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Category: Human Powered Summer

Human Powered Season: The Next Chapter

Bike LaneIt’s been a fun time, riding my bike all summer, though it’s also been filled with frustration from time to time. We’re a region and a world that is geared toward the automobile and the consumption of fossil fuels.

I have to confess that I’m addicted to ease of travel too. There were times when I could have taken the bike, but the car was right there, and no one else was using it. It’s hard not to hop in, turn the key, and go. No need to grab the back pack, make sure I have the lock, choose the destination carefully to make sure I have a place to secure the bike, and take more time to get there and back. Sometimes I went with the bike, sometimes the car. But I learned some things this summer.

People look at bikes as toys, not transportation. If you ride a bike for transportation, you’re either poor, a health nut, or some other kind of weirdo trying to recapture your youth. Riding bikes is something kids do, or something adults do for exercise, usually stationary in a gym with an iPod or headphones for listening to the TV news. It’s not seen as a vehicle, and if you use it like one, no one takes you seriously. If we lived in a different area, I’d enlist my entire family in this adventure, and we’d sell the car and just rent one when we needed it just to show people we were serious. As my wife commutes 20 miles to work each way though? I’m pretty sure she’s not going for it.

Bike Lanes are designed around the toy principle. The bike lanes in my town are designed for only a few things. Primarily they are geared at children: either children that ride their bikes to school, or children who ride their bikes to parks to recreate. The bike lanes end there. True, adults should know how to ride, and share the road, but so should drivers. They don’t. For the most part, if a bike joins the flow of traffic, obeying all applicable traffic laws just like a car, the rider is taking his life into his hands, especially in this area. In bigger urban areas, and in some ways the downtown Boise area, things are better. Not much. You still read about cyclists hit on a regular basis.

Bike RackBusinesses don’t cater to cyclists because there aren’t enough of us. The businesses with no bike racks a couple of weeks ago (click here)? When I called they seemed surprised that anyone cared. I mean, if you have a car, why would you ride a bike to their business? Some seemed astonished anyone even noticed they had no bike rack. Apparently I was the first one to point it out. You’d think they’d want people to be in shape, care about the environment, and improve local air quality, but they don’t. A coffee or restaurant is more likely to have a drive through than a bike rack, and those are often off limits to cyclists for “security reasons.” (More on this another time)

So what’s next? Fall is a great time to ride your bike, if you ignore the thunderstorms, fall allergies, and the smoke from the tail end of wildfire season. Temperatures are great, and the kids are back in school.

So at least during the day, you have those bike lanes to yourself. I’ll be riding. See you out there.

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A Review: The Barley Brothers Traveling Beer Show

HotblondeThis week, we met some friends at Brewforia, a restaurant in Meridian. Great food and great beer. The next afternoon, when I was simply no longer being productive, I trolled my Facebook feed, and saw a competition for some free tickets to the Barley Brother’s Traveling Beer Show sponsored by Brewforia, given away by Move2Boise, a great service we used when we moved to Kuna this spring. We had company this weekend, and I thought it would be a good event to take her to while my wife slept off night shift.

I won! The tickets would have cost me $35 apiece, so it was a relief to get them for nothing. Here’s how the event works: for your money you get a wristband and a sample cup, and you wander around to various tents, sampling whatever kind of beer each booth offers. It’s essentially an open beer bar featuring some of the best regional offerings. In addition, there are food vendors, and some great music.

The Good: Good? This event was fantastic. Food from The Grind? Great! And I found one of the best beers I’ve ever tried, not that those from Payette, Sockeye, Crooked Fence, and Grand Teton weren’t stellar. But Barley Brown’s Hot Blonde? It complements any beef or Mexican dish. If I could get in in bottles I would. Made with a blend of lemon grass, lime zest and jalapeños, it left an aftertaste that deserved to be savored. The beer itself could serve as a marinade for steaks, or even be injected in a roast.

102_4735The Bad: I was informed the tickets would be in will-call. Move2Boise has been great to me, so I anticipated no issues. However, they couldn’t find my name. Tatiana Martz, general manager of Brewforia even said with some irritation that she hadn’t even talked to anyone about the contest. I was ready to just go home, but I messaged Move2Boise on Facebook and called the rep we worked with when we relocated. After contacting Robb, the owner, and Michelle, the PR person who set up the contest, she insisted she had talked to Tatiana, and our tickets would be in will call. After a series of phone calls, we went back over. Still no luck. The general manager still denied talking to Michelle, and denied knowing about any contest.  Suddenly, after a third or fourth look, the volunteer found our names, and handed over the tickets. Whew! Tatiana? Still snotty and aloof. No apologies. If I’d paid for the tickets and they hadn’t found my name, and I’d been treated like I was trying to scam my way in, I would’ve been livid. In her defe3nse, I was wearing my Dude Abides shirt, so she may have assumed I was ‘between careers.’ Still, the experience and the customer service getting tickets? Horrible.

