Friday, September 29, 2006

Cyclist hurled into past by apparition of self on downtown street

From a sidewalk table at a downtown coffee shop the other day, I watched a former version of myself ride by – a bike messenger. She was about 24, like I was when I had that job in the seventies, and she even sort of looked like me then. I had moved to Seattle on a whim, a whim that said, “Ug! I need to get out of Dodge.” Dodge being Eugene, where I was aimlessly wandering in and out of interesting courses at the university. Nothing like a few months of physical labor to drive you right back to studying with a whole new sense of purpose, but that’s another story.

I got a job at Bucky’s Messenger Service, thrilled to find you could be paid to ride your bike all day. I would have been completely happy except for the small detail that I had no idea how to eat. Add that to the fact that most of downtown Seattle sits at a 45 degree incline, and you have a simple math problem that doesn’t add up. Nothing plus nothing does not equal something.

I was so tired and thirsty by the end of a day that I’d buy a watermelon at the market on the way home and eat about half of it, thinking it would serve the dual purpose of filling me up and quenching my thirst without having to prepare anything. Then I’d crash into my bed and wake up the next morning and not eat enough breakfast. For lunch I’d buy something cheap but filling at the market. By the end of the day I’d be way too comatose to throw anything together for dinner, and I’d seek instant relief with the watermelon trick again. And around and around I went.

Ridiculous. I don’t know why I was being so dumb. My mother always fed me well – you’d think I’d have picked up a few tips. I guess I got onto a jag and couldn’t get off it. But this brings me to a topic I’ve been wanting to touch on in my blog, namely Fueling Your Biking Habit – because if you don’t eat right, you’re not goina like it.

I’ve been doing some experimenting with this in recent months, and I’ll be sharing some exciting findings with you in upcoming posts. You may think exciting is a strong word to use about food consumption, but really – I’ve made some discoveries that really work, thereby solving some problems that have plagued me and threatened my biking. Don’t worry. I’m not going to bore you with little pyramids covered with food words.

Good News Hint: It turns out that advancing age is not the problem. (Yay.)

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Cyclist attempting to run over own self is attacked by sidewalk

I’ve been practicing my turns lately. Not ordinary turns, but super tight turns. In case I ever want to get a job in the circus. I would think that would be the baseline -- the first thing they’d ask at the interview: how small can you turn on that thing? When I discovered I could make it all the way down the hairpin zig-zag wheelchair ramp over at the Hollywood Max station without touching a foot to the ground, I knew I had talent. So naturally I’ve been developing that as much as possible. Who wouldn't?

Yesterday I was downtown, waiting to cross 9th Avenue on my way to the post office. I approached the intersection from the nice wide sidewalk there, which was free of pedestrians. With so much space I decided rather than come to a complete stop, I would do one of my little spinny-spins. By the time I was back around, it would be time to glide right on across without even having to break my flow.

I have no idea what I did wrong. Maybe I just reached the smallness threshold of my turns. Whatever it was, I hope my body remembers it so this won’t happen next time. The right side of my head hit the sidewalk with such a loud whack that I was sure I’d split my helmet. It’s kind of hard to describe in mere words the force of the impact I felt. Let me just say that if a friend hit me in the head with a frying pan that hard? I would totally end the friendship immediately.

So you get the idea. Hard. I can still feel a sort of smacked sensation on that area of my head today. I’m glad I made it through the night, frankly. Not to seem overly preoccupied, but I had this neighbor, a perfectly strong and fit man in his early sixties, the very picture of health, who slipped on some loose gravel on a slightly inclined path, hit the back of his head, thought it was no big deal, and he died during the night. So if I seem like a hypochondriac it’s because I’ve seen those kinds of stories in real life about people I’ve personally known.

As for the rest of my body, scrapes and bruises on my knee, shoulder, and hip on the right side that hit the sidewalk, and bruises and small cuts along my left shinbone which must have come from my pedal or something. All that from practically a standing still position. Oh well, it’s nice to know that I can sustain a fall without breaking into a million pieces.

