Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Week 34: Mental Cacophony

Is there such a thing as reverse cabin fever?  

Source: MorgueFile
Help! My inner hothouse flower has taken control. Source: MorgueFile

These December days my inner hot house flower is in the driver's seat, with the radio on full blast, singing at the top of her lungs. ... 

Na na na-na na.  It's nothin' but dreamin' anyhow."  

Sensible me squeaks, "Go outside. Two walks a week. It won't kill you,"  ... but other brain parts drown that out too, busy as they are with seasonal concerns:

Frontal lobe"Don't even think about eating that chocolate cake."
Hippocampus: "Yumm. Sugar. Carbohydrates."
Frontal lobe: "We just ate two cookies and a piece of pie!"
Hippocampus: "Sugar Carbohydrates. Must. Have. Chocolate. We can go to the gym tomorrow and run on the treadmill for seven hours."
Pons: "Hey guys, no need to fight.  Maybe we can work something out here."
Hippocampus and Frontal lobe:  "Get out. We're busy."

"Just a few more berries." "No way, shut up and go to sleep." 
Took a walk in the back yard, although the yard is about 20' x 30'  and saturated, so it was more of a squelch than a walk.  
Doesn't this scene make you want to roll back into bed?  

It was dreary out there. Even the hummingbirds, intrepid winter denizens that they are, weren't around, maybe because there was two inches of snow on their feeder.  Knocked the snow off. 

Within minutes a bird zipped past, zeroing in on the sugar water.  Probably starving.  OK, message received.  Self talk? Hibernation? Fine, as long as they don't drown out the world.  'Tis the season. May your inner orchid be coddled and quiet, so the hummingbirds get fed. Happy holidays.  

Tips for getting myself out of my car and the house are welcome.   

(Update on the quest to commute, powered by muscle, 104 times in 52 weeks.  Week 32:  walked 2x, bicycled zero. Week 33:  walked 3x, bicycled zero. Week 34: walked 1x, bicycled zero. Grand total:  81, 13 in the bank).

Monday, November 26, 2012

Winter Regression: Weeks 30 & 31

How many times did I cycle during the last two weeks?  Zero.  How many times did I commute by foot rather than by car?  Zero

Excuse number 1:  week 30, we went on a pilgrimage to the southwest.

White House ruin, Canyon DeChelly, built around 1200 AD

Penasco Blanco, Chaco Canyon, built around 950 AD

Thinking about people who built cities, roads, waterways, grew crops, left piles of trash, lived in this area for generation after generation, and then walked away.  It does put the 2012 elections in perspective.
Pictograms, believed to represent the super nova visible on earth in 1054
Excuse number 2: Thanksgiving.  Lots of cooking and eating. Outside, lots of rain. Hunkered down, drove myself around, stored up calories for, I don't know, maybe an apocalypse.  Did you know there are a lot of people who believe that the world is going to fall apart and we'd better Get Ready?  

Well, it's pretty quiet around here, but just in case, I'm rested up and got enough fuel to get through a blizzard naked.  Next week:  back outside, rain or shine.  Right.  

Update on the quest to bicycle commute, powered by muscle, 104 times in 52 weeks.  Week 30:  walked and bicycled zero times (taking a walk while on vacation doesn't count). Week 31:  walked and bicycled zero times. Grand total:   75 (17 - 2 = 15 in the bank).

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Amazing November: Week 29 of 52

Last of the apples from the garden
Since golden October declined into sombre November
And the apples were gathered and stored, and the ground became brown sharp points of death in a waste of water and mud.
                                                      T.S. Eliot

Fall melancholia?  Perhaps a let down from weeks of nonstop election jabber? 

Can't be that.  Don't know about you, but I spent most of this week jabbering about the results of the election.   

No, it's the weather.  

It's a good thing I promised myself to motor by muscle at least twice a week.  Sometimes it's tempting not to go outside at all, for days.

Memo to self:  it's never as bad outside as it looks from inside.

Sometimes it is amazing.


How are you coping with November?  

Update on the quest to bicycle commute, powered by muscle, 104 times in 52 weeks.  Week 27:  walked twice.  Week 28:  walked twice. Week 29: walked twice, cycled once.  Grand total:   75 (17 in the bank).

