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You just have to keep your eyes peeled

I cycle through my hobbies pretty regularly: I was seriously into knitting, then vegan cooking & baking, then gardening, and now biking. Each is a part of my daily life but I have periods where I FREAKIN’ LOVE [insert hobby of the month here].

With my most recent interest in biking, I decided to sign up for a metric century (100km or 62mi) with a women’s cycling group for the Rapha Women’s 100 Challenge. I was wary of the distance as the longest ride I’d done prior to this was the TD Five Boro Bike Tour, which is just around 42 miles. I’d also never ridden outside of NYC proper and this ride would take us into Long Island. I’d also never ridden long distance without Alex so I was going to be all alone.

All of the worrying was for naught! The ride was a lot of fun and I was surprised by my ability to ride almost 80 miles in one day and the seeming ease with which I was able to do it.

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I ended up doing over 122km since I needed to get to the starting location from the Staten Island Ferry terminal (and back). I felt great! I was sweaty, covered head-to-toe in sunblock, and surrounded by like-minded ladies. We passed by three beaches, walked across two bridges, and biked through three counties. (I actually biked through 5, including Manhattan’s New York county and Staten Island’s Richmond county.) It was glorious!

I loved it so much that, a week later, I embarked on my own pseudo-long-distance ride. I biked along the eastern coast of Staten Island through two beaches down to the southern-most part of New York State. I then biked up to Bloomingdale Park before making my way back home. All-in-all, I rode 38.9 miles on Staten Island’s horrible roads with some heavy traffic on Hylan Boulevard. I don’t think I’ll ever do that again because, honestly, it’s hard biking on Staten Island streets. There’s debris, potholes, and psychotic motorists.

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The one upside of this terrible ride was that, as a result, I needed new tires. I’ve been riding on my bike’s stock tires since I got it back in January 2012. I estimate that I’ve ridden somewhere around 4500 miles on its tires. It’s about time that I replaced them! But it wasn’t until after this Staten Island ride that I really had a reason to: the threading on the sidewalls wore down to the point where multiple bulges had developed. It was no longer safe to ride on them so I got myself a pair of Gatorskin tires—and then installed them myself, like the badass that I am.

At the same time, I also got myself a couple of Castelli cycling jerseys, a pair of Louis Garneau cycling shoes, and a set of Shimano PD-A530 combination clipless/platform pedals. I look like a serious cyclist now, ready to tackle more long distance rides!

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We’re good

My first biking experience every morning is a short but speedy descent down a hill. It’s a 72-foot drop over 539 feet (with a traffic light at the foot of the hill so I really have to be alert). It’s a fantastic way to wake up in the mornings. However, early on, I knew it wasn’t going to be all fun and games:

If every morning started off with a descent, every evening would end with an ascent. I’d have to climb a 13% grade every day. At first, I couldn’t do it. There’s a certain point where it becomes extremely difficult—when I can see the end in sight but my lungs and legs refuse to work any harder.

Gradually, I was able to conquer the hill. I would huff and puff up this tiny but mighty hill, with my legs turning into jelly when I finally get off my bike. These days, I’m much better but it’s still a struggle. I’m still out of breath and panting at the top of the hill, with a slight wobble to my gait when I dismount my bike.

…But not this guy:

This guy climbed a 38% grade (that’s 3 times as steep as my tiny hill!) and he didn’t even break a sweat. Ah, to be a tiny man on a lightweight steed who rides a bike for a living…

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Bitten by the gardening bug

Back in October, Alex and I moved into a new apartment. (We had spent only a year in our previous place. The apartment wasn’t bad but the landlord was greedy.) When apartment hunting, I specifically looked for one with outdoor space because I was hankering for some gardenin’. At a certain point, though, I’d given up on finding my dream place and started responding to ads without photos. (The shock! The horror!) As luck would have it, one of the apartments we went to see actually had a terrace! The apartment was also very attractive but the terrace was the clincher.

Now, eight months after moving in, I have what’s shaping up to be a dream terrace:

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I have two window boxes that are hanging over the railing that contain mint, parsley, and basil. (I had cilantro but it started bolting in the 70°F weather. Now I’m trying to see what happens when you plant store-bought scallions that have been kept in water…) I have several pots that contain tarragon, oregano, lemon thyme, and sage. I also have three elevated planters that house multiple okra plants and a dozen green bean plants.

I’m particularly fond of my adorable little bistro set on the terrace:

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The small begonia plant I picked up at Trader Joe’s this morning is so precious!

Did you spot the tumbling composter in the panoramic shot? It’s the black drum on steel legs. (Next to it is a non-operational vermicomposter–or “the green thing.” I may put it up on craigslist since I’ve never used it and I no longer plan on using it.) Instead of schlepping my vegan scraps to the farmer’s market, I plan on making and using my own compost. The bin is already full of scraps, getting nice and warm from all the nutrients breaking down. Alex says it’s also forming an earthy aroma. (“It stinks like garbage,” he says, “but not in a bad way.”)

Out front, I have another elevated planter that houses a handful of strawberry plants. (It’s so exciting seeing the berries form! Now to try to keep the squirrels and birds away from them…) There’s also room to plant more things but that may be a project for next year. I’m thinking a blueberry bush and a fig tree in a super sunny spot on the side of the house.

For a girl who thought she had a black thumb, all of this gardening is very exciting! I started slow (planting just the two varieties of veggies) not only because I’m a first-time gardener but also because Alex and I just signed up for the local CSA. I was afraid of being inundated with kale, tomatoes, and zucchini all harvesting season long. I’m eager to see how everything turns out but, in the meantime, I’m enjoying a cold beer on my terrace, watching ships sail across the New York Harbor.

Life is good.

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