Thursday, December 30, 2010

Happy Holidays, and Happy New Year!

I've been spending the holidays and will be spending the first few days of 2011 in the tri-state area of Nebraska, Missouri, and Kansas. Naturally, I've been experiencing weather that I'm not really used to back in the Valley, but it's been an interesting transition to say the very least. Yesterday, my sister and I scraped ice off of the driveway until our hands hurt from the cold through our thick gloves... and yet this afternoon I was able to stand on the back porch and say hi to the neighbors in a t-shirt, sweatshirt, jeans and ski socks. Did I not mention that today's weather is colder than yesterday's? I've never been more grateful for sunlight, I'll tell you that.

If you know me at all, I'm always looking for a reason to photo-document, especially when it involves bicycles. So, while in Kansas (en route to Nebraska) I was able to get some photos of some bicycle-related things that caught my eye and smile (feel free to click on each photo for a bigger view):



The day I arrived, we ate at Local Burger for lunch. Everything is from local farms, fresh, organic and super-duper healthy. It was mad delicious.



"Eat", they said on their wall, and we did. I had an elk burger on a bed of greens. And in their window was this painting:



Squee.

Afterward, we headed to the main street of Lawrence, KS (aka Massachusetts St.), to stretch our legs and see the sights. While walking, I found this t-shirt:



...in the shop window of this establishment. We'll be back in town on Sunday, so who knows what I might ask for them to print up. Perhaps. Or perhaps not. Either way, free advertising.



On our way back to the car, I saw this...



...parked outside of this shop.



And this was in a random shop window. I really like the font and colors in the sign; also this is pretty much what I've been doing for the past two weeks. Hooray for the holidays!



Back in Falls City, we've been walking quite a bit - I walked to the Richardson County post office to mail Christmas cards; my brothers, nephew, sister and I walked to and around the partially-frozen Stanton Lake, and later in the week us girls took a long walk on a warm, spring-like day that would normally call for a sweater back in California. The next day there was slippy-slidy ice covering the streets. Today it's 23 degrees out, so there's not much walking around going on. Obviously people use their cars to get around town; there's little to no public transportation that I've seen, at least out here. Here? Here I can actually say that a car is necessary. It gets friggin' cold! Even then, in the spring and summertime, while people do drive most everywhere, my brother-in-law remarked about how people are out on their bicycles or hoofing it to the local store or in taking their kids to school. Which makes me put thoughts towards Los Angeles, and how I still stand by the thought that a car shouldn't be totally necessary out there, however spread out it is - at least not the be all and end all. There's so many more people and more businesses and retail spots - it's a huge city, if comprised of a lot of 'towns' smushed together. A reliable public transit system is nothing but common sense.

I don't normally make resolutions, but as encouraged by one of my readers and fellow bicyclists (and thank you so much for the idea), I'm going to see what volunteering opportunities are available back home in the realm of input regarding the infrastructure of public transportation. I am also going to see what it will take to perhaps minor in a field of transport engineering (continuing with my current major) so that perhaps this will become a career possibility. It's become too big a thing to overlook at this point.

That said, happy holidays and a happy new year from me to you this season and well into 2011! I'm really lucky to take you all along with me. As far as I'm concerned, it's a new year until well past the first quarter, so try to enjoy the brand-new-ness as long as you can.

Also, for those of us who like to ride our bicycles around the neighborhood, don't feel too pressed to take down your Christmas lights until at least mid-January.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Metro: Naughty and Nice

Yesterday was a particularly difficult day on the bus. I tend to say this when I haven't taken the bus in a while, which is fair on both ends - mine and Metro's, that is. However, as of late, I've noticed some things about Metro that have made me think and unfortunately become frustrated. Part of me thinks that these observations arise from the changes they're making as far as cutting lines or changing timetables, but this could also be general traffic or weather conditions. Or maybe it's none of the above. Perhaps the drivers are incompetent. Perhaps the system is faulty. Whatever the reason, I've not been happy with Metro. It's actually been more naughty than I'm comfortable with, and here's why:


1. Late arrivals, or no arrivals. More often than not, the buses I regularly take (the 165 heading east/west and the 230/239 heading north/south) have been arriving absurdly late, as little as ten minutes, as much as twenty. Five minutes late I can understand, even on a somewhat regular basis - but once it gets to fifteen or twenty it has become absolutely ridiculous. This fact makes me appreciate having a generally flexible schedule, but when people are depending on me, my commute is made all the more stressful. Sure, the easiest thing would be to take an earlier bus... but what happens when a bus runs every hour? I'm sorry, but I'm not going to be waiting around somewhere for an hour. Would you?

If you're lucky, most buses come somewhere between 15 and 20 minutes, but not always. It's possible that it's a matter of me familiarizing self with the new timetables - however, in referring to what info is live and online, I know they're arriving late. Arriving late causes an unfair domino effect, which can result in anything from missing one's connection to losing their job to getting a bad grade in class, if late one too many times.

In short, it's ridiculous.

2. The frequency of buses, and the hours in which they run. As far as I know, one regular bus that I take goes by my home stop for the last time of the night (heading east) at around 8:30 pm, and in the opposite direction at around 9:30 pm.... how am I supposed to get home after that, short of calling a taxi? One time I called a service just to see how much it would cost to get from Woodland Hills to Van Nuys... we were talking $40. I understand the demand of a personal set of wheels is not nearly as high on this coast than the east coast, but I'll tell you - if I can pay that same amount with tip to a driver in New York to get me from JFK to Williamsburg, I'm not paying that amount to take me all of four miles. No thanks.

Anyway, some bus lines stop earlier in the Valley. One in particular (the 150 on Ventura Blvd heading west) goes past Balboa Blvd at 7:30 pm on a Friday night, and that's the end of that line. Makes no sense, says I. Over-the-hill this is of very little issue. I always tell myself that should life position me somewhere over-the-hill in a residential sense, I will not argue it one bit. Should life position me way over-the-hill (and I'm talking New York) I will allow the current to take me.

03. Overcrowding. This may or may not be Metro's fault, but it needs some attention... one of the reasons taking the bus yesterday was such a pain was because of the overcrowding. Take away from the equation the heat, the mixing of smells of human flesh (and then some), the items brought on the bus, the multiple stops, the lack of ventilation, and that the driver wasn't assertive or proactive one bit. Take all of that away and save it for later. This was at 2:00 on a Tuesday afternoon when people are out and about. Does a bus running every 30-40 minutes seem reasonable to you? And on top of that arriving ten minutes late?


Needless to say, I'm picking up the car search again - but really how long have I been saying this? For a while, and I'm getting a little annoyed at the thought, to be honest. Now that things are winding down for the year/new year I can focus on it again. To be frank, getting a car wasn't that high a priority what with life being a little centered for a bit these last few months, which led to some extended use of my bicycle, the Red Line/Orange Line, Rapid lines, my legs, and kind certain persons who, let's say, I kiss more than hug these days (another story for another time). As much as it hasn't been that bad, I know it's not going to last forever.

It's rather difficult to love LA when there's not enough blood supply coming to one of its more bustling places of residence and business. Now, I could say that Metro would want for us to fall off and die (that is, look for alternative transportaion) but they're extending the Orange Line, which is scheduled for service in 2012, and offering free fare this holiday season (Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve from 9pm to 2am both evenings - "and to all a good night", indeed). A little nice to balance the naughty.

But really, the best present ever would be to give some serious consideration to local service - anywhere in LA, but especially the Valley. I'm getting tired of hearing myself complain. The three aforementioned are the baddest of the bunch, and I realize that everyone's just doing their jobs so they can go home and be with their families or their TV or their game of Sims. But what if it took you an extra hour and change to get home because the last bus of the night didn't come? Or worse?

Oh, you bet there's worse.

Friday, December 10, 2010

M.I.A.

Gosh. I've pretty much been away since before Thanksgiving. I don't know about you, but I'm feeling it. I apologize for the absence - what with said holiday, landing into a self-induced food coma, and struggling to keep up with the last few weeks of this current semester, it's been one thing after another and yet another. Yet here I am with some breathing room before the next, quickly-approaching holiday and I'm here to say "hello".

This afternoon was my first off in a while. I took the time to do some baking, cleaning, and laundry, but what I didn't do was exercise. That is, until I bicycled over to my friends' house in Burbank for a total round-trip of 26 miles and therefore a decent amount of exercise. My friends were also gifted the gift of pumpkin pie. Upon this, I had two separate thoughts: I have definitely ridden more miles than this in one go; what's up with me? and Man, what I'd give to be part of a delivery-by-bicycle service.

