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Posts from the ‘bike commute’ Category

the BBC


… Which, in my case,  simply stands for the usual: Bikes, Barns, Cows.

(Along with a dose of goldenrod thrown in –  just to make me sneeze.)

Happily back to wandering ways, on the cusp of fall.  Life is divine.

red crossings

Lucy is proving to be a perfect commuter bike for me – functional, comfortable, versatile.  And appropriately red enough for my trips into the Red Cross office (I swear this never even crossed my mind when I was choosing her paint color).

On a national level, the Red Cross is making preparations for the possible landfall of Isaac.  It’s fascinating to see the process unfold, the planning, the deployment of material and human resources – and the ways that numerous local Chapters contribute to the response.   While I have chosen not to be available for deployment at this time due to some personal scheduling conflicts, I continue to stay busy locally with our DAT team and working with new volunteers – work that I enjoy very much.

The continuing reorganizational changes surrounding our local Chapter can be frustrating at times.  While many of the changes to our service model make sense, and should ultimately provide more efficient delivery, the plan for implementation (internally) has not always been so well thought out – and this can be very difficult for a workforce of volunteers.

At the end of the day, I often have to step back and ask myself:  are we helping to the people who need our assistance?  The answer, thankfully, is yes.  Ultimately, this is all that really matters – whether it involves responding to house and apartment fires here at home, or providing relief to our clients after a hurricane.  At the end of the day, I know we have helped.

I get on my bike and ride home, thankful for the chance to unwind and mentally re-evaluate the day to the soothing rhythm of my pedals strokes … and hope that storms, near and far, change course.

rain game

The name of game this week seems to be Beat the Rain.  Today, I won … for a change.

utilitaire 10 of 12: a-go-go

Riding across the Riverside Drive glass bridge in Chattanooga always gives me an imaginary sense of victory(?) over cars.  I love standing on that bridge with my bike and looking down at the cars driving underneath; I am looming over them for a change (even it it’s only in my mind…).

Today’s destination was number 12 on the Utilitaire control card: to get my hair cut.  My once-a-month-or-so trip to Chattanooga to visit my stylist, Chris, at Hair-A-Go-Go gives me a chance to ride into the city on the Riverwalk.

I will confess, I have to drive (shame on me!) to the northern terminus of the Riverwalk from home; but living about 40+ mi outisde of the city, an 80-mile round trip would be a big stretch for a reasonable commuter distance for me. Sorry. This way, anyway, I cut a little off of my driving distance, and get to ride the  “scenic route” into downtown, and have some time to enjoy the destination.    I think the approximate distance from the north end of the path to the Bluff View Art District downtown is about 8 miles one way, so the round trip  makes  for a relaxing and comfortable ride which I almost always make on Elisabetta.

Got my haircut, stopped into the downtown art supply store for a new pen, and then lingered around Coolidge Park for a little while enjoying the incredible sunshine and the balmy temperatures.  I think we reached the mid-70’s.  Lots and lots of people were out, walking, biking, sitting on benches on the Walnut Street Bridge, enjoying picnics in the park.

Before heading back, I stopped to treat myself at Rembrand’s Coffee House in the Art District.  I was in the mood for one of their blackberry Italian Cream Sodas …  it was heavenly, especially on the warm day.  I am not exactly sure what makes it “Italian” (because I don’t remember ever seeing anything like this in Italy), but it is basically blackberry syrup, soda water, and some cream – yes, real cream – over ice.  Not something to indulge in on a regular basis, but for an occasional treat, I shall have no guilt over it(!).

My hair is back to it’s short and trimmed state, my journal enjoyed the sun and the park (if not my attempts with the new pen), and I am still imagining the sweetness of blackberries and cream.  A few scenes from the day … and a big thank you to the very kind new friends who have visited these pages from today’s Freshly Pressed; it was an unexpected surprise, and I am quite bowled over by the kind words and responses.  Many thanks.

buying pens

playing with new pens

Chattanooga has a thriving hipster population  … Riverwalk

Scenic City bridges … Coolidge Park

utilitaire 9: history lesson

Another day in town of trip-chaining by bike.  Stop for coffee, pop into the bike shop, visit our local history museum, drop by the library (and more coffee), hit the grocery store for dinner-to-go, and home again; a bit of a list, and I again apologize for a rather lengthy post.  Despite multiple destinations,  I will log today’s Utilitaire checkpoint as #9 – museum visit.

