Here there be dragons...

"I'm telling you stories. Trust me." - Winterson

Horseback riding verses bicycle riding

So as anybody who's been reading this blog for any amount of time will know, horseback riding has been a big part of my life for a very long time.   However, almost TWO years ago (as of June -- can you believe it?  I'm fairly horrified myself), that became less of an option and I've been trying, and failing, to find something to fill the void.

With the latest attempt being cycling, I find myself drawing comparisons -- esp when I'm riding my bike on the same trails I used to ride my horse...

I'd pick the horse every time...
So let's see:

Bike wins:
  • The bike generally always goes exactly where I tell it at the pace in which I tell it to go.  This makes for an extremely predictable ride. 
  • Getting hit in the face by a tree branch hurts with either kind of riding, but I can duck a lot lower on the bike. Also, the bike has never intentionally attempted to close-line me.
  • I have yet to have a random stranger ask if they can pat my bike.
  • My bike has never decided it's afraid of other bikes, or run backwards into a ditch, or tried to attack a dog (see predictable ride above).
  • Before and after care of the bike is significantly easier than the horse.
  • If I fall off my bike, it stays within a foot or two of where I left it.  It is also a shorter drop to the ground.
  • It is significantly easier to navigate the end-of-trail barriers on a bike than a horse.
  • I do not need to worry about my bike's fitness.
  • I do not have to dismount to clean up after my bike.
  • No matter what mood I'm in when I get on the bike, it will respond in exactly the same way.
  • I can leave my bike for months, and when I get back on it will behave exactly as it would if I'd ridden it yesterday.
  • I am less concerned riding my bike on the road than riding my horse on the road.
  • The bike is significantly less bouncy than the horse.

  • Both require a degree of fitness that I do not currently possess.
  • Both can go lame mid-ride.
  • Small children on bikes are more erratic and out of control than small children on horses.   However, teenagers on horses are crazier than teenagers on bikes.   Having been a teenager on both horseback and bike, I can attest to this.
  • Wind, especially a cold wind, is evil no matter which form of riding.
  • Both have large communities of passionate enthusiasts.
  • Both can go fast enough I can't see.  Fast is fun :)

Horse wins:
  • The bike generally always goes exactly where I tell it at the pace in which I tell it to go.  This makes for an extremely boring ride.  
  • My horse has far more capability than my bike to handle things like curbs, ditches, fallen trees, water, mud...   The original ATV.
  • My horse is far more forgiving of balance shifts than my bike.
  • Horse saddles tend to be more padded than bike saddles.
  • On horseback I have very few concerns about passing other riders on horseback; on my bike I am definitely cautious about it.
  • I have had far more hardware failures on the bike than I have had in decades of horseback riding combined.  That being said, hardware failures on horseback tend to be more dramatic than on the bike.
  • A horrible horseback ride leads to a far more entertaining blog post than a horrible bike ride. 
  • After a good bike ride I feel tired and happy.   An average horseback ride will get the same results.   
  • Never has my bike made me feel the adrenaline of a cross country ride, the pride of a brilliant dressage test, the heartbreak of acknowledging the partner you love will never be capable of achieving your goals, the fear of a bad bout of colic or mystery lameness, the utter peace of grazing in the sunset, the child-like joy of riding bareback.   Never do I find myself at work daydreaming about riding my bike.  

And so while I enjoy riding my bike, and logic points out the bike win list is longer, horse people have never been accused of being logical ;) And that last point outweighs all the rest together. But this is the kind of thing that goes through my head while I'm peddling my way 50kms, especially when my bike is not concerned with something that would’ve been high drama on my horse ;)

1/2 way through my first 50km ride

My current view, turned around toward home...
I am writing this at the 25km mark of a 50km ride.   

Things I've learned:
- it's colder on a bike than sports I'm used to.  Almost every rid I've had, I've ended up freezing.
- I'd much rather be on a horse; although the bike is certainly easier in many ways ;)
- I'm significantly faster on the road than on the rail trail.  This is sad as I'm not terribly fast on the road.
- My shoulders still very sore but lasting much longer than they used to.
- There are only 2 weeks till my first 100km ride.  And my first ride with a large number of other people.  Slightly overwhelmed at the idea.
- Protein bars have a really gross texture to them.   Ugh.

Okay break taken, protein bar mostly eaten, water inhaled.  Time to head back!

Edited to add:  random other cyclists (autocorrect just updated that to characters ;) checked to see if I was okay while I was sitting on my break.  Certainly everyone I've met doing this has been incredibly supportive and friendly.

