Not a Bucket List, Not Resolutions, Not Really

I don't think we need resolutions in the dead of winter. Who wants to start something new now, in the season of hot chocolate, warm fires and fuzzy blankets?

Resolution season should be in fall with new back-to-school supplies. Or in spring with the bright yet fragile green of buds unfurling.

So these are not resolutions. Nor are they entries on a bucket list. I find the idea of checking things off before I die more grim than motivating, as if life is a series of things on a to-do list.

They're things I think would be interesting to learn or experience someday. If I happen to do them and if I remember this blog entry I'll come back and add the date. Some obviously require far more commitment, funds or time than others. These aren't arranged in order of likelihood or priority--they're random.

  • Make sushi
  • Ride in a hot-air balloon
  • Have a radio show
  • Skydive
  • Ride my bike through Italy. Or maybe France. Possibly England. All three. I'm going to note for the record that while I didn't ride through Denmark, I did bike in Copenhagen August 2019 on a study trip.
  • Or just ride my bike on an epic biking tour somewhere in the US. Done! 2017 Great Allegheny Passage + C&O Canal Towpath, then 2018 Washington state tour
  • Scuba dive
  • Make cheese
  • Watch 100 classic movies
  • Bungy jump
  • Go to Alaska
  • Take a sabbatical
  • Raft down the Grand Canyon
  • Find my maternal grandmother’s family home in England. I'm not going to count the Google satellite view that let me look at it; I mean actually going there.
  • Sew a quilt
  • Learn to change a tire on a car (which I can do on my bike--much easier!)
  • Write a book (technically, I wrote one for the North Idaho Centennial celebration, but I mean a real book with characters, plot, all that jazz.)
  • Learn some form of martial arts
  • Do a handstand
  • Start a business. Done! I ran Bike Style Spokane as a pop-up bike fashion retail business/side gig starting in 2010. I had to wind it down after moving to Seattle to become executive director of Washington Bikes. That's really another thing that could have been on this list: "Run a nonprofit doing work I believe in" has been a career goal for a big chunk of my life.
What are your "maybe I'll do this someday" items?

No Rack?! Now What?

Inspired by a discussion on the LinkedIn Bike Commuters Group

No, not that kind of rack so get your mind back on the bike. The question is, What do you do when your destination lacks a bike rack? (aka bike parking)

#1—Vote with your wallet! Take your dollars to places with bike parking: My closest grocery store has a rack so I like going there. When I set a meeting at a coffee shop I choose one with a bike rack whenever possible (and it’s usually possible). 

There are racks next to Taste, Madeleine’s, the Rocket Bakery on Main, and Coffee Social for starters. Other spots like Rocket Bakery at 1st and Cedar or Rockwood Bakery on 18th have railings you can hitch to.

I'm especially fortunate that my workplace has both outdoor racks and indoor hanging racks in secure locked spaces. Employers who want to attract healthy, active employees need to think about things like end-of-trip facilities (secure bike storage, showers, space to change clothes). Building owners/managers might want to look at these issues too, to make their facilities more attractive in a tough economy for commercial real estate.

Improvise: Street signs, hand rails, fences, benches and other fixed items enable you to use your lock. Parking meters are a last resort since you could just lift the bike, lock and all off the meter so it’s a defense in name only.

Impose: I have taken my bike into a couple of grocery stores and asked someone at the closest courtesy desk or checkstand if I can stash it against the wall near them and if they'll keep an eye on it, explaining that I have to do this since they don't have a rack. No one has ever turned me down.

I occasionally have to go to a meeting at a facility that lacks both racks and anything to lock to. One of our newer local event facilities presents me with this. I take the bike in, explain that there's no parking for me and ask if there's somewhere I can put it.

So far every time I’ve asked, staff have let me put it in a side room, a hallway, near the coat rack or somewhere that doesn’t inconvenience others but gives me more peace of mind that my transportation will be there a couple of hours later when I need it.

The key for me is two sides of the same coin:
  • “Entitlement"--I am a customer and they need to make it possible for me to deal with my transportation.
  • Lack of "entitlement"--I ask politely if they can help me solve this problem and they always do. I think I'd get different (worse) treatment if I got self-righteous or huffy about it.
I also bear in mind that I am almost never dealing with anyone who made a decision not to put in a bike rack, and they probably can't make one appear later either.

It's like dealing with customer service on the phone: they didn't design the problem so they don't really own either problem or solution. They're just there to make you feel better so you'll keep bringing them your business.

And you’re there to remind them that if they want to continue getting your business and that of other people on bikes, they might want to suggest to management that a bike rack should be installed.

Trends in Books, Bikes and Real People

What happened around 1940? That’s when references to the bicycle peaked in books written in English, according to this Ngram created using Google’s newest toy search tool. Could it have something to do with the invention of the cable-shifted derailleur in 1938?

Or was it in 2000 that things peaked, based on uses of the word “cycling”?

