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TRUSTING THE PATH

Adrift, Ladies.

Sometimes life’s circumstances leave us a solitary speck, waves carrying us on a whim whichever way they’re compelled. Not who-am-I aimless, not what-should-I-do-with-my-life confused & purposeless, not I-give-up helpless, but confined and rendered ineffective by forces beyond our control or understanding.

Continual purposeful paddling in opposition to these seemingly inescapable whirlpools can drain you emotionally and physically, and nothing makes your heart sink faster than looking up from your brow-sweaty efforts to see you’re still exactly where you started. You’ve tried different angles, different rhythms, different patterns, you’re dedicated and refuse to give up – but somehow these efforts have failed to culminate in meaningful progress – be it employment, artistic progression, physical feats, or other things you consider essential to living.

Sometimes life gives you lemons, and sometimes life gives you lemons, shits on them, and sets them ablaze on your doorstep.

Le sigh… what the f&*k is a Lady to do?

Rule #1 – breathe. Seriously, this isn’t an inauthentic om-ism – take a deep breath. In all likelihood you’ve been holding it in effort or huffing so shallowly your body’s been refused the physical release of a belly-filling breath. It’s simple, and it helps you connect with your body and your aliveness. This moment is a blessing many less-lucky would give anything for – never forget that. You are alive – you have the opportunity to weather this storm and come out the other end. Without that breath, we have nothing. That small but significant thing – opportunity/potential – breeds hope. Sometimes that’s all you’ll have, but it is something, and it is profound.

These consuming tides are what living is, and each one we survive breeds resiliency. While that doesn’t help you right now (it occasionally makes this Lady want to slap somebody – I’ll trade that resiliency for a break, please), it gives you context, and it can help you let go of what you have no control over.

And that is the key – this time, this frustrating, depressing time may not be immediately changeable. It’s all a part of the path of your life, the unfolding events that shape who you will become. Sometimes there is no clarity of where it is this route is taking you, but it is taking you somewhere – somewhere you cannot even imagine because it is somewhere you have yet to be. Are you going to exhaust yourself swimming upstream for the rest of your life, or can you let yourself be carried to a shore you’ve never known?

Circumstances cannot be addressed, but inner work and exploration can. Do something you enjoy, work on it every day, and put your work out there. Keep moving, stop fighting things you cannot change, and give yourself a break – you’re doing all you can and that is enough.

To Ladies & Lady-lovers feeling the exhaustion of stalled riding into headwinds: you are not alone and the winds will change eventually. They always do, even if it’s not as quickly as we’d like. Embrace the unfolding of your own path, no matter how slowly, and remember that the path is yours and yours alone – how beautiful it is that no one and nothing can take that entirely unique experience away from you.

I’ll be taking life’s steaming, lemony shit-pile and making it into compost. The seeds planted will bring harvest, and till then bike rides, art, tea, and ugly crying help ease the anxiety of waiting.

Keep riding, metaphor-ing, and trusting life, Ladies!

XOXO

Smallness

CONQUERING YOURSELF

It is not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves.   -Sir Edmund Hillary

Climbing mountains, whether on two feet or two wheels, is a feat of endurance and strength and pain and mental fortitude nearly incomparable to any other experience. When you take yourself, under your own power, to the top of something that looms over landscape and dominates skylines, it feels surreal. In fact, beyond a kind of intense happy, it doesn’t feel like anything until I’ve returned to earth and processed hours or days of trekking, memories now inextricably amalgamated.

In this quest for adventure in its highest form, many turn their thoughts to the mountain – a target they have overtaken, a landscape they have beaten in some self-imagined conquest.

After hiking the indescribably beautiful Kalalau trail on Kauai’i, I still remember the comment from my AirBnb host the morning after sleeping off the last 11 miles of up-and-overs. After commenting on a planned noodly-legged waterfall hike for the afternoon, he raised his hands and pulled his chin back in a hold-your-horses kind of way. “Well, don’t overdo it. I know how coming back from that trail you feel like superman, ya know, like the big man who conquered the Island.” No, you know, I didn’t know what he meant. If anything, hiking that trail left me in awe of the immensity and rawness of the Island and my comparative smallness in this world and this life. If rain had hit earlier in the day or while I was on exposed landslide areas, if the lightning that night had come ashore, if I had misplaced one step I might not have been standing on this guy’s stoop, sipping from a fresh coconut he had generously drilled open. Nature is a force we can never match – think otherwise and she stands to show you how wrong you are.