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Weeks 25 & 26: Walking Counts

New Rule:  in the quest to cycle at least twice a week for a year, from here on out a commute on foot hereby counts as a bicycle ride.  

It was April when I decided to drive less and bicycle more.  What was I was thinking? Winter wouldn't come again?  

My town, Oct.-April
July brought the discovery that it is possible to wipe out for no good reason, without the aid of cars, pedestrians or bad weather: (http://jbw0123.blogspot.com/2012/07/ow-week-14-and-book-review.html).  

It seems sensible to give myself slack.  If it's dark, wet, cold, if there are leaves piled dangerously in the bike path, if my inner warning system is hollering don't do it, I won't. The point is, after all, to Get Out Of the Car. My feet work fine. We have plenty of shoes.  

Yeah, walking is slow, a little lonely ...

...and presents challenges ...
Through or around?  Through or around?

but there's something to be said for making it through the season in one piece. Vive la pedestrians.  

“Now shall I walk or shall I ride? 'Ride,' Pleasure said; 'Walk,' Joy replied.”  ― W.H. Davies

What adjustments do you make for winter commutes?  Or are you lucky enough to live in a sunny place where weather isn't an issue?  

Update on the quest to bicycle commute sans fossil fuels 104 times in 52 weeks.  Week 25:  rode/commuted twice.  Week 26:  2 rides + one walk to the store.  Grand total:   68 (16 in the bank).

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Good to Be Loved: Week 24

The weather report says that today is the last in a long line of late summer days.  

Tomorrow brings rain. 

How many of us cyclers greet this news with mixed feelings?  Leaf blowers are already corralling leaves into the bike lanes in anticipation of the city pickup, which won't happen for another two months.  It's kind of fun to roll through the leaves when it's dry, but once the rain starts, look out.  

Today we ride. Tomorrow we slide.   

I'm considering, in my quest to cycle 104 times this year, starting to count walking as the same as bicycling.  Isn't the point to just get out of the car?  

Ah, but walking takes so long.  

I take solace in the graffiti garden ...
I checked the graffiti dictionary, but can't find what PM means.  Maybe it's the artist's initials.  Happy Halloween to you, too.

... which is tucked next to a field of wild fennel, 
                                     behind the jail and the train tracks ...

... which reminds me that next summer, probably, coal trains will be chugging through the city.  The county commissioners vote next week on whether or not to allow coal trains through town.  The coal will be headed for the coastal town of Coos Bay for shipping and processing overseas.  Four trains a day, up to 150 open cars each. 

Coming soon to the fennel field: a veil of coal dust. 
This is not what people usually mean when they call Eugene Track Town
Coos Bay needs the 165 jobs the coal trains will bring.  Get a community desperate enough for work, and worries about air pollution count for nothing.  

Pedal on.  Here, a small consolation, a sign next to the bike lane: 

Thanks for the nod Hummingbird Wholesale
It is good to be loved.

 Are you ready for winter?  How do you feel about coal trains, and coal in general?  Any solution to the city's leaf recycling program, which leaves (pun not intended) bike paths treacherous for weeks?
Update on the quest to bicycle 104 times in 52 weeks.  Week 24:  rode/commuted twice.  Grand total:  63 (15 rides in the bank).

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Getting a Grip

 The first real grip I ever got on things
Was when I learned the art of pedaling
- Seamus Heaney
Bicycle, Ao Dai, Hoi An, Suzan Black

Update on the quest to bicycle 104 times in 52 weeks.  Week 22:  rode/commuted twice.  Week 23:  3 times.  Grand total:  61 (15 rides in the bank).

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Camping with strange bedfellows: Week 21

Left the bicycle at home to go camping.  

My husband and I have reached an age where sleeping on the ground means not sleeping, so we have a Big Top of a tent, big enough to stand up in, and which fits two of the sturdiest camping cots we could find.  Takes over an hour to get it all set up (what else is there to do when you're camping?) and more than once we've been asked how many people are staying with us, but hey, it's really fun.  It's as close as you can get to an RV without the crummy mileage.   

It might be my imagination, but it seems like the fellow campers we run into are getting more colorful. 

Here's my mental picture of camping:

Reality:  On a trip last fall, the two guys in the site next to us, very polite and friendly, brought along a punching bag, which they fixed to a Douglas Fir and from time to time, well, punched it (whupata, whupata, whupata, whupata).   