In the section of town known as Five Points, we have a very nice regional history museum – the Museum Center at Five Points (and I am sorry to say that the above photo is not the museum, just an old building on the Five Points Corner ).  The museum is one of those places I don’t make time to visit often enough, so I am grateful for the Utilitaire challenge and the reminder to make the visit.  In addition to the permanent collection of local history and artifacts, the current temporary exhibit features an impressive collection of vintage and modern quilts.  As much as I loved viewing the quilts, I was really more interested in taking some time to explore the permanent collection more thoroughly than I have had time to in the past.  I learned a few things – including (according to the docent I spoke with) the fact that the industry responsible for “growing” and placing our little town on the TN map was kitchen stove manufacturing.   Not only was there a Hardwick Woolen Mill, but also a Hardwick Stove Company, among others.

Since my time was my own today, I was able to read, look and explore a little more.  Other things that caught my eye (in addition to the quilts, of course) were a vintage camera and an old grocery bike, along with a interesting collection of daily household items.

Coming to the museum in late March will be a new photograph exhibit that I am definitely looking forward to – a collection of black and white photographs from Knoxville photographer Don Dudenbostel on aspects of Appalachian culture that are fading from existence.  From roadside culture to moonshine distilleries to snake handling (yeah, snake handling) … this should be exceptional.  I’ve admired some of his other work (x-ray imaging) in the Bluff View Art District in Chattanooga, and it is pretty incredible.

As I was leaving the museum, I discovered I had just missed seeing my friend Jenn, who is an education director for the museum and had been there for a meeting.  Sorry Jenn.  But I definitely need to ask her for a favor — any chance we can get  the museum facilities people to install a bike rack??  (hint, hint)  😉

I left the museum and stopped at the library where I ran into one of my “other” sons, Tim, who had finished his college classes for the day and spotted me parking my bike.   We had a cup of coffee and did some catching up  in the library coffee shop before he headed off.  With all of the boys at schools here, there and everywhere, I don’t get to see these guys as often as I used to – and I was so touched that he was kind enough to take some time to re-connect.  My boys have the most amazing friends.

library bike rack

Winding through neighborhoods, with spring colors reminding me of the some of the quilts from earlier in the day.  On to the grocery store for a assorted salads for a simple supper, and then home.  A very good day.

 pansies, reminding me of quilts …

homeward

utilitaire 8.12: caffeinated

Everyone is going separate ways today, but my beloved and I managed to take a little time out to ride for coffee before he heads out of town later today.  Utilitaire checkpoint #2: coffeeneuring.  Once again a traverse through town on the Greenway, and for whatever reason, I am always compelled to stop on this bridge.  I want to start keeping a tally.  There are other bridges, other underpasses, other places I ride through and across as often, or more frequently, than this bridge… but I always consciously think about this location, this bridge, whenever I cross it.  I have no idea why.

As for coffee – I know that Starbucks often gets a bad rap.  Yeah, it’s not some trendy local roaster, I can’t get a latte with a picture created in the froth, but it’s really about the only game in town.  I tend to avoid the Inman Street Coffee House run by the Salvation Army, because I have a personal aversion to the big screen tv’s they have hanging on the walls playing Fox News, and I take issue with some of the national organization’s position statements.  Sorry, Tim (and the other kids who work there).  At Starbucks, I am always greeted with a smile and treated very well by the barristas I have come to know,  I’d rather listen to music than blaring tv’s,  I’ve made a few friends here (both cyclists and non-) and truthfully, they manage to make the best skinny vanilla latte in the neighborhood.  Not to mention, it’s a convenient ride off of the Greenway.

Rode back, no time for trip-chaining today unfortunately.  Time to get on with the other stuff.  Sigh.

coffee on the go

utilitaire 7.12: the good, the bad, & the windy

You know you’re battling a decent headwind when you have to pedal going downhill.  Such was the case for the day’s Utilitaire ride (which actually took place yesterday, but I was to lazy to post last night).

The destination was to be #1: Work.  And while I am not technically employed by the Red Cross, my volunteer “job” with them is about as close as I get to having to go “to work”.  Heading out today I knew there was rain in the forecast, so as most cyclists know, the best insurance against having it actually rain is to pack rain gear.  I also decided to just leave the “real” camera at home, as I didn’t want to mess with waterproofing measures  (and I apologize in advance for another series of iPhonography in this post, as well my lengthiness today … hit the delete button if you wish.)

