Wednesday, November 30, 2011

"Liking" the non-cycling mom

Bikey sisters, Alison, Karen and Valerie top.  Bottom, letter-writing/trouble maker Mamma Voyer and golfing, planning to buy a bike Daddy.
I'd like to thank all my readers for all the thumbs-up directed at my mom following her letter (see my last post) recently posted on the Greenville (SC) News website.  Both my sister and I linked it to our Facebook accounts and she found all the positive feedback from our friends quite flattering.  At age 79, she might not bike but she's still rather progressive and stays as up to date as possible on trends, especially what young people are up to.  Although she doesn't have a FB account of her own, she knows what a "like" is and proudly informed me in a recent e-mail that she received over 7000 likes on her pro-bike lane letter-to-the-editor.  Unfortunately, she was just as disturbed by the hostile, angry tone in most of the on-line comments posted in the Greenville News, which you have to have paid on-line subscription to access.  No need to bother, as I did.  The on-line comments were the usual dribble about how bicyclists' don't pay taxes for road and highway funding.  I thought we had settled that falsehood long ago but for some facts just don't matter.  Heavy sigh! 

So anyway, my rockin' mom appreciates all the love.  She'll keep writing those letters and we'll all keep riding those bike!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

She doesn't ride a bike but she loves people who do!

I've known among family and friend for being rather outspoken but it's a quality I inherited from my mother.   Outspokenness usually doesn't always win you any popularity contests but I've found that very often those of us with that trait are just willing to say what the majority in the room are thinking.  Those who yell the loudest and with the most vitriol don't necessarily represent the views of the majority.

My mother recently felt compelled to submit a reasoned, polite letter of disagreement to the editor to the Greenville (SC) News.  Heavy sigh!  Greenville, South Caroline, that long-time bastion of conservatism, is now home to many transplants from the northeast and "old" Europe and is being challenged to install such socialist threats as BIKE LANES!  I've posted about Greenville's awesome downtown redevelopment - a 30 year labor of love begun by then Greenville mayor Max Heller.  Oh, the whining that insued back then.  Why would anyone want to sit around Main Street and listen to music in the middle of day?  Indeed!  Vibrant downtowns are such a bore!  The naysayers are likely eating their hats by now because urban planners and city officials from all over the country visit downtown every year to see how it's done.  Walkable, bikeable downtowns are part of the mix, and Greenville continues to invest heavily in those ammenities - probably the reason why the downtown is now hopping seven days a week.

Anyway, back to my mom's letter.  I've pasted it in below for you reading enjoyment or you can click on this link to read it and the comments (mostly written by the angry, loud anti-bike crowd). 

 This is in answer to the recent letter “Cyclists don’t belong on the roads,” which equates cyclists with children playing with toys.I am wondering what the writer thinks roads are for? Roads have been with us long before automobiles came along. The purpose of a road is to allow people to get from one place to another, whether on foot, horseback, ox cart, automobile or bicycle. Any driver who cannot negotiate around a cyclist has no business operating an automobile.

Bicycles are not toys. They are a healthful, safe and environmentally beneficial means of transportation. For many people, they are the only affordable option.

For the record, I live off East North Street where bicycle lanes have just been added, and close to a school, as well. I have driven during the busiest times of the day and never had any trouble with the traffic. I just wish I were young enough and strong enough to join the cyclists. I’m sure I would be a lot healthier.

Shirley Voyer
Greenville

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Bicycle how to: puppy in a bike basket

Audrey Hepburn on a bike
The timeless Audrey Hepburn could carry off a puppy in a basket.  Obviously, I didn't take this photo.
I've often wondered about the wisdom of biking with little dog in one's bike basket.  Sure, it's cute and adorable, for both the cyclist and the dog but is it really a smart thing to do?  Couldn't it be dangerous for both the little dog and the cyclist?  Would an excited, uncooperative pooch destablize my ride.  Might it sudden leap out of the basket, possibly into on coming traffic, at the sight of an Abert Squirrel?
Wouldn't a dog trailer be safe and more dignified?  I don't know.  It's not as cute. . . .

