Friday, July 30, 2010

Nothing rides like a

As expected, it was a long day, and my bus back from  the Cape arrived at  South Station about 8pm.  Despite my tiredness, this bike’s color scheme stopped me in my tracks, (and by the tracks) and I had to get a picture..

At first I was  just drawn to the cheerful color scheme, and I was puzzled by the cryptic lettering that was peeling from the downtube.  Was it a name tag?  You’d think with a bike this distinctive, you wouldn’t need to put your name on it!  And what kind of name is Eer anyway?

It was only when I came around to the headbadge, that it all became clear to me.

Evidently John Deere not only  brands a line of adult cruiser bikes, But John Deere also sold bicycles, in the 1890's and again in the 70's. and it sounds like they're a collector's rarity.  The Scientist thinks this is a real one, but I'm pretty convinced that it's a DIY.

Maybe it's because I like the whimsy of DIY better than a corporate branded bike made in China. I love how people can take a stock frame and create unique bikes by customizing the color and details.

The note shoved under the jaw of the plechner rack is a bit of found whimsy too.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

biking home

Tonight I was at work until almost 10.  The T rules allow you to take your bike on after 7pm, and I considered it- I was tired and I have a long day tomorrow (hence the late night tonight).

There was a post I read recently about "normalizing your commute"  It was mainly about gearing up to prevent excuses for not commuting (trailers, raingear, lights etc).  But it spoke to me about how people make excuses not to ride.  Oh, it's rainy, Oh I'm tired,  Oh, I'm running late.  Oh, the logistics of meeting people and carrying things and  getting places are complicated.

This morning it was spitting at me most of my ride in, although I didn't really get wet, and I'd brought raingear just in case it started to come down.   I thought for about 2 minutes  while I was brushing my teeth about taking the T, but I was running late, and when you factor in the walk at both ends, it's faster to bike. So before I really knew it I was on the bike and headed East.   My legs were MIA- didn't sleep well or maybe it was the heat,  but hey,  I was already riding, and I just spun my way over the bridge, and summoned all my energy for the ride up the Cambridge street hill.

And tonight- honestly, I barely considered taking the train. I'd have to lug Gilbert down three flights of stairs (or take the smelly urinal-elevator) wait for a train in the hot humid station, hold him to keep him from tipping on the ride home,  lug him back up the stairs. It wouldn't save me any time to take the T, and it wouldn't be much easier, all said. Having a system for carrying things, a habitual route, a set of lights that you don't have to fuss with, are all important- mostly because once you have them, you don't have to think about them.  Plus, I learned back when I first met Robert in Italy that riding home cures the mental ills of the day in a way no train ride will ever do.

I'm not a hero, or a martyr or some kind of superwoman,  it's partly just habit, and it's partly just easy.

But mostly it's just more fun.


I personally don't like to carry a bag slung over a shoulder- it makes my back sweaty and I feel unbalanced.  But they can be a dramatic statement
Big graphic colorblocks with a star  (note if you can the streetsign- very MIT)

Skinny jeans,  enormous bag

The Scientist has been riding to work this week for fun, and he's been in a quandry about how to carry things, not having a rack on his road bike.  He's been borrowing my Freitag messenger bag,  but I don't think I could do that every day for very long.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Someone to watch over me

I biked to Chinatown to pick up lunch today.  It's not really that far, but it's a prohibitive distance to walk (more than 15 minutes) at lunch.  I was locking up, when I saw this relief bust.  Looks like Shakespeare, but it could be any generic Dead White Male I suppose, as it was unattributed.
Funny how someone was important enough that they put his bust on a building, but now we can only guess who he is.

I feel a bit guilty...

But if you own the slowly disintegrating seatless mountain-bikey BSO that was abandoned before the 4th of July at one of the three bike racks in front of Whole Foods on Prospect- you have 72 hours  to take it before the city does.   Thanks Cambridge DPW for such quick response on it.

I feel a bit guilty for dropping a dime on it, but it's been there for a really long time, and there's not a lot of parking there- all the spots are usually full and you have to double lock, even at 7:45AM when I come by for a bagel.  I'm going to go by the store though and tell them to tell their employees, just in case it's someone's who works there and has just been too lazy to get the seat replaced/ take it home to assuage my conscience.

