Archive for April, 2012

April 21, 2012

Just Capital! The Blogspedition Heads to Washington, DC

This coming week I get to appreciate our nation’s capitol yet again on an annual trip I make as part of a community delegation to meet with our federal elected officials, their staff, and various agencies on behalf of Spokane priorities.

Since these include projects of the university where I head up communications and public affairs I’m working while I’m there, but the schedule does have some gaps that may permit me to check out the Capital Bikeshare program or rent a bike from a local shop and pedal up and down the Mall a bit. I usually walk myself into the ground squeezing in museum visits between meetings–a bike would make it all so much easier and more efficient!

Meanwhile, as with my trip to New York City in February, I’m doing a blogspedition round-up in honor of the trip. I’ll also share some impressions of the biking the way I did for the Big Apple.

Washington, DC, has a number of active bloggers, and without further ado, here they are!

  • A Girl and Her Bike: Kate is keeping up with her 30 Days of Biking riding and posting here and at Tales from the Sharrows too. You can catch up with her via Twitter at @girlonabikedc. What you may not learn unless you dig a bit more is that she’s a DC police officer and once got hit on her bike by a guy who did it deliberately, then tried to get away with it. Bad idea. That particular post has great advice in case you’re involved in a hit and run, by the way. (Hint: The police arrest drivers, not cars; go ahead and memorize the license plate if you can but get a really good look at the driver and passengers first.)
  • Bicycling to Work: Char blogs about her 14-mile daily round trip into DC with stories about chains, reflective vests, and all that good commute stuff.
  • CAWES Cycling: Racers with nicknames like Princess Leah, Raspa, Grizzly, and Lemming blog here about their experiences trying to move up in category, win, or just survive, and their work to support the IM Able Foundation, which works to inspire “all individuals, disabled and able-bodied, realize the potential to go further and push harder than their preconceived limits.” (I’m heading over to post a link about this on the Veterans’ Day post I wrote about groups and efforts like this.)
  • Chasing Mailboxes: She’s @gypsybug on Twitter and she rides some seriously crazy mileage in addition to commuting!
  • Mastering the Uphill Shift: @BloomingCyclist tells it like she sees it, including stories of those times when a ride doesn’t turn out all that great. She also hangs out on Tumblr at The Uphill Shift, where you’ll find a big set of photos of male bike-racing hotties. Enjoy!
  • Pedal ‘n’ Purl: @nikki_d bikes and knits, a combination I run across frequently in these blogs (hey, that would make for a great blogspedition! Coming soon.) and writes about her canning over at Gin and Pickles (getting pickled more than one way?).
  • Sticky Femme: Her Tumblr site mostly consists of very happy photos of dates with her sweetie and mentions of fabulous restaurants. This is a key site for me since I’m going to be eating out a lot this coming week! She’s @stickyfemme on Twitter.
  • Where the Bike Takes Me: It’s defunct (last post in 2009) but I’m capturing it here for posterity. It may symbolize a stat I just got from Andrea (soon to be a guest blogger here!), that 95% of all personal blogs are abandoned. It’s just possible that the final post’s reference to an “ever-growing belly” means that motherhood took over blogging time….
  • Will Bike for Change (or Pie!): My favorite title of all of these! She offers up a great mix of ride reports and passionate advocacy, and who doesn’t love pie? I’m thinking we’re long-lost sisters. She’s @willbikeforchange on Twitter.

Related Reading

Your Turn

  • Do you have any travel plans coming up?
  • Do they involve riding a bike?
  • Have any special requests for a blogspedition? Doesn’t have to be geographical–could be thematic (like the knitting bikers/biking knitters one mentioned above) or based on anything I might be able to tease out of the list.
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April 11, 2012

30 Days of Biking: Hills and Miles and Darkness, Oh My!

Today’s easy-squeezy 8.4 miles, broken up into nice manageable chunks of 10 minutes or less, nonetheless provided plenty of reminders of yesterday’s butt-burner: over 27 miles total, with a huge chunk of that spent slogging slowly up a hill climb that I thought would never end.

But it was fun, honest!

The set-up: I did my usual quick little ride to work, sprinting because I was going to be late to a meeting and beating my “race time” by at least 30 seconds.

