LOCAL CYCLIST OUTRUNS FLEET SPRINGBOK

Today I took Ralph’s bike to Aberdeen and back – kinda twice, but not really because the first time was aborted partway through due to technical problems with the bike and I ended up needing to text someone for a ride so I’d make my commitment on time. I was using Ralph’s bike because a friend is borrowing mine to see how well it will work for her and her kidlets, and this is awesome, because one thing I’d love to proselytize regarding and spread around is the love of cargo/kiddo bikes.

Back to my misadventures, I guess I hate fixing things. Or rather, I’d likely adore it if I didn’t have a lot of other things I consider important and many distractions. See it seems making repairs or changes requires the right kind of tools and a need for an open schedule. Like today all I wanted to do was lower the seat (which by the way is this leathery, narrow little Ass-Punisher), and fix the mirror stem. I ran into problems in both cases (and have a badly-bruised knuckle to boot) and it took longer and was a bigger pain than I thought it would be. But at least I got it done and even upgraydded to a lever-release seat clamp that I’m thinking Ralph will find more handy.

Later in the day I finally made it to Aberdeen and back by pedal-power and I’m glad I made it happen. It was a lovely day and, later, evening for a ride – quite a temperature drop in a few hours but a good Washingtonian, I was prepared with layers. The trip home was dark; we’d loaned our bike light to our friend so I was extra careful. About Myrtle and Cherry I perceived a doe and her little baby deer and I felt a little jolt of pleasure at their night forms, no one else out to see. But as I approached the mother sprang away from her fawn and to my distress she ran away from me while the youngling resolutely ran in front of me, their distance from one another increasing rapidly. I decided there was nothing to do but race faster than the baby deer, which worked. And yes I kind of imagined myself a cheetah. This was made all the more fun by listening to Heart at volume 11 in my ears.

It was a lovely lovely night for a ride.

***

Tomorrow is Ralph and my 10th anniversary! And no, we are not doing anything special! I have, like, seven dollars to my name! But I am incredibly grateful to have my partner and our history together. “With some complaints” we’ve been awesome parents and friends (to one another, and to others).

Ten years, holy shit.

songbird

Phoenix & Her New Bike

Phoenix & Her New Bike

Paid final installment, via layaway, through the local bike shop. A grownup bike, very lightweight with Shimano shifters. All kinds of awesome. Terry tells me it will fit her until she’s about 5′ 4″. I’m 5′ 5″ and she’s catching up to me though. I almost cried seeing her on this bike.

She couldn’t wait for us to drive it home and borrowed a helmet from Terry to ride it right that minute, she told Terry she didn’t need a kickstand. I paid right as she left then I hopped in the car and thought I was right behind her (along her route) but never saw her. I got home and she was already in the driveway with a group of neighbor boys surrounding her. My mom told me later in the day, she saw Phoenie’s first ride, along 7th Street, saw her smiling a huge smile and flying.

It hurt a lot to watch her, but I guess it was a good hurt.

Phoenix & Her New Bike

[T]he bicycle will accomplish more for women’s sensible dress than all the reform movements that have ever been waged. ~ Author Unknown, from “Demerarest’s Family Magazine”, 1895

gollum, gollum

Today:

Play

The kids, playing together. They got wise to me taking pictures and giggled and ran off, thinking I was going to grab at their little toes. I would never!

Fabric in the mail, spoils of my testing work! The contents of one of two packages:

FAVRIC
From mid-left (green sliver) clockwise: leaf green cotton mini-corduroy, woven Irish linen mini-houndstooth, Very Wang wool rayon (so. soft), Hooty Hoot flannel (Hooty Jacks), Retro Rocket Scientist flannel (green on black), cotton canvas fabric (chocolate brown), cotton canvas fabric (deep amethyst), linen/cotton (dark grey), linen/cotton (melon).

Then off to downtown Hoquiam in the (cold!) sunshine. We took Ralph’s bike to the bike shop as his chain was seizing – and stopped at the River Landing too.

Little Guy On The Hoquiam River

Terry (Bike Shop Guy) measured  the chain and oiled it and put air in the tires and wouldn’t let me pay him anything, then opened the door for me in a very chivalrous manner. When I got home I even hex-keyed Ralph’s bike seat back to the (improbably high) position he uses. Partly because this was nice to do for Ralph, partly as a passive-aggerssive hint because when he uses my bike he always neglects to do the same (I love [ /sarcasm ] getting on my bike after he uses it just to get high-crotched in a most alarming and painful fashion!).

