Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Stuff Girls Like

Super cute outfits, pink bikes, and . . . .

Hello Kitty t-shirts.  For some reason this T makes me think of my Dahon.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Solo Cycling to the Farmers Market

The Planner Guy is in Louisville this week, using up excess vacation time that he was in danger of loosing and visiting with his father, who is, unfortunately, in the latter stages of MS.  Having more than 8 hours of vacation and not able to afford to take off any unpaid leave at the moment, I remain in Flagstaff where my job is to love the dogs and keep the new plantings properly hydrated - always a challenge in the high mountain desert pre-monsoon season. 

Usually, Bob and I do the Flagstaff Community Market together since Bob is the head chef of the household and thus set menu.  He's an excellent cook so I don't argue.  When I am adamant about something I want to prepare, he eats it and seems pleased at the night off from the kitchen.  Anyway, we usually go and make a  bike date of it, stopping somewhere for breakfast before or after and relaxing afterward with coffee and a newspaper.  I greatly enjoy those mornings.  In preparation for the coming week though, I felt the need to go on my own and pick up a few things since my cousin and her family will be coming up from Phoenix for a break from the intense heat.

I left at 8:45 a.m. and slathered on  a heap of SPF 70.  While the temperature was only in the mid-70's the risk of a sunburn is high at this elevation.  Anybody thinking of visiting Northern Arizona for outdoor activities would be well advised not to let the cooler summer temperatures fool them.  A sunburn is a sure sign that "you not from around here".  I wore a light sweater though, since we were expecting strong, loud winds today and if I found myself in the shade for very long I'd get chilly.  That's Flagstaff, baking in the sun; freezing in the shade.

Despite the winds, I saw plenty of people on the multi-use path that cuts through Ponderosa Trails.  Mostly senior citizen dog walkers and young couples pushing baby strollers.  Never saw another peron on a bike, not even a kid, which seemed  a little strange and made me feel a bit lonely.  I fought the urge to head back home and kiss the dogs.  Bob will be home late this week.  I concentrated on my goals: bread from the Village Baker, heirloom tomatoes, cucumber, Colton Country Jam, and maybe a little box of homemade fudge.  Just a little box.

I felt less lonely upon arriving at the farmers market.  It was packed with people and plenty of dogs to pet. 

Lots of produce to choose from.  And a new hummus vendor.  I bought a small container of traditional hummus and a bag of whole wheat flat bread.  Dinner.

Happily the Colton Country Jam people were there.  The same two little old people every year.  I always buy the Wild Maine Blueberry Jam.  I wish they'd recognize me and say "You're that woman who always buys the Wild Main Blueberry Jam", but they never do.  I should ask them next week why the jam is not called Wild Arizona Blueberry Jam since it's made in Phoenix.  Of course, I could find out that they actually ship if from Maine (rendering it a faux farmers market offering, if you ask me) or worse yet, that it doesn't come from either Maine or Arizona!  If that's the case, I'll just return to buying Bonne Maman Blueberry Jam; the best I've ever had.

Not part of my low cholesterol diet but pretty damn good.
I did pick up little box of Frazier May Fudge, after sampling several small varieties they offered.  I'm a fudge traditionalist.  It must be made with butter and I prefer chocolate fudge to all other recipes, although I rationalized even getting the fudge by telling myself that peanut butter fudge is healthier due to the added protein.  Probably a big lie but I'm supporting the local economy since they make their fudge nearby in Munds Park.

I rounded out my morning with a trip to Old Town Creperie on Heritage Square.  Usually, I can just walk right in, order and sit down but this morning they were packed.  The hipsters preparing the crepes and taking orders were working intently to take care of everyone so I took the empty and undesirable table close to counter and read the New York Times on my Android and waited for my savory crepe.   I broke down and got the on-line subscription after I found that I maxed out the free article limit in 2 days.  I could easily live without TV but don't touch my Times!  Naturally, I don't have a picture of the crepe since I gobbled up half of it up before I remembered I was supposed to photograph it first.  Too bad.  Not only was it lovely to look at but it also delighted my taste buds.

