weather wimp

I cannot ride in weather below 30 degrees.  I tried.  Despite everything I said before about good gear and all, well, that was naive.  Fixing a flat, distance riding, trying to lock up to a post, all painful to me in 10 degree weather.    After a ride like this, I have struggled to get warm for the rest of the day.  My riding habits can’t withstand constant sub freezing temps and wind chills.  I wish I were stronger.  I certainly have enough fat stores, but, dangit, I’m cold.   The local news did a story on getting outside in the cold and decided that biking was out.  Not exactly the push out the door I needed, but maybe common sense has to win over the will to be a superhero, which by the way, I realize I’m definitely not.  Speaking of superheroes, My buddy Rob leads the charge.  He is a cyclocross nut and is out it seems most days a week practicing and making a party of it.  One post of his explained earnestly that really cold, windy, wet weather was really perfect for cyclocross, so come on out.  I must be getting old.  I can’t keep up.

So it saddens me to say that while my 6 months of  bike-centric existence was  successful and life, spirit, and attitude altering, in the hard winter of  ’10, I am showing my true colors as those of the fair weather rider.

But my thoughts about bikes haven’t stopped.  I’m excited by all our local bike activity–cyclocross, community bike programs, new bike stores.  And the headlines today were about gas prices rising.  People will be forced into alternatives.  This leads me to wish for better, more direct bus routes, bus stops with protection from the elements, more car pooling efforts in our communities, and tax credits for alternative transport.   Bicycles have been ubiquitous in the news this year, but when the temps go south, cities depend on the infrastructure to support them, and this means getting them where they have to go cost effectively and conscientiously.  Reflection is good.  Action is better.  I’m left wondering where to turn.

The 6 Month Mark

I haven’t been great at finding time to blog.  This year has been a whirlwind at work, and at home.  But just so you know, I am still commuting!  I have a speedy commuter/cross bike for just me getting to school, and my mtn bike has taken some time off for TLC and is rareing to go.  The Xtracycle, since it was stolen, is still kid capable, but I need to replace the frame it’s attached to, so it hasn’t been getting the mileage it did over the summer.

I figure I’m at approaching 1000 miles for the 6 months of commuting.  It has been awesomely awesome, and I love it.  It’s good for me when I’m stressed, when I’m happy, when I’m grieving (we’ve lost some loved ones this year).  I hold the bike gods up as the highest.  Truly.

There is no excuse not to ride.  I’m not living in Minneapolis or Vermont, so a little weather is just that.  Good gear will save you.

As far as kids on bikes go, that’s simply a thing of beauty.  I’m raising girls who are nearly as bike crazy as I am, who love music and movement, and always search for ways to blend the three.

Love to all who followed my 6 months.  It continues on into the ’10.

20 Things I Love About Bike Commuting

The raccoons, opossums, deer, and fox families watching me in the morn

Neoprene booties and gloves for the rain/cold

Feeling like a ninja on bike in a balaclava

Feeling like I’m riding in a dream in early am fog

The climbs getting easier

The irony of almost being hit by a deer

Cars who watch out for me

Trying to get into my 3rd ring in the front & realizing I’d been there

Running over a snake but not hurting it

Blinky lights and a down low glow

Waving at familiar faces on the ride home

The smell of bacon on Frontage Road in front of hotels at 6am

Muscles in my legs

Arriving to work stress free

Leaving school to work through the stress by bike

The smell of skunks at play on Northside High School Road (I know that’s weird, but I really do like it)

Miles under my belt (600+ :))

Downhills with no stop signs

That my husband helps make it happen, thanks honey!

That it means I get to talk about bikes and biking more!

