High On Bike

A Bellinghamster On Wheels


Riding in Street Clothes

I recently rode my bike for the very first time in street clothes. Well not street clothes per se, more like thrift shop jeans, t-shirt, and an old pair of boots. I was on my way to the Bellingham Theater Guild to do some set painting. No matter how hard I try when I paint, a good deal of it ends up being on me and my clothes so I definitely didn’t want to wear my nice bike attire. Paint smudges on a ratty pair of jeans and t-shirt is kind of funky and fun; paint on Lycra would be, well, weird. But I really wanted to ride my bike so I sucked it up and left my bike clothes at home

The first thing I had to do was rubber band my pant legs so they didn’t get caught in the chain. I could shell out a few dollars and get some Velcro straps but hey, when you’rewearing paint-encrusted pants, the rubber bands just sort of go. Next thing I had to do was to forgo using my toe clips while pedaling. My big clunky boots didn’t exactly slip in and out of the clips with the greatest of ease. It only took me a couple of blocks to get comfortable pedaling this way and I found the ride fun and somewhat liberating.

imageI still think I prefer my “official” bike apparel, though. I get very hot and sweaty when I ride, regardless of the weather, and I don’t feel comfortable in street or work clothes. It’s too much like being stuck in the middle of a miserably hot day like, for instance, being in California during a heat wave. Yuck! (Although, working on sets can be like that sometimes and I don’t seem to mind it. Interesting.) Nothing’s worse than being stuck in a soggy cotton t-shirt. I’ll never be one of those cyclists who breezes around in everyday clothes that stay fresh and dry with the wind blowing through but not messing up my hair. (I see that more often than you might think, especially downtown.) But that’s not me anyway. I’m more a pig in a puddle kind of a person no matter what I’m wearing. I like it that way.


Two Passions, Two Approaches

BTGIts been a busy couple of weeks. I started volunteering at The Bellingham Theater Guild—the longest running all volunteer community theater west of the Mississippi, celebrating its 85th birthday this year–building sets and more recently, training to work lights and sound. I’ve been at the theater almost every night, coming home late and tired but eager to do the same thing the following night. I don’t think an adjective exists that can adequately express just how much I love working at the theater. I have never done anything like this in my life.

I’ve always loved attending the theater but other than being a member of the audience, I had no experience whatsoever. I mean zippo, nada, bupkis! When I showed up to pound nails all I had was an eagerness to learn and work hard. With patience and enthusiasm, the talented, dedicated folks at the Guild from the set builders, lighting guru, set designer even the director and actors are showing me the many ropes of putting on a production. The theater already feels like a second home. I really had no idea how quickly I would grow to love the work that now has become one of the great passions of my life.

For me, once I become this passionate about something, I throw myself entirely into learning as much as I can as quickly as I can. Right now, I think I have every theater-related book in the library checked out. It was the same way when I started knitting, got interested in wine, and started growing and hybridizing Daylilies. Interestingly, though, passionate as I am about bicycling, I haven’t approached it with my usual modis operandi. One would think that I would know every part of my bike, be able to explain pros and cons of a steel or aluminum frame, and wax philosophic on the importance of cadence. But I don’t, can’t, and won’t. Though I read several bike blogs, you won’t see any technical bike books on my nightstand. I know enough to oil my chain, put air in my tires, and make small adjustments but that’s about it. Why? Because the simple, joyous, freeing, act of riding is really all that matters to me. There’s not much else I need to know. I’m sure that some of you are cringing and pulling your hair out at this admission, but I don’t ride off into the hinterlands and should, something happen, I have AAA and I can take my bike to the shop and adequately describe where an unusual noise has sprung up.

And now, a shameless plug for the upcoming play—”The Prisoner of Second Avenue” by Neil Simon, directed by Alan Peet. It opens Friday, September 27 and runs through Sunday, October 13. Check out the website for more details and get your tickets now! It’s one you won’t want to miss!



What Bicycling Feels Like

If it isn’t apparent by now you’re probably not paying enough attention so let me remind you that I LOVE riding my bike. I spend an inordinate amount of time carefully crafting my words to get this across. But sometimes a picture can capture a feeling more than any amount of words,carefully crafted or not, can describe. The Bike Shop Hub posted this pic on Facebook the other day and they nailed it. This is exactly how I feel every time I push off for a ride.

Every time
I would say that nothing more needs to be said but then there would be no need to write this blog and I know that you would be devastated if that happened so I won’t.


Too Hot To Ride

Hot!My husband and I spent Labor Day Weekend down in Orange County, CA visiting my stepson and daughter-in-law. As I was packing to go, I had visions of taking one of their bikes for a spin along the pathways and bike lanes near their home in Lake Forest and tossed in some cycling clothes. But after stepping off the plane at 8:45 in the morning, all hopes of a nice ride were instantly quashed. It was 93 degrees and humid. By the time we got to Gary and Catherine’s house it was 100!

