Saturday, September 8, 2018

The Perfect Ramblin' Roadtrip

In August, Jay and I set out on what was to become our best road trip ever..

10 days, 8 states, 4 bikes, 2 dreamers..
and one Ramblin' Fever.

In spite of everyone's concern and foreboding, we chose to drive our 1980 Dodge Ram Van "Ramblin' Fever" out to New York for a summer vacation filled with bikes, racing, family, friends, and awesome new places.  Sure, we have no idea how many miles are on her but we've spent the last year getting everything tuned up, replaced, and repaired for just an adventure such as this.  New engine and transmission, new tires and new-to-us captains chairs.. loaded her up and we were ready to rock! Although I knew Jay had a shadow of worry in the back of his mind, I was bathing in a warm feeling of bliss and calm as we headed out on the road after work for our adventure to begin.

It felt like fall as we embarked under grey skies.  A cool breeze and Willie Nelson tunes swirled in the  air as Ramblin' Fever purred along the highway. We were shooting to drive through the night to avoid traffic in Chicago and arrive in Toledo just as dawn was about to break for a cat nap and breakfast before we busted out the bikes for some urban trail riding.

A couple hours into the drive, we were chasing a thunderstorm down 94 as we headed towards Madison, WI. The skies entertained us with magnificent explosions of light and illuminated branches  that seemed to stretch out across the sky for what felt like 10 seconds each time.  We continued to watch the storm as we headed east and the night settled in.

Jay loves driving at night, which is a true blessing and complete opposite of the uncontrolled car-colepsy I experience at night; I'm almost incapable of staying awake on long night drives.  I must have fallen into a deep sleep sometime after Chicago because I woke with a jolt as I felt Jay tap my shoulder and say "Kristy, we're getting pulled over".

The clock read 2:30am and we were somewhere an hour or so out of Toledo, likely the only vehicle on the road.

I sat my chair up, wiped the sleep from my eyes and rolled the window down as the officer approached from my side of the van.  It was humid from the recent rains and Ramblin' was running rich, filling the stagnant summer air with a thick plume of fuel and exhaust.  The officer shined his flashlight on our faces and the dash and opened by saying "I pulled you over because your license plate isn't illuminated".  Jay smiled and nodded, sharing that he had discovered the same problem just hours before we'd left, likely a problem from me getting rear-ended in June that we hadn't realized.  He handed over his license and insurance cards and the officer said he'd return with a warning as long as everything checked out.

We sat in the van patiently as I sleepily giggled about the officer's demeanor and the thick fuel smell we could now taste on our tongues.  As he spoke to us, it was as if he was afraid to look into the back of the windowless van.  I only saw peeks of his face as he made quick glances at us around the door frame. Twenty minutes went by and he still hadn't returned and we deduced it was going to be one of two results:  he was either a) trying to find SOMETHING to get us with, or b) he was waiting for the second squad car to arrive.  But, he returned, apologized for the wait, and sent us on our way with a printed out warning.

After idling so long, Ramblin' roosted the officer with a thick cloud of smoke as we pulled back onto the highway and we shared a nervous laugh together... crap, now he's gonna get us.  Ha!   

Jay continued to drive the last hour or so to Toledo where we found an all-night diner.  We pulled around to the rear employee entrance where there were no lights and parked the van.  Jay shoved aside our bags and blew up the thermarests, making a cozy bed in the back of the van with our feet nestled precariously beneath our bikes and snuggled by our gear bags on all sides.  We slept for a couple hours, woken up by the growing summer heat and sunshine filtering into the windshield and the morning delivery truck unloading next to us.

We clambered out and shuffled into the diner in need of a red eye plate and some fresh coffee. (Queue Supersuckers "Good Livin'" for proper theme music).
The diner was run by one cook and one waitress and they were killing it!  The delivery guy was stocking the shelves with his morning delivery as the UPS guy heckled the chef from the counter service seats.  We laughed and ate as the few hours of sleep and stiffness ebbed and I planned our morning ride.  Back in 2016, we passed through this area on our way to SSUSA in Pennsylvania where I found us an urban single track to ride.  Thanks to the AllTrails app, I was able to find us the same trail which had grown since we were last there!  So, we headed out, kitted up, and hit the dirt at Jermain Trail as the summer heat set in.