It gets so dark so early and we “sleep in” – so the Hogabooms aren’t getting as much daylight as we need. However the beautiful fall weather, although cold (for me), is lovely to venture out in.

Guilty

laundrymat

My children were so very, very young – still babes in arms – when I saw the 1998 film Hideous Kinky. It was not a satisfying film in many ways; a bit navel-gazing, perhaps, and a subject matter I usually react to by rolling my eyes in the back of my head until they click: a young, flaky hippie mother (for realz? I’ve had enough “hippie” in my life, thanks) named Julia and her two young daughters drifting about Morocco apparently because life in England wasn’t fun enough or whatever – for Julia.  It was a relatively harmless film.  But still, as a newly-minted mother myself it was almost unbearable to watch a caregiver who was primarily self-absorbed, her children getting ill or lost and treated as afterthoughts in her aimless search for fulfillment. I remember – although danger never heats up too terribly for these two young girls – white-knuckling it through parts of what to another person might seem relatively innocuous. It’s not that danger lurks around every corner: it’s that our children rely on us for every safety and bit of care those early years and this has always made the hair on the back of my neck stand up a bit.

I remember a scene in the movie though, when Julia (as played by the always-awesome Kate Winslet) and her daughters are waking in the morning.  They’re in a barely-furnished room on a pallet on the floor and the woman and girls are in a state of undress, piled together with arms tangled on a bed.  They’re cuddling and talking and in no hurry to get up. The scene struck me viscerally; these three on their own together, sleeping and living as one, no rules or schedules or anything but the adventure ahead.  A simple life.

Now at the time I was still convinced we’d be doing things the mostly-normal way because to me the mostly-normal way was apparently a Moral Imperative, that is scheduling the kids’ nap and putting them in playschool then preschool then school and then soccer practice or whatever, with bedtimes and wake-up times and dentist appointments and Doing Everything Right and mostly doing what everyone else does. It was like a part of me wanted one life but didn’t believe it was possible and was doing the best to live the Normal life because the Normal life must be good, or else why would everyone do it?

So, actually as it turns out, I have the life I wanted back then. I have it now. No, I’m not in Morocco or anywhere fabulously exotic (to an American anyway). But everything Free and amazing and nurturing and loving and whole about that scene in the sun-dappled room, two sleepy children and their mother together, a trio that have the whole day together – I have this. I have this and sometimes I barely want to talk about it. I don’t want to say anything for worry someone will come in and try to stop it. Or maybe more accurately, that by saying I have it somehow I will curse it and come to an end, because no one deserves this kind of daily, marching happiness.

When I had young babies I used to dream of getting “a break”.  I got one now and then but not nearly enough. I used to make jokes about how hideous life with babes was; if I looked at old entries here in this journal I would find these jokes.  I try to forgive myself for what I said. Becasue I realize now that our culture is terribly isolating and shitty to new mothers and carers. Our society is terribly un-nurturing to children, whatever lip service is given to Family Values etc. I wasn’t the problem when I had young babies and my children certainly weren’t. At the time I looked forward to school so I could have Time To Myself and Get Things Done, you know those Important Things that are Real Life.  Now I know that it was my culture and to an extent my family who screwed up in teaching me about Real Life; it is my children I learned and am learning through. I don’t hold a lot of ill will toward those who let me down (although I can lay down with accuracy in how they did so).  I’ve found the truth for myself and I am daily incredibly grateful I began this discovery. It has brought me untold amounts of joy.

These days I don’t hardly ever, ever, ever need A Break. I write joyfully and sew joyfully and wash dishes joyfully and meet with friends joyfully and run around town with my children joyfully. I love taking care of their bodies and I love being the one they run to when they are hurt (so rare, and so quick they are to jump up and run off). I sometimes feel guilty I am not doing that Real Important Stuff like having a status-y career, which would make me Perfect in the eyes of the mainstream. I don’t miss the status-y career thing enough to be tempted, I don’t even miss the money enough to be tempted (ahh… it was good money though) but I feel guilty because many people seem to have lives they don’t want and I have one I want so much.  I have a life I want so much that sometimes I feel like a Weirdo for A. enjoying it and B. getting away with it. We all have our down days and I have them, yes.  Also I am only one small tragedy or illness from having myself challenged and from suffering.

