2015: PDX WNBR Brings Pedalpalooza to a Close

“I make epilepsy look good”

In the midst of this wicked heatwave we’re having here in Portland, we close out June’s month-long bicycle festival, Pedalpalooza with PDX World Naked Bike Ride.

I had to work on Saturday, June 27th, so up at 6am getting ready for my day and Brad generously helping me load up the car as we planned out this jammed-packed day. The plan was for me to work, arrange with Brad so I could get everything unloaded out of the car coordinated around his break-time. It worked out pretty well, and I was on-site to help with set-up at about 4pm. By the end of it all, I will have spent just over 7 hours in that park, most of it on my feet in about 100 degree weather. For probably the first time in my adult life I remembered sunscreen and though was skeptical about the age and thus effectiveness of this natural, waterproof, biodegradable 30 spf lotion, I actually avoided any burn at all, despite this also kind of being the first time I had really spent any time being actually exposed to the sun. (I am also fortunate to have olive-toned skin vs pink. I don’t care to go into all that biology so let’s just say my family are good tanners because of our genetic background.)

This is the first time in my experience of working as one of the organizers of PDXWNBR that we have hosted the protest on the last day of Pedalpalooza. Sometimes it has been closer to the beginning of June near the Kickoff; generally attempting to put it towards mid-month when the weather gets a little better and there is less chance of rain. And since I have been involved in 2009, WNBR has seen a huge amount of growth. (This has absolutely nothing to do with my involvement. Correlation/Causation, but rather with the boom in the bike community of Portland in while I am just a cog who moved to the right place at the right time.)

So it didn’t rain this year. In fact, it was the opposite than it has been in every other year I’ve been involved. Usually it’s pleasant, but sometimes slightly chilly, and while we’re setting up there’s a dozen or so people that begin flowing in four to six hours early. The start location filling up multiple hours early, a slight sprinkle cooling everyone mid-ride then fantastic humidity for the rest of the night. This year, the park was spooky empty when we arrived. My friends and I have always had a joke with Col Summers Park that there would always be tennis players, rain or shine – even if there were 3′ of snow – and yet it was empty. Yes, there were about a HALF dozen naked people meandering through the park, hunting for a shady place to lounge, but other than that. . . we were the only activity in the 4 sq block area. (You will be relieved to note that tennis players DID in fact show up later around 6pm to player a few rounds in the sweltering 100 degree heat, but soon quickly left, I can only assume due possibly to the throngs of encroaching 10k+ naked cyclists onto the court and not to the heat, which they most assuredly would just have played through.)

But then, as with every year – it was as if it went from a few dozen people, to me checking a Facebook update and when I looked up again a few minutes later, suddenly there are a few hundred people vying for space in the park. And then half an hour later the park is standing room only.

Only about 1/3 of the participants. More behind tree as well as a whole field to the left.

There was a lot of people getting rainbows painted on them and “Love Wins” in the aftermath of the SCOTUS ruling for equal marriage rights to be nationally recognized just two days prior. Many people were probably still basking in the glow of that very life changing ruling.

Screenshot_2015-06-27-23-36-23For those of you that follow Twitter however, while I was doing the social media coverage for that night, I noticed something a little suspicious. Hashtagging has become a second language for some – and here in Portland on June 27th, the Grateful Dead’s 50th Anniversary and WNBR were much bigger than marriage equality for trending topics. There you go, America. This is what we’re thinking about. However, if you saw the amount of rainbow glitter, body paint, pasties and flags flying while their presence was in one place, their intention was obviously somewhere else.

I was thrilled with how smoothly the start location went for us. There was a trio of protesters that had a nice hateful message about all of us dying immediately and going to hell. Thankfully, three bigots against hundreds of people that have come together in solidarity are no match. I happened to be in the area when two participants pulled a large white bedsheet from a bag and stretched it out between the two of them as a screen. There had been some controversy this year (there’s always something, though 2014 was most notable) regarding a poster encouraging the censorship of the ride by parishioners of a local church. “Carry a bed sheet and shield their nakedness” it harkened. After local news and media took the bait and interviewed the church, the pastor was surprised and angry by the counter-protest, saying that their logo was used without the church’s permission, but used the media opportunity to promote his church by stating “we stand for healing spiritual nakedness.” (tempted to make a new bike sticker with that for this year’s WNBR)

For a while the sprinklers came on to wet down the baseball field and that was nice. People were able to play in that. I didn’t but could feel the natural cooling on the breeze from the misting.

It took longer than an hour for the entire crowd to leave when the ride started at 9. I sent out the 10 minute warnings on social media, but I doubt anyone was looking at facebook or twitter at that time of the evening. At first it was a slight shift, barely noticeable. I only knew it was happening because I saw the leaders leave the volunteer check-in station. And then more scrambling. For what seemed like an eternity the participants seemed oblivious to the fact that they were in the park for a bike ride. They were absorbed in their body painting and dancing; hanging out with friends. It was so casual and so organic. I have been watching the same thing ever year, but due to the sheer massed together throng, so tightly packed together, making the air just thick with excitement – even though it’s the same ol’ trash and safety duty every year – it’s magic and wild and mayhem.

Thanks so much to the awesome hardworking organizers (Bill, Bill, Carl, Meghan, Steph, Kelly, Stephen, Scott, Chris . . . and if I didn’t list you it’s not because I don’t care, it’s because I am terrible at this game. They say the human mind can only remember like 7 objects. I did 8 so, I feel pretty good about that!) Also, super thanks to the volunteers! There was tons of help earlier in the afternoon, throughout the evening and all that. Luna is a rockstar as always. Kate, you are in my heartspot! And a new (to me) volunteer named Scott who looked like a silver-fox Timothy Dalton. I kept expecting him to start talking in a buttery smooth English accent. But alas. . . Regardless, he was a superstar clean-up volunteer!

WNBR 2014 – PORTLAND OFFICIAL COUNT!
WNBR PORTLAND 2014 EXPOSED
2012 Unplanned America WNBR Interview
NSFW SLIDESHOWS: WNBR 2009 & 2010 MEMORIES

Ride Report: Pedalpalooza “Save the Humans Ride” – Now with Extra Irony!

As you my fine followers may have surmised from my previous post, I haven’t been feeling at my most peak athletic condition lately. Which is terrible, considering this month is the holiest of all Portland cycling months; being Pedalpalooza and all.

So, on Tuesday, June 23 when I got home a little early from work after not feeling super great I lubed up with my grand variety of salves and ointments, reveled in the fact that it was 80 degrees and thought that maybe a little aerobic exercise would do me good, despite my constant dull aches and cricks. I skimmed the calendar and checked out what rides would be coming up in the next couple of hours.

That, my friend is the magic of Pedalpalooza.

SAVE THE HUMANS: TRAFFIC SAFETY PROTEST: Taking the Lane, Not Prisoners. This is a ride to protest increasingly unsafe conditions on PDX streets, including those designated as bike routes & neighborhood greenways. The route will include at least one major arterial and one greenway. Ride pace will be slow-moderate, with some stops to “calm” car traffic. We will also be doing a crosswalk enforcement for pedestrian safety at N. Williams and Ivy. While our subject is serious, the ride will be fun (music!). We will meet at Oregon Park to make signs/banners first. BYO assertiveness and sign/banner-making ingredients. Route will be cargo-bike friendly (not too hilly). Approximately 5-7 miles, not a loop. Optional #bikingtobeers at Velocult after the ride.

While I have mentioned in many previous posts before, I am not an activist. (I very clearly identify as an advocate.) I found this ride conveniently located both with the start location, time and the end location. The milage seemed doable, seemed family-friendly. . . all in all my assessment of the situation seemed very positive and I decided to go for it.

Worst case scenario, I figured if I got there and it wasn’t my scene or if I got too sore, I could just peel off at some point.

It ended up being so awesome! There were about two dozen people at the start location making signs – a great combo of several good friends I’ve known for years and lots of new people to chat with. We made signs about sharing the road to tape onto our bikes. As I mentioned, I’m not super into that kind of thing, but the fact that we were planning a nice easy-paced slow-roll with bakfiets and children (sorry – don’t intend to use kids as an excuse. Just saying that between my disabled butt, families, people on beach cruisers, a giant sound system on a Bullit, and very large trailers, people of all skill levels – we weren’t winning any races.) Also to paint the picture that we weren’t an angry mob with torches breaking car windows and cutting through traffic.

