Box Me In, Please!

“A small group of thoughful people could change the world. Indeed, it’s the only this that ever has.” —Margaret Mead

In January 2016, I joined a small group of thoughful people who advise, advoate and work to change our little corner of the world. We meet once a month and there are some people who are always present and others, like me, who try very hard to make each meeting but run into schedule problems on occasion. We are the Bike and Pedestrian Stakeholders Group (BPSG) and we work to make streets safe for pedestrians and bicyclists. In the early days, I sat and listened and I was completely intimidated by all the traffic-speak, acroynms and history. It was hard to keep up and I often felt inept and out of the loop. Frankly, it was humbling on many level, since in my actual line of work I perform competently and with poise. In this new arena, I found it hard to find my words. The content of the meetings continues to be daunting and yet I keep going because it’s interesting and I think what we’re doing is important to the safety of our citizens.

Often times a citizen like me gets involved because they had a particular issue they want addressed. My issue was bikes more than pedestrians, and yet, through time I could see that if a project was good for peds it was usually something you could also expand to bikes. My first two concerns were bike parking in the downtown blocks and the other was an intersection near my neighborhood. The intersection had a history of challenges. At each meeting I would hear that it was being researched for bike box. A bike box is a designated area at the head of a traffic lane at a signalized intersection that provides bicyclists with a safe and visible way to get ahead of queuing traffic during the red signal phase. Bike boxes have positive benefits on both safety and traffic. Read more here.

There hasn’t been a meeting I attended that I haven’t asked about the status of a bike box in that tricky intersection. It was supposed to happen over the summer, then fall. A few weeks ago, my wish was granted. I saw that the road was closed for construction and I could feel myself getting fussy and frothy. I took a detour onto the sidewalk. Then in my periphery vision I saw this puddle of green paint and the work crew waxing on the color. Could it be? It is really? My bike box!  As I approached my left turn I saw a kid and his mom on bikes about to cross the street. I exclaimed something about the bike box and when they didn’t understand I said, “Follow me and I’ll show you.” They followed as I crossed the berm to talk with the workers.

Proudly I exclaimed that I was on the committe that requested this bike box.

The worker knew about the group and gave me a thumbs up. As I got into the traffic lane he said, “Miss, you’re in LIVE traffic.” But the other one told him to hold off the traffic so I could get my pic. All in all, it was a perfect moment.

I use it every day. Drivers are staying out of the bike box. In fact that was one of the constant issues on that street; drivers pulling up beyond the curb line to see traffic. For the first time in three years I feel safe, protected in my green bike box. I was part of making that happen. You could say I helped stop traffic. This victory gives me momentum that will carry me through the next issue, bike parking.

Be safe.

Get out there and ride!

BG

Sights on a New Year

IMG_8098I can see clearly now, the rain is gone,
I can see all obstacles in my way
Gone are the dark clouds that had me blind
It’s gonna be a bright (bright), bright (bright)
Sun-Shiny day.

Sing it Johnny Nash (not Cash), but songwriters Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff had a way with words. The fact of the matter is that I picked up my new glasses and I can see clearly now both far away and near, off to the left and the right, and thanks to this nifty prism in the lens my eyes are not wandering around making me see two cars when really there’s only one. I can really see! Zippity do da!

The moment when the glasses were slipped into place and I could read a sign across the street was magical. I’m as picky about my the frames on my face as I am about the ones I ride, thus it has taken me about a year to get my prescription filled. What a great way to start the new year! New eyes, new vision, better focus, setting my sights on a whole perspective.

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I’m the one in the blue frames. That’s my mom on the right and I have no idea who’s behind us. 

I had a great year for riding. My goal was 3,500 miles. As the sun sets on the penultimate day of the year I have 4,585 miles and 411 activities. I feel good about that. I’ll set a goal of 4,000 miles for 2018 and 415 activities. I blogged once and sometimes twice a month making this the best year ever on the blog. Go team! If I can increase that by one or two more posts during the course of the year, I will count that as a success. You’ve been a factor in motivating me to write more.  Thank you for following this blog and commenting or just clicking that star. It makes my week!

