Friday, March 22, 2013

The Bike and the Tourist

In about a month, I'm off on vacation to visit the Netherlands and Germany.  While visiting my primary mode of transport will be by bike and rail.  That's right, I'm about to be one of THOSE PEOPLE.  A tourist.

You see, between living in a college town with an extremely popular football team, San Francisco, and Austin I have come to absolutely loathe tourists.  I mean that in the nicest way possible.  I love to travel, to see new things - but sometimes it feels like being a zoo creature.  Here in Austin that was driven home, as last week was South by Southwest.

SXSW means a lot of things to Austinites, but mostly this - for 1 week our city will be crawling with people too cool for school.  They generally treat this city like a giant frat party and trash everything they touch.  And now, a story.

Last Friday I hopped on my bike, and rode to the train station to go downtown.  As I rolled up, I looked around and realized that there were EASILY 3 times the usual number of people at the station - the train was going to be a sardine can.  And I had my bike with me.  Now, normally this isn't a problem - the trains have a couple hooks for bikes and you simply board the train, put your bike where it goes, and then have a seat.  Friday was more like boarding a lifeboat on the Titanic.  Though I'd been on time to the station I missed my train because it was simply too packed.  Nearly an hour's wait later, the the next train came and we shoved on.  Over the half hour south the train only became more and more packed - to an incredibly shove-ey, cramped degree.  People pushed into the train whether there was room or not and I'm quite frankly astonished there weren't any injuries.

Finally and interminably the train arrived downtown to a similarly packed train station and I shoved my way out, arriving at 4th St in downtown Austin - an intersection I have been to literally hundreds of times.  As I rode west the reason I avoid events like this became more and more apparent.  In 6 blocks I saw a girl drunkenly hit a curb with her bike and fall off into the street.  I had a group of skateboarders swoop up from behind me with no warning.  A herd of drunks stumble directly into my line of travel and people walking down the middle of the road.  I felt like my city had been taken over by people who don't love or respect her or her residents.

I finally made it to Auditorium shores for the Flaming Lips show, where I walked up to a completely full bike parking lot.  I chained up to a post nearby and walked off into the crowd of people.

The whole point of telling this story is I've been thinking about the best way to visit places.  I certainly plan on drinking during my trip to Europe and having a good ol' time but I don't want to be the girl fallen over in the middle of the street.  Bikes are a magnificent way to get around when a car is inconvenient and they're also cheap to rent. They let you see, hear, and smell the true character of a place.  But holy god, don't be "THAT" tourist.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Spring touches down with Summer on it's heels

I don't know about the rest of the world, but yesterday I felt the baking breath of summer across my neck, the first true sign that spring has arrived.  We broke 90 degrees yesterday for the first time this year.

Now, for those of you still living through freezing rain or snow on the ground, that probably sounds like paradise.  But for those of us who are accustomed to living in an oven what it means is this - the temperature is not going to go down again until roughly late September.  Don't believe me, right?  Trust me.  I wish I were joking.  I've already laid down the foundations of this year's tan.

This is the time of year to take everything with you but the kitchen sink.  It could rain, hail, or roast you to death.  We might get a last cold snap, but it's coming.  Get your sunglasses, uber lightweight rainjackets, sandals, and sunscreen ready, cyclists of Texas.  Here we go again.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Silly bits of fun, or how Annie got her Mojo back

I've had my new tires less than a week but already I'm going for rides.  In a year of puppy-raising and new-relationship development, my cycling had tapered.  Truthfully, I think I was due for a break but between my new tires and the change of the seasons I'm taking lots of fun, silly little rides.

While the past-me that rode for 4 hours at a time on her Cannondale is having a laugh, current-me is shocked at how much of my biking mojo evaporated in the 2 months it took me to get new tires.  Yesterday I took a 5 mile jaunt around my neighborhood, just for the pleasure of the breeze in my hair. The bike and I went to the park and shared a bottle of water on a bench, then leisurely pedaled home, taking every gravel path on the way back to the house.

And as short and silly as a 5 mile ride to the park is, it makes me happy to just take it easy.  My biking life has partially been defined by always doing something new or better than last time.  Beating my best time downtown, my longest ride, the hottest or coldest weather, the steepest climb and my fastest time to work.  So taking a brief pleasure cruise is a welcome respite from my self-imposed seriousness.  It makes biking truly just for the fun of it.  It's honestly the most "YAY BIKES!" thing I've done in a while.

So here's to silly things and doing them just for fun.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

New tires! And a video on how to change them.

After a seriously long month and a half, my bike is back in the pavement pounding business!

We took a nice ride to the park and a hike and bike trail together.

I recently purchased a pair of the Continental Touring Plus.  I chose the tire because it seemed to have a really good combination of durability and value.  I've had good experiences with Continental tires, and for me personally the Schwalbe were simply more than I had available to spend.

I figured since I had a reason to change out a tire completely, I'd do my level best to make a tutorial of some sort on how I usually get the job done.  The creation of the video took way too long for me to just chuck, so here you go. In between being unable to film the actual action being performed due to needing both hands, my constant gesturing, shoddy iPhone video skills, and general mediocrity as a film maker, there's a lot of good information here!

Supplies used: