Winter has fallen. Snow is not unheard of in my corner of the world, but it doesn’t often stick for an hour let alone a day. Flurries were expected yesterday but the weather has a mind of its own. It has been snowing all day and now it’s as if confectionary sugar has been scattered everywhere. I have learned not to get too attached to the snow. Instead I seize the moments however sleeting and take a quick ride or at least a few pictures and marvel at its beauty. The bright blanket of white that both confuses and awes young and old alike.
Snow has a quiet quality until it mixes with freezing rain. As it begins to transform into icy pinheads you can hear it in the trees and its audible droplets turn the powder into sheets of ice as soon as they hit the ground. The freezing chorus whips into song as the wind blows. I don’t fancy riding on it when it’s icy. I prefer the powder. Admittedly wearing a mask and riding in the snow means I can’t see a flake in front of my face. Very few people out in it because we just don’t know how to drive in this weather since we seldom have to do it.
It could be gone by the morning. It’s a welcome change from the usual weather du jour. The forecast says more is on the way and it won’t be turning to rain until Monday. I like the possibility that it will linger a bit longer. Like a guest you didn’t even know you missed. I’ll give credit to the pandemic for making me more aware of the subtleties in changes. Everything small feels miraculous and worthy of note.
In other news, I got my first dose of the vaccine today. That is notable since this day was all about getting to the site to get the shot. I was considering biking to the clinic or taking the bus, but my guy drove me. In Portland there were vaccinations scheduled to be administered at the Convention Center and in Vancouver at the Clark County Fairgrounds. Both were closed due to the snow. I wasn’t nervous about getting my vaccine but when the nurse told me that the other sites were closed I felt waves a gratitude that it worked out for me. This whole thing has been like gambling. In 29 days it will be March 13th when life in the pandemic started. My school building closed and the whole pandemic-quarantine-bubble existence kicked off.
Who knows what’s around the next corner? Let’s not even guess. The snow is beautiful. I had a brisk ride in the powder and I got my first dose of the vaccine that didn’t even exist until recently.
My people initially came from Greece. My grandparents were born in villages near Thessaloniki and they emmigrated to the United States in the 1920s. There’s a very involved history I could go into here, but I don’t think we know one another that well yet. That’s a post for another day. Let’s say that I’m Greek on both sides. As I tell my students, “My mother is 100% Greek and my father is 100% Greek, so I’m 200% Greek.” My students usually groan and say that’s not possible and we laugh.
Some members of the family were smart and moved to San Diego. That was not my part of the village. My part of the family tree went to Detroit and Chicago or as they are also known, cold and colder. Not having any say in the first move of my life, from Detroit to a little town called Anderson, Indiana, I didn’t really care. Anderson was great for growing up and biking around on my banana seat-flower-power Schwinn. I don’t remember much rain. I do recall that my parents and I were on the road almost every weekend going to or coming from Mo’town or The Windy City visiting the grandparents from the old country. Personally, they really would have loved San Diego. Why didn’t they go there? Why?
When I did have a vote in moving it was out West to Oregon, not San Diego. All of this to say that it has rained for nearly the entire month of January and frankly I would like to stake my claim to some territory in a sunnier part of the world. I get into a sun trance and I think about the hottest days I’ve ever experienced and they’re almost all in Greece. There was one in Yuma, but that place is just hellish hot, so I don’t really count it. It has to be sunny and yet pleasant enough to bike. I don’t want sun stroke!
It’s a classic line. Everyone complains about the weather but no one really does anything about it. The fact that we can’t travel because of the pandemic means that we’re all just a bit edgy out here in the Pacific Northwest. Some people claim to love it. There was a time in my life that I didn’t mind because it is as beautiful as a postcard. Green as a leprechaun’s hat, but still a whole lot of rain made it so. Be careful what you wish for since only as recent as September 2020 we had air quality issues due to massive fires. I don’t want that, of course. I just want to see the sun every few days. Can we get some balance in the forecast? Let’s bring in a lawyer. Here’s my offer: How about rain at night or less rain on my commute. I want one weekend a month of sun and sunshine on at least three holidays in the winter months. It doesn’t have to be consecutive days. I’m not unreasonable. Every other weekend should be sunny and bright. My husband always says, “Cheer up, fire season will be here before you know it.” He always takes weather’s side. He loves the rain and cold. It’s a fundamental incompatibility.
