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The city of Philadelphia has launched a new campaign, “Give Respect, Get Respect“, targeting drivers, pedestrians and cyclists using city streets.  I for one am all for it.  Since moving here nearly 5 years ago I have often thought the city’s nickname, City of Brotherly Love, must be some sort of hilarious in-joke I had yet to “get.”   Of course there are some Philadelphians who live up to the nickname but for the most part this city would not get put on Santa’s Nice List anytime soon.  And with no love, you certainly can’t expect respect.  Nothing displays the disunity of city and epithet better than the drama played out on its streets.  I’ve seen terrifying drivers, absolutely oblivious pedestrians and downright stupid bicyclists narrowly avoid catastrophe– I often wonder how many people don’t even have a single clue of how close they were to death while absent-mindedly checking their Blackberry.   Being a daily bicycle commuter in this mess has given me a new perspective on the word “respect”.

The plan will put extra police officers in Center City to write tickets for people jaywalking, texting while driving and riding bikes on the sidewalk.  I must add that this campaign was announced at the same time as plans for new north-south bike lanes in Center City were unveiled.  Of course the announcement was met with aggression from nincompoops like Stu Bykofsky, who probably has a clause in his contract with the Inquirer to be as narrow-minded as possible on issues related to transportation…  But I digress.  Public outrage at the City surrendering more of the streets to cyclists feels like a bad way to kick off a “love thy neighbor”-eque crusade.

Good motto

I hope one day this campaign can be a shining example for other cities– a way to show America that Philadelphia truly does deserve its nickname.  For this to work ALL road users need to start respecting each other by being attentive and polite (that means easing up on the g.d. horns, people).  Additionally, the plan should stress that bike lanes, sidewalks and traffic laws are there to keep us safe, not to suck the fun out of our lives.  I admit, it’s hard to refrain from flipping off the Hummer who doesn’t understand that my riding down the center of the lane is to prevent myself from becoming a pancake, not to tick off a random citizen (behind the wheel of a gas-guzzling monstrosity, oops another digression).  But I for one am willing to try harder.  Recognizing that we all play a part in keeping the streets safe is essential.  The campaign isn’t just about respecting other people, it’s about respecting your own safety too.  

Now, I can’t promise to stop yelling at people who ride the wrong way down the bike lane, or to quit forming simply atrocious strings of insults in my head against most cabs and Jersey drivers (sorry), but I CAN do my part by following the rules to the best of my ability and not letting my temper get the best of me.  Come on, Philadelphia… show the love!

Bike luv

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I rode 100 miles this week!  Impressive… except that I’m going to have to compress that distance into ONE DAY by the end of September.  Yikes!  But considering I usually ride about 45-50 miles a week, this is a good step (pedal stroke?) forward.  Now that we get an extra hour of daylight I know this is something I can easily keep up with.  My work is 2 blocks from the Schuylkill Drive trail and one loop on that is 8 miles.  Do that 3 days a week, add in my daily commute and one long-haul on the weekends and there’s my 100 miles.  I’m getting a little tired just thinking about it…  Today my body is sore, especially my hips and back.  I found this nifty website that has a little animated dude showing you how to do stretches.  Neat!

Pat had to work all weekend so I rode out to Forbidden Drive by myself yesterday.  I took the telephoto lens and got a few good shots of geese and ducks:

Geese!

Lift, I need lift!

I like his red eye... a lil freaky though

After riding around for a while I decided to lock my bike up at Valley Green, a random restaurant on Forbidden Drive, and check out a staircase I had seen earlier.  It led down to a little dam that you could walk out on and, after seeing a couple of 6 year-olds tromp out there, I decided I’d take the risk for some interesting photos:

View from the dam

Stairs leading to the creek

 

More stairs, I love the color of the moss

Hello, green bug!