There we were at 10:00am on Thursday riding singletrack in Toledo, only 16 hours after we'd left home.  Splatters of sunshine clawed their way through the dense canopy above us as we navigated the flowy singletrack. Deer quietly roamed the trail along side us, popping their heads up as we passed in relative silence.  It was the perfect way to spin out the legs before making the last charge to NJ - our bed for the night and base camp for the next few days.

I took over the reigns and cranked up the tunes as we watched the miles fly by.  About a third of the way down I-80 in PA, we hit traffic.. major traffic.  The sign had said there was road construction ahead, but no one was moving.  After 20 minutes, we had only moved about 3 or 4 car lengths... another 30 min. went by and we didn't move an inch.  Sitting in a cloudless sky and 90+ degrees, we were HOT.  Every car around us had their windows up and likely had the AC's cranked.  Our fully carpeted 80's dream had no such luxury so we dripped sweat in our seats, hanging out the window trying to cool ourselves in the smallest breeze if we could.

Over an hour had gone by and we hadn't made it a mile.  I sat and watched as the engine and transmission temp gages began to climb and Ramblin' began to chug in the heat, eventually dying in the left lane.  We knew it was just the heat but something had to be done to resolve this on our own - there was no way AAA was coming to the rescue here.  Jay looked at me and said "Switch. There's no  way you'll do what I'm about to do".  

So we traded places as the cars idled around us and I flagged the semi next to us that we needed to get over to the right shoulder.  The next time the cars moved, he let us over and Jay took it all the way to the shoulder but didn't stop to let her rest.  I checked the map and we were only 3 1/2 miles from the next exit so Jay kept it moving on the shoulder, passing maybe a 1000 cars and semi's packed so tightly in desperation to move, no one tried to stop us.  But hey, if you saw Ramblin' Fever coming up the shoulder after two hours of mind-numbing traffic, would you have believed it?

I found us a 10-mile detour that we drove as Ramblin' chugged but improved greatly as the moving air cooled the '92 Magnum under the hood and we jumped back onto I-80 just after the construction zone and purred along as if nothing happened.  I waited a moment but, once we were both relaxed again I cranked up "Eastbound and Down" by Jerry Reed and we sang along with smiles on our faces,  petting the carpeted dash and praising Ramblin' for being so awesome.

We were now a few hours behind our goal but still took in the beauty of the sunset behind us as we counted down the miles to our next stop, "Forrest Lodge" in Sparta, New Jersey with our good friends, the Christians.

At 11:00pm, we rolled into the quiet community and revved the engine one last time before putting Ramblin' to bed for the night.  We shared the day's adventures with Joe and Cindy over a beer before joyously heading to bed (in a bed!) for some much needed sleep.  We made it!!!  And in Jerry Reed's words, "Eastbound and down, loaded up and trucking', we gonna do what they say can't be done"... yep, we did what they said couldn't be done!

The first mini-adventure of the trip was a success.  Oh yeah, and we're only on day 2!

Stay tuned for more epic stories to come.. riding in NJ, Singlespeed USA antics, the Belt!, New York City, Rock n Roll, and sand dunes, and more riding!

Awwww, feels so good to finally start telling the story!
Ramblin' On,
Kristy Kreme

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Digging out to see the light

In 2006, I came to the realization that the life I was leading didn't resonate with my soul.  I had no idea of who I wanted to be or what I wanted in life yet, but I knew that I was lacking joy and true connection.  I made some drastic changes and, some time later, started this blog as a way to celebrate the new journey I was embarking on.  I was on a mission to try new things, grow lasting relationships and explore the world around me to identify what truly brought me joy.  One of the guidelines I set for myself was to use this blog to bring positive, uplifting stories to light to share my happiness with others (whoever they may be).

