A tree of gratitude


Do you remember what it’s like looking through old photographs?

It’s a kind of warming sensation of remembrance that fills your chest – like indiscernible emotional residue of yesteryear is suddenly alight beneath your sternum, like there’s liquid reverberation in the solidity of your bones. Good or bad, you feel something – sometimes indistinguishable, sometimes very, very deeply.

I had forgotten how potent remembering could be till I looked through photos of some of the more recent and happiest times of my life.

How is it so easy to forget the weight of our collected years – all that we’ve lived? And why is it amnesia can so often consume our connection to the goodness we’ve steeped in throughout our lifetime?

We all have a story, and I have mine. My life has been happy, my life has been depressing, my life has been stuck, my life has been exciting, my life has been like trying to grasp water with my cupped hands. It has been all of this, it has been none of this, and more than anything, it has been blessed with more luck and love than perhaps any one person deserves.

A family kept whole and always supportive, the comfort of childhood financial stability, the privilege afforded the lightness of my skin, a working body and functioning limbs, a family that values and helps support my education, friends who hold me up when I haven’t the strength to do it myself, the freedom to marry (or not) whomever I choose and to choose where I live… The more I reflect on these gifts, the more I see clearly that suffering has not been the major narrative of my tale – suffering has been a mirror, giving me a more accurate image of my existence by comparison.

I used to work as an RN, and many, many days I miss caring for others – giving back even an ounce of the goodness that the universe has seen fit to plunk down on my plate. I’ve seen a lot of people in varying stages of dying and living, I’ve been lucky enough to connect deeply with the tenuousness of all things. I always return to these experiences – to ruminating on how little time we have, how little (actually no) control we have, how unpromised all things actually are, how lucky we often do not realize we are.

When we die, our titles, our money, our achievements – we cannot take them with us nor can they hold our hand as we pass from here to there. An inkblot in a post-mortem text-book pales in comparison to laying in the sunshine, to smiling and hugging and living with people who matter to you. All of these blessings, all of this goodness… what is the point of the universe concentrating this temporary goodness in our lives if NOT to pass it along? To leave the world with a bit more light before ours runs out?

Caring, giving wholly of yourself and from your blessings (which absolutely must include yourself) – this is why we are here. To pool and multiply our light for the present and future and in so doing, expand the light within ourselves.

So Ladies (and Lady-lovers): give. Give a smile to a stranger, give your time to your community, give money to a cause you believe in, give love to those who mean the most to you and those who don’t “deserve” it, give acceptance and fucking metaphorical high-fives to yourself. And don’t forget to willingly receive when others give to you, since giving cannot exist without a willing recipient.

Your blessings of all sorts are an opportunity to make yourself and the world a little happier, a little more loving, and a little more connected. Seize them.

Keep riding and saving the world, Ladies!




Allo, lovelies!

Here’s your Monday interestingness for the last week of August. Filled with bikes, gear fixing, bikes, coconut fig popsicle, and creativity:



Apparently context matters. A successful example out of Montreal shows that calculating the potential number of spots in relation to ALL area parking when proposing a conversion to safer bicycle lanes helped lawmakers, residents, and businesses understand how small of a percentage was actually being converted – and how underutilized parking is in general.


Finally! My rain jacket can be re-used! Here’s a great DIY from Backpacker Magazine with tips and needed tools to fix your wonky or broken zipper. May your sleeping bags, tents, and all other zipper-joined materials be useable once again!


Yet again, my birth state continues to make glorious progress! I grew up near Harford County, MD, and can confirm it’s a place where most homes are ranked “car dependent” on WalkScore.com, making sidewalks a fantasy, let alone infrastructure for people on bicycles. UNTIL NOW! More people are riding these country roads and not just weekend warriors – work commuting atop two-wheels is on the rise! Let’s see what happens, but if it continues to get better, this area could set a national example for other, more rural places (like Washington County, OR) where people on bicycles have traditionally been considered an out-of-place rarity & nuisance.



Figs are ripening, it’s f*&king hot outside, and coconut milk is delicious! Check out this awesome, simple summer recipe that’s sure to please friends, loved ones, and your mouth.


