Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Mind-Altering States... of Mind

Back in Los Angeles. I didn't ride the bike today; I feel rather run over and bushed. I might or might not ride tomorrow, depending on how tired I am. For comfort's sake, I prefer to keep two feet on the ground until my head feels less foggy.

I did experience an increase in energy when my friends met me at the Flyaway, but after it had subsided I seriously contemplated staying in bed all afternoon. I'd have been perfectly content with that. Then I realized that perhaps indulging in a healthy dose of emerging sunlight would help cut through the muck. So I walked about two blocks to the corner market, on a mission to fill the frigidaire with foods corresponding with the rainbow-array diet I've grown accustomed to, and ultimately to put my body through the lifestyle-oriented detox it so desperately needs.

I so love vacationing with family, but it tends to result in ingesting copious amounts of mind-numbing, liver-hardening substances - and quite honestly, I never refuse. It's pretty much an annual faux-Rumspringa. Thankfully, one drink doesn't lead to five like it used to when I was younger; my limit is generally two. Still, I always feel like such crap afterward... goodness knows how many cups of black tea and electrolyte supplements it will take to balance my system. (However, I confess: I kind of dig the break-down and repair process. More on that in the not-so-distant future.)

If you haven't guessed, this is in some way related to cycling. Can you see where it's going?

(ahem) Let me drag you by the hand to the subject of drinking while riding one's bicycle and how I don't understand it. Like I'm some saint, though - on one party ride last year I was guilty of having one sip of the worst hard cranberry-lemonade leading to perhaps the most ill-gotten buzz, what with the impeding headache and awful taste in the mouth. All I can say is that alcohol can't possibly be worth the aforementioned unpleasantness or the screwing with overall operation and safety. Drinking and riding isn't as huge a problem in some circles as it is in others, but if I've said it once I've said it a million times: if you're going to advocate for the recognition of a known fact (read: that bicycles are vehicles) then you might not want to drink during the act. I'm looking at you, hipsters with your Pabst Blue Ribbon (I have to thank Bike Snob NYC for that one). A DWI and penalty fine's going to clash horribly with your red sneakers. Couple that with the alarming rate of people who go without their helmets, and you've a layered discussion that will bleed its way into a few posts.

It's all so exciting!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

On the Familiar Note of Travel

Apparently there's an island resort off the coast of Cancun where cars are illegal. However, you can walk, ride bicycles, or ride around in golf carts.

I'm intrigued and want to learn more. Does anyone have an idea what the name of this resort might be?

Am heading home tomorrow, facing another seemingly long day of travel. The flight itself will only take 4.5 hours, but it'll take just over eleven in total travel time. It's tiring me just thinking about it... isn't it funny that - even after a few days' vacation - one can still be so, so tired?

(welcome to adulthood)

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Women and Bicycles

In my experience, a person riding a bicycle can be a rare sighting. Therefore, as you can probably imagine, a woman riding a bicycle can be even more rare.

My friend and I have been known in the recent past to ride in organized bicycle rides as part of the Midnight Ridazz community (Pedal Punx and Critical Mass being favorites), and honestly speaking, the ratio of women to men is rather low. The ones that are present will automatically get more attention than, say, the guy with the double decker tandem bike. She will be stared at, but not approached. She will probably be the one person who the clerk at 7-11 will let use the employee restroom because she doesn't have the equipment to whip it out behind a garbage bin (based on a true story). We've gone riding in all seasons, often at night until the early hours of the morning. The party rides, what with the music and colorful characters, are always super fun. As a single woman I try to get away with wearing as short a skirt or figure-hugging an outfit as possible just to see who stares (but, of course, will not approach). I always kept thinking that such rides would be great places to meet people but like most of life's arenas, it seems that everyone is window-shopping but not looking to buy.

