Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Ma Cousine, une salade et corrals vélo que j'aime

We got about four inches of snow in Flagstaff today, interrupting a relatively spring-like February.  Normally, I'd be jumping for joy anticipating a cross country ski outing but as we near March I've already got warming temperatures on my mind.  Plus, I've just really appreciated the opportunity to totally avoid dealing with my New Years Resolution to purchase studded tires for my Breezer.

Oh, well.  If I just really need to feel the heat I can go down to Phoenix and visit my cousin, Angie, which is what I did two weeks ago.  I needed to take care of some family business down there and ended up driving down on a Sunday morning a day ahead so that we could  have a chance to socialize via bike around her neck of the woods.    With temperatures in the low 70's we had perfect biking weather and decided to pedal from her house over to Central for lunch at Postino.  Very chic!

Bike Parking at Postino is very respectable, as if they want patrons to arrive on bikes!
We arrived around 12:30 and seating remained available on  the patio.  Yeah!  What's better than alfresco dining?  Uhmmmm . . . . bike parking in view of our table, perhaps?  Indeed, there it was, and in a very respectable, desert landscaped garden setting.   

As I keep watch over our beloved bike, ma fair cousine tries to avoid eye contact w/ reality TV wannabes.
We could keep an eye on our bicycles while we enjoyed wine,  gossiped, compared finger nail polish, and tried to ignore the two guys at the next table.  (They looked like cast members from some random reality TV show and, in my opinion, were checking out my cousin.  Never happen in any universe!) Do you think it's a bit paranoid to need to keep an eye on bikes that are adequately secured to a good bike corral?  Somehow, I think it is and yet, I can't seem to help myself.  I don't feel about my bicycles the way to do about my dogs. . . .I mean, who wouldn't want to steal them?  But, I look at my bikes and I sort of think the same thing.  But, really, I feel much more strongly about my dogs as I do about my bicycles.

Salads so good we ate every bite.  And don't Angie's nails look lovely?
Anyway, we both ordered Chicken and Pecan salad with Raspberry dressing.  It was served with a finger-shaped slice of walnut bread.  Delicious, of course.  Angie took Bob and I there five years ago when we first came to Arizona for Bob's job interview.  We arrived at about the same time of day but since it was the middle of August, it was hot as hell outside so we ate indoor.  Inside or out, Postino is very sophisticated but casual at the same time and always wonderful.  But really, the bike parking is just the best part so I'll definitely be back.

After lunch, we parted ways for a few hours while I pedaled on to my appointment further down Central.  It's easy to be judgmental about Phoenix's bike friendliness in comparison to Flagstaff but honestly, I enjoyed my trip.  I pedaled for a few blocks on a bike lane.  I stopped at a light and a pedestrian in the crosswalk chatted me up briefly about my Dahon; turns out he had a folding bike, too.  A block or so later the bike lane directed me to merge on to an extra wide sidewalk that seemed to be designed for both walkers and cyclists.  Very nice, indeed.  I like bike lanes but if I can pedal on a segregated path that's my preference.  I pedaled along this way for until I arrived in the Central Phoenix area.  The Metro Rail was at the left for the entire distance.  The rail stops are really attractive and I would have loved to get some shots of them but the battery on my cell was running low.  Damn!  I saw so many people with bikes waiting from trains . . .

Eventually, I destination was insight and luckily very near ASU, where I found . . . . more excellent bike parking!  Lots of bikes locked up to the corrals but many open spots as well.  Again, my protective nature for my Dahon kicked in and I wondered if it would be safe.  My bike would definitely be out of my visual range.  I decided to remove the seatpost, my bike African bike basket and my bungee cord and take them with me.  Was it overkill?  I don't know?  I hated standing out from carrying my seatpost but I decided that it made my bike a little less theft-worthy.

My appointment ended at 5 p.m. and I set out for Angie's house near Indian School and 15th.  Maybe a five mile trip.  Oh, how I wanted to stop at Postino for another glass of wine.  I  passed on my return route but, since I had to drive back up to Flag, I reigned in the urge.  Since I followed Angie to Postino in the first place I didn't totally trust that I knew the route back to I used Verizon Navigator on my Android.  I don't have room for a docking device on my handlebar so I propped it up against my Coach bag in basket for a perfect view.  The trip back was surprisingly brief, despite all the stops I made to admire some of the renovated ranch houses I saw along the way. Also unexpected was how comfortable I felt traveling by bike on largely unfamiliar streets.  I visit Phoenix pretty often but it's a huge city so I don't actually know my way around.  I never feel that comfortable on Phoenix streets and road when I'm in a car.  In those instances, I'm far to worried about keeping up with traffic or running into another car to possibly enjoy myself so I almost always prefer Bob or Angie to do the driving.  Sort of makes me wonder if I'd even want to own a car if we lived in Phoenix.  Between my bicycle, the Metro Rail and the bus, would a car even be necessary in a car-centric city?  Maybe my Phoenix and south Cal readers can weigh in on that?

