Noah, my 8 year old, wants to be Pikachu for Halloween. There were no Pikachu costumes in stores, not surprising given Pokemon’s waning popularity, but online I was surprised to find only one option. I was so irritated at the shoddy materials and design that this weekend I decided to make the costume instead. Halloween was two whole days away. Plenty of time. How long could thing stupid thing take, anyway? You just need something yellow to wear and a big tail, maybe a hat…easy.

Saturday night I discovered that stores close at 7pm in Marin County. Crap. So much for my Saturday evening trip to the mall for a yellow sweatshirt. I also discovered that kids must not need foamcore for last-minute social studies projects and science dioramas. I went to three drug stores and two grocery stores and couldn’t even find posterboard, much less foamcore. (Note to self: Plan ahead when the kids have projects and dioramas to do for school.) Well, I guess it’s bedtime.

Sunday I woke up to find Audrey curled up next to me, I shooed her out, went back to sleep, missed my ride, had some weird dream about Audrey kicking me in the back, woke up again, and got to work on the tail.

Cut out two lightening bolt pieces from a television box.

Cut out a matching lightening bolt shape from 1-1/2" foam. Don't worry, Noah, the tail won't be pink.

The flat cardboard looked...well...flat. It looked much cooler with the foam padding to create some depth.

Tacky Glue makes my day pretty much every time I use it.Foam glued in place between the cardboard bolts.In retrospect, a three dimensional tail for a two dimensional character seems silly

After cutting out the shapes I glued the top half of the foam to the cardboard. Originally I thought I would try to leave the bottom half out and taper the bolt like the illustrated character’s tail. For the record, Pikachu is not a real thing and the illustrators apparently did not think the laws of physics were necessarily relevant when designing Pikachu. However, since this tail does need to exist in reality, I eventually realized I needed the foam all the way down the bolt for structural stability.

Cut still more lightening bolt shapes out, this time from yellow posterboard.

Well, that only took most of the day. Time to wrap this thing up…..After debating how to cover the tail, I decide to go with yellow posterboard. The complete, opaque color coverage and structural rigiidity allow me to correct some irregularities between the pieces

of foam and cardboard. At this point it’s 4:00pm Sunday, the day before Halloween, and Brian thinks I might be obsessing just a tad. (There is precedent for his opinion, e.g. last year’s paper mache Jango Fett jetpack.) But whatever, I’m feeling crafty and I’m all hocked up on spray adhesive and hot glue gun fumes, so it’s OCD I go…

Glue the patches for the inside corners in place...(It's like 6pm by now.)

With posterboard in place I work on some quick suspenders while B drills a hole in the base of the tail.

Earlier in the day I went to Joanne’s and picked up any and everything I could think of for securing the tail to the costume. Brian can’t stop giggling every time I say “boning” so instead I use the 14″ embroidery hoop and a large bolt. Rather than trying to affix the hoop to the costume, I make suspenders to go underneath the shirt. Poor Noah is trying really hard not to squirm around and this almost becomes the story about the time Noah lost his eye while Mommy was sewing his tail in place, but he stays still long enough for me to sew and Brian to drill. By now, the tail weighs about as much as Noah does. No worries, it’s nothing some fishing line can’t support….

Suspenders for the embroidery hoop, which Noah models in his pj's as it is now 8pm.

Hey! The needle catches nothing but facric and the embroidery hoop makes a great base for the costume. Pika Pika!

8:30 pm. All it's missing now are the stripes. Okay, Noah, you can go to bed now.

Noah is no longer needed for fitting purposes so I kiss him goodnight and happily discover that I have, indeed, NOT sewn Noah’s costume onto his pajamas. I cut some quick stripes out of brown felt and use fabric adhesive to affix them to the shirt and tail. No problem! That only took twelve hours and a triple digit trip to the craft store which is, by the way, immensely faster and cheaper than last year’s jetpack.

Stripes in place, this costume is good to go!

So I never got a ride in today, although Lord knows I needed it, and I didn’t put in a load of laundry, which I’ll regret the next time I shower and want to wear clean clothes, but I did have a ton of fun today channeling my inner Martha Stewart.

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Alpine Dam, smooth as glass.

A few photos from my Saturday of riding. First ride, the Studio Velo Saturday ride which normally goes to Olema but it was so cold this morning we decided to get to the climbs as fast as possible. After climbing up BoFax Road and Ridgecrest, we all felt quite a bit warmer. We also all agreed we were pretty amazed we lived in such an amazingly beautiful area. Breathtaking.

