Friday, May 31, 2013

Dirt Naps

Today officially marks three weeks since I have been in a car.  Over this time span, I have biked 313.4 miles, bussed 50.4 miles and walked 18.9 miles.  The surprising thing I have learned during the course of this experiment is that it isn't the long trips that turn me into a cranky complaining mess.  Instead, it's the short little errands that are killing me.  I don't have a problem getting up early and riding into work or heading downtown for happy hour, but a quick trip to the liquor store or the bank seems like an incredible hassle.  Most likely it's a matter of perspective.  When going to work, I know I am going to be there for eight hours so an extra 25 minutes getting there isn't a psychological hurdle.  However, a five minute beer run turning into a 30 minute struggle has a tendency to (at best) make me grumble or (at worst) make me convince myself that I don't need beer as I have a five year old bottle of tequila and a nine year old bottle of creme de cacao in the basement and there surely must be a cocktail combining the two (there isn't).

So, anyways, with 10 days left, my biggest internal question is what happens then?  Will I continue to be less reliant on a car or will I slip back into old habits of automatically grabbing the car keys whether I am going to work or to the next door neighbor's house?  I honestly don't know the answer.  I'd like to think I will find a happy, healthy balance between the two, but I tend to work at extremes.  Meanwhile, some random thoughts:

 - SWASS season is most definitely upon us.  I'll let your imagination run wild with that.

 - Last Thursday was nearly a flusher.  I had taken the day off of work as Audrey was swimming in the State Synchro meet.  As she swam at 1:45, my plan was to enjoy my morning farting around at home before pedaling down to the U of M about noon.  A simple plan, but I don't work so well when things are that open-ended.  As I've mentioned before, I thrive on strict, orderly schedules.  I would be an amazing train conductor in Germany.  Occasionally, however, I will try to ease up and let things just happen.  So, I read for a while, watched Troll Hunter on Netflix (highly recommended), made myself some eggs and consciously avoided looking at a clock.  Finally, convinced the time to leave was near, I pedaled to the bank to grab some cash for the day.  It was on this 1.5 mile journey that I realized that I had made a mistake.  The wind was whipping at a good clip straight from the North meaning that the way to the U would be downhill and with the wind at my back but the uphill trek home would be an absolute bitch.  I quickly changed plans and checked a bus schedule.  I had six minutes to make it about 1/2 mile to the bus stop.  I sprinted out the door,  making it to the stop in time.  While catching my breath, however, I reached into my pocket to grab bus fare and quickly realized that I had only $20 bills.  So, I ran across the street to a gas station to get change.  Because I always feel like an ass asking for change without making a purchase, I decided to grab some candy.  I rushed into the candy aisle, picked up my usual Gobstoppers and headed for the register.  At the end of the candy aisle, however, a bright purple pack of Jolly Joes caught my eye.  I froze.  I was hopelessly stuck, unable to make the simplest decision on what kind of candy to buy.  Three minutes later, I let out a small whimper as I saw my bus go by while I was still holding two boxes of candy, completely unable to make a decision.  Now I had to wait for the next bus, arriving in 30 minutes.  I would still make it on time to see Audrey swim, but it would be much closer.

 In the meantime, I texted KT of my fate, whereas she made it a point to drive by the bus stop on her way to the U, honk at me and give me the finger.  I began reading my book while waiting for the bus, and continued to do so once I boarded.  I became so engrossed, in fact, that I completely tuned out where the bus was.  When seemingly everyone began getting off the bus, I naturally assumed I was at my stop (why wouldn't everyone be going the same place as I?) and hopped off the bus, never taking my eyes off my book as I was only two pages from a chapter break.  Once the bus pulled away, I finally checked out my surroundings and realized I had exited the bus several stops early.  Now I was in trouble.  I had a couple of miles to go and not nearly enough time to get there.  Shit.  As I was about to abandon hope and plan my apology/excuse to Audrey, KT and my parents who had come to watch, the heavens finally smiled upon me.  A block away I noticed a Nice Ride bike rental station.  I sprinted over, easily and quickly rented a bike and pedaled like hell towards the U.  As luck would have it, there was another Nice Ride station right outside of the Aquatic Center, meaning I could pedal almost to the front door.  I did so, slipping in to watch Audrey swim with three minutes to spare.  Needless to say, I have become a fan of the Nice Ride program.

