Monthly Archives: June 2015

Less Writing, More Biking

The happiest time of the year has come and gone.Bike MS Tour de Farms is over. Sigh. The following is an account of our last week of training and the event itself.

1. Cookie was ready!

Cookie in front of the waterfall

Friday, June 19 – we went for a longish bike ride to see how we would hold up. A roundabout route through scenic western suburbs from my house to Waterfall Glen Forest Preserve, a lap and a half around the preserve and then another roundabout route back through different scenic suburbs netted us about 40 miles. We planned to ride the Tour’s 50-mile route and figured that if we could ride 40 miles, we could ride 50. We succeeded with our 40-mile route. In fact, with an overall speed of 11 mph (much of it on crushed limestone), we were about as fast as we’ve ever been for a ride of that length. (We are not fast. Just saying.) So we felt great about our upcoming ride.

2. Complications…

Sunday, June 21 – we did a cooldown ride, just to make sure our muscles still worked. Cookie had had a rough night. She had developed a rash which she figured out was probably shingles. She was already on an antiviral medication (she’s proactive that way) and hoped that it wouldn’t develop into a full blown case.

Tuesday, June 23 – I planned about a 20-mile solo ride, just to keep in shape. I started strong—over 11 miles, my speed averaged 13.3 mph. I was jubilant!

At that point I fell down and went boom, garnering a few bruises and scrapes and a minor neck sprain. (Details here.) Skippy’s back wheel got mangled. Would we be able to get a new wheel installed and aligned in time for the Tour? Bike Shop Mike was hopeful; even though he had to order a new wheel, he thought she would be ready by Thursday. Friday at the latest.

Wednesday, June 24 – I lay around and got nothing done. My head, neck, and back hurt, but it could have been so much worse that I couldn’t complain.

Thursday, June 25 – I started feeling better, and huzzah! Bike Shop Mike texted with the news that Skippy was all fixed. But then I got an email from Cookie saying she might only be able to do the 35-mile route. Unlike my neck sprain, her shingles weren’t getting any better.

Friday, June 26 – I felt good as new. As I was packing and otherwise preparing for the weekend, Cookie called with the sad news that she couldn’t ride. At all. It turned out that she had learned well from the “Your Cat Died” joke, and had been letting me down easy. BK and I went on to DeKalb with heavy hearts, which were somewhat relieved when we met up with part of our team, the Sargent & Lundy Power Pedallers for dinner at Pizza Villa. There was chianti (and much rejoicing).

3. A brighter day dawns…

Before the ride: me, Andy, Danielle, Dave, and Randy

Saturday, June 27 – the weather was sunny, with a 10 mph wind out of the north. The day’s forecast high was 73º, though it was in the 50s just before we started the ride. A while before we left, Cookie texted.

Cookie: Have a great ride!
Me: Thanks! How are you doing?
Cookie: Okay.* No way I could have ridden today. See you at the finish line.
Me: Awww, poor Cookie
Cookie: Yeah, yeah. Now get out there and win one for the gipper, uh, Cookie.

So that’s what we did. Around mile 20 I developed a helmet headache, which the ER doctor warned me might happen, but BK called Sis, who agreed to bring me my muscle relaxants (along with Cookie), so I had that to look forward to. True to her word, Cookie was there to greet us at the finish line. And my speed? I averaged 12.4 mph!

Cookie, Randy, me, Danielle, and Andy

Sis, Cookie, BK and I went to Eduardo’s in DeKalb for Mexican food. I had a delicious watermelon-cucumber margarita, which went really well with the muscle relaxants. Sis took Cookie home; BK and I went back to the hotel and fell asleep before 8 p.m.

Sunday June 28 – BK drove me back to the Tour. I quickly biked 15 miles as a cooldown from the day before, and my speed was even better than Saturday’s: 12.8 mph. BK and I went back to the hotel for chocolate milk, a cinnamon roll, and a shower. BK and I went home, another Tour de Farms completed.

Skippy & new helmet still wearing their ride numbers

Thanks again to all the generous beings who donated to the National MS Society in support of this year’s ride: Lorie & Steve, BK, Kurt, Steve, Sis, Sara, the Musto family, Katie, Mickey & Janet, Tim & Nan, Beth, Lori, Ann, the Patel family, Katherine, and Seamus the World’s Best Dog!