But here’s my most important point: No more riding without a helmet just because I’m only going two blocks down a quiet residential street. Now that I’ve discovered I can slaughter myself all on my own without another vehicle in sight, I’m a changed woman. Plus I’m finding another way to dry my hair.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

A Good Problem to Have

One of the many down sides of having a car is the parking hassle. The other day I had to go pick somebody up at the doctor, and yes, I drove my car. There are certain ordeals after which one is in no mood for public transportation and a bicycle isn’t feasible – not even the back of a bicycle. I have yet to find a good adult-bearing seat for the back, but it’s just as well, for had I shown up with even the most fabulous seat on the back of my bike, my reception would have been a few degrees lower than lukewarm.

Around and around I drove, up and down the spiral of the four-storey parking structure, trying to find a spot, using up as much gas as I had used to drive over there, crawling along in a snail procession of other cars and filling the whole space with car exhaust which from there billowed out into the environment. The car thing just looks stupider and stupider.

Strangely, I’ve been having a similar problem on my bike. Similar, but oh so different. Namely, I’ve been having an increasingly hard time finding a place to park my bike!

Do you realize what this means? It means more and more people are biking, which is spectacular. However (thanks to a few rotten apples who have to make everything more complicated for everyone), if you don’t lock you r bike to something, it’ll be gone when you get back. So this small matter of bike racks is of crucial importance to the success of biking in Portland. Often I find bike racks already fully occupied, or a complete lack of bike racks, and sometimes it’s hard to find even a signpost or a pipe available.

So here’s the good news: The city has one whole human being on this task specifically – that is, the task of determining where bike racks are needed. Her name is Gudrin Free, and once she determines a need for a rack, she sends a team of gorillas out to install one. All you have to do is call her. But don’t ask for a rack in front of your home unless there are businesses on your street. The city won’t install racks in a strictly residential area; the property owner has to do it.

I had a conversation with her a while ago about some rack-less areas I’d encountered, and she was very receptive. Sounds like a woman who loves what she’s doing. I told her I’d put the word out on my blog. Here’s her phone number: 503-823-6841.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006


Yes it’s true, and you can read about it here. Thank you Mr. Schwarzenegger, but that doesn’t address the fact that thousands of other people out there still have them, still want them, and still drive them. You’re the one who started this whole thing. Are we supposed to think you’re all wonderful now because you’ve decided to give up your own personal fleet?

To quote the article: "He was the first person to own one of the cars in 1992 after persuading manufacturers to make them for non-army purposes. But Hummers emit three times more carbon dioxide than a regular car “

Way to "make a difference,” guy. Consider that your personal contribution to the planet. How you can sleep at night, I have no idea.

Monday, September 25, 2006

I was worried I wouldn’t be able to hula-hoop and bike at the same time

But actually it turned out to be no problem. All I really had to do was carry it – transport it, from the park to my home, a distance of about two miles, most of it on quiet back streets. So I sort of wore it, hanging on my shoulder like a satchel, with my left hand holding both the handlebar and the hoop to keep it from sliding down. I bought a big one, so it was a little tricky.

I was so torn between hula hooping class and the car free day festivities that I tried to do both. The hula class? Wow. I’m converted. I might have to start a hula blog. The car free day? I sailed in toward the end of it, but I could see it had been well-attended and a festive atmosphere still lingered in the alley. And they’re right, it’s not a street, it’s an alley, much too small for cars anyway, so why not give it over permanently to footies and wheelies?

Getting back to carrying things by bicycle, a lot of people who had set up booths there had schlepped everything by bicycle – which of course shouldn’t surprise me, but it never fails to amaze me what can be done. After they collapsed everything up again I got a couple of photos (which I will insert as soon as Blogger is feeling more cooperative).

As for hula-hooping: Sunday at noon in Laurelhurst park by the duck pond. It’s free. But take money because you won’t want to leave there without a hoop of your own. The woman who leads it says it’s not really a class, but I somehow managed to increase my hooping skills about 500%. She played great music and it was like a big party with people standing around talking but instead of the usual drink-in-hand party pose, they swayed gently back and forth with hoops traveling around them like rings around cartoon planets. Next Sunday may be the last day of it, I’m not sure, but you can get more information at her website.

