January 28 2012 Ride: At Last (with proper appreciation for Etta James)

It has been almost exactly one month since I have ridden on a bicycle. That is a really strange thought, given that I, you know… run a bicycle blog.

The combination of wet weekends and early evenings, my car accident and then the snow has added up to a month of inactivity and pants that feel a wee bit snug. But at last the weather has cooperated, at least a tiny bit, and I had a dry Saturday afternoon. I didn’t yet have a new bike rack, so I was relegated to a neighborhood ride. Given the hilly, rather isolated nature of my neighborhood, I decided to make the trip a ride with a purpose: I would visit the Post Office to mail off some packages, and I would then continue to the store, and buy cat treats.

If your cat was this adorable, you’d ride six miles to buy her treats, too.

The day was cool, but not freezing, and though the skies were gray, I didn’t really expect more than a few sprinkles. I packed up The Raleigh’s basket with everything I might need: balaclava, rain jacket, tissues, u-lock, coil lock, packages, purse, and camera. This left little room for groceries, but the packages would soon be gone, which would leave a bit more space.

My poor neighborhood has been through a great deal lately. First off, we had five days of heavy snow, getting nearly eight inches (that definitely constitutes “heavy” around here). For those of you in the Midwest, sneering right now at our relative lack of resilience, keep in mind that the Northwest is really a series of small mountain fiefdoms, ruled by minor despotic kings and divided by thousands of different dialects, all of which prevents our broader local government from developing any sort of “plan” involving snow plows, deicers or even the distribution of sand by donkey cart prior to the arrival of snow. Weathermen here are routinely sacrificed to Frosticus, the God of Winter, in a bloody pagan ritual that takes place down at the EMP building in the Seattle Center (which explains a lot of things, trust me), beneath the shadow of the Space Needle. We run them over with the monorail. Hence, we rarely receive accurate predictions of our weather ahead of time. “There will be two… no six… no fourteen… no ten… yes, ten inches of snow overnight. Maybe. Hey, why is there an angry mob cloaked in black fleece and why are they holding pick axes and torches?”

I’m only exaggerating a tiny bit.

So after the snow, we got the Unexpected Ice Storm, which at one point left over 250,000 people without power (including us). After sacrificing a few more meteorologists and the guy who runs the local electric utility company, we got the Sort-of Expected Windstorm. This involved predicted 60mph wind gusts for seven hours. Up on our hill, which is very close to the top of the world, we locked up our yaks and waited it out. I would think that the gusts here were closing in on 80 or 90mph, centering around our fish windsock, which remained completely horizontal for the entire night.

All this did a lot of damage around our neighborhood.

Unfortunately, I arrived at the Post Office to find that they were closed. This annoyed me, as it was just after 1pm. Of course, as soon as I thought about it, I knew that the Post Office wouldn’t be open on a Saturday afternoon, but I was still annoyed. It seems to me that there are some things we should pay for as a nation, and a really good mail system is one of them. Being open on Saturday afternoon, when the whole country works long hours all week, strikes me as a reasonable expectation. For heaven’s sake, even my bank is now open until 6pm on Saturday, and they got enough of my tax money to practically be a government institution.

I rode on, fueled by my fury, over to my local shopping center. There I bought cans of “treat” food for my cat, who normally subsists only on extremely expensive dry food and the occasional chunk of Ezell’s Famous Fried Chicken (Oprah’s favorite!). She prefers a brand called “Fussie Cat” (my cat, not Oprah). This is entirely appropriate for her diva-like personality.

Of course, if I were this adorable, I would also rule over all I surveyed. Note the super-stylish late-60’s corner table in the back, which stores the supplies for our late-60’s pool table, graciously left here by the former owner of our house: “The same model JFK put in the White House!” I’m sure JFK had one of those corner tables, too. Super classy.

But I digress, in publicly apologizing for my furniture.

The Raleigh was easily camouflaged while I was in the store, disguising itself as a late-60’s corner table. Or rather, a late-60’s British bicycle:

Riding The Raleigh again was great fun, once my body got over the shock of, you know, moving and everything. I really love the ride on this bike. I thought The Viva had a lovely, smooth ride as well. My Panasonic was easy to ride, and very much a “go-fast” bike. But there is something about The Raleigh that’s like that third bowl of porridge: just right. Most modern bikes try to be more comfortable, with cushier, fatter tubing and more bells and whistles, but in the end, my rattle-trap steel pipe Raleigh is far more fun to ride than any modern bike I’ve tried.