The most annoying part is the Dark Sky app. I need to get rid of it. It’s more accurate than reality. “Rain starting in a few minutes.” Yes, then rain. Rain for the hour. Usually, it is ridiculously accurate. My favorite alert (say that bit with sarcasm) is the one that says, “Rain stopping in 10 and starting again in 15 minutes.” Those are enough to send me into a fit of rage. Does that mean there’s a 5 minute window of no rain? It feels like I signed a contract with Zeus for an eternity of rain. Zeus is the boss of the skies, y’know. I bet he’s an investor in the Dark Sky app. Zeus is such a short tempered, impulsive god. We have Titan Prometheus to thank for the clouds. Humans needed a sign it was going to rain. As it goes, Prometheus decided to use lamb’s wool as the sign of rain. Clouds! When Zeus would send rain to the mortals, Prometheus would throw the lamb’s wool into the sky as a sign that rain was coming. But then Zeus brings on the rain and gets busy wielding some of deed and forgets he left the faucet on in the Northwest.
January is the weather-trifecta. Cold, wet and wind. I don’t enjoy riding in the cold below 40ºF. But I do it. Then if you add rain to the list and a light, variable wind, well, then the bike ride is about surviving. I should saddle up and Zwift instead, but I don’t. I brave the elements so I can claim some commuting points. You know the line, “Rainy days and Mondays always get me down.” Mondays are no big deal, but 27 consecutive rainy days do get my down. Every day of January feels like I’ve been under a rain style shower head.
There are those who say that I should “dress for it” and I do. There are some who say I should drive on those days. The problem is that sometimes the forecast shifts as easily as gears on a bike and you end up with a day that seems like “all is right in the world.” I find myself forgiving everything that came before. It’s like I’m in a really dysfunctional relationship. “Yeah, I took them back. They apologized and said they’d try to do better.” The sun shines and the mountains are bold and bright. Steam rises off the bike lanes and and I know that I couldn’t possibly live anywhere else.
Or San Diego.
Get out there and ride.
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That’s where the bar is these days. I’m exhausted. I feel like the sludge at the bottom of a puddle. Pretending that you’re okay is a full-time act of fiction. Notwithstanding the Biden-Harris uptick in energy and hope for the future, the last 10 months have been a slog of despair where I’ve said more often than not, sure, eat the Oreo cookie or donut, you may not even survive the year. We’re all tired. Have you noticed how we compare of levels of exhaustion in addition to our burdens. You can’t mask that sort of fatigue. Pun intended. It’s a challenge to find the energy to stoke the embers and feel the fire in your belly that you can do whatever; get up, go to the mailbox, go to work, think about writing, write. Fill in the blank with whatever it is for you.
Between expectations, intentions and plans there are storage bins full of doubt. Despair rings like tinnitus in my ears all day and all night and you might find five minutes in which you aren’t completely freaked out by whatever the next step is.
That’s what leads me to my January mantra, I woke up. Yay!
I got dressed and even accessorized a bit. That means that I put on some earrings. Woohoo!
I made coffee. Thank the gods of Olympus!
I ate breakfast! Now we’re talking!
The steps to success are just that, steps. The activity rings on my watch don’t count effort, so the data is in steps.
Everything is a of a celebration. It should be because life right now is hard as chromium. Maybe you’re trying to be postive for the negative people around you. Again, work on a scale of lifting 50 pound dumbells overhead. Maybe you float on the bubbles of hope or what I like to call do-able tasks. Maybe you wrote songs for your new album. I am not Taylor Swift. But I can feel ebullient about completing a blog post or reading one of yours.
Someone asked me if I do yoga or meditation or anything to align my chakras and get out of my head.
Cue the crickets.
I replied with two words. “I bike.” If there’s one place where pressure can only be found in my tires, it’s on my bike. That’s my zen, my calm, my meditation and medication. It’s where the sun meets the sky (if it’s not raining that day) and I can be free to roam, wander and just ride like I’m making a masterpiece Strava GPS picture. On my bike is where I engage with the world. Have you noticed how waving has returned. People wave and children yell HELLLLLLOOOOO and we interact at 12-15mph more than we have in a long time. Some drivers actually wave too instead of trying out other hand gestures.
Seeing and interating with the world from behind my handlebars I’m filled with joy that I woke up.
Whatever is in between my rides, the bits and pieces of the day, got done because I had my ride. I have been trying to close my eyes during the day and be in the moment breathing in and out and it is helpful. The funny thing is I usually visualize myself on a bike riding a bike on a Greek island feeling the heat of the summer beat down on me. I woke up. Yay!
Not too much shiny and bright about 2020, however, there are some great products I discovered. This is a post I’ve always wanted to do. I don’t have any codes or special discounts. I can only say that I don’t like parting with my money so if I like gear enough to recommend it, that’s gold. It takes me more than a season to decide IF the product in question merits the investment. Dear reader, this post includes my unvarnished, honest opinions about products I strongly recommend. Some are newish and some have proven their value over time. Read on for details and links..
Products with Punch
Let’s start at the top. I am a helmet wearer. I always have been. Many helmets have been on my head. This year I found one that is sparkle and delight. The Thousand Helmet is elegant and I have never, ever owned a helmet that garnered more compliments. People always call it a hat as in, “I love your hat!” as I breeze by. The algorithms must have aligned because one day in a search for “chic bike helmet” it popped up. I couldn’t stop looking at all the colors in the Heritage collection. When the page opens in your browser, you’ll be asked to take a quiz about your perfect helmet. I love a good quiz, but you can also close the quiz and just browse around. If I’m ever on the cover of Vogue I’ll request one of these with my kit. If you pay attention to bike details on TV shows you can appreciate that in Emily is Paris one of these helmets is featured. Super cool!! And they are just that. It’s a helmet where form meets function and you’re proud to have it on your noggin. There’s a spot where you can put a U-lock through a pop-lock. The site says, “Access the hidden channel behind the logo mark, and pop your U-Lock or chain lock through. Backed by our Anti-Theft Guarantee.” But here’s the thing, I like wearing my helmet, so I never really got in the habit of locking it up with my bike. It’s a great feature and maybe as the days get warmer and I can sit outside and enjoy a
Sizing is the only trick with buying a helmet online. I bought a medium following their measurements and I wish I had bought a large. The adjustment wheel makes it very easy to size down a bit but if you wear a beanie on colder days you’ll appreciate a few milimeters of head space. If between, always order up. I have heard that they have a great exchange policy, but email to get more information. I chose to try the other helmet called The Chapter with a magnetic light on the back. I love it as well. Since I got the white one I figured it would be better for riding in the winter or with a beanie, so I bought the large for extra space.
People notice me which means the helmet helps them see me on the road. Read more about the company and their goals. Helmets only last forever if you never use them. The helmet I’m wearing in the lower left is an older one that had many dings and dents. I moved it along in its cycle of life.
Next up, the bod. If I could make a coat, this would be it. For years I wore the traditional rain jacket. Then a few years ago I decided I wanted something bigger, bulkier, warmer. I am Mediterranean and I do not like being cold. Mia Meloncoats are the best coats I have ever owned. I wish one of the two I own would wear out (after three years) so I could get another one. They are beautiful on and off the bike, but most importantly, they are warm and waterproof. They have lots of styles and you should shop what works best for you. I wear the STELLA MODERN RAIN JACKET – MICRO FLEECE INTERIOR the most. The other one is similar to the Anna, but mine is an older style which I no longer see on the site. There are often sales and there is a store in Vancouver B.C., however, they have great customer service and if you’re not sure what’s best or how it will fit, then give them a call.
