Acceptance

A little over a week since I learned my S-Works was destroyed, and I’m starting to be able to think about it more calmly. I guess I’m slowly accepting this reality, where I spend my free time trying to submit claims to different faceless, soulless corporations, and they find reasons not to cover the expenses. I’m also coming to accept that it’s very likely we will end up eating the full cost of replacement.

At the same time, I’m finally starting to believe that there are things to be thankful for.

  • I wasn’t riding my bike when it got damaged. Nobody was hurt.
  • It got damaged on the way home, not on the way to the Gran Fondo. I got to do all that lovely California riding on the S-Works! (I set one of the pictures from that weekend as my desktop at work, and it feels very bittersweet to look at it and see my beautiful bike that is, for now, ruined.)
  • It’s only the frame. Everything else seems fine, which makes fixing it that much more manageable. Frames still run $4500, but there are crash replacements and some hope I won’t have to pay full price. Time will tell there.
  • It wasn’t my pink bike. The S-Works was phenomenal, and a joy to ride, but it was all new stock parts that are easy to get replacements for. I’ve customized my pink bike so much, I don’t think it’s possible to get all the parts if something were to happen to it. Plus I ride the pink bike every day. I’d miss it more, I think.
  • I have my Cannondale. I couldn’t bring myself to part with my old bike, and now I’m glad I didn’t. That reluctance means I now have something faster to ride than my commuter bike on Saturdays.
  • I have a hope of replacing it some day. Financially that’s nothing to sneeze at.

So I get to be thankful. There’s so much to be thankful for. I see it more every day.

Bike Frame Damage Update

I’ve been following up on remuneration for the destruction of my bike frame. It looks pretty grim. Here are all the parties involved and why they won’t pay.

BikeFlights

This is the third party I used to make the label. I created the label long before I bought the S-Works, so the manifest lists my Cannondale SuperSix Evo, and I didn’t bother with shipping insurance. That was an older bike, and what are the odds anything would happen when it’s so protectively boxed? When I bought the S-Works, I didn’t even think of updating the BikeFlights manifest or extra insurance coverage. I just put the S-Works in the box and blithely went on my way.

Now, to their credit, BikeFlights did right by me, to an extent: They paid the full amount they were liable for without much of a fuss. Unfortunately, because I hadn’t purchased any extra insurance, their full liability was $100.

FedEx

They are the actual shippers, and they’re the ones who caused the actual damage. Some FedEx employee dropped the box from a high height, or dropped something heavy on it, or stood on it, or stacked 10 pianos on top of it. I don’t know what they did, but somewhere between Santa Rosa and Kirkland, they crushed my frame.

I have not yet talked directly with FedEx, because I suspect they will point to and hide behind their contract with BikeFlights to dodge any liability. And, again, I opted out of shipping insurance, so it’s really my fault.

I am planning on contacting them, but I’m not at all sanguine about my chances.

USAA

These fine folks provide our homeowners insurance. They cover personal property damage, even when away from home, so I had some hope we might get recompense there.

I filed a claim with them, and yesterday spoke with an adjuster. She just asked for my statement, during which I honestly described exactly what happened. At the end of my long, woeful tale, the adjuster asked me exactly what had caused the damage.

I told her, again honestly, I didn’t know. Have you ever gotten a package shipped to you that was crunched somewhere along the line? How can you determine what caused the damage?

But our policy only covers damage caused by certain things: fire, water, earthquake, theft, vandalism, vehicle, and a few other disasters I forget. They don’t cover vague “damage in shipping” unless I can somehow prove it was, say, a FedEx truck running into my box.

Similarly, they cover falling damage, but only if something falls onto my stuff, not if my stuff itself falls. So if my bike box fell off a truck, I’m out of luck. But if another heavy package fell onto it, and I can prove that, I might get paid.

All that is pure speculation, though. Even if I call FedEx, how could they possibly tell me exactly what happened? Those guys toss boxes all day long. It’s darn near impossible to tell what exactly caused the damage.

Clues:

  • The box is massively scratched up along one edge, and it wasn’t before. But otherwise it is totally intact – no holes, no dents, no nothing to indicate massive trauma.
  • The frame was crushed where the handlebars were packed around it, but the handlebars, wheels, and everything else in the box is fine.

