An Ode to Bicycling in Seattle

An Ode to Bicycling in Seattle

A new downtown job
Leads me to spend intimate time with Seattle twice a day.
My bike and I wend our way through crisp dawns and dusks this fall.
As I go my heart fills with love and joy —
How beautiful and how functional our city!
This morning I choose to take the waterfront route, and delight in its varied scenery.
A rumbling train yard and huge working fishing boats
Give way to the manicured grass and impressive art pieces of the Sculpture Park.
I watch seabirds dive into the waters of our Puget Sound.
Behind them are layers of natural and man-made majesty:
The arching forms of Mount Rainier and the Olympics
Are repeated in the stadiums
And juxtaposed by the jutting orange cranes of the port.
All these disparate parts blend together,
Making a cohesive town that has something for everyone.
Many hidden pieces make it run.
And I too am part of it –
I always feel especially part of it as I ride,
Highly attuned to it all as I must be while cycling.
My mind feels perfectly sharp, my body one with my bike,
Light and free and balanced and powerful, breathing in the misty cool air.
I love the zenlike focus of observing and reacting to the world around me,
Traffic and pedestrians and potholes not annoyances today,
But all part of the beautiful whole.
I pass and am passed by other cyclists on their way to other jobs,
Their heads full of other thoughts.
We share the feeling of tires on damp pavement,
The cadenced effort of muscles happy to be providing propulsion,
The knowledge that there will be hills to climb.
Our City has made our journeys easier by providing marked bike lanes
And fanciful bike racks shaped like squids in front of the Aquarium.
My bike and I could both go on, but we have reached the office
So I say goodbye to Seattle and go on with the day,
Knowing that we will be together again tomorrow.

One more post about bikes

I’ll get back to writing about farming soon, I promise!  Just a little update on the biking scene because the Alleycat Acres fundraising ride was last weekend.

Thanks to all your generous donations, I raised $350 to contribute to the cause.  Alleycat Acres was aiming for $6K and I think they beat $10K but I’m still waiting to find out the grand total.  Thank you again for your contributions and for designing my outfit!  It was pretty damn awesome!  Click the pic below to see my set of pictures on Flickr:

Click the pic for the flickr set

I had fun putting the costume together.  The top vote-getters from contributers were pink tutu and “vegetable theme,” so I did those plus handlebar streamers and bright blue arm warmers.   The specific ideas for the vegetable theme both came from friends’ suggestions: one was fleece carrot legwarmers that Sara Covich (pictured above) helped me sew up the week before the ride.  The other was a snackable veggie necklace made out of carrots, radishes, and jalapeño peppers strung on dental floss around my neck!  I took bites out of  the carrots while I was riding, and a couple brave souls nibbled a jalapeño at different points during the day.

It was a gorgeous day for the ride.  It is just starting to really feel like spring around here, and everybody was excited and energized by the weather as we started out in the morning.  The lake loop is a popular ride for all kinds of cyclists, so I got plenty of stares and smiles from riders who were not part of our group as I rolled around in my ridiculous getup.  It was great because when people asked me what the deal was, I was able to explain about the ride and the farm.

There were over 100 riders participating so I got to meet some great new people.  Alleycat Acres really did it right: they had several rest stops organized for us with food and water; they fed us chili and cornbread and beer after the ride; they had support cars with bike racks and tools around the route for those of us who needed mechanical support 🙂  I am excited to see Alleycat run with it this season – they are a dedicated group of organizers and they inspire a lot of volunteer effort.  I think they will be able to make a big positive impact!