 - One of the great things about so much bike riding is the chance to appreciate nature.  Oh Mother Nature, how I love thee

 - As I've mentioned earlier, we ditched cable in our house a few weeks back.  This wasn't an easy decision, as KT has never been shy about proclaiming her one true love to be television.  Regardless, we took the leap and I hauled all of our equipment in.  One day last week, we received a large box in the mail from Comcast.  Perplexed, I opened it to find a cable box.  As we had clearly just canceled our cable and returned our equipment, I was more than a little bit peeved.  I got on the phone ready to raise holy hell.  The very patient and kind representative informed me that because we had kept Comcast for our internet service, we were automatically entitled to one cable box at no additional charge, and that we would receive on demand services and a limited number of channels for free.  I was skeptical, but satisfied.  KT, on the other hand, was over the moon.  As she put it, "I loved cable so hard that I had to set it free.  But like any true love story, it returned to me."  Hard to argue with that logic.  At least until yesterday, when we got a terse letter from Comcast explaining that since we have canceled our cable service, we have exactly 14 days to return all of our cable equipment to them.  I give up.

 - One more bike story:  Wednesday night I went downtown straight from work to meet my brother for his birthday.  We decided to roll the dice with the impending storms and scalp tickets for the Twins game.  It was a good decision as the storms held off and we got quality seats for a great price.  When the game finished, thunder and lightning were getting nearer so I quickly said goodbye and headed for home.  About halfway home, the thunder and lightning was becoming pretty close and was quite spectacular so I decided to stop and try to grab a photo or two as it wasn't raining yet.  In retrospect, I should have heeded the words of the great philosopher Stevie Nicks who penned "Thunder only happens when it's raining".  No sooner had I pulled out my phone to snap some photos when all hell broke loose.  I was instantly drenched and being blown in every direction but home.  After a few seconds of panic, I soldiered on.  By the time I neared home, I actually was able to enjoy the moment, realizing in awe how rare of an occasion it is to be able to have a first hand experience of a powerful storm.  Okay, I'm full of shit.  It sucked.

 - Finally, dear old Maggie, our beloved lab is 12 years old this summer.  She has a giant growth on one side of her body, a mangled pus-ridden leg that she obsessively licks, cloudy eyes and severe flatulence.  And, we love her more than ever.  As walks have become too much of a burden for her, we have substituted simply sitting in the front yard with her as our nightly activity.   Each evening, she picks a spot in our flower bed and digs a little deeper and a little wider into the earth.  When she has worn herself out, she plops down in her ever deepening hole and takes a monster nap.  Maggie has never been an obsessive digger, which makes her behavior all the stranger.  The only logical conclusion KT and I can come up with is she is digging her own grave, preparing to take one final dirt nap.  I guess there are worse ways to go.

Monday, May 20, 2013


I have successfully made it through 10 days, 155.85 bike miles, 38.7 bus miles and 11.3 walking miles of the no car experiment.   I was worried about this past weekend as weather and commitments promised to make it challenging.  A quick recap of the past few days:

Thursday evening:  One of my crew at work is moving to greener pastures so we went out after work Thursday for drinks and a sending away party.  I had been informed many times by many people that operating a bicycle under the influence is illegal, the same as if you were operating a car.  Before leaving work Thursday, however, I decided to actually do the research.  Turns out it's not.  As a bicycle is not a motorized vehicle, it's not against the law to operate one while under the influence (here is your proof).  So, with new-found knowledge as my courage, I enjoyed the celebration.  As usual, I miscalculated how being 15 to 20 years older than the group I was with affects my tolerance.  I was soon feeling no pain, which the crew quickly picked up on and decided it would be fun to see how drunk they could get the boss.  I played along for a few shots and a few beers but then, knowing I had 10 miles in the dark to navigate, pulled the foolproof old man trick out of my hat.  I would keep drinking with them, I explained, but wanted to move the party to another bar closer to home so my ride wouldn't be so treacherous.  Elated that mission Get Boss Drunk was working, they quickly agreed.  They piled into vehicles, I jumped on my bike and we were off.  I let them get just out of site, turned a hard left and went straight for home, leaving the night to the young people it belongs to.  My pedal home wasn't bad, although I did notice a little swerve in my ride and I did end up walking my bike up a few of the big hills rather than risk an alcohol-induced tantrum halfway up them.

