Thursday, November 4, 2010

Back in the Saddle



Well I am finally back in the saddle and let me tell you, it hurts!  I don't mean the actual bike seat or saddle as known in the Cycling vernacular.  I just mean it hurts.  My whole body . . . but especially my right lung which I think no longer exists.  I must apologize for being out of "bloget" for such a long time but such is life.  Just to touch on where I've been and what I've been doing; I had HUGE tax deadlines at my office in September and October and worked most days, including week-ends until 11 pm or after.  Let me tell you, my beautiful two-wheeled silver steed was sorely missed.  Additionally, I have been dealing with a serious family issue involving my youngest sibling and my heart has been breaking for her and for my mom and my other much loved siblings during this incredibly tough time.  I would love to talk about what is happening with her as I know there are people out there that would be able to offer much needed advice or would be helped by knowing her story but this is her journey and even if I tried to tell it, it belongs on a blog dedicated to that topic.  On top of all that, I have been sick for 3 weeks with some crazy alien flue bug which in the aftermath, feels like I am left with only one lung and that one feels like it is threatening to surrender.    So now you know where I've been and I'm sure your day is much better now that you know that Commuter Girl may have been down, but she's definitely not out.  I feel as though I have missed 3 or 4 weeks of my life that I will never get back.  The days here have been so beautiful.  Some days are grey and misty in the morning, breathtaking at mid-day, and dark as the kohl black eyeliner of the self-identity-seeking young junior high girls I cruise past by the time I go home at 6:30-(ish).  Speaking of "ish", those of you that actually know me, know that the extremely important time marking parameter know as "ish" can encompass a time period of a few minutes to several hours.  I have seriously lamented over this flaw my entire life, and it was driven home the other day when S1 and S2 came back from a school meeting where they had taken personality tests that labeled their personality type in one of four colors and they were yelling, "Mom you are so an "Orange".  I did not even have to bother taking the test as after they read to me the personality traits of the Orange I realized, why fight it?  I am definitly an "Orange" which explains a lot and that also means that I am not a freak and better yet, that there are a lot more people out there exactly like me!   Believe it or not, that person in your life that seems to be selfish, uncaring and continuously late is in fact a huge asset when it comes to out-of-the-box problem solving and getting things done.  We are an action and task oriented breed so all you type A people that I have offended my entire life, I apologize.  I was born this way and someone exactly like me will save your a_ _ in a time of crises.  What does this have to do with bicycling or commuting you say? Absolutely nothing.  That is the beauty of being an Orange.  There are no rules in the life of a Commuter Girl.  We strive daily to make a positive impact, whether it be on two wheels, four wheels or two feet.  The point is to never give up and why not ride your bike?  You will feel better and that in itself is a gift to yourself, your family and your world. 

 For those of you that stumbled upon this blog hoping for info regarding a bike saddle or seat. Check out the blog below.  No need to give you my take, when he has done such an excellent job
http://www.jimlangley.net/crank/bicycleseats.html

Copyright 2009-2010 CommuterGrl.Blogspot.com All Rights Reserved

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Giveaway coming soon!

Get ready for giveaways!  Coming soon to Commuter Girl. 

