darkemeralds: Naked woman on a bike, caption "I don't care, I'm still free" (Bike Freedom)
Have you ever had that dream where you're not quite flying, but where every step you take carries you a mile across the landscape? Or where you can descend flights of stairs in a single graceful bound?

Riding an ebike is like that.

Meet Gudrun*. )
darkemeralds: Naked woman on a bike, caption "I don't care, I'm still free" (Bike Freedom)
It's been five years since I got the sudden wild idea to buy a bike. Since then I've lost 65 pounds, sold my car, reduced my transportation expenses to $75 a month, let my driver's license lapse, and, in a not-entirely-unrelated development, retired1.

Five Years By Bike, in lists )
darkemeralds: Photo of Downtown Portland, Oregon USA in twilight (Portland)
As the Rebuilding Center's bumper sticker says, "I love that place!"

It's a sprawling warehouse space on North Mississippi Avenue filled with, basically, used house-parts. If you're remodeling or demolishing, you donate the lumber, windows, doors, plumbing fixtures, appliances, flooring, hardware, cabinets--anything, really, that would have otherwise wound up in the landfill--to the RBC, and then they sort it out and sell it.

Besides employing quite a few people from the neighborhood, the RBC is the financial backbone of community services organization Our United Villages.

The RBC also runs a deconstruction contracting business, which you can hire to take down your structure in a way that conserves most of the materials and responsibly disposes of the rest.

It occurred to me this morning that The Rebuilding Center might have the 2x2 lumber I need to (start to) finish my Roman shades, so off I went in the blowing snow and the suddenly-it's-winter east wind to see what I could find.

I love that place! )
darkemeralds: Naked woman on a bike, caption "I don't care, I'm still free" (Bike Freedom)
Thing Two in a Five-Thing Visit To My Favorite Portlandy Things

After our tour a couple of weeks ago around the waterfront, I take you now to a much less glamorous site, not frequented by visitors at all: The Going Street Neighborhood Greenway.

Going Street )

It was a perfect day for a Going Street grocery run today: chilly, clear and still.


Jan. 16th, 2014 08:27 pm
darkemeralds: Old French poster of bicycle with naked flame-haired woman. (Bike)
I've never been able to stick to an "exercise program," (bleh) so changing my transportation mode from passive to active was perhaps the greatest stroke of genius I've ever had.1

For the last four and half years, my daily eight-mile bike commute to and from work has been what gets me off my ass--the only thing. I was a little worried that retirement, in removing my biggest transportation need, would find me slowly melding with my armchair, never to budge again.

Instead, I've discovered that I'm riding my bike more than ever.

First of all, I have time to bike to destinations that, when I was working full time, would have taken too long. I have time to figure out a safe route to a new place, to get a little lost2, to go in daylight, to choose my weather.

And second of all, I don't have to get everything done in one go on Sunday. I can make multiple trips, any day of the week. Whoops, forgot toilet paper? Four miles round trip to Fred Meyer. Return a book? Branch library across town. That fabric store that's out in the semi-urbs? Worth a shot.

Today I rode clear out past the ring of freeways to an acupuncture appointment that has always previously been a train trip. From there, since I was in the neighborhood, I stopped by my sister's--the one I don't see as much of because she lives "out there"--and pedaled home again in the gathering dark, for a 19-mile day.

View Bike to Lynne's in a larger map

1 Selling my car was an important part of everything. Side note: my driver's license has expired and I should probably do something about that. I could ride my bike to the DMV. :D

2 Sometime since I first starting biking, Google has added voice navigation to the bike layer of its maps, and it's awesome! Now I just need an app that has Paul Bettany's voice saying, "In six hundred feet, turn left onto the I-205 Bike Path. No, left, madam. The other left. That's it..."


Nov. 11th, 2013 08:16 pm
darkemeralds: Naked woman on a bike, caption "I don't care, I'm still free" (Bike Freedom)
I asked my sis to take some in-context pictures of my newly-festooned bike this evening. A little inadvertent bokeh ensued.

DarkEmeralds' Dutch bike in the dark, festooned with white fairy lights and tire rims brightly reflecting the camera flash

With my phone in the handlebar mount, I've discovered that the LED flash makes an excellent additional headlight.

Detail of Android phone mounted on the handlebars, with its LED flash turned on

Runs the battery down like crazy but I'm rarely rolling for more than an hour at a time anyway. And this way, nobody can fail to see me. Heck, almost nobody can resist commenting on how pretty Eleanor looks!

(Crossposted to [community profile] bicycles)
darkemeralds: Photo of Downtown Portland, Oregon USA in twilight (Portland)
After being an absolutely vile human being yesterday (mood swings of a sort) and kind of hating myself for it, I was grateful to put in twelve hours at work today. Less time to dwell on my vileness.

The long workday was broken up by a couple of walks. It was gorgeously autumnal, and Eleanor needed work, so I rode her to the shop on the east side before work and walked across to my office on the west side, then back to the shop in the afternoon. The altered route took me past one of Portland's stranger and more charming features.

