How I dieted my way to gain 120 pounds

Even as a child I was aware that being on a “diet” was something adults did regularly. I remember my Dad having weight loss challenges with friends, my Aunt being a Weight Watchers coach, my Mom dieting when I was a child. I also remember the first time someone pointed out to me that I was chubby. I was probably 11 or 12, and had just gotten a new outfit that I was so proud to have picked out. It had a slight midriff top, and a friend pointed out my “fat belly”. I’d never thought of myself as fat until that moment. The first time an adult made me think about my body was when a teacher commented how I’d slimmed up over the summer between my freshman and sophomore years, asking if I’d gone on a diet ( no I’d gone through puberty). And I will never forget when my beloved German teacher commented about my senior picture – that the pose chosen was bad, made my arms look fat. I have been hyper sensitive to the size of my arms since.

It was probably in college when I first started “dieting” I remember have a sign in my dorm room that said “Remember 128”. The reference was to getting to the magical 128lb weight on my 5’7”frame. In hindsight I’m not sure when I was actually 128lb, but by college I was around 140pounds. The next few years led to things like the cabbage soup diet, skipping eating for days, and other less healthy attempts. I bounced around up and down between 140-160 pounds throughout my early 20’s. At one point a combination of stress, not eating, working too much, partying too much and overall generally bad lifestyle, did get me back down in the 120s. I was thrilled. Could not believe I was wearing a size 6, could borrow clothes from my petite friends. Looking at pictures of me at the time, I was the classic example of skinny fat. No muscle definition, bone thin legs, squishy in the middle. But I was a size 6, dammit.

That didn’t last for long. Within 4 years I was in the 180s. I will never forget visiting family in Hungary and one of them pantomiming gestures about how much weight I’d gained since my visit 2 years earlier. By thirty, I’d lost a bit and was bouncing around the 160s. Then the 170s. Enter the switch in conventional wisdom that said fat was bad, whole grains were good. Pasta was the healthy thing. Skip the bacons and eggs, eat bagels and muffins. I remember thinking even back then that if I ate a carb loaded breakfast, I was hungry and often binge ate the entire day. But, hey, that was the healthy way to eat. So healthy that by my mid thirties I was over 200 lbs and gaining. I began having random signs of what I now know were auto-immune related. My doctor just said I was getting older, and that some weight gain was normal (while ignoring my TSH at the very top of the “normal” range). At 38, I weighed 235lbs.

And discovered fen-phen, Atkins and Jane Fonda videos.

90 days of drugs, high fat low carb, and daily or twice daily aerobics with Jane, I was down 65 pounds. This was amazing. Then stories of adverse affects of the fen part of the equation started hitting the news. My doctor stopped prescribing it. I stopped the videos, the Atkins…after all why bother without the drugs. In an incredibly short period of time I was back at 200 pounds.

A few months later I was pregnant with my son. Got up to 250lbs during the pregnancy. Was relying on breastfeeding to lose the “baby” weight. Began to accept I was older, post pregnant would just have to accept gaining. After all it was what my doctor seemed to think was inevitable as I aged.

At 40 years old, being in the 200s was my new normal. As was shopping at Lane Bryant, or in the “women’s” department. Remember dreading teaching my son to ride a bike because at 250 lbs and out of shape I couldn’t run after him and push the bike. I made some half hearted attempts to lose weight. Bought a treadmill, surely that would be the answer. Tried the Seattle Sutton meal service. Tried Nutri-system. Back to weight watchers. Another round of Seattle Sutton. Each thing would knock off a few pounds and then it would stop. Nothing seemed to work. All the while, I became more and more sedentary.

And before I knew it I was pushing 50 years old and 260 pounds. Each time I dieted, I lost some, but then gained back more. Since college I’d been on and off diets nearly all the time. And somehow I’d dieted my way from 140lbs to 260lbs. I just knew something had to change.
Even if I wasn’t quite finished with dieting…..

Miss You, Dad. 

Originally posted on December 23, 2010 (hence the reference to Reverb10). Bumping back up/Re-posting on December 23, 2015

I hate this day. I will always hate this day. On December 23, 2006, my father died from prostate cancer. As deaths from prostate cancer go, he was lucky. If you can describe dying far too young from a horrible disease lucky. He’d been diagnosed a bit more than 3 years earlier, had 3 good years where we all thought the disease had been caught early enough, the treatments were working. He was going to be one of those men who died 20 years later from some other old age related condition *with* prostate cancer. Not someone who actually dies *from* prostate cancer. I mean, who does that. As cancers go, isn’t prostate cancer one of the least deadly????

That’s what we thought. That’s what so many people think.