I needed that crepe though.  By the time I was ready to return home, the winds had kicked powerfully.  With 20 - 25 extra pounds on my bike, I low geared it all the way back to the house.  I look forward to Bob's return when we can not only share crepes and coffee after a morning at the farmers market but also divide shopping load for the uphill trip home.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Finally! Lessons from San Jose to Los Gatos, Part III

Back in May I posted to stories about our trip to San Jose and the biking adventure from San Jose to Los Gatos (Part I and Part II).  My attention was diverted to other topics since then but I'm now returning to our Los Gatos destination, and to relate what for me is often the reward after a long ride.

Food and beverage.  Bob and I love are foodies!  It's no lie and when we travel we are the most dedicated of foodies.  A bottle of wine on the side is always a delight, especially when visiting the wine country.

Enjoying food cannot be truly appreciated if feeling guilty for the enjoyment.  After 10 miles of pedaling, who has energy for guilt or worry about calories?  I say this a little in jest but I've always had to watch my weight but resented not being able to enjoy travel and other good times often associated with the breaking of bread with friends because of the worry about weight gain and the health issues associated with it in my family of origin (high blood pressure and cholesterol).  Just lately, my latest blood work indicated that for the first time my cholesterol was a little higher.  Not so high that my doctor is concerned, but high for me.  It's a family health concern so I watch it but I am convinced that choosing to ride a bike, at home or while on vacation, will help me keep my cholesterol in check.

And there are other rewards, such lovely flowers in planters that buffer alfresco dining from the sidewalk.  They surrounded the area in which we ate.  Fragrant and so beautiful to look at.

We probably sat at the outdoor cafe for two hours working on our bottle of wine.  Our talented waiter was even able to convince us to order a chocolate ganache cake and coffee before we hit the road.  With 10 miles to return, including some pretty significant uphill climbs I didn't hesitate to order dessert. 

One of the things I really enjoy about getting around by bike is the opportunity to better observe the world from street level and respond spontaneously to what catches my eye.  In this case, what caught our eyes was a something we had passed a few days earlier when we had been in a car.  Indeed, it was an bocce ball center and restaurant.  Family owned it seemed and very charming.  We decided to stop and give it a closer look.

The main dining area was inside the center and had several bocce ball courts available for play.  Every one was full.  The young man behind the order counter said his family has owned the establishment for a number of years and that it is a labor of love.  Yes, he said, usually the courts were usually full so it was best to make a reservation.

We ordered a couple of drinks (I had a Riesling) and walked out into the outdoor dining and court area.  Except for the courts, the outdoor area was bricked, shaded by canopies, and had fireplaces and pots stocked with flowers. Again, the courts were full and we sat to watch the players, all large family groups it seemed.  Despite the fact that it was getting late in the afternoon and we had a long ride back to San Jose, we weren't in any hurry to leave.  The setting could not have felt more joyful.  Tables laden down with good food and friends and family sharing a friendly drink and a game of bocce ball.  This certainly felt like living.  I was so glad we stopped because I felt what we were watching affirmed our decision to do the long-ish bike trip.  It's the experiences and the people that you're with that really count the most in life.  We never would have had stopped and seen the bocce ball center had we made the trip in the car.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Another Bike Parking Suggestion

The Planner Guy and I pedaled to Cafe Ole on the Southside this evening and looked for a bike rack on which to lock our bikes.  Here is what we found just one door down from our destination.

Open for bike parking, if you dare.
The ring rack is one of my least favorite bike racks because I find it difficult to attach to any part of my bike except the front wheel.  Not very secure.  What I noticed about this rack though was it's placement on a relatively narrow sidewalk, parallel to the street.  If the bikes are set in the rack perpendicular to the street then they intrude significantly into the sidewalk, making it very difficult for pedestrians to pass.  For people who get around in a wheel chair that section of sidewalk would be completely inaccessible.  Pedestrians and cyclists are natural friends and allies, that is until either doesn't respect the others right to travel from one end of the street to the other.  We did not use this bike rack.

We locked our bikes on to an iron tree guard, leaving he rest of the sidewalk open for walkers, baby strollers and wheel chairs.  Bob noticed that the bump out in the sidewalk eliminated a parking space on the street but would have made an excellent location for the ring-style bike rack.  "They should have put it here", her remarked.  Yes, it would have been perfect.  Too small for a car but seven or eight bicycles could have been locked to the rack.

