Saturday, November 28, 2009

Change on the Horizon

I've been distracted from blogging for the last couple of weeks as I've been preparing to change jobs. I've been transferred to the Flagstaff Airport into a position I'm excited about. I start on Monday but have not yet seen my new office, which I am told, has a great view of the San Francisco Peaks that is particularly breathtaking when the mountains are covered with snow.

Getting to work will be a snap as our house is a mere 8 minute bike ride up the road. I'll be able to store my Breezer inside the terminal. Pulliam has bike lanes and an urban trail path. Unfortunately, the FUTS is usually not plowed so I plan to get some snowshoes in the event heavy snow makes biking to and from work unmanageable. How many people can actually say they snowshoed to work?

I'm a little concerned about how the change in my work location will affect my blog content. City Hall is downtown where most of my bike commuting photography takes place. I'll be forced then to seek out other locations most likely on the weekend, though if I am lucky, I find some interesting subject matter on the FUTS before and after work. Just two months ago I just missed a black bear siting according to a passing pickup truck driver who stopped to warn me and a couple of dog walkers who had happened upon it on the forest near the trail.

In other news, the Planner Guy and are will be taking a short trip to Colorado later this coming week. I will have camera and laptop close by. I anticipate more mountain biking than bike commuter culture where we are headed but I'll let you know either way.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

The Joy of Cold Weather Riding

Standing at the intersection of Rt. 66 and Beaver on Friday, I caught this lovely, silver haired lady as she sailed past me on her Specialized. She looked blissfully in the moment. I wondered where she had come from and where she was going. Her joyful facial expression told me she was having a great day. My photo does not begin to capture how beautiful she is; the new face of the woman over a certain age. I hope this is what a life of bike commuting and exercise does for one.

Once at the other side of the intersection I headed over to Beaver Street Brewery for lunch with Deb, president of the Habitat for Humanity Flagstaff Board of Directors to discuss a Tweed ride this spring as a "soft" fundraiser for Habitat for Humanity. We discussed the connection between transportation choices like bike commuting and affordable housing. In a pricy community like Flagstaff, housing becoming more affordable when residents have inexpensive transportation options that lessen the need to depend on cars, which are often a financial ball and chain.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Laying Low, Pedaling in the Cold, and Perhaps Some Tweediness

Burrrrrr . . . . has it been cold in the high country, except during the middle of the day when it is in the breezy 50's and sunny. The fluctuating temperatures make dressing for a bike ride and work a bit confusing. On top of that I felt very disinclined when on my bike to either stop and gaze as the snow capped San Francisco Peaks, beautiful though they are, or take the time pull out my camera and seek out photographic muses of either the human or bicycle variety.

The Planner Guy, aka First-Place-in His-Age-Group-Triathlon-Guy, still has not purchased a new tire and tube for his commuter bike so I've been riding in to work more than I'd like in the Element. Still though, with only one car and often juggling two schedules, I am enjoying numerous evening bike rides after work, which are truly lovely and mysterious on the urban trail by the light of the stars and the head light on my Breezer. Yes, the temperature drops quickly and deeply once darkness falls but I've learned to keep an extra layer in my pannier to put on for the ride home, and during the fall and winter I almost always wear a nice scarf around my neck.

Three times this last week and a half I braved the evening cold on my bike by focusing on only on the stars but also on the image of a bowl of piping hot French onion soup lovingly prepared from scratch by the Planner Guy (aka Chef Bob).

Unfortunately, Flagstaff suffered the death of a 23-year-old Army veteran, NAU student and cyclist this week. Joshua Pete's bicycle collided with a City truck making a right-hand turn. I know few of the details but am deeply saddened for everyone involved. I have nearly been hit as a cyclist and as a car driver nearly hit other cyclists in similar circumstances. Behind the wheel of our car or sitting upon my bike, I am doubly attentive to what is going on around me and conscious of my choices; this tragedy could so easily be repeated.

Long-Range Goal Set Into Motion!
Relatively uninspired these days with the total lack of bike fashion in the last few weeks, likely the result of the return of frigid temperatures I decided that I needed a goal to maintain my motivation to both bike commute and blog. Mid-week I recalled my unfulfilled intention to organize a Tweed Ride. What could be more fun that a large group of smartly attired bicyclists hob-nobbing their way over the urban trail and into town, pedaling from gallery, to restaurant, to bar (for drinks and dancing). If I set out a goal for targeting a date in conjunction with Bike to Work Week and had some enthusiastic cohorts I just could pull it off. I shared my idea with two people who I thought would be likely stakeholders in the event and got the thumbs up for further investigation and planning. Perhaps, the event could also serve as a soft fundraiser for Habitat for Humanity Flagstaff, further motivating me to be the active Board member I desire to be.

