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:


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: 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


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.