Monday, July 31, 2006

A Lawsuit Waiting to Happen

It's 10 at night and still I can't post my pictures. I'm so mad at Blogger I could scream. I would demand my money back if not for the fact that it's a free service. Still, they are obstructing my art, and this is causing me untold pain and suffering.

Ghost Bikes of Portland

[Readers: As usual, Blogger is indulging in an extended morning coffee break and is not letting me post my photos now. I will come back and put them in this evening. Check back with me.]

I first saw the white bicycle one day in late June as Lindi and I were driving down Martin Luther King Boulevard. I suggested that we pull around the next corner so we could walk up to it and see what it was for.

It’s a marker for the spot where a bicyclist was killed. His name was Chris Burris -- you can see it written there. I read in the paper it was placed there by his brother. He was killed September of 2005, almost a year ago. I don’t travel that street very often and hadn’t noticed it before.

It’s good that after all this time the city hasn’t come along and taken it away. I think it should be left there permanently. In a lot of other countries I’ve been in, people make little shrines by the side of the road where people have died in car accidents, especially out in the countryside. They are sobering to see, and work better than any traffic signs to lighten up your foot on the accelerator. Suddenly your mother’s there, saying “Watch where you’re going!” or “Keep your mind on what you’re doing!” or “Don’t be in such a hurry!” I don’t know about other people, but I always experience a somber moment of silence when I see one. On some roads there are lots of them, which makes you realize, “This is a crazy road,” and ask yourself, “What am I doing here? Can’t we take a different road? Can’t we just take a train or something?”

Someone was making a project of installing these ghost bikes at every site of a killed bicyclist. If you google ‘ghost bikes Portland’ you’ll find a lot of coverage. It looks like the project and its website are in a hiatus at the moment, but it was a good idea. Maybe it’ll be picked up again.

It was so sad, standing there looking at it, wondering about the very young man killed there. I wished I had some fresh flowers along to put in that jar.

I would never fail you

This morning's post will appear a couple of hours later than usual. I'm temporarily being a sloth.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Western Civilization: a Shrine to the Car

It’s looking like I’m going to have to get a new car, but so far this is the only one that I’ve liked.

Cars. How do I loathe thee? Let me count the ways:
Money-sucking, polluting, space hogging, oil guzzling, isolating, Moving Metal Deathtraps.

But sometimes you just need one – because the car-heads who planned this world made it so. Not everything can be undone. Like the fact that sometimes you have to:

-transport children in bad weather or dangerous conditions
-take your 88 year old pop to the doctor
-relocate a box of books
-be someplace where you have to look classy and elegant
-go somewhere that would take an hour each way on a bike
-travel where anyone on a bike or on foot would be slaughtered instantly

I like the car I have, as much as I can like a car at all. The only problem with it is that is stops running – when you least expect it. Sure, I can coast along for a while till I get it started, but the one other problem is that the steering wheel locks up as soon as the engine kills. So then I can only coast in a straight line, or whichever direction I was pointing in when the motor stopped. It’s so annoying. Fortunately I am a quick draw with the ignition. In case that doesn’t work (which it always does), the brakes are fabulous.

It’s starting to sock me for the equivalent of a car payment every few months. I’ve already spend a thousand bucks on it this year. Who knows how much this fresh new quirk is going to cost me. To hell with it. I hardly ever drive it, since I ride my bike everywhere. When Lindi and I go someplace together that’s too far to bike, we go in her car. We’re planning to become a one-car family. We await the slow death of one of our old cars. Meanwhile, we're researching the possibilities, so that when life does its favorite thing and BOTH our cars kick off in the same week, we'll be ready.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Hummer Bummer

I saw this hummer on my way to work yesterday, parked in front of the tennis club. That’s my bike in front of it. Which vehicle is cuter?

I’ve seen a yellow hummer in the neighborhood, but I hadn’t seen this one around before. They don’t seem to be that popular around here, but yesterday I saw two in one day. Last night as Lindi and I were biking over to a Thai restaurant with our two next-door neighbors, we saw this white one. Speaking of unpopular, looks like someone took a spray can to this one. I couldn’t make out the acronym. F-U-something. (A lot of graffiti people have very poor handwriting.)

