Category Archives: Rhode Island

Growing the sport of cyclocross in Rhode Island

A few teammates attended the opening ceremony for the George Redman Linear Park on the Washington Bridge in September and got a good photo op with Rhode Island's politicians.

A few teammates attended the opening ceremony for the George Redman Linear Park on the Washington Bridge in September and got a good photo-op with Rhode Island’s most prominent politicians.

I think most people thought Ed Raff was crazy when he started talking about the possibility of starting a high school cyclocross team at his school in Providence. I have to admit that I was skeptical that he could pull it off in just one short season. Even Donny Green, the elite cyclocross racer that Ed recruited to coach, had doubted its success when he first approached Ed to help get the team up and rolling. However, with the support of Providence’s newly elected Mayor Jorge Elorza, a partnership with Tom Bacon from Mt Pleasant High School, and the passionate dedication of 8 high school kids from the Met and Mt Pleasant, the One Providence Cycling team has become a big hit.

Starting off the first race of the weekend during the KMC Providence Cyclocross Festival.

Starting off the first race of the weekend during the KMC Providence Cyclocross Festival.

I had the pleasure of witnessing these kids race their first race, in the cold and miserable rain, on the first weekend of October during the KMC Cyclocross Festival in Providence. Donny had started coaching them less than a month earlier, and most of them were riding single speed steel framed bikes that Ed had bought through State Bicycle. Most of these kids had little to no prior experience handling a bike in such technically demanding conditions, but they all stayed in the single speed race that evening, despite getting lapped, despite the miserable weather conditions and having a hard gear ratio, they never gave up. It was painful to watch, honestly. They looked defeated every time there was a hill, every time they had to walk laboriously up a flyover, and every time they had to dismount and remount their bikes. You could see how much they exhausted themselves, and they literally gave every ounce of effort their bodies could muster to finish that race.

There they go, off the start at Monstah Cross in Walpole, MA!

There they go, off the start at Monstah Cross in Walpole, MA!

Fast forward about six weeks, and 5 members of team have just completed their second race. Compared to Providence, this race was pretty flat and nontechnical, but the wind made it tough. It was great for people with a lot of power who could maintain a fast pace for a long time. For a newer rider, the relentless pace set by the leaders  and the lack of recovery opportunities made for a very challenging race. Amanda Resch, a second year racer and manager of Legend Bicycle, joked that the race that day was so aerobically demanding it made her want to quit cyclocross. For The One Providence kids, it was yet another suffer fest. They may have still been the last 5 men to finish the single-speed race, but they hung on for all 40+ minutes (there were 3 DNFs). Their perseverance is admirable, and they can only get better from here.

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Practicing shouldering their bikes and running up a steep hill at Roger Williams Park in Providence.

I’ve started attending practices to help with coaching (and learn a bit more myself), and I’m very excited to see how these kids will fare in their next race. They have less than two weeks to hone their newly acquired skills and try to increase fitness with ever-decreasing daylight hours working against them. For most of the month of October, practices were sporadic because their coach, Donny, had both his dad and grandfather pass away and was understandable absent. Donny’s cousin created a GoFundMe to help raise money for One Providence Cycling, so the team can get better equipment, cover race entry fees, eat a healthy breakfast and post-race meal, and maybe pay their coach a little bit (although Donny states that he was never expecting money from this endeavor)! If you like their story and want to see them succeed, consider donating here.

WEmadeit.Still062After seeing them in action, I truly think that Ed Raff is a genius for creating this cycling team (either that or he got very lucky). This is a great way to get kids to be active and involved in a team sport that can also double as a mode of transportation and a lifestyle. After most players of team sports like football, rugby or lacrosse have retired due to injury or ‘old’ age, cyclists can maintain their sport for a lifetime. Bicycling has been predominantly a poor person’s mode of transportation but a rich person’s sport, and it’s about time that changes.

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New Job for Nomadic Cyclists

Dreary Providence at the cusp of winter and spring

Dreary Providence at the cusp of winter and spring

Dallas and I have persevered through the worst of winter in New England, while apparently the rest of the country has had the warmest winter on record.  It’s probably the worst timing for us to be leaving, when we should be reaping the reward of spring and summer after having suffered through such misery for the past 3-4 months.  Summertime is really the only reason to ever live in Rhode Island.  I’m sad that I won’t get to experience it to it’s fullest in the Ocean State, but we have a pretty good reason for leaving now.

Hiking in sunny Boulder, after our job interview

Hiking in sunny Boulder, where it’s warm enough to go topless, after our job interview

We applied as a team for a job with PeopleForBikes, a non-profit based in Boulder, Colorado, whose mission is to increase cycling (and cycling infrastructure) in the US five-fold by 2025.  This is a seasonal job, and the ultimate opportunity for Dallas and I to play an active role in bicycle advocacy while remaining nomadic and (hopefully) still cycling every day.  The job is sponsored by Volkswagen, so we will be getting a brand new car to travel around the country to various events, setting up our tent and giving out prizes to people who sign on to our movement.  We are very excited to be starting this new chapter of our lives, but at the same time very sad to be leaving Providence so suddenly.  We will be back.

