Tuesday, August 30, 2011


My bike started giving me brake problems.... again. Brakes and gears have been giving me issues since last year. This time the brake pads were worn way down, but when I put new ones on, they didn't seem to be grabbing right. Hmmm, never replaced brake pads myself before, maybe I didn't do it right. I figured I could take it in to the shop, get them adjusted, and go riding from there.

It didn't happen that way. The reason my new brakes weren't working was that my wheel rims were so worn that the new pads weren't making contact properly. (I had put them on just fine.) What I needed was new wheels. The ones I needed were going to cost more than I could afford. Oh, and by the way, it looked like I was going to need a new front chainring set pretty soon, too, which was going to cost about the same as the new wheels.. In the meantime, to keep it running, they could sell me a cheaper set of wheels but my current ones, they said, weren't even safe. Ready to shred like one of those meat cans you open with a key, and you don't want that to happen while you're on the way down a hill at 35mph.

I could tell the inexpensive wheels didn't roll well. I didn't want them.... they would make everything harder. So, all bummed out, I took my bike and her bad wheels and worn-out chainrings home to talk to my husband about what to do. SavageMan is a month away.

Well, my 90-yr-old mother heard me talking about it and asked what was up. She asked to make sure she had it right, that I needed new wheels to make my bike rideable, and was going to need to spend the same amount soon on another part.  She questioned the logic of replacing one expensive part after another on a bike that had 10,000-12,000 miles on it and kept breaking down. And she asked, if I were to get a new bike, what it would cost to get the bike I need.

Long story short, I've had a brand-new bike for a week now. Trek Madone 5.2 WSD (Women's Specialized Design) and it's gorgeous. Riding it is like riding butter. 

My mother wanted to do this for me. She's not rolling in dough but she does have a little extra. I talked about how we could use that money for improvements to her home. I felt awkward: I'm an adult, and my mother was offering to buy me a bike. But I could see she was going to be very disappointed and sad if I didn't let her do this for me. So I've got this beautiful new bike that flies over the roads and breezes up hills (well, I do still have to grind hard up the worst ones but they're easier than they were before)  and I don't have to be afraid that some part or other is going to give out on me mid-ride, mid-hill, mid-race.

And I'm trying to get my head around this gift that I could not have gotten for myself, haven't earned, don't feel I deserve. She says with all I do for her that's not even a question. I'm always feeling I should be doing more.

And it occurred to me.... it's like salvation. It's a gift. I did not earn it, did not have to earn it, because it's not earned, it's a gift. It's there; I need only to receive it. There's nothing I can do to pay for it, because the giver paid for it, it's already paid for, it's mine. Salvation; a new bike. Amazing, the lessons the Lord teaches us.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011


I see a couple black bears a year here in Garrett County, MD. Sometimes from the car, but most often I've been on foot or on my bike.

One of the most spectacular was while I was out running with my two dogs 7 or 8 years ago. I heard the usual thrashing in the brush up ahead and had my usual expectation of seeing a deer, but then a bear cub the size of a beagle crossed the road, followed by another, followed by a third. Obviously, when you see a bear cub (or two or three) maybe 50 yards ahead of you, you stop immediately.... there's got to be a mother with those little guys. Sure enough, out she came, followed by a FOURTH cub! And, oh, dear, the mom stopped in the middle of the road and looked at me, and one of my dogs barked at her, and I'm thinking, what to do if a bear with cubs comes after you? They say stand your ground and yell at her to go away. But she just stared for what seemed like half a minute but probably wasn't, before moving on across the road and into the woods.

I reversed my direction. I wasn't going there.

Then maybe 3 years ago, I was biking on a small but well-populated road along Deep Creek Lake, and here came 2 cubs followed by the mother, right across the road into a driveway, and there the mother stopped although the cubs continued on into the yard. Again I stopped. She was right smack next to the road, which had no shoulders. I wasn't riding past her. Even if I turned around and went the other way, she could go from 0 to 30 a lot faster than I could. So I just waited. She looked at me. I looked at her. She waited. I waited. Finally, in a friendly voice, I just said, "Hi!" She turned and booked, along with her cubs, to the back of the house and into the woods.

