darkemeralds: Naked woman on a bike, caption "I don't care, I'm still free" (Bike Freedom)
The only real downside of non-car-ownership (for me) is that one's orbit contracts significantly: every now and then an urge to get out of the city strikes, and it's not easy to satisfy.

So when my good pal [personal profile] roseambr invited me to go with her to Montana at the end of September, I said yes, yes, and yes-indeedy. She's taking a four-day art glass course in the small and apparently picturesque town of Hamilton, and I'm going to go along and treat it as a writing retreat.

Since our lodging is seven miles outside of the town itself, and since I've actually let my driver's license lapse (whoops) and so can't use [personal profile] roseambr's car during the day, I'm going to rent a Brompton to take along. Hamilton being a ski-resort-y kind of place with at least one bike shop of its own, I'm hoping that a gray haired lady on a folding bike won't raise too many eyebrows.

Hamilton is a nine-hour drive from Portland, and from what I hear, late September is an excellent time to visit: pre-snow, post-summer-heat. I'm more of a Left Coaster than an American West-er, so the farthest I've ever been into the interior is western Idaho; Montana is a vast, Big Sky mystery to me.

Should be fun.
darkemeralds: Naked woman on a bike, caption "I don't care, I'm still free" (Bike Freedom)
First of all it's October, and truly October-ish outside--cool, sunny, smells like apples and leaves? You know.

Second of all, I had to work today. You'd think this would be a bad thing, but I don't actually mind working on Saturday once in a while*. I get a lot done. I got a lot done. I like the quiet.

Third of all, two bike rides in the perfect. One of them took me past the goats again.

Fourth of all, a hot order of fish and chips from the Irish pub on the corner, and Volume Two of S.U. Pacat (aka [livejournal.com profile] freece)'s Captive Prince (which, dear god, where-have-you-been-all-my-life, is fantastic) just queued up all fresh.

So really, my life is perfect.

*And also? There are only thirteen Saturdays left in the whole world where this job will be an issue.
darkemeralds: Heart-shaped raindrop on the lens, captioned with "Raining in my heart" (Rain)
...it is only a test. If this were the actual end of the world, I would be worried about other things than getting a bag of sugar home without it dissolving in the rain.

It feels a bit world-endy, though. I committed to a car-free way of life on the grounds that Portland's famous bad weather is really just mild, damp and gray--not All-Summer-In-A-Day-levels of unbroken heavy rainfall for weeks on end.

Still, that's what we've got. Monsoons of rain. Typhoons of rain. Buffoons, spittoons, doubloons and poltroons of rain. Looney Toons of rain. It is, in a word, wet. In two words: very wet.

Wet wet wet wet wet wet wet )

Ah well. The stock pot is simmering, Hungarian mushroom soup is in the works, and hey, so far, the power's still on, so there's that.
darkemeralds: Old French poster of bicycle with naked flame-haired woman. (Bike)
Fun with privilege:

Dottie, the blogger-in-chief of my favorite bike blog, Chicago's Let's Go Ride a Bike, wrote a wonderful post today about the positive impact bike-riding can have on the self-esteem as well as the health of people who participate in it. She's a leading advocate of everyday biking for everyday people (with a cycle-chic slant endorsing the wearing of nice street clothes while doing it).

The most salient point of her post today is this:

When your body carries you several miles to and from work every day, you appreciate your body as a tool and a workhorse. When your lungs fill with air and your heart pumps energetically, you know your body is good, without having to examine it in the mirror, searching for flaws. If society declares that your body is not ideal because you are not skinny enough or muscular enough, or your hips or thighs are too big, you know that society is wrong because your body works for you admirably every day.

Words to bike by.

So of course some asshole has to weigh in. )

The more I ride my bike, the sharper my retorting skills become, I swear. (Also, I've been listening to Sian Phillips reading a Georgette Heyer novel, and those Regency cadences are stuck in my head.)
darkemeralds: Naked woman on a bike, caption "I don't care, I'm still free" (Bike Freedom)
I've maintained my 100% bike commute streak from November to this past Tuesday by three principal means:
  1. I had fortuitously scheduled vacation days the three days it snowed in December
  2. If I'm too sick to ride, I'm too sick to work, and I'm lucky to have a job that generally agrees with this stance
  3. I'm highly demotivated to take any other form of transportation

But this past week, with the training schedule from hell, number 2 there didn't apply--I was too sick to ride on Tuesday, but I had to come to work anyway, so I rode the bus both ways.

