MS150-CITRUS TOUR 2009 May 16, 17 2009

April 17, 2009-the madness returns... may 16 & 17, 2009.
Dear Robyn,

Thank you for registering for the 2009 bike MS Ride!

Our 10,000 clients and their loved ones are counting on you to ride, provide, create awareness, and inspire. The dollars you raise will help fund research, as well as programs and services, for people living with MS.

One of the most dramatic ways increase the effectiveness of your fundraising is to start or join a team for the bikeMS Ride. Training for the event and collecting donations is always easier (and more fun!) when you have team members to help.

Contact Ryan Bumgardner at today to change your registration to that of a team captain or team member - and together we can all ride closer to a cure for multiple sclerosis!

Unite in the fight against MS and pedal on with the knowledge that your efforts mean the world to those living with MS. Whether pedaling your bike, raising funds, or volunteering, the bikeMS Ride is truly...HUMAN POWERED!

April 23, 2009

am i training? am i training hard? AM I FALLING????

yes yes NO

sunday: 31 miles on the van fleet trail
monday: 29 miles out at the airport. no one i recognized showed for the group ride.
tonight: 29 miles out at the airport. on the 2nd loop, played 'catch the wheel' with a guy i thought was a member of my ride group, but turned out to be a triathlete in training. we took turns passing each other, then did the 3rd loop together, talking bikes, racing, trails, injuries and all the other sort of stuff that bores those not afflicted with the addiction.

got home after open mic [where i trolled for dollars. chaz asked: why do you ride? i answered. see MSblog]
found out i am perilously close to hitting my mark.
if i go over, i will set a new goal. what shall i do to torture myself if that is hit? ride a century? 100 miles, FYI.


you vote with dollars.

we raise $250, i dye my hair purple. permanent dye, will last 6 weeks, until it is time to start training for the MS150 cycle to the shore.

we raise, oh i dunno, significantly more, i ride a century.

i must be crazy.

photos from my mon/wed ride group.

April 23, 2009-More eloquent than i'll ever be

i ride a road bike, but at heart i'm cyclocross. i love rain, mud, getting dirty, falling down.
i do NOT like getting hurt, so i ride my slick little synapse six13 and ride safe.

so i read DirtRag. yeah, i read ROAD [heck i won a cannondale Quick in an essay contest they ran] and Bicycling, FatCyclist, Team Armada, the Chain Gang, Jackie's Racing Blog, too, but i drool over DirtRag.

then i read the "Last Chance for Gas" in issue 140 of DirtRag

"Wheelchair vs Singletrack mind-Chair Loses!" by Jody Beard who has MS, but rides in the MS150 where she lives.

That's why.

if there was link, i'd post if. if you'd like a copy, email me your address and i'll send out a photocopy, snail mail.

April 25, 2009

hello everyone

this week: biked sunday monday wed, friday: friday's ride, 29 miles up and down and up and down the hills of clermont. spared myself sugarloaf but did the smaller hills around it. will force myself to do sugarloaf during the week. remind myself that as painful as it is climbing the beast at 8 mph, the thrill of going down at 35-39 mph justifies it-especially if i don't wipe out!

i've attached the article i mentioned a few days ago, scanned it in.

who says i don't order people around? kinder gentler robyn is just a vicious rumor.
i am, to quote the urban assault boys, A BEAST. an old grizzled beast, but still a beast.

now then. i've had one or two friends ask what they have to do to donate. these are the steps:

click on the link below,

my participant center will open. on the right hand side is a thermometer with a grey banner at the top.
click on the "Donate to Robyn" at the top of that box.
on the donation page, enter the amount you'd like to donate.
if you work for a company that matches [do they still exist?] enter the name in the employer box.
finish the credit card/bank account info.


only another $56 to purple hair...


By Jody Beard

Illustration by Scott Hendenson

Wheelchair vs. Singletrack Mind -"Chair loses!"

Post-race blues. Just not feeling right. Coming down from the emotional/adrenaline high of Sunday. The whole experience blissful and cathartic to say the least.

So I'm going through the motions. Doing the deal at work. Dialing numbers and asking for money. I'm talking at this lady named Brenda. I barf the script on her and ask if she would like to match her last gift of $5. She says this: "I have MS and I'm having vertigo right now and my right arm is numb, but as soon as I'm feeling better I will send that in. In an instant I saw my future. My first impulse was to say, "Yeah, me too," but I couldn't make myself say it. There is part of me that is instantly repulsed when I hear people say they have it. Most days I can carry on and not focus on it too much. The way it affects me isn't so visible to the untrained eye. But today, if you looked close you could see that I choked back the tears for the rest of the shift, not able to shake the image that Brenda's words evoked in my mind.

This is exactly why my bike is so important to me. I was so depressed when I got home from work that I couldn't t see anything good in the future. Nursing homes. Alone. Seriously, who would consider a relationship with someone who has this time bomb ticking inside of them? More like land mines releasing at random, wherever they choose, affecting whatever they want. I try to take the best possible care of myself. I have no vices anymore. So this is where the bike comes into play...

I know as soon as this ride is done and I've left these lies or, the trail, life will be good again. I clip into those pedals and after a few miles I'm no longer diseased of mind and body, I drop that wheelchair after the first mile, covered in dust fc can't keep up with me. The fingers of fear lose their hold as the wind rips it from my back. The sun burns it up and my sweat repels it. The whistling from cutting through the air mutes Brenda's voice and all I can hear is my tread on the trail With each turn of the crank it gets weaker as I get stronger. I'm pulling away from it now. Beating it to the finish. I air strong; I am able, and maybe even beautiful.

There are people who love me, who at times have tried to sway me on the biking thing. Afraid I'll get hurt or, I'm sick so I shouldn't. To them I say this: Take away my bike and you take away my life. It is my friend, my doctor, my therapist and my professor. It is my act of worship. It is what keeps me here. CD

April 27, 2009

my co-author, gene, says people need to have their masochistic needs met, that they can do this by being involved in BDSM, otherwise indulging in submissive behavior or by getting stuck in self-destructive life cycles.

anyone who has stayed in a bad marriage for too long because they didn't see a reason to leave understands this. the battering, psychological or physical, fulfils certain needs, if only that it's such a relief when it stops.

"doctor, my head hurts when i bang it against the wall."
"so stop already."
"oh doctor, you're a genius."

where, pray tell, am i going with this?

still dealing with fallout from my own escape [see early entries to my blog if you're interested in the screwed up state of my former life] i have to satisfy my masochistic needs in other ways.

and i do it for a cause, i force myself to suffer because i raise money for MS.

how much suffering? well, if training 8-10 hours a week and clocking 150 or more miles the weekend of the MS150 isn't enough, i am opening myself to public amusement.

i raise enough money, i'll dye my hair purple.

wanna help?

go to the site, click on the banner at the top of the thermometer. i WILL post a photo here if i end up with purple hair.

and read the posts there, why i do it. i'm 2 degrees of separation from 3 persons with MS. scares the life out of me. doesn't follow any patterns, no genetic markers, it strikes.

oh great, there go the waterworks.

May 1, 2009

wed night rode ONLY 26 miles. go to the ride late, sending emergency faxes, and then THE WIND!

so once it got dark, i said, enough, i'll make it up tomorrow.

which i did. 50 miles on thurs, mostly flat terrain, minimal wind. it was like riding on a stationary bike, that easy and smooth. got to test out my new cycling shorts, too, see if they'll be comfortable for the Ride. i am overrun with cycling clothes at the moment, as the recipient of a full cannondale kit. no sign of the Quick yet, but i've been told by a few bike shops that it's been on back order.
[stares out window] could be me in jody's article. could be you.
forget about 'use it or lose it' let's move it while we can, grateful that we can.

and yes i hit my goal. i'll post a photo this weekend, the last you'll see of me [for a while anyway] with auburn hair.
stay tuned next week at the same time, same MS station for PURPLE HAIR, THE RIDE OF A LIFETIME.
you can still help a wonderful cause that is closer than you think. ask around. i can guarantee less than 6 degrees of separation

May 11, 2009

sunday: how do i celebrate mother's day? a 35 mile ride in the cool of the evening. sounds lovely, right?
going to take the cady way trail to the seminole trail, maybe even fo up past the notorious tunnel underpass that's on the other side of the street from the rest of the trail... yes it's city riding, which means LOTS of intersections, but it's a TRAIL, there are SIGNAL LIGHTS which should equal vehicular safety.
never underestimate the stupidity or arrogance of an orange county, florida driver. NEVER.
stop at an intersection. unclip to reset my shoes. biking partner presses the button to cross the street.
light turns GREEN for us and all the other cyclists and pedestrians and RED for the cars. this is a four lane street with a island between the north and south bound lanes. they go, i'm still messing with my shoes. the little flashing guy starts to countdown, 30, 29, 28, 27, 26, they're at the island, i start to roll,
ZOOM! a minivan barrels through the red light, passing the cars in the adjacent lane who were stopped, missing the front wheel of biking partner who swerved. i had visions of blood, guts, broken bones, smashed bike frame.
minivan keeps right on going, despite curses, honking of other cars, screams of bystanders et al, and stops at the next intersection
i wish i'd ridden up to the van to snap a picture of it's plate, but i was trying not to vomit.
we were obeying all the laws, and my friend could have been killed.
if the family with the stroller had been going east instead of west, they could have been killed too.
you know what's the worst about this? it's not atypical of the local drivers.

