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.

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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.

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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.

New Bike Day: 2014 Salsa Fargo Ti

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Sometimes I wish that, like drugs, you could only buy bikes with cash. If you are naive to this or know differently then you, my friend, have much different worldly experience than I do.

My neurologist called me a couple days ago with some blood test results I had taken the other morning and in his words, my vitamin D is “crazy low.” Like so low that over-the-counter vitamins won’t help. So he went ahead and called in a prescription for a once a week dosage with the intention of testing my blood again in a few weeks. Apparently normal vitamin D range is between 25 – 80ng/ml. Anything 10 – 25ng/ml is considered low and something that should get checked out and maintained. I scored a whopping 9.3ng/ml.

Totally makes sense. The last couple of months have been a whirl of general malaise, lethargy, cognitive haziness (moreso than usual), fatigue, muscle aches, tummy issues and more. . . I deal with a lot of this stuff in general and have been having more intensified seizures lately so figured whatever. . . I was just going through another bumpy patch in my body’s deterioration. Well, turns out this might be totally fixable.

In my Vitamin D deficiency daze, I get a text message while I’m at work regarding three XS 2014 Salsa Fargo Tis that were being priced to move. It made me sick to think about because I am a very meticulous person when it comes to things like this. I mean, it’s been over a year and I still don’t have my touring bike built! I budget and make spreadsheets. . . but then I went over and looked at this thing in person.

Shit.

20150117 - BYK - Fargo TiDT Swiss hubs, Stans, carbon fork, SRAM. Shit. I did make a minor change from just “out-of-the-box” and put some Fizik metallic blue bar tape on it to match the dark blue of the powdercoating. Matchy-matchy. I can not express to you how much I loathe cork bar wrap. It rains so much in the Pacific Northwest, and do you know what happens to cork when it gets wet?

It gets slimy. So fucking slimy. And for someone that has texture issues similar to Aspergers it’s not even funny. It’s like that fucking green gel on rocks at the beach. That’s what wet cork rubbing against wet gloves, rubbing against clammy hands reminds me of – why do people expose themselves to that?

Anyway. . . I need to get a different saddle, but that’s going to be a “Princess and a Pea” situation. . . or “Cinderella“. You know. Some story involving something that you can’t get to work just right. The saddle that comes stock with it; the WTB “Pure” is like riding on a davenport. I want something that is narrow (and without a whale tail), but because I want to use this bike primarily for bikepacking and trail riding I want a little cushion for the pushin’.

Sooooo. Did I suddenly win the lottery?

No. By the way, it’s my own business what I do with my money. However, I did mention that these bikes were priced to sell, and I did have to make my decision right then and there. It was definitely an impulse buy. All three bikes were gone within 12 hours of being put on the shop’s website. (And it was local pickup only so we could, you know – start a tiny person Fargo Ti club.)

What makes this bike different than the Kinn is that I feel that this was a once-in-a-lifetime chance. Kind of like bike-packing. Just getting off the main road and throwing on some frame packs and going. It was impulsive, but then so are some of the decisions you have to make when you’re on the trails. Sometimes you just have to go for it.

The Kinn, on the other hand is like a well-planned out vacation. It’s well calculated and planned out to the very last detail. They definitely serve different purposes.

(Also, I have an Ibis coming. And have set up a vague trail day with my friends for when that happens. 2015 is the year of bikeaholic Halley. Every time I think about it, my heart races and my eyes dilate. I start to feel the adrenaline and anxiety. Am I in love? With cycling?)

For all these reasons, I have named my Fargo; чемпиона мира. [Chempiona Mira] – it means “Champion of the World” in Russian. (Oh yeah, I speak Russian by the way.) However, in Russian the word for world also is the word for peace which makes me think of the quote by Ghandi; “Be the change you want to see in the world.” I am also reminded of the Spanish word for “look, see” or “to watch”  which is the verb “mirar.” (I”m taking Spanish classes right now.) I just think it’s so apropos to have a name that is so multi-faceted about seeing the world and also about self-empowerment.

Also, people that don’t name their bikes are weird.

I can’t wait until I get some of this bike paid off so I can afford some frame bags and bling.

Honor the Past. Enjoy the Present. Embrace the Future.

So here I am sitting here on New Year’s Eve 2014. I am thinking of all the hot fads that I should talk about from this year and decided that since I’m not black, have ebola or ALS, don’t hate Israel, it’s not Thursday, don’t watch Game of Thrones or soccer and haven’t seen the new Star Wars yet. . . . that I will talk about women empowerment!

