Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Portland Rules, Reason #2, Day #2

I had several goals upon arriving in Portland, all of them hopelessly quirky, an adjective often used to describe me. While an obsession with ballet flats probably is not that odd-ball for many women, my latest obsession has been the Nutcase bike helmet in assorted styles and colors. They are nowhere to be found in Flagstaff and I didn't care to order one on-line since I was concerned about fit. However, I'd already visited several websites for Portland bike shops and knew I could find the Nutcase brand in during our stay.

Our first morning we hit the street in search of atmosphere, subject matter for our mutual blogs, breakfast and bike shops. It didn't take us long to find what we were looking for. One of the most charming features of the city, really wasn't a city feature at all but the many groups of pint sized school children holding hands (the buddy system) escorted on school outtings with their young and energetic teachers. I'm not really a kid-person, but they were pretty adorable and gave Portland an overall wholesome feel, which in my book is a plus.

After some time trying to figure out on our own the correct direction to the river, the Running Bob and I finally asked a passing stranger directions. Cheerfully, she and her boyfriend (our walking their funny little dog) pointed us in the right direction. And was it ever! No we still did not find the river but we did find Bike Gallery! Despite a herniated disk, I sprinted to the front door, threw it open and immeidately found the object of my desire - helmet display filled with Nutcase bike helmets in more lovely styles than I could possibly count. There it was, the Hula. And then the Sunburst. And Sunflowers. How does one decide? I grabbed as many as I could carry and headed to a mirror. Isn't 90% of it really about how it looks anyway? Completely shallow thinking yes, but I have to be honest. Appearance does influence my spending decisions heavily. The mirrow did not lie; it would be between the Hula and the Sunburst. But I needed the advise of a higher authority. Not, the Planner Guy in this case but the twenty-somthing sales clerk, who clearly knew her way around bikes and street fashion. She preferred the Sunburst. As I'd hoped she would. Sale!

The Nutcase Sunburst helmet cost $49. If our stay in Portland had ended right there I could have gone home a happy woman, certain that not another person in Flagstaff owns the same helmet. Fortunately, Bob and I had other items on our "to do" list. Riding Dutch bikes. We resumed our search for the river and the Hawthorne Bridge.

Reason #2.5 That Portland Rules
Hmmm . . . is it just me but have I seen an unusual number of Smart Cars? Not since visiting Vienna in 2005 have I seen so many Smart Cars on the street. They take up half a parking space. Although, we are now a 1 car family, if we lived in Portland or another large city with good public transit, we'd drive the Smart Car. Only saw one (not very smart) Hummer.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Portland Rules!

Back in Flag, Bob and I wonder if our trip to Portland might have been a little too short. Could it actually rival my favorite city of all time, Chicago, for the title of Favorite City of All Time? It takes a lot to possibly shake a near 20 year devotion to the Windy City but Portland is awesome! (Though rest assured, Chicago will always be in my top 2 American cities.)

Portland rules, and Portland has rules. Rules people seem to live by for getting along better. Rules for creating a community. No, the city hasn't overcome homelessness, graffiti, litter, or the economy but people who live and work there seem to know they have something pretty good going on.

It all started at the airport with the Max Red Line light rail, which for about $5 took both of us almost straight to the door of our hotel. Those unfamiliar with often worry about a) safety and b) how to get find your stop and get off at the right time. With respect to safety, along with the Planner Guy and I, our car for some reason also carried a large group of fencing competitors. With car mates armed with swords, we felt utterly safe. The other passengers seemed to mostly other travelers, students, and people going to and from work - all seemed completely harmless. A security guard climbed on board near our last stop and exchanged pleasantries with us as we pointed our camera at this or that sight. As for the logistics of the route and exiting the train, each stopped it announced in both English and Spanish, including which side of the train from which to exit. An easy to read map over the windows indicates the stops to follow and each stop is clearly marked.

Bob made reservations for us at the Hotel de Luxe, located at 15th and Yamhill, fairly near PGE Park. We were greeted by the most helpful and friendly doormen and front desk staff one could ever want. They offered maps, suggestions on things to see and do, dining recommendations, and assured us that yes, they love Portland, and oh, that's great that we want to rent bikes and that bike shops will deliver and we can store them there for daily use. Goody! Goody!