Hikes and summits like that, where you’re given moments of intimate exposure to the untouched wildness of this world and your own tenuous existence, they’ve never left me with the arrogance of domination – they’ve left me humbled. I overcome my own mental and physical resistance, I push beyond what I’ve known I could, I MacGyver oh-shit mountaineering and weather scenarios (and improvise upon realizing I’ve yet again forgotten to pack toilet paper), but all of these breakthroughs and accomplishments had more to do with me getting out of my own way – nature was just kind enough to hold off life-ending conditions until I could exit to civilization. It’s those moments where you realize you have absolutely no control… the weather or a downed tree or a dry water source or a bear could easily destroy best laid plans. All you can control are your movements and your focus, one moment at a time, particularly in places and slopes less conducive to survival. You have to live entirely and fully right now or living may no longer be an option.

This kind of mindfulness, as I was once told, is like being a duck in the vastness of the ocean – you cannot truly see anything but the crest of the nearest wave, you cannot feel anything but the rhythm of where you currently are, and who knows the immensity of what’s passing beneath you. Happiness comes from letting go of what you cannot see, paddling in whatever direction you wish, and learning to enjoy the ride. When I’ve crested the top of a mountain, much like most summits in life, all I can do is breathe it in and remind myself I’m only half way.

The quote from Sir Edmund Hillary is succinct and true – getting lost and getting high bring you face to face with the mountainous unexplored-self. Tallying peaks and elevation give you nothing but lists on paper that fade with time, but letting go and cracking yourself open can let in the beauty of this imperfect life in the very imperfect moment.

So what’s your mountain and what do you have to let go of to find the summit?

Keep climbing, climbing, climbing, Ladies :)

XOXO

mountain bike oregon

ADVENTURE AT MOUNTAIN BIKE OREGON

Hello Ladies & Lady-Lovers! I’m back and refreshed after tagging along on Mountain Bike Oregon this past weekend.

An aside: As someone relatively new to mountain biking, I have to encourage Ladies a little hesitant to ride off-road to push past fear and give it a try. Meandering through the forest on two wheels feels like moving meditation, and the sights you’d otherwise not see, and animals that cross your path, make the experience magical. Handling comes with time and miles, and till you’re ready for root drops and rougher terrain, there are tons of beginner and intermediate trails to choose from.

So as I sit sipping my morning caffeinated beverage (these guys are some of the best coffee roasters in PDX) reflecting on three days of camping and beautiful riding in the mountains around Oakridge, OR, I find I’m left with three lessons:

1) To improve handling, LET GO

2) Talk to strangers

2) Gin is not an appropriate sports beverage

As a Lady only recently dipping a toe into the MTB world, I was excited to expand my skill set on some of the gorgeous central Oregon trails I’ve heard so much about. I watched videos, read reviews, and made a mental list of which rides I’d be giving a go. I’m currently training for an amazing adventure tentatively scheduled for next spring (stay tuned…) for which I not only need to hone my off-roading skills, but need to purchase a well-fitting, trek-specific mountain bike.

Mountain Bike Oregon includes shuttles to the top of trails, a beer (& hopped cider!) garden, meals included, and what I needed most: access to demo bikes. I’ve only ridden an older steel Schwinn mtb named Bumblebee, who handles quite wonderfully, but I needed to get a feel for rides beyond what I’ve tried. Gearing? Wheel size? Never-ending, not-necessarily-needed accoutrements? I had no clue what worked for me, and I hoped this trip would give me a better idea. Oh, and the ability to improve my steeper, cliff-edged, curving, root-dropping, sketchier descents which I heretofore tended to hike-a-bike through.

The trip was phenomenal, it was an adventure, and all but one goal was attained. I feel fulfilled, and I can’t wait to head back out there to ride some more.

LET GO

Having been lucky enough to have raced a wee bit of Portland cyclocross (thanks to the urging of a phenomenal friend and a group of absolutely wonderful people. I suck, by the way, but it’s really fun!), I had previously learned, with eyes wide and stomach in mouth, that the sketchiest of descents requires release – you have to stare down impending-maiming, take a deep breath, go relatively limp, shift your weight back, and just go for it. The slower you go, the more you try to brake, the more you hold on, the more likely you are to flip head-over-handlebars or crash in other equally damaging ways. Trust your bike, it will ride over most rocks and roots and mud if you keep your speed. Slow down and you’ll fail to gain needed momentum to overtake obstacles. It feels similar to technique for effectively skiing moguls.

This technique was never more apparent than on my trips through North Fork, an intermediate Oakridge trail, where the let-go approach sort of reversed itself. This lesson on descents is now ingrained in my muscle fibers, but I never knew that CLIMBING applied the same concept until I rode parts of this trail. Overtaking a bolder on an uphill? Relax and keep pedaling, and for gods sake, follow through. You’ve grunted your front tire up and over – good for you! But you have an entire second tire that needs to clear the rock. This is where the gearing on the Niner bike I demoed became essential. Keep the gearing low, release your fear and hesitation, and just keep pedaling. NO MATTER WHAT. My only crashes this weekend? T-tipping over (and down a small cliff) as I failed to get my back tire up and over something large, all because I hesitated out of fear that I wouldn’t make it.