Multi-use paths are everywhere in Boulder!

Multi-use paths are everywhere in Boulder!

Dallas and I are going to be the East Coast Crew – they are still looking for the ideal candidates for a West Coast Crew, so if you’re ready to drop everything and travel around the western half of the US for the next 6 months, you can apply here!  Part of our job involves blogging and posting to instagram – so if you’d like to follow us on our PeopleForBikes journey, the blogs will be posted here, and you can follow PeopleForBikes on instagram (and if you don’t already, follow nomadiccycling on instagram too!).  And, after reading all of this, if you haven’t already joined the movement, you can sign up here!

Winter Cycling

Before the first big snow storm, when the bike path was still somewhat easy to ride on

Before the first big snow storm, when the bike path was still somewhat easy to ride on

So many people have been shocked and maybe impressed that Dallas and I are riding our bikes through the winter.  At least once a day someone tells me, “I can’t believe you’re still riding in this!”  Well, to be honest, I would much rather ride my bike in this snow than drive a car.  Don’t get me wrong.  Cycling in the winter has its own drawbacks and discomforts, but I feel I have no right to complain about the choice I made not to have a car, even in the worst of winter conditions.  I have no regrets and am happier than ever to ride my bike instead of drive.  Here’s a few reasons why.

Riding in the snow can be peaceful and fun, before it gets salted and all serenity is destroyed by filthy traffic

Riding in the snow can be peaceful and fun, before it gets salted and all serenity is destroyed by filthy traffic

I am still getting outside and incorporating activity into my daily commute (and sometimes for fun as well, although we have both been heavier on the yoga and other indoor forms of exercise these past few months) – as long as I’m dressed appropriately, I feel much better than I would if I were sitting in a car (and in the crawling traffic jams that seem to be everywhere during snowy rush hours).  From the moment I step outside I am moving, keeping my body warm.  The snow adds a bit of a balance challenge, and the cars sliding around add a danger factor (how exciting).  I have to ride my bike differently in the winter, watching out for snow and ice and taking my turns cautiously.  I may have to change my course to avoid hills or roads that present hazards I would rather not deal with.  I have a little more trouble looking over my shoulder for cars because I have to turn half my body around to see beyond my hood, which I have pulled up over my helmet.  I adapt to these challenges, and I even enjoy them for a time.  I feel more confidence on my bike as I learn how to improve my balance on these challenging surfaces.

Embrace winter and have fun in the snow!

Embrace winter and have fun in the snow!

Driving a car in this weather actually seems like hell.  There is no room on the roads for cars to pass each other on many of the side streets, because the snow is stacked so high along the sides of the roads.  The sidewalks are so inconsistently cleared that pedestrians are forced to walk in the street, creating yet more obstacles for drivers.  Cyclists are forced to ride in the middle of the road, if there ever was a bike lane, because all the snow is in the parking lane and cars are parking in the bike lanes.  Where there are parked cars, they stick out, adding to the difficulty of navigation.  Why drive when you end up sitting in a line of traffic, catching the same red light for 3 or 4 (or more) cycles before you finally arrive at the intersection?  Why drive when there’s nowhere for you to park your car?  What are you supposed to do when you finally do arrive are your destination and there’s a parking ban because of the snow?  It’s more work to have a car in the winter than it is to bike, in my opinion.  If you’re not spending hours shoveling your car out of your driveway, you’re spending money for someone else to do it for you.  Unless you keep your car in a heated garage, you spend the first 10 minutes of your trip just sitting there freezing, waiting for the heat to kick in.

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Skiing in the park near our house – look at all that snow!

The one thing I could live without are cars.  And salt on the road.  I know the salt makes the roads less slippery, but it really destroys my bike.  If you are riding in the winter, make sure you clean off the salt to prevent corrosion on your bike.  It’s not an easy task.  If it weren’t for cars, the roads probably wouldn’t get salted.  I wouldn’t have to worry about them slipping on ice and sliding into me, or driving way too close because the roads are half as wide as they normally are.  I wouldn’t have to turn around so far to look behind me before making a left turn because there would be no cars to plow me down from behind.

These Bar Mitts have been the best Christmas present - before I used to have to stop mid-ride to warm up my hands on the way to work. You can see form the photo that locking up a bike becomes a little...different, in the winter.

You can see from the photo that locking up a bike becomes a little…different, in the winter.

As I mentioned, cycling does have its own drawbacks and discomforts during the winter season.  But I believe they are far outweighed by the positives.  The worst part about winter cycling (besides having to watch out for scary cars) is that my body can never seem to distribute heat evenly.  My hands and feet and face are most vulnerable, while the rest of my body will be overheating.  Maybe I just haven’t figured out the right gear – and this changes daily depending on the outside conditions.