A Teacher Commuter

I’ve got to admit that once work started back up (I’m a teacher) and the girls started at their school, my internet life took a downward spiral.  As I’ve grown fond of saying lately, I fell off the face of facebook and left my virtual world behind.  Dealing with reality head on has been good, however.  The rides are doing wonders for my spirit, my sense of self, my legs :).  And my commitment to not driving is strong.  Actually, my commitment to biking specifically is stronger than ever.  I’m riding more, I think, than I did 10 years ago, before juggling kids, career, and housekeeping.  The days are longer but better.  I would come home at the end of the day in August and feel like a puddle, just wanting to eat and go to bed.  I’m way more able to do it all now:  the ride, the hectic school day, the ride home.  It actually motivates me to do more at school, to be better at my craft, to enjoy life more.  So I do.  I’m out of the house at 5:45 am.  I used to make it to work in 45-50 minutes, and now I’m clocking between 38 and 40 minutes twice a day, though the evening ride often takes longer. I’m showering in the locker room by 6:30 and ready for my school day just before 7am.  I lost a planning period this year because of budget cuts, so the extra am time gives me some comfort, although teaching is the kind of career that you could work 24 hours a day at and it still would not be enough.  Anyway, enough moaning about school.  Riding Rocks!  And the students think it’s curious and interesting too. I’m talking a lot about it with them, showing them articles, sharing bicycle information, engaging them in possibilities.  Maybe one day, a student ride will be in order.

Oh, yeah.  After some hairy travels en route to kids’ school, we made a family decision that suits everyone.  The kids are picked up by me, their nana, or their dad in the afternoons around 5pm by car.  Traffic is heck on Colonial and Overland, so I refuse to put them on a bike there and then.  It is the only car usage for me.  Despite that, we’re loving the school and are so happy with what they are learning there.  More on that later…

An 80 Mile Week–My New Normal

I have week two down of back to school for teacher-me, and I trumped last week’s 46 mile commute with this week’s 80 miles.  That’s strictly there and back, 8 miles each way, 5 days.  It’s not counting leisure riding, grocery gathering, or riding to socialize.  I’m not the elite cyclist, as I’ve said before, so this kind of daily/weekly riding is something for me to get used to.  I was thankful for a Saturday so my legs would lose the burn that had grown to be part of the daily existence.  And very thankful for Sunday, so I can clean my poor-Mountainy-one up from 2 weeks of road riding, to rip off the knobby tires, and put on my city slicks (Thanks again, John!).  I have enjoyed hot, cold, and rain, early ams and traffic-jam pms.  There is nothing like being outside every day, feeling the cool of the air at 6am, and being the first teacher in the building, sipping joe and thinking through the day.  I’m relaxed, I’m happy.  I have lost 3500 lbs by commuting this way, and more I feel, will melt away.

The Commute to Work

I have an eight mile commute to work.  As rides go, it’s not too long, not too hilly, not too traffic-y.  I have a good route from Old Southwest to the North County.  What’s killing me is also having energy to teach middle school kids all day long and a schedule that is minus one planning period b/c of budget cuts.  Read:  ZERO sitting time.   How can I not be in great shape in a year?

Last week, I rode  round-trip 2 days and one-way two days.  I used carpool on Friday b/c the weather guy said it would rain ALL day.  It was gorgeous.  Sigh.

This commute is so good for me, it’s the equalizer, the litmus test for a healthy life.  If I eat crap, I feel like crap.  If I don’t get enough sleep, I feel like falling asleep by the time I get to school.  So, I enter phase two of carfree existence.  The daily commute.

The Xtracycle is still out of commission.  It’s back but damaged status is on hold, as the detective said to not make any repairs until the case was closed and I’d been reimbursed.  I guess I won’t be riding that bike any time soon.  I’m poking around for a better commuter frame to put the freerad. on, and in the mean time,  I’m commuting with my mountain bike.  I wished for road tires a time or two,  so I think I’m due for a change soon. 

