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Jul 21

It’s not complicated

Posted on Thursday, July 21, 2016 in Uncategorized

I’ve had a few questions that inspired Iain and me to write this explanation of our relationship status.

Rachel: “It’s complicated”. Only it’s not really all that complicated: I’ve been married to Iain for 22 years. We don’t live together anymore. I’m in love with Scott and I live with him.

Iain:  It’s funny that you use that phrase “It’s complicated” because I used it once about a year ago when talking with an acquaintance, we were still discussing and working out the details so I was uncertain what to say. Of late, “amicably, yet indefinitely, separated” seems like an apt thing to say, and I’ve said variations of that on occasion. But I say that knowing that I’m still not clearly communicating what the situation is. Probably because I’m frequently sparing of words and  “I’m married, however my wife is living with her boyfriend, I live in my own place and I’m dating.” is a lot of words. And I’m impatient.

Rachel: That’s a lot of explanation to go into when it’s just a sidenote to a conversation. The problem is that we automatically infuse the simple story with all kinds of assumptions that, in this case, aren’t true. Since our relationship transition occurred, I’ve met more than a few people whose first response, colored by their own experience, is to commiserate with me about what a “jerk” my “ex” is. (Iain’s neither a jerk nor an ex.) People who knew me when I lived with Iain respond with, “Oh, I’m sorry,”, which makes me uncomfortable because what’s to be sorry about? Everyone involved is happy. We were happy before, and we’re happy now.

Iain: Right. I don’t think it is just that it is colored by their own experience. We’ve a cultural idea that relationships transform because of a “bitter conflict” between the partners in the relationship. So it’s become one of our rituals, a well-meaning one, to create solidarity and empathy, to say I’m sorry, or phrases like “women, can’t live with them…”. Kind of them to want to generate empathy for me, to build some camaraderie with me — but it completely misses mark. This isn’t that kind of situation.

Rachel: It isn’t, and I don’t like those assumptions. We’re not only not enemies, we’re more than good friends. We’re family. We socialize together.

Iain: If you continue to let me demolish you in games of Settlers of Catan, I’m certainly going to be inviting you over! By the way, we really should give Legends of Andor a try while Nell is in town. I think you’d both enjoy it.

Rachel: When a major life event happens, we call on each other. We turn to each other for support from time to time. We borrow things from each other (and return them). When Nell is home from college we each spend time with her and we spend time together as a family. We are still involved with our in-laws. We’re happy that the other has found a new significant other and we get along with the other’s significant other.

Iain: That’s closer to the mark. Truth is, I love you. And our new (to us) approach allows you to grow, learn, and have new experiences. Your boyfriend is good for you, I hear and see it when you interact. So absolutely, I’m happy for you. The new situation, whatever it is called, is a marvelous growth opportunity for me as well. We’re traveling different paths and we’re going to learn a lot of new things. That’s going to give me and you something to talk about on a rainy day. We’ll celebrate each of our achievements, our significant others’, and try to help out when things aren’t going so well.

Rachel: I love you too! I agree, our new arrangement feels more like something to celebrate than something to mourn. I don’t like the terms “break-up” or “separation” for us. It doesn’t seem like a break up to me. Separation is a bit more accurate but carries meaning that doesn’t apply here, a temporariness, an implication that we’ll either get back together or make the break permanent. It implies we were having “problems” that we hope separation will cure.

Iain: I don’t like those words either, in some ways they fit and some ways they don’t, they carry a lot of negative emotional nuance that simply doesn’t apply here. I think the best way to think of it is that we’ve renegotiated the terms of our relationship. We still have agreements and obligations to one another that we intend to honor. And as circumstances change, we’ll renegotiate again. It’ll be an adaptive process.

Rachel: We don’t feel the need to justify the change in our relationship with judgmental criticisms about each other. I have high hopes that changes in relationships characterized by respect and thoughtfulness will become more common and people won’t have to write an essay explaining their new relationship status.

Iain: I think that big changes like this can bring discomfort, sadness, and hurt feelings at times. I think some folks respond to those feelings by getting angry with their significant other. Anger creates a way to not feel other supposedly negative emotions. It also makes it easier to “muster the will to make a change”. But neither of us have needed that. There’s been some sad moments — we’ve had to give up some things, which we might miss, but those changes have allowed us to grow and approach life in new ways. Necessary and worthwhile trades. We’re both amazingly happy, content, and growing — those are things that matter to me. Others include Rachel’s well-being which is springing forward with a new significant other and a new career. Kudos on your new degree and new job, Rachel.

Rachel: It’s a big change and it’s natural to feel sad sometimes, but that doesn’t mean we hate each other, doesn’t mean we were miserable together. It’s natural that our friends and family feel some sadness too. They can’t help but perceive it as a break-up, even as we try to explain how term is inaccurate. I’m not asking everyone to put on a happy face and celebrate or telling them they are wrong to feel sad (you feel what you feel). What I want is for people to understand that traditional responses aren’t appropriate.

 

Mar 18

Theft

Posted on Friday, March 18, 2016 in Uncategorized

Tales from the early days

Like an old man on the porch outside the general store, I’ve been reminiscing about my early days of bicycling, before I knew what I was doing, before I considered myself a bicyclist. Each of my stories has a moral.