Hard to say for sure what happened in 1940 since I hadn’t been born yet, but the rise in references to cycling, biking, bicycles and biking over the past 50 years is heartening.

Remember the Presidential Fitness Test from grade school? I have dim memories of having absolutely zero hope of completing even one pull-up.

Looking at a timeline where you can learn more about bike history I discovered that test—the bane of many a grade-schooler—launched in the year of my birth and may deserve some of the credit for increased interest in the bicycle for recreation and fitness. (Maybe because riding a bike doesn’t involve pull-ups, push-ups or curl-ups.)

As another factor there’s Earth Day in 1970 (for the record, I was eight at the time). By 1978 thanks to the oil crisis more bikes than cars were being sold in the US.

Although "cycling" is the most-used term what I find most interesting is the small but steady rise in the use of “biking” over the past 20 years.

A recent post by Mia Birk talked about the “real cyclist” phenomenon: fragmentation inside the community of people who ride bikes so that one group defines itself as “real” and others as somehow not real.

As I commented there, I'm real enough, but I'm moving away from using the term "cyclist" to describe myself. I find the phrase "bike rider" a tad awkward but I like it better, or just “someone who rides a bike.”

I ride my bike: lots for transportation, some for fitness/health, some for time with friends, some to see if I can do a really long ride while supporting some local good cause—but always because it's fun and freedom and now I can't imagine not riding.

And I call what I do biking as much as—more than—I call it cycling.

Cycling for me summons up Spandex and sweat, intervals and heart rate monitors and pouches of sugary carb supplements. (Yes, Sweetie, I’m talking about your training for races J)

People who drive cars mostly don't go around referring to themselves as drivers. They're people who drive cars, and I doubt they worry about whether they're authentic or not.

Is the little old lady who only drives her car to church on Sundays somehow less of a driver than the guy in the tricked-out hot rod or the suburban mom in her SUV, let alone a NASCAR or Formula One driver? (Well, okay, maybe those last two.)

It occurs to me that the problem isn't with defining "real"--it's the word "cyclist." I think for the general non-riding public "cyclist" (real or not) brings up images of brightly colored Spandex and Lance Armstrong (they don't know who Contador is). If they can't envision themselves ever being like that--and how many of us can really attain a body fat percentage near zero?--they have no point of connection.

For them "cyclist" just isn't the lady in heels on her step-through. She's not a "real cyclist." It's as if all drivers are either NASCAR/Formula One or they aren't real drivers.

Let's be people who ride bikes. Hard to say someone isn't a real person. Then the trend line in future Google Ngram searches will keep biking on the climb.

P.S. If this flashback to the Presidential Fitness Challenge makes you nostalgic you can check out the Adult Fitness Test.

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Help Bike Shop Girl Ride Again

For some time now I've read Bike Shop Girl (Arleigh Jenkins), both on her blog and on Twitter (@BikeShopGirlcom). Arleigh feels like a friend: practical, capable, dedicated to helping women experience the freedom and joy of riding a bike.

About two months ago she went through what all bike commuters have to think about at least some of the time when we're on the road: She was hit by a car. And now she's afraid to ride on the street.

She has recovered enough to be able to go mountain bike riding, but venturing out into traffic? That's another thing altogether.

A few days ago she wrote a blog post asking us to help her get back on the road. Here's my idea--and I know it's cruddy biking weather in Spokane so I'm reaching out to bike folks through Twitter, Facebook and comments on other blogs--

1) Take a bike ride in honor of Bike Shop Girl.
2) Post a comment on her blog telling her you did a ride in her honor to encourage her to start riding again, along with whatever words of encouragement you can share.
3) If you're on Twitter, post a tweet with @BikeShopGirlcom #youcanride in the body.
4) If you're on Facebook write a comment on her wall telling her you rode in her honor to help her get started again.

Let's get Bike Shop Girl back on two wheels!

How Bikes Can Save the World

Transcript of Ignite Spokane talk I gave Sept. 29, 2010. I’ve added links to sources and a few side notes in the transcript.

So you’re expecting the talk with the data and the graphs and the guilt and you want that? See me afterwards.

I’m going to take a different direction on this inspired by Portland blogger Dana Putnam.

Why I bike: I am cheap

First of all, show of hands—how many of you know what gas costs?

I have no idea. I bike because I am cheap. I don’t pay for parking, I don’t worry about insurance. My daughter who’s here tonight had a blow-out on her tire the other day at a stoplight. One hundred and ten bucks. Except those things have four of them and you have to replace them all. I don’t like that part.

How many people would like a raise of over $7,000 a year? Okay, don’t talk to your boss, that’s how much it costs you to run your car. That’s according to AAA and that’s when gas cost about $2.30 a gallon.

I understand it’s more now? I’m not sure, of course.  [Added info: Found a different AAA source with more current data and the cost of operating a vehicle is actually over $9,500 a year.]