Specifically I am going to talk about finding strength within my own family of strong, powerful and independent role models. I have said before that I come from 3rd generation female bike tourers. Well, I’m not bullshitting. I’m going to introduce you to these lovely ladies in just a moment. These women raised me with more compassion and love and life skills than I could have imagined at the time.

khklhMary (1925 – 2014) was born in Great Falls, MT. At a wee darling age, her family packed up and shoved off to Skagit County in Washington State where she attended school and graduated in the class of 1943 at Mt Vernon High School. Mary was always hardworking and always eager to take on both paid and unpaid opportunities.

While working at the Navy Exchange at NAS Whidbey, Oak Harbor WA, Mary met the love of her life, Sgt. Warren Allen USMC. They moved many times during their 60 years of marriage, and each house, Mary quickly turned into a home.

Camp Fire Girls was a big part of Mary’s life. She was a member as a child and became an adult volunteer participating in the day camps and as a Camp Fire Leader from 1965 through 1978. She participated in several bicycle trips in the 1970s riding and camping along the Washington coast and Whidbey Islands. She received several letters of excellence and recommendation for these trips from the Camp Fire Council.

12 yr old Mary with bike decorated for Montgomery Ward 4th of July parade

12 yr old Mary with bike decorated for Montgomery Ward 4th of July parade

Because she was freaking awesome.

I mean, seriously. We’re not talking about space-age neoprene and Ortlieb panniers here. We’re talking exterior aluminum frame backpacks. Horribly shitty leather straps that stretch and snap when they get heavy or wet. And take a moment and hug your Timbuktu bag, why doncha? Because velcro? In the ’70s. A burr wouldn’t even stick to that. You were dealing with frame bags that were constantly hitting your knees, heavy bikes and gear that’s trying to kill you.

As a side note, because we ARE talking about awesome women – which can be supported by their equally fantastic spouses. And let me tell you – this man was one of the fantasticist – my grandfather Warren. . . after he retired from the USMC in the late 60s, early 70s found himself working with some good ol’ Chicago steel as a Schwinn bike mechanic. For years we had a beautiful old tandem and my mom’s cruiser (complete with sissy bar and banana seat!) hanging from the roof of the basement at the grandparents’ house until about 10 years ago when my cousin liberated them and fixed them up. She lives about 5 miles from me and I send her scowling glares every morning when I wake up. But what I DID manage to get, hidden among dozens of hardbound National Geographics were my grandfather’s original Schwinn Bicycle Repair Manuals. . . Volume 1 AND Volume 2 from 1969. I have them nestled on the holiest of shelves. Right between my official Bahrain government copy of the Q’ran and Lance Armstrong’s autobiography.

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Denim & Perms were “In” in 1986. Also in 2014 in Dallas.

I could talk about my grandparents forever. They were stellar people. But I’m going on. Their youngest daughter showed up; Susan! This was seriously the best photo I could find of her that was topical. She claims this was at Skagit River Woods. I swear it was at Sunset Beach (now Washington Park) in Anacortes, WA. She’s training me early for off-roading. Look how I’m hucking these rollers! I’m all over that shit!

Though Susan rode a bike as a child, she began doing more intense riding in high school on overnight camping trips along the Washington coast and Whidbey Island in the mid to late 70s. When I asked, she fondly recounted the Skagit Flats Century she did in 1976, which they still do today, by the way. (I lie, she didn’t fondly recount it. She told me how much it sucks to do a 50 mile lap twice. I agreed.) She also was heavily involved with the Young Adult Conservation Corps in the late 70s, early 80s. When I asked on average how long those rides were, she shrugged (verbally. This was over the phone.) “They were all day.” She replied. “We would set for about 5 hours out and then 5 hours in. Would go from Mt Vernon to sometimes past Sedro Wooley or Concrete.

I have a pretty cool mom. Everyone says so.

So here I come along, and what am I? Just this little thing. Barely 6 lbs. I couldn’t even walk until my 1st birthday. But oh, I was potty-trained well before that. Don’t believe me? I will get an audio affidavit from my mother. I would drag myself to the trainer-pot rather than get help from anyone else. And it wasn’t like I had it easy. I had a giant cast on my foot for the first few months of my life.

Of course you did.