I find this paradox exists in many machines. My car is in the shop being repaired, and in the meantime, I’ve been given a rental car to drive. My normal car is a 2000 Honda Accord, which, other than the aftermarket ski racks on its roof, has literally no distinguishing features. Several times I have come out to a parking lot and had to click my keyless remote in order to figure out which of the seven Hondas parked next to each other belongs to me. Normally, I’m willing to rant endlessly about the boring, reliable, blandness of this car. Particularly as my previous car was a beautiful early-80’s Mercedes diesel wagon that looked like a mini-limo and drove like one, too. God, how I loved that car! Like many things one loves intensely, I was also deeply betrayed by the car, when the engine came loose in the mountings and in a mere 15-mile commute, managed to self-destruct before I could get it to the mechanic. I could, of course, have put in a new engine, and in retrospect, I should have. In fact, it’s probably one of the great regrets of my life that I didn’t. But my disappointment was so great that I sold the car, and bought the Honda, settling for reliability over Passion. That’s not a good settlement, I should note.

But at any rate, lately I’ve become appreciative of my Honda, since I’ve been driving this:

Yes, to Enterprise Rent-a-Car, the equivalent of a Honda Accord is a Dodge Charger. This is only true in the universe of crazy rental car companies, I assure you. The Dodge looks big and aggressive, but in fact, like many things made in America, it’s mostly bloated. Great big sleek metal exterior… teeny tiny engine. It’s like steering a boat.

I feel like this guy:

This is why we paid them $50 billion to stay in business. Anyway, there is no relationship between form and function there, which made me even more impressed by the design of The Raleigh Sports. It really is a perfect bike.

It’s a good thing I enjoy just riding the bike, as the scenery wasn’t particularly impressive.

Not exactly Western Ireland, is it?

Ah well. One can’t take stunningly glorious rides through unforgettable terrain every day. And there are misty mountain views on my ride to the store, which aren’t bad.

Storm debris was everywhere.


I paused in a parking lot to take the mountain picture, then I decided that I really wanted to take a few Raleigh macro pictures, for contrast.



My bike basket was filled to the brim with cat food, a few groceries, and all my accessories.

Alright, so the Snapple is front and center. Wanna make something of it? Huh, Punk? Didn’t think so.

I was soon back at the house, and as I hefted the basket off the rack, I wondered something: how heavy was it? It certainly felt like I had purchased several trendy kettleballs.

Curiosity piqued, I lugged both the full basket, and my other, empty one, into the bathroom to weigh on the scale.

Basket 1, empty:

Just under 2 lbs.

Basket 2, fully loaded:

Yikes! I have 11lbs of crap in my bike basket? How is that possible?

Okay, so the hand soap bottle, and the five cans of Fussie Cat, and the u-lock, and the Snapple, and the purse, and the camera… it’s the tissues! Yes! It’s all those damned tissues! Well, I won’t let you beat me, allergies! I’m going to go out to the backyard and practice my “runner’s sneeze” until you’re just a memory, tissues.

Oh, and my new camera is scheduled to arrive on Monday. Expect many Snapbugblog updates, much euphoria, photos of random things, and finally a ride somewhere worth photographing, as I should have my new rack by then, too.

Unless I displease Frosticus. Off to sacrifice a few yaks…




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Love to ride my bikes!
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25 Responses to January 28 2012 Ride: At Last (with proper appreciation for Etta James)

  1. adventure! says:

    Damn. Sounds like you had an “epic” winter event, the likes we had here in The Portland in Jan 2004 and Dec 2008. A week of snow/ice/wind? Sheesh. We got three inches that melted by morning. And heck, we had full on sun today, not even gray skies. Guess I know where to move to if I want more exciting weather! (Answer: Forks. Can’t you just see me as a Twilight themed tourguide, giving my spiel to a minibus full of 14 year old girls and their moms?)

    It does suck that the West-of-Cascades NW is ill-prepared for snow, which brings out all the kvetching about snowplows when it happens. But could you imagine the complaints if all the municipal, county, and/or state governments actually invested in all that crap? All the government waste grumble grumble etc etc.

    Anyway! Good to see that you got a decent ride today. Sucks about the P.O. but unfortunately with the way things are going, pretty soon we’ll even be lucky to have Saturday delivery, let alone open post offices! (See my expose that I’ll publish this week.) Doesn’t the post office you go to have one of those Automated Postal Centers?

    I got a nice ride in today as well.

    Enough of my rambling. (In your comments, at least.)

  2. adventure! says:

    Also, I can attest to how a Raleigh rides. Something about them is…just right. Yes, it used heavy hi-tensile steel vs. lighter cro-moly, but mine never feels like a tank. Maybe it’s those 72 degree angles? (And it even works when you put drops on them. Try that with a modern hybrid!) I think that’s why many folks wish they would just bring this bike back. Sure, throw some more modern alloy parts on, but keep the geometry, three-speed hub, North Road bars, heck, 650A wheels! But they don’t. Why don’t they?

    Shawn the Retro-Grouch

  3. anniebikes says:

    I have tears in my eyes from laughing so much. You can take the most mundane ride and make it sound like the best adventure ever. I love your upbeat attitude and wit. Pedal on.