Why I bike:  I am lazy

I also bike because I am lazy. How many of you had to walk to the parking lot to get your car and then drive here, find a parking spot, walk to the building.... Do you hear all that walking?

I pretty much bike point to point. I am so lazy that sometimes I actually take my bike inside. This redefines indoor parking, I believe. My ride to work is also mostly downhill so I coast.

It’s a little counterintuitive but you can bike if you’re lazy.

Why I bike:  I am impatient

There are many reasons—my mom might call these character flaws, I think—to bike.

I bike because I’m impatient. I always hated waiting at stoplights. There really isn’t time to finish reading the article before the light changes for one thing; you can’t do your nails. But when I’m on my bike and I get to the stoplight it’s really just a chance to catch my breath.

So I’ve got a new attitude about stoplights: They’re a good thing. I bet you don’t share that.

Another thing for you—even if you’re never going to get out of your car, if all of us on our bikes and all the people on the bus do get back in our cars, look what we do to the street. We’re in front of you now at the stoplight. So if you’re impatient you want us to keep riding (or riding the bus).

I also hate one-ways because there’s no point to going like this and like this and like this [gesturing to draw three sides of the block].

I get off my bike and I walk a block, get back in the lane and keep going. I am continuing to move towards my destination while you’re stuck at the light. So if you’re impatient biking is great for you.

Why I bike:  I am a control freak

I’m also a little bit of a control freak although I thought of titling this “mechanically inept.” And for the men in the room you don’t have to fess up. But when I take my car to the shop and they tell me a lot of things I don’t understand and I have to pay them a lot of money—remember, I’m cheap and I’m impatient—I don’t like that part.

But I can actually fix my own flat on the bike. The technology has actually not changed that much since the Wright Brothers. I get to feel like I’m in control at this point. It’s a great feeling.

These are other reasons—I’m not saying this is about you, it’s about me—

Additional reasons to ride a bike: Low self-esteem

Low self-esteem—or, flip side, big ego—

When I’m pedaling and I feel the wind and I’m making the wind myself because I’m going so fast? Awesome. I’m not going that fast—it’s like 17 miles an hour and you’re going to pass me—but I feel great about it.

Additional reasons to ride a bike:  Desperate (but successful!) attempt to appear cool/hip/trend-setting

This one is not about you at all—maybe it’s about me—but if you think about what’s cool right now it is not you in your SUV on the way to Costco to pick up a gallon of ranch dressing and five pounds of Tater Tots. You’re not going to be on the tourism brochure cover or the magazine cover – I think this picture of a zillion cars is the people leaving Cirque du Soleil the other night.

You know what picture there is going to be on the tourism brochure cover, don’t you? This is a total set-up. You know what it takes to be cool.

The only thing missing from this shot is the farmers’ market vegetables. So, you can be hip and cool and urban just by getting on a bike. Who knew it was so simple? I thought it cost a lot more, actually, and shopping at better stores as well.

Additional reasons to ride a bike: Excuse to shop

There are other sorts of character issues. This is an excuse to shop for men as well as women. If you like buying something and then bragging to your friends about how yours is better than theirs biking is totally for you. There’s more than one rider here tonight so I know you know what I’m talking about. Technical fabrics, special food—it’s basically sugar in a pouch but it’s still special food.

Additional reasons to ride a bike: Huge rush that comes from saving the world

You knew I was going to do a little bit of this piece. If you like knowing what’s good for other people and telling them about it, biking is totally your thing.

When people are talking about the problems of the world—it’s air pollution, it’s peak oil, it’s urban sprawl, it’s diabetes and obesity—if you ride a bike you’re not responsible for any of that! How cool is that?

So you can have this— * 

Or you can have that.

He brings us back to the cool urban trend-setting piece of this.

We do have a lot of problems in the world. I do think that biking is the only thing that solves a lot of these problems all at once. You do get to be healthier and save money and all of that. But also, it’s so simple a child can do it and it’s fun.

Remember when you learned to ride a bike and you had that sense of freedom and "I don’t have to wait for Mom or Dad to get in the car"--which was the limitation in your life at that point—you could ride your bike.

If you have any of these character flaws you don’t have to admit it out loud. Or maybe it’s psychological issues and therapy costs a lot. You could take a little bit of that money and you could ride a bike.

*On the video when I mention skipping it's a reference to the talk earlier that evening by Patty Sanders about the virtues of skipping to make the world a better place. I left it out of this transcript because it only made sense in context at the live event.

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I'm Dreaming of a.... (cue music)

Quick—name a song from the show “White Christmas.”

No, not that one. Too obvious.

How about “Sisters”? Or “Blue Skies”?

There’s more than one great number in the Spokane Civic Theatre production of “White Christmas” in its Northwest premiere, right here in Bing Crosby’s hometown.

To the credit of Spokane’s talent pool I didn’t think once about Bing Crosby (or about Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney and Vera-Ellen, who played the other three major roles in the original film).

