Sunday, October 30, 2011

The tights the temps the tunes

Whoops. Sorry folks, I've been slacking. A few things kind of went to hell and then HALLOWEEN and I bounced around in balloons as a bunch of grapes at some seriously over-crowded parties and now I hurt really bad. Good night = bad morning. Brunch? Please? I do not have enough food in the house to sustain this hangover.

Anyway. That was not the point of this. The point of this was the cold. Because I ride for kicks. I just really really enjoy it. I don't ride to go fast. I've tried, the other morning in the fog and then when I wanted to catch a light and it is hard to sprint on a single-speed. Like, pretty quick there is zip resistance and then it's just a matter of making your legs go round and round real fast. But I don't ride to go fast. And now I'm rambling.

See, when I want to go fast and go hard and get a workout in, I run. I'm a running. My racing is one foot two foot one foot two foot. None of this two-wheeled lycra nonsense. Gimme a good pair of sneaks and I'm off. I'm not a sprinter, not by any means. I'm a distance runner. Because distance running, you don't have to be good. You just have to not stop. Not so hard.

My first marathon I ran this past March in Washington, DC. It was badass. The race's slogan was "I ran through history" because that's really how it went. We ran Constitution Ave and the Mall twice, we kept running at the Capitol and allll over the place.

I'm runnin'. I'm runnin' I'm runnin' I'm runnin''

One of the best parts was the temperature. It was some 35° to 40° the whole time and I was flying. And I got this amazing compression tights that are the greatest thing ever. Every time I wear them I go faster than I thought I could. I don't know the physics behind it but apparently the compression does a lot and really helps push you further and faster. Add the cooler temperature and I ran that race like a boss. In my terms at least. Four hours, nineteen minutes and eleven seconds after I started, I pushed through that finish line and LOVED IT. Greatest accomplishment of my life.

I credit some of that to me being in shape, to me having trained well and gone hard. But I don't think I trained that well. I trained on my own. I only had about four months to do so. I did what I could, but my half pace was still only 2:09, and that doesn't read into a sub 4:20 full. So I credit the rest of it to the temperature (and the tights. and the tunes. they were rockin'. Blackandyellowblackandyellow)

Everyone knows you run faster in the cold weather. Do you bike faster in the cold? I don't think I do. I kind of feel like I start to shut down. Maybe it's just going to be a matter of practice. We'll see!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Don't like the weather? Stick around a bit

Last week, it was borderline freezing. This Saturday, it was beautiful, sunny and perfect for the Ray Charles ride headed out of downtown. I've got pictures, but plenty have been posted elsewhere: here and here and lord knows where else. And mine are all off my phone, so, yeah.

Then Sunday morning, after a hell of a rousing storm that night, went sailing with my dad. It was warm and still when we got there, the wind whipped up and we rushed along at a solid 5.5 knots and the clouds came and I burrowed down in a hoodie cause it got damn cold.

And today?

That is some serious fog, homes. Can I also say, not fun by any stretch of the imagination. Visibility was reduced to about 100 feet, and that was when there were street lights. This is when I finally checked the signs and saw that the speed limit on Royal is 40 mph. So I started hauling ass, sprinting almost the whole way to do what I could to at least lessen the speed difference between me and the car that would inevitable hit me in the fog.

I'm not entirely convinced I survived the ride. I could be splatted across the pavement and this could all just be an elaborate construct of my psyche a whole lot of Vanilla-Sky-Abre-Los-Ojos bullshit blah blah blah. Plus, the fog got all my clothes wet.

The cool morning did make for a lovely ride home. No where to be, no rush so I took my sweet time and rode the full 18 miles. Beautiful clear sky, mid-80s temp, rolling right along. The blazer I'd worn in the morning was nice, because it had a pocket I could stash my iPod in but come the afternoon it was a little warm for a jacket (had to stick with the tights, that dressed need them if I was going to ride in it). So what's a girl to do?