Anyway, tonight was a great night for riding, to and from. Not too cold, although my feet did start to feel numb and my fingers ached something special. I don't know if I mentioned this, but in about a week and a half I'll be visiting family in Nebraska - the land of fifteen degree temps at four in the morning and lots and lots of snow. Two friends of mine also located in the Midwest recently shared photos with me displaying more snow than I've seen on the Angeles Crest after a temperature-related fluke. More snow than the folks at The Grove could ever display at their supposed winter wonderland. In SoCal. It's safe to say that I'm a little nervous, particularly about such things as:


1. Exposed skin. Even my eyes, or, say, the bridge of my nose. My sister says that she doesn't want me to lift my arm and have, say, my sweater go up with it only to have my lower back be exposed to the elements. Just what's going to happen to my eyes then?

2. Looming darkness. It's one thing for it to get dark at quarter-to-five-o'clock in the afternoon in the Valley. You can still go outside and ride your bicycle around the neighborhood, looking at Christmas lights (like I did last night). Something tells me you can't do that when it's fifteen degrees outside. My biggest fear with this is something happening a la the final scenes of The Shining. Freezing to death while enjoying the beauty of nature isn't on the vacation to-do list. And on that note...

3. Not being able to go anywhere. I plan to bring a couple of board games, my laptop, and whatever pie-baking skills I've got because I assume being indoors is going to be a daily thing. A novel daily thing, considering I intend to chase my nephew back and forth most days. Let's just say what I'm most nervous about is seeing the sun shining outside then running outside only to be stabbed rhythmically back indoors to where it's safe and warm. Then resuming watching of Donald Duck cartoons with the boy. "Hahahaha! Duck mad." Or so he says.


All joking aside, I really am looking forward to two weeks in a different climate. I assume we'll do just as much drinking as we did last April, if only a lot less fishing - which, coupled with baking and shoveling snow, will only aid in perpetuating the warmth only home could provide.

(P.S. Home is the Valley, LA, Hollywood, as it is also Williamsburg/Greenpoint, NY, and now the Midwest. In my opinion, home is where your family is, and I'm happy to adopt the city of Falls City, Nebraska, as my own.)

Monday, December 6, 2010

Hoof It or Bus It

It's one thing to now own a car and it's another thing to not know how to drive, both of which are admirable in their own right. In either case it's a good idea to know what works for you, and more importantly, to own it as an extension of yourself. The other day I came across an article quoted by LiveJournal community Oh No They Didn't! about celebrities who do either or both - that is, don't own a car, and/or don't know how to drive. My personal favorite quote from the article has to be this, from Vincent Kartheiser (from AMC's Mad Men):

[... the star] takes two buses or the L.A. Metro to the set of his Emmy winning AMC show. "Instead of driving and being stressed out about traffic, you can work your scene, you can do your exercises or whatever on the bus," Kartheiser told The New York Times recently.


The massive cutie that he is besides. Check out more celebrities who hoof and bus it - like a lot of us in LA - via direct link at Oh No They Didn't.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Night Life

With school winding down and the weather getting colder, I honestly haven't been out during the evening too much. I just get too tired, what with it getting dark earlier, and sometimes, living in Southern California, it's hard to determine how many layers are enough to avoid an unwanted chill. Oddly enough, however, it's for those same reasons that I find it nice to sometimes venture out into the nightlife.

This past Monday evening I headed to Bar Lubitsch in West Hollywood to see my friend Ale play a set with her guitarist, Kyle. As always, they're a riot and quite the talented duo. I also made the pleasant musical discovery of Mimi Page, so all in all, not a bad evening. The venue was great, the company and talent even better, and there's nothing quite like cheering along worthy local musicians. But in all honesty, it was the night that was the icing on the cake. The slight chill in the air, puffs of gray clouds in the sky illuminated by the lingering full moon in the sky - it was just beautiful. There's something about warmth packing in your core, surrounding your neck and ears, leaving your face and all appendages somewhat exposed (can you tell I'm a writer? Or that I at least love words?). Running up and down the stairs from subway to bus is somewhat exhilarating in more moderate temps, what with the rush of bodies heading where they're going in a rhythmic - if not always synchronized - dance. For some reason the cold accentuates that, as it seems we're all rushing somewhere to get out of it.

It gets cold in Southern California, but thankfully not so cold that being out in it is as much of a danger as midwest or northeast/west temps, and so on. It's kind of nice that we have the option of enjoying it without necessarily worrying about what will happen if we fall asleep in it, say. I have to give Metro mad props - thank you for keeping the buses and trains warm and with less congestion. It's made for some comfy rides this chilly season.

So get out there and enjoy the night. It's calling...

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

"What's the Helmet For?"

Back when I was riding my bicycle pseudo-regularly, I would actually remember the days that I would ride. It'd either be five days a week or spotted somewhere, sometime throughout. Now it's become so much a part of my every day that I don't... really think about it anymore. It's just 'hop on the bicycle and go' with me. It's become so routine (in a good way) that I'm often surprised when people notice that I ride something, if not a bicycle. But I shouldn't be, because for the most part, I'm carrying my helmet everywhere.

"So, what do you ride?"
"A bike."
"Motorcycle?"
"Bicycle."
-------

"Ah, what's the helmet for?"
"My bike."
"Motorcycle? Wow---"
"Nope. My bicycle."
[some verbal variation of "awesome" accompanied by a smile]
--------

A friend gave my current helmet to me last year. It's black, delightfully scuffed, and was manufactured by the great folks at Triple 8. I've worn others before but for some reason this one fits my head well. I'll probably check out one made by Giro but for now this one is serving me well.

And on the relative note of interesting conversations, it's served as an awesome pick-up line, too. Often there's the one line of "it shows, how many miles you ride" followed by the approving (if not entirely appropriate) stare. Oh, flattery. Flattery and bicycles. Quite possibly the easiest way I've landed a date living in Los Angeles. Girls are so rare on bicycles. I honestly haven't seen many with the exception of being on campus, and unfortunately not many of them wear helmets. Actually, not many people wear helmets to begin with, which is the subject I'll be glad to take apart at some other time. But when it comes to being on my bike, if I don't have my gear, not only do I feel unsafe, but damn do ever I feel like a poser. And unsexy. Girls on bikes are sexy. (Don't believe me? Check out this safe-for-work photo blog. We may not all be outrightly bohemian... but we're sexy and you know it.)

Still, as much as I don't always feel like toting it around, my helmet says something about me, and is in most cases a great conversation starter. I don't know what I'd be, cycling-wise, without it.

Happy cycling~

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Windy City

The wind has made an impression on the Valley the last couple of days, and I've been feeling every push on my bicycle. Riding in the wind can be a challenge, but it's such a good workout. I try to look at it that way, first of all. And then I ask myself, "Which would I rather ride in: the wind or the rain?" I'd take the wind over the rain any day, although drizzle has its charms. But when it is so windy to the point that you feel like you'll be blown off your bicycle and into traffic... well, I haven't had it happen yet, but let's just say that discretion is always a good thing. (And regarding that, I think this article from BikeCommuters.com is a fun read on dealing with headwinds on a daily-commute basis.)

The Valley is a huge bowl, as I like to call it. No matter where you look, you are surrounded by hills. North of Rinaldi, South of Ventura, East towards Burbank, West towards Agoura Hills - nothing but stretches of rock. Naturally, when the wind comes over and through them, it's going to whip and rustle and shift. That's just on the whole, the kind of wind you can feel anywhere. Sometimes when you're in a canyon of tall buildings, you can feel the wind just as hard. But thankfully that's only temporary. In either case, riding with or against the wind is only a worthy challenge if you're willing to take it. Personally, with the incline I deal with on my everyday commute, I can already feel my legs getting stronger, so I'll take it until I can't anymore.

Just so you know, wind, I appreciate you. You're one hell of a personal trainer. I'll hate to see you go, as really you're just another element to grow accustomed to until you're overtaken by the rain again... which is supposed to happen this Friday.

Whatever you have in store, weather -- don't rain on Halloween!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

The Great Car Debate

It's not a question of how or a matter of when; it just is. This has never been an anti-car blog; it has always been one of collected thoughts and pointed reports, so let the thoughts continue - scattered though they may be - in the form of the great car debate.

It's not exactly news (if it is, where you have been?) that I've made a conscious decision to purchase a vehicle. I'll be completely honest, though; CicLAvia totally distracted me a positive way. I have never felt more inspired to keep with my bicycle. It's realizing that public transportation has a fondness for 'indirect routes' that has me moving forward on the issue, this issue I'd dropped for the last couple of weeks.

