Stop the World, I (Don’t) Want to Get Off!

I never did get around to seeing the movie in which the guy has the remote control and attempts to manage his life overload by freezing one part and living another. I remember the previews and boy, could I ever relate. (Although as I wrote this I totally thought it was a Jim Carrey role and apparently it was Adam Sandler, which explains why I never saw it.)

So many plates spin in my life. As I’ve said before, I have a slight—ever so slight!—tendency to take on too many things, to say yes to every good cause to which I could contribute something. I just stick up another pole, throw on another plate, and spin-spin-spin.

So the idea of being able to freeze time and catch up on any one thing has great appeal. If I had a day outside of time and could do anything, what would it be? One co-worker’s “anything goes” day would involve flying to Paris for lunch and flying back, which sounds dashing and devil-may-care. I occasionally dream of things like cleaning my entire basement or catching up on my filing, which is really sort of sick when you think about it.
So with the gift of time outside of time, my day would look something like this, assuming a magical time-stretching element that lets me do a bit more than would comfortably fit into a regular day without ever feeling pressed for time:

  • Sleep in with my sweetheart.
  • Wake up with no sense of things left undone or the guilty start created by a missed alarm clock—just that wonderful feeling of being fully rested.
  • Clean up (lots of hot water!), then take a leisurely walk to Rockwood Bakery for quiche and good coffee, or maybe ride our bikes downtown to Taste for amazing maple walnut scones and coffee. (Yes, always coffee. Did you know we may be genetically wired for our caffeinated craving?)
  • At some point take a wonderful long walk along the Centennial Trail through the heart of downtown. Stop at Chocolate Apothecary for treats. And coffee.
  • At some other point, spend time in Auntie’s Bookstore browsing for nothing in particular. Find a used copy of some wonderful book I’ve been meaning to read forever, or one I’ve never heard of that grabs me on the first page when I flip it open.
  • Read for a while.
  • Take a nap.
  • Spend time really talking with—and really listening to—my daughters.
  • Maybe have dinner with Steve and Betsy and a couple of other friends and talk forever and laugh until it hurts over glasses of wine.
  • Get another full night’s sleep to wrap it up. (The rest of it is none of your business.)
I didn’t save the world in this day, nor did I buy the winning lottery ticket. I just lived, completely and fully and in the moment.

The best part is, I could have this day for real.

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Back in the Saddle: Why April 11 = “Day Three” of 30 Days of Biking

I got off to a decent rolling start. I worked really hard to make a bike ride happen on Day One. Day Two was a breeze, more or less.

Day Three threw me for a loop—ironically, because my husband spent the day in a bike race and I chased him around the course in a car, f’gosh sakes, so his son and daughter could cheer him on. (Before you ask--no, it's not an option to chase a pack of bike racers for 48 miles on a bike. Not for me.)

Then there was a really, really long day of work because I had to leave for several days, then the travel day, then four days of walking myself silly on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. (The good news there is that I did a great job of celebrating National Start Walking Day on April 6.)

I got back, collapsed and recovered from the time zone difference, and now I’m back in the saddle. Woot!

Yesterday was one of those iffy Spokane spring days; I set off in the rain with my raincovers over my dress shoes but still wore my skirt outfit because it wasn’t that cold. What I hadn’t anticipated was the amount of mud spatter I’d be sponging off my skirt when I got to work, but oh well—it’s washable and I paid all of $4 for it at a thrift store.

The reward came at the end of the day, when the sun shone and puffy clouds decorated a blue sky as I pedaled home on dry roads.

This morning gave me another great ride. I went bare-legged in my gray silk Ann Taylor suit and new gray Aerosoles (a souvenir of the DC trip—my annual ritual of shoe shopping), which I imagine looked a tad incongruous with my bright yellow high-vis jacket but I like to be visible. 

This outfit flashes a fair amount of leg; it’s not a deliberate attempt to look like a high-class “professional woman,” just my effort to ride in regular clothes to prove you don’t have to be a stretchy-pants rider to enjoy bike commuting.

The best part was when I recognized the rider ahead of me on the Southeast Boulevard bike lanes as my best friend Betsy, founder of Belles and Baskets (our “y’all come” women’s bike group) and got to ride part of my route with her, chatting all the way.

I rode to a midday lunch meeting at the wondrous local-food heaven Santé, then back to campus for an event. The coolest part is something I’ve come to expect after years of bike commuting: Everyone I lunched with was headed to the same event in their cars and I beat them all.

Now that I’m rolling again I hope to power through to the end of April. But of course that doesn’t mean stopping—then it’s May, which is Spokane Bike Month. For more on that see our brand-spankin’-new website for the former Bike to Work Spokane, now Spokane Bikes.

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The Promise of College

I tell two family stories when I talk about the importance of higher education.

The first story covers three generations of teachers in the family. My father’s mother, born in 1897, became a teacher because when she graduated from high school that made her one of the most educated people in her tiny North Carolina hometown of Boone Township, Watauga County.

