Thursday, April 29, 2010


As we all know, I love my coffee. Coffee and I have a love affair spanning nearly 20-years. A vital and necessary part of my morning is the obligatory coffee stop. When I change jobs, one of the first tasks is to locate my nearest local coffee spot and train the counter person to get it juuuust righhht. My order is always simple, ONE 12-14 ounce cup of java with a minimal of one inch of room (so technically I drink 11 -13 ounces of coffee)…4-Sugar in the raw packets and please have a carafe of half and half chilled. Any deviation from this recipe will cause me to have a fit like a toddler in a toy store who is told not to touch anything. I will melt down and possibly find myself kicking and screaming. Coffee addicts MUST have their coffee THEIR way. There is no compromise or contentment unless…the cup…is perrrrfect.

In the past several years though, Louisville has seen a wide birth of hometown java hot spots all peddling their roasted black beans (black gold). I pride myself on trying all of them judging the coffee on taste, texture, and lid. Cheap lids come off in the car and create a mess…which also causes me to have a toddler fit. Something has happened though…an awkward turn of events has resulted in ample coffee shops and a realization of my decreasing coolness.

You see, some of our coffee shops are also segregated social hot spots each with their own niche. If you are a reader, you will likely be found at Heinie Brothers which has two locations with two book stores nearby. They have tables and wifi so you can fire up your kindle and enjoy some strong coffee. It is a Louisville original. If you are more of a younger social bug with a sweet tooth, there is Sunergos, a true hip place with the best caramel latte in the city complete with the friendly design in the foam (I am a big fan of the oak leaf). The shop also shares a wall with a bakery boasting a maple bacon donut and I will warn you…do not judge the donut until you have bitten into it. It is delicious. If you are the person who likes the hidden shops, there is Red Hot Roasters which is now operated by one half of a divorced couple (he has another coffee shop and the dog across town). It boasts a drive thru and once they REALLY get to know you, it is guaranteed they will make your coffee perrrrfect. Most recently if you were a coffee drinker who also liked to sample a wine bar, you could enjoy a place called Blue Mountain but unfortunately the trendiness of the location, the bar, and mood lighting proved too high an expense and it recently decorated its door with a cheaply printed, “sorry we have closed” sign.

Then, there is the “OTHER” shop. It is for the cool, hip, trendy youths. The skinny jean wearing, tattoo boasting, pierced nipple crowd that spends a majority of their time modifying their mod wardrobes and being ironic—but, they also enjoy coffee. You can imagine that this is not the shop for the reader or the socialite also wishing to sample a merlot. On one given morning, I dared venture into the fully restored building to purchase a cup of coffee with scolding eyes bearing down on my name brand purse. The staff has an attitude like their coffee…strong. For the person who values the true taste of coffee, this place rocks but you have to prepare yourself for a walk down the judgment aisle and you might want to invest in a quality pair of skinny jeans (wait! Is that ironic?! Crap).

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Yuppie Evolution

Vacation is officially marked on the calendar for 2010. I have turned in all the appropriate forms for the new job. It is official. A group of bike/ outdoor/ fire pit enthusiasts are gathering in Brevard, North Carolina mid-May for a long weekend of biking, hiking, and cardboard burning. A congenial meeting which assigned all of us with various tasks yielded the understanding that sometime between the ages of 22 and 33, I have become a full fledged yuppie.

In my early 20’s, I owned a dilapidated Volvo wagon with double digit rust spots. It did NOT have a CD player…but it had a rad tape deck. The leather seats were cracked in such a pattern that after hours of sitting, your legs look like they had been grilled and in the hot summer sun, they may actually make a sizzling sound. The air conditioner sometimes worked, other times it blew out musty warm air from vents that smelled of wet creek bed. Otherwise the crank down windows were always available to send a breeze your way. A vacation during this time consisted of the following tasks:

1. Place a twin size mattress in the rear of the car. By folding down the rear seat and gently modifying a twin mattress, I basically drove a hotel on wheels complete with a 360 degree view. The cost of the hotel was around whatever gas was for the day….$1.02/ gallon.

2. Load the floor of the car with salt/ sugar infused foods. Standards on long road trips included: Doritos, Triscuits, Chocolate covered donuts, Double Stuffed Oreo’s, 2-3 jars of peanut butter, cheap wheat bread, and a 5lb bag of trail mix from Sam’s Club (you have to have at least ONE healthy thing).

3. Map out the route. No external communication devices were to be had. There were NO CELL phones on trips…no GPS…no I-Phones for back-up entertainment. I had to sit down the night before, map out a route and places to stop to call and check in with the homestead.

4. Pack one bag. One bag rule. If two people were traveling in a car with a mattress and 10lbs of oreo’s under the rear seat, then clothing and toiletries were limited to ONE bag, usually an LL-Bean backpack with my initials on it leftover from grade school (no joke….this thing lasted through the second year of college).

5. Destination optional. Sometimes there was no real destination. Sometimes the drive just resulted in park sleeping and roadside visits. Other times, the evenings ended with Phish shows or Indie Rock Festivals still holding onto grunge.