Trying, perhaps unsuccessfully, to get some writing or creative work done? “The Psychology of Writing” by Ronald T. Kellogg offers insight into how our environment shapes our productiveness, what details detract from the process, and how important a daily routine can be. A few snippets from the post:

Kellogg reviews a vast body of research to extract a few notable findings. Among them is the role of background noise, which seems to fall on a bell curve of fecundity: High-intensity noise that exceeds 95 decibels disrupts performance on complex tasks but improves it on simple, boring tasks — noise tends to raise arousal level, which can be useful when trying to stay alert during mindless and monotonous work, but can agitate you out of creative flow when immersed in the kind of work that requires deliberate, reflective thought.


…But the key psychological function of  [dedicated] environments isn’t so much superstitious ritualization — an effort to summon the muse through the elaborate juju of putting everything in its right place — as cognitive cueing. Kellogg considers the usefulness of a special space used solely for writing, which cultivates an “environment that cues the desired behavior”


…This strategy is rather similar to the one most often recommended for treating insomnia — instituting a regular bedtime and using the bedroom as a space dedicated solely to sleep, in order to optimize the brain’s ability to enter rest mode upon going to bed and cue that behavior each night just by entering that environment.


And Kellogg’s insight into the usefulness of cultivating a productive morning:


“When I am working on a book or a story I write every morning as soon after first light as possible. There is no one to disturb you and it is cool or cold and you come to your work and warm as you write. You read what you have written and, as you always stop when you know what is going to happen next, you go from there. You write until you come to a place where you still have your juice and know what will happen next and you stop and try to live through until morning when you hit it again. You have started at six in the morning, say, and may go on until noon or be through before that.”


Well, I’ve filled my creative space for morning and am off for the day!

Enjoy the blooms and flavors and scents of the height of summer, and keep on pedaling, Ladies!




Happy Monday, Ladies & Lady-Lovers!

From a Copenhagen bicycle infrastructure innovation roundup, to electricity-free fridges and naked ladies, below you’ll find some interwebs interestingness to start out your week.


This video gives the rundown of current biking advancements in Copenhagen, including a feature that tells you how fast to ride to get green lights (aka a green wave)!


Mayo – the sandwich staple. Looking for an easy, vegan, delicious option? Put the Vegannaise down and make your own! This article details three recipes for you to try at home. Simple ingredients, plant based, flavored how you like. Enjoy exploring this classic anew!


This article from The Atlantic (a highly recommended read!) details the USA’s wasteful, enormous, worlds-largest fridges and how these are a symptom of a larger food-transport and waste problem. Interesting insight into how our eating and food buying patterns feed into climate change, and how many foods we chill (like eggs) that don’t actually need it.

Want to escape the energy suck of a traditional fridge? Check out the luddite-loved Mitticool – it’s $50, electricity-free, and effective. 


How often do you get to see lovely naked Ladies? Not often enough! The Nu Project is a photography series documenting Women’s bodies in all their naturalness and beauty, encouraging Women to embrace all parts of themselves. The benefits of seeing bodies that resonate with your own are beyond verbal explanation – this is the world before photoshop (despite its uses) messed with Womens’ understanding of our own bodies. The series continues to add photos, and round five for North America is now available for your viewing and empowerment. Potentially NSFW.


And we come to the fascinatingness of the week – another Maria Popova post. This time she reviews “Art & Physics: Parallel Visions in Space, Time, and Light”, a book that discusses the inextricability of art and science – the importance of creativity and science, art and physics, in advancing one another. From the book:

The faculty we use to grasp the nature of the “out there” is our imagination. Somewhere within the matrix of our brain we construct a separate reality created by a disembodied, thinking consciousness… Consciousness, resembling nothing so much as long columns of ants at work, must laboriously transfer the outside world piece by piece through the tunnels of the senses, then reconstruct it indoors. This inner spectral vision amounts to a mental “opinion” unique to each individual of how the world works… When an entire civilization reaches a consensus about how the world works, the belief system is elevated to the supreme status of a “paradigm,” whose premises appear to be so obviously certain no one has to prove them anymore.


And you can always check out our Lady Editorial from last week, 100km To Freedom – how bikes can change your life… if you let them.

So read, enjoy, then head out and love the ride, Ladies!




What a lovely Monday, Ladies! Here are some interesting articles to start off a wonderful week.


