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.