From New Orleans to New Apartment

A week again I was in New Orleans for work. The Association for Commuter Transportation held its annual conference in the Big Easy, five days of greeting industry friends, meeting new ones, learning a lot and being inspired.

One of the highlights was hearing Elizabeth Levin and LaVerne Reid talk about women in transportation and different experiences breaking into a traditionally male industry decades ago. I bought the book “Boots on the Ground, Flats in the Boardroom,” and am looking forward to reading it. Hopefully someday soon….

I didn’t do any biking while in New Orleans but saw the brilliant (and I do mean that literally!) Social Ride, with at least 20 people riding bikes almost entirely covered in lights. That was on Frenchmen Street, where we also enjoyed some local music and beverages.

One of the conference vendors was Lime Bike, a dockless bikeshare system. I love the bikes for their design, but also the solar panels in the front baskets that power the digitally-connected ring locks that unlock the bike for you. I think they mostly cater to the university transportation people at the conference. 

Upon my return from the conference, I jumped in to help The Mechanic finish our move. It sounds like everything that could possibly go wrong did, and we are only now digging out from the chaos. It will be a relief to get settled. Gaston is already quite comfortable in the new place, but then again, he is still in his same place. 

I shall be back to my regular blogging schedule but alas, I doubt I will get any sewing done. It’s just as well – nothing like moving to make me feel like I have too much stuff. I’m trying to purge as I unpacked. Do I really need 6 lipsticks in almost the same color?!?

Let me leave you with some photos from Dat Dog on Frenchmen Street. This hot dog place (yes they have vegetarian/vegan options) is being redecorated in an intergalactic style – complete with Chewbacca over the bar. I love this place. 

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 –

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Me Made May Returns!

It’s May! It’s my birthday month! It’s National Bike Month! It’s really finally Spring! It’s also Me Made May month, again, and this has me a bit flummoxed.

I love the idea behind Me Made May, of wearing clothing I’ve made myself every day the entire month. In it’s eight year this year, the challenge is intended to encourage people who sew and knit and create to wear and love the things they make. Everyone can make up their own specific challenge, be it to finish projects or wear less-loved things and/or to create a list of holes, things they wish they had. Personally I still want to try to focus on business-appropriate garments, because although I definitely have 31 me-made garments, they aren’t all “corporate” enough for all the work events in my life. And I wear most of my items pretty regularly, so making and hiding isn’t that big of a concern of mine. Although of course there are things that I wish I loved better, I was fairly pleased with how last year’s Me Made May turned out:

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In addition to the corporate looks, part of this year’s Me Made challenge will be our upcoming trip to London. I’m turning 45 and thought that this would be a good excuse for a weekend trip to London – a city I haven’t visited since 1990! For our four day trip I’m thinking two pairs of pants and a dress or skirt, then a few tops. I just can’t decide which because most of my tops are summer weather, and it probably won’t be that warm. I hate to take blouses that will wrinkle in my luggage because I hate ironing on vacation, haha! And most of my dresses are summer dresses as well. I want to take my new striped nautical dress, but I’m not sure the weather will be warm enough. I might take it anyway! I wish I’d had time to finish the 1940s trousers I’m making; I bet they would be perfect.

Maybe, maybe not….

There are other challenges that prevent me from wearing Me Made clothing, namely, the bike events in May to which I need to wear work branded clothing. I certainly don’t need another pair of jeans, but something to wear with a polo shirt might be something to add to the list of holes in my 31 day wardrobe. It seems like my list of “missing” clothing is really long already!

I haven’t pledged on Zoe’s website but here is my pledge:

I, Elizabeth of TinLizzieRidesAgain, sign up as a participant of Me-Made-May ’17. I endeavour to wear at least one Me Made garment each day for the duration of May 2017. In addition, I will create a list of “missing” clothing to help me focus on my future sewing plans.

The drawback to this pledge, of course, is that I plan on buying fabric at both Liberty of London and Dashing Tweeds, which will probably throw off any cohesive, practical sewing plans I might have. I’ll need to finish aforementioned 1940s trousers but then you know I’ll be dying to get something made with my new stash! Capsule collection, pshaw. But really, this is a good opportunity to help me focus, and maybe figure out how to be 100% pleased with what I make.

I really want to take this as well but think it will be too cool for this as well. Bah!

Sustainability in Shenandoah

The Mechanic and I are celebrating our second wedding anniversary, and since the date falls midweek (June 14, in fact!), we celebrated over the weekend by hiking in Shenandoah National Park.

Looking West from Stony Man Summit

Looking Northwest from Stony Man Summit

 

The Mechanic, who prefers roughing it, agreed to stay at the Skylands Resort overnight, mostly so I could convince him to eat at the restaurant – I really wanted to celebrate with the famous blackberry ice cream pie! We stayed in a cabin, which was slightly deceptive, because we didn’t get our own cabin, but rather, a fourth of one of the original cabins.  It was charming, small, and rustic, but the charm mostly wore off as we watched a mouse exploring our belongings after we got into bed. Erk. The resort was fully booked, so we spent the night with all of our belongings in the rental car, while I sweltered with the sheet over my head, so the mouse wouldn’t run across the pillow. Romantic anniversary…

The weather was perfect, sunny, warm but not hot, and very windy. We saw three black bears, a few deer, lots of chipmunks, birds, inchworms, butterflies, and of course, the mouse. But what got me really excited was the hourglass in the shower. Shower ChallengeThis 5-Minute Shower Challenge is *brilliant*! I’d love to talk to whomever came up with this, because for all the things that hotels do to reduce their footprint, it’s hard to talk to people about how much water they use when they shower. This is the perfect way to do it – give everyone a game that not only brings awareness to an important conservation issue, but challenges them to see how they can help, while cheering them on to doing better. The “towel talk” is one thing, and dependent on how well trained the hotel staff are – even if you carefully hang up your towel to reuse, sometimes they still get replaced. Water usage is a conservation issue that doesn’t currently get enough attention, so it’s nice to see this challenge.

Other sustainability issues that struck us while we were there include, of course, biking and dining. The roads are so narrow and twisty and windy, that cyclists who brave the roads (and we saw many) were cranking up hills with queues of cars behind them, then whipping down hills, still with cars behind them. It’s not my comfort level, and it’s a shame that there isn’t a way to add in proper bike lanes. We did see a walking lane in Skylands, although it came to an abrupt end in the middle of the road. Walking LaneThe biggest transportation drawback to me was that even once we arrived at our hotel, we still had to drive to get just about anywhere. We explored hiking trails that were near Skyland, but I’m sure there are better ones out there. We just didn’t feel like driving to them. And you still have to drive to the various visitors’ centers. It’s a shame they can’t run shuttles between at least the visitors’ centers, resorts, campsites, and major trail heads. Reducing the vehicle travel within the park would contribute greatly to the air quality, which is the topic of a few of the displays in the Big Meadows interpretive center. Of course, The Mechanic loved our rental Mercedes Benz, a surprise and free upgrade from Enterprise, so he wasn’t as upset about driving, but after a deer jumping across the road immediately in front of us, he was even more cautious while driving. See – fewer cars would equal more wildlife survival!Our Wheels

Another thing that was slightly disappointing was the menu at the Pollack Dining Room at Skyland. Not a lot of vegetarian options. I mean, at least there were some, but I feel that national parks should put more effort into discussing food and sustainability if they are going to offer meals, especially when conservation is pretty much what national parks are all about. Even locally raised meat uses way more water than do vegetarian options, including grains and pulses. Plus, it’s cheaper. I don’t expect an entirely vegetarian menu in national parks. I mean, you’d lose a ton of visitors! But at least offer some better/other options than portabella burgers or pasta. Our meals were tasty, nevertheless, and the blackberry ice cream pie was worth breaking my no-dessert rule!Blackberry Ice Cream PieOverall, our second anniversary weekend was a definite win, and mouse aside, couldn’t have been better. The sustainability puzzle keeps me thinking, about ways to make it easier and more fun, but there are no easy answers, and I am not assuming to offer any. But I really love that shower challenge! Do you know how long a 5-minute shower is? Butterfly Whisperer

 

New Orleans

I am in New Orleans! I’ve reunited with my high school best friends for a long weekend, taking advantage of one of my friends living here – but she is moving back to California in June so we had to squeeze in a visit.

