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 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, 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,
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.