Tag Archives: Missoula Montana

On Shoes and Sweetpeas

One year ago I purchased a pair of Vibram FiveFingers shoes (left) in Missoula, Montana. They were too cold for Oregon’s wet winter but now that our skies are sunny and the world is dry, I’ve been wearing them out in the world once again. A lot.

I assumed these shoes were old news in Portland, but I don’t have to travel far to encounter people who want to talk about my feet.

Once I was held up for several minutes at the Happy Valley New Seasons because the woman behind me in line was curious about my experience with the shoes. After two recent conversations with random strangers in less than 12 hours, I suggested to my mom maybe I should try not to wear them in public anymore. Less than five minutes later, we encountered one of our neighbors at his workplace who—you guessed it—asked me about my shoes.

Just today while waiting for an early-morning MAX train, a man who spoke little English stood in front of me, pointed, and said “Shoes!” with a thumbs up and a smile.

When I go out in the world on Sweetpea (below) I wear more traditional shoes, but I find myself getting stopped just the same.

Recently I was attempting to make a detour from my usual route and took a wrong turn in the Lloyd District. As I attempted to move back on course, I signaled and moved left into a turn lane. When I realized I wanted the next street up, the light turned red and I was unable to get back over to the bike lane before cars approached from behind.

“Oh boy,” I thought, dreadfully. “Once the light turns, these people are going to be upset I’m slowing them down and not in the bike lane.”

The driver in the car to my right rolled down his window. I tensed.

“Hey, nice bike you got there!” he said.

As we waited a few minutes for the light to change, we talked about Sweetpea and my dread lifted. I told him about how this bike had all but eliminated my former hand pain and the breathing problems I experienced on previous frames. As the light turned green he complimented the bike again and wished me well before we both took off.

Even last summer, I ran into a man observing the Missoula Marathon who recognized the bike “in the wild” and we chatted about Sweetpea and her builder for a few minutes.

Normally I don’t identify as a person who randomly converses with strangers. In Missoula things were different (everyone is so friendly), but I’m enjoying the experience of being back in Portland and having people approach me. Talking about Sweetpea and FiveFingers is enjoyable because I’m passionate about them both and enjoy encouraging people through sharing what I know. It also makes me wonder if maybe the black cloud that often follows me in public may be breaking up a little bit.

Purple is a truly magical color, is it not?

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Filed under Bicycles, Montana, Oregon

An Informal Survey of Bike Locking Methods in Missoula

Approaches to locking one’s bike are very different in Missoula compared to Vancouver BC (at left), where I lived the previous eight months. In fact, locking up one’s bike seems so unnecessary in Missoula that earlier this week, I did an informal survey of locking methods in two adjacent areas of bike parking. One is inside a semi-secluded courtyard, which has a gate to the street which is unlocked all day; the second is just outside the same courtyard on the street. Location undisclosed to protect the poor, defenseless little bikes.

Type of lock: Number of bikes present using method 

U-Lock: 3
Cable Lock: 6
No Lock: 3

U-Lock: 0
Cable Lock: 3
No Lock: 0

Nearly the second I got to Vancouver, people started insisting that bike theft was a major problem. Indeed, the rack I parked my bike at every day was notorious for theft, and even had a plaque installed that advised “Cyclists: Park at Own Risk.” At first it just made me nervous, but a couple months in, I started looking at the other bikes and had a realization: the majority of bikes were locked by cable lock. Or as I like to call it, “take my bike…please!”

It blows my mind how many cyclists in Missoula seem to rely on the cable lock. Unlike Vancouver, cyclists don’t just ride crap bikes in case they’re stolen. And yet, the college town must be crime-free enough that in most cases, a cable lock keeps people honest.

And there’s an upside for me. I barely rode my Sweetpea while I was in Vancouver—instead, my early 80s Centurion was my daily commuter. When I was prepping for Missoula it became clear both bikes wouldn’t fit properly on the car rack at the same time. So I only brought the Sweetpea to Montana, and now have the whole summer to enjoy riding my beautiful, comfortable, made-for-me bike. Given I’m one of the few people taking the time to U-lock, I know many sacrificial lambs stand between me and my bike being carried away from me.

But I’m still going to be careful anyway.


Filed under Bicycles, Canada, Montana