What do those tell us? They tell us that the insurance company will slither through that little crack so fast you can barely see its tail flick out of sight.

So Who Pays?

Bottom line… Probably us. Because I didn’t do the BikeFlights manifest and insurance correctly. Even though I did everything else right – paid hundreds of dollars to have it packed professionally, used a box that could practically survive a nuclear blast, burned candles to my ancestors, you get the idea – we end up on the hook.

I’m feeling discouraged, bitter, depressed, angry, defeated, hopeless. Because of course it’s the people who are most powerless, who can least afford to absorb this financial setback, who end up suffering the most. We’re not exactly in low income bracket, clearly, but my S-Works was a huge splurge in the first place. It wasn’t a drop in the bucket, it was like half a bucket. We did it, but doing it again?

Replacing my S-Works, even just the frame, is hard to justify and afford when we also have an ageing furnace and hot water heater and who knows what other unexpected expenses.

I sure hope the shareholders of those companies are happy, cuz I can tell you right now, I certainly am not.

And I can tell you right now: I’ll think twice about shipping my bike again.

Crushed

On the shipping trip back, my beautiful S-Works frame was crushed.

I don’t even know how that’s possible; it was professionally packed by NorCal Bike Sport in my hard-sided Thule bike box. That box is like tank armor. It has Kevlar bands to keep it from being crushed.

And yet, my frame is totally destroyed. I don’t know yet about the handlebars or wheels or any of the other components.

What I do know is that my beautiful purple-blue-red glitter frame, so fast, so responsive, so comfortable, so expensive… Is gone. There’s no fixing it. It’s totaled.

To make matters worse, I made the original BikeFlights label for my Cannondale long before I even bought the S-Works, and I didn’t buy any extra insurance. What were the odds that something could hurt my bike inside that bullet-proof box?

Apparently 100%.

I’ve contacted BikeFlights, but their website makes it clear that they won’t cover damage if you didn’t buy their insurance. Plus I shipped a different bike from what was on the manifest. So I’m not sanguine about getting any traction there.

Our homeowners insurance may cover part or all of the damage, too, since it covers high-value “personal property” that usually resides at our home. I’m waiting to determine the full extent of the damage, and then I will file a claim with them.

I’ve also opened negotiations with the bike shop that sold me the bike to see how much a frame replacement or a full replacement will cost. Short answer: not as much as the original, but a lot. Also, no more beautiful glitter purple frames are available this year.

So that’s where I’m at. Mostly waiting to figure out if anything else is broken and trying to hold myself together.

Honestly, it feels like my heart was crushed along with my frame. I’ll be okay… Eventually.

Being a Woman

Normally I don’t bother too much about the fact that I’m a woman. It’s just another thing about me, like my height or weight. But this weekend I felt particularly noticeably female, in an uncomfortable way. Here’s what happened.

On Saturday, after wearing my bike shorts for most of the day, I decided to wear my favorite sundress. It’s super comfortable, sleeveless with straps that cross over the back, form-fitting around the torso and top, and skirt a few inches above my knees. The weather was perfect for this dress, and it was definitely the last time I’ll wear it until probably next July, so I made sure to bring it and wear it on this trip.

After freshening up from my ride, I had about an hour and a half until dinner, so I decided to go out for a walk around Santa Rosa to kill some time and stretch my legs.

I started in Juilliard Park, which was mostly empty except for a couple homeless guys who leered from a park bench at me as I walked by. That kind of set the tone for the rest of that walk.

Thereafter I found Santa Rosa to be a mix of affluence and poverty cheek-by-jowl. One block you’d find tidy old houses, beautifully kept up and seasonally decorated; the next block, dilapidated homes, unkempt yards, cars on blocks. I walked from the adorable Railroad Park area, with its tourist shops and boutique hotels, right past a shelter for homeless people nary a block away.

As I went by the homeless shelter, a bunch of homeless men were standing or sitting around the outside of the building. As I approached, pretty much all of them stared at me. A couple of them stood up and watched. I hurried by, and looked back a couple times. They kept watching until I got around the corner.

