Tuesday, May 17, 2022

A Year in Central Oregon

A few months ago, I started drafting a list of items comparing Oregon to Colorado. I'm not entirely sure what it was that sparked the mental need to make a list, but after having a rough day it seemed an appropriate activity in the moment.  The list wasn't really for a specific purpose, but I was coming to understand some things about our surroundings and I find comparison lists helpful for clearing out my mind. 

When we arrived here, we spent about three months roaming to different places to "live," a week or so at a time, while we waited, trying to find a home to purchase. When we found a place, it was a complete wreck, but somehow knew that it was the place for us. We then spent eight months fully immersed in the house we bought, tearing it up, replacing everything, fixing things that no one else would bother to repair. Finally, in the last few weeks, it's started to feel complete, whole, and as though we could actually spend some time enjoying the space. 

On a hike with the pup on part of the Deschutes River Trail a couple of weeks ago.

All of the work has come at a cost (as I've mentioned) to our physical state (particularly me, as I've spent most of my days working on the house - though I know Sam isn't far behind). I've not ridden the way I normally would. I haven't worked out as I typically would. My dominant hand has had so much stress and strain that I wake each morning, unable to release the clenched fist I've made in my sleep. These things take a toll on my mental and emotional state of being as well, and it causes me to question decisions. But, having the opportunity to see the fruits of our labor, I can start to settle into routines again. 

After moving from Colorado to Oregon late in spring of 2021, I couldn't help but make comparisons. Superficially, visually, it's easy to think of them as similar places, going from one high desert to another, but the more time we have spent in central Oregon, the more I have realized how different it really is from our prior home. Different doesn't necessarily equate to bad, but the opposite isn't necessarily true either. I did (do) definitely prefer the cycling spaces in Colorado, despite the plethora of bike lanes here in Oregon. 

Riding is probably the biggest, most important difference in my personal, everyday life. Before we moved, we were told that cycling here in central Oregon is some of the best. I would argue that it depends on the type of cycling one does. There are certainly innumerable trails to ride and mountain paths to explore, but road-riding for any distance seems to be much more challenging. While I enjoy riding trails on occasion, it just isn't what I spend most of my riding time doing. The roads here are rough with few exceptions and as is the case in many cities across the US, motorists seem to believe that bike lanes are used to drive in and through at their leisure, or park in because they can't be bothered to find another space to use.

We came to Oregon because of a job opportunity for Sam that was, as presented, too good to pass up. I wasn't thrilled about leaving Colorado, but I agreed that the job was one that simply couldn't be turned down, and trying to be adaptable and not sulk about who/what would be left behind, agreed that we could make home anywhere. I still believe that to be true, but I also understand that there are certain areas of life that I had grown accustomed to and the change to a new area was more challenging than I had anticipated. Still, I was prepared to see the move through and figure out ways around the challenges of a new place.

A few months into Sam's job in Oregon, things started to turn. There were signals and signs that things at work were not quite as they'd been portrayed pretty early on. We forged ahead though, believing that everything has its ups and downs. By the new year, we were both completely aware of the reality that this "great job" was not going to exist in the very near future. It's not an easy thing to come to grips with a reality that we would, more than likely, be making a move again.  

Sam searched for work locally for a couple of months. The reality is that we're in a somewhat isolated area, and being able to find work that could sustain life was going to be a challenge. We believed we were here for a reason though and even though this new-to-us place had become somewhat tainted with the lies we'd been told, we hoped to not have to make a big move yet again and so soon. 

Not having much success with his job search, Sam broadened things to look pretty much anywhere in the US for jobs. His experience would no doubt land him something that was reasonable, but I really wanted to make sure that he found something where he'd be happy and able to grow with an organization. It's what I'd hoped for him here in Oregon as well. 

We reached out to a few friends who we thought might have connections that would be valuable for job searching, and there were many interviews over the weeks and months, but nothing panned out. It was upsetting, stressful, disheartening, but I believed that when the right opportunity came up, it would be clear and obvious. Sam hoped to find something remote so that we wouldn't be forced to move immediately, but he hasn't had the best luck finding those sorts of jobs in the past, and it didn't go particularly well this time either.

Eventually, what felt like the right opportunity presented itself. Try as I might, I couldn't help but find myself laughing about where the job is though. It isn't a remote job (though Sam is working remotely for the time being until we can get settled again), but we are headed back to the very same city we left in Colorado. What are the odds?

We've both run through an array of emotions and more than anything, neither of us is looking forward to having yet another project house. We already know we will have another project house because nothing is even remotely affordable. There's always hope... but we're both realistic about the current state of things and know that odds aren't on our side to avoid another big project. 

We've tried to also contemplate what the lessons are in this whole mess. I always believe that things happen for a purpose, though it isn't always entirely obvious what those reasons are. Certainly, we've both gained additional house renovating skills (though I'm of the belief that we would've been fine continuing on without those additional skills). I'm pretty convinced I've packed on pounds as well -- though I refuse to weigh myself. But, not finding much time for physical activity, how could I expect anything less? For Sam, I think the move helped him realize exactly where home is, but for me, the reasons seem a little less obvious or tangible. 

I know that I have learned that I am far less relaxed than I had believed myself to be. I have always seen myself as pretty easy-going (and I still think that is true in many portions of life), but after living in an area where the vast majority of people have no sense of time or personal responsibility, I think I am far more, for lack of better delineation at the moment, Type A than I believed myself to be. I like to get stuff done. I mean, yeah, I like to get stuff done so that I can f*ck off, but still, I want to get that stuff completed. I am grateful though that I know I am (we are) willing to work hard at the things that are important to me (us) and to those I care about.