These Bar Mitts have been the best Christmas present - before, I used to have to stop mid-ride to warm up my hands on the way to work.

These Bar Mitts have been the best Christmas present – before, I used to have to stop mid-ride to warm up my hands on the way to work.

My dad gave me a set of Bar Mitts for Christmas, which have been a lifesaver (or hand saver).  They keep the wind off my hands and I’m able to wear lighter gloves, but depending on the temperature, but hands will still freeze with heavy winter cycling gloves inside the Bar Mitts, or they will be sweating profusely along with the rest of my body, while my feet are still solid ice cubes.  This is a personal problem, and everyone needs to experiment with different layers in different conditions to determine what works for their own body.  I’m afraid I’m just doomed to have perpetually cold feet (even in the summer).  A face mask can help keep the cold wind off my face, but then my glasses usually fog up if I breathe.  These are problems I can deal with temporarily, but they do require that I bring a dry change of clothes with me wherever I’m going.  I still think it’s better than driving.  All that said, I am ready for winter to be over!

A Mysterious Email and the Case of the Stolen Bike

As some of you might remember, Sarah and I had our bikes stolen while we were in Portland, OR back in April of 2013. They were locked together with one lock on a bike rack outside of REI. It was a quick in-and-out mission at REI, yet it was apparently long enough for somebody to cut our lock and get away with both our bikes. Needless to say, we were heartbroken.

Brandon & Bike

My good friend Brandon in PDX, crazy excited about the bicycle recovery!

Amazingly, after a year and a half of separation from our bicycles, we have some partial closure…I GOT MY BIKE BACK! I’d like to share with you now the story of how bikeindex.org, a random email, some close friends and the Clackamas County Sheriff all helped in the recovery process. Sorry if it’s a little lengthy, but I was really excited to share as many of the details as I could!

The morning of September 30, 2014 started out like any other morning. I was a little groggy, made some breakfast and sipped some coffee as I went through my inbox. Only on this day, there was a strange message in my inbox from bikeindex.org with “Stolen notification email” in the subject line. My first reaction was that it was probably some sort of spam and that I should be wary of opening it, and maybe even just delete it. After going through all my other messages I came back to it and wondered what to do. The truth is that I didn’t know what bikeindex.org was. I had posted my stolen bike info to a website called stolenbikeregistry.com, but a quick internet search indicated that stolenbikeregistry.com had merged with bikeindex.org earlier that year. I decided the message was worth a look. Lo and behold it seemed to be a legit message from a stranger, basically saying that if I hadn’t recovered my bike yet there was one for sale on Portland’s craigslist that bears some similarities to the one I posted. Keep in mind that almost 18 months had gone by, and I had pretty much written off any recovery of my bicycle.

Obviously it was a long shot but I did a quick search and found the craigslist post in question, and my first thoughts were that even if the bike were mine I couldn’t prove it being that I was physically in Providence, RI. Although it was the same size, color and model of my old frame there were some differences. The bar tape was a different color, there was no front rack, it looked like a different saddle and there were no recognizable decals/stickers. Despite this, I copied the grainy picture from craigslist and blew it up so I could compare it with other pictures of my bike I had saved on my hard drive. There were indeed some similarities. The wheels looked the same, despite missing their decals. There was residue where a decal had been on the wheels in the same shape mine had, and the proximity of those decals to the valve stems were the same. The rear rack looked exactly the same from what I could tell. I questioned whether I was just looking for similarities or if I was actually seeing them. It took a couple hours, but I had eventually convinced myself that there was enough to go on to make it worth investigating further. There was still the small problem of being in Providence, RI while the bike was for sale in Portland, OR!

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Sarah and Maní building a new rear wheel for me. When we received the bike in Providence we realized the rim had been destroyed.

I sent a group text out to my best friends in Portland explaining the situation and asked if anybody would take a closer look. Almost immediately I received several responses from my friends saying things like “we’re going to get your bike back!” and “this guy’s going down!”. I was trying to keep a level head about it and just needed further proof that it was indeed my bicycle…I mean, nothing had been proven yet. I told my friends about a few things that would help identify it. For one, the wheels were unique. The front hub was a Phil Wood and the rear hub was a White Industries. I also mentioned some things like how I had to drill holes in the rear fender so I could zip-tie it to the rack. My friends took note of everything I was saying and told me that they would take it from there. I couldn’t ask for better amigos.

My friends contacted the seller and they agreed to meet with him after work. The seller suggested meeting, of all places, directly across the street from where the bike had been stolen! Despite trying to keep a level head, I really started getting my hopes up as I looked at all the coincidences. My friends also contacted the Clackamas County Sheriff’s office (which is where I filed the report) and the sheriff agreed to meet with them. The whole thing was unfolding into a kind of sting operation, and I was watching it come into fruition from across the country! I just hoped it was indeed my bike and that I wasn’t wasting anybody’s time.