Across the road?  A foursome who set up a compound, with a screen room (check the Cabela's website if you don't know what that is), tent, motor home, a 4-wheel drive off road vehicle.  

They were also polite, and quiet, wore camo and were well-armed.  It wasn't quite hunting season, but we weren't going to be the ones to point that out.  When we came upon a huge elk in the woods during a hike, I tried to warn him (the elk), but he didn't seem very impressed.

On a trip to the coast this summer, we camped next to a couple of women cycling from Astoria, Oregon to California, and their son, who was driving the sag wag.  There was a minor disagreement about who claimed a particular campsite first, but I was happy to accede because a couple years ago some friends and I pitched our tents too closely to the neighbors' for their comfort, and a woman came screaming over to me (everyone else was away at that particular moment), instructed her dogs to pee on our tents, told me I was full of excrement and other unmentionable things.  We acceded then, too. 

So ... is it worth it?  Knowing that it's possible to end up bivouacked next to any kind of bedlamite?  

Absolutely.  Sleeping in a tent, even if it's 50 yards from someone who makes me a little nervous, is a good reminder that I'm not in charge.  Not really.  Without fresh air and lungs to breathe it, I wouldn't be here.  It's kind of like church, under stars,  atheists welcome.  It's not a bad thing to get a little grimy.  Without central heating, door locks, wi fi, a refrigerator and running water, it doesn't take long to be humbled, or to discover that it is possible to sleep for 11 hours a night, and then to wake up to a kind quiet you just don't get anywhere else.  We read, we talk, we hike and fish. We rest.  Time stretches out and snaps back, the way time does. 

Of course, coming home again is pretty sweet. 

Got any good stories about interesting camping neighbors?

Update on my quest to bicycle 104 times in 52 weeks.  Week 21:  rode/commuted 1 time.  Grand total:  56 (14 rides in the bank).

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The bicycle is the noblest invention: Week 19

Check out photojournalist Steve Curry's blog post about bicycling.  Here is a sample of the dozens of his spectacular photos:

The World’s Ride

The bicycle is the noblest invention of mankind.
- William Saroyan

Update on the quest to bicycle 104 times in 52 weeks.  Week 19:  rode/commuted 4 times.  Grand total:  54 (16 rides in the bank).

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Week 18: Getting to know our Inner Tubes

This week's non fossil fuel burning activity: hydropower, a.k.a. floating on inner tubes down the Coast Fork of the Willamette River. 

Never mind that we drove cars to put in and take out.  We car pooled, OK?  I'll protect the privacy of my 2 friends by not sharing the photo of us setting off.  Not that we don't look fantastic for ##ty-somethings in our bathing suits. You just have to take my word for it.  In our place, the Golden Sisters: 

Back to our expedition.  You know how you always read about people who get into trouble when they float on inner tubes on rivers?  Let's just say the first two hours were fantastic.  Unfortunately we prepared for one hour.  Total.  So, the second two hours...

Hey, anyone could make this mistake. It's only two miles!  Look:

We're talking from the "i" of Willamette to the "i" of River.  Who could have predicted that there was barely any current and that the  water was mostly 6 inches deep?  OK, maybe we erred a little on the conservative side in choosing a stretch where we were unlikely to drown.  

It is BEAUTIFUL, and we'll do it again, but next time:
  1. start earlier
  2. wear footwear good for walking in water
  3. bring food
  4. bring water
  5. bring a change of quick-drying clothes
  6. bring a first aid kit
  7. bag the trip if it's less than 80˚ outside
From the above list you can reach your own conclusions about the second two hours. 

Any inner tubers out there who want to add to the list of floating necessities?  Feel free to share your summer snafus adventures. 

Update on my quest to bicycle 104 times in 52 weeks.  Week 18:  rode/commuted 2 times.  Grand total:  50 (14 rides in the bank).

Friday, August 24, 2012

Update 104 rides in 52 weeks.  Week 17:  rode/commuted 2 times.  Grand total:  48 (14 rides in the bank).