Friday morning:  Dear God riding to work hungover sucks.

Friday evening:  My first ride in the rain.  After turning down no less than five offers of a ride home from work, I strapped on my raincoat and pedaled off.  Within about three blocks of work, I came to the realization that a) my back pack isn't waterproof, b) neither is my raincoat and c) bikes have fenders for a reason.  Not having an alternative, I soldiered home through a mixture of precipitation ranging from light sprinkles to steady downpour.  Once I was able to accept the fact that I was going to get wet, I was actually able to enjoy the ride.  I arrived home, said my greetings and was met with hysterical laughter.  The explanation?  I had packed a pair of yellow basketball shorts for the ride home (sorry ladies, I have yet to give in and pick up some of those sexy biking shorts).  Turns out yellow isn't the best color for the sprinkles of mud that your tire kicks up straight to your backside.  I arrived home with a giant brown streak perfectly aligned with my ass crack.  For all those approaching me from behind on the way home, it most assuredly looked like I had taken a giant dump in my pants.

Saturday:  Audrey had her Synchro Regionals at Richfield Middle School (going to state!), starting at 9:00 and continuing the entire day.  Richfield would be a 19 mile one-way ride, which would have been doable but would have eaten up a considerable portion of my day.  So, I decided to make my first bus trip of the experiment.  Graciously, KT agreed to make the journey with me.  We got up far too early for a Saturday, loaded up backpacks and headed out to the bus stop, making a stop for coffee on the way.  It was an absolute downpour Saturday morning, which was fine for KT as she has a reliable raincoat and the foresight to pack a large umbrella and wear sandals.  I, on the other hand, am not so bright.  I wore my raincoat which has already proven faulty, used an umbrella purchased in an emergency in NYC which cost $23 and is the size of a portabella and wore socks and tennis shoes.  By time we got on the bus, I was a soaking wet, grumbling, complaining mess, in far contrast with the sunnier (disposition) and drier KT.  We rode the bus downtown, made a quick transfer and were dropped off a block from the middle school.  Which would have been really convenient had we not immediately bee-lined in the opposite direction when we got off the bus.  We realized our mistake after a only a block, however, and made it to the school in plenty of time to see Audrey swim.  The bus ride home was much more pleasant as the sun was shining and one bus took us from one block away from the school straight through and dropped us off three blocks from home.  We were so energized that we even hopped on our bikes to take Audrey out for a celebratory dinner when we got home (see Tijuana Donkey Show).

Sunday:  Sunday was intended to be a day to rest sore muscles and for the most part, it was.  We raced the weather and got some much needed yard work done and were ready to move our tasks indoors as the severe weather approached.  Then, however, I got a text from Audrey, who was at work at a local thrift store.  The text read "If you want a German soccer jersey for only $4.00, I suggest getting here now."  Audrey often sends texts like these while at work.  Last week, it was to KT and was for a pair of pajama jeans that just hit the shelves.  They are absolutely as sexy as they sound.  Anyways, as the rules of this experiment dictate, I must not skip doing things I normally would do if I were driving.  Would I drive through the rain for a chance at a cheap German soccer jersey?  Absolutely.  So, I strapped on leaky (I had by now named my raincoat) and hit the road.  My timing was absolutely perfect.  I left home immediately after a downpour and pedaled through light sprinkles for the two mile journey.  While in the store, I watched a torrential downpour flood the parking lot.  As soon as the rain let up, I quickly pedaled back home, beating the next wave of heavy rains and winds by about 30 seconds.

