“I am Groot!”

The heat has finally subsided and Ole Bessie was begging to go for a ride. I’ve enjoyed looping the river lately and stopping along the way to explore…

First loop: flood trails, parasitic silly string, colorful wildflowers, multitudes of bindweed and skies not quite sure they’re finished with the rain.

Second loop: kids sailing camp, a shoreline that didn’t exist after last week’s flooding, sailboats waiting for their owners to return, the Philly skyline, wild blueberries, bikes owned and bikes for sale.

Out of all these finds, I was fascinated by the “parasitic silly string.” After Googling images for some time, I come to learn that this strange looking organism is known as dodder:

“Dodder is a true parasite that lacks the ability to make its own chlorophyll, so it attaches itself to other plants to steal theirs. It begins life normally, as a seed that germinates in the soil. The brightly neon-colored stem that emerges will die quickly if it can’t reach another plant. But if it does find a victim, it attaches itself to the poor plant, breaks away from its original root system, and digs into the host with tiny root-like structures called haustoria. Then it flourishes as it sucks moisture and nutrients from the host.”

http://www.gardensalive.com/product/dodder-the-parasitic-silly-string-weed/you_bet_your_garden

After reading this, I immediately thought, “That’s what anxiety feels like!” The Bully (as we so fondly refer to it in our household) slowly incubates in the brain waiting for that perfect moment of vulnerability. If ignored properly, The Bully slowly “dies” – at least until it finds the next accessible opportunity. But if allowed to attach itself, The Bully burrows into your brain and absorbs all rational thought. Anxiety is a parasite.

And then there’s Groot…

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On my third and last loop around the river, I caught something in my peripheral vision – a word bubble that appeared to say, “I am groovy.” On close inspection, I recognized it as an old Camden County Park sign, faded and worn, it’s presentation of a tree now leafless and barely recognizable. Sprouting from the leafless tree, the word bubble stated, “I am Groot!” I definitely needed to look this one up!

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Groot

FYI – I’m really out of the whole movie/t.v. loop…I mean really out of it. Not only did I not know about Guardians of the Galaxy, I am absolutely clueless to its cast. For those of you who are as clueless as me, in a nutshell, created by Marvel Comics in 1960, Groot is a strange tree-looking alien who used to abduct humans for experimentation. However, after five decades of earthling research, Groot was reintroduced as a superhero in 2006. According to legend, he is very resilient, having the power to regenerate himself when “killed.” It was believed that Groot had no form of communication because all he ever says is, “I am Groot.” But it was later divulged that his was actually a highly intelligent language that could only be understand as “I am Groot” to those who could not translate (i.e., us dummies). I like this concept – a creature who previously allowed his Bully to take over his entire being to the point that he became The Bully, but through reclamation he managed to overcome and fight back. Groot is you!

So the next time you feel The Bully taking over, just shout out loud, “I AM GROOT!”

(P.S. Ignore the strange looks you may get…keep ’em guessing!)

“I had run for 3 years, 2 months, 14 days, and 16 hours.” – Forrest Gump

 

 

A little local history

Nothing too exciting going on these days. Between the rain, the heat and preparing the kid for her year in Israel, not much bike riding has been happening lately. However, last Sunday the hubby took the kid to Brooklyn and I took Ole Bessie out for a spin.

I decided to stay local and explore some of the parks along the Cooper River, one of which I’ve been hearing about but never visited – Jake’s Place.

https://www.buildjakesplace.org/#ourmission

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Jake died at the age of two as the result of a rare cardiac condition. In honor to his memory, Jake’s family created a specially designed all-inclusive playground that allows children of all abilities to play, regardless of physical limitations. The playground and its surrounding area was jam packed with parents and their kids enjoying the beautiful day.

Jake’s Place is situated within Wallworth Park, named after Joseph Wallworth, a local politician during the early part of the 20th century.

http://www.dvrbs.com/People/CamdenPeople-JosephWallworth.htm

The park also houses Croft Farm, its surrounding buildings, including the Croft Farm Arts Center, Wallworth Pond, Evans Lake, a nature trail and the Kay-Evans House, an 18th-century dwelling situated along the Underground Railroad.

Colorful wildflowers, geese wading on the dam and a sustainable garden with whimsical artwork – I was truly enjoying myself!

The Kay-Evans House is named for the original and subsequent owners, Isaac Kay and Thomas Evans, both of whom farmed the area and ran a mill on the river.

https://www.americantrails.org/nationalrecreationtrails/trailNRT/Croft-Farm-Cherry-Hill-NJ.html

Taking advantage of the perfect weather, I headed to my go-to place…

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There are a number of sculptures dotted along the shoreline that I have often photographed but never researched – a dog pig headed stick figure and the floating shark fins. After some Googling, I soon discovered the local artist who created them, John Giannotti:

http://www.southjerseymagazine.com/articles/?articleid=395

Another building I’ve ridden by numerous times is the Hopkins House, built and owned by a man named Ebenezer Hopkins. Although the Hopkins family is a well-known name in the Haddonfield, New Jersey area, not much is known about the man who lived in this house, but it’s believed to have been his retirement home. More recently, local historians were capable of stopping developers from altering the building, thereby maintaining its antiquity.