monday: blazing hot today, was 91 degrees at 5:30. going out to the airport anyway, i want to do 30 miles after being inside on the computer all day.
i see lightning. and rain. lots of lightning and rain. i'm driving right into it.
i'll ride in rain, i've ridden in downpours, but riding in lightning is just plain dumb.
rain eases off, but it's still overcast. i meet my group, big debate, ride, don't ride. i want to rack more miles, hey guys, i'm going to do a loop, see how it is, if it stays clear or not. one of the guys drives up, says there is hail down at the turnaround, watch the sky AND the road. i'm doing 14, 15, killer headwind. it dies down and suddenly i am SAILING along at 23, 24, 25 mph, just flying, it's a rush, it's smooth, i'm in the zone, up down up down,reach the turnaround, no hil, but DAMN! that wind is head on and there's a rise, back down to 12, come on, get past the intersection, then i can push it back to 17, okay, 18, 19, oh wow, this feels so good, still into the wind, but i am moving, it's why i do this, the power, i can make my body do anything. splat splat splat splat.
what's that noise? what's that clicking feeling in my front? please don't tell me i've got a flat. i've had one flat in all the mileage i'v racked the last 4 years [about 4800 or so FYI ]
I have a flat. and it's raining again. i ride another mile, decide i'll walk the bike the last 2-3 miles back to my car, i don't want to damage the tire and i don't want to change a flat in the rain on the side of the road. i can do it in the comfort of my living room, in dry clothes. riding buddy comes up [only other person in the group who decided to ride, but he's one of my urban assault buddies, long as there's no protruding bones it's all good]
'c'mon rob, you can change that!' 'yeah i could, but i don't feel like doing it in the rain.' 'ill do it, i'm faster than you. [he already has my wheel off the bike and is strippng the tire] you got an extrainner tube in that kit?'
'here. okay you don't need the levers. and here's a CO2 cartridge and the adapter. thank you.' 'oh man. your tube? that's the wrong size. [my bike falls over, the contents of my kit all out-all my painkillers etc] that's gotta be for your mountain bike. wait you have a patch kit? cool.' he checks the inside of the tire wth his fingers, spinning it, looking for fragments of anything. does the same to the inner tube, then holds it to his ear, listening for the whistle of escaping air. debrades the spot where a sliver of metal? caused a leak, stick the patch on, replaces in the tire, inflates with cartridge. 'you should be okay for a few days, but i dunno about this weekend. and your front tire is starting to wear. get that checked. pick up some innner tubes the right size.' 'yes sir. thank you.' 'eh, no computer cables were needed to effect this repair. no biggie.'
got back to my car but it kinda killed my enthusiams for the night. picked up ice cream at baskin robbins
[88 cents for kiddie scoops instead of $1.99] and pigged out with the girls. cake too.

client comes to pick up her files this morning. her brother-in-law is doing a charity ride, nyc to washington DC this weekend. we chat cycling, why is my hair lavender, what charity? i tell her MS, pass her the brochure, that it's my 2nd long ride. her cousin was just diagnosed, mid 30's, 3 kids, 8, 6 and a year. how is she going to hold her baby when the muscle tremors start? what condition will she be in when her oldest graduates high school? her youngest? will the meds help her enough? does she have the slow moving or fast moving MS?

and i get back on the bike while i can.


i'll dmit it. i try to be blithe. i am dead serious about this. wanna be scared? read the prognosis reports.

May 16, 2009


up and down and up and dpwn and upand down...

repeat for 100 miles, give or take a few...

ROLLOUT: 7:15 am, i leave after the large teams leave.

go 2 miles.

split for the 50 mile option. i go right, to the 75/100 mile option
not many people taking the 75/100 route. do they know something i don't know?
yes, i drove it yesterday. i KNOW it has almost as many hills as clermont and the roads are rough, full of potholes but still...
i go another mile. coasting downhill, sharp right turn at the bottom of the hill AND THERE'S A SPEEDBUMP AT THE TURN
i coast around it, go another half mile.
splat splat splat splat
i had my tire checked, the inner tube replaces and aired. it CAN'T be flat again.
splat splat splat splat
i pull over, unclip. my front tire is FINE. my rear tire, gear cartridge and all is flat as a pancake.
great. 3-1/2 miles and i have a flat. this does not bode well.
remove wheel, start to lever off the tire. guy pulls over, you need got an inner tube? you need a pump?
yes, thank you [i have a CO2 cartridge but real air lasts]
my inner tube is folded on itself, no idea how that is possible.
changed, back on the road. get to the 13 mile point, the split for the 75 and 100 mile routes
new friend: hey you wanna do the century option, i've never done one?
me: me neither. let's do it.
so we do. and then we rejoin the 75 and 50 mile riders and hit the hill.
up and down and up and down and up and down.
and we did it. despite the flat, despite the horrendous wind, despite the hills, despite the 4 car accident on 535.
despite the intense sun from noon until i finished at 2:40 [i am SO burnt]
elles met me at the finish with a beautiful sign: my mommy is the one with the purple hair [will post later]
em looked bored.
lizz came to the dinner with me. at the ceremony: so that's why you do this mommy?
yeah sweetie. i started out wanting to prove something about me, that i could do this. and now? it morphed. now its become a personal vendetta. a mission. you know, you don't have to ride to volunteer lizz.

i'm off to apply lotion and sleep.
i get to do it again tomorrow.

i'm so lucky.

May 17, 2009

dear readers,

i'm recovered. i think. sitting here, stomach not spasming, no more muscle tremors, rib belt warpped around my midriff, no more symptoms of dehydration or erratic blood pressure, yeah, recovered.

it's time, overtime, to relate the tales of the second day of the Citrus MS150.

i woke up, early sunday morning, off to the caribe royale. there's a part of me that regrets not springing for the $150 [special rate plus obscene hotel taxes which i should be grateful tourists pay to support out local economy] for the room as the hotel has top notch amenities, including a meandering pool with a waterfall. elles would have loved it and it would have saved me a whole 10 minute drive! huh. no, no justification possible.

breakfast in the banquet room is surprising. there are packaged muffins, bagels, crackers [???] coffee, tea. no juice, here in orange county, where i pick bushels of oranges almost any day of the week just by stopping on the west orange trail or down along 27?
we go out back, form groups. there are three trucks on the right hand side with air pumps. long lines of riders, waiting to air up. i move over to the middle, getting that tingle as i await rollout. the whistle blows, click click, the distinctive sound of cyclists snapping into their pedals, i breathe a little deeper, one foot in, other pushing off, and i'm out, onto the street, making a left onto 535 south, traffic stopped at 536. the tourists must be wondering at this odd procession that seems to go on forever. is this a typical sunday in orlando? a sunrise parade for their benefit, not dissimilar to the parasol drill at disney's grand floridian or the tape cutting ceremony at the magic kingdom? one of the sheriffs announces, this is the Citrus MS150, folk. local fundraiser for multiple sclerosis. few more minutes. just be patient and we'll all be moving again.
exactly. we'll all be moving.
i'm in a group of riders doing 16 mph. but it's flat here, windless, and i'm charged so i start moving up. going over to the left, we have the whole right lane so there is lots of room to pass a double paceline here. i move up to a heart of florida group, an aetna group, a price waterhouse group, moving up steadily for the first 5 miles or so until i settle in with forever florida group [i like their jerseys. they have cypress cove as one of their sponsors. most of the riders have no clue what cypress cove is. cypress cove serves the best tuna salad in the orlando area!] which is moving along at 18-22 mph, sometimes clocking up to 24. even, steady. i skip the first rest stop, i've only gone 10 miles, don't want to break my rythm. the second stop is at 22 miles out, that'll work.
i pull over into the 2nd stop, stretch my legs. my thighs are tight from yesterday's century. i've ridden almost that far before, but never that far with hills and wind. my hydration pack is filled with electrolyte fluids, much more dilute than the specs on the package, as i can't stand flavored drinks. this will cut down on the taste and the 'fuzziness' in my mouth from the sorbitol.
i pull out my phone and realize i've gone 22 miles in 1 hour and 3 minutes. that's fast. i've stopped for lights, crossed railroad tracks, changed lanes, and still covered 22 miles?
pride goes before a fall.
i reclip and ride off into the bright sun. it's only 8:30 but the day promises to be another scorcher. the route has no tree shaded paths or cool ocean breezes, just gravel, heat shimmer and hills. i continue sipping from my pack, have to keep myself hydrated, prevent muscle cramps, blood sugar/pressure fluctuations, but the taste is getting stronger, stimulating my gag reflex.
as i pass the next stop, the 33 mile point, where the lunch stop was yesterday, it occurs to me i might be in trouble. the first few hills, i'd gone up at 14, 16 mph, flying past other riders. i have a personal vendetta against hills, bridges. if i can't beat them flat with a marble rolling pin, i'll beat them into submission on my bike. i STILL may not have style, grace, speed, but i DO still have stubborn. but now, the hills were getting higher. i was losing fluids faster than i could replace them.
i reached the top of the hill at the 40 mile point and pulled over to drink. took a swallow of liquid and threw it up. tried the cappuchino blend in my water bottle, a really yummy fluid that is oh-so-good-for-you. that ends up on the ground too.
great. i'm displaying classic signs of sun prostration. dry skin, inability to ingest fluids, dry eye, nausea, dizziness.
i look out from the summit, bok tower in the distance, floating on moat of clouds.
i know that at the base of this hill is the turnoff point, where i can take the 50 mile route or the 75 mile route. if i take the 50 mile route, i'll be at bok tower in 40 minutes or so. if i take the 75, i'll be out here for another 2-1/2 hours.
i look down. riders have been passing me, calling out, are you okay, do you help, do you need the SAG [support and gear-they have fixit stuff or can transport you if you're sick or crash] vehicle? i've waived them on, leaning on a signpost, fighting the nausea.
almost every rider is taking the 50. which means that the 75 will be a very lonely course IF anything happens.
40 minutes versus 2-1/2 hours. i don't think i can last 2-1/2 hours, without a group for moral support, without even a ride companion, fighting panic. [it's amazing how having someone to ride with helps. just having someone to talk to now and then, knowing you're not the only one in the world out there in the wasteland] hills. heat. no fluids. rough road, potholes, sand.
i close my eyes. i can be stubborn or i can be smart.
for once in my life, i opt for smart.
i mount my bike and turn left, for the 50.
i want to live to ride another day, another ride, another MS150. [oct 3,4, LPGA MS150,]
i pull into bok tower, get my medallion, a bottle of water and roll over to the grass. i drink 3 bottles of water and 4 glasses of dilute gatorade. in the restroom, i pull off my jersey and look in the mirror. my skin is white with salt. i wash it off, pour cups of water over my head. i am so parched. i sit on the grass, near the coolers, drinking gatorade.
is it 12? 1? i have no idea what time it is, the last 10 miles were so painful, battling nausea, climbing hills with my bike geared down to a walk, actually walking up the last one.
it's 10:30.
it's 10:30??? i'm at bok tower and it was only 10:30? WHAT? i was that sick, in that much pain and i STILL managed to do the last 17 miles in an hour and a quarter??? i did the 50 miles in just under 3 hours? but but but
maybe i could have done the 75... no. not going to overthink this. i'm going home to sleep, which i did for the rest of the day.