The meeting went down like this: The sheriff was supposed to meet my friends before they met with the seller. The sheriff would be strategically parked around the corner from the meeting place. If my friends got a positive ID on the bike they would text the sheriff and he would drive over and they would take my bike home. Things didn’t work out quite that smoothly. The sheriff had been busy with higher priority things leading up to the meeting, so he was nowhere to be found. My friends met with the seller at the planned time and they were able to identify the bike right away, but had to stall before the sheriff would arrive. I guess they argued with the seller that this was their friend’s bike, but the seller denied everything. Finally, the sheriff shows up. My friends point out all the identifiable pieces that make it my bike, but there’s a problem…the serial number on the police report can’t be found anywhere! They search high and low all over the bike frame and can’t find it. The closest that they come are finding 3 digits sticking out from under a cable guard that match the last three digits of the serial number on file. The sheriff says that without the full serial number, there is no positive way to identify the bike. Things were looking grim.

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Reunited at last! Happily riding my recovered bike through Providence.

While all this is happening, I’m getting a play-by-play via text messages. Eventually I get a call from one of my friends saying that the sheriff won’t let them take the bike without seeing the full serial number. They asked if I knew where it was, but I couldn’t remember. They knew that if they let the craigslist seller take the bike home, they would never see it again. My heart sank. They assured me they would do what they could to take the bike home, but things weren’t looking good.

At that point I stopped receiving text updates from them. I think maybe 30 minutes went by without any communication, but it felt like hours. The suspense was killing me! I finally received a call from my friends. The sheriff had seen the obvious conviction in my friends faces and agreed to let them take the bike home, under the stipulation that they had to find that serial number within 24 hours or else give the bike back. Luckily, as soon as they brought it home they got a screwdriver and removed the cable guard and found the rest of the hidden serial number. I was so relieved! I was going to get my bike back! I couldn’t believe it! Less than half of stolen bikes are ever recovered by law enforcement, and only about 5% are ever actually returned to their owners! I feel extremely blessed. Christmas was coming early this year!

Now, there’s still the question about Sarah’s bike. If this guy had my bike, there’s a good chance he had Sarah’s too. Sadly, that remains a mystery. Sarah didn’t have record of the serial number on her bicycle so although she filed a report, it was more or less meaningless without a serial number to match the bike to. I think that’s the biggest lesson I got from all this. No matter how many specific points of identification you can make on a stolen bike, the only thing that matters is what is in the police report, specifically the serial number. I urge anybody who has read this to please, record your serial number. It’s usually located on the bottom bracket of the frame. It’s easy enough to snap a picture of it with your phone and file it away on a computer or in an email. I would have never gotten my bike back if I didn’t have a record of the serial number somewhere. Although the chances are slim, we still hold out some hope that we will find Sarah’s bike.

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My bike and friends, as it looks today, with new grip tape, decals, rear wheel and lights.

Many thanks to bikeindex.org, the vigilant stranger that sent me a message, craigslist, my amazing friends in Portland (Gerrit, Jayson, Brandon, Alyssa, Michaelangelo and Travis) and the sincere efforts from Deputy Brown of the Clackamas Country Sheriff’s Office. If you would like to help support bikeindex.org, here’s a link on how to do that: https://bikeindex.org/news/want-to-support-the-bike-index-heres-how

One last thing – here’s a good overview about bicycle theft if you’d like to learn more about what you can do to protect your bicycle: http://www.bicyclelaw.com/p.cfm/bicycle-safety/about-bike-theft

Goodbye to a good summer

Since our last update, Dallas and I have ridden in the MS bike tour (Ride the Rhode) and raised nearly $2000 for the cause, thanks to our wonderful friends and family who supported us.  We’re not sure where we’re going to be for next year’s tour, but registration is already open if anyone wants to sign up and get an early start on fundraising!  This year, we opted to ride a full century (which ended up being 105 miles) the first day and 75 miles the second day.  We lucked out with perfect weather and no incidents on the road.  The terrain was not too challenging, but not too flat and certainly not boring.

What Cheer? Brigade's 2014 west coast tour poster

What Cheer? Brigade’s 2014 west coast tour poster

Immediately after the bike tour, I set off for the west coast to meet the band on tour, where we continued down from Portland, Oregon all the way to Tijuana and back up to finish at a beautiful wedding in the redwoods outside of the bay area.  After playing every day for two weeks, I couldn’t help but improve my mediocre trumpet-playing skills.  I’m afraid that after not playing for two weeks (on our most recent vacation to Costa Rica), I am probably worse off that I was before tour.

Dallas and I ran together for the entirety of the LOCO marathon in Newmarket, NH this October

Dallas and I ran together for the entirety of the LOCO marathon in Newmarket, NH this October

While not bike touring this year, we have been able to do a few races together, including the 10 mile Blessing of the Fleet race in Narragansett, a half marathon in Worcester, MA and two marathons in Erie, PA and in Newmarket, NH.  I also participated in several cycling events, including a few Women Bike RI group rides, the Woony River Ride, and the Gran Fondo New England.