  1. Theft

I kept forgetting my helmet. If I was less than halfway home when I noticed I didn’t have my helmet on, I’d go back to my office for it. If I was more than halfway when I noticed, I’d keep going and I’d get my helmet the next day. It annoyed me when I forgot my helmet because I was very proud that it took me 20 minutes to bicycle, or 15 minutes to drive my car, park, and walk into the office. For just 10 minutes extra each day, I got 40 minutes of exercise. But when I forgot my helmet and had to go back, my efficiency was shot.

Finally I hit on the brilliant solution of leaving my helmet on my bike instead of bringing it inside. It’s habit now. When I take my helmet off, I hang it on the handlebar. When I reach for the bike, the first thing I touch is the helmet and I put it on my head.

I put my bike gloves inside my helmet too, until they got stolen. After that I brought my gloves inside but I left my helmet on my bike. No one ever stole my helmet. (My bike, of course, is always locked.)

I’ve never had a bike stolen. I usually use a U-lock and I also carry a cable lock in case I can’t find a bike rack and the only thing to lock up to is a fence or a tree. Those are not good places to lock up to, but anything is better than not locking up.

The only other thing I’ve had stolen is my flat kit and spare lights. I was in Phoenix for 2 weeks and I rented a bike. I had a set of cheap lights that I put in the seat pack in case I got caught in the dark. I asked the bike shop to rent me a flat kit. I parked my bike every morning on campus and one day I came outside and the seat pack was unzipped and empty. I had to pay the bike shop $50 to replace the flat kit. I don’t think it was worth $50.

The moral of this story is that I could be paranoid all the time, but unless I’m in downtown Phoenix I am probably ok making sure the bike is secured and not worrying too much about the other stuff.

Mar 10

My first winter

Posted on Thursday, March 10, 2016 in Uncategorized

Tales from the early days

Like an old man on the porch outside the general store, I’ve been reminiscing about my early days of bicycling, before I knew what I was doing, before I considered myself a bicyclist. Each of my stories has a moral.

  1. My first winter

The first winter I biked, I wore a winter coat and a hat. I wrapped 2 scarves around my head. I wrapped the first one tightly around my ears and face. The second one went over that but tucked into my coat. The helmet held it all in place. I pushed the first scarf under my mouth so I could breathe, but then I couldn’t push it back up when my face got cold without getting off my bike and re-wrapping both scarves.

Eventually my dad gave me a balaclava he’d found lying on the ground in a parking lot. That made all the difference.

The coldest bit was going DOWN that hill that I’d griped so much about climbing UP. In the winter, I didn’t mind going up hills as much. At least I could get warm.

My coat was, if anything, too warm, yet at the same time let the cold wind in. It was the same coat that had padded my pregnant self in college the day my bike slipped on the ice.

My fingers still swelled up in the cold, an effect left over from the frostbite in college, and I was desperate to keep them warm. I put on as many gloves and mittens as I could fit. I hated spending money on my bicycling, because that took away from my pleasure of saving money by bicycling. I picked up a pair of cheap but thick gloves at Walmart. Nothing kept out the wind chill. Finally, I spent $50 on a pair of ski gloves and considered it a worthwhile investment.

Since I am still wearing those gloves today, 10 years later, I’d say it was an excellent investment. Also, my fingers no longer swell up in the cold.

I put on extra pairs of socks under my shoes. That turned out to be a mistake because the shoes weren’t big enough to accommodate all the socks. The layers cut off my circulation and my feet were colder than ever! Instead, plastic grocery sacks over my socks add considerable warmth without cutting off circulation.

It bothered me to no end to spend $70 on something that had the word “undershirt” in its label! It was merino wool and I still wear it as my base layer. I spent $200 on a rain jacket and $200 on rain pants. They are my outer shell in cold weather, as well as raingear in wet weather. My entire outfit cost as much as my bicycle. Nowadays, money isn’t so tight, and having saved $90,000 over 10 years by simply not owning a 2nd car means I’m ok with spending a couple hundred dollars here and there to be comfortable.

The moral of this story is that the right clothes make all the difference for winter cycling.

Mar 6

My first hills

Posted on Sunday, March 6, 2016 in Uncategorized

Tales from the early days

Like an old man on the porch outside the general store, I’ve been reminiscing about my early days of bicycling, before I knew what I was doing, before I considered myself a bicyclist. Each of my stories has a moral.

  1. My first hills

Every day I climbed 1 crazy steep hill to go to work and 3 slightly less insane hills to come home. They never got easy, but I got used to them. They occupied a good deal of my attention. I became deeply interested if not obsessed with hills. I learned their percent grade and the percent grade of other hills in the area. The longer, but not steepest, hill on my route to work was 11%. I discovered Sapp Hill which I could barely climb. I discovered that if you stop on a hill, you might not be able to get started again.

By “hill”, of course, I mean up hill. Going down a hill is easy. I maxed out at 47 mph going down Easley Hill. I always wondered how fast I would go down Sapp Hill, but I never got around to trying. I don’t think I could get to 47 mph because I would have to brake for the sharp bend in the middle of the hill.

The turning point for me and hills came when I got an extra small granny gear installed on my bike. It was a few months before I made it out to Sapp Hill and I forgot I had changed the granny gear. “I can’t believe how easy this is,” I thought. “I have gotten so strong since the last time I was out here!” I felt proud for a moment until I remembered I had an extra small granny gear.

