Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Temporary Technical Difficulties

My computer has recently suffered some damage and unfortunately that more or less puts me on involuntary hiatus from blogging. At least, if I'd like to type it out on a device other than my phone. Once I get my computer fixed we should be up and running again, though!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Singin' in the Rain

It rained Saturday! Actual water fell from the sky while ominous thunder rumbled and the roof made a soothing pattering sound. To the rest of the world, rain is probably rather unremarkable. But here in the land of natural disaster scale drought, dryness, and heat, that evening and night's thunderstorm was enough to blow my hair back.

As biking days go Saturday was cool and different, not the least because of the weather. Here in my neighborhood I often hang out/mentor a little girl with her bike. I've shown her how to change a tire, how her brakes work, how to adjust her handlebars, and so on. This week was her 11th birthday and in celebration, I promised we'd go for a bike ride. Early in the morning my sister, Bike-Padawan, and I stuffed all three of our bikes onto/into my car and drove off to what I had settled on as the beginning of our 5.5 mile ride. We parked, de-stuffed our bikes, and set off for a Birthday Bike Ride!

Our route took us 2.7 miles down the super-smooth part of Shoal Creek Blvd from where we parked to the always-awesome Amy's Ice Cream. An indication of what was to come later in the day, we merrily rode through mist, exhulting in its dampness the way only people from drought country truly can. My Bike-Padawan made me proud- she shifted, braked, signaled, and crossed roads just like I showed her. My sister and I both got huge smiles every time we'd pass something cool and she'd yell "Look at that!"

Ice cream and a quick stop at the grocery store later and we re-stuffed the bikes onto/into my car and got Bike-Padawan home for her birthday party with her friends.

Now as most Austinites can probably tell you, yesterday was the Red River Shootout up in Dallas (that's the Texas-OU game for non-natives). A friend of mine came over to drink massive quantities of alcohol and eat various meats. Several hours of drinking into our day, it is revealed that someone needed to make a beer/snack run and since I was pretty much most of the way comatose, my friend was nominated for the job. He borrowed my lock, hopped on his bike, and off he pedaled to the beer and snack store while I did my best impersonation of a corpse on the couch. About 15 minutes into my nap, the phone rings.

It is my friend. Somehow, in the 10 minutes between locking the bike and checking out, the spare key to my bike lock I had loaned him fell out of his pocket, and his bike was now chained to a rack, un-unlockable with my brand new U-lock. In the time since he'd left, it had started seriously pouring out. By this point I'd been drinking for several hours and was in the middle of a nap. I dragged myself, my rain jacket, my bike, and a spare rain jacket out of the house and pedaled off into the rain for first time in months.

I haven't ridden in rain in months (mostly because it hasn't rained in...well, months). If I'd been thinking, I'd have taken pictures of my jacket, bike, or the conditions. Sadly I was mostly drunk and half asleep. Also, frolicking in the water. But I can definitely say that by Austin standards, Saturday was a cool day.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Welcome to the WORLD OF TOMORROW

The Netherlands once again astonishes me with their dedication to practical urban cycling. They have now launched the The Dutch Cycling Embassy. Holy shit, the video.

Cycling For Everyone from Dutch Cycling Embassy on Vimeo.

I very rarely make it through a video this long without getting bored, even one about cycling. What can I saw, I'm a child of the internet generation and my patience for content is about.....2 1/2 minutes. If I'm not hooked, I turn it off. I watched the whole thing.

As someone who is a very strong believer in the power of the bicycle to change the everyday lives of people on many levels, I want this embassy to succeed. Thanks again, Holland. We need you.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Keeping it in the Family

My new favorite biking buddy is my sister. Early yesterday morning, I called her up to see if she was awake yet and if she was, what her plans were for the day. I received sleepy grumbles for this effort and prepared to shuffle on about my day. 45 minutes later, I get a call back from her: "I can't sleep. What are you doing?"

Me: "Not much. We could go ride bikes, maybe?"
Sister: "I'll be over in a bit."

And thus we set off on the longest bike ride of my sister's brief (3-week) cycling career. Our first stop was to drop some things off at my Bike Shop of Employment, where we also scored a new, way more comfortable saddle for my sister. Between her relative inexperience at cycling and the fact Grey Bike's previous OEM saddle could better be described as an ass-hatchet, the cushy gelness of the Serfas we installed put my sister, in her words, "In Butt Heaven".

Ooooh, squishy!

Her butt thus cushioned, we set off on our grand adventure for a beer and lunch. Yes, it was 11 a.m. Yes, that could well make us alcoholics. No, I don't really care.

Anyways, we set off, my goal to show my sister the majesty of Shoal Creek Boulevard. Shoal Creek, if I haven't previously explained, is a road running through Tarrytown paralleling Mopac all the way south to around 31st Street. South of that it becomes a trail, but our destination was around 40th, so that is where we branched off. One of the beauties of Shoal Creek Trail is the shared bike/parking lane is the width of a regular lane. It also has a low speed limit, so up and down this road you see every stripe of cyclist there is to see. Fredtacular roadcyclists in spandex, recumbents, tandems, whole families out for a day together. We even saw a couple with a dog in a trailer tootling along together for lunch. It's an education in who can cycle, and how accessible it is because as an activity, cycling is so open to interpretation by the individual that anyone can ride a bike just about any way they want. Our preferred method is "Wearing fairly normal clothes, getting from A to B, often drunk."

Our first stop was the Central Market cafe on Lamar, where we procured a feast.


We sat, feasting, basking in the warm sunshine, drinking beer, and throwing bread to the crows who populated the tables with abandoned food in the fashion of a swarm. My sister took a moment to update her Facebook, "Annie and I riding bikes eatin Quinoa! Dude did I just say that?" Yes Sister. Yes you did.

We packed up the leftovers of our meal, made sure to leave some bread for the crows, and set off in the direction of home. As we rode north through the neighborhood we saw a handwritten sign in a front yard that sang out to us, "YARD SALE, EVERYTHING 1/2 OFF." Half price are the kind of prices I like! So we stopped and for a dollar, bought a flagpole and two pairs of groucho marx glasses.

We rode another few blocks and lo and behold, another yard sale! Another $2.75 later, and we are the proud owners of an original 1950s SaladMaster and a knitted glove which is meant to be used to dust knick-knacks. But here was the problem - we left the house with the intention of eating lunch and going home. My sister didn't have her basket, I didn't have my panniers, and we were already carrying a flagpole and a bunch of food.

We ended up bungee cording a box to the top of the rack on my sisters bike, and using masking tape to attach the flagpole to my bike as though it were jousting. We pedaled off, giggling the whole way. We got it home and hoisted my pirate flat out in the yard, where it warns off all who would plunder my booty (heh).