I have been to New Orleans before, 19 years ago, but both times, I was on tour nearby (well, 3 or so hours away), so we rented a car to drive in for the day. I’ve never stayed here. The list of things to do is quite lengthy, leaving us trying to jigsaw our wish list into an agenda. 

The first day was the French Quarter, for rum drinks, beignets and voodoo.  

 
I wore my khaki skirt and a hat from the Gap, purchased ages ago, but ended up buying a cute straw cloche from Goorkin Bros.  

 
Next up on our agendas – a swamp tour, the zoo, cemeteries, the pharmacy museum, a plantation, the steam boat, more rum drinks, and crawfish étouffée. Hopefully we can squeeze it all in!  

 

Touristing Through NYC Without Bikes

The Mechanic and I took advantage of a long weekend to spend some time in New York City. I really wanted to see the Metropolitan Museum of Art exhibit, Death Becomes Her, and it had been almost a year since I last went up. The Mechanic had technically been once before but he and his buddies didn’t do much sight seeing in the two days they were there. I had a good time planning some sightseeing for him. On the Town The Last ShipWe crammed many activities into a very short period of time. We took the Bolt Bus up on Friday afternoon, and dropped off bags at my best friend’s theater before picking up our Today Tix to see “The Last Ship,” the Broadway musical Sting wrote and was starring in (it closes January 24th, alas; it was really good). A different theater friend was working it, so we stopped backstage after the show to say hi. I’m sure she arranged to have Sting walk past us while we were standing there. Using the fabulous new Today Tix app, we decided to buy tickets to a Sunday night performance of “On the Town,” as well, which we totally enjoyed.

Saturday was a true whirlwind – according to the health tracker app on my phone, we walked over 22,000 steps. The temperature never made it to freezing, either, it was miserably cold. We started off on the Brooklyn Heights promenade, where I pointed out my former Wall Street office, then jumped on a subway to Wall Street itself. I hadn’t been to the 9/11 Memorial before; the pools are so peaceful and reflective. Then we walked past City Hall to Little Italy, where we had pastries, then through SoHo, where I popped into All Saints. I can’t afford the clothing there, but I love the old sewing machine decorations! Then on to the West Village, Murray’s Cheese Shop, Sockerbit, a Swedish candy store, the Meatpacking District, the High Line, the across 23rd Street to Fish’s Eddy, ABC Home, and finally to Rolf’s German Restaurant for dinner with friends. Rolf’s was still decorated for Christmas – my goodness was that overwhelming! This place is famous for it’s over-the-top decorations, and I’m glad I finally experienced it. Photos do not do it credit. After dinner, we went back to ABC Kitchen, and had a lovely glass of wine after saying hi to my friend’s niece, who is a pastry chef there. The desserts we got were lovely! Yum.

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It rained all day Sunday. We tried to be inside as much as possible. We started at Grand Central Station, then quickly toured the Main Library. I dragged The Mechanic up 5th Avenue so I could window shop (I did buy this cool blush colored moto jacket and floral tee shirt at Joe Fresh, huzzah!). Once we got past Rockefeller Center, however, I gave up and we took a bus the rest of the way to the Met Museum. I took The Mechanic to the Temple of Dendur, then we split up to see what we wanted.

The Death Becomes Her exhibit was not large, but well presented. I’ve been interested in mourning clothing for a long time, and it was wonderful to see the clothing in person. Even a mourning gown worn by Queen Victoria was on display! I can tell you truthfully that she was tiny and stout. The photos and caricatures don’t lie.

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Monday we just hung out with my best friend, who is soon getting married and moving to Dallas, TX. Much more low key, and less stressful on the feet!

The view from Brooklyn Heights

The view from Brooklyn Heights

As The Mechanic and I were headed back to the Bolt Bus to return home, we realized that not only had we not ridden CitiBikes (too cold! too wet!), we hadn’t taken photos of anything bike related! How very unlike us! We saw plenty of bicycles worthy of our admiration, including several Linuses and Gazelles in Brooklyn Heights. Bike lanes, bike racks, people on bike – we were too cold or wet to take our hands out of our pockets to take photos. Oh well – next time we’ll try the Big Apple when the weather is at least warmer. Then we’ll do the bikey thing! MTA card

Bike-Envy of Montreal

There were so many great things about the bicycle culture in Montreal that it’s hard to decide where to start. I guess the biggest thing was the cycle track not far from our hotel. And all the bike lanes had sharrows painted through the intersections, so it was clear that bicycles were still in the road. And not just one sharrow, several. We weren’t sure about the diamond in the lanes, however.