My neighbor was telling how she glares ferociously at every one she sees. Someone else told me he always flips them the bird. It must be hard to have a car that makes everyone hate you. I’m dying to have a conversation with a hummer owner, because I have some questions. I’ll report back if I get the opportunity to ask them.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

A Tardy Reward for a Long Ago Feat of Strength, Bravery and Foolhardiness

Here are a few more photos from the race. See the finish line. See the path into the park past the people with microphones on the right; see the promenade between the flags with the applauding people. And finally, read on and see my medal. The one I didn’t get 31 years ago when I rode the 300 miles from Eugene to Seattle. Took me five days.

Yes it’s true, I did that – all by my lonesome, on a whim, with a half-baked plan that unfolded mile by mile along with the bike-unfriendly map I carried. Not to mention a mountain of equipment – such as a tent and sleeping bag, a small stove, tools, extra inner tubes, even an extra tire -- all stuffed into and strapped onto a pair of homemade panniers I stitched together myself.

Not like these folks, sailing along on their twelve-pound bicycles with only the skimpy clothes on their bodies, and a sag-wagon full of all-you-can-eat-and-drink goodies and supplies and tools and a team of mechanics following along behind. Hello? How hard is that?

In case you’re sitting there thinking “What do you want, a medal?” the answer is yes, I do. And now I have one. See? Here it is. So don’t be telling me I’m some kind of an impostor just because I happened to be riding by a certain place at a certain time. Just because I followed along like a lemming. How did I know all that was going to happen? If someone approached you and draped a medal around your neck, what would you do? I rolled with it – just like I’d been rolling along with those cyclists. I sensed something going on, my reporter instincts rose up, and I started pushing that button on the camera that hangs permanently around my neck. My only intention was to record the event. I can’t help it if everyone started applauding and high-fiving me -- I was only trying to blend in so I could take exciting, action photos from the vantage point of the participants.

If I ever get the hare-brained idea in my head to try such an expedition again, I’m definitely doing it their way. Why kill yourself? Or get killed -- camping by the side of the road like a damn fool. As IF you’re in the mood to mess with camping equipment after ten hours on a bike. Please.

Give me a high-falutin hotel with room service, a hot-tub, and a heavenly bed.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Seattle to Portland in fifteen minutes

On a sunny Sunday afternoon in the exact middle of July while departing from my secret hideout where I write things other than my blog, I began to notice cyclists about – real cyclists, the kind in cycling clothes with their feet soldered onto their pedals. They all had five-digit black numbers on their backs. They seemed to be traveling in my direction, so I fell in with a group of them.

Conversation revealed that they were on their last couple of miles of the annual two-day Seattle-Portland bike ride. They had ridden a hundred miles that day, and another hundred the day before. You know how I’m always telling you everybody passes me, even people on tricycles? Not these guys. Finally I’ve found the kind of cyclists I can keep up with – people who’ve ridden a hundred miles already. So of course I rode along with them, savoring the feeling of riding in the middle of a pack of actual cyclists in full costume. When does that ever happen? never.

Suddenly there was a finish line in an unexpected place in the middle of a block on Broadway. Next thing I know, people are shouting out congratulations and clapping and cheering and blowing horns all around me. We’re all being funneled into a little pathway into a park, people are leaning in over banisters and high-fiving us and then someone hangs a medal on me. It happened so fast it was all a blur. Here is a photo of the blurry woman giving me the medal.

(Do you see it hanging on a blue string in her right hand? She's got a bunch more hanging from her left hand on blue strings.)

Go ahead, you can say I’m a big fat charlatan, but know this:

Almost exactly three decades ago I rode my bike from Eugene to Seattle and all I got was my mother calling long distance from Italy to tell me I was out of my freakin mind (not her exact words).

I gotta go, I’ll tell you that story next time. And show you more photos, like of my medal and stuff.

And for those of you who don't read on the weekends, be sure and notice that I posted the final installment of the fish story. Scroll down for that.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Photo Announcement

I’ve gone back and added amazing wildlife photos to the episodes of the fish epic that ended yesterday, so be sure to scroll down and see them.

As for bicycling, I have to tell you: I won a medal for something I didn’t really exactly specifically do. More on that tomorrow.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

The Fish Whisperer

When we left off from the story, I was just realizing that my mind had escaped me and I caught up with it to find it wallowing in the creek bed indulging in fantasies about communing with the trapped fish I had set free the day before. This is the fourth and last in my 4-part fish story. In case you haven’t been following, the preceding parts are here (first) here (second), and here (third).

[I'm sorry that my links don't work. I will fix them later; meanwhile you can scroll down and find the previous episodes that appeared in the last few days.]