* Cookie-speak for : “I’m in excruciating pain.”

Skippy and the Skateboards

My Giro helmet, post-accident

This blog post is a day late; you’re about to find out why.

While training for the big Bike MS ride in DeKalb this weekend, I got in an accident. There were these girls on skateboards. I thought I could get past them before we got to a horrible curve in the trail that happens behind the DuPage River Sports Complex. I was wrong. The girl’s skateboard kept picking up speed. Before I could slam on my brakes, she jumped off the skateboard, sending it right under my bike.

My bike (aka Skippy)  went sideways and horizontal. I landed first on my butt and then on my head, or to be more precise, on my helmet. Thank all the good spirits (and BK) for the Giro helmet, which now sports a large crack in the middle of its back and some smaller ones to either side. The visor snapped off and the helmet mirror went flying. Skippy’s back wheel twisted and her rear brakes got more or less mangled.

Skippy on a good day

Skateboard girl apologized. A lot of people stopped to ask if I needed help. I felt shook up and sore, but I wasn’t going to call anyone until I got home and got myself sorted. Unfortunately I couldn’t even roll Skippy, her back wheel was so mashed up against her brakes. So I called BK to tell him there were going to be cab and bike shop and possibly medical expenses, but that I was doing all right.

While BK and I were on the phone, another cyclist stopped to help. He disengaged the back brakes so at least I could roll Skippy. I had been half-carrying her, holding up the back end. He told me it would be safe to ride home, as long as I went slowly and realized I only had front brakes, but then I should take the bike into my shop.

I initially thought about going home and calling my doctor once I got there, but the hospital was closer so I decided to go there. BK and Cookie have both been concussed, and I didn’t want to take any chances. Besides, by the time the hospital people could see me, BK would be able to get off work and come get me and Skippy. And so it proved.

I have a mild neck sprain and some soft tissue damage, as well as a few scrapes, but nothing was broken and I didn’t have a concussion. Skippy fared worse; she needs a new wheel and alignment, and some work on her brakes. But Mike at Bicycles Etc. said he thought he could get a new one and get her all fixed up in time for Bike MS this weekend. I’m feeling very guilty about what happened to Skippy. If there was anything or anyone blameless in this scenario, it would be the inanimate vehicles. Skippy and the Skateboards. Great band name, right? Only question remaining: can Skippy and the Skateboards learn to play nicely together? I’m guessing that as long as I am able to spot the skateboards in time, there will be peace in our time, at least as far as the skateboards and bicycles are concerned.

Get-well flowers from Sis and Seamus

Have some pictures!

It’s been a busy time. Yup, there’s been writing and revising, but there’s also been bicycling, as well as conferring, conversing, and otherwise hobnobbing with my fellow wizards. Here are a few pictures I grabbed around the times some of that was going on.

Azaleas and daffodils at Arboretum

I’ve been in training to ride the Bike MS Tour de Farms ride in DeKalb on June 27-28. The above shot was taken during an early training ride back in April. Thanks to BK and the kids for our Morton Arboretum membership. When you have a great place to ride, exercise provides inherent rewards!

Me, KT Bradford and others

Tempest Bradford visited in May, just before WisCon. I made her pose for silly tourist shots. Here’s one of our reflection in Cloud Gate (aka “The Bean”) in Millennium Park.

Lurie Garden in June

One of the nice things about being at the Palmer House for the Nebula Awards weekend is that you’re a block from places like Millennium Park and the Art Institute. Cookie and I escaped to Lurie Garden a couple of times for walks. Glorious!

Nebula Weekend Swag

They gave us stuff at the Nebulas just for showing up (and I bought a couple of things, too). Here’s what I brought home.

Home again – Sunset after Nebula Weekend

There was an improbably gorgeous sunset Sunday night, so I took a picture.

Nebula Awards 2015

Nebula Award, sitting on our table!

I have never been to an Oscar ceremony. I can’t even foresee the time stream in which that might happen.

