Happy Birthday Freya!


Happy Birthday, Freya!

Yesterday was Freya’s birthday. It was Soooo HOT that she refused to move from the basement after our initial early morning walk. I gave her a frozen raw bone from the butcher, and that was her birthday treat. She seemed to make the most of it, even in the basement.



It was an eventful day. Nikki and Tom and Alec and Lia left our house for their Calgary, Alberta adventure. After a delightful four-day visit, it was TOUGH to see them go.


Lia and Freya




















So, after waving them out the driveway and drying my eyes, I got in touch with my friend Paul and saddled up for a 43 mile bike ride. Best way to avoid the blues that I know! It was, however, in the 90s and HUMID, so we were dripping wet by ten miles in. The heat made a bit of a challenge, but cycling moves the air, so I never notice the heat as much on my bike as off. Paul and I had much fun, as always.

Paul and me 8.10.1613886467_1081043135276460_1618886200407948600_n


Got some other work done, and then saddled up again to go on the Nicollet Bike Women’s Ice Cream ride. I figured that’s usually a leisurely paced, no-drop ride, so I could do it in spite of an earlier ride. Well, we moved right along and split into a couple groups, and I dropped a sweaty water bottle–fell right through my fingers–but Emma retrieved it, and all was good. Mom and Pop’s Ice Cream is, as always, a delightful way to end a hot, fun ride. . Good friends, good fun. https://www.facebook.com/nicolletbikeshop/photos/a.495357077178405.1073741826.139081836139266/1081043135276460/?type=3


Then, last night, I was sorting boxes from my basement in the Rapidan house. I found pictures of Nikki and me as toddlers. Here’s a rather delightful comparison:


baby Nik and LiaI’m on the left. Nikki’s in the middle, and Lia’s on the right (taken two days ago). I guess there’s a little resemblance. It’s fun to see three generations carrying on. Nikki in the middle, by the way, is also playing with a tea set. Ha.


All said and done, what a good life.

This morning I went to the eye doctor, and the only problems are normal problems with aging. Nothing concerning. And with a new appreciation for life, I’m happy to have eye aging problems. It’s so much better than the alternative, which could have been mine!


Chasing AllieCat Screenplay, recovering, Freya, and Medical Leave

Kitchen w FreyaThe good things about being on medical leave this semester:

1. Not grading papers

2. Getting to visit my kids and grandkids on my own schedule instead of the school schedule

3. Spending tons of time with Freya

4. I get more time to WRITE than I do during the school year. Even with rest time built into every day, I can write at least some time, which doesn’t happen during the busy school year. This year that’s more important than ever because Steph Borklund and the SFI (Stephens Film Institute) at Stephens College in Columbia, MO are indeed working on the short film of Chasing AllieCat. My time away from school allowed me to:

1. Write the screenplay

2. Work with Steph and her students to edit, edit, edit, and tweak the screenplay

3. Be available so Steph and I can brainstorm about details (wardrobe, bike race, location, PR, and tons more) for the film. She’s doing all that work, of course. I just find out what’s happening and I’m lucky that she asks me for my opinion on lots of decisions. Many authors whose books become films don’t get that opportunity.

4. Get to go to Missouri for the week of actual shooting. I’m taking my bikes, too!

5. Meet her students–online, at least–and through a Facetime classroom visit! They students are awesome, and these young women are full of passion for this project. I’m so excited, I feel like a little kid!

I’m also editing another novel, but the film project is front and center right now. It’s much FUN!


Thoughts on crashing and riding again

On Labor Day I crashed on my bike. I crashed hard. Hard.

I was riding in a group of about 20 guys. After a nice little loop around Minneopa, we had come back into town on Carney, which is newly paved and smooth riding. For this reason, guess I wasn’t being vigilant–never okay or excusable on a bike–and dropped into a hole something like a manhole with access to the water main, I guess. Anyway, I slammed over my handlebars against the pavement and broke my collarbone, my shoulder blade, and three ribs.

Here’s the ambulance. And Gianni Anderson.

photo 2-11And the fire truck.

fire truck smile



And here I am, lying on the pavement in the middle of the road, in so much pain I was hoping a truck would come along and put me out of my misery. And Andy Fischer asked me to smile. and I flipping did!


