Thursday, December 17, 2020

As Merry as it Gets


This is it. This is the Apollo 13 of Holiday Seasons in the Apollo 13 of years. We're not landing on the moon - or, in my case, JFK International Airport in New York - so let's break out the duct tape and keep the life support going until we get back to Earth-That-Was.

If you still have a job and a place to live, you're like me and one of the lucky ones - and if you don't get to fly where you want to this Christmas that means you have a little money to spend donating to a few nonprofits. 

This is my third round of making donations: the first was in the wake of a cancelled Spring trip to Italy, the second was when my parent's 50th anniversary bash in New England was cancelled in August, and with December officially flight-free, it's time for a third since I'm not flying to New York and taking a train to Connecticut.

This one's especially tough. It's not just the tradition of not going to Connecticut but also the microtraditions that are associated with it, like bowling with my sister on Christmas Eve and renting a CitiBike in Manhattan after a red-eye flight.

Riding in New York City, December 21, 2019. 

Here's the list of (most) of #MyNonprofits, and I'd be grateful if you made a donation to any or all of them with money you were supposed to spend on a plane ticket AND if you'd go on your own social media platform and introduce your followers to nonprofits that matter to you. 

Bike New York

Community Cycles of California

Good Karma Bikes

Habitat for Humanity East Bay Silicon Valley 

Highways Performing Arts Center

Institute for Local Self Reliance

Lick Observatory

Project Explorer (the founder of Project Explorer, Jenny Buccos, created Crash Test World - a show starring Kari Byron that premiers on Science Channel January 8th - be sure to watch - I want smart things to succeed in 2021) 

San Jose Spotlight (an easy way to do this is to become members/buy tickets for their 2 year anniversary celebration in January

Second Harvest of Silicon Valley 

Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition 

Valley Verde


YWCA Silicon Valley 

As I type this I'm looking at the Christmas tree in my living room that was brought home on a Burley bike trailer I modified for the purpose of carrying a tree. It didn't take much: some bolted aluminum bent with a pipe bender. Here's a better photo:

We rode five miles in South San Jose to a lot and picked out a 7' noble fir (they look good and don't have the porcupine quill effect when you touch them, but they don't smell like a pine tree). This is the first real tree in my house in 17 years. 

I almost couldn't believe how well it worked: the tree was carried at a 45 degree angle and the trunk was lashed with a solitary strap. If you live in the Bay Area and would like to transport your tree by bike (if you haven't gotten one yet) let me know and you can borrow this in exchange for making a donation to one of #MyNonprofits. 

That's it. Settle in. This is as merry as it gets and it's up to us all to add whatever humanity, perspective, support and community we can this year. I'm counting on you. Also be sure to shop local: I recommend coffee from Nirvana Soul in the Sofa District and books - for yourself or books for others - from Hicklebee's in Willow Glen. And if you're local is Stamford, Connecticut, visit Lorca on Bedford Street and get merch from the creative force that is the Danger GalleryThanks for reading and thanks for riding. 

Monday, October 12, 2020

Cycle of Hope 2020: Biking for Affordable Housing with Habitat for Humanity EBSV


There's still time to register for the Cycle of Hope or you can donate to my page! Whoever raises the most in the 24 hour period of Saturday, October 17th will win a six-pack of beer from Lagunitas Brewing Company I don't drink but I'm excited Habitat for Humanity is closing in on their fundraising goal anyway :) 

Today I went on the Habitat for Humanity East Bay Silicon Valley Cycle of Hope ride. You can do it too, but you don't have to wait for 2021 - you can do it anytime between now and October 25th. 

That's because this event - just like most others these coronavirus days - is virtual. To Habitat for Humanity's credit, they leaned into the advantages of a virtual event.

You can do it anytime, you can choose your own route if you want, and the cause - the building of affordable housing - did not lose its importance during shelter in place.

Unlike last year, when I found myself in a lousy mood and decided to do the ride anyway (on my then-just built Back to the Future theme bike), this year I really wanted to do it and signed up. The problem I had was I didn't commit to the date and decided, literally this past Friday, that Indigenous People's Day would be the day that I'd ride. 

Since I picked a 62 mile ride, I chose a route that would fill that distance. Going to Lick Observatory was an obvious choice but unsure the main building - and the room where the coveted vending machine and water fountain are kept - would be accessible since it had been closed due to the fires. 