Most all of us understand why routes are the way they are - they are to service the cities in which they run. And when serving the greater Los Angeles, you're going to take 'everyone's route' in the hopes that you'll get where you need to go out of it. Think about it: short-distance routes depend entirely on the number of stops, the length of time to transfer, and the walk, if any. 'Long-distance' routes - say, those that would fare better by use of the freeway - still get you where you need to go, but since it's a local bus, it's going to stay local and not express your ass where it needs to go (even if it is an express). Public transportation is a public experience, so a detour in the form of getting where you need to go isn't going to happen. Obviously.

In the last few years I've managed to lead a very centralized existence with work and school. This year, central is no longer an option, and it's been great. Granted, the time it takes to get where I need to go is a built-in opportunity to proofread work, edit, read, and return calls. But when it really comes down to it, I would save so much time with a car. Unless there's traffic, but you get the point. Anyone who knows me knows my love of Google Maps for having the best cycling and public transportation routes (and for being more accurate than Metro.net), but it's its 'driving directions' function in comparison that makes me bite my lip in contemplation.

If anything, the experience has shown me that Los Angeles is super friggin' connected despite its widely spread layout. I'm amazed at times at how many ways there are around this place. In the end, however, accessibility is the key point here - I prefer being an accessible individual and my surroundings being accessible to me. While the latter can also refer to being exposed to the elements - a factor of the bicycle I rather enjoy - it's something that can still be experienced in conjunction with a vehicle.

Did I mention how much I appreciate the hammering out of details in text?

So I'm back on the hunt, hopefully to be with car sooner than I'm projecting (a month, at the least). Look out car dealers... I'll be invading your property with my good credit sometime after I roam the streets of West Hollywood this Halloween.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Love is in the Air

Sunday evening, I rode my bicycle from Lake Balboa to Burbank. Approximately 13 miles.

Monday morning, I rode my bicycle from Burbank to Northridge, and back to Lake Balboa. Approximately 20 miles.

Yesterday and today I rode my bike to Northridge, which is eight miles round-trip. I'll be riding my bicycle again tomorrow, another approximately 20 miles.

Lately I have been one with my bicycle, and it's been more than a satisfactory experience, lack of fenders and all. (Must appreciate the diligence behind slick, dirt-caked roads. Thumbs up, facetiously.) It might have a little something to do with the autumnal clouds coming over the southern hills below Ventura Boulevard, or the occasional drop of rain on my nose or forehead, to be honest. The thought that it's almost Halloween, almost harvest season, and the perfect weather to hop on the bike and not sweat like I'm under lights... I don't know exactly what it is. But there's a good energy in the air, and I'm enjoying it.

Soon I'm going to have to find out where there's a pumpkin patch I can cycle alongside every so often before The Great Pumpkin comes.

Viva la CicLAvia!



Better late than never!

CicLAvia came and went last Sunday, October 10, 2010, but that doesn't mean anyone has yet forgotten about it. This week alone I've doubled my per-mile count on my bicycle for the first time in a while. This wonderful promotion of livable streets in which bicycles, skateboarders, rollerbladers, pedestrians - pretty much anyone on or in anything but a car - stuck with me personally or days and is still in the forefront of my mind. In fact, I even put off looking to buy a car for a while. Circumstances have caused me to pick up the search again, but that's another story for another time. In the meantime, the positive message behind CicLAvia has been nothing but positive, and I hope it was an enjoyable event for everyone involved.

April 2011 will be your next opportunity to get on your bikes and ride with the city as a part of this - what I am referring to as a - perspective-changing event. It has also been said that there will be 4-6 CicLAvia events planned for 2011 alone. Will I see you there?










Happy cycling~

Friday, October 8, 2010

Back on the Bicycle

It's so far been a total of three days that I've been back on the bicycle. Back to being carless. And you know something? I'm liking it, too.

As mentioned before, there is the huge benefit of being able to exercise while getting somewhere. Scheduling anything is an issue these days, and exercise either doesn't happen or is made possible through other more spontaneous means. If I'm lucky I'll fit in a workout twice a week. That's a far cry from the 4-5 times a week I was at before. Today I hope to fit in a recreational ride, and not merely a commute. The frame of mind is what differs one from the other, to be honest.

Now that the weather's cooler and more crisp, rides at any point of the day are going to be more enjoyable. Although I must admit I did something stupid yesterday afternoon: I left my head- and rear-lights at home. I had a feeling that by the time I headed home from school it would be dark to the point of being sketchy, if not completely dangerous. I knew, but didn't act accordingly about it. Sure, I made it home okay at about quarter-past 7:00pm without a scratch, but all it takes is one dumb mistake, one instance of oversight to ruin someone's day.

It's so funny, the idea of riding without the proper equipment and feeling absolutely naked without it. You wouldn't believe how many people I see wearing dark colors, with no lights and even barely any reflectors, weaving in and out of traffic, sometimes facing traffic. It doesn't matter if there's a bike lane, guys; if you're facing traffic you are going the wrong way. Such behavior shows that you don't care for yourself. I know that this sounds harsh but most drivers don't take bicyclists into account whether or not they can see them, and that's on a good day. At times I understand why - it takes one person doing the wrong thing to mess it up for all of us. And if one driver is thinking that, than you'd better believe that at least twenty more are, also. It's a feeling that no one is exempt from.

Simply put: bicyclists aren't second-class citizens. We're all out there putting our lives on the line - knowingly or unknowingly - in the name of fun and/or getting somewhere, both being basic, reasonable needs. Let's not make it worse for our fellow cyclists. Ignorance isn't sexy.

With all that said,
TGIF
and Happy Cycling~

Monday, October 4, 2010

Living Car-Lite - A Critical Analysis

For the last week, I've had my mother's vehicle at my disposal while she's been away on business. It was really my intention to be car-lite for the duration of the week, and to be completely honest, that didn't happen. I drove everywhere, which - again, to be completely honest - was really nice. It was a hella busy week, what with school and commitments and assisting with my younger brother - getting him to and from school - so the errands that I'd normally take the time to set aside in my schedule to accomplish would be more "on the way" to do things, etc. Taking the bus doesn't really allow for that "freedom" as far as time is concerned. It takes planning, and, again, setting aside time to get things done. It's not an ordeal at all. It's more so an observation.

On that note, here are a few more observations concerning my time with car this past week:

1. Driving Music. I really don't listen to the radio while commuting, although my iPod does allow me to. But I listen to the radio so, so much when driving. Why do I mention this? Because there's so much crap music out there that it becomes almost deal-worthy when driving. I'm talking to you 97.1 KAMP-FM, 102.7 KIIS-FM, and to you especially, Katy Perry. That song "Teenage Dream" is godawful, but somehow tolerable when driving, as is any other auto-tune driven song. I actually downloaded Rihanna's single "Only Girl in the World" the other night. Last time I had the car I downloaded Keri Hilson's "Knock You Down" and Jay Sean's "Down"... I don't know what I was thinking. That's the power of a very limited playlist for you.

2. My Propensity to Cuss Has Increased. My friend Alex laughed the other night when I was making a left turn and a skateboarder made the left turn with me - on my left-hand side. With that, I called him a f*ckhead. (The skateboarder.) It's not road rage, don't get me wrong, but my verbage is definitely a bit more colorful, at least it is to any passengers. This kinda stuff is rolling in my head weather I'm a bus patron, pedestrian or bicyclist - it's just all the more audible when within the confines of steel and glass.

3. Parallel Parking. I'm not good at it. I'm a bit intimidated by it, probably because I'm not used to gauging size in such a manner. I didn't even cover it in my driving test seven years ago. First of all, I went for my driving test in Thousand Oaks because the traffic by the DMV was nothing in comparison to the one in Canoga Park. We backed up, used signals, and did a U-turn. But we didn't parallel park. I have never had to since, not really. But in other parking areas I do just fine. I am the queen of fitting into small spaces. The queen. But I will tackle this beast soon.

4. I Feel Like a Sloth. I went for a good portion of the week without exercising and I'll admit I felt a little sloth-like. Most of this was due to it being a very, very busy week in general - but when riding my bicycle as part of a commute it's like killing two birds with one stone. AKA getting where I need to go while firming my assets. It's interesting; while I've more time to do what I need to do with the car, I have less time to devote to exercising, only because I'm forced to schedule it in. Riding the bicycle, I don't have to.

And finally,

5. I'm Really Liking It. It's been nice being able to be at multiple places throughout the day, not having to section off hours of my day in order to get somewhere. It's been nice to get somewhere in a reasonable amount of time, even with traffic. I like it, and do hope that once I have a vehicle of my own I'll be able to live car-lite instead of depending on the car all the time. My schedule will eventually confirm that. But truthfully, I enjoyed being able to get to the people I am more inclined to not see because it's hard to get to their house via public transportation. It was nice not having to run for the last bus of the night in the fear that I won't get home for another four hours until it starts running again. It's all superficial, I know... but it doesn't make it any less true. I am of the belief that it will become less so as time goes on.