Meanwhile, back at the yacht club, the river returned to normal and I got to poke around a few…until I noticed the sign that said, “Members Only!” Oops…

I found a lone wheelchair on one dock and a pair of sneakers on the other outside the boathouse. I’ve always wanted to try kayaking, but my fear of the unknown (or feeling embarrassed due to my sporting ignorance or thinking I’m too fat to fit inside or tipping it over and drowning myself because I can’t turn right-side up or just plain trepidation that has no rational thought whatsoever) always holds me back. Watching the sneakerless kayaker floating down the river as a blue heron glided not 10 feet from her vessel, seeing that wheelchair told me it was time to get over it…

I had a wonderful time alone, just slowly looping around the river for two hours and stopping whenever something caught my eye. Thankfully, the hubby and the kid had a nice day too.

Today was just as beautiful as last Sunday, but we were heading north for my father-in-law’s unveiling. Waking up with the sunrise to get ready, I crept outside to water my flowers in the quiet stillness of the morning air – and then…

Dammit! That sound to me is loudest when I can’t go for a bike ride. I can hear it a mile away. It stops me dead in my tracks, staring enviously at the rider as he passes by. It’s like hearing the ice cream truck caroling up the block but you have no cash or hearing your friends playing joyfully outside your window but you’ve got the flu. Needless to say, this was a day we had planned for almost a year and Ole Bessie would just have to wait until tomorrow…and, of course, it’s supposed to rain…

“So forget all your duties oh yeah
Fat bottomed girls they’ll be riding today
So look out for those beauties oh yeah”

Bicycle Race – Queen

 

“I had run for 3 years, 2 months, 14 days, and 16 hours.” – Forrest Gump

Watch out for the under toad!

Woof! What a storm we had the other night! As I sat at the desktop watching a documentary on the history of the internet and the influence technology has had on the world, the powers-that-be reminded us that something much more awesome is in control here. Far away thunder rumbled its warning signs when, suddenly, a torrential sideways rain swept through the neighborhood. I anxiously ran from window to window trying to see what was happening in the dark and waited for the storm to pass before drifting off to sleep, counting the seconds between thunder and lightening to figure how far it had traveled away…

The next day I headed to my go-to place so that I’d be close to home in case the roads were flooded and/or impassable. Aside from a tree branch hither and dither, the roads were clear, but this is what the riverside looked like:

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At the Camden County Yacht Club, the buildings, boats and docks were submerged in water with geese and ducks swimming in the parking lot. Two weeks ago I was walking around the grounds taking pictures of the kids sailing camp. I don’t think there was any sailing lessons that day…

Down the road a piece, my dolphin friend looked like he was really swimming in the water…

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…the bike trail was non-existent…

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and the Veteran’s Park was flooded out…

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It was a dreary day, but at least the heat had subsided, so I decided to ride a few loops around the river. With each round, the water slowly receded and I found myself determined to ride in circles until the sun came out. After 1 1/2 hours, the sun sheepishly peak-a-booed through a break in the clouds, then quickly hid its light. Telling the sun that it wasn’t enough, I continued on…but the sun refused…and I gave up…two hours is enough I’d say.

I thought about all the summer storms I’ve experienced in my lifetime – in childhood being chased from the public pool by the lifeguards when thunder boomed, getting stranded as a teen at various friends houses or waiting out the rain under an awning on Main Street and riding out the remnants of Hurricane Gloria in my parent’s stilt house along the Jersey shore during my college years, along with various other storms in my adult life – Irene, where we lost power for over a week, and Sandy, the worst and most devastating hurricane on record in New Jersey and one that affected a number of acquaintances, including a meteorologist friend who decided to stay in his home despite government warnings to leave the island. As the water crept up to his front door, he could hear the waves of the ocean and bay meeting as they crashed on the sides of the house. He told us how he had planned to climb into the attic and punch a hole through the roof…luckily, in the end, he and his home were left undamaged.

Water makes me panic…and I actually know why. Aside from my father freaking out every time the basement flooded when it rained, there is one occasion I have never forgotten in 46 years. In the summer of 1971, my family and I were on vacation at the Jersey shore. My sister and I were jumping the waves in the ocean when I suddenly felt a force tug at my feet as if some giant hands were wrapped around my ankles and pulling my body upside down. I felt my body flipping somersaults over and over again – forward and backward and forward again. Unable to breathe, I was terrified of the unknown battle I was fighting. Too frightened to shut my eyes, the salt water stung as if a hundred needles were piercing them and I cried. I remember thinking that this was what death felt like – that I would never be free of the force and never see my family again…when suddenly, the sea spat out my wilted body onto the beach. Sobbing, I ran to my parents to tell them what happened…and they didn’t believe me. Many years later I would learn that I had been caught in an undertow. Needless to say, I didn’t go into the ocean again until my daughter was 2 years old – 30 years later in the summer of 2001.

https://thingsthatmadeanimpression.wordpress.com/2013/07/28/excerpt-from-the-world-according-to-garp-by-john-irving-under-toad/

