This is my fifth annual post about being car-free since 1/25/2005. Technically I’m car-light, since I drove borrowed cars for a job for part of last summer also visited relatives over the holidays. On the other hand, I managed my best year ever combined and walking and biking – 5,633 miles.
I did that while on a bike that has 67% fewer gears and is 25% heavier steel (Sophie) than my old aluminum steed (Sookie). I’m no Greta Thunberg, but I do think reducing car use is a good thing. Not everyone can do it, but some people might be able to try it. That’s all I’m saying. Well, in this paragraph at least.
One of the pleasures of being a car-free bicyclist in a bustling city like Austin is that there is never a shortage of cool things to photograph. When you’re stuck in a car, you can’t just pull over and take pictures. But see something interesting while cycling, pull over safely, and bam! You’re rewarded with plenty of images as you like. This is one of those posts where the words can’t paint the whole picture.
I got a flat tire last night, but not just any flat tire. The tube exploded with a loud BANG! and so did the tire. The thing is, I was at a well-known high-crime drug corner, and for a second I thought someone was shooting at me with a gun. Then I realized the air was gone from my rear tire and my pedaling was over for the night. The guys hanging out at the convenience store parking lot knew it wasn’t a gunshot, though. There was a police officer parked in the lot, and a bus came along pretty quickly. Even more fortunate was that I was near the house of a member of the North East Austin Texas Bike Group, and her husband kindly took me home in their mini-van. Thanks, Thomas! It’s good to know people.
Biking 25 miles in one day can be challenging or easy depending on your abilities and how you feel. Then there’s the weather like wind, rain, cold or heat to contend with. Traffic can be very scary even if you’re used to riding in it. Also important are the quintessential questions that come up riding a bike like: what to wear, what to eat, where to go? I must have figured all that out because I managed to make it another seven days in a row for the 10th week. This past week I totaled 175 miles, which is huge – 25 miles a day if you’re counting. Or a mile for every hour of the week (168) plus seven. So what follows are some thoughts on my pretty stupendous week (or stupid, depending how you look at it; maybe it’s a little of both.)
Not that beast. I mean beast mode. I’m not a believer in magical numbers (unless my lottery tickets finally pay off). It was my second longest month ever, after the 731 I did in April 2017 including 202 Miles in 2 Days for the MS 150. Given my lack of a day job at the moment, I made it my bidness (as some people actually pronounce “business” in Texas) to bike my butt off (it’s still there, though). And bidness is goooood! That’s because I averaged 150 miles per week. Well, I guess it’s volunteering if I’m not getting paid.
It’s surprising that I accomplished this since it takes me longer than it used to. I could blame Sophie, the 28-pound steel bike with nine gears I’m riding, or the prematurely colder, windy and wet weather, but I’m just not moving very fast these days. Some people I know rode Das Hugel, an unsanctioned sufferfest that’s over a century and 10,000 feet elevation (I wrote about it last year.) A Dude doth not Das Hugel. However, compared to everyone who’s home sitting on the couch, I’m friggin’ Speed Racer. So perhaps my efforts are inspirational to somebody out there reading this. You don’t have to believe me, let’s look at the Strava stats.
Saturday brought me several opportunities as a bicyclist and advocate. First up was the appearance at the neighborhood association by one of the 10 City Council members of Austin, Texas. His name is Gregorio Casar, the son of Mexican immigrants, but he goes by Greg. He really knows his stuff, is genuine, friendly, and not pretentious at all. I believe he is the youngest Council member ever. Second was a Smart Trips Austin ride. It’s a City program to encourage people to use alternative modes of transportation including walking, the bus, and of course bikes. It was super hot, so it was sparsely attended, but I wanted to check it out and meet the two young staff people just the same. Third was I added 27 miles for a 30-mile ride. ‘Twas a pretty good day, if you ask me. Oh, you’re asking me? OK, I’ll tell you about it, then!
From the things that make you go mmmmmm department:
Mishap #1: Trash Cans, Trash Talk
Riding down a sidewalk of a busy four-lane road without bike
lanes, I swerve to avoid recycling bins, miscalculate, and Sophie the Fairdale’s
very wide handlebars catch them. I go
down like a Christian thrown into the gladiator ring trying to save the lion
with talk of Jesus. (Translation: Quickly.)
But unlike those unlucky folks, I bounced right back up, apparently