Go figure )
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: Naked woman on a bike, caption "I don't care, I'm still free" (Bike Freedom)
I spent my lunch hour today with my sister and Mary Stewart, an architect at Alta Planning + Design. Alta is the firm responsible for the bike-share systems in Washington, New York, Minneapolis, a bunch of other US cities, and soon, Portland (yay!).

Through a comment conversation on BikePortland, I was invited to view Alta's array of amazing bike-parking racks, one of which can accommodate my big Dutch bike.

Bikey day )
darkemeralds: (Cat)
Ah, the winding-down time of year. I love the approach of autumn--even though the rainy season has made an early appearance here in Puddletown. Oh well. Time to get back in the habit of covering up my bike saddle. Ugh--white jeans + wet leather saddle = embarrassing stains.

Some miscellaneous day-brightening:

tiny white dog with a pink leash-handle, waiting alone on a bench outside Whole Foods near some pretty flowers
Dog parking at Whole Foods

All-black cat with pale eyes lounging on the patio
Meet Ivy, who has been hanging about lately. I think she has several homes, but I like to be a reliable source of food. Graydie puts up with her.

A smartphone mount on the handlebars of a bike, next to the cup-holder and the basket
Handlebar phone mount. One of my better recent acquisitions. Took me a few rides to learn to trust it but now I wouldn't be without it.
darkemeralds: Baby picture of DarkEm with title 'Interstellar Losers Club' and caption 'Proud Member' (Geekery)
...that I love the internet?

Recent studies show that young Americans are losing interest in driving, and are actually preferring mass transit and active transportation over car ownership.* Of the many reasons suggested for this decline in driving, my favorite is that when you take transit you can amuse yourself with your mobile device the whole way.**

Eleanor O being in the shop overnight, I was riding the #8 downtown this morning, enjoying this very benefit. I was reading the many emails flying among [personal profile] vampirefan, [personal profile] sffan, [personal profile] llaras and me speculating about what the hell is going on in Teen Wolf, when [personal profile] ravurian pinged me from the end of his workday in London. I ended up chatting with him all the way to work. (Swype works quite well as an input method on a bouncy bus).

Is it just me, or does that still feel like magic? Sometimes--seriously, at least once per day hour--I am simply awestruck with delight at the global brain and what it has wrought.

* This shockingly un-American trend has sent a panicked auto industry into an advertising blitz, some of which targets the uncoolness of riding the bus, riding a bike, or walking. You know it's real when they're that desperate.

** Yes, you can do this while driving, but please, please don't.
darkemeralds: Photo of Downtown Portland, Oregon USA in twilight (Portland)
1. Posting from my phone. This works slightly better with the latest version of Chrome for Android than it did before.

2. Reading the Felix Castor books by Mike Carey. Urban magician, kind of, except he's more of an exorcist, and there are ghosts and zombies. In London. Good stuff. A long arc underlies the individual story in each book. I'm on book two and it's getting more intriguing as it goes along.

3. I made oatcakes for dinner and ate them all.

4. The weather here in Stumptown is PERFECT. I can't get over it. Bright and warm in the day, cool in the leafy shade, cool at night. Breezes are keeping air quality high. It's wonderful.

5. Eleanor O is in the shop overnight, having her brakes adjusted and getting a new bungee for her rear rack. This means a couple of bus rides for me, but I don't mind because it's just so nice here right now, nothing seems bothersome.
darkemeralds: Screencap from Where The Hell Is Matt (joy)
Just got in from the late showing of Much Ado. It's playing at Cinema 21, an unapologetically crappy old movie house in a neighborhood that was hip when I lived there in, like, the Reagan era, and seems, after a period where it started to feel a bit corporate, to have been re-hippified.

I picked up my ticket, wandered across the street to a bar I'd never heard of, and had a mojito and a really good spinach, strawberry, goat cheese and hazelnut salad. Since I almost never drink, I was a wee bit tipsy when I crossed back over at showtime.

I honestly don't think the rum was solely responsible for my delight. )
darkemeralds: Naked woman on a bike, caption "I don't care, I'm still free" (Bike Freedom)
1. Suddenly it's summer here in Stumptown. I got double-bridged on my way to work this morning: some river traffic going downstream caused the Steel Bridge to lift, so I made my way to the Hawthorne just in time for a barge heading upriver to raise that span. The bike traffic backup was considerable.

Pretty day for being stuck mid-bridge, though )
darkemeralds: Naked woman on a bike, caption "I don't care, I'm still free" (Bike Freedom)
This picture of an attractive Dane on a bike was posted on BikePortland the other day.

I have since decided that I will signal no other way than the cool way that Mr Copenhagen there signals. (How else could you signal, you wonder? Well, I'm typically more emphatic and full-armed about it because Portland, though bike-aware, does not have Copenhagen-levels of bike-awareness. But screw that. I'm going to be cool Danish-signaling gal from here on.)

