Sunday, December 13, 2015

Winter beach sunsets: nothing better

There's nothing better than walking on the beach at the end of the day. In the summer, the end of the day could mean as late as 8:00. In the winter, it's more like 5:15. 

Heading to the beach late in the summer means I can usually nab a prime parking spot from one of the vacationing families loaded down with buggies that overflow like grocery carts on BOGO days at the Kroger.

By this time of day, the college kids have exhausted the supply of beer in the cooler, had their fill of corn hole, and set off for a nap and change of clothes for the evening bar hopping. There are just a few straggler rental chairs and umbrellas that the lifeguards are patiently waiting to stow for the night.

The winter brings a different feel to late afternoon at the beach. There are no frenzied vacationers struggling under the weight of a day's worth of food, toys and wiped out kids. The coolers give way to dainty picnic baskets the snow bird couple totes down every evening with a bottle of wine and some pimento cheese and crackers. They set up their chairs to watch the pageant of the quiet sunset unfold in front of them. The giant storage boxes that hold the rental chairs and umbrellas in the summer sit as abandoned as chicken boxes after tailgating.

Even though we are on the east coast, South Carolina beaches can throw a pretty good sunset regardless of the time of year.

I’ve found winter sunsets tend to show off a bit. Maybe it's because we're craving some color against the stark bare trees. Pinks and blues were the color palate tonight. I looked to the south and the colors were subtle. They blended together so gently that the horizon line blurred the sky and ocean into a single canvas.

The pinks and blues to the north were brighter and more stark like cans of vivid pink and blue paint had exploded against a canvas. The horizon line was as distinct as the half court line on a basketball court. Those filters you can apply on Instagram were completely unnecessary.

In the winter, the people on the beach at this time of day really want to be there. They seem to have a  reverence for what they can experience in a winter sunset. They don't seem as rushed. 

Even the runners and bikers seem less intense when they are out for exercise near sunset. People are friendlier and stop to chat at this time of day on the beach (doesn't hurt to be accompanied by a Golden Retriever with reindeer antlers on her head).

Everyone there seems drawn together by this sunset that, like sunset every day, we need to remind ourselves in a once in a lifetime experience.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

I watched it from afar

I flew out for a long-anticipated trip Italy with three friends the first week of October. We took off on a Wednesday thankful to leave behind the impending hurricane warnings and paid little attention to the flash flood alerts for Columbia.

Little did we know we would spend the better part of our trip watching international news reports showing deadly floods sweeping away friends' homes and devastating our hometown.

We stayed glued to international news feeds. We watched our friends' usual social media posts about kids' activities become hourly missives of who needed help where. One friend showed up in a yellow raincoat on international CNN. Yet another was interviewed on the Weather Channel. National news correspondents broadcast from neighborhoods where just days earlier I'd been riding my bike.

For several days, I struggled with finding right word to describe what I kept seeing and hearing from the people back home affected by the flooding.

A recollection of an experience this summer prompted me to find the right word  . . . 

A couple of days after the Emmanuel Nine shooting in Charleston, I happened upon an impromptu prayer vigil on the State House grounds. I was hot and sweaty from a bike ride so I stood on the periphery of the group that started out as mostly college-age African American students. 

Within just a few minutes, the group swelled with people from all walks of life who were drawn toward the crowd the same way I was. I soon found myself pulled into a prayer circle while holding hands with two strangers and singing Amazing Grace.

Standing there in that circle of strangers sharing sadness and hope, I realized that grace was amazing in this situation.

…grace shown by the shooting victims' families as they talked of forgiveness without strings…grace as they courageously explained how their loved ones wouldn't want them to live with malice or hate in their hearts…grace in encouraging others to do the same.

In Italy as my friends and I watched street after street of our hometown being washed away, I realized it was grace we were witnessing over and over again. Grace was the young mother who wanted to find and thank the strangers who rescued her family knowing she had lost everything. Grace was the teenager who was evacuated from his own home but went back to help others escape theirs. Grace was the rescuer who treated family pets with the same care and respect as the people he was carrying from their home.