If you want the traditional biker rain jacket, I’m also a big fan of Showers Pass, jackets, and rainpants. I’ve had mine for years and they are a great investment.
Best t-shirts ever! They are massively creative with all sorts of animails, and in my opinion, you can’t have enough bike related t-shirts. I live in bike t-shirts. When you wear these you feel fierce and playful. Dark Cycle Clothingis located in Tampa, Florida and I signed up for their monthly t-shirt release. I had some challenges with sizing, but they were so helpful I decided to maintain my subscription for another year. I still think they need a Yorkie.
Pizza is the most important food group. Right? I like pizza all the time so when I saw this on Instagram I took a bite. Safety Pizza!How do you improve on safety and being seen? You get a Safety Pizza because it has PIZZA in the name and why not? I love this slice of safety and singular function. Reflectivity. You can organize the “toppings” however you choose. Super fun!!
Put a bird on it. A phrase made famous by Portlandia, but design-wise, Portland Design Works captured the essence for cyclists. Great products of all kinds for all types of riders. How can you find fault with a company that sells sticker sheets, donut bar tape or bird inspired water bottle cages? You can’t! Gear like this makes me smile each and every time I use it. I have one of their bottle cages on all my bikes.
Fits like a glove, then buy it! If a glove keeps your hands warn and cozy, buy two pairs! There is no such thing as the perfect bag or the perfect winter glove. Our extremities prefer gentle conditions and I am here to say that I’ve spent money on pricey gloves and still felt my fingers freeze. After years of research, I can say one thing for sure. It’s personal preference. Gloves that claim to be wind breakers and laugh at cold temps, often leave me cold. Endura is possibly my favorite mid range glove for most winter cycling. They outperform my Gortex and they are my go-to glove. I lost one hi-viz glove a year ago and I’m still bummed about it. I bought a black pair to replace but for some reason I still have the single high-viz. Many bike shops carry the brand and if your favorite bike shop has an online store check it out.
Still with me? Good for you! Thanks. Let’s start wrapping it up. Two more. I love Chicago. Because I have family in Chicago, I consider it a second home. When I visit I always Divvy and I visit bike shops and I entertain thoughts of living there. Chicago is about 8 years younger than Portland or the Northwest when it comes to biking, but this organization, Bike Lane Uprising, is trying to delineate the bike lanes and bike lane usgae by keeping people safe. You can support them by sposoring lights for others and while you’re at it, buy yourself a set. A sweatshirt is good too. These lights, are amazing! For $10 you can sponsor a set that might save someone’s life. Being lit is extrememly important on a bike, walking or running, so make an investment. You can’t have enough lights and this set is a blinding good deal!
Lastly, the bag. I am obsessed with panniers. I know. What a shock! This year I got closer to the perfect bag, for me. The Brooks Suffolk rear pannieris “made from high-quality polyester with a waterproof polyurethane coating to protect your gear while you ride.” That’s what they say and they are spot on. It’s hard not to say, “Brooks Suffolk,” without a British accent! Jolly good bag! This pannier I bought on impulse. Give me a break. I hadn’t been out shopping for anything in three months, so I was ready! They aren’t cheap, $130 for a single bag. I was at the eBike Store and I’m drawn to bike bags like like a magnet so I started looking it over and I was impressed by how the pockets were all on the outside and I like that for access the garage door opener, my phone, water bottle and work related fobs and keys. Boom, sold! They deliver. I like them so much, that a few months later I bought another. Not too big, or small, just right. Waterproof and simple to use. Similar to an Ortlieb in how the bag attaches, and I won’t shine you on. I have used them like a fangirl since day one. They still look brand new and yet neutral enough to go with any bike, or rack.