From: robyn []
Sent: Wednesday, May 20, 2009 10:34 AM
Subject: Citrus MS150

to the management,

i used to be a seasonal resident at sunnyrest lodge, in pennsylvania.
i just rode in the Citrus MS150, and it gave me a thrill to see your name as one of the sponsors of team florida forever.

you guys are terrific.

robyn weinbaum

From: Ted Hadley (
Sent: Thu 5/21/09 1:41 PM

Thank you. We are happy to be sponsors.

Best regards,

Ted Hadley
Cypress Cove Resort

Florida's Most Beautiful Clothes Free Resort

MS150- LPGA Cycle to the Shore Sept 20, 21 2008

July 23, 2008- before i registered but after already deciding i HAD to do this...

i am corrupt
that's it. the guys said i am corrupt, bitten, ruined, turned into a monster.

joined a group ride about 2 weeks ago (never did a group ride before). did 27 miles (never rode 27 miles before-most was 16 or 17). showed up for the next 2 rides despite the pouring rain, "why are you cancelling guys, its just rain?" loaned one of the guys a towel to wrap his bike ("it's just a towel. THAT'S a bike. yes that's bike grease from jeff's cannondale. uh yeah. it's a new towel. so? what's more important- a towel or [the safety and comfort of] THE BIKE???") did 19 miles last night, including 2 garage runs (why are we stopping guys, i'm just getting warmed up) after doing 8 miles yesterday morning [took today off, too many appts. will compensate tomorrow.)

"Robyn, you've never done this before but you've come to every ride since then. you keep up, you go FAST, you take curbs and stairs, you don't care if you get hurt, and you come back for more. you're hooked"

now all i need are some photos to post here...

Sept 4, 2008
Dear Family and Friends,

I recently accepted the challenge to raise funds to support National MS Society. Please help support me in this important project by contributing generously. For information about this volunteer fundraiser and its programs, you can visit .

It is faster and easier than ever to support this great cause by making your tax-deductible donation online using the link below. If you would prefer, you can send your contribution to the address listed below.

Whatever you can give will help - it all adds up! I greatly appreciate your support and will keep you posted on my progress.

robyn weinbaum

that'll teach me not to save every 10 seconds!
so, let's start over and i'm going to make it shorter, so as not to bore you.

i ride. i've been riding for a few years now. i heard about this charity when i covered the florida state national championship road races in june. and i wanted to do it.

the timing was perfect. the ride is just after the high holy days, when we all give tzedakah, when we think about what w've done, what our failings are and what we could do better next year.

well, next year is now. i started training about 2 months ago, have tripled my miles per week, ridden more difficult courses than i knew existed (THERE ARE HILLS IN FLORIDA?????) (on a bike, ALL roads are uphill) longer rides than i thought i'd ever achieve or have interest in. and when it got boring or hard or i fell(do you have any idea how many black and blue marks, cuts, bruises, scrapes i've gotten in the last 2 months? trust me, you do NOT want to know. although i'll show them to you! maybe even post them!) i reminded myself that there is a greater goal than me staying upright, i have a REASON for this madness.

this is the reason.

right here.

maybe i don't know anyone with MS. maybe it's not personal.
maybe i do. maybe it is.

but it could be. if not today, then next week. or the week after. or the week after that.

maybe you don't know anyone either. tonight. but you might.
tomorrow. the next day.

friend. neighbor. relative. lover. self.

look in the mirror. take a good look.

anyone, anytime, anywhere.

Sept 5, 2008
so now you know the real reason i've turned into a bike maniac. i've been hard training for this for two months now,
have gone from 30-40 miles a week at 10 mph to 120+ miles a week, average ride length (LOTS of hills) of 30 miles, doing that 3-4 times a week,
have done 48 miles in about 3 hours, 36 miles INCLUDING sugarloaf.
average speed of 15-16 mph, so should be able to do this, even if i have to crawl.
will be updating the profile on the MS site later tonight, but leaving on a training ride in an hour!
wish me luck, please make a pledge and i thank you for your support!

Sept 5, 2008
Just registered for MS150 Charity Ride. is anyone else here participating in this?
i've never done this before, it was my actual reason for joining, to learn to group ride, deal with hazards, increase my strength and endurance.
knew i couldn't do this on my own, that i would need support, skill and to interact with those more advanced (generally MUCH more advanced)
than myself. still a novice, but i am a stubborn novice.
i imagine when you see me tues sept 23 i will be covered with new bruises.

Sept 8, 2008

i continue to train, despite bruises, scrapes and black and blue marks all over my lower half.
noticed on wed am that i had marks all over my bottom, from the spill i took sunday. ankle swelled up rather nicely, too. thurs, got bumped into or perhaps i bumped into the tree i passed, skidded down the sidewalk [would have been in the street, but it was too broken up with construction] BEAUTIFUL SCRAPE the full length of my left shin, 8", should leave a nice scar. the pavement is NOT my friend. it does NOT love me,it wants to hurt me. or maybe it DOES love me and wants to hurt me.
these are thoughts i will explore elsewhere.
so yesterday, sunday, i skipped the morning ride, was too wiped out from the meds i took saturday [actually went to the doctor: healing as it should, robyn, it's just a nasty ugly bruise. perhaps you'd like to take up a new hobby,one you'd be less injury prone at? no? well, good luck then. and i'm sure i'll see you again soon.]so TLB and i rode out in the heat of the afternoon [we must be crazy. great movie that, the gods must be crazy. i'm a god when i write. separate post on my blog, my thoughts on the creative process], went down to boggy creek airboats, not what i planned, but it's where we ended up, did 36? 37? 38? miles, have to recalibrate my odometer, have some nice new suntan lines on my shoulders.
the whole time thinking to myself, this is why i ride in the early morning or at night, to AVOID the sun. and the high heat.
MS150 takes off about 7 am each day, should have a goodly amount of the distance covered by noon, chanting my personal mantra the whole way. no, not ohm mane padme ohm and not the shema either. not even the first ten lines of the aeneid-in latin. my ride mantra is: stubborn stubborn stubborn. you CAN do this, you WILL do this, up down up down, there is a reason you are doing this, you are NOT going to let the road win, stubborn stubborn stubborn. lather rinse repeat.
TLB, if you'd be so kind, please have a straight jacket with my name on it for me to wear upon my return to st augustine, 5 pm on the 21st. please.
every one else out there: DONATE

Sept 15, 2008
deadline is approaching readers!
i ride out saturday morning, 6 am. please help me make my goal.
click on the link below, make a donation (any amount) linked to my name. click on donate/epledge,
search for rider (robyn weinbaum) and voila! there you go!

sunday's ride
rode with a different group. much easier pace, no curbs, no stairwells, no in-and-out of buildings. kept to officially designated bike trails (west orange trail) but took it AWAY from sugarloaf where there was a massive assault of bike riders. apparently a few of the groups who regularly ride up that way avoided sugarloaf because of that.
felt odd to be so close and NOT be struggling with the mountain. then again, i had the pedals to deal with, my first real ride. they take getting used to but i can see that they conserve energy.
we did a total of 37 miles, then i did an additional 10. so a total of 47, legs not tired, wrist was okay too.
i have acquired a biker's tan: my arms are dark from shoulder to wrist,my hands almost white from the gloves, my upper thighs dark, lower legs medium, stops at my socks, back has odd lines from my various bike tops.
and guess what?
the gash on my shin (couldn't upload the photo, sorry) is healing nicely. well, let's see what happens this week.
i need to be in tip-top shape for saturday am.