  4. disabledcyclist says:

    My friend,thank you for the smiles and the laughs,this was a fun read! 🙂 Jamie (the Daughter,15 next month) LOVES your feline companion,and agrees whole-heartedly on her cuteness (not saying that I didn’t think she’s\he’s cute mind you,just that Jamie wanted me to tell you so 😉 ).

    Ugh…Chargers. They aren’t that bad with the Hemi (not that great either,when one’s used to a svelte Mustang ragtop which routinely outguns them at the track or redlights),but nearly 2-ton monstrosities with a weak knee’d 6-banger? At least with the Hemi,it’s a throwback to Americana-luxobarge with gobs of torque….I hope your Honda’s fixed soon,LOL!

    As always,LOVELY pics. I haven’t read your other blog,but methinks it’s worth a read,especially with the new digs (camera) coming. An upddate on my camera situation: We now have all W-2’s in hand,will be filing Monday,and once the Tax Fairy leaves her droppings in the joint account,we should be camera shopping as well,before March this year-WOOHOO!!! 😀

    Have an awesome week,my friend,and get out and ride any chance you get. BTW,did I mention I did my first ever Half Century yesterday? I wanted to do a recovery ride today,but honestly don’t see where I could squeeze it in,the Wife has a full day’s plan today,LOL! :p

    The DC

  5. John h says:

    Good thing you use a sturdy basket as opposed to a wimpy cloth-based pannier. I’ve often wondered how they hold up with all the gear those long-term tour riders carry.

  6. rideblog says:

    Adventure, it was the most epic week I’ve seen, that’s for sure. The ice storm was something else! We just got lucky that most of the stuff was cleared by that other force of nature: rain. If only the government didn’t have to pay billions to our other god, Sogicus, to get our rain… we’d have the money for snow clearance.

  7. rideblog says:

    I haven’t figured that out either, Shawn. I once had this fantasy, while riding a long and boring trail, that I inherited 10 million dollars and decided to open a factory in North Dakota making Raleigh Sports clones that sold by the billions. I was being interviewed by Forbes. It was great, and everyone had one.

  8. rideblog says:

    Thanks Annie! That ride needed a bit of spicing up, and I was definitely in a Snarky mood!

  9. rideblog says:

    Wow, a half-century! Very cool. I haven’t managed one of those yet. My w-2s are also here, and soon I should have a refund, but it’s going to my credit card, which I used with a sort of crazed impunity for far too long :).

    I’ll tell you guys all about the camera soon, over on Snapbugblog.

  10. rideblog says:

    John, these would make great panniers for an overnight adventure, as long as the road was reasonably straight. They are kinda heavy, though I imagine that the Ortliebs in waxed canvas are probably nearly as much.

  11. adventure! says:

    Hey John H, my “wimpy” panniers held up pretty damn good for my 4,000 mile tour, thankyouverymuch. Old canvas and modern synthetics actually are pretty strong. Plus, bags have the advantage of stretching and forming around objects, so you can get more in them than a hard-sided container.

  12. adventure! says:

    And snarkypup, you should totally open that factory up! But why North Dakota?

  13. rideblog says:

    Ah, Shawn, but can you lift them off and go shopping in a farmer’s market while looking like a sorta Frenchified hipster girl? I think NOT. 🙂

  14. rideblog says:

    I think it had something to do with wanting to provide jobs on the Pine Ridge Reservation, actually, though I’m not sure why that was in my head at the time. And I bet land is cheap in North Dakota. 🙂

  15. adventure! says:

    snarkypup-I have tried many looks in my life, but I don’t think I ever pulled off Frenchified hipster girl. And rather than North Dakota, how about northern Minnesota? That way you could get me to move there! 😉

  16. rideblog says:

    Minnesota? Really? Why???

  17. adventure! says:

    Ya haven’t been to northern Minnesota, have you?

  18. rideblog says:

    No, I haven’t. What’s special about it? North Dakota is real purty up there…

  19. adventure! says:

    Well I think that Minnesota is even more purty. Plus there’s food co-ops. 😉

  20. rideblog says:

    Food co-ops rock. We have one here called “PCC.” I love shopping there, but it ain’t cheap. Last year, when I mentioned I was going to PCC to get dinner, my then-six year-old son said: “oh good, the fifty-dollars-a-bag place.” So true.

  21. adventure! says:

    PCC ain’t no food co-op! They’re like the Seattle Whole Foods! When I think Seattle food co-op, I think Madison Market. (And Portland’s equivalent to PCC would probably be New Seasons.)

  22. rideblog says:

    We have Whole Foods, too. Technically, PCC is a food co-op, but I don’t know what Madison Market is, so I can’t comment on what PCC isn’t :). I only know they have the yummiest stuff, when I can afford to buy it.

  23. adventure! says:

    Madison Market, aka Central Co-op. It’s in Seattle. On Madison.

  24. rideblog says:

    Of course it is :). I’ll have to go there sometime and see a real co-op. It looks great!

  25. Pingback: April 7, 2012 Ride: Spring is Sprung and Other Random Thoughts | rideblog

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