The summer in Rhode Island was one of the better ones that I can remember, with almost no rain and not too much heat.  As always, it ended too soon.  We have been incredibly fortunate to have barely any excuses not to be outside every day, but I still feel like I didn’t get my fill of outdoor activities before it turned cold.

My first (unofficial) cyclocross race

My first (unofficial) cyclocross race

Still in Providence, Dallas and I are buckling down here for the winter, but in an attempt to combat the depression that comes with this season I bought myself a cyclocross bike.  I’m not very good at it yet, and so far every time I start riding on a cross course I find myself thinking that maybe I’m not cut out for this sport.  That feeling usually subsides after 2 minutes or so, as my mind is consumed with staying on my bike and not crashing into anyone else.  By signing up for races this winter, I hope to motivate myself to get outside during the dark months to practice (and hopefully get better).

Dallas and me on a boat outside of Quepos, Costa Rica

Dallas and I on a boat outside of Quepos, Costa Rica

Speaking of trying things outside of our comfort zone, Dallas and I went to Costa Rica for the first two weeks of November.  While traveling comes naturally to us both, we did get to try some new things while we were there.  Dallas let me practice my Spanish (which is worse than my trumpet playing) on some of the locals whenever we went out.  Dallas also went surfing – I could not, because of a knee injury from my cyclocross bike, but I watched.  It was apparent that he was having enough fun to abandon his usual apprehensive feelings about being in the ocean.  This trip was our first time traveling together internationally, so while we were concerned at first about how we would do, we came out of it only wanting to go back out and experience more new places together.

I hope everyone has a wonderful Thanksgiving!  I’m taking this day off from work at the cave in order to write and bake lots of desserts for tomorrow’s gathering with family.  On Friday, while all the crazy people are out battling each other to buy stuff, Dallas and I will be celebrating Buy Nothing Day by bringing our coats to a coat swap (just when we need them most)!

A Different Kind of Tour

This weekend Dallas and I will ride in the MS 150 bike tour.  We will bike from Pawtucket, RI to Wheaton College in Massachusetts and back to Pawtucket the next day.  There is still time to donate if you haven’t yet!

The big tour that I’m referring to in my post title, however, begins for me after the bike tour ends.  What Cheer? Brigade, the band I joined in March, is touring the west coast, starting with Honk Fest West in Seattle this weekend!  I will be joining them in Portland for a show on Tuesday, and we will continue on down the coast from there.  If you live on the west coast anywhere between Seattle and Tijuana, please check out our website or our Facebook page for show dates and try to come dance with us!  I promise you will be entertained.  Here’s a really short clip from our last show in Worcester, MA, but feel free to watch more WC?B on Youtube!

Springtime in Providence

Since our last update, both Dallas and I have been keeping ourselves incredibly busy.  I wish I had been keeping up more frequently with blogging, since I think each of these paragraphs really deserve their own blog entry.  Alas, I will cram everything into one long post – sorry!

bike repair stand at Burnside Park

bike repair stand at Burnside Park

May was Bike Month, and we had great weather to accompany the many bike-related events that were planned around Providence.  Dallas and I, along with Matt Moritz from the RI Bicycle Coalition, gave a presentation on bicycle touring at AS220 as part of a bike speaker series for the month of May.  Bike-to-Work Day was on Friday, May 16th.  Mayor Angel Taveras announced the installation of three bike repair stands around the city, which Dash was instrumental in implementing.  On a ride to photograph all of the stands a few days ago, however, I noticed that some have already been vandalized.  Does anyone have suggestions on how to effectively prevent theft and destruction of the bike tools or is this tragedy of the commons inevitable?

Hiking the Appalachian/Long Trail in Vermont with Hannah and John

Hiking the Appalachian/Long Trail in Vermont with Hannah and John

On Memorial Day weekend, I was invited to go along to hike part of the Appalachian Trail in Vermont with Hannah, the daughter of my dad’s coworker, John.  It was part of Hannah’s senior project and I was needed to confirm that she actually did the hike.  Much to my dismay, it rained on us during 3 of our 4 days of hiking, but it was still a beautiful escape from the city.  We met a few people who were hiking the whole Long Trail, and some that were hiking the entire Appalachian Trail.  I learned that those hikers have trail names that they earn somehow, and I enjoyed hearing their stories about other strangers and obstacles they encountered along the way.

Moving by Bike

Moving by Bike

On June 1st, Dallas and I moved into an apartment just a few blocks away from our previous sublet, taking the place of Liza and Tyson, a couple of pedicabber friends who moved to Newport.  Without a car, we completed our entire move by bicycle and on foot.  My friend Tony was kind enough to let me borrow a bike trailer (and a bike to hitch it to) for the heavy stuff.  We now have a lovely roommate, Perry, and a dog, Mani!

As we near the summer solstice, the MS bike ride quickly approaches.  I have not been pounding people with e-mails asking for donations like I have in the past, so am way behind in my fundraising goals.  I’ll share my fundraising link here if you’d like to donate, but just as important are volunteers to help make the event run smoothly.  If you live locally and have any free time the weekend of June 21st-22nd (or the Friday before that), please consider volunteering.  It’s a fun event and one of the biggest fundraisers of the year for the MS Society.