But I have been so fortunate so far.

Since we are a one-car family and Ralph keeps needing the car, today we spent our day on the bikes running errands – taking our down comforter to the laundromat and paying rent and paying the garbage bill and meeting my mother for lunch. I love spending time with the children on our bikes; they have the best observances and I genuinely enjoy their company tremendously. For the first time in a long time, since we had to be on the bikes for so long, I found myself saying, “I hope it doesn’t rain.” But there was no small bit of peace in that as well, because I knew I had to run these errands and we had to be out in the weather; and if the weather treated us poorly we’d have no one to blame, only the situation to bear with as much good grace as we could.

And it didn’t rain.

Tomorrow I get to wake up with them crumpled against me. & then again, and again. & I drink up every drop.

suspicious characters

My husband takes a deep breath, sighs, looks pointedly at the steering wheel, then kills the engine.  I know exactly what he’s thinking.  Is the truck going to start when we return? I’m hoping it will as we have kids at home getting up to God Knows What while we shop for groceries and believe it or not, asking people for jumps gets a bit old (although it must be said in Grays Harbor people are really ready for this eventuality, my friend J. tells me they also carry chainsaws in their trucks ready to cut down trees lying across the road, you know, just in case).

The truck thing is kind of his fault.  A few days ago before he embarked on fixing my mom’s troubled beast I’d asked him if the vehicle mayhap have a charging system problem, not so much a battery problem, take it and get it diagnosed first, blah blah.  He figured it was the battery, a good guess really plus he was doing the repair bit on lunch break, so he bought a new one on my mom’s dime and now the damn thing still dies every two days (if you use headlights at all).  OK: so, fine.  Tomorrow I’ll take it to the shop my dad always recommended.  And the kids and I will bus back. And I hope it’s not raining, ugh.  You know, that whole hour in between buses shit in the wind and rain.  Today was sunny but cold when you’re out hoofing it.

You know in Hoquiam and Aberdeen very few people take their errands or their work commute by walking, biking, or the public transportation?  It’s fricken rare to see people hitting the streets who aren’t poverty-level or dealing with a variety of drug, court, mental health and/or welfare problems (I currently have none of the above). Most peeps in my peer group are in their cars, minivans, trucks shuttling back and forth.  In fact there are huge swatches of pretty much normal Aberdeen where by being seen walking you’re judged to be either down-on-your-luck or poor or prostituting or mething and heavily judged or WTF’d based on any of these assumptions (actually, don’t even click and read the comments in that link, it’s just kind of depressing).  As for the supposed sketchy areas of the fair township, my pwecious widdle babies and I walked some of them today, first getting a hot dog at the stand by the carwash (not very prepossessing in appearance but delicious all the same) then some helado a la tienda naranja before ending up in my Monday afternoon belly dancing class.

IMG_4341

IMG_4338

IMG_4343

P.S., why am I in a belly dancing class. First off, most the ladies in there seem really into the scarves and skirt and jingles.  I own not one skirt except a denim mini (which I happened to wear today b/c of the sunshine).  I don’t like flowing veils or fringe or all that wispy twirling around with scarves thing.  So, I dance in my jeans with my fat rolls hanging out the top.  FTW.

Which brings me to:  I do like the dancing.  It feels great.  I like the ladies in the class, especially my friend J. and the instructor L.  I like really dancing, energetically so.  I try not to glimpse myself in the huge studio mirror, because my cavorting looks so much less impressive than it feels.

Which is my second Why am I in a belly dancing class query, because really?  Yes, I can do a bit of a camel walk or a figure eight or large hip circles or a shoulder shimmy or a veil drop.  But ask me to combine two or more?  Why don’t I just fall down, break my arm, and piss my pants while I’m at it, because that’s where I’m going to end up.

Oh and by the way, Ralph and I made it home from the grocery store.  The truck survives to fight another day.

