Archive for September, 2007

catch up

Sunday, September 30th, 2007

I’ve been having trouble writing here because I’m not sure exactly what I’m trying to accomplish with this blog. I thought it might be a “travel blog” in the broadest possible sense–in the same sense that I take the ring I wear on my necklace etched with the words “it’s not the destination it’s the journey.” But mostly I’ve just written about bikes, and in a kind of stilted, uncomfortable tone. I guess I’m cool with writing about bikes for now. In an effort to feel more comfortable with this space and feel more like I’m using my own voice, I thought I’d share some of my bike-related thoughts from my un-capitalised, mostly unedited, semi-private LiveJournal…

aug 7

i biked to work and back today. (ten miles each way, by the way. not much in the scheme of things, but ten miles used to be a big deal for me.) i am, like, a superhero. also, since i did it in the rain, without fenders, wearing cotton sweats, with an uncomfortable saddle–and since today i got fenders, a rack, and an ultra-cushy saddle–i have no excuse to not do it forever after. plus i spent most of the day thinking about how much i wanted to ride home, and not just ’cause it’d mean being done with work.

i found a pretty nice route that’s all bike lanes and low-traffic streets, and the people-watching on the way home this afternoon was pretty awesome. waaaay more interesting than the highway. and yeah maybe my knees were hurting a bit when i got home (i’ll ask my boss tomorrow what i need to adjust) but hey good things, awesome things, etc etc etc.

[...] anyway i also found this, which has inspired me to hereby (semi-)publicly declare my intention to sell my car by next august. yeah. i’ve told a couple people i want to do that, but a more general announcement is likely to make me feel guilty if i don’t manage it. i know thousands of people get by in portland without a car at all, and it’s not the city stuff that worries me–portland is easy. my car has mostly meant, for me, running away to the ocean or to the gorge, to see waterfalls, stuff like that. so i guess i’ll just have to get to the point where i can do those things under my own power. i mean, the not being able to bring other people thing will be too bad, but… there’s always other people’s cars? honestly the only thing i haven’t figured out yet is how to go skiing. maybe skiing’s just not the world’s most environmentally-friendly sport (lifts and all) but man is it fun. so anyway. i love my car. shit. we’ve been through a lot, me and my car. 40,000 miles o’ life. but kids give up their security blankets…

so yeah, my bike is like batman’s batmobile, or superman’s cape. okay, hyperbole. i love it though.

aug 8

last night i didn’t sleep well, or didn’t sleep early, or whatever, because of being worried about kari [my cat], mostly. so this morning when my alarm went off at 6 (when i need to get up to bike) i grumbled and reset it to 6:30 (when i need to get up to drive). then i spent my shower and such feeling guilty and rushed, but i still ended up driving.

kari has a scratch on her neck from whatever she got in a fight with when she got outside a couple days ago, and she’s been licking at it and it keeps getting bigger. it doesn’t seem to be infected or anything, but it’s definitely a problem. i talked to mom about it and she suggested this inflatable collar petco carries that’s supposed to work better and be nicer than those terrible elizabethan collars (the plastic cones). so at work i looked up the two petcos nearest to my house, and since it was such a nice day, i figured i’d drive home and then bike to one of the petcos, the one up on 82nd a little south of the springwater trail.

so off i went. the last bit of the ride was pretty rough, lots of wind and traffic, and i biked past where the petco theoretically was (and i know i’ve been to that petco before. i bought a hampster there sophomore year!) TWICE, then once more much more carefully, only to discover at that address a “coming soon: dollar tree.” woo…!!

so i biked all the way across town to the other petco at ne 66th and glisan, with lots of zigzagging on the way to avoid dead ends and heavy traffic. and the woman who greeted me when i walked in said “oh… hmm… well, if we have those, they’d be down that aisle [pointing] but i don’t know if we carry them in this store.” nope, of course they didn’t have them. at this point i was more amused than anything else, though. endorphins are pretty wonderful things. so anyway, mom called about then and we decided we should buy kari a doggy t-shirt, ’cause that might keep her from licking her wound.