And so the lesson that applies not only to riding, but to almost everything in life – relax, believe in yourself, and move towards what makes you afraid. You’ll never know what you’re capable of if you don’t try, and you’ll never expand your world and yourself if you don’t loosen your grip.

TALK TO STRANGERS

Stranger danger! We’re molded by our culture to be afraid of, well, everything outside of our immediate family and friends and gated neighborhoods. But this is a large part of the beauty of traveling and exploring by yourself – you’re FORCED to interact with people you don’t know. And guess what was reinforced for me this weekend? Most people are good and respond to openness and kindness. This opening to the unknown is what I like to call “adventure”, whether it’s in the kitchen, on a trail, or in social interaction. This is what makes life fascinating and engaging and growth-producing throughout the years you’re lucky enough to have. If you were raised in a bubble-wrap-suburban childhood like myself, openness takes time and mindful practice to cultivate. But it’s worth it – it will change nearly everything about your life.

I encountered some absolutely lovely people that made this trip for me. Some from Oakridge (make sure to check out the amazing Ladies working over at Lion Mountain Bakery if you’re in town), some from California, some from Portland, some originally from New Zealand & the UK, some from Australia (and yes, the rivalry between the two is more than Flight of The Concords fodder), and all from varied backgrounds and age groups.

I owe it all to volunteering (the Nossa Familia coffee family is molto bene – check out their brews if you get the chance) and to accidentally hanging my hammock within the camp of a group of guys that welcomed me into their chats and beer garden jaunts when I wasn’t being anti-social with my reading and napping (the latter mostly due to gin…). They made me laugh, their personalities and guitar collections blew me away, and I truly hope to stay in touch with them. My weekend wouldn’t have been the greatness it was without all of these people, and I wouldn’t have met any of them if I hadn’t exited my comfort zone of solitude to talk to people I didn’t know.

GIN IS NOT AN APPROPRIATE SPORTS BEVERAGE 

And finally, to the lesson of re-learning lessons. I spent most of my college years as a partier (and high school for that matter). I got great grades, I overachieved, and I got completely blitzed most nights of the week. Life, as it turns out, is more of an un-doing than a becoming – you have to work diligently to un-become the person your hometown, your family, and everyone but yourself has shaped you into. To really know yourself, to really be yourself, you have to figure that shit out on your own by forcing yourself outside of situations and places you’re comfortable in.

The process is particularly challenging if you grew up contorted – creating a habit out of forcing yourself into boxes that were ill-fitting at best. Long ago I acknowledged that I don’t like getting wasted – I’m so much happier taking all of that in moderation, waking up with the sunrise, and getting out to do something physical in the outdoors. Occasional partying? Sure. But on the whole, it’s just not who I am anymore – it was never who I was.

And so I reminded myself of that with gin and delicious cider this past weekend, as did many other painfully hung over riders. Chatting and hanging out with people was amazing! Drinking far too much was not, and was entirely my fault. I should know my limits by now… but once you’ve had a drink it seems like more and more of a good idea to keep on drinking, and old patterns reappear. If I had paced myself and been an adult, I wouldn’t have had the worst hangover I’ve had in a long time (I also could have avoided nearly falling asleep on a bathroom floor and being helped back to my campsite, which in my drunkenness I couldn’t find, by a good Lady Samaritan).

Yah, I embarrassed myself. But I had a great time with my campmates, reminded myself of my priorities, and ensured that I will never again forget the late-onset-drunkenness of gin. Next time I’ll make the same decisions – minus a handful of drinks.

Riding is magical, Oakridge trails are glorious, and people are pretty awesome. This experience was great and I’m on my way to getting a great mountain bike so I can continue to enjoy the beauty of the outdoors in new and sometimes-challenging ways. More than anything, this trip reinforced my gratitude. Gratitude for a working body, the experiences I’ve been lucky enough to have, and the adventures I have yet to experience.

So get out there, Ladies & Lady-lovers! Adventure awaits, and nobody can find it but you :)

XOXO

PS- The links above have more about the trails in Oakridge. If you missed MBO, head out on your own! The West Fir Lodge is a great B&B at the trail head, or you can head 30 miles down the road to Waldo Lake for camping and a 22 mile, easy-intermediate mtb loop with gorgeous views (plus kayaking!).

Women's 100k 2014

100km TO FREEDOM

There are myriad ways to run away from things.

Shut down emotionally, move to new cities every six months, speak appeasement rather than truth, silence an incoming call, leave an e-mail unopened, float along in just-comfortable-enough circumstances. Regardless the modus operandi, you find a way away from whatever it is that urges you to turn and run.

For a significant portion of my life, for a significant amount of reasons, I was the queen of running away. Switch majors, move to a new town, sink further into a not-quite-right relationship.