With that very small granny gear, I can climb a hill slower than you can walk it. My odometer stops reading below 2.2 mph. That extra small granny gear also comes in handy when I’m hauling a heavy load, such as when I’m bicycling touring fully loaded over hills and mountains in all parts of Missouri.

Gears are essentially levers. The moral of this story is if you give me a place to stand and a long enough lever, I can move the Earth. Or I can climb Sapp Hill.

Feb 27

Money makes the bicycle wheels go round

Posted on Saturday, February 27, 2016 in Uncategorized

Tales from the early days

Like an old man on the porch outside the general store, I’ve been reminiscing about my early days of bicycling, before I knew what I was doing, before I considered myself a bicyclist. Each of my stories has a moral.

  1. Money makes the bicycle wheels go round

After major abdominal surgery in October of 2005, I began bicycling whenever I could, instead of when I had to. I wanted to recover at least as much fitness as I had before surgery, if not more.

In January of 2006, I drove to work for the last time. It was snowing and I thought it might not be safe on a bike. One fellow in a truck with a snow plow attached was merrily clearing the parking lots around the hospital. Push the snow forward, zip back with a twist, push the snow forward, repeat, like a dance. I waited at what I thought was a safe distance, until I realized that he was backing up straight at me! I laid on my horn, which he heard, and as he continued to back up at a brisk pace, he looked around trying to see who was honking. Finally I frantically tried to put it in reverse and get out of his path but it was too late. He ran into me. Insurance paid for the repair (mostly), but to me, this was a message to stay out of the car and stick to my bike.

I can hardly articulate what I love about bicycling. There are so many things. Sometimes I think the ego trip is the driving force, sometimes I think it is how safe I feel on a bike, sometimes I think it is the endorphins that I love. The first year, I spent a lot of time on my bicycle calculating in my head how much money I was saving. Mental math distracted me while toiling up the toughest hills.

Since we shared the car, driving to work for me meant Iain had to make 2 trips: one to drop me off and one to pick me up. I calculated that with our car’s mileage and the current price of gas (about $3/gal at the time), I saved us $1 in gas alone every time I bicycled to work.

If we had 2 cars, one trip to work would be just one trip to work, about 50 cents in gas. However, the median cost of car ownership is $9,000 a year according to AAA, totaling up all expenses (not just gas). Since we have not owned a 2nd car for over 10 years now, my bicycling has saved us $90,000.

The moral of this story is that money is a powerful motivator.

Feb 24

My First Map

Posted on Wednesday, February 24, 2016 in Uncategorized

Missouri Rock Island Trail

 

Feb 23

My origin myth

Posted on Tuesday, February 23, 2016 in Uncategorized

Tales from the early days

Like an old man on the porch outside the general store, I’ve been reminiscing about my early days of bicycling, before I knew what I was doing, before I considered myself a bicyclist. Each of my stories has a moral.

  1. My origin myth

Superheroes have origin myths. Superman was a foundling in a spaceship. Wonder Woman was an Amazonian princess. My debut into bicycling and my identity as a bicyclist has an origin narrative, too.

I became a bicyclist when we became a one-car family. It was only going to be until we could afford a car, but I discovered I love bicycling and I love not having a car payment. We never did buy a 2nd car.

During my first year as a bicyclist, I biked when I had to. Sometimes I biked to campus and drove home with Iain, sometimes we drove to campus and I biked home. I thought maybe sometimes he could bike and I could drive, but he wasn’t interested.

It was the second year that I started bicycling whenever I had a chance, and I only drove when I had to. That was the year that I had a major abdominal surgery. I learned of other women whose lives were forever changed by the procedure. I was terrified that I would be prematurely old (I was 31). As soon after the surgery as I could with permission, I started doing stomach crunches every night until I could do one sit-up. I tried to do one more sit-up than I had the night before. Within a year I could do 100 sit-ups! Even when I was in the best shape of my life, I had never been able to do that before.

I started biking to work within a few weeks of my surgery. I biked slowly, but the nice thing about biking was that it didn’t hurt. The hunched-over position was actually comfortable. I biked whenever I could. I only drove if I was picking up Nell from school, or going out to eat with my family and they didn’t want to bike.

The moral of this story is that, just like not being able to afford a car payment was one of the best things that ever happened to me, major abdominal surgery also turned out to be one of the best things that ever happened to me.

Feb 14

Blessing in disguise

Posted on Sunday, February 14, 2016 in Uncategorized

Tales from the early days

Like an old man on the porch outside the general store, I’ve been reminiscing about my early days of bicycling, before I knew what I was doing, before I considered myself a bicyclist. Each of my stories has a moral.

  1. Blessing in disguise

My bike didn’t see a lot of use until 2004. We’d gone to Chicago for my first postdoc position. There was a fellow in the lab who biked 12 miles every day to work. He was tall and skinny and strong. I peppered him with questions. Was it safe? What about when it was cold? What did he do when it rained?