The ride itself was a great challenge.  I’m pretty pleased that this winter I’ve been getting into such good biking shape via my commute to work and riding to after-work activities and doing some longer rides on the weekends.  But it turns out that a big event like this is needed to make me really push myself.   In fact I did two big (for me) bike rides 6 days apart.  Sunday Feb 27 was a 33-mile ***hills*** ride on Bainbridge.  Then the 60-mile Lake Washington loop Alleycat ride was on Saturday March 4.  During both of those rides, I hit a point where I felt like I legitimately couldn’t do it.  I really, really, really wanted to stop — I was exhausted and/or in pain and it just wasn’t fun right then.  This feeling generally comes from hills, although on Bainbridge the weather also played a role.  I know that if I had been out for a ride by myself at these times, I wouldn’t have pushed myself this hard.  I would have let myself wimp out before hitting that level of intensity.  But when you’re with a group on an organized ride, an element of peer pressure comes in.  You *have* to put mind over matter and just do it, keep going, finish it.  And then when you do, you feel great.  Like banging your head against a wall, right?  It feels so good when you stop?  You can only get that euphoric sense of accomplishment when you’ve had to overcome something difficult.  If it were easy, it wouldn’t be noteworthy.

I used to have a fortune-cookie fortune that I taped to my computer monitor at work: “Any accomplishment worth achieving at first seems impossible.”   I put it there because I used to routinely get anxious when given a work assignment that I didn’t immediately know how to attack.  I would get down on myself for “not being a real computer nerd” and doubt my ability to even ask questions about the assignment that wouldn’t give away my perceived lack of knowledge.  Of course I could always accomplish these tasks by doing the right research, asking the right questions, and using what I already knew about programming to learn the new pieces required for that specific task.  And then when I finished it, it would feel good!   I held onto the fortune in an attempt to remind myself of the afterward feeling when going into something new, to remind myself to approach it with confidence instead of anxiety.  Eventually it started working a bit.  And it turns out the statement is just as true for physical achievement, which is an arena in which I have always been fairly awful, but am now getting better at due to biking.

Yay bikes!  Yay self-confidence!  That’s the main point.  Next topics I plan to write about include more on canning & preserving, as well as seed-saving and who knows what else will come up as I start at the new farm in a just a few weeks.  Thanks for reading!

~ B


Sponsor my ride! Admire my attire!

If you read my last post, you know that I’m planning on riding the Alleycat Acres fundraising bike ride in March.  Since we are now just over a month away, I better get moving on the fundraising part.

So, here goes!!

I figure if you give me money, you ought to get a little something in return.  So to show that I am willing to go the extra mile to encourage donations, I am hereby open-sourcing (whoring out?) my outfit for the ride.

This means that you may vote for/suggest what I will wear! Any kind of adornment for myself or my bicycle.  This outfit will ride 60 miles around Lake Washington and potentially get its picture in all kinds of publicity for Alleycat Acres.

I will wear as many as possible of the suggested items, with priority going to the votes of the biggest contributors and the items with the highest overall vote-counts.  I may have to use my discretion due to weight of objects or propriety (I reserve the right *not* to ride in only body paint, even if that gets the most votes!)

This is a two step process:  First, you get to vote!  I have come up with a couple of options to start the voting, but I’m sure you are more creative… Please do submit your own option under “other” and I will add it to the voting list.

Step two: after you select your vote, back it up with some moola.  Tell me via the drop-down on the voting page how much your outfit suggestion is worth.  Once you submit your vote, you will see a link to a PayPal form.  Go to PayPal and use your little plastic money machine to make it happen.  If you want to pay me by cash or check instead, so much the better… drop me an email at rwarner2-at-gmail-dot-com.  I will cover the PayPal fees, so either way 100% of your donation goes straight to Alleycat Acres.

THANK YOU!!!  Let the games begin!

Start here: Voting Form

Step two: PayPal Form

Shifting gears.

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!