This week Beach Break and
Opal Creek Hike

"The bicycle, the bicycle surely, should always be the vehicle of novelists and poets." --Christopher Morley

Thursday, August 9, 2012

H.G. Wells and Week 16

Every time I see an adult on a bicycle I no longer despair for the future of the human race.
-H.G. Wells

 Photo credit: hotblack from morguefile.com

Week 16 of 104 rides in 52 weeks.  Last week rode/commuted 4 times.  Grand total since April 15:  46 (14 rides in the bank).

Monday, July 30, 2012

Why Ride a Touring Bike? 15 weeks, Skinny Tires and The Orphan Master's Son

Here's my trusty Giant Iguana bicycle, purchased in the early 1990's. It's sensible and reliable, serves well for trips to the grocery store, visiting friends and going to the gym.  Since it weighs about 100 pounds, it really should count as exercise by itself.  Think of it as a mini van.

A real giant iguana
Here's my other bike.  It's for "touring".  We bought it in 199-something from a friend for a song when our children were small and I had illusions about keeping up with them. Think of it as a Fiat Spider.

Note that it's hanging from the ceiling to save space.  The Man of the House rigged this up.  He's very handy.
The "Head Badge" (bike talk for logo) on my bike.  A Vintage Bicycle site dates this 1990-96
This bike's sole purpose is to race around.  Compared to the Giant Iguana, it is light as air.  It requires special shoes, which I like because they make my feet look small, although they are hard to walk in.

Riding this bicycle also requires special clothes.

Would you wear these pants? 
No, that is not Kotex in the middle.  It is padding.   
After a few miles you're grateful for it

Note the gloves, fingerless so you can shift gears, and nice if you fall off because they protect your hands from scraping on the pavement, a.k.a., as my yoga teacher says, from bicycle stigmata.

There really should be protection for knees, too, because the special shoes "clip in", meaning they snap onto the pedals.  Disconnecting in an emergency usually takes longer than it takes to hit the ground.  Knee pads, however, aren't de rigueur.  Look:
Tour de France.  Thank you Boston.com for the photo

Perhaps road raspberries are a badge of honor?  Or perhaps, if you crash the rest of you is so messed up your knees don't matter?
Photo credit Atomic Gator

I'm reading a novel about North Korea, The Orphan Master's Son by Adam Johnson -- really good by the way -- which puts racy bikes into perspective.  When fishermen in the book come across brand new Air Jordan Nikes floating in the ocean, they can't figure out what they're for.  For exercise, one of them suggests.  Imperialists drive everywhere and have so much food that they have to exercise or they get fat.  Some even do it for fun.

It is fun.

Clearly though, there are simpler, cheaper, safer ways to exercise and have fun, even on a bicycle. So why ride a touring bike?  And honestly, a fify-mmph woman riding a touring bike is maybe a little ... ? OK, maybe downright foolish.  Why, in fact, would anyone get on something with tires as wide across as dimes, balance on the white line on country roads while hay trucks suck you into their wake, pickup truck drivers give you the finger, and Buick drivers honk and brush your shoulder with their mirrors?

I think it makes more sense for an old person to ride one of these risky business machines than a young one.  Squish your private parts on that hard seat for a couple hours and for sure you're going to jeopardize the next generation, and besides, if you're just starting out, you shouldn't want to do things that might cut your time on earth short.  Of course, none of us wants to do anything that would make us a burden to our children.

Let's just say, people who ride this way are optimists.

And beside, it's ---  anyone want to fill in here?  I have my reasons, but this post is getting long, so I'll pull a Charles Dickens Serial: To Be Continued.

If you ride a lightweight bike, and clip in and all the rest, why do you do it? If you don't, feel free to try to talk sense into me, but be forewarned, I'm in pretty deep.

Week 15 of 104 rides in 52 weeks.  Last week rode/commuted 7 times.  Grand total since April 15 start date:  42 (12 rides in the bank).

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

OW. Week 14 and a Book Review

"You cannot fully appreciate the shape of the 20th century if you did not once share its illusions."
                                                                                                                               Tony Judt

Crashed today.

It was a slow motion, one minute you're up, next minute you're down kind of thing.  300 or so motorists drove by my sprawl-out, and I wavered between hoping someone would stop and hoping no one would. No one did. All those drivers politely turned their heads and made a wide swing around the lump on bike path.  Fine. There was nothing a few Bandaids couldn't fix anyway. 

