Tuesday, October 31, 2006

It’s a dead heat between the nose and the eyes

We don’t yet know which runs the fastest. And yes, I realize it’s a disgusting topic, but it’s a biking issue and it has to be dealt with. This alone would stop some people from biking altogether. A woman I knew who was healthy and in reasonably good shape said she couldn’t ride a bike because she was “allergic to the cold.” She concluded this because whenever she was out in it, her nose ran.

Can you believe that? Allergic to the cold. Ha! Raise your hand if your nose does not run when it’s cold out.

It’s cold now, and not just my nose runs the whole time I’m riding, but my eyes stream out tears at a funereal rate. Though my nose has run in the cold since it was a child's nose, my eyes only started doing this a couple of years ago. (Hm. That’s about when I started riding, and they only do it when I ride. Duh – could that be it?) Anyway, it’s a real mess -- a rolling mess of liquidity.

What to do? First of all, forget about Kleenex or other tissues, which self-distruct after one wipe – no, sooner -- after one pull from a pocket. You’ve got your big full-fingered biking gloves on and you can’t even feel those flimsy things in your hand. What I use is paper dinner napkins, the kind they dole out at eating establishments as if they didn't grow on trees. They’re soft and they survive several pulls from your pocket -- provided that you have a pocket, which a lot of biking apparel does not. Irks me no end. But more about that later.

You like horror stories? Well it's that time of year, isn't it? I want to tell you about the bike apparel industry’s answer to the runny nose problem. You will not believe it. My mother would roll over in her grave, if she were in a grave, which I’m very thankful that she’s not. But this is definitely one of those things I’m not going to tell her, because I don’t think she could sustain the shock of it.

I will get back to you on this tomorrow, or as soon as I can take some explanatory photos.

Monday, October 30, 2006

This biking thing ain't cheap

Time to upgrade, before my fingers snap off and I start losing things again. Last winter, if you recall, I lost both gloves and a pair of rainpants. I’ve replaced the rainpants, but my fingers are still out there in the weather. Losing things happens when you don’t have a way to carry the dozens of accessories necessary for biking. So yesterday I shopped for some bike stuff.
Gloves: $30.
Rainproof jacket: $200.
Shoe covers: $33.
Set of panniers: $120 to $145, depending on size

I put several items on hold while I ponder the expense: eeeek! But if you don’t have the right equipment, you’re not going to last. I made it through last year without everything, but at least I had the pants, the helmet cover, some semblance of a rain jacket, and gloves.

This year I just gotta do something about the schlepping situation if nothing else, or I’m going to lose the things I do buy -- again. Stuffing my basket with plastic bundles was ok for a while, but I’ve had it with the vagabond look, not to mention the hassle of keeping track of the bundles.

We're thinking maybe this is the moment to sell my car, and then go all out and buy everything we both need to make this biking life work. So Lindi and I are doing the One-Car-Household Experiment. During November, we’re going to pretend we only have her car, and see how we do. That way we’ll see what it’s really like to share.

Even though I like my car better, if the experiment works out, mine’s the one we’ll probably get rid of. Just because mine needs a repair (engine kills for no reason in the middle of driving) and hers doesn’t, and because hers, being a hatchback, is better for hauling things. She doesn’t like my car because she says the seats hurt her back. I don’t like hers because it’s clunky and heavy and has a turning radius the size of a skating rink. My car is sometimes known as the FreezeMobile because the heater isn’t perfect. Hers is sometimes referred to as the Cat-Pee Car because a cat peed in it once and I swear I can still smell it but she says it’s gone. So those are the issues. Maybe I should open it up to public vote. Long as we're all in voting mode. Which one do you think we should keep? Is it better to freeze, or smell cat pee? I can’t decide. When voting, keep in mind that the seat problem is easily fixable with a back-support thing, and a good turning radius is important for prompt error reversal.

Friday, October 27, 2006

The Lowdown on the DogEarz

Blogger had a maintenance time-out yesterday afternoon which once again thwarted my efforts to insert photos of dog-named apparel into yesterday's post. And it's not working now either. Someone needs to fire them. I'll keep trying.

Meanwhile, here's what's printed on the label:
Dog Earz Helmet Mounted Ear Warmers / Rox USA / Handcrafted with pride in the USA by non-exploited entrepreneur-type craftspeople who ride their bikes every day.

