Article: Guest Speaker on BikePortland Podcast: The Great Blinking Light Debate

If you’ve been following along with my blog the last week, you may have read my two very lengthy articles; “All Lit Up Redux” and “Seizures & Epilepsy – Dispelling Myths” regarding epilepsy and bike light research. You may also be familiar with the original BikePortland article which spurred my interest to compile this data all into one spot. It was something that I wanted to do for a long time, and at one time I had a file cabinet full of amazing stats, figures and studies on lights, helmets, bike lane and all those kinds of bicycle transportation planning goodies. If this cabinet still exists, it’s about 800 miles away and no longer accessible to me.

Such is life.

bp_podcastAfter some tweets (seriously, don’t quote me on this, but I’m pretty certain the topic came to fruition through Twitter) an email came through asking if I would be available to be a guest on BikePortland’s July podcast.

Umm yeah.

Even though I felt uber prepared after all the recent research, it’s still nerve-wracking and anxiety-inducing to be recorded for me. So of course it’s something that I want to push myself to do. I do really well in written interviews or highly edited format and have a history of sounding like an idiot on badly edited or unedited footage. (Not going to provide you direct fodder, but there’s some interesting stuff over at my Article archive if you want to peruse that.)

So it happened. I felt that it went pretty well. What I liked about the experience is that it didn’t feel like I was at a job interview or doing a presentation. It was three people that I have been friends with for years and we were all sitting around talking about things that we talk about pretty much every day all the time.

I mean, yes – there was structure to it. And thankfully some of my flubs were edited out.

To all the fans of my vagal nerve stimulator: (I know you’re out there!) If you listen at 17:47, it’s hardly noticeable unless you’re used to hearing it, but there’s a warble to my voice. THAT IS MY VNS DEVICE ACTIVATING! Kind of sounds like I need water or am talking into a fan, doesn’t it? If I hadn’t pointed it out, no one would notice, I’m sure. But this is the kind of blog where it makes sense to mention it.

I did say something in error at about 16:24 in the podcast. I corrected my mistake in the comments, but I want to apologize and correct it again. I said that 10% of people in the United States are afflicted with epilepsy. That would majorly suck and the already long waits to see neurologists (sometimes 6 – 8 weeks even for established patients) would quadruple. What I meant to say was that 10% of people in the United States will experience a seizure sometime during their lives. I apologize for bungling terms when I just wrote an article differentiating them!

Doh!

Then I went on to say 2 – 4% of those with epilepsy have photosensitive epilepsy. That number is actually 3 – 5%! I really botched the most important part of my guest appearance! No one called me out on that point.

Maybe because no one cares to point out when the stats are actually higher and more detrimental to safety. 

Also in the last week while I was writing the other articles and doing the podcast, I have received several personal emails and comments through my Contact Page from other cyclists with epilepsy or that have family members and friends with photosensitive disorders. Thank you for sharing your personal stories with me and I look forward to speaking more with you in the future. Maybe a guest profile feature in the future!?

More tidbits I found but wasn’t able to fit anywhere in other articles, though seems topical here:

  • Epilepsy accounts for 0.5% of the global burden of disease, a time-based measure that combines years of life lost due to premature mortality and time lived in states of less than full health. Epilepsy has significant economic implications in terms of health-care needs, premature death and lost work productivity. (source)
  • At any one point in time, between 2.2 and 3 million people are treated for epilepsy and it’s the 4th most common neurological condition that affects more than 65 million people worldwide. (source)

brain_tshirtNot only did the podcast launch yesterday, but when I got home from work, in the mail was a stellar package waiting for me!

A twofer!

The day after the BikePortland article on July 8th, one of my favorite websites, woot! offered a daily t-shirt and tank top deal. I didn’t even have a choice but to purchase it. “Enlightenment,” a glow-in-the-dark design available in both men and women’s sizes and shipping is free.

Unfortunately the tank tops are unisex (t-shirts come in male & female sizing though and fit great!) so even purchasing a small; my small frame is inundated by shirt. Conveniently I am in need of a bathing suit cover next month and this fits the bill in length and looseness. I could always run it through the sewing machine or alter it into a skirt this fall or some other bright idea, I’m sure.