Those are the questions I find annoying nowadays. If it rains, I get wet, I don’t melt. If I want to stay dry, I wear rain gear. If it’s cold, I wear warm clothes and very warm gloves. It’s funny to think that I probably know more about bicycling now than he does, especially about bicycling with traffic. I wonder if he still bikes, or if he finally bought a car. He biked because he liked it, and didn’t want to spend a lot of money on a car. It’s expensive to own a car in Chicago. I paid three times as much for a parking permit at the University of Illinois – Chicago than I had at the University of Missouri, and I had to park in a gravel lot that was sometimes full and was always so far away from my office that sometimes I rode the shuttle instead of walking, especially at night, especially when it was cold (which it always is in Chicago), and especially after the creepy alcoholic homeless guy sitting on the corner asked me for details about my undergarments and shouted things at me. I sometimes wondered if I should bring my bike on my car so I could get to my office in a reasonable amount of time.

That was a miserable year for us so when I got a postdoc fellowship, I looked for another lab to join and found one in Columbia. On the move back to Columbia, we didn’t want to transport 2 cars and a moving truck, so we sold the older car. I was not excited about having to share a car again and we had the added trip now of driving Nell to school. Nell went to private school thanks to a generous scholarship from another parent because we couldn’t afford private school tuition. The scholarship covered most of the tuition but it wasn’t free, and we had to choose between a car payment and private school. I had a horror of public schools because of my experience with public school. But even with the thought of having to share a car, it was an easy choice. Besides, maybe I could use my bike sometimes.

I biked my route to work on a Saturday, just to see if I could do it. It was a hot July day and I was drenched in sweat. There were some steep hills, but it wasn’t too bad.

The moral of this story is that not being able to afford a car payment turned out to be one of the best things that ever happened to me.

Feb 11

Lazy and out of shape

Posted on Thursday, February 11, 2016 in Uncategorized

Tales from the early days

Like an old man on the porch outside the general store, I’ve been reminiscing about my early days of bicycling, before I knew what I was doing, before I considered myself a bicyclist. Each of my stories has a moral.

  1. Lazy and out of shape

After we moved to Columbia, I worked for ABC Labs for a few months. We lived north of town, and ABC Labs was also north of town. We shared one car, and it wasn’t easy to get our toddler daughter to daycare and both of us to our jobs. I did all the driving and worked part-time. One day I thought I’d try biking to my job. I had no idea how long it would take bike 11 miles but I thought maybe 45 minutes. When I arrived, an hour and a half later, Iain had called the lab several times frantically worrying because I wasn’t there yet. He picked me up and drove me home at the end of the day.

That was my first attempt since college at using my bike for transportation. I didn’t try it again for several years.

I hated having to share a car, having to wait for someone to pick me up, having to make extra trips to drop someone off and pick them up, having to hang out awkwardly with nowhere to be waiting for someone else to pick me up. It wasn’t long before we took on a car payment and a 2nd car.

In graduate school I was appalled at how far I had to walk to go to seminar. It took me over 20 minutes. I thought that was ridiculous. I started bringing my bike to campus. I could sit at my computer an extra 15 minutes and ride over to seminar in just 5 minutes.

The moral of this story is that I was getting out of shape by the time I was 24. Today, I don’t think less than a mile is worth the trouble of biking, I just walk it. Also, it doesn’t take me 20 minutes to walk that far.

Feb 5

Frostbite

Posted on Friday, February 5, 2016 in Uncategorized

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Tales from the early days

Like an old man on the porch outside the general store, I’ve been reminiscing about my early days of bicycling, before I knew what I was doing, before I considered myself a bicyclist. Each of my stories has a moral.

  1. Frostbite

I had a little pair of knit gloves. I hadn’t needed any better gloves than that, walking to campus wearing a backpack with my hands in my pockets or driving around town with the heater on. I wore those gloves through the winter. Springfield is far enough south it doesn’t get as much snow as northern Missouri. But it gets some snow, some cold weather, and the wind chill on a bike makes it that much colder. When I got to campus I tried to warm my hands under the tap water of the sink. Even the cold water felt boiling hot. My fingers hurt every time I biked to early morning calculus study sessions on cold days. I’d had to drop Calc II the previous semester, so I went to every single study session the next semester.

I not only passed Calc II, I got an A in it. But I also got frostbite on my fingers. For years afterwards, my fingers swelled up every time they got cold. Even just washing my hands in cold water made my fingers swell up.

The next year we were married and I was pregnant, and I still rode the bike to campus rather than walk 20 minutes. I bundled up in my winter coat. I thought I would walk on icy days, because pregnant women shouldn’t fall off bikes. But one day I didn’t know it was icy. It didn’t look icy. It didn’t feel icy until I tried to turn the corner and the bike slipped out from under me and I landed on the road. That scared me, but I guess my thick winter coat cushioned the fall. Anyway the baby was fine.

The moral of these 2 stories is 1) wear good gloves and 2) watch out for ice, especially on the corners.

 

 

Jan 19

My first real bike

Posted on Tuesday, January 19, 2016 in Uncategorized

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Tales from the early days

Like an old man on the porch outside the general store, I’ve been reminiscing about my early days of bicycling, before I knew what I was doing, before I considered myself a bicyclist. Each of my stories has a moral.

  1. My first real bike (the future Hulk)

When my husband Iain started college the first time, he bought a pair of roller blades with his first student loan check. During winter break he spent the last of his money on a huge jar of cheap peanut butter and an enormous package of cheap frozen chicken patties. When those ran out, his friends took him out to eat sometimes but otherwise he didn’t have any food. Finally he got emergency food stamps. When his next student loan check came he bought his new girlfriend a pair of roller blades. That was me. But I guess he did better at budgeting because he didn’t have to eat cheap peanut butter or get food stamps again. The bicycles arrived the same way– a student loan check came in, he bought himself a bicycle, and used the rest of it to buy me a bicycle.

