A Word About Wide Loaders

So, I have had my wideloaders for several days, had the opportunity to put them through their paces, and feel moved to offer a product review

When I decided to buy my Xtracycle, I knew that one of it's primary functions would be to help transport The Boy; Xtracycle offers two attachments that help facilitate carrying a human passanger: little foot plates called Footsies

and the less adorable, but infanently more functional Wide Loaders (shown here with the slings that were left out of my order). The Footsies run about $45 for the pair, and can only be used for resting your feet on, where as the wideloaders can fill any number of needs.
Obviously, I opted for the later.

On the Pro side, I have to say that the loaders offer some real advantages (beyond their potential as foot rests): having hauled lumber with and without the wide loaders, I gotta say with is better: they offer a flat, level surface on which to load the lumber, eliminating the need to hold the sling with one hand while loading with the other. Nice. .Their wide profile encourages cars to give appropriate clearence when passing, and the bright red finish (I know, in the catalog photo, above, they look silver, dont they? Nope: bright red they are) really helps with visability

The primary disadvantage to the Wide Loaders is, well, they are wide: not wider than the handlebars, but it amazing the difference made by having the entire bike be the width of the handlebars. The same wide profile that has cars giving you extra space also takes up extra space. The bike becomes less nimble, and is prone to catching on tight turns and narrow passages. The loaders complicate use of the kickstand, which I find a nuisance, and although the boyz at Xtracycle assure that it is safe to lean the full weight of bike and load on the wide loaders, in lue of a kickstand, I am reluctant to try it (certainly, doing this would eliminate the whole flat level thing, of which I am so fond)

There is also a very irritating tendency for the leading edge of the loaders to "bite" your ankles as you are pushing off from a standstill or walking your bike. The loaders are, technically, removable. Doubtless easier done when using the slings that are designed to go with the loaders, rather than innertube webbing I am using as a substitute. The slings attach to the frame at 2 points, and are designed to detach; my webbing is woven into the frame, making removal a real chore. The other reason I have -so far- left mine on full time is that I tend not to know in advance when I might have use for them. I would hate to have a need arise and not have them on hand.

So what's the verdict? I am glad I ordered them (though grumpy that they arrived sans slings), they have more than earned their keep in just the past couple days by facilitating the hauling of large and bulky loads, and I am very much look forward to having them the next time SHIFT has one of their Move By Bike events. I also look forward to getting the slings, so that taking the loaders off and on is easier.


"Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow"

Monday was freakishly cold, I got caught in a brief episode of sleet, and the evening weather report predicted there might be snow in the higher elevations. I worried because the Boy would be coming over hills in rout from a visit with his dad in the morning. It never occurred to me that my own commute would include snow. But when I woke up this morning and stumbled into the kitchen, this was my view out the window (the blue tarp was over the bikes, but got blown off)

It almost never snows in Portland, and I cant remember the last time that it snowed in November. Snow that makes even a pretense of sticking is even more rare; and yet here it was. As I sipped my morning coffee, I weighed my options. I could bus in to school, which would be a huge hassle, especially given the art project I needed to take in to class, that included a willow branch and several pounds of other material, as well as my textbooks and laptop, or I could bike, which meant I should probably head out right now, to allow plenty of time for the commute and the crazy drivers who have no concept of how to drive on snow and ice.
More and more the whole cycling thing is becoming a moral imperative for me, a daily act of rebellion and redemption against all that is wrong with this culture. I didn't like the statement I felt I would be making by falling back on motor vehicles just because there was an inch of snow on the ground. I wanted a better statement, and I wanted my message to be clear, so I pulled down the yellow plastic sign that had been adorning a shelf in my home, mounted it on the back of my bike, and headed out into the weather

The guy over at the Minus Car Project has a highly tuned system for calculating how many layers of what to wear to stay comfortable riding in all kinds of weather. I am not that detail oriented. So I just stated layering: snow pants over lacra leggings, thick socks and thermal knee-high boots; a thick wool sweater and additional wool arm warmers over corduroy shirt, over my Minus Car Project t-shirt; fleece gater over balaclava; wool gloves; Eddie Bauer rain coat. Miraculously, I could still move with all those layers, and was relatively comfortable.
I will have you know, I was far from the only cyclist on campus, though our numbers were reduced. Throughout the day, when I would pass another intrepid cyclist, it seemed we made a point of exchanging nods or other salutes; and during a brief piriod of walking my bike up a steep incline of the Mt Tabor ridge after dark, a fellow cyclist pulled up along side to make sure everything was ok. Nice.
The Boy made it over the mountains and safely home, as did I.


What I am Thankful For

Here in the States, Thursday was Thanksgiving, leading into the ultra commercial Thanksgiving Weekend. As the Boy and I were headed to the last of our familial obligations, we were chatting about the job I am thinking about applying for at the bike co-op, and the other things I want to do with my life. I said he should be sure to mention to his grandparents (whom we were on route to visit) about how he was considering going to the local public school, because they would be SO excited to hear that we were considering alternatives to homeschooling. He wasn't sure he wanted to go through with it if they were that keen on it, to which I said that the fact we were looking into it didn't mean we had to do it, but in the mean time it would be it would be lovely to bring up something pleasant during this holiday get-together. The grands would not want to hear about the job I am considering applying for at the Bike Co-op, or my plans to transfer out of the university they both graduated from, etc.
My parents have SO many judgments about SO much of what I do and care about, I feel as though much of my life has been this dance between trying to appeas them and rebelling against them, so much so that I am not always sure what I want for myself. I asked The Boy what he thought of the idea of my apllying at the co-op, and my beautiful son looked me square in the eye and said “I think you should follow your dreams”
I spend whole days worrying that I have muttled every possible aspect of parenting, and then he goes and says something like that. I love my boy

My other pride and joy, my Xtracycle, got it's latest upgrade today: the wide loaders I oredered back in September arrived just in time for this month's Bike Friday
The wide loaders are ment to come with nylon "slings" to support bulky loads, but somehow the slings got left out of the shipment.
They will, of course, arrive eventually, but in the mean time the amazingly talented Patrick wove together a substitute out of intertubes. Brillient.
For my boy and my bike, I am very Thankful



Join the revolution that started in Toronto and is spreading fast: the last Friday of each month and every month folks everywhere are ditching their cars and taking to the streets by bike and on foot, to do what needs to be done without burning fosil fuel!
Here in Portland, Oregon, SHIFT2BIKES hosts a free breakfast on the Hawthorn & Brodway Bridges for cyclist crossing into the downtown core between 7 and 9am.

The breakfast features coffee donated by our friends at Nossa Familia, fuit donated by Pioneer Organics, and pastries donated by a variety of local bakeries. Many bike commuters have come to rely on the hot coffee and delicious pastries on their way to work -- all free, so theres no conflict with Buy Nothing Day!
Stop by and join us if you are in the neighborhood!

Photos taken at the October Breakfast on the Bridges event, by the marvelous Mr.Maus over at Many more great shots can be seen there, along with all the regional bikey news


A Vision of Things to Come

So, heres what happens when you start cruising the Internet instead of doing your homework (which I really should be doing), you find images like this: a vision of the future! In my little fantasy, this guy is hauling away the last car, after peak oil and other consiquences of our foolishness have converted us all to bike travel.
Ok, enough bike porn, I got a paper to write


Bike Friday/Buy Nothing

Shop Less - Live More: Friday, November 24th is Buy Nothing Day
an opportunity to take a break from the consumer rat race and take stock of what you have, and those things money cant buy. Buy Nothing Day also exposes the environmental and ethical consequences of consumerism. The developed countries - a mere 20% of the world population- are consuming over 80% of the earth's natural resources, causing a disproportionate level of environmental damage and unfair distribution of wealth. I find that taking a day in which I buy nothing realy makes me concious of my consumer choices and patters, and allows me to reevaluate them