Thinking I had overcome my aquaphobia after all these years, the toilet poltergeist reassured me that the panic was still alive and well. If I could just get through a Sunday without checking and rechecking the downstairs toilet, there may be some hope…

and, by the way, I’m also afraid of closets, but that’s a story for another time…

“Blame, no one is to blame
As natural as the rain that falls
Here comes the Flood again

Wash away the weight that pulls you down
Ride the waves that free you from the dusk”

The Flood – Katie Melua

“I had run for 3 years, 2 months, 14 days, and 16 hours.” – Forrest Gump

Committing to the challenge…

Monday, June 5, 2017

With full-fledged acceptance, I dragged my sorry-ass respiratory infected body to the local urgent care with the goal of obtaining any kind of antibiotic money could possibly buy (or bribe). First, I was told it was allergies, “Are you taking your Claritin?”

I must digress for a moment here…if you’re a nurse and/or doctor of any kind, never tell me “it’s allergies. The last time a doctor said “it’s allergies” and lived to talk about it was so far off the mark, he’s lucky to still be alive (my hubby the lawyer, not me, required murderous restraint). The diagnosis of “it’s allergies” 25 years ago ended up being a rare neurological condition that went undetected for over two years, nearly causing permanent blindness and leaving me suffering from chronic tinnitus to this day, all of which could have been resolved if identified sooner. And because of the delay in diagnosis, I went through 6 years of physical and mental hell that should never have happened to begin with…

Okay, back to that urgent care visit…

Suppressing a primal scream, I informed the nurse practitioner that she was wrong (I know, I know – nurses and doctors love hearing that as much as lawyers being told they’re wrong about the law – just ask my hubby the lawyer). At 52-years-of-age, I think I know the difference between allergies and illness. And, yes, I’m taking my Claritin…

Little voice: “Umm…honey, would you like to me to hock up one of the giant balls of florescent yellow mucous oozing from my lungs?”

Convincing her that it wasn’t my allergies, I was then told it was “viral,” therefore, antibiotics would not guarantee a cure. Fully aware of this fact, I proceeded to tell the nurse practitioner about my impending cancer ride – how I had waited two years and trained for six months to honor my brother…my big brother…my only brother who had died of cancer. I was willing to take the chance of spending the money and accepting the possibility of not getting better by June 11th. My pleading worked…

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

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…but the antibiotic didn’t (serves me right) and the kid ended up with the cooties I had inherited from the hubby. Despite our collective hacking away, my daughter managed to graduate high school without a hitch. Promising to walk like Zoidberg down the procession line after receiving her diploma, the kid chickened out at the last minute, but she did wear the bow tie we’ve been hearing about for four years. I also managed to get a hand-burning high five on the way out.

 

Friday, June 9, 2017

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With Shabbat upon us, I prepared Ole Bessie for the Bridge to the Beach ride. Sitting in her corral, she anxiously awaited the long haul ahead…

After Michael died in 2015, I planned to do this ride last June, but it fell on the Jewish holiday of Shavuot. Gravely disappointed, I occasionally checked the ACS website throughout 2016, waiting for the official date in 2017. Flashback to January 20th (“I think I can, I think I can, I think I can…”) when “I committed myself to the challenge…” June 11th was free and clear, no excuses…and then the hubby decided to share his cooties with me five days before the ride…

Sunday, June 11, 2017 – Bridge to the Beach

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So, in true Doherty fashion, I ignored the fact that I was still sick and packed up Ole Bessie.

This ride is going to happen no matter what

 

 

On January 20th, I wrote about being nervous. Admittedly, I was nervous right up to the second I hopped onto Ole Bessie at the starting point.IMG_20170611_063519795_HDR

Studying the route prior to departure, I discovered the entire length would be about 54.4 miles and that all four rest stops were more than 10 miles apart as noted on the ACS website. No problem – most of the route comprised mostly of flat terrain (if it was “a hill,” it was most likely an overpass). And having practiced riding more than 10 miles at a time over the past couple of months, getting to each rest stop would be a piece of cake.

Although Kathy wasn’t with me this time, I’d gotten used to riding alone these past few months. Besides, she sent me a message telling me to “Enjoy the ride!” with a silly cycling animation attached – she was with me in spirit. And I was ready – I had everything on my checklist formulated and completed through trial and error over the past six months all tucked away in one of two packs and/or the pack on my back.

I reminded myself of Jeremy’s advice: “Take your time. Don’t start in Philly – the bridge is a clusterf**k! Stay as far right as possible. Don’t stop at the first rest stop – too many people stop there and wear out their welcome…” Aside from stopping at the first rest stop (it really wasn’t that bad), I obeyed each word of longstanding wisdom.