My mother, born in 1921, became a teacher by going to a two-year “normal school”—teacher’s college—in Lewiston, Idaho (now Lewis-Clark State College), in the years just before World War II.

My older sister, born in 1952 (whoops, I told!), became a teacher with a bachelor’s degree from the University of Idaho and continuing education every summer in order to stay credentialed.

The second story is about my dad, who started out sweeping floors at Potlatch Forest Incorporated (PFI) in Lewiston in high school. He went to war, became a bomber pilot flying B-24s during World War II, then returned home and went back to work for Potlatch.

He didn’t take advantage of the GI Bill; he and Mom had already started their family (hi, Eldest Brother!). By being accepted to Officer Candidate School, which back then was pretty much a college-boy gig, he proved he had the smarts and ability, but it wasn’t in the cards.

Dad rose to become manager of the lumber mill in Lewiston with supervisory responsibilities for a number of smaller mills, which explains why I’ve been to places like Santa, Idaho. He took plenty of continuing self-improvement courses, such as Dale Carnegie public speaking training, but no formal degree program.

At some point Potlatch’s management approach shifted. They moved their headquarters to San Francisco for a while. They became Potlatch Corporation instead of PFI. And Dad—who, unlike their corporate honchos, had never gone to college—was approaching retirement age.  He was given a transfer to Spokane and finished out his time as a vice president of sales and shipping. Fancier title, but I’m betting less responsibility.

Dad’s life represents a success story. He worked hard, rose through the ranks, and supported a family of six children.

He also represents the importance of higher education, because at some point, without it, he topped out. And his career arc is not one you’d be able to repeat today if you graduate from high school but don’t go on to some sort of postsecondary education.

He knew that, and his life dream was to have every one of his six children graduate from college. We all did. Two of us have master’s degrees.

The older kids worked their way through college. He was able to pay for my undergraduate education and my younger sister’s, joking all the while that his “second litter” of children (born when he and Mom were in their 40s, which made them “old” parents!) prevented him from taking early retirement. He actually went on after retiring from Potlatch to work for Gabor Trucking Company for a while running their Spokane dispatch office, which I’m sure was driven by the tuition pressure.

And today—facing the worst economy of my lifetime and cuts in state funding for higher education that could represent a four-year total reduction of close to 70% of state support for Washington State University (where I work) by the time they’re done with this legislative session—I don’t know how I will pay for my daughters’ college education.

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I Should Train for This: Day Two of 30 Days of Biking

Now that’s more like it—sort of.

Compared with yesterday's ride today’s bike ride felt much more in keeping with my usual riding, which represents a way of getting from Point A to Point B while having fun. (Think about it—how often do you arrive at a destination to which you drove and say, “Wow! That drive just ROCKED!”?)

It also represented a typical “spring” day in Spokane, which is to say that I saw sunshine, rain, wind, and even a brief flurry of hail. Luckily I viewed that last weather treat from the warmth of The Shop on Perry, where Belles and Baskets founder/friend Betsy and I hung out for a while drinking coffee.

We also got to sit in the background of a scene being shot for a 50-hour film festival, which meant we dallied because we couldn’t leave without messing with the scene’s continuity. We’re both crazy-mad for movies so we were all over this, although these roles will apparently be uncredited since they never asked our names. And they tried to get us to stop talking when they were rolling. Ha. We represent ambient sound, baby.

The ride to The Shop takes all of roughly four minutes from my house, all downhill. The only funny thing about the ride was clipping in with my bike shoes, since I’ve spent so much time riding in work clothes and shoes lately I’d almost forgotten what it feels like.

After the coffee break, I had promised Sweetheart I would run up the hill to Wheel Sport South to get some packs of Gu for his race tomorrow, the Frozen Flatlands.

That part of the ride reminded me that I haven’t been riding very hard or training this winter, and that I just came off a two-week stretch of upper respiratory flu and don’t have any lungs to speak of. Perry Street climbs steeply heading south to connect with Southeast Boulevard, which continues the climb to 29th.

So steeply, in fact, that I must confess to a little tiny “break” in that last block before the Perry/Southeast intersection. I got off my bike to—ahem—retie my shoes and just happened to push my bike that last block to the stop sign.

I’ve found on much longer and harder rides than this one—rides I routinely undertake and enjoy much later in the summer each year—that the pause that refreshes really makes a difference in how I feel about continuing a tough climb.

Sure enough, I pedaled on up the long hill without stopping, got to Wheel Sport, talked bikes with the shop guys a bit, got the Gu and headed back. All downhill, flying with gravity. A ride that took me about 15 minutes heading uphill was only 10 heading down, even with the headwind that started buffeting me partway down as the rain began to sprinkle.