Download BikePortland’s Art & Science of Bike Lights @ iTunes

Download the Podcast at Stitcher 

Seizures & Epilepsy – Dispelling Myths

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NW Quimby & 16th, Twitter tedder42

Last week in the earliest fingers of the falsest of dawns, on what did we decide? Monday, July 7th? There once was a man. This man was equipped with a lovely shade of salmon and mango (you know, to match the dawn, or ironically. . . my website layout) rattle cans and very emphatically wrote a clear statement on a sharrow and in the bike lane between NW 16th - NW 20th and NW Quimby - Raleigh. This declaration, whether in rage at the lack of equal rights afforded to certain individuals with invisible disabilities, outrage at cyclist indifference or senseless hooliganism, we will never know. The words he etched: “FUCK YOU AND YOUR EPILEPTIC LIGHTS.”

People noticed. A few commuters took photos of it and tweeted to Jonathan Maus who subsequently wrote about it on his very popular Portland area bike news and online resource site: BikePortland. You can read the original article here. And as with any internet or news article, there came the comments. . . and the commentators. I generally stay away from such things, but I was called out in the article specifically for my article that I wrote back in January 2013 called “All Lit Up” regarding this very subject. If this paragraph sounds familiar, that’s because it should. You’re not going senile and there’s not a glitch in the Matrix. I stole it almost directly from an article I wrote a few days ago called, “All Lit Up: Redux” which is a twinsie article to this one. Speaking of the Matrix, Hugo Weaving has epilepsy!

What really stood out to me is the misinformation and judgement that people were throwing around in the BikePortland comments – I really, really hate to use this word, but it was a kind of NIMBYism that I was kind of shocked to see. When it comes to people with visible and intellectual disabilities such as wheel chair users, amputees, low-visibility, or perhaps someone on the Autism spectrum; the public will generally attempt to make considerations for their condition to make facilities more accessible. But sitting disabilities and invisible disabilities tend to be open to dismissive and sometimes angry resentment.

So what about those invisible disabilities? Bare with me because this is old, but a ‘1994-1995 Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP) found that 26 million Americans (almost 1 in 10) were considered to have a severe disability, while only 1.8 million used a wheelchair and 5.2 million used a cane, crutches or walker (Americans with Disabilities 94-95). In other words, 74% of Americans who live with a severe disability do not use such devices. Therefore, a disability cannot be determined solely on whether or not a person uses assistive equipment.‘ (source)

And that’s just talking about severely disabled. Disability is defined by the ADA as ‘a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities of such individual.’ (source) According to the ADA, to be considered disabled: ‘impairment that substantially limits one major life activity need not limit other major life activities in order to be considered a disability. . .an impairment that is episodic or in remission is a disability if it would substantially limit a major life activity when active.‘ Thus people who are HIV+, suffering from PTSD, dyslexia or from drug/alcohol addiction can be considered disabled.

But enough about defining disability in general. Let’s talk about epilepsy!

SCIENCE!

Continue reading

All Lit Up Redux

Sometime on Monday, July 7th or Tuesday (you know, the 8th) a very determined and irate dude went out in the wee hours of the morning and spray painted the bike lane  and sharrow between NW 16th - NW 20th and NW Quimby. What he wrote across the bike lane in  both a creamy pink and cheery orange spray paint was a very lewd: “FUCK YOU AND YOUR EPILEPTIC LIGHTS.”

I didn’t do it.

But what did happen is people that were commuting took photos of it and tweeted to Jonathan Maus who subsequently wrote about it on his very popular Portland area bike news and online resource site: BikePortland. You can read the original article here. And as with any internet or news article, there came the comments. . . and the commentators. I generally stay away from such things, but I was called out in the article specifically for my article that I wrote back in January 2013 called “All Lit Up” regarding this very subject.

I originally began writing an article regarding dispelling disability myths, but in the course of my writing, I began to bird walk into bike light data and safety. I have separated the two articles for relevance. (Will link the other one when it is completed.)

Let’s talk about bike riding, driving and seizures. Specifically dispelling some misinformation regarding ideals that people seem to have regarding seizure disorders. While I was reading the comments on the BikePortland article, there is as much contention regarding blinking bike lights as there is helmets and wearing headphones.

