Posted by: Sue D. Gelber | April 22, 2016

Sorry I’m Late for Dinner. I Was Hanging with a Bear.

Ah, yes, the (somewhat) annual trip to bike Going-to-the-Sun Road before it opens to traffic. But wait! It’s only April! Surely, I’ll freeze to death! (Note to self: wear a warm jacket. And stop calling me Shirley.)

 

I usually bike Sun Road in June, when the weather is more predictable, and I’ll admit I wasn’t keen on coming to the Treasure State so early in the season. But it turns out that Montana in April is far from dismal. It was 70 degrees as we cruised along Route 2 towards Glacier National Park. But while the weather suggested summer, the place was deserted. Motels, RV parks, huckleberry stands, souvenir shops: all closed, like there had been an evacuation order and we didn’t get it.

 

We pulled into West Glacier with the windows down and the radio up. Usually packed with tourists, it was a ghost town. Not a tour bus or RV to be found. It felt like the perfect setting for a zombie attack, so I hit the gas and sped through. Bear spray doesn’t work on zombies. I wasn’t taking any chances. We cruised past the entrance (no line!) and into Glacier.

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We parked at Lake McDonald Lodge (closed), next to a small smattering of cars. We hauled out our bikes and weaved past the road closure sign on GTTS. There were a few pedestrians, but within minutes we had the pavement to ourselves.

 

 

The sun was warm, the road was (relatively) flat, and after a few easy miles we approached Avalanche and the Trail of the Cedars. Anyone who has been to Glacier knows the area – one of the most popular spots in the park. Trail of the Cedars is a flat, level, half-mile boardwalk designed to be wheelchair accessible, also known in the summer for attracting flip-flop wearing tourists who want to experience nature without going more than a few yards into the woods. We frequented Trail of the Cedars when the kids were young, a great place to let toddlers run ahead; the most dangerous thing they might encounter would be a cantankerous old man waving a cane.

 

Trail of the Cedars is known for being more crowded than Disney. Yet here it was, empty, dusted with a glaze of pine needles. It was a spontaneous detour that we just couldn’t resist. We pedaled right past the “no biking” sign and onto the boardwalk.

 

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The sound of tires on boards echoed like a freight train – thunk-thunk, thunk-thunk, thunk-thunk. We passed two bikes chained up just off the trail, people who obviously respected park rules more than we did. We got to the Avalanche Lake trailhead, a short trail we’ve been up dozens of times, and decided we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to hike one of the most popular trails in the park, given that we’d have it all to ourselves. We ditched the bikes, passed the waterfall, and headed up.

 

 

I must confess, however, that it was a little unnerving. Sure, it was nice to hike without throngs of people, but said throngs usually keep animals away. They also serve as protection. In the event that a bear shows up, I can always outrun someone in flip-flops.

 

But because we’d seen other bikes at the bottom, I knew there were two other people on the trail. Two super buff and badass people like us, I assumed, people who bike and hike and take no prisoners. And about halfway up we saw them coming down. A couple well into their 70s, strolling along like they were walking laps at the mall, making me feel decidedly less badass as I huffed and puffed my way up the trail.

 

We continued to Avalanche Lake and were rewarded with a view of some mountain goats.

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See that little tiny white spot?

But that wasn’t the most spectacular sight, nor was it the snow capped mountains or the clear lake. No, the most amazing sight was the empty beach. Usually it looks like Coney Island, but today it was deserted.

 

 

We relaxed in the sun, took some photos, felt the freezing cold water, then hiked back down and hopped on our bikes. It was getting late and almost time for dinner. We cruised along the road, an easy downhill grade when, “Uh-oh.” Bear on the road. He crossed in front of us, but instead of proceeding into the woods, he stopped just off the pavement. He dug in the dirt and then started eating something, probably ants.

 

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We were stuck, a big black bear between us and our car. We tried making noise and inching forward, hoping we’d drive him off. We clapped. We yelled. We whistled. He didn’t even look at us. Five minutes passed. Ten minutes. For crying out loud, it was dinner time and I was hungry! How long could we possibly wait?

