Saturday, November 25, 2017

#OptOutside #Cycling @RailstoTrails #REIEmployee

This is the third year running that Recreational Equipment Incorporated (REI) closed its stores on both Thanksgiving and Black Friday, encouraging its employees, members, customers, and others to #OptOutside with friends and family rather than spending the day in retail stores  shopping for bargains. What started as a moment in 2015 has become a movement as more and more retailers, especially those in the outdoor industry, have joined the #OptOutside movement by encouraging outdoor loving folk to post photos of their Black Friday outdoor activities on social media. When #OptOutside participants did so, using additional hashtags, they qualified to possibly win prizes from various retailers and organizations and to have their photos and videos featured on various web sites.

Three years ago I thought REI's #OptOutside decision was a bold move and I participated by going hiking the day after Thanksgiving. Now that I am a part-time REI employee, I REALLY appreciate #OptOutside because I not only have the day off to enjoy the great outdoors but also get paid for it.

My only #OptOutside quandary was to decide what outdoor activity I would engage in and where. Would I kayak at Cross Creek County Park in Washington County, Pennsylvania, paddling my Zydeco 9.0 of Necky Chatam 17 on Cross Creek Lake? Would I slip into my Merrill Wilderness hiking boots and throw a day pack on my back to meander along any number of the trails at Western Pennsylvania’s Raccoon Creek State Park?

Rather than hiking or kayaking I opted, instead, to cycle my Trek 8.3 DS Hybrid over twenty five
At the beginning of my 25.2 mile
#OptOutside #Cycling  @railstotrails ride
miles along two of my go to rail trails, the Brooke Pioneer Trail in West Virginia’s Brooke County and the Wheeling Heritage Trail in West Virginia’s Ohio County. Though two separate trails, they meet at the Brooke County – Ohio County line, offering over 20 miles of paved rail trail.

I hit the trail around 1:30 in the afternoon. The sky was a cloudless azure. The sun's rays blazed through mostly leafless trees. The temperature was slightly above 50°. In other words, the weather was nearly perfect for a fall ride.

Yes, it was that windy
At first I seemed to be dragging ass, which I attributed to the previous day’s Thanksgiving dinner and not having been on my bike for ten days. Rather than cycling at my usual 12-15 mph pace I was struggling to maintain an 8-12 mph pace. As soon as I saw the flags at Pike Island Dam, however, I knew it wasn’t my lack or recent cycling activity or the previous day’s turkey with all the fixings that was slowing me down. It was the steady northerly wind blowing up the Ohio River valley.

After a little over twelve and a half miles, I stopped for a break. Sitting on a bench beside the trail and overlooking the Ohio River, I watched a coal barge slower plod north as I basked in the warming sun and felt the breeze brush across my face. I was glad to be enjoying the outside rather than shopping in some mall or retailer, or sitting in front of a big screen television watching football.

As soon as I climbed back on my bike and started cycling north I felt like the peddling was easier. I looked down at my speedometer/odometer and saw that I was easily maintaining my usual 12-15 mph pace. As soon as warmed back up, cleared the wind break of nearby trees, and was out in the open, my pace picked up to 17-18 mph thanks to the tail wind. My return ride northward was easier and quicker than the ride southward.

I saw perhaps a dozen other cyclists during my afternoon ride though I might have counted some riders twice.  All but one other rider were heading in the opposite direction. I passed no one and only one rider passed me in the same direction. One cyclist was even wearing short sleeves and shorts! I was wearing my cycling shorts but was also wearing riding tights over them. I was also wearing a lightweight SmartWool toboggan under my helmet, a neck warmer, a cycling jacket over a long sleeved cycling jersey, and long fingered riding gloves. I was warm, but not toasty or overheating.

As other cyclists and I passed, I wondered how many of them were also posting their #OptOutside #cycling selfies on social media.

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