Friday, July 23, 2010

In which the author is witness to a great tragedy...

The first time it happened, I was happily pedaling to work on a blissful Friday morning thinking how nothing had hardly happened recently that would merit writing a blog about (this was in the "early" days while this was all still in "development"). Having about a month of bicycling on my new less hazardous route and hardly a spill to report, I thought, "What have I to write a blog about? All the adventures to be had, have been had."

I have come to realize this is very dangerous thinking, because that is precisely the moment adventure is imminent.

I crossed the street, happily looking forward to those first red poppies of spring, more springing up by the day. This always ensued a violent argument in my head. Raging between all appearances of the poppies being wild and no one missing a couple poppies to adorn my room and the undiminished childhood memory of motherly admonition, "If everyone picked a flower, there would be none left for everyone else to enjoy." Usually the practicality of--if I picked a flower, I will pick it on the way home--won out. But then biking home, there were no poppies on that side of the road, and between the logistics of having to cross the road twice and my eagerness to be home, all the poppies had been left for everyone else to enjoy, as far as this bicyclist was concerned.

So, I crossed the street with eager expectation, and they were all gone! All the poppies gone--mowed down in their glory!

Crestfallen, shocked, stunned, appalled at the number of vases all of those poppies would have filled. How could they be gone?! The waste! The great tragedy of it all! Why was I not given forewarning? Someone could have at least put up a sign, "Please pick the flowers, they'll all be gone tomorrow!"

The one consolation, I sighed, it is still early in the spring, perhaps they have time to grow back. I strode along, amazed at the things that keep happening and contemplating how I must write a blog. About that instant, a squirrel jumped to the sidewalk from a nearby tree, ran into the road straight in front of my wheel. With absolutely no time to react, I winced in anticipation of a horrible horrible crunch. His timing was slightly off; he hit the rim of the wheel and violently bounced and scrambled away with an unpleasant squeak.

Heart pounding, reeling over this second near-tragedy, I finally strode into work. Having relayed my amazement at the peculiar events of the morning, my boss replied, "Indeed, crazy squirrels on campus!"

On mon Bicyclette...

Friday, July 9, 2010

In which there is a shortened sequel...

Dear Reader,

My profound apologies, but I have decided not to go into great detail on my birthday sequel. It is really too depressing to dwell upon, beyond mentioning the barest facts, I'd rather like to forget.

The barest facts being...

Talking on the phone while biking will have to be conquered in the year to come (before my next birthday.) Conquering riding hands free and talking on the phone while biking, was perhaps a bit ambitious to tackle in the same year.

My wounds, the solid evidence of the above stated fact, are just now almost disappeared. (Though this has given me great occasion over the last week, in all my biology nerdiness, to ponder the wonder of cell growth and it's marvelous role in wound healing.)

And finally, I'm pretty sure it was one of the saddest things the car behind me had ever seen to see this person on a bike happily flying a birthday balloon strung out behind them, severely wipe out on the corner right before their eyes (and I appreciated the concerned inquiry as to my state of being from the driver).

My day went on to quite happier events, and this incident rather unimportant in determining the outcome of that birthday. For now, however, my cell phone shall remain securely in my backpack where it cannot tempt fate and my well being by ringing, oh just a hand's reach away, in my pocket while riding.

On mon bicyclette...

Sunday, June 27, 2010

In which the author reflects on where she has come...

I have been very proud of myself as of late, because I do believe "miracle of miracles" as the late Tevye would bicycle coordination and even speed skills are improving. My takeoffs and dismounts are becoming more controlled and, dare I even say, graceful.

Earlier this week I rode completely hands free for a long stretch down nearly our entire street, something I have never done before on a bike. In terms of improved speed, I discovered that my 2nd major gear is in fact a higher faster gear, and it is very fun to use. I did, in fact, outrun one of the buses that circles campus. I outran it not just as it was slowing down for a stop, but as it was accelerating out of a stop. That made me pretty happy all day.

Why all this reflection? It happens that my birthday fell within this past week (always an excellent time to reflect). On this special day I was completely showered with kindness. The thing about birthdays, however, is that they almost invariably involve balloons (which do not fit so well in backpacks). It just so happened that a friend brought me a balloon in the lab, which graced my desk all day, but then of course it comes time to go home. This is where I realized my dilemma of transporting my balloon home.