Then, there's the whole question of whether or not I want to be one of those women who rides around with a little dog in her bike basket?  Yes, I'm usually secretly jealous when I see a woman pedaling around town with a cute little dog in her basket but I'll be 49 next month.  Is that really something I should be yearning to do. . . . I mean at my age?  I haven't worn a belly ring in seven years because I decided I should be more mature than to need to wear a belly ring, even though mine was really lovely and elegant, but maybe some things just aren't dignified on a woman of a certain age.  Maybe a puppy in a bike basket is one of those things?

Well, I'd pretty much decided that the whole cute little dog in a basket was just not my thing, and I wasn't going to do it.  My bike basket is for practical purposes like my cell phone and a place to toss my sweater on a warm day.  When my inner French girl is in control, it's an ideal location for carring a not too large bottle of pinot grigio, a block of gruyere and a box of crackers.  These are the things that dignified older women carry in their bike baskets, if they have them.  Women such as the always stunningly, daring, bad-ass Lauren Hutton or the never-fails-to-look-as-if-she-knows-something-that-you-don't Catherine Deneuve.  Neither would be caught dead, at their more advanced ages than mine, with a cute little dog in their bicycle basket ( or "panier à vélo", en francais).  I resolved to choose dignity.

A scared little dog just after being rescued from a Hwy 51 on ramp.
And with my mind made up, along came Daisy.  Although, her name was not Daisy at the time.  It happened like this:  Saturday, Pre-Ironman Bob and I are driving to Tempe to drop off a few items at his transition area for the next day's Arizona Ironman.  As we are on the ramp to enter Hwy 51, Bob suddenly exclaims, "There's a little dog in the middle of the road!" I didn't see it at first but as he blocks the lane, flips on the hazard lights and points, I see a little nervous Chihuahua running to the shoulder; I hop out of the car and call it to me.  In search of a savior, the tiny Chi runs toward me, arriving at my feet cowering in fear.  I scoop her up (yes, it is a little girl) and run with her to the car.
 
Wearing a new fashion harness from Petsmart.  Still scared but no longer shaking.
Shaking like a leaf, the Chi allowed me to cradle her in my arms and wrap her in Bob's discarded sweater as we make our way to Tempe.  We don't have time to do more than stop at PetSmart for a leash and rodent sized harness before arriving at the race location.  On the way, I name her Daisy, since I can't just call her "dog" and Jade and Ashby, who we brought with us to Tempe, already have all the good little-dog nicknames.

We determine that we can't leave her at the hotel on Sunday, race day, and since my job is to be his one-woman cheer leading squad, Bob says that I'll just have to bring her with me.  I'd brought my Dahon to get around Tempe between the hotel and the various locations along the race route so I'd have to carry Daisy in the bike basket!  She's the perfect size.  Almost too small.  Damn!  Daisy is a Teacup Chihuahua.  I was never meant for a dog this size. 

Purse dog.
A "purse-dog", the type carried around by people who accessorize with small animals.
She's so exhausterd!
I had all the anxieties about being seen with a puppy in my basket described earlier throughout the rest of the day and the next morning as we prepared to go to Tempe Town Lake, the start location.  And during this time I mostly carried Daisy around everywhere due to her nervous shaking, post-highway drama.  I had bathed her in the sink, fed her and allowed her to sleep through the evening at my side.  Clean and sweet smelling, with the smudges removed from beneath her eyes, she was actually pretty cute.  As her savior, she bonded to me very quickly and was attuned to my every move.  Not good. Not good at all.

Bob's finished his swim in 1:43 and during that time, I carried Daisy and did a little leash training, although the thick crowd made that difficult.   After the swim, I retrieved my Dahon from the car and pondered how to teach Daisy how to behave in a bike basket.  I had no idea where to begin but decided the smartest approach for two beginners would be to put her in the basket, secure her with harness and leash to the handlebar stem, with just enough slack to comfortably move around, and then walk the bike around to assess how she handled the movement and no longer being in my arms (her preferred location).  As I anticipated, she resisted being lowered into the basket and, once deposited inside, stood up on her hind legs and balanced herself with front paws on the handlebar.  She looked wobbly and unstable, and I imagined that she felt that way so I peeled off my Patagonia puffy jacket and created a nest-like environment for her in the basket.  This seemed to comfort her immediately.  The jacket had my scent on it and probably felt enclosed and snugly.  She still stood up in the basket but did not wobble around or try to climb over the handlebars to reach me.  I walked her and bike thusly for about 30 minutes around the vendor area before heading to the bike route and back to the hotel. 