So I picked Mt. Madonna County Park as my destination. It is about 30 miles to get there - about the same as getting to Lick Observatory - but would involve about half of the climbing. That meant I could probably pack a 2 liter Camelbak and have enough water to do the whole distance.

Last night I gathered my cycling kit, several protein bars that were not expired - which is a big change for me - and a few other items. Then I sat down and checked my email, and found one from Cycle of Hope reminding me to download an app called RaceJoy, which would be used to track the ride. With an old iPhone busting at the seems with photos, I downloaded the app reluctantly, but after following several prompts I had everything all set in a few minutes.

With the Back to the Future bike all shiny and tuned (since the 2019 Cycle of Hope ride I added a larger rear cassette for easier climbing, a Cane Creek Thudbuster seatpost for comfort, and a Flux Capacitor just Because) I headed off to my personal start line.

I switched on Strava, and then I opened up the RaceJoy app, selected my ride, and much to my surprise (and any nearby household that may have had the windows open) a recorded message played that welcomed me to the ride. Assured I had started the app properly, I set off - first heading to the Coyote Creek Trail.

Over the past several weeks, I've used my old recumbent and my Box Bike Collective/Box Bike by DIYBIKING.COM cargo bike for riding, so the Back to the Future bike felt like a rocket as I headed into the 57 degree morning (thanks for the weather, Kari Hall of NBC Bay Area).

A few miles in, while I was still on roads, I heard voices coming from somewhere and I thought someone was blasting NPR from one of the cars ahead of me...but it was actually the RaceJoy app. Every five miles, a woman's voice would tell me about my pace and average speed, followed by words from a sponsor of the event (and one was even a story from someone who has gotten a home because of Habitat's work - I slowed down so I could better hear that one). If you have a handlebar phone mount I recommend you use it since I felt like I had tiny people talking to me occassionally from my waistpack.

Vineyards always make me think of a friend of mine in Napa - and there are quite a few to see on Watsonville Road. The bike was working perfectly and I was feeling good about my time.

I pedaled up Hecker Pass Highway - a road that has so much potential. As you can see it has recently been paved, so the asphalt is very smooth. It also has a rumble strip in the middle of the road, which creates a disincentive for people to pull into the middle to pass a cyclist. With only a luxurious inch-and-a-half shoulder most of the way up, it was a white-knuckle stretch when cars would pass closely. But the larger cassette on the back paid off even though I didn't even go into the tiny front chainring for this part (I wanted to pass through this part as fast as possible).

When I did reach the top, I did a lean against the Hecker Pass sign, and read the stone plaque just behind. Hecker Pass was named after Henry Hecker, who was behind this road and was apparently not a cyclist back in his day or he would have designed it differently.

A few hundred yards beyond is the long shuttered Mt. Madonna Inn. I rode up there to catch a glimpse of the Pacific Ocean before heading into Mt. Madonna Park, where I did use the tiny chainring to climb the first hill. Without any rangers around, I had little idea of what to do or where to go when I arrived, but I thoroughly enjoyed riding in the tall, Endor-like trees.

The RaceJoy app again broke the silence by congratulating me for hitting the halfway mark. It even suggested I drink some water, so I did as I listened to the message from the lead sponsor, Patelco Credit Union. I was even within sight of the bench overlooking the valley you can see in the first photo when I hit 31 miles.

I tore open a couple of protein bars and ate in silence, trying to think about what to do next. I didn't feel like riding down Hecker Pass Highway, but I saw on a map Mt. Madonna Road, which looked like it led to Watsonville Road. When I arrived at the intersection for Mt. Madonna Road, I saw what I first thought was a crude, gravel driveway. But no: it was Mt. Madonna Road.

Then I remembered something a friend told me the day before. She was recommending Mt. Madonna as a destination and said she had been there herself and "the last mile and a half you're gonna want gravel tires."

I headed down the road that she must have been referring to not with gravel tires, but with the 120 psi Continental road tires the Back to the Future bike has had for over a year. 

I had just enough confidence in my handiwork to be convinced the bike would stay together. Me personally, less so. Fillings were relocated from my teeth and eyeballs rattled in their sockets as I descended. I kept thinking of the trip I did on the Bike Friday years ago in the hills outside of Paraty, Brazil, where I biked on a similar mountain road on similar tires and the only flat I got on that trip was in the hotel room. 

Thankfully, the rough gravel eventually turned into asphalt, so I was able to open up the throttle a little - but not before being reminded of my comparatively less-than-stellar time from the RaceJoy app.