Most times I feel rather sexy on a bike. There's just something about powering through with one's own relative strength, being kissed by the sun and eased along by the breeze (I <3 U, spring weather). I've pretty much been riding everywhere for the last two years - when working, to work; to school; to the bus station; to the farmers market; to my folks' house. I don't know everything about how bicycles work nor will I pretend to, but getting my hands covered in grease as a result of fixing my chain is a badge of honor in its own weird way. I like the way my legs pulse after a thirty-mile ride as much as the next person; I enjoy climbing hills; I'll even accept the battle scars of a sick fall down an intimidating incline.... it's only when people mention that I'm a woman that makes it something out of the ordinary, more noticeable than intended. But really the only difference between myself and a man is that if a fall causes my bike's frame to slam against the precious area between my legs, it's likely that I'll still be able to bear children...

Anyway, I really just wanted to set the stage for what will surely be future discussions, which I will gladly continue at a later time.

Saturday, March 27, 2010


I saw one bicycle parked outside a Costco in Missouri. By the way, I find it interesting that you can walk in any Costco in any city in the country and automatically feel at home. But I'll admit that unless there's a coast involved, I'll probably have no idea where I am.

According to my brother-in-law, there is no public transportation where we are currently - no bus, not even in the main parts of town. There is a train stop down the road, but it's non-commuter; mostly for deliveries or passing through. We've been fishing and drinking, and I love it. We're taking a break until it stops raining. Until then, my nephew and I are taking in some of Walt Disney's Silly Symphonies (this one and this one in particular). His reactions are priceless.

Thursday, March 25, 2010


I would like to buy a car.

Wait... let me back up.

I would like the relative freedom to go wherever I want or need to go at any time of the day or night. I would like to not "depend" on others (those who I am expressly appreciative of) when it is too late or too wet to attempt to get home. For you, I gladly shower you with gas money, buy you drinks and/or do your dishes. You're simply the best.

In contrast, I don't want to be fighting in rush hour traffic with other drivers who are trying to inch into the tiniest of spaces. I don't want to come out to my car and find a dent that was obviously not there when I went into the store. I don't want to deal with tail-gaters, I don't want to pay for parking, exorbitant insurance rates, and seemingly never-ending car notes.

I do want a car one of these days, and I intend on purchasing one next year (I've been saying this for five years, by the way). I only anticipate that one day the job description might call for one; until then, I am making do and am actually in love with Los Angeles as a weird result. I think I'd just be very interested one day to see what attitude change this bustling city would undergo if, say, turning 16 didn't necessarily mean "let's go get my permit and look at cars" along the lines of "look Ma, I'm on my way to being a grown-up".

Just an observation.

Rehash and Document

So tonight I'll be boarding a plane heading to Nebraska for a few days to visit my sister, brother-in-law, and nephew. My older brother will be flying out from New York, and even with my flying out from LA with a layover, we somehow managed to schedule our arrivals within one minute of each other. We're just that cool. Anyway, East and West will be meeting in the Midwest for some food, fun, and family. I truly don't think I would ever have imagined that I'd be going to Nebraska, but what can I tell you - recent life has been all about firsts.

Lately I've been doing an informal photo project documenting bicycling in Los Angeles - sights from certain rides I've been on, the state of bike paths, street sign verbiage - you name it, I'm capturing it. But what has been getting more of my attention is the poor lock-up job people have been doing to their bicycles in public places, most especially on my university's campus. I mean, I used to be one of "those people" who would lock just their frame or their front wheel to a bike rack, but I've since invested in a cable lock (and found one buried in my closet, schwing!) and now feel worlds more confident about the security of my bicycle than ever. There's a lot of education to be had on the subject, apparently... I intend on helping to get it out there. Why yes, I have more than touched on this subject before - feel free to check it out here.

This all leads pretty much to what I'd like to do in Nebraska if I have the time - documenting the bicycle life in Falls City (population: approx. 4000). My assumption is that since it's such a small city that people are probably walking or perhaps making use of some alternative form of transportation - a bicycle, perhaps? - until they must absolutely utilize four wheels. I wonder if or how I will be proven wrong. I'm sure it'll be fascinating either way.

P.S. Hey, look at what I found!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010


On the way home from errands today, I noticed a totaled car on the side of the road. It looked like it had been pushed up onto the sidewalk as the result of an impact. I tried to think another possible scenario to explain the sight - maybe there was an accident and the car was pushed over to the side. But outside of that, what other scenario could there be? It literally looked as if the car was parked on the side of the road, erratically hit by another, and left for the owner to come back to.