I have also been reminded of my father a lot while living in Bend. I've mentioned in the past that we came here to visit in the late 80's/early 90s (I want to say it was 1989 or 1990, but we've debated this a bit within the family as we have different recollections of the summer of our Bend visit). We've passed places that I know with certainty we visited when we were here and it brings up a lot of emotion, having lost my dad just over six years ago. In some ways, it makes me feel closer to him, and in others it causes me to regret the many, many years we lost together. We didn't have much of an adult relationship and while we'd both made peace by the time of his passing, it's sad to think about the lost years that we could have had. In reality, I talk to him so much more now than I ever did when he was alive, which is both sad and not so in the same breath. 

Me and B-dog walking a path along the Deschutes River.
*Photo courtesy of my brother, who recently paid us a brief visit.

Our experience living in Oregon has had some highs and lows, but we are both entirely grateful to be in the process of heading back home to Colorado. I am thankful for the experience here, but I can't wait to ride in Colorado again, and although I am not looking forward to the extreme heat, winds, and potential/likely fires, we know that it is home. Hopefully, this time we'll have the opportunity to stay put, permanently. At least that is the hope. 

We don't have an exact timeline for our return just yet, but we remain hopeful that by mid(ish) June, we'll be back in the area, and hopefully will have found home again by the end of summer. I am also hopeful that life won't be quite as transient this summer as it was last and that life will pick up again fairly easily and quickly... but, I also know that is a hope and not necessarily what will take place. But, I look forward to hopefully having the opportunity to share more rides again in the relatively near future.

Saturday, March 26, 2022

Tern HSD - It's Electric!

I have found a new love. 

And I fear that I have become completely obsessed.

But first, let me go back a bit to tell the tale of how this all started. For readers who have hung in with me during our 2021 move, you know that it's been a bit challenging for me to sneak in rides since the move. Don't get me wrong, I still ride, but with time constraints when engrossed in a complete house redo/renovation, the usual carve out of time just isn't there. My life has become consumed by house fixing and I spend most of my days doing work to repair this severely-neglected, old house. 

Over the last many months, I have found that not only have I lost my cycling strength due to not riding as frequently, but my many ailments have compounded that loss of strength. To boot, we have moved ourselves to a nice little hilly area where it's nearly impossible to go anywhere and avoid some sort of climbing (a skill I'd mastered, living at the base of the Rocky Mountains somehow - of course, there was more flat land to be found there, too). I've just never been a great climber, and when I'm prepared for it, the work can be done, but it's definitely not my strength.

With our move, the typical going-to-my-bicycle-to-run-errands has pretty well diminished to near-never. To be fair, a lot of this is due to what I'm picking up when running errands these days, but I wasn't feeling great about what had happened. Not only was I not riding much for sport, but I'd also pretty well eliminated my transportation riding. Ugh.

One day, I decided to ride to the gym to work out. I was feeling a little jealous watching Sam do his rides to the gym every morning and then continuing on to work. I kept telling myself, that used to be me - I always rode to the gym and to run basic errands around town, but it's amazing how easy it is to fall into habits without even realizing it has happened. The need to grab some giant load of materials often meant that it was easier to drive and then pick up what was needed on the way home, rather than taking my bicycle. It doesn't help that we're on the opposite side of town from the home improvement stores and that there's no direct/easy path to get to them via bike (well, there is one if I ride on the highway - but that is its own special nightmare). It is doable, but it takes some effort and frankly, as drained as I have been, I just couldn't muster the energy needed to make it happen. Granted, it's a lame excuse (I'm not denying that), but it is reality.

Anyway, I decided to ride to the gym and took my road bike. It was not my smartest idea, but I was thinking it would be easier to ride and I'd get there faster, but I remembered quickly how much better it is when one is more upright in position for city riding. I have a more upright bike I could've chosen, that has a rack and a bag, etc, but it weighs twice as much and I didn't want to fight with the hills. 

I've been thinking a lot about electric bikes as well and how I believe they have a real chance of changing the minds of more people when it comes to getting around. I have always thought that an electric bicycle wasn't something I needed or wanted. I've never objected to others riding or owning them, but I guess I felt a bit like it just wasn't something for me. I like the idea of getting around under my own power, the work that goes into that, but after test riding an e-assist bike, it really changed my thought process. I realized how beneficial it can be for a variety of people - both those who are fit and those who are perhaps still working on fitness. Maybe now was the perfect moment in time for me to look into an electric-assist bicycle for transportation? 

So, I started doing homework, investigating, digging, reading, and trying to figure out what would make the most sense. I wanted something that would be able to carry stuff - more stuff than I'd normally carry on a bike. I wanted to be able to get a few bags of groceries, take packages for drop off, and things of that sort. Perhaps a cargo e-bike made sense? Years ago I'd looked at Yuba, so I took a look at those again, but it seemed like a lot of bike - as though it made more sense for someone with young children being transported regularly. Still, it was a possibility. I'd seen some good things about Benno as well, so did some research on those too. Of course, there are tons of options to look into from Rad Bikes to Blix and so, so, so many others. I'd also seen and read a bit about Tern, but honestly, I pretty well glossed over them because I just didn't like the idea of the 20 inch wheel size. I've always thought that folding bikes were adorably cute, but I have also always thought I'd feel like a circus bear riding a tiny bike, such as the Tern.

G.E. rides a tiny bike... or at least my mental image of what I look like on a tiny bike.

All the research was giving me a headache though and one can only read so much before actual rides need to happen -- and I did think it was important to ride the bikes I was interested in to get a real-world opinion of how they could function for me. Fortunately, we have an electric bike store in town and they happen to stock a slew of brands, so I could test ride to my heart's content. Not one to ever turn down a test ride, I was off (with poor Sam in tow for this slightly unnecessary adventure).

Upon arrival at the shop, I was feeling pretty set on the Benno brand, so that was what I wanted to ride first. I did ask if there was anything that the shop thought I should test out and they recommended the Tern. I listened as the shop worker described the good things about each of the two and recommended that, since the two of us were there, that we take one of each, and then we could switch out to see if there was a preference for one over the other. So, we were off on our way, me on the Benno Boost and Sam on the Tern HSD P9.