 

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After about 15 minutes, I saw two cyclists heading up the road towards us. I waved my arms and pointed. They stopped. The bear turned and looked at them briefly but then decided that they, too, weren’t worth the worry. He went back to his ants. We didn’t want to ride by him and cause him to give chase. But I also didn’t want to spend the night on the side of the road. We moved forward slowly, but our clapping and yelling produced no response.

 

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Finally, after almost 20 minutes, three cyclists came up behind us. Apparently there’s strength in numbers because the bear finally took note and abandoned his ant feast. When he climbed up the rock behind him, I realized just how massive he was. His huge muscles quivered as he pulled himself up on the boulder and walked into the woods. Our close encounter with nature was finally over. We sped down the hill to the car and headed off to dinner. And the menu definitely did not include ants.

Posted by: Sue D. Gelber | April 15, 2016

Inspiration Friday: Marathon Edition

Well, well, well. Another Boston Marathon is on the horizon. And as usual, I’m devastated that I’m not there to see it. The snow-capped Rockies are lovely, but there’s nothing more majestic than the view of that finish line on Boylston Street.

I spent much of my life in the Hub of the Universe, and as a result, the Boston Marathon is woven deep into my soul. Even before I became a runner, I was fascinated with the event, thanks in no small part to Joan Benoit, a gal from Maine sporting a Red Sox cap who won Boston – and set a course record – the first time she ran it. She then set a new world record at Boston a few years later. She was the stuff of local legend.

For me, Joan Benoit Samuelson became more closely associated with the marathon thanks to her years of providing commentary during the race day broadcasts. She had intelligent insight, but more importantly, she seemed like a nice person. During my first years living in Chicago, homesick and glued to whatever random cable channel was carrying the WBZ broadcast, she was my tether. At the time, I didn’t know anyone in Chicago who cared about the Boston Marathon, but it was ok because I had Joan. I’d bet we’d be friends, Joanie and I. We’d hang out, go for a run (she’d have to wait for me to catch up, but she wouldn’t mind), then grab a cup of coffee afterwards. Joanie and I would have lots to chat about. I could call her Joanie, right?

Fortunately, Joan Benoit Samuelson is known for much more than being my imaginary friend. In fact, she is probably best known not for her stunning Boston performances, but from the ’84 Olympics.

It’s a story you’ve heard before: a small town gal finds fame and fortune on the streets of LA. It’s a story that’s been told a million times. But not like this:

I hope everyone has a happy Marathon Monday. And if you need a runner to support, cheer on my good friend (and former running partner!) Patti Quigley, who’s conquering her first marathon as a fundraiser for Razia’s Ray of Hope. You can read about her here: Razia’s Ray of Hope. Go, Patti, go!

 

 

 

Posted by: Sue D. Gelber | March 23, 2016

Starting Over. Again.

Running, I can’t quit you. Oh, I try. I take breaks, sometimes for a few weeks, sometimes for months. But inevitably there comes that morning when I drink too much (coffee) and all my inhibitions drop away. I see my running shoes sitting there in my closet and I hear them murmuring to me in a sultry voice: “Hey, Babe, wanna run away with me?” And before I can stop myself, my Kinvaras are laced up and I’m heading out the door.

Sure, some might say it’s a dysfunctional relationship, but I know this time it will be different. Things have changed. We’ve been to (physical) therapy. So, here I am. Starting over, once again.

Just like last time.

I particularly like the 18-second mark of this video where you can see the bloodstains from the California International Marathon Monsoon on my pretty pink shoes. I finally got rid of those shoes a few weeks ago. I’m still mourning the loss of them. But who wants old worn out blood-stained shoes? Me, apparently.

I’ll post my running progress here. If there is any. But no photos of bloody shoes, I promise.

Posted by: Sue D. Gelber | January 20, 2016

Gear Check: Don’t Throw Out Those Workout Clothes Just Yet

I have discovered The Most Useful Exercise Accessory Ever. No, it’s not a watch that says your pace while also spewing motivational quotes. It’s not a pair of running shoes with rocket engines on the back. And it’s not a two-sided bottle, with beer in one section and water in the other. (Although all of those are good ideas. Note to self: get working on ’em.) Instead, I have discovered something that allows me to continue to run in a group, cycle in a pack, even walk through a crowded spin studio without offending anyone. I speak, my friends, of the miracle known as SportWash.