For over a decade, this blog has helped me relive some amazing accomplishments, celebrate dreams coming true, and express my gratitude for the life I had found.  But for months now, I have realized that I had major writer's block that was causing this dark vortex to surround me and drag me to a very scary place.  I let my self-doubt and procrastination take priority over the simple pleasure of my writing and it came back at me tenfold - by skipping that which brought me such joy for so long, I was missing a significant source to feed the spring and my well was running dry.

Maybe it was the sale of the cherished company I used to work for to one that I couldn't fall in line with and throw away my morals to work for.  Maybe it was the realization that I was on the wrong career path. The stress of a new career and new company? Trying to make a name for myself in cycling after three years of off and on injuries.. only to also come back a few years older?  The winter that refused to end?  Maybe it isn't so hard to believe (er.. admit) that I was more depressed than I'd been in decades...

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Sure, there were some awesome races, a handful of great finishes, wonderful memories shared with family in friends in the past months, but the shadows still lingered when I sat down to tell the latest adventure, blocking the stories from activating my fingertips.  Although summer's intense arrival has lessened the sadness, the shadows still blur my thoughts at times and distort my story.  I've experienced some amazing personal bests as of late yet the doubt whispers to me ... 'maybe it was a fluke' ... 'you can't do that again'....'maybe you shouldn't even try'....

It's one thing to ride the miles, lift the weights, stretch the muscles.  But what do you do when your mind doesn't believe you can do it?

The only way I can imagine fighting it is to shine a light into the deep wound that refuses to heal up.  Maybe by opening the door to the pain I've held so tightly, I can kick it out into the light and begin to move on.

It works on the Boogeyman, right?

Image result for darkness cave light blind depression

I have a handful of friends and family who also struggle with their own darkness and depression and I hope they always know I'm here for you.

And to my husband, Jay, who I've just now realized loves me enough for the both of us... Thank You from the bottom of my heart.  Your belief in me may not always chase away the tears, but your unending pursuit is the knight in shining armor this girl has dreamt of.

Sleeping with the lights on,
Kristy Kreme

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Slip Slidin' into Spring

... or maybe it's second winter.  Either way, after watching the snow fall for over 36 hours, we couldn't help but rally the troops for a 'spring' urban ride. Lucky for us in MN, the bike paths are among the first paved surfaces to be plowed every snowfall, so we headed to the Greenway to begin our adventure.  Sure, why wouldn't my road bike with fenders work for today's ride?

I should have known this would be quite the feat when we had to help push a motorist or two out of an intersection on our way to our meet spot.  We tossed the bikes aside, dug our heals into the 6+ inches of snow in the intersection, and rocked the car forward as our feet sank to the glare ice below and we scrambled for traction as it lurched forward.  Mission: Accomplished.

We found our pals at the Greenway entrance and headed east into the wind as the snow pelted our faces and the ice under the bridges kept our attention sharp.  We really didn't have much of a plan before the trail hit West River Road and an audible sent us south towards Minnehaha Falls.  Much to our surprise, Sea Salt was open and the typical line around the building was nonexistent.  I looked to Dave and said "I thought they weren't open in the winter.??".. He laughed and pointed out "It's not winter".

We sat along the windows, drinking beers and sharing stories as if we were figures in a snow globe watching the winter bliss entertain us.  But it isn't winter.. it's F$%&ing spring!  But, hey, we made the most of it!  As the snow refused to let up and the chill began to set back in, we knew we had to be back on our way home.

Riding my road tires was a mistake..  or maybe just early cyclocross practice.. but I fought my bike and the ice and slush for the entire ride.  While my friends were smart to bring their CX, Mtn or fat bikes, I found myself hanging out at the back riding the best line I could find.  Slipping out on every climb and Tokyo-drifting down every decent kept me on my toes, but I still had a fun time trying to film the awesome, yet less than desirable spring ride.  Man, what I wouldn't do for some sun on my shoulders and sweat dripping down my back!

Holding out for warmer days,
Kristy Kreme

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Recognizing when "toughing it out" is not the right decision

I'm typically the type of person that avoids the doctor as much as possible and believes my body will (eventually) fix itself.  Something about this week was different... and extremely unexpected.