I know I had a grin on my face that might have baffled the drivers who could only see the questionable weather. That earned acceleration—speed to which I feel entitled because I did the hard work of getting up the hill before coming down the hill—yields a special exhilaration unknown to the well-insulated people in their steel boxes. Now if I could just make it a tiny bit easier to do that uphill part….

For a while my sweetheart had a work routine that let him put in a pretty decent ride of around 18 miles round trip—commuting to train. After tackling that little hill climb today, I realized I need to train to commute.

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No Foolin’--A Different Kind of Ride for My First Day of 30 Days of Biking

The 30 Days of Biking challenge asks people to pledge to ride their bikes every day in April. For someone who doesn’t have an existing bike-riding habit this represents a major commitment and a new way of life. For an old hand like me—Bike to Work Barb!—no biggie, right? 

Well,  maybe the fact that this challenge starts on April Fool’s Day has something to do with it, but here’s my story for Day One.

First challenge: On a day that dawned sunny and beautiful I couldn’t ride my bike to work. I needed to leave with my sweetheart straight from work for a family voyage so I rode the bus to work. I had thought in advance about how I could get in a ride, no matter how brief, and I had my plan.

Thanks to the City of Spokane we have a loaner bike at work for check-out and I had a hair appointment less than a half-mile away. Perfect solution! 

I dressed for riding—meaning, I wore a cute dress I picked up at Carousel Vintage and a pair of black pumps with 2-1/2” heels. (Secret weapon for ladylike bike straddle: "Bloomers" made by Cuddle Duds that give me shorts-like coverage under the dress.)

I normally find these shoes pretty comfortable for running around, but by the time I needed to leave I had realized the new shoes I wore yesterday created some sore points that these shoes rubbed as well, so I had some hot spots developing. 

My salon had called to see if I wanted an earlier appointment and I was scrambling to try to make that work, which created a sense of time pressure I don’t usually feel when using a bike for transportation.

A construction project has the campus streets torn up pretty thoroughly. As I teetered at the edge of the dirt pit a construction worker waved me toward one of my two options for crossing the street. I headed west, then south, then east, trying to reach the Transportation Services office to get the bike.

One little snag: You can’t get there from here. I picked my way through a parking lot only to discover that the construction had me cut off on the east, so back I went the way I came.

By this time my dogs were barking, to say nothing of the way this was chewing up the clock. When I got back to the grassy, un-torn-up part of campus I pulled my shoes off and ran barefoot across the lawn for a little foot freedom. Then I wiped off my feet, put the by-now-really-ouchy shoes back on, and hiked through the construction zone and another parking lot.

Luckily the nice folks in Transportation Services had some bandages so I could buffer my blisters a bit.

The loaner bike has both a cable and a U-lock. It took me a little bit of effort to get that all coiled up and attached in a way that kept the U-lock up where it wouldn’t fall into the spokes and jam me up, but finally I was off.

I set off on the loaner bike back through the construction and around through campus.

I hadn’t bothered to adjust the seat, so my pedaling form would have reminded you of the scene in the Wizard of Oz with the mean old neighbor lady pedaling like mad. The rain had started coming down too, proving to my satisfaction that the Wicked Witch of the West theme music playing in my head didn’t really apply since I wasn’t melting.

After a few blocks I stopped to adjust the seat, which took a few minutes because I loosened the wrong attachment, then figured out what I needed to do and raised the seat. I got on to pedal away and promptly sank downward—in messing with the mechanism I had managed to rotate the handle a couple of times and had loosened the nut on the other side [insert your own joke here].

Back off the bike. Tighten the attachment. Raise the seat and finish the adjustment. Get back on and ride, much happier now that I at least had a decent seat height although the bike size really doesn’t match me and I felt like a Shriner on a toy bike. 

While our loaner bike has a rack it doesn’t have panniers so I didn't have my usual handy-dandy way to carry stuff. I carried my cell phone and wallet in a little bag, alternately dangling it from my wrist, my shoulder, and the handlebars. 

On the plus side, this bike has a step-through frame; my usual bike is a road bike and the straddle involves more flashing of bystanders. I also enjoyed the more upright posture; I may just have to start scouting around for something along these lines despite the increased resemblance to Almira Gulch that entails.
The rain kept sprinkling—more than sprinkling, really, but not bad and spring rain just doesn’t seem as cold and bone-chilling as winter rain. I couldn’t really appreciate this difference until I started riding in all kinds of weather and paying more attention to my surroundings and the change of seasons.

I made it downtown, locked up the bike, got the quick hair trim I needed before heading out of town next week on a business trip, headed back, and did the whole construction zone-parking lot dance in reverse.

Compared to my usual easy-squeezy biking—get on bike, ride to work, park in rack next to my building, ride home—this represented a lot more effort, and probably a lot more entertainment value for anyone watching any portion. But I got my 30 days of biking started.

Now to figure out what I do for bike access five days next week when I travel to Washington, D.C., without paying an arm and a leg for rental. Does the hotel exercise bike count?