IMG_4335

Documenting my domicile: our little porch.  Adorned with the Hogaboom Lemon Tree and (lower left) a Thrift City bifurcated rag rug for $2, which I carried all grimy-like in my fist for a half hour in line at the store, then washed and dried at home and you should have seen Ralph’s expression, although he has come to believe it’s a nice addition, so that’s good.

where we meet a pilgrim

The cyclist’s name is Ryan.  He seems like a perfectly normal young man at first, able to be quiet and near invisible on my front porch as he spends a few minutes online, or completely companionable later over a beer, staying up late with my husband and I and talking about child-raising, psychology, evolution and neuroscience.  But he’s not normal, or at least he is doing something rather astonishing: late August finds him completing the last leg of a 2,000 mile journey that brought him up to the Arctic Sea and back.

He’s probably been thin his whole life, but now he looks like part of his machine, his sun-brown arms resting comfortably on the handlebars of a bicycle that looks unremarkable considering it’s carried this man, his food, his “home” of a tent, pad, and sleeping bag, his possessions – including a phone, camera, and iPod – up to the far reaches of our world and back through Alaska, the west coast of Canada, the arboreal forest, back to civilization.  He cites the Dalton Highway as the hardest part of his trip, a 400+ highway between Fairbanks and the Arctic Sea, claimed as one of the most isolated roads in our country. He spent thirteen days in near complete isolation besides the mosquitoes so vicious it was nearly impossible to stop the bike for any length of time.

It’s funny; I’d thought of talking to the proprietor at a local bike shop and offering up my household as a place for cyclists doing tours to get a shower, a meal, do some laundry, have a bed to sleep in.  Something had held me back, though – would it be too impulsive, silly?  Ryan was introduced to us by friends who met him at the movie the night before. I can’t help but think this young man must inspire many “adoptions” along the way – and I can’t help wishing this was how people related to one another more often.

I am unsure of how to host someone like this; much like a pilgrim, he has few needs and he can take hardly anything with him.  He downloads a new song each week to his iPod to reflect on and enjoy – a simple pleasure during long miles on the road.  In our house he washes his clothes – a small, sedate pile of brown, grey and black – and takes a shower and occupies a bed and quickly and efficiently plugs in his small electronic devices and plays a bit on Ralph’s guitars. I ask if he’s allergic to cats or has any dietary restrictions and of course, he has no special needs and requires no special treatment.  If most people I know rely on the comforts of home, Ryan is a startling example to the contrary.

At noon today he leaves, having eaten a volumnous amount of food in my presence and carefully weighed how much water he wanted to take before the inland hills through Raymond.  His visit is a painful reminder to me of the impermanence of all things; people beautiful and wonderful who then disappear off to their own paths.

i thought about it, because i really want to practice that rendition of "Islands In the Stream"

My husband is currently enjoying the calls he’s receiving in regard to the craigslist ad put up re: our green Astro van, which we are now ready to move on elsewhere. Many calls with schemes or, can-we-just-give-you-only-this-much (1/2 the price listed) and will you drive it to where we are (hours away). One lady called offering some combination of cash and barter concerning another used car, a brand-new Janome embroidery machine, and a karaoke set (seriously though – this was kind of tempting!). Anecdotally the (many!) Latino callers we’ve had have been the most courteous and have not tried anything funny.

So far 1 1/2 clients have actually looked at the van, and no sale. We are supposed to unload it tomorrow in Olympia. Fingers crossed!

Tonight upon returning from a bike ride (delivering fresh pita to a friend who loves it) we throw the kids in the bath and listen to their very rowdy shenanigans. It’s that feeling where you kind of expect any minute a child will get soap in the eye and start screaming, or you anticipate more water on the floor than was even put into the bathtub in the first place. My husband has purchased clove cigarettes which in the evening are a proven vice for me. I shall smoke half and then feel worse than I should over such a tiny amount of vile tobacco. I’m getting old.

Awesome: I… Biked That!

I ended up determined to bike from Vance Creek Park to the Satsop nuclear power plant today – the latter abandoned and now serving as some kind of odd industrial / half-assed business park, but infinitely more recognizable to those heading to the beaches as semi-iconic twin towers (my friend’s grandmother used to call them “ladies’ girdles”). My father had told me about this bike ride; Ralph and I had attempted it about a year or two ago (with kids in bike trailer) but after what seemed like a long slog we thought we’d gone off the track, so we cut it short.

I don’t know why I made this trip the point of our day. I know I wanted to find and finish the route my father had told me about. I wanted to get some fresh air and exercise. I wanted to be close enough to these giant towers – I’d never seen them in the flesh before – to touch them. I didn’t want to bike; I wanted a goal destination.