This morning:  I woke up to rain, but I didn't even care.  I have learned to strap my backpack on under my raincoat, which at least helps it remain somewhat dry.  I do take on the appearance of a turtle riding a bike by doing this, but as you have probably learned by now, I've long given up on appearances.  I actually enjoyed the refreshing rain on the ride this morning (the lack of wind helped).  At one point I even let out a Nic Cage scream and barreled directly through a puddle rather than ride around it.

Side note:  One thing I have learned through ten days:  I don't properly apply sunblock.  I ride West in the mornings and East in the evenings, meaning the sun (when out) is beating down on the back of my neck most times while riding.  As I got out of the shower yesterday, I was again met with uproarious laughter from KT (a pretty common theme).  She snapped this photo to explain why:
Ok, I guess I deserve that one.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Fight! Fight! Fight!

Note:  Actor participating in a reenactment

I was in three confrontations on the ride to work this morning.  The blow-by-blow details:

Confrontation One
Location:  Bike path surrounding Columbia Golf Course
Nemesis:  Squirrel
The majority of my ride to work can be accomplished using bike paths rather than roads.  Using only roads gives me a bit of a straighter shot, but I enjoy taking the paths and the ride is much more scenic, not to mention serene.  The first path I jump on surrounds the Columbia Golf Course in Northeast Minneapolis.  Like any golf course, this one is jam packed with squirrels doing their squirrelly things.  I don't pay them much attention as they generally stay out of your way.  This morning, a squirrel was munching on what must have been a particularly tasty morsel on the bike path.  I fully expected the squirrel to wait until I was near enough to pose a formidable threat then scurry off the path, chattering squirrel cusses at me as I passed.  This squirrel, however, was not keen on giving ground to whatever it had found for breakfast.  Instead of preparing to dart away as I neared, it reared up and stared me straight in the eye, as if to say "Bring it".  Not to be intimidated by a squirrel, I barreled forward in the most unusual game of chicken I had ever been a part of.  At the last second, I caved and swerved left to avoid a collision.  Problem is, the squirrel had the same escape route planned.  As I swerved left, he jumped left.  At this point I shut my eyes, as any reasonable coward would do.  I immediately flashed to a tragic but inspiring story I saw on the news last night about a kid who is confined to a wheelchair after being attacked by a tiger.  As unfathomably awful as that must be, at least he can say a tiger caused his injury.  I was convinced I was going to have to live the rest of my life explaining how a squirrel had horribly maimed me.  Apart from the squirrel defying the laws of physics and changing the direction of it's leap mid-air, I can't explain how there wasn't an impact.  Shaken, I pulled over and looked back.  The squirrel was standing exactly where it started, guarding it's precious breakfast, staring at me in defiance.  It even started moving towards me again, as if saying "You want some more?".  I quickly pedaled away.

Confrontation Two
Location: University Avenue overpass
Nemesis:  20-something girl
On this stretch of my journey, the bike path lies on the left side of the road as it crosses the overpass spanning University Avenue.  In other words, although you are on a bike path, you are facing oncoming traffic rather than riding with it.  To make things more difficult, there is an exit ramp leading up from University Avenue which crosses the bike path.  Bikes have the right-of-way, as cars have a stop sign, but I have quickly learned that having the right-of-way is about as useful as being "only a foreign language short" of your college degree.  I spotted this nemesis early, speeding up the exit ramp with a cell phone in one hand and a cigarette in the other.  I also noticed her looking sharply to the left, making sure her path was clear to take a right turn at the top of the ramp.  Not once did she glance to the right, where the bike path and I were coming from.  As no cars were coming from the left, the stop sign became optional for the driver.  Meanwhile, realizing she wasn't going to stop, I had taken action to make sure I wasn't going to get flattened.  I slowed down, but still made it a point to get close enough to reach out and give the side of her car a gentle tap as she sped by.  Had she not been wearing a seat belt, I'm certain she would have jumped straight out of her vehicle.  She slammed on the brakes and looked at me, turning a ghastly shade of white.  At this point, I panicked.  I didn't think past the gentle "I'm here" tap.  Rather than give her a wave or a gentle, "Please be careful", I instinctively flipped her the bird and rode away.  In retrospect, I feel bad about this.  KT has (rightfully) long ago broken me of the road-rage middle finger salute, so I'm not sure why it was my natural reaction.  Yes, she was in the wrong and could have killed me had I not been paying attention, but my childish admonishment probably just makes her wish she had.