This despite the fact that as a kid I watched every one of the Crosby/Hope “Road” movies with Dorothy Lamour multiple times, along with plenty of other movies starring some combination of the singing, dancing and acting talents of the mid-20th century.

Instead I marveled at the talent we have here. What, did my mom miss the memo or something? How do all these adults know how to tap dance like that?! She should have kept hauling me to dance lessons but nooooo, it was my little sister who had the dance ability and got to keep going after I quit.

I said before in my review of The Cemetery Club at the Civic that I’m no theater reviewer. I just love going and entering into the magic that falls over the room when the lights dim and the orchestra (or, in this case, fairly small ensemble) strikes up the first note or the first line is spoken. And magic it was, clear up to the end when the audience participated right on cue.

Of special note for me:
  • I was blown away by the tap dancing.
  • I loved the singing.
  • Kevin Partridge reminded me of Michael Buble when he sang “Blue Skies” and struck just the right expression after his first kiss from the rich-voiced Betty Haynes (played by Andrea Dawson).
  • Their voices blended so beautifully in the combo number “Love, You Didn’t Do Right By Me/How Deep Is the Ocean.”
  • Kathie Doyle-Lipe as Martha “The Megaphone” Watson was spunky and funny as always—and those cartwheels are a scene stealer.
  • When Elizabeth Martin as little Susan Waverly finally got to belt out a number everyone was delighted by her talent.
  • The staging for the number in which General Waverly’s men are represented by shadowy silhouettes marching behind the backdrop was particularly striking.
  • The women’s costumes were wonderful, with some beautiful rich fabrics.
  • I always marvel at set design and how they can put so many places into such compact spaces; the same is true again here, with everything from a nightclub and a train to a barn.
  • All four leads had to undress and dress again on stage (and probably thanked their lucky stars that undergarments were pretty substantial in the 1950s).
  • Special credit goes to Kevin Partridge for dealing nicely with a stuck zipper—he had us all in suspense as to how he would handle it if it wouldn’t go up.
  • Paige Wamsley and Jillian Wylie as Rita and Rhoda entered into the spirit of their roles as the Oxydol girls and the "lite" version of the two female leads, Siri Hafso as Judy Haynes and Andrea Dawson as Betty Haynes.
  • Ed Bryan as Ezekiel Foster showed just how much humor you can pack into two things: walking really, r-e-a-l-l-y slowly and saying, “Ayup.” Oh, make that three things: giving an unexpected gift and a hug.

The scene that really got me, though? The discussion about what you do with a general when the time for war has passed. I couldn’t help but think of all the men and women coming home now, wartorn and marked for life. We can’t all just head to Vermont for a nice Christmas Eve variety show at an inn and make their lives whole.

That isn’t the point of the play, obviously. It’s a wonderful, heartwarming production in the best sense of the word “heartwarming,” at least for me as a sentimental woman who cries easily (and who is now wondering how hard it would be to learn to tap dance at my age….).

It’s no wonder that as of two days ago the Civic was down to around 1,000 tickets out of a total 8,000 seats available. Get yours now.

Signs I Would Post Somewhere

  • It’s a parking lot, not a racetrack.
  • What exactly about the concept of “pedestrian” is unfamiliar?
  • The yellow light does not signify “accelerate mid-block.”
  • You own the car, not the lot.
  • It says “Stop”—not “Roll.”
  • Yes, bike riders, that means you too.
What signs would you put up?

Image created using

Image created using 

It's All in the Attitude

Busy, busy, busy. Rush, rush, rush. We’re an impatient society, always in a hurry to get somewhere. We’re like the automated cleaning devices in The Fifth Elementas described by Jean-Baptiste Emanuel Zorg (played with evil deliciousness, or delicious evilness, by Gary Oldman): “Look at all these little things. So busy now. Notice how each one is useful. What a lovely ballet ensues, so full of form and color.”

Nowhere is this kind of bustling around more evident than in our traffic patterns (although “lovely ballet” doesn’t really describe the intersection of Sprague and Division all that well…. And come to think of it, the little critters were cleaning up after destruction—how apropos).

The idea that by hurrying we are somehow more productive, more in line with “progress,” more efficient with our time pushes people to push the speed limit, squeeze the orange at the traffic light, execute a rolling stop instead of a full stop, glance without really looking, assume there’s no one coming—you know where I’m going with this and Planetizen has a good essay on just how wrong some of these assumptions about time and productivity are.*

Those little creatures in The Fifth Element didn’t have much choice—scurrying around was programmed into their very being. We, on the other hand, have choices. As Kent’s Bike Blog points out, by slowing down we give ourselves the gift of time.

I was one of those impatient drivers. Red light? Time to tap my fingers on the steering wheel and mutter under my breath, “C’mon, change!”  I chose routes to avoid traffic lights so I could take my destiny into my own hands.

