On my way in

September 7, 2009 by

last week I took the DATA bus and, having missed breakfast, decided to bike through the drive through at the Hardees and get a biscuit, as I used to do when I came this way. (Ever tried to order at the speaker box at a drive through on a bike? Not possible. We are not enough to trip the magnetic whatever-it-is; you just have to bike around.)

The woman at the window greeted me with a big warm smile and a hello, which was nice, and I ordered my usual egg and cheese biscuit. Looking out across the street from that vantage I noticed that the old field, which I’d been fond of—it seemed like one of the few wild and historic places left in the Park, I always get the sense that things happened there—is being torn up and a big new building put in. I immediately thought it must be another pharmaceutical company.

I asked the woman if she knew what was happening. “Durham County Library,” she said, and I said, “That’s great! What a good thing.” It is a good thing. And now maybe I will actually go to the library. (Of course, what will happen to the one downtown?)

I wanted to say “That’s the best news I’ve gotten all day,” but the day had not been going on very long so it wouldn’t have sounded that impressive. So I just said thanks very much and smiled a lot. And she gave me my biscuit, and I biked along.

Dear Locopops,

June 6, 2009 by

I pass your downtown Durham location, with its sign promising delicious popsicular refreshment, every time I ride my bike home. And every time, the sign is lying. Will I—and the denizens of our fledgling nouveau-downtown—have the delight of enjoying a creamy lime locopop? No. An elderberry lavender? No. A Mexican chocolate? Alas, no.

My plaint is a shared one: its most recent manifestation comes in a comment on Bull City Rising. And although it is better to have company in sadness, I find that the extent of my dismay can only be expressed in musical form:

Why, Locopops, why?
How many Cherry Hibiscus or Jasmine Green Tea
Would I have to buy
To cause you to open your dulcet downtown doors?
Twos? Threes? Three and a doggy pop? Fours?

With affection, your


Retracing an old ride. Also, stripes!

May 15, 2009 by

I happened to drive to work by way of my old bike route today. It felt good to pass through those scenes again, kind of like how it feels to sing a song you haven’t sung in a long time. I remember a lot about those roads—I could feel where the most egregious potholes and bumps were, and I knew at which points I would find wider, safer margins between the lane and the white reflective stripe.

Incidentally, I have longed for some time to see the machine that paints those stripes. The contraption I have imagined, involving a wheel with four paintbrushes sticking out of it, the rotation of which causes the brushes to hit the pavement (after dipping into a bucket of paint hidden somewhere in the machine) and make the dotted lines, is probably not exactly how they really do it. Esp. because how would they paint a solid line with my model?

There are many turns on my old route, and it crosses a muddy creek and passes by two really nice gardens whose owners I always wanted to stop and talk with. I never did. But I imagined doing it, and it’s possible I could still meet them. Just as it’s possible that one day, I’ll be biking through some cursed construction zone when, before my amazed eyes, the stripe-painting machine will appear, and I will witness just how those lines get made.

And if I’m really lucky, I will be able to convince the driver to paint a message in Morse code, dots and dashes down the road, one that proclaims the real possibilities of getting around by bike, that puts a garden at every street corner, outlines a strategy for gender equity while we’re at it, and just in case they’re needed, includes the best lines from some poems, the ones I wish I’d memorized.*

I can see that, potentially, it will need to be a very long message. But this is America, which has more roads than any other country. Knew they’d come in handy for something.




* ..-. — .-. / .. -. … – .- -. -.-. . –..– / .-..-. – …. . / ..-. — .-. -.-. . / – …. .- – / – …. .-. — ..- –. …. / – …. . / –. .-. . . -. / ..-. ..- … . / -.. .-. .. …- . … / – …. . / ..-. .-.. — .– . .-. .-.-.- / .-.-.- / .-.-.- / .-.-.- .-..-.

On my ride home,

April 24, 2009 by

the smell of pine needles under a very hot (for April) sun. Relief to get to the shade of the bikeway, where I saw a caterpillar crossing the trail. One of those ones, I know them from when I was little, the black and yellow and white ones that like rosebush leaves and have a small number of elegant white stand-up-tall hairs. They are the closest thing to what “caterpillar” means to me.

They don’t sting. They dislike crawling on your hands—salt? texture? not sure why, but our hands obviously feel much different than the leaves and stems on which they like to travel. And they are so soft, kitten soft, and their heads are small, round, expressive, and also fuzzy.

