Friday, August 26, 2016

don't guilt-trip yourself if it's a hundred outside

We've had some unseasonably hot days here in Portland this month. Last week we had a four-day stretch of temperatures ranging from 98 to 102F, with a very low humidity rate.
It may be a dry heat, as we like to tell our friends back east who suffer high humidity all summer; but it's still [bleep]-ing HOT.

So hot, in fact, that even with a wet t-shirt, riding around town on bike errands is really a drag, life-sucking, deflating ;I hung in there on the high 90's days, and it was hard. When the thermometer hit 102F, I was done. I stayed home, naked, sitting in front of a large fan with a wet camp towel laid across my body, and drank gallons of water all day. This week, I did the same thing again yesterday and today. By this evening, things have cooled down a little, and if it weren't so late I'd go for a bike ride. But instead, I'm goinmg to bed.

I wanted to ride, really. But I didn't want to kill myself. Since going on Varsity-level drugs for Crohn's, I've had to limit my sun exposure and wear long-sleeved shirts in the sunshine. On a high 70's day that would be alright. When the thermometer rose above 90F, it got stupid. So I stayed home, without a shred of guilt.

Tomorrow's high will be in the mid 80's, and the day after that it will be in the high 70's. Rain is possible by late next week.
Now I suppose I've gotta go find my raingear.

Happy riding.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Sunday Parkways Southeast: ride report

The morning began for me a little after 10am, where I'd invited friends to meet up with me if they wanted while I got some iced coffee. I stopped in at Good Coffee on SE 48th and Division, where I ordered a tall iced mocha. While I waited for my drink I looked around at the space. Lots of natural light, staffed with young, hip white people, a copy of the Sunday NYT on the large communal table in a room with ins-set shelves painted almost entirely white. The whole place felt rather Hipster Twee to me, and when I was charged a whopping $4.75 for my drink (in my own cup, with ice cubes made of water instead of coffee and chocolate so bittersweet I had to add sugar),  I knew this was not a coffee shop I'd be likely to visit again. The gentrification of SE Division St. has about reached its zenith (or nadir, take your pick).

I sipped my drink and waited for half an hour. No one showed up, so I figured I'd see them along the route. It was sunny and warm, but not nearly as hot as it's been the past couple of days. Plus, there was a nice light breeze that felt tingly on my face as I pedaled.

I enjoyed the ride, even though I had NO repairs to make during my shift. I rolled along at a mellow pace and stopped to say hi to friends who lived and worked along the route.

A couple of times, I helped motorists negotiate crossing the car-free route. Other than that, the rest of the ride was uneventful and pretty pleasant. I did see my friends riding in the opposite direction as I stopped to use a restroom but I never caught up with them. I hope they had a fine ride.

Home now, and ready for a little nap.

This will be my last Sunday Parkways of 2016. There is one more scheduled but it's being held October 2 -- which is the beginning of Rosh Hashanah. Technically I could do the ride and still get to services in time, but I would rather take the day to mentally and emotionally prepare for the High Holy Days so I'll stay home that day.

If you decide to ride on October 2, the route goes through Sellwood neighborhood and parts of Milwaukie, and includes the Tillikum Crossing with it s scenic views and beautiful modern architecture. Check it out. Or consider signing up to volunteer as a Parkways Superhero. Volunteers get a t-shirt, water and snacks and work shifts of 2.5 hours. You meet lots of people and it's fun.
Happy riding!

(photo: teaching a young rider how to fix a flat at the 2009 Parkways.)

Friday, August 5, 2016

UPDATE: 1983-4 Sekai Big Foot. refurbished

I bought this bike last fall, because I really liked the fork crown. It was kind of a mess, and cheap. I took it home and stuffed it in a corner of my shed.
This is what it looked like when I brought it home, with lots of parts that didn't work or didn't fit.

Last week, I pulled it out and rebuilt it with some decent parts. Today, it looks like this:
It came together nicely after I pulled off the offending (cheap/broken) parts.
Had to swap in a better triple crankset, pedals, and a more period-appropriate handlebar. I had this old bullmoose-style (Nitto copy) that works well.
I added friction shifters, seatpost and saddle and a buncha small parts.
  Happily, the original brakeset was complete and intact, so I left it alone. It adjusted easily.

And oh my goodness, check out the sexy fork crown.
I am torn. The bike fits me and I could easily keep it as a sort of "house" bike for guests; but most of our guests don't ride much.
Or I could sell it.
Since I don't need a nother mountain bike in my size I am trying to sell it and will see what happens.

I'd prefer pickup in Portland, as shipping would easily cost $70-80 in the usa and I'm only asking $275 for the bike.
Either way, it's nice to bring these old bikes back to a more classic form again.

