the daring adventures of

The HQX bike shop isn’t somewhere you’d want to be in the case of an earthquake. Or maybe even someone closing the door ungently. I can see pieces of lath and rafter through many holes in the ceiling. Funnily enough even though the business in the rest of the building – one that’s been here for 96 years – is closing shop, the bike shop owner is hoping to not move. I guess he’s more confident in century-old, rain-soaked and barely-maintained Harbor structural integrity than I am.

After an hour and a half slot – about what I budget for this bike shop for even the most simple repair – I leave with my new bike hooked up to my old trailer, a setup I had heretofore not managed due to the old hitch on the trailer and the new disc brakes being incompatible. I’ve also learned a bit about bike pieces and a bit more about T., the shop owner. Putting my kids in the trailer I see they are almost bursting the seams – leggy Sophie looks like she’s in a frank breech. I am also dismayed to discover just how much drag the little pot-lickers put on the bike, even on a flat thoroughfare in sunny, clear riding conditions. Also: I’ve spent a total of $59 (gift money) on two new hitches (my bike and Ralph’s) and a cable lock (when the bike costs money I tell myself: one car family, one car family…). The ride is nice, despite the new drag factor.

Our internet was not-so-mysteriously connected and the library remains my spot to scavenge time on gmail. I say adieu!

of goatsbusters and lo-fi

Today I sustained my first new bike injury. While attempting to strap a cardboard box on my rack (taking a moment to giggle immaturely) the bungee I was using, too short, snapped back and whacked my left index fingernail. I was kind of impressed with how badly this hurt. I now have a nasty bruise under the fingernail and I hope something gross and infected doesn’t result. Meanwhile I have Ralph put to work with a Stud Finder (another giggle) to put a hook inside the house for bike storage. Because yes, my bike will be living inside with me.

The local bike shop, I could see myself hanging out there – if I was someone who knew anything about bikes or had more money to spend on them. I have a hard time describing the shop owner T. Firstly, he is a very knowledgeable bike technician and a total pleasure to talk bikes with. Secondly, he is a little bit… different. Personally, I think he’s kind of cute but maybe that’s because I get inexplicable crushes on focussed mechanical savants who look like they don’t have girlfriends. At my parents’ last night while I talked about my new bike my husband asked why all bike shop owners are a little odd (he said “weirdo”, okay) and I said, “No wait, what about…” and then stopped. Because, well. He was right. I guess there was one bike shop owner in PT that wasn’t so much weird as arrogant. But the other two shop owners – woooo! And I had a crush on one of them, too.

Tonight we continued our pleasant weekend experience by a babysitting gift from our friend A. When Ralph and I arrived to pick our children up – after a lovely, lovely dinner at home including uninterrupted conversation – the children were in various states of costumery / undress and watching Ghostbusters (only one of the best family movies ever). On our way out with our two reluctantly-departing children we travelled out the back way to visit A.’s baby goats but the little creatures were apparently sleeping. I didn’t know goats took time off like that especially when there was the off chance we were delivering late-night alfalfa.

Then while home Ralph bathes the children and I start come chocolate rye coffee cake (for tomorrow’s breakfast – I’d love to make this a Saturday night / Sunday morning tradition) and mix up a batch of laundry soap. Sophie mistakes my grating Fels Naptha soap as a cheese operation and asks for a taste, which I oblige and we laugh at her nose-scrunching reaction.

I love weekends. We sleep in, I make Ralph do stuff, I clean the house, I cook for my family and we cuddle late into the night. Good times.

i’ve got one more silver dollar

It’s fun biking in this town. For one, it’s mostly me and guys who had their driver’s licenses suspended or can’t afford auto upkeep, with gaunt cheeks and shaggy hair over their neck that flies out the backside of dirty baseball caps as they lean forward and pedal intently to their next errand or social call. These men are almost always riding BMX-style bikes, often the bikes too small for them, in a half-cocked sitting up squat. This is such a typical scene in the area for years I thought these men existed everywhere, and I guess to a lesser extent that, besides small children, those were the people who rode bikes.

So anyway, it’s them and then me. Yesterday was my first trip to and from Sophie’s school (Ralph had accompanied her on her first day in the truck). Since I am riding the bike until weather permits (and if I get rain and safety gear before rain season – doubtful I can afford it – throughout the year) I was hoping for an auspicious start. The weather was lovely, we were about two minutes late in leaving, and the iPod favored me with the Allman Brother’s “Midnight Rider” which was just my speed.

Less than two minutes later I directed my Sophie to her playground (so many children!) and exchanged her place for my friend’s daughter E. who immediately accepted the giant pink helmet and stuck her thumb in her mouth, smiling around the thumb. Kids love the bike trailer. Adults gawk (which usually looks hostile, even if it’s not meant to be) and I fear some judge the “Bonerhead Bike” (ask my brother about that), but children look wistfully or downright ask for rides – then ask their parents to procure a trailer of their own. After buckling in E. I ran the children on errands: to my parents’ to steal some stamps, to the post office, and then along a main route to find an espresso stand and buy the children chocolate milk (E. after hearing my beverage plan proceeded to ask incessantly, “Where’s the chocolate milk?” over and over, I mean even during intersections as if the next gear change would produce a cold cup of the stuff). I was later told by E.’s father he happened to look out the window at his workplace when we rode by. I think it tickled him a bit; happening on the sight of my children when they’re out with someone else always gives me a tiny, warm, yearning glow.