I don’t even know what they become. Several childhood experiments (the leaves, the jar, holes poked in the lid, the hopeful stick for building a cocoon or chrysalis or whatever it is these ones build) ended in failure, alas.

There’s something important about knowing what animal, what plant is what before you know an official name for it. The-ones-that-like-rosebush-leaves. Now, though, I think it is time I found out. I am not going to search online for it; I am going to ask a real person, who lives where I grew up and studies biology and will likely know. I will let you know what I find.

Bikes on Etsy

March 30, 2009 by

I do love Etsy, and I have a running wish list of hand-made, bike-themed stuff for sale there. Here are a few of my current favorites:

This lil bag is the perfect size for bus fare, and it would be hard to lose!

This lil bag is the perfect size for bus fare, and it's so bright it would be hard to lose.

Tell your bike how you feel. Do it often.

Tell your bike how you feel. Do it often.

Would it be redundant to sport such a bag whilst riding ones bike? I will let you be the judge.

Would it be redundant to sport such a bag whilst riding one's bike? I will let you be the judge.

I just cant stand it! These are the best. (Not cats, I know, but still.)

The convergence of bikes, nice animals, and letterpress. So many good things I just can't take it! (No cats, I know, but foxes and hounds are a close second.)

Very fine, this would look very fine. And it is not purely decorative, for it may serve as a close-range reminder of alternate forms of transit. —okay, its mostly decorative.

Very fine, this would look very fine. And it is not purely decorative, for it would serve as a close-range reminder of alternate forms of transit. (Okay, it's mostly decorative.)

One of my favorite bike screen prints ever.

One of my favorite bike screen prints ever.

Biking with coffee: the dilemma

March 30, 2009 by
Youd need nerves of steel to look this relaxed.

You'd need nerves of steel to look this relaxed. But then, he has a nice smooth road to bike on.

Anyone who has tried to ride a bike while holding a paper to-go cup of coffee will tell you that it’s no picnic. The fact that anyone at all has tried it is proof of a dilemma, one in which two desires—the wish to get to work on your own power and by public transit, and the wish (need?) to have a cup of coffee at hand for the journey—converge, with potentially disastrous results.

I will confess to being among that group of people who have tried this trick repeatedly. But my latest attempt has convinced me to give up my wayward habits.

One morning last week, I planned to bike down the worst road in Durham to the coffee shop and get a cup of coffee on my way to the new bus station.

To get a cup of coffee before the station was relocated, I had to bike down that worst road, get the coffee, and bike back the same way to get to the bus stop. Much spilling of coffee typically ensued. And always on the sensitive part of my hand, that spot between thumb and first finger. But I thought that, what with the new station, my prospects would improve. I would not only avoid the bad-road-and-coffee combo, but also I would skip the usual route’s terrifying loop under the railroad underpass and subsequent turn with no left-arrow signal.

It was a noble hope. But I had neglected to remember that the street which passes the coffee shop is one way, in the wrong direction.

I also forgot, once within the coffee shop, to ask for a small coffee in a large cup. This is the only way to do it if you are determined to bike with a disposable cup. Nonetheless, I paid, put in the half and half, and then stood out on the sidewalk trying to problem solve. The problems were many:

How to get on the bike whilst holding the coffee? How to balance and begin moving forward, and how to get down from the curb (thankfully a small one) and quickly back up on the sidewalk since the road, as I have mentioned, was one-way? Stopping precariously at an intersection; watching as my bus pulled in to the station but prevented from speeding to catch it on account of the traffic and the slowly spilling coffee; and then, having noticed a street that seemed to provide an entry to the back side of the station, turning left across four lanes of traffic only to discover that I am on a high hill with the bays of the station spread below me; I could carry bike and coffee down a long stairway, it seems, or take a long elbow of a street that will put me out—yes! right near my bus, which is waiting at the distant curb.

Knowing I have at most two, three minutes, I start down. Left turn signal with the coffee-cup hand. I can see that the bus is still there, hazard lights blinking, if only it will wait for me to get to where the driver can see me; pull up next to it & make the last of many near-calamitous stops, feet brakes spilling coffee on the web of my fingers again, the driver is writing things down in a little booklet & does not look at all like she’s about to leave. Thank goodness. Put everything down, put the bike on the bus, use the nice coffee-shop napkins to wipe the coffee off my cup and my hand, and finally, at last, get in. Success!