He didn’t buy a cheap bicycle. He had a friend who was a serious bicyclist (and roller blader) so he knew not to buy a bicycle from Walmart. We went to AB Cycles in Springfield, MO, which still exists. If I wanted to, I could take that bicycle there for free tune-ups even today, 22 years later, because it has lifetime tune-ups.

When I went in to pick out my bike, I said I wanted to use it to go to campus. Our apartment was a 20-minute walk away. Especially on my way to the 7:00 a.m. calculus study sessions, that was a long hike. With a bike, I could make the trip in 5 minutes. I didn’t know anything about bikes and the bike shop fellow recommended a hybrid. I got a 15″ maroon Specialized Crossroads. It was completely different than any bike I’d ridden before. I felt wobbly and wondered if I would be able to ride it. But my boyfriend had spent a lot of money on it, money that frankly he could not afford. So I wobbled along the sidewalks. I didn’t know you shouldn’t bike on sidewalks. I didn’t know anything about biking.

It didn’t take me long to get the hang of riding it, but I’m not sure I really figured out the gears until I became a real bicyclist, 13 years later. When I became a real bicyclist, I learned that a 15″ bike is too small for me.

The moral of this story is that when you get something so you can be lazy, like bike 5 minutes instead of walk 20 minutes, you might use that same bike years later so you can be cheap and bike 20 minutes instead of drive 15 minutes.

Jan 15

Danny Manning Basketball Camp

Posted on Friday, January 15, 2016 in Uncategorized

Remember those days? It's been a while as you can tell from the hairstyles in the audience and the KU jersey on Danny Manning.

Remember those days? It’s been a while as you can tell from the hairstyles in the audience and the KU jersey on Danny Manning.

Tales from the early days

Like an old man on the porch outside the general store, I’ve been reminiscing about my early days of bicycling, before I knew what I was doing, before I considered myself a bicyclist. Each of my stories has a moral.

  1. Danny Manning Basketball Camp

In high school I went to a summer camp at KU in Lawrence. My dad had bought 2 used Schwinn bicycles. He thought they were a really good deal because Schwinn was supposed to make such great bikes. But he didn’t know much about bikes at the time and they weren’t really that great. I took one of them to KU to go to my summer camp classes and to downtown. The turnoff to my dorm was halfway down a really steep hill. Coming down that hill, I braked and nothing happened. My brakes were not slowing me down.

At the bottom of the hill was a busy street. I had to attempt the turn before I got to that street.

A man was standing on the side street that I was trying to turn onto. His parked car was just behind him. I wasn’t able to make a narrow enough turn at that speed, and I was heading straight at him. He jumped out of the way. I collided with his parked car. The bike was totaled, I was bruised and scraped, and his taillight was busted.

He was a college student, in town over the summer because he worked at the Danny Manning basketball camp. I was excited to meet a teammate of Danny Manning! My parents were not so excited about paying for the taillight of his fancy foreign car. It cost $155.

The moral of this story is to keep your bike in good working order. If you buy a bike anywhere besides a bike shop, take it to a bike shop for a safety check.

Jan 8

My first wreck

Posted on Friday, January 8, 2016 in Uncategorized

Tales from the early days

Like an old man on the porch outside the general store, I’ve been reminiscing about my early days of bicycling, before I knew what I was doing, before I considered myself a bicyclist. Each of my stories has a moral.

  1. My first wreck

We lived out in the country on a highway. It wasn’t a busy highway, but it wasn’t a place a 9-year-old could bike by herself anywhere. I biked in the driveway. When my sister got a bigger bike I inherited her bike. It had a banana seat and a white basket on the front. Sometimes we biked with Mom down the highway to the first gravel road and went around the gravel road “block” until we came back to the highway. Once I fell on the gravel and skinned my knee. We walked our bikes a little while, me crying, until Mom said we’d get home faster if we pedaled. I didn’t think I could pedal with a skinned knee, but I could.

Mom and I biked 14 miles to Oskaloosa (or, as we called it, Oskie). I was amazed that a person could bike that far! Way out in the country, the only way to go anywhere was in a car. There were a couple neighbors we could visit on foot, but we never did. My sister babysat for the neighbors on the other side of the highway, and our 2-year-old brother tried to follow her. A trucker saw him toddling down the highway and stopped and brought him back to our house. As far as I knew, a car was as necessary for life as air, water, and food. Biking all the way to Oskie was an epic journey.

When we got to Oskie, we stopped at a gas station to put air in our tires. I had the impression that after all that biking, the tires had run out of air, like a car would run out of gas after a lot of driving, but I guess the tires were just low. My tire immediately exploded. The gas station attendant (they had them in those days) told us it was because the tires got too hot from the friction of the highway. Funny how that seemed like a reasonable explanation to me. We didn’t have spare tubes and if we had, we didn’t know how to change the tubes. It didn’t matter though, because Dad had already planned to meet us at the gas station with a truck to take us home.

This is actually 2 stories so it comes with 2 morals. 1) Gravel sucks. 2a) Learn how to inflate a tire. 2b) Learn how to change a tire. 2c) Carry a spare tube.