Monochromatic creek

It was nice to get some fresh, non-exhaust-laden air and to spend some quality time in nature.  My ride home from Forbidden Drive was slow, slow, slow.  Not only was I a little tired but the feng shui of my bike shorts/saddle was NOT working out… let’s hope that doesn’t happen on our one-day century!  My partner-in-crime has to work again this weekend (boo!!) so we’ll see where my solo long-haul takes me.  I have a feeling Plymouth Meeting is in the cards, how can I resist a pit-stop for an Ikea ice cream cone?  Answer: I can’t 🙂

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…the tough go shopping!  My mom used to have a poster with that slogan and a photo of a really beasty looking motorcycle man wearing a feather boa and carrying shopping bags.  I was thinking about it the other day as we battled headwinds all the way home from a short trek out to Plymouth Meeting.  The ride there was pleasant– the sun was shining, I had lots of energy and the path was fairly clear.  We stopped at Ikea for bathroom breaks and a picnic but as we munched the sky started to darken, the temperature dropped and the wind picked up.  I was not pleased.  And I did not feel tough at all.

Pit stop

I whined in my head (and out load) the entire 16 miles home: How is it possible to have a headwind on both legs of a roundtrip journey?  WHY does the wind have to be so mean?  Isn’t it possible for my bike to just ride itself?  WHOSE STUPID IDEA WAS IT TO INVENT A BIKE, ANYWAY?!  And so on and so forth. 

A storm rolls in

Why is staying motivated so hard sometimes?  Tonight I went for a quick ride after work and, although the wind was just as fierce, I loved every minute of it.  All I could think about was how strong my legs felt, how nice it was to be outside and how lucky I am to live in a city with a great bike path.  I was the Queen of Tough.  Then there are days I can barely motivate myself to take the stairs rather than the elevator at work.  What is the secret to Lance Armstrong-esque will power?

Sometimes the road-less-travelled SUCKS

I wish I knew for sure, but here are 3 ideas I like to keep in mind when I’m feeling unmotivated: Have a goal, reward your hard work and don’t be too hard on yourself.  I’m sure Lance would disagree.  But hear me out. 

Having a goal gives you something to focus on when you’re feeling pooped.  It can be something really big like “I want to be prepared for bad weather on our Europe trip so I’m riding to work in any weather, including this torrential downpour”, or something really silly like “I want to beat that trolley up the hill so I better huff it.”  It doesn’t really matter, it’s just something to occupy your mind and make you feel like your madness is justified.

Rewarding your hard work is probably my favorite motivating factor.  Again, it can be something big like A 6 MONTH TRIP TO EUROPE or something more realistic like a king-sized Snickers bar.  Either way I think treating yourself after you’ve overcome an obstacle is always nice.  Knowing there’s something to look forward to, a raison d’être, can make the difference between giving up and pushing through.  Not surprisingly a lot of my rewards are food-related.  Yay fatties!

Finally, not being too hard on yourself is really important to me.  It can be extremely difficult to stay motivated when you’re pushing with all your might, hunched over the handlebars and thinking you’re going to keel over at any minute when suddenly some old guy in a skin-tight racing uniform blasts past you like he’s trying to outpace a freaking cheetah or something.  Don’t let it get to you.  My strengths are different from his, but that doesn’t make me any less awesome.   Admire your achievements!

Sporty Spice

What keeps YOU motivated?

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I used to think Michigan had some crazy weather but after living in Philly I realize MI’s weather is not crazy, just reliably terrible.  Here it’s a total guessing game.  For example, winters here can be so extreme– it will snow for 28 hours straight, leaving behind 11 inches of snow and shutting the city down for days.  Then 3 weeks later it’s warm enough to wear spring jackets (and mini-skirts for those brave enough).  Yesterday there was a high of 68!

Valley Forge, PA

So we had a breakfast of champions, did some quick Bike Garage, hit up Lee’s Hoagie House and then got out of dodge.

Mmmm, fuel!

Before we left I hooked up the simple bike computer I got Pat for Christmas, it’s quite nifty.  It records a bunch of stuff but we biked 48.2 miles and hit a maximum speed of 21 mph.  Sweet!  

The Manayunk tow path was a slightly soupy mud pit at points.  I was grateful for my new hardcore tires and fenders.  My body is still pretty wary of falling though so I kept having to remind myself to chill and not tense up on every bump.  Mind over body!  Once we got to the paved part of the path we kept a good pace in spite of the slight, unceasing headwind.  Even with a sammie break we reached Valley Forge in about 2 hours and enjoyed a king-sized Snickers bar each at the visitor center.  Too delicious.