Finally I’ve found something I like as much as biking that I can cross-train with. That way my body will be doing something besides moving my legs in the exact same circle day in and day out. With hula-hooping, I’ll still be moving in circles, but in a horizontal plane instead of a vertical one.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Don't forget about Car Free Day

I don't usually post on weekends, but I just want to remind you all to check out Portland's Car Free Day that they're having downtown this weekend. See links to information about it by scrolling down to last Tuesday. In case you don't get a chance, I'll report in on Monday and you can experience it vicariously.

Tip: If you do go, it might be best to ride your bike. ha ha.

Friday, September 22, 2006

The Robin Hood of Bicycles

I discern a pattern emerging here. Whenever I go for my haircut (at a place downtown near the main library), I come out to find a fantastic bike locked up next to mine. I already showed you one I found there a few months ago. Here's another one, this time an old 3-speed Raleigh, just like one I had in the early eighties in Eugene. Look. The original Brooks leather saddle. Maybe not the original – how could it be, and look that good? It was about to be rained on as I took this picture. I hope that if the owner is reading this (I left a card), they will realize their folly and cover it when they leave it parked outside like that.

Now here’s my favorite part – the whatchamacallit at the front. (If you know what that’s called could you please write in and tell me?) The plaque thing with the Raleigh logo on it, that amazing bird.

Oh no, wait. This is my favorite part: the hood ornament! Try and find a fender like that today. It’s all dullsville out there now. And the forks! Look at the top of the forks there.

And on the back fender you can still see the logo painted on there. And I love that it’s from Robin Hood land.

The Raleigh I had was not as beautiful because some idiot had graced it with a very bad paint job in dirty-silver-gray. There’s only one reason anyone would cover up that beautiful green, and do such a sloppy job of it: The bike was stolen and they were in a hurry. And now of course you’re wondering how I came into possession of a stolen bike.

At the time I was seriously exploring the idea of becoming a bike mechanic as a way of supporting my art habits. I purchased an intense bike stand that could’ve held up a small automobile and began practicing on my friends’ bikes, taking them completely apart and putting them back together with new stuff. These activities caused me to become a magnet for needy bicycles. They would come to me, inexplicably, for free, like stray cats who leave their original owners and get themselves adopted by a neighbor who treats them better.

This one I found lying in the gutter --- as if thrown from the back of a truck and left for dead. It was at the edge of a hospital parking lot, across from a row of small businesses – not a home in sight. Otherwise I would’ve knocked on a few doors, of course, in search of an owner. I checked with the police, checked the ads in the paper, even paid to put an ad in the lost & found section myself, but no luck.

When I moved into smaller quarters and had to find homes for all my extra bikes, the Raleigh was the one I kept. I fixed it up but left it ugly, as a disguise, hoping its homeliness would protect it from theft. But eventually, someone nabbed it anyway. I lived on an alley without regular car traffic and thought it was safe enough to leave it locked to itself. Not.

I was as devastated as if I’d lost a friend, not to mention mad as a hornet at losing my only vehicle. We cyclists all fantasize about the special place in hell where the bike thieves writhe.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Why not a Smart Car?

We’re not getting a SmartCar because we don’t drive enough to warrant an expensive car no matter how fuel efficient it is. That’s according to Lindi, also known as Miss Utterly Practical and Sensible from Minnesota.

Those little babies ain’t cheap. And it’s not as if they use no gas at all. They are gasoline fueled, they just use much, much less than a real car. Lindi says we already use much, much less than a real car by hardly ever driving the cars we have.

Paring down to one car between us is an obvious choice. But we can’t decide which car to pare down to. She votes for getting rid of my car and I vote for getting rid of hers. She’s winning though, because – you guessed it – her car is more practical. (It’s a hatchback so we can haul stuff in it.) We’ve considered selling both of them and getting something we both like. But the Smartcar is out because besides being expensive, it can’t haul anything and only seats two. A used Subaru station wagon would make more sense.