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The SUN! Suddenly Jeff and I didn't feel so underdressed.

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Alpine Dam is one of my favorite loops. It never gets old and the views are always spectacular.

After a quick bite to eat Brian and I rode into the city to scout out his commute to the office via bike. It was pretty beautiful along that route too. All the bitching aside, I do love living in Marin. Not a day goes by that I don’t find myself staring at my surroundings, awestruck by the majesty of it all.

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Have a seat. The urban landscape around here is pretty cool too.

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Looking out at the Bay from underneath the Golden Gate Bridge.

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The Golden Gate Bridge, viewed from Fort Baker in the Marin Headlands.

 

 

Recently I moved from Dallas Texas to Mill Valley, California which is just on the other side of the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco. While there are many things I love about riding here, there are just as many things I hate, bike lanes being one of them. Many of the bike lanes I’ve experienced here are Door Zone Bike Lanes, DZBLs, consisting of a bike lane installed adjacent to parallel parking. It looks something like this:

Bike lane along Bridgeway, a busy thoroughfare in Sausalito, CA. Photo by Joshua Hart.

In less than four weeks I have been in so many hazardous bike lane situations that I have lost count. They are fraught with danger, these bike lanes. Some are relatively obvious, such as debris the bike lane, parked cars in the bike lane, drivers side doors opening while you pedal along in the bike lane, and cars turning right at intersections without checking for traffic in the bike lane. There are also some less obvious hazards such as getting cut off by a motorist who suddenly sees an open parking space and jacks their car into it without remembering there was a bike lane between him and that parking space. Or getting cut off by a motorist turning right to enter a driveway or parking lot, especially the motorist who has just realized THIS was the parking lot and quickly brakes then turns into the lot.

I find it ironic that for the two years that I lived and rode in Dallas, Texas, with all it’s busy streets and cyclist-hating rednecks, I hardly ever felt like I was in danger of getting hit by a motor vehicle. The streets where I rode in Dallas had no bike lanes, I rode on the road in a lane just as any other vehicle. Yet here I am in Northern California, well known for it’s cycling culture, and I am absolutely convinced that I will be hit by a car here. Pretty much every time I ride my bike here I encounter at least one situation which could have resulted in a collision had I not been riding alert and defensively, aware of potential dangers. Now I suppose you could argue that one ought always to be riding alert and defensively, and you’d be correct. I agree, knowing what potential dangers exist and how to avoid them is a very important element of bicycling safety. However, I think minimizing these dangers by not creating hazardous conditions in the first place is equally important.

California has a mandatory use law that states that if a bike lane is present, cyclists must use it. The law does allow cyclists to leave the bike lane under certain conditions, one of them being to avoid a hazard. Lately I have wondered if I am riding on a street with a bike lane, which I have come to view as hazardous by their very nature, I am legally justified in taking the lane with the rest of traffic since the hazardous condition that exists is the bike lane itself. Personal experience has taught me that I am far safer driving my bicycle as a vehicle on the road with the rest of traffic, than I am riding in any bike lane. Hmmm….now that I think about it, that sounds vaguely familiar…

“Cyclists fare best when they act and are treated as drivers of vehicles.” – John Forester

Door zone bike lane on Bridgeway in Sausalito. Photo by Joshua Hart.

Sunday I remembered that I like hills. I still feel all round and the past few weeks have taken a toll on my fitness. By noon on Sunday I had my bike put together again then pedaled down the street on my first ride since moving here. I wasn’t feeling brave enough to head straight up Molino for the six mile, 1600′ climb up Mount Tam so I headed over to Camino Alto, my favorite 5-minute hill. Camino Alto feels approachable, it’s like a mountain to us flatlanders, although the locals would probably laugh at calling it that.

Not quite a mile and a half, rising a little over 300 feet, Camino Alto is do-able no matter who you are. Hell, I’ve seen little old grandmas on big heavy beach criusers with baskets pedaling smoothly up that road. I’ve also seen a mountain lion on that road. The top of this particular hill is part of the Blithdale Summit Preserve and there are often deer at dusk and dawn. One evening this August on my way back to my parents’ boat I was coming up Camino Alto from Corte Madera when I saw what I thought at first was a medium sized dog on the side of the road. When it turned and walked slowly back into the trees I could tell quite clearly it was a cat. A 50-pound cat. It confused the crap out of me. Was it a bobcat? No, this thing had a long tail. But I couldn’t think of what else it could be. There aren’t panthers and mountain lions in California are there? (Um, yes, apparently there are. Lots of them. Check this out.)