First time basket rider.
I decided to try pedaling with her in the basket.  This time, I was more nervous than Daisy so I stuck to the off-street bike paths, out of the way of traffic.  Daisy settled in to a seated position and remained alert but seemed to be more relaxed than before.  I spoke to her in a quiet, reassuring voice and gave her little pats on the head when I dismounted at crosswalks. 

By the time we got to Mill and Rio Salado along the bike segment route, my confidence leveled had increased significantly.  Daisy was now comfortable snuggled into the folds of my jacket.  As we made our way through the spectator area I quickly became aware of the ooohs and aaahs from those we passed, mostly from women but also quite a few men.  "Oh, look it's a puppy in a basket!"  "Did you see the little dog in her bike basket?"

I dismounted several times to look for Bob among the cyclists and quickly a small crowd would form around us.  More oohs and aaahs, along with petting hands and questions.  I felt a strong need to establish that no, this was not my dog . . . . we found her . . . . just a temporary thing, we aren't keeping her . . . . I don't normally carry around a Teacup Chihuahua everywhere I go (rapidly becoming a big lie!) . . . . biking with a dog in your basket is probably dangerous for everyone involved, etc., etc., etc.

Snug in a bike basket.  It helps to create a nest-like environment.
So, this is how it went all morning until my cousin Angie (Angie of the bike garage) sent me a text about meeting for lunch on Mill Avenue.  She'd take Metro Rail (she biked to the station near her house, by the way) and we'd look for a place with outdoor seating once she arrived.  I pedaled down the Mill Avenue bike lane, at this point feeling all Charlie-girl (remember that popular ad campaign for the perfume starring model Shelley Hack?) with a puppy in my basket.

In front of Aveda.
What the hell!  It's a sunny day, with temps in the comfortable low 70's and I'm wearing a floral camisole and smart, peach, cable cardigan so I'm no longer too worried about aging out of looking adorable while pedaling around with a Chihuahua in my bike basket.  It's not like just I plopped down 20K for cheek implants and an overly exuberant face-lift in a vain attempt to fool my waiter into thinking I'm still 25.  Little dogs harmless fun, as well as soft and squishy.  I stopped and locked up in front of the Aveda salon, scooped up Daisy and went inside to purchase a few travel size hair products.  And show off the pup, of course.  Oooh, aaah, oooh, aaah!  Everyone loves a cute little dog, and if they don't, spend your money elsewhere!

Angie arrived and we decided to have lunch in the outdoor dining area of My Big Fat Greek Restaurant (highly recommend the Lemon Orzo soup), where Daisy curled up on the sidewalk beneath our table and was no trouble at all.  After lunch, Angie and I did wandered the Mill Avenue area  before she caught the rail back home.  Daisy and I pedaled back to the  bike course finish in time to see a smiling Bob come in.  We then traveled on to the hotel, using mostly bike lanes and rested with the other two dogs for a few hours before heading back out at dusk to catch Bob at mile 16 of the running segment.
Across an well illuminated bridge.
By the time we left for the running course, darkness was setting in, so my new worry was how Daisy would react to the very bright NiteRider Mako 2 bike light attached to my handlebars and all the noise and blinking lights of street traffic.  The temperature had dropped so I'd need to make sure she was well wrapped up within the bike basket to protect her fat-free little body from the chill as I pedaled.  I loaded Daisy into the basket and wrapped one of Bob's fleece pullovers around her so that only her head was exposed.  By now, Daisy was quite the little cycling pro, settling in immediately.  She slept soundly at mile 16, despite my near constant fawning over her comfort, and continued to remain still and relaxed throughout our ride along the lake back to the finish line at Tempe Town Park.  We were now probably 13 hours into the Ironman and most of the paths were reopened to walkers and cyclists so I was sharing the way with triathletes too focused on getting through the last two  miles of their competition to notice the charming micro-dog in my bike basket.  Knowing the laser focus  required of endurance athletes, their lack of notice could be forgiven.  No matter, I was enjoying our journey, especially when we crossed the bridge,  illuminated from above by decorative lights. 

