High On Bike

A Bellinghamster On Wheels


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No Place Like Home

Santa Rosa Bike Rack

Ira and I dodged a bullet last week by being in Santa Rosa, CA, visiting our son and granddaughter thereby missing Bellingham’s heat wave that saw temperatures edging close to 90. We were doubly lucky because Santa Rosa’s temperatures were hovering in the mid to upper 70’s. It would shave been wonderful biking weather but alas my bike was home.
I thought about biking a lot while I was down there. It was hard not to—there were a lot of cyclists on the roads taking advantage of the flat landscape and numerous bike lanes. To all outward appearances, it seemed to be a very bike-friendly city complete with cute bike racks gracing the downtown area. I would have been envious except for one thing—the traffic! Seriously, between the amount of it, the general lack of courtesy, and in some cases the blatant hostility, it was a bit of a shock. Even walking in a “marked crosswalk” with a toddler in tow doesn’t guarantee that traffic will stop for you. It was quite a different reality from what I’m used to here in Bellingham. The thought of riding a bike even in an established bike lane in that environment was enough to give me a huge case of the willies. Our son, Dan, only lives three miles from work and could easily bike to work, but he won’t. He’s no wimp; he used to do triathlons. But Santa Rosa has an unusually high number of bike fatalities each year and while a good percentage of those happen in more rural areas, not all of them do.  
So while I did think about cycling a lot down there, I contented myself by playing with my granddaughter and spending time with Dan, all while enjoying some really lovely weather. I may wish there were more cycling amenities here at home but frankly, I’ll take    the slower, friendlier pace anytime.


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Road Hazard

Road Hazard

Imagine This Only Longer

I was just riding into a center turn lane getting ready to make a left and completely focused on the oncoming traffic, when I simultaneously felt a little bump and heard a hellish clank. I stopped immediately. Still in the center lane, I checked out my bike and noticed what I would later learn was some sort of heavy duty locking clamp used by big trucks to lock down cargo woven in amongst the spokes of my back wheel. Traffic was very light that Sunday, so I was able to safely carry my bike across the street to the safety of a patch of grass in front of a little shopping center.
As I examined my predicament I quickly realized that I wasn’t going to be able to untangle the mess in my spokes on my own. My heart was thumping a little harder than usual but otherwise I was calm. I had my phone and I had my AAA card so help wasn’t too far away. Ironically, my bike shop sat just across the street but was closed on Sundays. Figures. Just as I was about to call Ira, an employee of the Dewey Griffin auto dealership saw what happened and came over to help. I turned my bike upside down and held it while he deftly removed the offending object from the spokes. He told me what the twisted piece of metal was and introduced himself as Jonathon. We both gave my bike a once over and all my spokes were intact. Miraculously, there appeared to be no structural damage at all. I thanked Jonathon profusely. To be on the safe side, I spent several minutes riding around in an empty parking lot testing brakes and gears. Satisfied that everything was working like it was supposed to, I continued on my ride.
Dinged Bike Five miles later I was home where Ira and went over my bike again. Except for a couple of nasty dings on the frame, everything was fine. I was a bit greasy from handling my bike and my bike will need a touch up paint job in spots. It could have been a lot worse.


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Bragging Rights

Catherine and Gary

My daughter-in-law, Catherine, rode 25 miles last Saturday, in Pelotonia, a grass roots bike tour with one goal…to end cancer. Over 6200 cyclists rode in the event held in Columbus, Ohio, and raised over $10,000,000. Catherine enjoyed the experience so much that she says she’s ready to do 100 miles next year. I couldn’t be more proud of her.
Catherine started training for her ride well after I began riding again back in May. It was, after all, her simple suggestion that I ride in lieu of running after I hurt my Achilles tendon. And it was her inspiration that got me into running. She also gets the credit for getting me to a nail salon to have my first pedicure just a few years ago which in turn has turned into a regular social event for me and my friends who every 6 weeks or so go out for lunch and then have our toes done en masse. But I digress. As much as I love cycling, I was absolutely thrilled to learn that she decided to take it up so she could ride in Pelotonia.  She got a bike, began training, and even though she only had a few weeks of riding behind her she finished the ride. That she’s eager to ride 75 miles more next time is just too cool for words.

So please excuse me for boasting about Catherine. She is an amazing, wonderful person who has been an inspiration to me and I just couldn’t help myself.