Skarpohl, here’s evidence that what you think is a smile is really a grimace.


That’s the deal. I instantly look for reasons; deeper meanings as to why this happened, which of course there are none. Stuff just happens if you aren’t paying attention, which I wasn’t, I guess. So there’s the lesson: never quit paying attention. And yes, get back on the bike. ASAP.

But I think along the lines of the following. Maybe it’s because I was raised to expect that life would dole out “comeuppances” for doing something wrong. Maybe I spent far too many years believing all things work together for good…when I know that’s absolutely not true on a world-wide basis. At any rate, crazy as these thoughts are, this is what went through my head:

Maybe I needed to slow down? I usually live at a fairly frantic pace.

Maybe I needed to write more and bike less? But no, biking is living, it means being vibrantly alive, and it makes me happy, and I write and teach better when I ride a lot.

Maybe, maybe, the forces of the universe said, “You are just too happy. Life is too good. Take this and see how you do!” I wrote a blog earlier this summer about happiness and aging. Was this a test to see how I do with being set back? I don’t believe that. But I wonder if some shred of me does wonder that since it even entered my head?

Maybe since I wrote that post about aging and happiness, those same forces of the universe smacked me into the pavement and said, “okay, are you still happy? Still love your life?” Truth is, yes, I do,  didn’t like it much the first 48 hours when I sort of wanted a Mac truck to put me out of my misery, but since then, life has gotten a little better every damn day.

Mom’s second-most-used adage was “Pride Cometh before fall.” Was I getting proud? That always hangs around the back of my head. “Stay humble…avoid falls.”

And, today, wonder of wonders, Tom helped me get into the figure-8 brace to hold my clavicle in place, and it isn’t sending me into paroxysms of shoulder blade pain like it did last week, and in fact feels pretty darn good, so yeah, I still do like life. And awesome friends have been showing up with food and flowers and books and movies, and I am fortunate as all get out to have so many awesome friends. Seriously.

And here I am with my friend-of-30-years, Carol Daniels, who came to visit.

Carol and me arm

Maybe the universe is telling me to switch sports or hobbies? ABSOLUTELY NOT!!!! Surprising how many people have suggested that. Seriously?  I crashed. It hurt. I will heal. Not a huge deal in the scope of things. Tyler Hamilton rode a few days of the Tour with a broken collarbone (‘course he didn’t have a broken shoulder blade or ribs to go with it at the moment, but come on)! I can’t wait to get back on my bike. In fact, it is what I miss most while in my recliner.

HERE’s the other thing: people have asked if I have weak bones or something since I have broken, um, several in bike crashes. Actually no. I just hit hard. The pavement, that is. I’ve crashed many times mountain biking and never broken anything. I got hit by a car and broke no bones, though I cracked my bike. This time, the ER doc thought I would have broken elbow, hip, arm, hand, wrist…but no. Just the biggest impact sites.

And I submit: What’s the point of going through life doing things halfway? I’d rather go hard, crash a few times, get up and ride again, and love what I do, rather than live too carefully.

Okay, as my daughter pointed out, there may be a middle ground. But still, I love what Hunter S. Thompson said, “Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming, “Wow! What a ride!”


A very long blog about Aging and about Happiness

A very long blog about aging. And life. And happiness.My age is no secret. It’s public knowledge on Facebook that I turned 59 last week. People ask me how old I am (seems that it’s not impolite to ask on one’s birthday), and at first, I can’t remember! I suppose it’s possible that I am experiencing early-onset dementia. I don’t want to believe that, and I don’t really think so, but I do forget stuff…Well, that aside, what I mean is that I can’t remember how old I am because I can’t flippin’ believe that I’m almost 60. WTF? How did this happen? 59 years old? What?zeroWhen I turned fifty, I started the tradition of riding my bike the number of miles of my years on my birthday. I needed to do something that felt good about being in charge of my life, my birthday. I didn’t want to wait for other people to make a big deal out of my birthday. I wanted to celebrate my own life in my own way, ‘cause after all, I’m the one living it. Turning 50 mattered more to me than to anybody else, right? I liked getting 50 miles in, just for myself. On my 50th birthday, I rode the whole way all by myself. It was good. So I kept it up, every year.Riding 50-something miles isn’t really a huge deal for me if I’m riding a lot during the year. A couple times, my birthday ride on June 22 has been the second longest ride of the year, but not usually. This year, my birthday dawned—or rather grew lighter in the darkness—there was no “dawn”—in a crackling, pounding thunderstorm. When the rain went away, the day continued howlingly windy, but not too tough to complete 59 miles.