Well, that says it all. That also explains why they cost a full twenty one smackeroonies. You want to pay thru the nose so people here can have jobs, or you want a fabulous deal that means someone on the other side of the globe is making 2 cents an hour? It's a complicated question, and I don't claim to have the answers -- but I sure do have ideas, and a ton of questions. Don't get me going on that or I'll have to start a whole 'nother blog.

PS: I bought these at City Bikes on Ankeny. I don't know who else carries them.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Ears cry out for mercy as cold moves in

So my current find is these little earflaps. I put off buying them for over a year because they’re called “Dogearz.” I’m not fond of dogs and I shy away from product names that remind me of dogs or imply that I’m going to look like one. But finally I did buy a pair. And you know, I suspect I do look like one when I have these on – a dog, that is. Really. This is one of those “comfort-before-beauty" decisions that practical life seems to be present so frequently. I’ve purposely avoided looking in the mirror while wearing them. The other thing they remind me of is the helmet earflaps that COPS use – and that’s another look I’m definitely not after. But I must say, they do work -- to keep my ears warm without making me too hot.

I gotta run now, but I’ll post photos and brand name information on them in a couple of hours.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

The Rise of the Bo-bo Doll

Alright, so I skipped a day. It happens. I will not sink into the pit of excuse-giving, or display items about my personal life on my blog for all the world to read. Let us just say that large concerns that were pending have been resolved. Two of the outcomes are cause for celebration, and the third one isn’t all bad. One is now free to move forward, and one senses a mammoth weight lifted off of one. One is ready to commence a new life tomorrow.

Monday, October 23, 2006

1975 Motobecane Grand Touring for Sale

I had good reasons to think it would be an Antique Road Show moment. (1) In this country, an antique is anything older than twenty five years. (2) It’s in perfect condition. (3) It’s very classy looking. But the guy at Sellwood Bikes said it wasn’t that special; not a particularly sought after item in the collector’s world.

I took it there Saturday, because Hugh at Northwest Bicycles told me that two of the guys there, named Steve and Erik, know all about old bikes and are all connected up with people looking for them.

I explained to him that it never quite fit me right. He said “This frame was made for men.”
Well of course I knew it was a men’s bike, but no bike merchant ever thought that was a problem in 1975. In those days men’s bikes were all they made for serious biking. The only alternative was a girly bike without the bar across the top of the triangle, which anybody could see wasn’t as stable. “Men are longer in the torso,” continued Steve. Which explains why I always felt like I was leaning over too far. Darn thing was too long for me.

But things are different now. I plan to follow up with a woman in Portland who custom designs road bikes for girls. I’m going to go see her shop and I’ll report back.

Meanwhile, I'll be selling this bike If anybody out there's interested, you can email me. I'm putting my email address here in code so that the spam scanners can't recognize it. It's just my first name, Kate, the AT sign, then my last name, Gawf, then dot, and then net.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

I will not be able to post on Friday till later in the afternoon. Meanwhile, a few photos of the sculpture in front of Powell’s Book Store that functions as a bike rack. Have you ever really looked at it? It's a row of books. Have you read the titles? You can do that now, on my blog, without having to stand in the rain.

Bike Rack for the Bikeless

Look at this weird bike rack I found outside Wild Oats at Bridgeport Mall. (Is that what it’s called? In Lake Oswego? That hideous shrine to excess? That assault on the eyes?) This is not a bike rack, it’s a sculpture of a bike rack. Not meant to be used – notice no one is using it – because who’s going to risk annihilation to approach by bike a place like this mall, located at the confluence of a couple of eight lane streets and one or two freeways? Ug. One of the most unbike-friendly destinations in the whole metropolitan area. More complaining to come. I’m in a hurry this morning. But if anyone can see a way to actually use such a bike rack as this, do write in. I really do want to know.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Bailey's Bakery & Cafe

Today’s post will be quick, since yesterday’s was long, and since I woke up with something in my eye the size of a coffee table, which is driving me NUTS.

More on our trip: We went to Oysterville. Found out Yes, we could ride our bikes there next time. We met some cyclists that were doing it. The bike path went right past this restaurant: Bailey’s. I ate there what may have been the best sandwich of my known life. It’s called “Grilled Portobella Mushroom.”