Jan 3

Learning to bike

Posted on Sunday, January 3, 2016 in Uncategorized

First bicycle

Tales from the early days

Like an old man on the porch outside the general store, I’ve been reminiscing about my early days of bicycling, before I knew what I was doing, before I considered myself a bicyclist. Each of my stories has a moral.

  1. Learning to bike

Some kids learn to bike almost before they learn to walk. Others take… a little bit longer. Like me. Frankly, it always took me a bit longer to do physical things. I was small for my age, the smallest kid in my class except for the kid who had an endocrine disorder. I was smaller than most of the kids in the grade below us too. Maybe that’s why it took me longer to learn physical things. My head was a magnet for balls– even if I wasn’t part of a game, balls invariably hit me on the head sooner or later. I didn’t much like ball games, for that reason. It took me a long time to learn to swim. Every summer I went to swimming lessons. Other kids moved up to the next class, but not me. Finally I was determined to pass the beginner class. I had to tread water for 60 seconds. It was the longest 60 seconds of my life and I was pretty sure I was going to drown. After that, I never went to swim lessons again. PE was the worst class for me, all through grade school.

The surprise then, is not that I was slow to learn to bike, but that I ever became such an ardent bicyclist. I learned to ride a bike when I was 9. We had a red bike with coaster brakes.

Most parents don’t know how to teach riding a bike. They use training wheels are the ticket, or run alongside holding onto the seat of the bike. But the best way to learn how to ride a bike is to lower the seat until your feet can touch the ground, remove the pedals, and scooter along with your feet, until you get the trick of balance. In our experience, it takes 1 to 3 hours of practice like this to learn to ride a bike. My mom didn’t know all that. She was too short to run alongside me, and we didn’t have training wheels on that bike. So she told me to coast down the paved part of the driveway. She got it right by accident.

Our driveway was gravel, except for the bit in front of the garage. I coasted down that over and over, putting my feet down as necessary to not fall over, until I coasted the whole distance of the paved bit– perhaps 20 feet. I didn’t yet have the knack of steering, so I veered off to one side and landed in a rosebush.

The moral of this story is to save your back and don’t bother with training wheels to teach kids how to bike. Let them scooter along until they get the knack.

Dec 21

How do YOU bike MO?

Posted on Monday, December 21, 2015 in Uncategorized

ibikemo

This is the time of year charities receive the bulk of their donations. But I’m going to ask you to donate a little of your time- not money- this week.

The Missouri Foundation for Bicycling and Walking* has launched a new, informational website: IBikeMO.org. This is a new resource, and to make it work we need YOUR help. Share your pictures, share your groups, share your news, and share your enthusiasm because we ALL Bike MO!

There are several ways you can help. Pick one or more!

Are you enthusiastic about cycling in Missouri? So are we!  

IBikeMO is a place to learn about bicycle groups, shops, and trails across the great state of Missouri. Whether you’re into road cycling, cyclo-cross, mountain biking, or utility cycling, we hope that you’ll use IBikeMO as your central resource for ALL things cycling in Missouri.

For those passionate cyclists looking for an opportunity to give back, IBikeMO provides easy access to volunteer opportunities and a link to donate directly to the Missouri Foundation for Bicycling and Walking.

But for IBikeMO to be all it can be, we need people all across Missouri– people like YOU– to submit information and to spread the word about this new resource.

*The Foundation is MoBikeFed’s non-advocacy (501(c)(3)) side.

Dec 9

Bicycle Charities

Posted on Wednesday, December 9, 2015 in Uncategorized

World Bicycle Relief gives mobility to students, health care workers, and entrepreneurs in Africa.

World Bicycle Relief gives mobility to students, health care workers, and entrepreneurs in Africa.

This is the time of year for charities. There are a lot of charities that have something to do with bicycling. Here are some of my favorites, in order of geography: international to local.

World Bicycle Relief distributes bicycles to students, health care workers, and entrepreneurs in Africa. These aren’t just any bikes. They are specially made for the rugged terrain in local factories with local materials. World Bicycle Relief trains local mechanics, giving them a marketable skill as well as ensuring functional bikes. World Bicycle Relief, in short, is the coolest international charity I’ve ever heard of. It doesn’t just give bikes away. It empowers people with bicycles.

The League of American Bicyclists advocates for better bicycling across the nation. Their lobbying component is strong, but they also run several amazing programs, like Bicycle Friendly Communities/ States/ Businesses/ Universities, and the Smart Cycling program is the gold standard for bicycle education. I am a League Certified Instructor, and I teach Smart Cycling in Columbia.

The Rails-to-Trails Conservancy helps communities turn unused rail corridors into trails. They fight legal battles at local, state, and federal levels over land rights and funding. Every trail project everywhere runs into the same objections, and Rails-to-Trails helps communities use data to win over the public.

Adventure Cycling is a resource for bicycle tourists. Adventure Cycling publishes maps of cycling networks and is establishing the U.S. Bicycle Route System. The Adventure Cycling bicycle tours, ranging from fully supported to nothing more than a map and a guide, are immensely popular.

