Saturday, October 30, 2010

Halloween Bike Candy

How many licks does it take to get to the chocolate center of a Tootsie Pop?
Bob is nostalgic for candy from his childhood so this Halloween night we'll be handing out Tootsie Pops at our door.  We had left over Chicken Chau Chau from Himilayan Grill in his pannier so we put the box of Tootsie Pops on his rear bike rack and secured it with a handy bungie cord.  As you can see, the bright yellow box provides some extra visibility for his bike for our night ride home.  Safety first!

I had to stop by Barnes and Noble to pick up a book.  Our B & N doesn't have the best bike rack in the world so Bob stayed outside guarding our bikes.  I stopped by the cafe first and order a chai latte for him to better brave the chill.  He seemed to manage just fine.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

It's Arrived!

The Dahon awaiting unpacking in the family room.
I pedaled home yesterday in excited anticipation of the arrival of my new Dahon Eco 3.  As assured by TTR Bikes proprietor Scott McCrary, it was sitting on my front porch in the original Dahon packaging.  Yippy!  I pulled it to the living room, and deciding that I could not wait for the Planner Guy to return from work, ripped open the box and pulled out the folding bike - it arrived fully assembled, except for the pedals. I found the owners manual and a the step-by-step instructions for unfolding the bike, and although the seat and handleposts were easy to adjust into the proper position I couldn't figure out the "ViseGrip" Hinge on the frame.  I sat stumped for about 20 minutes, looking at it from all angles.  Even the instruction video on the Dahon website didn't help.  Damn!  This meant I would have to ask for Bob's help.  Oh, the feminist humiliation of having to ask for a man's help  . . . .  Oh, well, he does seem to derive pleasure for being able to do "man tasks" for me. 
How do I unfold this crazy thing?
Finally Bob arrived home and quickly (another feminist humiliation!) figured out how to unlock the ViseGrip Hinge.   In the middle of the family room, I practiced folding and unfolding the Eco 3 several times.  The frame hinge was somewhat tight but should loosen up with use but I can already tell that I need a little bit of strength training, along with practice in order to be able to manager the famed 15-second unfold time.  The Dahon website also suggests that the double pronged kickstand aides stability during folding and unfolding so I'll definitely upgrade to one.

Pride in ownership!
Naturally, this morning I rode in to work on the Dahon.  The Eco 3 is the entry level model and is nicely priced at $379.  I didn't want to invest in a high-end model since I purchased this bike so that I'd have a bike that I could easily load in the car or carry on an airplane or public transportation.  If we lived in a large urban area I could easily see investing in a more pricey model but that's just not where we are at the moment.  In any case, the Eco 3 is an attractive and comfortable ride.  It is fast, shifts easily, and I had no problem on the hill up to the airport.  I'll definitely purchase the rear Traveller Rack, in addition to adding a head light, rear light, a small rear view mirror and a bell (I wonder how much all that will weigh?).  Some things, I just can't compromise on.

Sitting quietly.
I was able to make the trip up to work this morning in about 6 minutes.  I folded up the bike just outside the airport but felt dissatisfied with the results.  I'll definitely have to watch the instructional video again to make sure I folded in the proper order.  Nonetheless,  I was able to roll the bike folded into the terminal and on to the elevator up to my office without any difficulty.  Folded, the Eco 3 fit nicely against a narrow wall and was completely out of the way, if not unnoticed by other staff, but they are used to eccentricities.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Becoming Bikeville: Greenville, SC

Bob and I paid a visit last week to the city where I spent most of my childhood, Greenville, South Carolina for my sister’s wedding. South Carolina has one of the highest unemployment rate the nation but Greenville has weathered the Great Recession better than most cities in the nation.

I suspect this is largely to aggressive and successful economic diversification over the last 30 or 40 years. On top of that, Greenville boasts an amazingly vibrant and bustling urban core, though when my family moved to the little city in the early 1970’s it was all but dead. Then Mayor Max Heller lead an uphill battle against many naysayers to turn around a dilapidated downtown that nobody wanted to frequent. Today, leaders in the public and private sector from all over the country travel to Greenville to find out how they’re making it happen.  Greenvillians can’t stop their justifiable bragging – some of them even crowing about walkability and newly installed bike lanes!

Yes, bike lanes!

Planner Guy Bob and I spend more than a bit of time downtown, lunching alfresco at North Main restaurants and running along the Reedy River on the Swamp Rabbit Trail and in Cleveland Park, Greenville’s historic urban park. Bob was in Planner Guy heaven, as he took in tidy streets, flanked sidewalks filled with dog-walking, stroller pushing and hand-holding pedestrians, decorative street lamps, well-tended planters, benches, and specialty litter receptacles. 

Sure the parking spaces are at a premium so drivers cannot expect to be able to park on the same block as the establishment they plan to patronize but the streetscape is so attractive and so many unique mom and pop shops and restaurants line North Main and the surrounding streets that the walk from car to storefront is hardly an effort. 