I wouldn’t even call it a protest. I would call it a ‘demonstration‘ or ‘parade‘ – maybe ‘(very slow) rally’ or ‘march’ but it’s weird to use the word march when it’s a ride. . .

So what WERE we protesting? People dying due to reckless and dangerous driving behavior included distracted driving (IE: texting and using cellphones, eating/drinking, drugs/alcohol etc), making cars and parking a priority over people (IE: pedestrian and cyclist thoroughfares, etc) – and you know, basic safety concerns about, ummm. . . not dying.

I was not the ride leader, but this is my take-away from this from doing this kind of work in the past, so I could be way off – but I feel confident that it’s that the message is that simple.

The majority of the ride was awesome! We cruised a few blocks up Sandy Blvd with no problems (for those of you that aren’t from Portland, enjoy this apropos youtube video) and even got some waves from people on patios sitting at restaurants. We went through neighborhoods and people waved at us from their cars or front porches. We went across some pretty hefty intersections without any issues at all. In fact, it was as smooth as Earth Balance vegan buttery spread for about 98% of the ride.

The one glitch we had was on Williams Ave. Fuckin’ Williams Ave. I am not going to go into all the drama that Williams has had over the last 5+ years as they’ve attempted to “improve” and redevelop. It is a major bike boulevard and commute route for cyclists, drivers and for some reason buses as well. The area itself has been hugely contentious in general for over 50 years due to major gentrification, redlining, etc. etc. . . but that’s not what we’re talking about now.

I am writing about the incident that occurred at approximately 7pm on Tuesday, June 23, 2015 by the driver of the #4 Trimet bus 3106. Technically if I were a reporter, I would have to use the word “allegedly” to avoid unintended libel; but guess what? I am not a reporter – and I was there watching that irresponsible woman penning her resignation letter on her steering wheel as she was blaring her horn through the crosswalk “WALK” light as she made her left-hand turn through forward heading cyclist traffic (damn those Williams Ave left-hand bike lanes.) So it’s no alleged incident.

Bitch knew exactly what she was doing.

safetycorridorNot only that, but she decided to plow through us on a very well known safety corridor issue on Williams. (to the left) that was tried to fix, but is just getting worse now that there is a new grocery store on that corner and an apartment complex going in right across the street so more pedestrian usage. Why in the world would you have a bus turn down that narrow street, making a left-hand turn across a bike lane?

So what happened? Glad you asked. We headed for Williams and spent no more than 60 seconds tops (though closer 45 seconds based on my photography time stamps. That’s right, yo. I took photos from start to finish.) doing what is called “Sidewalk Enforcement” on N Williams and NE Ivy right in front of New Seasons grocery store. This is an area where there is a marked crosswalk, but everyone is a major jerk. And I’m not just talking about drivers. Cyclists in the bike lane were also being major asshats and cutting through us walking back and forth. You know what? When someone is crossing the road. You stop. If you are traffic and someone is crossing the road, you stop. It doesn’t matter if your vehicle is motorized or if you are driving a human-powered convenience. Otherwise you are a twat. (I have several photos of the cyclists cutting off our pedestrians. I feel like making a meme of shame and posting them at local bike shops. Asshats.)

nefremontAnyway, after several of the group performed their enforcement (not everyone participated. There were too many of us, and as I said, they crossed the road and then came back. The only reason it may have seemed like five minutes to some drivers is because of just that. . . “because bicyclists making a scene”)

After that, we all clustered together in the bike lane on the left and sidewalk next to the parking lot to continue onward north on N Williams. We had the light on NE Fremont so we were good to begin accelerating and continue on our forward momentum.

Seemingly out of nowhere; and I’m not just saying that for dramatic effect – honestly, I have no idea where the Trimet bus came from – they must have been pretty far back in traffic or have turned from somewhere because it wasn’t like they were first in the queue – but they were suddenly there next to our group.

And she had a superiority complex.

Wielding her 27,000 lb weapon she cut our group on twain where you can see the break in the bike lane, at full speed instead of slowly to let forward traffic pass, as is my understanding of how traffic works. In the process, the driver, forced slower, more cautious riders into the curb and back such as myself and a fellow rider who was hauling a bakfiets with two children in the box in front of me. (Her individual experience may vary – I don’t want to project that she was being cautious just because I was; assume or insinuate just because she has kids. We just happened to be in the same place at the same time, thankfully not crushed by a lunatic blaring her horn.)

Then, through the crosswalk signal and the green light, she failed to yield and while blaring her horn made that left-hand turn which is when I lost sight of the majority of my group, though feared the worse because all I knew was that they were in front and to the right of the bus. I hustled as fast as I could to the corner, where half of us clustered on the sidewalk like lost chickens, several more were clinging to the side of the road a little further up the street, as if fearing drift away in a river current, and that’s when I learned that several others had chased down the driver to ensure that a a professional driver wasn’t allowed to get away with that bullshit.

We all took a moment to calm down from the experience. There were a few witnesses on the street corner that came forward to give their information to us and introduce themselves. We met up with the second half of our group and eventually the sprinters returned who informed us that when they did catch up with the bus, initially the driver wouldn’t talk with them. Instead, some passengers came out and tried to start shit.

Draaaahhmmma.

Finally the driver called dispatch and was all, “Hey, I just plowed through a bunch of pedestrians and cyclists. What am I supposed to do?” [paraphrased, but not by much] no remorse.

Classy.

After that, we headed off goddamned Williams Ave. This is the exact reason why I don’t ride on bike boulevards. Another rider and I had a lovely conversation with three or four dudes just off of MLK that stopped us asked what his “Passes not Crashes” sign meant. They were totally into the idea of safe streets for everyone. That was a great bounce-back conversation after what had happened just 10 minutes earlier.

We hung out at Wilshire Park for a bit to chill, regroup, get out of traffic and all that before heading on to Velocult.

So if you’re a driver intending to run down a group of cyclists, can you just try not to do it when they’re obviously covered in signs touting “Safe Routes’  – it just makes you look extra douchey.

Other than that, the ride was fantastic – I was definitely sore that night and the next day, but that’s my own personal issues and not because it was necessarily difficult. It was what I would generally consider an easy-paced, family-friendly route. Rider leader was great, friendly – and it was a good time to be had for all. Except for that one intersection.

BikePortland also wrote about the incident.

Myalgia and Myositis, My Old Friends

2015-05-30 08.16.52I have been going to physical therapy for the last couple months and though I haven’t been super diligent on my exercises, I haven’t been feeling better – and it’s not for lack of trying.

After years of complaining to my doctor that “I hurt” in various locations, I finally got tired of the slowly intensifying to crippling pain and made an appointment with the rheumatologist. I hadn’t seen her since just after my mysterious non-cancerous foot lump removal of November 2012.

After a thorough groping and series of pirouettes it was confirmed that I made a terrible ballerina, did not have signs of arthritis, but touching me caused excruciating trauma. This involved more paperwork, tests and was followed with a piece of paper that stated; “You may have fibromyalgia” and went on to say that I was diagnosed with “myalgia” and “mystosis” among other things which I am used to seeing on the paper. I was then sent up to the lab to have half my blood and urine drained from my body.

What are myalgia and mystosis, you may be asking? I’m glad you did. They’re actually symptoms, not diagnosiseses. Myalgia means muscle pain and mystosis means muscle inflammation. Since these terms refer to a symptom (pain) and a body response (inflammation) they’re associated with a wide variety of disorders, and a specific diagnosis is required. (Source)

In the case of myalgia, it could be something as common as strain, tension, hematoma, etc. You know, anything “fun” that causes bruising or tearing in the muscle can cause pain. This can also happen when you overdo your fun or when you do the same thing over and over and over again. (Repetitive strain injury; like tennis elbow for instance.) (Source)

But what if my entire body feels like a tennis elbow!?

fibromyalgiaInstead of that localized, acute myalgia, which comes with injury, it could come from illness than. I don’t know. I’m not a doctor. Also, a huge range of autoimmune disorders and medications can affect that muscle pain. And guess what; not going to lie. It sucks. It’s painful. And it’s frustrating.