For anyone thinking about visiting Portland, Hotel de Luxe is sheer glamour. The old kind of sheer glamour, which is the only kind of glamour. Simple and elegant. Modern conveniences are included like WiFi but we were too taken with the snugly robes hanging in the closet and the comfy bed to think about logging on. Oh, yes, and they provide complimentary Aveda products in the bath.

Hungry after a long day on airplanes, Planner Guy and I hit the street and made our way to the Pearl District and found a nice Irish pub for a little bar food. As it was only about 4 p.m. the atmosphere was subdued; a nice mix of people sipping beer while reading or working on laptops and others sitting in small groups talking and watching ESPN. Two young men sitting outside the pub gave us suggestions on nearby bike shops and gladly allowed me to photographs their bikes. Yeah, they admitted they were bike guys. I suspected they might have built their bikes themselves but decided against interrupting their conversation further. Plus Bob really needed to eat.

We had our late lunch and moved on visiting the Patagonia store, several urban parks, and a couple of Powells booksellers. We stopped for coffee several times and I listened to Bob explain the finer points of urban planning as evidenced all around us. It is at those times that I am grateful that Bob is not an accountant. Or a mortician.

Naturally, seeking content for sherideabike.com I kept my eye out for bikes and bicyclists. Excited as I was, I did my best approach people for photographs without exposing myself as the crazy woman with a camera that I am becoming. I'm getting quite used to explaining myself to perfect strangers. As I explain my intentions, ("Oh, I have a fashion and bike commuting blog and your outfit is great.) the fear and uncertainty disappears from their faces and they consent to appearing in my blog. Thanks to all my willing subjects! One subject told me exactly where to find Clever Cycles and the Friday morning bike and breakfast in Hawthorne (which we unfortunately missed due to the unfortunate news that the Jade-dog was in the hospital).

I'll continue expounding upon Portland's greatness tomorrow. Unfortunately, I got a late start due to the discovering a horrible spelling error throughout my blog. Strangely, the Planner Guy (aka, therunningbob) noticed the spelling error weeks ago but decided against pointing it out to me. Clearly, he is still smarting over his bitter defeat in Scrabble several weeks ago (see post entitled The Agony of Defeat, and a Toothache).

Life Update

The Jade-dog has been tranferred to another hospital and we hope is making a good recovery. We hope to have her back with us in the next day or two.

This Saturday, I'll joing about 20 other bicyclists in the day long bike safety class offered by the Flagstaff Biking Organization and the City of Flagstaff. The class is one step in becoming certified as a League Cycling Instructor through the League of American Bicyclists. First and foremost, I need this training for my own safety since I have found myself making some careless and dangerous mistakes on the road. Oh, yes, and lunch from the Main Street Deli. Yum!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Hello from Portland, Oregon

I don't have much time to post at the moment. Planner Guy and I will shortly be on our way out for sushi somewhere near Hotel de Luxe. It is easy to see why Portland is the bike commuting capital of the United States. Everything and everyone seems to acccommodate bicyclists. Bike lanes, multi-use paths, bike racks, and drivers who share the road without honking and yelling (at least that was our experience in 24 hours of pedaling around downtown). I'll have more to report tomorrow afternoon upon our return to Flagstaff. Our trip has been great but disrupted by the news that our little dog Jade had to be hospitalized yesterday morning. Thank goodness for cell phones, and a good neighbor and co-workers to help us and our pets.

Later all.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

How Many Times Has This Happened to You?

It was a choice between sensible shoes and black, suede ballet flats so you can guess which won out. The perfect slipper to pair with my Patagonia boot cut capris. I felt very Audrey Hepburn as we excited the driveway this morning.

Another beautiful morning in Flagstaff. Just enough chill in the air for only a light jacket, no wind, and sun that promiced a warm afternoon walk. Bob and I pedaled to the corner of Beulah and Lake Forest to cross on our way to the flat but bike-laneless and completely uninspiring Milton Avenue. The light changed to green and Bob pushed off first. I started to follow but upon my start, off popped my right ballet flat, bouncing against the curb and then back under my bike. Damn, I swore under my breath. Why does this always happen on what would otherwise have been my most graceful bike ride so far this spring? Naturally, my flats have a elastic band around the opening of the shoe making it impossible for me to quickly slip my foot into the slipper in a Cinderella-like fashion. Since the street is usually busy, I kicked my ballet flat on the sidewalk where I moved with my Expedition. I returned the shoe to my foot, feeling utterly humiliated. Does this happen to women in Copenhagen? Across the street, Bob patiently waited, wondering why he couldn't have married a woman with a taste for sensible shoes.

