When I first started this website, I wanted to use it to raise money for charity as well as awareness about bicycle transportation and bike advocacy. Since I hate to ask for money, I haven’t been very good at raising it. However, right now our good friend, Bobby Forster, really needs our help. He was diagnosed with ALS just last Christmas, and what started last year as some weakness in one of his arms has progressed way too rapidly to almost total paralysis. It is painful to see our friend, who just a few months ago was riding bikes with his friends and driving pedicabs, in such a helpless state. He has had to buy a special wheelchair, a wheelchair-accessible van to get around, and hire a full-time caretaker. He also has a feeding tube and will eventually need a tracheotomy. Since he obviously can no longer work, Bobby and his family need as much support as they can get to keep living and fighting this horrible disease. If you can spare anything (even as little as $5), please donate to his fund here.
I met Bobby when I became a pedicab driver in Newport, and I worked with him again in New Orleans. He is one of the most positive, welcoming and friendliest people I know, and he’s the main reason why I ended up pedicabbing in New Orleans. I can’t picture Bobby without having a smile on his face. He’s also an incredibly active person, into sailing as well as cycling, so I can only imagine how difficult it is to have his ability to stay so active taken away like this. You can read his story and find out more about ALS through that link, and you can also read Bobby’s updates to his own blog at www.acureforforster.com.
One last thing – If you want to directly fund research for finding a cure for ALS, you can simply text “ALS” to 80077, and you will magically donate $10 to ALS-TDI, an organization that has been working tirelessly since 1999 to search for a cure or treatment.
While we’ve taken a hiatus from writing to our NomadicCycling blog, we have been busy traveling, writing and posting to social media for PeopleForBikes. In case you didn’t follow our blogs for PeopleForBikes, you can find most of them at the following links (there were two that didn’t make the cut to get published):
- May – Seasoned riders learn new tricks
- June – Bike trail development makes better communities
- July – What’s in North Dakota?
- August – A visit to a velodrome
- October – Confessions of a traveling duo
We had the experience of a lifetime traveling around the country in the name of bicycle advocacy, and we feel honored to have been able to work on making a difference in the political climate for cycling in the United States. There were definitely some places that were discouraging, but the majority of people we talked to were supportive of bicycling and wanted to see more bike infrastructure in their cities. While living out of a car for six and a half months was definitely stressful on our relationship, we would do it again in a heartbeat if offered the opportunity.
The best part about our short job was getting to network and meet so many people in the bicycling world. Not only did we get to make some awesome new friends, but we were able to visit old friends and family all over the country that we hadn’t seen in months, or years. We visited over 70 bike shops, mostly on the eastern half of the US, and really felt that we were able to connect with some of them to improve cycling conditions for them locally.
The second best part about the job is that we got new mountain bikes from Giant/Liv, and we got to take them to some of the best trails in each of the states that we drove through! We didn’t get to do quite as much riding as we wanted to, but we did get to go to places that we never would have otherwise. Now that we’ve surrendered our car, we’re not sure we’ll get to use the mountain bikes that much, sadly.
Since our contract ended at the end of October, Dallas and I are taking some time off to relax and make up for all the long days we spent on the road with no down time. I’m trying to focus on the remainder of the cyclocross season, and we’re both hoping to go somewhere warm (South America?) for the winter. In the meantime, Dallas is in Portland and I am in Providence until further notice! Also, follow us on instagram for photos! (I’m too lazy to include any in this post right now)
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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).
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)!
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!
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!
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?
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.
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
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!
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!!!