In the hours and days following the flood, news stories out of Columbia could have been of our first responders dealing with looting and crime or people with a "poor us, it's not fair" attitude. Social media posts from families who lost everything could have leveled blame or complained about their plight.

But there was none of that. It was pure grace.

Within hours, people dealing with flooded basements that would have been a major issue just days earlier were out helping strangers find clothes, water and lost pets. Teens were trekking from house to house in the devastated neighborhoods helping any way they could. Children were delivering water, home baked cookies and encouraging messages to first responders.

We heard people who lost everything say over and over…"we will rebuild….others weren't as lucky as we were." "My family is safe and that's all that matters." They weren't whining about why this happened to them. They weren't blaming or complaining. They were in a place of grace.

While everyone's faith and courage to communicate that grace originated from their own hearts and experiences, our community showed a common humanity that was humbling and inspiring to watch from afar. Everyone became part of something bigger. I have no doubt that this generosity of spirit will be what gets our hometown through the struggle of recovery from this storm.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Throwback Thursday post: When a House Becomes a Home

This is a throwback Thursday post - it ran last October in a couple of publications but I never posted it here....

The word “home” can have so many different meanings at various times in your life. A childhood home evokes different feelings than your first young-married home. A retirement home is different from a vacation home. All bring about a variety of emotions, memories and feelings. 

But one thing is for sure. A house isn't necessarily a home. A real estate agent says he’s showing a “house” to a potential buyer, but that person will probably say he’s buying a “home.” The saying goes “home is where the heart is” not “house is where the heart is.”
A house becomes a home when its walls get covered with photos, its closets bulge with familiar items and stuff you can’t bear to part with, there are stacks of magazines around your favorite chair, and fuzz bunnies from the much loved dog thrive under the furniture.

Relative to most people my age, I lived in only a few houses growing up. My parents built their first house when I was a toddler, and I lived there until second grade. We lived in a rental for a few months after returning from a 2-year stint in Virginia before my parents built the house I consider my childhood home. We moved there when I was in the fourth grade. Just about all the vivid memories I have of my growing up years are associated with that house.

The Williamsburg Christmas lights in the windows every year; first-day-of-school pictures in front of the fireplace; plays and beauty pageants in the downstairs playroom; the cool window seat in my bedroom where I wrote in in my diary believing that spot gave me “inspiration;” the shelves that held my Mrs. Beasley and my Mme Alexander doll collection; photos with the cousins on the den sofa; the neat-as-pin attic that held boxes of photos, letters and grade school papers;  the detail of the house's facacde that exactly mirrors a house my mother loved in historic Williamsburg Virginia….the list of what I love and want to remember about that house  could go on forever.

It’s funny to think that I only lived there for eight years before I headed to college. That’s just a couple of blinks in my 53 years. When I moved to a dorm and then an apartment in college, my childhood home became more of a way-stop. Once I moved to DC and had my own apartments, more of my belongings went back with me every time I visited Columbia.

Once my childhood room was redecorated into the guest room, I started gradually thinking of my childhood home as “my parents’ house.” I'm not sure exactly when that happened, but eventually that house became a place to visit rather than live. Although I will admit I still have a house key, come and go as I please, and walk in without knocking. I still know where the forks go in the drawer, how to find a pair of scissors and where my mother hides her favorite nail file.

But now, after 44 years in that house, my parents are moving. The house sold quickly to the first family that looked at it. I know they will pick up the good karma of my family’s many happy times there. My childhood home will become someone else’s home.
Every house has its time to be a home. My home now is where I have lived for 20+ years. The sale of my childhood home doesn’t mean the memories, photos, old friends and great neighbors will go away. I’m lucky to have them tucked into a place in my heart that will always be with me.

But, in the interest of full disclosure, I will admit to tucking some of those memories into several plastic bins containing old photos, letters, term papers, report cards and articles that I couldn't bear to throw away….maybe later, but not yet.

Monday, September 7, 2015

I've Caught the Swamp Rabbit Bug

This appeared in Midlands Life on September 26, 2015

My job involves working with SC cities and towns as part of an organization sharing information to help their leaders make their hometowns the best they can be. I really love what I do and particularly love the fact that I can often overlay my daily work with my personal interests.