Now I'm off the perfection hook. )

Back in October and November I was still a little worried about backsliding and giving up, but that doesn't seem to be a risk now. I just like riding my bike too much. I'm not super hard-core: if it's icy out, I won't ride, and I might not opt for it on a really hot, smoggy August day either. My 95% month makes that okay.

Training is done (hallelujah!) and as soon as I wind up a few things here, I'm off to start May in style: with a nice ride on Eleanor O to the grocery store, and then home for four-day weekend.
darkemeralds: Naked woman on a bike, caption "I don't care, I'm still free" (Bike Freedom)
This idea of not writing for a few days is genius! Thank you to everyone who suggested it.

In honor of Eleanor's--or maybe Odette's--first ride to work, I wore a skirt and high heels this morning, and felt like a million bucks cruising along in the chilly sunshine.

A high-heel kind of day. )

So my mind is clearing, and Chapter 31 is brewing in the background. I can feel it! And meanwhile this not-writing is doing me a world of good.

Poll #2744 What Should I Name My New Bike?
Open to: Registered Users, detailed results viewable to: All, participants: 19

What should I name my new Dutch bike?

View Answers

Eleanor - because she's dignified and graceful and has gravitas and is queenly
9 (47.4%)

Odette - because she's kind of French-Resistancy looking and should be wearing a beret and smoking a Gauloise
9 (47.4%)

Something else that I'll suggest in a comment
1 (5.3%)

darkemeralds: Naked woman on a bike, caption "I don't care, I'm still free" (Bike Freedom)
I just went to Clever Cycles and put a few bucks down on an Oma.

I love that store! And I'm not just saying that because they have a Google news alert that tells them whenever anyone posts anything online about Clever Cycles, though they totally do, and thanked me for blogging about them which freaked me out a bit, since, you know, I don't actually blog under my real name and there's one more set of people who can now make that connection.

I'm saying it because they are awesome. I went in and said, "I rented an Oma from you recently and I think I'd like to buy one, but I'd like to examine some other options." I said I wanted a men's sized bike with a step-through frame (formerly known as a "girl's bike") because, well, I'm a man-sized girl, really.

That ruled out all but two lines, and after the Clever Cycles guy went and got two heavy Oma bikes from upstairs and let me try them, we ruled out everything else. He said that while the other option could be jimmied to fit me (raise the seat, fiddle with the handlebars, etc.), it would look stupid when we were done, and they don't like to sell stupid-looking bikes.

(Okay, I was the one who suggested the word "stupid," but he agreed.) They want to sell the right bike for the rider, and also a good looking bike. He gets no argument from me on that.

So tomorrow at lunch I'm going to go get her. Or him. I can't decide which.
darkemeralds: Naked woman on a bike, caption "I don't care, I'm still free" (Bike Freedom)
I'm still tracking my bike commuting, even though it's monotonous ) because for years my employer has paid for a portion of my annual bus pass, which I no longer use, and I think I should get some equivalent benefit, so I'm prepared to show documentation of my itty-bitty transportation carbon footprint.
darkemeralds: Old French poster of bicycle with naked flame-haired woman. (Bike)
Ha ha ha ha! I have inducted a new member into the cult.

Today I met my good pal [livejournal.com profile] roseambr at Waterfront Bicycles* in downtown Portland, where she rented a bike so she could experience this thing I've been raving about for six months.


A perfect day for brainwashing )

*If you ever want to rent a bike in Portland, go to Waterfront Bicycles. They are extremely helpful, their prices are good, their service is outstanding, and they have lots of good bikes to rent. I watched them treat every single customer--young, old, fast, slow, newbie and old hand--exactly the same, with friendly respect. They are my new bike shop for sure.
darkemeralds: Naked woman on a bike, caption "I don't care, I'm still free" (Bike Freedom)
This just came over the wire from my favorite bike blog, BikePortland: US Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood announced a new set of federal transportation recommendations designed to integrate the needs of bicyclists and pedestrians of all ages and abilities into transportation planning.

It's pretty awesome.

US federal transportation policy since the 1950s has been so exclusively about creating more roadways for more motor vehicles that when LaHood calls this set of recommendations a "sea change" he's not exaggerating.

Even though it clearly arises from recession, inflation, and scary, scary peak oil, the sudden burgeoning of attention to bikes as transportation in the US in recent months seems very positive to me.
darkemeralds: Old French poster of bicycle with naked flame-haired woman. (Bike)
You know how your boss is someone who has a lot of power over you? Bear that in mind as you read on.

Today Google rolled out the exciting new BikeThere addition to GoogleMaps. I was having a look at it this morning when my boss wandered up.

"What's got you smiling?" he asks.. I show him the map because he's kind of a geek and I figure he'll appreciate another cool Google development.