Sept 15, 2008
so i have to be there by 6 am to sign in, get my tags, arrange to have my overnight bag shipped to my hotel (along with my extra eyeglasses, i'll be wearing my sunglasses) (no i do NOT need a full medical kit, they have EMS squads every 10-15 miles along the route. and one EMT has been personally assigned to moi)
and then i get to ride 75 miles to daytona (it's actually a little bit more than that, but when you're looking at such big numbers,
we stop counting. you know, one, two, three, more than 75....) eat, sleep, tend my wounds (my wrist hurts already)

and do it all over again the next day.

Sept 18, 2008
got to the ride site early, did about 5 miles just cruising around lake eola (no bikes allowed, rode outside the park.
note to self: swan boats ARE a form of transportation. resolved: to ride in a swan boat)
we were a large group, way over 20, lots of new people. how can we tell they are new?
well first off, never saw them before. 2nd, no helmets, no gloves, no lights.
i may have ridden a junker, and been happy to do so, but i ALWAYS wore a helmet.
keeps my nose from getting broken. protects my eyeglasses too.
to we did 11 miles, nice and easy, the newbies dropped out, they'll join us again thurs or next week.
and then we took off, did another hour, perhaps another 12 miles.
i skidded out on some loose sand, bruised my left side, tore my jersey, dislocated my right thumb.
starting to wonder if this carelessness on my part meets some psychological need for praise
or if it truly a physical thing, result of my VERY poor night vision, loss of depth perception,
still getting used to the clipless pedals etc etc.
probe all of this AFTER the weekend.

because i am riding. 84 miles each way (official route, NOT 75, but when it is that long who counts anymore?)
(unless you're doing the century option, adding 16 miles at the end to get the 100 mile patch.
and NO i am NOT going to do that. i will be VERY HAPPY to finish both days) (crazy but not totally nuts)

i'd like to thank all of you for your support and generosity. this is a wonderful cause.
research, individual support, helplines, psychological, emotional, legal support-YOU ARE THE ONES WHO MAKE IT POSSIBLE.


every single one of you.

thank you.



my first post, i said "maybe i don't know anyone with MS. maybe it's not personal. maybe i do. maybe it is."
well, it turns out i know more than one. more than two. i am hoping not more than three.
those senior moments we all get? maybe they're not just senior moments...
pray that they are.

thank you for helping

robyn weinbaum

Sept 18, 2008

I was on my way out to have lunch with elles. hit the 'save' button (or so i thought), apparently hit the 'send' button instead.
thought the whole post had gone 'POOF!'
instead it went out without the photos i had planned on attaching.

look at that lump! if i wasn't so toned from all the biking there is NO WAY i'd be able to get into my shorts!
look at the collar of my jersey! how did i manage to rip that?
thumb has almost returned to normal (normal? what's that?)
going to curl up for an hour or 3 with a book of bukowski's poetry.
charles bukowski has received any number of awards, commendations, been told he is a genius, oft-quoted etc etc
"oh robyn you HAVE to read his work, you will love him" well... i've read 8 pieces so far.

it does not strike me as poetry for the ages. it is very much of its time and place.
which is fine. i think 90% of my work is of its time and place, not for posterity IF it manages to escape the trash can or shredder.
i have a heavy duty shredder and i'm not afraid to use it. which i do.
only a small portion of good writing is writing. the rest is reading, refining, editing. lather rinse repeat as often as needed.
which is generally 2-3 more times than you think. stop too soon you do an injustice to the reader, to yourself AND to the piece.

get that marker. get that red pen. ATTACK!

i'm going to curl up and rest for tonight's 25 mile ride.

i am so hyped about this weekend.



many hugs and thanks,

robyn weinbaum

Sept 19, 2008

This time tomorrow...
24 hours from now i will be dead
48 hours from now i will rise to the heavens in a poof of smoke.
a few months from now i will do it all over again.
the MS150 (LIARS!!!it's 172 miles, NOT 150) charity bike ride to raise money for multiple sclerosis.
will report back next week. after i'm scraped up from the asphalt.

teshuvah, tefila, tzeducah.

(see! i told you i was a jewish mother! GUILT! GUILT!)

Sept 20, 2008

Day 1
i'm not dead. not quite anyway. pulled out of st augustine airport about 7:15. taking an easy pace, not pushing myself, not suffering, stopping at the various checkpoints to see what was there, who was there, taking photos (which i will upload at a later time) hit the midpoint about 10:15, earlier than i thought. "midpoint" was 44 miles.

keep telling you, IT'S NOT 150 MILES, IT'S MORE. but once you're at that level, what's a few more miles?
actually paused for a second at the 'century' turnoff, had a brief hallucination of myself, on the ground, stars on eyes, stake through chest with dirt being tossed on my face. shook my head to clear it, continued on the plebian pathway

saw tandem recumbent, a family on a pair of tandems, an old 1970's style recumbent, junker bikes, top of the line megabuck bikes, many teams, some of whom found their noses slightly out of joint when a certain not-so-young punk passed them.
i should have been much more tired than i was.
i can say that now, i've showered and rested. going to take the shuttle bus to dinner at a certain point, take more photos.
oh yeah, skipped the pool party, started raining about 10 miles from the finish point, so... maybe 12:15 or so, when i got over the SECOND drawbridge. yes two drawbridges. some of you may know about my inclination to anxiety attacks when crossing bridges or elevated roadways. don't mention it that often any more, had behavioral therapy for it years ago in order to be able to get my driver's license. in fact, i hardly ever think about it any more. well, the first drawbridge. as i pedaled over it, i looked down through the grating, saw the choppy water and panicked. deep panting breaths, cold sweat, muscle tremors. yes i realize those can all be attributed to extreme exertion but soon as i got back on land i was fine. the 2nd drawbridge, longer, because of the rain, we had to walk across. five bikers had skidded out before i got there. so dismount and walk. on a narrow pathway. with grating to my left and a low railing to my right, whitecaps underneath. you know part of my mantra, "up down, up down, one foot after the other, that's it. you can do this, half way there, 3/4 way there, you are over you are done you are fine" well it's playing in my head nonstop, just the way adam taught me years ago. got over, rode around on the grass to relieve the tension.

oh great. i get to do it all over again tomorrow.

well, at least my life insurance is paid up. girls, remember me fondly. make a chocolate cake in my honor.


ps: reached the finish point about 1:15, an hour earlier than i estimated at my BEST time.

Sept 21, 2008

it's late. no i didn't just finish. i finished hours ago.

and now comes the let down-the what's next? how will i top this?

i already registered for next year.

Sept 21, 2008

2 days

176 miles

5 hours biking each day

1 VERY sore crotch (pass the orajel, burt's bees etc etc)

over $1000 raised (personally)

megabucks raised collectively

over 2500 cyclists

countless volunteeers, MS staff, contributors, SAG riders, support groups and heroes, sung and unsung

we can walk, write, move, bike. be grateful. every day.

special thanks to bike fitters of ponte vedra for their support and assistance
couldn't have done it without you, golden!

Sept 22, 2008

It’s a let down. After all the anticipation, the training, to have it stop, be over, is a let down. The amazing high of knowing i was going to finish knowing i was this close to the end and then passing that line, how could i not feel deflated after? What is going to give me a thrill like this again? A sense of accomplishment, achievement? What?

After a desultory dinner of spaghetti and marina sauce topped with tasteless shaved cheese (not grated, shaved. Reminds me of my shin with the thin layer of flesh shaved off) tossed salad and coffee and cake (no tea. Only oddballs drink tea. I can make tea in my room later) the North Florida Chapter of the National MS Society makes a few announcements, not wanting to step on any toes, and then they list the various reasons people take part in this charity fundraising event: family member or friend afflicted with MS, near one who has died, actually diagnosed, believer in the cause or a personal statement of strength and challenge. We are asked to rise as our reason is announced, snap the glow stick left on the table and raise. The dark room is awash in blue light. The lights remind me of small limbs, small arm or leg bones, swaying gently in the dark room, much as a person with MS will lose control of his/her limbs and wobble, perhaps fall, the individual lights are lowered, laid down on the table of hung around necks.

The room is still full. Dinner is over, announcements made and honorifics given out, cyclists and their families wander the room, reliving the days events, their training regimes and what they;ll do differently the next day, if they are planning to ride. There is a one day option for the MS150, which about a third of the riders elect to do, not wanting or able to give up a whole weekend with their loved ones.