Because of several articles I've written for work publications about the growth in and around Travelers Rest, I was recently drawn to try biking the Swamp Rabbit Trail. This nine-mile bike trail was built on an old rail bed that runs between Travelers Rest and Greenville. It has helped transform this small Upstate town into a biking mecca with great restaurants and retail shops.

Earlier in the year, I'd written about a local entrepreneur recounting his positive interactions with the city's mayor during a scouting visit that convinced him to locate his business in Travelers Rest. Both he and the mayor spoke with such passion about the niche their little town had created around the Swamp Rabbit Trail.

Back in June, I had rented a bike in Greenville one Friday afternoon after a meeting. I really just wanted to experience this trail that I'd heard so much about. I had no intention of riding the entire nine miles to Travelers Rest, much less coming back time and time again to ride the trail.

Because of that initial ride, I bought a snazzy yellow bike from the great folks at Pedal Chic in Greenville and have now ridden the trail nine times in the past three months.

During my most recent ride from Greenville to Travelers Rest, I realized how much my daily work can not only enhance many experiences like this, but sometimes - if I’m not careful -  it can also wheedle into my personal enjoyment of an experience. In spite of my best mindful efforts, those work eyes open when I should be looking at things through my "just enjoy the moment" eyes.

I had learned about the trail’s partnership involving the city of Greenville, Greenville County and Travelers Rest from research I did for my work article. During my initial ride I noticed the trail signage that indicated where the trail was running through Greenville, Greenville County or Travelers Rest.

This is probably a distinction most people wouldn't notice or even understand, but my work eye was drawn to the signs. That train of thought made me quickly realize I needed to shut down my curiosity about how this public private partnership made the trail happen and refocus on enjoying the sounds of the trail.

In a matter of minutes, the sounds along the trail can move from cars whizzing by as riders wait to cross a busy road to the laughter of a family of five with a bike buggy and two kids on training wheels. Or maybe I'll hear a dog with his tags jingling alongside his elderly owner, the chatter of college students out for a run or the peacefulness of birds in the trees.

Focusing on and enjoying this variety of sounds snapped me out of my work brain and back in to my “just enjoy the experience” brain.

As I passed the occasional black chain link fencing along the otherwise unfenced trail, my work brain sent me to the question of liability. I wondered what risks the trail planners saw that prompted them to build fences in the places where they were erected. Was the grade down the hill steeper than other places increasing the risk someone would fall and tumble off the trail? Who would have the liability for that fall?

I had to remind myself to stop wondering about the fencing and get back to enjoying my riding experience. If I'd been too muddled in the question of the fence I might have missed the simple wood ten foot cross with a bench in front of it. I couldn’t find a sign to explain why the cross was on the trail leaving me to imagine what brought it there. That made for much better musing than the liability of the fence.

I might have sped right by the rabbit made of recycled metal and cans reminding riders not to litter. Or I would have completely missed the Swamp Rabbit Teaching Garden where people in the area can come to learn about community gardening. I might have overlooked the Swamp Rabbit CafĂ© and Grocery that has the best cookies, local produce and popsicles made from fresh fruit. I might have never seen the cool piece of art recently placed in a field next to an abandoned rail car. 

As the trail hugged the back of the Furman University campus, my work brain turned to the university's recent annexation  into Travelers Rest. My mind wandered trying to recall the details of annexation process - when it happened, why it happened.

Then my “just enjoy the ride” brain kicked in again. It didn’t matter right then about the annexation. I'd never been on the Furman campus and was curious about this place many of my friends and their kids so passionately love. I veered off the trail and onto the road that snakes around campus.

I passed the signature white tower that is part of the Furman logo. I lulled myself into becoming part of the unrushed Saturday-ness of the beautiful campus while watching students leisurely swinging in makeshift hammocks while picnicking by the lake. I enjoyed the challenge of some fairly steep hills on the walking path that runs through the woods on the edge of campus.