According to Google, mystotis has similar causes, which you can read about in the sources that I linked above. Here’s another one if you are super into reading about how horrible inflammation of joints is. After all, I am typing this with my sausagey fingers that used to be all graceful and delicate. It’s the least you could do. (Mystotis according to WebMD)

So what’s wrong with me now?

Meh. I don’t know.

What I do know is that I am nodding off all the time despite the fact that I eat Provigil like they’re tic-tacs, it hurts to be touched, it hurts to stand, it hurts to sit, it hurts to lay down, it hurts to sleep, it hurts to be awake, it hurts to be inside, it hurts to be outside, it hurts to be too cold, it hurts to be too warm; I need a cane to balance now (oh yeah! There’s that new accessory – classy when you’re trying to ride a bike, right!?); my wrist hurts from using my cane; I pilfered my wrist support from my bowling ball bag to help my wrist when it hurts; now I’m using my left wrist more and my left arm goes numb every once in a while; I don’t remember the last time I unconsciously had my jaw unclenched, because of which, my teeth are now hurting and I’m concerned I have a broken tooth. . . and this is on top of all my normal ankle, knee, spine and shoulder pain issues that were pre-existing.

And that’s just the tip of the iceburg. I could go on and on about my issues, but that’s not the point.

I kind of wanted to explain to people why I haven’t written lately and also what has been going on – for one, I have been going to lots of doctor appointments and for another, after I get home from work, I am so exhausted that the idea of writing a blog entry is both physically and mentally exhausting to me. I can barely perform basic tasks like feeding myself. It kind of sucks. Also, food is nauseating. It’s super unappealing to me. All I want is soup. Not chowder, not bisque, not goulash, nor stew, not bouillaibaisse, not gumbo – just brothy noodly soup.

The fatigue is unbearable. I want to sleep at the most inappropriate times, but when I find time to nap, can I siesta? Forgeddaboudit. Which means, but not necessarily because of (let’s not confuse correlation/causation), I have been walking through this perpetual brain fog with only brief sparks of clarity and have been umming and ahhing through my workday, grasping at what might actually be specks of insight, but who knows what actually comes out of my mouth anymore.

One of my favorite inspirational quotes that I have found regarding fibromyalgia in my scouring of the internet recently was on one of the meme pictures on a random blogger’s site. I am not going to include a link to the site, nor the meme, but will include the quote from it, which says; “The only thing that’s certain about fibromyalgia is that it’s unpredictable. One day a person with the disease may feel good enough to do a long list of chores and the next day may barely be able to get out of bed.

Welcome to my life.

headoff

Oh by the way, I still have epilepsy. So you know. . . there’s still that bag of fun.

Ride Report: Pedalpalooza Kickoff Ride 2015

DSC_0821

Original Photo by Michael Anderson. Edited by me.

Pedalpalooza season has started! This glorious season of June includes over 250 cycling events and rides beginning with the Kickoff Ride on Thursday June 4th of which I am writing about and culminating with the Multnomah County Bike Fair in the afternoon and World Naked Bike Ride on the evening of June 27th.

To put it in short, and I would be hard pressed to find anyone that would disagree with me – it was, as usual, a great experience to be out on that gorgeously warm June evening with what was estimated as around 1,000 cyclists from all walks of life, communities, ethnicity (though mostly white, because you know. . . Portland.) As many describe, the Kickoff Ride is like the “coming together of the tribes” though when I say that, it makes me think of that scene in “The Warriors” when all the gangs come together and you have The Orphans that are all wearing jeans and filthy, dirty [what used to be] white shirts; the Baseball Furries in their NY Yankee inspired uniforms; the Boppers, the Lizzies, the Jones Street Boys. . . ugggghh. . . I guess it is EXACTLY like the coming together of the tribes.

It was great to see so many members of the PDX Cargo Bike Gang there, the Dropout Bike Club, Ride Yr Bike, (who hosted the event) and many, many others. Especially since I have been dealing with a lot of chronic pain and illness for the last several months and haven’t been doing a lot of social activities or riding; this was not only my summer debut, but my Kinn’s debut, which we had just finished putting together a couple days prior. (But more on that later.)

I want to share this video of our shear force that was added to the event page post-ride excitement by Andrew Havas. I have no idea who he is but did have a chance to talk to him for a moment on the ride. If he sees this and wants to send me a ping, I’ll mail him some stickers if he’s interested. Thanks for taking this video!

For the most part, with so many people, as far as I could tell it went off without too much of a hitch. We started at Salmon St Fountain at Waterfront Park, got a chance to check out the “Better Naito” wider bike lane downtown before heading across the Burnside Bridge. There was one driver that got a little aggro and tried to go through us all, despite the fact there were a thousand of us and one of him.

This is where it gets weird. Technically he did have the light. However, there was nowhere for him to go. I hesitate to use the phrase “critical mass” because we don’t do that here in Portland, but as far as the reality of this situation; the artery was clogged. Unless he wanted to plow through a thousand people, he was dead in the water. Utilitarianism, G.F. Hegel, and you know. . . Spock would agree that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few. This has nothing to do with being a liberal douchebag and everything to do with transporting 1,000 people over a bridge efficiently without someone getting their dick in a twist. Plus, there are like nine other bridges in Portland. If you are really, really in a hurry, detour. Trust me, not everyone is as thrilled about Fleet Week, the Rose Festival, and the thousands of dollars the city spends on the cluster fuck of festivals and commuting nightmares that aren’t bike related. You move here because it’s a community-oriented town/city. Small-friendly feeling and then complain when quirky things happen? Leave. That simple. (Thank you to the corker, a good friend of mine, who took the time to calmly explain what was going on and why he was blocking the truck. Thanks for your patience in a stressful situation)

Shake it off Halley. Breathe.

Anyway, the rest of the ride was epic. People were high-fiving us from their cars. Coming out of stores and restaurants waving at us. What I particularly liked was that one store owner was dragging out a mannequin and draping it with lovely scarves and trinkets as we were riding by. Impromptu marketing opportunity! Rocking it!

Since we became so spread out on the route, we took a spin through Lone Fire Cemetery which was a great way to get out of traffic and regroup, slow down, find our friends again and take a moment before venturing on to Base Camp Brewing. A lot of people stopped there for food, drink and friends. After a minute the ride continued on for another massive trip. (I did not go on that portion of the journey but heard that it was also stellar and ended in grilling, fire pits and fun.)

All in all, a great beginning to Pedalpalooza! This year’s kickoff was a success!

EVENT: NW Folklife Festival 2015

This has absolutely nothing to do with bikes or epilepsy, but you know what, it has absolutely everything to do with me and shameless self-promotion, so I am going to renege on what I said about it having nothing to do with epilepsy. I am epileptic, and I can do any damn thing I put my mind to.

Except not have seizures.

I was absolutely tickled when I was contacted several months ago by this dude who recently relocated just outside of Portland (on the Washington side, so I don’t know if it counts) and was interested in working with me on a collaboration for Folklife Festival in Seattle over Memorial Day weekend. First of all, I was a little skeptical. At that point Folklife didn’t release the schedule until after May 1st, so I had really no way of determining if this person was legit or not, so I took a gamble. We met up and talked logistics. I figured that I would do what I always do and jump in with both feet.

In three days, Brian Buller, singer-song writer/wizard and I will be performing at NW Folklife Festival. It’s going to be epic. Snippets of our practice have included him plucking out power ballads on his guitar analogous to William’s ‘Classical Gas’ in order to “find the correct notes for the song” and then look at me sincerely and ask, “Do any of those notes work for you?” I, not being a musical prodigy reply for the 40th time my lack of perfect pitch requiring the tuner – especially since I had my eyes closed against the overwhelming tide of my synesthesia and his irregularly magnificent down-tuned instrument.

I’ve had so much fun working with Brian. Getting out of my comfort zone and preparing for this event. Come on out to the festival. I will have folklife and busker-related stickers. You know me. I always have stickers.

folklifebannerHalley the Harper will be partnering with singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, Brian Buller on May 25th at the Northwest Folklife Festival in Seattle, Washington to share a unique blend of traditional and original Celtic inspirations and international influences. Join us for this collaboration of acoustic instrumentation, voice and digital innovation.