Risk of exposing whoever-it-is that I was – to myself and others – was quickly quashed in one way or another. And for a time, this pattern worked for me. It kept me comfortable, it prevented a rattling of cages I’d rather not open, and it allowed the conceptions of myself and my world created in the image of my parents and an ill-fitting hometown to remain intact.

But that’s the thing about avoiding reality and inconvenient truths: they don’t go away, and at some point you must choose to face them or cling ever-more-tightly to an inauthentic life. And living a life that isn’t your own? It’s a lonely existence. How can you really connect with anything if your can’t connect with yourself?

Well, at some point, I realized something was amiss. I couldn’t put it together, but I knew I needed something… an experience, an adventure, a break from my routine.

I never truly chose to face myself.

I just rode my bicycle 500 miles.

****

I still remember the 2×2 advertisement in Adirondack Sports & Fitness. I’d picked up the free local newspaper from a wire bin at a local eatery in upstate New York during year two of forcing myself through this-might-not-be-right nursing school. I’d seen several other ads for marathons, trail runs, even a 62 mile bike ride. “Those sound like a challenege, but I don’t know… They don’t seem like enough,” I remember feeling.

Enough of what? I don’t know. I just know that when I saw an ad on one of the final pages of the paper with a cartoon pig riding a bicycle for an event called “The Great Big FANY Ride”, I felt drawn to read more.

F-A-N-Y: Five hundred miles Across New York.

“FIVE HUNDRED miles? I can do that!”

Nevermind I hadn’t ridden a bicycle since I was a child, that I no longer owned one, that my fitness routine was primarily composed of napping, nor that the event was just over 2 months away. “I can do this. I need to do this.”  I felt empowered by the very idea of attempting something so epic – something so entirely outside of my comfort zone. Without further thought of what it meant, I decided right then I was going to do this ride, and that I would finish. I signed up and paid the entry fee that day.

Next step: buy a bike.

****

Fast forward a handful of years, and the bike – Lady Steed – that original bike that carried me through excitement, frustration, pain, sores in all sorts of areas, repair-caused pinch-flat embarrassment, joy, and every other imaginable emotion and sensation that unearths itself during the physical release of endurance events has now ridden roads and mountains throughout the country, including those original life-changing 500 across the beautiful state of New York, racking up mile upon mile upon mile of self-propelled experience.

What I learned during that ride and those that followed wasn’t immediately clear, but what you feel with complete clarity is a shift – something significant cracks open.

While I’m in the saddle, I feel a kind of freedom I’ve never known before. I can go anywhere, I can see any place. Boundaries of all kinds lose their solidity. If you put in the effort and, more importantly, really believe in yourself, all is possible. That feeling of self reliance, even in the beginning when it was mixed with a healthy dose of doubt, is incredibly liberating. It’s life changing.

And so, as the pieces have fallen into better fits and lessons have settled into place, I can now see that riding my bike, riding it for more miles than I knew I could, brought me a sense of self that I couldn’t access through habits and ways of living I’d previously relied upon.

I found myself by running away. By running away towards something.

****

And so we arrive at now, where I’ve dedicated a significant portion of my life to bringing other Women along on rides they never thought they could accomplish. To providing a safe and welcoming entry point to the awesomeness of disproving self-doubt.

This year was the second annual Women’s 100 – a metric century bike ride started by Rapha, the bicycle accessory company. Women all around the world join together in riding 100km the same day as a Tour de France stage of the same length (a race that still lacks Women riders). Rapha is awesome for bringing this ride into existence, but the ride feels somewhat inaccessible to Women entering the bike world – it’s more for Women already racing and riding hard in the high-end gear Rapha produces.

So while a ride has launched from the Rapha headquarters in my city each year (an awesome ride with awesome, fast, relatively experienced Ladies), I’ve led a separate ride for Women who would normally hear “62 miles” and laugh at the sheer implausability of traveling that distance utilizing anything but a car.

That implausibility isn’t really about the distance – it’s the disbelief that you can accomplish something like that, especially in your current noodly-legged state. But as I have shown myself, that doubt is baseless, and proving it so is a magical experience.

The ride took off this year from the same location as last year, Ristretto on Williams (a wonderful coffee shop and roastery), with myself and a handful of others – experienced and not. The majority of Ladies rode further than they ever had before, putting foot to pedal for an adventurous tour of swimming spots, farms, beer-on-tap cycle shops (thanks, Cycle PDX!), street mandalas, almost-there tea, and we-did-it drinks. Sometimes the miles passed without notice, riding abreast immersed in each other’s company. Sometimes the smallest hill felt like hell incarnate.

It was the littlest taste of how things like this, pushing yourself like this, can change everything if you let it. It was a taste of freedom and happiness and the rolling hills of life and love and recreating yourself. It was an experience, and one every Lady should have the chance to be a part of.

And so we will ride next year. By mountains, by cities, by cows and random scenery. We will ride for the try of it. We will ride for ourselves.