Sunday, February 19, 2012

High gas prices and the newly oppressed

"I guess we're going to have to drive less, consolidate all our errands into one trip.  It's just oppressive." - W. Howard C., Crestwood, Mo.

From the Sunday, February 19 edition of the Arizona Republic.
Just when I had about given up on finding anything to write about I read this quote in today's Arizona Republic and my two-week posting dry spell came to an end.  Thank you, W. Howard C.!   Oppressive?  Really?  Because you have to drive less and consolidate errands into one trip?  Whooo!!  Take a break from the sport page, big guy, because having to consolidate car trips in order to reduce your gas consumption is hardly of oppressive.  Neither is it a threat to freedom and liberty.

Electric bikes at Bike Shop Hub.  No gas required and an electric boost makes bike commuting easier.
I don't mean to pick on Mr. C., who is retired and, indeed, may live on a budget, as do my parents.  Maybe he doesn't have ready access to decent public transit, can't walk without pain or can't safely bike a short trip to the grocery store.   But I like to point out that high gas prices are nothing new.  Most of my life, I've listened to the drum beat that we're running out of oil and that access to it will increasingly become a matter of national security and a likely cause of international conflict.  An oil embargo in the 70's drove up gas prices, caused gas shortages that resulted in long lines at filling stations, and sparked a national debate on our long-term reliance on oil, a finite resource.  We have been told since that time that we need to conserve gas by among other things switching to more fuel efficient vehicles, driving less and consolidating trips.  My mom, no big fan of Jimmy Carter in those day, got the message and, partly because she is a child of the Great Depression and knows about living on a shoe string budget, did all of the above, and has ever since.  And so do all three of her daughters.  At last check-in with my family, I don't recall anyone expressing that they felt oppressed.  Might not be able to afford a road trip out to Arizona to visit me and the Planner Guy but no oppression.

Lotta cars out there but a few people find other ways that are just as effective.
Yes, when you legitimately have to rely on a car to get around, higher gas prices are an inconvenience; my mom, free spirit that she is, would love to pedal around her part of town rather than drive but at 79, she just doesn't have the stamina.  However, high gas prices aren't an act of oppression perpetrated by some outside threat.  Iran certainly can try/threaten to cut off our oil supply but they are not oppressing us. It's political gamesmanship.  The OPEC nations can decrease oil production and keep price per barrel artificially high but that is not oppression.  They are making a business decision.  The Keystone XL pipeline?  A reflection of environmental policy and politics during an election year is my guess, but again, not oppression.

At the risk of appearing melodramatic or preachy, I'd like to take a moment to provide some well documented examples of oppression.  Oppression is millions of Jews rounded up and murdered during World War II.  It's an Egyptian woman in a blue bra being beaten for demanding basic human rights. Oppression is the imprisonment of Nelson Mandela and apartheid.  It is Congolese children being forced to carry arms, fight and kill under threaten of death if they refuse.  It is human trafficking, a serious problem world wide, mostly affecting poor women and children.  Lest we forget oppression in these United States, we, too, have our own rich history.  Native American have, perhaps, the most lengthy history of oppression in the United States and, since I've been living in the American Southwest for the last five years or so, I'd say they have a fairly reasonable list of ongoing gripes.   I am descended from some folks who actively participated in the oppression of people kidnapped from the African continent (no matter how much some of my distant relatives would like to believe the contrary).  Also oppressed:  the interned Japanese Americans during World War II; women (we only got the right to vote less than 100 years ago); gays and lesbians (progress yes, but still no cigar!); and any group that has ever had the indignity of seeing a sign posted in a place of business that reads "(fill in the blank) need not apply!".  The list could go on and on, continues today, and all those people probably deserve an apology (so take that Governors Rick Perry and Mitt Romney!).