If that was the case - and I really hope it wasn't - it doesn't surprise me. Why would anyone want to stick around if they caused such damage to another's property? The whole thing brought to mind the issue of hit and runs involving cyclists, and the total disregard when it comes to fleeing a scene. It doesn't surprise me that people don't take hit and runs seriously when it comes to flesh and blood operators, much less their metal encasements (if any are present).

There are so many stories about drivers getting away with damaging property and taking lives if not violently throwing a wrench in them. While the act itself may be an accident, the act of fleeing is deliberate, whether or not it's done out of fear. In such cases, the fleeing party should be prosecuted, or at least the case should be further investigated. The party who got hit - if they're lucky to have survived - shouldn't track down who hit them because the police department did not take their case seriously enough. I don't say this much, but this is America, people! As cyclists we take pride in our strength but we are still vulnerable. It reminds me of when I'm stopped at a light with drivers, who at times rev their engines and speed off when it turns from red to green. You're in a car, and I'm on a bicycle; of course you're going to go faster than I am. So naturally if a car hits me, who do you think is going to suffer the brunt of the damage?

Thankfully the LAPD is taking steps to bridge their relationship with cyclists instead of burning it down completely. I have to ask, though: if it weren't for the many advocates and citizens who made themselves heard, how long would it have taken, how many more people would have been injured, and how many more would have died until someone paid attention?

I hope I'm wrong about the aforementioned scenario I observed today. Even more so, I hope that LAPD one day proves me wrong and makes a firm promise about how seriously they will take hit and run cases.

Sources: LA Streetsblog

You Are What You Eat

How many times since elementary school have we been told to eat five a day, get 30-60 minutes of exercise a day, and drink at least eight glasses of water? By now it should be part of our lives as breathing and wearing clothes, but national health reports will tell you differently.

I used to weigh 170 pounds, none of it being muscle. The fifteen-year-old I was then wouldn't have ever imagined to be a slightly muscular just-above-120 with no real obligation to the scale anymore. But like most every woman in Los Angeles, I am preoccupied to some degree by the circumference of my thighs. It just is what it is. However, as an active person trying to maintain performance ability, I can't think too much on looks alone. In an effort to balance the scales (figuratively speaking) I've decided to take on The Daily Plate at again. is a [free!] community resource on all things nutrition, fitness, and health. Last year a few friends and I tried it out with different goals - some of us wanted to eat better, others wanted to lose weight - but of course we all were faced with the potential mistake of not looking at it as a lifestyle change. Realistically, if you're aiming for a clean-running engine or to modify your body outside of subdermal implants and enlarged lobes, that's the way you have to look at it.

In anticipation of warmer weather activities, I've started and modified a number of new workout plans. What I wasn't expecting was for my body to respond in ways that I wasn't previously used to (retaining uncomfortable amounts of water the biggest one). Despite the hard work, I can't say for sure that I've lost weight or inches thus far, although I feel and look more solid. But like last year, I'm going in with the goal to be more in tune with my body and make good nutritional decisions. It's not like I eat crap to begin with. I eat organically, with complex carbs thrown in, every 2-3 hours, minimum 64 ounces of water. It's just that I've just been a fan of the occasional kamikaze and slice of tiramisu in recent weeks (and as we learned yesterday, I could probably stand to sleep a little more).

So starting today I'll be keeping myself in check by entering foods, supplements and drinks, etc., into the application - from gold star achievements to caloric indiscretions. I hope to do a top-notch job athletically in coming months as a result, whether running or cycling. And if I get a better-looking body out of it, even better. Goodness knows I don't have the money for elective surgery.

Feel free to join me and several others!

Photo via

Monday, March 22, 2010

I Want to Ride it Where I Like

I rode my bike almost twenty miles today. There was a time when that was considered to be "not enough", but... well, I have a confession to make. The minute I got home from my ride I went upstairs and took a nap.