Did I make a bad call?

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Longfellow on the Longfellow

I noticed this street (or sidewalk) art right after the 4th, so I suspect it went in for the celebrations (the Longfellow bridge is a big place for watching the fireworks.)  I kept meaning to take pictures, but never had the time- mostly because I'd have to ride back on the sidewalk.  So today I made the time

 I actually memorized this poem when I was about 8.  My grandfather was the product of a one room schoolhouse on the Kansas prairie,  and the gifted and talented program of the day (when you had finished all the schoolbooks) was to memorize poems and literature.  Into his 70's he would quote great passages of Shakespeare.  This somehow translated into my Mom paying me a penny a line to memorize poems.  I'm afraid my tastes in those days ran to lengthly expositional poems.  Not much money to be made in Emily Dickenson.

And the money line:

They only painted the first stanza,  I remember it going on and on,  but this is a nice teaser.  And I like the light blue dots that accent the words.  Thanks Sidewalk Sam!

Speaking of light blue- I looked up to see this going by
I like how even the racks are baby blue.  

What a lovely day to be on a bike!

cup of joe

Ok,  so this isn't the picture I hoped it would be, but this guy was just so nonchalant- riding along to work in his baseball cap, with his Dunkin' Donuts cup in his hand.  He gave me a big smile as I passed across the crosswalk.   I just had to share it, despite the face the you can barely see his bike or his DnD cup

The wind beneath my wheels

It was a lovely breezy day today.  Not too hot, perfect for sailing.

But I was not in the mood for too much flapping in the breeze! I wore a very full, calf length dress this morning. With gores around the base that make it even fuller.

I did stop on the way out the door to take a pair of cotton workout shorts with me, just in case it was too much,  but it was fine.  My worst moment actually was walking down the block at lunch, when I nearly pulled a Marilyn.

I think that there are two keys to riding with a really full skirt.
First and most importantly,  you have to really consciously think to yourself about what would happen if an untoward gust hit when you were in the middle of a maneuver that required both hands.  You have to commit to your safety being more important than modesty if it really comes down to it.   It's never happened to me, but the consequences of losing control because somebody might get an eyeful are not worth it.  If you're worried, wear shorter slimmer skirts, or shorts underneath.

All seriousness aside, the wind is actually your friend when riding with full skirts,  you want to trap a lapful of wind- which you can assist by the occasional hand pushing down at your knees.  This holds the skirt down where it's supposed to be,  and your forward momentum will keep it there.

Another citizen cyclist enjoying the sailboats

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Friday, July 23, 2010

Successful failed picture

This shot of a rider is too far away to tell much about her,  but the graphic nature appeals to me

Thursday, July 22, 2010


The weather was so much cooler and crisper this morning that last night, and I just felt lucky when I strapped on my camera-. I've been trying to take more pictures of people riding bikes looking like they're on their way to their lives,  and I feel like I'm  constantly just missing the perfect shot.  But today I hit the jackpot,  two shots that I could make while I was ready and wasn't moving.

Something about a man in a suit on a bike is emblematic of bicycling's integration into culture.  The idea that you're dressed up, but of course you hop on your bike to get where you're going.  Check out those french cuffs and the briefcase on the rack

A couple of miles on, I snapped this while waiting at the light

Something so summery about a jersey dress.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

No more Cycle Chic

Evidently there's been a big kerfuffle in the cyloblogosphere after the WSJ article I posted about last week.
I've kind of been too busy decontaminating my basement to pay attention, but when I unexpectedly had an evening free (don't ask), I noticed that quite a few pixels have been spilled discussing the concept of cycle chic.

I don't read the Copenhagen Cycle Chic blog very often anymore- there's more interesting (to me) stuff closer to home,  although I continue to admire his ability to capture such wonderful street shots- especially as I try to capture more of them myself, and find it emotionally and technically challenging.