The riders are a diverse group, from 22 states and 3 foreign countries. Perhaps 3/4 of the riders are male, which surprises me. Recreational cycling is a male sport, whether it is because of the time or money involved or because women can’t find mentors to help them, give them tips to be comfortable and train, I don’t know. I do it and I feel it and I have no one to discuss this with, no woman who has cycled longer or harder than I have to tell me what will help. I look around, recognizing some of the faces from the day. The family at the next table didn’t meet at the hotel; they rode down on two tandem bikes, mom, dad and the 2 kids. Over there? A group of recumbents, a university team, a business team, a family reunion. It is a patchwork, more colorful than the room holding our bikes for the night.

Talking to various groups, finding other ‘virgins’ we discuss our preparation. I seem to have the unique honor of having the shortest, most intense, highest number of cuts-n-bruises of any other newbie I meet. The consensus is 6 to 8 months of increasing time on road racers, going from 30 miles per ride (mpr) to 70 mpr over a few months. My two months of 10 mpr to 45 mpr provokes horror, although my fellow cyclists seem to find my scrapes (shin, shoulder) and contussions (left thigh) rather appealing.

No interest in the bar, head bach to my hotel to sleep. Breakfast is 6 am, 7 am take off again. Wait a sec. I just did 90 miles. I’m going to do that again? AM I OUT OF MY GOURD? I open the window on the terrace and watch the moon, listening to the breakers. They sing, ‘teshuve, tefila, tzedukah, that is why you are here.’ The crash reminds me of the blowing of the shofar. And I fall asleep.

In the morning, restless, I ride in circles, then decide to take off. I hear the Pledge of Allegiance recited and The Star Spangled Banner being sung in the now faint dark behind me. A few groups have already ridden off, they’ll reach the finish point at perhaps 10:15, keeping a 24 mph pace. These are road racers and century riders. I’ll be happy if I get in. Whenever I get in. After all, it’s not a race, it’s a ride. My challenge is personal to see if I can finish, not to beat an arbitrary clock or the rider to my left. I set a goal, made a promise to my readers, to myself and I intend to keep that promise.

As soon as I assume the position and take off, I know something is wrong. Despite copious amounts of anti-chafing cream to my bottom, thighs and shorts liner (assomaster and butt’er are popular brands) I am raw. And it hurts. Oh boy, does it hurt! I can’t get comfortable on my bike seat. I have to ride 86 miles and I am in agony, my skin rubbed right off, no drugstore in sight and no topical painkillers in the med buckets. What to do, what to do? Ride. What choice do I have? SAG out? [SAG out: Support and Gear will transport injured or tired riders and their equipment to the nearest reststop to await transport to the finish area]

I ride. I find a group with a speed that matches my own and a pedaling cadence that I feel comfortable with. I watch the knees rise and fall, a long line of knees, pedaling, pausing, pedaling, pausing, and slide in, taking advantage of the draft and the rhythm riding with a group forces me into. This will be the best thing for me, enabling me to reach the end. I won’t have to concentrate on keeping my timing, I’ll be able to look around, admire the clouds, the shadows AND HUNT FOR A DRUG STORE FOR SOME *^&%(*#o@ TOPICAL

Did you know that convenience stores, which seem to carry everything, do NOT carry topical painkillers? I rack my brain, trying to come up with a substitute. At the 44 mile stop, halfway there, the medic offers me some Biofreeze, telling me it’ll numb whatever it is that needs numbing. I ask, "I just need a numbing cream. You sure this will do the trick?" A pair of women cyclist tap my arm: "Where are you planning to use that?" Embarrassed, I mutter that my crotch is kinda sore. One cyclist takes out a small tube of butt’r, says to use that, NOT the BioFreeze, it would kill me. The other cyclist pouts, says, "Oh but it would have been fun to hear her scream when it went from numbing cold to blazing hot in about 30 seconds. You didn’t know BioFreeze was another IcyHot gel?" I mutter my thanks, and slip my goo covered fingers inside my shorts to apply the gunk to my loins. Done. Relief. Bliss.

It doesn’t last. But that’s alright because I found a truck stop which carries Oragel. If it’s good enough for a baby’s mouth, then it’s good enough for my crotch.

And it was. OMG, the absence of pain is a beautiful thing. I can evaluate its intensity by the difference in my whole demeanor and ability to move once it stopped. It reminded me of when I was in labor with my first-born. After 8 hours of back labor, 90 second contractions only 3 minutes apart (again, an analogy which men cannot fully commiserate with, the closest parallel being pack pain or sciatica), it stopped. Like snapping off a light switch, it just stopped and I was able to coast, reveling in the pleasures of the human body and the wonder that is the central nervous system.

I rode. I rode some more. I rode up bridges, which did not bother me at all as I was too busy thinking about my nether regions at the time. I rode down small inclines. I rode into the wind. I rode under tree limbed canopies. And I clocked miles. Checking my odometer, I had perhaps two or three miles to go, so I flew, left turn, straight, right turn, left turn, right turn and under that banner, that banner with one word on it: FINISH.

I was done. Over. It was over. For this year. I stowed my bike. And registered for MS150 2009.

But I wasn’t done, not quite yet. I still had to get home. Wandering around, the fully occupied massage tent, sore muscles being pummeled into shape, the medic and bike repair tents, empty except for staff, the musician tent, and the largest of all, the Bubba Burger tent, where we could consume as many burgers as our calorie starved bodies could hold. I ate one, a whole burger, but would have been better off confining myself to the lettuce and tomato, I think. I’m not used to eating that much red meat at a sitting any longer, a whole 5 or 6 oz. of chopped meat. My stomach clenched in rebellion, or perhaps it was muscle cramping from the sudden inactivity after five hours of pedaling. Perhaps.

Driving home, it struck me. There were over 2500 cyclists in this one event, and the National Multiple Sclerosis Society holds 100 of these each year, including in my home towns of New York and Orlando. Not every event is two days nor do they each attract as many riders. Yet they require support: the NMSS, the NFMS, volunteers to do paperwork, cook, clean, serve, clean up, medical personnel, bike shops, SAG teams. There are as many of them as there were of us, and without this group of unrecognized persons, the people that don’t get the applause, silly necklaces, nutritious but disgusting granola bars, none of this would be possible.

Without your support it wouldn’t be possible.

I drove home, shaking, at this world so much larger than myself, each individual trying to help, to achieve a small bit of grace by going outside him/herself and started to shake. How many degrees of separation are there in this, as in all things? None. Not a one. I drove my car, the same roads I’d ridden the day before, powered by my legs and will, knowing I played a small part in fighting this disease that steals the ability to power legs but leaves the will whole, to be frustrated over and over until all that will can control is one finger.
One of the few times I hit my kids, my oldest was pretending she couldn’t walk, that she required a wheelchair. "Don’t you EVER do that. Your aunt has a withered leg and SHE doesn’t use a wheelchair. You be grateful that you CAN walk or dance or whatever and
don’t you EVER make believe that you can’t walk again." How prophetic

I remember and think of all those who can’t dance and I cry. It’s cathartic, after the highs of the weekend, to cry. I cry for about 15 miles, from when I pass Daytona, the ending point of Day One and the beginning point of Day Two, until I am well onto I4, quiet tears. When I get home, I sleep.

E-One Factory: Helping Heroes with the Right Stuff

Every kid wants to be a hero. One of the best things about being a hero is all the really cool gadgets a hero gets to use, the technology that is a part of their everyday existence. The E-One Factory makes vehicles for heroes. They engineer and build the complete vehicle - chassis, cab, body, tank and aerial devices. Every machine is built to precisely engineered specifications because there is no margin for error when heroes are at work.

The E-one Factory, right off Exit 350 of I-75 in Ocala, builds fire trucks and rescue vehicles. Ninety minute tours of the 42,000 square foot factory are given at 9 and 11 am on Tues and Thurs. Closed toed shoes are required for safety and comfortable clothing is recommended.

Founded in 1974, E-One turns out about ten new vehicles per week. They build everything from the most basic hook and ladder to the most sophisticated, specially equipped rescue unit, complete with exterior access to medical equipment, all suitable for use under the most adverse conditions. Their product line includes custom and commercial pumpers and tankers, aerial ladders and platforms, rescues vehicles of all sorts and sizes, quick attack units, industrial trucks, and aircraft rescue firefighting vehicles to meet the needs of fire departments, rescue/EMS squads, airports and Homeland Security agencies. They supply government, private and volunteer agencies across the country, including Hillsborough County, Florida.

Sheila Williams greets guests in the reception area, where disclaimers, protective wraparound goggles and earpieces are distributed. After hopping on the golf cart, Ben Davis drives past the trucks in front of the administrative building. One of the units is the Hybrid Energy Command Center, combining electric and diesel for power, built for Homeland Security, the FBI and other protective agencies. It was used by the Superbowl security team and ran 24 hours a day for eight days, but used only 38 gallons of fuel

What makes E-One vehicles unique is that they are made of extruded aluminum, which is much stronger than aluminum sheets which have been pounded into shape. Extrusion is a molding process. The molten aluminum is poured into specially made casts. After it solidifies, the molds are removed. The pieces are slotted together and all seams are welded for strength. E-One vehicles are so strong that they have files of accident reports, vehicles which have rolled down cliffs or off bridges into ravines or creeks, where the occupants are unhurt and sometimes, the vehicle can still be driven.