REVIEW: Showers Pass Body-Mapped Baselayer

sp_baselayershirtLast month it was my birthday. There was a distinct lack of well wishes and cards from you, my esteemed readers. . . I’ll get over it.

Somehow.

But what made up for feeling ooooohhh sooooo alone, was also feeling so very warm! I received something that I have been pining over since I first laid my fingers on it at Interbike last fall up in Showers Pass swanky hotel suite. I am of course talking about the Body-Mapped Baselayer. Hence, of course the name of the article. This thing is nice. I don’t even know where to start. It’s gray. That’s kind of nice. Gray goes with everything. Even other grays.

It says it’s seamless, but that’s just not true. If you want to get technical, there is a seam around each arm, which means that there is armpit seamage. I haven’t noticed it at all, though. What you will notice more is the lack of seams around your sides and the thumbies. Which means you’re going to be wearing the most comfortable shirt in the world. Seriously, get like five of them.

They have done some sort of special weaving with the spandex, modal, nylon and wool and all that so that it stretches with you. It’s like you’re wearing nothing at all; except you’re comfortably warm. It’s better than being naked. Unless you have a severe wool or lanolin allergy. It is merino wool and smart wool to boot so less likely to cause allergies, but some people. . . you know. . . some people. . . they’re allergic to everything. Thankfully wool is not on my list.

And for those of you that are wondering about the whole vegan thing; I’ve mentioned it before on my blog; I’m not the vegan messiah. I have a lot of health issues and self-care is as much of a priority as my ethics. So, if someone gifts me something that is sustainable and wonderful and helpful to my health, I’m more than tickled (but I’m not, because I mentioned I’m not allergic, and this is a great quality of wool-blend which makes it so it’s NOT itchy!). Wearing eight layers is not pleasant. This fabric is thin. Not to the point it’s see-through or awkward for the ladies; but nice t-shirt material; and it’s warm. I love the fact that I’m not pulling on yet another bulky layer. That’s amazing to me.

Showers Pass have created this specific venting type system with their stretching so that it matches up with their jackets. I actually haven’t worn it with my Shower’s Pass rain jacket yet. I’ll hold them to it that the air vents actually do match up. I like that the gray on dark gray kind of make me look like a futuristic cyborg. Or like someone from Avatar or the Matrix. (I’ve never seen the former, but really like most of the latter films.) I doubt that’s the intention, but you know, bonus!

It’s also super packable! As I mentioned, it’s not bulky. I keep mine crammed at the bottom of my backpack and forget about it. Then When I get cold at work, I can go into the bathroom for a Superman/Clark Kent change and slip it on underneath a short-sleeve shirt and instant warmth.

A lot of cyclists need to learn about layering and how to appropriately use base layers. This is a great investment to that. It gets my flail of approval. Or twitch. Do I do that now? I love mine. I can’t say that enough.

Event Report: Oregon Active Transportation Summit ’15 – PART ONE

Check back soon for Day Two of Oregon Active Transportation Summit!

It’s that time of year again! The tulips are coming out and so is the collaborative voices of people in activist, environmental and political seats, not only here in Oregon but nationally. You may have remembered my write-up about OATS last year. This year they were a little more forceful in their “rebranding” to ATS by hashtagging with #ATSummit and things like that. However, their wifi login name was OATS, so all I could think of was the poor celiac participants that were feeling targeted at the event.

They’ll get over it.

Last year was a birthday gift to myself. This year was a gift-gift to myself. I also wanted to follow-up on a lot of the equity conversations they were having about multi-modal use in the area for people that are of low-income, have limited access, disenfranchised, live in historically ignored or areas of disrepair or lacked safety and what kind of discussions there were around engaging with those communities.

So without further adieu, my re-cap from the last couple of days!

I did not attend on Sunday, but there was a half day filled with a variety of mobile workshops and ending in drinking at the hotel bar. I always say that it better than the other way around. Some may or may not agree with me.

Monday Morning Plenary
It was super difficult for me as I woke up in the wee small hours of the morning, bleary eyes and foggy-headed. I got delivered to the event around 7:30am to check in and all that, snagged some swag, grabbed some fruit and found a seat where I could see and hear but wasn’t so close to the front that I felt like I held an important role in transportation advocacy. Because I don’t. Though I did have a backpack full of stickers.

KODAK Digital Still CameraLeah Treat, Director over at Portland Bureau of Transportation opened up the morning. She talked a little bit about her history; about embracing Vision Zero, the safety of people and children. In fact during the two days, children were used as scare-bait a lot. Which irritates me. I’m an adult and I want to live when I am using the road as well. She talked about her son getting hit by a driver last summer, but luckily getting away with just scratches. How that was an awakening for quite neighborhoods like her’s that she needed to take extra precautions to keep safe. She talked about also looking at it from the driver’s side; road rage or slight of hand. . . she truly believes that roadway deaths are preventable and it’s our responsibility to prevent them; not just an issue for the city, the state, transportation department alone; but everyone’s responsibility.

This sounds really good, but I swear that the majority of what she said is regurgitated from her City Club luncheon talk from OATS last year. Don’t quote me on that. And maybe it’s because I’ve been hearing the same thing over and over and over again through the years but have yet to see drastic measures taken that it’s lost the passion and the meaning that politicians try to put behind it.

Ms Treat talked about speed being a critical factor to address. It’s ironic that she mentioned this while down in Salem at that very moment (or maybe a little later, but that day) congress was discussing to raise speed limits. Here in Portland, a couple of critical fatality corridors have been successful in lowering their speed limits in the last six months. (SE Division and E Burnside if you are keeping tabs).

A statistic that Ms Treat spouted out, but I have no citation for, 3% of the roadway network here in Portland make up the “high crash corridor” in which 53% of the fatalities happen on. We have at least 3 schools located on those 3%, libraries, etc. If you are here in Oregon, check up on HB-2621. This proposed bill is in attempts to prevent that kind of shit from happening.

Ms Treat ended with engaging with folks about the magnitude of the problem. They just launched VisionZeroPortland.com this week. Check it out!

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– MTA bus driver charged after running over 15-year-old girl in Brooklyn. NY Daily News 2/14/15

She then introduced Paul Steely White. I’m not super-activisty, so I don’t know if I am supposed to know who he is. He’s from New York, he’s the executive director for Transportation Alternatives. He’s hilarious. He’s engaging. I could have listened to him all day. I wonder if he has a TedTalk. I still probably wouldn’t watch it because I don’t watch those things and I’m too lazy to google to see if he does or not, but he should. From my understanding if you have a TedTalk, you’ve made it.

He talked about the history and development of the automobile; how back in the early 1930s, you literally had thousands of children dying in the streets when the automobile was first developed. This is what I don’t understand. Usually when a product causes that many injuries and deaths it’s recalled due to its lack of safety. I mean, I would really love to be playing with lawn darts right now, but because of whining safety police that’s just not happening. So, why are these weapons of mass destruction not only exempt from this sort of regulation but instead exemplified and ameliorated?

I guess this falls under the “guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” category.

When I was in high school, I was on the debate team. One year the topic was that ‘Congress would create a something or other limiting or preventing the use of weapons of mass destruction.‘ My partner, Glenn and contended that landmines were “slow-moving WMDs” and were able to glean a crap-ton of information regarding the devastation that they create in war-torn and 3rd world countries. We were unbeatable for the simple reason that people didn’t know how to argue against us.

2015-03-30_08.36.54[1]Back to Paul Steely White. . . he recommends the book; “Fighting Traffic” by Peter Norton. Says that any transpo wonk should have it in their collection. He talked about the work that TA is doing and the trends that they are seeing. He says that companies are relocating to complete streets that are bike/ped friendly and see it as a profit motive. They are often seeing up to a 49% retail increase from this move.

Transportation Alternatives is badass. They are going after all the agencies that aren’t taking pedestrian rights seriously. They are trying to get more safety, more public space, more safety cameras, higher infraction violations for motorists that break traffic rules, etc.