This Friday is also the last Friday of the month, and you know what that means:

2006 is set to go down as the year in which mainstream dialog about global warming finally reached its critical mass. What better way to celebrate -and point the way to solutions to this quagmire- than to combine Buy Nothing and Bike Friday. Spend time with family and friends, rather than money on them; go cycling as a family, or have a pedal powered potluck. Or, just sit and revel in all that you already have, all your blessings, and all that is
The Malls will still be there next week, and perhaps a day of collective reflection will lead to the changes necessary for the planet to still be here in the future as well


X-tra Photos

As promised, here is the shot of the Xtracycle hauling sheets of playwood, 2x4s, and a bag of hardware home. On that fist trip I did not have my camera phone with me, so took the shot with a regular camera, shot the rest of the roll, finally took the roll in to get developed and just got it back from the photo place. a week or so after tha fact. Gosh, I love my camera phone.

Recently, I added stoker handlebars, complete with bell, for The Boy. I had hoped to get a shot of him on the back, but he insists I need to be on the bike with him, for stability.

In addition to benefiting The Boy, the handlebars are great for both securing loads, as with this bag of hardware,
as well as for keeping larger loads from riding forward, as with this cooler I found on the side of the road. I picked it up thinking what a great accessory it would make for that bike-powered smoothie mobile I have been dreaming of


Funky Chicken

So, this has been an unspeakably hard year for poultry down on the lo Wheel Revolution Homestead, chickens, quail and ducks have been killed by predators, died under mysterious circumstances, and been abducted by aliens (ok, that last one is only a theory, but it is the most plausible we have been able to come up with)
All this lead to our having one lone duck, who in her desperate and lonely state, had taken to quacking, insensately, at unimaginably high decibels That bird has lungs! We are not allowed roosters in this neck of the woods, owing to noise concerns, but this duck is louder than any roster I have ever heard. When I realized that She could be heard more than a block away, I knew I had to do something: she needed a friend -STAT!! So I started looking for a poultry buddy for her

Winter is not the best time of year to add to one's flock: chicks are born in spring, by November it is slim pickins, especially if you want a young bird (a spring chicken, if you will) with a long life of egg laying yet ahead of her. I found people looking for homes for old chickens that were no longer laying, rosters, large aggressive geese, etc.

I had almost given up when the Boy and I made a stop at the Feed Store and saw the bird we now know as Henrietta C. Waldo. She is, infact a spring chicken, hand raised so she is very tame and easy to handle, and she is a variety of Banty (I just love Bantams), a very -um- (don't tell her I said this) strange variety of Banty.

So, it is to early for eggs, and too soon to know if we will ever get over chuckling when we see her, but what I do know is that the neighborhood was able to sleep in this Sunday morning, rather than awaking to the sounds of a frantic duck, and we are all gretful for that


Stop Thief!

I have my own strange sense of justice, with it's own quirks and contradictions. I believe strongly in the notion of karma, and the notion that good works ought to be rewarded with goodness, not trespasses. I believe that there is a special place in hell for those who do harm to do-gooders and the disenfranchised.

Last night Free Geek sustained its most major break in to date. A number of laptops from their fledgling Laptop Program were stolen, along with a few hard drives, and LCD screens. Many doors were smashed in forcibly in the process. Free Geek's laptop program is a great source of needed hardware for local non-profits, and the laptops stolen were about to be granted to local non-profits around Oregon. The laptop program is also becoming a source of income for Free Geek's work to support community organizations and empower the disenfranchised and this income is now gone, a great many repair bill incurred, and local do-gooders will have to go without a free source of laptops for months. Thus the thief did not just steal from Free Geek, but from myriad individuals and non-profits around the city and across the country. The ripples are incalculable.