so yeah. then i biked 20 blocks to a starbucks i’d passed on the way, consumed some wonderful, glorious sugary fabulousness (chai and a cinnamon scone), and biked home.

aug 31

the moon was still up this morning when i biked into work. yesterday too. i’ve been doing okay with the biking thing; more on that eventually on my Real Blog. september is the bta’s bike commute challenge, plus i was kinda planning on challenging myself not to use my car for the month of september. i did that last year, but last year i lived a 15 minute (max) walk from my classes, and now i live 9 miles from my job. and i’m running sound in the evenings for a show way across town at the coho starting on the 23rd. for free… all the more reason to save money on gas!

anyway i might have to make an exception for exciting adventures in the woods and that kind of thing. my life has included lots of that sort of thing in the last month or two, which is beautiful and amazing. the stronger i get and the more biking i do, the less i will assume that such things need include cars though… when i suck it up and buy some panniers, i think it might be nice to do a solo mini-bike-tour to some campsite somewhere some weekend, if i can borrow landon’s tent or something and if i can find a route/campsite that my skinny road tires can handle… i mean, just to see if i can do it. and to see if i can feel safe in the woods alone without a big metal box to lock myself into if need be.

anyway i have changed tires or tubes etc four times in the past two days. hah! kind of a medium-long story involving ill-fitting fenders and… mostly just ill-fitting fenders. and my dad having a different approach to bicycling than me. anyway, good practice; better now than when i get a flat in the rain this winter. now i have an awesome pink-striped tire on my front wheel. it matches my pink cable housing. yum.

when i got home i volunteered to change my housemate greg’s tires for him. i think i’m becoming a bike geek. it’s really satisfying somehow to take bikes apart (kinda) and get my hands dirty. i have hella grease stains on my legs, too. i want to learn more!

sept 5

things seen on my commute lately
(or, why i like going slow)

  • a shar pei puppy playing with kids in a park
  • a hearse
  • a tortoiseshell kitten lying on the sidewalk; as i biked past, it looked up at me and rolled over onto its back
  • trees braided years ago around the posts on either side of someone’s front step
  • lots of astonishingly beautiful lush gardens
  • sept 10

    bicycling is teaching me a lot about patience, but i am still so impatient sometimes. i know life is too short to be impatient–i mean, there is too much i will close my eyes to if im trying to move too fast.

    sept 12

    i’m seven for seven so far in the bike commute challenge. every time i bike to work i draw a little bike symbol in my planner. i like looking at the row of little bikes.

    sept 13 [oh, here's some stuff about other kinds of journeying!]

  • i don’t even consider driving in the mornings anymore, even when i’m running late. it doesn’t register as a possibility all of a sudden. and it was drizzling this morning, so bite me. no, i don’t know. i was kinda bummed that all your responses to me wanting to sell my car were discouraging. if one of you had said “go for it!” it would be gone by now. maybe. i don’t know. jonathan got rid of his car… but i know the winter is going to be hard enough as it is. winter is always hard. winter when you don’t know what the hell to do with your life? guess we’ll see.
  • i don’t know what the hell i want to do with my life, or how to make the things i do know i want happen. i’m not feeling super-angsty about it right now, but that’s in part because i have something big to look forward to soon (europe). after that, i’m gonna have to do some figurin’ out of shit. hoping for some epiphanies. [...]
  • i sent a long email to my high school drama teacher expressing some frustrations i’ve been feeling since graduation and asking her how she made the decisions that got her to where she is (with a phd, teaching at a small girls’ school), and how she feels about all that. she wrote back saying she’d love to talk on the phone or in person if possible, so i’m going up next friday (also to see my parents). yes, i will drive. again, bite me. [...]
  • trying not to hope i find myself in europe. i don’t think i buy that anyway. i mean, i gotta make myself. i’m working on that (always…).