After work I dressed in one of my cute little Nuu-Muus, a pair of actual (gasp!) bike shorts (couldn’t find the adorable lace-trimmed Sheila Moon lingerie knickers, alas, and decided I’d ride with more padding than Pedal Panties provide), and a white Sheila Moon bolero, along with (another gasp, please) bike shoes that let me clip in.

Just the thing for a nice long ride out to Spokane County Raceway Park, where Sweet Hubs and his compatriots were pitted against each other in the first of the season’s Twilight Series Road Race put on by his club, Baddlands.

Google Maps results list for routes from Riverpoint Campus to Spokane County Raceway ParkRoute selection required some comparisons of Google Maps choices. They offered three, with the kind suggestion, “Or take Public Transit” linked below, in case the idea of a ride of 9-10 miles with hill climbs (no matter what) didn’t appeal.

Their first proposed bike route, West Trails road accessed through the West Central neighborhood and Riverside State Park, involved dropping clear down to the Spokane River Gorge and climbing back up out of it. Beautiful, sure, but can’t we stay on top of the grade?

Route 1: West Trails via West Central neighborhood and a lot of extra climbing.

Route 2, while a mile shorter, carries with it a more hostile traffic setting, taking Sunset Boulevard (not bad) to US-2 (not good, although I’ve ridden it before—the highway is the main route to a correctional facility, a casino, and Fairchild Air Force Base, making it busy and full of people who may or may not want to be making that particular trip). The one thing this route does get almost right is the section from downtown west to the decision point where you have to head toward West Trails or stay on Sunset Boulevard.

Route 3, Government Way and West Trails, again has part of it right. But someone needs to ask Google Maps programmers, “Pretty please could you take terrain into account, by which we mean grade?” This route, too, drops you down into the river gorge, this time via Peaceful Valley, then brings you back up out.

Getting closer, but still some unnecessary concessions to gravity.

The key to my route selection, since I’m not training for the Tour de France, sounds a lot like advice in drawing up battle lines: Hold the high ground for as long as possible.

As soon as you start enjoying one of those exhilarating “Wheeee!” moments down a long hill the back of your brain should remind you that riding a bike is like riding a roller coaster: A down is generally followed by an up that will be a lot slower and not nearly as fun.

So the route I chose is the Barb route, based on feeling comfortable enough to skip the Centennial Trail and stick to streets that are straighter, knowing neighborhoods to cut through to skip some of the streets with more traffic, and eliminating as much climbing as possible for as long as possible.

  • Spokane Falls Boulevard around to where it connects to the short stretch of bike lane on Riverside Avenue, then into Browne’s Addition onto Pacific.
  • Through the roundabout at Cannon by The Elk (a bike-friendly restaurant!) and down to Sunset Boulevard.
  • To Government Way and out past the turn to Spokane Falls Community College. Not long after that stoplight, Government Way becomes West Trails and you start to cliiiiiiiiiiimb.
  • West Trails becomes Hayford Road, you take a quick right on Sprague, and you’re practically there. Or if you’re me, you go past “there” and end up visiting the vicinity of the correctional facility before backtracking and wending in through the construction to the raceway exactly an hour after I set off.

Where—ta-da!—I arrived in time to give Sweet Hubs a good-luck kiss before sending him off with the rest of the B-pack for their criterium (several fast laps around a relatively short, flat track). He won with a nice sprint at the end, which is a great payoff for all those winter nights he spent on the trainer in front of a movie.

We then rode home together through the gathering darkness, shivering a bit (wish I’d had those knickers to cover my knees!) until the ride warmed us.

The downhill “Wheee!” was incredibly fast considering how long it took me to climb going the other way. I couldn’t believe it when we’d already reached the traffic light by SFCC and I knew we had just a few more miles and a bit more climbing, thankfully separated by some straight stretches and downhill rests, and we’d be home.

We heard frogs singing their hearts out, felt the difference in temperature as we entered the urban core and felt the day’s warmth radiating out, and made it home safe and sound with 27-1/2 miles on my cyclometer and 1,392 calories burned according to my heart monitor dealio.