It was Sam's first experience riding an electric bike, so it was fun just to see what he had to say. When we stopped to switch bikes he said, "Wow! That was a bit startling in full-blast mode." I just smiled. Moving among "eco," "sport," "tour," and "turbo" it was easy to feel that there is definitely a difference in the level of assistance being provided. 

The features of these two bikes were quite similar, but the Tern felt a bit more steady to me (and to Sam). This could be simply because neither of us are tall, so being closer to the ground with the 20" wheels of the Tern helped us each feel more stable with a lower center of gravity. But, when returning to the shop, I knew that the Tern was a much better fit for my needs/wants. Still, I wasn't loving the idea of the small wheels. It seems silly to get hung up on such a little thing (no pun intended), but it was a difficult mental barrier to get over.

When we returned to the shop, another employee recommended that I test out the Tern HSD S8i (the internally geared option), which is the same bike with a Gates belt drive and 8-speed Shimano Nexus hub. I didn't really think that was necessary, but after asking if it would feel different, the shop recommended giving it a try. 

I haven't ridden or owned an internally geared bike for a number of years, but didn't have a real objection to trying it, so off I went with one of the shop employees for another ride.  I started to think about the potential benefits of an internally geared city ride with the belt drive, such as making weather a little easier to deal with, being able to shift from a stopped position, not needing to lube a chain, and so on. But, I also didn't object to the derailleur either. It's not that big of a deal to lube a chain, and I don't need to shift from a stopped position as (at least most of the time, unless I'm having a lost-in-thought moment) I do know how to shift, and the fenders make dealing with weather easier on either bike. 

One thing I did recognize as the two of us rolled along the trail next to the river on a gloriously sunny afternoon -- I was falling in love with this bike. 

Uh oh. 

I forgot about the mental image of looking like a circus bear riding a tiny bicycle and I was just... enjoying the ride. I was picturing riding to the grocery store, delivering packages to UPS/FedEx/USPS, and, deity help me, I was even imagining getting a dog trailer to pull Miss B-dog to parks, trails, and the river -- all without ever getting in a car. Each of these brought a smile, and all of it made me picture life getting back to something resembling what it used to be in the not-so-distant past.

I do have some level of restraint (though some might argue otherwise), so we left the shop without a bicycle. Sam and I chatted as we walked away about the possibilities and what could make sense, so I said I would do more research and make some sort of decision in the not too distant future. We watched a few video reviews at home later that evening and I read a bit more, but I could feel that I had already made my choice.

I didn't sleep that night. I tossed and turned and obsessed about how great this bike had the potential to make life. It is a lot of money to spend on a bicycle, so I was also aware that it would need to be viewed in more of a car-replacement light, and in less of an n+1 type of light, and I think that made the most sense. Anything that allows for less driving, I am happy to lean in that direction.

The next day, I felt ill as I mentally debated whether it would be worth the cost, but knowing that Sam was okay with the purchase, I headed to the shop. I asked a few additional questions, and inquired about accessories they had available, and then... made the purchase. Ack! This was a big purchase, but I really believed it had the power to change not just a mode of transportation, but my currently diminishing enthusiasm in regard to riding. I knew that my excitement about riding would return at some point, but this was something that had potential to get me back on my path quicker.

When Sam got home, I heard him state as he clomped up the back stairs to enter the house, "You made up your mind the minute you rode it. I'm not sure why we even left without it." 

I realized he'd seen the Tern as he'd parked his own bike and I couldn't help but smile... he wasn't wrong.

To address something that I know will bother some, I'm going to touch briefly on the electric piece of this bike.  Perhaps one of the reasons some people object to electric bikes is the perception that there is no work involved in riding. We've all heard the term "cheating" in reference to those riding electric bicycles, but there are such a wide variety of options, that I don't really think it's great phrasing to use (not to mention that anything that gets someone on a bike shouldn't be thought of as cheating). People often tell us we're cheating when riding our (non-electric) tandem bicycle (though, anyone who thinks this is cheating should really try riding it), when that is not the case at all.

This particular category of electric is e-assist. There are some electric bikes that have a throttle (akin to a scooter or motorcycle) and allow a rider not to pedal but still maintain momentum, however the electric-assist type requires the rider to pedal in order to get any benefit from the electric part of the bike. It truly is just a bit of a boost to help with wind  - or hills - or lack of fitness, if/when needed. It should be fairly obvious that when carrying a load of cargo on a bicycle, the assistance could be quite beneficial. Who wants to run errands and be dripping in sweat after climbing a few hills with that extra weight? Maybe it's okay in some circumstances, but there are many times when having a little boost would be very appreciated.

The Tern HSD S8i is not lightweight for a bicycle, but is fairly light for an e-assist cargo-ish type bike. The stated weight is around 57 lbs (without racks, bags, etc), which, for anyone who's weighed a standard road bike will attest, is certainly stout; but when compared to some other electric options weighing in at over 100 lbs, it's truly more of a featherweight by comparison. 

What I find super useful on this bike (beyond the e-assist, which is definitely a fantastic feature) is all of the potential carrying spots. This particular bike is outfitted with a front porteur rack, a rear rack, double panniers, wired front and rear lights, a kickstand, a bell, and the potential to add other options (like a seat for kiddos, if needed, or a flat bed rack for additional carrying capacity). For such a small bike, it really packs quite a lot. While a lot of these things could be added to most any bicycle, it all seems to come together nicely on the HSD, and it has a fairly hefty carrying capacity at 374 pounds. 

I had plans to ride the HSD on its inaugural post-purchase ride to the gym and to drop off a few items at UPS; however, it was snowing that day and, silly as it sounds, I didn't want to have our first ride together in the snow. I know, I know, it sounds so nonsensical, but there's something about making the first trip in the snow that just seemed disrespectful. It's not that I won't ride it in the snow or rain, but I didn't want that to be our first. So, instead, it ended up being the following day to get a few groceries. 

