21 January 2008

South End Ramble

With temperature of 28 when I set out, I knew it was going to be quite a ride, but the roads were clear, only a couple of frozen puddles to deal with, and I'd gotten and email from Mimi saying she'd left her glasses, so I started out by riding down to Boeing and dropping them off. From there, it was through Tukwila along the Interurban trail, and onto the Green River trail at I-405. 2 miles farther south, though, I started to see glare ice. At first, I went off the pavement and onto the dirt shoulder of the trail, but even that had puddles of slick glare ice, and just wasn't safe, so I got off and walked to S. 180th, about a quarter mile. By this time, the trail was totally impassable, so I portaged off down into Costco's parking lot, and slip-slided my way walking out to the main street. There had been a big ice storm that I discovered had pretty much messed up a 2 mile stretch, and ended up walking my bike for quite a ways rather than fall and break a hip. Ended up stopping for almost an hour and letting it warm up a bit before heading out to West Valley Highway, and then eventually over to the Interurban trail and out toward Auburn Golf Course. Found a trail I'd never seen before at 277th, and did the one mile climb to the top, 370' of elevation gain, thinking I'd get onto the street and fly down, but when I got to the top, the street said NO BICYCLES - 17% grade. DANG!!!!! So it was back down the trail, stopping to chat a bit with an old couple walking up who had been friendly when I passed them the other direction. Into downtown Auburn and north on the Interurban to 295th(?) and over to West Valley Hwy to the south end of Kent Golf Course and onto Frager Road. Where there had been no sun, it was still icy and I found a great old dilapidated car, thinking that when all bikes look like mine and all cars look like that, it'll be a much nicer world. Then I got back to where the ice storm had come through and the trail was still iced in, so went back to the main streets, over to Renton and up the east side of Lake Washington to Mercer Island where I stopped to watch three bald eagles soaring for a while, two of them landing in a nearby tree. After a coffee stop at Tullys on Mercer, I ran around through downtown MI looking for a candy store that used to be there. Guess it move. Found a really nice fountain, though and called Mimi to let her know I'd stop at Mutual Fish and pick up something nice for dinner. I didn't buy the octopus, but it was pretty. Here's a little slide show I put together on Webshots:

Southend Solo Ramble - 1/21/08

20 January 2008


Last night, we went to bed to rain, the weatherman was talking about snow and Mimitabby was worried. “I guess we’ll ride the bus to the opera tomorrow, huh?” she asked me on the way toward the bedroom. I reassured her I had more optimism, and would wait to see what it turn out to be.

We woke to dark gray clouds, and it was still raining lightly. About 8:30, having a good breakfast in me, I went outside to have a good look at the sky. Mimitabby stuck her head out the door and asked me if I was “catching raindrops”, but I reassured her that it looked like the skies were lightening up. Sure enough, by 10:00 we were starting to see holes, and I announced my intent to ride my bike to the opera, hoping she’d follow suit. Of course, she’s as game as I am for some things, so we got dressed up in our opera finest bike duds and headed off toward lower Queen Anne for a light sushi lunch before the opera.

Cute Couple

Since we were an hour early, we toured around Seattle Center, stopping in the warm(ish) sun at the Experience Music Project where a kindly young man took a photo for us.

Experience THIS

And then it was time to head in to the Opera House for a showing of Pagliacci. We managed to find a bit of time before the start to each try a little ballet:

Come Fly With Me

OK, I will

and then Donald wanted to get a picture of Mimi at “the sculpture”, a lovely work entitled “Equal and Opposite Reaction”. He managed to get the photo that she swore would never come out, but he also managed to get the evil eye – a benefit of marrying a good Italian girl.

Oh, My

Rubber Ducky

While Donald gadded about, renewing season subscriptions for next year, making one last trip to the bathroom, drinking a cup of coffee and wandering about watching cute girls, Mimi relaxed in our really great seats and took a few minutes to study the libretto.

Mimi Studies Libretto

It was just about time for the show to start, and once more, our happy couple got an opportunity to pose for just one more photo.

Cute Couple Again

Guest Conductor?

The opera was really well done. During the overture, Comedy and Tragedy entered and did a lovely pantomime, playing off each other in their contrasting black and white costumes. Then they rolled a trunk out, and introduced “Prologue”, who had one of the most fantastic baritone voices we have heard at Seattle Opera. Powerful, rich and full, he filled the grand auditorium with his introductory aria, setting the scene for this, one opera’s most beautiful contributions to the world of performing arts. Pagliacco, of course, sang his grand aria to end the first act impeccably and then there was a 20-minute intermission, during which Mimitabby again commented on how much she loves the red velvet curtains. Donald graciously “allowed” her to take his picture in front of them. They do kinda go nicely with all that red hair of his, don’t you think?

Then came the intermezzo, during which Canio’s Dream is portrayed by Comedy and Tragedy again, with a troupe of acrobats acting out the dream as the orchestra played their part flawlessly. Of course, in the end Pagliacco must kill off Nedda and her lover Silvio, and with tears in his eyes, Donald collected Mimi and after all 10 or so curtain calls, they headed off toward home.

