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Posts Tagged ‘life’

It’s officially summertime!  I love longer days, healthy foods, and of course many more bike rides.  But summer cycling can be brutal in the city.  Disgusting heat and smog.   Burning pavement.  And drivers whose minds are at the beach, not on the road.  Fortunately a little preparedness goes a long way– helmet, brakes, lights and water bottle.  And for the times we want to get out of this heat island and hit up the trails running west we bring:

Anti-"rain-on-my-parade" kit

No need to be worried about being stranded with a flat when you have a well-stocked repair kit like this!  I put this together after an unforunate turn of events last spring.  It has everything needed to repair/replace a tube on the go.  Here’s what’s inside: spare tubes, tire irons, tube patch kit (in case it’s not TOO serious), a CO2 pump and CO2 cartridges.  And it all fits neatly into this Clinique “free bonus” tote- tres chic!  When we go on longer rides we also pack our bike multi-tool for any unexpected adjustments.

Thumbs up for preparedness!

I love summer for other reasons though.  Summer always feels like a time of change, probably due to years spent in school when summer is the chance you get to reinvent yourself before the next school year.  Pat’s recent promotion has brought lots of newness to us: a new work schedule for him, new people to meet and get to know, new responsibilities and new resources at our disposal.  My favorite part is having evenings and some weekend days off together again.  Pat has been a grill-master lately, whipping up classics like fiery BBQ chicken and veggie kebab but also tantalizing my taste buds with new creations like a grilled steak and mushroom sandwich (as in the whole sandwich is grilled to heavenly perfection).  Even a little rain won’t stop him!

Rainy day grilling under the cover of the upstairs balcony

New opportunities also mean a chance to re-evaluate our plans and thoughts about the future.  When we first started planning an “around the world” trip nearly 3.5 years ago our lives were A LOT different.  I was fresh out of grad school, Pat was still a little baby barista at Starbucks, we weren’t even engaged and saving tens of thousands of dollars for years to go on a 6-12 month vacation sounded like the best idea we’d ever had.  So I obsessively researched places we could go, put pins on a google map and saved, saved, saved our money.  Now I have a job in my field and am growing as an educator, Pat is on his way to managing his own store, our second wedding anniversary is around the corner and, well, the tens of thousands of dollars is still being worked on.  I will admit that the idea of “getting away from it all” for months, schlepping ourselves and our belongings across Europe to see new and exciting things and setting our lives on an entirely new trajectory still has appeal.  I still spend a lot of time daydreaming about all the many places, people and things we will see one day.  Travel and the allure of the exotic got under my skin after my college experience abroad (or maybe it was all the books set in far-away lands I read as an impressionable youngster).  But other obsessions are emerging, too: children, a house of our own, becoming a school teacher  and helping Pat achieve his goals.

Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans. -John Lennon

How do you decide which of life’s roads to travel down?  We have so many options, opportunities and blessings it’s overwhelming at times.  But one of the biggest gifts I have been given is a partner who understands that it’s really not these future paths that define who we are.  Our life together is in the here and now, the little everyday moments and seemingly mundane.  My dreams, Pat’s dreams, and the dreams we share are fluid and flexible and can be what we make them.  “Giving up” the trip of a lifetime isn’t really giving up anything– it’s adding the potential for many mini-trips, saving money for travel AND family and opening doors to ideas we never considered.  The specifics of the dream may change, but that’s the beauty of the unknown, isn’t it?

Existence would be intolerable if we were never to dream. -Anatole France

So I look forward to continuing to dream big dreams, planning for our future as best we can and drinking in the sweet bliss of our everyday life together.  Here’s to this summer, to a wonderful husband and to being here now!

Things are not what they appear to be; nor are they otherwise.

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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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Today I rode my bike to work in the POURING RAIN.  The only other time I’ve purposefully ridden my bike in the rain was when it drizzled on our way to the movie theater.  As you can imagine I feel pretty tough after this little adventure. 

