Biking the Big Easy

As I write this, I am on my flight to New Orleans (I started writing this post on June 19th; it’s now halfway through July). This is an exciting trip for me for two reasons. First, I have been itching to ride a bike in New Orleans ever since my hubby and I spent a weekend in the Big Easy last September. I hadn’t been there since 2001 (post 9/11, pre-Katrina), and it was just enough fun to make me want more. I also saw lots of folks biking around town, which I hadn’t seen before, and many of them were women – in dresses no less! (All hail the skirt rider!) Second, I’m bringing my Bikie Girl Bloomers skirts, tops and shorts with me. I’m going to be one of the vendors in the Exhibit Hall at the Convention Center, where my fellow Unitarian Universalists (“UUs”) are holding their annual General Assembly. I know how much UUs care about taking care of the planet (see Principal 7 of their statement of values), and this is the ideal crowd for my mission to encourage more women to use bikes for transportation. If I can’t inspire UUs, who can I inspire?!

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Public art in front of the Convention Center

A poster I made to display at my booth for the UU event
Here’s my plan for my free day before the event begins: first I will have a Lyft driver deliver me and my luggage full of Bikie Girl Bloomers merchandise to the Convention Center so I can set up my booth. Then I walk a mile to the nearest bike shop, A Musing Bikes, where I have reserved a bike rental for the week. I can then have the rest of Tuesday to explore the city by bike, perhaps check out a shop I love to follow on Instagram: Dashing Bicycles, and then use the bike to commute between my hotel in the Marigny neighborhood and the Convention Center, which means riding through the French Quarter each day.

So that was the idea, until I realized that a tropical storm by the name of Cindy would be dumping rain on New Orleans all day. I decided to hunker down in my hotel room and wait for a break in the storm, and then give it a try in the afternoon. I was waiting for a large box of additional merchandise to arrive that day, so best to wait until it arrives and then everything goes at once. Well, afternoon came, and the originally anticipated break in the storm vanished from the hourly forecast on my weather app. I went ahead with my plan, got my inventory and display set up at the Convention Center, and started walking toward the bike shop. It was warm, so I wore my Crazy Daisy Bloomers with a blue tank top, and figured I’d be fine if I got a little wet on the walk. img_1687Just as the rain was starting to come down harder, I found myself walking past an intriguing food place: The Fatboy Pantry. I hadn’t had any lunch, so, heck, why not wait out the downpour in here and grab a bite?

Cuban coffee affogato with donut ice cream & caramel sauce

Fried lobster po boy with more fries than anyone can eat in the same meal as a sandwich like that!
 

 

 

 

 

I had the specialty of the house: a fried lobster po boy. They also had a delectable selection of coffee drinks, so I indulged in an affogato made with Cuban coffee and donut ice cream (hey, my server recommended it), topped off with some caramel syrup. It was divine. And the lobster po boy? Holy moly, it was delicious! I ate as much of it as I could.

Well, the rain was still pouring down, but I realized I had better get a move on, as the bike shop would be closing soon. Gustavo was there, and set me up with a cute orange cruiser bike. I could have opted for a hybrid, with gears and hand brakes, but I thought a cruiser might be fun, and it’s not as though New Orleans has hills to worry about.

A Musing Bikes in the lower Garden District, a one mile walk from the Convention Center

They have LOTS of bikes to rent, including both cruisers and hybrids
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When I ventured out on the bike, the rain didn’t seem too bad, so I thought I’d still route myself past Dashing Bicycles on my way to my hotel, and perhaps be on the lookout for a drug store where I might be able to purchase a rain poncho. First, I got a wee bit lost in the Garden District, but it’s so beautiful, it’s hard to object. By the time I was riding through the Central Business District, the rain was really coming down hard, and heavy winds were adding to the challenge. I had not found a poncho and I was getting quite thoroughly soaked. I knew I needed to just go straight to my hotel, and that was more than enough. By the time I arrived, I was so wet I craved a hot bath. Unfortunately, my room had a shower stall only, no tub. I changed out of my wet clothes and found myself regretting the failure to pack socks for this trip.

The storm continued all night. I woke several times during the night, wondering if there was an earthquake (so LA of me), before realizing the storm was making the house shake. Wednesday morning, the weather forecast showed a respite from the heavy wind and rain, at least until about 10:00. I decided this would be my chance to ride out to Metarie Cemetery, a destination I had originally planned for my free day on Tuesday. I didn’t have to be at the Convention Center until about 11:00, so I got me an early start, with my first stop planned for a nearby Walgreen’s to purchase that poncho I knew I would be needing.

The ride was delightful. I enjoyed bike lanes much of the way, and stopped to snap photos and post on Instagram along my route. So many big, beautiful trees providing canopies over the streets, and the gorgeous artchitecture revealing the intriguing history and culture unique to New Orleans left me agog. Shortly before I got to Metarie Cemetary, I passed a few others, including a Masonic Cemetery and a Catholic one. Such a vast expanse of real estate devoted to the dead. I had a bit of trouble figuring out where exactly Google Maps was telling me I was supposed to ride when it came to the very last little stretch. As it turned out, I had to ride on a street that serves as an on ramp to the freeway. It was a bit scary to ride a bike on Ponchartrain, as it seemed all the other vehicles were large pickup trucks travelling at rather high speeds.

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Riding to the cemetery in my rain poncho
But I made it to the cemetery intact, and began my quest. The last (and only other) time I was at Metarie Cemetery was when my late husband’s brother had passed away in November 2001. Bill and I had flown back to Bills’ home town of New Orleans from Los Angeles to attend to his brother’s final arrangements. His brother’s casket was entombed in a family crypt. Yes, one of those above-ground crypts. I kind of remembered the crypt being near a rotunda or circular something or other, and could visualize where that area was with respect to the building where we’d met with the mortician. The night before, I’d also done some looking online and noted the location of section 103 where the Tebault family crypt was located.

I toodled around the cemetery for awhile, snapped a few photos and posted them to Instagram, and then noticed I was in the familiar area near the Tebault crypt. I found the intersection of Avenues D and H, which should have put me right near Section 103, but I couldn’t find it.

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When the rain lightened up, I took a break from the poncho, glad that I had sense enough not to wear the skirt for my bike ride.
I started doubting my internet info, and decided to ride to the building and then head from there to the area that I recalled from 15 years ago. I discovered some fascinating extended areas, and the more I explored them, the more certain I became that I was not getting any closer to my target. After wandering all over the cemetery, the magic hour of 10:00 arrived, and pretty soon, as forecast, the rain was becoming more than just a manageable drizzle. The thought of just leaving without finding the crypt bothered me, so I searched again using my phone, and decided that the intersection of Avenues D and H should have been right. I studied the map of the sections more carefully, and searched in earnest for Section 103. It didn’t help that the sections are not in numerical order. When I finally found Section 103, the rain was really coming down. I checked each and every crypt, and none said Tebault, even though I distinctly remember the crypt had been labeled with that family name. Finally, I parked the bike and carefully stepped between the forming rivers that separated each plot, and at last I found the Tebault site. No wonder I had not been able to spot it on my first several passes, it was no longer an above-ground crypt. Perhaps Katrina or another major storm had destroyed it. What remained was the stone outline and the tombstones engraved with the names of those who had been entombed there.