Outside Valley Forge visitor center

Pat occupied himself by harassing, I mean coaching my speed from behind most of the way home. 😉  I was pretty exhausted and crashed out from all that sugar but we kept a good speed most of the way.  The Schuylkill path was absolutely packed with oblivious runners on the way back into the city.  Though I guess I shouldn’t be grumpy when we all have the same awful spring fever!  Yesterday’s ride was challenging but not as bad as I thought it would be after 4 months of no long rides.  I’m really looking forward to spending this summer getting in shape for our trip!

Today it’s chilly again with insane wind gusts whipping in all directions.  I had to shift into grandma gear while riding into the city today, that would be pretty pathetic under normal circumstances.  I was sitting in the cafe at Pat’s work when their front door whipped open and smashed the front window.  See, crazy weather!

Good thing it's safety glass

Hopefully this early spring holds– Pat has a plan for a time-lapse photo project on the tow path.  I don’t think we’ll get the same awe-inspiring effects as Planet Earth but it should be pretty fun.  Stay tuned for more on that 🙂

Fossil watch ad??

Another weekend come and gone… sometimes they seem way too short!

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Well, the wintry winds are still roaring through Philly and we are again piled under 11 inches of snow.  No snow days from work, unfortunately.  And no plow down our street until today (4 days after the storm….)  Which means no bikes until the roads clear up a bit.  I saw some fools riding around the past few days, one dude was even trying to ride around during the storm on his fixed-gear (no brakes and track tires…)  Darwin Awards, anyone?  We’ll see how things look tomorrow after work and then maybe I’ll try it on Tuesday.  I must admit that my last spill knocked some more caution into me.  Big tree fall hard!

In the meantime I decided to do some work on the ole steed, something Pat and I like to call Bike Garage.  The last time I bought a new tube the bike shop mechanic suggested that I get new tires too since mine were pretty worn.  So Pat got some flat-fixing practice in and put on my new tires for me.  They are pretty beastly– I bought them because they have a Kevlar lining.  Hardcore!!!  Now I am safe from bits of glass AND bullets!

I think Captain Obvious drew these instructional pictures

Go ahead, shoot a bullet at my tire, see what happens (not really, please don't shoot at me)

They guy who sold them to me said he had his on for 4 years before he replaced them.  I think that’s getting a little carried away but they’ll at least wear better than my old ones.  Plus check out that reflective stripe!  I’m hoping that will help prevent cars from t-boning me.

What tread?

I also replaced all the brake pads on my bike, swapping in some that are better for winter and wet weather.  I really recommend getting a brake pad with a replaceable insert, that way you don’t have to fool around as much when they need to be replaced.  I would say you just slide the new brake pad in and voila!  but they were kind of hard to get in all the way so the lock pin would work.  Pat had to use his manly muscles.

Sporting our official Mechanic uniform-- PJ's

Just to be thorough (and because I was a little bored) I also cleaned up my frame, cleaned and greased my chain, adjusted my seat and tightened the brakes.  Now for some warmer weather so I can take it for a test run!  I am still not allowed to ride my bike in the house. 😦  Rules!

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Forbidden Drive and dirty lens

“Delicious autumn!  My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns.”
–   George Eliot

This was our first free weekend since what felt like forever.  We rode out of the city to Forbidden Drive on Friday.  Breakfast stop at the Manayunk Diner (oh so delicious).  I got a flat on the way home but somehow, mysteriously, my tube retained a lot of air so I was able to ride (slowly) all the way back– hurrah!  I need new tires though before winter comes, the “standard” my bike came with is pretty well-worn down.

Of course the camera came out for a spin, too:

Reflections

Geese and Philly

 

Clark Park

I have so much free time now, I almost don’t know what to do with myself.  We did make a very sizeable dent in our massive laundry pile.  All that remains is towels and sheets– a victory in my eyes.  Patrick and I consumed much monkey bread in celebration.  I’m trying to focus on my writing, both here and at examiner.com Thanks to everyone who clicks on my various articles, it helps!  I’m also getting excited for the holidays. Looking forward to a much-needed trip home later this month and then a hectic month at work.

Our trip is becoming more and more real in my mind each day.  Today we took another look at the map (upon the guidance of my friend Emily, who is living in Europe) and are considering an alternative route, which gives us a potential departure of June, 2012.  19 months away??  Maybe! I’m glad winter is so boring here, it helps us save money 🙂

He's a model, on the cat walk, the cat walk

More soon!

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