She even makes all the bread herself. I still swoon when I think of that sandwich. Only one weird thing about this restaurant: no oysters. They said they’re working on it.

Here it is. You can hardly see it here, but it dows have a bike rack in front of it.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Gem of a Town holds Jungle Oasis

To get back to my trip north with Lindi last week: I’m impressed with Astoria, and the Astorians. I return every couple of years expecting it to be ruined, and it’s still not. The gorgeous old buildings still stand, and best of all, the shops below them are still cool. Many are the same shops that have been there for generations. Others are newer businesses, like thrift shops or coffee shops, each one an extension of the personality of its owner. (I can say that since I had conversations with several of them.) How are they able to survive? It must be that Walmart hasn’t hit the area yet. They’ve also managed to avoid the slicked-up, shiny, yuppie trendiness that eventually plagues rediscovered old meccas when the original people (who made it what it is in the first place) can’t afford to live there any more and have to move out, making way for the developers to roll in and turn the whole area into icky little strips of boutique-y-ness.

You can safely include Astoria in your bike travel plans, since an ample bike lane passes right through it. You’ll see the exquisite Liberty Theater, which luckily has fallen into the hands of conscientious people with taste and a sense of history. Right next to it, if you don’t blink, you’ll notice a wee coffee shop under a giant rusty coffee cup. After sticking my head in at several coffee shops while browsing around downtown, this one nabbed me off the street as the place to meet Lindi after her business meeting.

If you want warm and cozy, you want the indoor jungle of the Rusty Cup.You won’t have to worry about overcrowding, since it only holds about six people. But someone sure knew how to make the most of that space. Two postage stamp tables perch against a wall where their occupants can relax over a cup while jungle animals chew on their hair. For those needing more spreading out room, a counter along the window provides that as well as an excellent people-watching vantage point onto the street. And if people aren’t interesting enough, turn your head any which way and bask in the company of actual-size jungle friends. And I think there was also another table in a different corner but I’m not sure.

But what really sold me was, for one, that they know how to make tea. As a tea drinker, I can tell you that’s not easy to find. None of this malarkey of bringing you a glass of tepid water from a faucet and tossing you a lame teabag. (Don’t you love “malarkey”? I never thought I’d start using words like malarkey, but after about five decades, the standard b.s. words seem so done-to-death.) The tea types they offer are varied and of superb quality.

The other thing that won me over? Lindi and I could actually hear ourselves talk! And if that isn’t a rare and precious thing! Music, yes. Frenetic and loud? Not.

Why so many coffee shop owners create a place that’s impossible to relax or converse in, I have no idea. How hard is it to choose something mellow and keep down the volume? There’s no shortage of mayhem in the world and you can get it for free. Don’t be charging me money and then making me feel like I’m sitting on the yellow line in the middle of the street. (Am I ranting?) My point is, the Rusty Cup ain’t that way. Go there. You’ll be safe from the assaultive forces of western civilization.

In one of many whimsical details, the giraffe you see here is nibbling at actual plant life that has eked its way through a crack.

Monday, October 16, 2006

No More Miss Nice Guy

Those of you who’ve been reading my blog for a long time may recall that a year ago (October 5th) a car ran over me on Broadway. Ok, not completely OVER me, but part way. (For summary of accident, scroll to bottom of post.)

When the driver realized she’d hit someone, she hurriedly backed up ten or fifteen feet. Unfortunately my bike had become stuck under her car, and I was stuck under the bike. Luckily I was protected from total skin and flesh loss by slippery clothes. Even so, not being an individual of 22-year-old, death-defying, Evil-Kenievil constitution, I did not spring up from the pavement, streak off on my bike with a “thanks-for-not-killing-me” wave, and feel fabulous the next day. I needed a little body work afterwards – as did my bike.

All was easily fixable in the next couple of weeks, and I sent the driver the bill. Considering what it could have been, I thought she’d be grateful it was so small -- only a little over a hundred dollars for everything. But I never heard back. And I know I had the right address because I checked it on her driver’s license.