And with that, I leave you for the week, Ladies. The featured photo for this post shows the brave and wonderful Women who joined our ride this year. Thanks to everyone who came, and hopefully we’ll see you next year.

 

Here’s to riding! May you find the ride that changes your life – may you find a ride completely your own :)

XOXO

LADY EDITORIAL: 3 WISHES FOR THE HOLIDAYS

Wreaths tacked upon doors, grills, and fenders. Lights stranded meticulously… or haphazardly. Seasonal dustings of warmth atop tops of trees and bushes; neighboring properties swallowed in blizzards of night-time fluorescence (and unfathomable utility bills).

Torrential breezes muffled-yet-audible near globes and larger-than-life-size rotund men in red suits, made more roly-poly in appearance with seams stretched taut, rhythmically rocking with each gust. These inflatable totems contain the “holiday spirit” much like our belts contain our widening ham/tofu/cookie-filled bellies – limits tested and eager to explode.

Walking and riding past each individual display, I can’t help but notice the variations on “holiday” each presents, and how they speak to the lives of the people within.

*A single strand thrown lopsidedly across an overgrown tree: 20-somethings sharing a home, “hey, we decorated!” attempt at creating a more adult home.

*A cascade of perfectly positioned lights from corner-to-corner and back again: wealthier couple with children whose father or mother has made this able-to-enact-whilst-watching-the-kids hobby a yearly tradition, expanding in exorbitance from year to year.

*A modest, imperfect wrapping of several trees and shrubs: 30-somethings, likely a couple, expressing their nostalgic holiday memories while creating new traditions of their own.

Of course this is assumption, but it’s fun to imagine. And all of this nuance, this imagining, these lovely displays soak in more fully when passing atop two-wheels (or two-feet). Taking time to notice. Taking time to absorb all the life, in all its displays, around us. Taking time… it’s something I do too rarely, and something we all need a bit more of.

I feel blessed to live in a place where I can walk (mostly) safely and ride (mostly) without fear, and to live surrounded by so many people who are so different, yet so open, so non-judgmental of the idiosynchronicity of others. Where you can embrace your quirks and uniqueness fully, and where you’re not only free of the pressures to be-as-you-should, you’re more respected for fully being whoever you really are.

There is so much to be grateful for so much of the time. And from this foundation of gratitude, I’d like to share 3 wishes I have this holiday season. Feel free to leave a comment with wishes of your own.

1) I wish our streets were safer. For everyone.

Morgan Maynard CookJoseph “Joey” Randall Ransly StoneViJay Dalton-Gibson. The list of victims goes on, and on, and on, and on. Every time it breaks my heart. Every time I think about the families left without loved ones during the holidays, left with empty chairs at the dinner table, and empty spots in circles gathered round roaring fires and festooned trees. Spots that will remain empty forever. A void that never stops feeling… empty.

My parents were nearly left with that void a year and a half ago when a careless driver ran a stop sign into a neighborhood greenway… into me.

We’ve learned to just accept this carnage and tragedy, at a rate of over 88 people killed per day (that’s about 4 deaths per minute), not to mention the enormous numbers of serious, life-long injuries. Why? Because we want to be able to travel when we want to, and most importantly, because we want to drive ourselves to the places we need to go (and in many places, because that is our only option). Equity in access to transit and safe biking and walking facilities is abominable, and more and more the ability to walk near your home is becoming a privilege.

Enrique Penalosa, the former mayor of Bogotá, Columbia, came to speak in Portland a little while ago, and I remember being taken aback by one particular statement he made: “cars kill people”.  “That’s a bit inflammatory,” I remember thinking. But overtime, the statement sunk in, and it became apparent that the sentiment wasn’t radical. It was truth.

If you are riding a bike, if you are walking, if you take a bus, if you take a train – all of these options contain a chance of death and injury to yourself and others (so does living). But walk into someone on a sidewalk, accidentally run into someone on your bike… the consequences of inevitable human error are far less disastrous when not backed by thousands of pounds of environment-muffling steel. 

We will always fail. We are human. But when we fail at 40mph, even at 20mph, in steel, people are far more likely to die, including people just engaging their legs as they’re intended (or those playing, as children often do, in their own front yard).

I still drive occasionally, and I grew up driving for nearly all of my trips. I know how hard it is to see the realities of something considered a touchstone of American life. An essential. The truth is uncomfortable, and it implicates us all: Every time we drive our car, we put other people and ourselves at risk. Not only due to crashes, but due to the pollution we cannot see that gives us and everyone living around us cancer, breathing ailments, and more.