Edited again to add:  the second half of the ride was significantly easier than the first, presumably as it was mostly down hill ;).  After 50km though I am exhausted.  My legs are done and my seat...  My poor seat.  Ow.   200km in two days is going to be brutal!   If you're interested in supporting my endeavour to help conquer cancer in our life time, click here :). Huge thanks to all those who have already donated!!!

And the games continue...

So I went for another eye checkup this am.   I really should stop doing that ;-P

They told me my eye is looking significantly better!  Woohoo!!!

Contender for my next profile pic?
So pics on the left are last checkup, pics on the right is this one.  I honestly have no idea what the coloured ones are indicating.   But in the black and white -- notice how much smoother the shading in the right one is?  Apparently this is the goal ;)   When it comes to eye-pics, colouring in the lines is good.

I explained about the fairly funky intermittent vision I have and asked “is this normal”?   The doctor just laughed and said he thought at this point my eye would never be considered normal.  Sheesh.  Okay fine, but what I really should have asked was “is this something you’ve seen before and is there any chance my vision will improve?”  Right – I don’t actually know if they’ve seen it before, they definitely seemed bemused by my description.   Did say though that there’s still hope for improvement over the next few months.

Okay great, thanks.  I can go back to work.

Yeah, it’s never that easy.

So while the back of my eye is doing much better (see above beautiful picture) apparently the front is having some challenges.  The iris has fused to … something?   I didn’t catch what – my grasp of eye anatomy is way better than I ever wanted it to be, but still lacking some key details.   Anyways, this essentially is impacting the eye pressure which can cause other issues.   As he put it – “the eye plumbing is blocked”.


The result?  Laser surgery – today.  Oh goody.

So I fill out the consent form.  This always amuses me – they bring it to you in the waiting room and tell you to read it, then come to the front desk to sign.  Fair enough, signature needs to be witnessed, and they make a point of asking again at that time if you know and understand all the risks etc etc…   But I read really fast and usually end up back at the desk a few seconds after they do.   Now to be fair, most of their clientele move at a significantly slower pace than I do, and for many English isn’t a first language (common enough there’s a spot for the translator’s signature as well).   So that alone probably takes more time.   But I always get the oddest look when I get there.

Back to the waiting room for me.  Now I had laser surgery after the very first operation – and it hurt.  Everything I’d read and seen had said it wouldn’t, but it did and I was not thrilled about doing it again.  Especially as this doc had told me straight out it might hurt, but would be very short.   However, I’m even less thrilled about being blind so…    At least no anesthetic required – anesthetic does fairly awful things to me.

So my turn comes and the setup is very much like every other exam room.  He froze my eyeball (that had already been frozen once that day) and then went to stick something in my eye – it looked like a small but thick plastic ring.  My assumption is that it is to hold the eye open.  But as soon as it touched me I shot backwards.  Seriously dramatic reaction – I was slightly appalled.  But ow.   And said ring was covered in goop, so when I shot backwards this was now all over.  Ugh.  So cleaned up and he froze the eye again ;)   This time when he did it it felt slightly uncomfortable and there were moments I could see some fun flashing lights (fyi – if you ever see flashing lights, esp in a circle, and it’s NOT because a doctor is poking around at your eye, get it checked out by a specialist.  Even if it’s just a few seconds.  Trust me on this one.) but otherwise it was no big deal.  

Then you put your chin on the stabilizing bar and they shine a ridiculously bright light and everything looks and feels very much like a checkup except you know they’re going to laser you.  And he warns me that “It might hurt, don’t flinch away.”

I just about laughed – not sure how I’d control an involuntary reaction, but sure.

And then…

Wait.  What?   Was that it?   The tiniest little zap.  Complete with cool sound.  And I felt it in my jaw and my head, not my eye at all.   For the farm kids out there – you know the feeling when you touch the electric fence?   Like that, but 1/1000000 of the intensity ;)  Honestly just a slightly odd feeling, and so minor I almost didn’t know anything had happened.   So he zapped about half dozen times, sometimes with moderately long pauses between.    And then “that worked really well.”  Excellent.  Takes all the gear away and I wipe the goop off and I’m done.  New script for more drops and “come back in two weeks.”

Perfect – I’ll be back at work by lunch.

Except no.  Within a few minutes I had a blinding headache, and then nausea.  And then booked it to the washroom because of said nausea.  Lovely.   Had put it out of my mind that every time they use those freezing drops I feel ill afterwards – apparently I’m the only one (lucky me!) and they need to use them, so I just suck it up.  But evidently three times in an hour is a little more than my body was okay with *sigh*

So I got to hang out a while longer till my body decided to behave itself, and then it was suggested that maybe returning to the office wasn’t the best idea for the day and since thankfully my work is incredibly supportive, I took that advice and went home.   It’s been several hours now and I’m feeling significantly better – disproportionately tired for some reason and my head is still unimpressed, but otherwise all good.

