Summer’s Last Gasp

We all know that at least here in the DC area, there will be a random week at the end of September or mid-October when summer roars back to life and brings on the heat. However, Labor Day weekend is pretty much the end of summer for everyone, even if you don’t have kids going back to school.

And I spent some time last week with local teachers gearing up for back-to-school, which gave me the “summer’s over” feelings even more. However, I did get to see the eclipse with the teachers. Nothing like watching a scientific event with a bunch of educators! I didn’t have a pair of glasses, but teachers shared, and anyway, I almost enjoyed the low tech ways of seeing it anyway. The shadows on the ground from the tree leaves, a colander and a pinhole were really cool. The tree leaf shadows made me think of fabric prints.

I didn’t plan this for back to school but I do have a fun new hairstyle for it. I didn’t realize I had a hair cut scheduled for this weekend, fun! My salon has a light that makes me look amazing, so I snuck a selfie while my stylist took photos for her portfolio. I love changing up my hairstyles.The Mechanic and I took a field trip to IKEA over the weekend as well. And look! They had the IKEA bikes set up! Naturally we spent some time playing with them and analyzing the features. I almost bought the pannier/backpack they sell but as it was plain black, I decided against it. But it’s great that they offer everything from that to helmets to small pumps to U-locks, as well as the bikes and all the accessories. We didn’t buy anything at IKEA, well, not much. I bought a jar and some fabric. That’s right, fabric! I’ve always studied the fabrics when we go but I couldn’t resist this print. It’s on a rather heavy twill so I think I will simply box pleat it onto a waistband and see how it goes. Maybe I’ll line it as well, but I’m not sure. Looking ahead at the calendar for the next few months, I’ve realized that I won’t have much time to sew <weep>. Time to focus on the fall/winter projects. I have several lined up, so I have to make sure I FOCUS on what I really want to get done. I’m taking classes two weekends in a row from the store where I purchased my new sewing machine. They offer “getting to know your new machine” classes, and although I’ve already made a bunch of stuff with it, I’m sure there will be plenty to learn. Then I can focus on my winter coat and a brocade jacket. But first, I just need to finish this blouse, made with the Liberty of London print I purchased in the spring when we were in London. Then the IKEA skirt. But then no more distractions! Winter is coming and I need to be prepared!The other thing that happened this past weekend has nothing to do with summer – it was the first anniversary of Gaston’s Adoption Day! Although he wasn’t feeling well for most of the day, he eventually bounced back and has mostly forgiven us for picking him up and shoving meds in his mouth. It’s amazing how a little fluffy 3lb rabbit can change our lives in one year. I look forward to many more.

Love this sweet fluffy boy!

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Surprises in Northeastern Oregon

I missed a regular blog post earlier this week because The Mechanic and I were in Northeastern Oregon on a family trip. My dad’s side of the family gathered to say goodbye to my grandparents with a celebration of life and scattering of their ashes. I hadn’t been there in seven years, for my grandfather’s 90th birthday, and enjoyed exploring with fresh eyes.

Thirty-five years ago, my dad’s dad and his second wife moved to Lostine, Oregon, a small town in Wallowa County, Oregon. Their property, titled Big Foot Ranch (no idea why), is tucked in a narrow valley between Lostine and Enterprise. I was ten when they moved, and got to travel with them in my great-grandmother’s fifth wheel trailer – a huge adventure to me. Every summer thereafter we drove up to visit them. I rode their horse, swam in the irrigation ditch, and learned to drive on a Model A Ford pickup and an old John Deere tractor. (There goes my city creds – The Mechanic now has plenty of ammo to call me a country girl!)

Enterprise, in the far northeast corner of Oregon

To get there, we flew into Boise, the closest airport, and after meeting up with my brother and sister-in-law (who flew in from Texas), drove four hours to Enterprise. After being greeted by the beef industry in the Boise airport, we joked about what the cattle-raising locals would think when four  vegetarians rolled into town.My grandparents’ property is so lovely, with the rushing river and fields on either side. Marching up the hillside through the weeds is still the same, returning with socks and shoe laces full of burrs. This is my kind of wilderness! Also, the low humidity was sooo refreshing, despite the high temperatures.