I’m also susceptible to the pressure created by the tailgating driver behind me who doesn’t like it if I really observe the speed limit, as if pushing me from behind will speed me up. But it does, doesn’t it? Imperceptibly you speed up to create a gap, which the other driver promptly closes again, and next thing you know you’re meeting that nice Officer Olson who ran a speed trap on Ray a couple of months ago (not that I have any specific reason for being aware of this, of course).

Where was I? Oh, right, impatient driver.

Then I started biking. My calculation of time is so different now!

I look more at distance than at time, for one thing, to see whether something is bikeable given other constraints in the schedule. Then I work out about how long it should take me to get there. Not because I’ll decide not to bike if it takes “too much” time, though—just to allow for the time it takes to bike.

What a change! I no longer worry about “losing” time. How can you lose time anyway? You don’t have it stockpiled in a big jar from which you withdraw some when you need it. Time just passes and our experience of that passage is really subjective.

Time can pass at what feels like an infuriatingly s-l-o-w rate while I pound the steering wheel and grind my teeth. Or it can pass without me even noticing while I coast downhill, smell the coffee roaster I pass on my way to work, and watch for potholes so I can pick my line of travel to be predictable and visible for the driver behind me and not get my teeth bashed together by the cracks on Sprague. (I appear to have a thing about teeth, kind of like my thing about fingernails.)

I still try to take routes that avoid traffic lights, mostly because sometimes my bike doesn’t trip the signal. But if I do hit a red light it doesn’t trigger teeth-gnashing; instead, I take it as a chance to catch my breath. It’s welcome, not resented, and that makes a lot of difference in my trip to work, or through downtown to get to a meeting.

I can’t tell you how much more relaxing it is to arrive at work after this kind of trip than after the teeth-gnashing, steering-wheel-pounding kind. Since negative stress is hard on your cells but exercise can offset this effect I may even be extending my years on the planet. How’s that for saving time?

*All this rushing around in the car at least saves a minute or two, right? Wrong.

If you do the calculations, the difference between driving at 30mph vs. 35mph over a distance of six miles (which I picked because that’s the approximate distance between 57th/Regal and Riverside/Post, or Country Homes Blvd/Lincoln Rd. and Riverside/Post, so it seems like an average Spokane commute), is less than two minutes.  

What about the difference between biking and driving—huge, right? Wrong again.

Assume I bike at an average speed of 15 (which I sure can’t do going up the Post Street hill, but I can do 35+ coming down the Bernard/Washington arterial so it averages out coming and going). If I had this same six-mile route I’d spend 24 minutes on the bike vs. 12 minutes if I drove at 30mph (ignoring traffic lights and school zones for the sake of comparison).

So over the course of a round trip I would spend 24 more minutes biking than the driver, in return for which I’ve had all the exercise I need in the day, zero money spent on gas or parking, zero frustration at red lights, and (I hope) zero damage to my tooth enamel.

Yeah, I’ll take that.
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Biking As Downtime and Other Musings on Overproductivity

I’ve noted before in this space that I have a slight tendency to overdo. The world offers up lots of kudos for this. In fact, I just won an award you might attribute to overdoing, in a way (the 2010 YWCA Women of Achievement Award for Volunteer Community Service, which was an incredible honor and this isn’t meant to diss the award!).

Joining, doing and leading are lifelong habits of mine. At the same time I’m pretty fiercely dedicated to downtime, some of which is cleverly disguised as biking for transportation or for "exercise" (fun).

This didn’t used to be the case, mind you. I used to just add more and more and more and more and more (you get the idea) to the list. I’d end up feeling overwhelmed, feeling as if I’d failed people to whom I had made a commitment because I hadn’t done everything that I knew I could bring to the cause.

Note that most of the time the only person who knew there was “supposed to be more” was me. I have a deep-seated tendency to, as we like to say around our house, should on myself. I should have done this, I should do that. And there are so many good causes you should help!

Somewhere along the way I decided to stop saying yes to everyone who asked so I could be more present for the ones to whom I had already said yes, including my family. I tried to perfect a response along the lines of, “I can’t give it what I want to be able to give and I’m not willing to settle for less.” Much to my amazement, it’s okay to say no and (as far as I know, anyway) I haven’t lost any friends or broken any furniture.

And now for biking, as the title promised.

Biking can be a discipline to which you bring all the shoulding and compulsive over-achieving possible. (I know this because I’m married to someone who trains for bike racing.)

Fortunately for me, I’d already outgrown some of the Western world’s thinking about athletic achievement thanks to a yoga practice of several years. In yoga, where you are in your practice is where you are. Force it and you’ll snap a hamstring (which makes a sound like a rifle shot, as I know from painful firsthand experience).

Settle into your practice, though, instead of striving constantly for “more” and “should” and “better” and “perfect”; bring everything you have into that moment; and you will have a deeply satisfying experience that uses every cell and fiber in your body. (And you do improve so that ambition thing gets satisfied eventually.)