  • sept 19

    monday sucked. i had a podiatrist appointment that i biked to from work. apparently i have to get half of one of my toenails chopped off (probably next week) and, incidentally, i have very flat feet and should be wearing orthotics (which explains the crazy way my shoes wear down). on the way back to work i got hella rained on. i had a spare pair of jeans and a dry sweatshirt at work, and i bought a pair of wool cycling socks, but then i fought with my parents on the phone over dumb shit. okay, getting caught in the rain sucked, but mostly because my jeans were soaked through almost instantly and sticking to my legs. so, i will buy some rain pants. so, i am still selling my goddamn car. for the record. for one, i need to be some kind of student again and if i sell my car i can afford (in time and in money) to take classes at psu or audit them at reed.

    sept 20

    it’s funny to me how many times i have to learn that there are no answers, because every time i learn it, i think that it’s an answer. hah!

    had an up and down kinda day. drove for the first time this month. i’m in sammamish and by the time i’m back in portland i will have in one weekend pretty much used all the fossil fuels i saved by not driving to work for three weeks. [...]

    this afternoon i biked to nw 23rd and back, and got lost twice, once in northwest and once on the way home. getting lost on the way home meant that i ended up pedaling slowly past one of the ladd’s addition rose gardens, though, and oh my god it smelled heavenly.

    sept 24

    i walked to the bus stop and then decided to walk instead. so last night i walked from nw 23rd and raleigh to se 48th and tolman. i will do the math for you (or ask google maps to do it): 7 or 8 miles… it was lovely.

    this city is beautiful.

    sept 27

    i should be falling gratefully into bed right now, or maybe cleaning the bathroom so my housemates-who(m? agh)-i-haven’t-seen-in-days don’t hate me, or possibly taking a shower, but what the hey, tomorrow’s friday. i biked 25+ miles today, just because lately that is how i get around, and i had to get to work (ne 92nd and killingsworth) and then to the theatre (nw 23rd and raleigh) and then back home (se 48th and tolman). i love (love, love) biking. lately i am feeling pretty cocky about it. in this indian summer, riding home hours past dark in only a thin cotton sweatshirt, it’s easy to feel cocky about it. god it’s fantastic right now. (rain, please don’t bring me down just yet!) especially since i got home just now and the house smells like banana bread. whoever made it is my hero.

    i feel a little bit hypocritical though because i have asked for (or at least accepted) rides in gabe’s car lately (not that i have any kind of rule against riding in other people’s cars–but to an extent this is car rides caused by me). [...] see, his car gets hella worse gas mileage than mine. siiigh. i think it’s worth it to me to have broken the driving habit. i am really goddamn proud of myself, actually. [...]

    anyway, some more consequences of biking all the time:

  • thighs of steel
  • great body image (i look pretty much exactly the same, objectively, but being in shape makes a huge difference)
  • i get lost a lot, but i always eventually figure out how to get where i’m going, and i learn something about portland in the process
  • sore back from carrying too much shit in my bag (when you leave home at 7am and don’t get back until 11pm… agh)
  • i am not scared of hills anymore and don’t really even bother trying to avoid them. i can maintain an even, quick cadence even uphill, usually without using my granny gear!

    on the hawthorne bridge:

    later it says “you’re still cool.” even further–”nice bike.” on the ramp down to the steel bridge it says “call your deadbeat dad. he still loves you” in what i think is the same handwriting. i like it.

  • today

    raining now, of course.

    i got a pinch flat on my way from work to the theatre on friday evening. while i was biking, everything was fresh rain smell and rainbows. while i was struggling to reseat my tire on my rim and breaking two tire levers and swearing a lot, it was pouring rain and i hadn’t eaten since lunch and arrrrrgh. when i finally got it on (30 minutes + spit + elbow grease + remaining tire lever), i went to pump it up and must have pinched the new tube at some point in the process, ’cause it wouldn’t hold air. i called the director, told her i would be fifteen minutes late, and got on a bus. i still haven’t gotten around to patching one or the other of the tubes and getting it pumped up again. calling my dad in the rain, my blood sugar crashing, my hands cold and covered in bike grease, and asking him to look up the bus route for me, was one of the low points of my week. or month. i said “if i complain about this people will say this is why i shouldn’t sell my car!!” and he said “well, yes.”

    but if i’m anything i’m stubborn.