As we rode through downtown, the sun was setting, so that by the time we got to Jackson, all that was left was a colorful gloriously cotton candy pink bunch of clouds off in the horizon, with the train station framed elegantly in the scene.

Jackson St. Facing West

Donald paused at the Jose P. Rizal Bridge to take a few shots that are so familiar to him from his evening commutes of late, reminding him that the sun has set on the season of both his Seattle Mariners and Seattle Seahawks.

Cotton Candy Clouds

Sunset over the sporting season

And before heading off to catch up to Mimitabby who had left him behind, he wistfully glanced back over downtown Seattle, reminiscing about this fine date with his favorite girl,

Donwtown Seattle
and thinking to himself what a fine week it has been WITHOUT EVER ONCE GETTING INTO A MOTORIZED VEHICLE!!!!

Why Does Boothby Want To Commute By Bike???

Why do I commute by bicycle you ask? Well, in a metropolitan area with over 2 million people competing for shrinking available space, roads that are jammed to capacity, drivers that are uptight, angry and aggressive, and working at a job that put me on the I-5 corridor for at least 45 minutes every morning and an hour every afternoon last year, I found myself becoming more and more stressed out in my life. OK, admittedly, the 2 hours of time spent cooped up in my car breathing exhaust fumes wasn't all of it. My job was stressful enough. And with the work I was doing, driving to the office was just a small portion of my on the job driving. In 2004/2005 I drove over 150,000 miles.

Now, I'm a guy who loves to drive. I was named after a racecar driver, Don Porter, from Redding, California. At the age of 5 I got in big trouble for driving Pop's '49 Plymouth coupe out of the driveway. All I did was push the clutch in and it rolled out of the driveway with me at the wheel, coming to a stop in the middle of the street. A year later, I took my sister's 26" girl's pink and white Schwinn, and coasted down 97th Street to Sandy, teaching myself to ride a bike. At 11, I got to drive Jack McCoy’s racecar around the track. He had to help me with the pedals. Later that day, he taught me how to shift gears in a street car with chunks of 2x4 taped onto the pedals so I could reach them. At 14, I did my first solo adventures in a car, both trips which netted me some genuine consequences, one of which resulted in me eventually arriving at a foster home on a 40 acre farm in Seal Rock, Oregon, where I learned how to operate Sonna and Butch's D-2 Cat. Throughout all of this, I only had one bicycle of my own, an old clunker Pop bought fixed up for my 10th birthday. It was stolen that summer out of our garage and he never got me another one.

After I got out of the Marines, I moved to Boise and rode my brothers Windsor Deluxe around town for chores. A couple of months later, Pop gave me a '62 Studebaker Lark. All was right the world. It burned a lot of oil and one morning it started to make some noise. We found it was very low on oil. David suggested I use the quart of transmission fluid we had in the trunk until we could get to the station. Six blocks later the engine seized and that was the end of the “stud” as I had named the green box of a car. I replaced it not with a bike but a 1949 International KB-1, and have never been without a car since, except for a one year period in 1975/76 when I lived in Portland and had a bicycle that I rode everywhere until it, too, was stolen. Then I walked or hitchhiked.

But I really liked to drive. As soon as I could afford one, I bought another truck. I love cars and love trucks even more. And even more than that, for some unexplainable reason, I love John Deere tractors.

In 1988, having received so many speeding tickets I was always at risk of losing my drivers license, I decided not to drive for a whole year. I bought a new Raleigh Technium Skylight and rode it to work every day. After a year, I got my drivers license back and forgot all about riding my bike, except for some short, family rides with my boys on the bike trail. I always made sure they had bikes. In 1991, a friend invited me to ride Chilly Hilly with him and in order to do so; I needed to get a few miles in. So I rode my bike to work a few days. Then we decided to do STP and needing to get in shape, started riding to work once or twice a week when weather was nice. Now the cycling bug really had me and I started to look for ways to bicycle rather than drive and got the kids interested in doing endurance cycling.

In 2006 I really began to look seriously at being a daily bicycle commuter. After two years living out of my car, and putting in over 150,000 miles behind the wheel, I needed to do two things; first was to stave off the effects of the depression I was developing from being exposed to so much devastation following seven hurricanes and adjusting claims with so many people who had lost so much, and second was to relieve some of the stress I had from spending so much time driving. Where once I truly loved driving, I found myself dreading driving to work every day. The dilemma was I needed car to do my job.

I tried various techniques in order to bike commute when I could, but it was difficult. With a ride of 27 miles one way, if I rode all the way into the office I needed to eat two breakfasts and was ready for a nap by 10:30 a.m. Typically, I would drive to the office on Monday and ride home, leaving the car at Logboom Park overnight. This gave me a 20-mile commute and I didn't have to finish the ride with a 7-mile climb, which left me sweaty, and without shower facilities. I tried busing part way, too. On numerous occasions, however, I would get assignments overnight that meant I needed my car leaving the house in the morning but it was in Lynnwood. It was never convenient and almost as stressful as driving because of all the complications.