I could have followed up with reminder notes and phone calls, but I never got around to it. And you know that rule when it comes to being paid back for something: the longer you wait the less likely it will happen. And the more time that went by, the less I felt like hounding after it. It was her job, not mine. She was the one being flakey, why should I let that bring tedium into my life?

I never reported the accident. I suspected she didn’t have driving insurance, and I didn’t report that either. Much as I disagree with driving without insurance, I also detest the squirrelly insurance industry, and I thought we could just work it out amongst ourselves. She was so nice, and seemingly even more traumatized than I was. I ended up consoling her for running over me. How screwed up is that?

I could have made life difficult for her, and I didn’t. That probably wasn’t even her first bu-bu. Maybe it was her fourth or fifth, and she couldn’t get insurance even if she wanted to. Thanks to me, she’s probably still out there, driving without insurance. So that's my contribution to the world.

And here’s Tasha's contribution to the world: Thanks to her, there’s one less Miss Nice Guy on the road today – because next time this happens, I’m not giving any breaks. I’m just going to do everything the standard way. Report the accident, and submit the names of everyone involved. You short on money? You got a trainload of problems? You got a hundred and one great excuses? Tell it to the hand.

Quick summary for those who want accident details: On my route home I travel East on Broadway. Since Broadway is one-way the wrong direction, I ride on the sidewalk for about 3 blocks before I get off it at the soonest opportunity. I have to cross a couple of side streets that feed onto Broadway. This one car was so busy looking left for an opening to jump into the flow of cars, that she never looked to her right to check out the sidewalk for pedestrians or cyclists.

After waiting at a complete stop with my feet on the ground for several seconds, I assumed she’s seen me, so I started through the intersection. You can deck yourself out with lights, you can wear a fluorescent lime-green jacket, but if the driver doesn’t turn their head your way, it won’t do any good. I knew we hadn’t made eye contact yet, but that was because it was raining a whole collection of mammals and I couldn’t see through her window at all. But with my lights on (even though it wasn’t dark yet), and my lurid jacket, I thought we were good. But no.

Friday, October 13, 2006

One Year Later: A Squished Cyclist Remembers

I've been so engrossed in the compelling events of our trip north -- which I still haven't finished telling you -- that I bypassed the one year anniversary of my biking collision with a car. If you're bored over the weekend and want to review that event, you can rummage around in the archives and find October 5th, 2005 -- entitled, I think, Rain Pie and Bike Sandwich. But good grief, not if you don't feel like it. I mean, it's not like homework or anything.

In fact, never mind. Skip it. I wrote things much too long in those days. (I didn't really know how to blog yet.) I'll review it for you in 2 sentences on Monday before I tell you how that all played out afterwards -- which I never did get back to you about.

By Tuesday I'll be back to bicycle highlights of the cranberry bogs, with photos. Also, starting next week I'll probably be back to blogging on an early morning schedule instead of all over the day like it's been this week.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Three Whales Converge on a Single Beach

I really wanted to hear his big fat excuse for driving a vehicle that size. Since my curiosity was sincere, I was able to temporarily suspend my original assumption, which was “because he’s an idiot,” and eke out my question unencumbered by a hostile tone. Instead of asking How’s it feel to be the biggest damn hog on the road?-- an accusation only thinly disguised as a question, I asked, “How’s it feel to drive something that big?”

He answered in a friendly conversational voice. “Oh, it’s no big deal. I don’t feel like it’s any big advantage over other cars. In fact, the little cars can zip in and out in front of me a lot faster than I can move around.”

(Duh. Really?)

I wanted to ask, Anybody ever flip you off? or Can't you just feel the seething? but instead I asked, “You don’t feel like they’re unfriendly to you or anything?”

“Naah! Not a bit,” he jollied. “But I don’t really drive it much around town,” he added. “Too big. I just take it out for camping trips.”

“Do you find that it’s better for camping and stuff than a standard SUV?”

“No. I really don’t. I think any of those other four-wheel drive vehicles are probly just as good.”

Then why the hell did you buy the sucker, I wondered privately. He went on to say he’d bought his Hummer when they first came out, before they came out with the recent H2, the new "smaller" version.

I wanted to ask, How’s it feel to be polluting the air at three times the rate of any other vehicle on the planet? but instead I said, “I hear they churn out a lot more pollution than… most… other cars..”