It's not like I've never driven before, but it's been an interesting 'experiment', driving when I've been so preoccupied with the idea of it. It's firmed up the reasons in my mind as to why a car can be considered practical, especially when living in the Valley, and why it can be a good supplement to occasional use of public transportation.

In the meantime, however, I'll enjoy the relative simplicity of life without a car at the moment. Which, at this rate, won't be for longer than two months.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Car-Lite: A New Frontier

So my mother called me last night while I was en route to a night of karaoke in Burbank. I wasn't expecting the call, but it's always welcome when my phone buzzes on account of her. We talked late last week regarding her leaving for Denver, Colorado, for business this upcoming week. Naturally, as a partial joke I told her I'd totally drive her in and 'look after' the car for her so she doesn't have to pay for parking at the airport. But seriously, I've done it for friends and family before and they appreciate the saving of the dollars. No shuttle, no taxi, just a willing friend/family member who will take responsibility of what they request while they're gone - in exchange for wheels.

So yeah, it was a joke-slash-sidepoint-slash-realistic-offer. Imagine my surprise when she took me up on it.

When I got her call, I had missed the connecting bus down Hollywood Way in part due to pride and in part due to a slow driver (details I will not go into at this time for fear of irrelevance). Let's just say that the prospect of a vehicle at my disposal for the next eight days sounded wonderful. Personally, I also found it interesting that the opportunity came quicker than anticipated, considering how much I've been toting around my intentions so recently.

That said, when applicable I'll be documenting my experiences with the car because it'll be an experiment of sorts... how acclimated will I get to the vehicle in a week's time? Will I slide into it smoothly? Will I feel "lost" without it once it's gone? Just how badly do I want a car and what comes with it?

Not that I'm going to sway myself in another direction. You'd better believe I'm going to invest in a car; there's no question. I just find it interesting that life sometimes offers situations to occur suddenly - to either cement an idea or deter from it. That's been happening a lot, actually, in other areas of life... another post for an entirely different blog, of course.

So yeah. That's where I am. Expect many a detail.

Happy Monday, all.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Dating in Los Angeles, Part Two

The last few months have involved my actively dating again. Not one person in particular, mind, but many people. I'm still not sure how I like it, but it's not the worst thing in the world. There have been a number of mediocre instances and so far only one bad date, but the rest of it has been rather peachy. Entertaining. I've made a new friend. And in all that I haven't screwed anyone over, that I know of. Bonus points for me.

The other night I met up with a guy in West LA. I took the Orange Line to the Red Line to a Rapid bus and walked the rest of the way to his place. The route was a little out of the way but wasn't impossible to bear, mainly because I had a thick book for school to tear apart on the way. But I did compare the route to the time of day involved in getting there (he lives alongside the 405), and without a vehicle I went very much out of the way in order to get there. I'll have to check again because we met up later in the evening, but I believe that I could have taken the 761 - which goes on the 405 - a fair share of the way there.

This is just me pondering and wondering about better planning. One of the many reasons I'm glad I'm looking around for a car is because I am making these comparisons. These comparisons lead me to wonder why anyone in any place of authority thinks it beneficial to have such indirect ways of service in a city that is so spread out to begin with. The time of day shouldn't matter. In fact, I had a conversation with someone just yesterday about who thought it was a good idea to have some lines stop service at an obscure time, like 7:23 in the evening or something.

Metro, you've raised your fares and have cut your lines. I'm tired of asking, but I'll ask again without the million details: where is the benefit in this maneuver? Who really is benefiting? You have greatly emphasized the issue of class, and perhaps race, and tax bracket in the way that you have chosen to operate... a statement that is best for another post for another time, but still needs saying. Someone must think it's funny. But it's not.

Anyway, on a more positive note and to tie in the overall theme, I need to enter a little math into the love-connection equation---

All of my 'interesting' (loosely-termed) dates have been from online dating site OkCupid. The ones where I could see the end from the beginning. The ones I'll be writing a book about.

However, the ones where I actually got somewhere, I met the guy in real life. This most recent one I met at a party. Now, granted I found out about the party through friends online, but still. I'm more at a position where I can see the second date from the next block, and not a mile away. Perhaps. Maybe. Who dares know? (Rhetorical question.)

I really don't think I'm cut for online dating, but I won't rule it out entirely. There are some kinks to work out - such as, first of all, how willing am I to date so actively in general. I've got great people in my life and I'm okay with being single. That and I don't like the idea of going through a million people, but I guess that's where the whole needle-in-a-haystack imagery comes from. Pearl in an oyster, maybe?

I've made a few other good connections via OkCupid - including but not limited to a guy who wants to make a bikini for me to wear to the beach this weekend (long story, but kind of cute) - that, perhaps, having a car in due time will make easier to jolt, at least on my end.

Perhaps. It's just a thought.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Sayonara, Metro

So it's not exactly news, but I'm going to soon be purchasing a car. Anyone who knows me knows that I've been saying so for a few years, but I've been seriously shopping in the last week or so. Most of this is year/price-comparison and insurance-quote-comparison, but I'm thinking in the next month or two to have a set of four wheels at my disposal.

Friends have joked that at that time I should change my Twitter account from CarlessValGirl to something more fitting.

I've been taking public transportation on and off for about five years. Within that five-year period it has been workable. However, the last six to eight months have definitely been far from pleasant. From buses that don't arrive on time to buses that don't arrive at all, to having to deal with wonky Sunday schedules and even weekday schedules that aren't conducive to having much of a life, it's gotten to be a bit of a thorn in my side having to fight with Metro day-to-day. Predictable commutes are one thing, and taking the Orange, Red, and Blue (etc.) lines are fine in and of themselves. The Rapid buses aren't a problem, either. Rather, it is the local bus system that is making it an inconvenience to get around in LA. Since I live in the relative suburbs of Los Angeles and not over the hill... well let's just say I'm in the market for something a bit more practical in making spontaneous jaunts as well as fixed.

Now, monetarily, going Metro is probably a good idea right now. Even more so, riding my bicycle is probably a lot easier on the wallet. I don't intend on giving either mode of transportation up, at least not my bicycle. Don't believe me? I don't think I ever shared the story of the few times I've house-sat for my folks for a couple of weeks. They let me borrow one of their vehicles so I could get to their house, my house, work, school and wherever else. It was great. But after about three days I kinda went stir-crazy. I felt like I was zooming in a capsule without feeling the air on my face. I actually panicked. It actually sunk my mood to such a low degree that I rode my bicycle into work the next few days, came home, and drove the car to their house. I have a feeling that when it comes to some local things I will make full use of my bicycle. For recreation, for here-and-there things. But if I have to run around town? It would be nice to have a car. Trends in the availability of the local bus arrivals, etc., have driven this point home more than ever expected.

Bicycling is as much a part of who I am as anything else, so I won't be giving that up. But as far as most other things go, it has been my view that it is only practical to go without a car in Los Angeles if you're at a place in your life where everything is centered and you're not looking to expand upon it. I'm twenty-five years old. Single. I'm not at that point and time yet.

Maybe I'm frustrated. Maybe I haven't explored all the options. But in this case, the car would be the option, not the sole everyday go-to. Tell me how many people in Los Angeles will tell you that.

Friday, September 3, 2010

The Only Girl

Last night, New Guy, his friend and I went on a Midnight Ridazz ride around Lake Balboa, and once again I was the only girl in the group. I didn't mind, not really, but it's just funny that it happens to be that way more often than not. I really don't mind being surrounded by men.

I'm having fun with New Guy. He's cute, gentlemanly, and has the makings of a decent person. He actually checked out this ride because I'd mentioned it to him on our first date. But if anything right now, things are being taken slowly - and, similarly, I don't mind. Not really. It's nice to not be pressured into being ooey-gooey sticky sweet right away, or to break out the lingerie because we're at the three "non-date" mark. But it's also nice to be able to message back and forth/bitch about online dating with someone. Did I mention that he's cute? And my age?

Let me tell you, though, it's really nice when a guy takes an interest with something that you like. He's been all over this for the last couple of weeks. Take notes, guys - that's really, really cool.

Whatever happens, though, it's a little 'comforting' to know that if ever things go south I can hop on a bicycle ride like this and literally be surrounded by guys. Turn on the laugh and the smile, arch the back, and there you go; it's almost natural. I met four guys last night that fit the friend role really well (sans benefits, mind you), if not the romantic partnership I'm kindasorta looking for. Which I believe if I'm looking for won't happen, but that's a wholly different entry for a completely different blog.

Everyone was biking to a nearby bar by the time the ride was over... it had been a long day, otherwise I would have joined the rest of them; besides, New Guy and his friend were headed home because they had to be up early the next day. Depending on how things go by next week will determine if I join them or not, though.