Now this could very well have been a spell of residual tiredness from the very exciting weekend that only a short skirt and pair of violet faux alligator heels can bring, but either way I was bushed. I have ridden 30+ miles, half-centuries, and from Azusa to Long Beach without feeling sore the next day. Why today was any different I don't know.

I try to average five to six days of cardiovascular exercise and weight training, considering myself to be very active. In addition to cycling, I also run, doing more of the latter lately than the former. But what I've realized is the truth in that the physical strengths resulting from one activity differ greatly from the other. Sure, the types of endurance built by either or both rely on similar muscle groups and techniques - but running five miles isn't the same as riding ten miles.

One of my future goals is to run in the LA Marathon, perhaps next year. Since I've a longer history in cycling than running, however, I intend on doing the 100-mile portion of the LA River Ride this year (read: June 2, 2010). In preparation for it, the tentative plan is to ride every day if possible - doing longer rides on the weekends (40-50 miles a pop) and eventually increasing to 70-75 miles in one go, so that when I do the hundred, it will be the first time accomplished. With about two-and-a-half months to train, nutrition-wise and physically, I think it can happen.

In short, I seriously want to justify taking a nap.

Photo via

Friday, March 19, 2010

The Way She Moves, The Way She Walks

Not long ago, whenever I took the bus it was very rare that I wasn't in a rush to actually enjoy the ride. Either the bus would come too late, not at all, or break down two miles from work, therefore making the usual commute an abnormally high-stressed point in the day. My schedule is a little less pressing these days, but I still appreciate that commuting by bus means getting from Point A to Point B while simultaneously reading or putting on make-up without angering other drivers. Also, my inner social observer is gifted an all-access visual pass to people-watch. From style of clothing to accessories to the amount of dirt accumulating underneath the nails - resulting in thoughts ranging from "WTF?!" to "ooh-lala" - the writer side of me is always inspired, with a potential character born every ten minutes.

That said, I can't help but think that constant exposure to people in such a confined space makes me a little more observant than usual and therefore more sensitive to trends and styles that people would normally let slide. Take the pre-faded, pre-worn shirt or pair of jeans look, for example. We all know that there is nothing vintage about a faux vintage Justin Bieber t-shirt. You can't faux-vintage a sixteen year-old dreamboat's image in 2010, unless that dreamboat is Corey Haim (may he rest in peace). Another trend perhaps would be the bouffant, especially when assisted by the Bumpits. Holy hell. An irrational waste of plastic.

But all in all, a quick change in expression, mannerisms, reactions, the way one shifts their weight when the bus jerks suddenly - it's kind of fascinating. In a way it makes me miss New York. In visiting the city one to two times yearly, I've grown fond of the variety of people - age-wise and social class-wise - and at times the corresponding fashion. Who's reading what, who's rocking what. However, I have friends who for some reason say you can't miss somewhere you've never lived before. Of course I disagree, but that will have to be elaborated upon at a later time.

And, oh, the inevitable, sustainable love/hate relationship with lots of bodies packed into a small space. I remember my heart beating out an interesting rhythm while in line for the Indiana Jones Adventure at Disneyland once; rush-hour knows how to push the panic button just as hard. When wedged in like sardines after a long day only to crawl down the street and stop at another bus stop and to pick up more souls, crawling even further until one must push their way out the doors as if shopping at Macy's on Black Friday - it's all a bit ridiculous and should inspire a more concerted look at the frequency of buses. I truly believe that every thirty minutes isn't enough. Why not every fifteen (and why not after 9:00 pm? Okay, all right; one issue at a time).

Apparently I could go on. Rather, I should probably invest in a red pocket-sized notebook and pull a Chelsea Handler, making note on the details of my orange-boxed, florescent-lighted life instead of my horizontal life.

Photo via

Morbid Curiosity

I think the smartest piece of advice I ever received from a friend was the following: ride your bicycle like someone is going to kill you.

Before I am misquoted, I did not say "ride your bicycle today as if it's your last". While that would be more poetic and ideal, what I actually said was: "Ride your bicycle like someone is going to kill you." However morbid a thought, it is packed with truth, and I find myself thinking this often while riding. Let's just face it head on - whether on foot or atop wheels, not everyone is paying attention. You could be wearing the brightest shade of orange, looking every which direction and using all available common sense - but all it takes is one person to pick something out of their teeth and therefore mess up your day.