Quite a few times I've seen a bear up ahead while I've been biking; hollering out, "Hey, Bear, move! I'm coming!" has been enough to make them get out of the road.

But I never had one come this close to me before. I have a friend who's a woodswoman (hunter, hiker, wanderer) and she never goes into the woods without her bear spray on her hip. I've teased her about it. But now I think I'll ask her where she buys her spray. Maybe I've been too blasé about these beautiful, usually non-agressive, powerful creatures. This juvenile bear was awesome but I wasn't nuts about the way he ran right towards me. He'd changed his direction -- had started running into the woods and changed his mind for some reason. I thought the mom might be behind him, coming after me, or that he had decided to chase me off instead of running away, or who knows. I thought he was going to fight my dog (whose purpose is to deter marauders of all species, but I don't want her mauled by a bear.) Oddly, I wasn't frightened, just thinking faster than I ever imagined possible. And after he went away I went ahead and finished my run, 5 more miles, including a 2+ mile road through the forest with few cars and no houses. I mean, what's the chance of two close bear encounters in one hour? I just plain wasn't scared. Call me crazy.

But when I got home, after excitedly telling my husband, I went scrounging through some old stuff and found a can of bear spray we'd bought when hiking in Yellowstone and the Tetons. It said "Exp 2007." I took it outside and shot a little blast at the fence. It still shot. I sniffed the fence. Smelled like pepper. But I'm sure it loses potency. I'm buying myself a new can. ~Sigh~ It costs about $45, but I guess it could be money well-spent.

Sunday, August 21, 2011


Out running with my dog, about a mile into a 6-miler, heard some scrambling and scrabbling in the woods ahead, pretty usual, probably a deer. Oops, nope..... a young bear in a tree, about 4 feet up. A little larger than my 50-pound dog, who set up her special "funny-looking animal alert" bark. I thought the bear would continue up the tree, but he jumped down and ran into the woods. My instincts made me dart my eyes around to see if there was a mama, but I didn't see one. Then, crash, scramble..... a bear is running out of the same spot, straight towards Journey and me. Is that Mama?? No, same youngster, but he's coming right at us. Journey was lunging, ready to give him the what-for, and I'm still looking for a mama, and thinking, he's not very old but he could kill my dog (or me, I guess) if he had a mind to, and how on earth do you break up a dog-and-bear fight, I guess you don't, you drop the leash and let your dog keep the bear off you, even at the expense of your dog.... amazing how many thoughts can run through your head in a fraction of a second. I yelled "NO!!!" at both Journey and the bear, and he veered off about 2 feet from Journey (maybe 6 feet from me) and dashed across the road into the woods. I'm left with my mouth still open from the "NO!!!" and still looking for a mama when out he runs again, maybe 50 feet away, back across to where he came from. Journey still wanted to give chase. Several cars were stopped. They all waited a respectable interval before going again, too..... no doubt, like me, wondering if there was another one nearby. The young'un seemed to be alone, though; probably a 2-yr-old in his first summer on his own.

Well, I always enjoy seeing a bear, but ordinarily I wouldn't choose to see one quite that close. Oddly, at the same time I was holding tight to the leash and shouting "NO!!!" I was also conscious of how beautifully black and shiny he was..... I would have liked to reach out and touch him.

Well, maybe not.

Saturday, August 13, 2011


These were posted within the last 24 hours on Facebook by a friend of mine and I'm passing it on:

‎63 year old Eric Robinson from Australia, set off to thru hike the Highline Trail 7.28.11. He was scheduled to finish Sunday 8.7.11. Please Call Sherriff Mitchell at 435.738.2015 or Julia Geisler 415.695.4502 if you are available for the next few days to join the search or have any info.

