What the Family Learned this Week

Monday, January 13, 2014

Thoughts from a daily bike-commuter in Portland

I’m excited to share some of the knowledge gained from cycling to my job in Portland daily for the past 2 years. This practice has changed my life and my outlook. Before I figured out how to make bike-commuting work I had a long drive with annoying traffic and difficult/expensive parking. Although my commute is now slightly longer, I look forward to parking my car, getting on my bike and riding through neighborhoods, over bridges into one of America’s most beautifully idiosyncratic cities.

If I sound as though I’m approaching this topic with an evangelical zeal, it is because this is something I believe in. Just about anyone can bike, and the more one can address their transportation (not just recreation) needs with a bicycle instead of a car the better. I have lived for extended periods in the world’s #1 and #2 bicycling capitals, Amsterdam and Copenhagen – and there is something so ridiculously sensible about this. What follows is taken primarily from my experiences over the last two years biking in PDX.

Look closely, you can see the bikey arrow-thing here.
Follow the bikey arrow-thing!
Several neighborhood roads in Portland are set-apart for cycling, designated by these cool symbols (this is Portland, I once saw a dude with the symbol tattooed on his calf). Cars tend to avoid these streets because of all the bikers, but they don’t have terribly many stop-signs so you can make a fairly decent pace. I once ran into a 20-30 person cycling troop where everyone was riding weird custom bikes (some extra tall, some low-riders, some hacked-together from other weird machines) following a leader who was blasting grooving 80’s music from a custom sound system he was pulling in a trailer behind his bike.

Jackpot: Donuts on the bridge
There are a couple of places in PDX where people will occasionally set-up coffee and donuts for cyclists on some of the bridges in the mornings.

Steel Bridge = Always Awesome
The bike/pedestrian path along the steel bridge is only about 10’ above the water. It’s down well below all of the cars and trams that cross the bridge, offering a peaceful and gorgeous view of the river, the cityfront, and the bridge itself. Oh and hey, you, there, you two who are walking together side-by-side taking-up the entire path, care to move over for me so I don’t have to ask you or ring my bell? Single file on the bridge people. Single file.

New Club
Bike commuters tend have an interesting bond. We share this thing that we do individually but have common experiences with. In Portland we’re growing daily but in the rest of the US, it’s a bit slower. We don’t discriminate – if you can’t handle a two-wheeled bike, get a 3-wheeler.

Some people (including climatologists) think Portland gets lots of rain.  I recently upgraded my rain jacket but it is honestly not as bad as people say. I bike daily and I still don’t own a pair of rain pants. Although I probably should – might cut down on the chafing a bit.

Don’t ride angry
Despite the blissed-out state I enter while riding, some of my cohorts experience a dark and bitter two-wheeled road rage. Not sure what the takeaway is here, but it seems sad to get all mad – I mean, hey, you’re riding a bike man!

Riding in the winter, it’s cold. Remember to bring a tissue. Blowing your nose helps you breath easy as you speed along. The hard part? Gloves. You need to keep your hands warm when riding – but it is literally impossible to reach into a pocket to grab a tissue while wearing gloves. So you need to learn to stop, remove glove, fish tissue out of pocket, blow nose, put used tissue in other pocket, return glove to hand. Or, if you’re nutty like me, you do this process while riding.

So, that pretty-much covers it. Or does it? Because I’m sure you have nothing better to do, I wanted to add a few tips that will help the world evolve toward a green-energy powered utopian biketopolis.