The purchases that day fit easily into one of the panniers, along with my wallet, the bike lock, and a few other small items - with space to spare. I was struggling a bit with the cafe lock, and finding a suitable place to lock the bike itself up was a challenge, but other than that, everything went splendidly. 

The second ride was to the gym, during which I threw my packed backpack into one side of the panniers, after which Sam and I rode to pick up breakfast bagels and a coffee. I realized quickly that it would be nice to have some sort of cup holder, so went on a hunt for one that would work well because strapping it to the front rack with a bungee was less than ideal, as was evidenced by the liquid remaining on the rack when we stopped. 

Subsequent rides were very similar, until it was time to head to the grocery store again. The next trip to the market the panniers did a decent job, though they still weren't absolutely packed to the limit. Each one will fit two bags of groceries (at least), which is great as I typically don't buy more than 4 (maybe 5) bags of groceries in a single run.

As can be seen, there is still more room inside the panniers, if carrying more items was necessary. My reusable grocery bags are fairly large themselves (they have more capacity than the typical paper or plastic grocery bag), and they fit side-by-side inside without issue.

There is also an interior mesh pocket and a second pocket with a zipper, which I find very useful for a variety of purposes. They pocket without the zipper is great for holding a cable lock, gloves, a mask, and other smaller items that may get lost inside the main compartment.

Please forgive my dirty-looking hands. I'd been grouting tile and despite all of my hand scrubbing, couldn't get the grout haze off my hands. :(

The zipper pocket is good for things that may have a tendency to move around a lot that get misplaced inside the main compartment, such as keys, cards, and items of similar size.

As for things I find a bit unsatisfactory or challenging (after all, nothing is perfect), I will say that it's a tad more difficult to maneuver this bike than I anticipated when getting into/out of areas (like storage, parking, etc) that are more cramped. For such a small bike, it's a bit of a pain in tight spaces. This may be partially due to the front rack, but even before the rack was on, I didn't find it super easy to move. Because of the weight, I don't want to pick it up unnecessarily, but find that I often must, simply to get it where I need it. It's not a deal-breaker, but it's also not ideal. If I lived in an apartment with stairs, I definitely wouldn't want to be hauling it up and down - but perhaps that is just me and the fact that I've grown used to having bikes stored at ground level.

Another flaw I've found is that it sits so upright that I wish it was just a bit leaned forward (just a bit). It's nice to have a view of everything around, but when I take longer in-town rides, my backside feels more pressure than I'd typically want. Usually, city trips mean lots of stops though, so I can make do with the bolt-upright position on the bike -- though I probably wouldn't use it for touring or things that took me far outside of town. Again, for some this may not be a flaw at all, but for me, it's not the best position to ride in, particularly over longer distances. I'm still fussing a bit with positioning on the bike, so hoping to find a good spot for me to ride that relieves a bit of pressure, though in my experience, this is simply the nature of an upright bicycle.

As has been mentioned in reviews, I find the cafe lock on the rear wheel a bit challenging, though not for the reasons most mention. Many have found it an annoyance to have to leave the key in the lock when riding, but honestly, I don't mind that aspect. I have a much bigger issue getting the key into the lock and then releasing it. I have discovered that it often sticks and doesn't want to budge. With use, it seems to be getting a little easier, but I find that I need to allow extra time to deal with potential problems, and inevitably, it's uncooperative when I'm in a hurry. The solution seems to be not to use the cafe lock for the rear wheel, but this leaves the bike vulnerable to battery theft when unattended, as the key is coded for both the battery and the cafe lock, and must remain in the lock when unused.

In retrospect, I probably didn't need to have the internal hub and belt drive for this bike, but I don't regret it (at least yet) either. I do appreciate that it will require a little less maintenance, and when having more than one bike, that can be a nice feature.

Despite any of the things that may seem derogatory, I really do like this bike! I am thankful to have it to use for daily purposes and it's been an excellent addition to the bike fold. I also appreciate that both of us in our household can use it, though I will likely be the primary user. 

Has anyone else had the opportunity to pick up an electric bicycle? What do you like and/or dislike about it? Would you buy one again? Would you do anything different regarding your choice? Would love to hear about others' experiences, if you're willing to share. 

Wednesday, February 16, 2022

Bike lanes and sidewalks

Life is... well, it's likely taking some turns in the coming months. I'm not at liberty at the moment to discuss any of it, nor do I really have many details, but my mind is having a field day with all of the potential outcomes. As a person who likes open options, I find myself playing out scenarios and possibilities, but in the interim, there is so much that must be done, and my body is exhausted. I wish I could say that it is from riding so much, but as I pointed out to Sam just days ago, my cycling miles from January 2021 to January 2022 dropped off. 


Like, by ninety percent. Ugh. 

It's funny how life upheaval can change so much of the usual routine. I'm also amused that as someone who likes open options and change, I do have parts of life for which I appreciate having a schedule or routine to depend on. When those things get disrupted, destroyed, or completely obliterated, I find the rest of life feels more chaotic than it normally would. I mentally struggle, which quickly turns into physical stress... and then, well, it depends on how quickly I come to that realization as to how it all gets handled. 

Last week I rode more than I have in a very long time (and it wasn't even close to as much as it would've been just a short three-quarters of a year ago) but it felt -- fantastically normal (except for perhaps a bit more saddle soreness than I'd normally experience). And yet, I am still struggling with finding balance between fixing our project house and the rest of life. I have not made art since, oh, around March of 2021 (although Sam keeps reminding me that the house is an art project all its own), and I haven't even bothered to try and find any sort of part-time gig (to replace or continue on with substitute teaching).