I know, right. One more thing on the problems, that are my life pile. Yeah. Really. Won’t get into all the fascinating details, but I was sitting on my foot. In the womb. Which caused me to come out all pigeon-footed. But just on one-side. The chain-ring side. My options were to lose all my toes in a tragic fixie incident or try to correct it. It eventually worked itself out. 28 years later, chronic back pain, biweekly trips to the chiropractor, acute scoliosis and all that crap. . . feet straight as an arrow. Hips and spine might be a little wibbly wobbly though. Also, I nearly died. Like mom was in the hospital fighting for her life with her temperature rising, and this bun in the oven becoming way overcooked.

gfdgffdSo of course we’ve made it up to me. I was my big brother’s sister. Whatever he was doing I wanted to do. He skateboarded so while he was in his room wrenching on some really fancy trucks and a customizing the grip tape on his. . . I don’t know the brands. . . Volcom? Vans? I remember Wet Willy or some shit. . . anyway – I got hand-me-down or the department store board. Not because my parents weren’t encouraging. Far from that. What do you think my brother started with? The problem was that I showed more promise in luging than I did skateboarding. Perhaps I could have been the first woman from Skagit County to great a tobogganing team. The Pacific Northwest Bobsled Team. Regardless, I have a terrible sense of balance and skateboarding is not my sport. (In case anyone cares, I ride better goofy vs regular though I write right handed. I do a lot of stuff left-handed, though. Internal struggles. Even my own body has commitment issues.)

Later in my tweens I got my brother’s hand-me-down snowboard when he finally got taller than me. I was able to find every single tree that was buried under the snow. Like a dundro-magnet. It’s too soon for any of the jokes I want to tell in this paragraph. Just remember to only ski or snowboard in clearly marked areas where you are comfortable, don’t go out of bounds and watch out for trees, Kennedys, waterbottle football, Bono and of course. . . be responsible.

3368542143_59e23311b6_oLong background short; I tried a lot of things and I had a lot of experiences. My grandparents (on both sides of my family) would take my brother and I camping during the summer. We’d bring our bikes and be gone on adventures during the day racing all over and back in the evening hungry and happy. Without being space cadet hippies my parents, the company we kept and extended family encouraged us to follow our bliss and I’m able to look around at all my cousins and realize that we all have it pretty good.

Yeah there’s some shit and negative stuff going on in everyone’s life, but like the title of Ram Dass’ amazing book, which you can’t really read because it’s not really a book but rather just something that you stare at when you’re tweaked out of your gourd; “Be Here Now.”

I’m going to leave you with yet another spiritual thought. Shit I’ve done a few of these lately. (Have I mentioned that’s what I majored in? It must be leaking out of me somewhere. Anyone have any Stan’s I can plug it with??)

About 5 years ago I got a phrase from the Aleinu scarred into my arm so I was forced to stare at it every day. It is part of the Mishnah in the phrase, “mipnei tikkun haolam” to indicate that a practice should be followed not because it is required by Biblical law but because it helps avoid social disharmony. I believe that everything that I do should be in this effort. Tikkun olam. Repair the world.

While I don’t know what 2015 brings, I do know that it’s going to be amazing because I am going to be there to live and experience it. And I have so many awesome people that helped shape my life and make me who I am today. So I thank them for everything.

Happy New Year everyone.
Be safe out there on the roads however you choose to travel.

Happy Holidays!

xmascard.pgStay safe this winter and riding into the new year.
Much love from BIKELEPTIC and family.

Brad & I are wearing matching Twin 6 Xmas Pickle “Hallelujah” shirts.
They don’t have them anymore that I can find, but they have Xmas Hotdog shirts this year!

My mom made my pj pants.

REVIEW: CamelBak FORGE – Vacuum Insulated Mug w/ VIDEO!

2014-11-03 15.23.16-1Really now? Reviewing mugs. . . These things are hardcore. I originally saw them at Interbike this year and played with their features there. Had to be shown how to use it by the CamelBak rep back in September and when these two 16oz double-walled brushed steel mugs arrived in the mail on November 3rd, I couldn’t even figure out how to open it.

So much for one-handed opening.

It’s actually pretty easy. I still had to be shown how to open it for “easy cleaning.” (Psst. The trick is that you have to take the lid off the tumbler and then it pops right off.)

What a great idea though, right? It’s winter time. The weather outside is frightful – let’s get something to keep us warm and fits in a waterbottle cage. In fact these babies are marketed to cyclists almost as if it’s a ‘No Duh’ kind of thing on their website. You too can drink scalding hot coffee while careening down a hill at 35 mph.