I woke up to the din of a downpour and my cat’s daily pre-alarm-clock reminder that he prefers early breakfast.  Drats, I thought to myself.  I hate riding the trolley, it smells like moldy foot, and I wanted to get home quickly after work because my weekend started at 5:00 pm today.  I hemmed, hawed and fed my scoundrel cat.  Finally I accepted that my work wasn’t going to magically appear next door so I pulled on my goloshes, zipped up my new rain slicker and headed out for a soggy commute.

feed me or I eat your face

Helmet on, blinky light blinking away, I toned down my normal “bat- out-of-hell who is also cautious” driving style for something closer to “gutsy grandma”.  Aside from the coastal flooding along 38th street that turned into a wall of water (thanks to a speedy SUV), I enjoyed most of the ride.  No other bikes, lots of great sloshing noises and the satisfaction of knowing I didn’t have the ride the stinking trolley home.   

So I may not be the most hardcore biker– I’m sure some bike messenger out there is rolling his eyes ironically at me right now– but I’d say today… top 10% at least. 

Splash!

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Have you ever been to spin class?  I have.  It was terrifying.  Spastic techno music.  Poorly circulated, sweat-laden air-conditioned “breeze”.  And worst of all I was spending my hard-earned nickles and dimes when what I really wanted to be doing was putting them in my Drinkin’ Jar.  Luckily I’ve spent enough time living in Philadelphia that I’ve become privy to some very useful information: you don’t have to pay for spin class to get a great cycling workout in this city.

Let's get physical!

Okay, I will admit that the headline for this story is a bit misleading… I’m not talking about an actual class and if you don’t have a bike it’s not going to be free, but I have learned a few things riding my bike around the city that add up to a great workout.  So grab your bike, pull on those spandex shorts and strap on your helmet, it’s time to turn these city streets into your own gym!

RULES FOR A BUTT-KICKING CITY CYCLING WORKOUT

(Note: “Butt-kicking” is not usually part of my vernacular but it just felt right in this situation)

  1. Don’t be lazy on the hills.  That’s right, you can’t throw it into grandma gear and laze your way up the incline.  Patrick and I like to race up the 2-block hill to our street, I definitely feel the burn and turning it into a competition (that I have WON MORE THAN ONCE I WILL HAVE YOU KNOW) makes it more fun.
  2. Race the lights.  Or the bus.  Or both!  My two worst enemies while riding around the city are definitely series of stop lights and city buses.  Get into a groove and you’ll leave them both in your dust.
  3. Find a straightaway and turn it into a loop in your route.  I am especially partial to long stretches of bike-laned streets like the additions to Pine and Spruce streets.  Or add a multi-use trail like the Schuylkill Drive.
  4. Add variety and enjoy your surroundings.  The best part about using my bike for exercise is getting to see all the beautiful, strange, wacky and interesting things that make this city so unique.  Sunsets, bums, abandoned buildings and crazy graffiti all come free with my spin class!

Sunset from Spring Garden st.

Happy weekend, back to work tomorrow 😦

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I haven’t written anything on here for a while because it’s been too darn hot to DO anything interesting!  Last week we had two miserable days in a row of 101 degree heat, preceded by what felt like 20 weeks of intense 90+ degree mugginess.  I exaggerate but I am not a hot weather kind of person.  Warm weather is completely different– obviously I would love to live in a balmy, 70 degree, breezy shore town but I instead live in RealityVille where we have days like this: 

Snow Day!

 But luckily we also have days like this: 

Toasty!

 

We haven’t been long-haul-trucking it lately.  As I mentioned previously, I’m not a fan of the heat.  I also suffer from what my mom calls “a delicate constitution” meaning I would fit in well with those silly fainting Victorian ladies.  But luckily the heat wave seems to be over (for now) and I’m looking forward to a nice long trek this weekend. 

Not wanting to waste a weekend of beautiful sunshine but also not wanting to roast away in our apartment, we ventured out to the Jersey shore last Friday for a little R & R.  Patrick’s sister came along and we all enjoyed a gorgeous day on the Atlantic.  It’s so easy to get to the shore from Philadelphia– even without a car.  NJ transit drops you in Atlantic City where its a short bus ride to the lovely beach town of Brigantine.  It is possible to bring bikes on NJ transit trains but we noticed that there’s no shoulder on the highway that leads to the beach– I am not “brave” enough to throw my life in the hands of Jersey drivers on their way to the shore.  We’re wondering if there are other beaches we could train/bike to. 

