Saturday, February 22, 2014


I enjoyed a beautiful walk this morning with Sweetie, but wanted more time outside.
So after I overhauled the headset on the Sekai -- it s gross, the greaase had turned hard and filthy gray -- I took the Sekai for a little ride.

It was cold out. By the time i took the bike out the temperature had actually dropped by at least five degrees and got colder as I went along. But I enjoyed beautiful views of bi-colored sky above Me, and I could see Council Crest from my vantage point at Overlook near Killingsworth

Along my loop I stopped for coffee at Grindhouse on Rosa Parks Way, and rode around Denver Avenue and over to Greeley, where I found the most amazing neon sign. If you're at all knowledgable about Jewish texts, the sign is really amazing to find, especially in North Portland.
(Hillel would be pleased. The quote comes from Pirke Avot -- "Sayings of the Fathers" -- and is part of a larger quote: "If I am not for myself, then who will be for me? If I am only for myself, then what am I? And if not now, when?")
I returned home, glad for the loop but happy to get out of the cold. Looking forward to longer rides as the days grow warmer.


Friday, February 14, 2014

signs of spring

I saw crocuses on my ride yesterday.

I really needed to see them, too. This has been a hard winter for many reasons, and I have struggled to see some lightening, a lifting of the weight of cold and darkness that have sat heavily on me since last fall.

I saw some crocuses yesterday, peeking out from the bark dust near the base of a tree, and I smiled.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

mini-rant: the commodification of creativity

Northwestern University has annouced the establishment of a new degree, a Masters in Leadership for Creative Enterprises. Tuition for the one-yer program is $58,000.

Stuff like this gets my hackles up. It screams out the trend in the commodification of creativity, and all my Inner Anarcho-Punk Autodidact wants to do at news of such developments is riot in the streets or stage a free jam session somewhere  and tie up traffic with live music.

Ugh. The monetizing of the arts is just killing me.

No Masters takes on a whole new meaning for me tonight. 
I have no Masters degree and in spite of how that kills my so-called "earning potential", I feel fine.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

melting, slowly

The giant slushie that is the city f Portland continues to melt oh-so-slowly.

Today's forecast calls for a high of 47F, and a low of 42F, with lots of rain.
There is still plenty of slushy snow outside on the lawn and in the street. But it's melting. I hope that I might be able to go out on my mountain bike later this afternoon and run a few errands.

By tomorrow evening it should all be over but the shouting. And I hope I'll see some crocuses peeking out when the snow is gone. I'm really ready for spring.

Monday, February 10, 2014


The transition days from snow to freezing rain and then to slush are always the worst for bicycling.
I stayed off the bike yesterday, though I did put on some ice cleats (slip-on mini-chains that fit over shoes or boots) so I could take the bus to Velo Cult and get out of the house a little while.

Today I have two students I'm meeting in inner-Northeast Portland. And while muc of the ice has turned to slush and is rapidly melting in today's 40-degree temps, I will probably toss my mountain bike on the bus and will only ride between the two appointments before riding to the nearest bus stop to get home.

It has been hard, very hard, this winter. Hard on my psyche and hard on my body. There have been so many days of icy cold fog and below-freezing temps that have made it hard to get excited about riding my bicycle even for short distances. Emotional wackniess connected at least in part to peri-menopause has come on stronger than ever this winter, making me wonder at times who the hell I am these days. More bicycle riding, more physical activity, would have helped; but the winter has ben too damned cold this year and my body too damned tired to deal. My increased inability to handle the cold this year has meant far less time on the bike and that has had a really adverse effect on me. It has been a very difficult winter, and I am ready for spring.

Some shots from my walkabout yesterday. Hopefully all of this will be gone by the end of the week.

Friday, February 7, 2014

crunchy white goodness

Rode a little neighborhood loop in the snow this morning, just for fun. Didn't go far -- less than five miles -- but had a great time. It was nice to pull out the Bridgestone, pump up the tires and oil the chain. First time I'd taken it out since my last short-track race in summer 2012. I'll be riding this off-road come the spring for sure.
Nothing quite like the sensation of crunchy fresh snow under knobby tires, on a quiet street.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Snowlandia 2014

Well, we got some snow in Portland today.

It started out innocuously enough, a few tiny flurries, delicate and soft. By 3pm it was really snowing and by 5 pm the flakes were big and sticking and the birds were looking for seed. I refilled the feeder and watched the birds find it.