So my choice lay before me. I could have biked through campus as fast as I could trying to be impossibly inconspicuous, feeling silly and self-conscious the whole time. Or, I could tie my balloon the my backpack, swing up on my bike, flying my bright red balloon detailed with puppy dogs in party hats with giant Happy Birthday letters--and own it. So, being in fairly good birthday spirits, that's what I did...and on my way I decided that everyone else's day was made better by my boldness, (even if the entire campus knew it was my birthday). At least mine would have been if I had been the observer of some cheery person bicycling home, birthday balloon in tow, and y'all would have heard about it too.

I'd like to say I made it home balloon flying out behind me, but somewhat unfortunately the story continues, but that will be for next time...

On mon Bicyclette...

Saturday, June 26, 2010

In which the author shares her delight of poppies...

The ride by view. Don't try this at home!

Here are some of the poppies! I wish I had had my good camera with me to take pictures as these really do not do justice to them. They bring me such joy every day before and after work. I love my bicycle commute because it makes me more acutely aware of the seasons, as little seasonality as we have here. I love all the little blossoming changes!

Sunday, May 30, 2010

In which the author and a fellow bicyclist create a small scene....

This week I had the good fortune of being able to take a small vacation, which meant this past week I only biked to work Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. Surprisingly, I have sorely missed the exercise over the last two days. To counterbalance, I did, however, begin the adventures of last Saturday with a bike ride, and as these adventures were delightful I hope to write more about them and will promise a few pictures as well.

The week began delightfully well. A dear, kind friend friend of mine, after reading about the plight of the helmet of Mambrino, lent me her own. Her action has left me verily astonished not only at its kindness but also-in terms of the helmet itself I am astonished by this technological age of progress that they have even improved helmets in the last few years of my short lifetime! It is a rather ingenious design, self-adjustable for size around the head (not just the chin straps), or better yet to accommodate changes in hair positioning. Frankly this new helmet is so comfortable, I feel in some danger of falling asleep on my cozy bubble wrap for my head.

Monday evening I was bicycling home, a little excited for the end of a good day,
(excitement = I ride faster). I was contemplating my blog--how I haven't crashed recently nor have I yet had a chance to detail all the crashes of the early days to forewarn my dear reader of the perils of taking up bicycling to work before one has found solid balance. (Let's just say my crashes were to such extent and frequency that one of my roommates recommended the week before I was supposed to be in a wedding, that I pay for 5 days of parking and gas (when my human powered bicycle would do just fine) just so I would not crash and maim myself for all the wedding pictures. This was all while I was really hoping another rather large bruise on my elbow, the remaining marks of a snowboard trip the previous weekend, would finally go away.)

Contemplating these thoughts...Suddenly another bicyclist pops out from behind a parked car to cross the street, feet in front of me. As soon as he saw me, uttered apologies, and for one second I think we both thought we might have been ok and missed eachothers' bikes. The last instant though, I hit his back wheel perpendicularly, the physics of which triggered a slow motion launch of my body over my handlebars onto the pavement below; simultaneously my fellow bicyclist was dumped into the middle of the street. After standing up a little dazed and shaking like a leaf and my brain worked to return from its slow motion collision state to gather information about my surroundings. The developing picture was quite the commotion. Two bicyclist sprawled in the street while surrounding bikes, cars, and pedestrians including the campus bus all stopped around us to avoid any further collision and assess that we were ok.

About this time I was surprised to feel someone brushing off my arm, and turning my head to look I half expected on of my grad student friends to be standing there by some chance having serendipitously observed the nearby scene. Instead I found a very concerned stranger vigorously trying to brush all the leaves and twigs off my fuzzy sweatshirt. Though I did not know her, she smiled at me and thus, in her kindness, in my heart she was a friend.

We both inspected our bikes for injury, apologized profusely. Thankfully little blue was fine, but his back wheel where I had hit was bent pretty well, which I felt pretty terrible about. Nevertheless, we both went on our ways. I shakily rode home. By the time I arrived at my doorstep, I was fully recovered; perhaps in slightly too good spirits, over the fact of having new fodder for my blog. I am really surprised that I did not get hurt worse than the bruises that appeared on my legs and on the heel of my hand throughout the week. After repeatedly playing the inner slow motion video of flying over my handlebars, I still cannot figure out how I landed. Above all I am thankful for all the hand and wrist bones (all my bones for that matter) of my pipetting hands to be intact...but the rest shall remain a mystery.

Yes, yes all a day in the life-

On mon bicyclette...

Thursday, May 20, 2010

In which the author notes the activities at the park...

Tonight when I biked home, the park I pass was abuzz with activity. On one half of the field, Little Leaguers in their miniature crimson, baseball uniforms ran around, parents eagerly assisting, the air filled with happy clamor...On the far side of the park stood two net goals, establishing the parameters of a soccer game...ahh brings me the days of playing T-ball in pigtails and tripping boys in soccer games (always going for the ball of course--and the ref always took my side--maybe the pigtails helped =)

On mon bicyclette...