That’s all fine and good, but what about the cuteness factor? She’s not figuring that into the equation at all. I have my image to consider. What will the neighbors think? They’ll think we’re ordinary, mindless, gas guzzling, polluting consumers – like them. I want a car in the driveway that says, “Look at us. Aren’t we fabulous? Don’t you wish you were us? This little number is all we need in the world. Don’t you feel foolish tooling around in that monster of yours?”

Just one block down from us, the parked cars take up so much space that kids can’t play in the street. Our neighborhood has the most basketball hoops, but what’s the use if the big fat cars are in the way? Our block, actually, is the least parked-up block around here. Not very many cars are parked on the street, and the cars that are there aren’t that huge. On our block the kids can skateboard, play basketball, baseball, anything. When Lindi and I shrink down to one car it’ll free up the street even more because we’ll keep it in the driveway.

The Joneses across the street have one of those VW beetles. I don’t see how I can be happy unless we get something smaller than they have.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

The Effect of Anonymity and Cockroaches on Road Rage

I came across another one of those SmartCars, in someone’s driveway up on Westover. I stopped my bike (obviously -- how else would I have taken this picture?) A couple of pedestrians walking by saw me see it, and stopped for a brief conversation about it. (They want one too.)

The thing about biking? You have these friendly little exchanges with people all the time. Unlike driving, where instead of making your way among other people, you’re negotiating among conflicting rivers of Moving Metal Deathtraps. And usually you can’t make eye contact with the drivers – which makes everyone anonymous, in other words not necessarily a human being. And that’s when we have what in the States has been dubbed Road Rage.

People are upset up-to-here about something, like the fact that their daughter has just had a large cockroach tattooed on her smooth, perfect, youthful neck. And they can’t do a damn thing about it because it’s done. She’s over 18 and had no legal obligation to listen to you when you told her that when she’s 50 and her neck starts to go, the last thing she’s going to want is a cockroach on there.

Are we talking about SmartCars yet? Is this a bike blog, or what? Yes, it’s a bike blog and we’re talking about the origins of Road Rage, which is pretty darned important whether you’re in a bike or in a car.

Anyway my point is that people have a lot of anger stacked up inside them, not about driving but about other painful things, and then what do they do but climb into a Moving Metal Deathtrap where no one can see who they are and start operating heavy machinery which it says, right on the package that the anger comes in, that you shouldn’t do.

Next thing you know, a mistake is made, which is bound to happen under the influence of such a toxic substance. A driving error is committed. The amazing effect that anonymity can have is that it frees one up to be: a big jerk. As in, No one’s watching. I don’t know you, you don’t know me, so for now I can flip you the bird; and if you flip me the bird I’m hopping out of my car and kicking a hole in the side of your car and I’m out of here in a few seconds, Have a nice day, drop dead, g’bye.

Anyway, back to my original topic, I want a SmartCar. You know, as opposed to a DumbCar. But actually, we’re not getting one. We’ve discussed it up one side and down the other and I’m resolved about that. But it doesn’t stop me from wanting one (whine…).

Now I’ve run out of time. So tomorrow’s topic will be: why not a Smartcar?

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

CAR FREE DAY coming up this weekend in Portland

For once, I’ve found out about something before it happens instead of after. A Car Free Day is planned in Portland for this coming weekend! September 22nd through 24th. You can get all the information about it at this site. And, here’s a little inspirational film about it that’s a must-see. It’s only a minute or two long. Be careful when you go to that site, though, because you’ll want to watch all the movies. And if you visit this site while you’re at work, know that the sound tracks of the movies will make it very clear to everybody in cubeland that you’re not really working. Ha ha.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Girl on Broadway Bridge

It’s not as if I stop for any stranger that flags me down. Her sense of urgency might have alarmed me if not for the expression of pure elation on her face….