Life Update

Only one more day until our Portland trip. Flying Horizon Airlines, which I understand serves Starbucks, wine, yummy snacks.

Planner Guy are prepping our front porch for our late spring through early fall nearly nightly ritual of front porching. We retained the porch on Sunday and plan to do the rails upon our return to Flag. While vacations are brief, we can nightly enjoy our staycation on the front porch on cozy furniture, snug under blankets at dusk while we play cribbage and nibble cheese and fruit washed down with wine. I plan to do some entries on the concept of front porching, which really does have quite a following, other kindred souls who appreciate the life at a slower and simpler pace.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Biking on the Job!

I met this young man today in front of Pita Pit. I've seen him around town riding this really cool bike, that as it turns out, he built himself. Not surprisingly, he works at Absolute Bikes. He was out on the town passing out fliers for a Flagstaff Bicycling Organization trail maintenance event. He seemed to be enjoying his sandwich and his ride. Today had to be the best bike riding day ever. Bob and I were smiling all the way to and from work today.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Hello from DC!

My sister Alison sent me some images from her recent trip to DC. She found this beautiful 1978 work by Mary Stevens at The Women's Gallery.

Alison and my other sister, Valerie, compete in bike races and triathlons together, riding for speed rather than style, although both completely stylish babes! Alison thought I'd like seeing the bike rentals in our nations capital. I wonder if Mrs. Obama and the girls have discovered these yet?

Thanks, Ali! Hope you had a great visit.

And as a reminder to regular She Rides a Bike visitors, the Planner Guy (aka, The Running Bob) and I will be leaving for Portland, Oregon this Thursday for a long weekend to celebrate our second anniversary. I've already received several newsy tips from readers on what to see and where to go while we're there, which we really appreciate so keep it coming. Bob and I are especially excited about the opportunity to rent Dutch bikes and eat at food carts.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Flagstaff Celebrates Earth Day 2009

Nothing satisfies the weary bike commuter/photographer more than an old fashioned peanut butter and honey sandwich washed down with a nice glass of merlot. Does that sound like an odd combination to you? Hmmm . . . . me neither. I just finished this little treat while sitting on my front porch to create this post while enjoying the remaining afternoon. I spent the better part of the morning downtown first at Absolute Bikes, then at work catching up after yesterday's sick day, and then at Earth Day 2009 on the south lawn of City Hall.

Today couldn't have been a lovelier day for a ride downtown. The skies were the bluest of blue and the still snow covered San Francisco Peaks a startling contrast. Not wanting to work up a sweat, I took my time as the morning was all mine. The Planner Guy had 4 miles to run and was hanging out at the ranch intent on staining the new gate to our front porch.

I arrived at Absolute Bikes and was greeted by the very helpful Kyle who assisted me in finding a new U-lock, my current one being unreasonably difficult to unlock. Bike locks should lock and unlock with ease in case you are running late for an appointment or seeking to avoid suspicious characters lurking nearby the ATM at dusk. Kyle offered up advise on how to maintain a good working u-lock and sought my advise on graduate programs in mental health counseling. I don't recall telling him that I was an art therapist in my previous professional life but it's my experience that somehow people can just tell. Fine when the person wants my thoughts on clinical training, a little annoying when that person (often a perfect stranger) wants to tell me about his or her recovery or want to know the "sickest thing" I've ever heard. Readers who are therapist have no doubt had this same experience. To Kyle I say, great salesmanship and I believe you'll make a really fine therapist one day. I couldn't leave Absolute without getting these shots of bike-themed painting hanging in the store. I've heard of bike/coffee shops but never bike/art galleries. I love the concept. One of the things I always appreciate about Europe is that the culture truly appreciates the importance of beauty and art in everyday life. Even in a worn-in-the-heel section of Lisbon, one can stroll by the open doorway of a residence or wander into a simple cafe and admire walls and floors adorned with lovely decorative tile and appreciate window boxes filled with colorful flowers and leaves of every texture. Once in Louisville, I rode my bike through a quite disheveled downtown housing project, now razed for a HOPE VI mixed income development (the lovely Liberty Green), and saw 3 generations of women planting rose bushes in the front yard. Those women (one was actually a girl who couldn't have been more than 10) cared about the way their home looked. You don't have to have money to find meaning in making your surrounding attractive and welcoming.

