High On Bike

A Bellinghamster On Wheels


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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.


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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.


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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.


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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.


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Please! Call Me Fred

I am a Fred. For all my non-cycling readers (aka “my friends”), Fred is a term used by “serious” road cyclists to describe other cyclists who don’t “dress in the same flashy clothes or ride the same flashy bikes.” It can also mean a cyclist who has more bike than they need or one that has a lot if gear and gadgets on their bikes. In other words, a Fred is a big doofus. You know, the person who has a bell, mirror, and trunk bag on her mountain bike with the front suspension she never takes on a mountain. The one who smiles and waves at everyone, and wears a hi-viz vest. Oh yeah – me!

There are differing opinions on where the term Fred came from. Some say it’s referring to Fred Flintstone, which in that case would technically make me a Wilma…but feh! Please call me Fred. Others say it originated with an older, bearded, curmudgeonly touring cyclist named Fred. When roadies use it, it’s derogatory, but when other cyclists use it in reference to each other, it’s not necessarily so. Sort of like when women call their girlfriends a ‘ho’, it can be good-natured ribbing…or not…probably depending on the girlfriend.

Fred Shirt

A Fred in a Fred Shirt

Although I’m a Fred, I’m in pretty good company because Bellingham, “the city of subdued excitement,” (seriously that’s our nickname) is full of Freds. We have our share of roadies but Freds definitely outnumber them – from the big-bellied guy who rides around barefoot and topless but thankfully wearing shorts, to the messenger-bag toting riders pedaling in Crocs, to the middle-aged, geezer faction in our hi-viz apparel. Seriously, Bellingham’s nickname could just as easily be: “the town of ubiquitous Freds.” And, most of us all wave and smile at each other.

My most recent Fred interaction was just a few days ago while I was riding down East Illinois Street, a popular thoroughfare for Freds and roadies alike. A gray-haired gentleman on a beat up old bike had randomly stopped at the roundabout to smoke a cigarette. The irony of people riding their bikes and smoking both amazes and amuses me so I took notice. He wore a railroad cap, black slacks with matching suspenders, and a blue button-down shirt. As I rode past he smiled through is gray beard and said this:

“(Unintelligible)… a quarter for that cycle…(something that sounded Gaelic)”

I’m not sure if he was insulting me or not. I’m not sure if he knew. What I am sure about is that he had no teeth, which probably explains the unintelligible part of his shout out. Anyway, I smiled back and inexplicably gave him a salute. That seemed to crack him up and I rode on as his cackling faded into the distance.

Personally, I like being a Fred. It means I can just ride around, do my own thing, and not be fixated on things like cadence, looking cool, and whether or not my current 40-mile ride is as fast as my last. It means I don’t have to watch the Tour de France, can trick my bike out any way I want, and basically just have a hell of a lot of fun.


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Butt Boils, Smoke Monsters, and Standing My Ground

Pacific AvenueOne of the many things I love about being on my bike is the imaginative free-for-all that takes place in my brain. (Read my post about the Smoke Monster. See below.) But sometimes I have to give it a rest deal with a real threat. Instead of the Smoke Monster from “Lost” haunting me along the trails, it’s some dickweed with a long, stringy pony tail in an old, beat up, dark, mini-pick-up filled with what looks like the paraphernalia of a handy man. Evidently, he haunts Pacific Avenue because twice now this summer this jerk of all trades has for no apparent reason — other than he must really hate bicyclists — harassed me while I’ve been riding.

Pacific Avenue between Iowa and Alabama is a two-lane road that is wide enough to accommodate parked cars, cyclists, and moving cars. I ride far enough to the right to be as out of the way of motor traffic as I can but far enough away from the parked cars to avoid the risk of being “doored.” In other words, it’s right where a bike lane would be — if there were a bike lane. Visibility on this section of the street is excellent, allowing drivers to easily see a rider, particularly one wearing a bright orange vest. And they can safely pass without any trouble.

But this dumb ass in the pick-up, which by the way is probably worth less than my bike, apparently leads such a pathetic life that the sight of a cyclist on the same road fills him with a blinding rage. He sees no other way to assuDickweedage his anger than to follow behind a cyclist (me) honking his horn and then zooming past perilously close with his middle finger extended.

The Smoke Monster at least had an excuse to be crazy. Try being trapped on a weird-ass island for hundreds of years as its protector. You’re dead and all you want is to take over another body so you can just get off the friggin’ island. Anyway, I don’t know if dickweed expects me to ram myself into a parked car to get out of his way or if he thinks I’ll wither at his abuse and ride on the sidewalk. But my guess is that he’s just a bully and a miserable human being. Maybe some Fred ran off with his wife.

Dirty HarryI don’t take it personally. I’m sure he behaves as badly with other cyclists as he does with me. Although a part of me would like to whip out a .357 magnum and go all Dirty Harry on his ass, that’s just my imagination escaping its cage. Besides, I don’t think the Stand Your Ground rule would apply, shame though that is. Fortunately, he is an aberration in this town — a boil on the butt of a bike-friendly community where drivers who are considerate and accommodating outnumber guys like this by…a lot. So I just have to content myself with a little silent name-calling (I’m sure to respond verbally to him would just further aggravate his road rage) and continue to ride where I want.