Imagine working in a mirror, but the reflected view is also upside down. That is how E-One vehicles are made. The interior chassis framework is built, then the electrical and plumbing is installed. As much as possible, the electrical/computer systems are modular based, neat snap together units, very sophisticated in their purpose, very simple in their execution. After the infrastructure is laid in, the exterior shell is attached. The chassis is sanded and painted. Vehicles can be ordered in any color determined by the municipality; there are over 350 shades of red alone. A total of one coat of primer, three coats of paint and two coats of clearcoat are applied.

The stairs and flat surfaces are prefinished with texturing. Swirls are pressed into the flat vertical surfaces to provide a slight amount of traction and reduce reflective glare. The swirls also hide minor scratches, keeping the vehicle looking good longer. The swirl press is the only fully automated machine in the factory. Horizontal surfaces may have multiple holes punched in them, looking like ground that a golf shoe has walked over, to induce skid resistance and help water [from rain or the pumps] flow away from the truck. This trademarked design is called “Gator Grip.” The hole puncher is a die, with the actual holes punched by a person. Interiors may be further finished with a faux concrete or faux granite look, strictly to be eye-pleasing in looks and comfort.

Tanks are made of polyurethane, which is weather, rot and mold resistant and light weight. These may hold water, but more often are used for chemical mixing to make the foam which smothers oil, car or chemical fires. Oil and chemical fires can spread if water is thrown on them.

After the vehicles are fully assembled, they are ‘third party tested.’ Independent inspectors test that the vehicles do what they are supposed to do. They test the pump rate (depending on the vehicle, 1280 to 2000 gallons per minute pumped), the balance of partly and fully extended ladders, the rotation ability of the ladders and cherry pickers, flexibility of the artifical arms. The balance of a hook and ladder is very precise because a fully extended ladder may extend 75 ft away from the truck and has to be counterbalanced by the truck chassis and front to prevent tipping.

After the working parts and mechanicals are tested, the vehicle is inspected again to make sure nothing got missed in the ‘trim-out.’ This also entails putting the truck through a high-pressure car wash, to make sure it is fully water-proof. If there is even an infinitesimal leak or seam open, it could short the electrical or computer systems, rendering the vehicle fully or partly inoperable.

At the end of the tour, we were allowed to sit in cabs, press buttons, blow sirens, make lights flash, climb through the various parts of the vehicle and have a blast.

E-One is a delight for children of all ages. Take I-75 North to Exit 350 (Hwy. 200 / College Rd.). Turn left on Hwy 200 and then right onto S.W. 38th Court. Proceed to the stop sign and turn right onto S.W. 38th Avenue. This road runs parallel to I-75, follow it to the light and turn right onto 20th Street. Go under I-75 and turn left on S.W. 37th Avenue. The phone number is (352) 861-3524. They can be reached on the web at http://www.e Cost of the tour is $8 for adults, children ages 6 to 12 and senior citizens (over 55) are $6. Firefighters are admitted free. Children under six are not allowed as a safety precaution.

Florida State Championship 2008 Road Race: EAT MY DUST

Leaning against a tree by the side of the road, camera at ready, you notice the quiet. In the field across the way, a handful of horses nibble at the grass. It is a pastoral scene reminiscent of a 19th century painting.

The horses lift their heads, their ears flicking back and forth. Peering down the road, you hear a faint swoosh-swoosh. And then he is past, faster than the shutter speed of the camera, followed by a second and a third rider. These three lead riders, who have broken away from the pack earlier, are a half mile down the road before the lead car, a white pickup, appears, escorting the main group of road racers. Its lights flashing, the lead car maintains a steady pace followed by the twenty or so riders in their moisture wicking nylon/spandex shorts and jerseys.

Swoosh-swoosh-swoosh, the soft whistle made by the air passing over the racing wheels shifts to a higher pitch as the forty legs move in syncopation. As each rider passes you at 30, 35, perhaps even 40 miles per hour, the pitch drops again. While the riders are not huddled together, as they were at the start line, they are still close enough to touch. They know just how far apart they have to be for safety and how close together to minimize wind resistance.

The end car trails behind, with its cargo of spare tires, screws, clips, allen wrenches and other emergency accouterments which might be needed on an eighty minute, thirty-odd mile road race.

A few stragglers follow, those who are having an ‘off’ day, who are not as well trained or are just plain tired, but they too will find that small spot of pride which gives them the final push to finish, even under the most adverse conditions. The stragglers get caught full-on in the sudden Florida downpour the leads avoided and the huddle flew through.

It is the Florida State Championship Road Race 2008 (FSC) and it is beautiful. The combination of man (or woman) and machine coming together to achieve a level of speed and artistry, using the greatest muscle of them all, the brain, to plan strategy for a race against other road racers who are as well or better equipped and trained is impressive.

The FSC covers two days and includes races for individuals from the age of ten to seventy-plus. Races are segregated by age and sex; the teens are broken into four groups and the adults into five year age groupings for the men and ten year brackets for the women. There are two teens, two women and five men’s races on Saturday, some of the age brackets having been combined. On Sunday, only the adults race and they are divided by category and sex, category being determined by results of previous races. Most of the adult road races are 21 to 49 miles in length and run about 90 minutes. The espoirs, males ages 19 to 22, who presumably are at the peak of their youthful strength, have a 56 miles race and on Sunday, the category 1 and 2 racers, the professional contenders, will clock 75 miles.

They line up, on their carbon or titanium machines, thin racing wheels, jazzed up with the latest gear cassettes. The Cat 5s (minimal or no previously recorded racing experience) cast longing looks at the Cat 3s (some experience, having achieved reportable racing results) who, in turn look to the Cat 1s and 2s (professional level racers). Meanwhile the ‘Freds,’ those who think spending enough money on their gear will compensate for inadequate or desultory training, cannot figure out why they are not the leaders of the pack and remain bemused by their lack of success.

In some ways, a bike race is like any other race and in others, it is totally its own beast. There is a start and a finish line, a course to be run, rules to be followed, which will vary according to the type of race, timers to be collected and distributed. However, there are no cars crashing, no revving of engines, no ‘snaps’ called out to opponents. During road races, except for the announcements at the beginning and end, and the counting of laps, almost total quiet pervades, the concentration a palpable thing, not dissimilar to a chess match or surgical suite. As much as the bikers are racing each other, they are racing against themselves, striving to achieve whatever level of perfection they are capable of obtaining, taking something home from each race that they can use to improve their skills in the future.

Racing breaks down into three segments: road racing, time trials and criterium. Road racing is speed racing against other bikers, distance determined by the catagogy of racer. Time trials are run with a computerized chip, a kind of stop watch, tracking the rider’s individual time, irrespective of anyone else racing or the skill level of the other racers. Criterium races, which are street races and highly technical, are generally a set time and so many laps of courses that generally vary from .7 to 1.5 miles. The racers may have five or six closely spaced turns to handle and crashes are not infrequent. To the unintiated, crits look like bike messengers run amok. Racing requires dedication: training, time, money, love, ambition.

Practically anyone can ride and enjoy the experience, whether you plop yourself on an $80 special from a variety store or a specially made model, which can cost upwards of $10,000. Custom Serotta frames alone can cost $7,000. Add brakes, derailleurs, wheels, seats, computers and you're well into the double digits. Having a bike fitted properly, getting a helmet comfortable enough that you will wear it and cycling shoes suitable for riding (with or without clipless pedals) will enhance your ride. Devotion, training, enthusiasm, group rides will improve your skills and teach road safety as well.

Group rides are useful training tools. In addition to the enjoyment of riding with others, they are an efficient way to improve your knowledge and skills. Road safety, how to ride in a huddle, maintaining safe distance, communication cues can all be learned during group rides. While traffic can be daunting to a solo rider, a group offers protection and community, keeping vehicular traffic at bay.

As gas prices soar, bike riding becomes more than a pleasant afternoon, more than a competitive sport; it becomes a viable alternative means of transportation. This two-wheel solution, in addition to not requiring the use of fossil fuels, promotes strong muscles, aerobic conditioning, weight loss and improves the temperament. The endorphins released during exercise and the increased metabolic activity last long after the cycling shoes are packed away.

Bicycle riding, at whatever level you choose to ride, can change your perception. Whether you are a dilettante clocking a few miles now and then, a critical mass biker parading down the avenue, a racer devoting every weekend to the sport, an avid cyclist pulling down 200 to 300 miles a week or a triathlete combining cycling with swimming and running, there is a level of equipment and group to support you in your quest for fitness, fun and fatigued satisfaction.

For more information on riding and racing, go to,,,,,,, A calendar of upcoming races may be viewed at

NB: If any readers catch “the bug,” the paper will deny any responsibility for that occurrence.

Disclaimer: Robyn rides an $80 junker four days a week. Every now and then, she is forced onto a Cannondale Six13 Feminine 6 (compact) in the hopes that she be infected and train for the “Bike MS150" to be held on September 20-21, 2008.

UPDATE: Robyn has recently upgraded to a 1994 Cannondale SuperV900 and joined an "urban assault" group.