On next to work for some catching up. Briefly, it is amazing how much I can accomplish when the phone isn't ringing constantly and new items are not constantly springing forth from the top of my desk when my back is turned.

After finding a stopping place at my desk, I wheeled the Expedition down to the south lawn of City Hall to witness the Earth Day 2009 Festivities. I ran into several friends and coworkers manning different stations and was pleasantly surprised about the turn out, which included quite a mix of attendees. Naturally, a lot of bike lay on the lawn or were tied to post, racks and benches on the lawn and pathways. I was most interested in the bike repair station and the Flagstaff Biking Organizations booth. I don't know why but there is just something so cool about bike repair people, and as you can see women have broken the glass ceiling in this area, too.

The FBO booth was crowded and staffed by Jack,Flagstaff passionate advocate of biking and pedestrian issues. He's pictured here explaining a bike path map to a citizen and in the other shot with Martin, the City's multi modal transportation planner (and really funny, cool gent) and a woman who I don't know but who I am certain must be very terrific since she is with these guys.

I also ran into two of my favorite women and great exemplars of Flagstaff Mountain Cycle Chic,who will definitely be featured in my upcoming spread on Bike to Work Week. Nicole and Stephanie work in sustainability and worked their respective butts off on this event and the Earth Day service projects around the community today. Not only did this year's Earth Day have booths on conservation, recycling, and bikes but it also featured a solar panel exhibit and a booth from local wind turbine manufacturer Southwest Windpower, both examples of sustainable energy solutions that could mean expanded industry and jobs to a state badly hit by downturn in construction and real estate.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Don't Try This While Riding a Bike

After I finished last night's post, Milo, the boy-dog, "woofed" by the sliding glass doors, as any dog owner knows means "I want to go outside NOW!" I opened the door and was greeted with more snow. Again, the calendar read April 16. Come on already! It is mid-Derby season in Louisville, and I am quite sure my old cottage garden is filling out and all my girlfriends are breaking out the cutest sandals (none of them ride bikes to work - yet) and in Greenville, SC, my mom smugly relates to me in every phone conversation how her garden is bursting with life! Right now, the only thing I can see happening is my yard is that it is desperately in need of another poop patrol!

This morning we left the house (in the Element, which if you simply must have an SUV-like vehicle, you really couldn't do much better for the price) at 6 p.m. so we could get an early start at work. My work day would be short since I had a 7 a.m. dental procedure (it doesn't matter what since they are all equally traumatizing) that required a tranquilizer. I wish I were tougher but the time I had a similar procedure without the tranquilizer the procedure took hours. I experienced only a slight amount of discomfort this morning but simply didn't care. I don't recommend happy pills in place of coping skills but I highly recommend them for dental procedures any more invasive than a filling.

Unfortunately, by the time I walked back to the office ( Planner Guy dropped me off at 6:50 since driving myself would have been hazardous to everyone) I could barely walk a straight line. I wanted Bob to drive me home but he had meetings so I slept in the Quiet Room (they aren't just for elementary schools and psychiatric hospitals) for almost 2 hours. I thought that I'd sleep off the grogginess and go up stares and do some copying and filing. Upon waking me at noon, Planner Guy objected to this in every way:

"Did you go upstairs?", he inquired in an accusatory tone.

"No . . . . yes", I said.

"Did you talk to anyone?"

"I told Debra I was going to sleep this off and them come back and do some work".

"Absolutely not. Was anyone else up there? Did you talk to anyone else?" Planner Guy's face grew more and more ashen.

"No, nobody else was around. What's wrong?"

Eyeball roll. "You are a complete zombie! You do not need to be talking to anyone, answering e-mail, or being on the phone."

What he meant was that my filter might not be working at optimum efficiency.

Hustling me out of City Hall, I tried my best to maintain my straightest face. We passed Roger, who said hello to me and smiled. Did he know? We passed HR and Bob waved good-bye to Jennifer and called a loud "Thank you". That backstabber tattled on me to Bob.

"You are going home. You are staying there. Do not turn on the oven or use the stove. If you need to heat some water for tea then use the microwave (ooooh!). I don't want to come home and find you've passed out on the couch and left the gas on and burned the house down. And no riding your bike back to work. You're completely out of it and will get hit by a car."