And thus ends the latest chapter of “eye surgeries I used to be happily ignorant about”.  Sheesh.

A little bit of paradise

Had an amazing time in Grenada -- a tiny island at the south end of the Caribbean.   Temp was 30 degrees and sunny every day.  We had about 1h of rain one day (nap time!) and other than that it was perfection.  The beach was flagged green every day except the last and the resort was half empty, meaning we always got ideal beach seats :)
Notice how few people were on this gorgeous beach...
The country is very hilly with steep twisty roads.  Even our resort -- to get from the main area to our room involved going up a flight of stairs or two, down a hill, and up another hill.  And then up the three flights of stairs to our room ;).  It's the first beach vacation I've ever come back in better shape than I left.  And since it we had perfect weather, I actually kinda loved it.  Would not have enjoyed it in inclement weather though.
Loved the waterfall :).  And the swim was fun too!
We did a day trip that covered the whole island.  I learned really fast to take ALL the anti-nausea meds before getting in any vehicle!   Island trip started off with a waterfall, which I loved, and included stops at a nutmeg co-op (interesting, labor intensive, process.  Learned a lot though -- not hard given that I was starting with absolutely zero knowledge.).

I never knew mace grew on nutmeg...
We also hit up a chocolate shop (less interested in this process, but I loved the fact that when the coco tree is going to die, it sprouts new limbs/tree in its place), and a rum factory (this was interesting in that they were trying to be historically accurate in their processes -- but oh so labor intensive).  All of these had high potential for interest, but while all the presenters were knowledgeable, none were particularly good story tellers.   I had more fun wandering around the other areas than on the actual tours.
The rum factory is powered by a water wheel...
We stopped briefly at some crashed airplanes...

Interesting, but an unusual tourist attraction.

We went to see monkeys, but the monkeys didn't want to come see us.  Can't blame them really, but still sad :(.  The goats weren't too thrilled either.
Not as cool as a monkey, but still was highly amused by the expression ;)
And we went to Carib's leap -- where the last of the native people threw themselves off a cliff rather than submit to French rule.   The country has a fairly violent history for such a small island (~340 square kms, and 100,000 people).   Even in recent history -- the US put an end to a war in the 80s.   Anyways -- was a long day, but lots of pretty scenery.  I did feel it could've been a better tour though.

I loved the colours everywhere!
Another day we went to St Georges -- the closest city.  Played in the fort for a while -- I love that they've repurposed the few usable rooms; one is a gym for the police who's HQ is attached to the fort.  Was also highly amused by running around to create Chris' 360 image; it's on Facebook for the curious - sadly I don't seem to be able to steal it for here...
We went through the tiny tunnel -- very cool.
Then wandered around town for a while before catching the bus back to the resort and beaching all afternoon :)
Again, the colours!
One day we went on a catamaran snorkelling tour.
Just keep swimming...
This went to the underwater sculpture park, which was created to encourage coral to regrow after the hurricane Ivan destroyed significant amounts of the island.
I found this *really* creepy...
Trip also went to do some normal snorkelling too, and then a lovely sunset sail...

Not a bad place to spend an evening
Other than that, we mostly hung out on the beach.  Relaxing and lovely.   The resort itself was tired and mostly empty.  Apparently they're putting lots of money into renos, but there wasn't a ton of evidence of it.  Food was good, but very limited selection and times.  Most of our trips we booked through Dexter, random dude Chris met within about 30 seconds of being there.  Dexter had been recommended on trip advisor so figured we'd give it a go.  He was not welcome on the actual resort though, which I found fairly amusing.  Also had a massage on the beach one day from one of the local women and bought a few things from the tiny market at the end of the beach.  Pedlars here were way more respectful of "no thank you" than any other resort I've been at.

Loved watching the waves on the rocks the one day the ocean was awake.
The hotel was all of about a km from the airport.  Awesome for not having to leave early :). And no issue with plane noise -- at least in part because there are so few flights.  People coming to this resort appear on Monday and Thursday only.
Upstairs has the real pool and lunch area
Overall, wasn't my favourite trip in the world and I'm not in any hurry to go back, but I did really enjoy it.  I certainly would go again eventually -- but I think only when I want a vacation that is literally just beach -- maybe 20 or 30 years from now ;).  Cause there's really not much else to do.  And well, no food or drinks I enjoyed.  First beach vacation where I've ever lost weight!   But the people were lovely, and - at least at the moment - it's not nearly as touristy as many of the other islands are.  It's also not a third world country which is nice.  And English is the first language, which logically I should like, but I actually found took away from the fun of vacation.  I have a strong suspicion that's just me though ;)

And still more colour :)