One of my favorite summer activities is bike riding. After a long winter, getting back on my bike is a treat.
I’m not training for competition or trying to see how far I can go. I ride to relax and enjoy the scenery. Exercise is an added benefit.
When it comes to riding, I’m lucky. There are nice, rural roads about five blocks from my home with few cars and trucks to worry about. When riding, I can focus on the scenery and fresh air.
Here are a few common-sense tips get ready for the season:
- Take a few moments and get last season’s dirt and crud off your bike and its mechanisms. This helps extend the life of your bike and its components.
- Inspect your brakes. Brakes not only stop you, they prevent you from going too fast for your comfort level. You don’t want to be going down a hill only to discover you can’t slow down or stop.
- Inspect the chain, pedals, gears and derailleur. Make sure everything is clean, properly lubricated and functioning properly.
- Make sure the tires are in good condition, have plenty of tread and don’t show any cracks or other signs of wear. Properly inflate them, too. The last thing you want is to be miles from home with a flat tire.
- Check the brake and gear shift cables. Cables that are clean, in good condition and at the proper tension make changing gears and braking that much smoother.
- Don’t forget your helmet and reflective clothing. Riding isn’t a stealth operation – you want to be seen. There are lots of options for bright, reflective neon colors to increase your visibility. When it comes to a helmet, get a good one. You don’t have a $10 head, so why trust it to a $10 helmet.
- Remember traffic rules. You have the same responsibilities as auto drivers. Obey traffic signals and stop signs. Ride with traffic, use the rightmost lane and signal all turns.
Following these simple tips can give you a summer of great biking. If you’re not comfortable making repairs or adjustments to your bike yourself, most shops offer spring tune-ups by reputable mechanics.
Summer is too short to spend indoors. Give yourself a lift and go for a ride.
Editor's note: Where do you like to ride? Leave a comment and share your dream cycling getaway spot. Enjoy the ride!
It’s a familiar experience for American Family Insurance claims teams – prepared on the periphery of a natural disaster scene, anticipating the all-clear from authorities to get into the damaged area and begin helping our customers.
In this case, the Black Forest wildfire northeast of Colorado Springs already is being described in the news media as the most destructive wildfire in Colorado history. Officials say the wildfire has caused two deaths and destroyed at least 380 homes. More than 38,000 residents have been evacuated.
As of Friday morning (June 14, 2013), American Family had received 26 claims for destroyed homes, three claims for destroyed business properties and more than 50 claims for smoke damage or additional living expenses for customers ordered to evacuate from their homes.
Overlaying the fire observations provided by law enforcement with American Family’s maps showing where our customers live, our claims teams will know where to focus once the fire subsides.
Our responders are using waiting time wisely, preparing to spring into action once authorities allow us to enter the fire zone.
- We’ve dispatched 15 adjusters to the site with three catastrophe managers. This on-site team will be supported by adjusters at other locations, serving as additional contacts for customers who have the most severe damage.
- We’ve set up our catastrophe response vehicle at the Colorado Springs Civic Center, and we also staffed a second evacuation center at Palmer Ridge High School.
- And, we’re sending a second response vehicle to the area, to be stationed at one of the primary evacuation sites set by the local authorities.
As firefighters continue to battle the wildfire, American Family is poised to fulfill our role when the flames and smoke clear. We are here in Colorado Springs … and we are here to help.
Editor’s note: American Family Insurance customers affected by the Colorado wildfires can report claims by contacting our 24-hour Customer Care Center, 1-800-MY-AMFAM (692-6326), their local agent or by completing our online insurance claim form. Visit our website for answers to common questions about wildfire claims.
I've never been big on gift-giving for Father's Day. I'm pretty reserved and practical. I don't wear ties much. I appreciate the simple things fatherhood provides - like time and experiences with my family.
The rest of the world seems to be different. Holidays like Mother's Day and Father's Day skew toward retail, using these special days to get us to buy the latest gadgets, ties or $19.99 flower bouquets that last a few days.
This year, AskMen.com put together a list of the 10 best gifts for Father's Day. It's a fun and visual look at popular items for today's busy Dad. (I mean, who wouldn't want a new set of golf clubs?).
But lists like these always ring a bit hollow for me.
Don't get me wrong, I appreciate giving and receiving gifts - any time of year. But I'm more interested in what those gifts can create. Like No. 10 on AskMen.com's list - grilling tools. I love to grill dinners for my family in the backyard. Would new grilling items help? Sure. But the better part of that gift is how it enhances the time I get to spend with my family.
This year, my family and I are spending Father's Day together at a Major League Baseball game. I can think of few things more enjoyable on a summer day than going to the ballpark and experiencing the sights and sounds with my kiddos. (My only regret is not getting to spend some Father's Day time with my dad.)
This year, I appreciate the gift of game tickets and having the health and means to get there. But I will remember how my kids reacted to the day's events more.