Finally I’m sad/proud to report that Patrick can create his own “Biker Vs. World” manifesto.  Last night after two very (large) delicious margaritas Patrick misplaced his foot on the spiky pedal of his bike and is now missing a bit of his big toe.  Being the Long Haul Trucker he is, Pat made it home without further incident and we were blessed with not having to stop at the ER for a little “visit” on the way.  

It’s a shallow life that doesn’t give a person a few scars -Garrison Keillor    

 

 

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Another weekend come and gone… how is it that my days off seem to move at a speed 10 times that of my working days?  I hope our 365 “days off” move at a snail’s pace!

On Friday we set out to Fairmount Park for some sketching and picnic in the woods.  We stopped by the Bicycle Coalition’s Bike Pit Stop on the way.  One of the Bicycle Ambassadors was really excited for our Long Haul Truckers– he had recently completed a cross-country journey on his (only to have it stolen upon his return to Philly… nice).  We got some free pretzels and stickers and headed on our way.

Pat's bike

After several relaxing hours at the edge of a baseball field in the West Park we decided to head for home.  I thought I knew how to navigate us through West Philadelphia so we didn’t have to go all the way back into Center City just to head west again.  Plus we had just received a free map I thought we could use.  I was wrong.

Magical path

We ended up cycling in a HUGE circle around Bala Cynwyd.  Very nice, ritzy neighborhood, but not OUR neighborhood.  We ran into a (I kid you not) 75-year old Girl Scout who finally pointed us in the right direction.  Along the way I hit a massive, hidden pothole and thought I had broken my bum.  It really, really hurt.  But I survived to tell the tail (get it, tail=tale?? ha!).

I will admit that we should have had a better navigation plan BUT the map was absolutely the pits.  Most roads didn’t have names, and those that did were not laid out in real life the way they were on the map.  This just solidifies in my mind the importance of having a GPS on our trip.  Patrick thought he disagreed– he suggested we just get a map for each place we visit– I reminded him that a GPS does exactly that.  I think we agree to disagree.  See, who needs compromise in marriage?? 😉

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What a nice, relaxing weekend.  Patrick and I spent Friday cruising out along Forbidden Drive.  It was practically abandoned, very different from our last visit on Good Friday.  We found a nice patch of grass to spread our picnic blanket on and chilled out for a few hours.  A goose heard me opening a bag of trail mix and came up to investigate.  I was too scared to throw him a bite; I think he would have settled in with us!

Feed ME!

On the way back we noticed that they are doing some repairs on one of the bridges.  There is a huge net hanging under the bridge to catch any falling debris or anyone trying to walk a tightrope I guess.

Cirq du Bridge

Speaking of which, when I walked past our park yesterday I saw two guys practicing on a tightrope strung between two trees!  They were being coached by an old, old grandma smoking a cigarette.  And I thought Ann Arbor was strange… West Philly is the best Philly, that’s for sure.

Anyway, on the way home from Forbidden Drive we checked out all the regatta action happening on the Schuylkill River. This weekend Philadelphia hosted the annual Dad Vail Regatta (named for Harry Emerson “Dad” Vail, what a nickname…) which attracts over 100 crews.  I was on the novice team for a year at UofM so I convinced Pat to let me reminisce and watch a few starts.

Riding my bike reminds me of rowing sometimes.  Great for your legs, you get to enjoy the outdoors, and you’re encouraged to wear spandex.  I’m just glad my bike doesn’t have a tiny person strapped to it screaming at me to go faster.  Though I’m sure I’ll redact that statement in a few years…

Getting set

On Saturday we rested and watched a ridiculous amount of “My Name is Earl” on the Xbox.  I think it’s funny that the show has the exact same premise for every single episode and yet it continues to be pretty entertaining.  I guess if you find the right premise you can make a show about anything.

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