I love having a goal. Happily, I know that my fellow bike commuting bloggers will be more than willing to grant permission to borrow ideas! So, all you Tweed Ride organizers out there, let send your wisdom my way. Pretty please.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Vintage Fashion Meet Mountain Cycle Chic

On Tuesday evening I pedaled over to Red Thread after work to collect two skirts from Target that needed to be taken up an inch (More about the skirts in a future post). I found my seamstress (I just really like that word) Jenn chatting in outside with Rachelle, a fellow designer at Incahoots (9 E Aspen Ave,928.773.9447). While Jenn found my skirts in her studio, Rachelle and I struck up a conversation. She alters vintage-wear at Incahoots and is getting ready to set up studio space at Red Thread. I haven't worn much vintage since undergraduate school at University of Georgia so I made mental note to stop by Incahoots to check out her work. And yes, she did indeed travel to Red Thread that evening on her bike and consented to be my fashion model for the evening.

Thank you Rachelle and I can't wait to see more of your work.

Monday, November 9, 2009

My Utter Humiliation! And His Victory Dance . . .

Just when I couldn't stop cursing all the NAU students going the wrong direction in the bike lane on Beaver, I got busted!

Last Thursday morning I got ticketed on NAU campus by an NAU police officer for pedaling against traffic on a rarely used one-way street behind the Drury Inn. To be fair to myself, the street is more of a parking lot with a driveway than anything else but before anyone starts growling about cops with nothing better to do, the officer was doing his job and I was should have known better. I coulda and shoulda taken a nearby and legal route going with traffic on to the nearest bike path but I got lazy and took a short cut. The officer was very nice about it but gave me proper direction and let me off with a warning, which I will heed.

The Running, Biking and Swimming Bob

Bob and I traveled to Parker, Arizona this weekend for the Mountain Man Triathlon at the Blue Water Resort and Casino, about a three hour drive from Flagstaff on the California/Arizona border. Still working my way back into running after the herniated disk, I tagged along as cheerleader - an envious one at that since everyone looked excited and ready for a great time.

Bob's mental journey to complete his first triathlon is quite a story. He overcame cold water, panic attacks, and training interrupted by H1N1 to end up coming in first place in his division. In between wiping away tears of pride as he successfully completed each leg of the event I managed to get some images of an exciting day. Bob did most of his bike training pedaling back and forth to work with me and had joked about riding his Schwinn Jet Star in the bike portion of the race. Surely, nobody would do such a thing. Were I a quicker photographer, you'd see that indeed a few triathletes were astride commuter bikes! Sitting upright, they looked comfortable, rode strong, and certainly took in the desert scenery.

Although the race is called the Mountain Man, nearly half of the participants were women. I felt very inspired and tried to imagine if I could overcome my own clumsiness in the water to tackle a tri. I feel reasonably confident about biking and running but like many people find the idea of open water swimming pretty intimidating.
I won't go into further detail about the triathlon but invite SRAB readers to visit The Running Bob's blog to share his perspective on the weekend. I can't possibly say it better than he can, and I think he'd enjoy comments, especially from new triathletes.

Naturally, I wasn't about to travel without my bike if I could possibly help it. The night before the race, I accompanied Bob on a brief test ride of the Specialized Sequoia he rented for the occasion. The landscape in the late afternoon was quite beautiful.

The Spoils of War

A pretty rewarding aspect of the bike commuting and the triathlon lifestyle is the occasional visit to fast food restaurants. The Running Bob and I limit those times to road trips. We stopped this afternoon at N n' Out Burger in Kingman. N n' Out Burger is a western chain with which I was unfamiliar but Bob insisted was famous for their freshly cut (never frozen) French fries. Aside from fries and sodas the menu only lists about 4 items. After eating 3/4 of a N n' Out cheeseburger I can only say that if one is only going to do one or two things, one might as well do them very well. N n' Out succeeds in the realm of really good fast food burgers. Did you know that N n' Out Burger has been frying with transfats since the 1940's? Well, it says so right on the wrapper, which we took the time to read. We left happy and satisfied rather than drunk on hydrogenated fat.

Friday, November 6, 2009

New Bike Love

No, I don't have a new bike and still am passionate about the Breezer Uptown 8 but my eye did wander this week. The story in brief as follows:

The Running Bob
and I visited Absolute Bikes early in the week so that he could reserve his bike rental for this weekends Blue Water Triathlon. As we walked in Bob nodded his head toward a vision of loveliness, a bright red commuter with a chainguard, a sturdy front loading rack, and swept back, European-style handlebars. I tried not run toward it. Be calm. Be cool.

Upon inspection, I saw that it was the Live1 from Specialized Globe series! Oh, how curious I'd been about these. The Live1 Mixt is a 3-speed. A sales guy wandered over and began his pitch. The 3-speed moves remarkable well over Flagstaff's hills so I shouldn't have any problems. But look at the Live2, an 8-speed. My helpful sales guy pointed out the double pronged kick-stand. Truly, I've always wanted one of those.

