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?


Will Ride For Pizza

Little Shop of HorrorsIt got up to a scorching 84 degrees the other day but I barely noticed. I had three fillings and my last wisdom tooth removed. I’m hyper vigilant about dental care but thanks to bad genetics and living where they refuse to fluoridate the water, I’m basically screwed. Thank goodness for nitrous oxide, I may be screwed but at least I can get a high out of it every once in awhile. I initially thought I’d ride my bike to the dentist but there’s really no good way to go by bike. I may figure out a route someday but not on a day when I was getting a tooth yanked out of my mouth and had to ride home post-nitrous and numb to my eyeballs. Plus I strained my knee a couple of days before taking a hill a little too aggressively and another day of rest wasn’t a bad idea.

So I came home, whined sufficiently to my husband, popped some Tylenol, grabbed a book, and read for a bit as I waited rather impatiently for some feeling to return to my mouth. I don’t know why they can’t come up with an antidote for Novocain that actually works and doesn’t cost a fortune. They came up with a little blue pill that can put lead in a man’s pencil for next to nothing so you’d think they could give you something after a visit to the dentist so you didn’t have to walk around wondering if you had a line of drool dripping out of the corner of your mouth for the next several hours.

DooThe minute a little feeling returned I ate some ice cream with chocolate sauce to fortify myself before I tricked our little girl kitty with some cooked chicken so I could catch her and put her into the travel cage to take her to the Vet. She’s lost some weight recently and because she’s 12 (that’s 70 in human years in case you needed that bit of cat trivia) we decided we should get her checked out. Here’s where I tell you that I get super stressed and anxious taking my cats to the Vet. The only reason I don’t yowl and meow plaintively on the way there is that I try to set a good example for them. They don’t buy it for a second however and complain vociferously despite my best efforts. Fortunately our Vet is only about a mile away. I thought about taking my bike for about a second. Strapping a cage filled with an unhappy, loud cat is probably doable but just because it is doesn’t mean you should. Kitty is fine. But we were both exhausted from the trauma. It was 5:00 PM before I realized it was hot, but then I was too worn out to care.

Trader JoesThe next day though, was a different day and about 10 degrees cooler, I had full feeling in my mouth, my cat forgave me (a healthy portion of chicken helped), and my knee felt good enough to ride down to Trader Joe’s to pick up stuff to make a pizza later that night. I just wish they’d get their bike parking issue solved. Last time I went the already large bike rack was so full I had to lock my bike up to a bench. After fielding tons of complaints, the property manager has decided to do something about it. But who knows how many studies they’ll have to do before they get it resolved. I could resolve it in two seconds— just put up another bike rack! But that’s me. Worst case scenario: I just ride around the lot until some space opens up, aggravating all Canadians in their SUVs who come down for the cheap prices, vying for their own version of a parking space. Fortunately there was room on the rack and I didn’t have to annoy our neighbors to the North.

If you’ve read this far and are not comatose, you’re probably wondering what’s the point of this post. So am I. Just kidding. As much as I love to commute by bike and do so at every opportunity, there are times when it’s just not possible. It makes sense to pick up pizza fixins by bike, but not so much taking kitty to the Vet or riding with a nitrous hangover. But I eat pizza much more than I ever go to the Vet or dentist so there’s always someplace to ride.


National Bike Challenge 2013

NBC_webbanner_600x200_finalI’m well into the fourth month of the National Bike Challenge with close to 700 miles behind me. While it’s not as many as others have under their belts or tuchuses as the case may be, it’s still a lot of miles! With over 33,000 riders nationwide I rank in the top third, and among the 900-plus in Washington I’m in the top half. As for Bellingham, there are 14 riders registered but only three of us are logging in miles regularly. Here I’m ranking a close last. However, it’s not about competing with others, at least not for me. I only mention where I rank because I have to live up to my rep as being a font of useless information. What’s important is that I’m getting on my bike most days of the week and a enjoying the hell out of each and every mile.

A friend asked me recently if I would have had as many miles if not for the Challenge. My answer was that in the beginning, probably not. But as I kept choosing my bike over my car to rack up both points (you get 20 points each day you ride a mile or more) and miles, it simply became a habit to hop on my bike. I don’t even think about it much anymore. Going to the gym? Take my bike. Going to the store? Bike. Same with my knitting group, bank, and hairdresser. So those almost daily 6-12 mile trips, most of them being commuter miles, have steadily increased. In that sense, the Challenge did what it was designed to do which is to get people on their bikes more.

With just over a month to go, I’m already feeling kind of sad that this year’s Challenge is winding down. It’s been inspiring and a lot of fun. I wish there was something similar for the winter months because it isn’t as easy to be motivated to ride when the weather is wet and cold. But as I write this, it’s raining and cool and I’m getting ready to ride down to the gym. I haven’t even considered taking the car.