Noel Mickelberry from Oregon Walks ended the conversation by announcing that they too have launched a new webpage: OurHealthyStreets.Org/VisionZero

Breakout Session 1
Walking in the Street: Grappling with the Complexity of Equity and Walkability
Active transportation infrastructure investments are not distrubuted equatably. In urban, suburban and rural areas, those with the least means and fewest transportation options often live admidst the most hostile walking environments. Though the situation is evident, the problem is complex and solutions are evasive. How do our investment choices, housing policies and societal mores reinfoce this inequity and what can be done to redress it? This roundtable session will enable a multidisciplinary conversation about walkability and equity in all its complexity.

Moderator: Kenny Asher, Community Development Director, City of Tigard
Participants
Justin Buri, Executive Director, Community Alliance of Tenants Dana Dickman, Transportation Planner, Alta Planning + Design
Sheila Greenlaw-Fink, Executive Director, Community Partners for Affordable Housing
Mee Seon Kwon, Center for Intercultural Organizing
Noel Mickelberry, Executive Director, Oregon Walks
Dick Schouten, Washington County Commissioner
Bandana Shrestha, Community Engagement Director, AARP
Ellen Vanderslice, Walking Advocate, retired PBOT Capital Projected Manager, AIA

Kenny Asher from the City of Tigard opened with a conversation on equity and diversity. He mentioned how the struggle was just as much of our grandparent’s world as it is ours which means that we have a problem here. If you think it’s impossible to make a difference by yourself, just remember Julia Butterfly Hill, whom in Humboldt County during a despite with the lumber company in 1997 ended up living in a 1000 year old redwood for two years to save it from getting cut down. As a side note, I just read that it was vandalized a year later after the lumber company and Hill came to an agreement. Which means to me that everything you put effort to just goes to shit and you can’t have nice things. . . I digress.

KODAK Digital Still CameraTigard is a very suburban city. The kind that many families strive for in many ways. They have over 50k people that mostly drive. They also love their trees and are considered a “Tree City USA.” They have Pacific Highway which also carries over 50k cars daily. They have a pretty thorough trail and multi-use system that runs through the city. You can get to places like the library if you want to risk crossing Hall Blvd, which is historically unsafe for pedestrians. When going around town, you might see people walking their dogs in subdivisions but in regular areas you don’t really see people walking. You see people waiting for buses and that kind of stuff, but not walking for the fun of it. Many of the streets that were laid 30 – 60 years ago are populated by lower income and minority groups are difficult to access and have no infrastructure. Mr. Asher states that they can’t feasibly build sidewalks everywhere. If they were to just build sidewalks on one side of the road everywhere that there were none in Tigard, it would take them about 47 years.

To me, it tells me that it can be done. And that he just gave a timeline for it. I fail to see the problem. Maybe I’m just an optimist.

(Excuse me, my notes got a little choppy here. I used my ipad to type instead of paper. Trying to change my habits and reduce paper consumption where I can. So, I may not attribute things to who said them during this breakout session.)

I wanted to give you a ton of information that you might like. I’m pretty wonky, though. So what kind of gift can I give you? I know! How about Trimet’s 2013 ‘Title V1 Report of the Tri-County Metropolition Transportation District of Oregon’ (255 pages)?? Just thinking about that makes me weak in the knees. In it are charts of “Limited English Proficiency” areas as well as graphs of minority usage etc. I’ll compliment that with Metro’s 2012 Title V1 ‘Limited English Proficiency Plan‘ subtitled aptly ‘Metro’s LEP Plan Needs Assessment and Implementation Plan‘ – BEST. SUBNAME. EVER. (Coalition for a Livable Future also has some stellar information!)

Brought to you by the Department of Redundancy Department.

Justin, from CAT, my personal hero. Seriously, I talk about CAT at least a dozen times a week at work. Meeting him at the event was like meeting a hero. He thanked me and told me he had to go to the bathroom. It was like. . . so personal! Anyway, he talked about the difference between meeting with landlords and tenants. Landlords will want to provide and develop parks and gardens; to beautify the neighborhoods. Tenants are concerned about safe and healthy housing. What he, and CAT are concerned about is how we can incorporate housing into the equity plan.

There was a lot of talk about where we focus our investments. Do we put them where there is great need or where there is great payback? We talked about reducing speeds, sidewalks, the desire for low-income housing, etc.

The lady from AARP talked about the stereotypes of becoming older. Just because you are aging doesn’t mean you develop a disability. More older and aging adults are living at home and not moving into facilities, which is changing the dynamic of housing, transportation and the such. She talked about the change in the economy as we roll up to a time when up to 76 million baby boomers are going to be retiring soon and then a few years down the road 80 million generation Xers are all on their way to retiring. It’s a very interesting time for transition in those respects.

But going back to Tigard. . . apparently there is a new subdivision being built in that area called River Terrace. Mr Asher talked about how they were hyper-focused on it not becoming suburban sprawl and that they wanted to continue with their dedication to complete streets in their “smarter, cheaper, quicker” methodology that they had created for themselves. They went in at the start and immediately began cutting in walking trails and bike paths to connect with commercial areas so people can walk or bike from their housing areas.

Staying ahead of the game, this group! It was really very interesting to listen how they are trying and have been trying to bring accessible transportation to hard to reach areas and assist neighborhoods and communities that are on limited incomes, have different cultural backgrounds and more. Unfortunately a lot of that work is retroactive instead of preventative. And we all know it’s easier to start from scratch than it is to go in and fix something that has already been “fixed” multiple times before.

Monday Lunch Plenary
After the first breakout session we were all ushered back into the Governor Ballroom at the Sentinel Hotel for a working lunch. The topic was; “Achieving Equity in Local and Regional Planning: Tools to Help Planners and Community Stakeholders.” I actually was paying attention. Melissa Wells with PolicyLink from Washington DC was speaking and I was planning on attending a workshop with her after lunch so the topics were interesting to me. As I mentioned earlier that I am trying out paperless note-taking with various levels of success.

oats_tw15I had the wherewithal to section my note-taking by each session that I went to. However, it’s true. My ipad mini slipped off my lap and to grab it I slapped the flat of my hand on its screen. Apparently that is “Apple Code” for Select+All+Delete. It was a great conversation. I’m not going to reconstruct notes from my brain, though.

After lunch, I slipped into the Open Table Discussion: Operationalizing Equity in Transportation. What I really liked about this is that it wasn’t a programmed discussion. I showed up a few minutes before the conversation to Heidi Guenin of Upstream Public Health and a friend of mine here in Portland’s biking community. (Also, an amazing lady. She just got back from a year of traveling around the world with one of my bestest and oldest Portland friends. Heidi goes the “extra mile” so to speak when it comes to everything, whether it’s friends, outreach, volunteerism and more!) We, with the other attendees set the chairs in an oval shape to accommodate better communication throughout the room. Melissa Wells joined us, and though there were only about a dozen people present, we had a great conversation!

Unprogrammed opportunity for an open table discussion following the lunch plenary. You are invited to bring further questions about Policy Link’s work, efforts within Oregon to increase equity and inclusive governance and strategies for operationalizing equity in Oregon and within your own spheres of influence. Please come grapple with crucial issues with other Summit attendees.

And grapple we did! Well, maybe not grapple so much as politely converse about the state of our city and counties. Questions that you can ask yourself when you are working on a project are things like; “How can I bring up the conversation of equity?” “How can I bring up the conversation of community inclusion?” Why should you care about these kinds of questions? If you don’t you’re a racist bigot. Asshole.

Anyway, if you are in some sort of role where people are benefited by the work that you do, think about prioritizing projects which benefit underserved populations first. They’ve begun doing this in Los Angeles, CA on their road projects planning – I was told. I have no basis to tell you if this is fact or not. I just choose to believe that everything said at OATS is true.

It would be great if we could just say, “Here’s what I would like to do. Here’s what I would like you to get excited about.” The real world doesn’t really work like that and it’s frustrating when you’re working with partnering agencies; especially on projects that you’re mandated to do. Heidi mentioned that when she is on a committee that she likes to convene a side-committee for capacity building. I think that’s a great idea to grow as a team and to develop a solid foundation.

There was talk about how we get information to the community. There is a very strict procedure for when people are coming to the government and there are certain ways that information gets disseminated to the community. Even when people have the chance to testify there’s far fewer voices to be heard. How do we encourage our neighbors, our coworkers, our friends and family to get involved? How do we that know the procedures assist those that don’t.

