Monday, May 28, 2012

She Rides a Bike is moving! To Phoenix!

Yep, it's happening! We are relocating to Phoenix in June (actually July for me).  Bob just accepted an exciting new job, and I will be attending Arizona State University this fall to begin work on my Masters in Social Work.  Everything came together very suddenly this weekend while we were in Phoenix exploring housing options for me this fall.  We even found a lovely bungalow to rent in one of Central Phoenix's historical neighborhoods, right on the Metro Rail route.  We'll be within easy biking and walking distance to cafes, restaurants, pubs, the art museum, the ASU downtown campus, the downtown YMCA, the grocery store and even my cousin's house.  Bob was especially excited that we are exactly two miles from the front of our rental to the entrance of Chase Field, home of the Arizona Diamondbacks.  To celebrate this next chapter in our life together we headed to that very place to catch the 1 p.m. game against the Milwaukee Brewers.

The entrance of Chase Field is a mere 2 miles from our new house.
It's a pretty good bet Sunday's game will be the last one that we ever drive to.  Parking ranged from $5 - $10.  That's insane.  And who wants to get in a car that been backing over asphalt all afternoon when the high is over 100?  Luckily, Chase Field kindly provides free parking . . .

I wonder how soon these fill up before a game?
for cyclists, that is.  I wonder if there are more of these close by? 

This is actually a train coming into the Montebello stop near my cousin's house.
I mentioned the Metro Rail route, too, didn't I?  Bikes are allowed on board, and it stops close by Chase Field.  Yippy!!!

Bob with our celebratory tickets.
I didn't do any biking while in Phoenix this weekend so I don't have any bikey excitement to report at the moment but the transition from transportation cycling in a community with lots well-maintained multi-use trails and on-street bike lanes to one that was developed around the needs of the automobile should be interesting.  If any readers in the Valley would like to meet up for a tutorial on biking the streets of Phoenix I would love to meet up.  Coffee and lunch will be on me!  Bob and my mother-in-law are worried that the 100+ summer temperatures and overall sprawl will necessitate that we buy a second car but, after 4 years of bike commuting, I am resistant to the idea.  Once again, I'd like to hear from Phoenix cyclists on how they manage when the heat sores up above 95.   I've suffered the scorching July heat on many occasions and must admit that even "dry heat" is pretty bad once you get much above 90.   Is there a time to throw in the towel?

About two hours before the start.  Chase Field has a retractable roof, protecting the Diamondbacks (and I suppose their opponents from the sun's death rays).
Those are questions for a future post.  Meantime, here are a few pictures from our afternoon at Chase Field.  I can't believe I'm going to be living blocks away from Major League Baseball!  Is it crazy to say that I have waited my entire life for this??

Fans were invited to bring their dogs to Chase Field on Sunday.  And they did.  Perhaps hundreds.  We felt
a little guilty that Jade, Ashby and Daisy were waiting for us at Angie's house.
A swimming pool at a baseball field?  Am I the only one who finds this excessive?  How does the team feel about this?

This is Diane.  Very friendly and welcoming to soon-to-be regular visitors to Chase Field.

Being again in a city with a national sports teams is serious business for the Planner Guy.


Monday, May 21, 2012

I love the (biking) nightlife

A view of the Rendevous from the neighboring sidewalk.
One of the best things about the approaching summer (it's arrived early in Northern Arizona this year) are the warming night temperatures.  Yes, a light jacket or sweater is still required (and gloves for me) but gone are the layers of coats over fleece, accessorized with wool scarves and hats.

A cool one from New Belgium at The Tinderbox last month.
Weekend nights usually mean that I meet Bob downtown for a few drinks over appetizers at CuveĆ©928, Criollo, or The Wine Loft (their cheese plates are the best).  The Rendevous is a great stop 24 hours a day, since they begin the day as a coffee bar in the morning but on a summer evening they serve of a variety of refreshing martinis and mojitos. 

Night time lights make a little downtown seem a little less sleepy.
My favorite part of the evening though remains pedaling the downtown streets surrounded by the lights of streetlamps, neon signs and blinking lights.  The cars and crowds don't bother me; they're just part of the mix. 

He's not as mean as he looks!
Bob, on his bike next to me, points out interesting sights and people along the way.  The railroad crossing at Beaver and Rt. 66 is always a prime location for people watching.  On our way home outside of downtown, city lights are replaced by a blanket of stars thanks to the Dark Skies designation.   The closer we get to home the brighter and more plentiful they become, and I usually find it difficult to keep my eyes on the bike path as I scan the sky for shooting stars.  We almost always see one.