Unfortunately bike lights border into an ADA issue whereas the other two do not. There was a comment on the BP article where a person asked several questions. One of them was: What it actually takes to get a driver’s attention? 

Let’s look at that, shall we?

Continue reading

Event Report: The Bike Fair

This last Saturday, June 28th was the last day of Pedalpalooza! For those of you not from Portland or not “in the know” that is a 3 weekish long bike event that usually has up to almost 300 layman-led bike rides/events. Is that the right way to say that? Anyone can put a ride on the calendar! It always starts with the Kickoff Ride and ends with the Multnomah County Bike Fair. This year we have re-branded it is simply “The Bike Fair” for a variety of reasons. For one, Pedalpalooza actually isn’t “countyist.” (Get it? It’s a joke. Like being racist. Come on people.) Some rides will go into all of the tri-county area. And that’s awesome. Let’s not limit ourselves! Also, it’s kind of stuffy. While that’s what we’ve called it for something likebikefair2014 10 years and it brings the idea of carnivals and funnel cakes, the re-branding gives it a breath of fresh air. To accompany this one of the organizers; Ashley Thirtyseven created a woodcut and created the most beautifully serene poster. Unfortunately at the event she was injured and, such a trooper (I of all people can understand her pain, was like that for the following two days) was directing from a chair. Even if I had to remind her to go back to the chair sometimes.

Skipping ahead a moment because I love this woodblock design so much. Ashley and our other organizers (whom I will name throughout the article) did an amazing job. The poster was then designed I believe I recall by Mike & Sonja of Bike Punk Design. What then happened towards the end of the event was magic. Mike & Sonja have a 3D printer. They made a cut-out of the tree/bike and attached it to a hammered copper display and presented it to Ashley. I tried to get a photo but was shooed away.

I meant to show up about noonish to help set up but was having sound system issues. I didn’t know how spread out the site was going to be this year. Sometimes when the venue is more spread out it’s good to have music in your booth if you can’t hear the main stage. Awkward silence is well. . . awkward. I like to jam out if I’m gonna be jamming out all day. Soooo, I didn’t get there until a little before 2pm. Thankfully the event starts at 2pm and usually it’s not so busy right at the start. Also it starts sprinkling. I actually stopped riding on the way to Col Summers Park from my place and pulled out my rain jacket. Which is silly since I was wearing bootie shorts and tights, but better to not be completely soaked, right? I also stopped right BEFORE I got there to put my rain jacket away because the rain had stopped, crank up the tunes and pull out my cowboy hat. Gotta arrive in style.

Me = Showboat.

It was glorious. The last couple of years had been great and fine and everything, but the location were not that official. It’s more of a hassle to have beer (thanks to fabulous Hopworks Urban Brewery) and deal with OLCC, checking IDs, fencing and all that. But all in all, on a personal opinion – and coming from a background of marketing to demographics; we had several food vendors and other vendors. I think we could have attracted more. When we show our successes from this year, I think that next year will be even bigger. I feel that maybe vendors may have been reluctant to commit to the event because of our last couple of years in being in an unofficial capacity but will be more likely to get on board with us in the future.

And about 2:30 the monsoon arrived. Thankfully everything as far as I could tell had been set up for the most part and not many guests had arrived yet. Those that were there dived under all the pop-up tents regardless if you were part of that bike club or business. It was a forced “get to know the people you are sharing a tent with” bonding exercise. And while the rain only really lasted about 10 – 15 minutes, it was a really cool moment where you got to chat with people that you knew and some people that you didn’t know. All activities stopped and nothing seemed quite so urgent for that moment. And when it stopped we all went back to the tasks that needed to be finished.

Then it got hot. It was already kind of warm, but now to add wet in the mix, it became muggy.

Thank goodness I wore like three different outfit combinations in anticipation for the day. I was planning on being backup relief for the Beer Czar, Kahlil who was a rockstar to our volunteers at the beer station. I was mostly heading up the Shift swag booth selling some fantastic 2014 Pedalpalooza shirts as well as some from years past. The Bike Fair is really your only chance to get them. We don’t sell them online and maybe at one or two other events throughout the year so they’re super rare!

I knew I wasn’t going to joust this year. My back has been hurting too much recently and the last couple times I’ve jousted have either ended up really hurting myself or really good. Plus, I no longer have any gear and borrowing a helmet and padding doesn’t always end well. Here’s a flickr set from my 2012 1st joust.