Happy hunting cycling~

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Cooler Weather

This is likely to be a very, very short post, but it needs mentioning.

I am relieved - absolutely relieved - that it is no longer a million degrees in the Valley. I hope it lasts a while because I don't know how much more I can take. It is so nice to think that I might not be dripping in sweat when going to appointments, meetings or class this week. It makes me giddy.

That is all.

Monday, August 16, 2010

More Cycling Thoughts

-School starts up next week and I have to say that I am super stoked about riding my bicycle there and back every day. Not that I don't do enough of that already, but for some reason I feel super cool on my bicycle. Not just being on my bicycle, but being a chick on a bicycle. I know I notice when women are on bikes. There's just something take-charge about a woman who rides in/with traffic. It smells of little to no fear.

-I haven't been working out too much lately, and I can tell you, there is a difference felt, more so than gaining weight. To be honest, I haven't gained weight at all - at least not fat. Definitely not muscle. But I feel more loose, more sluggish... I feel under-worked. It is nice to feel strong, and cycling (and running) has assisted me in feeling and looking strong this year. It's time to work it back into my schedule in a recreational, challenging way. A taut me is a happier me.

-I want to send out a heartfelt thank you to Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa for holding the bike summit at One Gateway Plaza today. A lot of issues were expressed about and it seems that there will be forward movement as far as the cycling community is concerned. Once again, I'm sorry for your accident a few weeks ago. I'm not sure if the accident was really what spurned on this action or not, but as a fellow cyclist, I'm sure you're more than well aware of the dangers we all face in riding the streets. It is of wonderful news that bicycling infrastructure will greatly improve by 2015. Suffice it to say that the overall awareness is appreciated, and that perhaps everyone - pedestrians, drivers, and fellow cyclists - will be made more well-aware of the many kinds of cyclists in our community and how we all should be considerate in the way we share the road.

-My friend Ash pointed me in the direction of these great shop rides hosted by Flying Pigeon in Los Angeles. They both sound great, but I haven't had dim sum in a while and would be down for trying the "Get Sum Dim Sum Ride". Looks like the next one is on September 19th, but I'll post an update on the ride close to when it rolls around.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Personal Victories

Life is all about reaching your goals, no matter how big or small.

I've been meaning to fix the flat on my hybrid for some time now, but the benefit of having two bikes is, well, not having to fix the flat right away. So I got away with riding my road bike instead for a little over a month until it got a flat. It was bound to happen anyway. I just didn't think it would happen so soon. The flat was caused by one of those springy-hinge things, too. So annoying, but I digress.

Changing a flat's always been somewhat of a big deal for me because I'm not really mechanical-minded. I can put two-and-two together on paper, but actually displaying it is not my strongsuit. About a year ago, my friend set up a "workshop" in our garage and invited his wife, their little girl, and my then-boyfriend to see how it's done. They already really knew how it was done (I swear their little girl would know how to change a flat if they let her), but of course and thankfully it was set up in a way where it was more for moral support of me and my insecurities of getting my hands dirty. So imagine that when changing my flat the other day my mind did go back to this workshop of sorts to do the deed correctly. And do the deed I did. It took me about twenty minutes because I thought I needed more tools than I needed, when I really only needed two of those plastic, erm... those plastic--- things? That you wedge under the tire and the rim to get the tube out, etc.

I know I sound so professional right now. It's a scream, really.

But I did it! And I can ride the hybrid, no problem. Just some simple tools, a hand pump, and a tube or patch kit is all that's needed if in a pinch. They weren't telling stories. Eventually I'll get out there and fix the one on the road bike because it was really nice getting out on it again.

I'm what you call a bit of a delayed learner. I soak up information but don't really use it until much later on. I'm also the kind of girl whose guy friends will readily help her in a pinch. That and I really haven't had a flat in over a year, to be honest... but it's nice to know that when it must be fixed, oh baby - YES, I CAN.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Darn You, Metro

(Editor's Note: I was really tired when I wrote this. Apologies in advance.)

I buckled down and bought a monthly Metro pass yesterday afternoon because I can already see five days into this month where a day pass ("worth" $6) would be necessary. A few meetings here, a press conference/roundtable discussion there; a screening here, meeting up for a date or two, and various other errands that might come up or just meeting with friends... let's just say that I'd already be more than halfway in the hole towards $75 "worth" of rides via bus/rail. "Worth" is surrounded by quotations because the slight cynic in me thinks this is just some arbitrary number, like $62 has been before - but what do I know? Perhaps percentage really is key. That and to say something is worth something based on the judgement of anyone else but you is a general no-no to me - even if is "true". Yes, again with the quotation marks. What do you want from me?

I'll tell you, though, it was extraordinarily painful. $62 was enough when the pass was $62, but $75 for lessened service - especially on weekends and evenings - and the elimination of some lines altogether might as well have had the swiping of my card be the slicing of a knife instead.

Why oh why must the prices go up high? A redundant, rhetorical question? Yes, as, sadly, this kind of news isn't news at all, especially outside of Los Angeles. New York, San Francisco, New Jersey; some worse than others. But still.

It kind of reminds me of a parallel on grocery store shelves - the packages are getting smaller but the price is getting higher. Gas prices are getting higher why the MPG still makes the register sound with every revolution of the wheel. No breaks. None.

I'm frustrated. But you didn't need me to tell you that.

Friday, July 30, 2010

A Worthy Distraction

(A brief look into a bright section of my evening that has something to do with being car-less in Los Angeles, if not entirely. Phrases/words have been bolded for purposes of relevance.)

On the Orange Line this evening, while on the way home from a free concert at Pershing Square, I met an adorable 26-year-old Ecuadorian doctor. He plays guitar, which is what sparked our conversation. I asked if he's tried playing piano. He said, no, it's far too difficult. My observation is that those who play guitar find it difficult to play piano, and those who play piano find it difficult to play guitar. I mentioned that I've played piano since I was three years old and can't imagine playing guitar. Cute. Glasses. Scruff. Nice hands.

I told him I take the bus and ride my bicycle nearly everywhere. We empathized on the idea that getting from one place to another is challenging without a car, but it's nice travelling by bicycle. Good for the legs. He doesn't mind taking public transportation, but at times minds the wait and the over-planning. I told him that it's likely that I'll have a car in six to eight months or so, but even then I won't see the need to drive it every day. Why every day, when you live in Los Angeles? (Talking more weather than actual commute, to be honest. Of course it all depends.)

He's so darned cute. He'll be leaving in two months. Still, the idea of two months is a decent enough distraction. Of course we exchanged numbers. There will either be coffee in the future, or I may never see him again. Who knows? Who cares? All that matters is that I walked home from my stop at Balboa Station with a lighter step than I have in months.

Friday, July 23, 2010

We Heart Bicycles

I've been watching a lot of television streamed from Netflix's instant queue lately and online (via official websites, okay? I am not a pirate) which has made me realize how excited I am whenever I see a bicycle on a TV show or in a movie. In fact, I swear that I can actually feel my ears perk up every time. (Maybe it's just my brow lifting, but it's all the same motion - upwards.) The two most recent instances I can recall this happening are (a) regularly on Arrested Development (Michael Bluth [Jason Bateman's] bicycle and (b) on an episode of LOST... during the final season there was a bicycle in Jack's apartment. It meant nothing to the symbolism of the show, but I noticed it.

I'm sure there's more somewhere, but that's what I'm reminded of right off the bat. Oh yeah, on Law & Order: Special Victim's Unit, the district attorney at the time - I think it was Casey Novak - rode her bicycle to the courthouse; they dedicated a brief scene to it. Movies - Pee-Wee's Big Adventure, obviously. The Goonies. ET. And Juno... see?! Bicycles are fabulous and most everyone agrees that it feels good to hop on one and fly through the air with the greatest of ease and that it would be a moot point to even try to argue that it isn't. Sure, that's bias you smell, but naturally it's based on truth.

Perhaps one day - before I get the nerve to move to New York, that is - I'll feel the same way about public transportation in Southern California. I can even mention a couple of movies/music videos that have featured a Metro Red Line subway car/station. But trust me, this is not Manhattan, nor is it San Francisco, or Boston, or Paris. Hell, it isn't even San Diego... at least it isn't on this side of the hill.

Sadly.

How about you? This was really a quick list, but can you think of any movies/TV shows that have featured bikes in which your radar went off like "Aw, yeah!"?

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

She Lives, Breathes, and Rides

It feels so good to be back. I haven't really gone anywhere, not physically at least. Although if I run into some extra money I might do a weekend on the East coast before the end of the year, but I digress. For a reason or two I needed to take a little break, and gosh, may I just say that I'm glad you're still here.