Interview with a Vampire

For our readers who wondered about the prolonged absence of our “Day Trippin’” correspondent, Robyn Weinbaum, here’s the low down: not only was she swamped with tax work, but she and her friend, Gene Hodes, finished and released their mystery/thriller, Mastermind (available at, and

GN: So you’ve been a busy woman. Tell me about ‘Mastermind.’
Robyn: It’s a very nasty psychological thriller set in Boca Raton. Bête Noire, the murderer, leaves a bloody trail of fabricated evidence framing Michael Case, a billionaire genius/inventor who can’t manage to match his socks. Since some of the murders take place in New York City, Hannah Gold, an NYPD detective with a PhD in psychopathology, is brought in as a consultant. She and Michael unite to figure out who the murderer is and why he is killing both specific and random persons, what the killer really wants. Each murder is well-crafted both in commission of the murder and in the orchestration of the publicity. It’s like dominos or chess. Every move has a choice of possible countermoves. Watching the persons in the book make various choices, why they do what they do, is fascinating. And the secondary characters? Everyone is in love with Ying. Ying is the eccentric butler, hardware and software wizard or Michael’s brother. Or all three or none of the above. Chiefs Tittle and Getz are just all around good guys. The murderer, Bête Noire? He could be anyone, anyone at all: Michael, Van Dyck, Ying, Malone, Connors.. This is a guy who steals from the corner candy store after he kills the owners, who celebrates his high school graduation by burning down the family farm with Mom and Dad inside. Bete Noire’s twin sister, Emerald, is smarter and if possible, more evil than he is. When he burned down the farm, she wanted to make s'mores. These are some bad-ass dudes. Gene and I wrote this book and it scared us.

GN: A book collaboration is difficult. How did you meet Gene and work on ‘Mastermind’?
Robyn: Gene and I have known each other for a while, a few years now. We were introduced by some friends and hit it off. We knew there was something we were meant to do together. At first we thought we were destined to make the ultimate latke, but this is so much better. We get along great, we love each other, we love working together-as long as we are 200 miles apart. In fact we have three or four other book projects in various stages of completion right now.

GN: Wait a sec. Two hundred miles apart? How do you work two hundred miles apart?
Robyn: It’s easy with phone and Internet. We send things back and forth all day long. When we are in the same place, we get distracted by our different eating, sleeping and work patterns. I need quiet to work with long exercise breaks. Gene needs the TV with frequent cigarette breaks. Anyway, Gene wrote the first version of ‘Mastermind’ in two weeks or so and gave it to me to read. I told him exactly what I thought, that it needed editing and fact checking, but the plot was a real page turner. I’ve read hundreds of mysteries and I had to finish it, see how it turned out. So we sat down, I gave him a list of what I thought had to be changed. Next thing I know, twelve weeks, over 500 hours and 362 pages fly by and we have a book to release. At this point, we can’t tell who did what and we can’t wait to do it again.

GN: Well, it does seem to work for the two of you. Tell me about Gene.
Robyn: Gene is a semi-retired psychologist. The information on the psychopathological personality is based on his professional font of knowledge. He has worked with persons with very twisted, sick fantasies. Scary, isn’t it? Working with psychopathologically damaged individuals is not pleasant. The psychopathological personality REALLY does not give a hoot about anyone or anything except as it serves his/her purpose. You can work with them from now until doomsday, but they just don’t get it, they can’t get it. They are missing that piece of the soul which governs the super ego, the ability to put oneself in another’s place. Gene has practiced all over the United Sates, but mostly in New York and Florida. He specializes in high-risk intervention, substance abuse, sexual and psychological abuse. He prefers to work with the whole family because a person doesn’t exist in a vacuum nor were they created in a vacuum. If you get the whole family invested in treatment, the actual patient has support and reinforcement of new behavior patterns. It is a very tough field, very painful.

GN: This is very different from your usual work.
Robyn: Yes, it is. I like to create thought provoking pieces, romantic, wistful poems, and curious flash fiction and, I hope, add to the positive balance in the universe. Even a vicious murder mystery adds to the positive balance by giving the reader an escape and allowing the reader a catharsis, a release of tension and stress. You lose yourself in a good book-I hope it’s a good book, anyway! - and come away relaxed, and ready to slay another day’s dragons.

GN: How long have you been writing?
Robyn: I’ve been writing all my life, since before I could even write. When I was maybe four, I realized that I could put words together and make new stories or poems. I’d ask my mom to write them down for me, read them back, I’d make changes and then I’d draw pictures to go with the work. Lots of kids do that; only thing is I’ve never stopped doing it. As I’ve gotten older, my love of words and desire to paint with words has gotten stronger.

GN: Paint with words? That’s a lovely image. Can you explain that?
Robyn: If I could actually paint or sculpt or make music, create beauty in some other way, I’d never write. But I can’t. What I can do is put words together in ways that are lyrical, that pull an image from the reader’s being, recall an experience or emotion, open someone’s eyes, cause a frisson of desire, love, fear, recognition, make someone think. It is a great honor and responsibility to use words for good, for happy, to promote well-being. There is more than enough grief, anxiety and hurt out there. I want my words to heal. If that means ripping the scabs off my own wounds, fine. I do what I have to do. If one reader feels, then the work is a success.

GN: I know you do ‘open mic’ at least once a week. What is that?
Robyn: ‘Open mic’ is short for ‘open microphone.’ No reservations required no reservations about what you perform. You sign up and read or recite what excites you. I generally read a chapter from our book and a piece of flash fiction [short fiction, under 500 words] and a poem. When I’m on open mic and I get that pause at the end, that gasp of recognition which means my work ‘hit’ it is the best feeling because I’ve made something happen. Maybe, just maybe, someone will be inspired to go home and change his or her life. Or maybe try a new recipe for poached pears. Of course, sometimes, even though my work is edited and critiqued, I bomb. I fall flat on my face, which hurts. But I learn from it. I reread the work, consider my presentation, and most important, try to figure out where I was opaque instead of transparent, where I failed my words. I have a small poster that says, “Read it like a writer. Write it like a reader.” I try. I may not succeed all the time, but I try.

GN: Thank you, Robyn.
Robyn: Thank YOU, Gary.

‘Mastermind’ can be ordered at It will be available at and in a few weeks. To experience more of Robyn’s world, visit her at

UPDATE: Mastermind can be ordered through all retail outlets

Sally Factory: Seeing the Light at the Great American Dark Ride Company

“Draw, podner.”

“Give me a quarter and I’ll tell you your fortune.”

“Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to stop the Intergalactic Confederacy of Ducks. Line them up and take them down!”

Interactive arcade-type rides and exhibits are the hallmark of Sally: The Great American Dark Ride Company. Located in downtown Jacksonville, about 3-1/2 hours to the north east, Sally has factory tours every Tues and Thurs, from 9 am to 1 pm, September through June. These tours are complimentary, although reservations are required. ( This is not a closed, specially designed walk through where the highlight of the tour is a sticker and a candy bar at the end. This is an in-your-face, behind the scenes factory tour, where you can see abstracts, designs and working models of rides and arcade games, almost anything it is possible to conceive of, in all stages of development.

If you have ever been to a carnival, an amusement park or seen a parade, you’ve seen their work. Sally supplies rides and audio animatronics to almost all the major theme parks, movie studios, corporations and amusement parks. They built the sets for Disney on Ice: Aladdin and Disney on Ice: Hercules. Their clients include Universal Studios (the ET ride) Hershey Park in Pennsylvania, Ripley’s Believe it Or Not: USA, San Diego’s Legoland and Give Kids the World of Orlando, among others. Some of their more popular “shows” are the “Bubba Bear ‘s Badland Band” country-western bear band; “Magic Island’s” singing tropical birds; “Jungle Jamboree” a Broadway style musical with over twenty audio-animatronic animals. You may have seen these at the Florida State Fair in Tampa. They are also responsible for the terrifying Haunted House and the Great Pistelero Roundup at the Myrtle Beach, SC, the Olde Mill Ride at Rye Playland in New York. Jocco’s Mardi Gras Madness in Jazzland, NO, was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina

Sally was founded 30 years ago by an undergrad student looking to pad a speech requirement for a final exam and avoid having to present and argue it in public. He designed a talking head which he named Sally to do this. That robot was the genesis of this company, which now has about forty employees and commands a factory of over 40,000 square feet.

The staff includes artists, programmers, costumers, construction crew, electricians, engineers, and hydraulics and pneumatics specialists, among others. The factory is divided into areas and the tour goes through each area except the administrative. This is a good thing because no one wants to watch bean counters at work, not even their fellow bean counters. They are a full-service entertainment provider, from initial design concept to maquette (detailed, scaled model of finished product) to software design to finished product, whether that product is an interactive dark ride or a single robot used to greet guests at a corporate meeting or convention center.

A dark ride is a fully enclosed ride where surprises wait around each bend. Every aspect of the environment is controlled to heighten the experience, light, sound, even scents and perfumes are included in the design to intensify the experience for the guest. An interactive dark ride is an enclosed ride where the guest does something to impact the ride, perhaps laser target shooting, choosing between paths or spinning to avoid falling debris.

Julie Cornell, our tour guide, greets each group at the back entrance to the facility. Behind a glass wall, crew members are putting the finishing touches on a life size robot, testing the movements and fine-tuning the hydraulics (air pressure powered joints which allow the robot to bend and flex its body parts). In the auditorium, Julie explains the history of the Sally Corporation, tells us that there will be multiple exit points to the tour if anyone feels it is too intense and promises us that every one will have a chance to test an interactive device. After this short orientation, safety goggles are distributed and the tour begins.

