I had a six-hour-long meeting at work and didn’t leave until 3:30 pm. I was (rightly) concerned that I’d get caught commuting home in the dark, having brought only a small blinking front and rear light since I expected to leave the office about 2:00 pm. On the bright side, I got to see first a very pretty rainbow, and barely got sprinkled on.

Commute Rainbow

A little bit later, riding along the Sammamish slough, I got a nice view of the sunset happening as I rode along. That’s one good thing about these early sunset nights — we actually are awake to see them (when the sun isn’t entirely obscured by clouds). In the summer, when the sun sets at 10:00 pm, sometimes I go to bed before the sun does.

Anyway, as I rode along admiring the sunset, I thought, “Why don’t I stop and take pictures? I never stop, but why am I in such a hurry? Two minutes won’t make any difference.” So I found a few good spots to snap a couple pictures. It’s not like my phone is an amazing camera, but it’s nice to have something along because I am a total sucker for sunsets.

Commute Sunset 1

Commute Sunset 4

Everything looked so beautiful over the course of my ride (at least until the sun set at 4:25; that’s likely the last time we’ll see the sun for the next week or so, according to our forecast), thanks to the gorgeous light… and to my favorite bike glasses lenses, which are — you probably guessed it — rose-colored. Really. I keep going on rides and saying, “Wow, that tree’s colors are spectacular!” or “Those clouds are fabulous!” and everyone else in the group says, “Huh?” and that’s when I remember that my lenses are pink.

And you know what? I like it. I don’t think there’s any harm in seeing the world tinted a little more beautiful sometimes. There’s plenty of ugliness and darkness, and I know it’s there. I’ll still look at things and know there’s beauty there, too. All you need is a change of perspective.

Biking Benefits

Today Benji and I got to do two fun things because we ride a bike for the commute to/from preschool. I’m going to throw in a third related vignette for good measure, but these stories are practically infinite.

1. On the way there, a large work van went by and we saw it had a picture of a forklift on the side. We speculated about whether that meant there were, in fact, forklifts inside the truck/van/thing (Benji was all for this theory).

A little way down the road, there was the van, pulled over on our side of the road. I asked Benji if he wanted to stop and ask if there were forklifts inside, and he really did. So we pulled over next to the truck, the driver rolled down his window, and I asked (Benji was too shy and incomprehensible).

The driver told us that no, there were no forklifts in the back (sad!), but wait! Turns out that he was a forklift repair man going to the siding company across the road to fix one of their forklifts. We looked over there and, gratifyingly, a forklift just in our view picked up a load of pipes* at that moment. We thanked the driver and rode away, highly pleased.

*Autosuggest offered “puppies” instead of “pipes,” a wonderful and rather hilarious mental image.

2. In a very similar vein, on our way home from school, we went by a couple of City of Bothell work vans and trucks parked just off the Sammamish River Trail by a bridge over the slough. They were parked near a large blue tent. We decided to investigate, and the City workers were pleased to tell us what they were doing.

Apparently, wherever a sewer pipe crosses a bridge, even a small one like the one over the slough, there’s a pump to hurry the slurry (so to speak). There’s also a backup generator, in case power goes out. Definitely don’t want that backing up!

Anyway, if I understood correctly, after 35 years, one of the pistons in the backup generator got a hole in it. They ordered a new piston (they’re readily available, apparently, even after three and a half decades) and had just finished replacing it when we came along. The worker showed up pictures of the piston with the hole and the replacement piston.

Benji was very interested. He definitely understood the idea of helpers fixing the broken thing, even if he didn’t understand exactly what the thing was or why it was broken.

3. Finally, last week we were riding home on the road rather than the trail, when a fire engine from Bothell Fire Station 42 went by. Naturally, we waved. But even better for us, the fire station was actually in our route home, and we arrived there in time to see the truck backing into its spot in the garage.

Even more happily, one of the firefighters offered to give us a tour of the trucks, an offer we promptly accepted. We learned that the ladder truck’s ladder can go 100′ up (!) and that they use it for different uses than a tiller truck. The ladder has a bucket on the end that makes it useful for lifting equipment and people quickly, or for rescuing people from very high places. But, the firefighter said, they had to be careful not to bonk into things with the ladder when they turn the 51-foot-long truck, since the ladder extends a long way beyond the rear wheels.

We also learned that the truck had once gone out and rescued a cat from a tree, although they used a shorter ladder for that (they put the cat in a sack to carry out down).

Again, we left highly gratified and with lots of scope for play and stories.

We certainly couldn’t have had any of those exchanges in a car, zooming by too fast to stop. Biking allowed us to enjoy the journey a bit more, rather than just rushing from Point A to Point B. The fact is, although I like technology and efficiency as much as the next person, I have increasingly come to value slow time, one-on-one relationship time that only happens at a rate of one minute per minute. Benji and I have many interesting and, for him, educational conversations on our bike rides that otherwise wouldn’t happen. We certainly do use the car for getting places quickly, but I value and enjoy our biking time especially.

Meanwhile, back at Benji school (part 2)

Remember back in March when we started biking consistently to Benji school, and we got a nasty sign put up telling us not to park in the building? At the time, the wonderful folks at Kindering asked the building manager to put up a bike rack. I appreciated the gesture but figured we wouldn’t be around to benefit whenever the each went up.

How wrong I was! Today when we arrived at Benji school (in the car, due to thunderstorms periodically drenching our area) we saw a new bike rack! And it was just in the perfect spot, covered and near the front door.

At left, the new, permanent no bikes sign; at right, the new outside bike rack.

I’m not sure how we’ll park our trailer there right blocking the door, but we’ll figure something out.

I’m just really grateful for a positive resolution. Definitely the best outcome I would have hoped for.

