Friday, April 23, 2010

Animal Moments

I call them Animal Moments. They are the times when I lose track of myself and get lost in what I'm doing. You know, when you catch yourself singing a ridiculous song and doing an equally ridiculous dance about something like...macaroni and cheese. Or, when the first taste of really good pizza hits your taste buds and all you can do at that moment in time is eat that pizza. You don't even think about eating the pizza...you just eat. I think one reason I am so fond of wildlife is that they seem to do this naturally; almost constantly. I, on the other hand, almost always have something weighing on my mind. I seem to be an almost endless ball of worry and regret. Except when I'm on my bike.

We did about 25 miles today in a combo fitness/lunch/grocery ride. I had something on my mind today...something I felt bad about. But, whenever I was riding I was relaxed, peaceful and happy. I was smelling the pollen in the air, admiring great blue herons in the water, feeling the rumble of my very heavy bicycle underneath me and conversing with my husband. It is the closest I ever get to the way a dolphin jumps out of the water and dives gracefully back in. It's the closest I ever get to an elephant splashing dust over himself on a hot August day. It's the longest I ever go experiencing Animal Moments and I am so grateful that I live in a time where bicycling is seeing a resurgence. And, it's the reason when I'm riding my bike with a lot of automobile traffic I often think, "You people don't know what you are missing."

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Earth Day



I love Earth Day. It might be my favorite holiday. It's a day for me to get re-inspired and re-energized about something that has always been very important to me. Naturally, an Earth Day celebration has to include a lot of biking. And, boy did we bike.

We started by riding downtown to Cafe Naoko for tofu bowls. They were delicious. The tofu was really heavily marinated and bursting with flavor. We also had rich, buttery green tea with our meal. Then we rode up, up, up to the Japanese garden. Portland has an incredible Japanese garden. Apparently, it is the best one outside of Japan and I just love going there. It would be so fun to do a study checking people's blood pressure upon entering and exiting the garden. It's like you can just feel the stress oozing out of you as you walk along the stone pathways and gaze at the koi swimming in the pond. After seeing the whole garden we bombed down, down, down across the new bike-friendly Morrison bridge to Ota Tofu. We'd thought ahead and brought our own container, but we forgot cash. I wondered if they'd accept the yen I still had in my wallet. So, we rode feverishly home where I had some cash and feverishly back to buy our tofu.

Next stop: Lloyd Center 10 to see the new Disney Nature movie Oceans. The movie was incredible. Most of the movie I was completely engrossed...lost in the beauty of the ocean's creatures. Only when I saw the sea turtles and sharks getting caught by the net meant for the now endangered blue-fin tuna did I sob. Seeing all the plastic and other human objects that are in the ocean wasn't pretty either, but I'd say all in all the the movie was definitely uplifting and positive. The message of human indifference being the ocean's greatest threat was not heavy-handed. I came away feeling that the greatest thing about humanity is our unique ability to observe and genuinely appreciate the creatures with whom we share this fragile planet.

We pedaled home leisurely home to our very grateful dog and took him for a walk. We made sure to use our biodegradable poop bag, it being Earth Day and all. Then Peter made a lovely dinner with our local tofu. It was very similar to our lunch and something we'd like to repeat. Days like today are my favorite kind of days. I love being a tourist in my own city especially when I get to go everywhere on my bike.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Dexter





I think my exact words were, "I love Dexter, but I probably wouldn't have gotten him if I had to do it all over again." Ever hear people say this about their children? I do. It seems like, sometimes, constantly and those conversations always leave me feeling heavy-hearted. When I heard myself say that about Dexter I knew I needed to do something special with him today. I had already taken him for a 2 mile walk this morning and after lunch I decided a bike ride was in order.

Dexter loves bike rides. I think he loves the constantly changing scenery, the wind blowing new smells up his nose and giving someone that gets too close a good talking to the best. Before we became bike commuters and riding our bikes was just a weekend activity, Dexter used to cry and cry if we went for a bike ride without him.

We rode down to Sellwood. It was beautiful. We took a walk, I took a picture of a duck, we sat on the park bench and I petted him gently. After about a half an hour I loaded him back up on the bike, all harnessed in, and we took off.

This is when, I am not joking here, a dog runs up and bites me right on the calf as we pedal away. "Maaagie, yer gunna git hert!," the owner drawls. No "I'm sorry my dog bit you" or "Are you okay?" I almost start to cry and pedal as quickly as I can to get away from the maniac dog. "Dogs," I mutter under my breath after saying a few choice curse words and I think wistfully of my wonderful cat who woke me up this morning so sweetly with her purring. I wonder what Dexter was thinking as that dog was biting me. I was too distracted to notice if he was barking.