Rachael and me

I met my writing and riding buddy Rachael Hanel in Madison Lake, and she joined me for the middle 32 miles, including a delightful lunch at Jocko’s in Cleveland. We also saved this turtle from the middle of the road.



In the last ten miles of the 59, I ran into Mike (aka Michaelmas) Busch who was getting a few extra miles on his way home from work—twice. I had to double back on my route to complete 59 and saw him for the second time. Best part of this: Mike gave me the delightful birthday present of the news that he’ll be joining the SCC faculty in the Mechatronics program! I almost jumped off my bike in delight when he told me.


After the 59, I took a little break and fed Freya, and rode back to town to join the Nicollet Bike Shop women’s ice cream ride organized by my buddy Emily Flynn, so I ended up with 92 miles for the day.

Almost (but not quite, as Mark Skarpohl was quick to point out) 159 kilometers. I could have ridden a few more and clocked 159K, but opted to stop in time to go out for birthday dinner. Food—and a margarita—won.

Maybe next year. Maybe I’ll have to ride 160 K instead of only 60 miles—just to keep the maestro of mileage Mark Skarpohli happy. And let it be known that Skarpohli always rides 100+ his birthday years in miles on his birthday. This July, he’ll be riding 157, I believe.

IMG_3272 Birthday flowers. 🙂

I do think that this much biking is one reason I don’t feel 59—and consequently forget how old I am. But I know I’m not alone in my disbelief. Saturday night, I joined five friends from Ballard High School for dinner in Ames, Iowa. We were all from the class of ’74 or ’73, and none of us can figure out how the heck we got to be this old. For crying out loud, I remember my Aunt Ruby going to her 30th class reunion, and thinking she was so old, and that I’d never be that old. Now I’m past my 40th Reunion year. What?

The reality of aging is a strange twist of logic in the minds of the young. Old people have a fictional past where they were once children in an age so long ago that it’s like a fairy tale. Old people are innately always old; they were never children, never young and beautiful, sexy and vibrant; thrumming with the expectancies of life. Old people are and always were, simply old. Now, it seems, I am entering that group of folks.

Even, as youngsters, if we understand the concept that old folks were once young, and we will, inevitably do one of the other: we will either die young, or we will age—ageing still doesn’t seem like reality for us. I won’t get old. I am me in this reality today, and I’m in this young body, and I won’t really, not really get old. Somehow, I am exempt because here I am. Now. Today. Look at me. Alive.

It’s very much like the student who does her research project on the dangers of tanning, but continues to cultivate a rich dark tan ‘cause cancer can’t really happen to me. Same thing, isn’t it?

Well, let me tell you, all you teens, twenty-somethings, and thirty-somethings, and even forty-somethings (!). It ain’t so, and it happens to the best of us. Weirdly, I’m happier—or definitely as happy at age 59 as ever. I have always loved my life, except for a few years in there when guilt and remorse clouded my entire perception, and I really needed to get a divorce and quit being a pastor’s wife—long story, which I can tell you sometime if you ask—and better yet, I’ll write it—which I’ve actually done—but I emerged from all that guilt and sadness happier than ever. I love my life. I truly love my life.

I have spectacular kids and grandkids. Yup, that’s bragging. I earned it, and they deserve it. Their spectacularness is, of course, a huge factor in my life, yes, but being happy isn’t dependent on anyone else, not even my own kids. Being happy is a decision inside of each of our own situations, and that is a freeing realization. All I can control is me. I make me happy. Or not. Or I do.