Yet, prostate cancer ranks second among cancers for deaths in males. Each year over 32,000 men in the USA die from prostate cancer.

I said my Dad was lucky. At least lucky for those who this horrid disease kills. He did not have years of suffering because the prostate cancer had invaded his bones. Internet searches yielded story after story of men who spend years in pain from prostate cancer of the bones. My Dad’s prostate cancer went to his liver, caused electrolyte imbalances which eventually stopped his heart. It happened fast. Far too fast.

In April of 2006 his PSA readings were normal, as they had been for the 3 years he’d been on hormone therapy. At his August check with the urologist, they had sky rocketed. In early September he and Mom toured England. While on the trip he started feeling some soreness in his hip (the start of a bone metasis).  A late September PET scan showed the spot on his hip, but also spots on his liver. October brought unproductive attempts at chemotherapy. Several trips to the hospital were needed to stabilize his electrolytes. I last saw him Thanksgiving weekend. He made a heroic effort that weekend to remain strong, appear normal to Kiddo. Shortly after we left, he collapsed. The following week he was so weak, he had to be moved to a nursing home. On December 23, as we drove to see him, he died.

His death and the Christmas season will always be intertwined.

The day 19 prompt for Reverb 10 was healing.  A prompt especially poignant for me this week. Because this is a wound which will never fully heal for me. A routine evening drive, just Kiddo and I, a quick detour to look at Christmas lights….suddenly the bandage was ripped away. The old wound exposed. I found myself with tears streaming down my face, quietly crying as we drove. Hoping and praying Kiddo wouldn’t notice, that I wouldn’t have to explain.

I remember after Dad’s funeral asking my cousin, who’d lost her father the year before, when it would get better. Her answer, “Never, but it gets easier”. 

Each year in the US, approximately 217,000 new cases of prostate cancer are diagnosed. Diagnosed early, this disease is often treatable, manageable, and not necessarily life threatening. Simple tests – the PSA blood test and the digital exam can spot problems early. I will never know if he hadn’t waited 3 years between his PSA tests whether the outcome would have been different for my Dad. But I often wonder. Don’t leave your family wondering. Get tested.
My cousin was right; now I can remember Dad fondly, think of him often, each memory doesn’t bring fresh tears. Grief securely tucked away. But this time of the year it all comes back. The pain, the anger, the questions, the guilt. Exposed as if he died yesterday.

And so, I hate this day. I hope that on the other 364 days of the year, I honor him in what I do. Use the life lessons he taught me, the gifts he gave me, the example he set. That these are apparent in my life, in how I raise my son. But this day, the day he died, will always be a day to condemn this awful disease. And remind the men in my life to get tested. Every year.

In December I’m doing an on-line initiative, called Reverb 10, designed to help participants reflect on 2010 and manifest what’s next in 2011. Each day participants are given prompts or thought starters to blog, tweet or journal.. 

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Wonder and Letting go…Reminding myself

A week or two ago, a glance at this blog’s “stats” led me to re-read another long forgotten post from the Reverb 10 project. In this case, I was a bit floored upon reading my three year old words. The reminder of the importance of “play” or physical activity in my life was reassuring to read. Bringing to center of mind how much it helps me deal with the stress of life. How much joy it brings me. And how far I’ve come…while still knowing how far I still can go. Reenforcing why I have a mantra of “Fit. Active. Healthy. Strong.” 

But what really hit me in the gut was the reminder of facing fear.

Several months ago I rashly registered for a two day seminar on women and weight lifting. I’d heard of it through the “Everyday Paleo” podcast, and the list of presenters read like a who’s who of fitness people in the Paleo/strength training sphere.  These are people who have blogs, books  and podcasts I admire, follow or own. Almost immediately after registering, I had buyers remorse, thinking I didn’t belong, that I was too old, not fit enough to attend. That I would be out of place. That others would look at me and wonder what the hell I was doing in attendance. And pretty much decided I wouln’t attend. Never even put on my calendar. More or less forgot about it. Then the final agenda for the seminar came via email.

The line up was incredible. But the doubts still lingered. Then I read this post. Re-read it again. I knew what I had to do. I must attend. I need to step out of my comfort zone on this. If not, I’ll regret it. And always wonder what could have been if I attended. I refuse to live in a place of regret.

Today another reminder to face fears, this time in another aspect of my life. My career.

This morning I was talking to a work colleague who I consider a dear friend. In the course of our discussion, she pushed me to step out of my comnfort zone on a professional issue. That I needed to face a fear in order to grow – while at the same time reassuring me that I could succeed by doing so. Once again, led me to re-read these long forgotten words.