Confrontation Three
Location:  Work parking lot, Quebec Avenue North, New Hope
Nemesis:  Canadian Goose
There is a small pond in front of my work building which perpetually overflows and occupies a small corner of the parking lot.  A number of Canadian Geese have begun squatting in this corner of the parking lot and, as they tend to do, become quite protective of their territory.  I generally steer clear of them and take the long away around the parking lot as I am filled with equal parts disgust and fear of this particular species.  Today, however, feeling emboldened from my previous dust-ups, I decided they would move for me.  I pedaled towards them, slowly but confidently.  One goose in particular took notice of me early, craning his/her neck and letting out a few sharp honks.  Undaunted, I ventured closer determined not to be bullied.  I was going to win this battle.  Once I got within about twenty feet, however, I noticed something that quickly turned the odds against me.  Standing behind my nemesis were several small fuzzy little shit-spewing geese.  This was a new parent, and pardon my french, but you don't fuck with a new parent.  Too late now to change my course, I sped up hoping to get past before the goose went on the offensive.  No chance.  Poppa or Momma Goose began hissing wildly and giving chase.  I screamed like a school girl and pedaled like hell, barely escaping with my life.  Problem is, I am now stuck at work as I am too afraid the goose is waiting to finish the job.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Tijuana Donkey Show

I'm on day five of "the experiment", have logged 84.3 miles, am a little sore in the legs and posterior but in general good spirits and health.  So, let's talk about KT.  About 10 years ago, when I got my bike, we decided to pick one up for KT as well.  Much like mine, it sat in the garage collecting dust for the next several years.  About four years ago, I started to ride my bike more frequently, increasing it's usage each Spring/Summer/Fall every year hence.  KT, however, has been a bit more hesitant.  Last year, she used the bike exactly once, pedaling with me the 3/4 mile (round trip) journey to the liquor store.  As I've mentioned before, we live in Columbia Heights, so despite the short journey, a hill was involved.  It wasn't a large hill, or a very long hill, but we weren't half way up it before KT began quite vocally informing me that "her exercise muscles hurt".  She continued to quite vocally remind me of this, mixing legible English with prehistoric sounding grunts until we arrived home, upon whence she returned her bike to the garage and it sat undisturbed for the remainder of the year.

Fast forward to last week.  In preparing for my month of no car, I walked my bike down to the local gas station to put air in the tires.  As it is Spring, and hope springs eternal, I convinced KT to walk her bike down as well and fill the tires.  It was a beautiful Spring evening, one of the few and first nice evenings we have had.  So, after filling our tires, we strolled across the street and sat on the patio of our favorite Mexican restaurant for a few beers.  After an hour or so, we decided to head for home.  The restaurant is on a busy street, and on a particularly busy intersection of that street so we walked our bikes safely across the intersection before mounting them to pedal home.  Unfortunately, immediately after getting on our bikes, we were faced with a long, steady hill.  KT immediately balked, fluttering through as many excuses as she could find ("I didn't bring my helmet", "I've had two beers", "I feel like walking").  I was slightly ahead of her and about to give in to walking the bikes home when she flew past me, pedaling like mad and emitting a guttural sound unlike anything I have ever heard before.  I quickly jumped on my bike and caught up to her, doing my utmost to try to figure out if she was in pain or merely grunting for my theatrical benefit.  When we finally reached the apex of the hill, and she caught her breath, KT summed it up perfectly when she said, "I sound like a fucking Tijuana Donkey Show!"

