Tuesday, July 23, 2019

goodbye stompy: end of an era

Stompy has a new home tonight.

I'd been trying only halfheartedly trying to sell my singlespeed bike (Stompy, Version 3.0) for months. Meanwhile, I'd taken it out a few times and ridden it -- the longest ride was in April when I rode 68 laps in the Ladd's 500 -- and each time I liked it, but I also sort of didn't.
The bike was light, and nimble, and fun. But it was also a little cramped for me when I compared it to the more relaxed upright position on each of my two other bikes. I had just resigned myself to having to store it for another winter when I got a text tonight asking if it was available.

Half an hour later, I had sold it for the asking price to a younger woman with (presumably healthier, younger knees), who rode away happily after handing me the cash. I watched her ride away, pounding the pedals from a standing position all the way up the hill on 13th. And I knew it was a better bike for her than for me.

Just before she arrived, I took one last photo of the bike, a lovely bike, a fabulous bike that I had ridden both off-road and on pavement since building it up three years ago.

I wasn't ever planning to race again, so why did I build another singlespeed? Maybe because the fantasy, the tiniest hope of an idea of racing, still lurked at the back of my mind. As long as I had that bike the fantasy could stay and hang out awhile longer.

But fantasies can only be sustained for so long before they stop making sense.
So when I got the text tonight, I knew it was time to let the bike, and the fantasy, go.
I'm fine with it. I raced on a singlespeed bike for six seasons of short-track and four seasons of 'cross and people told me I was a badass for doing it, even though I finished last or near last every time. The one time I made a podium it was because there were only three of us in the category; all I had to do was finish, not die, and I'd earn a State medal in womens' singlespeed. I still have that medal and at some point I'll probably let go of it, too. But not yet. It still reminds me I was badass once, and could be again in some other way.
I still have my 'cross jersey, too, a long-sleeved affair that just fit me when I was twenty-five pounds lighter than I am now, and today I can still zip it up but man, it's a tight fit. Do I frame it with the medal and hang it on the wall? Naah. Maybe at some point I'll give it away, but again, not quite yet.

So today was a good day, a day when I could let go of a period in my cycling life and it felt totally okay. Tomorrow I'll go for a ride on a bike that fits me and feels way more appropriate to the rider I am now.

Happy riding.

Sunday, July 21, 2019

Parkways tourism: an eye-opening perspective

I went to Sunday Parkways today as a tourist.

I had signed up to be a rolling wrench; then a family scheduling matter preempted my volunteering so I instead joined my sister and other family members for a leisurely ride around a greatly-shortened Outer Northeast loop.

Being a tourist was nice. I didn't have to worry about anything and could just ride at a mellow pace, enjoying the event through the lens of my great-niece and -nephew, ages 9 and 7 respectively. This meant less riding and more fun exploring and playing in the parks along the route, but I didn't mind.

What I did learn, both by observation and from friends who'd volunteered, was that the overall rate of volunteers had sunk to new lows with this year and at this event especially. This was a confirmation of a hunch I'd nurtured over two years, that PBOT was having trouble recruiting volunteers, especially to be Intersection Superheroes -- those who sit at intersections and assist/guide car drivers across the closed streets of the Parkways route. There were noticeably fewer people staffing the intersections, and some of those weren't really doing their jobs. When a driver approaches an intersection s/he must be escorted across the route at a walking speed. Today, I saw over a dozen drivers helping themselves to move barriers and drive along the route to get where they wanted to go, sometimes driving along as far as two or three blocks before turning off the route again.

I'm pretty sure this is not what PBOT had in mind.

I admit that, the first two times, I had half a thought of getting off my bike and helping direct traffic when the volunteers were just sitting there. A closer look revealed that one volunteer was busy tabling for a cause to notice the car was there; and the other volunteer was sitting next to a walker so she clearly would've been challenged to help direct traffic. I let go of my momentary guilt and rode on, enjoying myself for the rest of the ride.

But it confirmed my suspicions that Parkways is really suffering from a lack of funding for professional staffing (flaggers and police, particularly) and a growing inability to recruit volunteers for each event. This route, formerly seven miles, was shortened to just over four -- mostly likely to avoid having to staff more major intersections with professionals now unavailable.

Honestly, I was glad not to have to volunteer today. But I also wonder about the future of Sunday Parkways when the signs are so clear that its organization isn't keep pace with the city's growth, or with the changes that will be needed to keep it viable and safe.

I haven't signed up to volunteer for the remaining two Parkways. I'm busy in August, and the September event is the day after Selichot and a week before Rosh Hashanah.
Plus, I've now volunteered for four shifts at parkways and feel I've done my bit for the season. And I'm not really up for being expected to work as a traffic cop when that's not what I signed up for.

I hope PBOT can get it together, but I worry that what's needed is too far beyond them.

Friday, July 12, 2019

riding, recovery and other bodily science experiments

Just a heads-up to let you know I'm still here.
Most recent riding was a bit of coffeeneuring at Nossa Familia's NW cafe, where I rode in a cooling summer rain (t shirt got soaked and I didn't care because it felt glorious), and enjoyed an iced coffee.
For the last couple of days, riding has been difficult because of a muggy heat that has settled in.

It never used to get muggy here in the summer.

Welcome to climate change.

Temperature regulation becomes a challenge during perimenopause. I sweat, I tire easily and I totalyl crap out after doing a simply task like mowing the lawn.
I thought about a ride today, but every time I got up to go outside I got baked by the sun and the humidity and had to go back inside the house and lie down.