But at what cost? Even if I act tough and discount my scalded paw, there’s the cost of potentially getting run over or crashing or even just dropping the whole cup on the ground, just for starters.

Never fear, though, dear bikers, for there are better solutions. Stay tuned.

Cat on bike, artsy style

March 26, 2009 by

Heres a pretty one. Its by Jay Ryan.

Here’s a pretty one. It’s by Jay Ryan. He also has a nice periodical cicada (not on a bike, but cicadas are so baaad they just maybe don’t need bikes. That’s what happens when you got wings, a big noisemaker, and a lot of stuff you need to eat really quick. You might think of repurposing a bike to suit your own needs, but you just don’t think of riding one. Nope.

But if you are an entomologist or an ecologist, you might consider riding a bike. And you might also think of mapping cicadas). What was I saying?. . . . Yeah, cat on bike!

Fun with crosstown travel

March 25, 2009 by

Point A: A lecture on the Oulipo at Duke’s Perkins Library. Point B: Toast, in downtown Durham, participant in Wednesday’s Dine Out for Kids benefit and a guaranteed good meal. Dream A: Stop working and spend all day thinking up algorithms to perform on archaic texts. Dream B: Have minestrone soup for dinner.*

Route: Down Chapel Drive in the bumpy bike lane (labeled, charmingly, “only bikes”), around the roundabout, currently planted with pansies intruded upon by red-orange tulips, up Campus Drive, which I had imagined would be more uphill than it was, and which has a bike lane so bumpy one cannot be distracted for a moment, under 147 past paint dripped on the sidewalk by fraternity and sorority graffiti-ers, up and around to Main Street. Well.

I have mentioned that a small section of Main Street is the worst road in Durham. I must now extend that assessment to include Main Street up to Campus Drive. Good grief. Uneven, narrow lanes with cars going super-fast through erratically routed intersections. How can one dream of minestrone, or of procedural poetics for that matter, when one is busting tail over the potholes in fear for one’s safety? I submit that one cannot.

One can, however, make it through to discover (a true coincidence, I tell you!) that Soup of the Day #2 is minestrone. With sweet potato, no less. Some dreams get to come true.

Some other ones—well, let’s just say I’ve got to learn 1) to wake up earlier and 2) how to make those pencil-and-paper Turing machines.

*Did I mention that it was cold, and that I forgot my mittens this morning? The real world intrudes upon the dream world; it’s not always bad.

Horse & Buggy (& bike)

March 25, 2009 by

News, of the t00-late variety: Horse & Buggy Press, for its open house this past Third Friday in Durham, offered a free brew to anyone arriving by bike. You had to scroll past the pretty picture and read the small print to find out beforehand.

How sad I am to have discovered this just yesterday. For we, in our ignorance, drove on Third Friday (for lo, it was cold), and ventured only to the Scrap Exchange and to the Carolina for a late movie.

But what good cheer, my fellow cyclists, to learn that you were regaled with beers upon your two-wheeled arrival. And that Full Frame is using a local press for its posters. Cheers!

Greensboro: Future home of the Bicycling Hall of Fame?

March 24, 2009 by

Word is that Greensboro, NC, is one of two finalist locations for the U.S. Bicycling Hall of Fame. The USBHOF is, according to Wikipedia, a private organization currently located in New Jersey. It’s been seeking a home. The other finalist? Davis, CA. The inductees, at least of late, are heavy on the racers, light on the commuters and community activists. C’est la vie, I suppose. At least they haven’t ignored women cyclists.

Early commentors on the (GSO) News and Record writeup have noted their surprise at the choice of their fine city for such an honor. My initial thoughts were along those lines as well. Can a gorgeous railing made of bikes really make up for the lack of a bike-friendly east-west corridor through the city? (This is especially ironic given that one of the only city-long east-west streets is called, yes, Friendly Ave….) But then, maybe the kinds of cyclists these folks are most interested in are not those who navigate cities by bike. Or, to consider it from a kindlier angle, here are the wise words of another commentor on the N&R piece:

Greensboro is neither pedestrian nor bike friendly—but then few modern southern cities are. Perhaps this is just the thing we need to help draw attention to that sad truth.

I could get behind that, yes I could. And some folks already are: Check out BIG, Bicycling in Greensboro, an advocacy group for bike-friendly communities, which appears to be doing some good stuff. C’mon, Hall of Fame. The Triad needs you.


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