Okay, I’m a wimp when it comes to heat…anything above 80 degrees is out of my comfort zone and I’ve been known to start complaining at around 77 degrees. But I think I mentioned that it was hot about a kajillion times within the first hour of our visit and made a promise to limit myself to cranking about the heat to twice a day. I reminded myself of my mother-in-law only in reverse. Whenever she came up north, she constantly complained about how cold she was because her “blood had thinned” from living in the hot climate of Florida. It was amusing but it got stale rather quickly. I can’t honestly say if I kept my promise but the intention was there and I had a little more empathy for mom. It didn’t help either when I kept getting emails from friends in Bellingham who were exalting in 60-degree, overcast weather. We love our summers here but everyone I know is happy and relieved when the first kiss of autumn arrives.

Hot BassettSo I never went for my ride. I did throw on my bike clothes and used their tread climber and I also did some abdominal work and yoga. All of it inside with fans blowing from two different directions even though the air conditioning was on. The rest of the time I tried to move as little as possible. We still had a great visit and I got to spend some quality time with Catherine while we pampered ourselves with a deluxe manicure and pedicure but I’ve asked them to put in an order for livable weather next time we visit.


Oy! Again With The Hills

ChandlerBarkleyAs I’ve mentioned before (probably ad nauseum) I have some hefty climbing returning home from a ride. Well, not recently since I’m still nursing strained tendons from taking a hill a little too aggressively. (I’m also still listening…maybe half listening…to my well-meaning husband lecture me on the use of low gears.) With a bike carrier now firmly attached to my car, I’m driving up and down those hills until my leg is in better shape. But when I am healthy and taking the hills, one hill I won’t take is on Barkley Blvd. and it has nothing to do with the ascent, which is impressive and challenging. So much so in fact that when you tell people you ride, one of the first things they ask is if you’ve ever ridden Barkley Hill. Even though it has a bike lane, Barkley hill is just too damned scary. For some reason, from the stoplight at Barkley Village to the crest of the hill, cars fly up and down like they’re driving the Indy 500…if the Indy 500 had hills.

I’ve climbed the hill twice to the awe of many but mostly myself. The first time was with a pannier full of groceries. (I had to bail and walk the last 100 yards.) The second time I made it all the way sans groceries but not without almost suffering from permanent and debilitating psychological trauma from the insane speed of the traffic. It seems to me that this would be a boon to city coffers if police patrolled the area but rumor has it that a high-ranking cop lives in the neighborhood and doesn’t want to piss his neighbors off by having them ticketed for speeding. I honestly don’t know if this is true, but you never see a cop on the lookout for speeders on Barkley Hill as you do on Alabama Hill. It’s so bad on this hill that you can’t even count on the crosswalk light at Chandler. Oh sure, you can press the button and the yellow lights will flash but you damn sure better wait to see if the traffic actually stops if you value your life.

Two cyclists have lost theirBarkley Hill lives on Barkley Hill—both on the descent! One was due to cyclist error when for some unknown reason the cyclist swerved into the curb. He was probably startled by some speed freak of a driver, passing a little too close.  (Actually, that’s pure conjecture on my part in trying to drive the point home.) The other was when a young woman pulled out of a side street and into a cyclist. Yes, there was a stop sign but she claimed the sun was in her eyes and she didn’t see the cyclist. This incident has turned into one of those cautionary tales non-cyclists use to prove the recklessness of cyclists in general, the most common sentiment being that any cyclist on that hill had to have a death wish. I’ve done the descent a couple of times as well and can attest to the freakishly fast speed you can hit. But then again, I’m not huge fan of speed so I find going down as traumatizing as the coming up.

Anyway, for me Barkley Blvd. is a road best avoided. Bad cycling juju and my own aversions aside, it’s just not a fun or pleasant place to ride. There are plenty of other hills I can climb both to torture myself and impress my friends without the treacherous traffic.


Two Blondes Get Into a Taxi…

Now that I’ve sucked you in with the promise if a great blonde joke, I have to confess that there is no funny punchline in this post. Back in July I posted about a guy who I refer to as “dickweed” who had harassed me on two separate occasions while I rode on Pacific Street. He followed me for a bit, honking his horn and sped past me perilously close. It was unnerving, infuriating, and confusing, leaving me to ponder the question as to what drives someone to that level of irrational and dangerous behavior for absolutely no reason, other than the fact that I was riding my bike on the same road. My experience with dickweed is pretty much an anomaly here in Bellingham but in other parts of the country that behavior is all too common. In fact, with the exception of the Netherlands where cycling is simply an everyday part of life, irrational aversion to cyclists seems, sadly, to be rather universal.

In New York City, ranked somewhat ironically the 7th most bicycle friendly city in the country, cyclists not only have to put up with a city full of dickweeds (or worse) and a police force notoriously unfriendly and even hostile towards cyclists, a cabbie recently got into an argument with a cyclist who wastaxi-accident just trying to ride in the bike lane, tried to run him down but instead jumped the curb onto the sidewalk and severed the leg of a British tourist. He wasn’t cited at the scene except for some obscure taxi law because in New York, if a cyclist is involved, it’s almost always their fault. Fortunately, there is some good news here as prosecutors are now investigating. It will remain to be seen whether the cabbie is actually indicted. The way things are in New York, though, it wouldn’t surprise me if the cyclist ends up being charged.