Please note, SportWash has not, in any way, compensated me for this blog post, but hey, if someone out there wants to toss me a few bottles, I’d be much obliged. I use the stuff almost daily. Why? Because otherwise I would have to burn my workout clothes.

And what, you may ask, is SportWash? It’s a miracle liquid that gets stinky odors out of exercise clothes. Even my stinky odors. No easy task. Trust me on that.

Of course, it took me a while to realize that I even needed SportWash.  A few years ago, I became aware of the fact that a couple of my favorite running shirts smelled a little, well, stale. Even straight from the laundry. Suddenly, I became nervous. If they stank before I put them on, what were they like after I exercised in them?

I became odor aware. I tried putting the shirts through the washing machine twice. I tried soaking them in a baking soda solution, with only mild success. I tried using an “odor-fighting” detergent with Febreeze, which just made them smell like stale sweat mixed with Febreeze.

Eventually, I threw the shirts away.

I simply couldn’t stand the smell of them anymore. I bought new shirts, but then found that I wasn’t wearing them  because I didn’t want them to smell bad. I started wearing shirts I didn’t like as much, but that still smelled ok: bad shirts that smelled good, if you will. But what I wanted was good shirts that didn’t smell bad – and bad shirts that smelled good, too. What to do?

And then, one day at Sports Authority, the clouds parted and a ray of light beamed down from the heavens, through the double wide glass doors, all the way down to register number eight, where I happened to be. That ray of heavenly light landed upon a detergent bottle, something called Win. I heard a voice from the heavens say “Buy this detergent, and you will never have to throw out a shirt again.” So I did. And it was good.

Shortly after, I discovered SportWash, which seems to be essentially the same stuff as Win, although I prefer the fragrance of SportWash. Since then, I’ve learned that there are several different brands out there, including one called Sport Suds which comes in a powder. But Nathan Penguin SportWash is still my favorite, hands down. Fortunately, it’s easy to find at many bike and running stores, and it’s always available through Amazon when buying locally is out of the question (Northwest Montana, I’m looking at you).

Apparently, the detergents are specially formulated to help improve the performance of wicking materials (regular detergents can clog up the fabrics and reduce the wicking potential). But I love them because they really do get rid of the stench. And as a result, they allow me to keep my favorite shirts in circulation. The good, the bad, and even the ugly.

So if you sweat a lot and your clothes smell a little funky, do everyone in your running/cycling group or spin/hot yoga class a favor and go get some kind of sport wash. Because it’s important to look good, but not if you have to smell bad.

Posted by: Sue D. Gelber | December 24, 2015

In Need of Christmas Eve Humor?

Growing up in the 70s, men dominated popular culture, but there were a few women whose names figured prominently. Gloria Steinem. Barbara Walters. Sally Hansen. Jean Nate. Ok, maybe I was a little unclear on exactly who these women were and what contributions they made to society, but at least I recognized the names. And one of the biggest names in suburbia was surely Erma Bombeck. Her book “The Grass is Always Greener over the Septic Tank” was a coffee table anchor at our house. I remember sitting on the “good” couch in our living room reading snippets of the book. Although I didn’t always understand the humor, I knew that her writing rang true. The grass actually was greener over the septic tank. Like the comic strip Family Circus, Erma took things from my mundane life and made them funny – or at least funny to the grown ups. But Erma existed far beyond our coffee table. Her column was in the newspaper ALL THE TIME and she was even on TV. Real TV! Granted, Jean Nate was on TV too, but those were commercials, not actual programs, so they didn’t count (and who was Jean, anyway?). Of course, I had no idea that Erma was pioneering new humor ground for women. I just knew that she wrote about things I could understand. Kids, dogs, and grocery stores. Church services, family dinners, and long car rides. It was like she was our neighbor, our funny neighbor whose picture was in the newspaper every week. She wasn’t as fashionable or exciting as Charlie’s Angels, but she was cool in her own way.

Which is a long way of saying that I was thrilled when the Erma Bombeck Writer’s Workshop decided to publish a holiday piece of mine: Christmas Eve in Boca Palms. And I’d like to think that if Erma were alive today, she’d shop online, too. So surf on over and have a read.

Merry Christmas to all, wherever you happen to be this year.

 

 

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