As Nancy and I proceeded along the creek we kept seeing more of these fish, who would just hang out as we waded past them, continuing to linger undisturbed just under the surface, seemingly unalarmed by our lumbering presence. All of these fish were an average of ten or twelve inches long, well past the size you’d have to throw back if you caught one while fishing. Later on when I wondered aloud why hordes of fishermen weren’t stampeding the banks, I was told they were carp and therefore not good for eating.

I’ve always heard that about carp, except when I spent that year in Czechoslovakia where carp is cultivated as the Christmas turkey. In the days before Christmas each family kept their newly-purchased carp swimming around in their bathtub and displayed it proudly to any guest that might drop by. Much to my surprise, it was incredibly delicious. But don’t tell anyone, or these innocent fish who have learned to coexist peacefully among the legs of waders will have to learn to fear us.

But being as yet still undiscovered in America, they clearly did not fear Nancy and me, but accepted us as if they recognized our extremities as extensions of what were once fins and assumed we were distant relatives. Only when Nancy would unsuccessfully try to catch one by darting her hands into the water at the attempted speed of a crane’s beak did they reveal any inclination to flee.

This gave me an idea, and the next time we saw one near our legs I became very still. I lowered myself slowly into a crouching position, and began talking softly to the fish. “Hi little fishie,” I said, along with other assorted utterances I thought a fish might find comforting, all of them much too fatuous to admit publicly. Slowly I cupped my hands under the fish, scooping up a little mud so it would not be startled by the contact with a strange skin, and lifted it just a bit higher in the water and then lowered it back down.

Meanwhile I became aware that the cloth concealing my derriere from the prying world at large was wicking up water. In my intense concentration on the fish I had inadvertently dipped myself into the creek instead of hovering just above the waterline as planned. I did not allow this realization to distract me, however, as by now I had gained the total trust of the fish. I raised it up again, this time all the way out of the water. The fish continued to remain relaxed while I played with it in this way, murmuring to it affectionately while raising it up and then submerging it again like one might do with a small child in a swimming pool.

I tried this with a couple of other fish and met with similar cooperation. Lest you have any question about the health of these fish, I hasten to assure you that my fish credentials are as long as your arm. Discerning illness in a fish is one of my more finely honed skills, thanks to a childhood-long dedication and loyalty to goldfish.

The last fish I played with on that auspicious day was resting on its belly in the mud in the shallowest of water. Its gills could not have been fully submerged, yet it seemed perfectly content. I spent a few minutes pouring fresh cool water over it from my cupped hands, which it seemed to appreciate. After carefully ruling out the possibility that it was laying eggs, I offered to scoot it into deeper water, but it turned me down with a couple of leave-me-alone flips and repositioned itself.

None of the fish I mingled with that day were the same one I had rescued previously – I checked, of course. That leaves us with three plausible explanations as to the docile behavior of these fish.

One: the fish intuited my inner resumé of devoted attention to their carp cousins, the goldfish, and thereby knew I wouldn’t harm them.

Two: the fish I rescued told all the other fish about the experience, assuring them that “If some chick comes along who's got this particular smell, she’s cool.”

Three: these fish are so completely unthreatened by human predators that they’ve become ridiculously tame and will behave that way with any human being who approaches them in a slow and gentle manner.

I hope number three is not the answer, because then I don’t get to feel very special, do I?

No doubt you’ll be noticing that none of the photos actually show my divine act of handling the live fish. In fact, I transferred my camera to Nancy, instructing her to snap close-up photos of my hands cradling the fish, but none of them came out. She might have neglected to push down the button far enough, being unfamiliar with my newfangled digital camera. Or, it could be like when you take a picture of a ghost and it doesn’t come out because a ghost doesn’t leave an image, and then nobody believes you. (Don’t you hate that?) I’m glad I had a human witness. Nancy saw it all, and can back up every inch of my story.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Editorial Conclusions

Thank you, readers, for all your helpful comments in response to the “opinion poll” I posted last time. Your answers have been very helpful (and you can still comment if you haven’t already). I’ve concluded that yes, the connection to bicycling has recently gotten a little thinner than people would like. Therefore as soon as I wrap up the fish story (which I hope to accomplish later today) I will return to more bike and horse oriented postings, shorter and with pictures!

PS: the ending to the fish story is like Wow.