The extraordinary editor of BikePortland, Jonathan Maus, is currently posting dispatches from the two great world bike capitals, Copenhagen and Amsterdam. He has mentioned the amazing bike-riding skills of the citizens, and since we're not talking Tour de France racing, I'm assuming he means stuff like riding steadily in slow and crowded conditions, navigating safely around pedestrians, riding handlebar-to-handlebar with your friends while conducting a conversation, gauging traffic, or riding with two kids, a cigarette, a cellphone and no helmet.

No, I'm not being facetious about that last item. Americans think of cycling as a competitive sport requiring speed, power and endurance. (My daily commute is often made uncomfortable and even dangerous by cyclists of that sort.) We don't seem to place much emphasis on casual ease. And let's face it, casual ease requires skill.

I shall henceforth be all about the casual ease. (I'll probably keep the helmet, though.)

Crossposted to [community profile] bicycles
darkemeralds: Naked woman on a bike, caption "I don't care, I'm still free" (Bike Freedom)
Some days, I look up from my high-productivity dual-monitor computer around 5:30 and think, "How the hell am I going to get the courage to get on my bike one more time and hit the streets of downtown Portland in rush hour?" So far I always have, so I think, "You know, I'm pretty brave!"

And then I go and read about the Afghan Women's Cycling Team, and withdraw my own courage credentials.

The kickass ladies of Kabul )

Tomorrow evening, when I'm pedaling in the polite (and incidentally mostly-flat, nearly-sea-level, and entirely paved) streets of Portland, where my most troubling hazard is the occasional out-of-state driver who doesn't understand about sharing the road, I'm gonna be counting my blessings instead of congratulating myself on my courage.

Note: There is, of course, a documentary being made. Good blog with some great photos I didn't want to borrow or hotlink here.

Crossposted to [community profile] bicycles

Ice Ad Hoc

Jan. 11th, 2013 10:22 am
darkemeralds: Naked woman on a bike, caption "I don't care, I'm still free" (Bike Freedom)
I broke a rule of mine today and rode my bike on ice. (Spoiler: no accidents happen in this post.)

This was black ice, not sheets of the stuff, you understand: a light evening rainfall was succeeded by a sub-freezing night. This is the kind of ice that vanishes as soon as the sun hits it. (In Portland that could mean "in May," but happily the cold front comes with clear skies.)

When I saw the crystalline surface of the street from my living room window I considered catching a bus, just this once. But even with ice the bus seemed like a huge hassle (check schedule. Find fare money. Walk to stop. Freeze ass off at stop...) and my bike seemed easy. Also, I was running late as usual and the bus ride takes considerably longer than the bike ride.

For this bracing January commute I wore a short skirt, a pullover, a suit jacket, woolly tights, and office shoes. For outerwear: a cashmere muffler, a light ski-type jacket, a wool cap under my helmet and two pairs of gloves. I got to work with painfully cold fingers and chilly toes, so I'll do ski mitts and Docs-and-socks next time, but otherwise I was comfortable.

I did make two important adjustments to my routine: a) I left late in the hopes that the fog would lift and the ice would start to melt (it did, and it did); and b) I had to ride v-e-r-y slowly on several shady blocks, and get off and walk on one really icy ramp. Accordingly, I was extra-extra late to work--an option that I was able to exercise today because my supervisor's on vacation and it's Friday and nobody's looking and I'm a known flake, so my reputational damage is already done.

Point is, I just expanded my riding repertoire by one condition. And it worked! Because of ad hoc adjustments! And I'm still basically lazy! I love that.
darkemeralds: Naked woman on a bike, caption "I don't care, I'm still free" (Bike Freedom)
It's now three years since I started riding a bike. At first, every day brought new developments: I got a little faster, a little stronger, a little steadier. I expanded my remit to include almost all my transportation.

But there's only so much transportation a gal needs, and I had no interest in adding hours or miles just for exercise. Boring! So the curve leveled off and improvements stopped coming.

Then a few weeks ago I bought Adam Lambert's Trespassing after hearing "Better Than I Know Myself", and I liked it so much that I started listening to it on my way to work. (I have a lot to say about Adam Lambert's music, but for now let it suffice that it's waking-up music for me, and represents everything that's newly fun and interesting in my life after a long, long climb out of a music-less depression.)

And then I just started pedaling to the beat.

Now, Adam Lambert's music has a lot of "Okay, go!" moments in it, where it backs off, cranks up, and then bombs forward with a driving beat. It's inherently engaging and exciting. And when I'm stopped at a red light and it turns green right when one of those moments comes along, I'm all, "Okay, go!" and, being kind of a perfectionist, I want to hit that downbeat, and to hit that downbeat I have to pedal harder, and to keep the beat I have to gear up, and pretty soon I'm really putting my ass into it and...

...holy moley, it's an improvement. Once again, faster, stronger, and a ton of previously-unexploited cardio, plus BUTT MUSCLES.

So, Adam, bless you and your stunning voice. You made me wanna listen to music again. And pedal my ass off.

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