In Canada, it’s a three day weekend. The occasion? Celebrating John Graves Simcoe – an army officer turned urban planner. He plotted the amazingly accurate grid lines of cities like Toronto, creating an effective network for the movement of goods and services that gave an edge to the region and continues to shape the city to this day. What a nice and obscure bit of history, ay?


Restore run-down neighborhoods? Provide jobs and useful skills to our most at-need neighbors? Walkable, livable spaces and streets that connect the community, reduce crime, and spread smiles? Businesses implementing a triple bottom line? Yes, please!

Hooray Chicago! The city has green lit the Green Healthy Neighborhoods Plan, a livability and development framework to make Chicago a place people want to be, particularly in areas historically ravaged by poverty & crime. By creating zoning for market farms and rooftop gardening, farming isn’t just for rural America anymore! Additionally, some great groups are getting residents who are in need of skills and jobs immersed in the process. Oh, and one more awesome thing: it’s all based around a giant green space, bikeway, and pedestrian path.


For your next bike touring, bikepacking, or hiking expedition – these ideas are awesome! Turn your Nalgene bottle into an instant lantern? Dryer sheets as bug repellent? Sleeping bag stuff-sack as pillowcase? Lovely :)


Check out all the lovely bike, ped, transit, and open space improvements in Argentina’s capital! Great inspiration :) :

Buenos Aires: Building a People Friendly City from STREETFILMS on Vimeo.


Check out another sublime book summary from Maria Popova, this time of the insightful A Field Guide to Getting Lost by Rebecca Solnit. The book discusses the importance of wading into uncharted territories – for growth, understanding, adventure, and love. As the books says,

Leave the door open for the unknown, the door into the dark. That’s where the most important things come from, where you yourself came from, and where you will go.

Have a lovely week, Ladies (& Lady-lovers)!


Want more? Follow us on twitter & pinterest. And more articles, photos, and videos available on our twitter-based news site – TheUrbanExplorer.org


I’ve discovered over the past several years some repurposing, rethinking, reusing, and DIY-able loveliness for the daily Lady (& Lady-lover) commuter.

I’ll be sharing these tidbits and tips in my new segment “LadyGyver”. And if you think you have a tip worth sharing, contact us through the “why I ride” section of the website and we’ll share you’re ingenuity with the world!

Essential LadyGyver item: The Hair Tie

Essential LadyGyver item: The Hair Tie

LADYGYVER TIP #1: The Essential Hairtie

A Lady is always prepared. And a hair tie can prove one of the most useful preparation tools to carry atop two-wheels! I just leave it around my wrist when not in use, but you can also leave one or two lassoed to your handlebars, just incase. In a pinch, a rubber band can also do the trick!

-HAIRTIE AS LEG STRAP: In the Fall and Winter, I leave my hair down to cover my ears (if it’s long enough) so I don’t need ear warmers, and use the hairtie as a leg-strap to keep my pant leg out of my chain. I can then pull my hair back upon arrival at my destination. Lovely :)

-HAIRTIE AS LIGHT HOLSTER: No place to attach your rear light when you’re wearing a dress/borrowing a bike/some-other-reason-it-won’t-stay-on-your-bike? Use your hair tie to tie your hair low on your scalp, and clip your rear light to the elastic band . Voila! Instant visibility.

Hair contained? Check. Blinky light attached and visible? Ci! Fabulous!

Hair contained? Check. Blinky light attached and visible? Ci! Fabulous!

-HAIRTIE AS BUNGEE CORD: Need to attach, well, anything to your rack/basket/person? Hairties are great, flexible lassoing tools in a pinch.


This morning when I awoke next to my window, bathed in hues of pink and peach and radiative heat loss, I knew my ride was going to be gorgeous, clear, and frozen.

In winter, the normally celebrated lack of cloud cover and/or presence of sunshine is a meteorological announcement of the frigid conditions outside my door. Planning my commuting garb ahead of time proves about as useful as preparing a meal for unconfirmed guests: the variability of Winter weather means decisions are made day-of lest I be left broiling in rainpants on an abnormally warm day or thawing in wet, frozen jeans.

Based on the chill and beautiful views, I started gathering necessary supplies: warm socks, scarf, hat, warm gloves (thanks, Mom & Dad!), down coat. I decided that on a day like this, cuteness need not be abandoned for spandex, goretex, nor any other highly engineered “-tex” you can think of. This Lady was braving the frozen dawn in a skirt.