There is no Ugly: Would I go again? You bet. Next time I would even pay for tickets. After about 15 samples I switched to water since I had to drive home. Next year? A cab ride for sure. Sorry Tatiana and Brewforia, I won’t be putting my tickets in will call though. I’ll pay at the door, thanks. Although you have some nice folks working for you too, I’m not sure your restaurant/bar stayed in my top ten so far in Boise.

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Insecure: Bike Friendly Businesses

Ever feel insecure riding your bike, and wonder if you will have a place to lock it up when you arrive at your destination? No? Then you haven’t cycled much for transportation, at least not with a bike worth much. I’ve harped on this before in this series, so watch this video on insecurity, a photo survey of local businesses (in my area) to see if they are really “bike friendly.”

At least on the security front.


 

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Telecommuting is Work and It’s Working

If this isn't work, I don't know what is.
If this isn’t work, I don’t know what is.

The Human Powered Season 5: 

Part of any self-powered endeavor is laced with doubt and doubters. I’m not one to listen to them much, and I usually could care less what others think of me and what I do. This philosophy radiates across my life: from what I do for work to my appearance; from religion to personal morals; from what I eat to how I raise my kids. Don’t get me wrong. It doesn’t mean I won’t listen. It just means I take what others think with a grain of salt.

It’s tough when those are people close to you, or people that those close to you care about. Perception is often their reality, and truth a stranger to them. So to go only slightly off topic, here is a related human powered/minimalist rant:

Conserve Resources and Money by Working at Home. The benefits are many, but let me just name a few:

  • Less overhead. I already rent (or own) this space, I’m heating or cooling it, and I sport a thirty step commute. I consume less energy and reduce my impact on the environment (even if you are just talking local) by not commuting physically to work or renting a separate office. The tax savings? Please, don’t get me started. That’s a blog post by itself.
  • No uniforms. I can work in my underwear if I so desire. I don’t. I feel more businesslike if I actually dress like I’m working in an office. I don’t wear a tie, but usually at least business casual is the order of the day. Sometimes I’m a little lax on that when it is very early, or I dress to run or bike, work first, and then go workout as a break. But I don’t have to buy, launder, and care for specific uniforms or types of clothing.
  • No car needed. Can the family do with one gas-powered vehicle? You bet, especially during the school year. Is it inconvenient sometimes? Yep. The money t I save in gas, repairs, and insurance alone makes it well worth the hassle. That’s living in a rural area. Live in New York or L.A., or even Boise Metro area? Lose your motorized transport, and save tons of money and trouble.

I’m more efficient than you are. Okay, that sounds arrogant, but working at home, while having some disadvantages, is efficient. Here’s why:

  • I need to take care of something work related, I don’t have to go anywhere or bring files home. My files and work stations are already at home. A client calls at 5 a.m. (because it’s 10 a.m. in Scotland) and asks for something? I’m not running to work to get it, or worse leaving my house for work at 4 a.m. so I can serve those clients.
  • No commute. I said this already, but it costs more than money to commute. It takes valuable time. Your time is worth money Ask any accountant to explain it to you if you don’t understand. They can break it down to cost per minute if you want.
  • More hours in the chair. Okay, this can be good and bad, but I don’t have to socialize with coworkers around the water cooler, I don’t have to go out for lunch, and I take breaks on my own terms. It means that when I’m working, I can actually be working. I can get more done in less time.
  • If you air drum and sing, no one stares. Okay, so the dogs howl and the kids stare when they are home, but you can create whatever environment you need to be at your best: listen to your music, decorate your way, and use your own system of organization.

The drawbacks. Okay, so when you tell people you are a freelance writer and editor, they chuckle and ask what you do for money. There are distractions, but you can turn your wireless router off (I read somewhere that they even have a switch and a power cord). It’s hard to isolate yourself: it takes discipline.

Bottom line: part of a human powered transport and more minimalist lifestyle involves sacrifice. Some of that sacrifice is facing the misunderstanding and the misconstrued perceptions of others. Too bad. They are the ones missing out on something great.

7:00 a.m.? I’ve been working for two hours, so I guess I should go get dressed now. Write on, and ride on!

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Give it Away: Inspiring Others to Ride

The Human Powered Summer Part 4:

_DSC6848The cycling as transportation process, and the whole point of this exercise is not only to get myself in shape, reduce my impact on at least my local environment, save a few bucks, and write some interesting articles, but to at the same time inspire others to do the same thing.

As a kid, a bike was my transportation. I didn’t have a driver’s license (too young) and my mom worked as a Christian school teacher for nine months out of the year, and odd jobs all summer. My brother and I were often left on our own.