“No more than the average truck,” he said, happy to relieve me of the nasty rumor.

Except that it’s not a truck, I wanted to point out. It’s a personal vehicle, typically used, in this country, for carrying ONE individual, or two. An individual who is neither hauling cargo nor in need of protection from explosive devices.

“Gas bill must be pretty hellacious, huh?” I continued.

“You’re not kidding!” he said laughing. "Other day I filled that thing, cost me $125.!!! Ha ha! That’s another reason I don’t drive it around town much.”

He pointed to a nearby SUV and asked if it was ours. I said “No, we walked over.” It occurred to me that he might offer us a ride back down the beach, and the mere thought of myself (Miss Car-Hating, Save-the-Planet, Exercise Zealot) climbing into a Hummer for a ride on a beach began convulsing my brain. I wrapped up with a few polite words, hooked on to Lindi, and hurried away.

He was a whale among men. In a vehicle that was a whale among cars. On a beach, where cars don’t belong. With a whale, where whales don’t belong either.

To someone a hundred pounds overweight a Hummer might not look unreasonably large. Maybe that was part of it. But there are plenty of other Hummer drivers of normal size. Like what about that petite woman I see climbing down from the Hummer she drives to the gym near where I live? What’s her excuse? Now that I’ve talked to one, I’m even more curious to talk to others.

Do you realize that he agreed with me on almost every point? Quietly and without first knowing my point of view? Did you notice how amiable and pleasant he was? He was not evil. He was simply oblivious. So now, my new question, the one that replaces “How can people be so evil?” is “How can people be so oblivious?”

I read somewhere that you never really find the answers, that the best you can do is come up with better questions.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Spokesgoddess for Health of the Planet meets Scourge-of-the-Earth

I never imagined that a walk on the beach would require the same level of alertness and readiness for leaping out of the path of a car that you need as a pedestrian in a housing development with no sidewalks. But Lindi and I both felt like the cars had the right of way.

We decided to feel grateful that anyone at all was on foot. You'd think that anyplace it was allowed, most people would drive -- at least in this car-obsessed society. But you'll be happy to know that at least half the people were opting to walk.

After standing around staring at the whale for a bit, I became aware of an immense, even bigger than usual Hummer parked on the sand behind us. Of course I had to take some pictures of the quintessential conflict: beautiful beach v. ruthless destroyer of the planet. Then I noticed a man approaching, and asked him if that was his car. He said yes.

Like I told you, I’ve been wanting to have a little chat with a Hummer owner for a while now. So naturally I’ve been trying that on in my mind -- pretending I'm talking to one. And I keep noticing that all kinds of hostile sentiments well up inside me every time – just like they do when I spot one of these machines on the road. These monsters that have been condemned by every environmental group in existence, these behemoths that belch out three times the pollution of the average personal vehicle and take up a ridiculous amount of space – how can I contain my rudeness? "How dare you?" I think indignantly whenever I see one.

At the same time, I’ve realized that spewing my venom upon the owner of one of these beasts wasn't likely to influence them to switch to bike riding or run out and buy a battery-operated Gemcar. As a general rule, spewing venom on people rarely works to advance one’s point of view.

Even though I knew these things, I had not yet come up with an alternative approach when I chanced upon Hummer-Man on the beach that day. In my mental video of the scene, I had never gotten past pummeling the person with his own revolting image. Or with large stones, or exploding fireballs, depending on my mood (which is normally very zen-like). So when I started my conversation with him I didn’t feel prepared, and had to wing it the whole way.

For now, I’ve come to the end of my blogging allotment for the day so I’ll have to wait till tomorrow to report on how it went.

Whale 2 of 3

That other whale I mentioned? Here it is. In case you couldn't think of anything more evil than a car on the beach, this would be it.

I've mentioned Hummers before, and you know how I feel about them. But I don't know if I've ever mentioned a long-term desire I've had to actually have a conversation with a Hummer owner. Finally I have had the opportunity. And I plan to tell you how it went later today, but for now I just have a few seconds to pop this picture in for you. I didn't want you to expire from the suspense. I'll be back soon.

