How to Bike with Your Dog (Short Version)

Step 1: Get a cargo bike.

Step 2: Get a dog. (We recommend an Australian shepherd.)

Step 3: Combine steps 1 and 2.

(Not enough detail? Don’t worry, I’ll be posting the long version soon.)

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Feel the Burn: An Oregonian Explains a Yearly Rite of Passage

What do proper Portlanders do on the first sunny weekend of the year?

They get sunburned.

Here’s how it goes down. It’s a pleasant weekend morning. You decide to go for a bike ride. You’d like to leave by 10am, but it’s now 9:55am. Your brain says: “Hey, self! You should wear sunscreen! It’s sunny out there and you could get sunburn!” to which a different part of your brain responds, “We’re late! We should just go! It’s not that warm yet and there’ll be time for putting sunscreen on later!”

So you go.

And five hours later, when you’re within minutes of returning home, you’re stopped at a traffic light and notice your arms are feeling a teensy bit warm.

See, brain! We’re almost home and your skin is only now starting to feel a little pink!”

Your brain is very stupid. It never seems to remember that sunburn gets worse after you’re out of the sun.

This very series of conversations happened in my head this past Sunday. Two hours after returning home—approximately the time my arms started feeling radioactive—I went a-Googling and found this Scientific American blog post about how sunburn happens.

Humble readers, just take the 30 seconds to apply the sunscreen before you leave the house. Once I leave, I cannot be bothered to stop for such trifles. You’re smarter than that readers—don’t be like me.

——–

On this particular day, I biked from my home in Clackamas County, to Kelley Point Park in North Portland—about 40 miles round trip, according to the calculations I did last summer. I made it to my destination in just over an hour and a half—not a bad pace for someone who hasn’t been riding regularly! (The photo above is of Sweetpea peeking out from the park onto the Columbia River, which separates Oregon from Washington. Kelley Point Park sits at the confluence of the Willamette and Columbia Rivers.)

The ride was more preparation for my upcoming trip to Wisconsin—and the itinerary on that trip is starting to come together. Amanda and I will mostly be exploring Madison by bike, and it’s going to be great!

Plans for this weekend’s ride came together a little unexpectedly. The route shouldn’t be particularly challenging, but certain circumstances will make it a real adventure. If you want to spoil the surprise, click here. If it works out, I will see a long-time dream realized, and will have content for a nice juicy blog post afterward.

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Emerging from Winter and Preparing for Wisconsin

In my brain, winter is a time when I hole myself up at home drinking tea—maybe getting some reading done—all while trying my best to stay warm.

The problem is, winter is never actually like this. This winter, circumstances found me joining a gym so I could take a shower, getting back into yoga, doing my best to take care of the health issues of an aging dog, and much more. Circumstances were such that I couldn’t really bike to work and my weekends were pretty full up, so I barely biked at all. My daily exercise was an hour and a half of walking Atticus along with one or two yoga classes each week. It seemed like I was rarely—if ever—home. (Although in keeping with the aforementioned vision of winter, I still managed to drink gallons of tea per day.)

Then quite suddenly, it was spring. And some planned trips that seemed so far off were just around the corner.

Case in point: a bike trip to Wisconsin. My friend Amanda won a bike trip for two to Wisconsin at Interbike, and she asked if I wanted to be her +1. I jumped at the chance.

Now, I’m still not entirely sure this trip is actually going to happen. After all, we’re now a month out and the details we have are scarce (May 6th: this has been rectified. -Ed.). Two things have been keeping my nerves under control:

  • If the day arrives and I don’t have an airline ticket—nothing much I can do about that, is there?
  • In an emergency scenario, I know two people who could come to the rescue if need be. One lives in Wisconsin. The other lives in Illinois but goes kiting in Wisconsin regularly, and has vowed to rescue me if I need it. This is heartening.

To avoid a rescue scenario, I’ve started doing my best to get my body back into the swing of things. The last couple of weeks I’ve been riding in an effort to get prepared for my trip.

A Ride to the City of Ham

The first ride was pretty simple—a ride from my house to Gresham and back, with a food stop at the Gresham location of Nicholas’ Restaurant. Steven joined me. It was his first bike ride in a while too, so we were getting our sea legs together.

When we got to where Gresham should be, we discovered that it has been replaced by the City of Ham, as evidenced by an enormous gateway sign welcoming traffic from the Springwater Corridor. Steven had a busted tire by this time, so we ended up walking from the entrance to the City of Ham to a nearby bike shop. (Thank goodness it was Saturday and they were open, else we would have been riding the bus back!) We left his bike with the shop and went to eat. The City of Ham provided more than enough food for two vegetarians.

Kinda Epic Triangular Solo Ride

Clearing Sunday on my calendar, I vowed to start seriously preparing for this trip by doing a longer ride. Before leaving the house I had a vague idea that I’d like to head east almost to the City of Ham again, head north, head west, go downtown, and then back home—a lengthy loop. That didn’t quite happen, but leaving the ride open to flexibility ended up being a good decision.