My adorable pencil skirt: worn proudly atop two-wheels this morning.

My adorable pencil skirt: worn proudly atop two-wheels this morning.

I used to think through my layering, but at this point it feels relatively routine. Underwear (which, outside of added warmth in winter, are unnecessary in my opinion), leggings, wool socks, pencil skirt (practicality note: be prepared to expose a lot of thigh, or in this case, legging). On top: tank top, t-shirt, wool hoodie (Icebreaker has amazing layering that is well worth the expense), down coat, rain shell. Layering gives you a dial on your internal thermostat: stop and take shit off when you’re over heating or when you arrive, add more when sweat starts to evaporate and you begin to feel chilled. The flexibility of layering allows me to dress in lovely attire rather than spandex and “cycling” garb.

Next to-do: basic component check. The precise “not-too-squishy” squeeze of my tires to assess adequate inflation, a look at my brakes to ensure brake pads are not entirely worn (also effective: the equally precise “metal-on-metal” sound check that tells you pads need replacing), and a squirt of lube across the length of my chain (which is essential this time of year. Every month or so you should also clean your chain of winter build-up using a wet cloth, then re-lube it.). All checks out? I’m on my way.

With the weather so gorgeous, I left home early this morning just so I could relax and enjoy my ride. Occasionally taking time to savor sunshine and beautiful scenery is essential to my happiness, and this was a perfect day to do so. Riding on a bike boulevard, a glorified low-traffic road in Portland, means seeing other cyclists, especially at rush hour. Two Lady-lovers in front of me, a Lady or two behind me, occasional spandex-clad racey-types speeding past me, the obligatory tight-pantsed helmet-less rider on a fixie (which reminds me: have any of you seen Premium Rush? I had the pleasure of experiencing this gem of modern cinema with friends. If you appreciate bikes and absurdity, it’s a must watch.)… we create a temporary community. I smile at people passing and just generally appreciate the blessing of a working body and people to share the ride with.

My 5-mile-each-way commute includes a categorized climb about 3/4ths of the way in. That means my legs are burning, my heart is pumping, and some days I feel incredibly strong and empowered, other days it means incessant cursing and huffing. Today as I sat stopped at a light preparing for The Climb, a cyclist behind me grabbed my attention to compliment my blue tires. It was so sweet, and I thanked her and wished her a lovely day. This exchange exemplifies one of my favorite parts of commuting on two-wheels: how often do we have genuine interactions with strangers in our daily lives? Well, I can tell you, not often enough!

Despite the traffic, I had a relatively uneventful, beautiful commute. Just a few days ago on the stretch of my ride I refer to as “the gauntlet” (look for a post on this next week), a Lady I recognized as my regular waitress at a local diner was felled by a car cutting into the bike lane. She was in a lot of pain, but luckily OK. Cycling is far safer than most would have you believe, but incidences like that remind me to appreciate every day and every pedal I have the opportunity to experience.

Today was a beautiful ride. Ladies (and Lady-lovers), I hope yours was as well :)

Keep riding, smiling, and rocking pencil skirts, Ladies!


PS- What’s the best part of your commute in the winter? Leave comments and share advice below!


Anti-depressants, Ritalin, drugs for Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s? Obsolete. Looks like the only remedy one needs is comprised of two-wheels, a frame, and some physical exertion!

Me! Loving life atop two-wheels on the streets of a small Austrian town

Me! Loving life atop two-wheels on the streets of a small Austrian town

A wonderful article over at The Independent discusses what us Ladies (and Lady-lovers) already know: that riding a bike makes you happier, healthier, smarter, and wittier*.

The combination of physical exertion and almost meditative rhythmic motion included in life atop two-wheels have been shown to impart a multitude of benefits to the rider. From the article:

Several studies have shown that exercises including cycling make us smarter. Danish scientists who set out to measure the benefits of breakfast and lunch among children found diet helped but that the way pupils travelled to school was far more significant. Those who cycled or walked performed better in tests than those who had travelled by car or public transport, the scientists reported last month. Another study by the University of California in Los Angeles showed that old people who were most active had 5 per cent more grey matter than those who were least active, reducing their risk of developing Alzheimer’s.

A beautiful bike path through the countryside in Austria. Perfect for smiles and contemplation!