December 30th is always an excellent day for shopping. After I picked up my new glasses I did a little shopping and at one of my favorite stores the salespeople were asking about plans for New Year’s Eve. I live in the Pacific Northwest and one customer said that her family celebrates “East Coast” time and they’re in bed at 9:30 p.m.. Another said that she has two kids and they play Battleship, eat popcorn and are tucked in by 9 as well. That’s about my speed too. I’m Greek and one tradition I’ve maintained in our family is making a the New Year’s bread. You bake a coin in the dough and toast it up on New Year’s Day for breakfast (whomever gets the coin has a prosperous year.) Once that’s done I’ll have a bike ride and my husband, dog and I will have a quiet evening eating grilled cheese sandwiches, soup and salad, followed by some Champagne cupcakes and Prosecco.

When actors or writers are asked what role or book they like the most they often say, “The one I’m currently working on.” I am grateful for every day I’m healthy and able bodied enough to ride. Every route is a learning experience and every time I ride even the commuting route I see it differently because of the light, time of day, weather—my glasses! I like almost all the rides I take. There’s a few this year that I think about on those really snotty days. Santorini and Athens. I thank the universe for my trip to Greece, summer 2017. It provided some of my best biking memories of 2017. I have been drafting that post for a few months and I resolve to share it soon.

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Nisos Thira, Agios Georgios, Greece @SantoriniAdventures

I can see clearly now and I have my sights on more biking and adventures in 2018. Let’s do this! Happy New Year!

Cheers!

Bike Goddess

 

 

 

 

Summer’s Hits and Misses

The fog of the last six weeks is lifting. Now is the time when people start asking, “So how has your summer been? Did you do anything exciting?” I always cringe because I don’t tend to do what I think I’m going to do. I don’t want to get into the contest of who had the most impressive summer. I just want to say that there were some hit and some misses.

At the end of the school year I was hit hard with a wretched cold. All year I managed to dodge the gazillion germs passing from the 900 kids in my middle school, but then in June with only two weeks left in the year, my defenses were down and I knew something was coming to get me. I didn’t get the attendance award and in the final stretch I missed three days of school and over a week of my daily bike commute. I haven’t been hit that hard by a cold in a long time. Antibiotics were involved and despite the research, people who workout regularly still get flattened by colds.

It took me awhile to recover from the cold and then from the school year. I had family visiting from Chicago and we did a lot of touristy things. While I managed to ease back into riding during their visit I felt I was missing out. In retrospect, it was good. Because they were here I wasn’t going to overdo my rides. Again, the miss became a hit. Blessing in disguise as they say.

July, however, I was ready to go and go more. I did too. I took off one day on my road bike and I did 38 miles and I felt great until I pulled something. I didn’t know until the next day but something behind my knee just didn’t want to do anything except throb and ache. Ugh! Lost a few days trying to recover. Plus, I had to pull back on the reigns since I took on a big project for my dad’s 80th birthday.  My father is my hero and he’s the best man I know. He’s smart and entertaining and I know I get my spirit of adventure from him. His birthday was July 30th and since I enjoy video editing, I made him a video. It was a big deal and we had an awesome party for him. My July biking routine can best be described as restrained. Often July is the month when I really rack up the miles. However, July 2016 was more about the video. It feels like it was a miss on bike riding, but it was probably more of a hit since it was less of a strain on my body. Since I’d go out for an hour or two instead of half the day, I was more deliberate about where I was going and what I was doing.

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Since the party was last weekend, I’ve been back in the saddle. Last week I went out on some trail riding. I got off my bike and went into the grass to get this amazing shot of my bike in a grove of trees and something in the grass, I think a spider, mistook me for a fly and bit me. At first I thought a needle was shot into my ankle by a sniper. Freaking thing took me down. Of course, it had to eat and run so I couldn’t find the thing to kill it. My ankle merely looks like a giant red patch is attached to it. Stupid. That has never happened. Definite miss.