It isn't exactly news, but the temperatures have finally risen to their seasonable highs, and it's sure not an exception in Los Angeles. Anywhere from 95 to 100+ degrees has been the norm, but I swear every summer the rise of the mercury still surprises me. Walk outside just to run to the corner store and all your energy is sapped. I can't imagine being super-active in this weather. Although wait - I have been.

I didn't purchase a Metro pass this month. Mainly in an attempt to save some money and better use my bicycle for local errands - especially since my hybrid got a flat I've been lazy in fixing as of yet - I have been using my old road bike to get around town, for fun, etc. With the exception of the rear brake not working well and the fact that I'm still adjusting to the height and lack of cages, it really works insanely well. Because of all of those things, it is more of a "get around town" bicycle than a "get around town then climb a hill and add another twenty or thirty miles to the mix" like my hybrid is. In either case, I've reached my goal of saving money and also have been able to survive the summer despite the reduced use of the air-conditioned interiors of buses or subways.

Maybe it's just me, but I can deal with heat better than I can deal with rain. I won't ride in the rain, at least not intentionally. Perhaps it's the thought that it's easier to cool down than it is to dry off - especially when commuting. In an attempt to survive the heat I've been doing the stuff that needs doing indoors during the day - writing, writing, more writing, with the occasional errand being run - and venturing out during the twilight hours when the sun has decided to be a little kinder to us all.

Anyway, I'm glad to have made a glass half full situation out of the whole thing. It only reaffirms it with me that, no matter how you look at it, it's always a good time to ride.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Running Cycling Thoughts

"Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving." -- Albert Einstein


Apparently Einstein came up with the theory of relativity while riding his bicycle. If so, I think that I might start riding my bike a bit more. Me? I'm trying to figure out life. I think I've been trying to figure out life since I started working at thirteen, but at the present moment I'm going through everything. Money, people, politics of all kinds - and with all that comes the clutter. So, while on the bike this afternoon, I was able to let run through my mind the following thoughts:


-Damn. I really should have put on sunscreen.

-I really wish there was a workable market in Southern California for bicycle messengers. Can't you imagine it? Girls in tight jeans and tank tops messengering your stuff around town? I could totally do that. (Editor's Note: No, there are not bicycle messenger jobs in Los Angeles. Another pipe-dream-fueled reason to consider moving to New York.)

-What the... why the hell are you riding on the wrong side of the street? Do you want to die? If you die, you're not going to get where you need to go faster.

-I love riding in traffic. I don't understand what everyone's talking about, this "danger in the street" stuff. Riding on the sidewalk is not the way to go, especially with this gloriously winding street beneath me. It feels like I'm on a speedway. Ah, yes, I'm riding in the street, car turning left. Oh yes, I am going nearly 25 MPH. Go ahead, look. I'm looking right back at you. The better for you to not kill me.

-With Metro raising its monthly rate to $75 from $62 this month, I'm going to try to make the best of my bicycle, with more than just trips to the store or recreational riding. It's time to think outside of the box. My core and lower body will thank me.

-Why are there chickens by the lake? Does anyone else see this?

-I'm going to take my friend up on his dare and post a poll on Midnight Ridazz inquiring persons attracted to women of their opinion of women on bicycles. More so I'd love to know how other women feel when riding. Three years of riding and I still sometimes feel a little inadequate. Other times, however, I feel sexy. There's something about pedaling hard and fast only to stop at a light and feel a thin layer of sweat begin to cool my chest and torso. It can't be just me.

-I'm glad I didn't end up buying a car with my savings. Knowing how life can go sometimes, it could have meant the difference between living on the funds for the car and living in the car. (Okay, so that's not really funny. America needs some serious help. Hopefully some sense will come into the Senate when summer recess is over.)

-I really need to tune into Keith Olbermann tonight. And Rachel Maddow. I wonder if Rachel rides a bicycle... (be still, my beating <3)

-This street... freshly paved; smells like warm asphalt. And, oh boy, the trees lining it have formed a canopy of interlocking branches, like fingers against the backs of palms. Way to remind me of the one summer the street around the corner from the one I grew up on was re-paved and the trees had grown in. That's where you'd find us roller-blading. Falling down and roller-blading.


So yeah, nothing nearly as profound as Einstein's theories, but what were you really expecting? I think I got in a good twenty miles today, and more things hammered out than expected. Interesting what running errands and a detour around the lake can do for one's mental Rolodex.

I was thinking might do something like I did a few months ago and try to ride somewhere in the neighborhood of 300 miles on the bicycle this month. Any takers?

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Dating in Los Angeles

In case it wasn't painfully obvious, I am a single twenty-something in Los Angeles.

For the time I have been single I guess you can say I've enjoyed it - at least in the sense of not yet being married or having children. I like getting to know people with the potential of a relationship more so than not - as far as that's been concerned, however, it's been rather hit or miss. Some efforts have resulted in dates. Others have resulted in purely physical relationships. Every now and then, though, I'm surprised to get waist-deep in that "getting to know someone" phase with someone I'm super excited about. Like anyone else would, I go for chest-deep, then chin-, then eyeballs-deep. Sadly, whether a native or a transplant, Los Angeles is full of flakes. Dates can be fun. Slimy rejection after concerted effort... mmm, not so much. It's only then that I tend to go back to square negative one - a place where I'm not really a fan of being single anymore.

However, seeing as I live for the thrill of the gamble, my friends suggested I try one of two things: OkCupid (I've had an account for a long time; re-started a few weeks ago), and going out and just being around people, with no real aim to hook up or find someone. I've fallen into relationships that way before. So naturally I've been doing both.

Oddly enough, I've been able to meet a lot of people on account that I ride my bicycle and make use of public transportation in LA. It has made for some alarmingly interesting inquiries and overall conversation. I've also met a few people while riding my bicycle on rides arranged by the folks over at Midnight Ridazz. It's actually only then when I don't mind guys saying things in my direction while on my bicycle, being that the ratio of women to men on such rides is generally pretty low. If that's not enough motivation to go on more group rides, I don't know what is.

Everyone wants to feel special. No one wants to feel cheated or lied to. Such are the things we deal with when putting ourselves out on the line, and in reality we're all capable of being the latter to someone else. Sure, I'm totally adding fuel to the fiery topic of dating/attaining relationships and the politics involved, but I guess part of me is also sending a message to the universe: which mainly is to keep jerks disguised as nice guys at bay this go-round.

But first I think I'll need a better radar.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Two Wheels to the Pavement

Riding my bicycle is fun, whether it's for reasons of transportation or recreation. I've been taking part in more of the former than the latter lately, so I made sure to take part in some good recreational riding this weekend. Friday evening I went on a short twelve-mile sprint to Woodland Hills and back along the Orange Line bicycle path. Saturday afternoon I rode down Reseda Blvd past Ventura Blvd and up into the Santa Monica Mountains. I am happy to say that I only stopped once up and along the incline, which (at least to me) is a little brutal at times. But still, what a great workout. Doing so means no additional lower body workout for the day as well, so I can't argue with that.

With today being the first day of summer, it's going to be interesting to see how the weather evolves as it does every year - from mild to scorching hot, but still refreshingly cool in the evenings. The next two months are going to be relatively free until things pick up again towards the end of August, so I'm going to try to get back in fighting shape on my bicycle - long and/or challenging rides on the weekends, some recreation for the benefit of my sanity.

Endorphins are delicious.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Walking in LA

I spent the better part of this evening with some friends at the Key Club in West Hollywood. Great night, even greater company. I hopped on the 2 and stopped at the In-N-Out on Sunset/Orange for dinner on the way home, walked up to Hollywood/Highland to catch the Red Line to NOHO station, then walked on home from my stop. Easy commute, especially with a fresh LA Weekly in tow.

Traveling late at night isn't an issue for me. I don't necessarily own the night but I'd like to think that the darkness and I are on good terms. Actually, we're practically best friends when the streets are well-lit and when parts of town are bustling and relatively full of activity (Hollywood, Silverlake, etc.) Once I get back to the Valley from over-the-hill, though, I can't help but feel like someone's going to kidnap me.

Case in point - not more than an hour ago I was walking up the street before making a left on the street that I live on. A car driving in the opposite direction made a U-turn and decided to slowly drive alongside me. I didn't look at the car directly; I kept on walking, although I kept it in my vision in the corner of my eye in case the driver tried something. But all I kept on thinking was "Keep driving; don't you dare stop your car or say anything to me or I will scream." The car followed me for about thirty seconds. When they saw that I wasn't going to give them any sort of attention, they then made another U-turn from the right lane and continued along their way.