Last week, I pretty much opted out of the project house and focused on riding and other activities. We had a warm winter week in central Oregon, finding temperatures close to and right at the 70ºF mark and I wanted to take full advantage of the weather. Yet, somehow I still felt guilty spending several days during the week going for relatively short rides and ignoring the work that I know needs to get done. But, I know both my body and brain needed a break, so am trying to cut myself a little slack.

On the subject of cycling, one thing I've noticed here when riding is, as I pointed out early on, there seem to be quite a number of cycling lanes. Although I see bike-specific lanes in cities more frequently in the last decade or so, I still wish for more protected cycling lanes/areas.  When I find them, they are such a joy -- even as someone who doesn't necessarily mind riding in motorized traffic. Just being able to relax the body and mind a little in traffic is always welcomed.

This path (above) that B-dog and I walk regularly doesn't have a protected bike lane, but I do appreciate that thought was given to various forms of transportation. There is a sidewalk for walking/running, a raised bike lane for riding, and a lane for motorized traffic, and it runs on both sides of the road. It works seemingly well here, particularly as it's a lower speed limit spot, but more than once I've witnessed SUVs, trucks, 16-wheelers and other vehicles that have driven up onto the bike lane, making it one of those spots that I'm always a little leery to ride through without having full focus on motorized traffic. I would think that adding a protective barrier would make this more ideal, but because (as with most of the US) focus is on the convenience of drivers, I don't think that will happen any time soon. Adding a barrier would encourage drivers to actually drive the speed limit, whereas now, they are able to whip through, often 10-15+mph over the posted speed limit.

As can be seen in the same photo, cropped in a bit (below), people also like to use this area to park their vehicles, or use it when they break down (or hit one of the roundabout barriers, as I've personally witnessed). I am aware that the trucks parked here are doing city work, but there are literally parking spaces on the other side of the road at a public park, as well as plenty of residential street parking one to two hundred feet away that could be used if they were willing to take a few steps to the work area.

It may not seem like a big deal, but when the few spaces that are put in place for more vulnerable road users aren't respected as such, it does make people less likely to use the space. Plus, if I (or another walker, runner or cyclist) had been traveling on that side of the road, the only way to pass would be to enter the motorized traffic lane.

Not unlike this Twitter thread from last week.

As stated in my comment on Twitter, this is not a problem exclusive to Columbus. It seems to happen anywhere and everywhere, and yes, if this same closure were to happen where people drive, there would be an instantaneous uproar and solutions would be found immediately.

Sadly, as a cyclist and pedestrian, these are very common encounters when trying to navigate most cities. Bike lanes are used as a staging area for road closure signs, delivery drivers use bike lanes and narrow shoulders as their parking area, sidewalks are fenced off, forcing pedestrians or those riding on sidewalks into traffic lanes, and then people start to give up and instead get in their cars to drive because it becomes too much of a risk and too difficult to deal with not to be in a metal box. 

Although I didn't take a photo, I did recently encounter a fenced off sidewalk which had large, directed signs, pointing cyclists and pedestrians to a workaround path for the construction zone. I was honestly a little surprised to find this, but it made navigating around the area much, much easier, and I couldn't help but think that this is how every blocked bike lane or fenced off sidewalk should be dealt with on a regular basis. 

It seems as though the answer is pretty simple to this problem, but my presumption is that closures don't inconvenience enough people to make it worth the time and effort to put in a safe passage area during the length of construction or work projects. Yet, it almost feels more like a chicken or egg argument. Not enough people are cycling or walking, so no one bothers to put in alternative passing areas, but people don't feel safe on passageways because they've encountered the scenes above too frequently.  

Perhaps as fuel becomes more costly and the climate crisis is becoming unavoidable, changes will start to be seen? Unfortunately, it saddens me to say that it is more likely that things will continue on in the same manner, but I do hold on to hope that as more people use alternative forms of transportation, safety for all travelers will come to the forefront and change will take place.

Monday, January 3, 2022

A somewhat late 2021 wrap-up

Happy New Year and welcome to 2022! 

My brain (and body) have been somewhat occupied for the last several months, so I know I've missed out on posts that may have normally been written, but because I feel a need to brain dump 2021 for my own sanity, I thought writing a summary might be helpful for me to let it all go. Is this what I should be doing right this moment? Absolutely not, but sometimes sanity has to come before other matters.

January got off to a beautiful start in Colorado. This photo above was on one of our daily dog walks only a few days into 2021, and I was feeling so very grateful to live in a beautiful place. I was also continuing my near-daily rides that I'd taken on as a coping mechanism during the pandemic. We rode on the weekends, too, and were shocked at how little snow we were getting.

This photo was taken the last day of January on an unseasonably dry winter ride we had taken into Thornton, Broomfield, Superior, and other southern-to-us areas.

In February, I was able to get my first-round Covid vaccination shot because I was employed with the school district as a substitute teacher and they desperately wanted to get us all back in the classroom. I had agreed to come back as soon as I was fully through that process, so was excited to be able to get vaccinated relatively early, though I felt bad in some sense because I wished I could've given it to Sam who was going into the office daily. 

We were still able to ride quite a bit too because, though cold, we really hadn't received a ton of snow.

By mid-March I'd received my second round vaccination and had been through my post-shot two-week period, so I was ready to go back to subbing in classrooms. My first day back was so exciting that I actually took a selfie to commemorate the day. Being able to do something "normal" that wasn't exercise, riding a bike or walking a dog was very exciting!

We also took a tandem ride one weekend that resulted in a weird tire bulge in our usually-tough Schwalbe tires.

Afterward, several others noted that they had experienced or had seen similar photos of others who don Schwalbe touring tires that had similar issues. We crossed our fingers that this was a one-time weird moment and put a new tire on the tandem.

Right after this ride, we also received a pretty decent helping of snow. Certainly, not uncommon in Colorado to get a large snow storm, but when our brains were ready for spring to start, having this much snow come in at a moment when spring was days away was not what we wanted to see out the window in the morning.