But I cannot purchase or even think about another bike today, since Christmas is just around the corner and I have plans that must be completed. Besides, Bob needs or simply wants some sort of triathlon worthy bike so that will be our next focus (although I really think he'd look quite handsome on the men's black Uptown 8).

Still, as (the very creepy) Woody Allen would say, "the heart wants what it wants". I logged on to the Globe website to do some looking. Is there anything wrong with that?? What I found was that while the red Live1 is quite pretty, the Live2 Mixt step-through is the real beauty in the family. Chocolate brown elegance. I see me in a tweed skirt, a little fitted jacket and some soft leather gloves pedaling down a country road somewhere in New England, or maybe France! Ah, well. Maybe not today. The weather in Flagstaff was exceptionally good this week (despite the 40 - 50 degree difference between morning and afternoon temperatures) so I pedaled all over this week whenever I could to make up for last weeks inactivity. Besides, Bob wondered if I wouldn't just consider trading in the Expedition and moving up a bit. He, too, was very impressed with the double pronged kickstand and the sturdy front rack.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Reason #14 for Bike Commuting: A Second Helping of 4.5 Star Chili!

Winter arrived a bit early, at least for me, this past week with the arrival of frigid temperatures and snow. I was only able to ride to work twice this week and the therapeutic benefits of my morning and evening ride home. I saw this bit of yard art early in the week and thought it looked perfectly eerie against the stark, cold sky. Since I worked late several nights this week, I took the Element into work most days with the Planner Guy, who has yet to get a new tire for his Schwinn. Unfortunately, the snow melts during the afternoon and refreezes shortly after 5 making things a bit treacherous for those inexperienced at pedaling over ice. I'm not sure what I'll do when we start getting heavy snow. I'm considering getting studded tires but wonder if it is worth the expense. Maybe some SRAB readers can give me some wisdom.

While I missed my bike rides, I looked forward to Halloween night on Saturday. The weekend for cast predicted temperate weather, and I planned to take advantage of it by taking the Expedition to Bashas Grocery to pick up ingredients for Chef Bob's latest kitchen project - 4 1/2 Star Chili from Nothing suits passing out candy on the front porch like world-class chili and a glass of red wine. We began this little tradition two years ago and deemed it worth keeping. When one bikes to the grocery store two helpings of 4 1/2 Star chili can be eaten with no guilt.

Bob gave me an extensive shopping list, causing me to wish I had a good bike trailer to carry it all home on. Two panniers and a wicker basket would have to do. The ingredients were especially intriguing as they called for brewed coffee, a dark beer, and unsweetened coco. Bob only needed one bottle of dark beer but none of the dark varieties could be purchased as a single so, despite worries about how my pannier would manage the weight, I purchased the six-pack. Surely, Bob would put the other 5to good use. I collected the coco, beef tips, and spaghetti (yes, we were going Cincinnati style) and headed to the Expedition to load up. (Check out Chili I at and try it yourself!)

The weight of the six-packed proved challenging and my bike nearly toppled over a couple of times until I got all the groceries properly distributed. Oh, how I wished for a bike trailer! Soon I was on my way and one pedaling the added weight was surprisingly a non-issue.

Upon arrival home, I found Bob already in the kitchen carefully arranging ingredients, crock pot and other necessary cooking needs on the counters. As I unloaded the groceries, he immediately began inspecting my purchases and quickly set about preparing the chili. Soon the kitchen was brimming with an incredible mixture of aromas. Within the hour, as we waited for our first Trick-or-Treaters I was sampling the chili from the crock pot. I could taste the coco and the beer in particular. But the chili would have to wait. The Trick-or-Treaters were arriving.

Our neighbor Angie joined us on the front porch after a time. Few kids seemed to be out this year, as compared to the last. Most arrived in vans and SUV accompanied by parents. In fact, at one point they almost completed lined our street. Apparently, parents drove from street to street and collect candy rather than walking the route as I remembered doing as a child. Somehow traveling by car seemed like it might take some of the fun and fantasy out of Halloween night. Even as a young child in my costume with my plastic pumpkin laden with candy and trailed by my parents as I walked door-to-door, the darkness, sounds of the night, and the ghoulishly decorated doorways fed my already active imagination and I became someone else. The enclosed environment of the car seems like it might take away from all that.

By 8 p.m. our street was silent and we still had a nearly full bowl of Twix, Milky Way and Snickers. What I would have given for such bounty as a child. No matter though. The chili was ready. Bob topped 2 bowls of spaghetti with generous helpings of chili, then topped each with cheddar, diced onions, and sour cream. The flavor was amazing. Who would have thought coco would be so perfect in chili?

We opened an inexpensive bottle of Red Bicyclette Pinot Noir to wash it down. I loved the opening text on the back label of the bottle "Red Bicyclette offers the chance to slow down and enjoy life"; my priorities exactly. A better day, I couldn't have had: marketing on my red bicyclette, Halloween on the front porch with my husband and a friend, wine and great chili.