I’m the president of the Missouri Bicycle & Pedestrian Federation which advocates for better bicycling and walking in Missouri. Of all the charities on this list, MoBikeFed is the smallest in terms of staff and programming. The League has done a great job of developing a Smart Cycling program, and the local organizations do a great job of teaching Smart Cycling. MoBikeFed’s place is at the state level, assisting localities as needed. For example, MoBikeFed helped local advocates defeat the 2010 St. Charles County Bike Ban, and more recently has worked closely with Missouri Rock Island Trail, Inc to establish the Rock Island Trail.

I’m on the Board of Directors of the PedNet Coalition which advocates for active transportation in Columbia and serves as a consultant to communities across the nation. In addition to routinely mobilizing its members for public input on sidewalks and trails, PedNet spearheads efforts to improve city ordinances that have a significant impact on walking and biking, like the Complete Streets ordinance and the Anti Harassment ordinance.

I believe that your largest donation should go to the most local group, your next largest donation to your state-level advocacy group, and a smaller donation to a national-level group, depending on your specific focus. If you like to bike on trails, Rails-to-Trails is your national-level charity. If you are a bicycle tourist, it’s Adventure Cycling. If you are a generalist, it’s the League. Finally, a donation to an international charity can make a difference.

Nov 28

Cargo

Posted on Saturday, November 28, 2015 in Uncategorized

Bike move

 

In a recent homework assignment, I analyzed the reasons why we choose to go by car, by bike, by foot, or by bus. Of course, most people go the quickest way, which is usually by car, but people who bicycled also cited enjoyment, exercise, and cost, while some people who drove needed to haul cargo or small people.

Guess what, you can haul cargo and kids with your bicycle, thereby allowing you to reap the enjoyment, exercise, and low cost of bicycling as well as get your errands done.

Small children love riding in bicycle trailers. There are also child seats that go on your bicycle, either in front of you or behind you. (I haven’t seen any bicycle sidecars.) As kids get too big for the trailer or the child seat, they can ride a Trail-a-Bike which attaches to your bicycle. It gets a little harder when they outgrow the Trail-a-Bike. There are some products that attach two bikes together, or you can get a tandem (expensive!), or you can bike a lot slower so they can keep up with you. If you have multiple kids of different sizes, you might need a triple tandem and a trailer to get them all in.

Unless you are in a bicycle race with a support vehicle and domestiques, your bike has to carry at least a little bit, like a water bottle and a seat pack with your flat kit. To carry a purse or a few items as well, you can use a backpack or a basket on your handlebar. But a rear rack expands the cargo possibilities: panniers, rack trunk, a rear basket, or strapping stuff directly on the rack. A front rack opens up even more storage space.

If you have large loads, like when you stock up on groceries and bring home a giant package of toilet paper, a flatbed trailer is your friend. I converted a kid trailer into a flatbed trailer by removing the plastic seats and attaching the axle & hitch to a piece of plywood. In addition to the usual groceries, I’ve hauled a Rug Doctor, Christmas trees, and cats on that trailer. I’ve even strapped a lawn chair to it and hauled people!

The bakfiet, or Dutch cargo bike, is growing in popularity. Several children can fit inside the box that is the front of the bakfiet. You can haul anything in a bakfiet that you could haul in a car.

With a 12-foot-long Bikes At Work trailer, my bike exceeds the hauling capabilities of a car. I’ve borrowed one of those for lumber a couple times, and a bed once. I made several trips with it to help a friend move a few block away. Her furniture wouldn’t fit in her car, but it fit on the trailer!

Hauling stuff by bike is satisfying work!

Nov 25

Why do you go the way you go?

Posted on Wednesday, November 25, 2015 in Uncategorized

"You can go by Zike-Bike if you like" (Dr. Seuss, Marvin K. Mooney Will You Please Go Now)

“You can go by Zike-Bike if you like” (Dr. Seuss, Marvin K. Mooney Will You Please Go Now)

I’ve had a couple fun homework assignments in this semester’s class, Transportation & Health, for my Sustainable Transportation Master’s Degree. Every student in my class entered data into a spreadsheet about a trip we make regularly. How long would the trip take by car? by bus? by bike? by foot? We calculated our exposure to pollution via each of these modes, and indicated which mode we primarily use and why. Our data joined 2 other years’ worth of data, for a total of 35 students.

For the next step, we each asked a question that could be answered, possibly, by analyzing the data. Assuming that most people choose the mode of transportation that gets them there the quickest, I asked, “What other reasons play into our choice of transportation?”

For everyone, the car was the fastest mode. But 1/3 of the students (including me) chose something other than the car: biking, walking, or transit. These students must have had compelling reasons to outweigh the time commitment.

Oddly, students who chose to bike, walk, or bus sometimes listed “Time” as the reason. That was because their mode, while not as fast as taking the car, was faster than one of the other modes. Walking was usually the slowest mode.

Many students who did take the car, 2/3 of the class, mentioned “Time” as well as other reasons. Since we all chose different trips, such as going to work, going to the gym, or going to the grocery store, we had different needs for each trip. Students listed the need to haul groceries or other passengers as a reason to use the car.

I’ve found myself using the car more often than I like lately, and the reason is “Time”. Each errand, I consider biking. If I’m making a big grocery trip, I would hook up my trailer to my bicycle. If it’s dark, my colorful bicycle lights would blink like a police car. If it’s cold, I would bundle up in my winter gear. But then I think of my homework, grading papers, cooking supper, and attending meetings, and I sigh and get in the car, saving myself 30 minutes of travel but losing an opportunity for 50 minutes of biking.

