Tuesday, May 29, 2007


I went for a bike ride on Saturday, riding down to the end of the Green River Trail in Kent and back up home to Rainier Beach again.

Number of miles ridden: 38
Number of miles by which this exceeds my previous longest ride: 12

I felt like a cartoon, I was so happy to be out there. The sun was out, the trail was surprisingly uncrowded--nothing like the Burke Gilman, which is the only other regional trail I've ridden on. I stopped for a break after 12 miles in a newish park in the Kent area, dedicated to three men who died on a fishing trip in Alaska a couple of years ago. The park had a shelter, restrooms, picnic tables, a barbecue grill, and lush green grass...and nobody was there. On a sunny Saturday. Of a three-day weekend. Weird. I refilled my water bottle at the drinking fountain and went on another 7 miles, to where the Green River Trail intersects with the Interurban Trail.

I thought about taking the Interurban back up to Tukwila to make the ride a loop, but saved that one for a different day. I was in a windy trail mood, a mood for meandering along the riverbank and behind office parks and under bridges, not for a straight-as-an-arrow sprint back north. I wandered home, showered, and headed out to the bookstore with Mr. Thel for dinner and literature.

Despite my expectations, I wasn't even sore on Sunday. Of course, the trail is flat as can be...but still, I preened a little at the evidence of my budding strength. I can't imagine a better way to spend part of a Saturday, and I can't wait to go out again.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Crunchings and munchings for all

Perhaps in all the hubbub over Jerry Falwell's death last week you did not hear of the passing of Lloyd Alexander.

I read Lord of the Rings for the first time in first grade, and was skipped past second grade, so in fourth grade I was placed in an advanced learning program. Since it was such a rural school district, the program--known as "TAG," for the "talented and gifted" students--had to bus us smartypants together at one school; there weren't enough of us at any one elementary school to justify creating programs at each school. So on Tuesdays and Thursdays a little van would pick three or four of us up from Tenmile Elementary, swing by Lookinglass Elementary for Rachel, Michael, Guion, and Gerard, and deposit us at McGovern with the other smartypantses already there.

We studied Spanish, built little engine-driven machines out of something like Erector sets, kept journals, and spent a lot of time in the library. Alas, aside from the Spanish, I have forgotten much else of what I'm sure was a pretty good program for its time and place. Aside from the daily trauma of playing four-square on the playground--even among the other nerds, I was a standout loser at four-square--my most vivid memory is of reading Lloyd Alexander's Prydain Chronicles that year. In fact, one day in the library I became so engrossed in the tales of Taran, Eilonwy, Gurgi, Dallben, Gwydion, and the unforgettable Fflewddur Fflam that I somehow managed to get myself left behind in some corner of the library. I missed the van back to TenmiIe, and thus the bus home. I think Dad had to come pick me up on his way home from work. I'm pretty sure the incident had no effect on my absent-mindedness, nor on my ability to tune out the rest of the world when necessary. However, now that I work in a small office with someone whose job requires a lot of peppy phone calls, this flaw has redeemed itself a bit.

I've re-read the Prydain books several times since that first enchanting encounter in the library in fourth grade, and every time am re-charmed by the strength of the myth and character and humor in them. So, Lloyd Alexander, I lift a glass for you tonight. As you said, we are all Assistant Pig-Keepers at heart.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

What Thel Saw

On Cloverdale
A brown-and-white pit bull is resting halfway out of an open second-story window, his front legs casually crossed, looking contemplatively out at the street like a jowly middle-aged man planning his escape.

On Lake Washington Boulevard
There is a woman wearing a yellow jacket and black shorts, her curly grey hair flowing in the breeze, who rides her bicycle every morning along Lake Washington Boulevard. She rides south in the mornings and north in the evenings, so we cross paths with a nod on the days that I ride. She, however, rides every single day. I have seen her every morning from my car for the past three or four months, rain or shine. Usually in the mornings when I drive our paths cross just at the top of the Seward Park hill--the same hill I had to get off and walk up the first time I encountered it. She crests it smoothly, seated, her legs moving sedately. When I ride my bike I am on the road much earlier, and our paths cross up north of I-90. She rides with just as much easy grace on the flatter road there--not for her the hunched-over grimace and the racing whirl. She gives me a slow nod without losing cadence, and I feel like I've crossed paths with a queen.