Well, things have changed….it is official. I am a yuppie. I am a peace loving, travel craving, expensive hobby enthusiast…YUPPIE…

Results of Sunday night planning meeting/ dinner:

1. The newer Volvo with polished leather seats, dual climate controlled air conditioning and CD player will be loaded with bikes. It will be covered with road and mountain bikes. Forget the modified mattress, bikes come first. Bikes will be polished and loaded appropriately for the car, of course.

2. Reservations made at a B&B. Forget camping or sleeping in the back of the car swatting off night creatures…instead, we will be stopping halfway in Knoxville, Tennessee for a night of pampering with Egyptian cotton sheets, home cooked breakfast and a deep soaking tub.

3. Don’t forget the coffee grinder and traveling coffee bar. One thing that came out of this meeting…MOST PEOPLE LOVE THEIR COFFEE…and we are far too refined and adult to drink Maxwell House. Instead, I am to bring my grinder so that every morning the first sound we hear atop the mountain are fresh oily beans being ground for the most perfect cup of roasted java. Also in tow will be organic sugar, organic half and half, and biodegradable stir sticks. I may throw in some cinnamon and nutmeg to compliment the perfect cup of coffee.

4. We don’t need no stinking maps! Forget maps, within minutes of the email with the physical address arriving in our in-boxes on Monday, I plotted the route in the I-phone complete with turn by turn directions and satellite mapping. Honestly, if we get lost it is because we are illiterate and we deserve to get lost.

5. We need more luggage. Not only do we have to pack enough bike clothes for the weekend…shorts, bibs, jerseys, socks, etc…we have to pack clothing to hike, have dinner in, and of course, more casual “walk downtown like a tourist” clothing. If something is truly soiled, then our full size washer and dryer can handle it and even steam out the wrinkles if necessary. Asides from this, there are also a host of hair care products and skin care that MUST make the trip.

6. The food….Oreo’s are good…but we devised a menu complete with waffles, chicken parmesan, and a full American breakfast. There will be no fast food run thru’s here. No, instead, we will use the newly remodeled gourmet kitchen to crank out delicious food. A large industrial sized pan of Espresso brownies and host of other desserts will replace the multiple boxes of Little Debbie cakes of yesteryear.

Am I ashamed? Do I feel I have sold out? No…my needs have changed. Some may use the word…”evolved”…I need comfort when I travel. I have worked hard and deserve not to have to spend my free vacation time worrying about running out of gas or replacing a bag of Cool Ranch Doritos. I like hot showers, clean clothes, good food, and a car with air conditioning. If these things make me a yuppie, so be it…I have been called worse.

You’re gonna do what?

It was bound to happen. I have been riding bikes long enough that sooner or later, it was going to happen…the racing bug has bitten. I have been around enough cyclists and in the saddle long enough that I want to race. I talked about racing two years ago only to quickly talk myself out of it for fear of utter humiliation. Wait! I am not a shy person! Why did I do that? Maybe it was because I did not have enough money to pay the registration fees…that sounds more like it.

With the realization that I will be racing, comes the reality that I have to face some challenges…

1. I am 33-years old. There are racers out there that have done it since birth (you have to have pity on their mothers) or from the moment their leg muscles developed. My legs are only 3-years into it. I raced BMX in my teens but I was under my parents health plan which afforded me more resiliency and bravery to try erratic maneuvers. Now, I pay my own premiums, I have deductibles and my bones are more brittle. Casts would have to be set for 8-10 weeks instead of 4-6. Part of racing at my age is also being fluent in my own body language. I need sleep, recovery food, regular hydration. Unlike my teen years where I could go for 2-days on a box of Cheese-Its and a 2-litre of Coke, I now need a more mature schedule and diet. I require a bed on a regular basis.

2. My height. Not only do I want to race, but I want to race cross. Stop staring at the screen. Yes, I want to race cross and right now you are recalling that I am barely 5’2”…and that my inseam is roughly 24.65”…and you are picturing the barriers…and then me attempting to hop the barrier with a bike on my shoulder. I have looked into leg lengthening surgery but it is costly, painful, and S-T-U-P-I-D. However, my height and weight in a sandpit is ideal…I am not sinking down anywhere and if I am toting a carbon bike…I will barely leave a footprint.

3. My gender: I am a girl. I am a girl who wants to race. The starting line for females at cross races are missing ONE THING…MORE RIDERS. Not a lot of women want to race and in this area, there are very few. The ones who do race are pretty good. This is intimidating. Girls are mean on and off the bike. I am not too shy but utter humiliation is generally NOT what I strive for. I am going to face plant, wreck and wrench my body in front of everyone.

There are some things working on my favor though…

1. I have a good team (Bob's Red Mill, yes, the baking mix). I have a team mixed with quality racers of all ages. They have good intentions (AKA: Win). They are quality riders. Although, I am not sure what to do with 50lbs of products that we will receive. How many muffins is that really?