The first area is the sketch and design area. The walls are covered with sketches, paintings, posters and the tables littered with maquettes. Artists work on the look and flow of the ride here, whether the mummies will be 8 or 10 feet tall, how far apart, how sharp the turns are, if the spiders drop down from the ceiling at the entrance to an area or in the middle of the room

From here, we go to the modeling room. For the detailed body parts (head, hands, feet or other exposed areas) clay sculptures are made. A mold is made of the sculpture. A silicone and latex mixture is poured into the mold to form a quarter inch thick skin. This skin goes over the robotics and creates the lifelike look of the model. While separate wigs are used for scalp hair, facial hair, eyebrows and exposed torso hair are individually pulled through the skin. Gluing hair in place looks…glued. The hair has to look rooted to maintain the illusion of reality. A beard can take a more than a day to pull through the skin.

The largest area of the factory is the construction area, where backdrops, supports and actual ride components are built. In the center of the room is a large ‘slush’ area, containing props, cornices, drapes, figures in boxes, doorways and other ride components. The work areas in the perimeter include a woodworking department, another pneumatic and hydraulic testing area, and a prop construction area littered with PVC and board lengths. Prominent in the slush area is a dog headed Egyptian prince, a set of talking birds and a life size T-rex head. Julie turns on the birds, which dance and sing. She makes the T-rex come out of its box and roar. It turns, fixing its beady eye on one of the children in our group, snaps at her. She giggles, knowing it is make-believe and that she is perfectly safe, here and now in the well-lit factory. The T-rex is one of Sally’s most popular figures and has been reproduced over fifteen times. It could be lurking anywhere…

In the backdrop room, artists paint scenery and sets for the large interactives and the smaller games. Many of the paintings are double layered. You may see a bucolic country setting, soft clouds and gamboling lambs, visible in daylight or under normal light. But if you flick the black lights on, the lambs are replaced by skeletons, the clouds by ghosts and ghouls. Julie turned the lights on and off a few times, then had us take photos with our digital cameras. No matter what was before us, what ghouls and nightmares were in the painting, the flash of the digital made the scene revert to its ‘nice’ version. It is an amazing technique to see the two paintings right on top of each other.

The final stop on the tour is a laser target gallery. Wheels spin, ducks pop-up, figures spin and peek out from behind each other. And yes, every person on the tour had a chance to ‘drive the bad guys out of Dodge City.’

The only complaint was that the tour was over too soon and when could we come back and do it again? Julie laughed, “Every Tuesday and Thursday from 9 to 1, except for July and August. Just call or email me.”

The tour is recommended for ages five and up. A few of the younger children were disturbed by some of the ghost sculptures in the outer area, while others giggled at the most horrific monsters. At each stop, you can leave the tour and rejoin the group later or in the laser target room. The tour is conducted under natural lighting conditions to control the shock factor.

Sally Corporation is located at745 Forsyth St. in Jacksonville (904-355-7100) Their web address is Email for tour reservations. To get to Sally, take I4 East to I95 North. I95 North to Acosta Bridge/Riverside (Exit 350A). Take Broad St ramp from Acosta, go one block, turn left onto Jefferson St. Go two blocks. The Sally parking lot will be on your right, just before the intersection of Jefferson and Forsyth. Estimated travel time from New Tampa is 3-1/2 hours.

Alternate: I75 North to US27/FL 500 South. Merge onto I10 East. I10 to I95 North. I95 to Forsyth St, Exit 352B. Right on Forsyth, right into parking lot. Estimated travel time is 3 hours, 10 minutes.

1st Cypress Creek Quilt Guild Quilt Show Covers the Garden in Colorful Beauty

Bright Beginnings from Our Garden, the 1st biennial Cypress Creek Quilt Guild (CCQG) Quilt Show and Charity Auction was held on Saturday, March 1st at the USF Botanical Gardens. If a better site or better day could have been found to host this event, CCQG would have been hard pressed to find it. It was a rare, perfect spring-like day, sunny but breezy, and the previous day’s rain did not revisit. Flowers very lightly scented the air as quilts hung between trees swayed in the breeze, their colors sharper than the surrounding growth making this a very different sort of quilt show.

The CCQG ( or call Joyce Bartholomew at 813-343-8197) meets on the first Tuesday of each month from 6:30 to 8:30 and encourages anyone interested in the quilting arts to attend. Their next meeting will be on April 1st at the Willow Bend Community Church, 2541 Henley Road in Lutz. Only four years old, they had the gumption to put on a full scale quilt show including a charity auction, outside vendors, gift shop and two book signings. This takes an amazing amount of womanpower and enthusiasm. What is even more amazing is that they managed to bring this event together in just over four months.
“We’re a young group and growing,” Diane Juranko, co-chair of the event said. “No one should feel intimidated or less than or better than anyone else. Everyone should feel welcome. There is always something new out there [to learn or do]. Our goal is to educate and improve. Quilting is becoming an art form. We have a lot of newbies [beginners] and a lot of more experienced quilters. We all have a good time.” This inclusive attitude carries over into everything the CCQG does. Members and potential members are encouraged to come and enjoy, pick each other’s brain, pick up new skills and work together towards common goals. Quilters of all levels are encouraged, from the newest beginners barely able to hold a needle and thread to the most sophisticated piecework or appliqué artist.

Although this was not a juried show, the level of expertise was high and the variety of techniques was vast. At a juried show, experts rank the quilts according to difficulty of design, aesthetics of color combination and quality of workmanship. The guild felt that a juried competition would be discouraging to its members at this time, although many of the works qualified. Pieced quilts are made by joining various sized bits of fabric, cut into squares, rectangles, triangles or circles, to produce geometric or pictorial designs. Double wedding rings, twinkling stars, nine-patch, mariner’s compass and flying geese were all in abundance. Appliquéd quilts, which are made by layering fabrics cut into shapes to produce designs, similar to collage, and enhanced by embroidery and beadwork were also in abundance.

There were a few trapunto and stitched quilts, solid pieces of fabric where the design is produced by careful stitching and some light stuffing of the design area. A “Statue of Liberty” by Alma Coston was a dramatic sample of this style.

“Light of my Life,” by Joyce Bartholomew, current president of CCQG, is a stunning combination of piecework and appliqué, enhanced by silk ribbon embroidery which was awarded 1st place both in the Viewers Choice and USF Botanical Gardens Award. Pat Yucantonis’ “New England Village” won 2nd place Viewers Choice. You could almost step into the work. 3rd place Viewers Choice was “Firefighters T-shirt Memory Quilt” by Crystal Freund, composed of commemorative t-shirts.

One of the more amusing areas was the “Our First Quilt” area. Members of the guild brought in the first quilt they’d ever made. Some of these were made when they were kids as young as eight and some as adults. It is fun seeing how skills develop with use, but it also encourages young and old to try something new.

An additional purpose of the CCQG is to give back to the community through charity outreach. This includes donating quilts to hospitals, putting on educational workshops and the auction of 48 quilts at the show. Ellen Schon, a local fiber artist and quilter for over 30 years, ( was the auctioneer. The Guild members made quilts large and small, in a vast array of styles and colorations for the auction. Over 100 people gathered under the large tent to bid on these beautiful works and raise money for USF’s Hope House for Eating Disorders. The auction was very successful, raising $3950 for Hope House.

Dr. Pauline Powers, Director of Hope House, helped arrange for CCQG to use the garden for this event. Hope House provides free intervention, support and a variety of resources for people afflicted with eating disorders in the Tampa Bay area, including therapy groups, parent/caregiver training, education and drop-in services. For more information on Hope House, call 813-839-7341 or email Suzanne Eldridge, Managing Director at

While quilt shows often have book signings, usually by quilt designers, to have a double book signing is very unusual. Ed West, a fiction writer, and Marcia Layton, a quilt designer, were the featured authors at the event.

West’s novel, Father’s Quilt, begins during the Civil War and follows the life of Sarah Parker, a teenager in rural New York State, for over 50 years. The quilt, made from scraps of her late father’s clothes, is a comfort and a symbol of small town camaraderie. Sarah endures many harsh years, turning to the quilt for solace, reflecting on what advice her father would have given her in difficult situations and using the quilt as a friend. As an added fillip, West includes recipes of the era. He is currently working on a sequel, a parallel story and a book of short stories about quilters. For more information, West can be reached at

Layton, the author of Handprint Quilts and Calendar Kids, specializes in designing quilts that can be made with young children or in groups. Some of her projects are ideal for schools, grandparents or as memory projects, much like a scrapbook. Using handprints or footprints as a base, she shows how you can make everything from flamingos to squids to moose. Her imagination and levity make her books a pleasure to read. A resident of Tampa, she can be reached at

If you would like to explore the world of quilting for yourself, the CCQG welcomes visitors and future quilters to its meetings. A quilt guild meeting is a great place to be introduced to that craft of quilting, pick up techniques and “schmooze’ with the experts. For directions to the April 1st meeting, go to The CCQG’s website, is a treasure trove of patterns, links and general information about quilting.