The good about March was that I was starting to find something resembling normal again. I was working on art again, back to substituting in the classroom, and everything else we'd been doing during the pandemic seemed to still be happening as well, so I was a happy lady.

By April, things took a bit of a turn. The first downer was that we knew our Labrador was getting to a point that we were going to have to make some decisions. I really, really didn't want to accept this as I'd watch her napping and had hope that she would continue to be the fighter we knew she was. But, her liver was failing, she was completely blind, and she just didn't have the life she once did.

While we put those thoughts to the back of our minds, we continued to ride as much as we could, experiencing some really dry (though often windy) spring days. One of our favorites was to visit this bikeway, above, that runs parallel to Highway 36 into/out of Boulder/Superior/Louisville/Westminster.

In late April, we discovered that we had a broken, clay sewer line at the house and that we'd need to have it replaced. It was (in my mind) an insane cost for something that we have to have (and that is just a pipe), but I know that there were a lot of people involved and that everyone needs a paycheck, so we took it on the chin and moved forward.

The next day, Sam found out that he was being offered a job in Bend, Oregon, and a lot of discussion happened in a very short amount of time. Within a week, as we started into May, our house was up for sale and Sam was making plans to go to Oregon to start his new job while the dogs and I stayed behind to get packed and take care of business in Colorado.

Strangely, I was very focused (an unusual trait for me). I knew what needed to be done and was doing my best to stay on task. Still lingering through was the thought of our Lab-girl. There were many, many discussions about how we would transition her to a new place, particularly as she was completely blind, but also taking into account her other ailments and age. We had a plan in place, but as we continued to observe her daily actions, we knew what she was telling us and as gut-wrenching and heart-breaking as it was, we knew we were going to have to say goodbye to our companion of just shy of 15 years. 

A photo taken from my Studio window of B-dog as she sat on the back flagstone.

As much as we knew that it was the right decision, I will likely always carry guilt about this choice made for her. Our Golden-girl wasn't really sure how to behave after the fact and she seemed a little forlorn (or maybe it was my projection on to her), but it was sad to watch her try to adapt to a new life without her housemate.

Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunate for my mental state), I didn't have much time to linger on these thoughts as we had a lot to get done. I decided to have one last open-studio/sale outdoors in late May with a friend who makes jewelry, and tried to sell off as much of what I had as possible to make packing up the studio a little less painful.  

Sam was also ready to head out for his time alone in Oregon, and he packed up our old camper-trailer and headed out west to begin a bit of new life and a new job. Meanwhile, B-dog and I went to work with more packing, giving things away, and donating as much as we could so that we'd be prepared for the move after the house sale closed. 

By June, we were nearly ready for the move and were waiting for Sam's return to put all of our belongings into shipping pods that would be stored until we found a new place to live. I was oddly calm, despite having a lot to do and knowing that we were leaving the state we'd called home for nearly two decades. My presumption was that this was a good sign and that it was time to find a new place.

Having always been a bit of a wanderer, it was starting to feel as though maybe we'd over-stayed our welcome, though there was a part of me that knew I was going to miss Colorado.

As mid-June came, we were ready for all of us to make the move to Oregon, so our house items and all but a few belongings were sent off to be stored until we were ready as we headed to our new area.

We lived in our camper trailer, moving from campsite to campsite every week or so because there, as we soon discovered, weren't any places for us to set up long-term. Our camper doesn't have a bathroom and really was meant more for bike-race type camping trips, so the space isn't vast by any means, but we were figuring out how to deal with the small space and limited "stuff" until we could secure a new home.

That would also be more of a challenge than we anticipated, despite our immediate start upon arrival. Even finding an apartment to rent was impossible, as we hadn't anticipated the number of people who arrive to this central Oregon city in the summer months (and already had plans for housing - unlike us). Our agent was great though and showed us absolutely everything we wanted to see, no matter where it took us.

Throughout June and July B-dog and I did a LOT of walking. We walk every day in normal circumstances, but this was next-level walking during which we explored anything and everything we could find. Although I didn't record most days, we were walking a good 12-14 miles every week day. 

The good thing for miss B is that the river is just about everywhere we'd go, so she'd always get to go for a swim and cool off at some point (often several times). 

Initially, we looked for homes daily and made an offer on a place that was a complete wreck. Honestly, it was close to uninhabitable. It had been rented for several decades prior and not well-cared-for, and we were pretty convinced our agent thought we were insane to be purchasing the property. I think we questioned our sanity a bit as well, especially because the house had been listed as a development property, with the seller believing the house was destined for demolition. But, near the end of August, after a sketchy escrow period and a near-loss of the house right at the end, we ended up getting precisely what we'd hoped to avoid: a giant project. 

But, this is who we are - people who seem to (at least somewhat) enjoy taking on something no one else wants and making it into something that is hopefully better than it started when we found it. 

*Photo credit to Sam       
A visit to the local Lava Lands hiking area

The summer months (especially July and August) brought a lot of smoke, as it did to most of the western US. The skies often looked as they would on a cloudy day, except that it was smoke. If we hadn't been wearing masks because of the pandemic, we likely would've been anyway because of the difficulty breathing.

The smoke cleared earlier here than it has been the last couple of summers in Colorado though, and by late August/early September, most days were smoke-light or smoke-free, which was a welcomed change. 

By late August, we had closed on the house and were into our renovations. We started from day one and haven't stopped since that time, other than for very brief moments. Sam goes to work, while I work on the house and then Sam returns home and does the things that require his touch/assistance.

A couple of rooms as they went through their changes. They both still had work to be done at the point of these photos, but we were grateful to start being able to get to somewhat live in the house at this point in late September.
It's hard to describe all that has gone into these rooms (especially the unseen) without a lot of detail, but things were much worse than were visible on the surface. We are so grateful to have the opportunity to save something destined for demolition though!