UPDATE: This bike has found a home with someone who will ride it a lot. I'm very pleased.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Aging, chronic illness, and the bicycling life revisioned

I've written here a number of times about my life with Crohn's Disease, a chronic, incurable disease that affects the auto-immune system on multiple levels. Symptoms include everything from difficulty in digesting food (classic, textbook Crohn's), vision problems (I'm night-blind) and arthritis to grinding bouts of fatigue and internal damage including fistulas and strictures that impede basic bodily function. In short, Crohn's can happen anywhere from entry to exit (in terms of food and waste) and can be a bitch to live with.

I've been very lucky. For most of my life, my Crohn's symptoms have been mild enough to live with and still function. I've held down a job, paid my bills and lived a pretty satisfying, blessed life.

But things evolve. We get older. Metabolism slows down, sensitivities to environment and other things change and grow, and we all slow down. The constitution you begin life with is not a guarantee that you will always be robust. Things change. And life slows down and eventually comes to its end.

It has been very hard, lately, to live the bicycle life I've been accustomed to for the last four-plus decades.

I no longer have the stamina to wake up at 6am and go on an all-day ride with friends.
I no longer have the strength or joint flexibility to race.
I no longer have the recuperative powers I used to have; it takes me several days to recover from a 20-mile recreational ride now, and most days I'm not able to even finish a ride of that length. Rides f three to five miles are the norm for me now.

And it has become lonely to live this new bicycle life on my terms, with the body I have. Because none of my friends rides this slow or short yet. And I am embarrassed to ask them to join me for a bike ride that is more coffee shop than ride. So I don't ask.

Advertising and marketing in the bicycle world doesn't help. Shops and magazines and web sites are still hung up on the racing image -- and on the young, male energy that helps to sell bikes and gear. Even if you're not wearing lycra, you'd better be young, male and slender to look good in that tweed outfit while riding your $2,000 Pashley.

So I have joined the ranks of the uncool. The older, The overweight, dumpy women who ride at a slug's pace to and from the store and call it a day. That's where I am these days. IF I have the energy to even get on a bike. Many days this past year, I have not had the strength to pull my bike off its hook and ride around the neighborhood. So, in addition to the drugs which have made me gain weight, I haven't been able to stay active enough to hold steady. I've gained fifteen pounds in the last eight months. And no diet will help me lose that weight while I'm on life-sustaining medication with ferocious side-effects.

Crohn's. Perimenopause. Aging. Metabolic changes. Even, perhaps, heredity.
All are playing a part in shaping this new body and its new parameters for living.

Even traffic management and infrastructure development are based on a younger, stronger bicycle rider, someone able to keep up with motorized traffic in the city and nimbly avoid hazards that suddenly appear in the road. For the older and slower, there is little respect and no regard. I suppose that past a certain point I will be expected to hop on an electric bike, or stop riding altogether.

I am ready for neither alternative. Not yet. I cannot afford (nor do I want to own) an electric bike; and I refuse to stop riding entirely. Even if it means my rides are solo and sometimes lonely experiences.

But I DO wish that I could find a convivial group of folks to ride with, without having to create and lead and organize something all by myself.
I tried to do that with Slug Velo, and while it was fun at first, logistical and other considerations meant that I couldn't sustain it for more than a few years. I got burned out on always having to be the leader. I'm tired now, and I don't want to be the leader. I want someone else to take a turn.

That may be asking too much. But since I own the rights to the name, I will gladly share my collection of routes and other tools with anyone who'd like to resurrect this idea and run with the ball. Message me if you're in Portland and you're interested in facilitating socially-paced (9-12 mph average) group rides for older, slower folks.

Slug Velo Fall Colors Ride, October 2003.
Me on my beloved Peugeot Orient Xpress, a bike that was a little too big for me and weighed a ton, but which I still miss to this day.
I have the cue sheet for this ride and may offer it up again in the fall, depending on my health at the time.
It's a very nice route, though the parts that take place along the Springwater Corridor might have to be re-routed now. Because things change.
Slug Velo patch. Since I had to be so organized, with waivers and helmet requirements and everything, I decided it might be fun to earn a patch for completing so many rides. I still have mine. I also had T-shirts made up once upon a time.
I wore mine until it fell apart, then turned it into shop rags.

If Slug Velo takes off again, I'd like to see it be a leaderless affair, adults only and no organization other than picking a coffee stop. Just sayin'.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

portland peeps: seeking bicycle donations!

After checking in with the fine folks at Catholic Charities/Refugee Resettlement, I am ready to take in another round of old donated bicycles (adult bikes with 26" wheel or larger, please; I am not working on children's bikes) to refurbish for newly-arrived refugee families. I would like to bang out another dozen or so between now and the beginning of the Jewish High Holy Days, when the project will go on hiatus for the fall and winter.