And re-post it, as a bit of a kick in the ass to put myself out there, and grab the opportunities I’m presented rather than letting fear hold me back.

The original post from December 2010 is below……

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Combining two Reverb 10 prompts in this post. Not because the subject matter is the same…but because my reaction to both prompts was very similar. As was the throught process throughout the rest of that day.

In both cases, my immediate reaction was negative. As in I didn’t do that. I had no wonder. I let nothing go. Mentally kicking myself for not doing more, not doing “better”. Felt a little sad. My tweets to each of the the prompts reflected this initial reaction. But as the day went by, and I gave it more thought, the answers were clearer, more positive, a bit affirming. In both cases, yes, I’m sure I could have done more. Can name a hundred different things I coulda, shoulda done. Heck, we probably all can say that about most any aspect of our lives. But bottom line, on both wonder and letting go, they played a significant role in my year.

Perhaps one of the best things about this month long journey through the Reverb 10 prompts will be the affirming of the good, positive parts of the year, while recognizing the opportunities, shortfalls……….and synthesizing these to frame my very best 2011.

Prompt 4-

December 4 – Wonder. How did you cultivate a sense of wonder in your life this year? (Author: Jeffrey Davis)

My tweet: Today’s #reverb10 prompt has me bit vexed. Gonna have to think this through. Bit sad didn’t have immediate answer

How typical of me to discount the obvious. Cultivating a sense of wonder, a sense of play has become a staple of my life. The whole reason I began to work out, become more fit was to keep up with my now 11 year old son. Through that I have learned to appreciate more of life through his eyes. To not only value but to cultivate play. To constantly seek to learn, to try new things. 

I’ve blogged about appreciating Milwaukee, of exploring Chicago, biking California, riding a bike through the jungles of Mexico and single track In Wisconsin. Of a new appreciation of nature, of being outdoors that being more fit as given me. Play, wonder is a part of my life.

I cannot take wonder for granted, but I also cannot discount how far I’ve come.

Prompt 5 –

December 5 – Let Go. What (or whom) did you let go of this year? Why? (Author: Alice Bradley)

My tweet: Another thought provoking #reverb10 prompt. As I ponder “Let Go” think this may be more about what I should; not what I have

As I thought through this, I was reminded of a book I read probably 15 years ago, “Feel the Fear and do it anyway” by Susan Jeffers. Some of my most empowering moments or events this year have been when I have faced a fear.

Let fear go.

Taking the class and getting scuba certified, tackled a fear I’d held for literally decades. Let go of the idea that this was something I could not do, would never do.  Let go of the idea I wasn’t physically fit enough to complete the class, to pass the 200yd swim (my facebook friends may remember my elation when I not only completed the swim – but was the fastest female, beating several young women 30 years my junior). Completing the class was big. Actually getting certified bigger.

The second major fear milestone was to begin to bike commute. I’d let fear stop me from this for 18 months. Afraid of traffic, afraid I wasn’t fit enough to make the commute. Yet, once I finally faced those fears, overcame them heck, blew them away, I felt strong. Reaffirmed myself, and all that I can do. Brought both strength and wonder to my day.

There have been other ways I have faced fear in both my personal and professional life in 2010. I know this is a demon I will continue to face in 2011. I hope and pray I can touch back on these times I have looked a fear dead in the eye and conquered.

There are plenty of things in this life to stumble over, plenty of things to fear. However, I should never let fear of failing to be the reason I fail or worse, do not begin, do not try. Fear of failure is one fear I alone have the power to conquer, to finally let go………

Paleo / Primal On the Go. Grand Rapids 01142014

One of the things I’m plan on being very conscious of in 2014 is the choices I make around food and fitness, more fully live the “paleo lifestyle” of what I eat, how I sleep, lifting heavy things, managing stress. A key to this is making better and more mindful choices as I travel. Recently, a Facebook friend asked how I manage paleo eating while traveling. From that question, I realized I could force myself accountable on my trips via this blog. I would not only make better decisions, and might help others as they tackle the same decisions and choices.

My plan to is capture what I eat and drink along with how I handle (or avoid) activity, fitness and workouts while I travel. As you read these posts keep a couple of things in mind. First and foremost, I am not, nor ever will be 100% paleo compliant. I routinely use heavy cream in my coffee and enjoy butter. At home I stick to grassfed dairy. On the road this is difficult. I avoid all vegetable oils at home, sticking to butter, ghee, olive oil, tons of coconut oil, palm oil, and bacon grease in cooking. I make homemade olive oil mayo and all salad dressings. On the road, I eat out and while I do attempt to avoid inflammation causing vegetable oils (soybean, canola, peanut, etc.), they are an inevitable part of my diet. I refuse to lose sleep over this.

