Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Scary S!*# As Seen From My Bike


I passed this . . . . this . . . . this . . . . I don't know what it is . . . . on my bicycle the other day.  I rolled past it in shock, both fascinated and, yes, terrified at the same time.  An unfamiliar passion for scientific inquiry took hold of me and I turned my bike around and pulled up next to the . . . . the . . . . whatever it is.   It moved quickly, amazingly so, heading toward a grasshopper or locust or some sort of hoppy-thing also crossing the road.  Things could get ugly, uglier than I cared to witness, so I quickly got out my camera and took a quick photograph.  Can someone please tell me . . . .


what the hell this is?

Monday, August 29, 2011

Wow! I'm in Some Really Good Bike Company!


I began writing She Rides a Bike at the urging of my husband. My professional identity bruised and battered by a move to a tougher job market, the Planner Guy declared, "You need a creative outlet!" He directed me to my brand new laptop and urged me to consider blogging. He had been a blogger for years and said that blogging would be great way to connect with other people over shared ideas and interests.  Hmmm. . . . blogging meant that I'd be putting myself out there for others to judge and evaluate but since we are all subject to that anyway closer to home, why not? 


But blog about what?  Well, asked Bob, what do interests you?  What do you feel passionate about?  I was growing increasingly enthusiastic about bike commuting, which we took up due to the spike in gas prices.  It had been a hard sell for me but I found that I really enjoyed it. What about a bike commuting blog?



For inspiration, I had been reading a number of bike commuting blogs, mostly by fashionable, young women living in exciting cities like San Francisco and Chicago.  I was a little older than most of them and living in a small town in the middle of a southwestern National Forest.  I was more likely to have to navigate my bicycle around a large elk than a taxi cab.  Nobody would be impressed to see me pedaling in Manolo Blahnik's; Keens are de rigueur in Flagstaff!


Yes, yes, yes!  I'll do it . . . . and months passed.  "Are you going to do it or are you going to just talk about it?", asked my husband.  Well, what could I do given a challenge like that?


Now, three years later I gushing with excitement to report that She Rides a Bike just landed on the Extanz.com's 50 Most Influential Bloggers of 2011!  A friend and SRAB reader just surprised me with the news this evening.  I had actually glanced at the list but since I didn't expect to see my blog included in the same list at Copenhagen Cycle Chic, Let's Go Ride a Bike, Lovely Bicycle, and Bike Snob NYC, I didn't even notice that SRAB had made the list.  Just as thrilling is that Commute by Bike, the go-to bike commuting blog that I occasionally contribute to and run by Flagstaff e-retailer Bike Shop Hub came in at 23.


If you've read a recent whiny post on this blog, you know that being included on this list, among so many entertaining and informative blogs is a huge honor and shot in the arm for me.  I am so grateful to all the people who visit SRAB and leave comments, many of whom are fellow bike bloggers who warmly welcomed me into a creative, unique and adventurous community.  So many of people doubt that we have anything relevant to say or assume that our private thoughts only have meaning to them.  I'm definitely one of those self-doubters so thank you to all SRAB readers and fellow bloggers for reminding me that I'm not that alone.  And also thank you, thank you, to my husband the Planner Guy for pushing me to exercise my responsibility to make good things happen in my own life.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

When Art Meets Bicycle


Saturday afternoon the Planner Guy and I pedaled downtown to visit Flagstaff artist Lyn Matthew's Open Studio.  We originally saw her work displayed earlier this month at Mountain Oasis restaurant and when I saw that she was taking part in Flagstaff Open Studios I knew that I wanted to go and meet her and see more of her beautiful landscape paintings.


Lyn paints her landscapes in her studio but bases her work on various Flagstaff locations, some of which she has explored so frequently that she has committed them to memory. 


Bob and I were both very struck by her unique rendering of the aspens, which turn cover the San Francisco Peaks in bright yellow during the fall, and decided to purchase "Kachina Trail".  But how to get it home?  Would it fit in my pannier?  Perhaps my bike rack?  We'd solve that problem after drinks on the balcony of the Weatherford.


Alcohol rarely solves anything but in this case after a cool one Bob was able to fit the painting into my Detours pannier,despite the fact I insisted that it simply wasn't big enough.  A third of the painting stuck out of the top but protected by bubble wrap it was quite safe.