Last Friday I was riding home at about 6:30 after our first rain of the Fall. As I headed across the Broadway Bridge I glanced north and saw the Fremont Bridge rising out of an ethereal mist, then glanced behind me to see downtown Portland, and darned if it, too, wasn’t rising out of an ethereal mist. I stopped to take pictures north, west and south; and although cameras – at least in the hands of amateurs – often let one down when it comes to capturing mood, I’m not too unhappy with these.

Don’t think you’re experiencing fully the richness of the moment by looking at these pictures, but at least they give you the idea. For the real thing, you just gotta be there (perhaps you were….), and to be there, you have to be traveling either by bike or on your own little tootsies. Those are your only two choices. I know this because I stood there watching the motorists zoom by. They did not turn their heads. Their view, and necessarily so, was of the back of the car in front of them. Now think of it -- which would you rather look at? This?

Or this?

Not only did the car people not see what I saw, they did not feel what I felt –- the dampness of the air and the tickling of the mist (yes, the ethereal mist) on my face as I rode through it. Nor could they have even noticed the stalwart young woman standing at the railing toward the bridge's other end, and even less likely, the excitement on her face as she sought out the eye of the next person to come along. That would be me, riding in her direction after I’d taken my pictures.

She had some question for me which I couldn’t hear. Her expression and demeanor promised health and good news, so I stopped willingly, confident that no panhandling or disturbed babbling would ensue. She was smiling by this time, pointing south, and asked “Did you see the rainbow?”

I had not, actually. In spite of the fact that I was on a bike, in spite of the fact that I’d even further slowed my travel to a walk and then to a standing position, in spite of the fact that I had just taken a photo of the darn thing! Can you believe that? Look, here it is, the picture I took before I even met up with this pointer person. Can you see it there, the lower right stub of a rainbow emerging from left of the Steel Bridge and then diving behind the clouds? It doesn't show up nearly as well as it did in real life. Rainbows have an aversion to being photographed.

Perhaps I was too busy “seeing” the foolishness of the people in their cars. We all need help, don’t we? We all need help seeing what’s right in front of our faces. That’s what we’re supposed to see most, not some imaginary moment in the future that may or may not come, like what you’re having for dinner or what you’re going to be when and if you ever grow up. So thank you miss rainbow girl, for pointing that out to me -- me who thought she saw all but didn’t. I doubt I'd even have noticed it later, looking at the picture when I got home.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

The Imminent Return of the Reposing Blogger

It’s not as if I stop for any stranger that flags me down. Her sense of urgency might have alarmed me if not for the expression of pure elation on her face.

….to be continued.

I’m nearing the end of my week long break but I’m not quite there yet. I can hardly wait to start up again. I have so much to tell you.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Mother of All Bike Racks

Hi everybody.
It seems like weeks since I’ve posted. I miss this so much! So I’m taking a break from my break to bring you this link to the ultimate “statement” bike rack.

Click here:

And whoever sent it in, Thank You, that really says it all! I somehow completely missed it when you sent it in months ago, and only found it while scanning over old postings and noticing a comment I hadn’t seen before. Don’t know how that didn’t turn up in my email like they usually do.

I’ll be back -- probably sooner than we thought!

Friday, September 08, 2006

Temporary Muse Incubation

Hello Readers!
For the first time in a year, I’m taking a little “creativity restoration” break from this daily blog.

I’m betting I’ll be back in a week or so. Meanwhile, this will be a good opportunity for you to mine the archives for amusing posts you might have missed. So you can still drop in for your daily espresso of news & humor about bikes & horses! And at the same time fill in your gaps on the various threads.

Archive searching hint: I make it a point to give each post a title that pretty clearly represents its content. Especially the horse ones – all the horse posts have horse-ish titles, containing if not a horse word, then a horse name from history or horse literature, such as Flicca or Black Beauty.

Don’t hold back! And remember: I’m a landmine of information!

Thursday, September 07, 2006

More on Tires

Way back in August I promised you more information about my tires. Here’s the back tire I bought last March. Is it not beautiful? It’s called Nimbus. I like the red walls. Seems to be indestructible. I tell you I’ve run over every broken piece of thing with it, and still no problems. Here’s a close-up so you can really zone in on the treads.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

How to Live Well Without Owning a Car, by Chris Balish.