Bob and the eclipse from May 20, 2012.
Speaking of astronomical events, I "watched" the solar eclipse last night, projecting it on the side of our neighbor's garage.  Oh, the excitement of science!

Had it been possible to look at the eclipse, this is what you would have seen.  Wow, that's bright!

Friday, May 18, 2012

Pedaling by the small and lovely stuff

As the Planner Guy and I wait to see how the next  phase of our lives together evolves, we experience a mix of fear and excitement.   Where we lay our heads after the sale of the house (likely to occur mid-July) remains an unknown.  I have two excellent graduate school options but questions remain as to which choice will best meet our needs.  As usual, I am so focused on what lies ahead that I forget to experience the now.  Today, however, after I checked off a few items on my "to do" list, I kissed the dogs and decided to bake cookies. 

Pumpkin, chocolate chip goodness!
Cake-like, pumpkin, chocolate chip cookies are an excellent remedy for worrying about the future, especially when paired with a frosty, cold glass of milk.  Pretty?  No.  Tasty?  Definitely.

A relaxing bike ride made even more so when I can reach out a pet a little dog.
Several items on this week's "to do" list required hopping on my bike and pedaling - to the realtor's office to sign numerous papers, to FedEx to mail off paperwork to my respective institutions of higher learning, and to the veterinarian for matters pertaining to Daisy's reproductive health. . . . check, check, check.  Good thing the late spring flowers are in bloom.  I stopped and admired them every time.  And snapped a picture or two.

The perfect flower?
Asian poppies.  I love Asian poppies.  They are amazing work's of nature's art.  So grateful that my bicycle allows for this simple indulgence.

California poppies grow in proliferation in Flagstaff, although not in my backyard for some reason.  I'm not sure if I'd be able to sell this house if I had California poppies growing in our otherwise perfect backyard retreat.

A regal and elegant flower.
I do have irises, though.  They are only in their second year and have not yet bloomed.  Unlike these, our irises (soon to belong to someone else) will be dark purple.

Today, I am unlikely to pedal my way to staying in the present.  High winds of up to 50 mph do not make for good bike riding.  Perhaps pedaling into a strong headwind is just too much of a metaphor for the last few years?  I may instead nibble on a freshly baked cookie, accompanied by a cold glass of milk, concentrating all my thoughts on the delightful combination of pumpkin and dark chocolate.  When my bike cannot serve as my escape, homemade cookies seem like a reasonable substitute.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Rolling Model vs. Faux Model: A woman of a certain age rides a bike

Why, no, I didn't get around to air brushing the wrinkles off my forehead!
I'm starting to wonder if I'm now the unofficial spokeswoman for bike riding women over 40.  Dottie and Trisha from Let's Go Ride a Bike recently posted an interview with me for their new Roll Model series and I think that just might be the case, and I have to say, I kinda like it.  Whether or not the role caters to my narcissist in me or not, it's satisfying to think that perhaps my approach to comfortably settling in to middle age might be helpful to other women (and maybe a few men) who are nearing that time of life with a sense of dread.  Or, are already there and fear life has past them by.  I hate to think that anyone struggles with the idea of getting older but our culture encourages it.  Perhaps, aging isn't a monkey on my back because I've always been focused on what the future holds.  My friend Marc, a year younger than me, once remarked that he doesn't experience depressed feeling about being in his 40's because he doesn't look back at his youth as the best days of his life.  The good stuff all came much later after high school football.  Being young is filled with  insecurity and self-doubt but as Dan Savage says, "It gets better."

Obsessed with the same shoes and the perfect pair of jeans for the last 30 years.
When I first started writing this blog, I avoided referring to my age, not because I can't admit what it is, but because I didn't want to restrict my audience to an older age group.  Would a younger reader even be interested in what a woman in her mid-40's had to say.  Was there even an readership of women my age who would find posts about women's bike commuting relevant. Why make my age an issue if it really wasn't one I spent much time focusing on in my daily life? Still, I didn't like feeling like I had something to hide.  Was I acting the fraud?

The "boyfriend" jean.  Genius!  I don't do "skinny" but some 40+ ladies carry them off very well.
After a couple of years of writing SRAB, I started referring to my age more and more because I've found other women who are my age and older who blogging about transportation cycling and because a number of readers have shared their ages and age related biking issues in the comments section. 