_DSC6844The zoo, the park, Longfellow Elementary school (which had a good basketball court), and King’s (a variety store with a huge toy department in the basement) were all miles away. Not walking distance, but biking distance for sure. So we threw a leg over the saddle, got our pedal on, and rode.

This week I went to an annual bike giveaway sponsored in part by Boise Bike Project. Over 100 kids signed up through Boys and Girls Clubs and community centers all over the Treasure Valley to come down and get a free bike. The looks on some of the faces were priceless. These were families that for whatever reason, whether a parental job loss or economic hardship couldn’t afford bikes on their own. Bikes were donated, and Boise Bike Project did what repairs were necessary to get the bikes ready for the kids. It’s an even  that I hope teaches the kids and us at least a few things:

Compassion and Charity are alive and well. A down economy means a drop in charitable donations. People just have other priorities. However this event showed that even for something as simple as a bike for a kid, people are willing to donate time and treasure. It sets an example for the kids, the parents, and frankly all of us that cycle.

Thankfulness for what we have. I undertook this summer project on a relatively new Jamis Exile bike. Comfortable, new, with some of the latest gadgets: a cyclometer, headlights, tail lights, personal hydration systems: I have a lot of gear these kids will never see. Yet they are thankful just to be able to ride any bike. Every day we have more than what we really
need” we should be grateful.

_DSC6870Sharing Passion. Many of us have passions: maybe yours is not cycling and skiing. Maybe it’s golf, swimming, basketball, or knitting. There are those around you every day who could share your passion given the chance to try. There could be many reasons they haven’t, including just not being exposed to the enjoyment that comes out of certain activities. You could be the one to expose them to that passion and ignite that spark.

Kids’ eyes light up over the simplest things. Small toys, bikes, even someone just spending a little bit of time with them. Not everyone shares our advantages and our wealth. I’m trying a human powered season, just to see the difference it makes in me. It’s good to realize that it can make a difference to others too.

Click here to see an album on my Facebook author page containing more photos of the event.

Click the links below to read the first three articles in the series:

Part 1: Anywhere is in Walking (biking) Distance if you have the Time.

Part 2: One Jelly Doughnut. . .

Part 3: Dogs, Physics, and Helicopters

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Dogs, Physics, and Helicopters

The Human Powered Summer  Part 3:

I quickly discovered at the beginning of this season that there are issues biking for transportation. One of them is my wife declaring (over and over) how inconvenient it is to ‘make do’ with only one motorized vehicle. Guess my minimalist bent isn’t rubbing off. Don’t get me wrong. It is inconvenient at times, but only because we have made it too inconvenient to have transportation readily available whenever we please.

Despite this discouragement, I moved on, and discovered (or rediscovered if you will) some things about biking as transportation.

Military_dog_barking

The issue of the week: Dogs There are areas where it is posted that you should keep your dog on a leash. This is especially true when bike riders are known to be present.  Take the small section of green belt in Kuna on an admittedly early morning.

I came around a corner, and a dog started chasing me. The owner called after it, to no avail. The dog seemed friendly. I doubt it wished me any harm, but up ahead I saw something else. A panicky owner struggled to hold three dogs by their collars at the side of the trail ahead. The park was a cacophony of barking now. Of course, one of the three slipped free, and ran, not at me, but at the dog chasing me.

“She won’t bite him,” declared the owner of the second set of dogs loudly.

“It’s not my dog,” I reply, riding on, and leaving the two sets of dog owners to sort it out. A humorous scene, it turned out, but one that could have ended quite differently.  Keep your dogs on leashes, not to be mean (I love dogs) but to prevent the unpredictable. It helps those of us cycling too. I don’t have to wonder if your dog is friend or foe if you are in control of it.

DCI PosterThe fun of the week: Physics? Adult night at the Discovery Center of Idaho focused on one thing: cycling and the physics (science) behind it all. Fascinating? Yes. An entertaining lesson about helmets, unicycles, and balance. To top it off, the guys from the Boise Bike Project were there, giving classes about bike tuning, changing a flat on the trail, and bike fit.  These guys are transportation cyclists: fine examples of what I am trying to do myself. I’ll be interviewing them later in the series.

I learned a ton, had a good time, and saw an entire array of bikers from the Lactic Acid crew to weekend warriors to guys like me who want to learn and do more on a bike.

Finally this week you may have heard that a human powered helicopter flew for the first time. (watch the video here) It lifted off, flew for a mere 68 seconds, and landed safely. It may not be the next thing you park in your garage, but that fact that people are trying and succeeding at these things makes us wonder: what is the next Human Powered Season?