After that, I found my way back to the bike festival area and stayed there until I met my friends for dinner. As I waited, the plaza slowly emptied and more and more homeless guys came out. One cadged some food off a guy eating; others just wandered around. 

We finished dinner after 9:00, and I had left my car down by Juilliard Park, several long blocks away down some darker roads. The guys outside the homeless shelter, and the guys in the park, and the guys who live in the greenbelt down by the river that ran through town all came to mind again. I don’t want to be prejudiced or make unfair assumptions about people… but I also didn’t feel comfortable out by myself after dark.

I asked John to escort me to my car.

And that, right there, is being a woman. I felt like I needed to bring a man along with me as I walked back to the car after dark, just to be safe. 

——

PS: I know gender, sexual identity, being a woman, #MeToo, the Kavanaugh hearings/confirmation, the President’s behavior towards women, even police shootings… all these and more make this a fraught topic. I also know I’m a fortunate, nay, privileged white woman, my life was probably never in danger, and I may be making a mountain out of a molehill — a molehill that some women deal with every day. But I also know I’ll think and act differently after this experience; I may not wear that dress again with confidence, because of those looks and that feeling. So I wanted to share.

Marin County Alpine Dam Ride

I finished Levi’s Gran Fondo on Saturday and didn’t think I’d be riding much the rest of my trip. 

Wrong!

My original Sunday plans didn’t work out, so I had the entire day until my 6:30 pm flight to find something to do. I had my fast bike, an extra change of clean clothes, a ride buddy, and a route with promised spectacular views. Why not?!

It took some figuring out — would the timing work so I could still return my bike for boxing and shipping? Could I do it and not miss my flight? Could my legs do another ride after Levi’s the day before??

Yes, yes, and YES!

And oh man, I’m so glad I did it. That ride ranks up there among the most beautiful rides I’ve done so far, especially the first 20 or so miles. Holy cow. Here are some of the pictures I got along the way.

Levi's Gran Fondo 2018
Click the bike picture to see a full album of all the pictures I took.
Marin Ride: Alpine Dam
Alpine Dam and an alpine dame.
Marin Ride: This Is Great
Partway to the top.
Marin Ride: The View
Dang, I was hoping for a view. (!!!)
Shooting Meteor 3
Rare action shot… John got so far ahead on the descent that he took a nap, woke up, and then got this picture as I went by.
Marin Ride: San Francisco and a Blue Angel
It was Fleet Week in San Francisco, so we got to see Blue Angels doing tricks.

Once we got about 15 miles from the end, I was really ready to just head back, honestly. Plus it got substantially less picturesque and substantially more suburban. So no more pictures. 

Oh, on that ride I also met a gal named Lexi Miller (very fast and fit-looking, like every other woman I saw on the road that morning. I felt very humbled. I used to feel fast; this ride reminded me that there are a zillion women faster than me. Get out and work harder, girl!)… anyway, this gal Lexi Miller designs women’s bike clothes! She was wearing this design and now I want one. So cool.

We finished riding right about 2:00 pm, leaving me plenty of time to get back to Santa Rosa, drop my bike off, take a shower (my fellow airline passengers probably really appreciated that touch, or would’ve if they’d known the alternative), gas up the rental car (holy crap, gas is expensive! And I had a Prius!), get a Subway sandwich, and arrive at the airport with tons of extra time.

I was on a turboprop. It was loud and uncomfortable, but when I took a picture of the props with my phone…

What the Propeller
What?!!!!1 and also, WHY?!

In any case, to summarize, I really can’t overstate how great it was to spend Sunday on a low-key and super-scenic ride with a friend who wasn’t trying to crush it. Just to ride for fun. Levi’s Gran Fondo was great, but I had so many hopes and anxiety about it. Sunday’s ride washed all that stuff away. It really took the trip from an 10 to an 11.

Levi’s Gran Fondo Ride Report

This is us before the ride. How optimistic and eager we look!