Speaking of Britain, they have their own special breed of bicycle haters. Back in May, a young woman, Emma Way (one of the blondes), from Norwich, England, hit a cyclist and fled without stopping. According to the cyclist, Emma veered over to his side of the road and almost took out the cyclist in front him before striking him hard enough to break off her side mirror and knock him off his bike, sending him crashing into a hedge. As bad as that was, it isn’t what imagemakes this a story. It’s what Emma did after her hit and run. Thinking this was all in good fun, Emma tweeted the following:

To no one’s surprise but Emma’s (she claims she thought only her friends would see them), her tweets went viral and the hue and cry against her was enormous. Someone who should get an award for responsible behavior actually sent the tweets to the police. That landed Emma’s psychopathic bum in serious trouble and somewhat restored my faith in humanity. Emma is now facing charges of driving with undue care. (Only the British can make an assault with a vehicle sound polite.) Emma’s now somewhat of a pariah. She will more than likely lose her job, if she hasn’t already. She is very, very sorry…for herself. (Check out this YouTube clip.) Oh yeah…and for the tweets.

Then there’s Daisy Abela–the other blonde–who also thinks committing a hit and run of a cyclist tweet-worthy. She used Twitter to boast that she was driving while (actually I think it’s “whilst”) ‘still drunk’ and hit a cyclist after having an argument with him.

Her tweets about the incident:

Daisy Bela TweetsAfter a barrage of backlash tweets and being reported to the police, Daisy apologized, said it was just a joke, and then closed down her Twitter account. The police investigated but as of yet no cyclist has come forward to say he was the victim. She may have been joking in which case, not funny…not even remotely… or she actually did hit someone. The idea of this sadistic little twit getting away with committing an assault by vehicle is just too depressing to think about.

The one thing I come away from all this with, other than that a lot of people out there are in serious need of therapy, is that I’m even more happy to live in a city where most of the drivers are polite or at the very least accepting of bicycles. I mean, this trio makes dickweed look like a choirboy. You know what? I’m feeling a little guilty about there being no joke in this post so I will close with one of my husband’s favorite blonde jokes…no offense to all my blonde friends out there.

Two Blondes are riding a tandem bike. All of a sudden the one on the back yells, “Stop,” and gets off and lets the air out of the back tire. Front Blonde says, “Why did you do that?” The other replies, “Because my seat was too high and it was uncomfortable.”
So front Blonde gets off the bike, loosens up the handlebars, and turns them around 180-Degrees. Back Blonde says, “Now why did you do that?” And front Blonde replies, “Because if you’re just going to just do stupid stuff I’m going home.”


The Road ID App for iPhone: Be Still My Fredly Heart

bike gadgetsI like gadgety things. I really do. Just ask my husband or my cat about my iPad. My husband will tell you it’s attached at my hip. My cat will tell you he wished the damn thing had never been invented. He gets thoroughly disgusted when he’s on my lap and I’m on my iPad and often claws at my hands as I’m using it. He has sharing issues. You can also take one look at my bike and make a very well-educated guess that its owner likes gadgets. So when I read the All Seasons Cyclist’s Post about the Road ID iPhone app, I squealed like a prepubescent girl at a boy band concert. Being the safety conscious Fred that I am, it immediately stirred my desire for feeling safe while out riding—and for cool gadgety stuff.

Road ID is an online company that offers identification tags for runners, bicyclists, walkers, and hikers. Their app was designed to work with the tags (I haven’t gotten around to purchasing those yet) by allowing you to set up your iPhone’s home screen with pertinent ID information and emergency contacts. But the really cool thing the app does is allow you to send an e-mail to family or friends when you head out for a ride, and your contact can follow you live using eCrumb—an electronic bread crumb feature that provides a detailed map of where you are. If you stop moving for five minutes, eCrumb will send an alert to your contact. So, lets say that dickweed’s harassing behavior takes a darker turn and he clips me or runs me down (see dickweed post here) and I am unable to call 911. eCrumb will send my husband an alert and he’ll be able to notify first responders. And of course, my lock screen will give them valuable information as would the tags, which I really need to get to feel complete.

But let’s say I’ve just stopped for a cup of coffee on my way home and have forgotten all about eCrumb. After four minutes, the app will sound an alarm reminding me to pause eCrumb thereby avoiding the embarrassing moment the paramedics storm Starbucks looking for a downed cyclist. What the app won’t do is track your miles but it does run side-by-side with apps that do without too much of a drain on your battery.

My husband lECrumboves this app almost as much as I do. Not only does he feel better about me being out and about on my bike, if I make a random stop at the grocery store he sometimes calls me and asks me to bring home something good (a euphemism for Italian sub ingredients) for lunch. He also enjoys watching where my rides take me. He says watching me ride via eCrumb is like watching a video game. Just when he thinks I’m on a set route home, I make a turn and off I go in a completely different direction.

I really can’t recommend the Road ID app highly enough. Chances are you’ll never need it but it can literally be a lifesaver if you do. Oh…did I mention the app is free?