We also attempted to get back to riding somewhat regularly, which was more of a struggle than we anticipated. I think it's easy to get upset with ourselves when we can't manage to get all of the things completed that we hope, but sometimes have to remind ourselves that there are only so many hours in a day/week and something has to give sometimes when there are too many things to get done. 

Then, the weather turned earlier than we expected and that limited our riding time as well. Plus, we were getting pressure from friends/family who want to come and visit, so we were trying our very best to get as much work done as we could as quickly as possible. Ultimately, we had to tell everyone to just give us a bit of a break as there are only two of us doing the work and we can only accomplish so much. 

By October, leaves were changing and fall skies were a regular occurrence. We had close to renovated four of the rooms in the house as well. However, at this point, our riding was even more limited. Sam was riding to work, but my time was pretty much limited to our once per weekend ride on the tandem. 

When November rolled around, I started to truly realize that we actually live in another state and all of the things I had emotionally pushed down, not wanting to deal with (or lacking the time to deal with), started to come up. I missed my dog that I felt I had killed because we were moving (even though that really was not at all the case), I missed my Colorado friends and home -- not the house so much, but just knowing that the things I was so used to being near were no longer there, and I wanted desperately to have a ride in my old stomping grounds. I started to understand just how much I had taken for granted all that was at my fingertips, and just how much it all really meant to me. 

Fortunately, I had planned a trip back to Colorado for a couple of days in December to help out a friend and to hopefully clear out some of the emotion I just couldn't quite let go. Getting to walk my old home area was so wonderful and getting to see some friendly faces was the absolute best. I only wish I could've seen more people while there and had the opportunity to take my bicycle with me to ride. I realized that even when I don't get to see friends regularly, it's nice to know they are around and it really stinks to be in a new place with no familiar faces. 

When I returned home, I received notification from the state of Colorado that I had been exposed to someone who tested positive for Covid through the state notification app that I still had active on my phone. I was not pleased as I have done my best to stay away from people for the last two years unless outdoors, and, of course, the one time I went somewhere since this started, I had potentially exposed not only myself but Sam and those he works with (as the notification came a few days after my return) to testing positive. I had been masked while there, but it just frustrated me that this is still something that requires so much caution. Because of the date of exposure, I knew that it had to be either at the airport or on the airplane, but there wasn't anything I could do except to quarantine and get a test to see if I had been infected.

Thankfully, I tested negative (as did Sam), but it was a good reminder that we are not through any of this mess. The nice thing, I suppose, is that when home I have very little exposure to other humans.

December snow days in central Oregon.

I know that in the coming weeks/months, I have to start doing some things outside of fixing the house because I will never meet new people when my days revolve around dog walks, big-box home improvement stores, and working in the house, but there is still the part of me that has a hard time believing that Oregon is home. It's a lovely place (as I know I've stated), but it just doesn't feel like home - at least yet. Maybe it will in time, but that remains to be seen. 

Mileage-wise, riding has taken a severe plummet in 2021. I ended 2020 with 9,000 miles of riding, but 2021 dropped significantly to just over 4,600 (and most of that took place before summer hit). Miles on foot didn't take the same drop, but that was likely due to the reality that B-dog and I were attached at the hip for several months, which allowed us to get a lot of steps in throughout summer, most of which weren't recorded so I'll never truly know how many miles we covered.

This year ahead still holds quite a few question marks. I don't currently have a work space (nor have I been able to find a place locally that sells the supplies I need), I haven't gone back to substitute teaching here in Oregon, and there are still a lot of things to accomplish in regard to our project house. There are also some questions about where things will go with Sam's job. Truthfully, I don't mind questions though - who wants to have all the answers - but I'm curious to see where 2022 takes us. 

I hope that 2021 was kind to you, or as good as a pandemic year can be, and that you were able to fulfill goals and experience new things. Please feel free to share your thoughts/experiences from 2021 as well. Happy New Year to all!!

Tuesday, November 23, 2021

Catching Up

It's been a minute since I've put anything up. I have not disappeared off of the planet (at least not yet), but life has sort of been in the way of many of my more usual activities. We were very excited to finally have a home again, but that new home is sucking up so much of our time that it feels like there still isn't much that is normal in the day-to-day operation of life. It is what happens when one purchases a large project. I'd promised myself that the house would not take up all of my time, but I don't enjoy living in a rundown shack, so that pinky-swear to myself has disappeared as we sludge through the mire of fixes. Every week I tell myself that the following week will be different -- and then it isn't.

Frankly, I haven't really been riding a bike much. Sam gets in some short rides during the week to and from work, and we try to ride the tandem at least one of the days on the weekend, but I can easily count the number of solo rides I have completed over the last three months. It feels as though I went from riding fairly significant daily rides to forgetting that I even own a bicycle (or several, I suppose). 

On a morning walk with B-girl.

The transition to life in Oregon has been far more challenging for me than I anticipated. Initially, I believed that the trouble was that I needed to have our four-legged fur-kid with me 24-7, but as I have discovered, even having the ability to leave her at home alone has still not managed to get my rear end back on a saddle with any kind of frequency. I am disappointed in myself that I haven't been able to keep things going as I had hoped. 

Mentally, I am struggling. While I believe myself to be fairly adaptable, I miss "home." I miss the riding more than anything and I just can't seem to find equitable routes here that I enjoy as much as those out the door in our previous home. I don't think I truly comprehended why so many people would visit to ride in Colorado, but after riding here, I have a better grasp of just how good it really is.

In many ways, the city-cycling in our new home is much better. It's tough to find roads within city limits that don't have a bike lane, and as shared in a prior post, there's even a bike lane running along the highway through town (though I still find it an entirely startling experience to ride it), but once out of the more lived-in areas, bike lanes and shoulders seem to vanish and road quality diminishes significantly. 