I started a new job last week and was pretty fatigued come Wednesday.  I chalked it up to the floods of information coming at me, meetings, trying to find my desk, navigating the halls and learning so many new names.  By the time Jay picked me up from work the exhaustion was obvious and I backed out of our fat bike ride during the drive home, opting instead to hit the grocery store and make dinner while he rode.  Walking through the grocery isles, a dull ache settled into my stomach which through me off guard.  

Me to self:  I guess I've been eating a lot of tangerines and acidic foods lately.. maybe it's just super acidic.

I returned home with the fixings for some flatbread pesto pizzas with roasted veggies and didn't think much more about it.  As the night waned the ache returned but again I made up some idea of the cause (maybe too much garlic now on my pizza) and went to bed.  But I found myself unable to sleep for most of the night as the ache grew stronger over the night.

By morning, the pain hadn't subsided so I took a few Tums as I prepped for work and went about my day.  Today was my Getting To Know You lunch with my team and I was so excited to play games and meet everyone.  But, with my stomach bothering me so much, I couldn't stomach the idea of eating so I grabbed a banana and plain yogurt to get me through.  By the end of the lunch, the pain was increasing noticeably and I started to have an impending feeling that something was wrong.

I went down to our in-house medical clinic to request an appointment but they were full.  When I told the nurse my symptoms, she asked me to go to urgent care.  I texted Jay asking him to take me after work but, by the time I made it up three floors I knew I couldn't wait.  I called him back and he quickly jumped in the car to pick me up as I paced along the windows of my new desk holding my stomach as it had been swelling beyond belief over the course of the last few hours.

He took me to Urgent Care and they began taking some tests and palpating my abdomen as I was no longer able to sit still from the increasing pain.  After a few tests, they had me on my way to the ER to have my appendix checked.  Jay flew down France and through red lights (sorry) as I was dry heaving out the passenger window.  They quickly ushered me into Triage when I hobbled in and something about knowing I was going to be safe seemed to break my ability to control my vomiting or my shakes any longer.  

We quickly moved into a room where I could gown-up, hooked up to an IV and monitors, and started donating blood to start narrowing down the likely suspects - Appendix? Gall Bladder?  My hubby returned after dropping the puppy at home and my dad, stepmom and stepsister were all by my side as I fought through the pain and nausea.  The blood tests came back healthy but, luckily, the CT showed that it was after all my appendix.  Thank heavens I followed those instincts so we got there before it burst and there I was, 5 hours after asking Jay to take me in, I was headed off to surgery for a laparoscopic appendectomy.  

My medical team was amazing (thank you tons to Dr. Laguna and the entire team at Southdale Emergency Hospital)!!!  By 10:30 my family was allowed back into post-op to see me and the kind nursing team had me dressed and ready to head home to bed.  I couldn't believe how quickly they were able to treat and diagnose me and how much worse it could have been.  I am so grateful for everyone's help, their recommendations, and to Jay for getting me to the hospital so quickly.

Now, it's just settling in for a longer-than-I-wish recovery and focusing on a comeback once I can exercise again.  For now, guess I just get to heal up and be a super fan for the next few weeks!

One organ lighter, another adventure survived, 
Kristy Kreme, bloated post-op machine ;)

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Oh, to dream just a while longer...

I am often a vivid dreamer but something about last night will stick with me forever....

It was a warm fall day and Jay, Ben Miller, and Christopher Cross and I were in the woods collecting logs for a fire.  We made our way into a clearing filled with waste-high prairie grass towards a set of railroad tracks.  One by one we crawled on top of a wooden pump trolley, prepared to depart to our bonfire destination.  

The sun was warm and I looked around to find Jay manning the pump, Ben was sitting on the back, dangling his feet over the edge.  I looked to the front to find Christopher standing and looking down the railroad tracks and, to my surprise, sitting between us was Dave Pike. 

He had on a light button up shirt, jeans, tennies, and was sitting with his hands casually resting on his bent knees.  His face was clean-shaven and he looked at me and smiled as the sun lit up his face more than anything around him. 

I quickly knelt and pulled him into my arms and told him how great it was to see him.  He didn’t say much, but we all circled around him with joy and huge smiles on our faces.  There was an unspoken word between us as if we didn’t want to acknowledge that he shouldn’t be there for fear that he would leave, while at the same time Dave gave off this feeling that he’d just stopped by to say hello.