When given the opportunity to change jobs in April 2007, I jumped at the chance. If it meant giving up some of my independence of being a field adjuster, it provided me with an opportunity to reduce my stress levels dramatically. Instead of spending a half hour every morning trying to prepare myself for a stressful drive to work, I found myself excited about leaving the house and arrived refreshed and with a clear head.

All of this of course is all on a personal level and doesn't take into account any of the political ramifications of my heavy reliance on oil during a time of war in which it appears to me that our principal interest is not as much based upon our interest in making the world a better place for others to live but rather, our interest in dominating the shrinking pool of resources in the world. It gives me great pleasure when I look at the last year of my life and know that I have at least done a small part to make us just a little less demanding of these precious resources and at the same time have done at least a little bit better in reducing greenhouse gases.

None of us is truly independent. Each day my decision whether to drive or ride my bike affects those around me. Of course, the bicycle is not a solution to all of the world’s energy problems. But in the greater scope of things, I believe I make the world a better place on two skinny little tires burning 600 calories on the way to work rather than a gallon of gas.

Politics and energy aside, I suppose the greatest reason I ride my bike to work is because I truly love riding my bike and would really rather do that than just about anything. The improved health, reduced stress, reduced expense, reduced greenhouse gases, reduced consumption of vital resources and everything else are simply a side benefit that is gained by doing something that is fun and I can't get enough of in the first place.

19 January 2008

Feeling The Joy

Somebody asked the other day how to “keep the joy alive in cycling” over a long period of time. Well, I feel very unmotivated to ride right now. I am positive that the very next time I get on my bike, it will be different, but my New Year's Day ride was the last of a very long string of things that were planned and organized and that I felt like I 'had to' participate in for one reason or another, and I'm DONE! Done as social director for my bike club, which takes me out of the feeling of being needed every weekend for club rides. Done with the R-12 pursuit, done with that silly challenge with Pansy Palmetto, done with meeting and exceeding every goal I set for myself, with the exception of completing a full brevet series - which isn't all that important until 2010. But why do I ride? I ride for pleasure, pure and simple. I love to be on my bicycle. I love the wind in my ears, the smells, sounds, scenery, thrills and all that goes along with cycling. I like being free from the car. I love being a true part of my surroundings instead of caged up and apart from it all. I find great joy, peace and harmony when I am on my bike early in the morning and there's nobody else up yet. I hear the roosters, watch the sunrise, feel the early morning moist air and then start to smell the bacon frying and coffee brewing as I ride past peoples' houses and farms, and I just get this rush of intense happiness that is second to none. I'll be riding along in a pace line at 20 mph and suddenly, without warning, have this incredible need to back out of the line, excuse myself and cut speed to 12 and coast along through the countryside, simply in a state of meditation, listening for the quiet voice of my Higher Power, giving thanks for my life and all the blessings I've received, experiencing the freedom that I tend to take for granted so often. And I must admit that, even when I've been totally obsessed with some mileage goal, when I'm striving hard to meet some challenge I've set for myself, when I'm riding around the lake in the rain on a cold and dark night because I want to be able to jump up and down and crow about how strong I am, when I'm a mile from the summit of an 18 mile climb and my legs are crying out in protest, my lungs feel like they're burning up and my heart is about to jump out of my chest, I STILL have no problem feeling the joy and appreciating why I do this. I do it because I love doing it. Tuesday afternoon we were finishing up "Mr. Don's First Century Of The Year" ride. The course is actually only about 87 miles, but I wanted to have a full century. My friend Ralph contemplated riding on with me as I was going to ride to Woodinville for a burger and back, but he said he didn't need to do 13 "junk miles" just to get more miles. His level of 'joy' and mine are two different things. I'd never done a 100 mile ride this early in the year before, and to me there is no such thing as a 'junk' mile on a bike. The 'extra' 13 miles I did over the next hour were spent in quiet contemplation, prayer and meditation, as I focused my energies on my friends who, for one reason or another, are unable to ride right now, many of them sporting a big Red Cross next to their names here. That ain't junk, folks! Not to me, anyway. And if I wouldn't have done that little added loop, I would have missed seeing two bald eagles.And then came Wednesday morning, back to work, a little rain falling and I got on the bus. And the next day? Raining again when my toes touched the floor and it was off to the bus again. And then came Friday, and yep, bussing it again. Until this morning, I just haven’t felt motivated to get out there and ride. Of course, the up side is that I’ve gotten some things done around the house that really need to get done, but I have started to miss that wonderful feeling the joy of my bike brings me, and when Tom and Megan came over so that Megan and Mimi could head off to Grandma’s house to talk wedding plans, it was an ideal opportunity for me to spirit my boy off on a little social cruise around the neighborhood. And the motivation is starting to come back. It was, again, so much fun to be out there, laughing, chatting our way around the little 17.5 mile course and sharing lunch at Pert’s Deli, you know where I’ll be tomorrow. And the next day……