REVIEW: Showers Pass Body-Mapped Baselayer

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

Somehow.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

They’ll get over it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2015-03-30_09.11.52[1]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Brought to you by the Department of Redundancy Department.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sometimes even BIKELEPTICS need naps.

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

Event Report: Salem Gravel Grinder

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For like the first hour.

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

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

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

I also ate a bug.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And that’s just what we did.

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

Brad rode his fixie to work the next day.

Review + Interview: ‘Bicycling Around the World’

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

I freaking love that!

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

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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.