(I promised myself in 1995 I'd never use that phrase, but I'm at a loss for words to describe it briefly, and I'm in a hurry -- which always lends itself to inadequate word usage. This is the only time you'll ever hear me say that about anything, I promise.)

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

A Brief Pause for a Word from the Readers

Wow, someone wrote in suggesting that I revert back to my bike stories. Don’t you understand, people? This IS a bike story. It all takes place under a bike path, remember?

This kind of feedback is important to me, though. What do others think of the fish story? Do you not find it gripping? Do you not find yourself waiting breathlessly for the next episode? Or should I indeed crawl out from under the bike path and get back on it? There is one final episode coming up about the fish . Aren’t you dying to know how it ends? Or should I just move all this over to a separate fish blog and leave you alone?

And for my final questions: (Now, be honest.) One, have these recent posting been too long? (I know blog entries have to be short, that’s the unwritten rule.) And two, is it in fact the lack of photographs in these last few postings that makes you long for a return to the bike stories? (I’ve actually got some darn good fish pictures and I’m going to go back and insert some into yesterday’s episode.)

OK, I’m inviting public feedback, so do write in. It’s for you that I blog. You think I do this for my health?

Regardless of what you tell me, though, I don’t see how I can opt out of the fish story completely at this point, do you? You want me to leave everyone hanging? Maybe when you read the amazing ending, you’ll be glad. Meanwhile, know this: I have an incredible bike story coming up after this about last week’s Seattle to Portland ride! the like of which you’ve never heard. So bear with me. Or at least fish with me.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

The Mind of Madness Meets the Fish of Gratitude

The foot of my guide, friend of racoons, in mud.

The fish put on a show for us long before the amazing part started. Nancy was taking me on a tour of all her hideouts and hangouts along the creek, introducing me first to the world’s greatest toe-squishing mud and then to a log in the middle of the stream along a sort of fish race track – a shallow channel through which the fish would skid along the mud on their bellies with most of their bodies out of the water and their dorsal fins unfurled like sails. We had to sit still on the log for a long time for the fish to get over their stage-fright. Two of them flipped right through our legs, which gave me a case of fish-fright. I shrieked, to the delight of Nancy.

(As you saw yesterday, normally I don’t suffer from fish fright, but sudden and unexpectedness slime-contact can catch one off guard, eliciting shrieks from the most composed among us. Never mind. As adults, we'd best be terrified at every opportunity when in the vicinity of children. It’s our job.)

Eventually it was time to wade on. Nancy asked which way I’d rather go. I felt drawn to follow the stream in the direction of its flow – the direction in which I’d released the trapped fish the day before.

When I noticed the considerable urgency of this pull inside me, I asked my Self, “What?! What do you want, oh Self?” and my Self said, “I want to wade in the stream, and come across the fish I rescued, which I’ll recognize by the patterns of missing scale patches on its body. I’ll be standing there in the water and the fish will swim up to me and bump its nibbly lips on the skin of my legs, the way minnows do [except remember that this is no minnow but a hefty carp] and I will interpret these as kisses of gratitude. Then the fish will slap its tail on the water, turn a few somersaults and skid on the mud in circles around me – which I will interpret to mean “Hey. I’ve been waiting for you. Y’know yesterday? I’ve been waiting to say ‘Thanks for saving my life.’ Really. I mean it.”

To which I’ll answer, “You’re welcome. I’m glad I could be of assistance.”

“And by the way,” the fish will add, skidding down a corridor of shallow mud on its belly. “In exchange for saving my life, you will be granted certain special privileges.”

“Really? Like what?” I would then ask. But at that moment the fish would disappear down the stream.

So that’s what my True Self admitted to me, in the privacy of my freaking mind as I followed my niece as she skipped through the brambles like a monkey and I hurtled through the brambles after her like a spooked cow.

Like always, life gets in the way of my finishing the story just as I approach the most intriguing part. So I’ll have to continue this later. Meanwhile, here's a picture of my niece on a log, waiting for me to catch up with her.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Life or Death Under the Bike Path

If you recall where the story left off last Friday, the fish had become wedged upside down between some rocks and was flipping itself into oblivion....

I launched into emergency mode without stopping to realize that in spite of its frustrated emotional state, the death of the fish was probably not imminent. Its gills were well underwater, and its panicked flailing was at least serving to keep the exposed part of its body wet.