My mistake. )

Yay, work.
darkemeralds: Old French poster of bicycle with naked flame-haired woman. (Bike)
I'm hearing rumors in the bike blogosphere today suggesting that Google is about to announce a new GoogleMaps feature: Bike Routes!

Someone from Google has been scheduled last-minute as a speaker at the plenary opening session of League of American Bicyclists annual summit tomorrow.

I've got decent local bike-route mapping already, but if Google takes it on, rumor suggests that it will include things like elevation gain (kind of a crucial cycling consideration), and it will be rolled out nationwide in the US--with UK and Europe rollout coming soon.

It would give a fantastic boost to bike-riding if it's true. Google has had pedestrian route-mapping for quite a while now, and they added public-transit route mapping more recently. Every time anyone goes to map a route, they see those options. It's gotta have a subliminal effect even for people who don't USE those options. "Oh! there are sidewalks and buses!" Now maybe they'll think, "Bike route...hm."*

Google may be the Evil Overlords of the Internet, but this kind of on-the-ground (literally) tool for real people wanting to live sustainably strikes me as a genuine good.

*idea for Google: make "route with fewest bikes" an option for motorists!
darkemeralds: Photo of Downtown Portland, Oregon USA in twilight (Portland)
The mayor of Stumptown is giving his first State of the City address right now. According to Twitter, he began by thanking "my boyfriend Peter Zuckerman," definitely a Portland first.

State of the City. )

Sometimes I still kind of enjoy politics.
darkemeralds: Dark Emeralds in red glasses (Default)
A wonderful thing just happened.

It started with a terrible thing. Late last night, Tom Daley, a guy about to open his shoestring bike-repair business in Southeast Portland, had his location broken into and most of his tools and inventory stolen.

A tale of social networking and social conscience. )

Small steps, small steps. Thank you [livejournal.com profile] nwhepcat for making me aware, so I could pass it on. And good luck to Tom Daley, who is just trying to open a microbusiness in hard times.


Jan. 20th, 2010 03:23 pm
darkemeralds: Old French poster of bicycle with naked flame-haired woman. (Bike)
What is it about a person on a bike that gets so many people's back up?

I ran into an old friend at lunch. She asked "What's new with you?" so I told her about riding Clyde, and the first thing out of her mouth after that was, "Oh God! Are you all political about it now?"

A certain amount of (relatively mild) anti-bike sentiment ensued, but she soon enough introduced a civil change of subject.

Before I started riding a bike, I didn't love bikes. (I still don't--I just love Clyde. :D) I didn't think bike commuting was possible for me, and the people who did it seemed to be from a different, more physically-privileged species.

Driving behind cyclists made me nervous, and I felt alienated from the predominantly young, predominantly male bike culture. Bike-riders were, in short, annoying. But not in a Dr Thompson kind of way.

My old friend was just unthinkingly giving voice to that annoyance and alienation. I get that. But her views are along an unbroken continuum at the far end of which is a surprisingly popular notion that bike-riders deserve injury or death for a lack of "respect for motorists" (read the comments on that LA Times Blog post if you doubt me).

I just...I see it--with depressing frequency--but I don't understand it, you know?
darkemeralds: Old French poster of bicycle with naked flame-haired woman. (Bike)
From what I can gather, at least 90% of city bike-riders are also drivers and car-owners. So the concept of cyclists comprising a radical underclass that uses the roads for free and flouts authority is kind of a myth.

I mention this because it means that virtually all adult bike-riders are familiar with traffic law. They know how cars, drivers, and traffic work, whereas the reverse is decidedly not true: most motorists don't understand bike-riding. I've learned some things riding Clyde, and I want to share them.

And your little dog too! )
I started out thinking that if I was super-cautious, I'd be safe, but it turns out that a mix of caution and aggression is critical to bike-riding safety in the city streets.

So if you're driving and you see a cyclist who's serious enough to be on the road at busy times in any weather, riding a bike with lights and a rearview mirror, wearing a helmet, using hand-signals, generally obeying traffic law and, you know, heading somewhere, the above will explain a lot of that cyclist's behavior. Most of us don't actually have flying monkeys to send after you. Unless you're on the phone.

This public service announcement has been brought to you by Emvira Gulch. Cue the theme.

darkemeralds: Dark Emeralds in red glasses (Default)
Well, I tweeted too soon. Of course.