I have changed in the seven years (!!!) since I’d been to my grandparents’ – then I was single, newly moved from Manhattan to Washington, DC, and unhappy with my job. Wanting to show The Mechanic all the things my brother and I grew up doing in Oregon made everything new. The biggest surprise was how bike-y the area is – whaat? Bike lanes through the middle of Enterprise?! And Joseph, OR, not only had bike lanes, but bike racks shaped like bikes, and one store had a large “Bike Friendly” sign out front, notifying all that not only were there bike racks, but drinking fountains, public restrooms and package shipping. I’ve never even seen this on stores here in the DC metro area! The Mechanic and I chatted with a woman who had been biking 65 miles into Enterprise, to get to Terminal Gravity Brewing. She said that for the most part, cars were pretty respectful of her and kept their distance, because not all the roads have decent shoulders and space to bike. I had heard that the area was trying hard to promote cycle tourism, and now I believe it.

Another surprise was just how much we loved the town of Joseph. It’s Main Street is maybe 5 blocks long, but it packs a ton of cute into those blocks. Famous for the bronze foundry, Joseph has a huge arts scene. Every corner had artwork in brilliant floral beds, every other store was something related to the arts (a wonderful quilt store too!), not to mention the artisan chocolate shop, the bistros and restaurants, and the murals. If you are looking for a relaxing, small town getaway with tons to do and see, this is your destination.

Wallowa Lake was also a surprise – having been in the area for so many years, I don’t know why we never hung out at the lake. My parents, brother, sister-in-law, The Mechanic and I ended up spending a very, very relaxing afternoon reading in the park by the lake. We had gone up to the top of Mt. Howard on the Wallowa Lake Tramway to admire the mountain views, and had planned on renting kayaks. Instead, we enjoyed the beautiful weather and gorgeous scenery around us. Ah….

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All around are remembrances of the Nez Perce tribe, native to the Wallowa area. As obsessed with Native Americans as I was as a child, I don’t remember exploring any of their history while visiting my grandparents. So I was pleased to be able to see a small bit of their history at the Old Chief Joseph Gravesite and Joseph Canyon from the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest Viewpoint.

It seems like we packed a lot into a short trip; this doesn’t even include our evening at Terminal Gravity (their grassy front lawn will make you stay far longer than you planned!) and the day we spent with extended family and friends remembering my grandparents. I will leave you with more photos of the area. It is just so beautiful that photos don’t do it justice. I’m glad I got to visit one last time and have these images to share with you.

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But now we are home and I’m back to embrace my kind of outdoorsy –

ButIt seeWe packed a lot of scenery intoTheSave

Perils of an Outside Bike

Pampered, protected Fauntleroy, my trusty and beloved commuting bicycle, has become an Outside Bike. I’m sure there’s some bicycle social hierarchy involved with this, as I am sure being an Outside Bike is a step down from being an Indoor Bike. I feel guilty about Fauntleroy’s demotion but whisper to you, Dear Readers, how nice it is not having a bicycle as the centerpiece of our apartment. Of course, that honor has been assigned to Gaston, our teeny 3lb lionhead rabbit. This pampered spoiled beloved bunny now even has his own IKEA bed, as is popular with rabbits of all sorts.

I can't explain it but even His Fluffiness, who doesn't play with any of his toys, loves this bed

I can’t explain it but even His Fluffiness, who doesn’t play with any of his toys, loves this bed

See? I’ve already started off a post about my bike with info about my rabbit. Poor Fauntleroy.

No, not Fauntleroy's Outside Life, just a quick stop at Whole Foods (thanks Rev Cycles for the rack!)

No, not Fauntleroy’s Outside Life, just a quick stop at Whole Foods (thanks Rev Cycles for the rack!)

The weather here in the DC region has been completely bipolar so far this month – freezing temps earlier with an early touch of snow to fairly warm over Inauguration Weekend. But Fauntleroy has mostly weathered it, well, outside.

Yeah, should have moved him inside for this

Yeah, should have moved him inside for this

So I’ve learned even more things.

  • Bike light batteries do not hold up for long when living in really cold temperatures. I’m not in the habit of taking my lights off my bike because in my apartment, there’s no need, nor is there at my office. And although lights are technically easy to remove, they are just hard enough to be a pain. When I remember. And this is the time of the year when I do actually need functional bike lights!
  • A wet top tube gets my clothes wet. I have a seat cover for the days when I didn’t realize it would rain and get out to find puddles in my saddle, but that doesn’t stop my legs and pants or skirt from getting wet when the top tube is dripping wet. Another argument for a step-through frame.
  • Rust happens faster than I realized.
After only a few days outside. Whoops.

After only a few days outside. Whoops.

I really can’t blame the loss of my bike gloves on the fact that my bike lives outside most of the time now, or in the storage room, but I kind of can. Previously I would just through gloves and things in my front basket then carry all of it up the stairs into the apartment. Now I have to strip everything off and carrying it through the hallways to our apartment. Admittedly – one I lost at the movie theater and one at the gym. But I’ve lost still two different bike gloves, and I’m still blaming it on Fauntleroy’s Outside Life.