I did dip into it recently though, and a phrase leapt out at me- "citizen cyclist"  I don't know if  Mikael Colville-Andersen is consciously looking for an alternative to the Chic thing, or if it was just what I happened to read, but it really struck me as appropriate.

Despite the title of this blog, and some of the posts,  I hope that it is obvious that I am not exactly a glamazon.   Yes, I sometimes pay to get my toenails painted, and I have a weakness for shoes,  but I don't wear makeup except under duress,  don't dress in designer clothes (unless you consider H&M a designer)  and am not the kind of woman who shrinks from a job that requires power tools and safety glasses.   More importantly I don't really see any conflict between pedicures and power tool (as long as you wear appropriate footwear when operating power tools).  Feminist? Post-Feminist?  I'll let more academic heads than mine debate it.

Although I've posted about my own outfits, I've intended it to show that anyone can ride in anything, not that I'm particularly attractive or stylish.  I'm pushing 40, and I could stand to get a haircut and lose a few pounds before I start making the rounds of modeling agencies.  And although I reserve the right to mock  (or try to re-educate)  people who don spandex to ride 3 miles on the bike path,  I "get" bike specific clothing.  I used to date a racer, and  I used to be a roadie myself, back when I lived 10 miles from town in a very hilly area.  I've ridden a century and to the top of Millcreek canyon (supposedly one of David Zabriskie's training rides) I own bike shorts and even clipless pedals and I  know how to use them,  I just don't see the need most days.

So I'm going to try to stop talking about cycle chic-  too much noise- too many distractions and connotations and misunderstandings.

But I'm a citizen,  just like anyone else.  Same small "d" democratic rights to the road my taxes help fund.  And if I can ride a bike, any other citizen of this fair land can ride.

 Citizen cyclists- mount up and ride wherever you happen to be going!

A lovely evening ride

I knew it was going to be a nice ride home when I left the office after a 2 HOUR conference call, not only because I was ready to be home, but because the temperature had dropped 10 degrees, and the humidity from this morning was gone!.

And then at the first light, I was joined by this lovely lady, who not only bikes in her work clothes (from Arlington no less) but who observes the same no filtering policy that I do.

We rode and chatted together for a while, although it's tough in traffic.  I believe she said her name was Jen,  If I'm wrong and you know her, let me know!

I just found out that there's an urban planning/ bike-ped facilities engineering company just down the street from my office, which I bet is a source of a lot of the cool bikes in my office neighborhood.  I wish I'd asked her if that was where she worked.  It would be fun to get to know those people- I bet we'd have a lot in common.  If anyone works at Toole Design, do you guys have a softball team that needs a ringer?

I also just barely managed to snap this lady riding by on Mass Ave-
What a cheerful Black and White top to go with a classic B&W Raleigh

Monday, July 19, 2010

Livable Streets Block Party

I just read the fine print (after someone pointed it out to me).  The block party stuff is free.  Food/ drink and a raffle ticket are $15 if you are a member.  If you aren't a member and you join on Thursday, the party is free.  You can't  enjoy the food/ drink/ raffle unless you are a member.  In effect this means that if you are not a member, the food/drink/raffle is $50.    This is not how I personally would have set it up,  but I just wanted to let people know so that they don't just show up and are disappointed.

FYI  If you live in Boston, you should come to the Livable Streets Alliance 5th Anniversary block party Thursday night.
Livable Streets Alliance is a great organization that works for more pleasant urban environments for everyone- pedestrians, bicyclists, anyone who wants to enjoy the benefits of life with a healthy street culture.  They do a lot of shoe leather advocacy- going to meetings, reading reports and project statements and making sure that people powered transportation is represented when decisions about infrastructure are being made. They were very influential in getting the Mass ave bike lanes pushed through,  worked hard on getting bike lanes put into the design of the Museum of science bridge re-build (over strong DCR objection- DCR thought the bikes should just ride on the sidewalk)  They're working hard to make sure that the Western Ave/ River Street bridges are reconstructed in a way such that not only are the bridges more bike and ped friendly, the intersections on either side don't feel like deathtrap no-mans lands.

