AmeriCorps Training…Again

Day’s Verse:
“This is what the LORD says, he who made the earth, the LORD who formed it and established it—the LORD is his name: ‘Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.’ “
Jeremiah 33:2-3

Today I’m heading off to even more AmeriCorps training in Trout Lake. We’re spending two nights there, driving down today and back Friday night. Expect silence through at least Saturday; Trout Lake is quite remote, and although they do have computers with internet (amazing!), the AmeriCorps people work hard to keep us busy to make the trip worth the drive. I still wonder why they picked Trout Lake. It’s central to Washington and Oregon, true — centrally inconvenient for anybody not living in Hood River. I hear it’s pretty, but our 10-day stint in January didn’t reveal much of that; perhaps this time, or the time in July, will have less ice, snow, and rain, and more views of Mt. Adams.

All that said, I don’t mind a few days away from my normal internship. Even taking a day off here and there, I feel generally useless, discouraged, and like I’m just treading water — not making any progress. Maybe it’s more accurate to say I only feel I’m making extremely slow progress — not quite none at all, but an almost imperceptible amount.

Anyway, all that to say I’m off gallivanting around. Expect photos and not many words when I post next.

Teaching Urban Cycling Techniques: Day 2

Day’s Verse:
But I have had God’s help to this very day, and so I stand here and testify to small and great alike.
Acts 26:22


I can now breathe a huge sigh of relief: After yesterday, I finished all my major weekend commitments. Maybe now I will have some time to:

  • Sleep in.
  • Bake bread.
  • Hang out with Ian.
  • Hang out with friends.
  • Clean our bedroom and bathroom.
  • Go for walks and hikes.
  • Clean my bike thoroughly.
  • Watch a movie occasionally.
  • Go somewhere to take pretty pictures.

Those are just a few of the things I look forward to doing in the time I hope to keep free in the future. Ian and I will be gaining possession of a house almost exactly 1 month from today (!!), but between now and then I intend to use my weekends to RELAX as much as possible.

Yesterday, though not overly relaxing, actually went incredibly well. I rode to Cascade that morning, met up with Ellen, found an empty parking lot, set up the Avoidance Weave course, and returned to gather the students. Then we rode to the parking lot, practicing turning left a few times along the way, and did the Avoidance Weave, the Rock Dodge, and the Quick Stop. I demonstrated (badly) the Instant Turn, and we gave people the opportunity to try it themselves — and all but one wanted to. We had to take the course down to stop them from riding through it, they were having so much fun.

After that, we had lunch and talked about crash statistics and how to choose what gear to be in on your bike in different situations. Then we finally got to the meat of the course: The road ride. We took this route:

View April UCT Ride Route in a larger map

Nobody got killed, only one person got honked at, and we had a great learning experience at this intersection:

View Larger Map

I didn’t have a chance to see the student evaluations before Ian picked me up, but I came away feeling like I’d done a decent job, especially for my first-ever major class like that. I also ended up thinking that I would probably find teaching bike classes much more enjoyable than my first experience indicated.

So, in a nutshell: Pretty good experience for me; I’d probably be willing to do it again, but not any time soon. It’s still a ton of work and time, and that’s what I’m short of these days.

Teaching Urban Cycling Techniques: Day 1

Day’s Verse:
I know that my Redeemer lives,
and that in the end he will stand upon the earth.

Job 19:25

Bike HandleYesterday I co-taught the first half of my first-ever Traffic Skills 101 class. Cascade Bicycle Club calls it Urban Cycling Techniques. To prepare, I diligently reviewed the materials I received during my instructor training and last weekend I practiced the bike handling skills we’d teach this weekend.

Not that I didn’t need to do all that; the review did help keep the material fresh in my mind. But my co-teacher, Ellen Aagaard, runs such a laid-back, easygoing class that if I needed to refer to my notes or the book, that wasn’t really a problem. I liked how Ellen ran the class as a discussion, soliciting most of the information and ideas from the students. I’ve learned quite a bit having watched her interaction with the students. She listens respectfully and makes it clear that the students’ ideas are very important. The class ran over by an hour (!), and a couple people had to leave before then, but everybody stayed engaged and interested, even though it was after lunch and the after-lunch sleepies set in.

Yesterday we spent most of the day in the classroom. After introductions where students talked about their experience and what they want to get from the class, we talked about bike fit and parts of the bike. Then we moved outside to do the ABC Quick Check (despite having said to bring “a bike in working order that you’re familiar with,” people brought bikes they’d just bought the week before, bikes with brakes so badly damaged as to require replacing, etc. I suspect this is normal). Because some of the students’ bikes required adjusting or quick fixes, we split up: Ellen took care of those little emergencies, and I led the rest of the class to the parking lot, set up the course, and started going over starting and stopping. Unfortunately, the parking lot we agreed to meet at happened to also have a marching band practicing there — something Ellen had never had happen before. Once Ellen and the rest of the class met up with us, we picked up the course and moved to another parking lot farther away from the marching band. This weekend also happens to be the annual FlorAbundance plant sale for the Arboretum Foundation, which means that there’s a lot more traffic and a lot fewer open parking lots than usual at Magnuson Park.

That aside, we found a parking lot that was sparsely populated enough that I only had to kick one driver out. He parked in the middle of the course. I felt that Ellen and I worked together really well particularly outside; while she instructed, I set up; then while I demonstrated and led off the practice, she observed the students’ technique. I think we kept dead time to a minimum, although setting up/taking down the course and transitions did kill more time than I would like. On the way back, one of the students dropped her chain as we rode up a little hill, so I stopped with her and we talked about why chains fall off and how to shift. Then we walked back down the hill and rode up again, this time in the right gear. The student was amazed at how much easier it was to ride up a hill in the right gear. She’s an urban planner doing pedestrian and bike infrastructure, but had hardly ridden a bike in all these years. I hope the class gives her a different perspective on riding and what infrastructure supports safe cycling.

Anyway, everybody got cold standing around in the wind, so we decided to stay inside the rest of the day. We talked about bike gear — a topic that always interests people — and then moved on to the real meat of the class: Rights and responsibilities of cyclists; how to ride safely, courteously, and legally on the road; lane positioning and where to put yourself in different situations; all the stuff that’s different between riding a bicycle and driving a car. Generally if you ride your bike the same way you’d drive your car, you’ll do the right thing, but you have to make different decisions at some times because you’re so much smaller than a car. That was the part that went way over time. People wanted to talk about personal scenarios: “I have this one intersection…” or “What if…”

Today we’re doing the avoidance techniques — the avoidance weave, the rock dodge, and the quick stop; instant turn is off the menu, since these are such new, shaky students — followed by an in-classroom discussion of what causes crashes and crash avoidance, and then the road ride, where students practice everything they learned. At least, that’s the plan. As I learned yesterday, anything could happen. We’ll be flexible and make sure the students get the most out of it, no matter what we do.

The weather calls for partly sunny skies, light winds, and temperatures around 60°F, but right now it’s 47°F and quite cloudy. I may wear my jacket just in case.

All in all, yesterday was a wonderful redeeming experience after the fateful LCI Seminar I helped co-teach back in February, and it makes me think that maybe I do want to teach more of these classes now and then.

Another Choice Bites the Dust

Day’s Verse:
“So there is hope for your future,”
declares the LORD.
“Your children will return to their own land.”

Jeremiah 31:17

After much agonizing, number-crunching, and wrestling with nearly impenetrable forms, Ian and I have chosen a mortgage. It felt at least as arduous as picking the home itself. We talked to four different lenders, got estimates from them for all the same day — not an easy task — and compared everything. Unfortunately, we missed a slightly lower rate because we took a couple days to make the decision, but I think we made an OK decision. I expect that over the next month I’ll have huge buyer’s remorse, both over the home and the mortgage, but in the end it’ll work out one way or another. Right now I’m just relieved that we’ve made the choice.

Now I’m going to spend the rest of the day making unimportant decisions, like what to have for lunch and whether to go to REI to look at shoes or instead prep for the bike class I’m co-teaching this weekend.

Mariners Salute to Volunteers Game

Day’s Verse:
Then maidens will dance and be glad,
young men and old as well.
I will turn their mourning into gladness;
I will give them comfort and joy instead of sorrow.

Jeremiah 31:13

I’ve been working on and off for the last month planning a volunteer recognition event: Taking the volunteers to the Mariners Salute to Volunteers game on April 20. This involved:

  • Compiling a complete list of all the people who had volunteered for the Bike Alliance in the last year (the Bike Alliance didn’t have anything like that);
  • Emailing all those volunteers with an invitation to the Mariners game;
  • Compiling a list of RSVPs, including how many people wanted tickets for somebody other than themselves (we charged $8 per ticket per extra non-volunteer, a total steal, even for nosebleed seats);
  • Purchasing the tickets (my first large purchase on the Bike Alliance credit card — almost $450. Frustratingly, I had 11 no-shows. At $8 a head, that’s a good chunk of money for a cash-strapped nonprofit);
  • Organizing and confirming that staff people got food and drinks and extra cash;
  • Providing all the details the attendees needed to make it on time, plus of course accommodating last-minute requests and “can’t meet then” difficulties;
  • Wrangling the attendees on the day of, including receiving the money a few of them owed and passing out tickets to each individual;
  • Herding all those cats into one group for the big parade walk to Safeco Field. I encouraged people to wear bike helmets to look like a group, but most people were too self-conscious to actually do it.

Here’s the photo summary of what I achieved:

Mariners Game: Safeco Field

That’s 49 Bicycle Alliance volunteers and staff, already enjoying themselves before the game even started. I deem it a success.

All the pictures are here.


Day’s Verse:
I long to dwell in your tent forever
and take refuge in the shelter of your wings.

Psalm 61:4

Once again, I get 15 seconds — if that — of fame, this time in the Bicycle Paper. I mentioned that the Bike Alliance won the Bicycle Paper Peoples’ Choice Award. Little did I know that we would get our picture in the paper. Of course, this is the paper that ran an article on a bicycle hearse, so I’m not sure how auspicious this mention really is…

Dreams and Realities

Day’s Verse:
“In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ ”
Acts 20:35

I keep dreaming about the house, mortgages, and other related topics. I wake up feeling vaguely uneasy, although that unease quickly balloons into full-on anxiety. I’m excited at the prospect of having a real home to settle down in, but I’m daunted by the mortgage stuff, by the responsibility of owning a home, and by the breadth and depth of my ignorance about anything pertaining to home ownership (and not a day goes by in which my ignorance isn’t revealed to be even deeper and wider than I previously thought).

The good news — aside from the fact that we will, in fact, be able to pay for this home and that our neighborhood evaluation didn’t come up with something so terrible we backed out of the deal — is that Ian and I continue to get along very well throughout everything. He’s documenting details; I’m talking to strangers. It’s working pretty darn well.