Anyone seen a pair of gloves like this, but opposite?

Anyone seen a pair of gloves like this, but opposite?

While out and about recently I passed a brand new apartment building that had a street access bike room. What?!? Although the glass walls would make me nervous about people seeing my bike, being able to roll right in a secured room with staples, right off the sidewalk, would be amazing! Can you imagine? Then Fauntleroy’s problems would ALL be solved – a cozy, secure, inside space that’s easy to access. bike-storage-roomHe’s not a completely neglected bicycle, however. The Mechanic and I are on vacation this week, and Fauntleroy is safely tucked away in our building’s bike storage room. Awkward and not as convenient, but warm and dry. I do still love him, after all.

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Happy 4th Birthday to My Beloved Bike

My commuter bicycle, Little Lord Fauntleroy, to use his full name, turned four on Sunday, February 28th – almost a Leap Year baby! Aww… I love my bike and can’t see changing a thing about it. #bikelove

The story of how Fauntleroy came to be was described at the time in one of my early blog posts, “The Swan and The Secret Garden.” The Mechanic and I hadn’t been dating for that long when he offered to turn one of his bikes into a commuter bike for me. It’s funny to look back at what his bike was before it became Fauntleroy. No fenders, the crazy long handle bars (we eventually trimmed them down a bit), and the short and uncomfortable Brooks saddle… so different!

Before the transformation into Fauntleroy

Before the transformation into Fauntleroy

My how he’s grown! From the first iteration with the plastic lacy rear basket, to a Wald front basket, to several different saddles, to the lovely Copenhagen front basket and Swedish skirt guard, then leather wrapped handlebars and MonkeyLectric Lights….

Apparently the only photo I have of Fauntleroy with the lacy rear basket is the one time I tried the vertical bike racks at work

Apparently the only photo I have of Fauntleroy with the lacy rear basket is the one time I tried the vertical bike racks at work

Minus the rear basket, with a new front basket...

Minus the rear basket, with a new front basket…

Test ride Copenhagen style with no helmet (!!!), front basket and skirt guard

Test ride Copenhagen style with no helmet (!!!), front basket and skirt guard

Current Look

Current Look

There really isn’t anything I’d do to to change this bike right now. Yes, the paint is in desperate need of being redone but I can’t pick a color, so I’m avoiding it. Poor beat up bike! It’s been a fun, adventurous four years so far, and I can’t wait to see where we go in the next four! Happy 4th Birthday, Fauntleroy!

An Ode to Bikeshare

I own three bicycles. I love Capital Bikeshare.

Thursday evening, I came home on the Metro, where I found the Capital Bikeshare 2015 #busybike. I don’t normally bike from the Metro station home, because it’s not that far, and I still have to walk from the bikeshare dock to my front door. But how could I not ride the #busybike?! Busy BikeIt’s so easy and freeing! No need to worry about a lock, a helmet*, bike lights, my clear glasses that I wear as protection, nothing – just me and a simple, sturdy red bike. It’s such a lovely feeling to push the bike in the dock, hear the locking beep, and walk away. Grab, bike, return. All things should be this simple. What’s not to love?!

 

 

*I prefer to wear a helmet because it makes me feel safer, but sometimes, I just don’t have one with me. This time I was riding less than a mile through neighborhood streets.

Comfort Biking: Headed to Seven Corners

It’s been a while since I’ve written a Comfort Biking blog post, because I haven’t done much biking beyond back and forth to work. But over the weekend, I needed to run by JoAnn Fabrics, in Seven Corners. The weather was nice and I needed the exercise, so I biked.

It's not far, but it's not comfortable, either

It’s not far, but it’s not comfortable, either

There is an official “bike route” for most of the trip. If The Mechanic hadn’t shown the route to me, I might not have found it. Well, I might have, but not as easily. The route runs parallel-ish to Route 50/Arlington Blvd. Because Route 50 is a major road, the bike route wiggles through the neighborhoods. Parts of it really aren’t all that bad, but the signage is lousy. There are a few awkward/potentially dangerous intersections, two in Arlington and two in Fairfax. And of course, once you arrive in Seven Corners, well, it’s a car-centric retail-haven of too many intersecting roads. Bad, bad, bad pedestrian design.