Despite this, she made it, and hasn't completely ruled out biking for the year.  In fact, on Sunday she went so far as to purchase a helmet.  I wasn't with (I've sworn off Walmart again after the air pump fiasco), but Audrey was kind enough to document it for me.  Behold:

Katie buys a helmet

At the risk of over-explaining and diminishing the pure magic of this video, here is what happens:  KT discovers that, like most items in her world (clothes, helmets, bikes, etc), the Child size works best.  Not content, however, to simply find a snug fit and purchase, KT determines she must give the helmet a try.  She doesn't grab a bike off the rack, because that would just look crazy.  Instead she finds another more suitable mobile device and begins giving the helmet a workout.  It must have worked, as she has bought the helmet.  Biking world, it's on.

Monday, May 13, 2013

This Cute Little Experiment Almost Ended Damn Quick

I woke Saturday feeling a little bit sore and a lot bit smug.  Work and back were not a problem on Friday.  I even had the energy to log another three miles that evening (although beer was waiting at mile 1.5, which is a powerful incentive).  The first omen that Saturday might be a bit more difficult actually arrived Friday evening.  Before heading out for whatever nefarious activities 17-years old do, Audrey dropped this bombshell on me:  "It's my turn to bring breakfast for swim practice tomorrow.  I want Brueggers."  KT didn't miss a beat, turning to me and saying "Well have fun with that Bike Man.".  Crap.  Brueggers is only five miles away, which isn't a big deal.  Throw in the factor of swim practice beginning at 7:00 AM, however, and it becomes a bit of an issue.  However, as per the rules of the experiment, I must say yes.  I was able to negotiate it down to a Cub run (much closer), but the early morning deadline was non-negotiable.  So, I was up at 5:45 on Saturday (see my previous post about allowing way too much time), biking to the grocery store for bagels (Audrey), coffee (KT) and ibuprofen (me).  I was back home at 6:15, a full 42 minutes before I needed to be.  As I had just been exercising, sleep was now out of the question and my day began.

As part of another grand experiment, we have decided to dump cable television and rely on Netflix and Hulu Plus (viewing suggestions welcome).  This was a relatively painless process (for me anyways - KT is the one who spent hours on the phone explaining that no, we aren't interested in merely downgrading, despite the fabulous deals you can offer us).  However, one of the stipulations of canceling is you must return your cable equipment to a Comcast office within a week of canceling.  Conveniently enough, our week deadline was on Saturday.  Even more conveniently, KT was working so the duty fell to me.  Turns out we actually had quite a bit of equipment to turn in.  A DVR (which was about the size and weight of Guam), five (yes, five, shame upon us) converter boxes, 47 miles of cords and five remotes.  My cute little Sierra Club (look at me!  look at me!) backpack wasn't going to cut it.  Neither was Audrey's old, considerably larger, school backpack.  In fact, the only thing large enough to haul the 34 pounds (I weighed it) of equipment was my gigantic hiking backpack, purchased about 12 years ago when I was going to hike the world and used exactly twice since.  So, I loaded the pack up, strapped in on my back, snapped it secure around my chest and waist and prepared to hit the road.  One problem - I failed to have the foresight to realize that strapping this gigantic pack on my back would make mounting my ride a challenge.  As the pack reached a considerable ways down my body, it made raising a leg over the bar of my bike impossible.  After four or five futile attempts and two near tip-overs, I finally figured out I needed to tilt my bike nearly parallel to the ground, put one leg over and then, with a quick thrust, kick myself upright.  I accomplished it on my first attempt, but probably should have charged admission to the several vehicles driving by who witnessed the slapstick.

Despite the problems, I was ready to roll now.  Or so I thought.  Turns out giant freakin' backpack causes another problem.  Not only does it extend low down my body, but it also tends to ride high, up past my neck.  Which would be fine except for the fact that riding that high causes it to interfere with my helmet, pushing my head to a position where I am able to only look down.  With extreme effort and severe strain, I am able to roll my eyeballs skyward just enough to command a view of the road three feet in front of me.  Off I go.  

