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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Lessons from a Trumpet Guy

(Photo by Mark Blevis on Flickr)

Meet Kirk Reeves.

I knew Kirk, like many did, as “the trumpet guy.” He used to sit on a traffic island on the west end of the Hawthorne Bridge on weekday afternoons and entertain passersby. Usually he played the trumpet, but often pulled out props like an expanding ball toy (at left). He wore distinctive hats and had a smile and a kind word for everybody.

If you are a cyclist and know anything about Portland, you probably know that the Hawthorne Bridge is Bikey Ground Zero. It’s the bridge where bike traffic can easily outnumber car traffic, where bike traffic jams are a very real threat, and where thousands of bikes streamed by “trumpet guy” every day.

And as such, many people who commuted by bike were very familiar with “trumpet guy.” Like me.

When I worked in Chinatown, I often used to cruise down Naito Parkway to bike home, rather than riding through crowded Waterfront Park. This meant that I needed to circle up to the Hawthorne Bridge in an unusual way. Instead of approaching via the bike lane behind him, I accessed the bridge by biking up a closed onramp, spitting me out on the crosswalk directly in front of “trumpet guy.” I rode this route for nearly two years.

If he wasn’t playing trumpet, Kirk often said hello and smiled at me as he waved his rubber chicken at traffic. Cars were often paying more attention to the oncoming traffic lane than the crosswalk, and Kirk’s presence made me feel like if anyone ever hit me, I’d have a witness to tell the world just how innocent I was.

Earlier this week, I read online that Kirk had died. The Portland Police were searching for any relatives he may have, and Portland started sharing memories of him. A few news outlets covered the story of his death.

It wasn’t until today, after the police had found a relative, that the real story emerged: Kirk was found near Bybee Lake in North Portland with a self-inflicted gunshot wound. This man whose smiles never ceased was hiding a lot of inner suffering, as it turns out.

Even before the suicide angle emerged, the story had picked up enough steam that Facebook fan pages started emerging for Kirk. Remembrances started pouring in: KGW found file footage of him working the bridge, The Oregonian ran a loving tribute, Portland Community Media shared a short documentary about him.

There are two lessons I take from Kirk’s sad story.

First: never underestimate the ripples you make in the world around you. Sure, Kirk auditioned for some big television shows and didn’t get selected, but people definitely noticed when he was absent from his post on the Hawthorne Bridge for more than a few days this past week. Those people have organized a candlelight vigil this weekend that even Portland’s Mayor, Sam Adams, says he will attend.

Second: Portland is known for, and often prides itself, on its “weird” citizens. It seems to me that a fair amount of this “weird” behavior may be a cry for attention, a happy face covering an inner pain. After all, Portland is pretty bleak in the winter, a never-ending sea of gray mist from October through May—that can get to even the most stout-hearted of us.

So, to anyone who has ever been deeply irritated by the attention-whoring of someone else, perhaps considering this possibility may help you be more compassionate toward them. And to anyone who has been that person, trying desperately to keep a smile on to just get through the day, know that you impact the world far more than you may think. And consider talking to someone about those worries! Reach out when you’re feeling the worst and you may soon find that the feelings aren’t quite as bad as they used to be.

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A Struggling Relationship with Rain Capes

Rain capes and I have had a long and tenuous relationship. Curiosity interested me for years, but I didn’t have the opportunity to try one out. Now I have. And I want to like, them—really, I do—but the reality of using one has not matched up so far with how they’ve been explained to me.

If you’re not familiar, a rain cape is supposed to work like a big tent that shields water from your body underneath. Practical applications: if you hate wearing a rain jacket and rain pants, or perhaps if you are too short, too tall, too big, or too curvy for the few decent selections out there on the market. Available sizing got you down? No problem, a rain cape is for you!

But if you live in the rainforests of the Pacific Northwest (like I do), beware.

In Montana last summer, I received a bright red rain cape from the Dutch company Fast Rider. It worked when I biked a few blocks in Missoula’s spring showers, but I knew the ultimate test of this rain cape’s abilities would be testing it during a Portland winter.

Since coming back home last fall I’ve worn this rain cape out on three occasions:
• Riding downtown to see a bike-related brown bag presentation and meet a professional contact in person for the first time. The rain was pouring. While my top half stayed sufficiently dry, my pants were sticking to my legs when I arrived at City Hall. They remained so for hours. Tres professionnel.

• Biking about an hour to my friend Chris’ house the evening before Thanksgiving. Despite almost never having any unwanted attention while riding my bike, on this round trip I had a person from a car holler at me as they drove along a major street while I was waiting for a light. I had a frozen custard (or something similar) thrown at me on Williams Avenue (it hit my shoulder). Then I had a group of high school kids next to me at a light roll their window down to ask if I was warm biking in the rain. It felt like my bright red rain cape was a matador flag, invoking ire as I crossed town.