This event is partly block party, partly fundraiser.  $15 gets you food, drink (probably harpoon- they're big bike event sponsors) and a raffle ticket.  They had one two years ago in conjunction with Cambridge Bicycle which was a lot of fun. This year it's closer to their offices,  and they're closing a street down for fun activities (last time there was bigwheel racing and a most enviable ride competition).  The prizes look awesome, the people are great- come out and have a good time with other folks who get around under their own steam!

More details here!

Up up and away!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Media Watch

The Wall street journal had an article that was the banner of the front page, and the lead of the Arts/ Leisure section about cycle chic,  and while I had a couple of issues with it,  I thought that overall it was a better pieces than most in the mainstream media.  Although there was a "business of cycling" slant (not surprising given the source)  I thought it was less patronizing than a lot of the "how cute, women on bikes" stories that one too often sees.  A guy on the elevator today wanted to talk about it- so it's great that it's getting a lot of attention.  A little disappointing that the author had to call her husband to pick her up at the end of the ride.

The thing that disturbed me was how negative the comments FROM OTHER BIKERS were.  There were of course the obligatory 10% of "scofflaw cyclists don't obey the laws, and biking in the city is incredibly dangerous and foolhardy" people,  who were robbed of their favorite "Lance Armstrong wannabe"  line.   What was discouraging was a ton of people, ok,  almost all men, who ragged on how heavy and stupid steel IGH bikes were,  and how the last thing the bike community needs are new inexperienced riders in "dangerous" inappropriate footwear.  
So now we need to don armor and steel toed boots to get to work?  What are you so afraid of guys?  Someone riding to work without a reflective triangle make you feel like what you're doing isn't so heroic and brave?  

To me riding not being heroic is the goal,  and to that end, my other tidbit:

This isn't actually "mainstream" media, but there's a fabulous film from the great Streetfilms about the recent VeloCity conference in Copenhagen.  I know that there's a lot of publicity about Copenhagen and cycle Chic, but this one was told through clips of american city planners there for the conference(Including Livable Streets' Jackie Douglas!) .  It was so inspiring and beautiful- to think that someday we might have the same thing here is something to be dreamed of, and worked for.  My favorite moment was the planner from LA talking about the boxes o'kids she saw everywhere. 

I went to a meeting about the Accelerated bridge program earlier in the week, and although the contrast to the "bad old days"  of the old MassDot was striking,  it's more that they seem to have gotten the message that if they don't plan for bikes, bikers will revolt and make their lives miserable in public comments.    We have such a great advocate in Nichole Freedman on the Boston side of things,  now what we need is a similar visionary in the Mass DOT hierarchy.  The aforementioned Jackie was saying how instead of them grousing about 6" of lane width, they need to come into these meetings saying: this is our plan for getting 30% bicycling mode share by 2020.  Supposedly they're looking for a Ped-Bike coordinator, and I hope that they get the right person in that job.

Hot Pink H

Sorry for the dearth of posts.  Decontamination of the basement proceeds apace, but it's not left a lot of time for messing with the computer:

However this has been lingering on my list of things to post:

A lovely Royal H parked outside my office (we get a lot of fun bikes here- not sure exactly why).  I really like the idea of using rubber grips on drop bars,  but that's because I had a traumatic experience with a roll of bar tape once.
I couldn't read the motto: curvature+ tiny hand lettering+latin= incomprehension.

In an interesting aside,  the purple and orange and white bike was down the street, and I saw a guy in a suit standing there totally checking it out.  He looked up and met my eyes a bit sheepishly, but I smiled, and I was walking Gilbert, so he probably realized I didn't think he was odd. And I'd rather he was obviously ogling bikes than young ladies.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Can't argue with this logic

On one hand, the chromed handrails leading into what used to be Wordsworth books are pretty slick.
On the other hand, bike parking there is scarce.  I bet that if they put in 4 racks where the old pay phones were, they wouldn't need a sign...

Monday, July 12, 2010

Riding in a flash flood

I was so busy making preserved lemons Saturday that I didn't start my errands until early afternoon, and the clear hot morning was starting to turn into ominous clouds.  I figured, hey, I won't melt, and blithely headed off to Home Depot.
It started to rain about 4 blocks from Home Depot, and started to POUR about 2 blocks away.  I took advantage of the pedestrian free sidewalks instead of riding in the giant puddle on the right side of a busy road that makes up those last two blocks.
Amazingly, I found covered parking  for Gilbert in the garage of the building next door to Home Depot, and just got wetter on the way across the adjoining parking lot.  I bought the liquid nails, couple of paint brushes and canvas drop cloth I came for, although not the hostas I was looking for,  and it looked like the rain had mostly subsided when I checked out.

On the way home though it started to really really come down.  There were giant puddles on the pathway from the earlier rain, and between the splashing up from those and the raining down from the sky, I was completely drenched pretty quickly.  Which wasn't such a big deal,  I was headed home, figured I'd just change at home.  Once you're wet, it  doesn't matter if you get wetter,  and most of the few people on the path looked like they had surrendered to it, and were in pretty good spirits.  There were lots of smiles and shrugs- a camaraderie of slight misfortune.  Although the drops were coming down so hard it was almost painful, they were warm, and it wasn't until about 1/2 mile from home when it started to lightning that I got a bit nervous.

Unfortunately, there was a disaster awaiting me at home.
Back when Cambridge was built, the storm water and the sewage were all carried away in one set of pipes (back in the day, those pipes led directly to the Charles, but that's a different story).  Unfortunately they haven't updated them all to the modern system of separate sewage and storm water drains.  
When I got home, I heard a rushing water noise from the basement, and descending, discovered 2 inches of water standing in the basement, and more rushing up though the toilet.
Yes,  that 2" of water in the basement was raw sewage.

So instead of spending a lazy Sunday afternoon adjusting Gilbert's rack to perfectly level, and using the new saddle treatment that arrived in the mail Friday,  the Scientist and I spent the rest of the weekend vacuuming up sewage from the carpet and the floors, ripping out said carpeting and pad and sewage soaked subfloor,  bleaching the bejeazus out of the main room's floor, and sorting everything that was in the basement into "toss",  "disinfect", and "uncontaminated", piles, and then bagging it, disinfecting it, or moving it up into our (now very full) living room.
We still have to bleach the floor in the boiler room, but hopefully that will be finished tonight and we can start to figure out what's next.

Folks,  if you finish out a basement, or if you build a new house,  especially if you live in an older city or suburb where they have combined lines,  put a sewage backflow preventer valve on any basement fixtures, or the whole house if you're allowed.   They need to be cleaned out every couple of years, but they can prevent a world of nastiness.
Retrofitting one is tough, although we're going to see what can be done, so it's good to be aware of the issue before you build.

preserved lemons

Preserved lemons are a moroccan staple, with a very specific and unique flavor-  sweet, sour, salty and somehow rich.

I use them chopped up in couscous and tagines sometimes, but what I mainly use them for is a Moroccan spice paste called Chermoula.  It's kind of like the wilder, spicier cousin of Aioli,  with a base of olive oil, lemon juice,  preserved lemons, paprika and cilantro.  It's addictive and delicious, and tasty as a marinade or a sauce on anything. I mix it into plain couscous, top fish, chicken, veggies, anything with it.  I've been known to eat spoonfuls of it on its own, wriggling with delight.

I used up the last lemons of my last batch of preserved lemons (lasted about a year) over the holiday weekend, making a giant batch of chermoula for a BBQ.    So it was time to make a new batch.
 It's very simple, and pretty foolproof as pickling/ preserving goes thanks to all the acid and all the salt.

Start with a bunch of lemons (I go to the haymarket for the cheapest lemons).  I used 8 to make a quart, but this will depend on the size of the lemons.  I would avoid the giant lemons that you sometimes see, and a lot of people like to use Meyer lemons, which seems like not the highest use for a fancy expensive lemon.

Wash them well with soap.  I scrub them a bit with a scrubbie, to try to get all the wax off.

Cut each lemon in almost quarters-stopping the cut 3/4 though, leaving the four pieces attached at one end.  I don't think this is actually critical- it's just traditional- There were plenty I accidentally sliced all the way through, and they tasted just fine.

Wash a non-reactive glass or ceramic jar  (I of course, used a canning jar, but a lot of people use ceramic crocks).  put a good liberal shake of kosher salt in there (maybe 1/4 cup?)  I don't think that it's possible to use too much salt, and you're going to rinse the lemons well before you use them anyway.

Pour salt on all the cut surfaces- open up the lemon kind of like one of those "fortune tellers"  that were so popular in 3rd grade,  and drop the lemon into the jar.  Pack 2 or 3 lemons in,  pack them down as tight as possible with a wooden spoon, and top with another layer of salt.

Repeat until jar is full.  The packing should have eliminated any voids and juiced the lemons so that the juice is almost to the top of the jar.    Top with a last layer of salt, put the lid on and invert a couple of times so that everything has been well bathed in salty lemon juice.

Let it sit on the counter for a couple of days, inverting it to shake it when you remember,  and then put it in the fridge.  Try to shake it once a week or so, and after a month they should be done.

When they're done, the peels will be soft and pliant, and the pulp will be soft and mushy.  The juice will be thick and syrupy in consistency.
To use, wash of the salt, remove the pulp (which is often too salty to use) and dice the rind and toss it into the dish.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Saddle Skeleton

Saw this on the way back from Brunch:

Looks like a good way to get a nasty pinch in a sensitive place.

But badass looking.

I'm off to oil my saddle.....

Friday, July 9, 2010

Beacon Hill

I'm trying to take more action shots with the new camera.  I'm a bit sheepish about taking pictures of people, but I was stopped as a light, so I just aimed without looking at the viewfinder when I saw her coming down the sidewalk.  The loose linen tunic is so relaxed and chic-summery.

Stay cool this weekend!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

On the Other Side

The Charles River divides Cambridge on the N-NW side (left bank) from Boston on the S-SE side.  There are parallel multi-purpose  paths on each side, and an arterial multi-lane road on each side.  There are 9 bridges in the 5 miles or so of  the "lower Charles":   From Ocean inward:  Museum of Science bridge,  Longfellow, Mass Ave (for some reason called the Harvard Bridge),  the BU bridge,  River street, Western Ave, Larz Anderson (footbridge)  JFK,  and Elliot.

There's a popular map of running loops with the milage of loops from bridge to bridge,  and back in my running days I did loops and combos along both sides of the river depending on the milage I had scheduled, but these days I almost exclusively ride on the Cambridge side, partly because my destinations are on that side, and partly because it's a tiny bit shorter because of the curvature and shape of the river.

Tonight though I decided to take the "long way" home.  My first challenge was to get on the path.  Because the arterial that goes along that side of the river is limited access, the only way across is by one of the footbridges, which are somewhat steep, and pretty tightly turning, which make them tough, but not impossible to ride up.
At the base of the footbridge is a public sailing club called community boating.  For a reasonable fee anyone can join and learn to sail, or just take a boat out.  Unfortunately the boats can't pass under the bridges, so you're limited to the largish, widest part of the river, called the Lagoon.

 Gilbert admiring the boats

There's a little island, joined to the "mainland" by three or four bridges.  

This carved bench sits at the first bridge,  right next to the Hatch shell where the Pops and other outdoor concerts are held

Winged lion foot.

There's a path on the island, which is full of joggers, lovers and dog walkers, but the bike "throughway is shunted off to the edge of the 6 lane road.

Should have stayed on the island.

  As the island and "mainland touch, there's a little channel with lillypads.  I wonder if there are frogs to sit on them and sing?

After about BU, the path gets a bit tougher-
There's a lot of raw infrastructure- flyovers, and overpasses and bridges over bridges.  Some of which is quite lovely in a post-industrial way.

At the BU bridge, you can have an airplane above a car above a train above a bike.

  But this is pretty much why I normally take the Cambridge side-  it's not much fun riding along a 6' wide path with a fence on the breakwater on one side and a jersey barrier and 6 lanes of traffic on the other side.

After that things get a little more picturesque

The Larz Anderson Footbridge.

The Harvard rowing club.  I should do a whole post on this building-  it looks like brick, but is covered in red slate shingles.

And then I was home!