I don't know what this person wanted. I wasn't drawing any attention to myself. I was wearing jeans, a tee-shirt and a sweater - but even if I was in a dress and sandals that doesn't give them the liberty to intimidate the life out of me. (But it is for reasons such as this that - with the exception of hair and make-up - I dress down when going out.) I was just a young woman walking home from a night out - but maybe that's really all the reason they needed. I wish people realized that just because a woman is walking down the street it doesn't give you permission to do whatever the hell you think you want to do so early in the morning. It reminds me of elementary school as much as it reminds me of the opening scenes of an episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. Even if I was carrying pepper spray or a small weapon - which I have somewhere - would I be able to fend this person off if they tried to abduct me?

Now I no longer wonder why I feel safer wandering around Manhattan at four o'clock in the morning than I do my quiet neighborhood just before one. It's ridiculous, unfair, and a sexist violation that I don't approve of at all. I called my friend after this had happened, and he suggested when I go out that I call friends and/or family and tell them where I am and when I intend to be home so that if in the event that I don't let them know I arrived home safely they'll know something might be up. This is from my friend, a grown man who has a car. As a woman, who is admittedly more vulnerable without a car, I should probably be more inclined to do so.

Like I said before, the night and I are on good terms with each other, but sometimes someone has the gall to try something and it all goes back to square one. I've been going out a lot lately. Might go out tonight; might not. Still, with or without a car, are there any precautions you take when you know you'll be out late at night? Do you rely on more than just your intuition and reflexes? What's your take?

Monday, June 14, 2010

Rant a la Metro Los Angeles

This evening was a tad ridiculous, but that's to be somewhat expected when taking public transportation in the Valley.

The last few weeks, as mentioned, I've been getting around to film screenings in the Beverly Hills, Hollywood, Century City, WEHO, and Burbank areas with honestly little to no fuss in getting there and back (I've also been meeting my friend and boss there at times, so when things run too late I've been getting very appreciative rides back to my place)... still, that said, the distance covered has been great, as well as the time in getting there. But like I've always said, if I have a book, a notebook and pen, or music I am set for however long it takes. So long as I'm on time or early to where I'm going, I could care less at how long it takes.

So color me a little surprised when I still find it to be more difficult to go three-quarters of a mile to my favorite Mexican restaurant for a take-away dinner than to get to the Four Seasons Hotel during rush hour. I waited somewhat patiently for the bus for 16 minutes until it decided to come, realizing that maybe there was an accident or traffic or whatever the case could have been. But when the bus finally arrived, the driver was paying so little attention that it blew past the stop completely. It didn't help that the next bus was going to come another thirty minutes later (this was t 6:30 pm, Monday afternoon. Thirty minutes in between buses doesn't make sense to me, but how valid is my opinion?). I've had this happen when I actually had somewhere to be, and it didn't make my bosses happy one bit. So I walked, both ways. It was good weather out, so it didn't bother me as much as it probably could have - but still. Maybe I'm living in the wrong area of town. Maybe I need to live closer to Ventura Boulevard, where there are at least three lines (two local, one express) running until midnight or slightly later?

Another day, another rant.

I love you, too. :)

Impromptu, Informal Spin

I went out last night with my good friends to celebrate another good friend's birthday. There was karaoke. There was beer. There was staying up until 2:30 am and sleeping in my clothes on the couch with the dogs. It was a great night.

There was also the task of getting up in the morning and making a brief trip to the mailbox. My alarm was set for 7:30 am so as to be ready to walk the half-mile round-trip to and from the mailbox. On my way out, however, I noticed my bicycle standing in the rack next to the other bicycles that honestly hadn't been ridden in a while. Of course I contemplated taking it for a spin. Not only would it get some attention but it would also cut down on actual walking time so I could get a start to my day a little faster. I strapped on my helmet, hopped on and went.

The school just across the street from the townhome complex I live in was just starting the session for the day. Cars were zooming around the corner and up and down the street. The sun was just beginning to warm the cool air surrounding, and I found myself groggily singing along to some V.V. Brown song that's been stuck in my head for days. I dropped off my letter at the mailbox and turned around to head home, but figured what with the added benefit of time thanks to my two wheels I'd take a short spin around the neighborhood. Last time I did that was around Christmas time, during a dark and damp evening, when everyone's houses resembled iced gingerbread darlings with lit-up gumdrop accents. I wallowed for a bit in my beer-induced somewhat-sleepiness - if not a hangover - and slight high from the influx of good company this past weekend brought while the rest of the world went about their business. I zig-zagged up and down the maze of streets contained within the block and bordered by main streets; I looked down at my dress shoes and realized I should probably head on home and change if perhaps I thought to go on a longer ride...

It was nice. As a brief side thought, I've been suffering from a mad case of writer's block lately and have an inkling that maybe a ride might help grease the wheels a bit more. We'll see what this afternoon holds.

More updates to come. Thanks for sticking around.

Happy cycling~

Friday, June 4, 2010

Discouraged

So lately I've found myself a bit discouraged on the no-car front.

I've been without a car for the last five years. It's not been too bad of an experience. I have a life. I've acquired and maintained professional, romantic, and platonic relationships. I get intense workouts. I'm able to go to movies, to the store, to clubs and all else. As long as I allow myself enough time, I can get around and about with almost no fuss.

That said, I am finding it hard to work the car-less angle in some areas of Los Angeles. At times it is simply difficult to function without a car. I feel badly because the purpose of this blog was to show that it is possible to exist without one here, but I've found that it's not really possible unless you have the patience of a saint. Someone actually told me that the other day - that I have the patience of a saint.

I just came back from Trader Joe's and the girl at the register was making all these seemingly positive comments but it felt like she was talking down at me, like I wasn't from this planet since I was - gasp! - actually taking my groceries home by bicycle. Perish the thought, right? Interestingly, riding back was a bit uncomfortable and I found myself a bit self-conscious. For the first time I felt off-balance and hoped to God that my left shoulder wouldn't pop out of its socket thanks to my packed-heavy canvas bag. Although admittedly I bought a lot of groceries, so that feeling was my fault... I'll make a personal note to hit TJs a little more often than every three weeks now that I'm in better spirits.

In addition, I've been getting around lately - mainly press screenings, art showings, other events and other such mingling/milling-about outlets. I've needed to get out anyway, as much as social situations make me nervous. But it goes without saying how much I appreciate my friends, as sometimes I'm offered a lift home when most local bus lines near my place have stopped running. I always make sure to have a roll of bills set aside specifically for contributing to gas; besides - as friends have also said of the company - it's nice having someone to talk to. Still, I can't help but feel like an inconvenience at times, as others seem to think I'm incapable of functioning since I don't have a car. That and strangers' remarks lately have been getting under my skin concerning this, quite like Register Girl this afternoon. The statement "I don't know how you get along without a car!" in particular has been grating my nerves. Sometimes I feel like saying something to the effect of "You know, I don't know how I get along being Black and a woman either, but I manage to do just fine!" But I'm a nice person.

In recent light of Metro's fares increasing, DASH's fares also increasing and cuts for the Commuter Express (more information here), it's getting more than a fair share of annoying in thinking about how the powers that be don't seem to care about the ridiculousness of their actions.

And as much as the thought of gas, insurance, and a down payment unnerves me at this moment where unexpected funds are already a nightmare, it's becoming a bigger thought every day something like this happens. And like most other situations, there's little I can do other than sit back and watch it all unfurl.

(sigh)

Thursday, June 3, 2010

News to Me

While on the Metro Red Line this afternoon heading to Hollywood & Highland for a press screening of Splice, I noticed something informative-like posted on the subway wall - namely a notice that Metro's fares would be rising. Again. Joy. If for some reason anyone else wasn't in the know (I hate being the last to know), here are a couple of links to information on the changes to take effect July 1.

July 1 Cash Fares - Metro.net
July 1 Passes & Tokens - Metro.net


(Information on current fare for this month can be found here.)

You know, I'd like to applaud Metro for raising fares yet again. It's not enough that some people are buying milk and eggs but not bread because they realize they can't afford all three items once they get to the cashier. That spending days and nights indoors at the risk of sanity serves as some people's monetary relief (feeling like a cave-dweller is so in). Thank you, Metro, for helping people decide between food and sanity, for giving us something else to figure out how to pay for. How dare we think that life's other problems weren't enough? Thank you even more so for continually refusing to provide stellar bus service in the Valley. Your fleet of buses still are arriving every 30-40 minutes like clockwork, are stopping service after 8:00 pm, and weekend service is as crappy and scarce as ever. Go team!! You rock!!!

Oh, Metro Los Angeles. You're the needy, financially draining yet distant girlfriend we never had. I'd feel for you if you weren't such a bitch.