Ah, nothing says culture and class like pedaling around town with original art on your bike.


Saturday, August 27, 2011

Letting Nature Be Your Guide


I decided on Monday morning to skip the self-pity of last week and go straight to the contemplation of nature.  I stopped and snapped this photo of the water tank, rendered suddenly beautiful with the recent eruption of color from the flowers blooming above the sitting water and the dark, angry sky that threatened rain.  I couldn't help myself and quickly pedaled off the bike lane before the light changed and I missed my chance.  A few cars passed me as I composed my shot.  Did the drivers notice a woman on a bike on the side of the road taking pictures?  Did they wish  they had the time to waste taking pretty pictures or did they realize that some things are worth being late for?  Especially the little things.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

A Basket Put to Good Use

I bought a new bike basket recently and wondered, do I really need this?  And then my question was put to the test.  Bob woke up sick and miserable Monday morning and needed much cheering up.


A short trip to the grocery store proved it was $50 well spent.


I rest my case. 

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

A Bike Double Date


Bob and I haven't done any summer traveling so we decided to treat ourselves to a night of entertainment at the Fort Tuthill Amphitheater to see Steve Martin and the Steep Canyon Rangers.  The amphitheater is just short distance and across I-17 from our house so we made plans to bike the trip and asked our friends Connor and his wife Kyndy to join us. 


Connor is just about one of the most dedicated bicyclists we know.  I don't think I've ever seen him behind the wheel of a car.  He travels to work daily with a BOB trailer attached to his bike; it's always loaded down with who knows what.  For this evening, we used the trailer to carry our cooler packed with sandwiches, potato salad and fruit. I've never used a bike trailer but the BOB looks ideal for carrying small load and it was certainly ideal for our evening as we didn't have to worry about parking or sitting in the long traffic jam at the end of the evening.


We sat in the amphitheater lawn to enjoy our very big Italian sandwiches while we listened to the music (when not laughing our heads off between songs; Steve Martin is no less funny when playing bluegrass).   It looked like a pretty full house.  I'm not sure that many people know that Steve Martin, despite his pompous moron comic persona, is a very accomplished musician with a deep love of bluegrass.  He hooked up with the the Steep Canyon Rangers after meeting them at a party where they were playing in North Carolina.  They are currently on tour promoting their album Rare Bird Alert so if they are coming to your area definitely consider checking them out.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Remembering Why I Bike


I have an unfortunate tendency to hold on to those negative feelings associated with my career veering wildly off course, in a direction I had very purposely sought to avoid.  I am glad to be employed and to have benefits (especially health insurance) but my salary has taken a significant hit in the last several years and my professional status is quite diminished.  Professionally, I wonder if I will ever recover.  Poor, poor me.  Many people are in dire straits with no job, some with more brains and skills than I possess and still more with fewer qualifications or family resources.  I have to remind myself of this sad fact in order to prevent myself from drowning in a mucky pool of unearned self-pity.

In my pre-Flagstaff days, a temporary case of the blues could be easily conquered by a trip to Ann Taylor with my friend Jennifer who would supportively declare, as I feign indecision about whether or not to purchase yet another dainty cardigan with 3/4 sleeves, "You deserve it!".   Heavy sigh!  Flagstaff does not have an Ann Taylor, and Jennifer is hundreds of miles away in Kentucky.  What's a girl to do?


If the Great Recession (did it really end?) taught us anything it was that buying stuff often creates more problems than it actually solves.   Better, more effective ways of coping do exist.  Yoga, deep breathing . . .
I am not one to stop and smell the roses but do appreciate a good view of the wildflowers and have even been know to pick a few for a display in the family room.  My bike commute has provided me with an excellent opportunity for enjoying wildflowers. 


I'll be honest that I must make a conscious decision to let go of my obsessive career ruminations in favor of redirecting my attention to wild flowers.  I am not a totally at ease with the outdoors and nature but it is something that I've gotten used to and learned to appreciate.  I definitely believe that being out in nature is good for mental and physical health so when, at the end of the day, I find myself dwelling on the negative, I make a concerted effort to focus on the flowers - their colors, leaves, the hummingbirds feeding off of them, and whether or not I can harvest seeds for our backyard.