2. I am competitive. Without a doubt, put me in a sports situation, and I am a competitive, 5’2” beast (can a 5’2” chick really be a beast? Probably not…but I would like to think so. However, I am more like that gnat in your face than a weight on your back). I will have no problems elbowing my way to the front. I am not afraid of crashing. Years on the mountain bike make this a certainty but most of the time after a fall, you pick yourself back up and get right back on. Less skin=less weight= better performance (not a proven formula, FYI).

3. I am a much stronger rider now. Compared to 3-years ago, I am much stronger and focused on proper riding. I prefer long rides...I love to climb and as a result, I have endurance.

4. Did I mention I am competitive? Yes, I did, see above.

5. I will be coordinated. Our kits will be coordinated and that does matter on the course. If you fall, you want to look good doing it.

As if all of these things were not factors to consider, then consider the added stress that the boyfriend races and has since birth (yes, he is one of those riders), so besides overcoming my physical/ mental deficits, I also have to worry about not completely embarrassing myself in front of the boyfriend. Sure, I am secure at 33, but I am still a girl who wants to impress her boyfriend and who wants to eat a face full of sand in front of their significant other with cameras looking on? No one, but it will happen.

Other than those things I mentioned, I only have a few things I have to do to get ready which include (1) purchase a cross bike that fits, (2) learn to ride the cross bike, (3) learn to race the cross bike, (4) race the cross bike. Other than those FEW things, I am ready. Well, in my head I am ready and sometimes things in my head do not turn out as I pictured them in reality. Either way, I will have 50lbs of baking mix to make enough muffins for a quality Fall season of racing.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Parenting Lessons

Not every ride is a KILLING TRAINING RIDE designed to churn your stomach over and set your legs ablaze. There are those days that beg for a recovery ride or demand time to work on clipless pedals with your friends. I had forgotten how nervous I was when I “went clipless” but I really was not given a choice. My flat (possibly recyclable) plastic pedals were replaced with a contraption (Crank Bros) designed to hold my feet in place at all times and before I could utter a question, I pushed off, feet secured in place and told to be careful. That ride was dreadful. It was like stripping my training wheels off and then sending me out in traffic. I came back from that ride soaked in anxiety dripping sweat. I vowed NEVER to do that to someone. No thank you. 

I held true to my vow. Instead of slapping on the pedals and pushing off my friend, we spent time getting to know each pedal and practicing clipping in and out…in and out…in and out...(you get it). My friend was convinced that she would NEVER be able to ride clipless and 45-minutes later, I heard her yell across the parking lot, “Melinda…I am doing it! I am riding clipless! You are the best teacher!”…Before I take off in traffic, I want to be comfortable on my bike. I hope the same for my friends and if someone is hesistant, then it is best to spend more time assuring them of their abilities (I knew she could do it). After an hour of practicing, we left the parking lot. I was a bit dizzy from all the circles we had done but excited as I listened to her clip in and out behind me. It was one of those perfect afternoons with a slight breeze and sun overhead.  This was NOT going to be a mash it, kill it, grunt through it ride. This was a fun, leisure ride for a fine Spring Saturday afternoon. My friend adjusted to her pedals while we discussed life, boys, and the idea that one-day things have to change for both of us. Deep philosophical conversations are best had on steep hills while you are trying to find your rhythm. The slower pace also gave way for one of my favorite sights in the park right now.

Erin riding clipless for the first time

A favorite sighting in the park these days are a father/ daughter duo that could melt frozen butter. The father is usually pulling up the rear with multiple water bottles and snacks in his jacket. In the front is his daughter, possibly six years old riding her two-wheeled bike in cowboy boots and pig tails (sticking out through her helmet). They do NOT ride in parking lots nor sidewalks. This father and tot are hardcore and they ride the park streets with her little cowboy boot dressed legs spinning like mad (remember, her wheels are tiny) on her single speed mini bike. She gets around the park with her dad cheering/ coaching her on. I always make it a point to tell her how well she is doing because quite honestly, she rocks it. She is on a child’s bike riding in the park on roads that I get nervous on and who cannot envy pink and black cowboy boots for cycling footwear (I wish I had thought of that!). Each time the girl see’s me, she says, “hi” really loudly and attempts a wave but quickly places her hands back on the handlebars—balance will come young one. I always wave, cheer her on and then proceed on with one envious thought in my head, “I want to do that one day…”

Leisure rides provide time to think and somehow yesterday I began forming the thought of the kind of parent I will be one day. I will be THAT parent that will have their child on a bike as soon as possible (is birth too soon? Onsies come in cycling wear, right?). I would have them in the park. I would ride trails, road or parking lots with excitement. I was fortunate that my father always made time for me. Every sport I ran his wallet through, he was right there to coach me on. I know there are days when he could have been doing a lot of other things but he spent weekends traveling from county to county for softball, BMX, cross country, and soccer for so many years, he could have received an MVP trophy. I never wore cowboy boots to events but I know if I had wanted to, my dad would have not blinked…but he would have cheered/ coached me on.