It was during one of our runs that we came across a city sign posted on what we took to be an newly opened section of Swamp Rabbit Trail for TTR Bikes – that is Tandem, Touring and Recumbent Bikes (101 S. Hudson St.). The sign advertised bathrooms, water and maps, so we had to stop by.

If you plan to visit Greenville, you might want to consider taking a tour by bike of the downtown , the surrounding historic neighborhoods, and the Cleveland Park area. TTR Bikes just happens to have an impressive fleet of Townies for rent, but those of your who already live in Greenville might want to consider investing in one of the Breezers, Electras, Surly or Fuji, to name a few. After several months of scoping bike shops for foldies, Bob directed my attention to a group of Dahons. No sooner was I oohing and ahhing the very high-end Speed TR (way outside my price range) than was proprietor Scott McCrary setting me up with for a test ride on the entry level Eco 3 (my exact price range).

Scott McCrary, TTR Bikes
Of the Greenvillians with bragging rights that I referred to earlier, Scott and his son Nathaniel are among them. These guys love to talk bikes, bike commuting and Greenville’s strides toward being a bikeable community. Scott bike advocacy extends to his work with Bikeville, the city's Bike Friendly Community Initiative.  For 4 years running, the League of American Bicyclists has awarded Greenville with its bronze-level designation as a Bike Friendly Community.

As regular readers might recall, I’ve been considering getting a folding bike for quite a while to use primarily for trips out of town. My husband and I usually use public transportation when we visit other cities and having a bike that I can easily load on a bus, trolley or urban rail would help us fill in those occasional “missing links” and add to the fun and freedom of experiencing a community the way the locals do as opposed to being confined in a car. Greenville’s public transit system, like Flagstaff’s, is not particularly strong compared to what I am used to in other communities but since we spent virtually all our time in the old City, I could have made all of my trips during last week’s visit by bike.

Here I am on my test ride outside TTR Bikes.  I was grateful for quiet side streets in order to test the Eco 3 since I was a little concerned I'd be shaky with the little bike's geometry, especially when taking a hill.

The ride on the 8-speed Eco 3 was a success so into the shopping cart it went. The McCrarys are shipping my Dahon to Flagstaff via UPS and with any luck I’ll have it in time for my trip to visit my friend Angie in the Valley on Saturday.  Bob and I have already decided we know one of our second biking destination the next time we're in Greenville (after TTR Bikes, of course):

Spero's Original Pete's (it's a landmark!) at Pendleton and East North Street, near downtown.  It has a bike lane and really great hamburgers, because, as we all know, when you are a regular bike commuter you can splurge on a really great hamburger.

When you buy your wife a bike you are also allowed a chili dog, as well.
Blue cheese burger.  The cole slaw has cinnamon in it!


Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Riding Into Fall

I haven't posted in a while due to both my schedule and some unfortunate connection problems with our DSL but I have a few moments and thought I'd do a quick post about not very much other than how glad I am that fall has arrived, allowing me to break out cool weather clothes.

On a recent trip to Louisville, my mother-in-law took me on a shopping trip to JCrew and gifted me with this great Arrow Sweater Jacket with a cozy shawl collar.  I am a little obsessed with cozy, especially when the weather turns cold and it comes time to turn on the gas logs in our family room.  This charcoal grey sweater is nice and thick, the way I like a winter sweater, with a lovely dense, tight knit.  The sweater is in Merino wool, really holds it shape, and is perfect for my morning and afternoon rides to and from work.  I usually pair it with pretty tissue t-shirts and scarves, also from JCrew and have yet to feel overheated or sweaty upon arriving at work.  My first couple of years biking to work, I really bundled up too much and often ended up a damp mess when I got to the office.  I've finally trust that a good thick sweater and a light shirt underneath is usually all I need in all best the coldest weather.  I prefer a warmth around my neck and usually wear a scarf.  They are easy to remove at a stop light if I find myself getting too hot and I just toss it in my front basket or pannier.

Here is a shot of a pearl and amethyst necklace I made recently at Animas Beads (6 W. Route 66).  I love delicate jewelry but often don't find quite what I'm looking for so I decided I'd try coming up with something of my own.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Maggie in October Cycle Chic

The Planner Guy and I celebrated Oktoberfest at our house with friends on Saturday night.  An evening of brats, beer and a roaring fire in our backyard.  Maggie and her husband Will made the 8-mile trip from their house on their cruisers.  Maggie carried a charming and perfectly shaped pumpkin in her front bike basket. Here they are nabbing the best of our bike parking spaces, just under the front porch.

Will said someone commented to them along their route that on their cruisers and their natty dress they looked like a JCrew ad. 

Maggie decided the party and the ride were cycle chic worthy and make the ride in an attractive fall-ish skirt and boots.


I loved Maggie's little bag, which she nabbed at a recent garage sale.

Will and Maggie didn't just carry a very large pumpkin by bike for 8 miles just to make a fashion statement.  They carved it out to carry this delicious green bean saute side to the party.