But Sysfail, the DJ called for “Tall Bike Ring Toss” for an event. Two riders tossing as many tires as they can onto cones within 2 minutes? No chance of combat? I was totally in on that. And I did well, too. While waiting, I stripped down of my Black Star belt pouch and cowboy hat so I’d be more streamlined. Then I realized that I would be going up against Carl who was wearing a pink cowboy hat. My hat went back on. If you’re going to have a showdown you gotta do it right. Carl was one of my co-organizers (and friend) from the WNBR. He also helped out with the Bike Fair and has been a long-time bikey person of note. He’s also a big fat cheater.

ringtoss2014We ended up tying on the first round and so we had to face off for a 2nd face-off. Immediately instead of, as the name of the game describes, toss, Carl proceeded drop his entire tire load off at a cone and then hurried to the other cone and tall-bike block me! Not full contact, my ass! I hurled a tire at him. Needless to say, he ended up winning the coveted pink money sign glasses, but it was close. I think I ended up losing by 3 points.

They also had a “Slow Race,” which in the last person to cross the finish line without going backwards or sideways wins. A bike limbo, “bunny hop” competition, tall bike jousting, pie jousting and more!

BikePortland wrote about it here. BP also wrote a special article because it happened to be the Sprockettes 10th anniversary. It was super cool because they had a lot of retired members come and perform or just show up to support them. Jonathan’s wife used to perform with them and he now has two daughters whom I assume go to their summer camps. Because you know, Girl Power!

I also found a great photo article on the Dingo Dizmal blog. I didn’t even see him taking photos. I assume Olive was because he was MCing for a great deal of the day. If you don’t know who are these dynamic duo are; they’re a fantastic clowning tall-bike couple. They do weekly public kid groups but also are available for birthday parties to make balloon animals and paint faces, etc.

All in all it ended up being a fantastic day. Weather ended up being super warm. Tons of people. Great events. Great vendors. Highly successful from my perspective and super thrilled to be back at Col Summers Park.

7 Months Later – VNS Device Surgery

Well, it’s been a long road (I say, as if I’ve reached the end of it, but really, I’m like 2 blocks into a journey) – as of May 23, 2014 I have had my vagal nerve stimulator implanted for 7 months! That’s right. I became a cyborg on November 23, 2013. You can read about it here. Complete with video!

The reason why I don’t talk about my specific medication is because I am not a doctor or a health care professional. Everyone has specific needs and diagnoses. While I totally encourage research when your doctor talks to you about a new option, your body and individual cocktail is going to react differently than mine. Positive and negative side effects or reactions are based on your own personal chemistry, allergies, diet, exercise, sleep and more. I don’t want you becoming biased (if even unconsciously) due to something that happened to me. I DO recommend that you check out the community forums at Epilepsy.com if you want to ask or read about specific medications and numerous other sites.

Now onto the good stuff.

My most recent tune-up was on the 2nd of June, a couple weeks ago – which reminds me that I need to get some blood work done this week to check my new levels for my antiepileptic meds. At that point we lowered my meds again. We’ve been lowering my main antiepileptics for about 2 months now very slowly. I still have my “emergency pills” in case my VNS device fails or I need additional support. These generally are a quick acting anticonvulsants. However, I have been maxxed out on my main meds for a long time. Like, concerningly maxxed out. To toxic levels. So, in 2 months I have gone down 20% for my nightly dosage and 40% of my morning dosage!  My neurologists have told me that I will probably always have to take meds, but this is substantial!

So what about my VNS device? Again, same as medication, people’s devices are set to what is therapeutic to them. This may be higher or lower than what mine is at. I am going to provide you with my settings only because I have a lot of engineer friends and it’s pretty cool information! If you’re reading this and have a much lower setting or a much higher setting, remember that there are other factors – medication, body size, seizure frequency, tolerance, etc.

Output current: 2.5mA / 20Hz / PW 250 microsec
Impedance value 3050 ohms
Magnet current: 2.75mA

*NOTE: For some reason this video filmed mirrored, which is apparently a common issue with my laptop. I didn’t have a program that would do this simple flipping task. I realized that it probably only annoys me. My sleeve tattoo is on my left arm and the device is implanted on the left side.