I keep telling myself that it just takes time to adjust to a new place, but riding is such a big part of life that it feels as though part of me has died. I spend at least a few minutes every day telling myself that everything is good and that I have no reason to be upset, but inevitably something comes up in reading or conversation that brings me back to my homesickness. Though I am aware the feelings will pass (or at least dull) with time, it doesn't make it any easier while in the middle of it.

I've also discovered that I have a fairly substantial allergy to Juniper trees and this type of tree is quite abundant in this part of Oregon. Already having several allergies to various plant life, it was not something I was expecting would affect me so severely/regularly, but it's made breathing a bit more challenging and many days I look like I haven't slept because my eyes are puffy and/or red.

It isn't all bad though. I do very much enjoy having so many places to run/walk the pup. I think those paths are in much greater quantity than in our prior home (at least with the ease of being able to walk to them from home). I have thoroughly enjoyed getting out on foot to explore and see the various areas within walkable distance. I mean, come on, how many people get to have views like the one below on their morning walk?

I am also grateful that Sam is having an opportunity to explore a job and work with people he enjoys, which was the primary purpose of this move. Having the opportunity to experience a different place is always good too - whether for the experience alone, or because it teaches some type of lesson. 

And so, while life marches on, we are figuring out this new area, trying to get back to some sense of whatever normal is or should be, and realizing that there is always a yin/yang with anything - the good and bad, the up and down, but hopefully in the end, it brings some type of balance and harmony to life. 

Thursday, September 2, 2021

It's just paint

Over the last week, I took another short ride through the city. About an hour seems to be all I can spare these days. My mission has been trying to figure out some different 15-20 mile routes so that I don't go too far over my self-imposed allotted time. 

One of the interesting features of this area is that there is a dedicated bike lane on the highway that runs through the city. It's something that I found unusual when we arrived because I haven't noticed such a thing in other cities (granted, I haven't been to every city, or even to most cities in the US, so my experience in this regard is limited). Because of the bike lane running along the shoulder, the speed limit for motorized traffic is 45 mph (or at least, that is my assumption for such a low speed limit on a highway); however, I have taken note that no one seems to actually drive at that speed and most of the time, even if going 10-15 mph over that speed, people seem to want to drive even faster. 

The route I took along the east side of town eventually took me back across to the west side and I decided to try out the bike lane on the highway to see if it was more efficient to travel than the route I was going to take. As I was riding back home, I had only a few miles to ride, but had to contend with several highway exits while continuing on my path. Because of the aforementioned speed of motorized traffic, I had no idea how unnerving it actually would be to ride here. I was quickly reminded that the painted lines do nothing to protect me and because the motorized traffic was hitting speeds easily 20 mph over the posted speed, I was concerned every time I had to cross over one of the exits. Each time I would cross, I'd stick my left arm out and wave my hand, just to make sure anyone exiting that I couldn't see would take note of the fact that I was crossing to continue straight ahead. 

This experience reminded me just how ineffective bike lanes can be. Well-meaning individuals create these spaces to allow for ease of travel, but often don't take into consideration the lack of safety for the individuals who are most vulnerable. I can't imagine that a more timid or less-experienced rider would ever ride in this bike lane (or at least they likely wouldn't make that choice more than once), and even with years of riding under my belt, I still found it intimidating, and if I'm honest, a bit scary! 

Have you noticed a path/space that seems unsafe that was designed to allow for ease of travel for those on bikes? Do people frequently use the path/lane, or do you notice that riders choose other routes?

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

OMG!!! We have a house!

HOLY smokes (ha... I'm laughing aloud as the sky is actually smoky at the moment - and yes, I laugh at my own stupid puns)! It feels as though it's taken a year to find a place. It may seem like a crazy statement because we've only been in Oregon since mid-June (well, Sam's been here since the end of May), but living in a very small space (less than 30 sf) and having to move every 7-14 days, has made time seem to drag on. We weren't sure we were going to get here, but after being under contract for almost two months, canceling the purchase, and then coming back to the same house, we have finally closed and have keys.

Our first day of truly getting to spend time in the house without someone hovering over us, we took the opportunity to do some work that needed to be done as quickly as possible (e.g. removing the absolutely disgusting carpet -- side note: please don't ever feed pets by opening the food and spreading it all over the carpet - it's truly disgusting and unnecessary as dog bowls are plentiful and are readily available, sometimes even free). We were pleasantly surprised to find original wood beneath all of the carpet, even upstairs (which was likely originally only used as an attic space, so we weren't sure what we'd find), so that has, hopefully, saved us money. Time, well, that may actually be a bigger cost as the wood is mostly painted, and apparently painted multiple times, so I'm going to need to do some work to see what the best method for finishing them will be. My guess at the moment is that they'll end up getting painted again, but I don't object to seeing if it's possible to actually stain the wood.

Anyway, lest I carry off down the path of rambling on about what we may or may not do to the house, I will stop that tangent here, adding simply that although I am grateful to have a new home, I am overwhelmed by the amount of work that needs to be done. 

I did get to take my first ride in Bend yesterday, which was pretty exciting. In the weeks/months we've been here, I have been unable to actually ride in the city, so it was nice to get out for a bit. Granted, it was a very short ride, but right now, I'll take what I can get. I have a feeling that short rides are going to become normal for quite awhile. 

B-dog seems to have taken rather quickly to the new house, so we're grateful for that, too. She's enjoying exploring (as we have been doing), figuring out who to bark at (she loves people, but she is definitely protective of home and there are a lot of walkers/joggers/cyclists who pass by the front of the house) and where the best spots are to fetch, swim, and lay in the sun.

We've been working different muscles since arriving in Oregon, spending a lot more time on foot, so it will be interesting to see if the return to wheels will be quicker than anticipated or if we'll remain primarily on foot for a bit. Either way, it's nice to feel like we're on our way to settling and it is definitely good to know that we won't have to move all the time.