What does your dad want for Father's Day? Hopefully, you can spend some time together this year with the Dads in your life.
Editor's note: Leave a comment on this blog post, and tell us your best Father's Day gift idea. For doing so, you'll have a chance to win this grill-cooler combo (see photo to at right). This giveaway closes Monday, June 17, 2013 at 12 p.m. CST. One entry per email address is permitted. We'll select the winner using random.org and announce him/her the following Tuesday, June 18, as an update to this post. We'll notifiy the winner via email and ask her/him to provide a mailing address to receive the prize; if the winner does not respond within seven days, the winner forfeits the prize and another winner will be selected.
Most of us have goals of being healthy and fit. Unfortunately busy lives combined with convenient, less-than-healthy foods often contradict good nutrition and exercise.
I’m an example.
Growing up, I loved to walk, play tennis, rollerblade, snowboard and bike. I ate well, but didn’t pay real close attention since I was so active. In my late 20’s, things changed.
Workouts started getting lighter and food choices got a little lax. Along with that, my pants started getting a little tighter. I also began using food as a coping mechanism for stress.
I reached a point where I knew I needed to get my former “healthy me” back. I wanted to physically and mentally feel whole again. I met with my physician and after charting my weight for the past six years, it was clear I needed a change. Within the week I had an appointment with a nutritionist.
The first thing I learned was how to eat properly. I not only needed to burn more calories than I took in, I wanted to do it in a healthy way and be sustainable too. I learned how to measure my portions and track calories, fat, fiber and protein to ensure I was eating a balanced diet that was not only healthy, but would keep me satisfied. I kept a food journal to make sure I stayed on track.
The next step was re-evaluating my physical activity. Fortunately for me, exercise was always in my life even when I wasn’t focused on my weight.
I learned that camping out on a treadmill three to four days a week for 40 minutes wasn’t enough. So, I increased my workouts to five days a week for an hour a day. I joined a tennis league and started participating in boot camps, cardio classes and weightlifting. I added strength and cardio to get the best results, and the variety kept things from getting boring. Soon the weight started coming off – one to two pounds a week, to be exact.
I started my journey two years ago in April. I’ve lost 70 pounds and have kept it off for almost a year. It hasn’t been easy. I still carry my food journal and every day is a struggle. I had to find a balance between healthy food and exercise while still occasionally eating "fun” foods. Do I eat pizza, cheeseburgers and fries? Yes, but I’m smarter now about when and how often.
My newest challenge is running races. Not long ago, I hated to run. But I’ve discovered what an effective workout it is, and I like the competition. To date, I’ve completed several 5Ks, two 10Ks and am training for my first half-marathon!
Along my journey, I’ve learned plenty about myself. Even if I don’t always feel great every day, if I try to feel better and do better every moment, it’s easier to make my way to great.
If I can do it, you can, too. Once you make up your mind to do something, you can achieve anything.
Ever since I called myself a “lazy gardener” earlier this spring, I’ve been wondering if the word “lazy” comes from the French “laissez faire,” or “deliberate abstention from direction or interference…” In my case, the less I have to interfere in my garden, the more time I have to prepare and eat the food from it.
Here are two more areas where I significantly decrease work, increase fun and grow more vegetables.
Some vegetables are harvested or die mid-summer. Succession planting can make sure your valuable garden space doesn’t go to waste for the rest of the season.
- Create a planting scheduled so you don’t forget to get those seeds in on time.
- Watch the maturity time on seed packets. It’s no fun planting 50-day beets 30 days before the first frost.
- Plant fast-growing plants near slower growing ones. For example, plant garlic (fast) near peppers (slower) - after your mid-July garlic harvest, the peppers will fill out and take up the empty space.
- In late July or early August, plant beets, carrots or radishes, all of which will grow before the first frost hits them.
- In September, plant lettuce.
- In October, plant garlic for harvest next season.
Water once a week, even when it’s dry:
- If your garden is well-mulched, plants only need water once a week. Take rain into consideration.
- When watering, soak the plant for 30 seconds to a minute per plant on a low to medium water flow. The point is to deeply water occasionally rather than shallow water frequently.
- Stick your fingers under the mulch, if it’s moist, your plants are happy – no need to water that day.
- Overwatering can drain soil fertility, cause erosion and in many cases, makes for unhappy plants.
- When watering, avoid wetting leaves or watering in the evening. Damp leaves lead to sunburn during the day, and fungal disease when damp overnight.
Editor's note: If you garden, consider taking the American Family Insurance Pledge to Plant a Row to Fight Hunger. Go to our Facebook page, take the pledge to plant a row of vegetables in your home or community garden. When they're ripe, donate them to your local food bank. For every pledge received, American Family will donate $1 to Feeding America, the nation's leading domestic hunger-relief charity.