I battled a nasty headwind all the way in.  Gusty, brutal and not so much fun.   Decided to stop for coffee and catch up on a little bit of reading before hitting the office.

From coffee stop to the office, the scenery is always fascinating to me.  I like riding through the old industrial district, passing by the old Hardwick Woolen Mill.  Last month, a fire destroyed the Cleveland Chair Company.  The reports have pointed to arson.  Demolition of the remnants of the building(s) have turned the scene into a huge and textured pile of ruins.  (And at this point I was hitting myself for not bringing along my other camera).

riding by the ruins of the Cleveland Chair Co. and the old Hardwick Woolen Mill

I spent the rest of the day at the office, scrubbing disaster response case files – making sure the paperwork is in order and that all of the information has been correctly entered into the computer system.  While I was at the office, I got some very sad and troubling news that had been announced the day before.  Restructuring and funding cuts from both the American Red Cross and United Way are eliminating key positions in our Chapter.  Our tiny paid staff has now been reduced to two.  Two.

 The Bradley County Emergency Aid (funded by United Way, closely connected with our Red Cross Chapter work) has been cut, along with the women who have worked so tirelessly helping people in crisis in our community.  Just as troubling, we are losing our ARC Volunteer Coordinator – the amazing woman who schedules our disaster team rotations, recruits and arranges for training of our volunteers, and holds our volunteer staff together at the seams.  It’s shocking, troubling, and I can’t even begin to envision what the future holds for our local Chapter.  It is difficult enough to recruit capable, willing and trained volunteers to fill all of the positions – from teaching CPR/First Air/AED to fundraising to disaster response – but if they expecting the volunteer coordination duties to be taken over by our stretched-too-thin volunteer staff, I can’t even begin to imagine what is to come.  I think it spells disaster, ironically.

Needless to say, it was a tough afternoon in the office.  It’s difficult to see anyone lose their job, even harder when it happens to friends and people I have so much respect for.

Left the office and headed back into town in fading light.  Decided to hook up with my son (on his way home from tennis practice) and my husband (on his way home from work) for a quick bite to eat.  No sooner did we sit down, I receive a weather-alert text on my phone:  hail-producing severe thunderstorm warning.  Yay.  Storms were already spawning hail, lightning and even a tornado warning directly west of us, and the fun was now heading our way.

So, do I attempt to beat the storms and head home as planned on my bike, or do I give up the night riding and toss the bike in the back of my husband’s car and hitch a ride home?  I had my rain gear.  I had insurance.  I decided to ride.

Now a quick word about night riding.  I won’t go into a full-blown review of bicycular (I like to make up words) lighting – we have a boxful of various lights in our household, but I will tell you a little bit about the lights that work very well for me.

On my helmet, I use a Light & Motion Vis 360, which I absolutely love.  As the name says, visible from all sides – front, rear, sides.  Spotlight in the front (with amber sidelights), and blinking rear light (also with amber sidelights).  On and off the helmet in a snap, long light life, USB rechargeable.

On my bike, I use a Niterider MiNewt 600 Cordless (which replaces an older corded MiNewt Mini that is still in our stash), along with a couple of PB SuperFlash Blinkies on my seatpost and messenger bag.  The MiNewt 600 is a big improvement on the corded Mini; although a little heavier, it is brighter, cordless, easier to mount on and off of the bike, also USB rechargeable.

My own philosophy on night riding is kind of two-fold:

  • In town, among streetlights, storefronts, traffic, it’s imperative to be seen.  Lots of lights front and rear, top and bottom, and my high-vis yellow jacket with reflective striping do a good job making me visible.
  • Outside of town, when I hit the rural two-lane backroads, sparsely populated with no streetlights, and effectively pitch-black under a cloudy sky with no moonlight, it’s not only a matter of being seen, but being able to see.  I find that the two-light system works best for me here – my headlamp to a point further in the forward distance, and my bike-mounted light giving me a bright pool just ahead to better see pavement conditions and road debris.

nightriding: in town and on pitch-black rural roads

Needless to say, the ride home was exhilarating.  The winds that were my foe on the way into town in the morning had now become my friend as a tailwind.  It was like flying home, without much effort.  Record time, I think.  Outside of town I flushed a couple of deer in the roadside woods – fortunately not onto the road in front of me.  The sky would momentarily light up with lighting in distant clouds, and the thunder would rumble a few moments later.  It was an exciting adventure.  But I arrived home before even a drop of rain fell.

Perfect timing; it’s what happens when you pack insurance.  😉