If anyone in Providence is looking for something fun to do this Friday night, RIBike is hosting a dinner and bikes event at 655 Hope Street from 7-10pm.  Check out the facebook event for details

 

March

This past month has been quite a busy one, and Dallas and I have barely had time to relax together.  I apologize for the lack of visual stimulation in this post, but we also haven’t had opportunity or reason to take any photos.  With the miserable weather we’ve been experiencing all month, I think we could both use a vacation already!

Dallas started a new job at Brown University in the beginning of March (send him a congratulatory e-mail!).  This is a pretty amazing accomplishment, considering he submitted his application after they had finished interviewing everyone for the position.  The job had been listed since last fall, and they desperately needed to hire someone in Facilities Management.  However, upon receiving his application, they decided that they liked him better than all the previous applicants and asked him to interview almost immediately.  After finally completing the hiring process and training, Dallas will be working part-time with full-time benefits until further notice.

I started a new job at Dash Bicycles as a bike mechanic.  So far I really enjoy working on bikes.  I’m still learning new things every day, and the time seems to go by so quickly, I often forget to eat.  I plan on organizing weekly group rides leaving from the shop once the weather improves.  If you’re in Providence, stop by the shop and sign the e-mail list to be notified when the rides will be!  We’re on Broadway, directly across the street from the Columbus Theatre.

Both Dallas and I have been working at Brown as temporary and part-time research assistants in the computer science department.  We are helping to construct the new virtual reality cave.  This job was only expected to last a few months, but due to continuous challenges, we may be employed on this project through the summer.  There’s already a cave at Brown, but the new one is supposed to be much bigger and better, with high definition.

We are both working at Crossfit Providence in exchange for free gym memberships, which we have been trying to take advantage of 2-3 times per week.  Dallas has been learning capoeira twice a week at Brown.  I have started swimming in the Brown pool.  We haven’t had a lot of nice days to run or bike outside, and Dallas still needs to get a bike since he sold his in California.  We did sign up for the Erie marathon in Pennsylvania in September!

I have started playing in a band!  I picked up the cornet after years of it sitting in my dad’s basement and auditioned as a trumpet player for the What Cheer? Brigade.  To my astonishment, they accepted me (on a probationary period)!  Check out the show schedule to see if you can come hear us play anywhere!

Dallas is looking for people to practice his Spanish with, and he is thinking about organizing a meetup group since the one that had existed in RI seems to have dissolved.  Any locals who already speak Spanish or want to get better at it, get in touch with him!

Adam and I in high spirits before feeling utterly defeated by the cold rain and washed out roads

Adam and I in high spirits before feeling utterly defeated by the cold rain and washed out roads

Yesterday, I almost died of hypothermia while riding my bike in the inaugural Rhodekill Spring Classic bike ride.  Well, not really, but I couldn’t feel my hands or feet for a good portion of the day, which is not okay.  I am ready for winter and cold weather to be OVER, and now that it’s warm enough not to snow, it’s probably going to rain for the next 2-3 months.

We plan on riding in the MS150 Bike Tour that starts in Pawtucket, RI this year in June.  I am getting a bit of a late start on my fundraising, but Dallas hasn’t even registered yet, so he will need help as well!  If you would like to donate to the cause (please do!), go here.  Don’t worry, I will remind you again when it gets closer to the event, and once Dallas has a fundraising page up you can donate to him too (or instead).

The National Bike Challenge starts officially in May, but there is a warm-up round in April.  This is a challenge to encourage people to commute to work and make other trips by bicycle, or just to get out and ride!  There are teams and prizes for people who ride often and/or who ride far.  If you ride at all, sign up and start logging your miles!!!

National Bike Summit 2014

Since returning to Rhode Island, I have resumed my involvement with the Rhode Island Bicycle Coalition so I can try to be a better bike activist.  My timing was such that I was able to attend my first National Bike Summit in Washington, DC this year, and RIBike reimbursed my registration fee!  It was very exciting to be surrounded by so many like-minded cyclists and advocates from around the country.

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Fortunately, I was able to use the credit from the flight I missed in January (from Denver to Detroit) towards a round-trip ticket to Baltimore, with credit to spare – I have one dollar remaining to use towards a Southwest flight this year.  My cousin, Rosheen, was kind enough to host me on Sunday night at her house in Annandale.  Thinking I was escaping the brutal winter we had been having in Providence, I was in for a big surprise on Monday morning.  By the time I was ready to leave the house, the snow was piled up so high on each of the front steps that it was level with the step above it.  The buses were all shut down (along with the Federal government) for the entire day, so what would have been a 2-block walk to the bus stop turned into a 5.2 mile walk to the nearest metro station.  At least there wasn’t a lot of traffic.  The snow was so deep that I walked on the street for most of the walk, while big, wet snowflakes were blown straight into my face by the icy headwind.  Two hours later, I reached the metro station, drenched in sweat, and subsequently chilled off sitting on the almost empty train while the passenger across from me informed me that I had hat hair.  I was already very late to the first day of the summit, and off to a not so great start.