Saturday, May 15, 2010

In which the author is delightfully suprised...

Thursday morning, I woke up from fitful sleep a earlier than usual and a little more concerned than usual about getting to my lab to treat my culture fly cells with their proper chemicals for an experiment I needed to run...Otherwise a completely normal Thursday (wishing that it could be Friday), and I made it though my morning routine and off on my bicycle without much ado.

Gliding along, I suddenly remembered! Thursday May 13th, Bike to Work Day! Excellent! I have been looking forward to this day for at least a month. There were e-mail postings about various stations on campus with stations to celebrate the day, but I passed by the train station on my route I was surprised to see people there--happy, waving canvas "Bike to Work" book bags. I smiled and waved, but kept going because I was already mostly passed and planned to stop at the station closest to my lab. My energy boosted even more since my realization of Bike to Work Day, and looking forward to what else I might see.

Coming up the the big traffic light, there were quite a few bicyclist, especially for being earlier than than the usual bike "rush-hour." I gleefully biked across the road with my fellow bicycles, and shortly after crossing onto campus, we all converged on a booth with more happy people cheering us on. Some of the bikers stopped, but I kept going until I reached the station by my work. From those happy volunteers, I proudly recorded my 7 miles of round trip mileage and received my book bag--a symbol of my first ever Bike to Work Day.

Later one of my friends who takes the same bike route as I, mentioned she stopped at the train station and was very ceremoniously wreathed with bag around her neck, which kind of made me wish I'd stopped there too. We talked about how cool it is to be cheered on in your morning about something we already do, that is a good choice we have made but has become just a part of life.

It is good to be reminded and encouraged in these things. I once read a quote by George MacDonald (I couldn't find it on-line) the essence of which was talking about all the little things we do each day the little choices that we don't think about as being good bad or indifferent. George MacDonald's example is eating breakfast or tea or something very routine and benign. We do not see this as necessarily overtly good thing, but in the end his point is there are many worst things to do!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

In which the author ponders whether the helmet of mambrino may do more harm than good

Today was one of those day I got off work in simply an irritable mood due to the fact that my experiments did not go as planned. Which in general means they take hours longer, as I attempt to self-correct. So the day ended much later than hoped and not quite as well as hoped...and I still had my commute home which normally I really enjoy but today it was all lost on my in my desperate desire to have been home a whole 2 hours earlier.

I strapped my helmet, embarked on my bicycle, and immediately had to maneuver carefully to avoid running into people, having lost depth perception, my vision in one eye blocked completely and the other almost completely....ah that other irritating issue (which I was willing to ignore on my morning commute due to my better mood at the time)...that of my helmet.

They say, "always wear a helmet, you never know when it will save your life." Which I completely agreed with until recently, in which I am nearly persuaded that it is my helmet that will get me killed in the first place.

My early and rather disastrous bicycle commute days before I switched routes, (which I shall go into further on a later date), was disastrous (on a weekly sometimes daily basis), but it was my knees and shins and even ankles that suffered and never my head. Indeed, at least one of these incidents was caused the very first day after I obtained my helmet and discovered its preferred resting position in front of my eyes, before I had gained enough of a balance to adjust it every 2 minutes.

One of my engineering friends, determined to help me, vigorously adjusted the straps this way and that way...until here!...the final product! In the engineering (and biology research) mindset of constantly weighing cost with was a better product in that I had a clear field of vision, with the side effect of feeling rather strangled on my commute and arriving with a raspberry mark on my forehead; which of course my lab mates loved to point out every morning, and others who noticed though that I had crashed or something leaving this (momentarily) indelible mark on my head.

Earlier this year, on the colder winter days, (taking my life into my hands) I used the cold as an excuse for the necessity of wear a beanie instead of my helmet, which were quite nice days of un-distracted commute...

Then there is the issue of having long hair, which greatly affects day-by-day helmet positioning depending upon how and where all this hair is arranged upon the head. This is, in fact, what caused me to reconfigure the helmet from this superior positioning in hopes of finding a new position better suited for my hair that day, and alas as I lack engineering skills (or more acutely--time that particular morning) I am left with the current state of affairs. No raspberry forehead, no gasping for air the whole way to work and back, but no great field of vision either.

On mon bicyclette...

Monday, May 3, 2010

In which the author has a pleasant ride home...