Yes, that is a Hello Kitty t-shirt.  So, what?!
Unexpectedly, several younger women readers left comments appreciative of my attitude about aging, from my choice to flaunt the conventional image of the middle aged women by riding a bike instead of driving an unnecessarily large and expensive SUV to my deliberate decision to accept aging gracefully rather falling victim to a desperate attempt to appear forever 21 (although I admit that I have purchased there a couple of times in the last decade).  Gratifying feedback, since I can't deny that I don't see the messages fed to women, young and old, everyday that our value is in our youth or the illusion of it. 

Let's not reject Ashley as a bike riding roll model just because she's young and beautiful.
Does that mean that I can't adore the cycle chic movement?  Absolutely not!  My love of fashion far exceeds my bank account, and if I'm anything like Grandmother Geer, always will.  I'll express that love on my bicycle and hopefully present a happy vision of stylish but not undignified bike commuting.

She did a great job of showing the world how to properly use the bike lane.
The cycle chic blogs have been criticized for featuring images of attractive young women on bikes, thereby trivializing women's biking and further objectifying women.  I don't buy a bit of it.  Style innovation almost always finds inspiration at the ground level with youth culture, and our cultural standard of beauty has expanded considerably in the last few decades.  Sure, cycle chic blogs frequently provide us images of 20something cyclists flaunting "it" - in every size, shape, ethnicity, type of hair, gender and subculture.  I love it because I'm seeing young women proudly embracing what makes them beautiful and unique, which is not something I enjoyed in my 20's. 

Undeterred from having her bike stolen, this new NAU grad and aspiring screen writer borrowed a bike from a friend to get her Target shopping done.  I'd love to know what she'll be up to 30 years from now.
I remember the days when women almost shunned their sexuality because their skin, hair, body shape, height, nose, whatever was too much this or not enough that.  And forget about older women!  They were simply invisible!  When I first began my research in to bike commuting, however, the first images I saw older women, often far older than me, looking elegant and worldly on bicycles was at Copenhagen Cycle Chic. The message for me was that age doesn't have to stop me from living, evolving with new experiences, being strong or from being a woman.  Biking as transportation doesn't become childish, silly act of age-denial just because the rider is over 35. 

I'll close with the shameful admission that I don't feature that many over 40 cycling women in this space.  It's not for a lack of trying, however.  I just don't know that many cycling women in that age group.  Most of the cycling women that I run into are complete strangers, usually students at NAU.  That said, when I do see older women cycling around town, they possess that determined look of one who is going some place, confident on two wheels.  My fear of being arrested as the crazy, bicycle-riding, stalker lady inhibits me from pursuing them for a photo but I'll try to do better.  If you happen to live in Flagstaff, are 40+ and would like to share your thoughts about being a female transportation cyclist "of a certain age", please drop me a line.  I'd love to offer you a forum for your experiences.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Get ready for the June 6 Flagstaff Tweed Ride!

Stylish Tweed rider from June 2010.
It sure feels like summer in Flagstaff so it's time for a summer Tweed ride.  The next one is scheduled in conjunction with Bike to Work Week, on Wednesday June 6.  Riders will convene for libation at 5:30 at a location yet to be determined.  We'll set off around 6 p.m. for a 45- 60 minute ride on a route that is also yet to be determined.

and style from a slightly later era.

Is there anyone out there that doesn't know what a Tweed ride is?  Well for the uninitiated, a Tweed ride is social event revolving around a passion for bicycles, the mostly polite consumption of libation and fancy dress - think Downton Abbey style on bicycles.  But if English country dapper isn't your style, not to worry; we trust your fashion forward sense, and if you want to give it a special mountain town twist, go for it!

Tweed riders, June 2010
The only musts for participating in a Tweed ride are to have fun and ride polite.  We'll be riding on urban trail and the street so we stop for red lights, never buzz stop signs, use hand signals where appropriate and generally be excellent ambassadors of "share the road".

Mirror, mirror.
I'm already getting ready for the ride, recently visiting one of my favorite local downtown boutiques, Rainbow's End, in search of the perfect Tweedy hat.  Oh, the decisions!  I was almost overwhelmed. 

I've included a few photos from their store for inspiration.  If you live here, I highly recommend that you pay them a visit (women's clothes only) as they have a huge selection at very affordable prices. 

My absolute favorite hat
What would look prettier on two wheels?
I love some shiny bobbles.
Incahoots, located at 9 East Aspen Avenue, has an excellent selection of men's and women's vintage and funky dress-up apparel, including hats - and fake mustaches!

Tweedy flask your bike basket.
Hope to see you there, so check back here for more details!

Friday, May 11, 2012

Beginning bike commuting? Start where you live. . .

