Tag Archives: bicycles

What I Did On My Winter Vacation.

Me & My Bike
Photo: P. Blanarik

On Thanksgiving Day I had turkey and all the fixings, excellently prepared by my husband (he always says I help, but really I push microwave buttons.) Then I put my bicycle in a truck and drove 22 hours to Key Largo, Florida. I spent 8 days riding to Key West and back (with a little South Beach Miami thrown in) with two awesome dudes.

We crossed 40 bridges (including the famous Seven Mile Bridge), rode at least 300 miles, had two flat tires, stayed in four campgrounds and two hotels, visited Ernest Hemingway’s house, the Southernmost Point of the United States, and the historic Key West Cemetery, drank gallons of water and coffee (and adult beverages), watched the sun rise and set every day in a most spectacular fashion, and formed a serious love/hate relationship with mile markers (at least I did.)

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What a good librarian I am!

The Good (besides all of it)

  • I’m a good camper! My tent came out of the box for the first time on this trip. Now I can put up a tent in heavy wind in the dark on gravel while fighting off fire ants.
  • I learned exactly how much stuff I need. And it’s not a lot. Next trip: less clothes and toiletries, more fluffy stuff to sleep on top of.
  • Getting to know my two traveling buddies. We were together (more or less) 24/7 for 10 days. This included over 40 hours of sitting in a truck cab and riding 5 to 6 hours a day together, plus every meal. We really got to know each other and it was a fantastic experience.
  • The ADVENTURE. For most of the trip, we had only a vague idea of where we were going to stay each night. We saw giant lizards, endangered Key Deer, all variety of sea birds, and miles of open water. We rode on beautiful fresh pavement and gravel and sand. We met people who offered us camping space in their yard (“If I’m not home, just throw your sh*t in my yard and go have a beer.”) and lots of fellow travelers. In case there was ever any doubt, Pittsburghers are everywhere.

The Bad (as bad as being in paradise can be)

  • Did you know you can get sunburn on your elbows? How about the crook of your arm? Behind your ears? I assure you, you can and it is exquisitely painful. Use sunscreen, lots of it, and make sure you get ALL THE PARTS.
  • It’s winter. Things close early and you end up eating dinner at Walgreen’s. Due to poor planning, several times we missed the dinner boat. We did learn, however, that you can get Chinese food delivered to a state park. And to always have snacks on hand.
  • You’re going to have a day you don’t want to ride. And you’ll have to do it anyway. And every single mile marker will be a punch in your teeth. And you’ll have a headwind. And you’ll be happy that you did it.
  • Coming home to the cold was traumatic. I hate fixing my hair and wearing grown-up clothes again.

Read about far more epic trips than mine!

TheLostCyclistThe Lost Cyclist, David V. Herlihy

Pittsburgh dude! In 1892, Pittsburgh accountant Frank Lenz quit his job to cycle around the world, ostensibly as a correspondent for Outing magazine. After two years and nearly 20,000 miles, he disappeared in eastern Turkey. In what seems like a supremely stupid move, Outing magazine sends another correspondent (William Sachtleben) to find out what happened to the first one.  Luckily, he doesn’t disappear and actually finds the people responsible. Herlihy documents not only the investigation, but (more interesting) Lenz’s epic bike ride around the world.

OfftheMapOff the Map: Bicycling Across Siberia, Mark Jenkins

Despite my love of all things Russian, this is NOT a trip I will be taking. Seven people (three Americans and four Soviets) rode 7,000 miles from the Sea of Japan to Leningrad in Soviet Russia, much of it through swamps on dirt roads.  They encountered angry KGB agents and extraordinary Russians and lived on a diet of potatoes, bread and milk with nary a Walgreen’s in sight. Bag of nopes.

50PlacestoBikeFifty Places to Bike Before You Die, Chris Santella

We are already talking about 2014’s trip to Key West. This time we want to be there for the full moon. But this book has inspired me to think bigger! Why not RAGBRAI or the Tour de Tuli? Although I’ll pass on the Washington State Challenge (320 miles in 24 hours, with 32 miles up hill!).

MilesfromNowhereMiles From Nowhere, Barbara Savage

For two years, Barbara and Larry Savage traveled around the world on their bikes. Covering 25 countries and 23,000 miles, it was the trip of a lifetime, planned on a whim over dinner. And they did it on bikes way less fancy than mine. The book is a little dated (1983) and their description of riding in the Florida Keys is the polar opposite of mine: the Seven Mile Bridge was described as a “nightmare.” In my case, it was one of the most beautiful, exhilarating parts of the ride! SPOILER ALERT: Barbara Savage died in a bicycle wreck right before this book was published!

Tons more pictures if you’re so inclined!

happy trails-
suzy

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Being green is not for everyone; or why I love my car.