As I pushed off and turned right out of the school parking lot, a wave of calm came over me. This was it…this was actually happening…

Over the highway and past the seemingly infinite span of malls, I pedaled down unexplored roads weaving through the countryside – small towns with tiny churches and houses sprinkled throughout, local farms growing seasonal crops and bustling Main Streets with busy intersections – just taking in every moment and stopping to smell the roses…slow and steady…

I pretty much had gotten over any fear of getting lost at this point. Riding back roads I didn’t even know existed, I decided to reprint the route directions of each section between rest stops onto small laminated note cards that fit neatly inside my front pack. At each stop, I would pull out the next card and toss the prior one into my backpack, hence, no confusion. I also figured, as long as I can see a cyclist in front of me and another in my rearview mirror, I’m not lost…until I noticed there was no one in front of me and the man behind me suddenly disappeared. Quickly bringing up Google Maps, I realized the right onto Cooper Street had been missed. Not far off course, I turned around to hundreds of cyclists making the crucial right turn I had overlooked. That would be the only mistake made today…

All in all, I managed to get to the first rest stop after the first 13 miles and showed Kathy what she was missing in the snack department:

For the most part, I wasn’t afraid of the “unknown.” I had made it to 52, remember?! And the hubby and the kid were scheduled to meet me at each rest stop prepared to bring me home if I didn’t feel up to finishing. On top of that, I wasn’t going to let my heart f**k this up. I’d gotten off the medication causing the heart palpitations and had managed to minimize any SVT attacks (although I will admit the fear of a repeat performance like the cemetery incident).

As my concern of “not making it” subsided with each passing mile, I found myself 11 miles later at the second rest stop…where I again showed Kathy what she was missing:

As for the weather…it was hot. Thankfully starting my ride at 6:40AM (I cheated by five minutes – no one was looking), I evaded most of the heat…until now…I was feeling it. Temperatures were hovering in the high 90s…with no clouds to block the blazing sun…and no breeze to cool the body…it was hot…

By the third stop 11 miles later, I was toast:

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And the snacks weren’t worth showing off anymore…

And by the fourth stop, another 12 miles down the road after racing the planes taking off at the local airport…

I think my face says it all…

With only 7 miles to go, I fought the Little Voice begging me to throw in the towel and straddled Ole Bessie one last time. After 47 miles there was no way I wasn’t going to finish. Besides, they were closing down the right lane of the Atlantic City Expressway East so we could ride straight into the city and onto the boardwalk – I wasn’t going to miss that for anything! (Those of you who have ever been on the ACE during the summer know how crazy this idea is.)

For 54.4 miles, I thought of Michael the entire way, occasionally fighting back tears. I thought about how long I had waited for this ride, how long I had trained for it and how it was finally happening. I thought about Michael’s pain as the sun burned my skin. I thought about the exhaustion he must have felt as the heat drained my body of fluids. I thought about how much I missed him…

I also thought about Regina, my Irish twin, and felt grateful that she had survived her own battle with breast cancer and had driven the 90-minute trek to celebrate my daughter’s high school graduation last Wednesday. I enviously thought about Kathy having retired much earlier than anticipated and was wandering the country with her husband of 34 years in their super duper RV…it was definitely a good reason to skip this ride. I thought of Maureen…and mom…and dad…and all the other people I had lost in my life these past years.

Believe it or not, the last 7 miles were the easiest. The end was near – I could see the silhouette of the casinos on the horizon as I flew down the entrance ramp to the Atlantic City Expressway. As a result of the lane closure, thousands of vehicles piled with “shoebies” lined the highway, bumper to bumper, waiting to get to the shoreline. Some cheered us on, while others patiently (and impatiently) prayed that their engines would not overheat.

Slowly climbing the ramp off Missouri Avenue and onto the Atlantic City Boardwalk, hundreds of people cheering our victory and thanking us for our support, I could no longer hold back the tears…

I committed myself to the challenge and had triumphed…

Later, we ran into some old friends we hadn’t seen for a number of years. Having done the cancer ride over the past seven years and normally starting at the bridge, they had decided to start in Cherry Hill, confirming that, indeed, Jeremy’s advice was spot on – the bridge is a clusterf**k.

January 20, 2017

“I have a feeling this ride’s going to be even better…”

June 11, 2017

…and so it was!

And there was my beautiful blue sky!

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“Come on feet don’t fail me now
I got ten more miles to go
I got nine, eight, seven, six, eight, six
I got a five more miles to go”

25 Miles to Go – Edwin Starr

“I had run for 3 years, 2 months, 14 days, and 16 hours.” – Forrest Gump

Gump Walk NYC

Hello, my name is Alice and it’s been two weeks since my last bike ride…

I think the hemispheres have shifted – winter is now summer and spring has become winter…I don’t want to know what summer has decided to become…I got in a lot more bike rides last March and withdrawal is starting to kick in.

Withdrawal sets off my anxiety. I’ve had anxiety for as long as I can remember. Unfortunately, anxiety is inherited. I remember the day I discovered my father’s Xanax prescription. In hindsight, I think he took it to help him deal with my mother’s anxiety, which was much worse.

My daughter had a therapist who referred to anxiety as “The Bully” because that’s what it is. It searches you out, looking for its next victim. Let your guard down for a second and The Bully’s gonna latch on to you like some form of sticky goo you see in those alien movies. Branding your back with a giant V for every other bully in your mind to see, you’re set for life…until you stand up for yourself.