I needed that ride, and the tunes that came with. Dallas gets under my skin of a lot of reasons, not the least of which is the horrific dating scene. I miss college where, as just a lowest common denominator, everyone was smart, driven and educated. Far as I can tell, it's rare to find just one of the three around here.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Shout out!

I stitched this blog up with Google Analytics. Looks like I've had about 400 viewers in the last couple of weeks, with a bounce rate of about 60% (bow chicka wow wow) and they spend an average of 2:23 on my site. Not too shabby, Watson. The best part by far is seeing the map and getting a look at where my readers come from. Also, knowing that I'm not shouting into an utter void.

So shout out to my reader in Spain! I have never heard of your town but I adore your country and hope to come back someday soon, vale!

To my readers in Hobart, Australia. Holy cow, you guys bored at work? 10 minutes on my site! Thank you!

The Dominican Republic. I think that's just Ellen logging in on 4 different computes. Miss you!

My London readers—you've got a buddy in Leicester. Yall should meet up!

Canada. My neighbors upstairs. You guys are even more bored than the Aussies! Also, how come so many of you are fascinated by my antics and no one from Mexico is? I am writing this from Texas. Is this because I like hockey? The Pens did hand Winnipeg their first win.

And the good old US of A.

I have readers from 27 of 50 states (I'll get there eventually) From most to least time on the site we have Oregon winning with 12 minutes, fuckin hippies, and North Carolina coming in dead last with none. Whoops. 9 from Massachusetts (Marianna, that you?), 9 from Pennsylvania (but none from Pittsburgh?), 19 from California and ... drumroll please ... 274 from Texas.

How many of those is me logging in from separate computers or forcing my friends to read this, I'm not quite sure. But it's there!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

It is suddenly winter like BOOM

I swear, Dallas, you are doing this just to mess with me.

Two weeks ago, it was 100°. Am I wrong? Like, seriously? It was one hot mother of a summer that went on and on and was a little bit brutal but I outlasted that shit like for real. It was baller and I did it but now it is turning into winter and apparently this is a whole new ball game.

Speaking of ball game—GO RANGERS!

Moving on.

It is currently 56° outside and I am officially freezing. I do not have any photos of my adorable outfit from before ride nor my squinted eyes, dry red cheeks or runny nose from after. But really? Boots, tights, dress, sweater and a trenchcoat and I was fuh-reezing. Plus, the sun goes down earlier and there is just something weird about setting off in the evening and it is so damn dark out.

I did get a package in the mail today, these crazy little handwarmers I'd forgotten I'd ordered. I found them on Etsy via some RSS feed or another and lord knows how long they'd been spending in my mailbox.

The other one is plain gray, but the mouse on the right is cute enough for both of them. They slip right on to the handlebars which is good and bad. I know they won't drop off, which I adore. It does however make it a little more difficult when it comes to riding. I'm realizing now that I like to grip the handlebars when I get started or when I head up a hill and the added mitten is something new to maneuver through that space between the brake and the handlebar. Plus, if you're female (or an adventurous male) and you're riding in a skirt you suddenly realize is somewhere around your hips, it is that much more difficult to get a hand free to adjust.

That said, I don't think they're all that warm. The knitting isn't as tight as it looks in the picture which leaves a fair amount of gappage open to the cold. I'd raise they raise your fingers up to the temperature of the rest of your body, and your thumbs still get to freeze. Worth the $24? If you like adorable things and people oohing and aahing over your cute cute bike gear. Besides, beauty is pain (highness. anyone who says different is selling something).

I think Sidney might be relegated to afternoon and weekend rides in the upcoming months. Now, this looks to be a freak cold spell and it'll get back up into the high 70s and 80s in the next few days but I'm getting a good look at what my winter is going to look like. And I think it looks like carpool.