Nappy-nap time in a bike basket after a long strenuous day of biking.
At the finish, I encountered the most challenging aspect of traveling around with a little dog in my basket.  The finish shoot was crowded on both sides with spectators cheering for their athletes to come in.  Nobody was interested in a little dog, including me since I didn't want to miss Bob's triumph after two years of intense training.  My Dahon only has a single pronged kickstand so the bike leans to one side when parked and the front wheel also tends to turn to one side, both of which cause the basket to dip to one side.  I had to keep a pretty firm hand on the bike to keep it and the basket as level as possible so that Daisy didn't tumble out and get trampled by the crowd.  A double pronged kickstand, a firm spring between the front fender and the tube and a basket that basket that was more rigidly attached to the stem and handlebar would have more stable and safe situation for Daisy.

As related in  my previous post, Bob completed his Ironman triathlon in 14:15:38, greeted at the finish by his adoring wife and a sleeping Chihuahua.  Bob loves dogs so I'm sure he was a little gratified to see that Daisy had weathered the busy day apparently happy in the role as extremely cute bike accessory.  In less that 24 hours, he was already quite attached to our little rescue dog and was relieved to see the bond that had clearly developed between Daisy and I, my determination to place her with the Chihuahua rescue group nearly melted away.

Timeless and confident enough to love an Ironman and carry a puppy in her bike basket.
I don't know if I have to answer to the wisdom of biking with a little dog in a basket.  Is it safe?  Well, I suppose it's like anything else.  One has to be smart and take appropriate precautions.  Had Daisy refused to cooperate, if she just couldn't trust me and relax in the basket, obviously I couldn't have made her spend the entire day on my bike.  As it happended, she seemed enjoy herself as well as all the attention.  As for whether or not I have aged out of biking with a little dog in my bike basket, as the adage goes, you're only as young as you feel, and I feel about 27.  Look at the black and white photo of Audrey Hepburn at the beginning of this post.  Like Audrey, some things are just timeless.  Would anyone question a  middle-aged Audrey with a Yorkie in her bike basket?  Of course not.  Why would they?  I think I'll grant myself the same latitude.  I enjoyed the whimsy of the experience.  And better yet, it looks like it helped me forge a bond with a small, vulnerable being who needed a home, and a little fun.

**This post is revised from an earlier published version.  I wasn't totally happy with ending and after consulting with my husband (a new Ironman) the better words came easily. On this day, I give thanks for an honest editor.

Monday, November 21, 2011

No, I haven't stopped biking. . .

Mrs. Ironman Bob shows her love and support.
It's been several weeks since I've been able to post or even think about blogging due to a number of distractions in our life over the past couple of months coming to a head.  Among those distractions, the Arizona Ironman!  No, I didn't race but the Planner Guy did - or should I say Ironman Bob!

Last year at the Louisville Ironman, the warm waters of the Ohio River got the best of Bob.  He pulled out of that race when he faced the fact that he wasn't ready for a 2.4 open water swim after race officials determined the water too warm for wetsuits and disallowed them.  I am grateful for a husband who recognizes his limitations so that I am not now a widow.  Last years, dozens of triathletes were pulled from the Ohio due to becoming overheated and sick; this year, under similar conditions, a man Bob's age died during the swim segment.

Not one give up and accept set backs, Bob trained smarter and redoubled his efforts.  He signed up for this past weekend's Arizona Ironman in Tempe shortly after the Louisville defeat.  The race location made much more sense because he would be competing under weather conditions similar to those in which he normally.


The bike transition area at Tempe Town Lake.

For those who haven't participated in an Ironman or just love someone who did, the event consists of a 2.4 mile swim, a 112 mile bike race and a 26.2 run - back to back.  Bob's favorite segment of the race is the bike portion for which he trained both on stationary bike and on his Kestrel on Lake Mary Road, supplemented by his regular bike commutes to and from work.  When he first started training on the Kestrel two years ago, he frequently called me to ask me to come out and pick in him up on Lake Mary Road due to blown tires and other issues.  Since then Bob has become quite the bike mechanic and is more prepared than any Boy Scout for whatever could happen on the road - tools, CO2 cartridges, bike tools, hydration systems and nutritional snacks.  And all very light weight of course.  Watching the pleasure he takes in this attention to detail might tempt me to take up bike racing but I doubt we could afford two competitive road cyclists in one family.


Special needs bags area for extra gear, hydration, snacks. . . .

The Saturday morning practice swim.

I wish that I had photos the bike race but unfortunately, the Athlete Tracker on the Ironman website wasn't working properly  so I had a hard time locating where Bob was on the course.  Regardless, the Arizona Ironman was a memorable event.  For three days we mingled with people (athletes and their families) on the same journey as ours. 