Eventually I reached the Renaissance hotel, picked up my registration materials, and realized that the meeting for first-timers was in an hour.  I considered waiting around in my many layers of sweaty clothing for this meeting, but then pictured myself having to sit next to people, dreading the feeling of being the smelly kid in a crowded room.  So, I moved on, back outside and onto another metro to bring my belongings to my friends’ Tobias and Michelle’s house and use their shower.  These friends moved from Providence two summers ago, and I have missed their cooking.  Monday was the day for the Women’s Bike Summit, for which I hadn’t registered, and bulk of the summit started on Tuesday, so I would start my day fresh from there.

Tuesday was a day full of speakers and panels, including a lunchtime plenary session. After the 30-minute metro ride from Tobias and Michelle’s house, I was only a little bit late to the opening plenary talk, which included Douglas Meyer from Bernuth & Williamson, who presented us with useful data on the perceptions of cycling followed by newly elected mayor Bill Peduto of Pittsburgh, who gave us hope for cycling in any city in the US by showing how he has already helped to improve cycling conditions in Pittsburgh. After this, we were free to choose between 6 break-out sessions that went on simultaneously from 9:30-10:45 and another 7 sessions from 11:15-12:45.

For the first session, I ended up at the same one (“Quantifying Bike Benefits”) as Jen and Bari, from RIBike and Bike Newport, respectively. The first panelist was from the US DOT and discussed how they decide who gets funding for the TIGER grant (which just opened up for a 6th round of funding). The second man was from Massachusett’s Green DOT program, and he described the state’s recent efforts to support bicycling and their lofty goals for the future of cycling.

The second panel I attended, aimed at bike dealers, was titled, “Retailers Best Practices for Advocacy”.  We heard local bike shop owners from around the country discuss how they have advocated for cycling in their communities, whether by sponsoring local races or by showing up to town meetings to ask for more bike lanes.

During lunch, we heard from US Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx, a wonderfully refreshing speaker who really cares about giving bicyclists more attention nationally. He understands that cycling is about more than getting some exercise on a Saturday afternoon, and he emphasized the importance of bicycling for getting people to work and strengthening the economy. We also heard from John Cayer from Kimberly-Clark, who announced the 2014 National Bike Challenge. This is exciting to me, since it relates to my master’s thesis topic, which explored strategies for encouraging more people to commute by bicycle.

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The last break-out session of the day for me was also very relevant to my master’s thesis, and I even recall researching the very companies that the speakers were representing. The panel consisted of people who worked for companies that were awarded Bicycle Friendly Business status by the League of American Bicyclists, and each of the panelists presented on what their companies were doing and how they earned their designation as a Bicycle Friendly Business. Companies included The World Bank in DC, 3M in St. Paul, Minnesota, National Geographic in DC, and PayPal in Omaha, Nebraska.

Before leaving for the East Coast Greenways Alliance (ECGA) reception, the three of us from RI met as a state (along with all the other attendees, separated by their states) and listened to advice from advocacy guru Stephanie Vance as she instructed us in detail how not to embarrass her when we went to lobby at the Senate.

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Wednesday was lobby day, and the Rhode Islanders met up that morning for breakfast in Union Station before heading to our first meeting. There were six of us that day, as ECGA’s Eric and Molly (whose flight had been canceled on Monday) arrived by train the previous evening and we were also joined by Richard Fries, the race director for the Providence Cyclocross Festival. All of our meetings went splendidly well, and we felt a little bad for the advocates from states like Texas, who not only had to coordinate exponentially more meetings than we did, but whose Senators and Representatives were more likely not going to be on board with bicyclists’ interests. However, I don’t believe the three bills we were asking Congress to support were too much of a stretch for anyone to see their benefits. The Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety Act, the Safe Streets Act (aka Complete Streets) and the New Opportunities Act all aim to increase safety for vulnerable road users, and none of them require any money to be budgeted toward them.  Another ask we included was for our congressmen to join the Congressional Bike Caucus, provided they weren’t already a member. Our first two meetings were at the offices of Senators Sheldon Whitehouse, who met with us in person, and Jack Reed, whose aid met with us. In the afternoon we met with Representatives Jim Langevin and David Cicilline. We were lucky enough for Cicilline to step outside of a voting session to talk with us personally for a few minutes. All four meetings went well, and I think our asks were largely supported.

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On a side note, in between meetings with the senators and representatives, Eric, Jen and I stepped into DC’s Botanical Gardens for a moment, where there was an orchid show going on. I had never been to a botanical garden like this before, and it was incredible. I highly recommend it for anyone visiting DC. In fact, when looking back at my camera at photos over the past week, this was the only place where I had taken any photos.