It wasn’t until I was booking it east on the first trail that I realized I had forgotten to eat breakfast or bring any food with me. I ended up overshooting a few miles and going to Jazzy Bagels in the City of Ham. (Jazzy Bagels is a bit of a relic of the past, from when the town was known as a local jazz capital because the Mt. Hood Festival of Jazz was held there each year, and it was a major summer event.) Once I was done with breakfast I got back to business, heading back to my intended turnoff, then heading north until the Gresham-Fairview trail ended. I decided to keep heading east a few miles until I got to Edgefield in Troutdale, then turn back.

This is when I started entering new territory. In theory I could have gone back the way I came or headed a bit further north to catch another trail that paralleled a noisy highway. Instead, I used my Bike There! map (which needs replacing—turns out my copy is now six years old!) to navigate myself…to the Portland airport. I’ve biked to the airport one other time, but with a different approach. Approaching from the east was interesting, for sure—there were two times I needed to navigate across traffic feeding onto highway on-ramps. In an effort to stay in the shoulder, I ended up taking the exit to Cascade Station and had to shoulder my bike over a grassy island to correct my mistake and get to the frontage road that is part of PDX’s official bikeway.

In theory I was going to go inside PDX and get a soda or use the bathroom, but when I got to the terminal I didn’t feel like it. I stood there for a few minutes, breathing in secondhand smoke (the airport’s closest bike rack is right next to the designated smoking area) and then headed back west. I visited my nearby workplace then decided to time my journey home. Part of the reason I haven’t been commuting by bike is that I consider an hour each way my limit. This was a chance to test what I thought would be more than an hour ride.

The next hour was spent with me silently cursing ODOT planners from the 1970s. If you’ve never been on the I-205 bike path, you probably know there is much needless up and down on the trail. When your body is getting tired, these are the things you meditate on as you are puffing your way up some of the climbs that exist on the north part of the path—fortunately it gets a little better south of Gateway Transit Center.

The fourth and final hour of my bike ride ended with a stop at Cartlandia, just a mile from home. London Pasty Company, one of the carts in the pod, now sells a $1.50 ice cream cone with raspberry syrup on the top—a pleasant thing to remember as you’re passing by.

Subtracting ten minutes for the ice cream stop, turns out it took me an hour to bike home from my work building. This blows one of my excuses for not biking to work out of the water. My coworkers have been asking if I’ve started biking to work yet, and with the upcoming trip it seems like now would be the time to start. Unfortunately, it will mean leaving Atticus for 11 rather than 10 hours per day—frankly, time with him is a higher priority than biking, so I may not do any permanent changes just yet.

Thinking back on my busy winter, it seems like spring and summer are bound to be even more action-packed!

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Three Reasons I Loved My Adventure Cycling Tour

ThreeReasonsILovedMyAdventureCyclingTourMy second guest blog post for Adventure Cycling Association went live a couple weeks ago. Three Reasons I Loved My Adventure Cycling Tour recalls my Oregon Coast bike trip last summer, encouraging other riders who may not have tried Adventure Cycling’s organized tours to give it a shot.

Over the last few months my time in the saddle has been nearly non-existent due to a new job and life obligations, but spring looks promising. In May I should be traveling to Wisconsin for a short bike respite with Amanda from Life Without Wheels, and hope it will provide some material for my third guest post for the organization.

Stay tuned!

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Injury Management and Pain Pathways

Over a decade ago, I fell and experienced a pretty painful pelvic injury. It took a while to pinpoint and solve the root cause, but with the help of a great chiropractor, I got there.

After the first year of regular adjustments, I started learning what kept my body feeling fine, and when I had pain, what the likely causes were. Riding my bike regularly was an activity that helped keep things in check, but when I was having a flare-up, occasionally I would get off my bike and not be able to stand up straight. (This is one of the many ways in which my custom-built Sweetpea has been fantastic—riding ill-fitting frames in the past regularly exacerbated the injury.)

One of the last couple of times I visited Darah (my chiropractor), she looked at my leg lengths and said I was basically doing fine. I wondered whether the pain may be related to PMS and she told me about how chronic injuries sometimes exhibit a type of phantom pain. If anything gets irritated in the general vicinity of the original injury (or anywhere along the original pain pathway), the nerves jump to their familiar response, and the brain will read it as that old injury acting up again. This past week I’ve been having knee and leg pain, which seems to migrate on a daily basis, and I suspect it may be my body yet again misinterpreting what is actually going on inside.

It also seems that non-physical pain may have the same properties. Over the same week I’ve also been a bit anguished in my head. It seems like maybe whenever I am feeling down about anything, my brain is now trained to go to a fairly specific place that has caused me much grief. A place it has been trying to figure out for a very long time. No answers have come, and no answers will likely ever come. Most of the time it’s fine, but when I’m extra tired, down because the holidays have been a bummer, bored, or something else—my brain starts in with the familiar response. It started with a similar localized jolt like the pelvis injury, and likewise, the effects have had far-reaching reverberations.