Did you miss any of the series? Find Part 1: “Anywhere is in biking distance if you have the time” here. Find Part 2: “One Jelly Doughnut. . .” here.  Keep following along!

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“One Jelly Doughnut. . .”

The Human Powered Season: Week 2

Camp before Borah
Camp before Borah

I’m 43. There, I said it. I’m not 21. Those of you who follow me on Facebook and Twitter (if you don’t, just click the links, because you should) know that since November I lost about 60 pounds. It changed my skiing game, my running game, and even how I handled the heat for a month in the desert. With moving and the rest though, my diet suffered recently. I took a week off the exercise regime, and then embraced the idea of a more human powered approach to transportation.

I started riding again, and thought “Hey this isn’t so bad.” Then I took some uphill rides. Okay, maybe I’m not in quite as good of shape as I thought. Then this week I hiked Borah Peak, and discovered some more truths:

Diet is Fuel: Food is your fuel, and just like your car, it’s important the type of fuel you run on. Those sweets you grab really quick? The corn dog and fatty burger? That ice cream? It all comes into play later. If you are going to add more human power to your life, you need better fuel. One goal? To get my diet back on track. Remember the line from “Full Metal Jacket?” The one where private pile gets caught with the jelly doughnut in his footlocker? Yeah. I’m paying for it alright.

SAM_1765
“Like climbing a 5000′ staircase.”

Pacing: Don’t bite off more than you can chew, and don’t start too fast. Keep a nice, even, I can do this all day pace. It will save you. Otherwise, your muscles have no time to recover. If they don’t recover, you just can’t go on. Borah was a quick lesson in this for me, and the last two mornings, I have applied it to my rides as well. It works: slow is smooth and smooth is fast. It pays to remember that.

Distance: Last week? Anywhere is within biking distance if you have the time. (Read that post here) It’s true. Scheduling time is important, as is choosing a route and increasing endurance. I watched a documentary this week about people who ride in L.A. and put in 50 and 60 mile days in traffic. It is doable.

So today when I needed five pounds of sugar and a few things for dinner? I hopped on the bike, lock in the backpack, and rode into the wind. It felt good. Really good. Now, start my engine has a different meaning.

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“Anywhere is in walking (biking) distance if you have the time.”

The Human Powered Season Week 1:

A poor, but serviceable bike rack at the local grocery.
A poor, but serviceable bike rack at the local grocery.

Remember the formula from school? Distance equals rate times time. So if a bicycle leaving Chicago travels at … Wait. Don’t go. Just kidding. No word problems, just some observations from week one of this experiment.

Why it should work: I’m working mostly at home, freelance. So I really don’t need to go that far, right? Sure, we live out in Kuna, Idaho far from the bustle (and bike friendly trails, sidewalks, and streets) of Boise. Most of the time, I don’t need to go there, right? I may want to, but those things can wait.

For some reason, not this week. When I am determined to drive less and bike more, urgent errands come to the fore that are time sensitive. No, I can’t bike 30 miles in an hour, then bike back, pick up my wife, etc. The Durango I want to park carried my bike farther than I rode it this week.

Disclaimer: I am more of a conservationist than an environmentalist. But less driving means less emissions, even if just locally. It also means less money on gas, and better health for the person doing the riding. I’m not going to go deep into the issues here, another blog on that later, but suffice it to say this is a personal goal and decision. I’m not trying to save the planet here. That seems too noble, and too hard.

Issues so Far:

Security: Bikes are worth money, and they are relatively easy to steal. You can’t roll up the windows and set the alarm. Some businesses (there will be ratings provided later) don’t even have bike racks, let alone modern and security conscious ones. The bike rack is often out of the way, not even visible from the main door. We want to give the thieves some privacy to do their work, I suppose. Even the best locks can be defeated. One immediate decision: when riding, I’ll only frequent businesses who are actively bike friendly. More on this later as well.

Weather: I’m not a fair weather cyclist. I have cycled in all kinds of weather, both on motorized and pedal bikes. However, the week I begin this experiment starts a heat wave in the west. The 12 mile ride doable at 5 a.m. becomes quickly untenable at 3 in the afternoon in 100+ temperatures. Especially for an Idaho boy more used to winter and the cold.

Services: Public transport? There are no routes out here (yet). Some stores are just not within reasonable riding distance when you are trying to catch up on freelance work after a month of intense full-time day job stuff. I’d pay twice as much for office supplies if I could find them anywhere close. The distance is doable, but not in the time frame I have.

Change needed: Clearly there are changes I will have to make in my lifestyle to make this work. I never expected it to be easy, but I’ve got some good ideas. I’ll report back on those next week, and let you know how it is going, but for now I need to ride downtown and get some things for a BBQ tonight.

Backpack, lock, and water bottles ready. Independence from the car on independence day? Priceless! Happy Fourth!

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