But here’s the thing, that double walled construction? I thought it would have been great for keeping my hands warm. You know what that would mean, though? That heat is escaping. I can put scalding liquid in this sucker and meh, it’s kind of room temperature. It gets a little warm around the plastic lid, which does get warm, but the metal, against all basic “metal gets hot when you put hot things on it” logic. . . stays cold. You don’t have to explain thermodynamics to me today. I realize there’s more going on here.

What happens when you put hot liquid into an air-tight environment and then squeeze out the rest of the air? I’m probably not explaining this right, but the correct answer is EXPANSION. Every time I put something hot in my mug, then go to take a drink out of it, I get a little scalding, sticky geyser of chai. . . or apple cider. Not much. It’s worse the first time. Doesn’t really happen after those first couple of times. But when you put it on your work desk and and get those raining shots of brown spittle all over some important paperwork just because of hot liquids under pressure. . . it’s a little irritating.

So there’s that.

I have no idea, what the fuck an “Aroma Bowl” is, as pertaining to the FORGE Mug. I mean, I could probably pick one up at any head shop here in Portland, but the instructions that came with my mug were vague. The website is vague. To be honest, I don’t remember what the guy at Interbike told me. I’ve clicked and poked at the lid of my mug until I thought I would break it.

Conveniently I figured out how to lock it open in the process.

The website says that the design of the lid is supposed to be the fabled “Aroma Bowl” and it’s supposed to help me sense the temperature and enhance the aroma of my beverage. I am currently drinking apple cider and when I lock my mug open all I can smell is the vanilla almond milk chai I had in there previously. Also, even though the lid feels warm, nothing can prepare me for the skin-peeling boil that is inside my mug.

I need some Japanese technology to pimp out my mug, voice activated sipping; “Don’t drink dumbass. Didn’t your mom ever tell you to blow on hot things?

  • The lid is complicated, but it works. Drink one-handed. I haven’t had any issues with leaking; which I can’t say for any other CamelBak item I’ve owned.
  • Make sure you wash your shit regularly. There’s a little rubber gasket plugging the drink hole. That looks like a nasty mold and bacteria trap. I’m the kind of person to just rinse & refill. Don’t be me. Wash the lid.
  • Well over 4 hours of keeping liquids hot – just as advertised. I am a sipper. This is a great feature for me. This can also lead to mold because if you’re also like me, I’ll forget about what I have in my mug four days later and then open up to some funky-ass drank. Maybe it will still be warm.
  • I really like the narrow construction for cycling. I think it’s classy and modern looking. Great transition from a work environment to going downhilling.

Article: Oregonian ‘Uber insurance or blinking bike lights? What’s a bigger safety risk in traffic?’

oregonian_lightsI got a phone call about a week ago that I didn’t recognize the number for. I usually don’t answer those numbers, but a lot has been going on in my little universe lately. . . or it could have been an appointment reminder from a doctor.

It was Joseph Rose from the Oregonian! He had gotten my phone number from a friend of mine and wanted to talk to me about blinky lights and how they affect photosensitive epilepsy. First of all, I was excited by the fact that good ol’ fashioned networking works . I tout it all thing during the employment classes I teach at work. But to see it work in real life; awesome sauce!

Second of all; the Oregonian is one of two main newspapers in town. Four if you count the pseudo-alternative ones. (And you should. They really have the best information as it relates to Portland metro.) The others; Portland Tribune, Willamette Weekly and Portland Mercury. Then there are a plethora of other niche magazines that appeal to different areas of town and interest groups, etc. Totaling a couple dozen different ways to get the information you need. But the Oregonian? That’s the long fingers the news. And Mr. Rose is known for his sometimes contentious transportation stories.

I almost wanted to decline talking to him.

But then I figured that there are a lot of idiots in the world (insert people who are naive about other people’s disabilities) and if I could at least plug a little bit of knowledge worm in a couple people’s ears then I had done a good job.

And then I read the comments.

As I’ve stated in previous entries, I really, really hate the acronym “NIMBYISM” and until recently didn’t even know what it meant. If you don’t, it means “Not in my backyard.” This is especially frustrating when someone is saying it in the context of, “I’m gonna continue flashing my strobe lights until drivers stop trying to kill me.” That doesn’t even make sense. There are a myriad of studies that show that while flashing lights may help drivers visually see you better, it is more difficult to predict how far or close you are.