Heidi brought up an excellent point at one point in the conversation which I would like to share with you in my own words. (So I hope I don’t butcher it or lose the essence of what she was saying.) I am a person with a disability. I sit on a equity committee at my work. However, just because I am a woman with a disability sitting on a committee at my work, that does not mean that I speak for all women with disabilities and that I share the perspective of all women with disabilities by any stretch of the imagination. My goal is inclusion of many. I’ve always told people; I don’t care how you vote. I just want you to vote. (That’s not really true. I do care a little.) What I want to know is what you need! If I feel that I need a crosswalk near my home, is that due to a consensus of neighborhood concern for safety, or my personal irritation of having to wait several minutes to cross the road? It’s about that involvement, engagement and communication. Maybe everyone wants the same thing, but they don’t know how to tell anyone.

There are a ton of different ways to engage with your neighborhood and the community at large. Events, flyers, door-to-door, etc. Think about how you engaging at a federal level, state, county and city. Heck, even neighborhood level – let’s bring it in tight. Secretary Fox has been focused about talking to congress about getting local government involved in development; how priorities change and how they priorities investments.

All in all, it was a good conversation – that was just a tidbit. It left me pretty empowered and ready to get involved with some more community organizing!

And then there was the 3rd Breakout Session for Monday.
Fixing Suburban Roads, From Barrier to Busy Bikeway: Opportunities to make key, comfortable connectionsDoes your community have roadways that make key connections, sometimes the only connection, but currently serve as barriers to walking and biking? Is the barrier simply just crossing the street? Explore and discuss various design options, talk about how they can evolve through the life of a roadway and discuss potential challenges to implementation in this interactive workshop. Come ready to have healthy debates about the merits and tradeoffs of shared two-way side paths vs one-way protected bike lanes, RRFB’s vs HAWK’s and mountable curbs vs delineators.

Moderator: Jenna Stanke Marmon, Bicycle & Pedestrian Program Manager, Jackson Co.
Shelley Oylear, Bicycle & Pedestrian Coordinator, Washington Co.Elizabeth Stacey, Project Leader, Region 3, ODOT
Rob Inerfeld, Transportation PLanning Manager, City of Eugene

I want to say a few things about this session before I begin talking about it. It started at 3pm. I had been awake since 6am. The day before I had gotten up at 6am for a terrible mountain biking trip but great hiking up in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest up at the Siouxon Creek Trailhead. I did eat. Fruit and quinoa, veggies and mushroom. I think I was just done. I was irritable.

Shelly Oylear had some amazing before/after photos. She is a civil engineer, urban planner. I can’t remember if it was her or Rob Inerfeld that said; “We’re spending money, we’re spending a little extra to attract a wider range of the population.” Regardless of who said it; hells ya! If you can get that added-value that will last longer and work for 90% of the community instead of 55% of the community wouldn’t you be willing to look into that?!

They talked about the fact that intersection treatments should be looked at during any street updates. And as a bonus they talked about this “Facility scenario criteria.” You want to look at the context, not the classification. Check out the context and expected user type then look for opportunities to apply these treatments. It’s so simple, it’s like duh!

Rob Inerfeld had some amazing slides as he talked about the treatments that they have applied to Eugene. Something to be aware of in your endeavors. HAWK signals cost approximately 150k, RRFB on a three or five lane road will almost always have an island in the center for pedestrians and thus will run you 30 – 60k depending on island (AKA porkchop) features.

 Elizabeth Stacey lives and works in Roseburg, Oregon and started off her portion of the session by stating that Roseburg is “the timber capital of the world and focused on industry, not commuting.” She described her town, mentioning some prime locations; the tallest building being the VA medical center. The fact that they are a senior heavy community. She stated that they looked at Eugene’s Bicycle Master Plan to get an idea on how to develop theirs; which they put out for the first time in 2009. On the bright side, she did mention that they have a lot of multiuse hiking trails. She talked about the three railroads they have going through town, the brand new public safety center and historical building. She did mention that they have a very active, but very small bicycle and pedestrian community that does speak up.

Everything this woman said, however was; “With approval of the railroad industry” this and “with approval of the railroad industry” that. I realize that you might have a lot of difficult workarounds with your contracts and right-aways, but she really didn’t have much to show for it. Just excuses for being a shill to the timber industry. I just kept thinking to myself; “Why don’t we go back to the slides of Eugene and unincorporated Washington Co?” Alas, I got so frustrated, I ended up walking out about halfway through.

Sometimes even BIKELEPTICS need naps.

Check back soon for Day Two of Oregon Active Transportation Summit!

Event Report: Salem Gravel Grinder

KODAK Digital Still CameraThis last Saturday was Valentine’s Day! Furthermore, President’s Day conveniently fell on Monday, making for an amazing 3 day weekend. When Brad originally proposed that we go to this event, described as “Oregon’s Perry Roubaix,” I was originally skeptical. All I could think about was that I haven’t ridden in a while, and I didn’t know if my first time in the saddle be an off-road half century with about 2500′ of elevation gain. I’m not really comfortable on loose gravel to begin with. Hell, I am one of the loudest complainers here in town about unpaved and unimproved roads. I also go out of my way sometimes adding a mile or so to my commute to avoid hills.

But then I was reminded of all the positive shit I said I about my new Salsa Fargo. It’s about spontaneity and adventure. About dropping everything and experiencing life. It also came on a really long week where I wasn’t feeling my best. I had been putting in long hours at work, making up for time that I had been sick and we were hosting a career fair that week. There was no time for me to take a moment to breathe. Which prompted this personal Facebook post on Thursday morning after running around all day at the career fair:spoonsIf you’re not familiar with “Spoon Theory,” it’s a new fad that has been going around some circles; specifically those annoying ones related to invisible disabilities, mental health and social services. I happen to belong to many of those. You can love it or hate it. Personally, I love to hate it.

I have a difficult time getting ready to go places. I get huge anxiety due to my obsessive-compulsive personality disorder (part of my non-verbal learning disability; my neurological issues just sort of lump themselves up like that mashed potato tower in Close Encounters.) Long story short, I suggested that instead of getting up at the crack of dawn on Sunday morning, that we should turn it into a romantic holiday weekend and head to Salem, OR the day before.

Saturday morning, it took me six hours to pack, including eating breakfast and lunch. We were on the road by 3pm.

I got a room at The Grand Hotel in downtown Salem, which was great, and we had no issues at all. We brought the bikes up to the room, which had a sitting area so had plenty of room to move around. We met up with an old friend of ours that evening at b² Taphouse and caught up on old times. They have a great food cart by their front door that they own and offer free pretzels and popcorn. They also have heated patio seating! We ended our evening by having a great dinner at Marco Polo Global Restaurant. First of all, they almost couldn’t seat us because they were all booked up due to Valentine’s Day reservations. Their website didn’t say anything about that otherwise we would have booked our own. We ended up being one of the last people to get in. Second of all, I was super overwhelmed by the fact that there are like SIX menus on the table including the libations and desserts. We got so freaking stuffed. There was this gluten-free vegan raspberry lemon cake I really wanted in my belly but unfortunately, it wasn’t in the cards. We couldn’t even finish our dinners.

Sunday Morning. . . The Grand Hotel offered a free hot breakfast. We were all about the free. Unfortunately we didn’t participate in the $8 breakfast offered at the golf course, but we were concerned regarding the content of that breakfast. We didn’t want to get there and then have nothing that we could eat.

To say the least, from here on out, there’s a lot of eating going on.

We arrived on site to a shit ton of people. Lots of people that we recognized and lots of people that we didn’t. After getting our bikes all set up, we joined our group and had a pre-ride chat about the route and plans for the day. I stretched a little bit, but there was nothing that was going to help me get ready for what was about to happen.

I learned very quickly that a 29er was overkill for this event. By the time I learned that I needed to lower the pressure for the loose gravel, I was molasses on the paved road. But at least I wasn’t sliding around in the dirt anymore. I’m used to more tacky, muddy or smooth and hard. This crumbly shit scared the shit out of me.

For like the first hour.