WNBR – Portland Official Count!

I got the email the other night and kept my mouth shut. It was so difficult. I was so excited. Waited on bated breath. But finally we released it via Twitter yesterday! So many happy people this year! You can read my post about WNBR here!

wnbrcount

WNBR Portland 2014 Exposed

WNBR 2014 posterIt’s finally over. As I sit here Monday morning, still exhausted from a long weekend, achy joints and stiff back I can be satisfied in that one fact. It’s not that I hate it – far from it! I absolutely LOVE WNBR and this year will mark my sixth year on the volunteer organizer commitee – it’s more like that long pause in between planning for next year. I walked to work bleary eyed on Sunday morning with a wonderful thought that I had planned out my month wonderfully and everything was lining up very neatly in my schedule planning. This event ending so I can enjoy Pedalpalooza and finish tying up the loose ends of my tiny event and then focus on finishing the planning of The Bike Fair at the end of the month.

WNBR doesn’t really start on June 7th. Far from it. In fact the organizers generally meet sometime midsummer to talk about the successes and struggles of the current year’s event. Painstakingly go over video footage of the event to get the best estimate we can of participants and prepare for late summer’s volunteer appreciation party. That’s right – we have a big ol’ hoopla to celebrate the dozens of great people that give their time to to help make this happen before, during and after the ride. Volunteering is a great way to give back to the event and it can include everything from fundraising, crowd control, on-ride medic, marshal, mechanic, picking up trash, set-up/take-down and more. Most of the volunteer positions allow you to still actually participate in the ride.

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Photo By Jonathan Maus

I want to give a shout-out to so many volunteers. I apologize that I didn’t get most of your names. Specifically at the beginning of the ride, we had a new position this year; our “Gate Keepers!” These were a team that Timur and I headed up that widened the exit from the park and kept spectators from stepping out into the street. This group of about six people stood holding police line (I actually think it was ‘danger asbesto’ tape) to gently hold people back and firmly tell people to keep up on the sidewalk so the riders to get through. You are all awesome for being out on the front line! Thank you!

Special thanks to a volunteer named Luna who was the ONLY volunteer to stay after the ride left to assist with garbage pick-up duty. Unfortunately she was unable to participate in the ride due to a knee issue. But I got to benefit with her help. Yay me! She, a (probably bored) security officer and I together broke down our volunteer station and then began gathering the garbage and recycling before a couple of the other organizers and volunteers came back from enjoying the ride to assist. We got the site cleaned up, made a final round and I was on my bike with trailer hitched to leave by 11:20pm. Then a second group a volunteers came by early the next morning to do a second cleaning sweep by the light of day. I was happily informed that it looked great and as usual.

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Random BikePortland article comment

So what about the planning process? The sooner the better is the optimum thought here. In fact there is already a bullet point list flying about outlining to-do lists and things like that. Just because we are volunteers doesn’t mean we are amateurs when it comes to event planning. Many of the organizers have backgrounds in event planning, media, marketing, volunteer coordinating and all sorts of varied backgrounds which make this event great. We try to start meet up in the fall once a month, communicating a lot by email and then as it becomes closer to the event meeting more often to ensure that all our bases our covered.

And that finally brings us to Saturday morning. I took the day off from work so I could sleep in, which meant that I woke up at 8:30 instead of 5:30 in the morning. Woohoo! I then just took it easy that morning and ate some food, started working on my to-do list from home, packed up my trailer and was on my way to the start location, arriving at 5pm.

There was already a couple dozen people milling about the park and a body painter set up on the grass with a huge ol’ mirror in the middle of the park where several people had been getting gussies up. We were able to touch bases on what needed to go on that evening and who was doing what, and then it started happening. Riders began showing up – and so did the creepers. My boyfriend, despite not feeling well all week stopped by on his way home from work to see if I needed anything to eat. He let me know afterwards that he was talking to a couple of spectators that said that they had been standing around watching, were leaving to go to dinner and then planned on coming back to watch. That’s just icky. Who does that? “Hey honey, whaddya want to do tonight? Play Scrabble? Go to the movies? Stand in the field and watch naked people like a bunch of creepers?” Seriously. If you want to support the ride but don’t want to actually go on the ride, give the fundraiser volunteers money, wear a bathing suit or take off your shirt so at least you seem like you fit in. Volunteer! Pick up some trash or something.