Oh, and I work for a beer company and love beer. So you’ll see beer and ciders. I’ve found if I avoid all other gluten, I don’t have any real effects outside of some temporary bloat. I understand that beer is not paleo or primal, and can be a major problem for those who are more gluten sensitive.

That said, here’s my most recent trip – a one nighter to Grand Rapids.

Had a nearly 3 hour layover at O’Hare. With exception of the time spent eating, I typically spend my airport time walking around the terminals, right up until boarding time. Podcasts and Pacing is how I put it.

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As my instagram followers saw, O’Hare is one of my least favorite airports to fly through – both for the number of cancelled flights I seem to get and for the general airport amenities and food options. For lunch here I went with a Gyro “sandwich ” – telling them to skip the pita, and I added a side of veggies. Ate just the meat and a bit of the tzatzaki along with the veggies.

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Meet up with co-workers for a pre dinner drink, and enjoyed a Crispin Cider. How nice that the lobby bar’s blue glow matched the label.
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Dinner was a NY Strip with some veggies – asparagus, carrots and mushrooms. Skipped the starches and any alcohol, instead drank San Pellegrino.
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Back in the room, I ate the turn down “dream bar” along with an orange from the concierge lounge (forgot to shoot the orange). The turndown bar is the smaller version pictured below. This is JW Marriot’s new specialty turndown item. I’m kinda meh on it. Has oats, chia, berries and dark chocolate. I’d so much rather just have a small square of dark chocolate.
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Some stats for the day…according to my Fitbit tracker, I’d walked 13,726 steps/6 miles and burned nearly 2900 calories on this day. I had done a 30 minute “Body Pump” workout in the morning, but that was only around 200 calories of that. Walking as much as possible in my day is important. Airports and airport wait times are great for this!

The following morning I had my typical concierge lounge breakfast. Scrambled eggs, bacon and some berries. My coffee had half and half.
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Lunch was with a client and the account team. I ordered the restaurant’s chicken salad, and asked for it on greens versus a sandwich or wrap. Not olive oil mayo, but whatever.
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Late afternoon, early evening was back in an airport. This time a 2 1/2 layover in Cleveland. I like how they encourage travelers to walk. And walk I did, hitting all terminals at least once (A, B,C, and D) and a couple of them multiple times. I paced around my gate as boarding got close, but never did sit down, except while eating dinner. (Yes, I check my bag, just easier on the walking, but do wear a laptop backpack.)
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Dinner was at the airport’s version of Chipotle/Qdoba. A bowl with double meat (pork and chicken), a small amount of white rice and black beans (yes, I know, not paleo) , lettuce, pico de gallo and hot salsa. Water to drink.
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On my flights, I do not eat the peanuts, pretzels or other snacks. Thankfully, I’m not a real snacker. I always drink Club Soda as my beverage choice.

Fitbit stats for that day – despite sitting in 6 hours of meetings, 14,848 steps/ 6.49 miles walked, 2774 calories burned. Compare this to Monday which was an office day  6132 steps and 2249 calories burned. Airport walking. Do it!!!

Paleo / Primal On the Go. Grand Rapids 01142014

One of the things I’m plan on being very conscious of in 2014 is the choices I make around food and fitness, more fully live the “paleo lifestyle” of what I eat, how I sleep, lifting heavy things, managing stress. A key to this is making better and more mindful choices as I travel. Recently, a Facebook friend asked how I manage paleo eating while traveling. From that question, I realized I could force myself accountable on my trips via this blog. I would not only make better decisions, and might help others as they tackle the same decisions and choices.

My plan to is capture what I eat and drink along with how I handle (or avoid) activity, fitness and workouts while I travel. As you read these posts keep a couple of things in mind. First and foremost, I am not, nor ever will be 100% paleo compliant. I routinely use heavy cream in my coffee and enjoy butter. At home I stick to grassfed dairy. On the road this is difficult. I avoid all vegetable oils at home, sticking to butter, ghee, olive oil, tons of coconut oil, palm oil, and bacon grease in cooking. I make homemade olive oil mayo and all salad dressings. On the road, I eat out and while I do attempt to avoid inflammation causing vegetable oils (soybean, canola, peanut, etc.), they are an inevitable part of my diet. I refuse to lose sleep over this.

Oh, and I work for a beer company and love beer. So you’ll see beer and ciders. I’ve found if I avoid all other gluten, I don’t have any real effects outside of some temporary bloat. I understand that beer is not paleo or primal, and can be a major problem for those who are more gluten sensitive.

That said, here’s my most recent trip – a one nighter to Grand Rapids.

Had a nearly 3 hour layover at O’Hare. With exception of the time spent eating, I typically spend my airport time walking around the terminals, right up until boarding time. Podcasts and Pacing is how I put it.

20140117-154635.jpg

As my instagram followers saw, O’Hare is one of my least favorite airports to fly through – both for the number of cancelled flights I seem to get and for the general airport amenities and food options. For lunch here I went with a Gyro “sandwich ” – telling them to skip the pita, and I added a side of veggies. Ate just the meat and a bit of the tzatzaki along with the veggies.

20140116-141512.jpg

Meet up with co-workers for a pre dinner drink, and enjoyed a Crispin Cider. How nice that the lobby bar’s blue glow matched the label.
20140116-141528.jpg

Dinner was a NY Strip with some veggies – asparagus, carrots and mushrooms. Skipped the starches and any alcohol, instead drank San Pellegrino.
20140116-141638.jpg

Back in the room, I ate the turn down “dream bar” along with an orange from the concierge lounge (forgot to shoot the orange). The turndown bar is the smaller version pictured below. This is JW Marriot’s new specialty turndown item. I’m kinda meh on it. Has oats, chia, berries and dark chocolate. I’d so much rather just have a small square of dark chocolate.
20140117-151624.jpg

Some stats for the day…according to my Fitbit tracker, I’d walked 13,726 steps/6 miles and burned nearly 2900 calories on this day. I had done a 30 minute “Body Pump” workout in the morning, but that was only around 200 calories of that. Walking as much as possible in my day is important. Airports and airport wait times are great for this!

The following morning I had my typical concierge lounge breakfast. Scrambled eggs, bacon and some berries. My coffee had half and half.
20140116-141649.jpg

Lunch was with a client and the account team. I ordered the restaurant’s chicken salad, and asked for it on greens versus a sandwich or wrap. Not olive oil mayo, but whatever.
20140116-141703.jpg

Late afternoon, early evening was back in an airport. This time a 2 1/2 layover in Cleveland. I like how they encourage travelers to walk. And walk I did, hitting all terminals at least once (A, B,C, and D) and a couple of them multiple times. I paced around my gate as boarding got close, but never did sit down, except while eating dinner. (Yes, I check my bag, just easier on the walking, but do wear a laptop backpack.)
20140116-141712.jpg

Dinner was at the airport’s version of Chipotle/Qdoba. A bowl with double meat (pork and chicken), a small amount of white rice and black beans (yes, I know, not paleo) , lettuce, pico de gallo and hot salsa. Water to drink.
20140116-141722.jpg

On my flights, I do not eat the peanuts, pretzels or other snacks. Thankfully, I’m not a real snacker. I always drink Club Soda as my beverage choice.

Fitbit stats for that day – despite sitting in 6 hours of meetings, 14,848 steps/ 6.49 miles walked, 2774 calories burned. Compare this to Monday which was an office day  6132 steps and 2249 calories burned. Airport walking. Do it!!!

Maine….. Or check off states 48&49, which just leaves Alaska.

Maine Prospect HarborSo do you have to tag blog posts with a #latergram or #whythehelldidittakesolong or #delayedpost type hashtag? Because I seem to not get stuff written in real time, and then never get it written because I feel guilty or weird or something for not posting promptly. Anyway….

Over Labor Day, my niece was married in Maine. The trip to celebrate this marriage was the real reason for our trip to Boston. I grew up in a family which traveled often (in the road trip style that was the norm back then). Between lots of childhood trips, business trips and the love of travel my parents instilled in me, I had been to 47 of the 50 US states. Alaska, New Hampshire and Maine remained (haha that made me laugh) to be conquered. The drive from Boston ticked off NH into the been there done that check off the list column, while Maine made me want to return. Even if the drive from Boston seemed never ending, who knew Maine was such a long state.

The wedding was in the small town of Winter Harbor, a coastal village in the Arcadia National Forest area. The coastline here is stunning due to the rocky nature. We knew we wanted to explore by bikes, so one of the first things we did was ask the Innkeeper for recommendations. She suggested Seascape Kayaks in nearby Birch Harbor. It was a good thing we stopped by on Saturday morning, as they are closed on Sunday. The owner graciously offered to size us to bikes and helmets, and leave them in a rack for us to grab on Sunday.
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After securing the bikes we used the rest of the morning before the wedding to explore the island, and take in the beauty of the shore. I was taken with the rock seams between the sparkly speckled granite and the black rock.
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The wedding was beautiful, the bride gorgeous. Kiddo’s sister and her Mom were in from Maryland. As was Hubby’s brother, the father of the bride. It was great to all be together to celebrate. From the gift bags in our room to the thoughtful touches like dancing shoes, bug spray and a pre-planned hashtag it was evident much thought and planning had been put ino e event. They even sat us for dinner with another cycling couple!
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Sunday began with a wedding brunch, and then our chance to bike tour. Seascape Kayaking is perfectly situated along the 12 mile loop around the Schoodic Peninsula. Nearly half the route is in the one way Park Service road which has several options to stop, picnic, use the potties and take in the views. We even saw a porcupine along the ride. A first for me outside a zoo. Kiddo loved exploring and climbing the rocks along the shore.
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After returning the bikes, we drove over to Bar Harbor to look around and grab a bite to eat. Naturally I searched out a brewery for this.Atlantic Brewing and Mainely Meats was our stop. Recommend both for a visit!
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We stayed at a charming bed and breakfast in Prospect Harbor. Gracious hosts. Great food (even accommodated my gluten free requests). A wonderful option if you’re in the area. I can’t wait to go back!
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Boston by Bike

IMG_1597 Naturally once I knew we were visiting Boston, I began searching for information on biking around the city. I was pleasantly surprised to discover the city has a website emphasizing the importance of bike friendliness as critical to Mayor Menino’s vision for a vibrant and healthy city that benefits all its citizens. There’s a bike share program with tons of kiosk locations called The Hubway.

Seeing all this, I knew we needed to work riding into our plan, and decided we’d rent bikes from Urban Adventours. They are a bike shop in the Long Wharf area that offers both bike sightseeing tours and 24hr bike rentals. Rentals include a lock, helmet, and excellent bike maps. Just in case, I opted to rent a flat kit, as we both can change flats. Thankfully, however, we didn’t need to, but better safe than sorry, right?!? I’d made reservations on-line, and had even gotten a call confirming times, sizes, etc.  The on site staff was equally helpful. Adjusting seats, giving us hints and tips. We picked up the bikes Thursday morning around 11am, returned them the full 24 hours later.

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For our first day of riding, we followed their suggested route along the Charles River. Leaving from the shop and ending at our hotel we rode 15 or so miles along this route which they suggest for families, as it is nearly all on off-street paved bike paths. The route follows the Boston side of the river out past Boston University, crossing the river at Harvard University into Cambridge. The return is on the Cambridge side past both Harvard and MIT into Charlestown. The path on the Boston side of the river was more heavily used, but not to the extent it caused any issues or concerns (unlike my recent ride along Chicago’s lakeshore path that was crazy busy).

Small parks dot the path, which has minimal street level road crossings, esp. on the Boston side, usually the path goes under the road along the river. Once to Harvard, we left the planned route to stop for lunch at City Sushi and then tour Harvard by bike and by walking our bikes around Harvard Yard (lots of signs there reminding you to dismount).

Click on any picture or collage for a larger version.

IMG_1602 IMG_1610IMG_1621 IMG_1624 Naturally, Kiddo had to get his photo taken touching the now shiny left foot of the Harvard statue. This is a popular activity, we had to wait for in line behind 10 or so others.

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Stored the bikes overnight in our hotel room (Yes, you can do this. I do it all the time. Just walk confidently through the lobby onto the elevator with your bike. No problem!) On Friday morning, we followed Urban Adventours “city view” route. This route starts on the Charles river path of the previous day but then is nearly entirely on city streets. However, Urban Adventours has done an excellent job of designing the route to keep you on roads and streets with bike lanes, sharrows and where possible less traffic.

We rode around Boston University, Fenway Park, The Christian Scientist Plaza and much of the area on the south end of the Freedom Trail. Kiddo did an incredible job riding in traffic. Followed the rules of the road. Rode confidently but predictably. This route has tons of turns, so I kept the map handy, and stopped often to check where we needed to go (and a couple of times how to get back on track). This route is great – but probably best for folks used to riding on streets and with confidence in their bike skills. In total we rode about 13 miles more or less following this route.

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One of the most pleasant surprises was the community garden area in the Back Bay Fens.

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Along both routes, we made stops to explore and play in the parks. Both sides of the river had fitness parks, even a small zip line.

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Bikes give you freedom to explore at a more human level. You can cover plenty of ground, take frequent breaks and see the city at a slower pace than by car or bus. I highly recommend adding to your trips…and in Boston Urban Adventours is a great option to do just this.

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There’s also a post about our walking the Freedom Trail here. And here’s the full photo set of our Boston visit.

Boston – One if by land, two if by sea…..

