High On Bike

A Bellinghamster On Wheels


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.



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?


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.


Sunday’s Ride

Need to pedal off that ice cream
After spending a wonderful but intense, nonstop four days with my 3 1/2 year old granddaughter, I couldn’t wait to take my bike out on Sunday and wallow in the solitude of the trails. The weather was cool and overcast but dry and even though weekends can mean a lot of trail traffic, they were less busy than I expected. I spent a glorious 80 minutes exploring different side trails, stopping for a couple of Kodak moments, and enjoying the simple pleasure of being outdoors. Girl and bike…perfect.
Good thing my bike isn’t too heavy.
Off the beaten path.
Taking in the view.