I called Lindi to come quickly. She struggled over the unfriendly, pointy rocks in floppy inadequate sandals. Just as she approached I hollered for her to grab the camera, which was back at her starting point. In response to her annoyed expression, I yelled “Never mind! Come here! Hurry!”

(Imagine thinking of taking pictures at a time like that.)

What I so urgently wanted from Lindi remains unclear, as the task at hand was clearly a one-person job. Perhaps an audience was my need – a witness to the potentially heroic events that were about to unfold. I closed both hands around the fish’s tail and pulled up, but my hands slipped right up off its end. This was lucky for the fish since its fins, scales, and gills were all pointed upward and would no doubt have caught against the jaggedy surfaces on the way up. (Ow!) Though there was hardly any room around the poor beast, I managed to slide my hands down alongside of its body till I could close them around its tapered front end, and pressing its flipping tail between my forearms the best I could, I pulled it out.

Mr. Fishie seemed to realize I was trying to help, because he calmed down enough to allow me to execute this deft (if I may say so myself) action. Once I’d extracted him, he let me cradle him like a baby -- or at least, like a totally exhausted fish -- lying along my forearm while I held him around the tail with the other hand. Then he began to flip a little, so I held him around the front end as well, which was tricky because he was too big to get my hand around. I now realized he was slimed with blood (as was I, thanks a lot) and missing several patches of scales from hours, maybe days, of struggling against the rough rocks.

After consulting with Lindi we selected a placid, deep-ish pool on the downstream side of the dam as a suitable re-entry site and I tossed him in. He remained floating there motionless, facing our direction from underwater for several minutes -- perhaps too stunned to move, perhaps stupefied at his sudden change in fortune, perhaps taking a moment of silence to say “Thank you, Miss Kate, Goddess of the Fishes.”

I left feeling elated about enhancing the quality of someone’s life, but at the same time ever-so-slightly hypocritical, knowing that in another setting I was capable of sticking a fork into a family member of this very same creature. But let us not dwell on the macabre.

“Shut. Up!” I ordered my annoying mind. Can I not bask in the glory of the heroic rescuer for five minutes without my pesky conscience interfering? I am not a vegetarian! I’ve already been down that road and arrived at solid, meat-eating conclusions. So leave me alone!

The fish was now free. But this is by no means the end of the story. Check back for further developments in my new role as Fish Goddess. You have never heard the like, I promise you.

Friday, July 14, 2006

The Mystery of the Stranded Carp

To pick up where I left off about my stay in rural Minnesota:

Lindi and I (remember, I’ve changed her name to protect her from unwanted fame) found the bike path not far from the house, winding its way through parks and along lakes. Once on the path, we discovered a creek and the Troll Bridge – so named by our niece Nancy – which allowed us a rare vantage point from which to watch large fish swimming, playing, and seemingly talking amongst themselves about the best strategy for navigating through a small dam of rocks. It didn’t look that hard to us, but they weren’t privy to our aerial perspective. We called out suggestions, but to no avail.

The next day while lazing around the house reading, I suddenly stopped and announced that I wanted to go back to the Troll Bridge and watch the fish. Quite unlike my usual dawdling style of exiting, on this occasion I was ready to go in seconds and it was Lindi’s turn to be last out the door. Though I didn’t realize it at the time, I was soon to find out why I felt such an ugent pull to return to the creek.

We climbed under the bridge this time and sat on large uncomfortable rocks, not a one of which offered a single surface that was horizontal. Right away I heard a loud ticking sound. “What is that?” I asked Lindi, expecting her to say it was Nancy sneaking up on us, trying to scare us or hoping to lure us into a game of Billy Goat Gruff.

“It’s a fish,” she answered.

“A fish?”

“Over there, a fish flipping around in the water. I can see its tail.”

I made my way over the unaccommodating rocks to where she pointed and peered into various pools in the dam. Loud flipping noises drew my attention to the rock under my left hand, against which an enormous fishtail slapped itself silly. My mouth popped open at the size and unexpected proximity of this beast of nature, and at the desperate violence of its flailing. The poor creature was stuck between a rock and….. another rock. And a boulder. Or two. Fortunately, pooled in the middle of these rocks was enough water to keep the fish submerged up to its side fins. But its whole tail-end half stuck straight up into the air, leaving not an inch of space or a glimmer of hope for it to extricate itself from its suicidal position.

