also means the arrival of mud season. And I got up close and personal with the disgusting goo last Sunday at the Frost Heave Fondo in Searsmont, Maine.

Mud season at Frost Heave Fondo in Maine.

The first-ever event had a huge turnout. A total of 122 people pre-registered for the 29-mile ride, but many more signed on at the last minute. The bicycles of choice were mostly fat bikes, mountain bikes and cyclocross, which is what I employed with 38c tires.

There were plenty of hills, beautiful views, joyful moments of being on the bike, a little bit of pavement, and miles upon miles of muddy, dirt roads. The one thought I had while slipping and sliding along was how I'd hate to drive in that muck every day. But most of all, it was fun; a sentiment echoed by many participants.

"This event and the weather and conditions did not disappoint," said Greg Clugston of Falmouth, Maine. "The biggest asset of this event was the staff and support; they were the best. The Fondo was not a race-type event, which is what I'm into now in life. I compete to complete and enjoy."

Many organizers are realizing that events featuring participation by people of all abilities are fast becoming "the" biggest draw, and not just in cycling. People don't want to just watch. This is where the Frost Heave Fondo fits in, and I'm already looking forward to next year's "fun in the mud."

* Vicky update

There's progress to report in my wife's quest to get back on a bicycle. I ordered her new ride the other day at Mathieu's Cycle & Fitness store in Farmingdale, Maine. Vicky has selected a Trek FX 3 fitness bike, with an aluminum frame and carbon fork.

We both remain excited about the prospect of riding together along the Kennebec River Rail Trail, and at places like the carriage roads inside Acadia National Park on Maine's Mount Desert Island. Stay tuned for photos of Vicky sitting atop her brand-new two-wheeled bike.

* Lost, but not forgotten

Fillmore. State. Buchanan. Alger. Jerome. Grant. Johnson. St. Charles. These are some of the roads of my youth growing up in Ithaca, Michigan, a small farming community. I had the chance to revisit them this week on a visit home.

Riding in the Great Lake State is way different than in Maine, at least in the Lower Peninsula. There is no loafing on a bike, because there are no hills. If you go for 30 miles, which is what I did, you pedal for 30 miles. It's flat as a pancake, and usually windy. Brief bits of relief from the blowing conditions come when you pass by a gigantic grain silo, which are often located in fields near the road.

The world is flat in Michigan.

This trip I brought a bike with me, which is not always the case. On some occasions, I could just borrow one from my little sister, Ann, who wasn't really a cyclist, per se, but she understood my need for getting in a ride and would lend me her clunker. I honestly believe it was the only time those two wheels ever hit the pavement.

I had to bring a bike because I couldn't ask my sister. You see, I had to come home because I lost my little sister, who at age 61 never recovered after suffering a massive stroke a few weeks ago.

As I said, Ann wasn't much of a bike rider, but she had the heart of a champion. She loved life, and she loved her family, especially her husband, Tim, and three grown children. And while the bike she let me use saw very little action, Ann was always interested in my cycling exploits — from my ride to Texas, to the creation of this blog. She was actually one of my first subscribers.

It's hard to believe that my little sister is gone. I would gladly cycle a thousand miles without stopping to bring her back. But hopefully, while I'm out on a bike and enjoying the freedom that riding one brings to me, I can think about Ann and the fond memories of us growing up together all those years ago in a tiny town in Michigan.

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