My commute this morning was uneventful. The flowers were beautiful as usual... The whole way I was hoping to run in to someone I know, which happens from time to time, but never when you expect it, which is the great tragedy of it. The moment you realize that person standing at the bus stop is someone you know and wave, after the instant of recognition they are gone... and the odd mornings when these encounters do occur, though brief, they rank among the highlights of my day.

I worked late, which ended up making for a beautiful ride home. It was that peaceful time when everything tinges pink right before dusk sets in. The air was warm and soft. Only a few cars drove by. As I entered our neighborhood, it had evidence of a place where the hustle and bustle of the frantic working world quieted down and was forgotten for a few moments. People here and there were outside enjoying the post-dinner hour sunshine--doing human things. two friends watched birds or squirrels dancing in the trees (I couldn't see). A young couple holding hands chatted along down the sidewalk. A dad jogged to keep up behind his son on a tricycle and a little ways down the road an older couple were walking together holding hands. A family of three meandered along the road, the little girl gleefully skipping in front of her parents, and as I rounded the corner to my street another fellow worker, who had likewise shared my late shift, was walked wearily briefcase in hand to his doorstep.

I opened my front door and the house was warm from the early summer sunshine, smelling like strawberries...

On mon bicyclette...

Friday, April 30, 2010

In which misfortunes fall upon the bicyclette...

One evening this past week while pedaling home from work, my drifting thoughts paused to dwell upon the topic of, "What I would do if my tire goes flat on the way to work." The worst place for this to happen theoretically would be exactly in the middle of my route, which is 3.6 miles according to Google Maps. If I am halfway on my route, assuming a 20 minute walking mile, it will take me approximately 36 minutes to walk either to work or home to get my car. At this point, to the end of not being completely late, it would be best to walk to work and figure out how to get home later. As walking home and then driving the extra 15 minutes (very minimum-if all the lights are good) to work would take nearly an hour. So actually the worst spot for my tire to blow would be slightly before the halfway point. So if I really want to play it safe, I should leave for work an hour ahead of when I need to be there --which is clearly not going to happen. These are all things to consider when taking up a bike commute.

Mental gymnastics aside, these fear were unfortunately not unfounded, but rather brought on by an incident that happened on one of my rides to the ranch earlier during the summer...

I was riding blissfully along the highway towards home, hugging the left edge of the pavement to distance myself as much as possible from the 2 ton cars whooshing by me at 50+ mph. Though I had a healthy left hand side mental barrier, my concern for my right hand side was not great enough. My thoughts wandering a little too far, I imbalanced slightly trying to change gears--again still wobbly in adjusting on the gear shifters in front of me--my tire slipped off the right edge of the pavement onto the adjacent gravel. This in itself would not have been too bad to ride on the gravel a second, but in trying to correct myself back onto the pavement without falling, all I managed was to rake both front and rear tires along the raised edge of the blacktop. Ride on as I might try, hoping by some miracle my tires could withstand such a beating, the instantaneous lack of impulsion could not be ignored. Two flat tires 1.5 miles from home. This in fact was the good news-I was fairly close to home. So indeed I walked, half-dragged my bicycle (up the big hill) home, feeling very miserable about this bike adventure.

If any good came out of this it was a pleasantly increased sense of confidence in the goodness of humanity. One person driving by offered me a ride and then a group of bicyclists at the same stoplight asked if everything was alright. Although, all this attention heightened my self-consciousness and my awareness of looking rather silly pulling my bike along with me like a naughty child instead of riding it, it is comforting to know that there are people out there nice enough to ask.

This put a damper in the way of any more bicycle riding for a while. My bicycle stayed in the trunk of my car for a couple months (this is another reason I love my bike--it fits in the trunk of my car) until I was brave enough to take it in to one of the million bike stores near my lab. Most people would probably think this sort of thing is no big deal, but when you are a completely ignorant, once-in-a-while, weekend rider walking into a bike shop, which represents this whole foreign world of avid bicyclist--it is slightly intimidating.

Finally, weeks after this incident, after learning something about bike tires and tubes, and plunking down a chunk of change (this will teach me not to pay attention); my little blue was up an running again, ready to go... And we even made it home with a compliment, a "nice bike" from the guy in the bike shop as we (blue and I) walked out.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

In which the author conquors the large hill....

I'd like to say my bicycling adventures took off once I moved to California, but this is not true either. I did manage to get out and about a little more often then during school--riding some of the coastal trails by my parent's house, and the few miles to the ranch were we keep the family horse. After I started my working in lab full time, bicycling days ended up being one day on the weekends, at most.