A few days ago Brian was reading the Mill Valley Herald and came across an article about pumas. I mentioned seeing a 50-pound cat on Camino Alto to my dad and he said, “No, dear, what you saw was a 100-pound cat. In East Bay people are a little worried about their pets and small children.” Oh. Well, just another reason not to live in East Bay I guess.

But I digress. A lot. Suffice it to say, I like Camino Alto so I slogged up one side, tried not to hit the brakes at all on my way down the backside then stuck to the flats around Paradise. (Ride data.) Only 1400 vertical feet in 23 miles but it felt good. I remembered that I like hills. I’m fast on hills. Oh sure, maybe not right now. But that’s just fitness. That can come and go – a few weeks on Tam and mine will return – but the piece of me that hungers for the effort, that will always be there, longing for the sweet, suffering moment when the road pitches up. I love the mountains. How could I forget?

Quick snapshot from Sunday's ride. Taken from Tiburon Blvd looking towards the Golden Gate Bridge. No mountains here.

Today was spent enrolling the children in school (with only partial success – Noah starts Wednesday but baby girl’s documents aren’t in order) and visiting with my mom, who is recovering from Thursday’s hip surgery. No riding today but I’m looking at Mount Tam the way I used to, with eager anticipation.

On the way home I stopped at Studio Velo to have someone lay eyes on the bike, make sure I put it together right. Karen, who manages the SV:Womens Store, spotted me and came outside to welcome me to Marin. Walking through the door I ran into a friend I rode with this summer, found another familiar face inside the shop and then got introduced to the mechanics in the back. I am suddenly a million times less lonely. One hello hug and I’m connected, back in my skin.

I think I’m going to love it here – but I still miss so many people back in Dallas. Come and visit me, you guys!!

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I’m staring out my dining room window trying to muster the courage to go for a bike ride. The move to California was more than a little stressful (more on that later.) The past two weeks have left me feeling depressed, lonely, and out of shape. The new house is off Montfort, a 9% climb. At this point, I may need to be sagged home. Seriously.

But everyday I don’t ride I feel moreĀ  and more disconnected, slow and fat. Better give it a go while it’s sunny and warm outside. The next few days have rain in the forecast. Today is bright and beautiful. The perfect day for a bike ride, right?

Keep you posted….

Currently, I live in East Dallas in an urban area. To get anywhere on bike requires navigating city streets with moderate to heavy traffic. This morning a friend (we’ll call him Joe) and I were talking about a group ride dilemma he’s facing. Joe, who is himself an experienced cyclist, has been asked to plan safe ride routes for A (experienced) B (intermediate) and C (novice) level groups from an urban starting point, Mockingbird and Central Expressway.

Mockingbird and Central Exprwy, close to where many of my friends live.

Joe wants to find a route that avoids traffic but, as you can see, where we live that’s not possible. My advice: Hold urban cycling workshops and make attendance a prerequisite for ride participation, preferably for all riders but, in the very least, for the novice cyclists. Rather than trying to avoid traffic, I think a better solution is to learn how to ride safely IN traffic.

Joe may be on the fence about offering urban cycling classes but, fortunately, there are several organizations in the Dallas area that do hold skills workshops and traffic safety classes, many of which have on-the-bike lessons. Below are links to the groups I know about. If I missed someone, let me know!

Cycling Savvy – An excellent program, originated in Florida, now being offered here in Dallas by friend and all-round great guy, Waco Moore. You can find out more about the DFW Cycling Savvy program by visiting them on Facebook and on the Cycling Savvy website.

Cycling Center Dallas: SMART Cycling Classes – Learn how to ride with confidence and competence in an urban environment. Develop basic skills and hazard avoidance maneuvers in a safe, friendly environment. For the current class schedule visit the Cycling Center Dallas website.

Bike DFW Traffic Skills 101 – Techniques and skills for riding in North Texas’ cities including: riding on multi-use trails, riding in bike lanes, and techniques for negotiating city traffic safely and comfortably. For a course schedule send an email to education@bikedfw.org or check their website.

There’s a lot of good urban cycling advice online, but there’s also a lot of bad, potentially dangerous, and just plain wrong information out there too. Use your common sense. Think of your bike as a vehicle; navigate intersections and traffic using the same principals as you would were you in a car. Don’t just ride your bike, drive it.

Here are a few trustworthy sources for information on safe cycling: