Hi. I’m Maery, a writer in the Twin Cities. Although I no longer have the body for extreme adventures, I love to bicycle, go horse trail riding and take hikes with my dogs.  

One thing you should know before you join me on my quest -- I don’t have a map. And I’ve been known to wander off course and stop to listen to birds and look for agates. I also have a few issues with fear and anxiety. In other words, I’m not a good role model or adventure guide. But in this time of uncertainty and polarization, I'm not sure anyone has a reliable map. We'll just figure it out as we go.

tree branch

tree branch

“When the storm broke, the world was changed. Flat rocks dotted the pasture with their damp shine, scattered on a hillside that looked like a mud finger painting. The receding waters left great silted curves swaggering down the length of the hill, pulled from side to side by a current that followed its incomprehensible rules.”
~ Barbara Kingsolver, “Flight Behavior”

The paragraph from “Flight Behavior” makes me think of the flow of a person’s life. Usually predictable, guided by the constraints of normality, but then sometimes there’s too much and the damn breaks and you’re left with a mess that has little resemblance to your life before the storm.

Fortunately, my own life has been pretty level lately — no divorce,  health crisis, or relocation to deal with. The only turmoil or storm is inside me, where it feels like a raging rapids. I don’t know why so I’m just waiting it out.

Minnesota weatherwise, it’s been cloudy but dry — the promise of something but no delivery. We did get a half inch of snow Sunday night, not enough to change the Minnesota diagnosis from drought to normal.

I went out to the barn to see Luke on Saturday but forgot to bring my camera. I seem to forget my camera a lot lately. I’m stuck in a sameness feeling where I perceive that all the photos have already been taken. Except I never tire of the dogs.

dog by Mississippi River

dog by Mississippi River

They’ve been getting more walks lately as I try to figure out what to do about a male and female duck who appear to have decided our pond may be the best place to take up residence. I feel bad going out and shushing them away so I can let the dogs into the backyard. Mr and Mrs Duck try to out maneuver me around the pond but eventually take flight, only to return, oblivious to their folly. I’m afraid they’re going to nest here and then what will I do? Worse yet, Mr Duck doesn’t seem very dependable, sometimes leaving Mrs Duck home alone all day while he does God knows what. She’s like a young girl, waiting by the phone.

duck on backyard pond

This past week, I attended two bicycling events. One was Ladies Night at a bike shop in the suburbs where women looked at bike clothing markdowns and downed wine and chocolates. The other was a roundtable discussion between bike shop employees and WTFs (women, trans, femme) on how the former can make the bike world more accessible to people who are often marginalized in that arena.

Both events were very small scale challenges as far as walking up to people to introduce myself and strike up a conversation. There was nothing to gain or lose at either event. Still, I didn’t talk to anyone at the first event I attended, and I only spoke to three people at the second event — and only because they purposely introduced themselves to me and asked me questions. I realized later that I hadn’t even responded by asking the same questions in return.

dog on fishing dock

I know I’ve written about this issue of being uncomfortable and awkward in groups before, but this time, I think I might have an idea on how to make this better.

I was raised to be silent. The message was “Don’t bother people or pry.” This was taken to an extreme where I thought that even asking such questions as “How are you?” or “What brought you here?” was off limits. I came to believe that if people want to talk, they will talk, if they don’t, they won’t. But that doesn’t ring true. I want to talk! But I don’t feel like I can unless invited, which means someone has to approach me first. If no one does invite me into the conversation, I leave feeling bad about myself.

dog on fishing dock

But what about “them?” It’s not fair to put all the burden of interacting and responsibility for my feelings on someone else.

I know this old pattern of thinking is hurting me. People think I’m standoffish, that I’m not interested in what they have to say, or that I am an empty vessel with nothing to contribute to the group.

I know this and yet it’s so hard to break old thoughts and habits, even if it could mean a chance to connect with new people and feel better about myself in general.

dog by Mississippi River

I’ll never be anything but an introvert and I’ll always prefer one-on-one conversations and time alone, but I can improve my comfort level and ability to socialize in a group.

I read something while preparing to attend the AWP (Association of Writers and Writers Programs) conference this coming April. Several people recommended having one clear goal in mind before attending the conference and then sticking to that goal. My only intention was to have the experience of attending a big writer’s conference and getting my feet wet. AWP is supposed to be one of the best places to learn about which literary magazines and small presses are out there and what kinds of writing they publish.

But just attending isn’t much of a plan or goal. I keep thinking that if I go to enough events, somehow by watching how other people interact, I’ll magically become socially relaxed and savvy. I will step up to the plate when it feels right, when the timing is right, when the opportunity arises — in other words — never.

dog by Mississippi River

I’ve promised myself that the next gathering I attend, I will go with the intention of introducing myself to one person and asking them what brought them to the event. I’m hoping I actually get to try this before something as uncomfortable as the AWP arrives.

I have overcome a number of fears of doing things like taking the train and attending events where I don’t know anyone. But I want to up the bravado. I want to be the person to start a conversation. I want to worry less about what other people think or get muddled by self doubt if someone doesn’t respond to me the way I had hoped they would.

As I watched several people on Sunday state their thoughts and feelings clearly and with confidence, I thought, why can’t I do that? Why do I believe that what I have to say has no value?

Why indeed…

bike at train station

bike at train station

Thursday and Friday, I did my first bike-train commutes of 2015. It was a rough start because, for one thing, I lost my Metro Go Card.

I don’t know how I lose so many things, especially when I’ve created systems to prevent frequent losing.

I have my designated box by the door to the garage for such on-the-go type of things. It wasn’t there. It also wasn’t in my jacket and pants pockets, selection of purses, clothes and junk drawers, backpacks, bike bags or on my desktop or kitchen counters.

After two days of searching, I got a new Go Card but it’s going to bug me until the day the card magically reappears in the one place I never thought to look.

Trying to leave the house those first two days, there were misplaced gloves and hats, changes of clothes as I decided and re-decided how warm and windproof I needed to dress (the temperature was in the thirties in the morning) and what were ridable work clothes. Then there was the difficulty of fitting the morning clothes into my pannier for the return trip when the temperatures were in the fifties.

bike shoes and leggings

My first time commuting to work, I was super-enthusiastic and got off the train one stop earlier than normal. This only added about four miles to my usual two mile bike ride, which wouldn’t have been a big deal except there was a long patch of ice, a couple huge puddles, strong winds and a couple unusual people to contend with.

I mean, check out this train station! I think it fairly screams “Twilight Zone!”

bike at train station

So far, I’ve watched a man be arrested at the train station in the morning and a woman being kicked off the train by a policeman in the afternoon. The police officer obviously knew the woman as he called after her, “See you around, Millie!” To which Millie responded, “F- you man! I’ll ride the train whenever and wherever I want!”

Riding to the station Friday evening, I saw a woman on the bike path walking from one side of the trail to the other. As I got closer, I realized she was having a very emotional conversation with herself, complete with waving arms that I didn’t want to get too close to.

Still, it was awesome to be riding again.

Weekend warmth meant that Steve and I spent Saturday afternoon taking our first outing on our road bikes this year. Riding the fat bike during the winter seems to have made riding any skinnier-tired bike feel like riding a breeze. It appears I can ride farther and do hill climbs without getting as tired as I used to.

Bianchi road bike

I was trying out a new handlebar bag to carry my camera and a new helmet that is lighter and provides more air flow than my Nutcase, but is not near as cute. It was still cool and windy enough that I wore a light hat underneath it.

Giro bike helmet

I’m trying out a different saddle also. I thought I’d be returning it after this trial run as it was uncomfortable when riding inside on a trainer but it felt pretty good while actually riding on the road.

road bike stop for ice cream

This week, I’m back to traveling between corporate offices, never sure exactly where I’m working from day-to-day or even morning-to-afternoon. Kind of kills the bike commuting for awhile. And it looks like chillier weather is setting back in again. But I’ve had a taste of what’s to come this year, and it’s going to be sweet.

Java agrees.


fat biking

fat biking

Saturday, Steve and I packed up our bikes and went to the trails behind the Rum River library because the ‘real’ fat bike trails were already closed for the spring thaw. The Rum River trails aren’t fat bike specific and have no rules except to stay on the trail during hunting season. They are used by a combination of cross country skiers, fat bikes, and people out walking their dogs.

We didn’t arrive at the trail until 10 AM, and by that time, with the sun out and the temperature in the truck showing 43 degrees F, the trail was already a bit slushy and slippery in spots. In one area along an open corn field, the wind had created a deep wave of snow across the path that brought our bikes to a creaky forward motion and then a toppling stop. It had been so warm riding in the woods but in the open area, we were quickly zipping our jackets up high on our necks to have some shield from the sideways blow. We took the first right available to head back into the woods.

fat biking

When the path ran close to the river, we could hear and see the zip zip of snowmobilers running down the ice. I’m a bit of a chicken when it comes to trusting an ice covered body of water, especially a body of water with a current and spots where the ice open up, but we came to a stretch that looked solid and did a bit of river running. It was fun seeing a very familiar area from a different level.

fat biking fat biking

When we got back home, a couple packages had arrived that contained a new bicycle helmet and grips that I had ordered for our bike touring dreams. When I had a bike fitting awhile back, it was pointed out to me that the bike I planned to use, a hybrid Trek with straight handlebars, wouldn’t be as comfortable to ride as my road bike for long distances because there was really only one position to put my hands and thus my body while riding. The problem with using my road bike though is that I could only put a bracket on it that would attach to the seat post and hold about twenty-five pounds of gear. Since we are planning on camping, that wouldn’t allow me to carry enough stuff, although I could just pile everything on Steve’s bike…

No, that didn’t seem fair. So I found these cool grips that I could put on my straight handle bars to give me three positions to move my hands around on. After putting on the grips, we also put on the panniers, one side loaded with sleeping bag, pad, and rain suit and the other side only with cooking gear, and did a little riding down the street to see how the additions felt. I love the grips! It’s like having a new bike to play with.

bike grips

The helmet was purchased to have more airflow and stay cooler. Skinnier, less knobby tires, and a handlebar bag to carry my camera, and I think I’ll be ready to go. One other thing will be a fully loaded test drive up a hill to see if I need a change to my bicycle gears to ease climbing.

Anyone know how to easily make a skirt to wear as a cover up when you get off the bike and don’t feel comfortable walking around in way too revealing bike shorts? I’ve tried finding something that will work at Goodwill and other such stores — nothing. The $65 to $100 wrap and pull on type skirts I’ve found online seem a bit much. I’m sure I can figure out how to run my mom’s hundred-year-old White sewing machine (not quite that old but almost)…

I ‘m getting pretty excited about the idea of bicycling combined with camping! We’ll just be doing short rides to get some experience. The sad part is leaving the dogs behind, but who knows, if we find this is our new thing and we get strong enough, maybe we can go farther and drag the dogs in trailers (I’ve found people doing that online), but that’s a big IF.

Monday I started seeing how far it is to New York — ummm, would take me at least a month. Phoenix — even farther! Boulder?

I think I better not get carried away and see if I can make it to Wisconsin first…

bike touring

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