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Bicycle advocates, bike-friendly urban planners, and savvy government employees talk all the time about getting the “interested but concerned” people out on bikes. I’m pretty sure this bike route is not the way to do that. It’s a shame, because it’s the closest shopping area, with a Target, Petsmart, Safeway, Home Depot, Barnes & Nobles, JoAnn Fabrics, Michael’s Crafts Store, Sears, and more – but they are all trapped in a maze of streets. The Mechanic lived right smack in the middle of this area before we got our current apartment, and he’s spent hours walking through questionably safe intersections to get to Target and Safeway. Try getting someone new to biking through this! Um, probably not. As short of a distance as it is, even I prefer to take the bus sometimes.

I've waited at this light enough times to know that it sucks - these people probably do it every day

I’ve waited at this light enough times to know that it sucks – these people probably do it every day

Arlington County has no control over Route 50, so there isn’t much they can do. However, I think better signage would be a good start. Perhaps Arlington would prefer people *not* go to Seven Corners to shop, since it’s outside of the County – maybe that’s the real reason why it’s uncomfortable to get there by bike!

(Also, I don’t think I’ve ever made it to Seven Corners and back without working up a sweat, regardless of temperature. It seems like it’s truly uphill both ways!)

There is really only one way to sum up biking from Arlington to Seven Corners: Bike Route SignThe bike route is there. It’s just not easy to find.

Product Review: Novara Whittier Bike Dress

Despite my attempts to be on an “anything but wedding-related” shopping freeze, I used the excuse of my birthday, and a cash gift, to buy myself the REI Novara Whittier Bike Dress, in the bright blue option.

Novara Whittier Bike Dress

Novara Whittier Bike Dress

I’ve written before about the REI Novara line, and how the garments I saw were close but not quite, and I have to say, I think this dress is pretty spot on. Unlike the reflective fabric mountain biking shorts (again, who is going to see that?!), this dress is designed to be a cute comfy dress, with some bike-friendly detailing. I wore it yesterday to run some errands, and then last night to a DC party The Mechanic and I went to, and was very pleased with it.

Picking out chalkboard paint at Home Depot for a little wedding DIY, and looking quite normal.

Picking out chalkboard paint at Home Depot for a little wedding DIY, and looking quite normal.

The dress has a comfy elastic waist that was surprisingly flattering (my stomach looked so flat in this!), and the skin-cancer-phobic part of me really appreciated having my shoulders covered. One less body part to worry about reapplying sunscreen onto! You can’t see it unless you are up close, but there are some also flattering vertical tucks in the front bodice, which I like. There are two side seam pockets, which zip shut, and hide a drawstring that allows you to pull up the sides of the skirt, to make it shorter for biking.

Pulling up the dress from the pocket drawstring.

Pulling up the dress from the pocket drawstring.

I ultimately decided to bike un-ruched.

I ultimately decided to bike un-ruched.

I thought the dress was extremely comfy to bike in, even without the sides pulled up. Maybe on my bike I would gather it up, since I have a top tube that tends to interfere with skirts more than the CaBi step-thru frame. Or maybe not.

In action!

In action!

My favorite part of the dress, of course, is the reflective detailing. Reflective piping is stitched into the back yoke seam, exactly where it should be! I guess someone has been reading my blog and taking tips! ; )

Docking the bike at home, with the reflective trim on the back of the dress doing its job.

Docking the bike at home, with the reflective trim on the back of the dress doing its job.

I am quite pleased with this dress, and plan on taking it on the honeymoon to bike in. I do wish the color options had been a bit better – I sort of get making a solid black version, to have a bikey LBD (Little Black Dress, for those of you who don’t know, considered a sartorial staple by many women), but I disagree with anything all black for biking. Even with reflective trim, biking (or walking) in the dark in solid dark clothing is not the best idea. On the other hand, although I love the blue version, the print is not my first or second or even third go-to. A classic stripe with a solid yoke would be so perfectly nautical and summery, and be even more “normal.” But that’s really just being super picky about a dress I really love! Way to go REI!

 

Crafting a Bike Helmet Wedding Veil

The Mechanic and I are having a real wedding, with an outdoor ceremony, a real photographer, a real wedding dress, a reception, and so on, for about 30 guests. We are also doing the European-style civil, aka legal, wedding a few days before. The original idea was to just bike to Arlington County city hall, do a quick legal ceremony, and have my brother “officiate” at the real wedding. Although the original plans have changed a bit, we still aim to bike to city hall. Actually, in Arlington, there is no city hall – it will be an approved “civil celebrant” lawyer’s office. Much less romantic, although the officiant looks like a character, and I look forward to him conducting the ceremony.

Back to the bike part – I bought a new dress to wear that day, something I could bike in, wear at the rehearsal dinner, and take on the honeymoon in the bottom of that giant travel pack. Huzzah for Lands’ End! But I decided it would be fun to have a veil on my bike helmet. Why not?! If we want biking to be considered a complete transportation option, why can’t I bike to my wedding wearing a veil?! So guess what I made tonight?