I learned some important tools for advocacy at the bike summit, and I’m excited to put them to use. I felt like I was receiving similar messages in all of the presentations. For example, it’s important to have a plan if you want to get support for bicycle infrastructure. Funding is much more likely if you already have a well thought plan for action, and you are almost certain to be turned down for a TIGER grant if the main focus of your plan is not transportation (it is in the name, after all). Recreational purposes are important but not the purpose of the TIGER grant. From the second panel I attended, I learned that advocacy and local bike shops depend on one another for survival. To get more people cycling, you need to support your local bike shop and make good bikes (and service) available locally. And of course, bike shops need people to want to ride and buy bikes. When bike shop owners become invested in their customers by helping them to create and achieve their goals, they ultimately will sell more bikes!

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From the very beginning, the bike summit was full of positive energy, and it left me with an even more positive outlook and plenty of hope that we are well on our way to overcoming the challenges of empowering and providing access for cyclists in this country. My only disappointment lies in that it was so hard to choose between the many break-out sessions, and I wish I could have attended all of them!

Picking Up Again

Where to begin?  In waiting for the perfect inspiration to post, I have allowed too much time to go by and too many things to happen that writing a thorough update has become overwhelming.  I will do my best now.

Time has a way of passing faster when you’re not paying attention.  I am lucky to have enjoyed my time so much in the past few months that I was barely aware of its passing until another notch on my personal timeline hit and I am celebrating, or experiencing, my 30th birthday.  While I wouldn’t call it a celebration, it is an experience – and a little reminder that time does keep going, and nobody has yet figured out how to control that.

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Liza Jane, during a trail run in Durango

Dallas and I were dog sitting and house sitting in Durango, Colorado for about 6 weeks.  Dallas went back to California on Christmas Eve to sell our bikes and collect some belongings while spending the holidays with his family.  I stayed until New Year’s Eve, and attempted to rent a car to drive to Denver to catch a flight to Detroit for my cousin’s wedding.  After walking around Durango for 3 hours between a few different car rental companies, I conceded to defeat.  Despite having plenty of savings in the bank to buy a car, let alone rent one for a day, I was turned down by every rental company because I didn’t have a credit card.  This is one of the most ridiculous things about the US.  These companies would be perfectly fine renting a car to someone who is hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt as long as they have a credit card, while the people who are careful never to spend more than what they have are punished for not having any credit.  I had to get to the Denver airport the next day, and there was literally no way to do it.  For $400 and an expensive cab ride to the Durango airport, I could have bought a plane ticket to Denver that would have gotten me there a few minutes after my flight to Detroit took off.  I felt utterly defeated and helpless.

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This is Coda

  Naturally, I began scouring craigslist for…anything.  Durango doesn’t have enough of a presence to require its own craigslist page, so I was searching the entire western slope of Colorado, with no luck.  I began expanding my range to areas south of Durango. Albuquerque, Flagstaff, Farmington, Phoenix…I was desperate.  Eventually, I found someone who was driving from Phoenix to Cleveland.  While I was originally hoping for a ride to the airport, I ended up securing a ride for myself all the way to Michigan.  AND I got to stay in Durango for an extra day and hang out with Liza and Coda, the two dogs I was sitting.  As luck would have it, my flight out of Denver was canceled and I was able to get full credit for the price of the flight I would have missed anyway.  The drive took two days, but Ray had done the drive many times before and dropped me off safely at the hotel where my family was staying in time for the wedding rehearsal dinner.

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My beautiful cousin Rachel and her new husband, Ben, along with the rest of the wedding party

While I love my cousin Rachel, I wonder about her sanity when it came to picking a time and location for her wedding.  I’m pretty sure everyone who was flying in had trouble related to snowy weather conditions, and there were just as many delays or cancellations on the way out.  I amazingly managed to fly out of Detroit somewhat on time, but the plane I was destined to take from DC to Providence was stuck somewhere else so I ended up spending an extra 7 hours in the airport after that flight was canceled.  Had I been allowed to rent a car, I probably could have driven to Providence in less time.

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Back in Providence, I am dog sitting again. This time for Kyla, the husky.

Dallas met me in Providence a few days after I arrived.  It was his idea to come back to Rhode Island and try it out for a while.  We hadn’t had an income since September, and we really needed to take some time to rebuild our bank account balances.  I vaguely questioned Dallas’s sanity as well for choosing to come to Providence in January, but he really didn’t know any better.  I am happy to be back in an area where I’m surrounded by familiar faces and places, and I think my friends and family are happy that we’re here (for now).  Now I just need to figure out how I’m going to save enough money to hit the road again in a few years.  Dallas just started a job at Brown, so send him congratulatory messages!  He will be working part time with full time benefits, and he may choose to stay long enough to earn a degree while he’s here.  This means we could be here for a few years!  But I have every intention of still completing my bicycle journey around the world.  During this pause, I am thinking about starting a business to help support our goals and mission of promoting bicycling!  I will update as things unfold…