The rest of the ride home was peaceful and unhurried. You can't really hurry with a 17-lb dog on the back of your bike. I tried to get a good shot of Dexter behind me while I was riding but was unsuccessful. As I write this, Dexter is happily sacked out on his dog bed, sound asleep. It seems like my calf is going to be fine, no permanent damage done. They all can't be perfect rides, but I feel better about my dog and my decision to have him in my life. I guess you can't ask for more than that.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Bicycling Daydreams


In Heaven There Are No Roads. That's what the bumper sticker says on the grey van as I climb up the Salmon side of Tabor...my second time up. "Well, that's not possible, because then there could be no bicycles. Must be hikers," I think. But, then I think that maybe there could be a bike path system instead of roads, like they had in Oulu. Which gets me thinking more about what MY perfect world would be. I'm amazed that this line of thought is very soothing. As I round the top for the second time, I've decided that people get around on bicycle but there are fewer of us. About 2 billion, I decide. And, no back pain...maybe we need tails so our backs don't hurt so much. I bomb down the Lincoln side and think about everyone being kind and gentle and lovely. I think about all the babies being jumbled up and adopted by wonderful parents so everyone cared about everyone and we weren't so isolated. And, nobody asks why. They just live and breathe and love and laugh and they don't worry so much. Now, I'm just pedaling and breathing and so relaxed it feels like I've had three beers, taken a sauna and I'm listening to ocean sounds. Left, right, left, right. My breathing is less inhale/exhale as it is pause/exhale, pause/exhale. Left, right, oh look, dandelions, left, right. Pause/exhale, pause/exhale.

I can't help but appreciate why people engage in these thoughts when BOOM! I'm jolted back into the real world by a man driving a volvo with a hockey mask on. I'm not sure why it jolted me so much other than it just being very odd, but I'm out of my fantasy with just a little bit of climbing left in my ride. And, so I begin to think about the real world. Yes, we do scare each other. But we can also be wonderful. I think about my husband is so perfect for me and that he is kind and wonderful and freaking hilarious. I think about all the wonderful cultures and foods we have and how I want to visit all of them.

As I ride home I pass a girl in a pink shirt playing a violin while her little brother sits and watches while holding a toilet plunger. That's the world I live in. I see a woman wearing shorts and a green t-shirt and walking a very disobedient pitt bull that seems to be having the time of his life. I stop to help a woman who is bent over her bicycle just a few blocks from my house. She smiles and laughs and assures me that she's fine. And, I pull up to my cute little house and think about my life. I put away my bicycle and I think that because of those who came before me, because of my parents, because of feminists, because of modern medicine, my little world with my dog, my cat, my perfect for me husband and our four bicycles...well, it's pretty great.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Cycling in Flip-Flops

Today was one of those days where I just wanted to hop on my bike and ride. Like I did when I was a kid...because it's fun and beautiful and it's what makes me happy. I was not in the mood for the whole road bike thing with the chamois shorts and Chamois Butt'r. In fact, I really wasn't even in the mood for shoes. Having giant size 11 feet, my hatred of shoes started early. It's hard to find shoes that fit. And, so, I'm a flip-flop girl. I walk miles and miles and miles (I think the most was 12 miles in one day) in my flip-flops. Don't tell my PT.

Cycling in flip-flops is a skill. You learn that the first time you come up over a big hill, start to pedal just a little too fast and swoosh! off flies your footwear. It takes good shifting technique to make sure you always have just the right pressure to keep your shoes on. That's good for me because I used to be a horrendous shifter. I'm sure both my bikes thank me, now that I've done a little studying and have made some improvements.

So, today as I was riding and enjoying the sunshine I paid attention to the other riders wearing flip-flops. They were all like me, in street clothes, riding leisurely. "My people," I thought happily although I was the only one in a helmet. I rode downtown, did a little shopping, and rode along the river. I saw lots of families walking and riding together. Knowing how much riding helps my mental and emotional state it always pleases me greatly to see parents sharing it with their kids.

Riding home I went past our local park and it was absolutely packed with people out enjoying the sunshine. I pulled into the house, a little sweaty from climbing up from the river, but mentally refreshed. Nothing like a flip-flop ride on a sunny, warm day, riding my bicycle in a very Portland way.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Climb, Lunch, Climb, Climb





A couple of month's ago, my friend Taya gave me a duct tape wallet that has a picture of a bicycle on it and says BIKE SLUT. It made me laugh so hard because when it comes to loving bicycles I couldn't be more slutty. I love road biking and all the spandex chamois shorts, jerseys, cycling gloves, and clipless pedals that goes with it. I love using a bicycle for transportation, for errands, in the sun and in the rain. I've even made bicycle tracks through snow. I love wearing high heel leather boots and skirts on my bike and I can't wait to try out my bicycle umbrella. I love seeing parents with a kid on the back or a kid on the front. Or maybe, a kid on the back and the front. I've been known to take my little dorkie, Dexter, for a ride or two.