The picture is there now

The whale picture I promised you? It's there now, at the end of yesterday's post. As for that other whale I found on the beach? I won't be able to tell you about that till later today, like around noon or so, but you'll be shocked. I know I was.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006


Of course the first thing you do when arriving at the beach is to put on all your layers and go walking. We immediately saw a madman, his madness evident by the fact that he was driving a motorized vehicle on the beautiful sand. But then we saw another one, and another, and noticed that the sand was covered in tire tracks. Apparently this is legal in the state of Washington. I have no idea why it was decided that was ok up there while it’s unheard of in Oregon. I don’t know about you, but to me a car on the beach looks EVIL.

The next day we drove a few miles south of where we were staying, in search of an Internet café we’d heard about. This was partly a business trip for Lindi, and she needed the Internet for an hour or so. By the time it was my turn, though, we were ready to be out of the coffee shop. That’s why I only posted two sentences that day, and we didn’t want to think about hunting down the Internet for the rest of our vacation, sorry.

We headed back north, and suddenly Lindi pulled into a side street much sooner than I expected, not the side street where the cabin was. I asked where we were going and she said “I want to show you something. It's a surprise.”

After parking the car, we walked several blocks till we hit the sand, then turned south. Other people were also walking south, and cars were driving south too, on the sand, more of them than the previous day. Everyone was headed the same direction, and the people all walked with a sense of purpose, not in the strolling way that people normally do on the beach. So I knew this weren't no walk on the beach. Far up ahead people and cars seemed to be clumping together.

By now you’ve guessed it, because no doubt you heard about it on the news. Linda had seen it in a newspaper in the coffee shop, and being a person of directional fortitude, knew exactly how to find it. We stood and stared at it for a long time, taking in the immensity of it. My mother’s voice rang in my ears, accusing my father of “lying there like a beached whale” while she did the housework. So this was what she meant, I thought, a thin layer of salt water pulling out around the soles of my shoes.

I’ll take a few minutes now and choose the best photo and post it here momentarily, if Blogger is behaving this morning. Otherwise I’ll have to work on it more at around midday. By the time we arrived on the scene, an autopsy had been done, so you can sort of see there where they’d cut into the back of the whale to take various samples. Also there was some sort of big balloonish thing rising up out of the far side of it and blowing around in the wind, and if anybody knows what on earth that might have been, do write in. It looked like it was made of whale tissue and was some part of the whale gone bad.

Tomorrow I’ll tell you about another whale, on that same beach, and how this all ties in to riding your bike. (I know you're thinking I'm going to say the whale beached itself in protest of the cars, but this was evidently not a whale suicide. They say it died at sea and floated in..)

Monday, October 09, 2006

Smoke, Darkness, and Unclaimed Body Parts

Not fifteen minutes into our trip, heading out of town on highway 30, we passed a strange human-powered contraption pulled over halfway off the bike lane at an arbitrary point along the road at about Linnton. What we saw was some kind of handcrafted tin fuselage tapering down to a cockpit at the nose, powered by pedals and a drive train, unmanned, as if its pilot had jettisoned hastily, unable to hold on till it could pull in at the convenience store just five yards further down. As soon as we realized what we’d seen, we turned our car around and pulled into the store’s small lot and walked back toward the thing.

From our new pedestrian vantage point we could see a pair of motionless legs protruding out the side of the housing toward the rear. Lindi hung back while I approached cautiously, seeing now that the legs came out of a squarish opening, and wondering how a set of legs could be coming out of a cavity that looked only big enough to hold a few ice cream bars.

Friendly greetings I called out while moving closer elicited no discernible response from the legs, which remained utterly still. Feeling slightly invasive, I leaned over and peered up into the void, where I thought the owner of the legs must surely dwell. I tossed in compliments on the vehicle but got no answer. I asked permission to snap a few photos – still nothing.

From the bright sun without, my eyes could see only blackness within. I would have simply assumed the owner was sleeping or unconscious or maybe even dead, but pungent smoke billowing forth told a different story – one of a life watching me from the dark and choosing not to reply. A faint ember slowly brightened, illuminating a set of fingernails, giving form to a dark hand curled around a glass bottle reflecting its glint.

At this point I did not feel particularly welcome, and though I had not received the desired permission to take pictures, I snapped a few anyway, kind of hastily.