There was a brief period in my 40s after having a hysterectomy when The Bully went on holiday. That’s when I remembered about Vivienne Eliot, the first wife of T.S. Eliot, who was diagnosed with “hysteria” and committed by her brother (Tom had abandoned her six years prior) to an asylum at the age of 50. According to records, Viv went through menopause while hospitalized and found her “hysteria” completely resolved.

Hormones play a significant role in a woman’s life. They’re there from the outset and never let go…just like The Bully. They control you without mercy, regardless of race, religion or politics. From the erratic mood swings pre-tween to the ruthless hot flashes of middle age, hormones have a compromising relationship with The Bully, helping each other out when the other needs time off. My “holiday” ended when I lost my job and the hormones of menopause decided to take over The Bully.

My sister Maureen was one month away from being post-menopausal before she died…that just sucks…and it’s just not right.

Since conceiving my daughter, the past 19 years has allowed The Bully to control my every thought. What if she dies of SIDS?! What if she doesn’t develop like a “typical” child?! How can I leave her with strangers while I selfishly relish in a career established 10 years prior to the twinkle in my eye?! How can I protect her from the real-life bullies in her school?! What do I say to her when she tells me she has no friends and eats her lunch and has recess alone?! How many schools can we transfer to before she’s happy?! Will she ever apply herself to get good grades?! How long can I make excuses for her not to drive?! Will she be able to handle her anxiety while away at college?! Will she be blown up on a bus in Israel?! What if she makes aliyah?! How will I see my grandkids?!

In 20/20 hindsight, all these worries have been a waste of precious time. Although the number one cause of death in infants in the United States, the percentage of SIDS related deaths is 1 in 1,000. Despite my daughter having “learning issues” throughout her life, she managed to get herself accepted into 9 of the 10 colleges she applied to, including American and Drexel Universities (f**k you UMD…your loss!). At some point, my career needed to end – I was simply getting too old and needed to accept the fact that I wasn’t 20 anymore. And that 10 years waiting to be pregnant were the most emotionally painful years of my life. As for the bullies? I once pissed off a psychologist for saying this, but bullies make victims stronger…when they have the support network necessary to combat them. They were very lonely and stressful years, but the kid managed to finally find her island of misfit toy friends in high school where bullying took the back burner. While all her classmates were ivy league consumed, the kid focused her mind on getting good enough grades to get accepted into decent grade-A colleges. After months of finding excuses to not let her drive, the kid drove herself to the bus stop for the first time alone without incident and backed up perfectly into the parking spot of a former president of our synagogue without a care in the word…and hopefully hasn’t lost my key. And if she can handle 10 months in Israel, college in America will be a breeze…I just need to remember that in 2018…

Several months ago, the kid gave me permission to open any and all college correspondence as long as I agreed to text her afterwards. I cried when I opened the packet from American University. After years of beating herself up about not being smart enough, the kid made it. And then she sent me her acceptance to Drexel University…I cried again…Despite all obstacles, the kid finally had proof that she was “good enough.” Consumed by her anxiety and surrounded by bullies, she planned her future based on what The Bully thought she was worth…another waste of time…

I regret her years of worry all because of genetics, but this is something beyond my control. I despise the adults who created children in their likeness who could control themselves and didn’t allow their children to flourish and prepare their own paths, thereby creating a whole new generation of anxiety ridden adults. After years of being told we weren’t good enough, The Bully has made us stronger. Tell a Doherty or a Gershuny they can’t do, expect some serious consequences.

Years wasted on unnecessary worry…

So having cultivated the kid to “adulthood,” we celebrated with an 18th-birthday-24-hour-extravaganza starting last Sunday.  After breakfast at the local bagel shop, our trip began 1 1/2 hours behind schedule (my bad…). The ride began with witnessing a high speed chase up the NJ turnpike that we followed until the perpetrator crashed and was taken into custody.

After driving in circles trying to figure out how to get to the hotel, we were told by some very cranky reception staff that the hotel no longer has valet parking. After dropping off my husband and the kid and driving in more circles, I found myself at the American Museum of Natural History where I was given a spot right at the entrance (good to know my circle driving had a rainbow and kindness makes all the difference). Once returned to the hotel, the room was smaller than expected and the toilet immediately clogged and screamed all night in pain, but I reminded myself of the abundance of kosher food that awaited us:

 

 

Kid’s choice? The Asian exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art:

 

 

We decided after a night of screaming toilets to head out to breakfast and then peruse the American Museum of Natural History, since my car was already parked there overnight and we’d get a discount with validation from the hotel. On the way back from breakfast, my husband insisted on meeting the giant Lego dude and briefly met with Abe Lincoln while he got some sun on the steps of the Historical Society after I asked a local policeman if I could take a picture on his horse:

 

 

After checking out the exhibits of the kid’s choice and having to extract my “children” from the museum shop before getting arrested for disorderly conduct, we headed back to the car only to discover I had lost our validated parking voucher. Following a brief freak out, we found ourselves handing over our credit card to a very grumpy parking garage attendant who made us pay a full day’s price PLUS our overnight stay, DESPITE my honesty in telling her what time we arrived the day before…$83! Next time we take the train…

All in all, my favorite place on the planet is the AMNH, so I didn’t mind the “donation.”