So, at the moment, I am at home with the dogs. I think my cognitive processes are functioning pretty normally, although I am a bit sleepy and I've noticed NPR is a bit funnier today. I've been laughing a lot this past hour.

Happily, I can see the clouds and are giving way to sunny skies so my plan to visit Earth Day on my bike and accompanied by the camera appears to be a go. I will literally keep you posted.

Recent Sightings Around Town
Just a couple of bikes I've seen recently tied up downtown. I think they belong to someone who works in the neighboring business establishment. Both are sleek and no-nonsense and I like the colors.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Someone Told Me It Was April

Is it true that today is actually April 16? Given the small blizzard this afternoon outside our office windows, one would never guess. Yes, I realize that we always need the water but I am ready for warmer temperatures and sunny days. No bike commuting all week due to cold, wet weather. Yes, I'm a bit of a wimp, but inclimate weather is a barrier I have yet to overcome.

As I look at the gloomy skies outside our kitchen window, my thoughts return to a little ray of sunshine I've seen locked to various bike posts in downtown Flagstaff. A cute bike. I love the warm, happy color. I don't know about the handlebars though. I think this is a beach cruiser. Not sure so anyone can feel free to correct me. I've never ridden a bike with this type of handlebar but it looks pretty awkward. Comments from the experienced are welcome.

Life Updates

Bob and I visited several Portland websites to plan our travel itinerary. We plan to rent bikes at Waterfront Bikes, visit Powells, pay homage to the zoobomber bike stacks, and have a beer at the Lucky Labradore Brew Pub!

Today, I signed up to be my office's Bike to Work Week coordinator. Yes, it is a thankless job but someone has to inspire (pressure) her co-workers to give up their cars for a day or two. I have big plans to photograph my coworkers looking their most cycle chic best, with a mountain chic twist of course.

The City of Flagstaff is holding its annual Earth Day celebration this Saturday at the south lawn of City Hall. A bike repair booth is planned and I'll be heading down there in pursuit of visual subject matter. Hopefully, I'll have some interesting content up this weekend. With the bad weather this week, pickin's have been pretty slim.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Bike Politique

This week I caught Flagstaff's Millennial Mayor taking advantage of sunny skies and warm temperatures and riding her bike to an afternoon dental appointment. As I always say, if you must endure a dental procedure you owe it to yourself to first go on a bike ride. As the accompanying photos attest bike commuting, whether to work or a medical appointment, is perfectly suited to business casual. As with most American bikes, the Mayor's Crossroads lacks a full chain guard, necessitating either securing one's pant leg with a Velcro strap or, as the Mayor demonstrates, rolling it up to prevent unsightly grease stains.
Later than same day on my lunch break I coincidentally found a new women's Torker with a full chain guard, a rack, and fenders on display outside Arizona Bikes. Unfortunately, I didn't have time for a test ride but I was excited to see the full chain guard and hope they catch on. Earlier in the fall they also had a similarly equipped Red Line in their front window. I'm not sure the exact price but I think I've seen each for less than $500. I don't have any experience with either brand but the reviews I've read so far have been positive.
Cure for the Recession Blues #5

When seeking to over come the recession blues, a combination of friends, a homemade meal, and fresh baked cookies are just what the doctor ordered. Her my friend Desiree sips a strong black tea served in my favorite Portugese cup and saucer while enjoying our high altitude baking experiment - lemon tea biscuits.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

I Gotta Be Me and You Gotta Be You

I have a fondness for the excentric and off-beat, having often been mistaken for one myself. I say mistaken because I don't really consider myself that different from anyone else but then again I did go to art school, and I do ride my bike to work.

Anyway, I over the past several weeks I've come upon some interesting "art" bikes during my lunch time strolls. How should we judge the art bike? Should we critique them at all. Do their owners have a compulsive need to decorate and embellish any ready surface? Or are they simply tools of pretentious and attention seeking 20-somethings, still living off the family dole? I have no idea and choose not to worry about the motivation of their creator. Art-bikes make me laugh and redirect my attention away from serious matters of the day such as war, the economy, and job losses. Who doesn't need a break from reality now and then?

The above bikes remind me of gardens and cottages, embellished with found objects and recycled bits of junk that have found new purpose and meaning as art, that I've run across over the years, lovingly tended by some creative soul driven by the desire to make the world just a little bit more lovely and thought provoking.