90% of the workout is the last 1/4 mile up the giant extended hill where my house sits. I am proud I am now able to haul all the way up, keeping those pedals ggggoing the whole way home to the top. I'm not sure if this improvement from my earlier days of bike riding is due to being in better shape or due to improved equipment (lighter road vs. mountain bike I had before).

My little bike did merit a special place--in my room--so I can see it as a constant reminder to get out and about. This reminder made it worth the lugging up and down the stairs between my room and the front door, versus keeping it in a more convenient location like the garage, where it was also liable to be forgotten and neglected completely.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

In which the author is pleasantly suprised...

New flowers joined my favorite patch of burgeoning red oriental poppies and orange California poppies on my usual route to work this morning...Pink poppies!

Wonderful beginning to the day!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

In which the author finds herself relocated south, bicycle in tow...

I'd like to say that my plenteous bicycling adventures began that beautiful fall day the bike came home, but school of course got busy and gas prices finally descended... An accounting of my senior year, however, would not be complete without a few bicycle memories. Bicycling bonded me with a new acquaintance, as of that year, (the future Martha Stuart) one of the girls on my res life staff who'd also recently bought a pink bike. She remains the only person I know who "owned" her love of pink so seriously and completely, no one could question her delightfully decorated room, pink vanity, phone and all. Her pink bike was complete, outfitted with pink handlebar tassels. We went on a few of our first rides together though the countryside outskirts of town, watching the leaves turn golden red, whizzing through the crisp, fall air. We shared our first "crash" stories in the initial process of adjusting to the balance and speed of riding a bicycle again. In fact, she witnessed my first fall, right in the middle of the Meridian (darn toe clips), and our bikes always "chatted" next to each other on the bike rack. (I have suspicions my little blue bicycle had a little bit of a crush on those pink tassels).

My most poignant memory, came just days before I was heading back to California, a job awaiting me. In an effort to catch a ride before evening darkness fell, another good friend, an avid road bicyclist herself, led me through some of the quieter roads around, some of which I'd never been even after 4 years there. It was a warm evening in May, and I had that strange mixture of nostalgic sadness, contentment and thankfulness for my time in that place, but settled peace in knowing where my new adventures lay ahead...A most beautiful goodbye.

Five days later, leaving behind 4 years of dear friends, professors, life experiences, real coffee, and the rain, I packed up all my belongings (those of which that survived severe culling in order to fit in my car*), my little blue bike, and my dad who had graciously flown up for the drive down with me the same day....California here we come!

On mon bicyclette...

* Interestingly of all the items left behind, the only thing I regretted--my exercise ball!

Monday, April 26, 2010

In which the author finds a bicycle...

Dear Reader,

This blog is for me to remember that I am a whole person, a living and delighting soul, an artist as well as a thinking brain. It is for the practice of my forgotten art and to revive my joy in writing. It is to bring a mental break and be a metaphorical window, into and out of my daily work and study by refreshing my spirit of awareness of the surrounding world in which I walk and breathe. Finally, I write in hopes that someone else may also be inspired to try this same experiment and try biking to work...and find your life (and the environment!) even a little bit better for it.

Without further ado, here begins the account of my little blue bicycle...

It all began in hopes of beating the soaring gas prices in my little college town just outside Portland, Oregon the summer of 2008, when I dreamed up the idea of zipping down to the grocery store on a little roadbike. Long after I'd calculated the miles and miles I'd have to ride and just how much gas would have to increase for me to ever recoup my cost, the vision stayed. (Native Californian that I am, the whole Portland-er urban hippie image still had its allure.) After learning a bit about road bike sizing, I haunted Craiglist every day for a very small affordable roadbike. Finally, that September I climbed into my car with 2 adventurous college freshmen from my floor (cardinal rule of Craigslist--bring friends!) and my very saintly roommate (whom I convinced to live as my roomate our senior year while I was the resident assistant to 20 freshman girls) to go for a test ride.

Trying out the bike, I made a fool of myself...the seat was a too high, couldn't get my feet in those toe clips, and had to ask if it was a fixie (fixed single-gear) bike, cuz where were the gear shifters? -Apparently in front of me on the frame, not on handlebars like my childhood mountain bikes. This location in itself provided challenges (look where I'm going; or look at my gear to change it and risk falling?). Regardless, as I glided in staggered spurts around the neighborhood; I fell in love; ended up handing over more cash than I'd ever see come out of my bank account at one time to the former owner, who after watching my stilted performance, sent me off with a seriously concerned, "be careful."

I drove home ecstatic. ...I had found my little blue bicycle...just my size.