    So. Yeah. It’s a process (a journey!?).

    Some going-slow observations:

  • on Thursday I biked past a church with churchbells going at full swing (hah!). Gorgeous.
  • waiting for the bus this afternoon downtown, a saw a man wearing a brown pinstriped zoot suit and an orange fedora, carrying an umbrella and a Holy Bible.

    Also, last weekend I helped my mom set up a blog: Two Poodles! It’s pretty cute if you like curly-furred pups.

    Also, this is what I want to replace my car with. It’s too bad about the unfortunate color… an excuse to paint it, though!

  • slow down

    Friday, September 14th, 2007

    Yesterday I woke up in the morning groggy, still exhausted, running late. Even so I washed my face, put on my clothes, wolfed down some breakfast, got on my bike and rode into work. It wasn’t until later that I realized driving hadn’t even registered as a possibility. I happily drew a little bike symbol next to the day’s date in my planner–a kind of gold star. My planner is full of little bike symbols.

    I haven’t been very good about writing here because my thoughts about biking and traveling and journeys and such are all very tied up in very personal thoughts about growing up and mourning my past and not having a goddamn clue about my future and all the things I’ve been writing about for years on my livejournal. But a couple weeks ago I did start, and leave unfinished, a blog entry that went like this:

    “I can bike up the Woodstock hill.

    “I couldn’t do it last time I tried, when I first got my bike, in July. I certainly couldn’t do it as a student, when I invariably chose to drive rather than walk or bike to Safeway (at the top of the hill; Reed College, my alma mater, is at the bottom, and the apartment in which I lived was on the opposite side of campus) for groceries and sometimes, I admit, even drove to the library. By the end of my senior year I was in terrible shape: snacked more than ate, slept inconsistently and almost certainly not enough… I was, luckily, taking two dance classes, at least one of which was usually somewhat active; that plus daily theatre warm-ups got me at least a little bit of exercise. And I inarguably loved that life–complaints included. In June, and off and on for the rest of the summer, I mourned it extensively. I’m sure I’m not done mourning it.”

    I am proud of myself. I have a lot further to go. More hills to climb. Any time I try to write here I wax metaphorical. In the past month or so I have:

  • loved my job.
  • hated my job.
  • learned to change a flat and loved loved loved getting my hands dirty that way.
  • thought about being a bike mechanic.
  • thought better of it, maybe; maybe not.
  • thought about selling my car.
  • been discouraged.
  • been encouraged.
  • painted mental pictures of the bicycles I would like to own someday. An Xtracycle, a singlespeed cruiser with a stepover frame and a chainguard, a tandem…
  • accepted a job running sound for a show starting next weekend. For free.
  • sent a long email to my high school drama teacher asking about What To Do and How To Figure It Out.
  • envisioned eight bazillion possible futures.
  • not driven (since the beginning of September).
  • ridden in other people’s cars, however.

    A couple weeks ago, after I made a list of some of the interesting and lovely things I’ve seen on my commute, my mom asked me if I might take some pictures of things sometimes. I replied that usually I just want to get home as fast as possible, and taking pictures would require stopping. Usually I spend most of my ride home counting down the hills, counting down the tough intersections, counting blocks, watching house numbers shrink down to zero and then back up once I’m south of Burnside. But one of the lovely, interesting things I see on my commute everyday is this sign:

    Which is, I think, good general advice. So I took it, and I got out my camera a few times on my ride home today.

    Today I didn’t count down streets and was surprised to find myself only a mile or so from home when I got there. I was just riding my bike and seeing what there was to see. Even though it was stuff I’ve seen every weekday for a few weeks now, it was new. And I was having fun on my bike. Which is, you know, awesome. Duh.

    Yup, this is a metaphor. Life’s good when you’re having fun and not worrying about how quickly you’re getting to where you’re going. Lots of stuff to see on the way, and you’ll probably get there soon enough anyway. These are lessons I am learning. They sound like clichés only because everyone has to learn them a million times. Life’s a good teacher, though. Plus, there’s field trips.

    P.S. I’m selling my car.

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