And today, I felt every single mile in my legs when I climbed, whether it was climbing a hill on my bike or a set of stairs at work to help rack up the mileage on my pedometer. It will be a couple of days before I try anything like that long a ride again, but it felt great to be able to do it.

I want to build back up to the mileage I used to accumulate that made it easy to plan a 30-40-mile ride with Sweet Hubs and I have to start somewhere.

Just, maybe . . . somewhere flatter?

Related Reading

Your Turn

  • Climbed any really long hills/mountains? (Lately or ever?)
  • What’s the hardest part of it for you and how do you deal with that?
April 8, 2012

30 Days of Biking: Why Week 1 Doesn’t Have 7 Days of Riding in It, and why that’s OK

The ride reports for 30 Days of Biking hold me accountable, but they can’t change what life throws at you, so I’m not going to ride 30 days in April. And you know what? I’m okay with that.

When I set a goal—for the first time ever—of riding a certain number of miles and a certain number of days this year, probably the wisest reaction I got was from Kent Peterson, who writes Kent’s Bike Blog. After providing a link to a mileage tracker that gives you medals, he said, “…in the past few years I’ve gone the complete opposite in terms of mileage and instrumentation. I haven’t had a mileage computer on my bike for a couple of years. I often take pictures and write down stories, however.”

Yes he does, and I enjoy reading those stories. He has chosen mindfulness (one of my three watchwords for 2012 riding) over record-keeping.

I have reflected on that wisdom several times as I’ve had various reasons for not riding. Being really sick was an obvious one, and it took a while to come back from that. While I’m pretty hardcore as far as the weather I’m willing to ride in, preferring fresh air and people-powered movement over other options, the winter that waited until early spring to show up has presented a few days when riding really would have represented misery, not joy. That’s not why I ride.

And then there was this week. After getting off to a start with two very different days I had a “normal” day—riding to work and back.

That was followed by a trainer day on which I chose to throw my bike on the trainer in the evening and pedal far longer than I would have on the road. I’d had to drive to Pullman and back that day in pretty blizzardy conditions—a freakish snowstorm pounded the Palouse so I had three hours of nerve-straining car mileage. All I would have managed on the street would have been another token loop around the block. Since I do ride for health benefits as well as joy and transportation, I decided to burn more calories and work on building endurance for longer rides with Sweet Hubs.

Friday and Saturday I didn’t ride.

I didn’t ride because one of my favorite uncles passed away very unexpectedly and I went to the funeral.

For a brief moment I flirted with the idea of breaking my bike down and packing it into the back of my sister’s car so I could do token rides around the block in Lewiston, Idaho, where we were born and where the service was held.

Really? I really would have put keeping on track with a self-imposed series of checkmarks on a list over and ahead of these things?

  • paying attention to my family
  • celebrating my uncle’s incredible life
  • laughing at funny stories compiled by my aunt about his shenanigans–he was always one for a good laugh and a practical joke
  • mourning his passing, which came just six days after they discovered he had the same kind of silent, insidious cancer that killed Steve Jobs
  • sitting and talking with my siblings and drinking wine
  • catching up with my cousins, including my cousin who looks so much like his now-gone dad that I cried every time I hugged him
  • visiting my parents and holding my mother’s hand while she told me long stories full of gibberish because she has vascular dementia but at least she still laughs and smiles
  • staying up late into the night talking with my younger sister in our shared hotel room and sharing a piece of chocolate cream pie for breakfast (hey, we were hungry and it has dairy, right?)

In another post I mentioned getting a lift home in my husband’s truck and why I don’t think of that as something for which I need to apologize, which I imagine comes as a surprise to people who think I’m “too hardcore” for that.

I’m not. And being with my family and realizing all over again how fragile and short life is, how important it is to make every moment count, for me reflects the reason I ride my bike—the reason I pay attention—at a far deeper level than a calendar ever could.

April 2, 2012

30 Days of Biking: Starting off with Very Different Days

30 Days of Biking has only one rule: Ride your bike every day.Signing up for 30 Days of Biking “forces” riding on you. That isn’t an issue when you love to ride–or it shouldn’t be. But sometimes the day sort of sneaks away from you….