Sweetie and I, knowing that at least some snow might fall, went to the grocery store early in the day to stock up on food for the weekend. We came home, watched the snow collect around the steps and the tufts of grass and the base of the feeder, and I knew that I'd get an email from work canceling my afternoon Hebrew class. I was halfway tempted to get out my Bridgestone mountain bike and ride through the fresh powder that was now sticking to the pavement in the street. But the wind was so strong, with gusts of 40 mph; and the temperature was so cold, somewhere in the low 20s, that I decided against it. Instead, we watched the birds help themselves to the sunflower seeds in our feeder, and sipped hot coffee or tea, and had lunch, and enjoyed the beutiful whiteness outside our window.

I've promised myself that if the wind dies down tomorrow -- and assuming that my school will remain closed, because the snow isn't going anywhere for a couple of days -- that I will pull out my mountain bike, pump up the tires and go for a ride in the snow. It may be a short ride, and definitely will be an undemanding one; but I have got to ride in the snow tomorrow while it's still here.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

multi-modalism: bikes and buses

Bicycling weather for Portland tomorrow and Thursday:

Wed. Feb 5: H29° L20°
Sunny / Wind
WIND: E at 22 mph
Riding? Probably, but most likely multi-modal.

Thur. Feb 6: H29° L16°
WIND: E at 14 mph
Riding? As little as possible, but I'll need my bike with me so again it'll be multi-modal.

I share this mini weather report to illustrate why multi-modal transportation is vital to a city's livability.

Trimet, the transit system serving the Portland Metro area, has been scorned and scoffed at for year, the butt of jokes from riders and operators. We have some of the highest single-ride fares in the nation ($2.50 for a two-hour ticket), routes are constantly being cut in both areas served and frequency, and the company is embroiled in a virtual war with the transit workers' union over healthcare costs and retirement plans. Fare inspectors lurk the rails, checking fares unannounced on MAX light-rail trains; if you're caught without a fare it's a minimum fine of $175 and depending on how badly you behave when caught that can go as high as $250 with a few mights in jail. But don't stress out, because there are only about 18 fare inspectors monitoring the entire system. So it's unlikely you'll ever see one on a bus. They can be found along the light-rail lines, mostly those serving lower-income populations where fare evaders are statistically ten times more likely to need a ride somewhere. (Yeah, Portland is still a city of sharply divided neighborhoods and the truth isn't always pretty.)
And don't get me started on the never-ending skirmishes between bus operators and bicyclists. Buses dart in and out of bike lanes, then the operators shake their fists at the bicyclists those lanes were designed for. Bicyclists play cat-and-mouse with operators, trying to beat the buses to the next light before the bus can block the bike lane again.

But I digress.

On a good day -- and there are plenty of those in Portland -- bicycling and transit go together pretty well. Every bus and light-rail train in the system is equipped with racks for bicycles. The Portland Streetcar -- that touristy thing that seats too few people, runs on downtown and Eastside streets mostly for the purpose of getting tourists to the shops and is painted to look like Pepto-Bismal -- has no racks, but if you're polite and sensible (i.e., don't try it during rush hour) you can usually squeeze a bicycle on there for a few stops at least. So it's possible to shorten the ride or avoid a hill on a creaky-knees kind of day by tossing your bike onto transit. I do this a fair amount, especially during the winter.

The best bet is to utilize MAX (light-rail), because its four (and soon-to-be five) lines cover a larger swath across town and get you there faster than a bus. In Portland, at least, there are no rush-hour restrictions to using the bike racks (as I found there were when I lived in Center City Philadelphia a decade ago and couldn't take my bike on the outbound train during evening rush hour), and most drivers will be decent about buckled-on saddlebags. (One bus driver did demand that I unbuckle and remove my empty Carradice saddle bag before putting my bike on the rack; when I saw that he wouldn't compromise I told him no thanks and rode away. He yelled after me, "NO bags on the bikes! I can't see around them!".

It's good to remember that every driver is at times a little fiefdom unto himself (I hate to sound sexist but no female driver has ever given me grief, while any number of guys cannot wait to throw their weight around), and err on the side of outright avoidance if necessary.

Mostly going multi-modal has been a godsend for me during the winter months, when my knees get really creaky and I get tired faster in the bitter cold. And trying to negotiate the transit system on foot can be difficult for "slackers" like me with odd working hours; in the middle of the day a bus line might run only every half-hour, making multiple errands around town much more time-consuming. So it's best to bring a bike with you.
Tomorrow and Thursday I'll take a bike into town, though I doubt I'll actually ride it more than I need to. Still, I'll be glad for the ability to choose my mode of transport.