Monday, December 31, 2018

Jingle in my pocket!

I probably pay more attention to the morning weather report than lots of people do... during the winter months, my safety can be impacted by the weather in a significant way.

Take this morning, for example.  They were saying there was an overnight dusting of snow.  The temperature was in the mid-20s.  And... I remember arriving home last night on a damp roadway.  All of that could add up to treacherously slippery conditions.

As a result - I put bus fare in my pocket as I was making my preparations.  On a dangerous day, I'll often bite the bullet and limp to the bus stop, rather than riding all the way to the office.  But... as I pulled out of the driveway the roads didn't seem dangerously slippery, so I decided to take my chances.  I rode slowly and deliberately... all the way to the office, without mishap.  And the bus fare is still pocketed.  I can use that money for something else... or possibly the next early-morning bus fare.

This is a lesson I learned at an early age.  When I was in fifth grade, Mom would give me lunch money... I believe it was 35 cents back then.  BUT - I signed up to be a lunchroom helper.  Instead of heading for the playground for 15 minutes, I would stay after lunch and make sure the trash was properly deposited and wipe down the tables with warm, soapy water.  For services rendered, I got a free lunch.  The 35 cents stayed in my pocket - at least until after school where it often got surrendered at the Roosevelt Market candy counter.

What if every commuter put his/her commute money in pocket or purse in the morning, and could keep that money pocketed by choosing an alternative form of transportation?  Would such an immediate and obvious reward result in changed behavior?

For most people, their transportation expense - in the form of owning, operating and maintaining that single-occupant motorized vehicle - isn't so obvious.  Instead of making a $15 car payment every day, you pay the entire amount once a month.  Instead of that $1 or $2 insurance expense, you pay every six months.  Gas?  Fill 'er up - every week or two.  Registration?  Just once a year... it's easy to lose track of that transportation expense.  It's all very incremental, and makes it easy to overlook the fact that maybe 20 or 25 percent of your income is going to getting you to your job.

On the other hand... the thousands and thousands of dollars I've saved by riding a bike for 33 years have been absorbed by the family budget mostly, over those years.  But if I'd saved them out in a special account, it would've have accumulated quite a healthy sum.

Friday, December 28, 2018

Off-season cycling

There are some very nice things about bicycling during the "off season."
1) Volume of users on the Greenbelt, bike lanes, parks, etc., is way down.  Another guy at the office says cold weather "weeds out the weak and infirm."  Exactly!!  (But these days it's rare for me to be making the first tracks, when it snows.  There are obviously other intrepid cycling souls out there.)
2) "Powder cycling."  Do you like "powder skiing"?  Cycling shares much in common... when you're cutting a new track through fluffy snow, it's a little more work, but it's so very serene and predictable!  (Once it melts and then re-freezes, the magic is gone, obviously.)
3) It's easy to prepare for cold weather.  I recommend layers.  (Above freezing, I usually wear a fleece-type jacket and some lightweight gloves.  When it drops below freezing, I add a wind-proof/water-resistant layer over the fleece, a balaclava that's thin enough to fit under the brain bucket, and trade in the gloves for some heavier ones.  My duration is usually 45 minutes or less this time of year... if I was going to be out longer, I'd need to layer up a little more.  But - it's surprising how much heat you generate, when the propulsion furnace is working.)

There are also some negative factors to consider.
1) Studded tires (on cars)!  I don't think motorists realize how noisy those blasted things are!  Why would they?  They are ensconced in their climate-controlled, pressurized cabins.  The windows are up, the heater fan is usually blasting away, and often there's some programming emanating from the 8-speaker sound system.  I'm even more likely to venture away from roadways during the winter, partly because of studded-tire racket.
2) Slippery surfaces.  Much harder to prepare for.  Especially because motor traffic is slippin' and slidin', too.  I try to avoid putting myself in situations where I could get injured or worse.  (I'm known to take the bus from time to time, when the roads are downright treacherous.  Usually I'll soldier on, taking the side streets, and sometimes on my fatter-tire beater bike.)
3) "Black" ice!  Even when the roads are dry - which they frequently are in our lovely community - it's not unusual to encounter a bit of slippery here and there.  It's only black when it's frozen over a black surface.  It's clear - hard to see, except for the glare, and glare is dependent on reflection.  (The best way to survive an icy patch... just coast easy!  Don't try to speed up or slow down or change direction, or you're lost!)

Some early-winter photos, taken on the "scenic route" home from work.  The last photo was taken a couple weeks ago - I was astounded to cross paths with a big ol' FROG!  (Or is it a toad?)  He was sitting in the middle of the Greenbelt, near the Fairview underpass.  The weather was barely above freezing; I'm sure his plight was grim.  He was hardly moving; I set him off to the side of the path, so at least he wouldn't get smashed by traffic.

Thursday, December 20, 2018

I love my commute!!

How's your commute?

Mine is about 3.5 miles each way. It involves a bit of downhill in the morning, and a bit of "payback" uphill in the afternoon. It takes about 15 minutes - by bicycle (of course). In any given year, there are a few wet days, a few cold days, and a few hot days... but the compromise in comfort is more than offset by the $ savings, emotional well-being, and FUN! (It's a rare day indeed, when my commute time isn't some of the best time of the day.)

I especially appreciate my commute, when forced to consider the alternatives.

A couple mornings ago I was listening to Public Radio while thinking about getting out of bed. They had a story about "Super Commuters" (transcript HERE).  "Super commuters are people who spend more than 90 minutes traveling to work every day. It's a rough way to live, but more and more people are doing it."

A woman named Jodie Collins works in San Francisco (as a makeup/hair stylist and Lyft driver). She lives in Sacramento... 90 miles away. If everything lines up perfectly, the commute takes her 1.5 hours. Often it takes 3 hours... because how often is urban interstate travel "perfect"? She rises at 4:45am ... and arrives back home at 2am the next day.

Oh my goodness! How much money would I have to earn, to put myself through such a regimen?!!

Closer to home... Jayson Hicks and his wife used to live in Seattle, but traffic was so bad, and housing so expensive, that they moved to Idaho. Twice a week, they drive 100 miles to Boise (so... maybe from McCall?), and fly to Seattle for work.

Sean Wright has what would see "on paper" to be a more sensible commute. He lives in Riverside and works in Los Angeles. (That's like Meridian and Boise, no? Not quite...) Sean says, "The worst part is knowing how many hours I'm spending commuting - four hours a workday, 20 hours a week, 80 hours a month all spent commuting."

I'm so fortunate! The farthest distance I've ever dealt with, from home to workplace, is probably five miles. I listen to the morning traffic reports and am convinced I wouldn't even be able to handle a drive in from Meridian or Eagle. Way too much that can go wrong, and I don't have enough faith in my fellow commuters. I'll stick with my 15-minute bike commute, where the worst-case scenario is less-than-ideal climatic conditions (and if treacherously slippery, surrendering and taking the bus instead).

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Bicycles as Landscape Art

Check out these custom-built gates, that incorporate vintage bicycles as decorative features.

They are at the home of my friends Abe and Laina and their family.  And, they were custom-built by their neighbor and my friend Joe.  Awesome!  I want some!

(The twisted-around handlebars are hard to look at... but they're for lookin' at, not for ridin'!)