Biking is much the same way. Like yoga, it provides a wonderful practice opportunity for mindfulness meditation. Riding in traffic is particularly good for this. You pay attention only to your cycling, drivers and vehicles around you, pedestrians who may step in front of you, road conditions, and the other factors that affect your safety.

There is no cruise control on a bike, no “set and forget.” The street that one day is dry and bare may have a touch of frost the next morning so you have to brake a little sooner.  If you’re riding with the flow of traffic you’re constantly adjusting pedaling pace to maintain a safe distance as drivers speed up mid-block, then hit the brakes at the next red light (the world needs more hypermilers). And like yoga, the more you do the better you get.

This may sound like a lot of input. Compare it to a workday with ringing phones, people coming into your office with questions, the email notice blooming constantly in the corner of your monitor, a dozen or more tabs open in your browser--and I actually have two monitors at work, not one, so I have twice the real estate in which to create screens full of competing projects. 

Paying attention to only one purpose--riding my bike--instead of dealing with multiple purposes and priorities is incredibly relaxing by comparison.

When I ride my bike I’m completely in the moment. At the same time I have created a space in which I cannot be distracted by electronic technology, thus improving my ability to focus. Much as it may amaze some of my online acquaintances to realize this, I do not actually tweet every five minutes.

When I think back on the commute I used to have, driving from Coeur d’Alene to Spokane and back every day, the only thing I miss is my local public radio station. But even that provided constant stimulation—I was never without some kind of input.

Around 50% of all car trips in the U.S. are three miles or less. This is ridiculously short—the engine doesn’t even warm up. But on a bike that distance takes about 15 minutes, a wonderful length of time that lets you clear your head and make some space in your life.

Biking is downtime, a precious commodity in our plugged-in, wired, always-on world. And it’s fun.

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Autumn Wild Rice Not-a-Recipe

Rhubarb hit me during a yoga class. Specifically, during down dog.

No, this isn’t some new yogini ritual. I’d been trying to decide what to do with some ingredients I prepared the night before: an acorn squash cut in half and baked with a little butter and brown sugar, and wild rice with toasted chopped walnuts and pecans.

I’d thrown these onto the stove/oven as a side project during a major stir-fry cooking fest to provide a running start on a future meal since both ingredients take time to cook.

I had in mind a recipe I used to make years ago that came from Bon Appetit or Gourmet or one of those other glossy full-color food porn publications. That one involved wild rice, walnuts cooked with butter and sugar, sautéed diced onions and celery, and fresh orange zest and orange juice. With a little salt and pepper, those ingredients make magic (as long as it’s fresh orange zest/juice).

My cooking dilemma: No oranges on hand and I didn’t want to make a special trip to the store for several reasons: 
  • my efforts to eat mostly local food and the lack of an orange-growing season in eastern Washington; 
  • my belief that if I’m only getting one or two things at the store it makes no sense to drive so I bike; and
  • my desire to hunker down in my home nest as the days get shorter, which short-circuits my desire to ride right past my house and keep heading uphill to the store, especially after the sweat-inducing flow class my friend Betsy teaches at Spokane Yoga Shala.
So it’s a good thing that rhubarb hit me. I knew I had a couple of small bags of rhubarb I’d blanched and thrown into the freezer earlier in the season. I also had on hand apples we picked recently at Green Bluff, red onions from the farmers’ market, and celery (not local—Sweet Husband picked it up for his killer fiery marinara sauce which is so good I won’t ever squawk about the source of any of the ingredients). Tasted in my head, the combination of tart rhubarb and snappy apples made a great complement to the rest of the ingredients.

This is a Not-a-Recipe because if you like to cook, you know how to do all these things and what proportions of ingredients you want so you’ll just take this as a jumping-off point. Basic list:
  • Wild rice (I cooked 1-1/3 c. but someone ate some of it before I got home J)
  • Walnuts and/or pecans (chopped around ¼ c. of each, toasted in pan with a little butter)
  • Red onions (or shallots or regular onions; I had somewhere around 1 c. sliced)
  • Celery (a couple of stalks diced)
  • Rhubarb (approx. 1 c. diced)
  • Apples (2 small apples diced; I don’t peel them because I like the pretty color and want the fiber and flavor)
  • Salt/pepper to taste (which I hate as an instruction in something you have to bake because how can you taste/adjust until it’s too late, but that totally works with this dish)
I sautéed the onions briefly, added the celery, then the rhubarb, then the apples. I wanted everything except the onions to still have some crunch.

I thought I’d stuff this all into the middle of the two squash halves but changed my mind, scooped out and squashed the squash, and added a dash each of cloves and nutmeg. You could go with cinnamon and ginger too (or instead) and it would make a much better food porn shot if I'd gone with the stuffed squash set-up. As my sainted father would say, it all ends up in the same place anyway.

Eaten together, this combo is autumn on a fork. But if you get hit with an orange instead of rhubarb, that’s fine too.