Snow and ice in the bike lane do rise to the level of threats to freedom and liberty but they are annoying.
Now, you might notice that I did not list bicyclists as members of an oppressed group.  I've seen a few blogs and on-line postings referring to us, and others that use alternative forms of transportation, as oppressed.  I always feel a bit embarrassed when I see this sentiment in print.  Speaking for  myself, I don't feel oppressed on any level.  I am inconvenienced that my favorite sections of the urban trail and bike lanes are not clear of snow and ice when I need them to be but there isn't any money for that at the moment.  I believe in vast right-wing conspiracies but not in this case.  If by some highly improbably chance that Barack Obama states "I eat children for breakfast" or "Satan is my daddy" and Rich Santorum is elected President of the United States, as an atheist and a woman who uses contraception, I will then worry about my potential to join the ranks of the oppressed.  Until then, I'd prefer not to confuse minor irritants with actual acts of ongoing injustice.  Doing so only diminishes the credibility of  effective alternative transportation activists  who work tirelessly for those bike lanes and bus routes that we currently enjoy.   In short, claiming that we are oppressed makes us look like idiots.

Bicyclists are almost guaranteed a place to park in front of or very near their
 destination, even during the First Friday Art Walk.  No oppression here.
Whether we're passionate bike commuters or among the dedicated auto-dependent, maybe we could all take a deep breath before we count ourselves among the ranks of the oppressed.  Does framing yourself as oppressed leave you feeling helpless or powerful?  Wallowing in a soup of oppression doesn't sound like a place where one develops solutions, does it?  What if the $2.50 a gallon gas that Newt Gingrich insists Americans deserve just ain't ever coming back?  Are we going to cry about it or are we going to say "Okay, what else can I do"?  If tomorrow we can no longer afford to regularly gas up our cars, what would be the next best thing?  Or the next best things after that? The answers are out there.  They'll probably look a bit different for us all but there will be lines of intersect, like bike racks on buses, car pooling and park and ride lots.  Now might be the time to find our inner-Marines, suck it up and move on to Plan B.

Friday, February 3, 2012

How to cope when living in a snow-less ski community? Bike!

Winter bike-wear: Majesty peacoat, Cambridge turtleneck, and faux pearls, all from JCrew.
One the of the things that really gripes me about this winter is the fact that we haven't had a good snow storm in over a month!  What is the point of cold if you can't ski?  Last February I went skiing a couple of times a week for heaven's sake.

My second and last ski adventure this season was on December 15, my birthday!  Heavy sigh.
I wouldn't be so bugged if I saw a single sign of spring.  Yes, in Louisville, Kentucky it is cold, grey and damp right now but at least I could go outside and see the daffadils pushing their way up through the soil, along with tops of tuplips!  Here, there is no hope!  Only bitterness that I can't go cross country skiing and the knowledge that spring won't get here until sometime mid-June!

Merrona print skirt and tights from Target.  The skirt is fully lined and all the seams are perfectly finished.  Only $14 on sale!
Oh, well.  At least, I can enjoy pedaling to work in dressier winter clothes as per my New Years resolution to recommit to cycle chic-dom!  And to be sure, the streets and roads have been free of ice and snow, and the bike lanes and multiuse paths are clear and easy to traverse on my bike.

Thrifted Express low-rise, side zip, boot cut slacks.  Purchased 10 years ago and still look great.  They're in a thick, stretchy knit that are really warm and always seem to fit perfectly five pounds in either direction.
Yes, we did have a dusting of snow yesterday but it's mostly melted at this point.  The only thing that prevented me from getting my bike out today and pedaling to work was that our very steep, snow-covered driveway was far too slick to travel down without killing myself in the process, or at least sustaining a very serious head injury.

Bike and Pedestrian Update

Here's the text from the email I received from Congressman Paul Gosar's office.  Apparently, I was wrong; he is not a member of the House Transportation Committee.  He seems to be sitting on the fence, perhaps conveniently so as Flagstaff is home to a lot of transportation cyclist and more liberal than most of Arizona. Mr. Gosar, however, more of the political persuasion that views funding of things like bike paths as threat to our "freedom and liberty".  Anyway, here's the communication.  I changed the font to distinquish it from my words.

