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!


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.


Tour de France, Cobblestones, Rain, George Hincapie, and Jackson Brevet


Boom stage 5

Today, the Tour de France routed through the rain over several sections of wet cobbles in the northern tip of France. Chris Froome, the favorite for GC (General classification/yellow jersey) crashed out. I couldn’t help but think of George Hincapie’s strength in adverse conditions and on the cobbles in the spring classics. Had he still been riding le Tour this year,  he would have been a force to be reckoned with on this day of racing..

Lars Boom, the Dutchman from team Belkin rode away with the win. Nibali and Fuglsang came in brilliantly. Nibali retains the yellow jersey, well-deserved after a gutsy day of riding. Fabian Cancellara rode in with Green-jersey-wearer Peter Sagan. It was quite the exciting race day.


All this makes me think of George Hincapie all the more. That brings me to the Jackson County Brevet, which I haven’t talked about at length. Here’s the thank you I’m sending to all contributors to our ride raising money for Aplastic Anemia, along with their receipt for tax purposes.

Thank you card


Thank you card


I am having a blast with this screenplay. The only other screenplay I’ve written was back in grad school in screen-writing class.
Taking my novel and adapting it to a script is really fun. I had no idea I would enjoy it so much. It’s so easy to apply the seat of the pants to the seat of the chair to work on this.
I’m sure when Steph sees it, it will need gallons of tweaking and major edits to boot; plus, she’s going to ask a consultant to read it and help me. Therefore, I know I will have to do lots of fixing. But for now, for this first draft, it is FUN to imagine this story on the big screen.Cycling-mtnbk-2untitledbiking

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!

The Rider by Tim Krabbé

Book Review, or maybe book rave?
The Rider by Tim Krabbé. Bloomsbury USA; Reprint edition 2003 (Originally published in the Netherlands in 1978).

The Rider wins my heart. This novel, by Tim Krabbé and translated from Dutch, is like watching a classic one-day race from inside the peleton. For anyone who’s ridden a bike competitively, or ridden “over your head” to keep up with buddies, or seen black from cranking up a hill so big you think it’ll kill you, you will understand this book. The translator Sam Garrett did a beautiful job because the language and metaphors are spot-on. Krabbé has nailed the physical and psychological agony and joy. Some gems:

Despuech, who has just made a break but obviously won’t stay away off the front.: Despuech is crazy. Despuech is only showing us that he doesn’t stand a chance in hell. He knows it too, but still it’s a fact: he has to choose between finishing at the back after shining, or finishing at the back after not having shone at all. Dozeas of riders are now thinking the word ‘Despuech’, and people along the route will clap for him. And later all the riders will slide right over him, like a net over an undersized fish.
Product DetailsGradually I find a cadence. Climbing is a rhythm, a trance; you have to rock your organs’ protests back to sleep.

I shift down. Forty-three nineteen: the gear of champions. How the hell do I keep talking myself into racing?

Gerrri Knetemann: “You guys need to suffer more, get dirtier; you should arrive at the top in a casket, that’s what we pay you for.”

Asked about the pain of getting dropped, Knetemann say, “It’s too bad, sir, but at a certain point you just can’t do it. And when can’t do it any more, you get dropped. Too bad. Nothing to make a fuss about.”

Perhaps I love this book so much because the protagonist narrating the story is a journalist/writer turned cyclist at age thirty. I fancy myself a combination of those two, so I particularly loved this little soliloquy: “I believed that, while cycling, I would come up with thoughts and ideas for the stories I’d be writing the rest of the time. Fat chance. The rest of my time I spent jotting in my cycling logbook and keeping statistics on my distance and times, and while cycling I thought of nothing at all.

Fear of heights, multiplied by my velocity. Don’t look to the side. The wind blows right through me…

Descents scare me, I’m the worst downhill rider here…

A sign. It says that the speed limit here is 60 kilometers per hour. My brain flashes a joke for my approval: point at that sign and waggle my finger at the others. Joke rejected.


Yup. there we go.I think of coming down a mountain in Eastern Washington State in a small group ride from the The Bicycle Butler bike shop. Switchbacks and all, the pack flying. I was in my drops, aero, keeping up, and then–a switchback, I braked—out of instinct and self-preservation—I slowed, and I was dropped like a wounded bird from the flock.
…saw a rider meticulously peeling a banana with both hands on a downhill stretch at 65 kilometers an hour…
Comments like those about the “up-and coming Hinault” and anectodes of cycling history woven in the consciousness of the rider—the narrator—all in the course of a 150 km race make us as readers feel part of cycling history, part of this race in 1977

Who the hell goes cycling on a hot day like this?
The book’s opening will grab you, if you are one who identifies with the story, or if you are obsessive about any passion in your life. The narrator looks up from his gear at the spectators. “Non-racers…The emptiness of those lives shocks me.”

Perhaps that’s the crux of it. When cycling becomes so central to our core that a life without it seems empty: there, I figured it out. That’s why I love this book so much.

Another rejection

Slider’s Son garnered its second rejection this week. “Not enough historical detail” is what Calkins Creek said. George is baffled by that (maybe more than I am, even), so he’s going to ask them what they meant by that. In the meantime, I’m going to spread in some more Depression-era details into the manuscript. I was mostly concerned with the character in the small town and making his life real. Guess I’ll try to make the national news come home to roost more than it does already.

I have some ideas. I’m going to add some of them this weekend.

I wish I could get a book right the first time. Or second, third, fourth, fifth, or sixth. Wonder what it means that I have to revise at least TWELVE times before anything gets published.

It mostly means that I should do nothing but write and maybe I’d get a book done WAY faster (and be with my kids, and be with friends, and ride my bike, and play with Freya–oh, yeah, and teach and grade papers).

Oh, well. I’m heading out on my bike to THINK in a few minutes.

October 7 Mankato River Ramble and other things

Today, I rode as a marshall for the Mankato River Ramble bike ride. What a blast! Great people, good ride, well organized event…just all around fun. I rode to and from the ride, so I got about 56 miles in. What a great day for a ride. 
Below: The FLYING PENGUINS (Jon Anderson at left–Jon is the first person who ever made me think I might be able to be a serious cyclist). 
I met some pretty cool new friends on the ride, too.

And bikes galore at the Rapidan park. Pie from Jenny at the Dam Store. Everybody was delighted.

And entirely unrelated, Tuesday night is the big meeting about the proposed frac sand plant in Lime Township. Now we realize we need to get the TOWNSHIP in charge of the planning…to be the planning committee or to appoint one, so the township can set the conditions for the use permit. Hopefully, a moratorium can be placed on its operation for a year….but that’s not entirely looking hopeful.  More research needs to be done FAST!!!
Mankato Airport, Tuesday, Oct. 9, 7:30 p.m. EVERYBODY can come!