After passing several ranches I arrived at Watsonville Road, and was presented with a chance to head back on Uvas Road. I decided to do it and was once again presented with newly painted asphalt. But at that hour and on that road, there were few cars as I passed Uvas Reservoir. I stopped to prop my bike up on a conveniently-located stick and wondered if another rider had used the same stick for a similar photo earlier - or would later. 

After several more miles, I knew I was closing in on the finish - just in time for lunch! - so I took a cool down lap in a residential neighborhood for about a mile as the congratulations message played over the RaceJoy app. I had completed the Cycle of Hope 2020 ride. There were no RouteArrows, no bumping into the publisher of Cycle California Magazine or the owner of the women's cycling apparel company Tonik Cycling at the end of this one, but it was still a great ride worth taking, and an adventure I wouldn't have otherwise. 

At my house, I leaned the Back to the Future bike against the door and updated my miles on analog. I also taped the wrappers of all of the things I ate on the ride as a general reminder to others not to litter. I went in the house and ate lunch. 

Right now I'm sitting in my living room. I showered, changed, and have a Gemellos Murals coffee mug nearby that has her drawing of the San Jose skyline on it. It's quiet and it's peaceful, and everyone should have one of these things called homes. 

Please make a donation to one of #MyNonprofits, Habitat for Humanity East Bay Silicon Valley, and/or register for the Cycle of Hope ride. Thanks for reading and thanks for making a difference where and how you can.

Friday, September 18, 2020

#MyNonprofits - This is Bike New York


If you're healthy, employed, and traveled less than you wanted this summer, please make a donation to a nonprofit organization(s) that matters to you and share the donation link on social media with the hashtag #MyNonprofits - encouraging others to do the same. I hope you take part - thank you.

If I'm in New York City - like I usually am in late December - I have to bike there. Mittens, a winter coat, a helmet I packed in my carry-on bag, I will ride. A CitiBike bikeshare bike does the trick because I usually just have an hour or two. It's a great city to ride a bike in and the city is headed for a future with a lot more biking. 

If your name is Bill DeBlasio, read that line again. Tattoo it backwards on your forehead so you have to read it in the bathroom mirror every morning if you must. Keep challenging him, my New York friends, and make sure no politician can even take a half-glance at public office, much less Gracie Mansion, without speaking to how they will improve cycling.

Bike New York is a big reason New York in the place to ride in that it is, and they are a major reason why I still enjoy riding there. Their Five Boro Bike Tour - a car-free ride through 42 miles of New York City with 30,000 other cyclists - I did ten years in a row.  I still have a couple of my T-shirts. 

The pandemic put a stop it it this year, but they're adapting as they can: they have a Spoketober Challenge next month and they're making some of their education programs virtual. Also they now have Recycle-A-Bicycle as part of their offerings, so you can shop for a used bike or donate one yourself. 

Donate to Bike New York here 

And that's a wrap on this edition of #MyNonprofits: I took the amount of money that would have been spent on a plane ticket to (sigh) New York to visit family in Connecticut and over the past week and a half divided it up among some nonprofits that make a difference and matter. Everything about this pandemic tells me there are more hard times to come so if you are healthy, employed, and had your summer plans ruined too, make a donation to any nonprofits that touched you in some way. Thanks for reading and thanks for riding. 

Thursday, September 17, 2020

#MyNonprofits: Good Karma Bikes in San Jose


If you're healthy, employed, and traveled less than you wanted this summer, please make a donation to a nonprofit organization(s) that matters to you and share the donation link on social media with the hashtag #MyNonprofits - encouraging others to do the same. I hope you take part - thank you.

Good Karma Bikes has had a tough go lately - in the Arts Mercantile building on 460 Lincoln Avenue, they had another bad break in in June - not a year after another significant one (both of the burglaries were covered by another one of #MyNonprofits, news organization San Jose Spotlight). 

Like another nonprofit, Community Cycles of California, they've had to scale back too. Their hours are reduced these days to 12 - 4 Tuesday through Saturday - less if there is a fire. Just my morale is affected by the wildfire smoke - they close the shop when the AQI is 150 or higher. When you have to rent a large industrial space for your work, the only air conditioning you sometimes get is when the windows are open. 

It's only $50 to sponsor a bicycle for a stranger who needs one, so please Donate to Good Karma Bikes here so they can come out of all this stronger. Thanks for reading and thanks for riding. 