The weather for July was a serious hit. Usually July in the Portland/Vancouver area is hot, hot and more hot. Starting on the 5th of July, you have to get out early in the morning to get in a decent ride before you’re melting into your bike. Mornings would start out cloudy and overcast and by 2 p.m. you’d see the sun breakthrough. The weather was a definite hit.

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Bike rides to unexplored areas is part of the joy during the summer. My summer has had some unmapped, unexplored events: from guests to injuries to spider bites, it’s always something. Many events have turned out better that I thought. Also some unscripted, unplanned moments which leave you shaking your head about more than just politics. Summer 2016 was both a hit and a bit of a miss here and there. A month from now when I back to my routine and I’m too exhausted to write a word much less a paragraph, I’ll remember that this summer had its own set of ups and downs, just like the other seasons. August is here and my schedule is clear. I’m strong and ready to roll. I’ll make what is left a brilliant success.

Happy riding!

 

Wheelie Great Bike Movies

When I’m not on a bike riding around and exploring I enjoy watching movies about riding around and exploring. There are lists and lists of movies about bikes. I have seen many of the ones on these assorted lists. Triplets of Belleville was a longtime favorite and it’s still in my top five, along with Breaking Away. I also really love the bike scenes in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, plus Quicksilver, E.T. and PeeWee’s Big Adventure. Yes, I realize there are more than five noted, but it’s my blog. Recently though, I’ve had to do some serious soul searching about my list. I found a movie I missed from a few years back. This gem was released in 2012. I found it on iTunes and remember hearing about it, but for whatever reason I missed out. The movie, Wadjda is my new favorite of all time — that has something to do with a bike. Actually, no, I take that back. Wadjda is brilliant and the film touched me deeply for reasons I still can’t explain. It’s not just about the bike, it’s about the freedom and opportunities it represents.

You might want to stop reading now and go watch the film, then come back and finish this post. Wadjda has become my new obsession. When we were about to rent it, I just opted to buy it instead. Again, bike movies mean exploring too and we’ve been experience more than normal amounts of rainfall which means I want to curl up on the coach and watch movies.

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In 1982 I traveled with my parents to Saudi Arabia. My dad, a college professor,  was invited by a student. We visited Riyadh, Taif and Jeddah. It was 10 days of amazing!  It was hot outside and freezing inside. The coffee and tea were sweet and the cakes and pastries looked phenomenal but tasted like sand. My favorite days were in Taif. It’s at a higher elevation and it wasn’t as hot. I was young and brash. I asked loads of questions which were laced with disrespect about how badly women were treated. I was a youngster and full of opinions. Why can’t women drive? Why would you take a second or third wife? Why were the women relegated to the kitchen when we were eating in the dining area? Our host’s wife didn’t drive and wasn’t permitted to continue her education. Tradition? That’s the party line. Don’t even get me started on voting. Of course I recall needing to cover my head. But that was 1982. Oh, wait—women did vote for the first time in 2015.

Saudi Arabian director Haifaa al-Mansour and actress Waad Mohammed pose with a bicycle on the red carpet during the premiere screening of "Wadjda" during the 69th Venice Film Festival in Venice
Saudi Arabian director Haifaa al-Mansour (R) and actress Waad Mohammed pose with a bicycle on the red carpet during the premiere screening of “Wadjda” during the 69th Venice Film Festival in Venice August 31, 2012. The movie, a story about a 11-year-old girl who dreams of owning a bicycle, is the first full-length feature ever filmed in Saudi Arabia, according to a media release. REUTERS/Max Rossi

Wadjda is about a girl who wants a bike. She’s spunky, smart and she wants to race her friend Abdullah. She makes and sells these bracelets and she sings with her mom and goes to school. She’s questioning some aspects of her life and there are things about the adults around her that are confusing. Her parents are in love, yet, the mother has not produced a male heir. Tension. But again, Wadjda wants this bike. We can all relate to that, right? She decides to enter a contest which if she wins will provide her with the money needed to buy the bike, but, but, but. But she’s a girl. Girls aren’t supposed to ride a bike, let alone want a bike. It might compromise her virginity. Plus, she’s already been rather cheeky with the principal of her school and all of this complicates the story. But you love Wadjda because she will find a way. She will study and she will persevere. Right? See I didn’t spoil the plot.