For Automobile Drivers:
As American cities begin to add bike lanes, we’re in a transitional stage where cars and cyclists are new to dealing with and using them. A few essential things to keep in mind are:
1)   Don’t ever honk at a cyclist. Car horns have a volume loud enough to alert other motorists inside their cars. For cyclists, it’s an ear-splitting cannon of aural violence. I’ve seen cyclists fall-off their bikes because of a honk.
2)   Look for bike lanes and treat them like a separate road that you can’t travel on.  Drivers who drive in the bike lanes have a special place in hell dedicated just for them.
3)   Any time you ever take a right turn, look behind your car to your right and make sure a cyclist isn’t riding behind you. This is the most-common accident cyclists encounter. Three weeks ago I saw a cyclist who was hit by a driver making a right-hand turn. We go at different speeds than you and we have the right of way.
4)   I’m sorry. Be patient. Some of my cohorts are young and stupid and don’t know or understand the rules when it comes to biking with cars. In Portland, an alarming number don’t even wear helmets, which is grossly irresponsible. Cyclists don’t always follow the same rules that cars follow and I appreciate your tolerance as we figure out how to educate both motorists and cyclists so we can better coexist.

For Bikers:
1)   Be Seen! At some point somewhere you may have been told to ride your bike as far-to-the-right as possible. This is outdated and dangerous. If there is no bike-lane present, ride down the middle of the car-lane that makes the most sense for where you are going. Wear something other-than black. Despite the fact that you don’t have a motor, you are a vehicle and will be treated like one if you act like one. This brings me to my next point.
2)   Act like a car. Come to a complete stop at stop signs and stoplights. Make certain you have white lights on the front of your bike and a blinking red light on the back. Use your hands to signal left or right turns.
3)   Beware of the “right hook.” Always operate under the assumption that cars are mindless 2,000 lb killing machines (something my Dad liked to remind me of when I was learning how to drive) and they’re not capable of processing the idea that a cyclist could be riding behind them as they look to make a right-hand turn. You do have the right of way, but “I had the right-of-way” isn’t what you want on your tombstone.
4)   Get regular maintenance. Not very sexy, but terribly important. Any machine that gets regular use will need to be maintained. Think of your bike as a vehicle and not a one-time purchase. Nobody in their right mind would go for an extended period of time without checking their oil, brakes or tire pressure. Bikes have similar parts that wear-down and need to be adjusted and replaced.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Top Ten Things Learned on our Trip to San Diego

By: McKenna and Daniel Magalogo

10) Recycling. In California they recycle. I mean really recycle. Everywhere we went, the Zoo, SeaWorld walking around the Marina there were always two cans to throw away trash. Even in our hotel room we had two separate trash cans.
9) How expensive everything can be. Our joke was, "It's like we are living in an airport." Fancy Hotel equals expensive everything.  An omelet at the hotel restaurant was $16.50 and my favorite was purchasing a small fun size bag of chips for $3.99. The cheapest place to buy soda was in the gift shop. Who knew? We did find a vending machine on the other side of the Marina (none were found in the hotel) and they charged $2.75 for a soda. True story.

8) You can spend Christmas without snow.  We went swimming on Christmas Day and went to SeaWorld and the Zoo. We couldn't believe how packed those places were on Christmas Eve and on Christmas Day. We also loved how at the Shamu Christmas Celebration they sang actual Christmas Hymns during their show.

7) Chartered planes are better for travel. Bigger leg room, private security, complete with our own personal waiting area with couches and a big screen tv. For our first family flight together we think the kids were pretty spoiled :)

6) Plumerias, my favorite flower are free for the taking. Also you CAN sweet talk your way into the locked portion of the marina and then onto a boat. :)

5) Cheerleaders make the best babysitters. They fell in love with Elise and Carter. Playing games with them, braiding Elise's hair and my favorite was when a cheerleader asked Carter for a crayon while coloring, his response. "I'm not a sharing kind of guy."

4) At the Zoo on a guided bus tour we met a 4 day old Giraffe. Found out that its mother was pregnant for 15 months and that she gave birth standing up. Her baby was born equivalent to the size of a high school basketball player. Wow!
3) A Madagascar Live performance can make a child's day magical. We will never forget their faces during the performance, AMAZING!

2) Can't go wrong with field seats at the Poinsettia Bowl Game. Everything was so close it made the atmosphere so much more fun. The halftime fireworks show wasn't half bad either. Elise made it on the Jumbotron and you can almost say that you saw us on ESPN (You might have to squint).

1) The ride home with the head coach, families and players at midnight is much more fun when you win than when you lose. Way to go Aggies!