Thursday, February 25, 2021

Back on the bike, and some thoughts about it

 I got interested in cycling nearly twenty years ago, at the urging of my good friend, Jill, who is a phenomenal athlete. We had some great rides together for quite a few years before she moved on to new adventures in Kansas. That same year, 2011, I started a personal bike challenge to raise some donations for the South Plains Food Bank’s GRUB farm—and I did it to raise money, of course, but also to give me an incentive to stay on the bike after losing a riding partner. It was also the year that my mother died, and because I processed a lot of my grief trying to finish the challenge at the end of the year, I am reminded of her almost every time I ride, even today. 

Neighbor Tim, who knows a lot about bike fitting, gave me free bike fit during my challenge ride after I had complained in a post on another blog (now defunct) about a knee problem, and I often remember this when I ride, too. Ten years later, that fit is still so good that when I clip in, it feels as natural as having a pair of wings must feel to a bird.

I am not sure why I sometimes quit riding. Injuries, lack of time, bad weather all play into it, though, and sometimes I can go for very long periods without getting on the bike. But when I do, I always wonder why I ever stopped. 

I started again briefly during recovery from my hip surgery, I was restricted to doing it on a trainer, however, since I wasn’t allowed to do anything that might cause a fall. But I hate the trainer, and so I quit that as soon as I was able to do other things instead. I would have ridden the bike out on the road then, but I did not yet have the mobility to swing my leg over the top (I used a step ladder to climb on it when it was on the trainer). 

I’ve climbed back on the bike—and the road—during the pandemic (like a lot of people), as a safe way to get some exercise, and part of the joy of it has been all these wonderful memories that have been waiting there for me all along.

In the past, when I was much more serious about it, I avidly followed bike racing. That soured a little with all the doping scandals, though, and I drifted away from it. But I love to watch sports that I play, and I missed it. So I started watching that again, too, for inspiration during the rides on the trainer, and I have continued it. Which brings me to this: Sometime during my long hiatus from watching bike racing, women cyclists finally started to get some parity. Actually, from what I can see, that “sometime” seems to have occurred mostly in the last couple of years. When I stopped watching bike racing, it seemed like you couldn’t find a women’s race _anywhere_ that you could watch. Women’s teams and races existed, but they were always in the shadows, with lousy pay, lousy support, and poor coverage. Now, much to my delight, it seems like that is changing. This Saturday, the first of the spring classics, Omloop het Nieuwasblad, is broadcasting not just the men’s race, but the women’s as well! You can bet I will be watching. And! There is news that Trek Segafredo—a top World Tour team—has decided to give their women’s team the same base pay as the men’s team. And! Another top world tour team, the Dutch team Jumbo Visma, has created a women’s team along with its men’s—at the request of the sponsors! And! For the first time in its 125 year history, the men have decided that women will not permanently damage their childbearing lady parts by riding on cobbles and have allowed them to race the classic Paris-Roubaix (the aptly named “The Hell of the North”).

It’s like I went to sleep for a while and woke up to a new world. 

I don’t know if there is a paywall on this video (I subscribe to Flobikes where you can see the race in its entirety) but if you _can_ watch it, I suggest you give a few minutes of your time to the recent UCI Women’s World Championships of cyclocross (link below). It is impressive stuff. This is just a highlight reel—but they raced at this intensity for over an hour. And if you have ever been someone who has thought women’s sports are not as exciting as men’s, then this is something you need to see. And imagine, it has been in the shadows all this time.

Women’s cyclocross world championships highlights

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

O frabjous day! In which the cotton project has a surprisingly good day

 It started with my usual 5 AM trip out to the little greenhouse, where I was met with a sad sight. All of the cotton plants are in the process of losing their leaves. However, I could also see new growth on each, and as cotton is a perennial, this gives me hope that even if they do lose their leaves, they may find a way to re-bound.

Leslie at Agrilife agrees. Furthermore, he had this advice for me: cut back on the watering to avoid root rot if they end up dropping all their leaves.