BTW> Isak takes the kids to summer camp in the am.  (When school starts for them b/c city is on a different schedule, Elsa will be picked up by bus, Ivy will walk to school–afternoon pickups will be provided by nana.  It takes a village, but it doesn’t take a car!)

the good, the bad and the ugly

So the good news is that we got the xtracycle back today.  Isak waited at the police station for me (my first day back to school and alland collected the bike marked “evidence” that the officer on duty at the property room was glad to get rid of.  Takes a great deal more space to store an Xtracycle than is available in such a room, I guess.  Reports filled out, charges filed, detectives assigned, receipts collected.

The damage amounts to this:  the rim of the rear wheel makes an S– bent at one end like someone stomped on it–and definitely has to be replaced.  The frame seems intact, but Dearest worried upon first gander that it may be bent where the freeradical meets the Specialized frame.  We’ll get a professional wrench to check out the damage and give us an estimate.  All my wonderful blinkies on the rear of the bike are gone.  The red roundabout has also been stomped to bits, the sides of it in some alley somewhere.  But I have hope.  Rob Hanson told me to send him the pieces, and he’d see what he could do with it.  He spent so much time and energy making such a gorgeous seat for the girls, beautiful glowing high visibility paint, names carefully engraved on the backs of the seats, it’s just so hard to see it so ugly.

So all in all, I’m still feeling lucky to have it back.  It sucks, for sure how hard a row it’s had.  But it only makes me want to ride more, not less.  The X will be back soon enough, better, badder, more utility than ever.

Xtracycle Stolen and Recovered within 2 hours!


I have some very excellent Karma.  Maybe just really good luck.  Who gets their bike back after being stolen?  Well, I don’t have it back as of yet, but it’s being held in the property room by Roanoke’s finest.  Officer Ramey saw two boys riding a very “unusual-looking” bike down an alley around Patterson Ave near the West End Center.  He approached them, they threw the bike down and fled, he pursued and caught them.  The fourteen year old, a recent juvy release out on parole, and the ten year old, were held, questioned and released to their parents/guardians.  The bike is waiting for me, damaged, to pick up on Monday downtown.  The mother of the 14 year old was livid, Officer Ramey told us.  She definitely wants us to press charges, and I certainly will, as that’s the only way I’ll get my custom child seat back.  The beautiful shocking-red roundabout seat made by Rob Hanson in MD, with the names of my children on each seat, was smashed to pieces.  At least I’ll get the rest of the bike back, though I hope the damage is minimal.  The officer said he thought it could be repaired.  We’ll see.

This is how it happened:  We had come home from a busy day of back-to-school errands exhausted.  I unpacked the xtracycle, but forgot to retrieve it as I got water and icy-pops and went about unpacking groceries and supplies.  Hours passed, and I totally forgot about my child-hauling, load carrying, amazing set of wheels sitting gorgeous near the steps in the front of my house.

Isak came home, asked, “Where’s your bike?”  and the worst was true.  It was stolen, around 5pm. 

That bike was worth something to me.  I’m not so much an objects person; I’m a teacher, and value experiences over things.  But that bike was the symbol of a very emotional hurdle.  I signed up for the carless brit experiment b/c I loved riding my bike.  It makes me feel great!  But I’ve had such a hard time figuring out how to incorporate riding and kids.  They grow quickly, they’re needy, they are tough and fragile all at the same time.  Then there’s the safety issue.  This bike gave me the ability to include my family in something I love, gave me a commitment to riding, and gave me a safe and reliable way to cargo my children.  Having it taken immediately made me realize what it was to me.  I can’t stop shaking my head about my carelessness.

As a teacher, I’m always looking for the lessons learned in the experiences I have.  There are many in this situation.  I am thinking about how I work with kids, love kids, but know they need parents, rules, consequences to be successful.  I am pondering my neighborhood, and how I thought I was more insulated from theft than I am.  I’m amazed at the police in this instance, specifically Officer Ramey for spotting and tracking down my bike, and really want to do something special to thank him.     I really don’t think I would have had such luck if I’d been riding a normal bike, so now I’m  really aware at the fact  that an Xtracycle gets attention.