A beautiful bike path through the countryside in Austria. Perfect for smiles and contemplation!

In addition to physical health – mental wellness, cognitive functioning, and ability to focus are also greatly impacted by riding a bike on a regular basis.

[John Ratey, Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School] has seen patients whose severe depression has all but disappeared after they started to cycle.

Rhythm may explain some of the effects. “Think about it evolutionarily for a minute,” he says. “When we had to perform physically, those who could find an altered state and not experience the pain or a drag on endurance would have been at an advantage. Cycling is also increasing a lot of the chemistry in your brain that make you feel peaceful and calm.

At the same time, the focus required to operate a bicycle, and for example, to negotiate a junction or jostle for space in a race, can be a powerful medicine. Dr Ratey cites a study his department is currently conducting. More than 20 pupils with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are expected to show improved symptoms after a course of cycling.

And an unexpected benefit? Parkinson’s patients have shown improvement following the addition of cycling to their treatment plans. You can see a video here showing a patient with a freezing gait who struggles to walk, but when placed upon a bicycle, is able to ride without tremor or difficulty. More on cycling and Parkinson’s:

Dr Alberts conducted an experiment, the results of which were reported last month. He scanned the brains of 26 Parkinson’s patients during and a month after an eight-week exercise programme using stationary bikes.

Half the patients were allowed to ride at their own pace, while the others were pushed incrementally harder, just as the scientist’s tandem companion had been. All patients improved and the “tandem” group showed significant increases in connectivity between areas of grey matter responsible for motor ability. Cycling, and cycling harder, was helping to heal their brains.

Ladies (and Lady-lovers): these are just the personal benefits to the rider. Additionally, communities benefit from increased human connection, decreased air pollution, decreased noise pollution, decreased road maintenance costs, decreased healthcare costs, and improved local economies.

The reasons for adopting life atop two-wheels are endless. What’s yours?

Keep riding, smiling, and loving life, Ladies!


*Note: wittiness dependent upon the cognitive benefits of cycling, reading books and blogs like this, and the mindless enjoyment of occasional pop-culture atrocities.


This “Why I Ride” comes from Annette, a lovely Lady in Portland, OR.

Long one: The question of why I ride struck me as especially difficult to explain while being soaked during this morning’s freezing commute. I’ll preface my answer by saying I’m not what people imagine when they think of Portland’s bicycle subculture: I’m really troubled by most descriptions of Cyclocross (that much bruising can’t be good for you), and accordingly I try not to appear like I do, so spandex is out. I didn’t know what fixies were until six months ago, and initially I didn’t believe the description because there’s no way a person would seriously want to ride one. It took me a while to not feel intimidated by having to figure out a safe route and the logistics required to be dry and civilized once reaching work. And I just got fenders installed yesterday. The thoughts crucial to getting me out of the apartment at six a.m. for my commute are that it’s actually faster than the bus, and it’s a legit reason not to go to the gym. I repeat that over and over to myself while I put my shoes on. What really surprises me is how much I love it once I’m on my way – after the first hill, when I’ve exerted myself enough to no longer be freezing. At that point the rain is refreshing and the air is the cleanest I’ve ever breathed. I cross the Hawthorne Bridge along with a surprising number of other cyclists (even on a morning like this I was 175th!) and runners. It’s wonderful to feel a part of something like that – a feeling I’ve never experienced in a public space anywhere else I’ve lived (FL, MA, NY, DC, AZ, Colombia). Once I get to work, there’s a startling difference in the level of vibrancy in the morning between those who arrive by bicycle versus car or bus. And that, paired with coffee, feeds in to my alertness and ability to perform at work. All of that combined is why I ride.

Nice bag and lovely laces, Annette!

Nice bag and lovely laces, Annette!

What an eloquent and authentic response, Annette! The time after that first hill, when your body takes to the experience of being in motion, and the feeling of connection to your surroundings and community are exactly what keep this Lady and so many others getting up early, facing a plethora of weather anomalies (along with expected seasonal changes), and living life atop two wheels every. single. day.

And her description of fumbling through the logistics of commuting when you’re just starting out? Spot on! This Lady didn’t even know what “clips” or “fenders” were when starting out.

Thanks for the story and photo, Annette!

Keep riding, smiling, and rediscovering your commute and community each day!