Walking Petri Dishes Strike Again

Day’s Verse:
He who blesses his friend with a loud voice early in the morning,
It will be reckoned a curse to him.

Proverbs 27:14

And by “walking petri dishes,” I mean elementary kids. At least, I assume I picked up this cold while I was at the elementary school in Lynden. I haven’t had a cold in a long time, and I’d forgotten how deeply blah it makes me feel. I could do things…but I could also just blow my nose, drink hot water with honey and lemon (we don’t have any tea), and stare blankly at the wall. The first day of the cold I felt bad but not terrible, which I hoped would be indicative of the cold overall. Possibly I was overly optimistic. I feel pretty lousy right now, now that the cold has moved up into my sinuses.

I didn’t go for a bike ride today, even though it was sunny and lovely, but I did drag myself out to meet Ian and walk home with him from the Totem Lake Transit Center. By the time we met up the pretty day had begun converting into an ominously cloudy day, and it sprinkled on us intermittently. Then I had to dash out to the store and it was sprinkling then, too. So spring is here: Fairly warm temperatures, gusty winds, drizzly rain with bright sun breaks, trees budding and flowering.

Good thing I don’t have another bike class until next Wednesday; hopefully I’ll have this cold beat by then and be able to handle the class with my usual enthusiasm. Actually, it’s going to be a particularly interesting class because I’m co-teaching with an instructor from Cascade Bike Club — happily, my favorite LCI, Ellen Aagaard — and Robin Randels, Cascade’s classes coordinator and freshly-minted LCI Coach, is going to be sitting in. I admit feeling some pressure to do especially well under those circumstances.

Meanwhile, I’m feeling pretty rotten.

Five-Day Summary

Day’s Verse:
Get me out of here on dove wings;
I want some peace and quiet.
I want a walk in the country,
I want a cabin in the woods.
I’m desperate for a change
from rage and stormy weather.

Psalm 55:6-8

Instead of wasting many thousands of words describing the last week, here are some pictures to summarize.

Wednesday through Friday:

View of Mt. Adams from the Mt. Adams Center (MAC), the headquarters of the Northwest Service Academy, the people I do AmeriCorps with.
Mt. Adams - Clouds

Highway 141 facing west outside the MAC on Thursday morning. The rest of the day we spent learning about place-based education. We also did a very uncomfortable team-building exercise that required me to sit on somebody’s back for an extended period of time. (My legs have finally stopped aching.)
Highway 141 West

Thursday afternoon we went for a hike.
Gifford Pinchot National Forest

Friday afternoon it was sunny and clear, with a good view of Mt. Adams. We talked about our community action projects in groups and discussed a reading, and eventually got home.
Mt. Adams - Clear

Saturday:
Morning:
I don’t have any pictures, but Ian and I spent 4 hours in the morning volunteering with Journey Church to clean up McAuliffe Park in Kirkland. We carried branches and trash out of the woods, and then weeded a bit at the end.

Afternoon:
French Bread Loaf 1

French Bread Loaf 2

Evening:
Again no pictures, but we took one of the loaves of bread over to my in-laws’ house, where we had dinner and a nice catch-up time.

Sunday:
Morning:
I got trained on how to do coffee, which is ironic, since I don’t even drink coffee. I’ll spend my free (ha, ha) time this week writing up a little how-to booklet that includes pictures. Next weekend I’ll try to follow the instructions in the booklet while the experienced coffee-maker stands by to correct me. They call it “coffee,” but it’s actually setting up and taking down the green room for all the volunteers, plus preparing and providing coffee for the cafe that the congregation uses. Since the church meets at Kirkland Jr. High, every scrap of evidence of our presence has to disappear by Sunday afternoon. That’s why it’s so much work.

Afternoon:
Nothing much. Slept in front of the fireplace, read a bit of a book, took it relatively easy.

Monday:
Despite my enthusiasm to start Bike to Work Month, we had one of the worst riding days in months, weather-wise. Mom, Dad, and I all rode anyway — into 15 mph to 30 mph headwinds. Crossing the I-90 bridge was totally harrowing. Despite averaging a mere 13.3 mph, I felt so exhausted by the time I arrived at the Bike Alliance that I just laid down on the floor for a while.

