It's been a little bleak around here for the last few weeks so I'm going to make a conscious attempt to brighten up the place. Today was a pretty good day so I'll start there.
So I have this car. I'm not really crazy about cars (no really, this is going somewhere good, just stay with me), but they have their place and can be useful at times. But I haven't owned a car since the 90's. The early 90's. For several years I didn't even have a license. So now I have a license and a car, and insurance. I'm ambivalent-to-resigned about all of these things. We won't even get into the ramifications of how I got the car because I'm trying to be upbeat.
So anyway, now I have this car, and while it makes it easier to do things like run off to Benihana when I'm craving ginger salad dressing, for the most part, the car sits in front of the house and begs me to drive it.
Hey, did you hear all that rain coming down last night? There's supposed to be a storm today. You should drive me. You'll stay nice and warm and dry and we can stop at Flavour Spot on the way to school!
Looks like you're hauling a lot of stuff today. You know I could keep that in my trunk so you don't have to get a locker on campus.
Hey, wasn't there something you wanted to go to after school? Man, you're going to be so tired (and wet) by the time you do all that riding!
And so on. People have been telling me for years what a 'hard core' biker I am, sometimes with awe and envy in their voices. What I couldn't seem to make people understand was that I didn't have a car. If I wanted to get somewhere, I had to get there on my own power, unless I wanted to take the bus or ask someone for a ride. I really felt I was getting more credit than I deserved.
There was indeed a storm forecast this morning. I woke up shortly before 5am and heard some epic rain pounding down on the roof. When Jess's alarm went off, I said, "Honey, I think you should stay home from work and help me build the ark," that's how bad the rain sounded. I went around in my head for at least an hour arguing with myself about whether to drive or bike. Winds were predicted to gust up to 40mph. Anyone but a hardcore biker would've totally given me a pass to take the car.
But that little event I wanted to go to after school? The Lloyd TMA (Transportation Management Association) Bike Bash. Hard as I tried, I couldn't really make the logic of "I had to drive so I could go to the Bike Bash party" work out in my head. So I rode. I took both panniers because I told Jess I'd pick up her books on hold at the library. I also took just about every piece of bad weather gear I owned, including the ski goggles. If I was going to get caught in some kind of epic downpour, then I was going to be ready.
The thing I've learned over the years, the thing non-bikers and sometime bikers don't get that makes them look at hardcore bikers with awe--is that it's rarely as bad as you think it's going to be. Even when it looks really bad. I can probably count on one hand the times I've really gotten caught in a vicious mess in almost 10 years of bike commuting. I recently read on Kent's blog that there's no bad weather only bad gear and all my gear is pretty darn good.
And the day turned out to have a lot more bark than bite. I went out loaded for bear and found deer instead. Sure there was some wind and a few sprinkles, but mostly it was dry and freakishly warm. In fact, my biggest regret turned out to be wearing too much and not having a lighter layer to change into.
When I got back to Cascade Campus after class I picked up the library books (note to self--ask about the number and weight of books before agreeing to pick up!). I left everything in my school locker except my laptop which I took in my backpack.
The Bike Bash is a now annual event that Lloyd TMA puts on to celebrate their biking accomplishments. They work hard getting companies to encourage employees to bike to work and participate in the BTA's Bike Commute Challenge in September. I don't work in the district anymore but I'm still on the email list. Last year I won a sweet wool jersey in a raffle in which I was the only entry. I figured it was so profitable, I may as well go back. The least I could get was free pizza.
I arrived early and sat at a large table that was empty. I can tell my Yin is still not up to snuff, by the way my brain went to Defcon 3 when Maura from the LDTMA committee came over to talk to me. Not just hi-howya-doin' casual either. She wanted a real conversation and I definitely was not up to it. I faked it as well as I could and finally, she got pulled away by other duties. The people who inevitably ended up sharing my table were content to talk to each other and leave me out of it. The laptop may have helped, since I was busy typing away on it.