Copyright 2009-2010 CommuterGrl.Blogspot.com All Rights Reserved

Monday, August 30, 2010

Left Turns and Taming the Ragemonster

I have really been trying to get the whole family on board with the bicycling thing and believe me, telling a 17 year old that a bicycle is better than a car is a tough issue to take on.  S1 is an artsy,  sensitive, caring, periodically vegetarian, environment-loving person in all other aspects of his life, but when I try to say, "let's take our bikes!", whoa - I get a totally unexpected response.  I am sure this is in direct relation to the fact that by living in L.A. he has had to start driving later than his friends and cousins that live in a more rural setting combined with the fact that I have been in no hurry for my child to start driving around crazy L.A. in a metal death trap so I drug out his permit process for as long as I possibly could, therefore I am now reaping the result: It doesn't matter if we are going two streets over, he wants to drive a freaking car!  That being said, I still have S2 who although she idolizes S1 and tends to parrot a lot of his ideals,  still loves her mom and after all, she is the reason we started this biking adventure and on top of that she has a really cool bike.  So what's not to love?
 I talk her into riding with me on a beautiful Saturday morning to her acting workshop and then on to CVS, lunch and to the mall area for hair-cuts and pampering.  What fun right?  Well as we ride along, I can tell that she is fluctuating between loving it and a why-did-I-let-her-talk-me-into-this attitude.  I figure I won't acknowledge it and just let the bike and the beautiful day do it's work on her.  It was perfect.  We ride down the peaceful tree-lined streets, mother and daughter, chatting about the day.  As we turn on a more main street, Verdugo, I explain that she should stay pretty close to me for safety reasons and that it is easier for cars to see us together than if we let distance get between us.   As soon as I say that, the rebellious teen thing kicks in and she starts to lag behind.  We don't have that far to go so it works out fine.  We lock the bike's up with no problem (love not having to look for parking) and head up to the The House of Actors's http://www.houseofactors.com/ for her workshop.  After the workshop, which goes great btw, we start heading West on Verdugo with the intention of stoping by CVS on the way home.  This is where I have to hand in my Mom card.  We are heading West in the Verdugo bike lane from Victory and we have a big intersection coming up that involves 3 streets: Verdugo, Olive and Sparks.

I tell S2 to stay right behind me and I eyeball the intersection up ahead, everything looks good.  No traffic, we have our own lane so everything should be fine.  We stop at the red-light, I tell her "let's go!" when the light turns green and off we go, through the intersection continuing west on Verdugo, in the brand new bike lane on the right side of the street.  I am continuing to look ahead as I also look back to check on S2 and say "Stay with Me" as we are going to be turning.  You see, we need to turn left into CVS.  It Shouldn't be a problem because there is essentially no traffic and I know the rules right?  So as soon as we cross the intersection, I tell S2 "Do exactly what I do" and I signal with no cars behind me, that we are entering the car lane as we will soon be turning left.  Suddenly I jump out of my skin and almost eat it on the pavement when a car driver honks loudly right behind me, and then proceeds to stomp on the gas and pass me to the Right, in the bike lane yelling something I cannot hear.  I turn to make sure my daughter is safe, when a 2nd car does the same thing, honking and passing to the right very aggressively and illegally in the bike lane because 1 minute of their life having to wait on a bicyclist to get out of the way is too long when finally a third car pulls to the right of me and slows down.  A woman rolls down her window and screams at me to get in the bike lane and  . . I lose it.  She is right beside me, in my face and I totally screamed back F--- Y--!!!! and she of course responds back with the universal friendly hand gesture and I turn into our destination, shaking, enraged and ashamed.   I know immediately that although I was not wrong, the woman learned nothing from that exchange and in fact all I did was confirm to in her mind that bicyclists are idiots or that I was an idiot, or whatever.  Why I didn't say, "Um, We are  turning left! Lady" or something to that effect which would have at least explained that she was in the wrong or at least educated her to fact that what were were doing was legal and correct, I don't know.  Ugh.  In looking back, I hadn't signaled quite yet because I was looking back for S2 and there was a little street with cars to the left of the McDonald's that were waiting to come into my lane so I couldn't signal until we were past it so the cars wouldn't think we were turning earlier and try to come out on top of us when the crazy car drivers behind us honked and scared me to the point that I had to grip the handle bars with two hands making signaling at that point extremely difficult.  So how did it end? My daughter was scared and humiliated and would not speak to me for 15 minutes while I asked for forgiveness and tried to explain my actions and that although it was not the correct response, and that I was very sorry I reacted that way, sometimes a deeply hidden ragemonster overrides the intelligent caring person she normally knows as her mom.
by: Mark Harmon http://harmonillustration.blogspot.com/2009_08_01_archive.html

After explaining every detail of the incident to my husband Borgbiker and B.i.l. (brother-in-law) over delicious Philly cheese steaks and pizza at South Street http://www.southstreetcheesesteak.com/, I realized that I should have taken the safest route with my daughter and stopped at the light and crossed the street on the crosswalk to the opposite side like a pedestrian rather than pissing off the cars and possibly putting both our lives in danger.   I hate that I did not represent bicyclists very well to the car drivers and even more so that I didn't represent myself very well in front of my impressionable daughter.  Oh well, we hugged it out, went on to have a great afternoon on the bikes and chalked it up to lessons learned.  Thank goodness we are still here to learn from it.  So biggest lesson learned? It is better to take a little extra time and make the safest choice rather than try to prove a point and possibly lose the chance to ride a bike ever again.
Life is short enough.  Love people, love life, love your bike.