I spent a few minutes contemplating the end of the Tebault/Passera family line. Bill’s father had died when Bill was a baby, and his mother had died in 2000, followed by his brother, Phillip in 2001. When my Bill died in 2003, no one was left. No parents, siblings, nieces or nephews, as neither Bill nor his brother had had any children. And then a hurricane (presumably) came along and wiped away the family tomb. Ashes to ashes; dust to dust.

Speaking of storms, the rain was really coming down hard, and I needed to move along. I rode over to the Funeral Home, where a covered driveway allowed me to take a break from the storm and refuel with a snack bar before biking on to the Convention Center. My hopes that the storm would give me a break for the six mile ride ahead of me were dashed, as the winds only got more intense. I couldn’t wait any longer, as I had to get to my booth in time to finish the set up before the Exhibit Hall opened at noon!

So, with my poncho over me, and a plastic bag over the tote bag in my bike basket, I headed out of the cemetery. My shoes and feet were already soaking wet from the puddles around the tombs, but I wasn’t really thinking about my wet feet once I started pedaling.  It was one heck of an adventure biking in the storm. I felt like I was working so hard just to move forward. At times, the rain was coming down so hard, I could barely see out my glasses. I worried that I might not know the difference between an exciting adventure and taking stupid risks, especially when the winds were strong enough to blow both me and the bike around on the road!

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This tree did not survive the storm
I made it to the convention center, but it sure seemed like it took me a long time to ride those six miles. I arrived soaking wet, but so many others had been caught in the storm just walking in from their parked cars, I don’t think anyone thought much of my wet hair. I was so glad I didn’t wear my skirt for the morning ride – it was safely rolled up inside my tote bag, and had stayed dry. I just wished I had a dry pair of shoes.

I ended up venturing out again that afternoon. An order had come in to the online store for something I had with me, and I thought it best if I just get it into the mail, and I wanted to get it to the post office by 5:00. The storm was still going, but it was much more mild at this point. It was a short ride, and I was happy to get back outside for a few minutes.  Mostly, I just enjoyed experiencing a few new streets by bike.

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Bike parking across the street from the Post Office
Unfortunately, the errand wasn’t as quick as I’d hoped, mostly because the post office was inside a federal building, and it took quite awhile to get through the security screening before I could go inside and get in line to mail the package.

We vendors had to stay at the Exhibit Hall until 7:00 that evening. By the time I biked back over to my hotel in Marigny, I was thoroughly exhausted. I didn’t even have the energy to go out and get some dinner. I walked two blocks from my hotel to a funky food co-op and enjoyed browsing the aisles. I selected a few intriguing healthy snacks, plus some chocolate (so comforting!), and a ginger beer.

More orders came in to the store that evening, including a repeat customer ordering 3 pairs of Bloomers from our clearance special. Since I knew the clearance Bloomers would do well at the UU event, I had brought all of them with me. This meant I couldn’t arrange to have my assistant back in Los Angeles ship out the order for me, and I did not want my customer to have to wait until the next week before the order shipped. I was so glad I had brought a few mailers with me. I packed up the order and found another post office not far from the convention center that looked like it might have a self-service machine and perhaps not require a security screen to enter.

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Commuting through the French Quarter
It was fun to commute through the French Quarter, and the weather was quite agreeable now that the storm had passed. Even then, as soon as I crossed Canal Street, I found myself struggling against tremendously forceful winds. I pedaled that cruiser bike as hard as I could, but I swear I wasn’t moving forward at all! It got a little scary at one point, as it was hard to maintain my position on the road, and a streetcar needed to pass me. I decided to pull over and wait a bit, although that only solved the streetcar passing problem, not the strong headwind challenge. It was such a relief when I got to the street where I needed to turn and head north to the post office, as I no longer had to fight the wind.

I made a little slide show of some of the interesting buildings I saw on today’s variant of my commute – this time heading a little into the Bywater area before turning toward the French Quarter:

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By Friday, I was feeling like I had my routine down, and I was excited that we vendors could leave at 5:00, significantly earlier than the first two nights. This meant a little extra freedom to do what I wished with my evening instead of just collapsing in exhaustion from a long day on my feet, and perhaps also from biking into gale force winds. My neighbor in the exhibit hall had asked if I’d like to go out and get a bite or a drink that evening. I told her I was planning to pay a quick visit to a bike shop, and then catch a jazz show. She wasn’t interested in seeing a show, but she had never explored New Orleans’ French Quarter and wanted to check it out. I couldn’t believe she had never visited the French Quarter on her past trips to New Orleans! We agreed to meet up after my bike shop visit and after she had tended to some business.

The ride from the Convention Center to Dashing Bicycles was pleasant, with a simple 3.4 mile route of bike-friendly streets getting there. I went inside to check out the shop, and visiting a bit with the mechanic on duty. I told him I was visiting from L.A., and a fan who enjoys following their shop on Instagram. He said the owner wasn’t in, and shared a bit of the store’s history with me (has relocated to allow for more space). I told him how much I love the way they post a picture of a customer with their new bike in front of that gorgeous wall, and asked if I could take a picture of my rental bike there. I was so pleased with how well my orange cruiser paired with;  the bright colors of their wall. I also love their big sign at the roof line, and snapped a photo of that as well.

I started heading towards my hotel in Marigny (MARE-in-EE; just east of the French Quarter), thinking I’d have time to drop off my big tote bag and lighten my load for the evening. The route Google maps set me on seemed like a great one, until a few blocks into it, the street was closed off for police activity. That was a frustrating disappointment, as I had been on a street that cut across diagonally towards my destination, and there weren’t any similar alternatives. But I managed to get almost back to my hotel when Minda contacted me to make our plans. I told her I’d be there in 5 minutes, but that was overly optimistic.

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Our pedicab driver
We met at the entrance to Cafe du Monde, at which point I learned that Minda had never been there, nor had she heard of it. We couldn’t allow her status to stay that way, so we started off with beignets. We then used yelp to search for a place close by to grab a little dinner. She’d landed this great parking spot, and had limited mobility, so at her request, settle on a place about a quarter of a mile away. We were a couple blocks from the target location, when she expressed dismay at the length of the walk, and just then, we happened on one of those pedicab drivers who offered to help. He pointed out the location of the restaurant, but did not have a very enthusiastic recommendation for it. Of course, we was glad to recommend a place some distance away, but his sincerity (and the offer to pay what we like for the ride) won us over. We took the pedicab ride all the way back near the convention center (!) and had charbroiled oysters at Drago’s. They were quite good. The pedicab ride back over to Cafe du Monde was in the dark, which made it fun. From there, I decided it was a little too late to catch the jazz show I had in mind, but I was satisfied with my evening outing.

Enjoying our pedicab ride
Enjoying our pedicab ride
Saturday morning, I had my act together such that I was able to leave early enough to stop for breakfast at one of the interesting coffee shops I pass in the neighborhood where I was staying. For my first “coffeeneuring” of the trip, I went to Flora Gallery and Coffee Shop. My first delight was the ginormous pile of bicycles locked up at the rather large bike rack out front. My second delight was the dozens (or perhaps hundreds?) of masks on display and covering all of the wall space that wasn’t already covered with paintings or architectural oddities. My third delight was the friendly guy at the counter and what appeared to be a parade of locals getting their morning fix.

Biking around the French Quarter and surrounding neighborhoods of New Orleans is interesting in that, on the one hand, it’s an easier way to get around those narrow, old streets than in a car, and there are plenty of bike-friendly routes.

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Pothole extravaganza
On the other hand, many of those bike-friendly streets are in a sad state of disrepair, making it necessary for cyclists to be extra attentive to cracks, potholes, and other obstacles. Of course, that’s all part of the urban bike adventure!

Some of the houses there are so cute, I can’t help but stop and snap a photo. This one I had to snap quickly, as a van was backing into a parking spot that would have ruined my shot.

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Saturday night, I took myself out to dinner. I had grabbed a late dinner on Thursday night at a fantastic restaurant, The Franklin, just a short block from my hotel, and it had reminded me how much it is possible to enjoy going out for a good dinner even when traveling alone. But for Saturday night, I didn’t have to start late, and it was my last chance of this trip to try out a place my friend who knows New Orleans quite well had recommended, Mariza. This meant biking over to the next neighborhood to the east, Bywater, and past more interesting architecture. 2017-06-24 18.03.10On my way, I stopped to gawk at the Marigny Opera House, which appears to be quite old, and perhaps undergoing some needed restoration.

The dinner was one of those excellent experiences that can be had when you sit at the bar at the beginning of dinner time, before the crowds have arrived, and chat with the bartender. This bartender mixed me a great cocktail, made some excellent food recommendations, and told me a bit of the history of the neighborhood. The Bywater/Marigny has gone from a low-rent, rather run-down neighborhood, to a hip area of opportunity. Beautiful buildings are being fixed up, but long-time residents have had to move to the other side of the river to find affordable housing.

Sunday morning, I tackled my logistics quite well, if I may say so myself. I had left all of my luggage at the convention center (hiding under the table), and had kept only a backpack at my hotel. I packed all my clothes into the backpack, checked out, and was on 2017-06-25 08.47.36my way, able to bike with all my things either on my back or in the front basket. I stopped for breakfast at EnVie Espresso Bar and Cafe in the French Quarter, passing more potholes on the way. I made it a hearty breakfast to last me until the event closing at 2:30 p.m. Note the interesting clientele at this establishment.

Going into the convention center for this last day was exciting. I had already sold enough to pay for my travel expenses and the booth rental, and this last day, although shorter, the event is open to the public, not just those attending the UU General Assembly. I had been running Facebook ads during the week, hoping to draw in some local women bicyclists. Alas, I did have one customer who had seen my ad and was decided to come in since it was close to where she’d been at the gym, and she bought a pair of Bloomers (she went for the Leopard print), and so that sale paid for the Facebook ad (!), but no others from the general public came by. I had a couple other sales, but it ended up being the lowest sales day of the week. Although that was disappointing, I was still thrilled to have come out just a nudge ahead of even!

After the show closed, I packed up my merchandise, took one bundle of product I just couldn’t fit into my luggage (still less than the large box I shipped to New Orleans in advance) to the FedEx Office store across the street, and hopped on my rental bike for my one final ride to return the bike to A Musing Bikes. Although I had enough time to walk the mile back to the Convention Center to collect my luggage, it was raining again, and I just didn’t have it in me to walk another mile in the rain. I gave my rain poncho to the folks at A Musing Bikes, in case they’d like to offer it to the next crazy person to rent a bike on a rainy day, and summoned a Lyft to get me back to the Convention Center and on to the airport. Still a very satisfying logistical accomplishment.

On reflection, I have to admit that it may not make much business sense to take a week off from work (I do have my patent clients to attend to, an important element of making my living) in order to spend 5 straight days selling clothing for bike commuting at a gathering of UUs. However, as an excuse to experience biking in New Orleans, it was absolutely worth it! And I loved visiting with the people who came to my booth. A couple of times, I even remembered to snap a photo of customers who bought bloomers:

And here is what I wore each day (not counting the first two daysm when I got drenched!). I have fun styling the Bike It Or Not Two Piece Dress in various ways. You can tell which is from the last day by the backpack on my back.

And last, but not least, here’s an example of what the UUs were up to all week. This is a mural that grew a bit each day, based on input from attendees, and reflecting the social justice goals of the organization.

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Bikie Girl Takes a Bite Out of the Big Apple

What manufacturer wouldn’t love to see their product retailing in a Manhattan storefront? The invitation to participate in a shared pop up shop on Manhattan’s lower east side was that exciting. While it’s not the same as having an established shop carrying your line, it’s still a big deal. At least for me it was, and I was determined to make the most of the opportunity.

Maria Boustead, founder and designer behind Po Campo Bike Bags, was the organizer who came up with the idea and brought it to fruition.  She brought together 8 different independent brands who all support biking in style, pooled our resources, and rented a storefront in Manhattan’s Lower Eastside/Chinatown area for Bike Week (May 12-21), and called it the Ride In Style Shop.

I wasn’t able to be there until the closing weekend, but I arrived just in time to join the group for a special, one-night pop up in Brooklyn at the Bike Home From Work Party. I went straight from Newark Airport to the Dumbo Triangle in Brooklyn.

Ride In Style Pop Up Shop at Brooklyn’s Bike Home From Work Party
Sawako Furuno and her beautiful helmets
Vespertine NYC makes stylish reflective clothing
Maria of Po Campo shows her bike-friendly bags
Superpedestrian’s Copenhagen Wheel
TiGr designs gorgeous and super strong bike locks
Super stylish cyclist shows Brooklyn how it’s done
Dumbo Arch

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was a great night, and we met a lot of people. It was my first time to see the Dumbo Arch, and I was struck by its architectural beauty.

First thing the next morning, I had to rise and shine and get to the Ride In Style Shop for my turn to staff the store. I was excited to wear my black Bike It Or Not Two Piece Dress with the new Romantic Ruby Bloomers from the Jeweltone Collection, topped off with a gorgeous Japanese silk scarf that had been my mom’s and would look great with the bold red of the shorts. I had just received a few samples of the Jeweltone Bloomers in time for the trip, but then realized I had left them at the shop after the Brooklyn event! This photo shows me in the blue sample shorts that don’t match the scarf, but pair wonderfully with the Citibike!

Bike style meets Citibike The Bikie Girl display at the shop
Sawako Helmets
Limos helmets and TiGr locks
The Copehagen Wheel and Po Campo bags
The Willary
Vespertine NYC

Each brand hosted an event during the pop up shop week, and on Sunday, I hosted a workshop called Bike Commuting Made Easy. My tips for making it easier to incorporate biking into your everyday transportation has been posted on the blog here.

I enjoyed commuting from my friends’ place in the Village to the shop in Chinatown/Lower Eastside. It’s always fun to explore a city’s bike infrastructure. While biking the busy streets of Manhattan can seem intimidating at first, when you realize how slow traffic moves with all the congestion, it’s actually quite easy to take the lane when necessary (which is any street that lacks an available bike lane).

Protected bike lane on Allen
Taking my lane, with the taxis

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I had a free day in the city before my return to L.A.  Although it was rainy, I had fun walking around the Village. I treated myself to a delicious lunch at Lafayette Bakery & Cafe. It was also my first chance to try out the new Shimmering Sapphire Bloomers.

Charming architecture in Manhattan
Shimmering Sapphire Bloomers under the Hitchable Flounce Skirt
Treating myself to a Croque Madame (hidden behind tower of fries), and a cafe au lait, at Lafayette Bakery

That evening, I had to thank my gracious hosts, Alex and Miki, who provided me a place to stay so convenient to the Ride In Style Shop. We went to Robataya, a Japanese place Miki knows nearby that specializes in robata, a Japanese grilling method that I love. It was beautiful inside, and made me feel like we were in Japan. The food was excellent.

Front row seats at Robataya

All in all, it was a fantastic trip. A little crazy, figuring out how to ship my product in advance and plan for a set up that would be implemented by others in my absence, then squeeze in a cross-country trip for the weekend. It all worked out, and I have no regrets!

 

 

Bikie Girl’s Guide to Bike Commuting

1Bikie Girl recently participated in the Ride In Style Shop, a pop up shop held during Bike Week in Manhattan, and featuring eight indie brands, all providing gear to help city cyclists ride in style. To make it more fun, each brand sponsored an event. Bikie Girl provided a workshop called “Bike Commuting Made Easy”. Here’s a summary of what we covered in the commuting workshop, as well as a glimpse at the different brands featured in our shop.

Getting Started: Keep It Simple

Keep it simple at first. Establish a small goal: to bike to a nearby store for an errand, or to bike home from work one day this week. You will be going through the planning and execution logistics, and perhaps overcoming some trepidation, and that is enough for the first time at it. Make sure you are ready by thinking through the following items to ensure a positive experience. If you are new to city riding, you might start out with recreational social rides led by a local bike advocacy group. Riding with a group can make city riding safer, teach you city riding skills, and introduce you to others who like to ride. It’s also a great way to discover parts of your city you never knew.

AngieMinkah
Social rides and open streets events can be a fun way to get more comfortable with city riding.
Gear: Start With The Basics

If you will ride your own bike, consider taking it to a local bike shop for a tune up and safety check. If you don’t know how to fix a flat tire, now is the time to learn and practice (you can find tutorials on youtube). The weekend before your first ride, check your ABC’s: A – air in the tires; B – brakes working properly; C – chain is clean and lubed. Re-check these before each ride. It’s normal for your tires to need a little more air, or for your chain to need some cleaning, about once a week or so. Checking these items regularly will also make it easy for you to notice when the brakes are getting worn, or another repair is needed.

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Commuting by bike share means you don’t have to worry about bike parking and maintenance.

If you will use bike share, go to the web site for your city’s bike share system and familiarize yourself with how it works, what you need to check out a bike, and where the docking stations are for your start and stop points. Download an app to make it easy to find bike share stations while out and about. The Spotcycle app works with most bike share systems.

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Sawako designs helmets in high style.

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The Lumos Helmet
The basic gear needs include: helmet, lights, and something to carry your stuff. Helmets are available in stylish designs (see those by Sawako), and with lights to signal braking and turning (see the Lumos helmet).

If taking your own bike, you will want to carry a patch kit, extra inner tube, a pump, and bike tools, such as a multi-tool. Keep a quality lock with you, even if you can park the bike inside, as you may need it when stopping for an errand. High quality theft-resistant locks can be heavy, but TiGr offers titanium locks that are strong, light and stylish.

TiGr Mini
TiGr Mini Bike Lock
Gear that makes the commute more pleasant: fenders, a chainguard, a good saddle properly adjusted, a basket and/or rack, phone holder, and a kickstand. Other gear that can be worth the investment: handlebars/bike that support upright riding position, dynamo lights, panniers, platform pedals that work well with street shoes, and a power bank to re-charge your phone or lights. An electric assist bike can be practical if the commute is long and/or hilly. Although electric assist bikes cost significantly more than regular bikes, they are a fraction of the cost of a car, and well worth it if it makes it possible to commute by bike more often or at all. Superpedestrian offers the Copenhagen Wheel, which can turn a regular bike into an electric assist.

The Iconic Red Copenhagen Wheel
I had fun trying out the Copenhagen Wheel at the Ride Home From Work Party in Brooklyn. The Wheel really gives your ride a boost.
Clothing: Go With What Works For You

You are likely able to ride in whatever clothes you wear to work. Exceptions are avoiding or adjusting for long, flowy items that might get caught in the spokes, or dealing with hills, distance, or weather that leaves you too sweaty or wet. You can pin up, anchor, or tie a knot in a long, loose skirt, or use a pant clip or slap band to keep pant legs out of the way. For sweaty situations, you can bring fresh clothes with you and change at work. Some work places offer shower facilities or have a gym close by. Many bike commuters keep extra clothes at work, or bring a week’s worth to the office at a time. You can also keep a kit of toiletries at work to use for freshening up. Consider a small towel, cleansing wipes, deodorant, and a comb or brush.

Bloomers Underneath
Bikie Girl Bloomers can protect your dignity in style.
Experiment with different clothing to find what is most comfortable. Some prefer pants, others prefer the freedom of movement provided by a skirt or dress. Pants can easily wear out from bike riding, so consider a style designed for the durability and flexibility biking requires, such as The Willary’s Core Pant. Skirts and dresses can be combined with a lightweight bike short, tights, or leggings for coverage and/or warmth. If needed, you can wear a padded bike short for the ride in, and switch to regular pants upon arrival. Let the bike shorts air out during the day so they are at least partly refreshed for the ride home.

Willary Pants
The Willary’s Core Pant

Planning Your Route: Map It Out

The best route for biking to work is likely different from the route you would take by car or other means. Most cities provide a map of bike routes, bike paths, and bike-friendly streets. Google maps and other bike routing software can help you figure out a suitable route. Test ride your route on the weekend to make sure there aren’t any unpleasant surprises and to get familiar with your route when there is less traffic on the roads. Keep in mind that occasionally Google maps will direct you to cross a major street without a traffic light. If you get stuck in such a situation, consider taking the sidewalk (walk the bike if sidewalk riding is not legal in your city) to access the nearest crossing with a traffic light.

Carrying Your Stuff: No Sweat

Options for carrying your things include: a messenger bag (make sure it is stable while riding), backpack, basket or panniers. A bag that is against your back will create much more sweating, so many prefer a basket or a pannier that attaches to the rear rack. Po Campo provides a variety of stylish options that include bags that hook on your bike and can also be your professional-looking briefcase or handbag. Rear-mounted bike baskets allow for a more stable weight distribution, while front baskets provide easy access while riding. Your choice will also be influenced by what you need or will have to carry with you upon arrival. Think also about whether your arrangement will be used for shopping or carrying children.

Po Campo Uptown Trunk Bag
Po Campo Uptown Trunk Bag
Staying Safe: Take That Lane

Know your local bike laws. The most important keys to safety relate to being visible and predictable to others and being prepared for the unexpected. Ride with the flow of traffic, and take the lane when sharing the road with motorized vehicles. Riding too close to the edge of the lane makes you less visible to motorists and can encourage drivers to pass you too closely. Allow 3-5 feet between you and parked cars to avoid getting doored. Avoid weaving around parked cars, as that can catch motorists by surprise when you re-enter the traffic lane. Be aware of others traveling on foot, bike, or by car. Signal your turns, and use vocals or a bell to let others know you are approaching them to pass or to alert pedestrians. You can increase your skills and confidence by taking a class with your local bike advocacy organization. Click here to see some examples of the skills that will help you handle dicey situations that can arise on city streets.

Vespertine Reflective Vest
Vespertine Reflective Vest
Riding At Night: Be Visible

Wear reflective clothing at night, and use a white light in front and a red light in back. Brands like Vespertine NYC provide stylish reflective vests, jackets, scarves, and dresses. Flashing lights can make it harder for others to gauge distance and are unsafe (to others) as front lights. Lights vary, so be sure you know how effective the lights you have will be. Consider also whether they will require battery replacement or can be recharged. Lights are often stolen from parked bikes, so consider lights you can easily carry with you. Alternatively, dynamo lights whose power is generated by the front wheel and integrated into the bike design are less easy to steal from a parked bike.

Multi-Modal Options: Create A Back-Up Plan

If the distance is too great, one direction is too hilly, or you feel more comfortable knowing you don’t have to ride both ways, look into the options for public transit. Some cities allow bikes on trains, buses, and/or subways, others allow them only during non-commuting hours, or have limited space. Some commuters use public transit for part of their route, or in one direction. Others take public transit (or drive) at the beginning and end of the week to carry clothes and other items for the week, and use the bike in between. These options can also be your back-up in case of weather or an equipment mishap.

Bike Commuters
It’s true: bike commuters have more fun!
Go ahead and give it a try. Keep in mind that it gets easier the more you ride to work, as you will get more comfortable on the bike, discover better routes, and hone your gear logistics. It’s OK to start out as a fair weather cyclist, or to hold off before you start riding at night. Riding in inclement weather or in the dark or every day can be goals to set for the future. You can strive for more as you gain confidence (and the addiction sets in).

And don’t be surprised if you start noticing an extra spring in your step when you arrive at the office!

NYPopUpFav
Can you spot all the Ride In Style gear in this photo?

Sunday Funday Ride: Murals of L.A.

One of my favorite perks of being a dues-paying member of the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition is the monthly Sunday Funday ride series. The first Sunday of each month, they organize and lead a themed social ride, exploring different parts of the Los Angeles area. So far, I have done the Tour of Historic Street Lights ride, part of a Culver City/West L.A. ride, the Northeast L.A. ride, the Exploring Faith Diversity ride, and just this month, the Street Art Ride. Even when we ride through areas with which I’m quite familiar, I end up discovering delightful new things about my city – treats that were sitting there all along; I just hadn’t known about them.

This ride started from The Crafty Pedal, conveniently only a couple miles from my house. I had no idea this little gem was there, on Valencia, just off of the 7th Street bike lane in the MacArthur Park area. The Crafty Pedal describes itself as “friendly, crafty, cozy and contagious. We are craft, art and pedal pedaler,” and as an “Urbanic” craft boutique that shares an adjacent 1,400 Square foot art gallery where they showcase local emerging artists and host monthly speak easy poetry and comedy nights. I will definitely need to return so I can spend some more time checking this place out.

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It’s fun to browse the delightful combination of art pieces and bike gear.

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The gallery

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Bikie Girl Jennifer, standing in front of The Crafty Pedal and looking good in the Bike It Or Not Two Piece Dress from Bikie Girl Bloomers

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Hyeran of LACBC tries to get the riders organized for a group photo before the ride begins.
We rode the 7th Street bike lane into downtown, headed northeast on Main, and followed that all the way through Chinatown. We were a good-sized group, and it was fun to ride though downtown L.A. with so many fellow bicyclists.

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A few of our motley crew.

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Rolling towards City Hall.

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Passing the Chinatown Metro Station.
We checked out a wall that depicted “painters painting painters”, a mural near the Spring Street Bridge, that is best described here.

2017-04-02 11.16.01-1We then worked our way into the Arts District via Little Tokyo, stopping by this recent creation by @colossalmedia:

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We then headed into the garment district to check out the building most of us immediately recognized as the American Apparel factory. Although I’ve passed this building many times, I never noticed the artwork on this side:

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The American Apparel Factory

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Sunday Funday riders gawk at the American Apparel Building from across the street.
Riding back into downtown, we were treated to the recently-restored “Pope of Broadway” mural at the Victor Clothing Building, as well as more mural action on the building’s other side:

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The Pope of Broadway, featuring actor Anthony Quinn

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The back side of the Victor Clothing Building
We then took the Spring Street bike lane back to 7th Street, seemingly headed back to the start. I thought the art show was over, but I was mistaken.

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Waiting to cross Wilshire Boulevard, on Carondelet. Note the serious tunes set up in the cargo trailer.
We continued to ride on to the west side of MacArthur Park and north a wee bit on Carondelet Street, stopping across the street from Charles White Elementary School. There we were treated to this big mural by Kent Twitchell, a graduate of Otis Art Institute:

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And that was the last stop on the mural ride. Another Sunday Funday indeed.

2017-04-02 14.23.16

Errandonnee 2017: Honing the Art of Two-Wheeled Multitasking

Last year, I took my first stab at the Errandonnee Challenge, a 12-day event during which participants perform 12 errands in at least 7 different categories by bicycle, logging a cumulative total of at least 30 miles. It’s brought to us by Mary of Chasing Mailboxes, the same shero who keeps us pedaling in the Fall with Coffeeneuring. For those of us unlikely to take up randonneuring, it’s a great way to embrace the sport in a manner that easily fits into our everyday lives. No need to train for hundreds of miles, nor to stay awake all night. Precisely because I use my bike for commuting and errands on a regular basis, I seriously underestimated the challenge last year. This time around, I was able to up my game a wee bit, by applying a few lessons learned.

Of course, last year, the Errandonneur-in-Chief had mercifully granted us two weekends within the dates of the challenge. I remember being grateful for that since I was committed to the Seattle Bike Show during the opening weekend and, ironically, being a vendor at that event means I have to use a motorized vehicle to haul my pop up shop supplies to and from the venue, with no free time to sneak off and ride a bicycle. (It has been a sad realization that starting a side business related to my passion for urban cycling has been a major destroyer of opportunities to ride my bicycle.) I also remember that my sons were home for Spring break during the 2016 Errandonnee, and cheerfully tagged along for some of the rides.

Even with the bonus weekend, I ended up scrambling to fill my control card last year. For 2017, I knew better. I was going to be organized!

The announcement of the event dates came a little late this year, perhaps owing to the Errandonneur-in-Chief having a life to live and all that. It appears the scheduling of the event may have been simply a matter of practical considerations. The event was announced on March 15th, with the dates set for March 20th-31st. In other words, just in time to end before the grand international #30daysofbiking, which always runs from April 1st to 30th.

No problem, even with just one weekend in there. Oh, except my darling husband had just very thoughtfully booked a trip for us to Seattle that weekend. That should pose no problem, though. There are bicycles in Seattle! Except the point of the weekend was to visit family and spend some time together while hubby is on Spring break and before he heads off to Cuba (again). Well, it’s only a weekend. I still have plenty of other days during which to complete the challenge, and besides, this year I’m organized!

To make sure I wouldn’t end up in a pickle, I carried a note card with me. On one side of the card, I kept a running list of errands I could think of that needed to be done. As each errand was completed, I added it to a numbered list on the other side, and made a note of the categories under which that errand might fall. I also noted my mileage there, as I’m well aware that most of my errands are quite short in distance. I then looked at my calendar, and figured out which days would work for which errands.

Last year, I got my mileage in with my weekend recreational ride to Griffith Park, but that wasn’t going to be possilbe this year. I decided to use my need for mileage as a motivator to follow through on a maybe-someday-I’ll-check-it-out idea of going to a DraftLA Meet Up scheduled for March 30th at a bike shop in Burbank. The Draft Meet Up are a new series of gatherings organized by People for Bikes to bring cyclists, advocacy groups and bike industry people together in a social setting.

The rules of the Errandonnee (because it wouldn’t be an errandonnee without rules) require no more than two errands in each of the nine categories, and at least seven different categories must be included. There is no minimum mileage for each trip, but the total over the event must be at least 30. For each errand, a photo must be taken to show that the errand was taken by bike. Finally, for each errand, the participant is to share one observation or something that they learned from that outing.

The nine categories can involve overlapping activities. That is, some activities could qualify under more than one category. I find that useful, when my very organized planning starts to go awry. Here are the nine:

  • Personal Care
  • Personal Business
  • You carried WHAT on your bike?!
  • Arts and Entertainment
  • Non-Store Errand
  • Social Call (includes restaurants, coffee, and other social activities)
  • Work or Volunteering, School
  • Store
  • Wild Card

Now, I can’t seem to approach something like this without invoking a theme. This year has been a heavy-hearted one. My mother died suddenly in October, and I am still processing this grief. She was a big fan of my bike adventures, an enthusiastic supporter of my Bikie Girl Bloomers, and loved to follow along as I posted photos and stories on Facebook. She wasn’t a cyclist herself, but encouraged my love of it, and even got me doing my first bike tour, Ride the Rockies, back in 1986. When Mom would call me, she’d always begin the call with, “So where are you now?” She’d say she just couldn’t keep track of my travels and whatever was on my schedule. Since her passing, I have felt her presence with me, and find that I particularly enjoy wearing something of hers as a way to enhance that feeling that she is riding along and enjoying my adventures with me. So I decided that I would include in my report the item of hers I wore each day of the event to honor her memory. Plus, I have to include in my report the bloomers I’m wearing that day, because, that’s my thing.

And, with all that ado, drum roll please, here is my “control card”:

Control No. 1: Commuting to the office

2017-03-20 08.27.46-1Date:  March 20, 2017

Category: Work

Destination: Office

Remembering Mom by wearing: A pretty purple scarf she brought back from India, back when she was Director of Development for a charity hospital in Vellore.

Bike: Gazelle Tour Populaire

2017-03-20 08.45.18Bloomers: Blue Bandana

Mileage: 3.3 (because I took the scenic route through Hancock Park)

Observation/Lesson: Riding through the wide, tree-lined streets, past the grand historic homes of Hancock Park makes me feel like I’m riding through a movie – it’s too idyllic to be real. Surely everyone would bike to work if they could do it this way!

Control No. 2: Mailing a small package

2017-03-20 18.25.17-1.jpgDate:  March 20, 2017

Category: Non-Store Errand

Destination: Mailbox

Remembering Mom by wearing: A pretty purple scarf she brought back from India, back when she was Director of Development for a charity hospital in Vellore.

Bike: Gazelle Tour Populaire

Bloomers: Blue Bandana

Mileage: 1

Observation/Lesson: I wasn’t sure if my package would be delivered. Doesn’t the USPS have some rule about requiring packages be left at the counter of the post office or something? I was happy to see confirmation that my package did make it to its destination.

Control No. 3: Attempt to deposit check at the ATM

2017-03-21 08.15.49-1Date:  March 21, 2017

Category: Personal Business

Destination: ATM at Western/Wilshire

Remembering Mom by wearing: Her raincoat. I found this white raincoat in her closet. It looked so pristine, as if it had never been worn. Might she have received it as a gift? Was it new? Now that I know white is a color associated with the suffragette movement, it feels rather special. It’s a nice lightweight coat very suitable for the kind of light rain we get here in Los Angeles (when we’re not in a drought).