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

#MyNonprofits: Highways Performance Space


If you're healthy, employed, and traveled less than you wanted this summer, please make a donation to a nonprofit organization(s) that matters to you and share the donation link on social media with the hashtag #MyNonprofits - encouraging others to do the same. I hope you take part - thank you.

I've decided that I'll eventually compile all of the painted river rocks I've found on my walks in Santa Teresa County Park. I saw this one not too long ago and I read it as 'Live' as in 'live performances, live music'  but it probably meant 'Live' as in...'Live Free or Die' or 'Live Through This'...the album by Courtney Love's band, Hole, back in the early nineties.


Anyway, I probably read it that way because of a friend who commented that she misses museums, misses going to live shows, just...misses a physical interaction with people and culture. We all do, and we have to make sure these places are still there after COVID is gone.

Just as another one of #MyNonprofits is doing, City Lights in San Jose, Highways Performance Space is holding virtual events. Cellista was to perform there on March 27 and she eventually did a virtual show with Highways but I missed it since I didn't follow Highways Performance Space on Twitter at the time, but I do now. 

Donate to Highways Performance Space here.

Closing in on the bottom of #MyNonprofits list - hope you start at the top of yours, help some places out, and turn up some music.  Thanks for reading and thanks for riding. 

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

#MyNonprofits: YWCA Silicon Valley


If you're healthy, employed, and traveled less than you wanted this summer, please make a donation to a nonprofit organization(s) that matters to you and share the donation link on social media with the hashtag #MyNonprofits - encouraging others to do the same. I hope you take part - thank you.

YWCA Silicon Valley had their Walk a Mile in Her Shoes event to raise money to fight domestic violence this past May - and this year was the third in a row I've done it. Only this time, instead of Santana Row, I was alone in an empty VTA parking lot where I walked a mile while attempting to Strava-art an image of a house. A friend at work did it in Milpitas and we exchanged pictures of our shoes. 

It was a nice moment, but domestic violence isn't a moment - it is a pandemic that has gotten worse during the COVID-19 pandemic. YWCA Silicon Valley noted they've had a 300% increase in requests for emergency shelters and/or financial help.

The next YWCA Silicon Valley event is their Inspire Luncheon which is coming up on October 29th from 12:00 to 1:30. Susan Rice will be the keynote speaker and I hope you register for the Inspire Luncheon here. 

Donate to YWCA Silicon Valley here. 

I'll see you tomorrow and I hope between now and then you take some of the money you saved having trips cancelled this summer and put it towards some nonprofits that matter to you.  Thanks for reading and thanks for riding.  

Where my size 12 wedges dwell. Till next time, Walk a Mile in Her Shoes

Monday, September 14, 2020

#MyNonprofits: Be a Friend of Lick Observatory

Lick Observatory, August 24, 2019.

If you're healthy, employed, and traveled less than you wanted this summer, please make a donation to a nonprofit organization(s) that matters to you and share the donation link on social media with the hashtag #MyNonprofits - encouraging others to do the same. I hope you take part - thank you.

The most worried I got during the SCU Lightning Complex Fire - which was both yesterday and a million years ago at the same time - was when I heard Lick Observatory was threatened. The worst part was there wasn't a lot of information - and it stressed me out that I could no longer see it from my garage thirty miles away. When the smoke finally cleared I could see the flames had indeed burnt the hills all around it, but it still stood. Matt Simon at Wired wrote a great feature about Lick Observatory and the fire here.

My first trip to Lick Observatory was on a bike on April 7, 2019. After a summer car trip to one of their photography nights, I rode my Back to the Future-themed roadbike back to Lick Observatory on August 24th. Twenty-five miles into a thirty-mile bike trip, I learned the riding up there in August is a lot different from April. My 1.5 liter Camelbak went dry and I crawled the rest of the way to the relief of that stupendous vending machine (which, if it is ever retired and I am eccentric and wealthy by then, I want that thing in my workshop).

For now, my workshop can support the space for postcard I got from the vending machine and carried all the way down the mountain on my first visit.

I'm not sure when my next visit is (I think the road is still closed) but I know that Lick Observatory could use our help (they also need San Jose to not install electronic billboards and add light pollution but that's another conversation). 

Donate to Lick Observatory Here

The smoke is still hanging in the Bay Area air as you can see (that photo was this morning - look at what it looked like in May) With wind, time and some support we'll see clear skies again. Hope you donate to some nonprofits that matter to you w/ the hashtag #MyNonprofits. Thanks for reading and thanks for riding.