Saturday was an incredibly windy day in Minneapolis.  Winds were steady in the 20-25mph range, gusting to near 40.  This sucks on a bike.  Add a 35 pound sail on your back and it becomes downright ebola-shitty.  My one saving grace was the Comcast station was five miles East and one mile South from home.  So, as luck would have it, I would be traveling with the wind while lugging the gear.  Despite nearly being thrown into the path of a car when a gale force wind struck me on the highway overpass, I made it to Comcast in good time and unloaded the cable burden.  Feeling cocky now that I was free of the weight and only had to stop for toliet paper on my way home, I contacted my brother to meet for lunch.  He was game and so I foolishly pedaled further East and further South to meet him halfway between where I was and his St. Paul home.  We met, had a few beers and a pizza, and got set for our journeys home.  I was fully aware that my ride would be difficult as I would now be bucking the wind but I was confident I could handle it.  My bike, however, had other ideas.  As I went to unlock it, I noticed my front tire was completely flat.  Luckily, I was prepared.  I had a spare tube in my backpack and a cheap pump I had just purchased at The Walmart for just such emergencies.  My brother (a much more seasoned rider than I) helped as we quickly got the new tube in place and began pumping.  And then we continued pumping.  And pumped.  And pumped.  Turns out the cheap Walmart pump was about as big of a piece of shit as you can imagine a $10 air pump from Walmart would be.  At one point my brother held the pump up against his face to see if he could feel any air coming out.  Not even the scraggly, pathetic attempt at a beard he has moved from the resulting effort.  Luckily, my brother had another solution.  Being the experienced biker he is, he had recently purchased an ingenious contraption which held a small canister of pressurized air that will quickly inflate a tire.  The canister is small, so it will work for one tire only before needing to be replaced.  He had never used it before, so began examining it, figuring out how to operate it.  Soon, I hear a giant PFFFTTTTTTT and see him violently shaking his hand.  Turns out the air comes out at a pretty violent clip and it is not advised to test it by blowing it onto your hand.  Lesson learned, he hooked it up to my tire and prepared to let it rip.  With an even louder PFFFFFFFTTTTTTTTTTT! the canister shot about 20 feet across the parking lot and my tire remained hopelessly flat.  Ok, lesson number two learned.  We have to fully secure the canister to the tire before activating, not merely hold it on.  So, we retrieve the canister, fully secure it to my tire and let it rip again.  This time, I was fully prepared for the loud gush of air and was instantly dismayed by asthmatic pfft and silence that emitted from the ingenious contraption.  Out of air, out of luck.

So, now I am faced with a dilemma.  I am eight miles from home with a flat tire and the burden of a GRAND EXPERIMENT which is only in it's second day.  To give in this early in the game would be an embarrassment.  Too proud and stubborn, I begin walking my bike in the general direction of home, hoping to catch a bus (allowed) and audibly cussing my bike, the wind and anything else in the general vicinity.  After walking about a mile, I noticed a group of about seven or eight men standing in a circle smoking cigarettes and chatting in a language I assumed was Somalian or other East African dialect.  I also noticed that behind them was a tiny two car garage and several taxi cabs filling the parking lot.  I approached them and asked if by chance they had an air pump in their garage.  They stared at me politely but obviously confused.  Undaunted, I squeezed my tire to show them it's flatness.  At this point, they broke out in uproarious laughter and motioned me inside where they graciously filled my tire and refused anything more that a heartfelt thanks (big shout out to the taxi shop at 20th and Como near the U of M!).  Energized, I hop on my bike and head for home.  