~ B

Riding bikes often makes me feel like this


Injury and healing

So… I hurt myself a couple weeks ago.  Nothing too major but even so it was enough to teach me a couple of lessons.  Such as:

1. Be aware. I bruised myself up by taking a spill on slippery railroad tracks as I was biking to Ballard.  It’s an area of the trail that I’ve ridden over a million times, I was in a hurry, my mind was elsewhere, and before I knew it my tire hit the tracks wrong and slid out from underneath me.  I should have been biking more carefully in the rain and the dark.  Usually I try pretty hard to bike defensively.  But even if you do your best most of the time, still…

2. Accidents happen. It’s hard not to beat yourself up over it when something bad happens that’s your fault.  I remember feeling the same way after my at-fault car accident in summer ’01:  If I could just roll back time for a second, if there was just an “undo” button, I would have been more careful and this wouldn’t have happened.  But there’s no way to click undo — what happened happened.  You can feel bad about it all you want but in the end you just have to accept that there is a new state of affairs that you hadn’t planned on and make the best of it.

3. Take a break. At first I didn’t think the injury was too serious so I went on about my normal business of biking and farming, etc.  After a couple of days, the bruise on my shin was huge and swollen and it hurt to walk.  Bruising was showing up around my anklebone that hadn’t been there before.  Ooopsies.  At some point it hit me that I was going to need to cancel some plans and lie down and let the dang thing heal for a few days.  I was injuring myself further by ignoring the pain and continuing to demand too much of my hurt leg.  This lying-down-and-resting is not an easy thing for me.  I can *always* think of something else to be getting done.  My ex-boyfriend used to beg me to “just sit still for 10 minutes!”  It didn’t help that the weather that week was warm, sunny, early spring gloriousness.  I was dying to go out for a bike ride and a run, but instead I had to lie down with my legs up.  At the same time, it made me realize that I am now a person who is on my bike nearly every day and looks forward to going for a 3 mile run.  This was not the case a year ago.

4. Think about food as medicine. This was a kind of fun part of the whole deal.  I looked online to find out which are the best anti-inflammatory foods and which foods promote inflammation.  I went shopping and picked up turmeric, salmon, kale, pomegranate juice, and frozen blueberries.  I pumped myself full of antioxidants: oatmeal with flaxseed and berries for breakfast and a salmon recipe I invented for dinner (see recipe at the end of the post). I cut out the bad stuff — all wheat flour and almost all sugar — for about 3 days,  which is pretty much a form of Becky-torture.  In a cruel twist of fate, during this time my roommate for some reason brought home some leftover yellow cake with chocolate frosting and left it on the counter to tempt me!  It made me realize (again) how addicted I am to baked goods and sugary snacks.   I eat them frequently and without thinking.  While it may not be that big a deal, they are obviously not nourishing foods and should be more of a treat.

So anyway, the end result was very good.  The resting helped a lot… I don’t know if the diet change helped or not but it tasted good.  I saw my chiropractor and he gave me some arnica cream and used a cold laser on my leg which is supposed to speed healing by stimulating the cells to regenerate more quickly.  All of these things combined to help me feel confident that I could go on a planned ski trip with my friends about 10 days after the injury without being in pain or making things worse.  So we went and it was gorgeous weather and I skied my first ever black diamond run.  It was AWESOME.

Anti-inflammatory Salmon

  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 Tbsp ginger, minced or powdered
  • 1 Tbsp turmeric
  • 1 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup rice vinegar
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp sweet Thai chile sauce
  • 1 lb salmon

All measurements are approximate.  Mix together all ingredients except salmon and pour the mixture over salmon in a glass baking dish.  Bake at 400 degrees for 25 minutes.   Serve salmon and sauce with quinoa and some mixed greens.  Nom!

My current mode of transportation to the farm.

This is my new bike aka “Frenchy.”  Got it from a guy on Craigslist and I loooove it so far!  It is a lot lighter and more fun to ride than my Marin hybrid.  It is a French frame — the brand is Gitane — hence the nickname.

This cute little bike has been doing a great job getting me around Seattle and out to the farm. At the moment I’m going out one day per week to work with either Brian or Betsey or both, just to spend time with them and get familiar with the farms and the work before I move out to the island.  I bike from my apartment to the downtown Seattle ferry terminal, take the 30-min ferry ride to Bainbridge, and then bike 4 miles to the Day Road farm.

This is a more recent picture of the bike after I added fenders and changed the handlebar tape.