Riding Out of a Black Cloud

Do you ever have one of those days where you wake up under a Little Black Cloud— grumpy, morose, and apathetic for no discernible reason? For me, those days are so rare that when they do happen I take an almost perverse pleasure in wallowing in my bad mood. So when I got out of bed the other day and realized this ill-tempered fugue was upon me I pointed a figurative middle finger at all the people who have “complained” about my “perennially sunny” disposition over the years and felt a certain smugness in the fact that I can actually have a crappy day now and then. I know you’re wondering why anyone would complain about someone else being upbeat and happy 99.75% of the time, but trust me… misery loves company and detests anything else.

I fumbled through my morning routine: lapping the cat, coffee, breakfast, lapping the cat yet again until I needed to make a decision about what to do with the rest of my day. Little Black Cloud followed me around like a stalker and suggested that since the rest of said day looked dreary and bleak why bother doing anything? My cat was in full accord and suggested a full day of sitting on my lap. I finally settled on riding my bike, hoping that would dispel my foul mood. Fortunately, I had library book to return and, no, it wasn’t a Sylvia Plath novel. Riding down to the library did nothing to dislodge Little Black Cloud, however, so I was stuck with it as I headed home.

There weren’t many people on the trail but those that were immediately on my main nerve—like the guy walking his dog who roughly jerked the leash each time his poor dog stopped to sniff. I mean seriously… if you don’t have the patience to allow your dog some sniff time, don’t walk him on a trail where a million other dogs have recently peed. How mean is that? Then there were the two moms with strollers taking up the entire width of the trail and who regarded my desire to get around them as an affront to their motherhood. It was like they believed that having babies with them exempted them from all common courtesy and allowed them unfettered access to the trail, others be damned. I’m not sure whether they expected me to ride in the little creek that runs along the trail, plod slowly behind them, or pull a machete out of my ass and whack a trail through the blackberry bushes on the other side. All I know that they copped a huge attitude having to make a little space for me—you know, the kind that only self-righteous, entitled moms can carry off with such assurance that they are right. The kind where you actually begin to ask yourself, Am I an asshole for wanting to use this trail?

By the time I made Whatcom Falls, Little Black Cloud was still actively stalking me and sniggering along the way. I grumped my way across the bridge, up to the parking lot, and over to the fish hatchery where I discovered that all the pools were empty, barren of any life, making me feel as if I were the lead actor in an Ingmar Bergman movie. The desolation was thick and heavy in the air so I wallowed in that for a while. Then, as I tried to move on, a group of 6-7 year olds out on a field trip swarmed around me trying to find a pool that actually had fish in it. It took me several curmudgeonly minutes to disentangle myself from them and head on my way. As I passed Derby Pond I finally felt a small chink in Little Back Cloud as I watched a dog that had just come back from a swim shake water all over its owner. But just as I felt my mood begin to lighten, I rode past a little girl on a bike. She looked exactly like I felt, probably because her father was riding behind her nagging her to pick up the pace. I thought whatever remaining joy there might be left to feel in my day was instantly sucked out of the air. Could this ride get any worse? Oh yeah!

My ride through this emotional hell continued up to Electric Avenue where I came across a dead kitten crumpled in the grass just beyond the shoulder of the road. Little Black Cloud literally laughed out loud as it punched me in the gut. That’s when, in Nietzschean moment, I declared, “There is no god!” I would have thrown my hands up in the air in defeat but swerving into traffic and getting creamed would have given Little Black Cloud way too much pleasure. That dead kitten had put me in a fighting mood. I wasn’t going to let my entire ride be grim because of Little Black Cloud. But it still had one punch left to throw. Just to prove it also had a sense of humor (albeit a dark one) as I rode along Northshore Drive a balloon tied to a mailbox was blowing across the bike lane. Now it was my turn to laugh. I’m pretty sure I even said out loud, “You have got to be kidding me!” Traffic was heavy and I couldn’t safely ride into the road to avoid it, so I had two choices. I could either continue pedaling and become the first cyclist to be garroted by an inflated piece of rubber with “Happy Birthday” written on it, or I could stop and wait for traffic to clear. Little Black Cloud was gleefully cheering for strangulation but I wisely chose to stop, wait, and ride around that ridiculous balloon. That seemed to deflate Little Black Cloud enough that it finally stopped messing with me and I managed to ride the remaining mile home without further incident to my tortured psyche. By the time I pulled up to our garage, I actually felt some of my perkiness return. After all, Little Black Cloud threw everything it had at me that day and I survived the onslaught. If that alone didn’t inject some joy back in my day, nothing would. Now it was my turn to laugh at which point Little Black Cloud, who is a very sore loser, completely dissipated in a puff of frustration. Take that sucker!

Anyway, the abundance of bonhomie I’m known and sometimes resented for made a complete comeback by dinnertime and the only thing following me around the rest of the day was my cat looking for another lap.