 

 

On the way home, we discovered that the high speed car chase perp was some pothead who stole a car in Connecticut and decided to take a joy ride on our lovely New Jersey Turnpike. After an hour of my bitching about crazy suicidal drivers, we witnessed a three-car pile up about 50 feet in front of us in which a sedan twirled several 360s along the right lane and an SUV flipped at least 2 or 3 times from the middle lane to the guard rail while a third car smashed head first into the guard rail. I narrowly missed killing a man who decided to stop in the left lane shoulder and run across three lanes of highway to attend to the drivers of the crash.

All in all, we arrived home safely to piles of puke throughout our basement left by one of our cats…OY!!!

On a totally separate note…week 8 of my photo challenge, Technical: One Shot – Imagine that it’s the last frame on a roll of film and I have to nail it – only one shot…bicycles, of course!

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If I had to live in NYC again, I’d ditch the car and ride my bike everywhere. This photo brings me back to the 1990s when we would order takeout Chinese food from our favorite restaurant that delivered by bicycle – the best Chinese food we’ve ever eaten since. In the two years we lived there, we never actually stepped foot in the restaurant until we passed it on our move to southern New Jersey. A tiny whole-in-the-wall place, it changed our perspective of what is “good.”

You only get one life…take the shot and make it work…

“Look
If you had
One shot
Or one opportunity
To seize everything you ever wanted
In one moment
Would you capture it
Or just let it slip?”

Lose Yourself – Eminem

 

“I had run for 3 years, 2 months, 14 days, and 16 hours.” – Forrest Gump

My Jacob’s Ladder…

In February 2016, I only got one bike ride. It was a year ago today and it was a very uneventful and rather boring ride…

So far this February, I’ve gotten in three rides and will probably get in more with temperatures climbing into the 60s and 70s Farenheit this week.

I’m in week three of my training for the half century I’ll be riding on June 11th.

http://main.acsevents.org/site/TR?fr_id=83852&pg=personal&px=44809625#

Having mostly trained this winter on the stationary bike at the local gym, any warm weather is more than welcome! Yesterday was Day Two of Phase Three:

I got some nice colors over Cooper River, tiny signs of spring starting to pop up – little red buds on the trees and tiny purple crocuses pushing their way through the dead leaves left over from the fall. I also decided to climb the very steep and crooked ladder to the crew lookout to get a better view of the river. Lacking any safety railing, I found my legs shaking spastically in an effort to stand erect. I managed to calm my body long enough to get two shots, one resulting in a blurry mass and the other coming out perfect. When I started to descend my lofty perch, a wave of intense fear came over me. Looking down the twenty-foot drop at the ladder secured to the foundation by an old rusty padlock and chain, I panicked, “What if I fall?! What if I can’t get down?! Should I ask someone to help me? How embarrassing is this?!” I imagined the sun slowly fading, the temperature dropping to its more seasonal resting place. I pictured myself stuck on this platform, spending the night alone…in Camden, New Jersey…

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Thankfully, I managed to climb down, calmly telling myself to take my time and carefully manage each step no matter how long it took me. And then I thought, “Are there that many ladder thieves out there that they had to lock this ladder to the platform?!”

As a child, I climbed all kinds of heights – tree branches, tree houses, fire towers, light houses – no fear of falling. And back then there was no danger. No bubble wrap for us! We did things parents wouldn’t even think of their children doing today.

When we were little, my sister and I slept in bunk beds. Being older (by a mere 15 months, mind you), she claimed her stake in the top bunk. I remember being upset that she had this right simply because she was older, and I would poke her butt with my fingers through the mattress to let her know how unhappy this situation made me. After moving to New Jersey from Long Island, our bedroom was big enough that we could lose the bunk of our beds and sleep separately. So what to do with that bunk bed ladder…?

Our house at that time had a full semi-finished basement with the concrete blocks of the foundation still showing and a flat concrete floor. The house had been built in the 1920s and sold to us by its original owner. Memories of the former family were sprinkled throughout the basement in the form of stickers pasted on the walls in various locations. We loved playing in that basement, my favorite activity riding my tricycle in circles repeatedly around the staircase situated in the middle of the room.

So now back to that bunk bed ladder…

In that house, our washer and dryer were in the kitchen. On warmer days my mother would hang the laundry on the clothesline outside to dry. But if the weather wasn’t cooperative, she had my father erect a clothesline down in the basement, tied from one support pole to another. My sister and I had the brilliant idea of hanging that bunk bed ladder on the clothesline and use the ladder as a swing. Sitting on a lower wrung, I would sway to and fro, legs kicking out straight as I pulled forward, arms pushing my upper body to the rear, then bending my legs and pulling my torso forward on the way back. We did this regularly, never thinking of the potential danger it created.