Pants Management 101

This is the stuff they didn’t teach us in Home Ec back at Bowdish Junior High School in the Spokane Valley (go Rockets!): How to manage your pant leg so it doesn’t get caught in the bike chain.

While I’ve ranted before about the search for the perfect women’s pants for bike riding (stylish and comfortable) and have even compiled a shopping list (although I have yet to execute), there are simpler answers.
  1. Buy pants with narrow enough legs that they don’t flap and get caught. Easier said than done, what with the changing winds of fashion and all that. Summer is fine—hello, capris—but my usual fall/winter pants have a little bit more going on in the fabric department.
  2. Fight the flap. Sure, you can buy those uber-geeky reflective ankle straps with the Velcro fastenings, but have you ever checked out what Velcro can do to a nice fabric if it goes astray? Ugh.

I have two basic weapons in this battle, both of them straight from my desk: rubber bands and binder clips.

I slide rubber bands on over my shoes for the ride, then store them on my cyclometer when I park the bike. (Only problem is that over time the rubber dries out and they eventually break; this is perhaps not the ideal storage spot.)

Binder clips are a fallback because they can pop off under strain, but they don’t give in to weather the way the rubber bands do. I carry one clipped onto my pannier so it’s always there in case the rubber band breaks.

For wetter weather I have a great pair of North Face pants I picked up at Mountain Gear, my favorite local outdoor gear shop even though they don't carry bike stuff. They (the pants, not Mountain Gear) are water/wind resistant and work for most of Spokane’s weather, although I do note that “resistant” and “proof” are very different levels of protection in a really blustery downpour…. The feature that helps fight the flap is a Velcro tab at the ankle (not as risky to fabric finish as the geeky ankle strap, since there’s the extra pant leg there as protection).

I usually go ahead and rubber-band my office wear to make it easier to put the overpants on; otherwise I'll spend five minutes hopping around on one leg trying to stuff the first pants leg down into the overpants leg and I end up with a lumpy, uncomfortable wad halfway down my calf.

You’ll see people who have only reined in the fabric on the right leg, where all the greasy messy mechanical stuff resides. I like to keep both legs under restraint; I’ve had at least one startled moment when a wider pant leg managed to slide over the entire pedal crank and stop its rotation completely in mid-pedal. This makes for a nasty surprise in an intersection and I’d rather be safe than sorry.

I also found out the hard way that the pants I'm wearing in these photos wrinkle really easily. I left the rubber bands on through a one-hour meeting because I was just going to zip out the door and back to my office; that was enough time to leave me with pretty funny creases. I don't buy linen any more but I thought this polyester/rayon blend (which is really smooth and doesn't chafe) wouldn't wrinkle. Wrong.

Turns out this is not rocket science—but I found another excuse to shop. What’s your secret to clothing management for riding?

Related posts:

We Stand United

Last Friday I had the great privilege of representing the university for which I work at the Human Rights Rally in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. The crowd filled every corner of the Human Rights Education Institute, housed in an old railroad building at the city park.

For me this was a homecoming of sorts. Born in Lewiston, I’m an Idaho native and formerly served in the Idaho state legislature. The crowd held friends and supporters: former State Sen. Mary Lou Reed; Tony Stewart, long-time human rights advocate and former North Idaho College political science prof; human rights stalwart, attorney and former North Idaho College trustee Norm Gissel; Barb Harris of the North Idaho Labor Council; and others I haven’t seen in a long time.

We have stood together before in support of human rights and in opposition to bigotry. We lined Sherman Avenue in downtown Coeur d’Alene and turned our backs in silence when Aryan Nations founder Richard Butler and his acolytes jackbooted down the street; human rights supporters made lemonade out of lemons. We worked to defeat the anti-gay Prop. 1 in 1994. We supported the creation of the Gay/Straight Alliance at North Idaho College—a club initially rejected by student government leaders and ultimately approved by the Board of Trustees.

Last week’s rally took place in the face of a visit to Spokane and Coeur d’Alene by the Westboro Baptist Church (which is not a part of any official Baptist organization). About a half-dozen people affiliated with the WBC went to several higher education campuses, three high schools and an evangelical Jewish synagogue to hold up signs with messages of hate for Americans, veterans, people who are gay or Jewish, and others.

The visit was probably triggered by a performance of The Laramie Project at NIC, since the WBC often targets that. You should have heard the crowd go wild when NIC students walked through holding up posters for the play. 

When Norm Gissel and I talked after the event, we had to marvel at how far we have come. We know we have far to go, but it was only 15 years ago that student leaders at NIC were uncomfortable with the idea of openly gay students having a recognized club. The Board of Trustees (on which Norm served at the time) had to stand up for the First Amendment and the rights of the students to organize and there was still discomfort in the community when I won a seat on the board on the following year. Today political candidates list endorsements from GLBTQA organizations in their ads.