I have a confession to make. Well, it’s not really a confession per se, as it’s not a secret and I don’t feel guilty about it – but still, here goes:

My name is Amy, and I drive a car to work. Alone. Five days a week or more.

“Oh the horror!” you exclaim. “Surely in these days of global warming, economic crisis, and high gas prices, there must be something you can do!”

Well yes, I am doing a few things. My tires are properly inflated, I have taken all of the useless weight out of my car, and I tend to drive at the speed limit now (which is boring, but it does save gas). But all of those other enviromentally-trendy things? Here’s why they don’t work for me.

Hybrids: Sure, hybrids are neato. But I’ve finally paid off my non-gas-guzzling compact, and I really don’t want to be saddled with another car payment, not to mention the potential increase in my insurance. As long as my monthly gas bill is less than a new car payment, I’m not switching.

Walking: I live 15 miles away from this here library, so walking is right out. Though we do have more than one librarian here who walks to work most every day – and good for them, I say! Maybe offering them a ride now and then can be my way of atoning for my continued car ownership. Any takers?

Bicycling: Ah, the smug bicycle-riding public. Now don’t get me wrong, many of them are quite nice and I certainly don’t wish them any harm. But again, I must point out that “I live 15 miles away” thing – and that’s 15 miles straight and true on the parkway. There’s no way I’d survive bicycle + parkway, even if it were permitted. And I’m sure that the library would like me to reach work 1. alive, 2. presentable, and 3. vaguely on time. That’s not going to happen with a bicycle.

(Another thing that annoys me about bicycles – those who park in the same garage as I do sometimes complain about the bicycle facilities, and they don’t even pay for parking! Meanwhile, I lose a chunk of every paycheck for the privilege of parking where I work. So shove it, bicycle peeps.)

Carpools: Sharing a ride and saving money sounds like a great idea, but where am I going to find a carpool that will stick around until 6 or 8 PM to wait for me? The library has some odd hours, you know. And I doubt that I can find three other people willing to listen to my preferred books on CD.

Public transportation: Ah, the bus. Again, great if you live in the city, but not so great for those of us on the outer limits. In the city you can choose from any number of routes and stops, but out where I live, there is only. one. bus. that would take me anywhere useful – and I’d still have to drive ten minutes to the nearest bus stop.

(I used to take the bus now and then when I was an undergrad, until the fateful day when someone puked in the back. Imagine spending a 45-minute trip watching particolored chunks of vomit and soppy bile rolling up and down the grimy rubber floor mats of the bus as it climbs and descends the rolling hills of western Pennsylvania – all the while keeping your feet up on your seat and hoping that the driver doesn’t make any sudden turns or abrupt stops. Nearly poetic, eh? If that doesn’t put you off riding the bus, I’m not sure what will.)

Moving closer to work: Well, there’s the higher rent, the higher taxes, the higher cost of living, the higher insurance, and who knows what else. Heck, even gas is more expensive in the city, sometimes by as much as an extra ten cents per gallon! So sure, I could move closer, but I doubt I could afford it unless I defaulted on my student loans. I like my credit rating the way it is, thank you kindly.

And there you have it – why green transportation is not for me. So the next time you’re sitting in a bus sneering at the people in the cars beside you, stop and think – maybe this is the best they can do. As for me, I’ll turn up my stereo and relax, and I promise to look out for your bicycle.

-Amy

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Hi Ho, Hi Ho, It’s Off to Work We Go

Once the clocks changed last month, I suddenly realized that it was going to be time to go back to Two Wheels, Not Four on my daily commute.  Biking is my method of choice for getting to and from work every day, as long as the weather cooperates for me; and for a city as hilly as Pittsburgh, there are a heck of a lot of us out there with our helmets on and the breeze in our faces.  Bike Pittsburgh and Free Ride are just two advocacy organizations that can help you get on this carbon-footprint-free, healthy, economical bandwagon, by offering safe riding tips, a DIY repair shop with expert help, and low-cost bikes.

Of course, another alternative to car commuting is walking.  Did you know that Pittsburgh was ranked among the top 10 most walkable cities in the U.S.?  In my mind, that fact combines perfectly with our status in the top 10 most literate cities — walk and read at the same time!!  Use one of our eAudio services, or if you don’t have an mp3 player, borrow a playaway!  Gone are the days of an extra pound of equipment and multiple CDs per book, although if you really are stuck with the car commute, we have plenty of those, as well.  (It doesn’t particularly relate to commuting, but you can calculate your neighborhood’s walkability at walkscore.com.)

One more obvious choice in car-free commuting is public transportation, again with the distinct advantage of being able to get in some quality reading time.  But there are other options as well, which you can learn about at commuteinfo.org, a website for commuters and employers by the Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission

So whether you cycle, hoof it, bus, carpool, or drive, just remember to watch out for each other and be safe!

-Kaarin

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