She reminds me of … the best of myself, especially at that age. I love this kid. Abdullah is also a great friend. The mom is amazing. Even the dad who loves his Wadjda is amazing, but he’s stuck in a traditional system that means he will be taking another wife despite his love for Wadjda’s drop-dead gorgeous mom.

Wadjda is an exceptional film. I loved every frame and I think you will too. The bike is freedom and there are borders that even it will have a hard time crossing. I will stifle the urge to type in all capital letters, bolded and with underlining, that this is a movie you have got to see and you have to tell your friends to see it.

One more thing: After you watch the film you will want to know more about the director Haifaa Al Mansour, read this interview.

Thank you Haifaa for this story. Thank you for Wadjda.

Happy riding and watching!

Be safe out there.
BG

 

 

 

Alterations! Please!

When it comes to fashion, women know all about alterations. Hemming pants, letting out a seam, or taking in a little at the waist or hips. Gathering, ruching, stitching are all part of tailoring an outfit to certain measurements and specifications.

Kona

Why wouldn’t we do something similar with a bike? Last week I met with a frame builder. I will talk more about that experience in an upcoming post. While meeting with him I asked what I could do right now with my current bike to make it more comfortable. I have been riding this bike, the Kona Roundabout, since 2012 and I always experience some measure of neck and shoulder pain. My instinct was to correct the saddle, but in a moment he said the handlebar stem looked too low, my suspicions were confirmed.

Too low? I have always wondered about that but frankly I didn’t want to spend the time or money on a full blown fitting. I suspected as much, but lacked the confidence to say, “Hey, I need a different stem.” My frame builder suggested we go next door to the bike shop and see if they had a stem a little shorter and higher. A slight rise might help alleviate the problem.

The floppy handlebars was one sign I should have paid attention to. Another was that I couldn’t balance without both hands. I kick myself for not talking about it, but there’s always the danger of being upsold something I didn’t need. I did not need new handlebars. I suspected something was amiss, but I lacked the confidence to talk about it and I didn’t think it was significant. For three years I haven’t had the alterations.

The frame builder could see it because he’s seen it before. He lives in the world of alterations and modifications. I think about my mother and her mother and how they could eyeball a suit jacket on my father and say it was too big in the shoulders. It looked fine to me, but after years of watching how they would tailer something to the frame of the wearer, I could see it too. The difference was millimeters, but it fit ever so slightly better which meant it fit like is should, for me.
Kona Stem

This elusive detail might escape the local bike shop.But for the most part it could be that one little adjustment to make the difference between someone riding and someone saying their bike isn’t comfortable. Something may look good, it may look close, but it still may not be the right fit. Does a millimeter make a difference? Short answer is a resounding Yes. This one adjustment means I can ride my bike like it was made for me.

Wish you were riding more? One step is to think about what hurts when you ride? Where and why? Talk with someone about what bugs you about your bike. Maybe you really do need a new one, but maybe there are some alternations to be made to help you and your bike fit together better. The stem change on my Kona was $35. Less than hemming a pair of pants. Probably not, but close. Like the flower? Someone actually left than on the road. It has a home now on my basket!

Happy riding!

Welcome

Welcome!

I have a passion for bike riding. Ever since I can recall, I have loved bike riding. Of course there’s a sense of freedom and of course they’re practical but most importantly they’re fun to ride. They are the first form of transportation most of us own and they have the key which unlocks our wanderlust. At least that’s my story. Learning how to ride a bike wasn’t easy for me. But more about that later. This blog is all about me and my adventures with my bike.