Dear Ms. Voyer-Caravona,
Thank you for contacting me with regard to various programs dealing with biking and walking paths in the "Surface Transportation Reauthorization Bill of 2011." I appreciate your concern.
As a lifelong outdoorsman, I appreciate how important it is to have outdoor recreation and transportation. I have always enjoyed walking and biking paths and appreciate how important they are, not only for recreation, but for commuting as well. When people are able to walk or ride their bikes to work, it decreases pollution, helps to lower energy prices, and increases their quality of life through better exercise. I certainly support these kinds of opportunities being available when they are economically viable and technically feasible. Also, particularly as a father of 3 children, I am well aware of how important having safe pedestrian pathways, sidewalks, and crosswalks are to both good transportation systems and for peace of mind. I have thought about these things ever since my children were old enough to go on walks around Flagstaff by themselves.
While I am not a member of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, I have been monitoring this bill closely as it makes its way through Congress. On July 7, 2011, the committee revealed its 6-year plan to reauthorize and streamline various transportation projects. This is particularly important, because current programs are being authorized through a temporary extension measure which will run out at the end of the fiscal year.
Chairman of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee John Mica (R-FL) decided to go a new route in funding certain transportation initiatives, providing block grants to individual State Departments of Transportation as opposed to directly funding certain projects. I am still studying the effects of this funding mechanism and its effects on various transportation programs, including its effects on biking paths, walking paths, sidewalks, crosswalks, and the like. It is likely that the bill will be changed by going through the committee process, and I intend on keeping a close eye on what the bill ultimately contains before deciding how to vote. I will certainly keep your thoughts in mind as I decide how to vote on this important piece of legislation.
For additional information, please visit my website, http://www.gosar.house.gov . From this site you can access statements about current events or pending legislation, and receive detailed information about the many services that I am privileged to provide for Arizonans. Please also feel free to contact my congressional office at (202) 225-2315.
Again, I appreciate your thoughts and concerns. It is an honor to serve as your United States Congressman. Your suggestions are always welcome, and if ever I may be of assistance, please do not hesitate to contact me.


Paul A. Gosar, D.D.S.
Member of Congress

I'll keep expressing my opinion and cross my finger that something sinks in.  As I wrote a few days ago, our combined efforts can make a difference.  I put in my two cents yesterday regarding Komen's bizarro decision to withhold grant funding from Planned Parenthood.  It seems my small voice and tiny donation to Planned Parenthood, along with the voices of thousands more, spoke pretty loud.  As of today, Komen reversed their decision.   Could impassioned citizens from every cross section of the American cycling world make a similar difference?  I don't know?  Could it be, we are entering an age of renewed activism?  

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

The gray areas of bike commuting

I love wool at 7000 ft!
These days when I think of gray areas I'm talking about shades of gray, and when I'm talking about shades of gray I'm talking about my winter wardrobe.  Almost everything these days is black or grey.  Sometimes, if I feel crazy I throw in brown or tan.  Several months back I vowed I would work on clearing out the closet(s) and simplify my life and my dress.  Why do I need so many clothes that I don't wear or won't wear until I loose five pounds?  Bob pointed out that if we moved back to 800 feet tomorrow and I was running 8 miles every day, all that stuff I wore in Louisville would be out of style by now.  The truth hurts.

Nubby, wool, pencil skirt from JCrew final sale.  Very warm.  Has little stretch.
So anyway, I donated all the things I don't/won't wear any more and got a few staples to fill in the blanks with the pieces I always go back to.

Stuff my Inner French Girl carries in her basket.  The Coach bag was on $50 at Poor Little Rich Girl in Phoenix.
One of my New Years resolutions was also fashion related.  I decided to stop trying to dress like a mountain girl and just go with the real me.  Hiking trails are nice on vacation or on the weekend but I really prefer sidewalks lined with wine bars, coffee shops and art galleries void of southwestern themed art.  This feels like a terrible admission to make.  I'm supposed to really love the great outdoors and feel really lucky to be living the dream (somebody's dream, I guess) of living in the southwest far, far away from the hustle and the bustle of the "City", but the truth is the quiet frightens me.  Sirens, the sound of bus doors opening and closing and alley solid waste collection at 4 a.m. remind me that other people are nearby.  So anyway, I'm dressing like me again.  I look terribly out of place most of the time but my Inner French Girl much happier.

These tall leather and suede boots are actually from Aerosoles!  Laugh if you want to but they are cute and comfy and were on sale on Zappos.

It is no more difficult to pedal a bike dressed like a urban girl than it is to pedal dressed like a mountain girl, by the way.  Since I am almost consistently in high heels again, I raised my bike seat just a little - when ballet flat season arrives in a few months, I lower it again.