John and I started together, but got separated pretty quickly. We were in the first group to go, doing the longest route, and let me say — wow those riders are fast. I had already decided to just ride my own ride, regardless of what other people around me were doing. As a result, although I rode in proximity with other people, especially at the beginning, I spent most of the ride alone. That’s fine; it’s what I expected and it worked well for me. No pressure to push beyond what my leg could sustain.

I rode for myself, pacing and going the speed I felt safe and comfortable going… Which was a lot slower than most people on the descents, sadly. The roads left a great deal to be desired, and on the descents it was beautiful but I couldn’t see much because the terrible pavement, dappled light, and constant winding curves forced me to keep on high alert the entire time.

I only stopped twice, once at about 45 miles and once at about 70-something miles; I had some food and refilled my bottles and went on. (Note: That’s why I don’t have any during-the-ride pictures. They were timing us, gosh darn it, I’m not wasting time on photos! But it was truly beautiful.)

The temperature was perfect, the route included a tailwind on this flat stretch along the coast that was spectacular, and we got so many just amazing views throughout the event. The climbing was difficult, but all our training really paid off and I completed every climb without having my leg fail me.

Oh, the other thing I wanted to mention was how cool it was so see so many fast women. Way faster than me. Seriously. There were way more women than I’m used to seeing riding at that level. It was humbling and awe-inspiring at the same time.

Here we are about seven and a half hours after starting. Much less perky, but super happy to be done.

I ended up with a 7:15 moving time and 7:35 total elapsed time, averaging 16.2 mph — not exactly setting any land speed records, but I finished without my leg having any serious collapses, so that counts as a win to me.

Strava says I didn’t have any “achievements” … which just shows what Strava knows. I finished. 

Next up: I’ll work on getting faster from now on. I’m learning how to manage the illiac artery compression impairment, at least to some extent, so now it’s time start figuring out how to work a little harder, a little harder, a little harder… until I’m fast enough to keep up with the lady my mom’s age who passed me on Levi’s Gran Fondo and who I never saw again. She was fast.

I’ll definitely get right on that. Right after I’ve taken a good month or so to do easy recovery-type riding. Hoo boy.

Funny

I don’t think of myself as a leader or an innovator. I don’t come up with big ideas to drive the future of a field. People don’t look to me for guidance for, well, anything (especially my son, who recently learned the phrase, “You’re not the boss of me.” Wanna bet?!)

But one thing I’ve done that I’m actually proud of, that came out of my own head, is the joke board at work.

Joke Board
Joke board

The premise of the joke board is simple: Every morning when I get in to the office, I spend a few minutes scouring the Interwebs for the best, freshest, punniest dad-style joke and I write it up on a small whiteboard I’ve appropriated for the task. (Lately I’ve also posted it to a dedicated room on the company’s internal chat service.) If people have additions or further puns, they write or post them. Then we do it all again the next day.

People sometimes come by my desk just to see the joke board. A hiring manager walks prospective employees by in a tour of the office, pointing it out specifically. For me, the greatest enjoyment comes from watching people read and react to the day’s joke, usually with a huge groan. It keeps me looking for jokes even on days when nothing’s funny.

Oddly, I’m not actually very good at making up puns myself. But I feel I can appreciate puns, and I’m never afraid of sharing them and looking stupid.

All along I’ve been taking pictures of joke boards that stood out as particularly amusing or well-participated. I’ve collected all these photos into a Flickr album that I’m enjoying, and I hope y’all do, too. I’ll try to keep it fairly fresh.

Here are a few picks.

Joke Board: Dyed a little inside
Just a pigment of your imagination.
IMG_20180108_105103
I just didn’t give a schist.
IMG_20180117_075633
I just love this joke so much.
IMG_20180518_081404
Approved by my ethnically Norwegian friend.

If those tickled your funny bone, there’s lots more in that vein in the Flickr Joke Board album.

Note: I keep the joke board 100% clean. No dirty jokes, no innuendo, no bad language. It’s rare, but the company President occasionally walks through, and HR is stationed not too far away. That’s too bad, because sometimes I come across a slightly off-color joke I really just love, such as…

What did the bra say to the hat?
-“You go on ahead, I’m gonna give these two a lift.”

I’ll try to share those occasionally as I run across ’em, too.