We can do so much better, and we owe it to ourselves, our neighbors, and our communities to try. Just try. What if we drove less? What if we spent less on roads for steel-boxes and more on education? What if more people could live longer and better because they added activity to their day during their commute? What if you could save your own life, your mother’s life, you friend’s life, a stranger’s life by taking an extra 5, 10, 20, 30 minutes to get to where you’re going? Wouldn’t that be time well spent? And what if our city policy prioritized equitable transit for all, with preference for expenditures based on greatest benefit to surrounding communities (walking first, transit second, bike facilities third, high-speed rail fourth, driving last)? It’s a lot of change, which is not and will not ever be well received at first, but more importantly it’s progress. For our health, our budgets, our happiness.

This holiday season, all I wish for are representatives WITH VISION, the kind who see the damage of a freeway running through downtown and stop saying “we have to account for SOV driving demand” and start asking “how can we eliminate the demand in the first place?”.

Most importantly, I wish for streets that unite us, where we can gather and see one another, and where we can live and commute without the daily reality of wondering whether or not we’ll make it home alive.

2) I wish I could remember how lucky I am. Everyday.

In the words of the venerable Kanye West, “time is the only luxury.”

My family. They’ve supported me through the hardest year of my life, they’ve frustrated me to no end, and they’ve given me love for being exactly as I am. How often do I forget how many people do not share this luxury? How many people wish they’d had the opportunities, support, and care that I have taken for granted?

How many people have no families to even have the option of going home to? And my dearest friends who have become my family out west… we all like to feel we could do it alone, but the reality is we can’t. I forget to open my eyes and see all the goodness in my life from time to time, and all I wish for this holiday season is to remember to see it more often.

Legs that (luckily) still work and take me where I’d like to go. A roof over my head and lovely people to share it with. The opportunity to educate myself everyday. Access to warm showers and heated rooms. Sidewalks and neighborhood greenways and transit that free me from the constraints of car travel. Amazing and not-so-amazing neighbors and strangers who smile at me for no reason, or say “hello” as they pass me by. There are so many things everyday that make life worth living and bring me happiness. Much as I savor my surroundings when pedaling past, it’s time I savored my living as it passes me by.

3) I wish that I could do more and be a more active part of improving the lives of everyone in my community.

Finding the time to volunteer, to push for change, to shape the world in my backyard. That time is there, and I often find a way to be involved. As I once heard a young poet say, “your observation becomes an obligation.” If I know it is wrong and I know it can change, then it is my duty to refuse to be silent. All I wish for this year is to continue that drive, not to give up because I am frustrated, and to keep trying to be the change I wish to see. I hope more of you will join me, and I hope we can all work together to create a better future for ourselves and future generations.

Have a wonderful holiday season, and as always, Ladies (and Lady-lovers): Remember to enjoy the ride.

XOXO

Return to riding

Ahhh, scenery. One of many joyful jaunts atop two-wheels this summer!

Ahhh, scenery. One of many joyful jaunts atop two-wheels this summer!

Well hello, Ladies! Long-time no post!

Over here at TWAAL, we’ve had a summer packed with… well… everything, but as the crispness of mornings stirs memories of flaming foliage, cozy consuming sweaters, and 4pm sunsets, it’s finally time to settle into the grounding beauty of Fall.

Days get shorter, commutes get chillier, and tips for riding gracefully through the transition will be all up in this Lady’s posts! So will lovely gear suggestions, recipes to fuel your ride, livable streets news and commentary, ideas and wares for living simply, plus ideas for two-wheeled autumnal travel.

So Ladies – grab your skirts, tall socks, layering cardigan, beautiful boots, or whatever the fuck makes you smile while you pedal! It’s time for Fall riding.

Keep pedaling and enjoying life, Ladies! Looking forward to riding along with all of you :)

XOXO

LADY EDITORIAL: TRUCE – AN END TO THE CAR-BIKE WARS

This Lady originally wrote this article for BlueOregon.com.

 

They’re aggressive, sometimes dangerously so, and destroy our air quality, communities, and planet.

They’re in the way, run stop signs, and ride without regard for others on the road.

Regardless of which trench (or, god forbid, in the inhospitable in-between of No Man’s Land) you find yourself, you’re likely tired, frustrated, angry, and just looking to get home alive.

In the lengthy and unnecessary war between car drivers and bike commuters, no real progress has been made. It’s time to draw down forces and start working together towards a more prosperous future for everyone.

BOO CARS!

I often hear gripes from the bike community, admittedly at times my own, that car drivers are inconsiderate and dangerous. I have indeed been harassed on bike boulevards (streets supposedly dedicated to people on bikes), drivers laying on the horn and riding behind me for block after block, perhaps not realizing that their momentary expression of annoyance has permanently damaged my hearing. Or those, too many to count, on their cell phones, putting all road users at risk.

Or the driver who followed me for an entire mile, pulled up alongside riding slowly with his window rolled down, yelling expletives, taunting me, and threatening my life for no reason at all. Some of these interactions have made me deathly afraid, and these sorts of actions are completely inexcusable, but I’ve had just as many drivers stop to let me cross a busy street, smile and wave, pull over to apologize for almost hitting me (she was so sweet), or do nothing at all except drive the speed limit and pass me when it is safe.