- Commuter Girl

Safety Tips for Bicyclists:
http://www.dmv.ca.gov/pubs/brochures/fast_facts/ffdl37.htm


Copyright 2009-2010 CommuterGrl.Blogspot.com All Rights Reserved

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Critical Mass S.F. Valley - Perspective from a first timer




So this past Tuesday night I fully embraced my alter ego, Commuter Girl.  My mission, to present an alternative view to an alternative mode of transportation, in other words, to save the world, one massive bike ride at a time starting with Critical Mass, the Valley.  It was exhilarating.  I left my workplace at Ventura and Balboa around 7:00 and peddled like a crazy person to get there by 7:15 when I thought the group ride might be leaving.   I had pictured thousands of bicyclists, from intense road bikers, to fun-loving families, to hippy environmentalists, to bike shop owners all joining together in one harmonious mass to take over the streets of the valley in a two-wheeled swarm to highlight the mutual vision that biking is the new cool in L.A.   When I arrived at the designated meeting spot, I was surprised to see less than ten cyclists.  Not to fear, as B.i.l. and I waited, more cyclists continued to arrive.  It was very interesting to note the overall hipster vibe as more and more cyclists showed up.   I was a little concerned that I would not fit in, my Commuter Girl alter ego began to waver as I wondered if I had maybe made a mistake.  After all, I don't have any cool tattoos on display, I still had on my work jacket and jewelry and I wondered if the practice of having gauges with a 1/2  hole in the earlobe decreased wind resistance due to the prevalence of them among my fellow bicyclists.  On top of that, I was suddenly fully aware of what must be my status of bike nerd as I sat with helmet on, the glint of the setting sun off my big chrome mirror, bell and water bottle holder all claiming their place proudly on my handle bars temporarily blinding any unfortunate hipsters lounging nearby.   Not to worry, after taking some pictures of a couple of really cool fixie style bikes and helping a fellow cyclist pump up their tire, my insecurities began to subside.  When the call rang out to "Roll Out!" Commuter Girl was ready to roll, albeit if one looked closely, clenched knuckles and a trickle of sweat on her brow gave evidence to a bit of residual trepidation.
     We took off from the corner of Woodley and Victory at a good clip heading East with some riders claiming the road and others the bike path.  Riding in a large group means that you must be aware of fellow cyclists behind, in front, and to the left and right of you.  I was a little worried that I might not be able to keep up with this pack of 20-something spinning L.A. scenesters and I had a ditch plan in place in case I needed it.  My concerns turned out to be inconsequential as the people were accepting, the ride was exhilarating and I could keep up, in fact I was in the front half of the pack the entire way . . I know,  unbelievable but true.   We rode East to Sepulveda and hooked a right and headed down to Ventura Blvd where people yelled out "Left!" or "Right!".  The Left's won out and we turned left and headed as a pack down Ventura Blvd. taking over the far right East bound lane.  It was . . amazing.  Any rider that has ridden alone for long knows the feeling of fear that certain car drivers love to dish out with aggressive movements, honking, sideswiping, rude gesturing or even yelling.  With Critical Mass, the fear is gone.  No motorized vehicle can take on a group of that size.  You are left with a feeling a total freedom, security and comradeship as you revel in the feeling of blood pumping to your brain, the wind parting before you and you can't help but join in the primitive cries not unlike our native American predecessors on their way to take part in what must have been sweet retribution.  I rode with Critical Mass from Ventura, North up Van Nuys and East again on Chandler, finally leaving them at Laurel Canyon where alas I had to split off and go home so I could pick up the S-twins from the Bob Hope Airport on time.  One of the best parts? - I almost had a better story to tell than the S-twins and they both exhibited just the right amount of pride and horror as I recounted my adventures with my new found fellows at Critical Mass. Over all, it was a great time and I can't wait to take part in the next ride so fellow commuter girls and guys, find that alter ego and meet us at the locations listed below.  If we simply make drivers in L.A. a little more aware of us cyclists or better yet recruit a few of those drivers to cycling, then mission accomplished.  So join us at the next Critical Mass here in L.A. or find it in your city, you won't regret it.

Locations

Central L.A. Ride 

Meets At Western & Wilshire at the Metro Stop
Gather 7:00 PM. Ride Leaves at 7:30 PM
The last Friday of the month.

San Fernando Valley Ride

Every First Tuesday of the month
Victory Blvd. & Woodley Ave. Van Nuys (southwest corner)
by the bike racks and lockers off the Orange Line Bike Path.
Orange Line Woodley stop.
Gather 7:00PM :: Ride Leaves 8:00PM











Copyright 2009-2010 CommuterGrl.Blogspot.com All Rights Reserved

Monday, August 2, 2010

Seat Height

Another tip for any and all bike commuters out there would be to check your seat height.  I recently raised my seat an inch or so and it has made a HUGE difference.  I was experiencing major thigh burning and was just a tad concerned that I was going to be able to pull off a freaky Arnold Schwarzenegger impersonation from the waist down.

Don't get me wrong, I like the Govinator and all, I just don't want to have his thighs and my husband would probably agree.  On a more serious note, I was not getting the proper leg extension which progressed into major muscle fatigue and overall slowness.  I could not figure out why my thighs were constantly in pain and I never felt anything at all in my calf muscles.  Raising my seat did the trick, and I noticed an immediate change.  My speed and endurance increased dramatically so after researching it a bit I discovered that it is actually very important that your leg is able to fully extend when the peddle is as close to the ground as it can get.  Your knee should only have a slight bend.   It turns out that most people think that their feet should touch the ground flat footed while on the seat and this is actually not correct.  When standing flat footed on the ground you should clear the top bar (if you have one) by an inch or two.  The seat is another story entirely.  When on the bike seat, you are supposed to be able to get full leg extension even if that means you have to come off the bike when you come to a stop.  In my case, I raised my seat a little bit last Friday and today I raised it some more.  I am able to put the tip of my right shoe down when I come to a stop and that is about it.  I can stay on the seat if I lean the bike slightly to the right.  I never put my left foot down anyway due to a previous ankle injury but I am hoping that I will continue to gain some strength on that side as time passes. Taking into consideration that time will help with getting used to the way the bike feels when I stop and I will be a little more comfortable a few days from now, I can tell you my thigh muscles are thanking me today.  They feel great!   I am sure that the more seasoned cyclists that have seen me every week for the past several months have had to laugh at the girl peddling away with her knees in her chin, but hey, I figured it out.  Better late to the party, than to never have arrived at all, right? Besides, I am here for your amusement as well as mine.  It is the least I can do.   So give those thighs a break, raise your seat and let me know how it feels.
- Commuter Girl

Thursday, July 29, 2010

The journey home - July 29th

Riding home today was just beautiful.   It must have been around 73 degrees, sky was turquoise blue and the birds twittered happily as I  joined them in the California sunshine. This is why I love California.
























 Perfect way to end the day. Time for the hot tub, Good Night.
- Commuter Girl
Copyright 2009-2010 CommuterGrl.Blogspot.com All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Commute and Calories

So here is my commute based on Gmaps Pedometer.
http://www.gmap-pedometer.com/?r=3913946 


If you want to calculate your own commute, go here: http://www.gmap-pedometer.com and send me the link to your commute in a comment.  You can calculate it with the calorie counter on or off but I love to see how I'm doing on a ride, and if you don't have something on your bike to tell you, then this may provide a little motivation for you.  Little trick, if you don't want to show your weight, you can calculate it with the calorie counter on, then delete the weight field without hitting enter, and do a screen shot (like I did above).  It will show calories burned without showing your weight although if someone was really lame and had the time and inclination, they could do the math to figure it out.  I would love to hide the weight on mine and truth be told, the weight I plugged in is not exactly accurate and that's kind of the point isn't it? - to face it and see if I can get it to change.  Hopefully I will get better about owning it as I go along.   My b.i.l. (brother in law) also has a nifty bike computer that shows us speed as we go along so we can push ourselves a little bit from time to time.  (see here: http://www.amazon.com/Cateye-CC-RD100-8-Function-Bicycle-Computer)  I will have to get one for myself very soon (along with mace for when I ride by myself although my son, S1 of the S-twins, seems to think I am delusional to think I would need it, but hey, it makes me feel better).  I think I would like this one in addition as is shows the calories burned as you ride/run although not sure if it can show speed based on wheel revolutions: http://www.amazon.com/Garmin-Forerunner-405-Wireless-GPS-Enabled/dp/B0011UNMIK/ref=sr_1_32?ie=UTF8&s=sporting-goods&qid=1280268228&sr=1-32    Whatever techno toys we use to spur our intermittent motivation, I know that on the days when I don't feel like riding and muscles are still sore from the day before, knowing how many calories are going to be burned helps me get out the door, and I have never regretted it.  On the plus side, It feels great to bicycle down the hill for lunch and cruise in to get an amazing chicken sandwich from The Habit or a freakishly addicting burger from The Stand and not have to feel quite as guilty about it.  I do order a whole wheat bun at both places as a nod to making healthier choices, and believe me, I have learned to eat a good lunch on the days I am making that commute along with a snack right before I leave.   If I don't, then watch out fellow Valley bike commuters because at some point during the  ride home from Encino to Burbank around 7:00-7:30 something happens.  A ravenous beast seems to take over my psyche and I start to think that I will do anything to get some FOOD.  Seriously, I start to have the cravings of a crack addict and I start texting the family asking them to meet me at various food places along the route.   Not to say I don't like having the family meet me for some amazing chicken nachos or a shrimp scampi burrito at Poquito Mos on the way home, but I always hate myself in the morning.  Not to mention the fact that if I eat late after my ride, it feels like it sits in my gut for  2 or 3 days as a brutal reminder that I shouldn't have done it.  I have also had to get over the lie that the beast continuously tries to tell me; the "you just burned 4000 plus calories today, you can eat whatever you want"- lie.  I have really tried to re-commit to the fact that I can't just ride the bike and not pay attention to what and how much is going into my body.  I have to do both . . sigh.  :(    I guess what really matters at the end of the day is that I feel like I weigh 145 pounds when I am on the bike and in one not-too-distant day in the future, I really will.

- Commuter Girl

Monday, July 26, 2010

Tire Pressure: Mucho Importante!

My tip of the day for a new bicycle commuter would be to check your tire pressure before every ride without fail. The reason is that you can change the way you feel about commuting in a huge way based on the pressure of your bike tires. Changing the pressure from 75 to 80 lbs of pressure is akin to going from struggling to peddle sluggishly through sand to riding effortlessly on a smooth sheet of glass and that's just 5 lbs. of pressure producing that kind of variance!
Make sure you carry a tire gauge that fits both schrader and presta valves. (You never know when a fellow rider will need to borrow it or in my case, I have a schrader valve up front and a presta on the rear.)
I really like this one:
http://www.amazon.com/Zefal-Twin-Bicycle-Tire-Gauge/dp/B0011W9Q06/ref=cm_cr_pr_product_top/177-6901965-1260147

My b.i.l (brother-in-law and person I commute with every day) picked this up for around $8, I think he said. Will have to find out where he was able to get that price. In the meantime, I think its worth it even at $19 or $20.

Obviously you would also need a bike pump on your bike at all times as well as a a few tire levers, couple of spare tubes and a patch kit. I would also recommend that the bike pump be one that is easy to use for the typical Commuter Girl who may not have the insane Popeye forearms required to handle the typical bike mounted tire pump.
Having the right pump also keeps us from having to bat our lashes and act like ridiculous idiots when we need to maintain our own bicycle. Also if your commute buddy is a guy, I am sure he will be much appreciative of you "man-ing up" so to speak and taking care of your bike yourself. Plus it feels good right? If a man can do it, then I know I can: that's the Commuter Girl attitude; unless of course it involves snakes or weird noises in the middle of the night.

I will upload a video of me trying to use two different bike pumps later and why I like one more that the other taking into account my feeble forearms. It should be especially helpful for a new commuter to see how best to work with a presta valve.

Have a great day, I plan to.

- Commuter Girl

Saturday, July 24, 2010

My hood: Beautiful Downtown Burbank

So my hood may not exactly be "Downtown Burbank" but I think it's beautiful just the same. This is what I see when I take the bike out for a spin on a beautiful Saturday morning



Porto's: one of my favorite breakfast places, they have the most incredible fresh squeezed orange juice. You get to watch them make it right in front of you. Note how cute my bike looks in its parking place, and it didn't cost a thing.
http://www.portosbakery.com/





Part of the quandary I continuously seem to find myself in: Bike & Bakery Products - Do they go together? Well the French seem to partake in both . . so I think yes!

What in the name of all deliciousness are these things? Looks like something they would have in Narnia. Cuban delight anyone?

Indoor seating is taken, maybe outside? Guess not. Time to ride on and see what kind of trouble I can get myself into. Fortunately, there is no one here to remind me that I am supposed to be a grown up, I love it.

Awesome Vintage Shops along Magnolia Boulevard.

Great Place for last minute costumes.

You might recognize the this building as the flower shop in the movie "Valentines Day".
The S-twins love this store.

Great Vintage shop that gets majority of it's clothes from television shows and movies. - Notice convenient bike parking.

Awww, my sentiments exactly, not about the banking part, just the living in Burbank part.

Great little theatre where the talented Mr. Stephen Tobolowsky teaches improv on Sunday Mornings and some Friday nights for any and all aspiring actors/voice over artists.

http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0864997/

Check out link below for class info:
http://www.kalmenson.com/improv.htm
(One of the best classes I have ever had the privilege to take.)



Neighborhood Watering Hole. - Not something you would expect to see in Burbank, California, but it fits the vibe of Magnolia Park. You can tie up the old two wheeled iron horse right out front.

Tin Horn Flats: View from the front.

Authentic saloon doors - Impressive.


Western Mural painted on the inside of the metal door.

Ironic how a girl who perhaps wanted to leave her Texas memories behind finds herself in a place with a permanent glimpse of her past. This drinking establishment offers some sort of escape to the inhabitants thereof and maybe a taste of an earlier, simpler time whereas I needed to escape the trappings of that supposed simple life and it will probably take years before I can completely wipe away the sting of what it meant to live, love and leave that life. Interesting.

Amazing Bar-B-Q every Saturday at the local Handy Market. Be prepared to stand in line. Totally worth it especially if you have some liquid gold known as Rudy's Bar-b-Q sauce to poor over it when you get home. If you have had Rudy's, you know what I'm talking about. If you haven't, well I feel bad for you.
**If you saw the movie "He's not that into You", the Handy Market, had a starring role.
***Movies and Television shows film in our neighborhood so much that we barely notice. We don't even blink when we see Jay Leno at either Auto Books-Aero books or Bob's Big Boy or Steve Carell at 7-11 or Gwen Stefani at the Arc Light Theater. Guess that means we are well on the way to being jaded L.A. people now.

http://www.burbankshandymarket.com/
http://www.rudys.com/


A beautiful ride home on the Chandler bike path. Doesn't get much better than this.

Til next week-end . . .
-Commuter Girl

Thursday, June 24, 2010

How it all got started - aka "In the Beginning"

Those of you that don't know me personally may be wondering what made me decide to ride a bike after all this time. Those of you that do know me, probably assume that it is just one more hare-brained thing that I am up to, and that assumption though not incorrect, is hopefully like many other past assumptions of me, just a tiny bit under- estimated. That being said, I don't know what will happen in the long run, I can only speak of what I know and how I got here, on this particular journey, that led to me and a bike.

I have the heart of a dreamer and an adventurer like many do, but I also have a weird little mechanism inside me that triggers anytime I hear the word, "No". It is almost like some alien programming code kicks in upon hearing that word, and then watch out, no one can stop me, I can't even stop myself. I just do it, the thing that was associated with the word "No", whatever it is, but I digress. This bit of information is only useful to explain how I arrived here, in Southern California, starting my life over at the age of 30-something in 2004.

2004 was a pivotal year for me. It was 2 years after my dad died and my children's father decided it was as good a time as any to leave and start a new family with someone else. It was 1 year after I met the man that is now my husband and it was 6 months after I broke my leg in 2 places and shattered my ankle in an under-whelmingly lovely episode. It also was the year that my oldest son graduated from High School, joined the Marines and we left Texas just as fast as we could pack the boxes, shove them in the U-haul trailer and go.

It doesn't matter what the original reasons for coming to Cali were, what I know now is that it has been an adventure, a calling and it doesn't feel over yet. Part of that calling has come from the fire I have in me to enable my children to strive for impossible dreams, to live large and in no small part, the joy I get from helping them discover their gifts and talents and what fun we've had along the way! In the process of said dream chasing, the kids have been able to enjoy a few perks, one of which involved my daughter and her participation in an episode of a new game show on Nickelodeon called BrainSurge.

(See Video link below)

As you can see she won a guitar, a Diamond-Back bicycle and a trip to Lake Tahoe. The beauty of winning the bike is that it kicked off a wave of bike riding and bike purchasing in our family that is unfortunately still going strong at this point.

Remember that thing I said earlier about being told "no"? Well when I hear, "you can't ride a bike 30 miles a day to work at your age/weight/fill-in-the-blank"; that thing happens where I am going to do it or die trying. Why?, because I would rather die trying something than to never have lived. And, if I hear one more time: "Oh my gosh, you ride a bike how far?" or even better yet, after an assessing look from top to bottom where I am obviously sized up and found lacking, "Oh honey, good for you!" I think I will scream, under my breath of course. Seriously, I will just peddle a little faster putting distance between myself and the all the people that have ever told me "no" until all I hear is the wind whispering "yes" in my ears.

So I admit it, My name is Commuter Girl and I am a bike addict. The only problem?
I hope I never quit.

Commuter Girl

video

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Father's Day

I’m not sure if Father’s Day really sticks out in the Holiday Calendar as something that special. It’s not a 3 day week-end after all and what do you really do on that day anyway? It’s one of those days that sort of sneaks up on you and you never feel quite prepared for it. Some families like mine, growing up, started the day by going to church and ended with bellies swollen from good Sunday dinner or some meat and potatoes from the grill. Nothing special, sport figures flickering on the television with the volume set to a hypnotic nap inducing hum along with the crinkling of the Sunday Paper’s pages being lazily turned in the summer afternoon created a cocktail of comforting sounds and smells that in looking back feels almost as good as the worn afghan on the arm of my parent’s sofa.. This day may actually mean a little more to me now then it did several years ago. You see now I have no need to worry about getting a last minute gift, or find the right card or remember to make a phone call. I have no need as I have no Father to celebrate the day with. I have his memory, his legacy and everything he taught us, through his spoken words whether they be loving or harsh and his unspoken lessons; his example of integrity, love, mistakes and success.


We all learned and absorbed from every moment with our father. I remember him teaching me to ride my first bike, how he ran behind me saying , “I’ve got you, I’ve got you” and when he let go, how he continued to run beside me saying “I’ve got you, I’ve got you”, his hand at the ready to catch me if I fell. I remember his laugh and the third-grade sense of humor that he passed on to me, much to my husband’s chagrin. I can also remember as a little girl the sense of pride in telling people that my Dad was a Pilot. When he walked in the door in his uniform and hat, it was a great feeling, Dad was home and it was special. Even during my teen-age years when I periodically morphed into some sort of demonically possessed entity and Dad coming home, more often than not, meant any happiness had to coexist with the bitter pill of anxiety and trepidation as I knew that a well-deserved reckoning was imminent. The sins of the past days in his absence would be accounted for in his presence. Even so, it was still over all, a great moment, Dad was home. Things were just better when Dad was home, the balance and harmony of the house was as it should be; all was right with the world.