Every year we have the painstaking task of figuring out where to contain thousands of naked cyclists before the event. This is just one of dozens of action items that we have to accomplish in order for this event to succeed. This is actually one of the more priority items. Like top three. Last year when we had that amazing opportunity to have our event at the Portland Art Museum I was unable to attend due to my appendix removal, but that was apparently a fantastic location. I mean, you got to go tour the museum in the buff! Every location has its pros and cons, though. Being downtown has its cons last year. In previous years we were in a field were we had to mow it for hours  and pick up all variety of unmentionable debris prior to the event. The unique qualities of this location was that it was in a residential neighborhood away from downtown. Why is this notable? Specifically because of one curmudgeon neighbor. Despite doing everything by the book, following all the steps we needed to do as required to hold our event, we were suddenly getting more attention than normal. I mean, people love to talk about WNBR and it is a ratings grabber, but this was moreso than usual. One article after another and at the head of the anti-WNBR bandwagon was this one woman. Honestly, I can maybe remember one other interview that wasn’t done by her. In one article it stated that her husband collected 25 signatures from neighbors. A whopping 25! She states that she is a tax-payer and so something MUST be done! I hate to remind her that all this exposure in the media tells me is that she 1) has no understanding of how the law works, 2) has no understanding of how taxes work and who tax-payers are, 3) in a previous year tried to drive through a protest that was currently in process instead of wait a few minutes for it to pass, showing her anger management issues. . . so in honor of her, I have designed a commemorative bike-tube sticker straight from one of her interviews.

wnbr_sticker

You can buy yours today and I promise to fork over a portion of the proceeds to help pay off all our operation costs from this year and then if there’s anything left over it will roll over into the fund for next year. (Delivery for stickers estimated to begin 6/23)

But going back to all the media coverage! It was a little cray-cray for a moment there. We literally reached meme status. I mean there was a fake article going around on a couple sites . It states ridiculous claims such as: “Their “pre-ride” ritual involves watching adult films and consuming large quantities of hard liquor, and cocaine. After reaching dangerous levels of intoxication, the bicyclists descend upon the helpless berg for a night of unbridled, lawless debauchery.” [source link] As awesome as this sounds, (don’t do drugs, drink and ride bikes kids) our bike ride was really lame to what this description makes it out to be. The article also included every other bit of made up detail like the wrong name for the police commissioner (there’s no one working for the entire county named Jeff Adams), according to our social media stats that’s all wrong. I tried to read another entry of her’s, but she started talking about facts and backing it up with the Bible so I had to stop. On another site they seem to have been a spin-off of the first. But it was less opinionated content and slightly harder to immediately determine as satire. My favorite part on this one was, “...anyone found to be participating in this year’s World Naked Bike Ride will be arrested on the spot, and charged with felonious indecent exposure. If convicted, the criminals could face a minimum of one year in prison, and will be forced to register as a sex offender.” 

My focus on site was social media coverage! Armed with my ipad mini, a wifi hotspot device, my cellphone and my camera I spent the  beautiful 67 degree evening hyperfocused on tweeting and facebooking all the greatest of WNBR coverage. This year I tried out an app on both my android phone and ipad called Sprout Social. I signed up for it the morning of the event and used the free trial so I don’t know how the paid versions are any better, but what I did like about it is that you can add “keywords” to search for (aka hashtags) so I loaded it up with key phrases like “pdxwnbr, worldnakedbikeride, nakedbikeride” and things like that. Throughout the evening I could check up and answer any questions people may have and send messages. The organizers also used the app GroupMe this year for the first time. This app was phenomenal. We set up two separate channels, one for the admin and one for the mechanics/marshals – and it made communication between volunteers and organizers so easy. There was one incident towards the beginning of the ride were a guy showed up at the volunteer station with his chain jammed in his derailleur. I had no tools there so I sent a text on the mechanic channel asking if there were any mechanics near by and a moment later got a reply saying that someone could come in 2 minutes. The system worked!

