Hi, my name is Pat. This blog is a story of my wife, Marian, and me. And, this might be a story that touches you, in some way. You might find our travels, or biking experiences useful. Your emotions might range somewhere between amused and amazed. We will have failed if you find them, ordinary or bland.
If you want to get hold of us, you can leave a comment on the blog. You can also drop us a note at firstname.lastname@example.org. We will try to get back to you when we can.
What Is Our Blog About?
Mostly, we write about cycling. Our vantage point is that of a retired couple, who came back to biking fifteen years ago. We started with occasional weekend riders, on our Mountain Bikes. Sometimes, we even rode on dirt. We graduated to training, guided by Joe Friel’s Cycling Past Fifty. After I retired, we began experimenting with touring on our bikes.
What Could You Get Out of This Blog?
You could find out that fifty-somethings can tap into their inner athlete, and become something they never suspected, never dreamed of, might have missed had they gone left and not right:
- Evolution of a one-size-fits-all training recipe, to a program tailored to our needs and abilities.
- Finding and using the rich assortment of trails, paths and highways around San Jose, California, on the south end of San Francisco Bay.
- Assembling the cycling and camping gear for self-supported tours
- Experiencing life, pedal stroke by pedal stroke, sometimes slower than amused joggers passing us on a steep slow, often the oldest cyclists on the road, or the hill.
Where Do You Go To Read About It?
The easiest way to to get a feel for the site is to go to our home page. You can go to the training page, if you want to read about how we prepare ourselves to tour. If you want, you can skip straight to our 2012 touring. We haven’t done any 2013 touring yet, and it is getting late in the year.
How Did We Get From There To Here?
We wound up in touring the same way most people wind up doing it, through a bewildering series of accidents. In other words, we still aren’t quiet sure how we got here. Be careful, you might catch the bug, too. But, from where we stand, you could catch far worse, and more expensive pastimes.
For the record, Marian and I married in 1980, after graduating from the University of Wyoming. Marian, a native of Wyoming, decided to follow a wandering engineering. I was born in Nebraska. After the Air Force, I worked in aerospace for 33 years.
I retired last year. Happily, I retired to bike touring, not from my job. And, I was able to retire at 61. I read that men retiring from my company at various ages, have vastly different life expectancies. Those retiring at 60, on average, live to 72. Those retiring at 65, on average, live to 68. Will I beat the odds? Who knows. But, until then, we intend to live, comfortably, with our three cats and a dog. Our daughter is back from college, bringing the cat population to four.
More About Us
We didn’t start out intending to load our Ortlieb panniers on our Surly Long Haul Truckers, and push them through the gate. Heck, I had never heard of Ortliebs, didn’t exactly know what a pannier was, and was suspicious of anyone professing to ride a steel bike. Now, we romanticize swinging our legs over the bar, snapping the buckles on our helmets, and rolling down the driveway and into the street. In our vision, we pedal off into that special freedom and independence known by so few in this age. Where we might go doesn’t really matter. That we go is what is important to us.
As they say in the movies, it is more complicated than that. Like most Californians, we were born somewhere else. We met at the University of Wyoming. Her brother was one of my best friends. One thing led to another. We graduated, got married, and moved to Florida in the space of three weeks.
Florida was a strange and exotic place for a newly minted couple from Wyoming. We met wonderful people. It never felt like home. I learned my craft as an engineer. My wife finished her Accounting degree. Then, it was on to Silicon Valley, to work for another aerospace company. Defying the housing market, we found an apartment in three days, and bought a house in eleven months. Our two children came a little later, sixteen months apart.
In our indulgent culture, parents shower children with toys and experiences they waited, perhaps, years, to experience. We weren’t any different. Bikes were one thing we made sure our children got, and they didn’t even have to get a paper route. Our kids rode their bikes often. We rode with them from time to time, just one more family experience.
Meanwhile, I thrived, moving into more senior positions. The engineering minds were dazzling. Most people were nice. With experience and maturity, I came face to face with capricious and ego driven management. It became harder and harder to “do the right thing”. And my company dismayed me. Some of the most mediocre engineers, with glaring personality flaws, became Vice Presidents. And they never forgot their enemies.
I experienced, first hand a favorite management technique, using stress as an incubator for ideas, productivity, and molding of careers. The theory was to motivate people to create something that has never been there before. A more sinister motive was to crank up the stress, and see who would break before the big crisis hit. Sadly, these managers were often slow to recognize that they had created a killing environment, with people afraid to tell them the crises was already upon them.
My job was, slowly, destroying my health. I couldn’t remember the last time I had a good night’s sleep. My weight went up. My body ballooned. My optimism crumbled as my blood pressure rose.
What does this have to do with biking? Everything. That answer is obvious, in hind-sight. I needed a stress reliever. Not only that, I needed to eat properly. The bike beckoned, promising to lower my blood pressure and help me lose weight. So, I pulled out that Price Club special.
I fully embraced that wildly chaotic, and dangerous sport of binge exercising. Alone, often without tools or patch kits, I took to remote trails. After a long Saturday session, I would collapse and sleep for the rest of the weekend. I never found time to workout during the week. Neither my weight nor my blood pressure went down.
The turning point came when I read Joe Friel’s book, Cycling Past Fifty. It came, complete, with descriptions for weights, endurance rides, and intervals. In the process I turned off my wife and my children. Never the less, I biked and lifted weights after work, and rode long distances on the weekends. My weight dropped, and my blood pressure inched down.
After David went off to college, returned to biking. After a time, we began to share biking. I relived the discovery of favorite places with her. Strange as it might sound, our sweat and (my) swearing we would never do a trail again, brought us closer together.
In the middle of my 27th year with the company, the company gave me the opportunity to re-evaluate my life. The company offered incentives for old people to retire. The offer was done in the most cynical manner. Still, until that point, Marian and I thought we had two or three years. Instead, we found ourselves with the means to set aside the pressure, posturing and politics of management. The bug had taken a big bite out of me. Work was never the same.
Our 401k, so damaged by the Great Recession, had recovered to 2008 levels. The timing of the mid 2011 RIF was almost right, but not quite. We decided to wait six months. That cooling off period was a blessing. Work no longer defined who I was. The gut wrenching offer liberated me, and we dreamed and planned our life to come. Retirement was open door to our future, not an escape from our past.
We searched our souls, and decided what our near-term life would look like. Our future need not have used cycling as a spring board. It might have been something else. Still, biking and fitness had been important. Now, it seems so inevitable that cycle touring fired our imagination. We used long distance touring as the pivot point to turn our lives. Going through that door into our future changed everything. We needed different bikes for touring, different equipment, and different training. Our family remained the same, we had the freedom to change everything else.
We chose to become one with the real world. Roads we had once driven in less than an hour, might take a day or more by bike. We set aside our air-conditioned cocoons, complete with Pandora sound tracks. We stepped through the tinted glass and stood on the side of the road. By tugging on our bike jerseys, wiping a little sweat off our brows, and inching up a hill at four miles an hour, we have chosen to live in the real world.
And, for you, we wish you happy trails, where ever they may take you.
Pat and Marian