How, and especially why, it got into this predicament was unclear – its current location wasn’t visible from the calm pools the other fish were milling around in, so it couldn’t have aimed for this spot. It must have taken a flying leap with only the blindest hope of landing in water at all. And there were other, much easier routes through the dam that it could have chosen. I guess humans aren’t the only creatures who make inexplicably poor choices when sensible alternatives are available.

To be continued …….

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Family Sunday in Bikeland

Readers: I can barely contain myself from telling you about the Rescue of the Stranded Carp, which I mentioned Tuesday. The tale is is bursting me at the seams. However, I must now live with the consequences of thoughtlessly scheduling a dentist appointment during my blogging time slot. It was unbelievably rude of me and I’m so sorry.

In the meantime, I leave you with this photograph of a typical family activity on a Portland Sunday. Two fathers, Steve and Tom, one a former Portlander back on a visit from Utah, clump their kids together and go out for a drive in the neighborhood. You see this all the time around here and I've been on the lookout for a photo op. So when I spied this group I stopped them, bribing them into posing with the promise of a spot on my blog. That was way back on June 26th, and who knows, by now they may have given up checking for it. Their names are Savanna, Reegan, Caroline, Liam, and Nicolette – in what order, I know not. The most miniscule one is in the piggyback seat behind her dad, and the next smallest two are in the cart.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Who needs two wheels when one will do the job?

While we’ve been busily evolving from four wheels to two, Leo has long ago progressed from two wheels to one. He bought his Schwinn unicycle in 1969 for thirty five dollars. (He says Schwinn stopped making unicycles in 1986.) Two years ago he got rid of his car, and finds that he comes out way ahead just renting one once in a while. (Not Flexcar, though – I asked him this specifically because I’ve been conducting an informal survey about Flexcar, and Flexcar isn’t coming up cheaper than ordinary rentals.) Leo owns several bikes, but prefers the unicycle. “I’ve always been fond of unstable things,” he says, “like walking on loose rocks and skydiving. I like challenge in everyday life.”

Besides, it keeps his hands free so he can carry his paintings and other art pieces, many of which are made on glass or mirrors. When I met him, he wore hefty back pack and carried a couple of frames under his arm, some flat panels, and a long bundle of sticks.

Suddenly I feel like I’m taking up way too much space in the world. Thanks, Leo. Now my bike feels like a Winnebago.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Back from the Heartland

Hello everyone. I’m back in Portland where I can settle back into my daily blogging routine. Though a little later than usual this morning, I’ve got my tea, my three squares of pitch dark chocolate and my own computer. All I need to complete my homecoming is a good downpour. I’ve had nothing but relentless sun and blue sky for over a week. Good grief, a person needs a break once in a while!

Being out of my routine and natural environment had a strange effect on my muse. I found myself having to rummage through my mind to think of what to write. Once back in Portland, however, I was assailed by ideas from all sides before even leaving the airport. Hmm… Shall I write about these two British guys at the luggage carousel pulling their bicycles out of cardboard boxes, assembling them on the spot, and pedaling off in the dark of night in search of their hotel? Or should I write about those metal structures erected in the middle of the luggage carousels that mimic Portland’s various bridges? (When did those appear? Have I collected my luggage from there countless times without noticing them?)

Then, this morning, before I’d even spent more than two waking hours in this city, a guy named Leo in a porkpie hat zips by me on a unicycle. I chased him down Broadway for a photo and an interview, just for you.

Not all blogness was lost on my vacation, however, and in my continuing search for the biking life in rural Minnesota I encountered ever stranger curiosities which I’ll also bring to you shortly. The remarkable Rescue of the Stranded Carp cannot be overlooked, nor can the discovery of latent talents as a fish whisperer. As usual, it’s all about what you would miss from a car – more live examples of what can happen to your experience of the world when you slow down, when you go on foot or by human-powered vehicle, when you just say no to enclosing yourself in a Moving Metal Deathtrap, and begin to live life on a pedestrian scale.

Check back for details on all of the above.

Ride Wanted - Rickshaw idea draws throngs

I interrupt my Minnesota coverage to bring you the following announcement: Someone out there most urgently wants a ride in a rickshaw. Click on the comments section after my posting on the one-and-only rickshaw in Portland, below. My blog is suddenly being pelted with hits from people visiting that page. Unfortunately I know not the rickshaw owners shown. Nor do I know who the interested readers may be. (And I for one am grateful that the Internet technology is not so Big-Brotherish as to provide me with that information.) But if any visitors know the described “Rick” and “Kari” please do pass the word. I do not even know their last names -- though one could certainly make an educated stab in the dark as to Rick’s last name. Ha ha.