On a personal level, the WNBR has always been a very important milestone in my Portland history. Back in May 2009, I attended my very first SHIFT monthly meeting. I’ve mentioned this before, but if you’re a charismatic cult leader, if you could do me a favor and just avoid me. . . because that SHIFT meeting. . . I just stuck. I mean, hook, line and sinker. They were looking for volunteers to help out at the 2009 WNBR and that was how I ended up decorating the dance party location for a “Where the Wild Things Are” theme. It reminds me of my inauguration into the bike community – of how I started actually making friends here in Portland. So while the ride is protesting oil dependency, promoting body positivity and highlighting cyclist vulnerability, to me it is  also celebrating Portland, bikes and good friends.

REVIEW (AND COMMENTS): “Cycling Sojourner: A Guide to the Best Multi-Day Tours in Washington”

*Note: I used Google Maps to look over the routes on a lot of these trips. I saw  Washington Bikes of which proceeds of this book go to use GMaps as well. They also use Twitter crowd sourcing to find their routes, I found out when I was following the executive director while writing this article. I highly suggest to thoroughly route out your trips beforehand and to invest in a GPS device that will show you topographic charting. You don't have to get the most expensive one. In  fact some of the more expensive ones tend to drain their batteries quicker.*

One of my favorite childhood memories is multi-day trips around Washington. Of course, that’s not what I called them then. They were called “summer vacation,” “camping,” “winter vacation,” or the most dreaded of all, “road trips.” (As a unique bonus and peek into my life, almost every weekend for most of my pre-teen/teen years we traveled all over Washington, Oregon and Idaho as a family to take part in Society for Creative Anachronism events.)

cswaI would like to say that I am familiar with Washington state.

 Needless to say, last fall when Ellee Thalheimer announced her Kickstarter campaign for this book, I was stoked. I wasn’t deterred by the fact that when successful, delivery date wasn’t set for over four months later. Some people might not want to commit to a purchase that wouldn’t come to fruition right away. To me, that was part of the adventure. As someone that is slowly working on their own bike touring guide (that’s supposed to be a secret project. Shhh.) this really appealed to me and I wanted to get in on the advance copy deal. And I know of Ellee from the bike community. Last time I saw her, she was pretty pregnant and still hauling away on the bike. You can’t tell me that’s not commitment to her mission.

Fiiiinnnaallly the emails and announcements start coming in that the book was done. I actually heard about it through a Bike Portland book review at the beginning of April. Say What?! I hadn’t received mine yet, and they posted a review with a link on how to pre-order them. I was a little miffed, but mine finally came in the mail mid-May.

Then I tore through it like a cyclocrosser through mud.

And then I read it again more thoroughly. Then again and took some notes. Then I called my mom. (For those not in the know, I am a 3rd generation lady bike tourer. Both my mom and grandmother were known for biking up and down Western Washington’s non-existent and developing infrastructure. And it was hardcore then. Think 70s velcro and thin leather straps on tool roll kits, external frame backpacks, heavy bikes, etc.)

On the title page of the book, Ellee hand wrote an autograph stating, “You’re the best! Love, Ellee” – I hope she doesn’t regret it.

The book is broken up into nine rides. What I appreciate is her attention to detail. Each ride is ranked by varying difficulties: 3.5 to 8.2. By days: 2 to 7. By Jaw Drop Factor: 6 to 9. And then time of year. She varies the way she lists this between “late spring to fall” and then alternates consistency by actually using months (generally April to October) on others. Which, in my opinion is about the same thing. (Though if you have ever been to NW Washington “late spring” could also mean  late June  and even then it’s kind of dicey.)

What I also found out very quickly in my fervent scouring of her pages is that I can’t scour too hard. Not like a brillo or like you’re cleaning cast iron. More like a gentle loofah. Why? I ripped out a page!!! That’s when I realized that the entire 240 page book is comprised of easy tear perforated sheets. I’m concerned for the longevity of the book as I’ve had it less than a month and it’s already beginning to feather along the top and become mangled in my possession. I realize the idea is to tear out the cue sheets, etc. However, unintentional page popping isn’t ideal. Also, using my cell phone as a place marker may have contributed, but I can only imagine the other crap that would get jammed up into it if I threw it into my pannier. A page! Where’s the scotch tape!?