The best thing Thel saw
Coming up away from the lake near the end of my ride, the road climbs through a series of S-curves. Non-athlete that I am, I always slow down to become the pokiest little puppy imaginable up that hill. This morning just where the slope begins, a bad-ass man came whizzing up past me, clad in black and blue spandex. Perched high up on his back was a wee pink backpack sporting the Dora the Explorer logo. I only had a few moments to take it in before he was gone around the corner, far fitter and faster than I. And although you didn't bother calling "on your left" as all the polite bicyclists do, I salute you, swift athletic Dora-loving man.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Pedal to the Metal

I'm on track to ride 3 days this week--more days than driving! And heaven knows I must ride on Friday, the actual Bike to Work Day!

In response to comments on the last post (comments!) I'm still pondering the car sale. I've spent so many years struggling with a credit card debtload...it would be ever so lovely to get out from under it all at once. I do hesitate because, well, yeah...riding my bike to work for a week in lovely May weather, when the sun is up before 6:00 a.m. and the birds sing as the wispy mist on the lake melts away, is a far cry from riding to work and back in the dark and rain and mud and puddles of December. I know my willpower will quail before such a prospect.

BUT. Luckily for me, I happen to live one block from the bus line that takes me directly to work with no transfers. It's a poky sort of route right now, especially with MLK down to one lane each way for the light rail construction, but it still only takes about an hour--about the same amount of time as riding to work, actually. So if I did sell the car and end up desperate for warm transport to work of a freezing winter morn, I would have a pretty easy alternative. This makes the idea of going carless easier to swallow.

I'm so glad you guys commented...what else am I missing? I want to run this past as many skeptics as possible! Lord knows I already know what the folks at the Cascade Bicycle Club forums would say, so this is far better critique of the proposal.

Friday, May 11, 2007

There can only be one

I'm not a very hard-core "Bike to Work Month" participant, but I've done it 3 out of 9 days now. And I no longer have to get off and walk that last little bit up the hill past Seward Park, either: on Wednesday I (ever so slowly) pedalled all the way up it without a pause.

Riding my bicycle to work is a joy in part because my brain has hard-wired a connection between "experience of being on a bike" and "experience of being on vacation." As a kid in the sticks we rode our bikes a lot all summer long. And every time we went camping for a weekend, which also happened frequently in the summer, we loaded up the bikes and took them with us. So now when I hop on a bicycle my brain says, "Ah, sweet, we're on vacation," even if my body is actually taking us to work (haha brain, PSYCH!!).

It is also a joy because it feels like cheating to transport myself for free. Like giving a finger to "the man." The oil-selling man, anyway.

Which brings me to say...I'm thinking about selling my car. Mr. Thel has recently replaced his shiny car with an oldish truck for work, and yet I am pondering the plunge to becoming a one-vehicle household. If I can ride my bike to work the majority of the time...first of all, I'll be healthier and perhaps lighter in due time. Selling the car would allow me to pay off all my debts that aren't related to my house and my education, and THAT, my friends, would be a load off my mind. In addition to letting me pay off those debts, it would save me at least $300 a month in vehicle expenses. It would be better for the world in terms of reducing my carbon footprint, naturally.

It's a lifestyle change, for sure, but I can't stop thinking about it longingly. It feels liberating. We'd still have a vehicle capable of carrying us all in case of emergency or camping or whatever, so why not stick with just one?

I'll keep you posted. We'll see if I can actually get to the point of bicycle commuting every day for a solid week, at least, and then...

Friday, May 04, 2007

From the department of "funny because it's true"

What the yeti said:

By the time I arrive at the office, my body is flooded with my three favorite substances: adrenaline, endorphins, and self-righteousness.

It's "Bike to Work Month," and I cautiously joined the wee team at work. You have to ride at least five times during the month, so I figured it would be a good way to start getting into the habit again. I rode to work some last summer, but the ride was only half as long...so I needed to convince myself that I could make a ten-mile ride to work in the morning.

Well, I can. Turns out that ride earlier this year wasn't just a fluke achievement. And it's nice: I get in an hour of exercise (yes, I am rather slow), and rather than still needing to get ready and go to work, bam! I'm already there. I do still shower when I get there, because nobody likes to stew in their own sweat and stink all day. And I'm pretty sure nobody in this small office would like to smell me stewing in my own sweat all day, either.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007


Wow, I'm glad I no longer cross this bridge twice a day between home and work.

It occurred to me this morning that our move to south Seattle means I no longer have any water crossings between my house and my workplace. I have this obsession with needing to have my emergency routes home all planned ahead of time, so there was always this potential "swim across the canal" step in all my previous emergency routes. Which, you know, I can swim, but brr.

And that reminds me that my emergency kit got taken out of the car when we moved. I like to keep a first aid kit, water, some spare clothes, and comfortable shoes in there, and I haven't lately...time to fix that.