Indian Paintbrush
Stopping to look at the wildflowers is just another reason why I bike.  You can bet that I wouldn't do this in the car.  I'd just stew and grip the steering wheel all the way home.  Biking to work and to where I need to go helps me live in the here and now. 

Blanket Flower
The flowers are only with us for a few short months in Northern Arizona.  Other times of the year, I am looking am breathing in the crispy, piney sent of fall or enjoying the view of the snowy San Francisco Peaks in anticipation of cross country skiing in the National Forest or at the Nordic Center. 

Lousewort flower (I think)

Recently, a Louisville blogger who I read commented on his blog reading SRAB is like being on vacation.  What a great compliment, and I felt motivated to take some pictures of the wildflowers that I see on my ride to and from work.

Some kind of Yarrow.
I have to admit, that, once the winter snow recedes for good, I really get excited for wildflowers and was really disappointed this year that I saw so few California poppies this year.  Oh, well.  Can't dwell on disappointment.  As you can see, there was no shortage of beautiful flowers to take there place.

Monday, August 15, 2011

More Mountain Cycle Chic - Robin and Marja

I originally started this blog with the intent of documenting bikes and the outdoor couture of the people on them.  Robin personifies mountain cycle chic.  Casual, sassy, outdoor sexy that never has to try too hard.  I spotted her last Monday evening and literally sprinted across the street for a picture.  I've snapped a few photos of her before for SRAB, including at last year's Tweed rides.  Believe me, she can do smart fitted jackets and high heels, too.   Here she is with her equally mountain town-chic friend Marja, out in the heart of downtown and on their bikes.
 
Marja (left) and Robin (rt).
Style does include choice of bike basket.  Remember Kenya bags from the 80's?  I loved mine. 

Robin found this cool elephant grass bike basket from House of Talents at Flagstaff Bicycle Revolution recently.  It's called the Asungtaba Bike Basket and sells for $49.99.  House of Talents donates 5% of company profits to support a scholarship fund for the children who live in the Ghanaian community where the baskets are created.  Don't hate me Robin, but I had to go pick up one myself.

Mountain Yum
After chatting with Robin and Marja about a second Tweed Ride fundraiser for Habitat for Humanity of Northern Arizona, Bob and I pedaled another block over to Mountain Oasis, one of our favorite Flagstaff restaurants.  Excitement!  Pumpkin Pie Soup was on menu. 


We were seated at a table that allowed me a closer inspection of the decorative art deco tiles that I always admire from across the room. 


Biking to work justified a plate of warm spinach dip and a glass of wine.


I couldn't take my eyes off of local artist Lyn Matthew's landscape paintings on display at Mountain Oasis through August 31. 


I love landscapes and these really capture what drew Bob and I to Flagstaff in the first place and one of the things I love about biking here - pedaling through the rick colors and textures of nature.  If you are in the area, she is participating in the Open Studio Weekend on Saturday and Sunday, August 27 - 28 from 10 a.m. - 5 p.m.  It's located at 13 N. San Francisco, downstairs in #3.  I plan to be there and camp out in front of her work until Bob carries me out.  Note to self:  reload art account!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

A Girl, A Bike and A Funny Little Dog

The Planner Guy and I decided to participate in this past Saturday's Big Brother/Big Sister Half Marathon and 5K, part of the Northern Arizona Trail Runner's Summer Running Series.  I would love to report that we pedaled downtown to the starting line on our his and her's Breezer Uptown 8's but we didn't.  We arrived in our Honda Element.


Another couple was more dedicated to their biking lifestyle than we were.  After my 5K finish, I sat and enjoyed a post race bagel and coffee when I saw a woman rolling her cruiser through the parking lot.  Her bicycle had a wire basket attached to the handlebar and within the basket sat a cute little dog of indeterminate breed (Yorkshire Terriro, perhaps).  Adorable!  I love dogs.  I love bicycles.  What could be better than enjoying them both at the same time?