Me, yesterday: Amazing how often it doesn't actually rain in Portland. I've cycled every day & been drenched only once. The weather is great from a bike! 12:59 PM Dec 14th from TwitterGadget


Make that drenched twice now. And just keep counting, twice more for every workday between now and Xmas, because it's pissing it down out there in that endless Pacific Northwest way that caused the Journals of Lewis and Clark to begin many a day in 1805 with "Cloudy windey morning wind from the East" and end it with "began to rain hard at Sun Set and Continued".

Merino wool is my new best friend! I found Minus33, a source of washable merino wool sport garments IN MY SIZE. I wore my new thin wool leggings and socks today, and though I was pretty soaked, I was warm and comfy. I wrote a fan letter to Minus33 to thank them for acknowledging that yes, big women do go outdoors in the wintertime.

Seriously, how much of the vaunted inactivity of large people is owing to their ghettoization by the American bullshit notion that activity=competitive sports and fitness=Olympic training? You don't need special gear to go outside and move around, but you DO need climate-appropriate clothes. The acrylic and polyester that fills up the plus-size shops is not adequate...but the sporting-specific shops look at you with a kind of pity when you wander over to their clothing racks.

So, thank you Minus33! If you had anything other than black, I'd buy one of every color!
darkemeralds: Dark Emeralds in red glasses (Default)
If you have to turn 54 (and yes, it is better than the alternative), there are worse ways to spend the day than riding your bike to BikeCraft V, a huge, sunny warehouse full of vendors with cool bike stuff--stuff for bikes, stuff about bikes, stuff made out of bike parts.

There were HUNDREDS of bikes by the time we got there, and they had these portable bike racks so everyone could park and lock. [livejournal.com profile] avventura1234 bought a new saddle and a bamboo water bottle holder. Me, I just looked, feeling still a little bit of an outsider in the bike community, and aware that Clyde and I aren't the average configuration. Which is to say we are both larger than average among bikes and cyclists and things don't fit. This is the story of my life and I'm used to it.

We rode to coffee and bagels after that, and I spent at least two hours on the phone with friends and family, near and far.

As the temperature dropped, I made a nest for Dean, the more feral of the two stray cats, who won't come into the house even though it's getting dangerously cold outside (Sam is happy to hang out in the warm and is doing so now). The nest is a big hatbox with an old pillow and some fleece fabric inside. So far, he hasn't tried it out.

While the thousand new words I'd hoped for didn't materialize, I did get some good writing done on Restraint today. Note to [livejournal.com profile] kispexi2: new chapter tomorrow night.

And then I edited the last two chapters of my Podbang entry! \o/ Just a little stitching together and music editing to go, and I think I'll make my deadline tomorrow night.

Tomorrow, to round off the birthday fun, I have Chocolate class in the morning with [livejournal.com profile] str8ontilmornin! I expect there will be pictures.


Nov. 25th, 2009 10:39 am
darkemeralds: Old French poster of bicycle with naked flame-haired woman. (Bike)
There's this Tweed Ride that started in London last winter. They wear tweed. They ride in London. Down Savile Row where the tailoring comes from, and twice across the Thames, and through Hyde Park, and all around. And they give prizes: Most Dapper Chap, Most Dashing Dame, Best Mustache (open to all genders).

And maybe it's just me, but this fabulous photo from the event is just...*guh*...and makes me want to write early 20th century bicycle slash.

And anyway, we're going to have a Tweed Ride in Portland! In January. So I'm going to start hunting for something tweed to wear. This could make me get out my sewing machine again. It really could.
darkemeralds: Old French poster of bicycle with naked flame-haired woman. (Bike)
I had my first negative cycling experience this morning. There's a bicycle bottleneck on my route to work, where all downtown-bound bike traffic in a certain radius has to converge on a bridge ramp.

There's a steepish downhill approach with a switchback in it, and a bit of a turn at the end of the ramp. So I'm going along pretty slowly, trying to stay out of the way of more intrepid cyclists who can take the switchback faster than I can.

I got to the bridge itself, where the bottleneck gets really narrow, and a guy behind me, trying to get around me on my right, misjudged the distance and wiped out.

I stopped, of course. He was okay (thank you helmet), but his bike probably wasn't. I think it was pretty clear to both of us that the error of judgment was his, and I also think it was pretty clear to both of us that he would have LOVED to be angry at me for being slow, or unfit, or otherwise annoying and in his way and "causing" his mistake.

It was very uncomfortable. Knowing you're right doesn't always pencil out to "feeling fine." I got to the office and had all kinds of trouble getting Clyde into the rack and locked up--it wasn't that my hands were shaking, but I was shaken, you know?

It's a case of "get back in the saddle and ride" (literally!), I guess, because I'm not giving up cycling, no matter what my stupid nerves say.

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