I have to say that a huge part of this freedom came from not depending on GOD to make me happy, which, for the first many years of my life, I thought I had to do. I was trying hard, and I mean really trying hard to trust God for my happiness. It just didn’t quite work—all part of that story I can tell you if you ask—and when I realized it was up to me, well, that’s when I started getting happier and happier. And yeah, I have some crappy downtimes, and yeah, I’ve been depressed, and yeah, publishers reject me, and I fall flat on my face, and I crash on my bike, and I break bones in bike crashes, and I got hit by a car, and I screw things up irreparably sometimes, and life sucks, but generally, generally, give me a bike so I can go meditate in motion, and I can reach my happy place.

I remember going for a run on Christmas Day afternoon, back in my glorious running days, when my knees were still in mint condition. A girlfriend pulled up beside me, opened her window in the frigid Christmas air and said, “Becky, you must really like yourself.” That set me in a whirl. What? Was I being selfish to go running on Christmas? I had to think long and hard about her question before I settled on an answer. Raised as a die-hard Christian, “liking myself” wasn’t a good thing. We were bludgeoned with the idea that we must love Jesus first, Others second, and Yourself last—the only recipe for JOY. So to be confronted on Jesus’ “birthday” of all days, with “Really lik[ing]” myself was a jolt.

But I guess I do. I do like myself. I like this life I’ve built, and worked so hard to build. And I don’t want to depend on other people to be good to me. I need to do that myself.

I tell my composition students that nobody hands them the life they want on a silver platter. Even if they win the lottery, they’re still living their life, just with more money. Nobody gives you the life you want—not Prince Charming, not the perfect boss—nobody.

And I feel good about being an example to my students about building the life you want to live.

So back to aging. It sucks to get old and to lose perfect control of perfect knees and lose the ability to run. It sucks to forget names of people or things, but it also brings a peace. A recognition that yeah, I’ve actually done some really cool stuff in my life. And my kids know how to love and how to give and how to care about people and society and making the world a better place. If I can give that to the world? I’m happy as shit, and I’m happy to say that to anybody.

Yesterday, Freya and I spent the day with my dear friends Roger and Gwen Hart and their Newfy Buster Brown. We took the goofy Newfies to Petco Pet Store and swimming, and we talked and talked and talked—about life, what we’re doing, what we’re writing, and just what we’re doing in life. It solidified all I think about this: about how a happy life is what we make it, how we live every hour.

Not everybody wants to bike or own a 158-pound dog like I do. Not everyone can. Not everyone runs or bikes. But we each get to determine what makes us happy, and we are the only ones with the power to pursue that. And hopefully, the things that make us happy also make us healthy.

I have some more thoughts about this regarding crap life hands us like cancer, ALS, Alzheimer’s, and other terminal illnesses…but I don’t have room to talk about all of it here, and nope, those are NOT happy-makers. But no matter what we get dealt, we’re still in charge of what we do with it. We’re in charge of every day of our own lives.

It’s up to each and every one of us to make our own lives the place where we want to live. THAT is what happiness is all about. That’s what real joy is.



Shadow2The semester is winding down. Five weeks to go. I’ve had some wonderful classes this past week. In the South Africa class, people opened up and we had the best discussion we’ve had all semester. It makes me happy, happy, happy about the people who will be traveling together.

In Humanities II, we had fun looking at a wide variety of art, and then for fun, groups crafted architecture out of clay that would symbolize the various periods we have studied so far.

Students from Humanities who went on the field trip to the MIA and Guthrie have been writing their responses, and what a gratifying experience for me! Having students fall in love with “real” art, and discovering the beauty to be found in creativity in the world sort of makes my whole job worthwhile.

Part of life is good because it’s spring, and I took on the Nicollet Bike Shop challenge to ride at least two miles every single day of April. I fell off the wagon on the 9th. I got home at 9:30 p.m.; it was raining and cold and pitch dark, so I messed up my streak, but I’ll ride twice one day so I can still say I rode 30 times in April. Today, I rode 47 miles from the bike shop with seven very cool and fun people. Anyway, being outside on my trusty steed makes me feel fully human again, like I can leave things behind for a short time and just ride. Good for the soul, good for the body, necessary for the mind.