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Ride Report: Pedalpalooza Kickoff Ride

pp2014It’s that beautiful time of year again! Twenty-three glorious days of themed bike rides. 278 of them to be exact on the Pedalpalooza calendar, that is. And it all started yesterday, Thursday June 5th 2014 with the official Pedalpalooza Kickoff ride as it traditionally does.

I got there wicked early at about 5:30pm, but wasn’t sure of how long my commute was going to be. There were already a couple very committed people lingering around waiting for something to happen.

The group that was in charge of the kickoff ride had been to the start location a little earlier and then left to do their own relay. They are doing a “Ride Hard Party Hard” contest during Pedalpalooza which includes keeping of tally of not only how many events they attend during this glorious month, but their consumption rate. . . so there’s that.

As people started to assemble I took it upon myself to beckon them towards our ragged bunch and assure people that the ride leaders would be happening - that it wasn’t even 6pm - (the event details said meet-up at 6pm and ride at 7pm anyway.)  But then it happened.

Photo by Hart Noecker

I don’t know when it happened. I had my back turned or I sneezed or was talking to someone, but we went from a ragged group of maybe a dozen people meandering about to a swelling crowd. I got a shout-out from one of the ride marshalls during the actual ride who said that by his count it was about 410!

It was a gorgeous day for it by the way. Sunny, in the mid-60s. No breeze really. (Though I had a wicked headwind COMING to the event.) 

The route was about 7 miles and very flat. A couple roads that we took, though I am no scaredy-cat to riding, I was a little, “Ok…?” when we started turning, but because we were such a large group that was overtaking. . . shall I dare to say a ‘critical mass’ that it wasn’t a problem for the few blocks up MLK Blvd.

We ended at Velocult where they apparently weren’t expecting the company. However, they were having live bluegrass music and belly dancers inside.

All in all a great evening of hanging out with people in the community – some I haven’t seen since last summer.

Event: Oregon Active Transportation Summit Re-Cap

The Oregon Active Transportation Summit happened to fall on April 21st & 22nd, a Monday and Tuesday. Lucky enough for me, those are the days that I’m off from work. I eagerly registered for the two-day event, signed up for some mobile workshops and then waited with bated breath until the that very early Monday morning for the complimentary breakfast, check-in and opening welcome statement.

I had the grand opportunity to live-tweet throughout the event along with many other bloggers, urban planners and political mucky-mucks. Which you can peruse here.

So, what happened? Besides arriving ridiculously early Monday morning to listen to Mayor Hales soliloquy on about he’s committed to bicycle safety [despite the fact that he blocks every sidewalk, pedestrian and bike safety plan that comes by his desk unless or until it escalates into the death of a child.] *jab jab jab* - Meh. I didn’t vote for him.

I voted for the Sean Connery emulator. You know, the one that believes that women need to be “smacked around” sometimes. Sigh. Yeah. That one.

Anyway, on Monday they had the morning plenary, which honestly I have no idea what that word means. So, I just looked it up. It means all in attendance at the conference. I thought it meant panel; as in they’d have several different people talking and the moderator would ask them questions: because that’s what happened. Format, I suppose.

The theme of the conference and of the morning gathering was: “Equitable, Inclusive, and Diverse: how do we prepare for the future of active transportation in Oregon?” – I noticed the theme of the conference was the world’s longest titles of sessions. There was some compound-title/subtitle blending going on in the house.

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The breakout sessions are what people were really there for. And I suppose networking. I ended up talking to a lot of really fantastic people from ODOT, PBOT, urban city planners, some people that had traveled from Texas and Michigan for the event who are involved in the bicycle transportation with their cities. It was really pretty fascinating.

We all got to listen to how Oregon’s population is growing  and increasingly multicultural. How we can focus on demographic changes and the opportunity to update our communities’ approach with public engagement, providing access to the benefits of active transportation, and becoming more inclusive. And of course to make sure the civic and economic benefits of investing in active transportation benefit all of our communities’ residents. (Seriously, I just reworded that from the website.)

Then we broke up to the 1st morning breakout session. Monday had about a dozens different sessions to choose from. It’s a bummer that they don’t have any “do-overs” because there are some that I would have liked to attend, but because they were conflicting with others I chose the more relevant one that was geared towards what I work with over the one that I “wanted” to go to because it interested me on a personal level.

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