Just before I got to work, I had this little enlightening experience. Imagine an older man in a small gray Toyota pickup truck. He was right behind me, tooting the horn insistently, as I rode down S. Dearborn St. I was out in the lane, avoiding the bike lane because lots of motorists right hook cyclists and I’ve seen many narrow misses on that road. When the bike lane went away, he stopped honking. Eventually he pulled up next to me — I was in the far left lane, turning left, and he was in a middle lane going straight — and he wagged his finger at me sanctimoniously. I shook my head and pointed emphatically to indicate I was in the right place. He rolled down his window and we had the following exchange:

Him: You have to ride in the bike lane.
Me: No, bikes can ride anywhere on the road.
Him: No, bikes have to ride in the bike lane.
Me: I work for the Bicycle Alliance, I know this. Bikes can ride anywhere.
Him: No, bikes have to ride in the bike lane.
Light turns green and we start to go.
Me: Bikes are vehicles!

At least I got in the last word. It wasn’t an angry exchange at all, just one in which we were clearly in totally different worlds, communication-wise. Scary that some drivers are so frighteningly uneducated that they actually think bikes can’t leave bike lanes.

Had another depressing, bad day at work, except for the hour or so when I met with Ellen to debrief about our UCT class. I really like Ellen. I think I’ll invite her and her family over for dinner at our new house, when we have it and enough chairs to accommodate everybody.

Rode home into a steady north wind — yes, the wind turned around, so I had a headwind both ways — and also got soaked in pouring rain. All round a pretty horrible day, but at least it ended with a toasty shower and delicious sandwich. Now Mom is making brownies for her Bible study group, and I’m already imagining hot brownies with Tillamook vanilla ice cream… Yum.

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

Done!

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.

OhNoMyBrains

Day’s Verse:
By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work.
Genesis 2:2

Today was a work day. I hate weekends are work days. Last night I was out until 10:00 planning a bike class with my co-teacher, Ellen Aagaard (that doesn’t count for AmeriCorps hours, by the way. It’s just something I chose to do because I “like” it. I have chosen NOT to do any more of those for the time being). Then, this morning, I left the house at 8:45, drove to the Bike Alliance, picked up tabling supplies I had prepared yesterday, drove to the REI in Southcenter, tabled for 3 hours and taught one 20-minute bike commuting gear mini-class, packed up the tabling supplies, drove back to the Bike Alliance, dropped the supplies off, and arrived home at 3:30. If I’m counting right, that’s 7.25 hours on a Saturday.

I was really anxious about the mini-class. Initially I thought I had 10 to 12 minutes, and the talk I planned counted on having lots of group interaction in that time. Then I found out I had 30 minutes allotted and they expected it to be at least 20 minutes. I’ve never taught any type of class all on my own before, and 20 minutes seemed awfully long, even though from the classes I’ve co-taught I know 20 minutes flies by. I agonized and panicked, and then I had a good conversation with one of the staff members. Something she said gave me the idea of talking about gear in terms of a story, and what I ended up with was a quasi-autobiographical discussion of the evolution of my gear from when I started commuting with nothing special to now — when I look all serious and intimidating. I emphasized that every piece of gear I bought solved a problem, and that before you go buy anything, you should ride for a while and figure out what problems you want to solve. Then you look at your budget. The gear you buy is whatever fits in your budget and solves the problem. I had about 6 people sit down and listen to my talk, enough that I was able to interact some with them. Afterward, the REI coordinator came and told me that the people in the mini-class said it was quite good and they had enjoyed it, so I consider it a success. When I do it again next Saturday, I’ll pose problems and then take some time to solicit solutions from the audience.

After I got home, Ian and I walked over to one of the homes that has been high on my list. We’re concerned about the amount of sunlight it gets, because it’s got a huge hill directly to the west, and it abuts a green space with dense, tall trees. I talked to the neighbors on either side of the place and got some interesting input. It sounds like the homeowner’s association is very controlling, to the point of not allowing people to park their cars in their driveways. That definitely gives us pause. Tomorrow afternoon we’re going out with Linnea again. She said she’d look at as many homes as we had the stamina for. Can I just say right now I don’t have any stamina left after today?

Other random stuff:
1. I got my Washington State driver’s license today. Hehe.
2. I heard Mom and Dad got to Bolivia OK last weekend, but I haven’t heard from them since. Hope they’re staying out of trouble and away from horrible, life-long diseases.
3. Ian and I agreed that house hunting has had one positive impact: We’re working closely as a team and really enjoying it.
4. I hope to make some homemade bread some day in the future. Next time I have >3 hours free.
5. I keep longing for my bike. It’s in the shop right now, but will take at least a month. Sad face.
6. I rode 173 miles on the rental bike this week.
7. I’m going to go watch a brainless movie, or possibly fall asleep in front of the fireplace. So tired.