I bought white tulle and glitter tulle at JoAnn Fabrics, and added my navy blue reflective grosgrain. The glitter from the tulle goes everywhere! But it matches my silver glitter Nutcase helmet, so that makes me happy. The glitter on everything in the apartment? Not so much.

I’m pretty happy with the results, but fully acknowledge that I threw this together in about an hour, and it is not fancy sewing at all. But for one use only, it doesn’t matter what it looks like, it’s the effect I’m going for that matters!

Alas, now I have to wait until next month to put the whole outfit together! Don’t worry, I’ll share photos of the veil in action on the Big Day.

(My friend LilyLadyBlue made the earrings and necklace and they are so lovely! I can’t wait to wear them either. I might sneak in an early showing of those, instead of waiting until June… Check out her Etsy shop !)

Just Bikey Thoughts

The Sea Gull Century behind me, I had looked forward to at last making my colorblocked sweatshirt, and duly set out in rainy weather to find fabric inspiration. Alas, inspiration was nowhere to be found. I found some options, just nothing I was in love with. So, no sewing project this weekend, sadly.

These two colors were close, but the fabric was too lighweight. Bummer.

These two colors were close, but the fabric was too lightweight. Bummer.

I made sourdough bread instead.

Yum, sourdough bread!

Yum, sourdough bread!

So instead of talking about me, I wanted to talk about some friends.

First of all, I need to share the new BikeArlington movie, “BikeSwell.” The Mechanic and I attended the premiere of this movie last week, on a very rainy Thursday (which did allow me to wear my new Cleverhood again!). “BikeSwell” is a 30-minute movie about how bicycling is picking up in Arlington County. It’s full of prominent people in the biking and walking movement here in Arlington as well as colleagues and people I admire. I admit to a “swell” of pride watching it – I’m part of this! Definitely watch the video. BA_Poster_vFinal

But even while I feel part of this bicycles-as-transportation movement here in Arlington, and even though I just completed by first century, I still don’t feel like a “cyclist.” Lady Fleur had a timely post on that topic today in her blogpost, “From Far and Wide, Ladies Ride, Ride, Ride!”  (This post made me wish I could bike with her and her gal pals – they always look like they are having so much fun!) It’s the group’s comments after the bike ride that I want to draw attention to – the discussion of what it means to be a “cyclist.”

Lady Fleur reports how opinions varied from “earning” the right to be called a “cyclist” after starting to wear a jersey, to not even wearing a jersey counts as being a cyclist. I thought this was interesting because now that I have that one century under my belt, I finally feel like a real “cyclist,” yet still don’t think of myself as a “cyclist” first and foremost. Nope, if you were to ask me, I would say that I am a designer, or a historian, or a stitcher, but not a cyclist. Maybe it’s because my primary bicycling function is my transportation cycling – I ride to work, I ride to Target, I ride to G Street Fabrics, I ride to JoAnn Fabrics. Although I have recently spent almost my entire weekend on my road bike, it was a short-term thing, and not something I’ll return to. (Well, not on that level. I am looking forward to a few regional half- and metric-centuries next summer.)

Nearing the finish line of the Sea Gull Century!

Nearing the finish line of the Sea Gull Century!

Maybe it has to do with time spent in the saddle? My daily commute is so short I hate to even admit I bike to work! Somehow, when I say that, it seems like it should be much more difficult and strenuous. And yet, that is exactly what we try to impress upon people – it doesn’t have to be hard, or challenging, or sweat-producing. It has to be easy, or you’ll never want to do it again. And we want it to be everyday, commonplace, no big deal, just jump on a bike and ride to the store. That’s the goal, to be like the Copenhageners, who don’t identify themselves as “bicyclists,” because it’s just something everyone does, every day. So maybe the goal is to not be a “cyclist,” after all. And yet…. there’s nothing special about being commonplace.

Commonplace people in Montreal

Commonplace people in Montreal

Oh dear. Such a mixed message! Does any other women have any other interpretations of “cyclists”?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another Bicycle Song

I feel like I need to start a collection of bicycle songs. I”m sure everyone has seen the “M******ing Bike Song” by now, and there was a cool flash mob video that circulated at work a while ago too.

And now I just have to share this video! It’s too funny. Dancing girls in Peugeot jerseys in early 60s Paris – and Alex Marco is singing while cycling! I think it’s time to revive this!

Screen grab of the video

Thanks to Momentum Magazine for posting it on Facebook.