Gear is important to making your ride comfortable, safe and likely to happen again. With mass production of so many things, it’s hard to know what really works for discerning riders in certain climates or any climate. One thing about the pandemic is that I’ve looked to the gear I already own instead of looking for something else. If you have gear that you don’t use or didn’t make the cut for you, try donating it. In my area, I’m lucky because Bike Clark County takes donations and I know the gear that doesn’t work for me may help someone else.
The gear mentioned in the post are equipment I’ve own and use regularly. That’s the real test. 2021 is the year to get in gear. I hope this helps.
If I haven’t said it, thank you for reading and being part of my blog. I appreciate your LIKES and comments. Thanks for taking a moment. Happy New Gear, I mean Year.
I was getting ready to head out on a ride. As I stood in the driveway making sure I had all the necessities: mask, ID, wallet, phone, gloves, water, a spry guy in his mid seventies walked by and exclaimed, “What is THAT?”
Looking for agreement in the subject and predicate is often futile. “Are you asking about my bike?” Speaking from a tennis court distance we started to chat about ebikes. He thinks he took one that looked like mine for a test ride. I turned my bike to the side so he could get a better look. I felt a little like a peacock about to pose my beautful bike and all her glory. “Yeah, yep, that was it I think.” He said he was thinking of a “well, what do you say, a girls’ bike” to which I suggested, step through and he agreed. You know, guys, just chill about this. Women don’t think less of you for wanting low entry.
He admitted he really wanted a new bike and he was at a point in his life where he still thinks he’s in his 20s but his body doesn’t agree. I told him I’d has some experience with ebikes and I really think he should go to a bike shop. I stashed some business cards from The eBike Store in my bag for just this type of encounter. I walked toward him and handed him a card as if I was about to press a doorbell and run. I also decided to share some advice.
Try out three different bikes. Even a few models within the same brand. The more you try the more you get a feel for what you like and what you want.
Take a month and try out at least three. Talk to owners of the bikes and ask how they use their ebike and why they chose the one they did. He liked Specialized and noted that was my ride and he was also curious about Treks. I said both were great choices but you owe it to yourself to take multiple test rides to get a feel for what you want. I shared that I was a Specialized Ambassador so I had a very strong feeling about that brand. But I have own other brands and I have two Treks in the herd and I love them too. I don’t have any experience with the Trek eBikes so he should find a store and take a few out.
He thanked me and went on his way. It’s Sunday and I did a little bike evangelism. You gotta love your ride if you’re going to ride. So if you are looking at riding in the new year, then my advice is to reach out with a phone call to a bike dealer and be specific if you want an ebike. Which brands do they carry and why. Also do a little research before you go in. I watch videos most often from ElectricBikeReview. Know the tech specs enough to compare bikes. Ask about test riding during a pandemic. Find out about scheduling some time with someone to ask questions and take a test ride. Take a helmet if you don’t want to borrow one of theirs and go for a spin.
I spend 2 hours a day commuting. I need a bike that will keep up and be ready for whatever I need. I chose a Specialized Como 5, Turbo. I may not use all its features, but it has them in case I need them.
I love talking about bikes. I especially enjoy it when potential bikers ask about why I have this bike or that feature. I can give them chapter and verse. What about you? What advice do you give about buying a bike?
Next post I hope to get out soon will spotlight some gear I found very helpful in 2020.
Get out there and ride. Preferably with some lights on your body or bike. Be seen!
Fall is by far my favorite time of the year. Seasons in general are a great concept because right about the time you start getting weary of a routine the searson changes and so does your routine. A slightly heavier coat leads to another layer and then some boots, wool socks and insulated gloves and the season change is in full swing.Before you known it you’re wishing you had a heated saddle because you will never be warm again. Winter.
People are seasonal too. Some people you may see everyday and others only through social media and yet you’re sort of attending the same party. We never really know what impression we lieave unless we’re told. Love it, leave it or try to deal with it, social media keeps people connected.