I certainly hope this is not the new normal. When I feel well, I LIKE riding my bicycle.
But in the meanwhile, I'm taking little energy spurts to clear out some old stuff on eBay and make space in my workshop before the summer gets to close to ending. I have lots of music to learn and/or review between now and September, and my riding will likely become a less strenuous reward for my hard rehearsal work at home.

Some updates:

I enjoyed a lovely Shabbat bicycle ride and potluck dinner out on the Columbia River  couple Fridays ago. It was really nice to go for a longer ride in the cool evening breeze, with folks from The Alberta Shul (a non-profit promoting Jewish communal life on Portland's east side).

Below: Our Shabbes candles, and the sunset as seen from the park we rode to.
No photo description available.


Image may contain: bicycle and outdoorI sent off the last batch of Refugee Bikes to Catholic Charities this morning. I am now out of both bicycles and U-Locks, and cannot proceed until I find more of both. I am taking donations if they come my way but will not actively pursue fixing up more bikes in earnest until the fall.

The bikes continue to be well-received at CC, and just last week I saw someone downtown riding a bike I'd fixed up earlier in the spring; he'd procured some panniers and was hauling bags of groceries. Seeing the bike in action under a happy rider made me very happy as well.

Most of the bicycles I've rescued and repaired for this effort can be seen here:

Note: This reflects only about three-quarters of the bikes I've repaired. I didn't photograph many of the earliest bikes and missed a few along the way. I now make an effort to record every bike, mostly so folks interested in the ways a bike can be modified for city riding can consider many options.
I LOVE refurbishing old racing and touring bikes for the less-glamorous demands of city transportation.


On the disability front: I got what will likely be a first hearing.
Sadly, they scheduled it on -- yup -- Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. There's no way I can make the hearing on that day and have applied for a rescheduling. My lawyer believes this is a valid reason and that they will honor it. I just hope they don't honor it on top of a gig or something. I am keeping the faith and hoping it will turn out okay.

I'm also raising funding to record my latest collection of original songs. If you'd like to learn more and participate in this effort, check it out here:

Torn right now between another nap (I've already had one today but I am feeling really sleepy and worn out), and a tiny spin around the block on my bike.
If I do the latter I can reward myself with an iced coffee or something.

Wherever your bicycle takes you this weekend enjoy yourself!
Happy Friday and Shabbat Shalom.

Friday, July 5, 2019

you're not imagining things. the grief and fear are real.

Why I struggle with transportation choices and their impact on my life.
Because the grief and fear so many struggle with is real.
And in the end, we are just another species on planet Earth that is being compelled to face our extinction.
I can't stop it, but I can make the most of the time I have.
So I make music, and teach, and fix bicycles for refugees, and try to live a life that is simple and deliberate.
We're another species that will one day be extinct.
That is not a possibility I ever considered until only recently.

Today, I'm gonna work on bicycles.

What will YOU do with the time left to our species on this beautiful planet?

Monday, July 1, 2019

sunday parkways: a symptom of rampant consumerism?

I participated in my second Sunday Parkways of the 2019 season yesterday.

The day was warm and sunny, and lots of happy people were enjoying themselves walking, bicycling and skating along the route. There were a number of folks trying to get to or from home in their cars, but by and large they all mnaged to get where they were going with what looked like relatively little aggravation.

In short, it was a lovely event, enjoyed by thousands of Portlanders.

This was my twelfth season volunteering as a Mobile Mechanic. I've been quite happy to volunteer, even if I've actually been asked to ply my skills less and less frequently over the years. (With a bike repair station at every park along the routes, I've been asked for help far less frequently along the Parkways routes; yesterday I did not perform one single repair during my shift.)

At each park along the route, dozens of booths from various businesses and non-profit orgs tried to attract the public's attention. At most of these booths, schwag was in great abundance. (I always help myself to things like reflectors and patchkits, which go into my refugee bicycle project.)
Nearly all of it was plastic junk: silicone bracelets or keyfobs, plastic water-measuring devices from the city water utility, sunglasses from a credit union. In a year's time a lot of this stuff, taken home in Parkways participants pockets, will end up in a curbside free box or in the trash. Most of it was made in China and required no small amount of fossil fuels to make and transport to the United States.
In fact, there is an entire industry devoted to providing corporate schwag for companies to hand out, all in the name of branding.

The more I see of these things, the sadder I feel.

When are we going to get away from this? And why is it taking so damned long?

I don't know.

But I do know that every encounter I have with this reality is inspiring me to make some profound choices about how I live, what I consume and how I deal with the leftovers.
It's a struggle, of course.

My clothing comes from somewhere.
The packaging for my food, most of which I cannot produce myself, also cannot be recycled (though we're good about washing out and reusing plastic Ziploc bags ad infinitum).
My medication comes in a syringe that cannot be recycled, and which by law must be disposed of by burning, which means all the leftover chemical residue goes into the air we breathe; is that really a good idea?

For decades, the bicycle industry has struggled with how to dispose of spent inner tubes and worn-out tires, which cannot be recycled easily or affordably. When I worked in the shop, tires were disposed of in the landfill, or bundled and sent to facilities for burning -- again, imagine all that rubber and oil going into the atmosphere. For decades, bicycle clothing has been made of Lycra, itself a derivative of plastic. When Lycra is disposed of, it cannot be recycled. And so, if no one wants it anymore, off to the landfill it goes.

And all of this is directly connected to the mass of consumerism that drives our global economy, our socialization, our very way of human existence in the Western world.
What can I do to stop supporting this big picture without hermiting myself off from the world?

I need to ponder this awhile. But first, another bicycle ride.