I don't know who owns the bike rack but it's location seems like an ADA problem waiting to happen.  I'm not sure if any there are any local restrictions against placing a bike parking space on the street among spaces designated for automobiles but I plan to ask our local bike czar what he thinks.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Where are You Going? Where Have You Been?

Dahon Speed7, packed and ready to go.
I saw this Dahon Speed7 locked in front of the airport two days in a row last week.  I don't see many folding bikes in Flagstaff and confess to being a little excited when I spotted this one.  I considered the Speed7 when I first started looking at folders but I fell in love with the Eco3 is red, a more within my price range.  I wondered if the owner was someone who worked at the airport or someone flying in and out.  The airport is small and just about everyone who works there knows I pedal in most days and I often get questions about my bikes, especially the Dahon.

Where are you going and where have you been?
Since I been following Russ and Laura from The Path Less Pedaled and their new cross-country bike tour by Brompton and train, I've been really fascinated with the idea of doing a much more scaled back version of such a road trip myself.  Of course, I couldn't help but notice that the Speed7 appeared to be packed down for travel.  Perhaps only my own bike tour fantasies at work, but I was dying to know who the owner, where he was from and where he was going. I tried to keep an  eye out for the owner but after 48 hours, the Dahon had disappeared.   Darn, I had hoped for a good story and a little inspiration.  Still, we have an Amtrak station right here in Flagstaff.  And it's something I've been wanting to do.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Who Needs a Limo When You Have a Breezer?!

Promsters, Bob and Karen.  Get down!
Inspired by last week's Flagstaff Hullabaloo, Bob and I uncharacteristically donned strange and outlandish apparel and attended the Adult Prom at the Orpheum last night.  A real first for me on a couple of levels.  We didn't attend last year's Adult Prom, and I didn't get asked to my high school senior prom.  Yes, I am one of those sad, unhappy cases.  But, as Dan Savage says, it really does get better.  I am pretty sure that gay or straight, three quarters of the attendees to last nights Adult Prom are testament to that fact.

When I was in high-school, the cool kids (or their parents) hired a limo for trip to the prom.  But I say, limo shwimo!  A limo is so common, so ordinary, so without sliver of style or panache.  Bob and I, as regular SRAB readers well know, have his and hers Breezer Uptown 8's and we rode them to the prom.  I don't know, we might have been the only ones to do so, as we didn't see any other bikes parked around the Orpheum.  But does a woman who is this fashionably fearless . . . .

Normally, for safety reasons, I would not wear this much color at one time.
really care about what mode of transportation other people take to the Adult Prom?  Of course not.  Besides, why worry about public opinion when we should be dancing?


We should be dancing!


Former Flagstaff City Council Member Kara Kelty was dancing.

As well as a whole lot of other people.

Oh, the fashions!!!

Flagstaff partiers usually get started late.  Bob, however, had firm plans to meet a buddy at 10 a.m. this morning for open water swimming in Lake Mary since they're both in triathlon mode.  Your's truly had to perform water patrol from our nearby kayak.  We were unlocking the bikes to head home at 11 p.m.  I felt like such a loser . . . . for about 5 minutes when I realized I was finally one of the cool kids with a prom date.  Yeah, you heard it one of the THOSE kids who went to the prom. In a special dress, picked for the occasion.  Finally.  After one, two, three . . . 30 years. 

I did it my way.  On a bicycle.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Product Review: The Hybridbackpack - A Must for Pizza Lovers!

Pedaling w/ a pizza on the Flagstaff Urban Trail System.
As some of you know, I regularly test products and write reviews for Bike Shop Hub's commuter blog, Commute by Bike.  I recently tested an interesting carrier to be used with your standard bike rack while on a pizza date with the Planner Guy. 

The first priority is getting good pizza home.
Bob believes only the best pizza will do and happily Flagstaff enjoys some really terrific independent pizza shops.  We decided to test how the Hybridbackpack performed as a pizza delivery device.  Read about the results here!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Re-Evaluating Electric Bikes

120 S. Phoenix Avenue.
Local e-retailer and bike trailer manufacturer Bike Shop Hub celebrated their grand opening and the installation of their new sign a few weekends ago in front of their new showroom and where visitors could try out the e-bikes they are carry. 