When I was five-years-old, at some point swinging on that ladder, I fell…head first onto the concrete floor. I’m not sure exactly what happened – either the ladder slipped off the line or I slipped off the ladder. Either way, it knocked me out. The next thing I remember was waking up in my bed crying and Kathy coming to my aide. For some reason, she had me drink a glass of orange juice after telling me she spoke to our doctor. I don’t remember much after that and simply woke up in the morning and went back to school. Knowing what I know now, I obviously had a concussion – and a bad one at that. As an adult, I developed a neurological condition, including a brain tumor, that could have been a result of that fall. However, strangely enough, it never stopped me from climbing or risking bodily harm…until yesterday…

Several years ago, my daughter suffered two separate concussions, the latter occurring during a basketball game in which she was forcefully knocked down by an opponent. After hitting her head on the court, she was unconscious for about 30 seconds. My husband and I took both situations very seriously. As a result of the second concussion, our daughter required very expensive specialized vision therapy not covered by insurance. Needless to say, my daughter has been very cautious since that time, my mother-in-laws last words to her being, “Watch your head.”

Now I try to move a little slower and am learning to take my time – slow and steady as Kathy would say. I like being alive too much, so I guess my bungee jumping days that never got to exist are gone forever…

“Climb every mountain
Search high and low
Follow every byway
Every path you know”

Climb Every Mountain – Rodgers and Hammerstein

“I had run for 3 years, 2 months, 14 days, and 16 hours.” – Forrest Gump

I think I can, I think I can, I think I can…

So today My Gump Ride finally feels like its true purpose will be served. For the past few years, I’ve been wanting to ride in the annual American Cancer Society Bike-a-thon in my region, traveling from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to Atlantic City, New Jersey. However, this event always took place on a Jewish holiday or interfered with some other event I needed to attend. Discovering that I had nothing else planned, scheduled or interfering on that day, I committed myself to the challenge.

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I will admit…I’m a little nervous, but I’m not sure why. Although the longest route is 100 miles, I chose to only do half this first time around. I rode 45 miles last May with Kathy in the Five Boro Bike Tour – this will only be five more miles. I also rode almost 47 miles the other day without even trying. So why am I so worried?

Well…this time I’ll be alone – my big sister Kathy won’t be riding with me, but I’ve ridden almost that far without her. I’m also afraid of getting lost from the route, although I know every road from here to Atlantic City and could manage my way. The weather should cooperate…somewhat. Even if it rains, it’ll be summer in Southern New Jersey. So why am I so worried?

Maybe I’m worried because of the “unknowns” I can’t predict or control.

January 20th – today would have been Maureen’s 58th birthday. As I’ve mentioned, Maureen died one month before her 52nd birthday. She died suddenly and unexpectedly. We couldn’t have predicted it and certainly couldn’t control it. I’m two weeks away from my 52nd birthday…maybe that’s it…I’m worried about “not making it.”

If I don’t make it on this upcoming bike tour, I’ll just get SAG to pick me up and take me to the finish line where my husband will be waiting to take me home. But if I don’t make it to 52…will there be a SAG of angels waiting to take me home? And what about my husband…?

When I ride, I think about the strength and bravery my brother had after being diagnosed with anal cancer. I also think about my sister Regina’s perseverance and ever present positive outlook throughout the past six years after battling breast cancer and surviving. “Dohertys don’t do sick,” I’ve said for decades. We fight and we fight hard. Two weeks after giving birth to my daughter, I was mowing the lawn. Two days after having a hysterectomy, I was vacuuming my house. When I get sick, I unfortunately venture on and infect those around me because I just can’t be sick…sorry…

This all made me think of something I wrote following last year’s Five Boro ride:

Rounding the bend in Brooklyn as you enter the BQE, there’s a terrible wind that slaps you in the face…hard. Imagine your body flying through the air at 15mph only to be met by a MAC truck driving 40mph from the opposite direction. It hurts…and it hurts bad…you can’t breathe. Your eyeballs sting from the bullets of rain shooting into them. IF you make it past the slap turn, you’re received by the lonely boro volunteers who’ve been standing out on the sidelines in 40-degree weather in the pouring rain since at least 7:00am, “WELCOME TO THE BQE FOLKS! [snicker…snicker…]” You KNOW it’s gonna be bad. Having driven the BQE numerous times…you KNOW it’s gonna be WORSE than bad. First there’s the curve…uphill…a little…then the next hill…a little bigger…then the next, then the next…until you’ve lost count of the hills from which you’ve sucked wind. You imagine the Little Red Caboose – “I think I can, I think I can…” At this point, there’s silence…SILENCE. You’re on the BQE in New York City and it’s QUIET…except for your own gasping breaths and the sound of raindrops pelting your helmet. You keep telling yourself, “This is the part they talked about.” The part where your thighs are screaming and your lungs can’t breathe the air. The part where you panic, but there’s NO turning around – there’s NO bailing out. If you can just get up that last mountain…only to be met by the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge. You’ve heard about it…read about it…studied it…it’s one of the world’s longest suspension bridges…that goes UUUUUP one end and DOOOOOWN the other. You can see it’s peak fade off into the horizon as you approach – a sea of colorful cyclists before you – some who’ve been this route before and others who experience it for the first time – all riding as if driven to finish the challenge. Behind it, a roller coaster of a hill that frightens you more. But all you’re thinking is, “I need to climb this mountain…I need to climb this mountain…” There’s absolutely nothing else on your mind, except that mantra. Nothing else matters. All thoughts, all worries, everything else that’s happening in your life and around you, DOESN’T MATTER. All you know is…you need to climb that mountain…because there’s no turning around and no bailing out…you’re in first gear, with no gears left to grind. And then you peak…and there’s no pain…and you can breathe…and the roller coaster ride is so much more fun going down…because you just made it through 40 miles of pain…and downpours…and people cheering you on…and music playing your tune. And as you cross the finish line, you’re suddenly overwhelmed by the tens of thousands of others around you who are sharing and feeling their own pain. In the end? You feel invincible – like you can do anything…BECAUSE YOU CAN!