Friday, October 14, 2011


First: I found something awesome on the internet

Preach, sister. Also, Congress, this HR 358 this is utter horseshit. A one-two punch of "we can tell you what to do with your money" and "yeah, go ahead and die on the floor". For those who don't follow politics, the House of Representatives yesterday passed a bill that a) keeps women from purchasing a private insurance plan under the Affordable Care Act that would cover abortion and b) allows a hospitals to refuse a woman a life-saving, medically necessary abortion (and to refuse to give her a referal).

Yes, this is never pass the Senate. Yes, Obama has already promised a veto. But this just proves once again that the GOP and the Tea Party are under the control of a small but vocal group of elderly lunatics*and refuse to accept the idea that women are competent human beings who are capable of independent decision-making.

And that is why I will never date a Republican.

In other news, I won't be updating for a few days because I am off to Los Angeles! Thank you, Virgin Atlantic, for driving down American's prices enough for me to snag the insanely low fare that has me jetting off to the West Coast for the weekend. I have a fever and the only cure is MORE TRAVEL!

*Thank you, Daily Show, for that one

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Texas has two seasons

Tornado and allergy.

That aside, this time of year is apparently when it starts to get chilly and rainy. Now that I'm riding I notice changes in the weather much more, so this must be when it gets chilly and rainy. We need it badly, it's been the driest summer in, like, ever so the rain Sunday, Monday and now today so yaaaaaay rain.

It does royally muck up my commuting, though. It's not just that I don't have fenders, or that I don't own a raincoat. It's that Dallas drivers are horrific on a good day and good days are only when it's dry and sunny. Add rain to the mix and everything starts to go to hell—roads get slick, windshields get messy and the accident rate triples (by my math, at least)

My main thing is that the morning half of my commute is in the wee hours before the sun comes up, and I can't trust that the drivers are any more awake than I am. Adding any kind of wet to the pre-7am hours and it spells recipe for disaster.

So here's my cyclist confession: On rainy days, I will drive. I wish I could be fearless, strap on and stick to it, but rainy mornings down Royal Lane in the pre-dawn darkness is bigger risk than I'm willing to take.

Thanks, October.

Update: Unfortunately, Dallas being Dallas and the suburbs being the suburbs, there is no other feasible way for me to get from the DART station to my office. I've looked. Several times. It's either Royal or Northwest Highway or I get off at the next stop and there I have to do a mile on the 161 service road so ... 

Monday, October 10, 2011

Unemployed or unemployable?

I fully stand behind the Occupy Wall Street movement. I am so happy that my generation is finally looking up from their smart phones and seeing that things about there are wrong and that they're saying something about it. The fact is that we have gotten a raw deal. We did everything we were supposed to—studied hard, went to college and studied hard again, we got internships, we developed work experience—and upon graduation we were faced with a whole heap of nothing. "First hired, first fired" saw way too many of us lose what jobs we were able to find. The American Jobs Act will hopefully fix some of the most egregious job discrimination against us by challenging current practices of "no unemployed need apply".

And Wall Street—the taxpayers bailed out Wall Street to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars and they gladly took our money and turned around and stripped Dodd-Frank of anything it could actually do to regulate them, sending us back to where we started. They set aside some $135 billion in un-taxable bonuses for themselves proving once again that money, power and greed corrupt and where the money is, regulation needs to follow. Blinded by the pursuit of material wealth, these people will bankrupt our nation again and again. Yes, this was another credit bubble. Yes, this was credit that, knowing we could not pay back, we should not have taken. But that does not give the uber-rich the right to exploit our hopes at the American dream.

I know I'm very idealistic because of course I am, I'm 24. I'm still practically a child. I have this unyielding hope that people will do the right thing. That people are, at their core, good. That government works for the people and by the people and I will gladly had over my money to them because they will do the right thing with it. And seeing our beautiful, wonderful country crumble to the whims of the wealthy, to see the radical religious minority take over our nation's dialogue, chips away at my idealism every day and shores it back up with cynicism.