I was out at Agrilife to pick up some bolls that Leslie had cut for me to finish my painting of G.:  

While I was there, I took along the painting series as it is today to showed my progress on the project. It looks pretty good when they are side by side:

After I got back, I threw on some cycling togs and went for a quick spin before lunch, since it was a pretty day. I rode through the drive through at Blue Sky and picked up a cheeseburger on the way home. After that, I changed again and rode the Rivendell to Zhixin Xie’s greenhouse at TTU and checked on the specimens I had taken there two or three weeks as a back up plan. Turns out they not only rode out the storm, they are half again as big as the specimens in my greenhouse (dropping leave notwithstanding). the only difference in the culture for the two groups is the level of heat—the TTU greenhouse is much hotter, and the heat is more consistent—which tells me a lot about what this genus likes:

Monday, February 22, 2021

Winter wheat is doing just fine, thank you, and did not need to fly to Cancun because it was freezing

 After last week’s extreme weather, I wasn’t sure in what condition I would find the winter wheat when the snow and ice finally melted away. Apparently, it is called “winter” wheat for a reason: 

Sunday, February 21, 2021

Aftereffects of the winter storm (on the cotton plants)

Where to begin? I really need to start a regular posting cycle to keep up with this adventure. So many things have happened, and I haven’t been good at all at documenting them the way I should. So today I will just dive in with the latest. And going forward, I’ll try to set up a routine—maybe posting each Sunday, and see if not only keeps me caught up, but will also help fill in the many things that have already happened. I am so terrible at discipline and routine, though, that I can’t make any guarantees.

This past week was a doozy in Texas, with record freezing temperatures and snow all over the state, all the way down to Houston. And Texas went dark.

The entire state power grid failed, and much has already been written about the epic (and tragic) disaster that followed, so I won’t go into it. However, Lubbock, in a bit of luck, is not currently on the state grid (though we are scheduled to be starting some time next year), so we never lost power. We are also used to freezing temperatures and the havoc they can wreak, so our city managers were proactive and headed off any disasters. 

But it was still a strain on the system, and so we were asked to conserve energy where we could. Walt and I already keep our thermostats at 68, but we turned them even lower—64° in the back of the house, where my studio and the bedroom are, and 67 in the front of the house (there are two different furnaces, not that it is interesting). 

And in the greenhouse, I turned the thermostat down to 55°. I was hoping this would be enough to keep the plants alive, even though I knew it would put some stress on them. And it did...but I think that some of those single digits days and nights were just too much of a strain. I went out to the greenhouse this morning to check on them, and at least three of the five plants are clearly distressed, so much so that I am pretty sure I am going to lose them. Here is one looking pretty sad:

Fortunately, I had transferred three specimens—a representative of each of the species—to the Dr. Xie’s TTU greenhouse. During the worst of the storm, I was getting notices from the university asking researchers to shut down any parts of their labs that were not required to stay open (to save on energy), and other notices about rolling blackouts. So I texted Xie to asked him if the greenhouses were staying open. He said they were, and sent me a photo the next day of the plants and said they were fine (compare and contrast to the one above). So that is a bit of relief. I will try to go in sometime this week to check on them.

Also, I hope to make a trip out to the Agrilife greenhouse this week, where, I am told, kirkii’s bolls are opening. I have finished the part of that painting of the closed boll (these bolls are pretty small, so I have enlarged the photo). I did two views of it—one with the boll as it normally looks, all wrapped up in its bracts, and one with the bracts pulled away so you can see how unusual the boll is. This will make it slightly different from the other plates, which feature only the open and closed boll. In retrospect, it might have been better to do it the same as the others, and then do a a plate or two comparing the different bolls, without their bracts. Live and learn.

P.S., I have ordered a dual fuel generator so that next time I can keep the greenhouse heated. And there will be a next time. It would be foolish to think otherwise.

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