Calling Volunteers! Missing Hiker on Highline Trail, Uintas, Utah: Eric Robinson
PLEASE SEARCH BLOGS, FACEBOOK, TRAIL JOURNALS for anyone who hiked on the Highline Trail between 7.28.11-8.7.11 and get in touch with them. ANY INFO ABOUT ERIC WILL HELP.


I'm suffering from a notable lack of focus.

I need to/want to/should be doing so many things that seem to rule each other out. I need to be training for SavageMan; I need to rest a couple of injuries; I need to decide whether to do the whole race as registered for or downgrade to the shorter distance or maybe the AquaVelo (skipping the run); I want to skip all this for now and go hiking with my backpacking pal Rocky; I need to clean & remodel my mother's house; I need to clean up my own accumulated junk.....

I need to do just one thing for long enough to progress a little towards accomplishing that one thing.

I need to light somewhere.

I just now started practicing hymns for tomorrow's church service and stopped right in the middle of one and went out and moved the car out of the driveway so my husband can get the truck in. My husband was not there, in the truck, waiting; he's coming after awhile. I stopped in the middle of the hymn to move the car. Then I came back in intending to go back to the piano but instead sat at the computer and started loading the weather radar map to decide whether to go for a bike ride or a swim or neither, and while the weather map was loading I switched to my blog. Haven't gotten back to the radar map yet.

I got a new tent, finished seam-sealing it yesterday, and want to set it up for tonight when it's supposed to rain. A friend has Tyvek she can give me to make a ground sheet, so should I go get that from her before I set up the tent and if so, should I bike to and from her house (24 miles each way) or should I drive there and back or just set up the tent using something I already have for a ground sheet that doesn't fit?

Pretty soon the bike-or-swim question will decide itself for me, as will the bike-or-drive question: I'll simply run out of time. Not to decide is to decide.

I still haven't gotten back to either the radar map or the piano. It's a wonder I've stayed at my blog post this long.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011


Written months ago..... I haven't been able to publish posts and just now found out how to fix it! On with my "Easter Essay" -- finally!!!


I felt so free..... driving along the back country roads, with my bike in the back seat, after a long frustrating day, to meet my friend Roxanne for a ride. I'd been looking forward to it all day and I felt free, free! Rox and I are going biking, hallelujah!!

Until I saw the red and blue lights flashing in my rear-view mirror. Unmarked car. Darn.

I knew what it was, though. We had moved in with my mother several months earlier and were finding many things that she had lost track of, one of them being renewing her car tags. We'd discovered this earlier when I got pulled over for expired tags, but the officer found, on running the registration, that it was current; the renewal stickers just had not been applied. The cop gave me one of those "get this fixed" orders but didn't ticket me since the registration was current. Mother had no idea where they could be, so we ordered new ones. Well, I procrastinate and lose track of things too, and the new stickers were still in the glove box.

So when this second officer pulled me over, I reached immediately for the registration papers and the new stickers.

"Hello, officer, I know it looks like my tags are expired but it's my elderly mother's car, and she lost the renewal stickers; I have the replacement ones right here but haven't put them on yet," handing them to him.

He looked at the registration and the stickers. He said, "I already ran your tags and I know your registration's current. Be sure to get those stickers on soon. Actually the reason I've pulled you over is..... I clocked you awhile back at 55 in a 40 zone and just now at 62 in a 50."

My spirits plunged as I felt a heavy weight fall crushing down on me. No more light, free feeling.

"It's 40mph starting back there at Black Hawk School Road, with a notice before the change," he answered. "Did you see me sitting there? " "I didn't," I said. (Unmarked car sitting at a stop sign...) "You've been following me that long?" It had to have been at least a mile.

"I have," he said. "That's two violations in a mile and a half." (Plus, he could have said, not paying attention, not seeing the speed limit signs, not noticing the police vehicle at the intersection or behind me. And I thought it was 55, not 50, right here where he'd pulled me over, but he'd clocked me at 62.)

"You can put your stickers back in your glove box; be sure to put them on soon. I do need your registration, license, and insurance information."

