21.6 + 15.0

Another Saturday, another bike ride.  This Saturday’s ride put last week’s to shame, distance-wise.

Once again, I started at our commuter garden in Kirkwood.  From there, I headed east to pick up a bike-blog friend, Rebecca.  We rode together to Clayton, and then rode in circles in a fancy subdivision trying to find a well-hidden (and rather poorly designed) pedestrian crossing over Forest Park Parkway.  After more than a bit of wandering, we prevailed!

CutThru

I rather imagine the residents of that neighborhood like keeping it a secret.  Unfortunately, the design on the north end of the cut through was so poor as to make it rather useless when headed north.

We stopped to rest, sip smoothies, and chat at Kaldi’s.  Afterward, we biked a bit further together, then parted ways.  Rebecca tackled her hilly route home, and I headed out to do some ground-truthing for Saturday’s CyclingSavvy “Tour of St. Louis.”

On the way home, I stopped by Mesa Cycles to pick up some replacement helmet pads that Matthew ordered.  I also bought a rear-mount kickstand for Baby Jake — it only took me five years to get a kickstand for this bike!BikeKickstandDue to the placement of the rear shifting cable, I can’t use what I would call a traditional, bottom-mounted plate kickstand on Baby Jake.  I’d looked at Greenfield Rear Mount Kickstand before, but it didn’t play nicely with the trailer hitch.  But no more trailer means this kickstand is now a go!

Finally, after 21.6 miles, I ended up back at home, a pooped pup!

May3Bike

‘Twas probably good practice for this coming Saturday, when I’ll be riding about the same distance teaching the on-bike portions of CyclingSavvy (that distance includes biking to/from the start point).  Having that kickstand will be especially useful when teaching!  (If you’re in the StL area, we still have a few open seats for both the Wednesday night classroom session and the Saturday on-bike sessions.)

Sunday didn’t bring much rest, as I first biked to church in the morning, and then to a fundraiser for G’s [soon-to-be] preschool in the evening, racking up 15 more miles.

The Sunday evening ride with Matthew was a great way to wrap up the weekend, and my first chance to trial both my new kickstand and the new front headlight that Matthew got me for Christmas (obviously haven’t done much night biking lately!).

*Kickstand pic credit: http://www.vwvagabonds.com/images/BikeKickstand.JPG

On the bike: Trying a new route

It’s always good to mix things up a little, and there’s rarely only one way to get from Point A to Point B.  My plan for last Saturday involved joining Matthew and Gabriel at the garden during the morning hours, then biking home after lunch.

As I’ve mentioned before, trips to my in-laws’ in the suburbs are probably the primary use for our car.  My MIL’s (where we garden), is about 11 miles away, which translates to about 25 minutes by car vs. an hour (or more) by bike.  We’ve biked there a few times, but the time differential (between car and bicycle) makes it pretty impractical, a lot of the time.

Our previous bike route involved mostly small streets, and a couple of big hills.  I was curious about an alternate route using larger arterial streets, for a more direct and faster ride (fewer stop signs).  Lo and behold, my planning led me to . . .

. . . a bike trail!  And not just any bike trail, but Grant’s trail, probably St. Louis’ most well-known multi-use trail.

In my nine (!) years of cycling in St. Louis, I had never set foot (or bicycle wheel) on Grant’s Trail until Saturday.  With it’s mostly south-county location, and my biking for transportation, rather than recreation, it’s never been particularly useful to me (ditto for other local-ish bike trails), but there it was, offering a nice option for connecting my route home from the garden.

Garden to Home

Here’s a snapshot of Saturday’s route.  Connecting to Grant’s Trail was easy.  I rode on Big Bend (arterial) for a relatively short stretch to connect to the trail, just after mile marker 3 on the map.  I was on the trail for about a mile (between Big Bend and Watson Road), and I must say, it was rather lovely.  I’ve heard other cyclists complain that the trail is packed to the point of being difficult to ride on weekends, but that was not the case, even on a lovely Saturday afternoon at the end of April.

Then came Watson Road, a major suburban arterial.  In general, I use arterials for short distances (1/2 mile or less?) to connect other parts of my routes.  But, thanks to the lack of street grids that is the suburbs, my route on Saturday involved 3.5 miles on Watson.