So here I set off with plenty of water, food, sunscreen, and my two children, the eldest installed on her own bike. I had no idea of my route or the distance required or if we’d turn around after only a couple miles. I remember my father saying something about “13 miles” – but I didn’t know if he meant round trip, or one-way. I’d also heard him mention an ascent for the last part of the journey – and this worried me. For my father to even mention a hill meant the hill was likely ass-kicking.

Sophie didn’t enjoy the first leg of the trip, an admittedly mildly-unpleasant run accompanied by the sounds of highway car travel. In just a mile however all signs of highway traffic had disappeared and we were in a lush farmland. The children exclaimed in joy – tree farms, cows, verdant meadows, the river, a huge group of pheasants gibbering and running about. Very few feral dogs, thank goodness. I kept saying, “See those towers? That’s where we’re going.” Sophie asked if we could turn around. I said, “No, I think we can do it.” After a while we both believed it.

The trip went on. And on and on. And then: up and up and up. I began to doubt my worth as a parent to drag my girl up this hill in the scorching heat. After a while I was saying, “We’re almost there,” because I could not imagine climbing more than we were climbing. Food trucks passed; Schwans, Fiesta. OK, so, wherever we ended up, there were other people there. The road was not busy but when people did speed past their faces were smiling or their mouths in an “o” shape – I swear my Xtracycle looks like a jalopy, loaded with tow-headed gap-toothed kids and a big grass basket and my body all muscle and fat rolls getting us up the hill.

At the last steep ascent, as we walked it in blistering sun, Sophie said, “When we get to that sign…” and I thought she’d say we were turning around, but instead she said, “I’m getting back on.” We rounded the corner and there it was – close enough to touch the tower, a monster, and a triumphant sail down and up the last dip, as fast as we could both do it. The kids loved how the tower burst out of the greenery; I had tears in my eyes. No photograph (and there are many online) can encompass the feeling of being dwarfed by these massive towers, or my elation that myself and my two wee children had made the trip on our own, the seven-year old on her own steam.

There wasn’t much else to look at, a few employees, a few forklifts. The view was incredible; we’d been biking steadily uphill for the last third of the ride and were surrounded by the mountains and the greenscape that make the area so lovely.

Just as we’re coasting triumphantly along the summit of the hill, about to settle at a picnic table for lunch, the unimaginable (or the shockingly predictable) occurs: Sophie’s back tire shreds. Which is funny, because my LBS practically gave me this bike and those tires were balder than a newborn baby’s ass, and I remember thinking, really? regarding the tires, but I trusted they’d be OK. Of course Sophie puts miles on her bike like no seven year old I’ve met.

As the kids ate (fresh fruit salad, black forest ham on french rolls, Doritos, water and more water, chocolate covered raisins) I pondered my options. I could find someone in the business park and phone Ralph, whom I could count on to find a way to rescue us; who would have bought us a new bike to return on had I asked. Better, though, to make it back on our own. Sophie obligingly got on the ruined bike tire to see if it could go – she said it “wasn’t much different”, but of course, it was not rideable. So it was down to me. Well, I could do it. Or have a really shitty time trying.

As the kids finished eating I put the front tire of her bike in my pannier and bungeed the stem to my V-rack. Sunscreen, extra clothes, water, basket – all loaded up – even more Joad-like than before, with a third wheel and extra kid clinging on. Then we were off. I painfully rememberd two large hills on the return trip; I couldn’t let them slow me down too much or I’d feel defeated. We went down the dips before the uphills fast; I put the bike into gear and cranked it, making a surprising amount of momentum for the uphill. Then when we’d be on the upswing my kids (unasked) would hop off and walk the few feet to the summit as I granny-geared it, then just when it was prudent for them to be on they would jump back on. I never had to stop. Sophie turned herself backwards to position herself for any oncoming cars (while on this trip the kids came up with a code – cars coming from behind us: “Incoming!”; cars travelling towards us: “We’ve got company!”). I may have done all the pedalling for the return trip but it was a team effort. It felt wonderful.

At about 4:45 we rolled back to the park to my mom’s old pickup. The best part of the trip is that the kids and I were still laughing as we finished. No trail of tears here; we’d made it.

All in all, we biked over 15 miles. My dad would have been proud.