Once back on the trail, I took in the tasteful sponsorship and advertising signs that showed up occasionally. The Greenville Hospital System uses simple green and white banners hung on the black fences to gently remind riders to wear a helmet or make a stop at the local farmers market. A nearby neighborhood subtly sells itself with understated signs telling riders if they love the trail they would be almost home if they lived in this development. My work eye saw these and wondered what regulations were in place for the signs, who oversaw their placement and upkeep.

Had I stayed in my work brain for long, however, I would have missed the old bike painted white that served as a memorial to bicyclists who had died on Greenville roads. I might not have stopped in the park tucked off to the side of the trail built in memory of two local brothers.

I knew I was close to Travelers Rest when I approached the slight upward incline leading into downtown past Trailblazer Park where I’d just missed the weekly farmers market. My work brain kicked in again recalling the award the town won for the park.

If I had continued the train of thought about that award, I might have pedaled right by the huge “Before I Die” sign sitting in the middle of the well-kept park on the edge of town. I stopped to refill my water bottle in the park from the fountain with subtle signage letting riders know the water is provided courtesy of the Greenville Water System. I spent a few minutes chilling in one of the park’s shady porch swings while I mulled over what words to leave on the “Before I Die” wall.

My stomach told me it was time for lunch as I smiled at the colorful campaign welcoming visitors to TR with signs that take off on the TR - TRendy shopping, TRail, TRendy restaurants. My work brain loved the clever branding to play on the town’s nickname.

Work again kicked in as I decided among the many diverse restaurants available for lunch. I’d been to TR enough times to have eaten my way through several trying crepes, salads, burgers and ice cream (and to call this great little town TR, like the locals do). This time I decided to try Sidewall Pizza

The restaurant is owned by the young entrepreneur I’d interviewed for a work publication. He had a back story that intrigued me about how he got to TR and decided to relocate his a canoe building company and open a pizza joint on Main Street. The open air seating in the converted tire store building appealed to me on a pretty Saturday, and the food didn’t disappoint. So this “work brain” invasion was actually a good one.

When I’m on my bike, I’m slowly teaching myself how to shut my work eyes and open my “enjoy the moment” eyes. I try to remember that, once my feet hit those pedals, all I need to see, smell and feel is the safe, free trail populated by hard-core cyclists, grannies on a no-speed bike,  in-line skaters and people like me just enjoying the outdoors. I don’t need to worry about how it was funded, why it’s safe or who regulates the signs.

Serious runners, families with strollers, kids on training wheels or skate boarders who share the trail with me might note in passing a bit of tasteful advertising, fencing where it is necessary, and a safe clean trail. And that’s all they need to see. Thanks to the vision of leaders in Greenville, Greenville County and Travelers Rest, that’s all any of us who enjoy this magical trail should have to think about. 

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Something out of great Detroit experience

One of the best parts of my job is getting to really experience the cities I visit for meetings and conferences. Working for an organization that helps build strong cities, I love the chance to explore a city's story beyond the everyday tourist sites.

A conference I attend every summer typically takes us to locations that aren’t at the usual conference sites like New Orleans, Seattle or Orlando. In recent years, we've met in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, a state park in South Dakota and downtown Minneapolis  - places that never would have hit my radar for travel otherwise.
Original interior of
the Guardian Building
in downtown