I'm not biking to work exactly these days but you can!
If you are reading this blog because it's National Bike Month and you're considering your first bike to commute to work, congratulations!  Doing a little prep work definitely can make the difference between a successful first attempt and a disaster never to be repeated.  When I started bike commuting four years ago, I doubted that I'd be able to commit but blogs like Let's Go Ride a Bike, Bike Commuters and Copenhagen Cycle Chic sparked my interest in making my ride a pleasure rather than a drudgery.  Nothing replaces experience though, so I took a few practice rides before I actually biked to work. 

An image from my first year of bike commuting.
Spring weather means we have a lot more opportunities for trial runs so why not incorporate them into some of your weekend plans, like biking to the park, the coffee shop or Barnes and Noble.  Your trial runs give you an opportunity to consider what adaptations you are going to need to make to have a satisfactory bike commute to work.  What are you going to wear?  How are you going to carry your stuff?  Are there any tools, gear or accessories you need to carry with you or install on your bike to make your ride the best it possibly can be?

Have you ever noticed friends, family or neighbors who hop in the car for short trips easily accomplished by walking or biking?  Have you ever taken the car when walking or biking would have done as well?  Our friend Connor recently remarked that a parent who lived just a few blocks away had driven one of his daughters home after an afternoon visit.  Connor, a dedicated bike commuter with a BOB trailer perpetually latched to the rear of his bicycle, found this both amusing and odd.  It was not yet dark and only a few blocks so why get in the car for such a short trip? 

Note the reflective strap around the ankle.
No surprise that Connor and family arrived on bikes to share barbecued beef ribs last Sunday night.  They only live about a mile from our casa.  They packed the BOB with potato salad, cornbread muffins and a six pack of beer.  I guest they could have loaded into the car but biking to BBQ is just more fun and parking was a cinch.  They just pulled their bikes right up next to the house and unloaded their contributions to the feast directly on to the front porch.

It's not hard to create visibility after dark.
If you made this trip as a new cyclist with Connor and his family you'd learn a couple of things for a future ride, the first of which is - trailers are great for transporting larger hauls, including food and beer.  But realistically, most new riders venture into investing in trailers after they've committed to getting around on a bike.  For this post, I'd like to highlight the importance of lighting for a new cyclist.  The Boyles left our house after dark and we live in a Dark Skies city so the streetlighting is not particularly bright. 

As you can see from the photos,  Their bikes are outfitted with reflectors and lighting.  Connor's "safety green" jacket provides excellent visibility from considerable distance as well.  The whole family wore helmets, too, and while I'm not a regular helmet wearer, I think it's a pretty smart idea at night where we live.

So, if you are on the feeling a little nervous about a first bike commute to work, try practicing  with a few short trips in your neighborhood to places you were going to go anyway.  You probably will have more fun than you would have had you taken the car and  you'll probably learn a lot about what you should have on your bike to make your next trip even better. 

And now, without further ado, a few photos from our BBQ!  Maybe you know of one you can bike to!

A boy and his grill.
Grilled sweet corn!
Eat up everybody!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Good stuff for people who bike and bus

When bikes are locked to trees neither the bike nor the tree are respected.
Several months ago I posted about new Mountain Line bus shelters that were installed going up around the city and at the university.  I love the new shelters (okay, a tad less so at NAU but that's what you get when you prioritize school colors in the design review) because they incorporate elements of the natural environment into the structures and give transit passengers a dignified place to rest while they wait for the bus.  My one criticism was that I noted that a bike-riding passenger locked her pink cruiser to a tree because there were no bike corrals at the shelter located on the west side of Beulah just south of McConnell.

The most awesome bike corrals ever finally installed at the most awesome bus shelter ever!
Well, my hopes have been answered.  I don't for a minute believe that my post had anything to do with it.  More likely the corrals were part of the original plan but it was still really nice to see them included.  Some bike conscious planner guy or gal got my absolute favorite type of bike corrals installed on the concrete pad right next to the new Mountain Line shelter.  One can actually fit a lot of bikes to these corrals and keep them upright in the process.   Each unit is sturdy and bolted to the ground so it can't be moved or knocked around.  Most excellent work!  I am sure the owner of the pink cruiser thanks you, as does the tree that she tied it to.

Flimsy and unstable, this bike corral doesn't allow for secure lock up.
And while we're on the subject of my favorite type of bike corral, let's contrast it with one of my least favorite types of bike corrals.  The ends of this type of corral are, in my opinion, the only useful parking locations.