Before leaving, I dared to lean over and peer in again, and this time I saw eyewhites, with eyeballs in them, that made contact with mine, through a glaze of utter smackeredness. As I offered another compliment and a couple of hearty thankyous, I placed a dollar bill on the lower ledge of the black hole, and I thought I detected the most barely perceptible nod.

That was the first bicycle-related experience of our car trip to oysterland, the purpose of which was to (1) get the hell out of town, and (2) scope out a bike trip for the future. The above took place on St.Helen’s Road, which though passing through a very industrial area and trafficked by immense trucks, has a nice wide bike lane. Next I’ll bring you destinations you can reach on your bike as you cycle through Astoria and up past the cranberry bogs. Oh, and I can’t wait to tell you all about Arnold Schwartzenegger beach. You think I’m talking about a muscle beach, but this is more about transportation alternatives. Just you wait. More incredulity to come.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Ahoy from the Sea

As I told you yesterday, I'm away on a short trip. Already I've had a fascinating encounter with a human-powered machine and its mysterious operator. But my Internet access is very limited. I just have these few seconds right now to tell you that I'm reasonably sure I'll be able to bring you the story of it later this afternoon. Otherwise tomorrow.
(Hint: Darkness, smoke and glowing embers are involved.)
Bye now.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Lameness in horses and people

I’ve been lame in my reporting on the horses of late – partly because last I looked, the horse was lame. That one across from the Pearl Bakery that for some reason gets so much abuse? the one that gets abducted regularly and has to be replaced? I went by there a while ago and someone had chopped off its front feet. Is that sick, or what? But wait -- I go by two days later and someone has chopped off its head. I am not making this up, and I have photos to prove it. Except that I can’t possibly publish anything so gruesome on my blog, I just can’t. You want to see gore, you just go turn on your television set – I for one refuse to add to the torrent of ghastly images so relentlessly inundating the collective human consciousness today.

Possible explanations for this behavior:
Person’s cuteness threshold has been seriously challenged by plastic horses and they just can’t take it anymore.
Person has macabre sense of humor and wishes to creep out horse people and passersby.
Person is testing the waters for remake of Godfather.
Person lost big money on Barbaro and is taking it out on other horses.

And then of course there’s always the possibility of certifiable illness -- that there’s some poor soul out there afflicted with a need to amputate parts of horses. In that case we can all be grateful that the horse project is providing them a way to exercise this need on a placebo horse. Yay, horse project.

I’m leaving town today for a somewhat remote area, so if I don’t find a place to log on tomorrow, I’ll just have to skip the Friday post and call this a four day blog week. But you never know, I might find some little roadside café that’s hooked up, so check in. In any event I will be posting Monday for sure.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Cyclist Uncovers Secret Flab Source

I go to a gym whose slogan is: Flab bad; Muscle good. How can I not be influenced by such a succinct philosophy?

Raise your hand if this ever happens to you: You cut back on your food intake, you exercise your head off, you actually lose pounds according to the scale -- and the flab stays.

What in God’s Green Hell is that? I couldn’t take it so I asked my girl-doctor. Yes, she said I can blame it on issues of advancing girlness, but here's the good news: it might not really be flab. It might be water. And there’s something I can do about it besides gender reassignment surgery. She advised me to check out my sodium intake. I told her, If you mean salt-shaker abuse, compared to everyone in my family I’m an ascetic. She said start checking labels.

So I who have long dismissed the sodium-worriers of the world as having warts on the brain, began checking labels. And friends, I am apoplectic with shock.

My grocery shopping stretches into the night as I crawl through the aisles reading cans and packages. An envelope of instant soup? Two and a half times the normal sodium intake for a whole day! And soup so thin that it wouldn’t even count as a snack. And I mean the entire packet, not the two and a half servings it claims are in there. For me that would be a snack to help me make it to the next snack.

You know that food tracker site I mentioned yesterday? I plugged in my Super Healthy Guilt-Free Pizza recipe, and now it’s ruined. Now I’ll have to change the name to Sodium Immersion Carbo-Disc. Eating instructions: Ingest and watch foam rubber monster inflate.