I also learned that I should probably have actually done a test ride on my bike before actually taking this on. I spent a good several miles learning how to shift. Which sucks just as much going down hill as it does going up hill.

KODAK Digital Still CameraWhen we got to mile 12, we noticed a couple familiar faces sitting on the side of the road. It was our good friends Schmitty and Pagel! They had stopped for a drink break, so we stopped and chatted with them for a moment. I opened up some of my Stonewall jerky and chugged some water myself and we were off. It was a really gorgeous route. I didn’t get as nearly as many photos as I would have liked to; both my arms gripping the handlebars for dear life as I navigated the bumpy uneven surface of the road. And you know what? After the first few miles, I loved it. I had a huge grin plastered on my face and I forgot about “riding text book” and how I was supposed to be in a certain gear ratio and pedal a certain way through loose gravel – screw that.

I was in a ridiculously high gear and I was hammering it. I was laughing and singing. I got a little squirrelly when the giant cavalcade of riders came through, but mostly because I didn’t want to slip off the side of the road into the bilge ditch water on the side.

I also ate a bug.

It was about mile 24 when I started to feel like I couldn’t put one foot in front of the other. I was feeling pretty numb in my toesies and was wiggling them to get feeling back in my apendages. Was shifting in my saddle because I was really becoming self aware of my scoliosis and perhaps that my saddle height wasn’t quite at the correct height and when we came upon a hill. What made it worse was that I tried to cheat right before we came to the portion of the route with the hill and cut off a good portion of the loop before Pagel called me out. I got about halfway up and realized that my knees were going to give out, my quads were aching. . . I unclipped and I got off my bike and began walking. I had watched Schmitty, Pagel and Brad disappear over the crest of the hill a few minutes prior and felt a little dejected that I was so far behind, but I was still going. This was the first time I had physically gotten off my bike.

16541585526_bb9387db93_zJust then, the song, “Love Love Love” by the Mountain Goats came on my soundsystem and I was overcome by what I was doing. I bit my lip, reached behind me and let a little air out of my rear wheel. I attempted to mount my bike at an angle. It skidded out on the dirt and loose gravel. I tried again and nearly slipped from the saddle onto the top bar. I ensured my shoe was clipped in and I tried again, pedalling one-footed, trying to build up momentum and scooting along the ground with the other foot until I could fully mount. Alas, not all stories have happy endings and not all moments are like movie montages. I ended up unclipping once again and continued pushing my bike to the top of the hill. Brad met me on the other side. Pagel and Schmitty had gone on ahead.

It wasn’t the last we saw of the dynamic duo, though! We found them again sitting on the grass about mile 35 enjoying sandwiches and drinks! They have a sound philosophy that it’s always best that your bikes and frame bags arrive home lighter than when you leave. And while we might not have been the fastest group out there, we were definitely enjoying the gorgeous weather (in the low 60s) and scenery.

I, of all people, had removed my leg and arm warmers before we even got to mile 10!

After this it gets a bit wonky. I will fully admit that I did not have a cue sheet at all during this entire escursion. I said that I did not want to be responsible and would just follow other people. I also accidently forgot to bring my cellphone and left it in the car. A dumb move, which left me with no GPS navigation system in case of mishap. Brad’s phone apparently only had 20% left, which we found out in just a little bit.

I remember asking him how far we were and he said about 38 miles. I was looking on the positive that there was only 12 miles left or so. I was also feeling kind of skeptical because earlier in the day, Brad had asked someone how much gravel there was and the guy said 40 miles of it. We had been riding on a lot of paved road for a while. We pulled over after cruising down OR22 for a quite a bit and checked out our cue sheet which made no sense.

Our “mile 38″ was in reality “mile 58″ish however we still had that 12 miles left to go or there about (I think we ended up figuring about 16 from where we were), and we ended up somehow making a 20 mile detour somewhere on the route.

No wonder we hadn’t seen anyone for a while.

I just want to say that there were a couple hills that were like two times steeper and longer than the hill that I walked up AFTER that hill and I rode them. Suck it. So when I say, we did attempt to call to get picked up, it’s because I felt we already accomplished our goal. However, no one answered on the other line. Brad and I stood there for a moment and he asked me what I wanted to do. I told him that we’re in the middle of nowhere and we have to get back to the golf course.

And that’s just what we did.

I had the most amazing time and even though I had a saddle shaped welt on my ass and could barely walk up stairs for two days or move my arms, it was freaking fantastic. I also have been eating as much food as I want.

Brad rode his fixie to work the next day.

Review + Interview: ‘Bicycling Around the World’

I got an email a few days ago from a lovely lady asking if I would be willing to review her free ebook. At first I was suspicious. Working as an employment specialist, I often run into “ebooks” that turn into promotional deals where you can’t find out how to “GET THAT JOB” unless you buy the system for an unrealistic amount of money. However, upon investigation of this book, I was impressed. It was sincere. The Afterward declares to “Share the Love of Bikes.” And explains that it was freely shared and encourages it to be passed on to other cyclists.

I freaking love that!

Going through the images made me sick with longing. It made me just want to get up, pack and see beautiful, amazing things and be in wonderful places. And even though it is primarily a photo album, I learned so much. For instance, I had no idea there is a salt lake in Bolivia. Also, I want to go to Bolivia.

bicycling-around-the-world-promo-high-res

I was able to catch up with Grace Johnson, the “little red cyclist” half of this amazing duo who was kind enough to share with me a little about herself and her riding partner/photographer/husband, Paul Jeurissen. Check it out!

BIKELEPTIC: What made you decide that you wanted to travel around the world by bike?

GRACE: “Paul & I met each other in 1981 while cycling the Trans America Trail.  Since then we have taken numerous tours ranging in length from one month to a year in Asia, Europe, North Africa and America.  We finally decided that we wanted to do a really long tour before we reached retirement age plus visit areas such as East Africa and South America where we had never been to before.  So in 2010 we started our present trip.”

Grace Johnson was born right here in the Pacific Northwest, in Seattle, WA in the early 60s and Paul born in the late 50s in Amsterdam. Talk about being born to be bikey!

BIKELEPTIC: What were you doing (employment/professionally) before you packed up and left, and how was this ride funded? How much did you spend on an average week or month? 

GRACE: “I’m an architectural draftswoman and Paul worked for the Dutch government.  We saved up money to pay for the trip plus sold our house.  Our daily budget was approximately U.S. $30.00 for the two of us. The book documents our bicycle tours plus Paul’s bike culture photography project from 2005 to 2015. The main emphasis is on our current multi-year trip so we decided to leave out our Europe tour images and have the book quickly jump to China since this trip started in Asia. In 2006 we pedalled around South India with Karrimore panniers and during our current multi-year tour we were back in Amsterdam for a couple of short visits and renewed some of our equipment at that time.

BIKELEPTICI noticed that you were doing this in stages or at least bought new equipment because your panniers were different in some of the photos. What other types of supplies did you pack?

GRACE: “We carried pretty much the same gear that most cycle travellers carry; a couple sets of clothes, bike tools, etc. In Asia we stayed in guesthouses / hotels plus ate at street stalls.  So we didn’t carry camping gear for that portion of the trip.”

 Paul and Grace ride Dutch Koga Signature bikes on their adventures.

BIKELEPTIC: What was one of the most horrific, sad or traumatic experiences that made you want to quit?

GRACE: I can’t remember ever wanting to quit. 

An experience that we didn’t enjoy was in Malawi, East Africa. It was during a ten day period when there was a sudden influx of Europeans driving Land Rovers down to Cape Town.  A number of these tourists were handing out coins to the local kids because as one of them told us, “They are so poor, you should give them money.”

Of course the kids thought they could also get a handout from us.  During that period we had up to two hundred children per day scream at us, “give me money!” We were so relieved when we finally crossed over the border into Tanzania and were able to get away from the Land Rover tourists.”

BIKELEPTIC: Did you worry about theft or feel especially vulnerable?

GRACE: “We never felt vulnerable. People in general are hospitable and protective towards travellers and they will warn you if a place or situation is a bit “iffy”.  As long as you stay away from conflict situations, riots and busy roads (the biggest danger of them all!) you are quite safe.

