Monday, December 31, 2018

Gratitude for all the gardeners

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I am surrounded by many people who are gardeners. We all plant little seeds in our own ways, using the gifts we're given and entrusted with for a lifetime.

Today I'm remembering Heather Robinson, a beautiful soul with whom I had the great joy of learning Torah many years ago as she prepared for conversion to Judaism. Over the year and a half that we studied together we became friends. She was a fiber artist, whose specialty was knitting (and beautifully! There's a sweater here that she made for my birthday).
Heather was not in great health when we began our journey together. She was elderly and housebound and wanted "to die Jewish". But along the way, her delight in LIVING Jewish was infectious. She planted tiny seeds of joy in people along the way. Her conversion ceremony was quiet, elegantly simple and very sweet. She lived for only six or seven more months after that. And when she died, she was buried in a Jewish cemetery. As we lit a yahrtzeit candle for her today, Sweetie commented, "Heather is probably knit-bombing Heaven now." It was perfect, and made me laugh out loud.

Today I'm grateful for my friend Alison, who wanted to help out with the bike project but lives in El Paso and knows nothing about bicycles. So instead she ordered eight bicycle locks for me online and has arranged to have them sent to me. One of them will go with this lovely beauty, which I built up with a donated frame and parts from The Pile, and finished this morning.

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Today I'm blessed by my wife, who understands how hard depression is to live with and who is patient with me when I struggle. Fifteen years into our marriage we have learned how to love and help each other without judging each other. It takes time to learn how to find the balance and I am grateful to have found a partner who is as willing to do this good work of relationship as I am.

And today, I'm grateful that I somehow found a way out of my gloom so I could push my bicycle pedalstroke by pedalstroke up the hill and revel in the sunshine on my back.
I hope there will be more good days like this.
Happy riding.

Sunday, December 30, 2018

little bits

It was colder today and dry, with lots of afternoon sunshine. So I forced myself to go out for a ride.
My house is at the bottom of a long hill if I want to leave my neighborhood and go south, or downtown. That long uphill can sometimes be enough of a downer to keep me home in the winter. But with the sun out, it was easier to convince myself that I'd be okay.

I've come a long way from when I raced ten years ago, and didn't care about hills.

But that was then, and this is now.

So I rode up to the CCC for Salvage Sunday. Salvage Sunday is usually two hours of idle picking through broken spokes,  its of rusty chain and assorted bike components with little or no future; but now and then I can find something useful for fixing up these older bikes I deal with. At fifty cents per pound it's a good deal for anyone willing to do their own rust removal and cleaning.
I really didn't have much money to spend, but for a couple of bucks I scored two rear racks, a few patch kits and a wrench for the refugee bikes project.
One of the racks was broken at the welds in two places. I wasn't worried. With duct tape and hose clamps, I can fix almost anything. (After taking this photo, I covered the pointy bits with more tape.)
This rack will work just fine to carry a bag of groceries on a bike I'm currently fixing up for Catholic Charities.

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I managed to run two errands and stop for a little off-season coffeeneuring in two hours' time.
The ride home was lovely, too; I could feel the sun warming my back just a little bit and reminded me that the days will now grow longer. By my birthday it will definitely feel like early spring.

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Amazing what sunshine, pedaling and a little coffee can do for a soul.
And yes, that is a lot of plaid I'm wearing. Welcome to Portland.

(If you're curious, the hat was a custom job, made from one of my old Pendleton shirts by the Misia at Double Darn. She creates beautiful hats that fit very well.)

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Portland weather for the next couple of days is supposed to stay dry and cold. I'm meeting a friend downtown tomorrow afternoon, and perhaps I'll help myself to a First Ride on Tuesday.

For all my readers, thanks for hanging in there with me in 2018.
May the coming year bring us all many happy miles and smiles.

Saturday, December 29, 2018

Nothing to see here right now. Sorry.

Depression has taken hold and won't let go.
I haven't felt like riding since the weather turned cold and wet. I struggle to find the energy each day to do SOMEthing, whether it's hustle for gigs or create music or art or even just do the laundry.
I know that a great deal of my depression is amplified by Seasonal Affective Disorder.
I know that moving to a warm, sunny place would probably help at least a little.
We're not moving. Can't afford to, don't really want to, etc.
But while the weather is this cold it is super-hard to make myself get out on a bike.
The closest I've come is to turn wrenches in the shed, working on refugee bikes (I just got a few donations in -- thank you! -- and so I'm whipping them into shape).

I will try not to berate myself too much. I will try to make myself take a little spin around the block later. I will try not to criticize myself too harshly if I fail. And I will try again tomorrow.

Friday, December 21, 2018

winter riding isn't bad when it's dry outside

Two weeks ago, I stood with my feet in the Atlantic Ocean, on an 80-degree day in south Florida.

The water was warm and the humidity was noticeable. I sweated through my shirt.
Spending so much time in summerlike weather in December grew disorienting. Eight days into my tour of central and south Florida I found myself longing for the cold and damp days back home in Portland.
And while I'm grateful for the experience provided by my recent travels, there is nothing like bundling up n layers of wool, reaching for the thick wool cycling hat and throwing a leg over my bike on a December day when the high is in the mid-40s (F).
Today I rode errands, downtown and then to Bike Far to raid the free pile for future refugee bike builds. Along the way I stopped for coffee and lunch and enjoyed sunny views of the Willamette River and Big Pink gleaming in the distance.
It was a glorious day to ride.

Happy Friday, Shabbat Shalom and as ever, keep the rubber side down.
(Below: Peninsula Rose Garden at rest.)