Xtracycling back to school


The girls and I have been getting ready to get back to school.  We’re fortunate that Elsa has been admitted to the new Fishburn Focus School for the Environmental Sciences, which boasts trail time, gardening, and water conservation as part of the daily curriculum.   Ivy starts  a Pre-K program in our neighborhood, and I am heading back on Monday to teacher week at NMS.

IMG_1356We had to drop some paperwork off at Fishburn, so we braved the busy Colonial traffic (Franklin to Wonju to Colonial) to finally get to the short patch of oddly positioned bike lane that gets me most of the way to the elementary school.  The distance itself was not a problem, though hauling kids in heavy traffic is definitely not fun.  The plus side is that many people saw us and supported us by waving, smiling, giving wide berth, and even recognizing us from Beth’s article earlier in the summer.  The girls loved that part.IMG_1355

After paperwork and a great conversation with the principal, Mrs. Luckay and the secretary, Mrs. Dunn, we headed down to frolic on the wonderfully eco-friendly playground on campus.  The monkey bars, climbing equipment, and goldfish pond were all wonderful, but my personal favorite was the zip-line.  Really fast, good for adults, and I really felt the arm muscles I haven’t used probably since I was 10.  IMG_1358

Next was the trip back.  I got some safe traveling suggestions from Amy M, and checked out some side roads, but nothing connected me to where I needed to go easily.  So I went back up to Overland Dr. and maneuvered with cars, getting back on the odd clip of bike lane on Colonial and riding very much in noon-time traffic.  We headed to Towers Mall, a strip mall that would help me get several errands done and give us a rest from the heat.

We splurged first at the Firehouse Subs, the kids’ favorite.  I don’t know why,  really.  A grilled cheese is a grilled cheese, but who could argue with the air conditioning and cheery welcome as we entered.  We drank loads of water from the fountain, ate well, and then embarked on school-stuff-getting.

The highlight of the trip, though, was the stop at a local hair-cuttery with back-to-school specials, and the girls got new do’s.  They were so very excited.  Elsa calls hers the surfer-girl and she looks remarkably teenish for a soon-to-be 7 year old.  Sigh.   Ivy wanted and received bangs and looks a little more grown up too.  Sniff.


We headed back downtown, and the construction on Franklin isn’t pretty.  It definitely made getting out and back more hairy (pardon the pun).  We only had one incident, which was pretty minor, and that involved a mini-van speeding up to get in front of me approaching a narrow lane over the bridge. 

Next,  I barreled through a nice neighborhood on the way downtown, got on the Pedestrian Bridge and climbed up towards the Hotel Roanoke, getting onto the lovely greenway, Lick Run.  The intent was to head Valley-View way by the greenway to get my dead cell phone revived and pick up some teacherly items at Staples, but the heat and the haul got to me.  I turned at Washington Park and headed back to the old familiar downtown Roanoke, realizing that the thru-way street towards the 2nd street bridge/Gainsboro area is a nice way to cross town when needed.  It is a 25 mile/hour road, wide streets with clean-ish shoulders, and it saves me some hills, traffic and 10-15 minutes when trying to get to/from North Roanoke and the Greenway.

I start my school commute officially on Monday, and as ready as I’m not, I’m happy to be continuing my biking life into the school year.

Still wandering…

Since our bikeful wanderings in Damascus, Sparta, and other holy places in southern mountains, we are keeping the move on, eeking out every bit of summer before the school-term kicks up, for me first, then for my gals. (Still haven’t figured out a way to home school and make a living at the same time–maybe I’ll open a ‘wild-school’ for outdoor adventure in the future?)

My girl clan did FloydFest for world music and heavenly vibes, then a mountain lake in Alabama for family high life, then Clifftop in West Virginia for an Appalachian string music festival and camping and visiting with old friends.  We are perched to head out this morning for a week with 4 generations of family women at Smith Mountain Lake. 

I’ll be back in town to get back in the groove soon enough.  Til then, we’re enjoying the gypsy vibe and the outdoor life.