Free Geek is very dear to my heart, this is where my son learned to program robots, and it is a place where I have seen countless lives changed. Innumerable organizations, around this city, across the nation, and a few in Uganda, are able to do what they do because there is a Free Geek. Now, because of one twisted and broken individual, all that work grinds down, and I cant help but wonder about the myriad lives touched, and the work that will go undone as a consequence. I cant roll back the clock and stop him, but I can do something to ensure there will be no profit to be gained from it

So this is an appeal to the cycber community for help: If you see a laptop with Ubuntu Linux installed on it offered for sale in the next couple months, see one listed on eBay or craigslist or whatever, please please please give a call or drop them an email.



Tire Garden

So, I have no car, but I still have a driveway. It is is not paved and gets full sun, the perfect place for a garden. Since it has several feet of imbeded gravel, preventing any hope of taking a shovel to it, I thought it would be tre cool -and a shade- ironic to convert the driveway into a garden using old tires filled with soil and organic compost. With everything els going on in my life I am off to a slow start with this project, but I have been ferrying abandoned tires home as I find them, piecemeal, and hope to have it all set up by Spring. For now I have a nice little crop of spinach in the first tire.

Home Improvement Gone Wrong

The idea was to create a work surface in my office, with shelves above it and storage underneath, for doing art and home schooling. I designed what was supposed to be a lovely and functional arrangement. Ah the best laid plans of . . . well anyway.
The first thing that went awry was that the wall is all plaster and no studs (ok, there is doubtless wood in there somewhere), so the shelves could not be attached as originally planned, there was series of other unfortunate events, and now I just don't know.
So, now the living room and office are trashed and the unit is, somehow not what I had in mind.
If you have any constructive (or construction) thoughts I would love to hear them

Far more attractive is this shot of the Free Radical on my second trip to the hardware store


got rights?

The “lame-duck” Congress is returning to Washington and President Bush has urged them to pass a bill legalizing the NSA warrantless domestic wiretapping program. Meanwhile, the telecom companies that cooperated with warrantless NSA requests are pressuring members of Congress to immunize them from liability for their actions. Some members will try to slip a very broad immunity clause into an omnibus spending bill. Such a clause, if it is passed, would hamper future investigations of the wiretapping program.

Don’t let that happen! Our best opportunity to stop both the bill and any immunity clause is in the Senate. (The House already passed Representative Heather Wilson’s FISA “Modernization” Act, H.R. 5825 before the campaign recess.)

Call both your Senators today o, you can look up their phone numbers at here

Call or email your Reps and let them know that you are a constituent who is very concerned about the NSA warrantless wiretapping bill, and that you are calling to them to:

* Block any bill related to the NSA domestic warrantless wiretapping program. Without a real investigation of the program is complete, Congress has no business passing legislation to legalize it.
* Oppose immunity for the telecoms. It would be a severe impediment to a real investigation, and it sends a message to businesses that they can disobey laws if the government asks them to, and can expect the government to bail them out.
* Prevent a telecom immunity clause from being slipped into another bill, such as an omnibus spending package. Insist on a clean bill.

More information on the Frist-Specter bill (S. 3931) and the Wilson bill (H.R. 5825) passed by the House is available on BORDC’s legislation page:


Things You Never Thought You Could Do By Bike, But Actually Can, #1

I am feeling just a bit the cat who got the canary
I suppose I should back up and say that even I recognize that bikes cant serve all functions. For example, if I call 911 I guess I don't want the fire-fighters hoping on bikes to come rescue me. Still, I think too often we suffer from failure of imagination, we remain trapped in comfortable patterns when better alternatives exist, we assume that because we have always done something a certain way, that thats the only way it can be done.