Even Superman must get wet sometimes.

Leaving work to bike commute home the other day, I felt a little bit awesome going from this…


To this…


…in a few short minutes.

I didn’t feel quite so awesome when I arrived home drenched and filthy with road gunk after riding the entire 10 miles in windy rain.


I appreciated the fireplace extra, though, because everything dried out way faster than in times past. Also, I got to feel warm and cozy, a lovely and unusual experience immediately following a wet ride. And within an hour of getting home, the rain changed from steady to torrential, so I actually felt pretty good about my commute.

Meanwhile, at Benji School…

We’ve started consistently riding our bike to Benji school. On Tuesday, I drop Benji off, unhook the trailer, go ride hill repeats for an hour, then hook the trainer back up and ride us home again. It’s a nice system and I get a hard workout in before evening, when my motivation wanes. On Thursdays, we ride, but I bring my laptop and do work while waiting. All this unseasonably dry, warm weather has certainly facilitated this plan.

Thus far, I’ve parked our rig in the entryway, where it’s dry and a little more secure. I tend to leave things like helmets and extra clothes in there.

Parked inside at Benji school.

Today when I pulled up, this sign greeted me.

"Friendly" sign in our parking spot.
Hmm, passive-aggressive much?

In case it’s hard to read, it says, BICYCLES ARE NOT PERMITTED INSIDE THE BUILDING. Very friendly and collaborative, and particularly amusing for a building that doesn’t provide any bike parking whatsoever, not even a rack stuck outside in the rain.

Here’s what I decided to do:


My note says, “I would love to use a bike rack, if you would provide one. I would love to discuss it more – covered would be helpful.” And I signed my name and phone number. Not my most eloquent missive, I grant, but hopefully not inflammatory, either. I really would use a rack, especially a covered one, but there are none.

In fact, there aren’t even any sign posts or other handy stationary objects to lock up to. I can lock my bike to itself and put the brake on the trailer, but that really won’t stop someone from stealing the bike or trailer. I like parking inside because it’s much more secure, just by virtue of having fewer people go through there. In any case, I don’t think requesting a bike rack is unreasonable.

I mentioned this nasty-gram note to the gal at the front desk of Kindering when I borrowed her sticky note and pen. When I returned an hour later, she said that Kindering would request a bike rack. She pointed out that there are lots of paths around (indeed, our route is probably 75% trails), so it’s not unreasonable to provide parking for bikes. I was touched that they would go out of their way like that for us, and I thanked her profusely.

For now, when we ride, I may park just outside the front doors and lock my bike to itself. Hopefully that will suffice. It is a tad frustrating to get kicked out of a building when we weren’t even in anyone’s way or making a mess or, in fact, doing anything but using some otherwise empty space. Oh, and we did make lots of kids happy just by the presence of a bike. We’ll see what happens.

In happier, less whiny bike parking news, my work moved offices and the new place has secure bike parking and lockers. The parking is in the garage, but in a chain-link enclosure that opens with a key card. It has several racks to lock up, and lockers that you claim by putting your own lock on them. I’m going to snag one next week and leave my shoes and helmet and stood in there. Now I’m doing a bus/bike commute for that and it’s working out well. Bus in (to stay clean and presentable), bike home. Good enough!

Bus Miracles

Day’s Verse:
So we’re not giving up. How could we! Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without his unfolding grace.
2 Corinthians 4:16

On Tuesday night, I dreamed that I missed my bus to work. In my dream, I was ready to go early, and was waiting around doing small things to kill the time. Then when I looked at the clock, my bus had come and gone.

In a strange self-fulfilling prophecy experience, this played out almost exactly Wednesday morning. I finished my morning routine quite a bit earlier than usual, so I washed the dishes, lubed my bike chain, went to the bathroom (mandatory these days before I step out the door). The next thing I knew, I looked at the clock: 7:46. My bus arrives at Brickyard Park & Ride at 7:48. It’s only 0.8 miles, not long at all on a bike.

I mention this because typically I give myself 10 to 15 minutes to get to the bus stop. This seems excessive — a person could easily walk a mile in that time — but I can easily spend that long waiting at stoplights. I have to go over the 160th Street freeway interchange, through two lights, and turn left “onto” the freeway to get to the bus stop, which is on the freeway onramp. The first light stays red for a long time in my direction to allow people to get onto 405 going north. The second light I have to either turn left from the left-turn-lane with cars getting on the freeway, or I have to cross as a pedestrian two directions — that’s two cycles through the light, plenty long enough to see my bus go by, load, and drive away. It’s actually quite aggravating: I could almost ride to the Totem Lake Transit Center 3 miles away in the time it takes me to get to the closer P&R.

So when I looked at the clock and saw it was 7:46, I knew I’d already missed my bus. The bus running behind schedule would help, but it’s not usually late enough to have saved me.

Out of some misplaced hope, though, I dashed out the door, leaped onto my bike, and went tearing off down the road. I knew the rush would probably just land me a 20-minute wait at the P&R, but I had to try.

And a miracle occurred. I caught my 7:48 bus.

Not at 7:48, mind you; it was more like 7:50 or 7:51. But still, I think I set a record. The lights miraculously changed just when I arrived, allowing me to maintain speed. I saw the 311 (my bus) go through the intersection and stop to load. My left-turn light changed just as the bus went through the intersection. I got over to the left-turn-lane and made the turn, zoomed up to the bus, and pulled down the bike rack just as the last passenger stepped onto the bus. WHEW. That’s about as close as I’ve cut a bus connection in a long time.

Even sitting on the bus, seeing my usual driver and fellow-passengers, I could hardly believe I’d made it. Just a little more proof that there is a loving God, I guess.