I used my remaining social marbles to participate in the group bike trivia contest and we came out victorious! OK, we tied with another table. But we would have been the clear victors had I been consulted on a question that someone thought they knew but only had half right. Luckily, there was plenty of schwag to go around. It wasn't anything I was super excited about, but it was nice to win. And you can never have to many blinky clip-on lights.
Maura started the third and final raffle and it didn't look good for my chances. They were giving away some nice prizes--messenger bags (yeah, I know I don't need one, but if it was free...), gift certificates, Flexcar memberships. These were no slouchy prizes. Still I had now decided to go downtown to REI and needed to get going. I was actually standing up with my coat and pack on ready to step out the door when suddenly I heard my name! I didn't just win a prize, I won the *grand* prize, a 1GB Ipod Shuffle that holds 240 songs. Cool! Never mind that I already have a 20GB Ipod I like just fine & already bought a Nano for Jess for her birthday. I just love winning stuff. I can figure out what to do with it later.
So I left both victorious and lucky and feeling pretty good. The pressure's on for next year...
So I think we've discussed that I ride my bike a lot. You could say that the phrase "rode hard and put away wet" applies to my bike quite often between October and June each year. As a result, my back tire recently gave up the fight and the front tire developed a slow leak. I replaced the back with a Maxxis tire and changed out the front tube, but typical of the Continental tires, it didn't get seated properly when the tube was filled and was wobbling something awful. Jess had this problem this summer and some very nice REI employee ordered her a new Schwalbe tire and swapped it out for free. Yes, FREE. Even though she bought the bike over a year ago. 'Cause at REI that's how they roll--which is why we find ourselves rolling there so often on two tires or four.
I saw my wobbly tire as a prime opportunity so I called the bike department and explained how my partner who had the exact same bike I did got a free tire and didn't they want to give me one too? He said sure, come on down. When I got there, they didn't give me too much trouble. They didn't have any Schwalbe's in stock, which is what they gave Jess. I would've waited for them to order me one but they've already been waiting two months. Something about shipping from Germany to Canada and then here. It didn't look good, which was a bummer. If Schwalbe's were a character on Heroes, they would be Claire. No seriously. Check out what happened to Kent's tire when he ran over a nail. But I took another Maxxis to match the back and went upstairs to try on pants while they installed it. For FREE.
When I went to pick it up, a different guy handed it over. "We got your old tire seated just fine so I'm not sure why we're giving you a new tire."
Because you're suckers and you already gave my girlfriend one, which means I would raise hell if you didn't.
But what I said was, "Well all the shops we have tried have a LOT of trouble and you guys couldn't do it the last time we were here. It's kind of ridiculous. He kinda looked like he knew he'd been had and wanted to say more, but I took my bike and left. Hey, if you want to be the Nordstrom's of the outdoor gear world, you gotta make some sacrifices.
As I stopped near the door to put on my helmet, the greeter who was there when I walked in piped up, "And just like that, you're leaving." Wow, does she know I'm escaping with free stuff? I wondered. I decided not. I chatted with her for a moment and she admired my jacket. I told her I didn't know why they don't sell Showers Pass jackets, since they are the best breathable fabric out there but she'd never heard of it. First she accused me of working for them and then (when I revealed my unemployed status) she said I should work for them. I told her I wasn't really looking for a job...but they really should get those jackets.
The ride home was warm and fast with my brand new tires and the wind at my back. I'm still trying to decide what to do with my new Ipod Shuffle. I could try to return it to a Mac store for credit or refund but I'm actually pondering some sort of contest that might actually bribe someone into commenting on some of my posts. I'm open to suggestions...
So to sum up:
1) Good riding
2) Free Ipod
3) Bike Schwag
4) Free new tire
5) And did I mention Grey's Anatomy with popcorn, ice cream and fabulous company?
Yeah, it's been a good day.