As an adult, I liked to pick up the phone and call home during a week day, knowing that if someone picked up, it would mean Dad was on his off schedule and I could ask him a question or get some advice or just check in to see what he was doing, and it was nice, just me talking to him, no distractions or background chaos that were part of the package with my mom and four younger siblings still at home. One day in particular, I think I called to ask something monumental like how again do you make gravy? or maybe it was about my son’s upcoming school project, or it could possibly have been just to hear his voice. This time when I asked the normal “Hey Dad, what are you doing?” as the rhetorical lead-in to my usual blah-blah-blahing about my own life, something was different. What he said was, “I just hung up with the Doctor and… I. have. a. brain. tumor.” “Wait, what?” I said, “Dad I can’t hear you” I said. My ears were ringing, I could hear the sound of waves crashing or traffic honking or a pressure cooker squealing in a way that I thought might make my ears bleed. God, I hope someone makes that noise stop. Please God, Please God, Please God, Please God, Am I saying that out loud? I am not sure as I think, what are you saying Dad? I don’t understand. I ask him, “Where’s Mom? - Were you sick? - I didn’t know anything was wrong! - Where’s Mom? - Does she know? -No she doesn’t know?” Please God, Please God, Please God, my youngest sister is just 13, Please God . . . “I think you should ask her to come home Dad, call the school and tell mom to come home. - Dad, What did the doctor say? What did he say exactly?” my fingers typing his words into the web search bar shakily, quickly, my eyes scanning, absorbing medical terms & facts at a super human speed and word after ugly word making the crashing in my head only get louder as a dark heaviness settled over me. The understanding started to wedge its way in. A moment, a significant moment had just happened that would change my life, my whole family’s life forever.


You know I had my moments with my Dad; the times I’m sure he regretted, and I know I did. But if I could re-live even the worst day with my Dad, I would and I would cherish it. This year, if you have a chance to pick up the phone or spend the day with your Father, do it. As for me, I will enjoy the day as I know he would, by filling up my spirit at church, my body with good food and my heart with the love of my family all around me.


As I think of my 56 year old intelligent, athletic, musical dad, and his last days imprisoned in a body no longer receiving messages from his brain, his only movement made possible by the two wheels on a rented wheel chair, I realize that I need to do one more thing. This Sunday I will drink up big gulps of honeysuckle air as I take a moment to revel in the exhilaration of being healthy and alive. I will smile at the complaints of my straining muscles as I peddle gratefully to the freedom and peace that right now, only my bicycle’s two wheels can bring


Happy Fathers Day – 2010

Commuter Girl

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Kung Fu Panda

So all is well on my beautiful 14 mile commute to work; I have my new rear wheel, I am feeling good, the breeze is blowing my hair back, I have had a few friendly honks and smiles from various passers by, in other words . . . I am golden. In my golden glow, I near my destination at Balboa and Ventura blvd, thinking about all the poor schlubs in their cars that are eyeballing me with envy and respect when I come upon a familiar area in the sidewalk near a tree that looks a little like the aftermath of at least a 7.0 earthquake. The sidewalk slab facing me is approximately 3 inches higher than the the slab facing away and both slabs peak in the middle like a mini concrete Mt. Everest. I have ridden over this spot many times before and I always apply the brakes and gently bump over said obstacle when suddenly this time, I notice that the portion of broken concrete "law-suit-waiting-to-happen" that is closest to the tree, looks somewhat ramp-like and as I am feeling good about my new-found pro cycling ability, I stand up and stomp on the peddles in true mountain bike pro-esque fashion and smile as I expect to fly over the ramp and land gracefully on the other side of the busiest driveway leading into the underground garage of the high rise office building to my left. Of course, suddenly, I am careening out of control into said tree and somehow end up tumbling over on my bike Kung Fu Panda style with one shoe in the middle of aforementioned busy driveway and the other firmly planted on my foot which is now firmly planted on top of my brand-spankin new re-built rear wheel! Ughhhhh! Now who is the poor schlub? This is more than a little embarrassing but really, my new wheel? Come On! It turns out my wheel seems to be okay so I should be able to make the 14 mile ride home albeit with a tad more humility and a little less style.

Here is a link to a clip of the the real Kung Fu Panda doing a bizarrely similar version of the flight I took off my bike.  **(right after the part where he says, "I'm a blur, I'm a blur", yep - that's what I did.)
Enjoy:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mHSSzdRpMqg&feature=related

-Commuter Girl

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Today is my Blog-day

. . . and so it begins. I crave adventure; be it on two wheels, two feet or the transportation free zone of the mind. This promises to be a breathtaking ride and I can't wait to see what happens.

L