Our bodies and minds are shaped by blunt force trauma. Just as our muscle memory ensures we will always remember how to ride a bike, we are also forever shaped by our injuries. Grappling with an injury long-term involves learning how to live with that injury—acknowledging it, accepting it, and doing what is needed to take care of it. We move forward the best we can. Carefully and mindfully.

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A Bikish Year (2012) in Photos

Over the past week, I’ve been realizing how much I have to be proud of this year. My friend who goes by Mudlips over at Peregrination inspired me to post a year in photos like she recently did. I thought it would be tough to fill up the year in photos on both this blog and Bookish without having holes—I was wrong. There were times I was doing more booking than biking, or more biking than booking, but I managed to get at least one photo per month this year of both.

JANUARY

I babysat Lily’s Xtracycle the first few months of the year. I only ended up riding it about four times, and I never had reason to haul anything, but at least it was in good hands while she was in Germany. I didn’t even remove the narrow saddle that made me wince every time I rode it. This photo is from an outing to Bar Carlo, my favorite restaurant that is relatively close to me.

FEBRUARY

Under the inky cover of night I assisted with installing a series of bike rack cozies at Bertie Lou’s Cafe in Sellwood. A knotty yarnbomber named Lefty O’Shea has created a number of similar installations across Portland, which aim to tie in with the adjacent business. For example, Bikeasaurus got a bike rack cozy that had a dinosaur spine, and the cutesy decor at Bertie Lou’s was honored with roses on top of this series.

MARCH

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I was mostly in the throes of working on my MPub project report titled Publishing to Inspire: The Role of Publications at Adventure Cycling Association. On this sunny day I managed to take the Xtracycle for a spin over to the Woodstock Library. I also discovered that I could wear my hair sticks if I used my Union Jack helmet, as shown. A good discovery!

APRIL

Work on my project report was coming to a close, and I got myself a bikish graduation present: I signed up for Adventure Cycling Association’s Introduction to Bike Touring course. In celebration, I took Sweetpea due south along the I-205 path until we got to the bridge at High Rocks. The bridge was still closed for some construction, but I had never traveled that far south on that deplorable multi-use path. It would not be the last time I would do so this year.

April was also the month I decided to forge ahead by myself in my biking activities.

MAY

In May I enjoyed my first solo bike overnight trip. Wrote about it for the Bike Overnights blog (My First Solo Bike Overnight: Champoeg State Park) which then got chosen by Mac as one of the Top Five Bike Overnights to be used whenever they want to market or promote the site. W00t!

It was also the first time I got to see the exhibits at the Champoeg visitor center—exhibits that I helped develop in 2004. Working on that project was how I met Marie Naughton, who has since become my mentor and one of my best friends.

JUNE

Emily and I biked to Metzler Park near Estacada for an overnight trip (The Adventures of Lycra Grrl: Traversing to Metzler with a Ninja).

JULY

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In preparation for my bike trip I climbed Mt. Tabor, Mt. Scott, Rocky Butte, rode the 40 miles from my house to Kelly Point Park and back (on the way home, above), got some mechanical issues solved, and the last few days of July I was on my bike trip.

AUGUST

Bike trip (The Adventures of Lycra Grrl: Certified Excellence in Bicycle Touring)! Oh, but it was great. The people were interesting and nice, we had a good route, and I experienced parts of Oregon I’ve not been to for decades, if ever.

SEPTEMBER

Completed the pronunciation guide for this project. Greg had bandanas made earlier in the year, but when he knew Adventure Cycling was to start selling “Bikelingual” T-shirts, he asked for me to do a little more research and come up with a pronunciation guide that would ship with the shirt.

OCTOBER

Diana (Zippy Diana Finishes her Trip) visited Portland and we did the Brewcycle Tour (Brewcycle Portland and the Triumphant Return of Diana), during which we just happened to run into a pair of cyclists making their way from Seattle to Utah.

NOVEMBER

This month’s biking mostly took place in the rain. But this fall I hiked much more than I biked.

DECEMBER

First guest blog post for Adventure Cycling (Winter Tips from a Rain Expert)! This photo is one of the “DVD extras” I wanted to include in that blog post, but didn’t.

It looks like the next year will bring a couple more guest posts for Adventure Cycling Association, but beyond that, things look hazy. My housing situation is problematic, to put it mildly, and my time is increasingly crunched. Even if I can get out on my bike, I may not be able to document it as thoroughly as I’d like. Only time will tell.

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Winter Tips from a Rain Expert

ACAGuestPost1My first guest blog post for Adventure Cycling Association went live on Friday. Winter Tips from a Rain Expert reveals most of what I’ve learned dealing with Portland rain over the years.

Riding in the rain was one of the more challenging obstacles I faced as a bike commuter, and I hope this article might help other people power through their resistance to the wet. If you like what you see, I hope you’ll share the article with others—I’d love to get lots of readers and feedback.

I’ll be doing a couple more guest posts for Adventure Cycling over the next several months. At the moment I’m brainstorming ideas for my next post. What would you like to see?

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