Oh no, please..... we'd been living in Maryland for close to a year and I still had my Florida driver's license from when we were RV'ing and didn't live "anywhere" but had to declare a state of residency, so, like many full-time RV'ers, we declared one we occasionally visited and actually stayed in sometimes that had no state tax. Please please please...... I gave him the documents. He read them.

"You say this is your mother's car?" "Yes, it is. My husband and I have moved in with her to take care of her." "She's elderly, you say?" "Yes, sir." "So, how long ago did you move here from Florida?" Oh, geez. Well, not quite. Most recently we'd moved from New Orleans from New Hampshire from Texas. We'd lived in Florida for 6 months in 2005 but at the time we were registered in South Dakota. It seemed too complicated and farfetched to explain.

"Um, several months ago. (Maybe 8 or 10 since we actually changed our address..... isn't that just a few.....?) "Things have been pretty confusing, getting my mother's issues sorted out. I guess I sort of put off getting my own license changed." (I guess you're supposed to get your Maryland one within 60 days of taking up residence there.)

"Well, you have two significant speeding violations, and expired tags even though your registration is current, and I'll have to run the info on your out-of-state license. You now claim the same address that's here on your mother's registration, is that correct?" "Yes, sir, my husband and I have changed our addresses to receive all our mail and services there."

So he goes back to his patrol car and I lean my head on the steering wheel and moan, "Oh, God, no, oh God no, oh God no, oh God no......" How am I going to pay a speeding ticket? Speeding plus all these other issues? How much is he going to hit me for? SavageMan is next month, I was going to get my bike a complete tune-up and new tires. I guess not, now. How could I have been so happy and so heedless? God help me, God help me, God help me...... 55 in a 40 that I didn't see? 62 in a 50 that I thought was 55? I couldn't have been, but he's been behind me for over a mile and I didn't even notice him, even in his unmarked car. I'm just flying along in my bike shorts and jersey with my bike in the back seat singing, "I'm free, I'm free, it's (finally) a great day to be alive...." but my bubble is busted. I'll probably just go home. I'll be needing to save on gas to pay for the traffic ticket.

With my head still on the steering wheel, I hear his voice at the window again. I lift my head and stare out the windshield.

"OK, Mrs. Hamilton," he says. "I haven't written you a citation. I've written you a warning for exceeding the 40mph speed limit. I don't want to penalize you; I just want protect you. Slow down, pay attention, and stay safe. And get your Maryland license soon and put those tag stickers on. You have a nice ride, now," glancing at my outfit and the bike.

And then, so kindly and gently it felt like a soft, warm, blessing rain: "You're free to go."
Free to go. It echoed in my head and my heart.
You're free to go.
You're free to go.
You're free to go.

You have this violation, and this one, and this one, and this one, and this one. (I discovered later that the insurance information I had handed him was expired as well, although, again, the policy was current but the card had been lost. He either didn't notice or, after running my insurance info, didn't mention it.)
But you're free to go.

Free to go? It took me a beat to absorb that. Then I gave him an astonished "Thank you!" and suddenly felt 20 pounds lighter. I felt uplifted and inspired.

Free to go. When I approach the heavenly throne and see that video of my life they always show you, I hope the Lord says to me, "Well, you've had some issues, haven't you? I've watched it all. You had this problem, and there was a tough choice here that could have gone better, you've always felt badly about the way you treated some people, you blew off some things that were important. But I don't want to penalize you, I just want to help you. I've taken care of all of it for you. You're free to go."

I put the written warning in my Bible.

It's been probably 9 or 10 months since that happened. I should call the police station and ask to speak with that officer, and tell him how much that extraordinary kindness meant to me. I think I'll even tell him I hope that's what Jesus says to me when I get to heaven: "You're free to go." He made my day, and left a lasting impression on my life. Maybe letting him know can make one on his.

I Think It's Fixed......

Switched from "old post editor" to "new post editor" in Settings. One more try.....

Test Post

To see if I can publish.