 

IMG_1525While this famous saying originally described the meaning of the lanterns Paul Revere hung in the Old North Church, it also sums up great ways to explore Boston! Kiddo and I had the opportunity to spend a couple of days here as part of our trip to Maine for a family wedding. It was the first trip for kiddo, and while I had been here on a business trip in the 90’s, I hadn’t really explored. This post describes how we toured by land (walking) and sea (water taxi), there’s another about touring by bike here. And here’s the full photo set of our Boston visit.

Given its rich history and the short timeframe of our visit, I wanted to maximize our sightseeing, and develop a bit of a game plan. Prior to the trip I did a bit of research on sights to see…checking in with the googles, social media friends and of course, my well traveled mother and brother. All sources said we must do the Freedom Trail, a three mile long planned route that covers 16 of the major historical sites and monuments. Fortunately our hotel, the Residence Inn Tudor Wharf sat on the Freedom Trail where you cross the Charles River into Charlestown.

I also discovered in my research there was a water taxi from the airport over to the Inner Harbor. Generally $10 per person from the airport (kids appeared to be no charge) a slight bit more, the taxi driver, er, boat captain agreed to go beyond the inner harbor and take us to our hotel after he made the 3-4 stops within the Inner Harbor to drop off other passengers The water taxis do not run on a set schedule or route. There are free buses from the airport terminal to the ferry landing. The route is then determined by where all the passengers need to go. On the city side, passengers can call for the water taxis via radios at each ferry stop. The day was perfect for a trip across the water and the trip really helped get us orientated to the city. (click on any of the pictures or collages for a larger version).

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After dropping our luggage at the hotel, we took off to explore the Charlestown portions of the Freedom Trail. FIrst stop was the USS Constitution, aka Old Ironsides. We were surprised by the level of security entering the museum and ship area, but quickly discovered why. The Constitution is the oldest commissioned vessel in the US Navy, and is still an active commissioned ship. In other words we were entering a US Naval facility. All tour guides were active duty Navy wearing the first official uniform of the navy. Very cool. This free tour is well worth a visit!

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After leaving the ship, we began to follow the red brick trail up Bunker Hill. As we walked through the quaint streets, Kiddo began telling me the story of Bunker Hill he’d studied this past year in 7th grade social studies. Bunker Hill marks the first major battle of the Revolutionary War, and where the famous, “Don’t shoot until you see the whites of their eyes” phrase originated. The site is marked with a 221 foot granite obelisk…which contains a winding staircase of 294 steps to the top. Which we climbed, and climbed, and climbed or so it seemed. Great views from the top. Again no charge to visit, tho’ at each site we did leave a couple of dollars in the donation bin.

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We crossed the Charles RIver and began to walk the parts of the Freedom Trail in the North End, otherwise known as Little Italy. The trail is easy to follow as it is marked with a strip of red bricks, streets even have a red strip where you should cross. All along I was taken with the window boxes, gardens and foliage. We continued down the trail in the morning on the way to pick up bikes from Urban Adventours (more on that in another post). This is when we toured the Old North Church (home of 1 if by land, 2 if by sea), wandered the Copps Hill Burying Ground, and visited Paul Revere’s home. The North Church is free to visit (again leave a donation) but there is a small charge ($3.50 per person) for the Paul Revere home. Unfortunately no photos were allowed in the period furnished house.

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Behind the Old North Church was a memorial garden for servicemen and woman who lost their lives in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Touching.

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Kiddo loves ghost tours, so at his request we made reservations for the Ghosts and Gravestones tour. What fun. Spooky costumed guides tell stories of Boston ghosts, apparitions and of course, the Boston Strangler as we travelled through the city in an open air trolley. Kitty Havoc, our guide, led us on walking tours during the two stops to visit graveyards included in the 90 minute tour. Kiddo even got to be part of a reenactment at the second graveyard. Reservations highly recommended. There is a small discount for booking on-line. $39 per person or there about. I’d probably not recommend for the young ones, but 12 and up will find it all a hoot. Or Howl…..

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Naturally all our walking, biking and touring made us hungry and thirsty. The first night we didn’t get far into the north end as we were tired and hungry and ended up eating pizza at Regina’s Pizzeria, who say they are the oldest pizzeria in the northeast. It was wonderful, and they had both Blue Moon and Peroni on tap, so bonus! I had a chicken sausage, sun-dried tomato, basil and garlic pie, Kiddo pepperoni and black olive. Fortunately the hotel had a fridge for the leftovers. The second night was dinner at Boston Beer Works on Canal, where of course I had a beer flight. Our final lunch, including some yummy oysters and fish and chips was along the Quincy Market at Salty Dog. FInally as we left to pick up hubby from the airport, we grabbed cannolis for the road from Mike’s Pastry (oh so good…especially the plain and limoncello ones)

 

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I’ll cover our touring by bike in my next post…….