All that to say that I heard from a friend I made in 2009. He and I were on a Fulbright cultural exchange in Potsdam, Germany. I quickly became known as the biker of the group. By biker, I mean cyclist. I had no problem actively pursuing opportunities to rent bikes and roam around the city. Potsdam is wonderfully bike friendly. Actually, Germany in general is bike friendly. I’d bumble my way through whatever German I could muster to say, Bitte mieten sie ein fahrrad, Please I’d like to rent a bike.” One bike shop took mercy on my daily visits and agreed to rent me a bike for a week at a time. Bike love is a universal language and I recall that they were helpful and accomodating.
With a basket and a lock I would peddle about for as long as time permittied between classes. Scenery swirled around me as I claimed a city for my own behind the bars of a bike. I may have named rental Greatah, because it was great, ah! I felt like a local and took pride in the fact that from behind the bars of my rental I felt like the city and I knew one another.
Wander time is built into the day when you’re learning a city. I rolled my way into an area known as the Neuer Garten. Brisk summer morning air was chilly and I was woefully underdressed. My light rain jacket and t-shirt left my teeth chattering but I didn’t care. The sights were spectacular and it felt like I was the only one on the path. My lungs expanding with the country air and my eyes wide with the lush lawns and lavish scenery.
I helped a few others in the group with bike rentals and the last week or so of the trip the bike rental fees were waived since I brought customers to the bike shop.
It is how I roll. I do what I do, ride my bike, and if my zeal, my enthusiasm, my bike love somehow spills on to others, that’s a bonus. I heard from that traveler from 2009. Howard recently retired and sadly had his bike stolen from right off his porch.
He sent me this great message: “Been thinking about you lately, Connie. My road bike was stolen off my front porch about three weeks ago. I’d been thinking about buying an e-bike, so I decided to splurge and get an e-road bike. It’s a Specialized Turbo Creo Evo, and I love it. I’m actually back on the bike, and getting back in shape. You have been my role model for bike commuting for a decade now, so I wanted to let you know that I’m getting back in the saddle.” -Howard
I appreciate that he shared his news with me and I’m thrilled that he’s back in the saddle. I’m happy to be a role model and even more delighted when someone else learns first hand the love of the ride.
Are you a bike roll/role model for someone? Have you ever helped someone with a bike purchase?
Why is fog more interesting than smoke? Scientifically speaking (and I’m not a scientist) I guess fog has condensation. It is essentially air saturated with water but smoke is a sign of combustion. Hence the addage, “Where there’s smoke, there’s fire.” I live in the middle of all these fires out West. I am not in danger at the moment and the closest fire has gone from about 2 miles at the beginning of last week to 90 miles as of this writing. The smoke in the air is daunting and debilitating. My eyes burn and the last two days when I wake up my nostrils tingle.
The air quality index is at 445 on a scale that tops out at 500. This morning is was at 526. That means that it is hazardous. Kaiser Permanente sent out an email saying that all physical activity should be limited. It is another chapter in the apocolyptic story of 2020 but we’re crossing a line now because I can’t bike. I can’t Zwift, I can’t meander, spin or roll. There are advisories against any activity either Inside or out.The most I can do is sit in the garage (with the mask pictures below) and tell my bikes that someday we will ride again.
I wanted to write about some virtual events I took part in over the summer, but I don’t feel like it right now. All I can do is check the EPA AirQuality app and see if the number goes down. All I can do is look out the window of my house and see if it looks a tiny bit clearer. All I can do is wait and see.
Last Friday my school district advised staff to work from home since the ventilation systems couldn’t keep up with the smoke in the air. Not a snow day but a smoke day. The smoke is so thick and pervasive that your lungs ache and your nostrils flair in an attempt to keep the toxins out of your body.
Thanks to my husband and numerous home projects I have a great mask if I need to be outside.
When the fortune teller in the movies looks at the crystal ball for answers there’s smoke swirling around before the answers are revealed. From the murky smoke answers are revealed. I’m in a house and I have food and coffee, books and distractions. Wifi and water. I’m grateful and hoping for rain. The forecast says rain on Tuesday (not the umbrella on my sweatshirt) and through the rest of the week. That’s what I’m clinging to. The hope for rain.