I can’t resist live tweeting events for that “you are there” quality, albeit in 140 characters. Here are a few to give you a taste, but you really had to be there to taste the energy, the excitement, the victory.
My parents raised me to believe in the dignity and worth of every human being. Those are Idaho values. Washington values. American values. Human values.

The Cemetery Club: A Really Amateur Theater Review

I wouldn’t belong to a club that would have me as a member, Groucho Marx famously said. There’s one club we all have the chance to join if we take the risk of loving someone: the Cemetery Club.

A look at the unfinished business of a marriage, the sadness of losing a loved one, the nervous flutters of meeting a potential new love, and the sparring and forgiveness that can take place in friendships of many decades, The Cemetery Club opens this weekend at the Spokane Civic Theatre.

I got a sneak peek at the dress rehearsal in return for which I’m sharing some of my impressions via social media. (If you end up buying tickets as a result, give a shout-out here, on the Civic Facebook page or @SpoCivicTheatre on Twitter so my friend and Civic marketing director Allyson Shoshana gets credit for her mad social media marketing skills J ).

You first have to sign the disclaimer noting that I am not only not a professional theater critic, I’m not even an amateur theater critic, and I’m no Bobo the Theater Ho.

Instead I’m someone who cries at Hallmark commercials (although I forget to buy cards, as friends and family can attest), considers “willing suspension of disbelief” a normal everyday occurrence, grew up on a pretty steady diet of old Fred Astaire/Ginger Rogers/Bob Hope movies, and is a sucker for happy endings.

If you have a girlfriend who can finish your sentences—and sometimes does, much to your irritation—and who never lets you get away with anything, you’ll see yourself on stage. Lines about aging, plenty of jokes about death and cemeteries, and the unseen Selma whose many weddings “are like reunions” drew plenty of laughs at all the right spots from the small audience who saw it with me.

Likewise some great physical comedy, character-revealing mannerisms and gestures that spoke volumes. You could feel the audience response to Thomas Heppler as Sam Katz revealing his nervousness with a truly awkward Groucho Marx imitation, or to Mary Starkey as Doris saying volumes without saying a word just by banging an iron down on the ironing board.

The “heartwarming comedy” description on the Civic website gives you part of the flavor but not all of it, unless "heartwarming" is code for "makes Barb cry."

Without giving away any plot lines I’ll just say that I was first moved to a few tears by Ida cooking up a storm after her Murray died, then cried through several scenes in Act II. I always consider it a good sign when the audience goes silent with intensity, as they did more than once.  And I wasn’t the only one—I heard you sniffing, people! Seriously—take a hanky.

I have few bones to pick with any of it. The staging in the Firth Chew Studio was wonderfully effective for this, and the audience responded to facial expressions we couldn’t even see thanks to the responses from the other actors on stage. The casting was also dead-on (and tell me if I'm the only one who thinks that Vera Ora Winslow, the actress who plays Mildred, looks like Bea Arthur).

Just a few things—because even when my disbelief is willingly suspended my continuity editor keeps ticking—that are really script issues, not acting/directing/staging:
  • Would a Jewish woman of that generation from Queens say “For Christ’s sake!” as Lucille does, and then “Goddamn!” in the next sentence?
  • Would a Jewish restaurateur really name his place Klein’s Korean Kitchen (KKK)?
  • When Selma’s wedding is first discussed it’s in two weeks. A month passes between that and the next scene at the cemetery and Selma’s wedding is still two weeks away.
  • I’m sure this was deliberate in order to give Doris and Ida things to do while they get through all the lines involved but honestly, no woman is going to zip up another woman, not tie her bow, and then come back to tie the bow later. Just doesn’t happen—not going to leave those dangling ties.
I told my husband he probably would have gotten restless during Act I (I can hear him saying “Get on with it already!” because he gets tired of caustic banter) but that he would have appreciated Act II because he likes love stories and happy endings. Plus he would have known the exact moment I started to cry and would have put his arm comfortingly around me.

I laughed, I cried, I’d see it again. You should go.

What other (more professional) critics have to say:

Spokane Blogs: Help Build the List

Once upon a time I went on a hunt for Spokane blogs, assuming someone would have compiled a comprehensive list. Couldn't find one so I started a spreadsheet. When I first posted it as an editable Google Doc sometime in 2010 it had 105 blogs.

As of January 19, 2013, the list was at 270 and growing. At that point I had been living in Seattle for six months and stopped maintaining the list. I leave it live for whatever utility it may have.

If you're on Twitter, follow @SpokaneBlogs for an RSS feed of posts.

I've created a Facebook page with feeds from the active blogs so you can get Spokane blog updates in your news stream there, if you like. 

Who did I miss? Use the form below to provide information on blogs you don't see on the list, or send an email to with the information requested in the form. I don't monitor the email account very often and it is not a way to reach me for a conversation. 

Blog Title
Twitter Account
TineReese; bloomspokane
Christian, Mary & Molly
Troy Nelson

bartmihailovich / SpokaneRiverKpr
ClangeDesign and designsourceinc