I love to ride my bike. It is safer than most believe, it costs the city less in upkeep costs (so more of our taxes can go to schools, paving roads, etc.), I actually meet and interact with neighbors and strangers along my ride, plus I save lot of money every year. Not to mention I save myself years, and everyone else money, in healthcare costs by staying active. I’m no better than anyone else, nor am I worse. I’m just a person who happens to love riding my bike. I’m glad I can choose to do so, and hope more of my community members will choose to ride along, too.

 

BOO BIKES!

Yes, cars break down roads faster than bikes and they pollute our air and water with some pretty nasty carcinogens, not to mention the detriment to the cohesiveness of communities that lie along busy roads and highways (they’re linked to increased crime, too). But in many communities, we’ve left people with almost no option but to get around by car. In fact I was a car driver until the last few years, my Ex-Husband, a dear friend and wonderful person, drives a car to get to his job where no public transit or bike lanes go, and my parents, also lovely and caring, drive, too.

Does that fact that they drive a car in a culture where most activities for the past 50 years centered around cheap oil make them bad people? Why wouldn’t one try to have understanding for people forced to pay extra thousands of dollars a year to sit in polluted air?

Bike commuting is incredibly enjoyable, and it is a failing of our government to not provide safe routes that are available to everyone in all of our communities, but since the 1950’s our government has invested in unsustainable expanses of highway and suburban development while dismantling and defunding public transit, all of which normalizes and encourages driving for trips that the automobile is not best suited.

Driving as primary transit has come about through a combination of cultural norms, government inaction, short-sighted planning, and lack of understanding of personal responsibility/impact, and that’s my point: If you live in East Portland, of course you drive your car. You likely can’t even walk your child to school, since your neighborhood probably doesn’t even have sidewalks.

And waiting behind a cyclist when you commute to work downtown, after driving that expanse because there is no other feasible option… I can understand your frustration. Violence and aggression are never justified, but frustration? Who wouldn’t feel it. In fact our roads aren’t streets anymore; their design feeds into the perceived but inappropriate unwelcomeness of people on bicycles.

And yes, some cyclists blatantly run stop signs, which is not OK (I generally end up with a rolling stop, and I think most car drivers, if honest, do, too.), but just as many and more, myself included, follow posted traffic signs. And all of us, regardless of mode, make mistakes.

Streets used to be designed for horses. Then some were designed for bikes. Then public transit. Then cars. In the last iteration, room for all other modes was wiped clean, in fact sidewalks were reduced in size to make way for parking, making it less hospitable to exercise your innate proclivities to WALK. A driver’s natural tendency to see the bike as unwelcome and out of place? It’s rooted in our poorly planned and usually myopic street design.

A SYSTEM FOR EVERYONE: PROVIDING MORE OPTIONS

People on bikes are obnoxious vagrants who don’t pay their fair share. People in cars are dangerous jerks who ruin everything wonderful about our communities.

The truth is that at these extremes, we lose sight of each other. Our anger and fear and frustration have prevented us from seeing another human being, now merely a projection of past grievances and caricature rooted in daily emotional fluctuations. Take away the car, take away the bike, and you have two members of the shared community just trying to get home alive and unmaimed.

Better options, better quality of life for everyone. It's time to work together.

Better options, better quality of life for everyone. It’s time to work together.

I believe that we all want the same thing: a transportation system that is speedy and efficient, doesn’t cost too much to maintain, and gives us the opportunity to enjoy our commutes and communities. Realistically, our current system is unaffordable, and it will take people thinking beyond the car for the majority of trips, especially inner city travel, to create transportation budgets that are financially sustainable (and happen to promote public health, the local economy, and environmental protection).

But for right now, let’s rise above the few things that separate us and see our commonality. Put aside your frustrations and anger and be kind to each other out there. Drivers: try taking one or two trips a week by foot or by bike (like to the store or taking your kids to school) and be patient with pedalers and pedestrians. Cyclists: ride respectfully and respond with kindness, not anger.

I’m ready for an era of peace and prosperity, and I think Oregon is, too.

THE WINTER COMMUTE: A LADY EDITORIAL

It’s snowing in Portland.

Lisa Marie commuting in winter... and philosophically rambling while pedaling.

Lisa Marie commuting in winter… and philosophically rambling while pedaling.

Ladies are festooned in fashionable coats and scarves; audible squeaks and rubbing arise from chains and gears collecting coats of seasonable grime; cheeks flush and noses pink from exposure; quiet snow-dusted streets bear the narrow, singular tracks of Ladies who’ve tilled fresh path through the dawn’s wintry welcome.

The added goodness of riding this time of year is above and beyond all the blissful benefits of riding in calmer weather: the chill and precipitation remind us through experience and sensation that we are human, that life is fragile, and just how much happiness and enjoyment we can experience when we learn to tolerate temporary discomfort.