• Yesterday I journeyed to inner southeast. As soon as I left my house the rain went from pouring to drizzly, and stayed there most of the time I was in it. Result: while the rain cape protected me well from the top, my socks still got wet from the spray being kicked up by my wheels from standing water on the pavement.

If getting unwanted attention and wet pants from pavement moisture wasn’t enough, there’s also a signaling problem. When your arms are covered by a big tent of fabric (and your wrists are pulled through the loops inside), it’s impossible to signal your turns.

In theory, there is a solution to this. I like to call it the Bricker signal, for the person who introduced it to me. It involves using your head to communicate your intent (you may have to click the image to see what I’m talking about):

Of course there are problems. The Bricker signal isn’t exactly street legal. It’s not as easy to see a bobbing head as it is to see as an arm, and the signal may be misinterpreted by those around you (“I’m going to turn left” could mean “go ahead, pass me on my left”). So far I haven’t had any problems with the Bricker signal, but then again I live in Portland where people are largely used to riding courteously around bikes, and I am a pretty defensive cyclist.

In short, the results of my rain cape experiments have been achingingly inconclusive. Two of the three times I’ve worn it out, it seemed to be more trouble than it was worth. I really like having gear options, because I don’t really relish needing to don my ugly rain gear to ride most of the year. But there are more mundane options that can get the job done, like a heavy wool peacoat. I am keeping the rain cape in my closet for now, but maybe not for long. We’ll see.

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Featured on BikeOvernights, Still in Cahoots with Adventure Cycling Association

Earlier this week, a modified version of my post about bike tripping to Champoeg State Park was featured on the BikeOvernights blog, one of Adventure Cycling Association’s many websites.

I’m also in cahoots with them to write a few posts for the main Adventure Cycling blog over the next year. I’ve already got an idea for the first one! Watch this blog for links as those are published.

The evening after the BikeOvernights story ran, Adventure Cycling organized a get-together in downtown Portland. The routes and mapping team was in town for the NACIS annual meeting, so they gave attendees an hour-long presentation about their work–including their current bear of a project, the multi-year conversion to GIS. I volunteered to bake vast amounts of cookies for attendees, and a swell time was had by all in attendance.

In related news, my friends Sarah and Josh recently wrapped up their six-month bike trip from Fairbanks, Alaska, to Mexico (documented on Real Big Fun). They both used to work at Adventure Cycling, but got engaged and quit their jobs to do this trip. It took them about five months! This is their end-of-trip photo, and speaks volumes about them. I adore them both, and hope to steal away to Missoula to visit them soon!

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Cross Crusade Opener at Alpenrose

Atticus and I had a fever, and the only prescription was Cross Crusade!

We have often enjoyed going to Alpenrose each fall for the season opener of Cross Crusade. Supposedly the world’s largest single-day cyclocross event, it’s a great place to bump into tons of cyclists I know, enjoy the more unusual competitors, and get to bring Atticus along for some bikey fun. He enjoys being around so many people, taking it all in, and howling racers to victory.

On Sunday we were lucky enough to steal away to catch the show!

In the morning I was working on a baking project, so I missed two of my favorite categories—beginners and clydesdales. Over the years I’ve usually known more people in the beginners race than any other category—but since I haven’t been around for a few years, that may not have been the case this time. Clydesdales are male racers who are heavier than your typical bike racer. In the opinion of this spectator, these guys are way more interesting to watch, second only to the Athenas in sheer awesomeness.

When we arrived in the afternoon there was still plenty of action to be found. I navigated to an out-of-the-way spot that would provide photo ops for me and shade for Atticus. The course was particularly long and tricky this year, and we ended up on the south end of the velodrome atop a hill, near a hairpin turn involving gravel, sand, and grass. Not long after we arrived, I saw one Category A racer totally bite it on the unassuming sand patch right next to us.

The bulk of familiar racers we saw were from Team Slow. Originally I had planned to race with them when I came back from Canada, but many things made that prospect impossible when I returned. It was still nice to say hello and take some photos as they zipped by.

One of these days I will try cyclocross. In fact, I have my eye on a team and a gleam in my eye—all I need is the right bike…

See more photos from the Cross Crusade opener here.

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Brewcycle Portland and the Triumphant Return of Diana

Readers of this blog may recall Diana, a spunky cross-country cyclist I had the pleasure of hosting last summer when I was living in Missoula. Diana has since landed in rural Wisconsin, where she is a practicing small-animal veterinarian (dogs, cats) and is also working toward a Master of Public Health degree.

Diana recently visited Portland! She and her boyfriend John were planning to attend a wedding on the Oregon coast, and would be in my fair city for fewer than 24 hours. What could we do that would give us time to catch up, allow Diana and John to enjoy some of Portland’s masterful microbrews, and would be oh-so-Portland?

Quick, someone reserve the last three tickets on the Brewcycle tour!