I will gladly take department-store bikes as long as they are complete: frame, wheels, brakes, gears, etc.) I can replace inner tubes, cables and housing; and also hand grips if they're really gross (or missing). If it's almost all there I can work with it; but my budget is extremely limited for this sort of thing and so I'd prefer to refurbish rather than replace outright.

I will also gladly accept donations of U-locks (with working key!), headlights, rear fenders and even baskets.

If you can donate anything like this, or whole bikes, PLEASE let me know asap. Thanks!

(Below: A refurbished bike donated earlier this spring, tuned and outfitted with fenders, a lock, and lights. It now has a home somewhere in Milwaukie, being used as daily transportation to and from a recently-landed job.)


Tuesday, July 26, 2016

sunday parkways northeast

I signed up for double shifts as a Mobile Mechanic. It turned out to be harder than I thought.
Sunday was sunny and very warm, with highs in the upper 80s. The day began nicely enough, with cool morning air and fresh coffee in my thermos. I enjoyed seeing friends along the route.
And I was happy to be asked to help out with several repairs that were not the usual flat fixes I generally see at this event: a front derailleur adjustment, a spot truing of a wheel and straightening a rear wheel in the dropouts to stop "that awful rubbing noise" were on the menu.

I finished one loop with an hour left in my first shift. I went a little farther so I could stop at my house to get more cold water and grab a bite to eat before going out again. (My house is a block off the route.)

I got home, refilled my bottle with ice water, sat in the shade and suddenly felt really, really tired. So I took a half hour to cool off. Then I went out again. My only repairs during the second round were a flat fix and straightening a bent rear dropout on a very cheap bike (soft metal), so the rider could re-install the rear wheel. The metal was so thin and soft that I could almost bend it with my bare hand; it straightened easily with adjustable wrench flats.

I lasted till half an hour before the end of my second shift (and also the end of Parkways). Then, I absolutely HAD to go home and get out of the sun. I was really cooked.

Sweetie chalked it up to Crohn's-related fatigue and arthritis; and the fact that my new meds require that I spend less time in the sun. I locked up my bike, drank some more water, and fell into bed for two full hours.

Still, I'm glad I did a double shift, because the Mechanic spots for the August Parkways are already taken; and the October parkways falls on erev Rosh Hashanah (yeah, I know; look at a freaking calendar, people). So I guess that's it for my volunteering at parkways this year. I'm fine with that. I have plenty to do this summer as it is, including gathering another round of donor bicycles to fix up for newly-arrived refugees and practicing music for High Holy Days.

Portland peeps: I am now accepting donations of adult-sized bicycles tat I will tune up and outfit with fenders, lights and a lock. I will then hand them off to Catholic Chatiries, who will distribute them to newly-arrived refugee families who need affordable transportation. Simply send me a message here and let me know if you can help out. Thanks, and happy riding!

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Springwater Corridor homeless camp sweep: UPDATE

Apparently, Charlie Hales has given a drop-dead date of August 1 -- by which time all the homeless encampments currently placed alongside (and sometimes blocking) the Springwater Corridor path will be forcibly removed by law enforcement.

But because this is Portland, there has to be an action. After all, that's how our fair city got its nickname "Little Beirut" once upon a time. The name has stuck, and confrontational stuff -- like the WTO protests, random anarcho-punk muckraking and now this -- is why.

So a group of folks calling themselves Serve The People-PDX is gathering their resources in order to stage some kind of counter-action against law enforcement when they begin to sweep out the homeless people from the Springwater.  For those of you who don't use Facebook, the word Disrupt figures prominently in their advance PR, which doesn't bode well for anyone wanting to avoid a scene that will already be -- well -- a scene. Kick out almost FIVE HUNDRED people from the place where they've been living, because they have nowhere else to go -- and then tell them that the City doesn't have anywhere for them to go, either -- see what happens.

Either way, this isn't going to to end well.

I haven't been on the Springwater since my May Sunday Parkways shift, and I don't intend to go back for quite awhile. Things are just too tense and I admit that I'd prefer not to find myself in the middle of something potentially dangerous.

I admit that even when I was younger, confrontation always scared me. I am, in my heart of hearts, a rather timid soul when it comes to challenging authority; I prefer to do it with words rather than with laying my body (or housing, or job) on the line. Sorry. Call me a chickensh!t if you must, but there's something to be said for common sense.
So don't look for me out on the Springwater anytime soon.
If you choose to venture out there between now and Labor Day, leave the kids home. It's just not a good place for them to be right now. Ride with [adult] friends, carry your cell phone and go home before dinnertime.

Wherever you go in our fair city, ride safely!