When I leave my home, bundled and bracing, I’m usually in a state of continuous clenching (and sometimes a stream of muttered obscenities). But once I’m riding through the chilled air, my body warms, my mind clears, and I release into the comfort of being active; of blood rushing, heart pumping, and warmth that permeates even the coldest days. Sometimes my hands thaw, sometimes they don’t, and my nose is usually somewhere between faucet and drizzle. But by the time I arrive at my destination, I’ve accepted whatever state I’m in with a smile and a shrug.

And this is my daily reminder of reality: seasons change and weather, much like life, is unpredictable and sometimes unpleasant. When we’re enclosed in the trappings of the traditional American way of life, we start to expect simplicity. Couch to car to cubicle and back again. When do we ever really experience anything? This artificial ease keeps us from moving our bodies as intended, from thinking and exploring life beyond a surface that speeds by at 60mph. Humanity has become mislabeled an inconvenience.

But us Ladies (and Lady-lovers) out experiencing the weather, actually feeling what it means to be alive, see so much more in every person, inch of pavement, and ounce of bespeckled scenery we pass.

When I’m atop two-wheels, even the greyest Portland day is overflowing with the color of life in its dayglow brightest. And I just sit back and enjoy the ride, grinning and snotting all over myself and my city.

XOXO

COMING UP THIS WEEK:

Exploring the lovely, sometimes frustrating, multi-faceted experience of the winter commute! This week we’ll be discussing riding tips, basic maintenance, and all things year-round riding.

LADY EDITORIAL: SIMPLY RIDING

Riding a bike.

Few things in life are so simple, so joyful, and so kinesthetically natural that they seem to be inherently human.

When I started riding as a child, I’d hop atop my pink Huffy to explore quiet neighborhood streets. I’d pretend I was on a Shackleton-esque exploratory-but-less-disastrous adventure, whisking my crew through treacherous terrain.

The roads were my realm of imagination; my neighbors’ driveways ports to distant lands.

I still smile just thinking about it. There’s something beautiful about getting lost in your own head in familiar places.

Outside of riding the ex-railroad bike trail near our house, this is what I knew of riding: creativity, fun, imagination, freedom. It was literally whatever I made it to be.

When I stepped into my first real bike shop as an adult, I didn’t know steel from carbon fiber, let alone a road bike from my beloved walmart-sourced childhood cycle. With the assistance of the neighborhood shop owner, I purchased my first jesus-christ-bikes-cost-HOW-much?! road bike: an aluminum frame with carbon fiber fork (to keep it lighter, he said), standard handlebars I later learned were “drops”, a pair of bike shoes that could accomodate SPD’s (though I had clips. Again, not really knowing more than “something is obviously attached to my pedal.”), a computer to track my speed and mileage, and water bottle cages (learning that outside of childhood Lady bikes, these weren’t standard).

And none of this mattered to me. I had a bike, road or touring or otherwise. It was light, it was shiny, and it took me wherever I wanted to go.

THE SIMPLE THINGS YOU SEE: Father assisting daughter in feeding obnoxious-yet-beautiful swans? Lovely. Experienced while meandering prior to a shared ride through the Englischer Garten

That simplicity is incredibly beautiful, just like the simplest moments in life are so heart-burstingly beautiful. Just like riding past chalked hop-scotch on a sidewalk, or a “free” box, or children playing in a fountain, or an older couple sitting together on a bench, or a hidden sprinkling of wild flowers in an overgrown lot are all lovely and precious.

It’s easy to lose sight of the sheer joy of riding when cycling becomes a competition of capitalistic consumption (wireless shifting! titanium frames! SPANDEX!), image, and speed.

But after temporarily inhabiting that world, as many of us do when getting into the wonderful world of riding, I’ve been scaling back in order to find what matters to me, what is really necessary, and what is useless fluff.

Most high-end gear? If anything, it takes away from the ride. You get so focused on numbers, be it speed, exact distance, or weight, that you stop experiencing. You get lost in comparison.

I still like to buy accessories from time to time, many I feature on this site, out of an appreciation for quality craftsmanship, beauty, and support for small and local businesses. But all with an eye towards simplicity, towards increasing the number of smiles experienced in a single day.

And so I arrive at the point of this diatribe, Ladies (and Lady-lovers):

Ride.

Ride because you love to, or you’re interested, or you have someplace to go.

Ride in whatever you want on whatever bike you love, because who gives a shit what anyone else is doing.

Never forget that riding is an adventure, that every place you go, even familiar, is a new and precious experience.

And of course, ride with love, kindness, and compassion. It’s cheesy, but we’re really all in this together. Our world, neighbors, and strangers can always use a little more love, and a bike is a vehicle to spread more of it; to others and ourselves.

And as always: don’t forget to enjoy your ride.

XOXO