Critical mass June 2010
Question: What is to driving a car as farming is to working in a cubicle?
What mode of transportation gets you out into the open air and makes you feel connected to the world the way growing your own food does? If by farming you create your own sustenance, what allows you to create your own propulsion?
Answer: Why, bicycling, of course. Cycling: the use of bicycles for transport, recreation, or sport.
My bike at my farm, Fall 2010
I have newfound loves for both farming and biking. So of course anything that purports to combine the two intrigues me. Last winter I found out about Alleycat Acres: a brand new Seattle urban farm. They are run by volunteers, the food they grow gets donated to food banks, and they deliver their produce by bike. Ding ding ding! Yes, sign me up to support you. I volunteered for a couple work parties in the early spring but then I had to head off to Bainbridge. I kept tabs on the group though, via their oft-updated Facebook, and it sounded like they had a great season and got a lot of press.
This winter, Alleycat is recruiting participants for a big bike ride/fundraiser. “Ride Hard, Grow Forth.” How could I say no? The 60-mile loop around Lake Washington will be the longest distance I’ve ever done (probably farthest to date was about 42 miles and they were much flatter). Each participant has to raise at least 60 bucks, but I would like to come up with a good deal more for them. I hate asking people for money – it was a little easier back in the day when I was a cute little Girl Scout peddling cookies door to door, but not much – so I’m working on coming up with a creative idea for accumulating donations. Get ready, the request is coming… when I start asking you all for $$money$$, give me some money!! It will be going to a great cause and doing the ride will also be a big achievement for me personally/physically.
My biking history is fairly unexceptional. I must have biked some as a kid, but my first real bike here in Seattle was a Marin hybrid, complete with kickstand and cushy seat, purchased new from Recycled Cycles. (Much of the previous sentence will be deciphered by the bike-literate as NEWBIE ALERT!) It is awesome when I think about the fact that it really has not been long since I first tentatively rode the Marin back and forth from my home on Dexter to my work @ the software job… also on Dexter. Read, less than 1 mile, no turns or traffic signals.
I didn’t think I would become “a cyclist.” But lo and behold, I got hooked. I started making bikey friends and taking bikey trips. I got a Seattle bike map and I bought my awesome purple steel-frame road bike on Craigslist. I learned how to do a bit of basic maintenance/repair. (Someday I will know enough to build up my own bike from parts). These days, my car is feeling left out becuase I bike everywhere. I ride in traffic, I ride in the rain, I ride at night – and, since it is Seattle after all, quite often I ride in all three. Of course I do what I can to be safe (helmet, lights, obeying most traffic laws) but part of the thrill of being out there riding is that you’re out there, in the world, and you never know what’s going to happen. I love getting familiar with new little parts of the city and figuring out efficient routes between the places I frequent. I love the exhilarating feeling of the wind in my face and the balance of the bike beneath me. I love the sense of accomplishment at cresting a tough hill and coasting down the other side. I love it when that same hill doesn’t seem quite as intimidating the next time I approach it.
While I bike around, I amuse myself by observing other cyclists and categorizing the “types” (strong-jawed, clean-shaven middle-aged man in full spandex with really expensive bicycle; scruffy young helmetless hipster boy with U-Lock in back pocket, possibly smoking a cigarette while riding his fixed gear; eccentric older fellow reclining in his recumbent with an orange flag on a stick). I enjoy it when I see someone who doesn’t fit any type (the fellow wearing khakis tucked into tall rubber boots who said “HI!” cheerily as he passed me this morning; a lady in a skirt pulling a trailer with her two-year-old and her groceries).
Speaking of ladies, there is somewhat of an issue around cycling being a bit male-dominated, literature has been written on the subject, and it’s true I do see fewer bikers of the female variety around about town. But there are plenty of us out there. I watch for the women who have mastered the art of girl biker style and achieved the “simultaneously cute and burly” persona. If you’re truly riding to get around, you need functional attire, and the bright yellow rain gear and SPD cleats tend to stand out in other environments (at the office, at a dance club). Let’s face it, I want to look spunky and feminine while also projecting, “watch me beat your ass to the top of that hill” and “I can fix my own flat tire, thank you very much.”
In conclusion. One attitude toward life is to look for every possible way to make life easier and more comfortable. The opposite approach is to embrace the motto that “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” and continually seek out changes and challenges. I discovered that a life of sitting in my car to sitting at a desk to sitting in my car to sitting at home in front of a TV was relatively easy, but felt scarily stagnant and disconnected. It turns out that I feel better when I’m using my body and mind for things like farming and biking. I didn’t discover these things immediately. In both cases there was a lot of hesitancy, questions, a learning curve. A point where it seemed too difficult. But even baby steps will get you there. Seek out what it is that makes you feel alive.
Oh, and support my ride for Alleycat Acres! As soon as I get a “donate widget” put together I’ll post it here. Thanks for reading!
Riding bikes often makes me feel like this
Filed under: bikes | Tagged: Alleycat Acres, bicycling, fundraising, living life to the fullest, riding bikes, urban farming | 10 Comments »