Disappointed? Yes. Initially. But the minute I cut back, the change was so amazing that I’m completely converted. I’m tired of feeling like the beach ball that I’m not. Why would I go back to that? This is not a hard one. Eat this, feel bad. Don’t eat this, feel good.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Good Carb, Bad Carb

Beans. I’ve rediscovered the bean as a tool that can help me ride my bike. No, not as a propulsion aid, as some of my more vulgar readers might presume. Such a crude idea had not even entered my mind. And if that was your first thought I would suggest you take a serious look at yourself: how old are you anyway?

I’m talking about good carbs, bad carbs. The bad carbs are the ones that send you skyrocketing up with boundless energy in two seconds, only to drop you spiraling back down to sluggish reality minutes later. Like cookies. The good carbs are the ones that take you up more slowly and allow you to fly at a lower altitude for a longer time. Like the dignified legume.

Those are my findings so far, but I’m not going to give you more examples for fear of disseminating inaccurate information. I’m only just learning all this, so don’t rely on me. The goodness or badness of the carbs is, I believe, measured by a thing called the “glycemic index” or something. Where you find that tool, I’m not sure.

I tried to make a big chart showing everything I ate and when, and how much I was exercising. I also wanted to include the value of everything I ate, meaning how much fat, carbs, protein, etc. This was to figure out what causes the bonk effect.

And by the way, if you read my last post, it should be clear what I mean by bonk. Any other meaning that might come up for you obviously does not apply here and is part of your own illness.

Anyway all this record keeping and calculating was really taxing my non-numerical brain. Designing the chart alone was a real piece of engineering work. I thought, "There must be an easier way. Surely someone else has already invented this and all I have to do is find it.”

So I went online, and presto! the first thing I found was exactly what I needed. It’s called MyFoodDiary.com, and it measures everything you can think of. You want to know why you’re wearing a tire in spite of exercising like a maniac, you click a button and it tells you exactly why. You want to know why you lack enough energy to fuel your ride home in spite of the fact that you’re eating like Porky, you click a button and there it is.

It takes a certain time investment initially to enter in all the foods you eat, And you have to suffer through the photograph of the wan waif on the front page of the site, who looks like the most athletic thing she’s ever done is bat her eyelashes. But if you can maneuver past those roadblocks, and you’re willing to pay the $9 a month, you can find help there.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Things That Go Bonk in the Day

Here’s what was happening. I don’t mean in my watermelon days (see last post), I mean recently. I’d get home at the end of a day, and I’d flop onto the couch immediately – so spent that I felt like I was shaking. Even though I’d hold my hand up and see that I wasn’t shaking, inside I felt I was shaking like a leaf.

I’m not talking about a feeling of hunger. I’d maybe feel somewhat hungry, but more accurately I would say I felt depleted – depleted to the point where my body was drawing on whatever it could find in there for sustenance. In other words, stealing. Taking fuel from my very organs, or anyway from someplace that couldn’t afford it.

I had to eat something, anything, right away – the half hour till dinner was too far to wait. I just wanted to get rid of the feeling as soon as possible. It took a while for it to go away though.

I’m not talking about a day spent riding down from Seattle. This is after a normal day of riding to work, to a couple of other places, and back home. Total riding time, spread out throughout the day? 60 to 90 minutes.

Here’s the quirk, though – sometimes the bonk would happen, sometimes it wouldn’t. Sometimes I’d feel fantastic after I got home. Like if I ate something, shortly before I rode home? It wouldn’t happen. Duh.

How hard it that to figure out? Well it isn’t completely that simple, because sometimes if I'd eaten a crummy lunch, that wouldn’t really work. Also, it depended what the thing I ate before coming home was. A cookie would work great. And who doesn’t want an excuse to eat a cookie?

So what's the deal? Must I eat all day long if I’m to have enough energy to ride my bike? Well then, if I need all that food, shouldn’t I be able to eat all day long without acquiring the dreaded additional flesh? But that’s not how it works. I eat all day, I start to look like I eat all day.


But I’m starting to find some answers. And it’s about time. Even though I figured out the watermelon thing long ago, I’ve never gotten on top of the relationship between food and energy to the point where I neither BONK nor expand. Finally things are beginning to make some sense.

More to come. Meanwhile, do you like my larger font? Or is it obnoxious? I don't want to scream at people, I just want to be easy to read.