Case in point, one might assume that a motor vehicle is the only way to bring plywood and 2x4s home from the hardware store.
I beg to differ.
Although, truth to tell, I originally figured I would use a car for this errand. I assumed that the person I gave my car to (the car with the lovely roof rack that can carry anything) would be willing to do me the favor of helping me do this errand last weekend. 'parently not.
So how great for me that it turns out you don't even need a car for this kinda thing! This weekend I headed over to my local independant hardware store, picked out all the supplies I would need for a home impovement project I have been wanting to complete for ages, and for a measly buck, the nice folk at the hardware store cut the plywood and 2x4s to my specifications, loaded it onto a giant cart, along with the large bag of hardware, and wheeled it out to the parking lot for me, where the hardare guy was just plane flabbergasted to see that my vehicle was a Free Radical. I would have liked to have gotten a photo of that face!
I didn't get any photos of that face, but I got some shots of the bike and it's load when I got home, and will post them ASAP, in the mean time, I think this is the official beginning of a new series on this blog: "You Cant Do THAT By Bike", or perhaps "Things You Never Thought You Could Do By Bike, But Actually Can"


Post Election Bliss

In between the crush of classes, research papers and art assignments that are piling up around me, I had been working on a post explaining that I had not fallen victim to Rendition to Syria (more plausible than you might think), nor jailed for attempting to exercise antiquated or recently repealed Constitutional Rights, nor even been flattened by a fossil fuel burning, planet incinerating car; but have simply been buried under an avalanche of schoolwork and the debris of life.

But now, with the national election results certified, how can one not take a moment to savor this miricle? How can one not a moment for a little happy dance. I think we are allowed that. I want a song to sing, in honnor of Rumsfeld's departure ("ye-ho the witch is dead"?) Yeah, I know, Bush has a dozen more where Rummy came from, but he was forced to chuck Rummy, and I enjoy that.

And how 'bout those Democrats? The House and the Senet! Ok, I know, the difference between the Demos and the Republicans gets narrower every year, and it's gotten to where I write-in the names of political prisoners for all the Judge positions ~ but heres the thing: this election, America woke up, got a strong whiff of java, didn't drink the Kool Aid, but instead went to the polls and launched a minor revolution. That is something to celebrate. I say we get the rest of the week to celebrate before we grab our elected officials by the ankles and hold their feet to fire. I say we get a couple days to slap each others backs, breath a collective sigh, and feel really good about this unprecedented voter uprising; and then hunker down and make sure that the change we voted for happens. This election was the preliminary step, people, not the final destination.

So enjoy these Rumsfeld Hikus and enjoy the long weekend, Monday we let our Reps know we didnt roll over and go back to sleep after voting.

He pauses. He grimaces and exhales, reaching deeply for inspiration. And then, he delivers unto us, from the soul... poetry:

Evasion Haiku:
I'm working my way
Over to figuring out
How I won't answer.
- Dec. 3, 2002, Defense Department briefing

The Unknown
As we know,
There are known knowns.
There are things we know we know.
We also know
There are known unknowns.
That is to say
We know there are some things
We do not know.
But there are also unknown unknowns,
The ones we don't know
We don't know.
-Feb. 12, 2002, Department of Defense news briefing

I think what you'll find,
I think what you'll find is,
Whatever it is we do substantively,
There will be near-perfect clarity
As to what it is.

And it will be known,
And it will be known to the Congress,
And it will be known to you,
Probably before we decide it,
But it will be known.
-Feb. 28, 2003, Department of Defense news briefing

Needless to Say:
Needless to say
The president is correct.
Whatever it was he said.
- Feb. 28, 2003, Defense Department briefing

The question is simple: does he know it? Is he in touch with his poetic soul? Or is it merely a subconscious display?

Has he missed his calling? Or has fate merely brought us a poet in disguise?


Baby, It's Cold Outside!

Last winter was exrordinarily wet, but no where near this cold! It's not even really winter yet, and already we are have crazy-low tempetures, especially early in the morning as I cross over the river in route to school. Hurteling over the fridged water, fully exposed to the wind, one gets the full effect of the chill. We have had more rain during the past few days than we had all last month Definely gonna need more wool! The photo below is from the evening news, floodwaters have resulted in salmon swimming up bike lanes, rather than up stream! I have heard that some folks put there bikes away for the winter when the weather gets like this. Hmmn. Something about recent news reports about Oregon's air keep me peddling on.