I'm aware that New York's monthly fares are higher ($89; MTA); San Francisco's is just below (at $70; BART)... Boston's got it pretty good so far ($59; MBTA). But personally, I believe that a $13-a-month increase for the monthly pass is a bit steep, as well are the various other increases, from base fare to day pass. These days, whether it's gas, food, insurance, maintenance, sales tax - it's all on the rise. It never ends, on any end of the spectrum. All of us are either making less or the same amount of money, yet we're being forced to spend more. I think this is what they call "spending self into a hole", except it's not a flavor of indulgence. It's the necessities of daily life that add up. And if we don't get where we need to go, then you've got one sad city.

What's Metro going to give those of us in "the boonies"? Hope? That things won't shut down more than they already have due to its $204-million gap in its operating budget? That buses will hopefully not stop running after 7:00 pm instead of 8:00pm (on some streets)?

It's possible that I'm over-reacting. I'm tired and it's been a long day. But I'm curious: how much is bus/railway fare where you live? Have you seen any increases in the last few years?

There was this little pamphlet I picked up on the local bus today that reads: "Transit Flicks Video Contest -- Show us why you like LA County transit. You might win a free pass for a year!" I thought it was a corny/cute idea until LA County transit lost itself a couple of points in my book with these developments. But if it means the chance at a free pass for a year, well then, hell. Might as well get creative.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

I Love NY

Today I had a meeting in Hollywood, which despite any topic of conversation - personal or business - is most always a pleasure. Heading home during somewhat-rush-hour (just after 5:00 pm), stopping at Hollywood/Vine at Trader Joe's (I was out of cereal!), and jumping back on the subway without having to wait for more than five minutes each time reminded me of New York. When I was bringing in more money I would visit my brother in New York twice a year, for a week to week-and-a-half at a time. Of course I loved eating, shopping, and wandering around the museums, but what I loved more than anything was taking the subway.

At any time of day or night, the L would get me from Brooklyn to Union Square and back without me having to wait more than five minutes. Sometimes I'd run through the turnstiles and past the closing doors without a hitch. I loved the rush at four in the morning heading back from a club, feeling a strange sense of calm at a time of day when I am anything but. Most times, if I'm heading home on the subway after midnight in Los Angeles and walking the mile or so to my house in the dark, I'm super on-guard. Sure, there's a very slim chance someone will jump from out of a bush and knife me, but I'd like to think that if something similar happened to me in a better lit part of Brooklyn, perhaps someone stumbling home in close enough proximity would hear me scream. Maybe that's just wishful thinking, but whatever.

Suits, artists, musicians, bums, models, schoolkids, wanderers, concert/theater-goers, writers, janitors - everyone and their mother was on the subway today. No demographic was singled out, no ethnicity, sexual orientation, or economic class. The subway was for everyone this afternoon, as it is most times of day in New York (not always in LA). Naturally, the question among my East coast friends then and now seems to be that unless you live in Long Island, why have a car? Answer: not everyone lives in the city. Sometimes, "a car is necessary".

My West coast friends feel the same. I've come to grips that the Valley is one of the more obvious suburban areas complementing the "big city" we have here - although plenty of surrounding cities could easily fight for the title. When it comes to the question of going elsewhere besides the hustle, bustle, and glitz of the city, how else are you to get to the beach and the mountains (mad sucker that I am for day trips)? So faint the whisper of a car tickles my ears - a car as an option, and not a necessity. Ding ding ding ding ding... if only in a perfect world.

Anyway. Gotta love Hollywood, Los Angeles proper, and anywhere else that welcomes the use of two legs and bicycles as transportation (even if said Trader Joe's on Hollywood/Vine has no bicycle parking - a post on that soon). If I had more money, I would move. Los Angeles will never be New York, but it is still one amazing city. I hope to never leave. And if I did, it wouldn't be for long.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Apologies

I just wanted to shout out to anyone and everyone who has been reading here recently, to give a heartfelt THANK YOU SO MUCH for following my adventures in making it in and around Los Angeles without a car.

I sincerely want to apologize for the lack of posts, or rather, the posts that have been made which - I truly believe - haven't been quite up to the degree of quality that I've set for myself and readers. It's been a difficult few weeks on a personal level, and unfortunately that tends to impede on any gusto, desire, and general outlook. Life happens. But when that transcends into one of my favorite forums of communication with the new and great people I have come in contact with... well, plainly, something needs to be done other than more of the same.

That said, I think I've turned a corner, and hope to very soon give you more of the attention that you have been giving me on this common thread of cycling, a healthy lifestyle, and general well-being for ourselves, friends, and family.

In the meantime, I would love it if you checked out the CarFree Challenge to take place next week, from June 1 to June 7, here at TransFormCA.com. Please, tell your friends. How few miles will you drive next week?

Being that I already drive zero miles a week, I think I'm already there. Y tu?

Again, I truly want to thank you.

Happy cycling~
xo

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Google Maps, Take Me Away

This afternoon I took a much deserved bicycle ride down to Mulberry Street Pizzeria on Ventura Blvd between Balboa and Louise. It's easily one of the best New York pizza places in the Valley - and this statement comes from my roommate and ex-boyfriend, both native New Yorkers. That and their eggplant parmigiana is enough to feed two and is simply all sorts of ridiculously delicious.

Since I've been there a million times and needed to get out of the house (been writing too much) I thought I'd grab their lunch special - two slices of cheese pizza, half a salad and a drink - which was more than satisfying. I think my stomach might actually object to dinner tonight. But of course this post isn't merely about one of my favorite places to eat, but actually getting there and getting there safely. I figured the most direct route would be the best, when I really should have just referred to Google Maps and their directions by bicycle function. Getting there in the most direct way was actually the most useful for getting there by car, and therefore not the most ideal by bicycle. All other times I'd been there were on late-night dates or meeting with friends, so naturally I didn't think about it. Besides, I was starving.

Sadly, the direct way involved riding on the sidewalk for a spell. My whole thing with riding on the sidewalk is that unless you're riding in a residential area with your child it is likely more dangerous than riding on the street. Here's why: riding in the street allows for far more predictable maneuvering; besides if one car sees you in riding with traffic, they will probably (not definitely) look out for you. As opposed to riding on the sidewalk, often opposite traffic, going up and down curbs and in and out of driveways - completely unavoidable - it is more likely that you'll get struck by a car. It sounds backwards, I know, especially to the non-commuter - but it's all shades of true.

That said, once I got there, there was no bicycle rack of any kind. Imagine how lame I felt locking up my bike to a parking sign, but in being the only option it was relatively secure in the parking behind the establishment. It kind of reminds me though, when I went to get a new phone at a Sprint store in January and I couldn't find bicycle parking anywhere - this was also in Encino on Ventura Boulevard. Now I'm not saying it's the Boulevard's fault, but most establishments surrounding the area are not pedestrian-friendly, let alone bike-friendly. Just an observation.

I really feel that as of late I've been going on rants and I do apologize. It is a gorgeous day outside and I intend on getting back into it after I wrap up things this evening. I guess I just have to accept for a while that to some people bicyclists and pedestrians are as much a myth as unicorns and leprechauns, and therefore are catered to in a one-in-one-hundred need. And I guess as far as getting around by bicycle instead of trusting merely my instincts, my motto should be "Make Frequent Use of Google Maps and Be Happy".

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Health Matters

I am so, so tired... oh, how the night-bleeding-into-morning look clashes with my drive.

Two weeks from now is the 10th Annual Los Angeles River Ride, and as stated numerous times already, I will be riding my bicycle 70 miles. No sweat. That said, I haven't been really keeping up with good nutrition, hydration, and sleeping habits. Working and playing hard should be no excuse, but even with it being completely lame it is still a reason.

Up until about two weeks ago I was the average Jill's model of fitness and nutrition, if not sleep (trust me, if I could program my brain to let me sleep past 7:00 am after being up until 5:00 am, I would - and I'd likely look to profit off of the idea). What can I say; life got the better of me. It happens sometimes. Now that I've noticed the detour, it's time to get back on track. Get in the saddle. Set aside the time. Eat well despite any stress. Don't work through meals. Go grocery shopping. Drink water; get electrolytes. Adhere to a schedule and make it work... because the last thing I need two weeks from now is to have a embarrassing spill en route to the city of Long Beach before I hit the water station.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

"Well, at least there's no backseat."

This video was brought to my attention from one Miss Jessica Lewis from TransFormCA, an advocacy group based in the Bay Area that works in support of "world-class public transportation and walkable communities". An advertisement for their annual Car-Free Challenge - which is to take place this year from June 1 to June 7 - I found this to be super cute... probably because it features a bicycle.

Check it out:



And click here to learn more about Car-Free Challenge 2010.