It was fast, compared to smaller streets.  I rode in the middle of the right lane, where I was nice and visible, the whole way.  The relatively narrow lanes made it easy to control my space, and motorists had the entire left lane in which to pass.  Traffic was rather heavy, but, in general, followed the expected pattern, with a big platoon, followed by just me on an almost empty road.

It was on the almost empty road sections that I observed the strangest motorist behavior.  Multiple times, a motorist approached in the right lane, and, with no other cars with us on that stretch, had all the time and space in the world to move into the left lane and pass me without ever taking his/her foot off of the gas pedal.

Instead, many got relatively close and slowed down before finally changing lanes.  I’m not sure what these motorists were thinking.  It felt like they thought maybe, if they didn’t react to my presence I would just, I don’t know, vaporize?  Suddenly swerve onto the narrow (or nonexistent) shoulder so they could pass without changing lanes?  I really wonder what was going through their heads.

None of these puzzling passers displayed any incivility, and they all made full lane changes and passed safely in the end, but it was odd.  After a few such instances, I started proactively waving overtaking motorists into the left lane before they had to slow down to make the lane change.

The only instance of incivility I had in those 3.5 miles (or in the entire 10.6 miles, for that matter), was a honker (AKA “barking dog”) who wanted to beat me to a red light.  His prize?  Getting to sit at the red light longer!

I was hoping to make the trip in under an hour.  Of course, I forgot to look at the clock at either the very beginning or very end of my ride, but I think I made it in 45-50 minutes.

When I got home, I did some mapping, and was surprised to see that my more “direct” route was actually a tenth of a mile longer (10.6 miles vs. 10.5 miles) than my previous, lower-key streets route.  Also, both of the bike routes are shorter, distance-wise, than our driving route, which is 11.2 miles.  On the other hand, Google map’s suggested “bike” route, which winds through some of those horribly convoluted small streets in the ‘burbs, was 12.2 miles, over a mile-and-a-half longer than either of my bike routes!

All-in-all, it was a good ride.  I pushed myself fairly hard, given my current conditioning level, and the fact that it was rather warm.  I would certainly not always choose the route with 3.5 continuous arterial miles (especially since the other route is equidistant (if slower)), but it was fun to challenge myself and try something new.

House hunting by bike

Well, we’re back on (or still on? — not sure we ever really fell off) the house hunting horse, though conditions are questionable: inventory is really low right now, good properties are moving fast, it’s a seller’s market, etc., etc.  Not to mention that interest rates (on loans) are rising.  (What really gets me is that interest rates on borrowed money are going up, while rates on savings, like C.D.s and money market accounts, are still pitiful –grr!)

Anyhow, a new property of interest (let’s call is a POI) popped up on Monday.  What with properties moving fast, I was more than a little anxious, and we got in to see it by Wednesday afternoon.

I planned to meet Matthew there after work, and since I’d been a bit under the weather, my initial plan was to take the car.  However, Wednesday was rather nice, weather-wise, the destination was just over 3 miles away, and biking worked, timing-wise.  In fact, in making my plans to bike, I rather forgot that I was feeling sick.  I readied my bike, picked Sir up from childcare early, and we headed over.

ThirdAcreLot

The Good

  • Almost a third of an acre (12200 sq ft lot) with good sun for gardening
  • A decent kitchen rehab
  • A crazy master suite that took up the entire 2nd floor, and included a wall of windows looking out onto the huge front yard (i.e., the garden)
  • Decent location for bikeability
  • Closet space

The Bad/Weird

  • The 100+ year-old house had some additions over the years, which seemed rather random/haphazard
  • There was a small basement under part of the house; the rest was some weird combination of crawl-space, subbasement, and slab
  • In one of the crawl-spaces, they were using jacks and bricks to support part of the house.
  • The entrance to the basement was through one of the first floor bedrooms
  • The kitchen, living, and dining areas had been refinished with laminate flooring, which is known for off-gassing some nasty stuff
  • The paint (or other?) fumes — both my lungs and head were unhappy; I had to keep stepping outside to get fresh air
  • Potential plumbing issues

The “Eh”

  • Pretty dismal for public transit
  • Not particularly walkable
  • On the very edge of StL city limits, meaning we would have to deal with “the school” question

The basement issues made it a no-go, a decision we arrived at rather quickly.  As our realtor pointed out, lifting a house and adding a basement is neither an easy nor a cheap fix.

We biked home together, and on the way, I pointed out a house with a huge lot (assuming that it was, in fact, a single property) that I’d noticed earlier.  After dinner, a bit of house-stalking turned up that it was, in fact, a house on half an acre.

HalfAcreLot

A-freaking-mazing.  And, distinctly NOT for sale.  Bummer.

Due to various timing and logistical issues, we’ve driven to most of the properties we’ve looked at over the past few years, which always feels wrong, since bikeability is one of our big criteria.  I have to admit that part of my motive in biking to this house on Wednesday was hoping to create some good house hunting karma.  Despite it not being “the one,” I really enjoyed seeing the house, and I think biking there helped my mood and improved the whole experience.

**Satellite images of POIs courtesy of Google maps.**

 

 

Two by bike, one by car

Last week set a bit of a record with three nights out — definitely the most in one week post-baby!

Sunday Night
Sir’s monthly overnight with Baba coincided with closing night of The Twelfth Night at Shakespeare in the Park.  We debated biking vs. driving as well as eating out vs. picnicking.  The fact that we’d be in the car anyway to deliver Gabriel answered that question, and the heat and humidity drove us inside to eat.

We chose Blue Elephant, a Thai restaurant that’s been around for quite awhile, but one I hadn’t visited.  Given write-up’s I’d seen, complete with photos of fancily presented food, and their location in Clayton, I rather expected it to be an upscale place, which it wasn’t.

Fortunately, the food, rather than the decor and atmosphere (which was low key and pleasant, just not fancy), was my main reason for choosing the spot.  We shared the Pad Thai and Pad See Ew entrees (both with tofu).  The Pad Thai was quite good, on par with some of my favorites from other restaurants (must remember to always order with extra veggies).

We continued on to the performance in Forest Park, intentionally parking far away to avoid getting caught in traffic later.  We enjoyed the evening, though afterward (and having attended various other years) we admitted/agreed that Shakespeare is not so much our thing, and in future years, we might just come for the pre-party of picnicking and people-watching.

Wednesday Night
Earlier in the week, my father-in-law offered to come over and watch Sir on Wednesday night so we could see Spamalot at The Muny.  We accepted his offer, and I made plans for biking and a picnic dinner.

Matthew biked over straight from work and spent ninety minutes in line — his efforts garnered us a great spot in the free seats.  I joined him after a warm, but not unpleasant ride.

On the way over, another cyclist passed me on the right.  As he passed, I asked if he could please pass on the left, as is the convention.  As I was riding in the traffic lane, he responded that there “wasn’t much room to my left.”

I glanced over, and informed him that there was, in fact, six or seven feet between me and the center line (just as much room as there was between me and the curb to the right).  He responded with a rather confounded, “But you’re practically riding in the middle of the lane.”

I held my tongue as I thought, “Yes, that’s rather the point, how very observant.”  I  couldn’t help but smile as he continued down the hill ahead of me, carefully, and perhaps begrudgingly, stopping at every stop sign along the way.

We enjoyed the show, but just as much I enjoyed our ride home afterwards, cutting through the park on the multi-use paths to avoid the traffic jams, riding under an almost full moon.

Friday Night
The third and last night out of the week (no twelve nights for me, thank you), I stuck my bike on the bus, and used the bus and MetroLink, plus a short bike ride, to meet a good friend for dinner in The Loop.

As I slowly coasted along with the crazy traffic on Delmar, I was very glad that I didn’t have to worry about finding a [car] parking spot.  I arrived at Seoul Taco with time to spare, and we spent a lovely evening dining al fresco, catching up, and walking The Loop.

We ended the evening by walking to the new Italian pastry shop, Piccione, where I bought a treat for then and a couple of things to share with Matthew later.

The winner among my three pastries, which included pistachio cannoli, sfogliatella, and a thumbprint cookie?  Somewhat to my surprise, the simple and unassuming thumbprint cookie took the cake, so to speak.

I biked home under a full moon.  Though not much longer than Wednesday night’s ride, it was hotter and/or more humid, and, after a slight train-delay, I was more than ready to get home and shower.

So, two out of three by bike ain’t half bad.  Choosing to go by bike in the summer heat is always a bit of a mental struggle, but I rarely regret it.  The evening and night biking is definitely better than full sun outings.

My main beef with night biking is how exercising that close to bedtime affects my ability to fall asleep in a reasonable amount of time, especially when the events are already pushing my early bedtime, so my transportation choice often comes down to balancing desire to bike with sleep needs.