MnDOT Seeks input for statewide bicycle system plan

Subject: MnDOT seeks public input for statewide bicycle system plan in Mankato on Feb. 24

Minnesota Department of Transportation

395 John Ireland Boulevard

Saint Paul, MN 55155

News Release

Jan. 29, 2015                                                                                                                                                                                       Contact:  Sue Roe


MnDOT seeks public input for statewide bicycle system plan

  1. PAUL, Minn. – The Minnesota Department of Transportation is seeking public input on its Statewide Bicycle System Plan during a series of statewide meetings in February and March. The plan will identify a statewide system of bicycle routes, improve existing facilities and refine MnDOT’s bicycle planning process.

During the meetings, participants will provide specific input at activity stations and get the latest project news and updates. The information will help guide MnDOT in its next steps for the plan.

Meetings will be held at these locations:

  • Feb. 9 in Fergus Falls – West Central Initiative Conference Room, 1000 Western Ave.
  • Feb. 11 in Minneapolis – University of Minnesota’s Urban Research and Outreach Engagement Center, Room 105, 2001 Plymouth Ave N.
  • Feb. 18 in Bemidji – Hampton Inn and Suites, Sunken Island Room, 1019 Paul Bunyan Dr. SE
  • Feb. 19 in Granite Falls – Kilowatt Community Center, 600 Kilowatt Dr.
  • Feb. 24 in Mankato – Blue Earth County Library Auditorium, 100 E. Main St.
  • Feb. 25 in St. Paul – Neighborhood House at Wellstone Center, Westside Room, 179 Robie St. E
  • Feb. 26 in Duluth – City Hall, room 303, 411 W. First St.
  • March 11 in Rochester – University Center Rochester, Heintz Center Classroom, HA 104. Park in the east lot of Heintz Center, enter door H-9, 1926 College View Road E.
  • March 12 in St. Cloud – Whitney Senior Center, Kelly/Voltuck/Nikle Rooms, 1527 Northway Dr.

All meetings will be from 5 to 7 p.m.

Project team members and planning partners will be available for questions. Kids’ activities and snacks will be provided.

Interested persons also may submit comments on the project website at www.mndot.gov/bike, by email to greta.alquist@nullstate.mn.us or by mail to Greta Alquist, MnDOT Office of Transit MS 315, 395 John Ireland Blvd., St. Paul, MN, 55155.

A first round of statewide meetings was held in spring 2014. MnDOT received more than 3,000 comments on routes for the statewide network, ideas for the kinds of facilities that should be developed and locations where MnDOT should invest.

“Minnesota has a great bicycling culture. Throughout our process people from across the state were active in letting us know where and how we can make good bicycle-related investments,” said Tim Mitchell, MnDOT bicycle and pedestrian coordinator. “We hope anyone interested in bicycling will help us with our next steps as we continue to work towards improving bicycling throughout the state.”

To request an ASL or foreign language interpreter, or other reasonable accommodation during the meeting, call Janet Miller at 651-366-4720 or 1-800-657-3774 (Greater Minnesota); 711 or 1-800-627-3529 (Minnesota Relay). Alternatively, email janet.rae.miller@nullstate.mn.us. Please request at least one week in advance.

For more information on the project, visit www.dot.state.mn.us/bike/study.html.


Sue Roe

Communications Office

Public Affairs Program Administrator


Cell: 651-503-2467

Minnesota Department of Transportation

395 John Ireland Blvd.

St. Paul, MN




The day before I left for Georgia to ride with George Hincapie, I was out for a quick ride and just happened to meet this girl who was riding a BMX track in her yard. We said hi to each other, but as I passed her, I watched her over my shoulder, and I thought, Holy Smoke, that girl is fast and strong–and smooth. I think it was the way she pedaled so easily, caught speed so quickly, and swooped around her tight turns with handling ease. This is Stevie.


She’s got a bright smile and a competitive spirit. Just to give you a clue, somebody gave her this headband:


And that’s what she does.

Tonight, I rode my bike to the BMX track off Industrial Blvd. to watch the races.  Her headband was accurate.

I have a few other friends who race BMX, so now that I met Stevie, I wanted to watch a whole race. It was a blast, and everybody there racing was having a great time. Stevie won all her heats/races/motos. She deserves this headband.



So anyway, the day I met her, we talked for a bit. Part of my desire to meet her (Besides just that I like knowing other females who love to bike) is that I’d really love to write a novel containing a main character or two who race BMX. I have one story started with younger BMX racers, but I think a young adult novel about a BMX racer would be a great idea. I love the idea of a girl who’s strong and an athlete–like both Sadie and Allie in Chasing AllieCat.