To be fair, I bike somewhere almost every day, to the gym and to meetings. But I enjoy biking my errands, and that hasn’t been happening much. Another day, when all these other very fun things that I do like Bike/Ped Commission and Public Transportation Advisory Commission and the Mayor’s Task Force on Pedestrian Safety wind down, I’ll bike some of these errands that I’m driving today.

Why do you go the way you go?

Nov 21

The right clothes

Posted on Saturday, November 21, 2015 in Uncategorized

Yehuda Moon 2

“There’s no such thing as bad weather, only unsuitable clothing.” – Alfred Wainwright

The autumn rains bring back memories of my early days of bicycling. The first time I got caught in the rain, I got soaked. That’s not a big deal if it’s warm, until I have to spend the day in an air conditioned building. Next time it rained, I was prepared. I brought a change of clothes with me.

Then I learned that my change of clothes should include a towel, socks, and underwear. A steady rain gets through all layers pretty quickly!

Then I learned that my change of clothes had better be in a plastic bag, like a grocery sack.

Then I learned that my change of clothes had better be wrapped in TWO plastic bags. Thin plastic grocery sacks get holes in them, and leak.

While summer rains are pleasant, autumn rains are cold. A $10 rain suit from Walmart fell apart after two bike rides. It wasn’t designed for bicyclists. I purchased a Gore-Tex rain coat and Gore-Tex rain pants made for women bicyclists for–cough–$400! “It’s cheaper than car payments,” I reminded myself. 8 years later, I’m still using both the rain coat and the rain pants (although somehow the rain pants have gotten snug), so this investment has paid off. That’s $50/year, and keeps going down every year I continue to use them. I wear my Gore-Tex more often as extra protection from the cold than from the rain, so this has been a good investment.

I wore the rain coat and rain pants during a steady, cold rain this week. I was warm and comfortable while biking, and only slightly damp at the end of my trip, except for my hands and feet.

My hands and feet were soaked and cold. I’m still experimenting with rain gear for my hands and feet.

While the right clothing can make any weather just fine, it can take a while to find the right clothing for the right weather!

Nov 17

Vitamin Sleep

Posted on Tuesday, November 17, 2015 in Uncategorized

EPSON MFP image

“I suppose it is tempting, if the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything as if it were a nail.” –Abraham Maslow

My bicycle is my “hammer”. It solves many problems:

Bicycling saves money.
Bicycling makes me healthy.
Bicycling doesn’t pollute or cause congestion.
Bicycling makes friends.
Bicycling makes me strong.
Bicycling in all weather makes me tough.

And bicycling helps me sleep.

Well, that might not be entirely fair. I’ve always been a good sleeper. It’s my superpower. I know I’m a good sleeper because most people I know struggle with sleep. They can’t fall asleep, or they wake up and can’t get back to sleep. They sleep restlessly and are tired when they wake up.

I fall asleep early and wake up early. I struggle to stay awake late, when I have a reason to stay up. I think my sleep quality might be better since I started bicycling, but it’s not something I’ve ever struggled with, so it’s hard to say.

The effect of bicycling on sleep is more obvious in people who do struggle with sleep.

A single bike ride doesn’t guarantee them a good night’s rest. They might even be a bit restless the night after a long ride. Three of my friends have independently observed that regular biking or walking does improve their sleep. When they stop biking or walking, their sleep deteriorates. And when they start biking or walking again, their sleep improves again. It takes a few days to a couple weeks to notice, either direction.

That’s not real evidence; it’s anecdotal. What is evidence is the plethora of studies on the topic. A recently published study links cardiorespiratory fitness to sleep complaints in 8000 people across 35 years (Dishman 2015, Med Sci Sports Exerc). That’s just one of hundreds of studies of exercise and sleep. The effect isn’t one-way: better sleep improves your life in many ways, including your fitness. Exercise to sleep, and sleep to exercise! Sleep is the new vitamin!

I can solve just about any problem with my bicycle. What problems do you have? Try biking or walking, and see if that solves your problem! If it doesn’t directly solve your problem, it’ll make you feel better.

Nov 1

Self care

Posted on Sunday, November 1, 2015 in Uncategorized

20150701_122617

My apologies for the Long Silence. In less than a month, I attended 2 conferences in different cities while teaching one online class and taking another. That advantage of an online class is that it can be done anywhere; the disadvantage is– it can be done anywhere! Couple that with my usual activities of commissions, boards, and task forces, and a minor family crisis (Nell’s ok– though it’s been a challenging semester), and things start falling off my plate.

What has not fallen off my plate is bicycling and family. It’s time like this that I can see my priorities clearly! I haven’t taken any long, recreational, just-for-fun bicycle rides, but I haven’t even considered canceling or trading shifts for a GetAbout ride. Our riders count on the ride leaders like me to show up, and that bit of accountability is what I need to spend some precious time on something that could be considered frivolous.

It’s not frivolous. Not in the least. Bicycling is my self-care. It’s what gives me the energy and health to do so much, to attend 2 conferences in a month, to teach, to learn, and to take care of my daughter.

If you need a little motivation to make self-care a priority in your life, start a Couch-2-5K, volunteer as a Walking School Bus leader, or lead a class at the gym. That extra accountability will allow you do something selfish– taking care of yourself– under the guise of serving others.