This year, the meeting was in Detroit. I’ve never been to Michigan and, other than checking my bucket list item of visiting every state, I probably would have had no real reason to visit the state. I will admit my perception of Detroit was that it was unsafe, dirty and with no real attractions to make it an interesting destination.
Part of the decaying
former Packard plant 
Was I wrong.
Unlike most conferences I attend, this one gave us opportunities to experience the real city - its struggles and its hope for a new future.  We saw shiny architectural gems of the city's past glory.  We saw what it became through years of neglect and decay. But best of all we experienced the blinding light of future hope.
During our time in Detroit, we learned about decades of a crumbling economy that left behind crumbling infrastructure and crumbling buildings. We saw street after street of abandoned mansions, shotgun houses and apartment buildings that had once made up welcoming and safe neighborhoods. We learned about creative public/private redevelopment efforts that were transforming these abandoned properties back into neighborhoods, restoring buckling sidewalks back to welcoming paths and connecting various parts of the city with a new trolley system.
This scene is everywhere downtown
as the new trolley system is built
Construction detours, orange cones, incessant drilling and traffics jams caused by all of this building and construction activity usually results in annoyed pedestrians and impatient drivers. In Detroit however, I got the sense that folks welcomed these distractions as their currency of hope and growth.
As one of our Detroit hosts pointed out several times, this city is good at making something out of nothing -- a simple idea...a creative solution...a spirit of collaboration...a willingness to take a risk. All were evident as we learned about this city's demise and its ongoing rebirth.
Motown music struck me as one perfect example of how this city made something real and enduring from nothing but a simple idea and an $800 investment. More than 50 years ago, the Motown sound was born in a tiny house in a questionable neighborhood and grew into one of the defining movements in American music. Its success remains a symbol of this city's legacy of possibilities.
Spot to stop and relax
on the River Walk
For generations, the Detroit riverfront was nothing but industrial warehouses. Today, the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy is responsible for converting the city's industrial waterfront into a stunning River Walk drawing both locals and visitors.People of all ages and walks of life stroll, run, bike, play volleyball, dart through dancing water features or just chill in one if the many hubs of lounge chairs dotting the path.

When I biked the 5.5 miles of this wide welcoming path along the sparkling blue river, I had to detour off a couple of times onto a busy thoroughfare with cracked sidewalks, industrial warehouses and abandoned storefronts. These pockets of the riverfront that hadn't been redeveloped vividly illustrated for me just how far things have come over the years.

Rotary dial telephones
are art
At one of our mobile tour stops, we learned about art that grew out of the nothingness of abandoned homes, empty lots and garbage piles. In some contexts, this art may be mistaken for junk or random graffiti, but for 26 years a local artist has been transforming this discarded and unwanted stuff into art through an effort called the Heidelberg Project.

On Heidelberg Street where the artist lives, the buildings themselves have become the artwork exploding with color. Decaying wooden fences have become a gallery wall hung with canvasses fashioned from plywood. Empty lots on the street are the display case for urban sculpture made from discarded items such as shoes, rotary  dial phones and vinyl records.

His art stands just blocks from the Detroit Institute of Art that houses masterpieces by the greats like vanGogh and Picasso. This city welcomes and embraces both ends of the artistic spectrum.

We experienced the creative entrepreneurship of two locals who saw a need and filled it…again creating something out of nothing. One converted an abandoned warehouse in a sketchy part of town into a successful entertainment venue that appeals to a quirkiness I found in abundance around this city.
A conference session on the topic of leadership and innovation took us to this warehouse. The route to get there illustrated the Detroit I had envisioned - abandoned buildings, overgrown lots, chain link fences protecting shells of warehouses from more abuse. But it turned out, this session on innovation couldn’t have been planned for a better space.

Entrance to the Fowling
We walked into this old warehouse that is the home to a football/bowling hybrid game called fowling. This game created by the warehouse's owner is a perfect example of creative entrepreneurism in a recovering economy…picture bowling pins knocked over by a thrown football. There’s also a full bar, a music stage and lots of high round tables surrounded by bar stools. Apparently the place is packed every night!

The fowling court
Our group’s session on innovation started out with pizza, treats from the bar and a lively game of fowling (sure beat the typical conference session in a cold stark hotel meeting room). It put us in the perfect mindset for innovative thinking and learning.
The second example of this creative entrepreneurship that built something from nothing was the bus that transported us during our stay. I knew we were in for an experience when the bus picked us up for the session on innovation and leadership.
Our transportation
This was no typical air conditioned (freezing cold) conference bus. The windows were down on this balmy afternoon, and let’s just say I felt like Laurie Partridge boarding the bus that looked like it came straight from the Partridge Family tv show.
The driver was engaging and clearly proud of his city. Turns out the bus company is owned by a young entrepreneur who got tired of the fact there was no public transit in the city. He started buying old busses and moving people around town. The Detroit Bus Company now owns more than 40 of these buses that serve locals and visitors.
Urban playground
I'm always drawn to urban green space, and I loved the dozens of parks that dot downtown. My favorite was a block from the hotel, Campus Martius Park. It is a cool welcoming space that serves as a hub and gathering space for downtown.