He continued on the trolley with us to our destination and helped unload the logs into the pile that would become our fire.   I don’t remember all that we were talking about with Dave, likely sharing stories but there was something he had to do – he said he had to check on his girl and we told him he should get to it before it gets too late. (I wonder if he visited Tracie last night too)

I woke out of my sleep and had to grasp where I was (stupid chamomile tea before bed making me have to pee!).  When I returned to bed, I fought with myself on whether or not to go back to sleep.  Would I fall back into the same dream?  Or would I fall asleep and forget the dream I just had forever?

I stayed awake for a little while, trying to burn the memory of discovering Dave sitting on the trolley into my brain so I could revel on it later.  It was so peaceful and warm and everything we would have done together in real life (except maybe the pump trolley)… and I feel so blessed that he visited my dream to say hi.

I miss you, buddy. And I love you like a brother.

<3 kristy="" o:p="">

Friday, August 18, 2017

The Art of Falling Down

The true art of falling down is in how you get back up.  As a human Albatros, I've had a lot of scraped knees and cut hands from hitting the deck, but I've always picked my self up, dusted off, and got back to living.  But this year, each impact with the ground challenged me physically and mentally but also challenged my creativity.

As the 2017 pole competition season began, I was preparing to create one last competition routine and to push every one of my boundaries with my choreography.  Again, Albatros.. NOT delicate, flowy, or graceful.  But, rather than being a creepy, dark and twisted thing, this year I was going to be pretty, fun, light, sexy, entertaining and everything I'm too shy to be when I pole.  I bought a hot pink umbrella, a polka dot Lucy dress, pulled out my 5" heels and began choreographing to "Singing' in the Rain".  Lucky for me, the amazingly talented Freaky cut my song with some wicked sound effects to transition into "Thunderstruck" for the 2nd half of my routine!!!  The man RULES!

With the help of some awesome coaches, Jamie and Emily, teammates and hubby, my choreo was set pretty quickly so the pressure started to subside.  Until I fell down.

We were up at the Fat Bike Birkie, likely the coldest one yet, getting fired up for the Friday night Fat Bike crit.  The course was frozen solid and covered in ice even after the trail crew tried to break it up with a beast of a machine.  Mixed in with the men, I was just riding as hard as I could to stay warm and get it over with.  During one turn, my studded front wheel lost control and I augured onto the icy ground left knee first.  I got up with no air in my lungs and tried to walk a few steps to avoid being hit from behind but found each step excruciating.

The pain was fierce and walking was not going to work.  I got back on my bike hoping to 'spin it out' but any movement of the joint was agony.  I pedaled by using only my right leg for most of the remaining laps until I could passively rest my left heel on the pedal and moving the joint without pressure til I finally made it through the final lap.  Although my snow pants survived, I later found that my leg warmer was trashed and the wet feeling in my knee was blood.

Weeks later, the swelling and discoloration subsided, but the whole front of my knee was numb (6 months later = still numb).  Practicing my run throughs was a challenge and some of my floor choreography now had to go because any time on my knees was more painful than I could bear.  Routine #2 began.  Some time passed, I was sure I was ready to go... then I pulled my left hamstring.  No more splits.  Routine #3, commence.

I wasn't in love Routine 3, but I was willing to run with it.  But, just weeks before we were to go to competition, I fell down again.  Crashed out during a Tuesday night crit, I was hit from behind by another racer who rode me like a surfboard down the fairground streets, leaving more than 8 pts of road rash down the side of my body.  But I got up, Jay got my bike back in order, I gagged when I looked at my meaty elbow, but I got back in the race.

When I got back to the dance studio, I ran through my routine, found which parts I needed to change yet again due to my injuries, and added in just some things for me.  This was to be by competition finale.. it better be fun!  Truth in advertising... I was still terrified to fail.  The night before we were to hit the road for CPC, my confidence was faulty and I finally broke down.  Was the 4 minutes on stage going to be the finale I was hoping for?  Could I do it?  What if I failed?