Bike: Gazelle Tour Populaire

2017-03-21 08.03.34Bloomers: PinkaDot Black Bloomers

Mileage: 1

Observation/Lesson: Normally, I get mildly annoyed when I receive a check that is for an amount just a nudge above the limit for mobile deposits. This time I was thrilled to find myself tasked with an unexpected errand, just at the right time! The errand resulted in disappointment, however, when I discovered that the ATM was “not accepting deposits at this time”. I get that sometimes an ATM can’t dispense cash, but hadn’t realized that sometimes they can’t accept deposits. So my errand was a fail, but the Errandonneur-in-Chief informed that it still counts. Phew!

Control No. 4: Taking documents to be notarized

2017-03-21 17.44.11Date:  March 21, 2017

Category: Non-Store Errand

Destination: Wilshire Shipping Center

Remembering Mom by wearing: Same raincoat.

Bike: Gazelle Tour Populaire

Bloomers: PinkaDot Black Bloomers

Mileage: 0.2 (That’s what Strava says, but most of the distance was getting out of the parking structure; Wilshire Shipping Center is in the building just across the street from my office building!)

Observation/Lesson: Some businesses are so good-natured about letting customers bring their bikes inside. There were no bike racks near the entrance, but they waved me in with my bike!

Control No. 5: Commuting home in the rain

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If you look closely enough, you can see raindrops on my glasses.
Date:  March 21, 2017

Category: Work

Destination: Home

Remembering Mom by wearing: Same raincoat – going for a triple today.

Bike: Gazelle Tour Populaire

Bloomers: PinkaDot Black Bloomers

Mileage: 1

Observation/Lesson: Riding in the rain gives me a small sense of legitimacy in the Errnadonnee. I read about others biking their errands in foul weather, and it makes me feel a tiny bit guilty. We have it so easy with our gentle weather here in Southern California. But it’s only a small sense of legitimacy today, as the rain is quite light and manageable. Just enough to justify the raincoat.

Control No. 6: Second attempt to deposit my check at the ATM

2017-03-23 08.59.15Date:  March 23, 2017

Category: Personal Business

Destination: That same ATM

Remembering Mom by wearing: Another scarf from her colorful collection. This one is a pretty batik of jewel tones.

Bike: Gazelle Tour Populaire

2017-03-23 09.36.27Bloomers: Hot Pink Zebra Stripe Bloomers

Mileage: 1.3 (stopping on the way to the office)

Observation/Lesson: Today my deposit was accepted! And I am getting better at managing the challenge of getting my bike inside the ATM cage with its rather heavy door.

Control No. 7: Mammogram

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That funky building is the Mark Taper Foundation Imaging Center.
Date:  March 23, 2017

Category: Personal Care

Destination: Mark Taper Foundation Imaging Center

Remembering Mom by wearing: Same scarf with the pretty batik of jewel tones.

Bike: Gazelle Tour Populaire

Bloomers: Hot Pink Zebra Stripe Bloomers

Mileage: 5.3

Observation/Lesson: I didn’t know why I had been putting off the mammogram that was more than a year overdue until I saw the announcement of the 2017 Errandonee. I just needed something to make me get excited about taking time away from work to run an errand!

Control No. 8: Materials Delivery

2017-03-23 18.11.44-1Date:  March 23, 2017

Category: Wild Card

Destination: The home/office of my production manager for Bikie Girl Bloomers, where I delivered two spools of quarter-inch elastic and two bags of garment labels (leftover from prior productions) to be used in the new styles of bloomers.

Remembering Mom by wearing: Same day, same scarf with the pretty batik of jewel tones (another triple errand day).

Bike: Gazelle Tour Populaire

Bloomers: Hot Pink Zebra Stripe Bloomers

Mileage: 6.8

Observation/Lesson: I don’t understand what Google Maps thinks is a bikeable street. There were a few stretches on this route where I felt the sidewalk was my only safe place to ride, and I don’t normally think it’s wise to bike on the sidewalks. Fortunately, most of the ride was quite pleasant, as urban cycling goes.

Control No. 9: Grocery Store

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Instead of locking my bike to the shopping cart corral near the entrance, I used the bike rack that is inconveniently placed on a narrow sidewalk.
Date:  March 27, 2017

Category: Store

Destination: Ralph’s

Remembering Mom by wearing: Her red earrings that look great with the beautiful red blouse my sister gave me during our visit to Seattle.

Bike: Gazelle Tour Populaire

2017-03-27-16-23-08-1-1.jpgBloomers: Red Hot Aqua Dot

Mileage: 2.1

Observation/Lesson: I was feeling so refreshed from an enjoyable weekend out of town, I was actually excited to plan dinner and run to the store for fresh ingredients. I bought some salmon to bake in parchment paper. If you haven’t tried cooking salmon this way, you are really missing out!

Control No. 10: Dry Cleaning Drop Off

Date:  March 29, 2017

Category: You Carried What on Your Bicycle?

Destination: Rutley’s Cleaners

Remembering Mom by wearing: Her fuzzy purple jacket.

Bike: Gazelle Tour Populaire

2017-03-29 10.00.47Bloomers: Groovy Tie Dye Bloomers

Mileage: 1.2 (stopping on the way to the office)

Observation/Lesson: This was another errand that had been put off for months, apparently waiting for Errandonnee season. I don’t have that much clothing that requires dry cleaning, so I tend to let it pile up. This was about six month’s worth: 4 jackets, one pair of slacks, two blouses, and a scarf. I piled them into a bundle, laid them over the rear rack with as much of the bulk in the pannier basket, and bungee cords holding the bundle in place. It was quite a lopsided load, and the bike would easily fall over when parked, but I only had to go 4 blocks. The hard part was taking a picture. I had to lean the front wheel against a building to keep the bike upright.

Control No. 11: Draft Meet-Up with People for Bikes

2017-03-30 20.02.12-1Date:  March 30, 2017

Category: Social Call

Destination: Pure Cycles in Burbank

Remembering Mom by wearing: Her other red earrings.

Bike: Specialized Dolce Comp

2017-03-30 09.58.16Bloomers: Blue Bandana Bloomers

Mileage: 17.7 (biking miles; multi-modal trip – train miles excluded)

2017-03-30 17.58.35Observation/Lesson: Noticed the big, beautiful Centennial Fountain across from the entrance to Griffith Park. I must have ridden past it dozens of times on my way to the park without noticing it. This time I was on the fountain side of the street, waiting to continue straight across toward the river path entrance (instead of turning left into the park).

Control No. 12: Grocery Store

2017-03-31 17.22.03Date:  March 31, 2017

Category: Store

Destination: Ralph’s

Remembering Mom by wearing: Her shoes.

Bike: Gazelle Tour Populaire

2017-03-31 07.52.57 HDR-1Bloomers: Sapphire, a test sample from the upcoming Jeweltones Collection

Mileage: 1.3 (stopping on the way home from the office)

Observation/Lesson: It’s tough to stick to my carrying capacity when shopping for a party I’m hosting. Thank goodness for bungee cords!