And so I am glad to see Occupy Wall Street. I am glad to see people finally taking back their voice and find their place in our national discourse. I am even more glad to see the movement start to firm up and become more sure of itself. The New York core of the protests have found support in the unions and they're learning how to express themselves in a way that makes themselves heard. They're becoming more unified and they're learning. And I am so proud to support them because We Are The 99%.

I found something funny online

That said, as far as Occupy Wall Street has come, Occupy Dallas has further to go.

I wanted to support Occupy Dallas. Hell, I skipped the first Pens game of the season (that's a big deal if you're me) to go downtown to the JFK memorial and be with them for the first night. But when I got there, it was an unholy mess. It was smelly Indian drum circles of robed white people. It was a lot of people with tattoos on their faces talking about "the man, bro". It was every issue under the sun from banks to education, from Wall Street to immigration.

There were a lot of motions brought forward and every single one was passed. There were people shouting "FUCK THE POLICE" into a megaphone with the police standing there on the corner and there were the people trying to calm them down. Some of these people wanted a confrontation with the police, I suppose for the novelty of it, as if they couldn't fathom that the DPD were people too, and were there to keep everyone safe. They wanted everyone in food service to get their restaurants to feed the crowd. Like, seriously. While they were sitting out in the grass, they wanted the surrounding establishments to bring out free food. And we wonder why people call us entitled. You want food? Go buy it.

Underemployment is a big issue. Kids who worked their butts off in college who move back in with their parents because the only jobs they can find are in food service and retail, things that require no education and that insults everything they have worked for. But these were not those kids. These were layabouts with no education who still felt like the government owed them something. These were a bunch of whiners who didn't understand why the world wasn't giving them everything for doing nothing. The smell of rank ganja hanging over the whole scene just cemented it for me: they weren't unemployed, they were unemployable.

I understand that I am lucky. I found a job less than three months after graduation, back in 2009, and I was one of the few. Most of my classmates rushed right into a masters degree because they didn't want to face the economy as it stood and now nothing has gotten better and they are over-qualified with little work experience, making themselves even harder to hire and that is fundamentally not fair. But I started my job search a full year before I was hired. I put myself out there, I contacted everyone with a job opening across the country. I joined associations and I created a website and I worked every contact I had until something opened up and I was still lucky.

Yes, there are huge issues in the economy, but a bunch of punk kids standing around talking about how "the man controls the gold, bro, and they're changing everything" and a bunch of fucking conspiracy theories are not going to fix anything. The utter lack of foresight drove me crazy. There is no point to having a protest in downtown Dallas. Who the fuck planned that? Downtown Dallas is purely business—and come 5 pm, it empties out. Plus, you stage your protest on Texas OU Weekend and you expect to get any press at all? Come the fuck on, my friends. Piss poor.

And the one person I spoke too (so representing roughly 2% of everyone there) had never heard of Rick Perry. You heard me right. The governor of our goddamn state. Has been governor for over a decade. Most recently most famous for rocketing to the top of the GOP polls before plummeting spectacularly. And this kid had never heard of him.

The 1960s are the reason I started off as a history major. I was so utterly fascinated with how a generation rebelled against the status quo. They worked because they were "anti-war protestors". They had a focus and a point (unlike this rambling post). They wanted to end the war in Vietnam—the counterculture just came along for the ride.

Occupy Dallas, to me, was all counterculture. There was no focus, no point. And I want the Occupy protests to succeed. I want my generation to speak up and to mean something. But we need something concrete to focus on. Try Dodd-Frank. Try a protest to get Dodd-Frank passed in its entirety and actually prove itself effective and keep these guys that are "too big to fail" from every coming close to the failure point again. The problem is that, at least here, the kids who should be out there are too busy looking for jobs to take the time to sit in a park for five days. The crowd that has been the most dicked over by this whole thing hasn't had the opportunity to say anything about it.

I might rewrite this later, because I recognize that it rambles on and on. But really? Occupy Dallas is going to make me a Republican.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Look Ma!