The pickup scene at Sophie’s school is intense. E.’s mom calls it “The Circle of Terror”: a leanly managed and designed but intensely operated traffic flowthrough that my bike does not immediately make sense of. Yesterday I scuttled as far out of foot- and car-traffic as I could and waited for my daughter. As I waited More and more parents started to surge in from all sides, drifting from the parking lot in a steady trickle and making me more and more claustrophobic. At 2:48 children started trickling out of the front door, and to the point, not my child. I talked to the grandparent of the boy Sophie had an insane crush on last year at preschool. Finally my daughter emerged, carefully extending the handle on her ladybug backback to roll it towards us like the world’s tiniest stewardess – composed and professional. I buckled her in and was out of the traffic circle and home faster than any car. In town, indeed, the bike is faster.

Another day without heckling or driver intimidation. Fresh air and happy kids. Life is good.

having lived it, almost too tired to write it out

The tag on my mom’s bike handlebar claims, “6/30/07 – 1 week”. It had a bad tube and (possible) wheel burr. So after ample repair time two weeks ago I went into the (shall remain nameless) bike shop to check on the bike; not yet. OK. So last week I called to ask if the bike was ready; it was not – but, “I’ll have it done tomorrow. It’s probably a ten minute job.” OK.

This morning my parents, their dog, my children and I walked the family down to the shop, towing the bike trailer behind us and anticipating our first ride together in over a month, yay! (This neighborhood mongrel followed us half the way which really enraged my dad for some reason). We get to the shop and the bike is Still. Not. Done. This time the Goofy Bike Guy (I really need a good nickname for him) is very apologetic – he winces as he hears what bike I’m here for, because he knows it’s overdue twice over. Meanwhile I notice the bike shop – a truly amazing building with more clutter than you can imagine including a 15 foot tall pair of functional display Lee overalls – has filled up with lots, and I mean lots of bikes. More than half the bikes are ones waiting for repair. There are only two employees in the shop, including GBG, and they both seem (understandably) busy.

GBG asks me to come back in a couple hours (that would be 3 PM); I tell him I’ll be in at 4. I leave my trailer inside the shop and we haul our asses home. You know where this story is going, don’t you? Because at 4 PM I once again walk the kids down and we ring in and guess what? The bike isn’t done. Meanwhile, GBG is hurriedly doing a job for a customer who’d come in and said they had “immediate” needs. I have now officially noticed that to get your bike done you have to tell GBG you need it right now and literally stand in his shop while he does it – thereby arseing over the many people who were willing to wait a week or month (but in reality, will wait forever or until they themselves come inside the shop and stand there).

That’s what ends up happening. The kids and I hang out in the shop for the (as promised) 10-minute job. It’s taken up so much of my time today (not to mention the other trips), that by the time he’s done I’m just kind of sad and not even pissed. The total is just $10. Somehow I would have liked to be charged more, maybe because it would have energized me in some way.

Anecdotally: after the first trip to the shop today my mom, kids and I left the shop to immediately encounter a HQX panhandler of sorts (rare here; more common in Aberdeen) who told us the buses weren’t running and she needed gas money for a ride to Olympia to catch a train. “I don’t have any money,” I said (truthfully) and my mom demurred as well. The woman yelled abruptly, “NO! I mean I give YOU gas money and you give me a ride to Olympia!” “Oh,” I said, “No, sorry.” The woman half-stomped, half wandered into the street to flag down cars. Mom and I headed to the sandwich shop and my mom said, “She really did say it confusing,” in almost a hurt tone of voice. We go inside the Sweet Shoppe, sit down. Have to move tables because the top of the table wobbles fiercely. “What’s with this town?” I ask my mom and she laughs. I make a “root toot” farting clown sound with my mouth and jog my elbows up and down.

HQX was not in fine form today.

look what I can do!

This morning I biked the kids to Aberdeen and back – over one bridge that’s rather hilly, returning on one that’s treacherous traffic-wise. Our destination was the Canned Food Grocery Outlet which, the more you visit, the more awesome it is. Today I didn’t / wouldn’t be buying huge, heavy produce (we took the bus / bike combo for that, yesterday) but I did purchase various shampoos and soaps we’d been almost out of as well as a giant box of cereal my children requested. Then home, stopping by the Farmer’s Market for eggs.

Biking with 80 lbs. of children plus whatever weight the trailer is plus our coats and groceries makes me awesome. The fact that I am listening to the Hot Fuzz soundtrack at full blast on the iPod makes me a geek, but it makes me feel even more awesome as I do it. Check out the visuals (look at whichever makes my feat seem more impressive):