Tonight, at the race, I talked with my friends the Austins, and with Mike Spiess, and Charlie from Scheels who was there as support, and met a bunch of people including some of Stevie’s family. I also met this young man–named Jameson.

 photo 3We were talking about bike shops since I was wearing my Nicollet Bike jersey. A-1 Bike Shop came up, and Jameson said, “We just read a book with A-1 Bike in it. Chasing AllieCat.” I said, “I wrote that.” He was thrilled, and so was I!  That was pretty much fun. (Stevie and I had also talked about that the day I met her. She’s also read Chasing AllieCat and really liked it).

I tell you, these two kids–and their brothers who also race–made my day. I’m so happy to get to be friends with them!


Birthday Ride

The year I turned 50, I decided I needed to ride a mile for each year of my life. Since my birthday’s in June, it’s a reasonable thing to accomplish, even if it rains. I’ve kept up the tradition, and it’s perhaps the best tradition I’ve ever started. This year meant 58 miles.photo-139photo 2photo 1The thing I like best about this tradition is that it’s me out there, by myself at least a good portion of the time, celebrating my own life. It doesn’t depend on anybody else doing anything for my birthday. Nobody else even has to remember my birthday. I just go out and celebrate being healthy enough to ride.  I have many friends at this stage of life with cancer and other illnesses, so I don’t take this lightly. It also makes me grateful that I’m this old and love my life. I like being with me, and I can enjoy that.photo 4photo 5 As my character Slider in Slider’s Son says, “Never turn into somebody you don’t want to spend time with.” So, that’s what I do. This year, these were some highlights.

First excitement: Geese crossing the road in front of me.

I thought I’d ride the Lake Crystal loop (almost 40 miles) and then join the Flying Penguin group (at right) at 10. Since I’ve been gone ten days, I hadn’t internalized the idea of local flooding and road closings, so I got to the Judson Bottom Road (crucial for the Lake Crystal loop) and and the road was closed (second two photos). The Minnesota River has actually converged with the Bottom Road. It’s quite a sight.

Minneopa Falls outside of Mankato are ROARING.  I took that in as an extra loop to get my miles. The best part of the ride, however, was riding with Gianni (Jon) Anderson and the Flying Penguin guys. That part if the ride flew by, with laughs and a fast descent. So happy Bill Durbahn is healthy enough to join that ride and keep up just fine! We also found Sibley park closed due to the river coming up to the road. But we do what most cyclists do and simply moved one traffic cone so we could ride through anyway.

What is it about cyclists and “Road Closed” signs? I don’t know about you, but to me, that’s an invitation to go explore exactly how far I can go and to view the problem!  Anyway, I got my 58 miles (actually 61), and I plan to keep riding my birthday miles as long as I’m breathing.

Mankato Area Cycling Team

Just have to say….
I had a BLAST tonight at Franklin School. I met some excited young cyclists who will join the local cycling team.
Singletrack High is so much fun. I made me want to just get out and ride right now, but it’s late and dark and cold and windy. I’m hoping that it will be nicer in the morning, and maybe I can sneak in a ride before school.
Thanks Mike Busch and Matt Busch and Jenna and Justin Reinhardt from Nicollet Bike for all making this happen!

I got to talk a bit about Chasing AllieCat (and even read my favorite race scene), and we watched the trailer, too! It was much fun!

If you have a chance to see Singletrack High, and you have the least interest in cycling, see it!

Mankato Area Cycling Team

Just have to say….
I had a BLAST tonight at Franklin School. I met some excited young cyclists who will join the local cycling team.
Singletrack High is so much fun. I made me want to just get out and ride right now, but it’s late and dark and cold and windy. I’m hoping that it will be nicer in the morning, and maybe I can sneak in a ride before school.
Thanks Mike Busch and Matt Busch and Jenna and Justin Reinhardt from Nicollet Bike for all making this happen!

I got to talk a bit about Chasing AllieCat (and even read my favorite race scene), and we watched the trailer, too! It was much fun!

If you have a chance to see Singletrack High, and you have the least interest in cycling, see it!