The dancing fountain
The park sports a sandy beach where the kids stop and play by day and young professionals can later celebrate happy hour. A stage for daily music performances, a beautiful dancing fountain and a tiny gelato stand join dozens of tables and chairs for eating, working or just visiting.
Over the course of our time in Detroit, we also got to see urban gardens with urban scarecrows tucked into pockets in neighborhoods of all types. Urban agriculture is big here…and this movement has again created beauty and hope from abandoned land.

Detroit is clearly a pro sports team city, and we enjoyed an evening of Tiger baseball at the beautiful stadium nestled right in the middle of downtown. But the best baseball story I heard wasn’t about this shiny modern stadium. It was the story of how the neighborhood around the original Tiger stadium is reinventing itself after the team moved.
The team moved downtown in 1999 and the old stadium structure itself was demolished in 2009. But the field was left intact. Neighbors and volunteer lovers of the Tigers took it upon themselves to keep the field in shape as the landscape of the surrounding neighborhood changed. Recently a developer announced plans for retail and residential construction surrounding the field. Plus the Police Athletic league will take over management of the field, and it will again be the focal point of a thriving neighborhood that's coming back to life.
When I travel, I always love to take something home with me as a reminder of places I visit. It seems appropriate my remembrance from this trip picks up on the spirit of my Detroit friend who said the city is good at making something out of nothing. 

My new travel bag is made from recycled seatbelts - how appropriate for Detroit!

Published on August 21 in Midlands Life

Monday, August 3, 2015

Life's a Bike

When I made an impulse purchase of a shiny yellow bike during a recent trip to Greenville, I had no idea how much I'd learn from those 30 pounds of metal.

Just to be clear, this isn’t some fancy multi-speed bike that requires special shoes, flashing LED lights and an expensive water bottle. Think Pee Wee Herman on his cruiser not Lance Armstrong speeding through France.
Swamp Rabbit Trail
I'd bought the bike after spending two afternoons in Greenville riding the Swamp Rabbit Trail on a rented bike that was a perfect fit for my small frame. The trail is a converted rail bed that runs nine miles between downtown Greenville and Travelers Rest. It's a peaceful ride with scenery as diverse as the back of industrial buildings to the rolling campus of Furman.

Curiosity about the bike I'd enjoyed riding led me to ask the folks at the rental shop about it. The shop, with the cool name of Pedal Chic, focuses on bikes and equipment for just for women. The sales people and the owner were willing to give me lots of help, time and insight, even though I had made it clear I wasn’t in the market to buy, just learn.

Pedal Chic in Greenville
I was particularly drawn to the shiny yellow one that stood out among the more high-end racing and mountain bikes. The curves of the slanted center bar screamed girl power, and the seat held me like it was made for me. I test rode that one and several others but kept coming back to that yellow one. The practical side of me kept thinking this is like buying a pair of shoes - don’t buy the sassy cute wedges even if they don’t quite fit just because you like the color.

I learned from the shop’s owner that this yellow bike’s frame is slightly smaller than a typical woman’s bike. Perfect for someone whose driver’s license fibs that I’m five feet tall.

The petite size sealed the deal. I knew that bike was meant for me. Fortunately, the bike fit in my convertible with the top down, so I headed back to Columbia with a huge smile on my face and my new yellow bike wedged into the back seat.
The ride home

After riding this bike almost daily for two months now, I've been pleasantly surprised to learn several things:

1 – Don’t’ avoid the hills. Yes, they require a climb. But life is a climb and, just as with any challenge, there are different ways to approach the climb using gears, pace and speed. I've decided there's no disgrace in having to walk the bike up a particularly long or steep hill. I just start at the bottom with a slow steady pace, deep breaths and an eye on the next few feet in front of me.