Bob, post practice swim, feeling good despite the cold water.
For athletes, there is the intense physical effort and commitment to adhering a strenuous training schedule, one that seems beyond possible for mere humans, followed by the emotional peaks and valleys that go with forecasting one's chances of success. 

Post swim victory hug.
For the loved ones, we are charged with supporting the sacrifices required by the athletes to commit to a grueling training regimen while also recognizing when it's time to remind your would-be Ironman that even world-class athletes must take the day off and enjoy a piece of chocolate cake with family and friends.  

No, he's not proposing, just chatting about the value of insulated swim caps.
Being around others who have gone down that road, especially those who have traveled it multiple times, truly validated my experience of Bob's Ironman quest over the last two years, especially the pride we all shared in our athletes' achievements (and sometimes the feeling of helplessness we experience when we can't take away the disappointment felt when goals go unmet).

Presenting Ironman Bob!
Like most average-guy triathletes, Bob's goal was to finish, hopefully, still on two feet but to finish even if he had to roll across the finish line (crawling is not allowed but rolling is).  Now to put the race in perspective, the professional triathlete who won the race also broke the 8 hour record but don't assume those who took twice as long trained half as hard.  One of the things that impressed me so much about the Arizona Ironman was how prepared and well-trained most of the amateur athletes were.  Bob finished the Arizona Ironman in 14:15:38. He ran through the finish strong, with a smile on his face, exchanging high-fives with cheering spectators lining the finish.  Yep, my man is an Ironman!  If you want to check out his race stats just go to Athlete Tracker on Ironman.com, and enter his bib number, 2294.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Hammered aluminum fenders? Upgrading accessories or upgrading the bike . . .

Hammered aluminum fenders anyone?
Hard to believe now as I write this but my first look at hammered aluminum fenders was at September's Interbike in Las Vegas!  Always the last to know, of course, but they are stunning.  True things of beauty.  I first past them at the Velo Orange exhibit, which unfortunately, I did not get to spend any time, despite the intention of going back to check them out further.  Luckily, I noticed similar fenders on some roadsters at the Electra exhibit.

I believe this model is from Electra's Ticino collection.  Lovely. 
So elegant and understated.  I couldn't stop picturing them on my Breezer Uptown 8.  Hammered aluminum fenders against the ruby red finish of the Uptown 8?  It makes my heart go a-flutter.  As some of you might recall, I go back and forth about upgrading to a Workcycles Oma but the Breezer Uptown 8 really is a great ride to which I'm very emotionally attached.  Why not just make some upgrades to it instead by buying a whole knew bike at considerable expense?  New hammered aluminum fenders and perhaps Busch and Muller hub dynamo lighting with the lamp repositioned on the front fork so that I can attach a large Basil basket on the handlebars?  Maybe that's all I need?  Will that bring my obsession with the Workcycles Oma to an end?  I don't know.  Did I mention my new obsession with Bromptons?  Readers, I welcome your thoughts.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

She's a future ER doc who rides a bike!

She wear Hello Kitty and dreams of being a doctor.
Don't let her artful style and penchant for Hello Kitty fool you.  This young lady plans to be an ER doc by the time she's done with school.  That's a pretty heavy atmosphere and she should know, because she'll be following her dad's footsteps.  For now, she shares my unabashed love for Hello Kitty and she rides her bike everywhere.  By coincidence, I was wearing my Hello Kitty t-shirt.  We shared a giggle over it when I told her how old I am.  Some things you don't have to give up upon entering adulthood.

I'm a bit jealous that I have aged out of Hello Kitty backpacks.  Heavy sigh!
One of the things I appreciate about being a bike blogger is that opportunity that it affords me to chat briefly with complete strangers and get a little bit of their story.  I learn so much about what makes other people tick as opposed to making snap judgments, and I learn a lot about myself as well.  I went to art school and had my share of novel hairstyles and fashion statements.  One or two made my mother cry.  Somehow I managed to have a successful life that included college and graduate school, career and  marriage to a good man.  I'm always impressed with the young people I meet and hearing about their goals and aspirations.  This Hello Kitty-loving girl was the first such young personon a bicycle who I encountered today.  The other, a young man who attends NAU, I hope to talk about a little more in depth at a later time.