Has anybody figured out how to do that biking-no-hands thing? I try. Like, actually do. On big wide flat roads because no matter what I do I seem to drift to the right and then I make it about two hundred feet before like wobblewobbleOOOOO and then I'm back on the handlebars feeling like I just cheated death.

"Golden Tree" by Martin Brooks from Ninian Doff on Vimeo.

This is so very twee and I kind of adore it. I just wish I didn't have a minor panic attack trying it. I've seen people just chill upright, texting with both hands and not even looking at the road. How does that go? I can barely balance for ten seconds and as fast as I can text, I can't text that fast or look that composed doing it. Hell, I've seen the Katy Trail bike-bound popo doing it. That's talent, amigos.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

I went to go home like usual today. I have to ride about two and a half miles down Royal, west of Harry Hines. It's not a nice stretch of road. Especially in the afternoons it's very busy, but people generally treat me pretty well. I get honked at and whistled at on occasions, people pass me too close bit I don't think anyone means any direct harm. I'm a brief inconvenience and then they're on their way.

Not today. Today a woman made it her personal mission to terrify me.

I think she was in a rush, but if she was in a rush, why didn't she go around me? Why did she, instead, spend well over a mile tailgating me down Royal, honking the whole way. I could hear her getting closer and closer as the honking grew louder. She rolled down her window to yell at me to get out of the way. It sounded like she was right on my ass, a foot from my rear tire. My heart was in my throat the entire way because with every honk I knew that was going to be the second she misjudged our respective speeds, or the second she decided I was just that much of a pest. I kept expecting the thump that would send me flying first to the road and then under her squealing tires. Was I really ready to go out like this? In my hockey jersey?

I just kept riding. I ignored it for a long as I could, then I started gesturing for her to go around me. She just kept laying on the horn, inching closer, and my stomach churned harder. I'm writing this from the train and I'm still shaking. I still feel sick. I'm still nearly in tears. She never saw it, but she got to me.

She eventually moved a lane over, then got stopped at a light, which gave her the chance to honk at me again as I continued in my mostly-empty land. Stopped there at the light, I nearly lost it. A nice man in a truck pulled along side.

"Why was she honking at you crazy like that?"

"I don't know? Stressed out, probably. In a hurry? Taking it out on me."

(Yes, I actually said this. Calmly. How, I do not know)

"Okay, I'm sorry. You ride safe."

Just one nice person checking on me helped me keep it together, but I didn't know at all what to do. When can we pass harassment laws here?

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

This is why I ride

I can be a crabby person. Some things can really get me steamed up. Politics, mostly. And stupid people. Stupid people being stupid around me. Which is I guess politics. But it gets to me and I go cross-eyed. I can't actually fully put to words, but I'm just one of those people gets overwhelmed and I start to shut down and it's bad.

And this is why I ride. It puts me at a different level with everything and I fall in love with a city I hate because on a bike, I see beauty everywhere. I see that sky in University Park, and I hate University Park. I hate the one-lane streets and the hidden street signs and everything it stands for.

Sunrise. Over Highway 161. I hate highways and the traffic and how thick the pollution gets and all the cars. But goddamn this was a beautiful sunrise.

This is SMU. Southern Methodist University. Southern Millionaires University. This is like the birthplace of all that is horrific about Dallas, it breeds the greed and the shiny and the demolish-the-history that sprawls throughout this city. But riding through there at the Golden Hour, I made this turn and suddenly had to spin around and stop and get this shot because seriously? Stunning. Except for that crane in the background, because Dallas is always under construction.

I worry sometimes that car people miss all this. I feel like they're so focused on where they're going, they forget to look at where they are. Or maybe I'm just biased. I can't really tell drivers from the cars they wield.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Even when Google Maps leads you astray ...

Sometimes I like a good challenge. We all do (well, at least I think we all should). Gotta push yourself and see just what you can do. Sometimes, however, the stars do not align and while you're pretty sure you can do it, other things conspire against you. Things like Google Maps.