Maybe then Rick and Kari could hurl themselves into business of giving rides, and thereby allow me to claim that employment was created on account of my blog. Rick and Kari, are you out there? Please write in to the comments section.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Locals Fear Marauding Cyclists; Safety of Deceased in Question

Thank you to the person who wrote in about Register’s Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa (, which indicates that there are indeed cyclists taking full advantage of our nation’s available flatness. To be fair, I have begun to encounter somewhat more variation in landscape since I last wrote. It is not AS flat here in Minnesota as it is in Iowa.

I finally saw a couple of bikes yesterday, but only because I had the luck not to blink when they whizzed between one clump of shrubbery and another. We were in a boat out on a small lake and happened to be gazing at the shore at the right moment. Here’s a picture. (The color of the water isn’t quite right, but this is the best I could do with the supply of colored pencils I’ve managed to scare up. It’s sort of a deep, bottle green – much prettier than shown-- because the algae grows prolifically here. The fish must be happy about that.) My brother-in-law narrator pointed out various aborted plans to build bike paths around the lakes, so far voted down by some of the local citizenry who fear such amenities will attract riff-raff to the area. The cemetery is of particular concern. Can’t you just see it? Two-wheeled hoodlums stopping to overturn a few headstones on their way through. On the pro side, the argument is made that bicycle and pedestrian traffic would provide a steady stream of eyes on the cemetery, discouraging vandalism, which is more likely to occur in sparsely frequented areas. Further development of the paths is suspended till they can come up with the necessary vandal profiling criteria.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Halcyon Skies Found Hovering Above Enameled Plain

I’m far from home. Can you tell? My routine -- of sliding quietly out of bed before dawn, stopping by the kitchen for my tea and three squares of 88% chocolate, and descending into the bowels of my dwelling to post the day’s blog -- has gone to hell in a handbasket. That’s ok. That’s what vacations are for. At least that’s what I keep telling myself.

I did not forget my camera. I even brought the little cord that ferries the pictures into the computer. But I didn’t bring the computer program that makes all that work.

Just as well. I haven’t seen a bike since the plane landed in Sioux Falls, except for one that Lindi’s niece drug out of the barn as evidence. And this mystifies me, because from what I’ve seen so far, I’d expect cyclists to flock here from all over the country. This area is flat as a pancake – isn’t that every cyclist’s dream?

Since I can’t show you a photo, here’s a picture I made for you myself, showing the view out the car window all across the southern edge of Minnesota. This scene lasted for two hours. Maybe I’ve just answered the cycling conundrum. On a bike, you’d see this view for a week.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Relentless Horsenapping Continues

I interrupt the Bike Fair coverage to bring you this latest horse report.

If you remember from my latest horse report (Fourth horse from the sun), the horse with the bad hair had just appeared. A mere one or two days after that posting, I noticed that that horse too had vanished, like the others, leaving yet another severed cable attached to the horse ring. This, I thought, had to be the shortest ever horse installation.

Last Friday I was walking to lunch with a co-worker at around 1:00 when I spied a FIFTH horse standing over there in the usual spot next to the fire hydrant. Though I had my camera with me, my reputation as a sane person was still intact with this relatively new co-worker. Wanting to cherish such a rare perspective for as long as possible, I elected not to interrupt our conversation to dart across the street, crouch down in the gutter in the path of oncoming cars and begin snapping multiple photos of a tiny plastic horse.

It wasn't easy to restrain myself because I could see even from across the street that it was a particularly adorable horse – but I forced myself to wait.

So you can imagine my excitement when I emerged from work at the Friday-influenced time of 4:45 to finally photograph the horse. Most of my co-workers had left for the 4th of July weekend, so now I was free to photograph to my heart’s content, even if it required pretzeling myself into contorted positions in search of the ever more dramatic angle. Well – and by now you’ve guessed it – the little horse was GONE!

I have yet to find out if this is happening to all the horses or just this one. I ask you, is there someone out there on a mission to remove plastic horses from the face of our city? This would entail patrolling around with a pair of cable cutters – and not the kind you can stick in your back pocket. These cables ain’t no pipe cleaners. So the 'someone' is being rather aggressive about this. And in the middle of the day? It’s too weird. I for one find it really annoying. What kind of person would go to such lengths to be such a consummate party poop?