Tales of Father Goose

Hundreds of fairy tales, children’s stories, and nursery rhymes are attributed to Mother Goose, an imaginary author with origins in France and England. There’s a reason why Mother Goose was given credit for these classic yarns: Father Goose is a hot-tempered, dim-witted, asshole.

I rode on the Wadhams to Avoca Trail yesterday afternoon, an approximately ten mile rail trail in St. Clair County, west of Port Huron. It was a lovely day for a ride, with temperatures in the mid-60s, plenty of sun, and only a light breeze coming from the northeast (meaning it would be mostly blowing across my path both ways, which is ideal).

About three miles into the ride, I saw a large male Canada goose standing along the side of the trail, next to the wetlands that run along quite a bit of the trail. As I approached, he turned to look at me and started honking, and I started to think he might attack me as I rode by. This turned out to be an accurate suspicion, because as I got closer he started to run at me and then flew, glancing off my back as I passed him.

He was probably defending a nest just off the trail. Geese can be very protective of their young, though in general they’re pretty ornery all the time. In any case, it certainly got my heart rate elevated as a pedaled like hell to get away from him. No harm done, though, so I put our little encounter out of my mind.

So much so that when I returned to the same spot on the way back to Wadhams, there he was again, but this time I didn’t notice until he was already flying at me. This time, having forgotten that he might be there, I hadn’t slowed down, so I had a head start in speed. Though my cruising speed 12 mph isn’t very fast, really, even geese can’t go 0-12 in three seconds, so he didn’t make contact this time, though I may have nightmares about the sight of a large goose flying right behind me:

“When Canada Geese Attack” Photo by Chris Huggins via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

(Obviously, I didn’t have time to take a photo, but Chris Huggins’ photo is a close representation of what I saw yesterday.)

For those who doubt my judgment that Father Goose was male, I offer these defenses:

  1. He was larger than the typical Canada goose, which is consistent with difference in sizes – on average – between males and females of this species;
  2. He was more immediately aggressive than the typical Canada goose, which is consistent with the difference in temperament – on average – between males and females of this species; and
  3. He was stupider than the typical Canada goose, which is consistent with the difference – on average – between males and females of all species.

Canada geese are also regular inhabitants of the college campus where I used to work in Port Huron, where their strolling of the sidewalks occasionally results in aggression, especially in the spring when their young are nearby, and always results in goose shit all over the sidewalks, which is the genesis of what we called the “Goose Poop Two-Step,” a ritual dance familiar to every student and employee of the college.

In short, Father Goose was the equivalent of the guy at the bar who takes a swing at you unexpectedly for looking sideways at him after he’s had seven beers and a couple of shots, except the goose didn’t have the excuse of being drunk.

Repost: 7 Tips for New (or Returning) Cyclists

I rolled over 1,000 miles for 2021 this week (combined indoor mileage on the trainer and outdoors), and there are starting to be more people out on the local shared trails. You can tell the folks who use the trails regularly, because they tend to be more aware of other people approaching. But there are still plenty of people walking (or riding) side-by-side or entire families out for a stroll or a ride who tend to forget that they’re not the only people using the trail.

I’m not complaining. I love seeing our trails get used. But there are some etiquette tips for using the trails that can make it safer for everyone. I posted this originally last September, but here are my seven tips for new or returning cyclists:

