Tuesday, January 16, 2018

taking a break

Portland has been graced with a few really nice, unseasonably warm days this month. So I got out and rode my bike.

Lately it doesn't feel like enough.

The world is a mess, I'm struggling with depression and -- to be frank -- something akin to poverty (we're not hopeless, we still live in a house, but we are really broke and barely have the ability to pay our bills and I can't seem to find work).
So far most of the last six months, when I go coffeeneuring I take coffee I made at home, sneak it in, grab a table and try to look like a customer.
Today I couldn't do it. I couldn't pretend to be middle class or anything remotely close to it.
So today I stayed home. Without a regular job, there's nowhere for me to really ride to -- especially when most of my local friends all work and have jobs with regular hours and I'd ride alone.
So yeah, that's what depression and being poor look like.

I am seriously considering selling off the nice bikes and riding a piece of crap that's less likely to attract thieves.

because if they want your bike, they will take it.

Below: A bike rack outside The Fresh Pot last summer, where someone with a Sawz-All tried to but through a rack. I assume that if they hadn't attracted attention or something, they would've stayed long enough to finish the job.

I am struggling with depression, lack of employment and frankly, a lack of interest. On my good days, I can do things and feel pretty good. When I'm done, I feel tired from the effort.
On my bad days I feel like crap (physically and emotionally), and I can't do much of anything useful and I feel like just giving up.

The freelancing thing is exhausting and stressful, so stressful that I haven't had enough energy to actually create new music in awhile because I'm using all my available energy to find ways to make money so we can pay our bills.

So that's what it's like to be me these days.
Which is why I think I'm going to stop posting her, at least for awhile.
It takes energy to curate the few good experiences I DO have, and I really need that energy for other things right now. I feel, in fact, a lot like that bike rack looks. Not entirely broken, but pretty raw and vulnerable and really beat.
So I'm taking a break.
Ride safely, please.

Friday, January 5, 2018

off-season coffeeneuring 2018: #3

A lovely loop today, on a sunny afternoon between rainy fronts.
Along the way I got some supplies at Harbor Freight (what would any of us tinkerers do without Harbor Freight?), grabbed some coffee and a peanut-chocolate krispy bar at New Seasons, and enjoyed the sunbreaks through the clouds as I pedaled. I could feel my mood lighten, proof again that riding a bike is usually a good idea.
(It also helped that the temps were warmer today, with highs near 50F.)
It's hard sometimes to describe what riding feels like, especially to friends who don't ride.
I'm slower these days, but when I turn the cranks my form still feels as smooth and easy as when I raced. And the form feels good enough to more than make up for my lack of speed. Riding up and down the back alleys was nice in the late afternoon sun as I rolled over gravel and potholes and grassy stubs.
It just felt really nice to get out and ride. I'll do some more tomorrow.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

really, no big deal here.

This week, while I fight sleep deprivation due to caring for a family member, and try to book more gigs, and hope to get in a bike ride or three, I get this weather report:

Before my non-Portland readers get wigged out, you should know that this is fairly typical winter weather here. When it rains, the temps hover in the low to mid 40sF. When it's dry, the lows drop down to freezing or a little below.
Extremes like cold snaps in the teens, or snow and ice, are not a frequent occurrence here. Yes, we'll see that sometimes, but not cnsistently throughout the winter. Most of the time, it sort of looks like this.
Relax. If I manage to find the energy to ride, I'll have full fenders, raingear and woolies. And I won't drown. Really, our weather is no big deal here.
So give a little love to Florida, where they are seeing lows below freezing and have every reason to freak out. Their oranges -- OUR oranges, really -- are dying from the frost. And Floridians generally do not own whole trunkloads of winter wear (unless they ski in Vail every year, but why would you live in Florida if you love to ski? Moce to Colorado and be done with it).
Perhaps a wool sock drive for South Miami is in order.

Meanwhile, here in Portland, I'll put on a heavy sweater and snuggle on the couch with the cat.
Winter is a great time to be a cat, or anything else completely covered in fur.
Stay warm, and happy riding!

Sunday, December 31, 2017

last rides of 2017

Assorted photos from the last two days of riding in 2017.