 

 

 

 

Off Road in the City (part2)….or Indianapolis #mtb trails.

017This week’s biztravel involved meetings all day Wednesday in Indianapolis and more meetings on Thursday at our corporate headquarters in Chicago. I was driving down to Indy on Tuesday and back up to Chicago early Thursday morning. Decided for this trip, I’d bring one of my mountain bikes, my full suspension Trek Lush. Unfortunately, the trip didn’t allow me to travel the extra hour south to the mountain biking mecca of Brown County State Park. However, I knew from reading threads on the forums at mtbr.com that there were a couple of trails in the Indy metro area, and fairly close to the hotel I usually stay at when in town. An added bonus is that Tania Juillerat, co-owner of Sub-9 Productions and organizer of the Midwest Women’s Mountain Bike Clinic, lives in the Indianapolis area. Even better she was available to ride on Tuesday evening.

I fully credit my mountain biking to Tania. There is no doubt in my mind that if I had never met her, I would not be mountain biking. Period. Nor would I have the skills on a bike, any bike, that I do without her clinics. It is not possible for me to over praise the work she does bringing people (esp. women) into the sport of mountain biking, and being an advocate of BCSP, HMBA, IMBA……

Plus I just really like her.

8-24-2013 12-02-20 PMFor Tuesday nights’ ride Tania suggested we ride at Fort Ben, the two trail loops at Fort Harrison State Park on the east side of Indy. This is about an 8 mile trail system consisting of two loops. The original Schoen Creek loop and the newer Lawrence Creek loop. This year a connector has been opened between the two, allowing riders to easily combine to two into a single ride.

We began by parking near the main shelter and restrooms. Both to change into our bike shorts, and because there has been some smash and grab robberies out of cars in the more secluded trail parking areas. The Lawrence Creek loop was easily accessed via a short ride down a paved path. Both trails are fairly rocky, rooty with several log overs. Nothing too technical but between the rocks and such and the exposure to the ravine, more of an intermediate rider trail than Town Run (below).

Fort Ben reminded me much of Brown County, particularly the Lawrence Creek section. A bit more exposure than I am used to in Wisconsin (meaning the trail runs right along ravine drop offs, at times off camber). Nothing I can’t handle, but something I have to settle into. Tania naturally went into coach mode, reminding me to really look ahead on the sections with exposure, encouraging me to ride over the logs and through the rock gardens. The trails are well used by trail runners, hikers, and bikers with ped traffic going one way, bike the other. All groups were courteous to each other. And boy oh boy does Tania know everyone. We stopped several times to chat with other riders, Tania reminding them of future trail projects and work days, along with talking about the Brown County Breakdown in September.

Loved having an opportunity to ride with Tania, and afterward enjoyed a nice leisurely evening of dinner and beers getting caught up on family, all her projects and discussing how to get more women in mountain biking. Somehow despite having been to 5 clinics where Tania coached or organized (3 of hers and 2 at Rays), along with one of her race events, I had never ridden with Tania…barely had seen her on a bike. She spends so much time advocating for mountain biking, and works so hard at events helping other woman, that she doesn’t get to ride as much as I suspect she wishes she could.

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Wednesday night, my meeting went late, and I was on my own to ride (versus riding Fort Ben again with Tania and her son). I wanted to give Town Run a ride knowing it sat literally behind my hotel (the X on both Strava screen shots). I’d been told there was a south trailhead off 82nd St. behind Bicycle Garage Indy (a bike shop) and headed first over there. New construction and retaining walls at the shopping center no longer allow access from the south. I headed north to find the north trailhead on 96th street. Drove by it a couple of times before I noticed the gravel road on the south side of 96th between Allisonville Road and Hazel Dell. Once I found the road to the park, I was surprised by the number of cars already parked in there. Lots of people out riding the trail. I got passed a couple of times, was aware of other riders, but never felt crowded or pushed for speed out on the trail.

Town Run Trail is a 7mile long hardpacked twisty fast flowy trail that utilizes going up down and around a river levee to create the speed and flow. Mostly smooth with some rocks and roots. Several man-made features from small log drops to a couple of larger drops, and a wall ride. All features has an easy line around them. In most places switchbacks and bermed turns take you up and over the levee, but there are a few spots of straight up and down the fall line. I enjoyed riding around this trail, would have loved to do a second loop if I’d had time.

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The two trails are different, each fun. Would be great to have them both in my backyard to ride. Each brought smiles, challenged me in spots, made me whoop and holler in others. No doubt if I drive to Indy there will be a mountain bike along for the ride, even if I can’t get all the way down to Brown County State Park!

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