My new-found enthusiasm lasted exactly one block, when wind and gravity reared their ugly heads.  I live in Columbia Heights, which I love, but the key word in this instance is Heights (geography nerd trivia - the highest elevation in the metro area is about six blocks north of my home).  So, I am inevitably pedaling uphill when returning home, no matter where I am coming from.  Combining uphill climbs and the winds of Hell made for a treacherous journey.  On one of the few gently sloped downward stretches I encountered on the way home, I conducted a brief experiment, stopping pedaling to let gravity guide me.  Wind 1, Gravity 0.  The wind not only stopped forward motion, but began pushing me backward.  I did make it home eventually,  but my legs were a gelatinous mess and my mood was considerably dour.  My cantankerous outlook only dimmed when I realized I had neglected to get toliet paper, one of the exactly two errands I was tasked with.  Grumbling, but realizing I couldn't neglect the obligation, I rolled off the couch, told my bike to go to hell and walked to the store, my legs screaming at me each step of the way.

On the bright side, I did survive and after a day of relative rest (only one quick two mile trip), I made it to work without much difficulty today.  I have apologized to my bike (I really should name her as she is becoming such a close aquaintance.  Again, suggestions welcome) for saying some things I didn't really mean on Saturday and we are back on good terms.  As for the wind, it will be a while before I speak to it again.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Diamond Cutting Scabs

Good morning Minneapolis

Ride one is in the books.  I successfully arrived at work with only two minor miscalculations.

1)  I start work at 9:00.  I arrived at work at 8:00.  This isn't the first time I have biked to work - I did so fairly frequently last summer, so I'm not entirely sure why I thought I had to leave at 7:15 for the 8.91 mile (thanks!) ride from my home in Columbia Heights to the office in New Hope.  I blame my German heritage (Order!  Wir mussen Ordnung haben!) and Lutheran upbringing for my absolute anal-retentive insistence on never being late.  And by late I mean being only 15 minutes early.  I am currently making amends however by writing this and refusing to do any actual work until 9:00

2)  It is a beautiful sunny morning in Minneapolis (see photo above).  Deceivingly beautiful. I left home wearing a t-shirt and light wind shirt for my ride.  By mile four my nipples were as hard as diamond cutters (don't worry, I'll spare you photos - but I did take some).  I have extraordinarily small nipples.  When they get cold they tend to shrivel into unidentifiable dots on my chest.  KT, as she is wont to do, summed it best once when she said, "They don't even look like nipples, they look like two small scabs."  Anyways, lesson learned.  Anyone know a good place to buy nipple muffs?

Thursday, May 9, 2013

How I (Hope to) Stop Worrying and Love the Commute

  I hate cars.  This is no secret to anyone who knows me.  More than anything, this can most likely be traced to the fact that I go into a complete meltdown tailspin anytime my vehicle makes a funny noise or (god forbid) a warning light comes on.  I freak out at the first sniff of any automobile issue and generally drive my entire family crazy with the giant storm cloud above my head.  I fully admit that this is irrational and that everything will be just fine and I'm acting like a petulant child, but I just can't help myself (medication please).  Even when our cars are running smoothly, I am gripped with crippling stress on each journey I take waiting for what I believe to be the inevitable collapse (again, medication please, illicit or non).

  In an attempt to ease my inner torment, I have decided to conduct an experiment. Beginning tomorrow, May 10th, I will attempt to not drive or ride in a personal motorized vehicle for one month. My only means of transport will be walking, biking or taking the bus/light rail (this is the point when all those not fortunate enough to have a car can rightfully label me an entitled jackass).  When I mentioned this idea to KT, she was supportive, mostly I assume because she is completely bored with my incessant bitching about cars.  She did have one caveat, however:  I can't use my grand experiment as an excuse to get out of things I would normally do.  In other words, if I promised to do the grocery shopping and it is pouring rain out, tough shit.  I really have no grounds to protest.  So, the rules are as follows:

1)  I cannot drive or ride in a personal motorized vehicle for one month
2)  I cannot neglect, cancel or delay engagements - whether they be social, work or other - because of my experiment
3)  I must not inconvenience others because of my experiment.  I must adapt my lifestyle/timeline, not expect them to adapt to me.
4)  I must document the experiment

That's it.  Sounds simple enough.  I'm excited about doing it, but can't promise the same level of enthusiasm if it's raining when I need to leave for work tomorrow.