bike helmet
Bontrager Starvos road bike helmet. This is the one I bought after my old one gave up its life for me.
  1. Wear a helmet. I know, why do I need a helmet? I’m not racing/I only ride in my neighborhood/I look stupid in a helmet (this is mostly guys and I’m pretty sure the same reason guys don’t want to wear masks). This is why: you only get one head and one brain and if you fall off your bike for any reason there’s a good chance you’ll land on your noggin, which may cause damage you won’t be happy about. Take it from me. I absent-mindedly tried to stop using only my front brakes a few years ago and went ass-over-handlebars onto the asphalt, landing on my forehead. Fortunately, I was wearing a helmet which did exactly what it was supposed to: absorbed the shock, crushing the plastic and the foam padding. I ended up with a few scrapes on my hands and one leg (and bent handlebars) but was able to ride home without even a concussion. There are lots of potential hazards that might dump you to the ground – cars backing out of driveways, children on bikes coming the other direction who aren’t great at steering, and the ever-present squirrels and rabbits, who love to change directions and try to run under your wheels. If you prefer your head to be undamaged, wear a helmet.
  2. Learn to use your brakes correctly and make sure they’re set up right. You’ll need them. As the previous story illustrates, don’t use your front brakes until after you’ve applied the rear ones. Rear, then front. Rear, then front. If your front brakes lock up by themselves you’re going to try to fly and I’m pretty sure you won’t be any better at it than I was. Also, wear a helmet.
  3. Don’t wear headphones or earbuds. You’re going to want to hear the road or trail noise, both the tranquil sounds of nature and the guy coming up on you from behind yelling, “Passing on your left! Passing on your left!” Frankly, nothing is more irritating on a trail than someone walking their dog with AirPods in who can’t hear me coming. More than once I’ve had to come to a complete stop because their dog is all over the trail and they couldn’t hear my plea to pass them. Even worse is when they hear me at the last second (I have slowed down to a crawl already), get startled, and then are angry at me for “surprising” them. Good thing I have a helmet on.
  4. Always, but always, announce that you’re going to pass someone on a trail. Walkers, runners, and fellow cyclists. Always. There are several ways to do that, including bells or horns, but I prefer a shouted “I’m on YOUR LEFT!” If they know which hand is which (not guaranteed, I admit) they have a chance to move to the opposite side. Most people are appreciative of this – some even tell me “thank you for telling me!” which makes me think not everyone does this. You can even do this with the strap of your helmet under your chin!
  5. Consider using an app to help you track your mileage. It’s a great motivator and you can often connect with other riders in your area (and worldwide) who will help support and motivate you. I have a couple of dozen cyclists in Michigan’s Thumb area who I follow on Strava and they’ve followed me back, and we give each other thumbs up on our rides. I’ve only ever met a couple of them face-to-face (though I’m pretty sure I’ve had seen a few heading the other direction on our area’s more popular trails), but it’s a great community and can be inspirational. Some of the cyclists log thousands of miles each year and it’s fun to watch their miles add up. Also, all of them wear helmets.
  6. Hydrate! One of the mistakes I made when I started cycling about ten years ago was to not drink much – if any – water when I was on a longer ride. I figured I’d lose weight by sweating off water, right? Wrong. At some point your body will start trying to protect itself if you get dehydrated and the whole fat/calorie burning process slows down. So be sure to add water to your engine when you ride. You can fill your water bottle at the same time as you’re grabbing your helmet!
  7. In case I’ve forgotten to mention it, wear a helmet.

Now’s the time to get out and ride. Start with a couple of miles and, if you’re so inclined, add a half mile each time out to push yourself. A 10- to 12-mile ride at about 10-12 mph takes, by the miracle of math, about an hour, which is a great workout. But anything shorter (or longer!) is great, too! The point is to stay active.

And wear a helmet, of course. Have fun!

The last ride of 2020

I’d been hoping for a couple of weeks that the weather on New Year’s Eve would be good for a last outdoor ride for the year. Fortunately, it was sunny and around 30°F at noon, so off I went. Originally, I was hoping to hit exactly 20.20 miles today, but I realized I’d probably have to ride up and down my block several times at the end of the ride to make that happen, so instead I decided to ride at least 20.20 miles, which I did:

The “four cemeteries” are Woodlawn Cemetery in Marine City; Hillside Cemetery in St. Clair; Rose Hill Cemetery in East China Township; and Holy Cross Cemetery, also in Marine City.

That took my mileage total for 2020 to 1,959.12 miles over 144 rides. I was on the bike for a total of 6 days, 3 hours, and 23 minutes. I didn’t quite make it to 2,000 miles, but considering I didn’t start until Memorial Day, I’m happy with that. It also broke my old annual record of 1,043.88 miles (set in 2015) by over 915 miles, or nearly double the old mark.

If I add my walking distance of 82.44 miles (I mostly walk once a week to give my back a break on the bike), I did move over 2,000 miles in 2020 (2,041.56 to be exact).

It starts over tomorrow. It looks like as long as I get out before noon, I can start 2021 with an outdoor ride. Otherwise, I’ll be cycling through the magical virtual roads of Zwift. Ride on!

An unexpectedly nice ride on an unseasonably warm day

Had a great ride today on my bike. I didn’t expect to get another nice, warm day to ride outside, but today was in the low 70s and sunny through the ride. Storms came through later and it’s supposed to get chilly again tonight, but for one October Friday, it was summer again.

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7 Tips for New (or Returning) Cyclists

I’m not planning on turning my site into a cycling blog, but I have had a few questions recently from people who were interested in starting to ride after having me tell them how much fun I’ve been having this summer and how it’s helped me lose quite a bit of weight.

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