What people don’t think about is that epilepsy is a DISABILITY. It’s not just people whining about flashy lights. One of my favorite analogies to use is; if wheelchair users complained about the lack of curb cuts on sidewalks, would people treat them with the same indifference and downright malice in some cases?

In the comments on this article, and this is not the first time that I have read this, people have actually had the gall to say; “Why don’t they just avert their face?” Why don’t wheelchair users just use the side of the street instead of mounting the sidewalk? Do people not realize that it just takes a couple strobes to trigger a seizure!? Apparently not. Furthermore, some people with photosensitive disorders may not have the capacity to whine about it like I do. Some may BE wheelchair users that do not have a voice to say that they are suffering. For some reason, people are under the assumption that it only effects people with epilepsy and that we’re driving. What? We could be pedestrians, waiting for a bus on the sidewalk, passengers in a car, riding a bus, riding a bike or even sitting inside a building.

What this is very reminiscent of, is my recent experience with the Bike Theft Summit. It’s the fact that people have gotten away from the “community” mentality and more towards the “all for themselves” thought process. People are caring less for each other and how their actions effect another person. They are caring less about personal accountability and pushing it off; “I’m not going to do this until this person does this.” I don’t care what the other person fucking does! You should be doing the right thing because it’s the right thing to do! Period!

Stop making excuses.

Event Report: Portland Bike Theft Summit

2014-12-10 18.20.20Bike thieves suck. So it was no surprise when Jonathan Maus posted on BikePortland.org that he would be hosting a Bike Theft Summit at Velocult on 12/10 it resulted in a packed house. Check out BP’s article for the full deets!

Jonathan had sent me an email a few days before the event asking if I was planning on being there because he knew that the topic of people experiencing homelessness and how it related to bike theft would come up during the event and he knew it was something that I was a little experienced with. (Now you know he was planting shills in the audience.) It actually worked out really well because the person that was supposed to show up with the Portland Parks & Rec dept ended up not showing up and. . . . I ended up being part of the first panel discussing Enforcement. (Plus if you know anything about my alter ego life and the non-profit that I started advocating for street musicians, I have no love for PP&R. I will deal with cops any day before those ring wraiths.)

Anyhoo. . . . it was really great. I was sitting next to Marc Jolin, the executive director of JOIN PDX, an agency that focuses on people that are living on the streets or in their car. They have housing, employment and day center services. Then it was Officer David Sanders, a bike cop from the central precinct and at the far end was Vivian Godsey, Multnomah County District Attorney.

Photo by Fred King.

Photo by Fred King.

I had been thinking about what I was going to say when I was at work today. I had the luxury of sitting in a 7 hour webinar where I was able to jot down a few thoughts about what I would say. And becuase I went off notes when I spoke, I have my original notes completely unread by anyone but myself and my two co-workers. Also, my coworkers threatened to steal everyone’s bikes who were at the summit tonight. Because who you have to worry about really is social workers. . .

Putting barriers in the way of supportive services when a person experiencing homelessness makes it nearly impossible for a person to get to an appointment or follow-up on appointments. It creates barriers where the person can get frustrated or discouraged and never engage by getting services.

Applying for assistance programs can be embarrassing, overwhelming or frustrating. Furthermore, many people could have had negative experience with agencies or law enforcement during their homelessness and relate supportive services to those feelings.

When experiencing homelessness it is very hand-to-mouth and many people are simply in basic survival mode. Where can I get food? Not every person feels comfortable going to the many food distribution programs available here in town. Many of them are religious based, and while they may not require prayer, there is stigma behind it. There is also the threat of unsafe situations in these populated areas where if they are a survivor of domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking their abuser could be in these locations.

When it comes to bike theft; this is an unfortunate result of desperation for survival and not by any means limited to the homeless community. When a person is unemployed, maybe they are self-medicating or self-abusing with drugs or alcohol or are just looking for transportation themself to get more easily around the city. Bikes can be a low-hanging fruit as an easy target.

Theft is never right and never justifiable. I am reminded of Proverbs 6:30 “People do not despise a thief if he steals to satisfy his hunger when he is starving.” So excuses might be found for a someone who steals because they are starving. They could be starving in many ways. For shelter, for money, for booze or drugs. For transportation.

What is needed is a well rounded approach in supporting those experiencing homelessness. Currently my agency has an amazing Outreach Street team which goes out and works with those on the streets and meets people where they are. We need more groups like that. We also need more agencies meeting people with well-rounded full service approaches to meet their housing, income, medical and health needs all in one place to better engage with and follow-up with people.