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Owning the Road

As I become more comfortable on my bike, I’m a also more comfortable when my rides include spending time on the roads. Changing my mindset from feeling like an interloper to knowing that I have as much right to be there as anyone else has made all the difference. I call it my “owning the road” mentality. Riding like I belong there has turned fear into a healthy respect for road travel. However, it doesn’t mean that I am fearless. I am all too aware of my vulnerability against cars and trucks so I exercise great caution, wear bright clothing, use my lights in flash mode on cloudy or overcast days, follow the rules of the road scrupulously, and am hyper vigilant of my environment. Always at the forefront of my mind is the fact that there are drivers out there who don’t pay attention or worse, have no respect for my right to share the road. It’s just the way it is when you’re on a bike.
No matter how comfortable I am on the roads though, I always breathe a bit easier when my journey takes me back to the trails where I can relax and enjoy the relative peace and quiet of riding under the trees—something that not even the quietest road can offer.

 


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Lessons Learned In 52 Miles

It was easier than I thought and happened faster than I expected. With 42 miles under my belt by Sunday morning, I knew I’d come close to my longer-range goal of logging 50 miles in a week. But the kicker was, we were experiencing high temperatures over the weekend. Most people don’t have air conditioning here. For the very few days of really hot weather we get during the summer, it just doesn’t pay. But when we do get those days, it can get very uncomfortable. By 9:00 Sunday morning, it was already sticky and quite warm. But I was determined to get out on my bike and accumulate a few more miles. I imagined I’d get about four or five in by the time the heat got to me.
I made the decision to have this be an easy ride, avoiding as many climbs as possible, using my gears wisely (I have a tendency to muscle through some climbs instead of gearing down), and taking it slow. I rode about four hot, sweaty miles on the roads and thought about heading back. Then I just sucked it up and headed for the trails and the trees. The shade quickly reinvigorated me and I had a glorious ride through the woods. By the time I returned home, I had gone 10 miles. That put me over my goal by two miles! I felt remarkably good after the ride and even better after a cool shower. When Monday morning rolled around, it was much cooler and I got a good start to this week by riding more than 11 miles—my longest ride to date.
That ride on Sunday taught me a couple of lessons. First, gears are there to use. The more intelligently you use them, the more energy you have, and the farther you can go. Second, even under less than ideal conditions, sometimes you just need to go for it and enjoy the experience. The results can be awesome!


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More Bike Racks Please!

I love living in this mostly bike-friendly town. On any given day particularly during the summer, you can see numerous flashes of ANSI yellow or orange (we’re also a fairly safety conscious town as well) dart through the streets. Everywhere you go, there are cyclists pedaling their way to unknown locations. It makes me smile just to think of it. Bike racks adorn almost every downtown street and shopping area and they get used. Depending on the destination or day though, sometimes there just aren’t enough racking spaces to go around. Several times now I’ve pulled up to a bike rack only to discover that it was completely full.
Just the other day I rode to Trader Joe’s and their sizable bike rack had so many bikes crammed into it I wondered how anyone was going to actually get their bikes out. I ended up locking my bike to a heavy iron bench. The Barkley Library is another place that hasn’t quite gotten the message. Their rack is only big enough for two bikes! I’m a frequent visitor and I always have to rack my bike to a lamppost because that mini rack is consistently unavailable. Then there was the day I rode to the gym and found no room for my bike at the main rack. I eventually found another one and it was completely empty. Not surprising because that’s where the smokers hang out during their cigarette breaks. Thankfully, on that day I missed the smokers but the entire area reeked of old cigarettes.
Lampost as Bike Rack On one hand, full bike racks make me glad that so many people are out on their bikes. On the other hand though, it can mean a frustrating search for someplace to lock up my own bike and requires some creative solutions.
Where was the strangest thing you ever locked you bike to?


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Twenty Miles in Two Days

In my quest to increase my weekly mileage, I pulled off two 10ers Monday and Tuesday. Monday’s was intentional. It was gym day and my round trip is about 8-1/2 miles so it was just a matter of going a few blocks further than my normal route. Tuesday’s 10-mile ride happened simply because it was a beautiful day. Temperatures were in the 60’s with a gentle breeze and the sky was sparkling blue. I rode down to the pharmacy and library and then rode out of my way to Whatcom Falls, perhaps the most photogenic spot in Bellingham. I wound my way along to the trail’s end and picked up a bike lane at Northshore Drive that parallels Lake Whatcom, backtracked a bit to my neighborhood, and then home. It was one of those days I felt that I could have biked forever…except that by the time I hit Northshore, I had to pee and the closest facility was home.

Today is another gorgeous day and another ride down to the gym. Then it’s a stop at Trader Joe’s for some pizza dough (the best) and chocolate, and a drop-in at Avenue Bread for some…well…bread. It’ll be close to another 10 by the time I get home, which will put me well within reach of hitting the 50-mile mark for the week. How sweet is that?