High On Bike

A Bellinghamster On Wheels


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Sometimes I Just Need to Gnaw on a Big Piece of Meat

Rain dropsIt rained last Thursday…a lot and all day. So much so that we broke a rainfall record. I know! Saying we broke a rain record here in the Pacific Northwest is like saying Florida just broke its own record for how many geezers live there. It’s either amazing or completely banal; take your pick. So with more than just little disappointment, I left my bike in the garage and took my car to the knit shop to hang out with my knitting group followed by a trip to Trader Joes and the pet store to do some shopping. It’s been a long time since I drove a car to these places and it felt strange. It’s not that I haven’t been in my car at all; there are just some places here in town and out in the county where it makes better sense to drive. But if I have a choice, and it’s not pouring buckets of water (or geezers), I’d rather take my bike.

Walking into the shop, I instantly missed feeling flushed and invigorated from the ride through the woods, the wind in my face, and the smell of the fresh air. The only consolation was that I wore one of my handmade scarves and received some oohs and ahhs from my fellow knitters. No one oohs and ahhhs when I wear my cycling gear. Odd. At Trader Joes I missed not having to search for a parking spot even though the bike rack there is usually full, which is cool, but they really need to add more parking for bikes. I missed the exhilaration of hauling my groceries uphill and home even though I took advantage of the opportunity and bought more than would have fit into my panniers. The 25 pound bag of cat food I picked up at the pet store would have been a bit tricky on my bike too as I would have had to strap it to my back using bungee cords and I’d have probably been followed home by about 50 cats.

Doodle NappingThen I got home, put the groceries away, had lunch and took a 1-1/2 hour nap with my cat. It was a super cozy nap, admittedly, but I woke up feeling like one of those big banana slugs you see on the trails. I had pizza and wine later for dinner, felt like an even bigger slug, then drooled in front of the TV for a couple of hours. (My cat decided to continue said nap for several more hours. Cats are sooo cool!) Sure, I would have most likely done all of that anyway had I taken my bike but at least I might have been able to skip the feeling like a slug part.

In a Newton’s-First-Law-of-Motion way, the more I use my bike for transportation, the more I want to use it, and the more I miss it when I don’t or can’t. Although the following Friday morning when I met with my personal trainer to work on my core muscles (which currently suck) I decided somewhat at the last minute that taking the car might be the better part of valor. Good thing too because after my trainer kicked my ass for an hour, (Her motto is “If you don’t leave whining, I haven’t done my job!”) I could barely drive home without crying let alone ride my bike home for almost 6 miles….uphill. But you get the point.

A part of me would love to be able to give up my car all together just like a part of me would love to become a vegetarian. It’s doable but not practical given the American culture, my lifestyle, the weather, and the fact that sometimes I just need to gnaw on a big piece of meat. So I do what I can as much as I can and not worry about the rest.

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It’s Good To Be A Cyclist

The Truth Behind The I5 Bridge Collapse

Any day is a good to be a cyclist, some days are better than others. On May 23, 2013, a section of the I-5 bridge in Burlington collapsed into the Skagit River after being struck by a commercial truck. Evidently bridges are struck all the time by commercial vehicles and are built, to one degree or another, to withstand taking some hits. How many hits they can actually take is anyone’s guess. Obviously the I-5 bridge reached its limit in May, and sent three people and their cars crashing into the 40-degree water. Fortunately and surprisingly, everyone survived and will have great stories to tell their children and grandchildren who will then grow up to be hopeless gephyrophobes (pronounced JEFF-ri-o-FO-bes), which with means, if you couldn’t figure it out, having a fear of bridges or people named Jeff.

I’m a bit of a gephyrophobe, myself. I’m pretty sure it’s because my mom used to regale me at a tender age with the story of my great uncle who threw himself off the Aurora Bridge in Seattle during the depression. (There’s a reason they called it “the depression.”) Every time we’d cross that bridge, I’d fixate on that story and be utterly horrified. Then there was Galloping Gertie, aka the Tacoma Narrows Bridge. Built in 1938, this suspension bridge would move vertically in the wind. Scientifically it’s called aeroelastic flutter, which exactly describes what my stomach feels like when I cross a bridge. It collapsed in 1940 in 40 mph winds. Being a child of the Pacific Northwest, I cut my teeth on footage of Gertie’s flutters and her eventual collapse. I still can’t watch that footage without freaking out.

Galloping Gertie

The I-5 bridge connects everything north of it, including Bellingham, to the rest of the world. There is a nearby bridge that will get you across the river but now with the main bridge out, you can expect to be tied up for hours trying to get across it. There is also another route motorists can use, but that takes like forever so you can imagine the utter havoc this is playing in the lives of those who live in area or who are trying to just travel through it. Fortunately, I don’t ever need to be anywhere south of here so other than for prurient interest, the collapse hasn’t affected me. Unless you count last Thursday when we were waiting for my friend Sara to arrive from Sea-Tac airport, expecting her for dinner. She showed up just in time for us to keep from eating the cats but just barely.

Anyway, bridges just don’t collapse that often so when one does no one is really prepared for it except gephyrophobes, who are completely baffled when bridges don’t collapse. So, it takes some scrambling and time to iron out the kinks with alternate routes until the bridge can be repaired. Believe me, there’s been a lot of general seething and gnashing of teeth. My favorite example is when a local news station interviewed bus riders the day after the collapse. One woman just could not believe that she had to wait longer than 15 minutes for her bus. I guess she was expecting helicopters or magic to get her bus through the morass of traffic and confusion. I think she should have taken the waaah-mbulance.

But as awful and inconvenient as the whole thing is, there’s still a bright spot. Well, if you ride a bicycle. Cyclists seem to be getting around the collapse better and faster than most vehicles. As one rider in the National Bike Challenge put it the morning after the collapse, “It’s a good day to be a cyclist.” And I imagine it was.


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Januly

With much if the country baking, I know I shouldn’t complain about the weather, especially living in the Pacific Northwest where the weather is always tenuous at best. But seriously, we just had to close all the windows and turn on the heat. We’ll be lucky if it gets up to 60 today and with the wind and rain, it’s downright cold outside. It’s been this way for days now. Just yesterday I rode in my winter cycling tights and a fleece and I was still cold even taking a hilly route! I cut my ride short because it was so misty out, I couldn’t see through my glasses. We’re used to Junuary but Januly is rare and, well…wrong! Bike and I are staying in today in protest. While there are plenty of chilly rides ahead of us, we’d like a few more rides in the sun!


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July 4th Marks End of Junuary


It happens every year. Somewhere between the middle and end of June, people begin to worry that we won’t have summer in Bellingham. You hear these conversations everywhere, grocery stores, parking lots, knitting groups, you name it. Occasionally, someone like me will pipe up and say that summer doesn’t come to this part of the Pacific Northwest until after July 4th. This isn’t urban legend or and old wives tale, it’s just the way things are. 

This year, summer actually happened on the 4th almost as if someone switched on the sun or switched off the rain, which had been torrential the few days leading up to the holiday.

I took the opportunity (plus the fact that I’m feeling better) to take my bike out for a ride. Ira reminded me that Starbucks was offering free coffee for Independence Day so I decided to ride down, grab a cup, sit outside and enjoy the weather, and then come back home. It was glorious. After being down and out for week over week, it felt great to be back in the saddle. I even made it uphill and back home without too much trouble.
So with Junuary a thing of the past and quite literally a sunny forecast for the foreseeable future, it looks like sweet riding days ahead.