I prefer to ride in the street wherever I go because for all intents and purposes a bicycle is a vehicle. I really think that cycling on the sidewalk is a dangerous preference, but I also believe that it is more dangerous to put yourself in what you believe to be harm's way. So while directed primarily at those who ride their bicycles in traffic, everyone of all backgrounds can benefit from this hammering of information. Now, without further adieu:

1. Stay out of the door zone. Staying out of the narrow area between parked cars and the right lane - the door zone - will give you enough room to avoid any collision with the swinging open of one's driver side door. It also allows for room to move a little to the left if any cars start edging out.

2. Look over your shoulder. If you don't have a rearview mirror device tacked onto either your helmet or handlebars, go about it old school and briefly look over your shoulder for oncoming traffic before you make a move out into the crosshairs.

3. Look ahead. With or without use of a vehicle's turn signals, one should be able to at least have a good idea of what a car is going to do before it does it just by the way it's moving. Is it slowing down? Is it coming to a corner in general? Is it not stopping? As an aside, viewing most driving as unpredictable will actually make riding with, in, and around through and intersecting traffic more predictable. Look at least two driveways ahead and down the street long before you get to it. And for the lovely alleyway between buildings/homes - slow down, or better yet, stop.

4. Look everyone in the eye. Example: when coming out into an intersection while an oncoming car is inching rapidly into its left turn, look the driver in his/her eyes. Why? For two reasons: number one, the expressions are generally priceless. But more importantly - and therefore number two - you are seen by the to-be offender. They acknowledge your existence and are either forced to stop, recognize an error in haste, or both. (Hopefully.) And while they still might inadvertently try to kill you in some other instance, you'll still have the satisfaction of knowing that you were seen.

5. Check for signs that a parked car will be moving. Reverse lights, brake lights, a slight puff of exhaust and a silhouette of a head above the driver-side head rest are all surefire signs that a parked car might be gearing to go and quite possibly not see you when they pull out into traffic. Points 1., 2., and 3. will help in this case. With enough space to stay/get out of the way, allowing for other cars to pass, if any, and spotting the car from a block away, you will be able to get out of the way without a scratch.

Aside from the blatantly obvious - not running yellow-red lights, learning/using hand signals, the use of head and rear lights (which should be built-in at this point, but what do I know) and staying away from dark clothing at night - I find that that basic tips like these find their tried and true place in a number of bicycling situations. Whether riding on designated bike paths or commuting in light to heavy traffic - rinse, repeat, and use daily.

Photo via

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Bikes, Peds, and the MTA - Oh My

This month I purchased a bus pass. I anticipated that I'd be doing a lot more commuting than I had been in recent months, so it only made sense. I've also been battling some sort of sinus infection for the last week, so I'd figure I'll take it easy. The only drawback is that I haven't on my bicycle nearly as much as I like to be. However, I predict that I will soon enough. Honestly, once the relative cold and fickle rain leads into warm springtime temps, I'll be back on the bicycle quicker than you can say Midnight Ridazz.

So enters my love/hate relationship with the Metro Transit Authority. I'm rather thankful that there are other means of transportation outside of a personal automobile. I find that commuting by bus gives me time to enjoy things - reading, for instance. People-watching. Thinking. Those sort of things. I met with friends at the Getty Museum on Saturday, which was actually a pleasant experience - two buses in under an hour and I was there. It was surprisingly a satisfactory experience.

The only thing I don't enjoy is when buses come either too early or too late (or not at all), or too infrequently, or stop running after 9:00 pm. I understand that the Valley isn't Ventura Blvd or Hollywood, but I still hold to the viewpoint that if there are people, there needs to be transportation beyond the spectrum of 5am and 9pm. For now, that's all I have to say on the subject.

I hope to make more frequent entries now that I've opened up the lines of discussion to "other than bicycles". The wheels tend to run a bit better when lubricated with all-encompassing point of view.