I might have said the same about the Nebula Awards, except for two things:

  1. You don’t have to be a member of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America to attend. Anyone with $60 to spare can do it. (Though if you want to attend the banquet and have actual Nebula Nominees sitting at your table with you, that’ll run you an extra $80.)
  2. The 2015 Awards (honoring fiction published in 2014) were held in Chicago this year.

I’ve always wanted to go. Cookie, being the excellent sport that she is, came along to provide moral support. We actually went for the whole weekend (a bargain at $90—not including hotel and meals), from Thursday through Sunday, though Cookie didn’t hang around for all the panels. She had things to do, places to go, and people to see. She went to a few, though, and we went to the banquet together.

Cookie with banquet/awards program;
Nick Offerman (toastmaster) in the background

We weren’t nominated for any awards, but we got to sit with people who were.

Nebula-nominees at our table!
  • Carmen Maria Machado  for her novelette “The Husband Stitch”
  • Usman T. Malik  for his short story, “The Vaporization Enthalpy of a Peculiar Pakistani Family”
  • Sam J. Miller  for his novelette “We Are the Cloud”
  • Sarah Pinsker  for her short story “A Stretch of Highway Two Lanes Wide”

They were all wonderful people, so I’m sorry to report that none of them carried Nebula awards home. Please support them! Buy their fiction! If/when you join SFWA, vote for their stories!

Which brings me to another point.


You can have people who really know their stuff pouring their heart into a piece, and they can totally nail it. They then end up nominated for a major award like a Nebula. But out of a field of, say six or seven nominees, only one is going to take the Nebula home. You might think the rest of them would sit around and mope. That is not what I saw. I saw a community of friends cheering for each other. My favorite memory of the evening came after the actual awards ceremony. Many of the nominees who hadn’t won gathered in a vestibule to deliver their Alternate Universe speeches. In each Alternate Universe, the speechifying nominee had won the Nebula. These speeches ranged from humorous to extremely affecting, and each was greeted with sincere appreciation by the other nominees. I came away delighted by this community I’d stumbled into.

The Nebulas return to Chicago in 2016, for one more year. I can’t wait.

For a list of the full 2014 slate, click  here.

To see who won in 2014, click  here.

Happy Tour de Farms Season!

A past team picture – the Power Pedallers

June 27 and 28, 2015—I can hardly wait for this year’s Tour de Farms ride in DeKalb!

The lovely people in various chapters of the MS Society run terrific bike rides all over the country, and in order to ride in one of them, you need to do a little fundraising to help people with MS.

The MS Society has helped our family a lot. BK has MS. He was diagnosed with it in the mid 1980s. He’s doing pretty well, considering. He sometimes has issues with discomfort, lack of coordination and fatigue, but he’s able to get around, work, and even have some fun occasionally. Usually it’s guitar-playing fun rather than bike-riding fun, but it all counts, right?

We have other friends with MS, too. It’s not that uncommon. Anyway, multiply our family by thousands and you have an idea how much good the MS Society does. The Greater Illinois Chapter says this about their work:

Our staff and volunteers are dedicated to achieving a world free of MS. Through our chapter’s support services and educational programs for people living with MS and their families and friends, we help connect people in our local communities who want to do something about MS now.

We offer many programs — including professional counseling and peer facilitated support groups, educational programs and seminars, referrals to neurologists and healthcare professionals, national teleconferences and internet programs, services for the homebound, and social and recreational programs to assist people with MS and their families in leading productive and fulfilling lives.

And that’s just my local chapter. The national society does all that and more, driving research to help end MS.

I’m still short of my goal. About $420 short, as of the day I’m posting this.  If anyone reading this wants to support the MS Society (either through a donation or by joining the ride), I’d love if you could do it by visiting the link to my personal fundraising page.

If you’d rather contribute a different way, please comment below or message me separately. Thanks so much for your support!

Bart and I (and the MS Society!)  appreciate the people who have already contributed to make my ride possible. Many, many thanks to:

  • Sara G.
  • my cousin Steve
  • my cousin Ann
  • Praful P.
  • Kurt L.
  • Tim and Nan
  • Katherine L.
  • the Tom M. family
  • Katie W.
  • Steve and Lorie R.
  • Mickey and Janet
  • Lori