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The other instantly noticeable feature was the large number of people on bikes – all kinds of people, even EMTs! I’d say about half wore bike helmets, and most of them were wearing the “urban” style such as Nutcase or Bern. We did some some roadie-looking cyclists, both male and female, but they stood out because there were so few of them. A large percentage of the people we saw were riding Bixi bikes, and no wonder – those docking stations are everywhere! And what we consider a large station here is an average size one there.

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Another great feature were the parking meters with built in bike racks. We saw tons of those. Also several different styles of bike racks, which is always fun. And almost every bike rack had at least one bike with a baby seat on the back, a very good indicator of the cycling community – if families feel safe enough to bike around with their infants, it’s a safe place to bike, period. 100_9360100_9404100_9490100_9646100_9647100_9356100_9437100_9455100_9573

We also saw a surprising number of e-bikes.

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The Metro not only indicates which Metro car bikes are allowed on, the stations have channels to run bikes up and down the stairs! This just about made The Mechanic and I cry. We even saw someone using it. So envious.

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Naturally, we went into a few bike shops…

100_9689100_9695100_9824I noticed with some amusement that a church was located directly in front of a cycle track – and that it had a drop-off cut-out right in front! (I’m not sure what the technical term for that actually is.) But it made me think of the M Street cycle track-church drama.

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Along one of the cycle tracks I noticed that where the bus stops were located, on the traffic side of the track, the track itself was raised so that a pedestrian wouldn’t have to step down into the track, but could walk straight onto the bus stop island. If one was in a wheelchair, or had a baby stroller, it wouldn’t affect them at all, crossing the cycle track. And the slight bump was barely noticeable from a bike.

bus stopBuses didn’t have bike racks on the front, and the only bus we rode was the one to and from the airport (every 5 minutes!), so I can’t say much about that.

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The crowning glory of the bikey part of the weekend was hanging out in front of Velo Quebec – Maison des Cyclistes, a coffee and wine bar dedicated to cyclists. We sat for a long time just watching everyone cruise past us on bikes. That’s where we really saw all kinds – even someone in a motorized wheelchair zipped past in the cycle track! It was right next to a Bixi station (well, across the street), as well as a well-traveled intersection, plus a bike repair station (I think that’s what it was, anyway).100_9673100_9672 100_9678IMG_6428IMG_6431IMG_6433

Across the street, next to the Bixi station, was a large sign with some history of Montreal’s cycling culture, as well as helpful descriptions of the different types of bike lanes. I thought that would be a pretty handy thing to have in every bicycle-friendly city. IMG_6425IMG_6435

Also, one of the signs included some stats about the cycling population of Quebec – 4 million cyclists in 2000, is what I think the sign said. That’s impressive! IMG_6423

Much like Copenhagen, Montreal came across not as a “city of cyclists” but as a city where some people choose to get around by bike, rather than by another mode of transportation. That is, not anything special, unique, crazy, or “niche.” After all, if regular clothing stores use bicycles in advertisements, how “niche” can that be?

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Skunkfunk

Okay, kind of excited! Not only did my two new patterns arrive in the mail today (yippee, new toys!), but I stumbled upon a European clothing line I love but haven’t thought about in ages, despite still owning one “vintage” piece.

Can't wait to start the colorblock sweatshirt!

Can’t wait to start the colorblock sweatshirt!

But the exciting news (well, other exciting news)! Background – The Mechanic and I are going to Montreal soon for a long weekend. No particular reason to go there other than we wanted to go somewhere that required a passport but not a full day of travel. A long time ago, I was in Montreal in the winter for work, so I don’t really remember it, and that was almost 20 years ago…

Anyway, I finally started doing some research on the city, and found a boutique that looks interesting enough to try to locate. It’s called L’appartement boutique and the homepage says “Unique – Recycle – Ecologique – Local – Importation.” I haven’t touched French since my senior year in high school, but I’m pretty confident in figuring out what all this means, and I’m pretty sure it’s all stuff I like. Unique, recycled, ecological, local, imported – perfect! Plus (and most importantly) there is a girl on a bike graphic on one of the other pages!