Book Review
Just when Lindi and I were basking in holiness at the idea of knocking down to one car, this happens: We bought this book. That was in the morning and by afternoon we realized that as a two-car household we were absolutely wallowing in excess. Now we feel like owning one between the two of us is questionable. The book sparked a three hour discussion (our longest ever) about our transportation options, causing us to while away an entire afternoon sitting in the sunshine in the back yard instead of doing weekend chores. (Darn.)

The events surrounding the purchase of the book were too laden with coinkidink to pass off as anything less than a booming voice from the thunderclouds. What would you think if this happened to you? We’re out doing errands in Lindi’s car, the car use being justified by the fact that the errands involved transporting some boxes of stuff. We stop by Powell’s for a quick browse and I come across “How to Live Well Without Owning a Car." I think “Oh, I know all about that,” but I buy it anyway with the idea of reviewing it on my blog. We hop into our car to head home, and immediately come up behind a horde of cyclists hauling a hoard of furniture by bike. Mattress, sofa, file cabinet -- you name it, there it goes, each household item being dragged up the ramp to the Broadway Bridge by a two-wheeled human-powered vehicle. We look at each other, we think of our five wine-sized boxes in the trunk, we feel like two nuts trying to shoot a house-fly with a rifle.

Though Balish can’t say enough about the benefits to be reaped by ditching your car, he also recognizes the complexity of making such a decision. And he leaves no stone unturned in addressing every issue that’s going to stand in your way. Whether you live in a large or small city or in sprawling suburbia, he’s thought it through for you, even including the logistics of car-free dating and socializing.

There’s no phase of the adjustment period he doesn’t cover, from overcoming your advertising-induced car ego to the issue of arriving at work sweaty and possibly smelly. And for many of these obstacles he offers not just one solution but several. I really thought I knew all this, but reading this book I was constantly surprised with new information and tricks and ideas I hadn’t thought of.

In reading his own story, we learn how Balish accidentally stumbled into discovering the car-free life. This ain’t no tree-hugging, vegetarian potato-head on a mission. He’s just an ordinary guy who sat down and did the math. Laced throughout the book, other people’s testimonials to the car-free or “car-lite” life support his position -- and my local peeps will be proud to notice that an ample number of them are weighing in from Portland. He quotes a certain Jim Viehman, journalist and car owner: “If you think about it, some of the most meaningless times in life are spent in a car.”

The Balish book is not just about using a bicycle, but primarily about not using a car. In addition to bicycling, entire chapters are devoted to the ins and outs of using mass transit (are you a transit snob?), carpooling and ride-sharing, motorcycles and scooters, and good old walking. But his own favorite is clearly bicycling, and I’ll end with a quote that assures me that yes, my little tiny act of using a bicycle for my transportation really does make a difference:
“When a bicycle replaces a car for daily transportation, we all breathe less carbon monoxide, lead, cyanide, benzene, sulfates, ozone, particulate matter, and volatile organic compounds.”

Monday, September 04, 2006

Coming up after the holiday weekend

It’s Monday, time to blog, but it’s a holiday. I’m going off on a hike to make my legs do something besides go around in two circles – circles that never change, that are probably wearing out my hip joints in the same exact places day in and day out.... which kind of concerns me sometimes. See this book? I recommend it. I’m going to review it here on my blog next time I post.
Have a good Labor Day.

Friday, September 01, 2006

GEMcars picking up in Portland?

Look! The delivery people are using them! Is that not perfect? Easy parking, easy maneuvering, and if they have to double-park, they’re not that hard for other cars to get around. The city of Portland should actively encourage businesses (that deliver something small enough) to use these cars. Think of the space that would save – not to mention the money the businesses would save. You can get into one of these babies for eight or nine thousand dollars (at least if you put it together yourself) and they don’t take any gas. How fabulous is that? Where’s the stampede? Why isn’t every small-item delivery business RUNNING to get a fleet of these? See the choices at .