What made me smile yesterday was when I saw my wallet and my keys sitting on the hutch and there wasn't a car key in sight. Just two bike keys and a house key and my Japan key chain. I've only driven my car two times this year and I just keep the key in a drawer for when I need it. I just love that and I love my BIKE SLUT wallet. Of course, the best thing about this wallet is it spreads joy. It makes people laugh and tell me about how they love bikes. I will use this wallet until it wears out and then cry when I have to replace it.

I'm still easing my back into serious riding so today was just a three trips up Tabor ride. Well, it was one trip up, a stop at HA & VL for bahn mi sandwiches and Vietnamese iced coffee, a trip to Fubonn to look for a tea strainer, then back to Tabor for two more trips to the top. That's probably about 1300 feet of climbing and my back did great. A good doctor, a great PT and being more upright have made all the difference.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Tribute to Japanese Cycling


I never miss a chance to get dressed up and ride my bike for transportation, but today was a special tribute to Japanese cycling. Cute skirt protected by my new Japanese skirt guard, fun pantyhose (read the story of me trying to fit into Japanese pantyhose here), carrying home groceries (okay beer) for tonight's ramen, lager and green tea ice cream dinner with friends Taya and Kyle and cycling under our beautiful Portland cherry trees. All I need is a rainy day to try out my new bicycle umbrella attachment with my cherry blossom umbrella.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

That Vacation Feeling






Oh, that vacation feeling. How does one make it last? I had what should have been a very stressful morning, but somehow it just rolled off my back. And, when I got on my road bike today with my camera in my back pocket there was no way I was going to be able to rush. I must have seen 25 beautiful things worth photographing and I stopped for nine. My pace was leisurely, my mind was almost blank. I was enjoying my new stem that puts me in an even more upright position. My back was feeling very good. I was happy.

I rode to the top of Tabor and down my favorite descent past the reservoir and I passed an old Asian woman doing exercises while holding an umbrella just in case it would start to drizzle. Having fallen in love with the Japanese umbrella culture this really tickled me. In fact, I came home from Tokyo, on Saturday, with a new nifty attachment for my commuter bike. It attaches to the handlebars and holds an umbrella up over your head as you ride. I recognize that this is very un-Portland, but I love it and can't wait to do a ride in the rain somewhere with my new toy. In fact, I got one for Leslie too and we're going to do a little outing. A picture of the two of us with our umbrellas is sure to follow.

I also got both of us skirt guards and now I think my red bike could not be more outfitted. I'd love a more complete chain guard, but I've heard those are next to impossible to find for American bikes. Perhaps a Dutch or Danish city bike with a step-through frame and a wicker basket is on the horizon. For now, I couldn't be more pleased with my life and my bikes.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Japanese Umbrellas



The Japanese love umbrellas. When we were leaving the other night, the concierge ran to give us an umbrella because it was drizzling outside. Being from Portland, we declined. It rained all day today and I just kept getting a tickle out of how many cyclists I saw riding with umbrellas. It is the only real rain "gear" they have and some of them even had a contraption that attached the umbrella to the handlebars. I absolutely must see if I can find one of these at a bicycle shop.

At this point, I've seen many road bikers decked out from head to toe in racing gear. I've seen a few bikes locked to things but most of the bikes are still just locked to themselves. There are big covered bike parking lots in apartment buildings too.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Tokyo


I haven't blogged in over a week because the day after my last post my back went out. So,
I spent the week resting, icing, and reading a book and article by the Dog Whisperer. I'm happy to say that it was quite possibly the best week I have ever had with my dog. Three cheers for experts like Cesar Millan.

On Wednesday Peter and I flew to Tokyo for a 10-day vacation. It made me very happy to see that bicycles are everywhere in Tokyo. They are mostly city cruiser bikes with step-through frames and baskets on the front and the back. Most of them have these great skirt guards that hook to the back fender and seat stays. The picture above is my favorite one so far. I'm going to see if I can find one for my red bike.

The bike lanes in Tokyo are on the sidewalk although a lot of people ride on the street anyway and just take up a lane. Amazingly, no one locks their bikes to anything. They just lock the rear wheel and leave it. It is not the first time during my travels that I've wondered what is wrong with America. I've seen women here out jogging at night and children walking through the city by themselves. It's a city of 30 million people...the largest in the world...and they don't lock their bicycles to anything. A bicycle left like that wouldn't last 10 seconds in New York City and who knows how long it would last in Portland.

People in Tokyo are very well-dressed. There are lots of suits, mostly black and lots of skirts, dresses and high heels. And, that is what they ride their bicycles in. I bet the Japanese could really get into road bikes because they like things fast (fast trains, fast eating), but so far I haven't seen any.