The last time my dad and I went out to the boat, I'd thought that maybe some day I'd like to ride all the way out there. It's a good ways, the maps said 30 miles from my place. The longest ride I've done at this point is in the low 20s, but I figured I could do it, especially that I don't pedal hard. Good tunes and a bottle of water, and I figure I can get just about anywhere. So I set off.

The trip began with a lake and ended with a lake. I had to stop by my parents' house first and then hit part of the lovely White Rock loop and head on around to the Arboretum where I hopped off into Forest Hills. And seriously, that part of town blows. The roads are royally busted up. I ducked in and around, loop-di-loop, figured out where Bishop Lynch is, which is new, and found Eastfield, which just made me all the more happy to have gone to a full four-year college.

Along the way, found this

Sidney at Sidney! Unfortunately, the real Sidney (Crosby) is still benched. Sadface. Oh yeah, and I had to stop at home to pick something up for my dad. Had to pick up the gas can. So there was me pedaling through Dallas on my pretty little bike with a bigass gas can in the basket. That was funny.

I got honked at more in this neighborhood than I ever have before, and got called more than my fair share of nasty names (in a language they definitely didn't think I could understand. Beg pardon, but this puta took several years of high school Spanish, and if there's anything a high school Spanish students wants to learn, it's the swear words) After six months of riding through Dallas, I've started to identify which neighborhoods are going to give me the most trouble and I really don't want to talk about the similarities between them.

A far too large chuck of the ride was through Mesquite/Town East Mall area. That was a little dangerous. I came about thirty seconds from getting someone cited for excessive honking—the cop car I could have flagged down was just a little ways off. How great would that have been? Because the answer is really great.

The switch from Mesquite to Sunnyvale could not have been more drastic. I went from over-developed, run-down suburb to gorgeous country roads through east Texas ranchland. If you haven't been out there, Sunnyvale is a dream to pedal through. The roads are mostly new, well-paved, big green trees on both sides, land stretches for ages and ages and it's beautiful.

And there's ponies. Like, for reals. This was right at the first break into Sunnyvale and it only got better. I seriously saw a girl riding her horse in her front yard which was kind of my favorite thing ever.

Unfortunately, this is also where things started to go downhill. Beautiful, absolutely stunning ride. I really want to go back out there, though I might have to take a different route. Or get a bike rack for my car. One of the two. It wasn't too hot, there was a bit of a breeze, gentle hills that also managed to be enough of a challenge to make you smile. J'adore. I was having too much fun to take pictures, if that tells you anything. The streets, however, are not well-marked and I passed more than one turn I was meant to take. That sucked.

And then I got to the dam. See, while Google Maps had told me to ride across "Lake Ray Hubbard Way", what they meant was ride across the Rockwall-Forney Dam, and the city of Dallas was not about to let that happen. Big fence, security guard, a whole lot of "no", which made me pout.

I did get to see the lake through the trees, so that was a plus. I officially made it all the way to Lake Ray Hubbard—all in all, about 24 solid miles of cycling. Not a bad day's work. Plus yesterday, I did my usual morning commute, rode from Las Colinas to Half Price Books, up to Addison and then most of the way home (with a hop in the hatchback for the roughest bits. On the plus side, I can remove and reattach a tire while intoxicated. I'm getting good!)

After I got blocked at the dam, the only other option was Highway 80, and Highway 80 doesn't have a service road crossing the east fork of the Trinity so ... I was out of options. I could reverse my way 10 miles and then go another 20 up around the north side of the lake but uh, I just didn't quite feel like it. So I called in the cavalry.

My knight in shining armor. Also known as my dad in the truck. Because this was my barrier.

Ah well, it had been totally worth it. We were headed to the lake for the George Griffith Memorial Regatta, so lots of sailors and lots of pretty boats and a loosely-guarded keg which as a recent college grad and former sorority girl I had no problem locating and tapping several times. Ahh, sailing.

It was unreal.