As did Day #1! I spent the day working away at my computer, watching a typical early spring day for Spokane: Snow, rain, wind, sun, rain, snow, wind. May have been sleet, too.

I kept waiting for the break that would entice me out the door but the sunshine always peeked through the clouds right when I had “just one more thing to do and then I’ll ride.” Then the ominous greyness would close in again.

Over the course of the day I tweeted a couple of times about #30daysofbiking. I posted on Facebook. I highlighted the post I wrote on Saturday, which I considered “30 Days of Biking Eve.”

But it wasn’t until 10:30 at night that I said, “I’m doing this!”, pushed back from the dining room table where I had been jacked into my laptop all day, and headed out the door.

Like one of the rides I took last September, this was a “nothing” ride taken only to keep up with the schedule. All of .45 miles long and roughly 3 minutes, the route took me out to the street near our house that has a bike lane, then around a little quiet neighborhood loop and back to the house.

For a nothing ride, though, it had peace and quiet, stars and wind, and the always-joyous feeling of moving myself under my own power. I was reminded all over again that every day with a bike ride is a good day.

Now today was just the opposite: a long, planned ride. I took the day off work for the start of spring break even though the kids weren’t around (grown-ups deserve spring break too!).

Sweet Hubs and I checked the forecast, which predicted the warmest weather (51 degrees F) around 2 p.m. and only a slight chance of rain. We watched the skies and broke out the gear at around noon.

We had discussed a couple of options and settled on an old standby: Ride down to the Riverpoint Campus where I work and from there take the Centennial Trail along Upriver Drive to the Rocket Bakery on Argonne, around 9 miles one way.

Spokane experienced record-setting rain in March and the Spokane River rushed past us, swollen with rain and snowmelt, for most of the route. Parts of the trail where it runs closer to the river were actually underwater but the on-street bike lane on the shoulder was fine.

After a coffee and bagel at the Rocket we walked up to Argonne Cyclery to check out the stock, then took a different route home we’d planned with the help of my smartphone while we sipped.

One of the things I love about riding my bike is the freedom it gives me to take different routes. Something about being in a car puts us all on autopilot (tell me you haven’t found yourself taking the wrong freeway exit because it’s one you always take but this time you were supposed to be going somewhere else). I can’t be on autopilot on my bike because mindfulness matters, and that applies to route selection as well as riding tactics.

This was an awesome route and one we’ll take again. I’d highly recommend it as a way to get from Millwood back to the South Hill on some different streets.

From Argonne we took Empire/Euclid (conveniently located a block south of the Rocket Bakery) west; it’s a quiet residential street alongside the railroad tracks. Heading south on Park we were delighted to find a bike lane that took us almost all the way to Sprague, with just one pinch point under an overpass just north of Sprague.

We headed west again on Eighth, which at some point becomes Hartson. We passed a historical marker indicating we were on the original Captain John Mullan Trail and a creative scarecrow on a bike perched in a field, among other sights.

At Freya you have to take a righthand turn onto the one-way–a bit of traffic at this spot. We headed westbound again on Fifth to Liberty Park, and along the way we passed some little neighborhood businesses and the East Central Community Center

Here we had a choice. We could turn north and get through the weird stretch of Second Avenue at the Hamilton exit to take Arthur southbound. It’s doable but I wouldn’t send a newbie through there–lots of traffic, including encounters with people who have just exited the freeway and haven’t ditched all the speed yet despite the signage (including the fatality statistics sign).

Instead, we climbed a steep set of switchbacks on the paved Ben Burr Trail up out of Liberty Park (look for it at the east end of the park). This brought us out onto a steep gravel street–our old friend Hartson–and from there we hit Perry and rode south to home.

Tomorrow will have me back in the usual commuter routine–no problem getting a day of riding in there. We’ll see how the full 30 days go, but at least I’m off to a rolling start! (Including my second road test of my new Sheila Moon Lingerie Knickers with the lace trim–watch for a review post soon.)

Related Reading

Your Turn

  • How did Day 1 go?
  • Day 2?
  • You can start the 30 days April 3 and go through May 3, if you like–planning to jump in now?
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