And for those concerned with bike theft; use good locks. More than one if need be. Don’t leave your bike unattended and in an unpopulated area. Especially for long periods of time. Bring it inside if you can. Also, use websites like the bike index, national bike registry and project 529. Register your bike on that last app. 529 is great. There are tiny GPS devices you can glue into your bike now. And if you see something sketchy, talk to the person with the bike or take a photo. If need be, report it. This is all about working together to keep each other safe.

There you go. I went so old school with this, I went Biblical.

What I really enjoyed about the summit (but not really, because how can you enjoy this??) – was the personal stories that were brought. Some of theft, some of vigilantism, some of recovery. Some were bittersweet, a little funny and many were sad.

Remember, if you see something, say something.

The Gift of the Fatty

My boyfriend is almost impossible to shop for when it comes to holiday gifts. Not only is he the retail manager at a bike shop so can get deals on things that I wouldn’t be able to, but also makes more money than I do and lives under the philosophy that if he wants it, and it’s within his means, than he’ll just get it. (You know, within reason and he does know the difference between “needs” and “wants.” Dude has it figured out.) So, when we started dating, and I implemented the “no shopping for yourself after Halloween rule” he wasn’t too thrilled about that one. And doesn’t really abide by that one. (We got Lego Movie for PS3 during a Black Friday sale so I’m not really complaining.)

Needless to say, he told me what he wanted for Christmas. He let me know that every year Fat Cyclist puts out this kit done by Twin Six and this year he wasn’t doing it. Instead, there was a pre-order for a new book by Fatty. He must have the new book and wool jersey and if I didn’t get it for Christmas for him to let him know because he was going to order it for himself.

Okay, easy enough to please. If you don’t follow Fatty’s blog; you should. It’s inspiring, it’s funny – it’s for a good cause; damn it! Last year I went in with Brad and ended up getting some Fatty kit myself, because it was wicked cool looking, all covered in pizza and hotdog spots. The thing is that he’s into donating to causes, such as the Lance Armstrong Foundation and the Huntsman Cancer Institute. The story behind this is sad and beautiful dedication is absolutely admirable and breathtaking. From what I understand, there is a book coming out soon from this perspective.

Anyway, there was a contest that I didn’t even really realize was happening. I think I saw when I ordered the book, but because I’m so meh about these things, it wasn’t a factor in my ordering that I could possibly win any Ibis bike of my choosing and get it pimped out with SRAM components with the assistance of Fatty.

So yeah.

Last night, Brad actually saw the twitter announcement first that someone in Oregon won and told me to check my email. Clever mother fucker.

fatcyclist_articleI did and played it off like there was nothing of importance there when in reality there was something EPIC in my email. A GOD DAMN ELEPHANT OF AN EMAIL! While watching the newest ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ movie (which sucked by the way) I tried to secretly email Fatty and would contact him later.

I’m terrible at keeping secrets and it lasted all of maybe 30 minutes. I tweeted something to Fatty and it posted on my Facebook which Brad saw. Yup. Cat. Bag. Out.

So, I get something really inspiring written about me on Fat Cyclist website. And I am getting a new Ibis bike. Say What!? That’s right. This is some freaking Gift of the Magi shit right there. I don’t even know how to comprehend this right now.

At first I felt guilty for winning because I felt like I should give away the bike to someone else or give it to Brad. However, Brad just brought home a new Twin Six ti fat bike frame last week and has a half built Salsa ti 29er in the garage. So, you know what? My hand-me-down SS Kona Fire Mountain (which is totally great and if someone needs a short track bike you should talk to me and I’ll get you set up for like a hug or Indian food or something.) will just go and sulk by ourselves.

I just need to figure out which frame I want. I thought I had it settled and made the mistake of calling Fatty. He gave me a lot of great advice which just opened the door open for more options so I’m back at square one. But I used me awesome time management skills and set a deadline for myself.

Thank you Fatty for making this a reality. And thank you EsteeFatty. I don’t know who would have been picked for 2nd if you had chosen to take your gift. Probably not me. It was a random generator after all. And had I been chosen 2nd and the bike was chosen by the other person, I’m in no shape to ride the Leadville Trail 100 (though I might have tried out of stubbornness.) You have made my Christmas amazing. If there is anything I can do to help you, please contact me. I have very little money to help with your medical bills (because trust me, I have tons of my own!), but I can cook, clean, play the harp, am an awesome moral support, can run errands, act as an official advocate in social service situations and more.