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(Below: Downhill towards home, Woodlawn)

Monday, December 17, 2018

Reprint: DIY shoe covers for rainy day riding

These were designed some fifteen years ago by Amanda Kovattana. A friend at Citybikes made a pair for her boyfriend and they lasted three rainy seasons before they needed to be patched and re-sealed. I've never made them for myself but if I can ever get someone to loan me a sewing machine with a heavy-duty needle and thread, I might just try one of these days. They're that cool.


DIY shoe covers: Recycle old conference bags into useful cycling rain gear
Anybody who attends conferences usually has goody bags to bring home. Amanda usually donates her bags to Goodwill, but the bag from her latest trip was made of vinyl, "just right for raincovers for cycling."

She writes:
"I drew the pattern based on my favorite winter shoes, but they will fit over my Keen sandals too. Those spandex type covers sold to cyclists may look slick, but when you take them off all muddy and wet they wad into a stiff ball."
"I did make the bottom pieces bigger by sewing together scraps. Then I took apart the bag to salvage the vinyl piping to use to stiffen the top of shoe covers. I had velcro salvaged from another clothing item to sew on the ends so they would close over my heels. Both piping and vinyl were easy to sew on my machine."

 (Editor's note: The bottom of the bootie is a half-sole that runs only from the toe to the middle of the sole. The heel remains uncovered to avoid excessive wear, and also serves as a reminder to remove the covers when you get to your destination, and not walk around in them.)

"It only took me 3 hours to sew them up which gives me about $7.50 an hour given the price of the cheapest rain booties I could have ordered from Campmor, but no one else was paying me for my time yesterday and I didn't have to wait for them to be shipped."
"They have a clunky charm and the asymmetrical color combo is stylish. The gap between pants and raincovers won't matter too much because the flair of the pant cuffs seems to keep the rain off. And this way there will be some ventilation. Poor ventilation is the biggest complaint about rain booties. For traction I may run a line of Shoe Goo across the bottoms."

  This is a simple, good design and with the right material you could make a great pair of shoe covers that are similar in design and shape to Rivendell's Splats.
Bonus: You keep old bags out of the landfill and save money.

winter riding in the age of climate change

Over the last three or four winters, Portland temperatures have grown warmer on the average. We still get a cold snap here or there at least once a winter, with temps down in the twenties that can freeze everything over for a few days; but by and large the weather between November and February has been warmer than it was when I was a kid here. Also, we've been having some pretty dry winters of late. Oh, it still rains here, and we still have gray skies most days this time of year, but overall things are unusually dry for us this winter.

What this means is that riding in cold weather has gotten easier for me. I still carry rain gear in my saddlebag and keep my leather saddle covered from November through April; but more often than not I can find myself riding on dry streets these days. And while cold weather still presents challenges for my arthritic knees, the absence of rain has made riding this winter easier and more enjoyable.

Since getting home from my 12-day tour of Florida last week, I've actually enjoyed riding on cold, drier days like these. I've been running errands and taking indirect, more scenic routes home to enjoy the occasional sun rays sneaking through the clouds and watching the late afternoon light move across the West Hills as the sun sets.

It's been nice to be home again. I enjoyed my tour, but spending more than a days in a sunny place in December became disorienting. I was glad to get home and ride again.

I might have to do it again tomorrow after the big front moves through in the morning.

 If you feel similarly inspired:

Remember to bring rain gear. Stuff it in a saddlebag so you'll have it ready if the big drops fall mid-ride.

Left: My favorite jacket, the Burley Ultra-Rider. Mine is over 20 years old and with several re-proofings is still going strong. Underarm vents keep me from overheating and the drop-down tail in back covers my butt to prevent a muddy stripe running up my backside. No longer made, but Showers Pass offers a newer version of this design, and used Burley jackets can still be found at used sporting goods shops and on Craigslist. I like to add RainLegs chaps (OR make your own by cutting down an outgrown pair of rain pants and adding a webbed belt and elastic straps) and Rivendell Splats (or a really cool homemade alternative by Amanda Kottavana, which follows in the next post), plus a short-brimmed cycling cap under my helmet.

 Waterproof bags keep your stuff dry. I still have this one, which I got years ago after Citybikes and BRixton Cycles did  worker exchange; this bag was one of many "gifts" the guy from Brixton brought with him to Portland, and I snagged it from under a pile of crap in the attic before I left the shop for good several years ago.
 Fenders are an absolute must in the Pacific Northwest. It still rains enough here that they're far from superfluous. Some group ride organizers will require your bike to be equipped with fenders in order to join them (it's really rude to spray gritty rainwater in the face of the rider behind you.)

They can be super-fancy, hammered aluminum (like the Honjos on the Hillborne at left), or sturdy plastic (like the Planet Bike fenders below).
In either case, I recommend full fenders that remain bolted on the bike, over temporary clip-on fenders. Here in the PNW we all just leave them on our bikes year-round anyway.
Last thing I'd recommend is to carry a spare pair of dry socks in a zip-lock bag, so that if you get soaked on the way to school or work you can stuff your shoes with newspapers, toss the wet socks on the radiator or heating vent, and wear the dry socks while you wait for the shoes to dry a little.
Your feet will still be damp, but not soaked. And if the socks are wool, they won't stink like polyester socks do.

Go ride in the damp. Stop and get some coffee (or bring it from home in a thermos). Take the scenic route and notice the beauty of the winter hills and roads where you live. And be grateful that you can ride a bike. It's the nicest way to get from place to place. Happy riding!