If you’re not familiar, the Brewcycle (or Cycle Pub, Beer Bike, etc) is a truck-sized, bar-looking contraption that runs on pedal power. It’s a pretty popular concept: it seems that there are similar vehicles running in Germany, The Netherlands, and even Bend. The New York Times covered the Beer Bike phenomenon earlier this year. Never to be outdone when it comes to either beer or bikes, of course someone had the brilliant idea to build one for Portland. Although ours doesn’t look quite as spiffy as the others, and due to various laws (mainly ORS 811.170 I think?) it doesn’t actually serve beer on the bike itself. Unlike others.

Diana, John and I met up at the tour’s start location, and after a brief jaunt into an unfinished space (supposedly the company’s office), the 16 passengers were vying for space on the Brewcycle. Our tour was pretty much as full as it could be. Not only were all the non-pedaling stools occupied, but the three-bum-wide bench at the back was full up, and one person even ended up sitting behind the bar on a small portable stool. Brewcycle tours have a city-approved route, and so each tour selects three of four available stops they would like to visit. We discussed our options, and off we went!

Rogue’s public house in Northwest Portland was our first stop. I knew I could not drink a full pint during the mere 25 minutes we had per location, so I ended up splitting a pint of Rogue’s Double Chocolate Stout with Diana, and it comprised the bulk of beer that I had on this trip. Left to my own devices, I’m not much of a drinker—a fact I mention mostly because of this exchange:

Diana: “Ooooh, it tastes just like a tootsie roll! Taste it, John!”
John: “That’s chocolatey alright!”
Me: “It tastes like beer. Oh, maybe I can kind of taste a little chocolate at the end?”

I fail to notice taste subtleties unless I’ve been drinking beer way more regularly than I have the past year. However I do appreciate a good mouthfeel, which is why I enjoy the darker, chewier beers than the lighter stuff.

Caps and Corks was the next stop. As soon as the Brewcycle pulled over, Diana noticed a couple of loaded touring bikes parked outside, right behind me. It was not tough to find the owners, Monica and Bill, and we sat and chatted about bike touring. Monica and Bill quit their jobs and are riding from the Seattle area to Zion National Park—we crossed paths with them on the third day of their journey. They asked Diana about her experience with Warmshowers, and we pointed out that she and I had met through Warmshowers on her cross-country bike trip!

Our last stop was the good ol’ Lucky Lab, a business which is near to my heart. Not only is their mascot a dog (and they’re a pretty dog-friendly business!), but their locations feel less bar-like to me. They serve food I don’t mind eating, and you’ll often find board games or other fun at the Southeast location. Now and again they even have a pear cider on tap—but not on this night, so I drank nothing. Instead I tried a new vegetarian sandwich on the menu which featured pesto, roasted tomatoes, onions, and mozzarella on whole wheat bread. Once we were seated, Diana and I continued catching up—pets, houses, jobs. It was really nice to be able to say the words “aural hematoma” to someone and not have to explain what that meant.

Diana and John weren’t done with their drinks by the time the Brewcycle was leaving, so they opted to stay instead of pedal the four blocks back to the end of the line. I did go though, and it seemed the intoxication level had jumped on this last little leg of the journey. (Naturally, this is when the tip jar got passed around!)

Aside from getting a chance to catch up with Diana, my favorite part of the evening was pedaling the ginormous bike. At first I wasn’t sure I’d be able to use one of the pedaling seats since the stool height is apparently challenging for shorter people. But with a little extension in my feet, I was able to pedal just fine. Another treat—navigating the urban streets of Northwest Portland on First Thursday. Not only did a streetcar actually stop so we could cross Lovejoy, but we traveled a couple blocks on busy NW 14th and despite the long line of cars piled behind us…there was not a single honk. People on the sidewalks stared and took photos, even though this contraption clearly travels through this area very regularly. It was nice though, to be seen by other traffic as amusing, rather than as a scofflaw menace to society—which I got a dose of today in Sellwood.

Normally this isn’t a tour I’d have done on my own, but I’m glad I went. It’s difficult to have discovery and adventure in your life when you’re in a place you’ve lived more or less your entire life. In addition to occasionally partaking in things like this, I’ve also been contemplating buying a hiking book and trying to check off all the hikes inside. Or planning more solo bike trips. How do you keep from being bored to death by your current surroundings?

See more photos from the Brewcycle tour on Flickr.

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The Bikes of “Call the Midwife”

In the wake of last year’s Downton Abbey fever (which surprisingly, I successfully avoided despite being an incorrigible Anglophile), PBS is putting a lot of marketing behind their new series Call the Midwife. Set in the 1950s, the show follows a group of midwives (some are nuns, some are not) as they make calls on London’s east end—home of the city’s poorest residents.

Delightfully, the midwives get around by bike! Here are a few stills from the first episode, all beautiful:

Actually, one of the reasons the show piqued my interest was seeing publicity stills, banner ads, and trailers that all featured bike riding scenes. And what beautiful bikes they are! Raleigh cruisers, I’m sure.

(The rest of the show is pretty good so far too…)

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