Love the girl in a skirt on the bike!

Love the girl in a skirt on the bike!

Montreal, after all, is home to BIXI Bikeshare, which we have every intention of using while we are there.

Further cruising around their website made me gasp! There, listed in the “Importations” section was the name of a label hanging in my closet! Skunkfunk was a label I had discovered on a long-ago trip to Berlin, and I’d made a point to return to the boutique when I returned in 2006. I LOVE their clothing! I still have the first blouse I bought there in whatever year that was I first found them (2003?).

My old Berlin-purchased Skunkfunk blouse.

My old Berlin-purchased Skunkfunk blouse.

I’ve been going through their lookbooks and I am already making a list! Skinufunk 3

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Their website says that it is a Spanish company, and although they don’t have many stores, there is apparently one in New York as well. Can’t believe I missed that! And they have an online store – Pinterest will be busy tonight!

The poor Mechanic – I’m sure he won’t be as interested in their menswear as I will be in everything else…

So much to do in Montreal, and what am I excited about? Yep, clothes shopping….  Skunkfunk 2

The Amish, Bunnies, and a Beach

Yesterday was a great day despite the heat – the 44 mile Team in Training ride was sociable and went well, then The Mechanic and I played tourist in the Chesapeake Bay area.

The nice thing about doing group rides is being able to ride with a group. So far, on the TNT rides, I’ve floated between groups, too fast for some, not fast enough for others. Yesterday I found a group to pace with for most of the ride, which was very pleasant. It was nice to be able to chat a bit with my teammates, ask questions about cycling and fundraising, and discover others with a love of Broadway shows. We were very pleased when we discovered that part of our route took us on the Three Notch Trail, so we were off roads. I think we lollygagged a bit on that part. But at the very end I powered up the last big hill, and then just kept going – it felt good to really crank out those last few miles. And I appreciated my teammate who stuck right behind me through that last push.

The route for the Hughesville "Hidden Amish" TNT ride.

The route for the Hughesville “Hidden Amish” TNT ride.

The ride had been titled the “Hidden Amish” ride, and I was surprised, not realizing that there would be Amish outside of Pennsylvania. Shows what I know! We passed farmers in a field on a tractor of some kind pulled by horses, saw an Amish boy mowing the lawn with a non-motorized lawnmower (the kind my dad used to have!), and then saw a woman driving her horse and buggy towards us, small girl asleep in her lap. She looked very unconcerned about all the cars and trucks pulling around her. I guess we must look equally unconcerned, as cyclists, with the cars and trucks pulling around us, but she looked much more Zen than we probably do.

The Mechanic and I had planned on spending the day in the area, so we bought a 5 gallon solar shower to rig up behind the van, so I could shower after the ride. I have to say, I was pretty excited by this idea! In fact, I probably jumped in the shower too soon, since I continued to sweat for a long time afterwards. But it felt nice to rinse off and put on a clean, dry dress.

You can just see the solar shower bladder on the roof of the van behind my head.

You can just see the solar shower bladder on the roof of the van behind my head.

On our way further south, headed for Calvert Cliffs State Park, we passed a huge farmers’ market, and decided to go back and check it out. I’m so glad we did! It was the most diverse, unusual market I have ever been to. One side was farm stuff – produce, livestock, baked goods, jams and jellies, while the other side was the cheap plastic junk you see at flea markets, with some antique furniture and law mower parts thrown in for good measure. On the flea market side, we agreed that we felt like we were in another country.

Parking at the farmers' market

Parking at the farmers’ market

But the best part was the bunnies! Some of the farmers were selling bunnies, as well as chickens, chicks, and even puppies (puppies of the smallest, roundest, fluffiest kind I’ve ever seen, soooo cute!). I love bunnies, and can’t wait to have another, but not this weekend. Or any time soon.

Bunny love!

Bunny love!

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We escaped with a loaf of bread and mini fruit pies, leaving the gorgeous produce, the python, the junky stuff, and the furniture behind.

We picnicked at Calvert County State Park before the short 1.8mile trek to the beach. The hike was along side a marshy, swampy area that was full of water lilies of some kind, and dead trees. IMG_5437

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The beach was not what I expected at all – the side where the cliffs are was shut down because of land slides, and the rest of it was pretty small, and full of sunburned people clearly unconcerned about the number of jellyfish floating in the surf. We didn’t linger long. P1050155

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Although we had seen a “no bicycles” sign on the trail when we started, there was a bike rack at the beach, so clearly there are trails somewhere in the park that can be ridden. But it was late, we were so sweaty, and it was just too hot to figure it out. So The Mechanic’s mountain bike and my commuter bike stayed in the van. I did have one last ride before we headed home though – how often do you get to ride a dinosaur?!

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I Drove a Car Today!

Yes, on Dump the Pump Day, I drove a car.

I had to go to Leesburg for work, and since it’s a bit too far to bike in one day, and not Metro accessible, I Zipped a ZipCar, a Honda Civic. As someone who does not own a car, nor spends much time in one, I made a list of my fish-out-of-water experience.

  1. It was really low to the ground! Sitting in the car put my eye level much, much lower than when I’m on my bike. I had a hard time getting used to that. It was weird on roads I know from my bike perspective, but once I got on the highways, it became less noticeable. Still, I prefer my higher vantage point – it feels a bit safer to be able to see what’s going on around me from that height.
  2. I felt a bit uncomfortable and awkward in the car, especially since it is not a make and model I’ve driven. Okay, I admit, when I drove a car in the early 1990s, it was a lovely “rose beige” 1982 two-door Volvo.
    My Volvo was similar to this one (image from this website), in a lovely "rose beige" color.

    My Volvo was similar to this one (image from this website), in a lovely “rose beige” color.

    Look at all that window space! Such visibility! (Image from this website)

    Look at all that window space! Such visibility! (Image from this website)

    So anything manufactured in the last 5-10 years is “newfangled” technology to me! But it made me think a comment by a bike shop owner in a Washington Post article recently, that Capital Bikeshare riders are “the most inexperienced riders emulating more experienced riders.” So, are ZipCar drivers the most inexperienced drivers because they are assumed to not own cars, and therefore don’t drive very often, so they aren’t very good at it?

  3. I hate the lack of visibility I had in this car, and frankly, any of the cars I’ve recently Zipped. The windows have apparently shrunk since the 1980s. As cars become sleeker, more streamlined, and more safe (that is, airbags everywhere!), the windows have become mere suggestions.
    The back seat headrests took up half the back window. If I owned the car, these would come out.

    The back seat headrests took up half the back window. If I owned the car, these would come out.

    I realized that the visibility I have as a cyclist, being able to see all around me, is far preferable to glancing over my left shoulder, seeing a hunk of black plastic, hoping that there wasn’t a car behind said hunk of plastic, and changing lanes. No wonder drivers hit everything under the sun – they can’t really see!

    This side airbag had better keep me safe as I blindly change lanes...

    This side airbag had better keep me safe as I blindly change lanes…

    I guess car companies will now need to install cameras on the sides of cars, so in addition to seeing where you are backing up, so can actually see your blind spot. This was not a problem in my Volvo – the windows were huge! Of course, one could argue that it didn’t have air bags either, but hey, it was a Volvo, so it was a steel box.

  4. The headrest was so uncomfortable! The seat let me sit back, but the headrest pushed my head really far forward. I couldn’t adjust it to be in a better spot. Terrible posture, and so uncomfortable. No wonder people who commute are tense and crabby when they get to work – not only have they been sitting in terrible traffic, their bodies are being contorted in weird ways.

I was lucky because after I returned from Leesburg, I was able to bike to the gym, then bike home. Jumping on my bike was as comfortable as the shorts and tee shirt I’m wearing now. But now I am more grateful for biking benefits I hadn’t been aware of yesterday – actually being able to see what’s going on around me. Although I am now feeling a bit nostalgic for my old Volvo (man I loved that car), based on my experience today, I can reaffirm my preference for bicycle-as-transportation. It just feels safer.

A unicyclist I met in Leesburg - not my comfort level of travel.

A unicyclist I met in Leesburg – not my comfort level of travel.