Android camera in hand, I crossed the parking lot to introduce myself.  Normally, I really have to force myself to surprise complete strangers  with requests for their photos but people who pedal with small dogs in bike baskets are nothing if not approachable.  Soon, I was chatting with Kristy, who like me, rides her bike everywhere, including to work.  She told  me that after her race she went back home to get the her little dog, who apparently, has become the light of her fiance's life and his regular running partner.  He very much wanted to cross the finish with his little running buddy (sorry Kristy; I forgot your dog's name). 


Kristy collected her dog and brought her back in the basket and was headed up the street from the finish to deliver her to her fiance for his big Half Marathon finish (this was one tough course, by the way).  I don't know which is better, Kristy's simple act of love or her fiance's relationship with her little pup?


As for my bike riding, dog loving man, Bob finished his Half Marathon in right around two hours, despite a broken toe.  No little dog to finish with but I did run along the sidewalk as he was coming and snapped this victory photo at the end.  One photo of many this weekend as Bob also ran the Mountain Man Olympic Triathlon this morning.  I'm happy to report he had a flat free biking segment and very likely detailing his race on his blog IRONMAN QUESTion.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Bike Weirdness at the Target Bike Corral!

Not sure what to make of it. . . .

I locked my bike up in the Target bike corral when I noticed this odd bike next to me.  No judgements but what's up with the motor?  At least, I think it is a motor. . . .


Is that a fuel tank?  Gas?  Diesel?  Does the label read recycled vegetable oil?  I didn't have my reading glasses so I couldn't quite make it out.


Thoughts anyone?

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Incognito


I lost my regular pair of really ugly, not at all cute, sunglasses about a month ago and have been pedaling around without sunglasses.  Not a very smart thing in Flagstaff where the suns rays are pretty intense.  A bug flew in my eye on my way home from work on Thursday afternoon so I knew it was time to bite the bullet and put down the cash.  Even in a time of economic uncertainty and Congressional insanity, one still has to protect one's eyes.  In Target,  $17 is on the high side for what you will pay for a pair of sunglasses but I felt these were worth the money.  The frames feel just heavy enough and sit securely on my face.  I was hoping to find a similar substantial pair of cat eye frames in red or yellow (my all time favorite frame and the best for shape of face) but I like the classic Ray Ban style and tortoise shell finish.  Other than the fact that I look nothing like her in any respect, sorta Audrey Hepburn on a bicycle.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Bike Friendliness at Target

The Flagstaff Target on Milton and University is one of my regular stopping places and easy to use if one wants to shop by bike since it is very accessible by multiuse trail and bike paths.  While it is located on the hopelessly dyfunctional, drag strip Milton Avenue, Flag cyclists are allowed to pedal on sidewalks (except for downtown) when a bike lane or multiuse trail is not available.  The best thing about biking to Target is that they have a quite good bike corral a few steps from the front door.  Despite being well-used (mostly by nearby NAU students), I can always find a space.  On Thursday, I was packing my pannier with my purchases when I noticed a cute couple exiting the store and stop behind me at two bikes.  I love to see biking couples and families so of course I introduced myself and asked if I could snap their pictures.


Katrina and Josh recently relocated for Flagstaff where Josh is now enrolled at NAU in the physical therapy program.  Katrina, who works at NAU, mentioned that she was finding it pretty tough to pedal hilly Flagstaff on her cruiser.  She had no problems with it pedaling around Tempe, which is quite flat, and was considering finding another bike more suitable to the terrain.  


Josh had just purchased a handsome new Specialized, which looked perfect for crossing almost anything Flagstaff might throw at him.  I told Katrina that I had a hard time with the wide cruiser handlebars, especially when I had to tackle a hill and stand up while pedaling.    I also said that I needed more gears at this elevation.

They noticed my Dahon and asked me if it was a folding bike.  I said that it was and that I had taken it to San Francisco this past spring and was pleased with how well it handled the extreme hills and long ride over the Bay Bridge into Sausalito.  Turns out they had also done the Sausalito ride to Tiburon and like, Bob and I, ridden the ferry back the city.   After a few more friendly words, I wished them well on their new life in Flagstaff and pedaled on my way.  I'm always a little shy about approaching strangers for a photo but I virtually never regret it.  Being on a bicycle makes me and them just a little bit more approachable.  I have not idea why other than the possible connection of having made the choice to travel someplace by bike.