2 – Slow down and enjoy the ride. Riding a bike allows a more intimate experience with what’s around me at that moment. I can smell the cut grass longer. I can differentiate the sounds of cicadas, crickets and birds. I stop and experience things I would never have slowed for from a car…ducks crossing a road toward a pond, an impromptu prayer vigil at the State House after the Charleston shootings, a concert under the gazebo in Travelers Rest. I didn't just watch those happen, I experienced them. I didn't fly by them in a car.

Taking a breather at Litchfield
This yellow bike has showed me a whole new way to slow down and love the beach. When riding my bike, the salt air smells saltier and the crunch of shells under the tires feels crunchier than they do on foot. It's not about speed when riding on the beach. It's about  negotiating around the various types of packed sand and the gullies from the tide or watching the egrets dip in the water for food.

3 – It’s OK to ask for help. The first time I tried to take the bike somewhere I wedged it in the back of my car. After arriving at the parking lot in Travelers Rest and struggling to get the bike out without getting grease all over the seats, I realized the chain had become dislodged. I had no idea how to re-string the chain onto that complicated looking gear thingie.

A guy unloading his bike asked if I needed help. I quickly told him I was fine. Ten minutes later, I realized I wasn't fine and didn't have a clue what I was doing. I forced the bike back into the car and drove to the local bike shop where the mechanic quickly restrung the chain…and patiently showed me how to do it myself next time.

4 - Getting caught in the rain doesn't have to ruin a ride. The rain started as a gentle drizzle after I'd been riding for about 15 minutes. By the time I arrived back in my driveway, the drizzle had become a downpour. I wasn't cold and I wasn't in danger of a lightening strike.  I was soaked…but I knew I wouldn’t melt. The bike was wet but it would dry off. So I just enjoyed the sensation of rain blowing in my face, beating down on my helmet and rolling down my back.

5 - Do the hard part first. Ride into the wind and take the hard hills at the beginning.  Just like a kid does his homework before watching tv, I found a ride to be much more enjoyable when I work hard and sweat a lot at the beginning. Then I get the downhills and wind at my back on the return trip.

Lunch view at Murrells Inlet
6 – Discover new things in familiar places. I’ve been going to Hilton Head and Litchfield all my life and never noticed all the bike trails threading behind trees alongside main roads.

What a pleasant surprise to learn it’s possible to ride on a paved, safe trail the six miles from Litchfield to Murrells Inlet to enjoy a quiet lunch on the water. I had no idea Hilton Head is the only "gold award" bike friendly city in SC and one of the top 25 in the US. I was able to get to my shopping, dining and even yoga classes by bike on the island without getting in my car once over a weekend. Good exercise plus experiencing things I never noticed before.

Central Park Rental
On a recent trip to NYC, I rented a bike in Central Park and rode the six miles around the perimeter of the park. Admittedly Central Park isn't a daily familiar place, but I'd been there on foot enough to know I'd only seen a small part of the park. Rolling hills, a public swimming pool, a zoo and numerous music venues surprised and delighted me on this hour-long ride around the park. I never would have thought to do that without the help of my yellow bike.
7 –Trust the rack. Once I realized I'd like to travel with my bike, I grudgingly decided to invest in a bike rack. I just never trusted those things.

Looking at a bike rack on a car speeding past me on the highway always gave me visions of the bike coming unhooked and sailing across the interstate to slam into another speeding car. To think about mounting a rack on my precious blue convertible and trusting those straps would hold completely terrorized me.

At the bike store, the sales person battened down the rack’s four straps and clips and positioned the rubber feet on the trunk. She showed me how to place the bike on the rack and strap it in with three…yes just three..buckles and a few bungee cords. I slowly drove the car home with the bike attached certain it would have flown off by the time I arrived in the driveway.

But before long, I was confidently lifting the bike on the rack by myself, strapping it in, bungee cording the wheels and setting off without so much as a second thought. Not only did I learn to trust the rack, but I also learned to trust my own ability to get the bike locked in safely.

Never would have imagined 30 pounds of yellow metal could teach me so much.