As for stealing, we did have to watch out for petty theft in parts of East Africa.  This was due to groups of young street kids (orphans – probably from the earlier aids epidemic and wars in countries such as the Congo) who were always on the lookout for plastic bottles and anything else they could get their hands on to sell for food.

You soon learn that when you pedal into a place and the locals are looking more at your bags and bikes than you – then you need to watch out for theft and preferably leave town as fast as possible!”

BIKELEPTIC: What are some of your favorite or most memorable experiences from your trips? 

GRACE:We had already learned from earlier trips that people are friendly and hospitable the world over so a couple of very memorable experiences have been cycling in countries that we had never been to before; Bangladesh and the Pamir highway in Tajikistan.

Bangladesh: There are SO MANY rickshaws in Bangladesh – it’s just unbelievable.  We got caught in a number of rickshaw traffic jams when pedalling into Dhaka – they were amazing and so much fun!  Since our touring bikes were narrower than the rickshaws, the rickshaw chauffeurs were continually giving us directions (take a right here!  No, you can squeeze through over there…) on how to get out of the traffic jam.

In the countryside we continually came across rickshaws carrying all manner of goods plus they always tried to race and pass us, even when they were carrying four or more passengers.

Pamir highway – Tajikistan: I remember turning a corner and catching my first sight of the vast Pamir plateau – unbelievable!  It was so huge and desolate yet also incredibly beautiful. Most of the highway is paved or has a hard dirt surface -yet there is almost no traffic.  What can be better than pedalling on a bicycle path through one of the most beautiful regions in the world?”

I want to thank Grace for sharing about her and Paul’s adventures. And definitely for sharing all these freaking fantastic photos with other inspired bike tourists.

Grace Recommends

  • Travelling Two: A big how-to site on bicycle touring. Friedel Grant has also written “Bike Touring Basics,” a free e-book which Grace is helping her update. They are hoping to release it online in February 2015.

  • World Biking: Amaya Williams and Eric Schambion left in 2006 on a quest to bicycle all of the countries in the world. The site is full of information plus she regularly updates her blog with stories from the road and wonderful photos.

  • Skalatitude (Solo Female Cycling Around the World): Loretta Henderson – a very entertaining world cyclist.  She also runs the WOW  (Woman on wheels) wall.

Before I close, I wanted to not only acknowledge all the stellar links that Grace sent me. I had no idea! These are amazing couples and women touring. Rock on! She also shared some information that I wanted to pass on to you. And if you’re still reading, you are also a rock star. Grace was perusing my website and happened upon my tirade on bike lights and epilepsy awareness and she provided me with a little confirmation bias, but also with a little information on what it is like on the other side of the world. This is what Grace had to say regarding blinking lights:

Well my younger brother is epileptic and I know a number of people on the autism spectrum. (A lot of autists work in technical fields). Yes people on the autism spectrum have problems with blinking lights.  As far as I know autists don’t have the severe reaction that you have – their problem is more that they can’t ignore them. “Normal” people can ignore blinking lights, sudden sounds, televisions and conversations that are in the background. Autists just can’t do that.  So in the dark –100% of a person’s concentration should be on the road and other traffic and not having their concentration constantly broken due to continually having to glance up to look at flashing lights.

Since 1986 I’ve lived in Holland and its normal to cycle in the dark – even on unlit roads. Even kids are expected to bike to and from school in the dark. Almost no-one uses “blinking lights” and if they do its very weak flashing lights.  It’s a law that in the dark your bike has to have a steady front and rear light working (and you can get a ticket from the police if they don’t work.)  [T]he Dutch government has run studies to determine what is safer – a steady light or a blinking one.

Grace provided me with a couple links which you can read here and here if you are interested in more information. You do have to turn on Google Translate to Nederlands (the Netherlands) to read it properly. . . unless of course you speak Dutch.

I relate to this a lot with her commentary because many don’t associate people on the Autism spectrum with the blinking lights, but with Grace that is what seemed to speak to her because of her personal experience. Because of my Non-Verbal Learning Disability, which is on the Autism spectrum, similar to Aspergers, the fixation and compulsory behaviors are just par for the course.

I appreciate her insight, knowledge and sharing. Please be sure to check out “Bicycling Around the World!

Review: iSSi Pedals + Custom Rebuild How-To

Have you ever heard of these crazy technicolor contraptions? I’ve been hot for them since reading an article on Bike Rumor about their debut at Frostbike last March. Forgot about them for a minute, but then Bike Rumor reminded me in July about these stellar pedals and they permanently affixed themselves in my heart spot. I was lucky enough to be given a set of the “hi vis orange” pedals by an awesome rep and good friend of ours. I was so stoked when I received it. All I could think about was how awesome it was going to look on my Kinn. However, there was just one negative. They’re orange and black. I have been doing everything in my power to make this bike orange, teal and silver. . .

2015-01-18 10.19.45Thanks to some recent impulse shopping, I became in need of some more pedals. And suddenly all my problems were solved. If you’re not familiar with iSSi pedals, they’re kinda awesome. You can customize them to make them look pretty much however the hell you want, depending on how much you want to pay for rebuild kits. They’re like the legos of pedals. Since I needed two complete pedals, it was cheaper for me to get a complete bright silver pedal and cannibalize it than work with kits. I didn’t actually look at any rebuild instructions, but I feel that I am highly qualified to tell you how to put these together after my trials and tribulations.

I’m that cocky.

First I grabbed my seizure magnet, which I decided would be great for collecting loose screws and a T10 screwdriver. Long story short, you are also going to need a 2.5, 3 & 6 allen wrench AND a 9mm ratchet. You also need a sharp object to cut the zip ties in the boxes. I personally would also grab some grease to keep everything from seizing. (I also had to grab some lube but we’ll get to why later.)

2015-01-18 11.04.35I did one side at a time to try to keep the complication of parts down. I would take one part off of each pedal and then swap and so on. I highly recommend that. You won’t have to worry about too many parts flailing around on your work space. Something that I noted was that specifically on the orange/black pedal is that when you’re trying to unscrew an anodized screw that’s in a powder coated  plate on top of a powder coated core – it’s really fucking difficult; and they were almost as if they were welded together. I was terrified, not only of stripping the screws (only stripped 2), but of breaking the T10 Torx wrench, which I was borrowing from a mechanic. . . . because I mean, who really owns a T10?

I actually found that I did in fact own not one, but three in various manual and electronic forms the next day. So, there’s that.

2015-01-18 11.27.55Regardless, I had a difficult time getting these pedals together. I took many breaks because my hands tend to get sore from the repetitive wrenching. It was nice that Brad was there, because when I was getting the springs back in, I sometimes needed an extra finger to push in the pin a little bit. I found that it was easiest if I set the pedal on the side, screwed the tension screw the tightest it will go to hold the plate steady while you’re getting the first spring in place. Push the pin forward to hold the spring in place and get ready to place the second spring. (I assume you’ve ensured that they are properly placed on their little platforms.) Loosen the adjustment screw until the second spring fits into the the plate as well as onto its platform. As you are shimmying the pin in place, ensure that the bracket is level and matched up with its hole. Because what will happen is that you will go through the two springs and not make it through the other end of the bracket. Or you might even be able to make it through the bracket but you can’t get it screwed into the other end because you can’t see the hole. This is all intuitive, damn it. Once you get the first one done, congratulate yourself and take a break.

Because you are going to have to do it. Three. More. Times.

For those screws I absolutely could not get to unscrew and I was seriously worried about breaking the T10; I put a couple drops of lube right in at the base of the screw to try to work in the lubeyness for a bit to get it out. Did not work this time. Do you know what you do when you strip a screw? You take a tiny file and you turn it into a flathead screw. I don’t know why anyone thinks a star is a good idea for wrenching. It grinds both the tool and the screw super easy.

2015-01-20 17.14.04

After all the tears and swearing; bam – beautiful pedals. A set for my fantastic Kinn and a set for my wicked Salsa. All stylin’ and ready to go. Would I ever do this again?

Oh my g’d. This was more work than it was worth. But the results. . . amazing. I never want to do it again, though. But look at this things. I’m divided. I even swapped out the spindles. That’s how fucking hardcore crazy I am about color coordinating my gear. But I’m going to plan it out better so I don’t have to waste a day and a half getting carpal tunnel doing it.