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I have a feeling this ride’s going to be even better…

“I coulda gave up then but
Then again I couldn’t have ’cause
I’ve traveled all this way for something”

I’m On Top Of The World – Imagine Dragons

“I had run for 3 years, 2 months, 14 days, and 16 hours.”

Forrest Gump

The one less traveled by…

“I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.”
The Road Not Taken -Robert Frost

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My “go to” place is a 12-mile loop that I know really well – I’ve been riding it regularly for seven years. When I first discovered this ride, I struggled along major roads and highways littered with potholes, not to mention the insane drivers trying to run me over. However, thanks to Google Maps, I’ve discovered every back street that will get me to my destination. Needless to say, when driving, I very rarely get lost…

I look for my neighbor, Sophie the Dog, and occasionally get some “hello barks” in return. I look to see what new wind spinners the local bike shop has on display along the sidewalk and which houses or businesses have finally sold. I get excited when a newly paved road is chanced upon. Each season, I look to see what flowers have been planted and photograph the different holiday decor. I look to see who’s winning the senior men’s softball game. I know when the local pool opens for the season and went it shuts down for the winter. I know the dirt trails, which parts have sand or clay or gravel and when to change gears and what gear to change into – I remember the exact spot where I crashed and find caution in my stride. I look to see if the National Guard is meeting this weekend, occasionally spotting the blue heron that likes to fish along the pond or I watch the dogs socializing at the dog park. I look to see what’s been left behind at a small memorial for the young man who was hit by a train last year or that little boy who was murdered. I watch the kids playing on the playground and check out the crew boats at the boathouse, sometimes catching a practice or race. I know every memorial and sculpture, where they’re located and what they represent. I stop by the yacht club to see if anyone’s sailing or take a rest at the historical society building situated among the trees along the water. I delight in the completion of renovations taking place along the river. I’ve watched the park change over the years, yet these things have remained constant.

I was recently informed by a fellow cyclist that there are “two beautiful lakes” existing beyond my usual route, so last week I decided to look for them. I think the only reason I never ventured on was because of my fear of the unknown. I don’t know why I felt that way – I’ve traveled alone across the United States, as well as to other countries, some not so safe at times. As a lone social worker, I’ve been forced into some of the scariest and deadliest neighborhoods in New Jersey. I’ve ridden my bike through unfettered territory, risking attacks by wild animals or risking a crash with no cell phone service…or worse…

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Crossing over one of several major highways that envelops my path, I found myself continuing along the river that flows under an overpass towards Camden, New Jersey – a city dubbed “Apocalypse NJ” by Rolling Stone Magazine, in 2012 it ranked fifth in the highest heroin abuse and sixth in the highest murder rate in 2016. With a tinge of panic in my gut, I ventured on…

To my surprise, I first came upon the Camden County Golf Academy. Well, that can’t be so bad – if there’s golf, it can’t be a bad neighborhood, right? The river continues behind the golf academy, where local crew teams practice  throughout the season. A little further along, all I see are parked cars and older gentlemen fishing along the river bank. My brain tells me they’re “shady,” probably drinking in the woods or selling drugs, but none of that seems to be going on – just a bunch of old guys fishing for leisure.

I came upon a sign at a crossroads – one arrow pointing right to the Cooper River Trail and one arrow pointing to the left, Farnham Park. Since I’ve been there, done that with Cooper River, I decided to seek out this Farnham Park. Following an overgrown “bike path” along a major roadway toward Camden, I passed some dude on a bike made for a child, I saw a sign ahead – Camden County Veterans Cemetery. Being that it was the week of Veterans Day, I decided that was where I needed to go that day…

 

As I meandered my way throughout the many potholed roadways of the cemetery, I came across a middle-aged couple who responded to several gravestones of individuals they knew, as well as the young men who decided to test out their new ATVs along the paths of the gravestones after my phone jumped ship from it’s caddy.

I never found those “two beautiful lakes” or Farnham Park, but I did find a beautiful cemetery and a body of water with some relatively colorful trees…

Twenty-five miles later…no regrets…

“A way over yonder
That’s where I’m bound”

Way Over Yonder – Carole King

“I had run for 3 years, 2 months, 14 days, and 16 hours.” – Forrest Gump