1. Breadwinner Cycles. A bit of off-season coffeeneuring, plus a chance to see the new cafe space at Breadwinner and catch up with ira on the joys of parenthood (he and his wife welcomed a little girl several weeks ago).

Great coffee from Water Avenue was a bonus.

Off-season coffeeneuring at Breadwinner Cafe

2. A ride around NoPo and a stop at Norther Cycles to soak up the shop vibe and look at beautiful steel frames.
Sexy sexy fork crown.
It's a thing.
I just love old-school fork crowns like this one.

3.Lasy day of 2017. I mostly puttered around NE Portland. I stopped in at the CCC for Scrap Sunday, where I scored a few useful things and left an impossibly tall (27"!) and rusty old road frame. Since I can't imagine anyone in the refugee resettlement program being tall enough to need it (they'd have to be something like 6' 8" or taller!) and there was enough rust on it that I felt totally fine leaving it with them. Afterwards, I rode around North Portland and enjoyed looking for free boxes in the fading afternoon sunlight. I scored an old logging helmet and a stainless steel water bottle cage. Further along Alberta Street, restaurant, someone had bound together a stack of 29'er tires and leaned them against the fence in front of the American Legion Hall. If they had been 26" tires I would have taken them all home -- I can never find enough of these for my refugee bikes -- but I didn't need these larger tires and let them be. (Any 29'er riders, they may still be there in the morning if you ride by.)

While scavenging, I availed myself of some hot, cheap coffee at the 7-11 near Alberta Park and thus enjoyed some off-season coffeeneuring along the way.
Which was appropriate, because my 2017 Coffeeneuring Challenge patch arrived and I finally had time to sew it onto my saddlebag.
(Coming in March: The Errandonnee, a series of errands by bike hosted by Mary. G at the Chasing Mailboxes blog. I've only completed one of these and might try another.)
I finally made my way home after about two hours of mellow riding. ready for a hot bowl of lentil soup and some black bread and a relaxing evening with Sweetie. We'll ring in the new year with a shared bottle of cider and call it a night.
And if the weather holds tomorrow, I'll go out for another ride in the morning.
The Bicycle Transportation Alliance, the latest sponsor of an annual New Year's Day ride, was folded into The Street Trust, a new lobbying organization devoted to bicycling and pedestrian issues. The Street Trust will not sponsor a New Year's ride this year, ending a 40-plus-year tradition that began with the sponsorship of a large local bike shop chain and was handed off to the BTA about ten years ago.  So if anyone's riding, they're simply doing it for themselves.

This year, the Thursday Night Ride group hosted a New Year's nighttime ride. As it was at night, and still cold and wet, I skipped it. (I find I'm less interested in nighttime riding as my night vision slowly degrades. But there's still plenty of hours in the day left for me to enjoy riding in.)

Tomorrow morning, a few bike enthusiasts are hosting a smaller ride beginning at Lloyd Center and ending in downtown St. Johns. Depending on my energy level I may join them. If not, I'll pre-make some hot cereal, go for an early-morning spin around the neighborhood, and come home to a hot breakfast before I spend some time in the music studio.
Happy riding in 2018!

Friday, December 29, 2017

let's go ride bikes.

Climate change? Sure, whatever.
Last week it was 28F and snowing. Today it's 55F and drizzling.
I'm outta here. Happy riding!

Monday, December 25, 2017

portland gets a sort-of white christmas. it turns to ice. i'm staying in.

No Christmas Day bike ride for me this year.
I'm staying in with coffee, noir and homemade lentil soup.
Merry Christmas to all who celebrate!

Friday, December 22, 2017

baby, it's cold outside: riding in winter

Tomorrow I am heading into town to attend Shabbat services at my shul.
Because of the weather and my fatigue issues, I'm going multi-modal.

Tomorrow's high is going to be in the high 30'sF, with rain. Typical Portland winter weather.
A wet cold that goes right through you.
And since I don't wear lycra anymore -- because even wool-blend stuff won't keep me warm as a city cyclist at slow speeds -- I have to layer up to stay warm outside.
Since my synagogue is a mellow, informal place, I'll feel quite comfortable layering knickers over wool tights and wear wool socks under my shoes. Add a t-shirt, button-down shirt, thin wool sweater and an outshell, gloves hat and scarf, and I'm ready.