                                                    Photo credit: click from morguefile.com

It was tempting though to go back to bed and pull the covers over my head, or at least drive.  Nothing like seeing the old sunglasses crash ahead of you onto the pavement and realizing that could be my head; but it wasn't.

Picked myself up. Got back on.

On my mind, egging me on: Tony Judt's last book Thinking the Twentieth Century.  It's a series of conversations between Judt and his friend Timothy Snyder in the last two years before Judt's death from Lou Gehrig's disease. Judt was a prolific writer and historian, a frequent contributor to the New York Times, the center of much controversy.  He insisted on "speaking truth to power" and was one of the few New York intellectuals to publicly oppose the 2003 Iraq war.  He was a pragmatist among media hysterics. As a prescription for economic instability, climate change and rogue states, he recommended the almost boring remedies of constitutionalism, rule of law and social democracy. 

"The choice we face in the next generation is not capitalism versus communism... but the politics of social cohesion based around collective purposes versus the erosion of society by the politics of fear".

Fancy words for:  we have a choice between doing things to help each other, and doing things because we are afraid people will do (bad) things to us.

Flirting with potential head trauma by cycling in the city is not exactly speaking truth to power, but we do what we can. Choosing to bicycle or walk is the opposite of buying an Uzi and waving the 2nd Amendment flag.  It's neighborly, healthy and saves gasoline, things our society sorely needs, and if it in any way, shape or form puts me in a category with a journalist who struggled to speak the truth as he saw it practically until the day he died, hurrah.  If there are bumps and scrapes along the way, c'est la vie. 
Skinned knee meet Thinking the Twentieth Century
Week 14 of 104 rides in 52 weeks.  Last week took a lake break in the mountains and did not ride at all.  Grand total, same as last week:  35 (7 rides in the bank)

Friday, July 13, 2012

A Week at the Lake: Week 13

 Hot sun, cold lake, no cell service.  No cycling but who cares?  

  Week 13:  three commutes by bicycle.  Grand total:  35 (9 in the bank)

Monday, July 9, 2012

Tidy Person Meet A New Kind of Dirty, Bicycle Cleaning 101: Week 12

Completed week 12 in a quest to commute by bicycle at least twice a week for a year.   How is it going?  Pretty good.  Last two weeks, eight commutes and two long rides, puts the total at 27.  8 in the bank.  Time to up the ante with a touch-the-chain experience.

In honor of cycling idol, Bike Snob NYC...
... who disapproves of people who pay for basic upkeep, I decided to try Bicycle Maintenance Step A, clean the free wheel and chain wheel.  The words free wheel and chain wheel were not in my vocabulary before last weekend (thank you Bicycling for Beginners), but the parts in question were in my consciousness because they get gunky in winter.  If you let them go long enough you can't lock up without getting black stuff on your pants.  

Fortunately the Man of the House knows how to do this and has the appropriate equipment:

Degreaser.  Don't let the citrus part fool you. This stuff can melt your toenails.  Wear gloves. Doesn't smell very good either.  Keep the garage door open.

Something to put degreaser in.

A nifty device for cleaning the chain.
Chain cleaner in action.  See? Nice and shiny.  Do not look at the floor underneath.
Free the free wheel by taking off the quick release for the wheel.  Had trouble with the springs.  They are quick little things.
Another handy tool.  It has teeth.  (Yes, me without gloves.  Regretted it.)

Really get in there.

A little clean up on the spokes.  Mm-mm. 

Uh oh. A snag.  Chain ring wouldn't fit over clips on pedals.  Couldn't find the right wrench to get the clips off.  Cried.  I was about 2 hours into it by then. Maybe high on Citrus Degreaser. Solution:  realized that the bike shop could take the clips off the pedals in three minutes, probably for free.  Gave up on chain ring. 

Beautiful, huh? OK, maybe not, but there is a lot less noise down in the nether regions.  No more ominous grinding.  Would I do it again?   Mayyybe.  Okay, yeah.  Next time, for time.  Under 90 minutes or bust. 

Happy riding.
For better pictures and step-by-step directions, check out the Triathalon Newbies siteAcknowledgments and thanks to the Man of the House who let me get into his stuff, provided instructions and then wisely retreated to the man cave.