The Bike Shop Hub showroom with oh-so-many bike bags!
Like many bike commuters, I've been a little leery of electronic bikes, wondering "what's the point?".    I assumed the electric motor would do all the work, eliminating the exercise benefit that many of us value.  I wanted to test one though before I formed a firm opinion about the likelihood of ever owning one. 

Another Flagstaff company, Motor Excellence, recently started manufacturing bike motors locally and is exporting them all over the world.  It would be nice to see two local businesses succeed with this innovation in bicycles, especially if one of the results is to see more people accepting bicycles as a transportation option.

In Flagstaff, the high elevation, hilly streets and wind combine as a significant barrier to regular bike commuting for many people.  Lately, the wind has been unusually strong, often over 30 mph, sometimes adding 10 - 20 minutes to my trips.  For the most part I just plan for this and role with it but not everyone is will to or can be that flexible with their time.

After testing an A2B Velociti24 and an Ohm XU700, I realized the motor does not do all the work for you.  The rider still has to pedal but it does give the a boost.  That's it, just a boost to get you up a hill or long incline, making a long hilly route or pedaling into strong winds much more feasible. 

A2B Velociti24
The Velocity24 works with a "power demand acceleration system", which I loved because I got to decide when and how much of a boost I wanted.  I definitely needed to pedal but I didn't have to worry about running out of gears on the way up a steep hill.  The XU700 is engineered with "intelligent pedal assistance" in which a sensor in the motor measures the rider's pedaling force and provides proportionate assistance.  Living in Flagstaff, if I had a 10 - 15 bike commute to work every day I would give an e-bike serious consideration.  It would also be a great bike alternative in parts of the country where high heat and humidity plus a long, hilly route create a potentially embarrassing work situation.   At $2000+  these are not inexpensive bikes, but compared to $16,000 and up for a car, the price looks a deal.  And if that isn't enough to convince you . . .

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Where Arriving on a Bike is Encouraged!

Even in Flagstaff there just aren't enough time and places where arrival on a bike is encouraged.  Happily, the the 2011 Flagstaff Hullabaloo was one of those times.  The Hullabaloo is a celebration of all things Flagstaff, especially those things outdoors, bikey, funky and beer.  The event begins with a Bike Parade downtown at 9:15 a.m., ending at Wheeler Park where the festivities begin.  Attendees are encouraged to arrive in costume, the more outrageous the better. 

Music and dancing and butterfly girls!  At I times I had to wonder if I was really just an extra in a Bollywood production. 

Another argument for more bike racks!

Unfortunately, I had to miss the 9:15 a.m. Bike Parade (I know, what kind of bike blogger am I?) since I had standing plans to run with one of my girlfriends.  I did arrive on my bike though, after meeting another girlfriend for lunch, and struggled to find an open sign post or railing for locking up my Breezer.

I met up with the Planner Guy at Hullabaloo, who had arrived abotu 20 minutes before me, and he directed me to the amazingly still open bike racks on the steps of City Hall.

I paid my entry fee just in time to see the local Brazilian influenced rhythm group Sambatuque perform. 

The crowd literally swirled around them like bees to honey. 

Unless you simply don't have a pulse, your body is pretty much compelled to dance! 

And what celebration is complete without giant puppets?

And no, Bob and I did not go in costume and I really regret not taking the time and developing an adventurous enough spirit to do so.  I think Bob does, too.  Life is too short not to dress like a pirate wench once in a while.  We pedaled over to the Lumberyard after we left Hullabaloo so that Bob could have a late lunch.  Our friend Maggie was there returning a keg and joined us on the patio for a cool one.  We talked about the upcoming Adult Prom at the Orpheum Theater next Saturday night.  Another opportunity to put on a costume and ride our bikes!  Hell yes, Maggie and her hubby want to go!  If any pair is up for outrageous dress it is Maggie and Will.  So after we left Bob and I pedaled over to Incahoots and put together our "prom-wear".  Both our costumes involve colors and textures not normally associated with us in real life.  I'll save the rest for next weekend.