Here are some of my favorites for cold weather riding:

1. Wool underlayer: Depending on how cold and wet it will be, I'm fond of my Windsor Wool t-shirt and bottoms, which I got years ago from Rivendell Bicycle Works. Sadly, these are no longer made, and therefore very hard to find even used.
My substitute go-tos are the slightly thicker "Originals" top and bottoms from Duofold, which utilize a soft cotton inner layer and a wool-blend outer layer. Since it will be pretty cold tomorrow I'll probably opt for the Duofold bottoms under my knickers. Duofold underwear is readily available in stores everywhere, and cheaper than all-wool layers by far. And for mellower city rides in cold weather, it's totally fine. (Ladies, go by your actual waist and chest sizes to order men's tops and bottoms.)
In a pinch, you can sometimes find old military surplus wool-blend undershirts at surplus stores and yard sales. As long as they don't stink they're fine for riding, not so good-looking off the bike but they can be found pretty cheaply.

 2. Middle layer: This can be any old wool or wool-blend sweater. (The thicker the middle layer, the thinner the outer shell can be.) These days I alternate between a few different sweaters, including a recently-found USPS-issue cardigan (70-30 acrylic/wool-blend, a little thicker), a 1980s Cinelli heavy wool trainer I've had forever, or an Oregon Cyclewear lightweight all-wool trainer. Depending on how cold and wet it's going to be any one of these will work just fine on most Portland winter days. If I expect the temps to drop below freezing and stay there, I'll add a wool sweater vest.

3. Outer shell: On milder winter days, or on longer rides, I'll wear my old Burley rain jacket. With pit-zips and a soft-lined collar, it's almost perfect on most days. For colder days or with thinner layers underneath I'll switch to a Showers Pass Portland Jacket, which is waterproof but heavier.

4. The extremities (gloves, hat, neck): In Portland, if you ride in the rain long enough you're going to get wet. Sorry, no way around it. Anyone promising a glove that will keep your hand warm without getting either wet from the rain or wet from your sweat is going to get a LOT of money in the process -- and you may get a glove that delivers. But at the rate I go through gloves -- wear-and-tear, losing one of a pair, getting bike grease on them -- I'm not willing to spend upwards of forty or fifty dollars a pair for them. (Yes, I've heard about the new Crosspoint gloves from Showers Pass, but again they're oo spendy for my taste.)
So I generally wear ragg wool gloves -- full-fingered for anything below about 50F, and cutoff fingers for anything 50 to around 60F or so. Yes, they get wet in the rain, but wool keeps your hands warm even when it gets wet. So I buy multiple pairs of ragg wool gloves with the little rubber grippy dots on the palm, and put them back to grab a new pair as I need it. A number of bike and retail shops sell these for around $10-15/pair. You may find a screaming deal on them at your local hardware store for less than $10/pair.

As for a warm hat, almost anything that's warm and cozy (and fits under a helmet if you wear one) will do. I'll admit that there are days I don't wear a helmet; for those days I wear an old wool cycling cap with a brim. It's cool, and funky, and a tiny bit thick for under my helmet. So for the helmeted days I'll switch to a thinner wool cap and an earband. Basically, don't overthink the hat thing. If it's warm, snug and comfy, it will be fine.

Any scarf or neck gaiter that fits with your jacket is great! Covering your neck is a great way to stave off colds and sniffles.

Finally, I don't do anything fancy for my feet, because I don't really have to. Portland doesn't get a ton of snow and when we do people mostly stay home because it will turn to ice on the roads by nightfall.
When it's just raining, a comfortable waterproof shoe with wool socks are just the ticket. My favorite these days are the 415 Storm workboot by Chrome with a thin-to-medium wool dress sock. The boots are truly waterproof and after break-in they're quite comfortable (they run small; buy a half-size larger than normal for best fit).

5. Finally, your bike needs fenders. If you live in a place where it doesn't rain regularly, a clip-on fender is probably okay. But in Portland, nothing less than a set of bolt-on, full-coverage fenders will do. They can be found cheaply and you can often install them yourself with minimal tools.

Eventually, all my dreams will come true and someone will figure out how to make teeny-tiny, lightweight windshield wipers for my prescription eyeglasses. If someone comes up with that, they will make a fortune.

Stay warm and dry out there, and happy riding this winter!