But, the next morning, we packed up and headed east to Chicago.  I competed in Championship (judged on all-around tricks, flow, and presentation) and Entertainment (based on character and presentation).. and I placed in both!  Oh, yeah, and I fell down in the middle of my routine during my 2nd performance.  Damn ankle strap of my heels broke and I fell to my knees on stage.  But, I got back up and kept on going (all while hyper aware of the loose shoe now barely attached to my foot).

I finished 2nd in Championship and 3rd in Entertainment and am so proud to have challenged all the things I'm too shy to do, had fun, created something I'm proud of, and went out with a bang!

So, without further ado... here's the final video thanks to Alloy Images!

Not only was I the only goof ball cruising around town to two pink umbrellas (needed a back up) with pin-up style make up and hair, but I pulled of being cute and sweet.  I called her Penny.

I threw in my favorite tricks or little homages to people I love like a Pike D for our friend Dave Pike who passed away just before Christmas.  (miss you, Buddy) <3 p="">

My favorite static hold.

But then Penny turned into Stella.. and she was fun to be!

I am so grateful for all of the help, support, love and Tegaderm that got me through this last pole competition season.  Jenna and Margaret - thank you for making me wear heals! Jamie, Emily, and Emma - coaches like you help lil monsters like me put something together worth watching!  Angela, thank you for watching me fumble night after night. My friends and family - thank you for all your support. And Jay, thanks for always helping pick me back up and getting me back on my bike without questioning if I should. 

As long as I continue to get back up, I haven't yet failed...


Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Coming Home...

Taxiing along the runway in Cleveland, heading for MN by way of Chicago, in the smallest plane I’ve ever been in to end  4 days working a tradeshow hit me like a ton of bricks.  I’d been home sick all week, but the accumulation of insomnia and missing my husband rolled like thunder in my chest as we prepared for take-off.  Lucky for me, it was so small, there was only one-seat wide on the left side of the plane, so I was solo in my sorrow as both the window and the aisle seat.  I gazed out the window over the wing to hide the tears that fell down my cheeks in slow motion.

It had only been four days.  But it felt as though I’ve been living someone else’s life, longing to return to my own.  I cried a little more as I fantasized about seeing Jay that night as Bob Dylan filled my ears ….
“I should have left this town this morning, but it was more than I could do.
Ah your love comes on so strong, and I’ve waited all day long
For tonight I’ll be staying here with you”

Staring at the rainbow sky that prepared for the pending shadows of twilight was a quiet relief as I silent-cried out my window, thinking of running across the room for a tearful embrace.  

Its these echoes of myself that I filed away as I tried to conduct business all week but, in secret, screamed loudly as I contemplated what I want to be when I ‘grow up’.  It’s not the typical story I tell, but the time alone, quietly in conference with myself and my heart, truly made me reflect on what happiness is to me… and where I wish the next adventure would take me. 

…. I want to be home.
As turbulent air disturbed the mundane vibrations of the plane, I thought about our wedding vows, and I’ve never felt more passionate about them…

“I promise to always come home to you, and to always be there when you come home”

Once on the ground in MN, I sped to the taxi booth to hail a cab downtown. The driver couldn't have gone fast enough to ease my unrest, and I was quick to jump out in a small parking lot once we made it within a block of the cycling year end party that I had missed.  Scantily-clad women climbed out of cars by the handful, barely dress for a MN winter, but who was I to care.. I was here.  My roller bag echoed through the alley behind One on One and familiar signs of life meant there was still people here.

Mojo was first to greet me and let me into the rented space and I quickly found a welcome embrace with Kadence.  Friendly faces still lingered in the room, but the party was clearly over.  My heart exploded when I saw the smile on Jay's face as he quickly bounded over to me, kissing me on the dark stairs and refusing to let me go.  

It was everything I needed.

Kind hugs and high-fives quickly followed as I greeted my friends and listened to stories of the party missed.  By midnight, we were on our way home and ready to snuggle on the couch with the puppy.  It was the perfect ending to a long week and a great reminder of the amazing life that I have, always here ready to welcome me home.

Road-worn and weary, 
Kristy Kreme