 

That gives me a total of 8 categories, and 42.2 miles! I have proudly earned my patch!

More Fun in the Capital

What’s a bicycling patent attorney to do, but keep returning to our nation’s capital? After all, it’s a great bike city, it’s the home of the United States Patent & Trademark Office, and it’s a beautiful place filled with buildings to gawk at, and more museums than you can visit in a lifetime (or so it seems).

Usually, I visit D.C. in connection with some sort of intellectual property related business, and the biking just gets worked into that. But every March, bicycling enthusiasts from across the country gather in our nation’s capital to attend the National Bike Summit, hosted by the League of American Bicyclists. They aren’t your typical weekend warrior MAMIL* types, either. These are real-honest-to-golly-jeepers transportation cyclists who have an interest in getting more folks turned on to cycling, who see the future of urban planning enhanced by better bicycling infrastructure, who are actual professionals in the realm of bicycle advocacy. In other words, they are saints. And I love them also because they get my product, Bikie Girl Bloomers.

I first heard about the concept of a Bike Summit back in September 2012, just as I was first cooking up my plans for launching Bikie Girl Bloomers. A National Women’s Bicycling Summit was held right here in Southern California, at the Long Beach Convention Center. I didn’t really have any idea what a bike summit was, but knew I had to go to this thing. I loved it. It was so exciting just to be at a place populated with a huge number of other women who loved cycling as much as I do! I met a lot of interesting women, and I was inspired by the speakers, and I knew I just had to really run with my Bikie Girl Bloomers idea.

A few months later, I learned about the National Bike Summit in Washington, D.C., scheduled for early March 2013, AND that this would be preceded by a one-day Women’s Cycling Forum, AND the Women’s Forum would feature a Women Bike Pop Up Shop. The Pop Up Shop would be an opportunity to showcase women entrepreneurs whose businesses were inspiring and encouraging more women to embrace bicycling. I had already had my test samples made, revised, and finalized (sort of) for the introductory line of Bikie Girl Bloomers. So the Women Bike Pop Up Shop seemed like the perfect opportunity to debut my new line of skirts and shorts designed to make it fun and easy for women to bike to work.

As it turned out, my first production of bloomers and skirts was still in progress when it came time for the Pop Up Shop. I still went, and I did have some samples to show, and promo cards to hand out. I even had a few hundred 3/4 sleeve boat neck tees imprinted with my logo to sell at the Pop Up Shop. That was a heckuva project (both having them made and figuring out how to get them to D.C.), and I didn’t even end up selling a single tee shirt at the event! But my samples, and the bloomers concept, drew a lot of attention. I even successfully processed my first pre-order! It was a grand and exciting learning adventure. But I digress.

The point is, I’ve been going back to D.C. every March since, as I grow my little enterprise on the side. I love being at the Bike Summit with my bloomers, and I love being around so many people who understand and appreciate my product. So, March 2017 marked my 5th annual trek to D.C. to participate in the Women Bike Pop Up Shop. One new and exciting thing about this year’s visit was that the D.C. Cycling Concierge was offering some guided bike rides around the city to Summit attendees. There was even a free introductory ride planned for the Sunday afternoon before the Summit and Pop Up Shop began, which meant I could actually participate. So I did!

I decided to take up the offer to rent a bike from Bikes to Borrow. I had rented a bike from them when I came to D.C. for my first Bike Summit in 2013. That time, I was joining a special ride held on a very, very chilly (as in, so cold, they had to cut it short) Sunday night for women who’d gathered to celebrate the launch of the League’s Women Bike program. I love the way Sega delivered a bike directly to my hotel, and all I had to do when I was finished with it, was lock it up and let him know where I’d left it. Renting a bike doesn’t get any more convenient than that!

The D.C. Cycling Concierge takes people (alone or in groups) on bike rides around D.C. It’s a great way to see the capital, and he can tailor the ride to different themes or the interests of his guests. For this ride, he wanted to give Summit attendees a preview of some of the places they would be visiting during the Summit. That wasn’t necessarily what I was needing, but this was the ride that best fit my schedule, so that’s why I went. Plus, I love the concept of his business, and was curious to see him in action.

Once I had my bike, which was delivered to the meeting hotel, I met up with the group and off we went, first through Chinatown. I was having fun, and trying to snap photos when I could, and visit with other cyclists along the way, so I confess that I missed much of the informative commentary. I still picked up enough to learn things I’d not yet known after many years of visiting D.C.

2017-03-05 15.18.32

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Looking back at our group, and at the Chinatown Gate in the distance.

It was fun to meet people from all over. I visited for a while with Deana from Montgomery, Alabama, and with Erick from Austin, Texas. There were people from Kansas, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Indiana, you get the idea!

We rode past Union Station, the Senate Office Buildings, the Supreme Court, Library of Congress, and stopped for photos in front of the Capitol Building.

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I don’t think I will ever stop feeling a certain exhilaration at biking past these beautiful government buildings. The barricades that went up after 9/11, in my view, say “bikes welcome; cars, not so much.”
2017-03-05 15.42.57
Dirksen Senate Office Building
2017-03-05 15.46.10
Typical row houses of D.C.
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Friendly bicycling advocates
2017-03-05 15.50.27
Foreground: friendly bicycling advocates; background: Folger Shakespeare Library (that I had to photograph for my step-daughter who read all of Shakespeare’s works before age 12).
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Bike your capital!
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Library of Congress
2017-03-05 16.04.00
United States Supreme Court
2017-03-05 16.25.36
United States Botanic Garden
2017-03-05 16.25.45
That curvaceous building ahead on the left is the National Museum of the American Indian.
2017-03-05 16.26.52
It was a nippy afternoon. My peacoat, cable knit tights, and Smokin’ Hot Flame Bloomers kept me warm.

We made a nice loop back to our meeting hotel. All I had to do was leave my rental bike locked up and text Sega the location so he could pick it up. Easy schmeasy!

DCConciergeRide
Our 4.7 mile route
File Apr 08, 7 20 26 PM
My trusty rental bike from Bikes to Borrow.

The next two days, I was busy with at the Women Bike Pop Up Shop. Although I had to mind the store, I was able to catch part of the Storytelling program put together by Melissa Balmer of Pedal Love. She brought together several women from the Pedal Love Culture & Lifestyle Council, each of whom shared their own story of their bike style. We heard from women of different ages, races, and parts of the country (Pittsburgh, Atlanta, Cedarburg, Wisconsin, Seattle, and New York). It was inspiring to hear such different perspectives, each woman pointing to how they came to love and live their bike lives in their own way, and in their own city. The program was a great example of the power of authentic storytelling.

It was also fun to set up my Pop Up Shop, meet women from all over who stopped by, and get a chance to visit with the other vendors. I especially loved it when a woman would bring a friend over to my garment rack, telling her that she bought some of these bloomers last year and loves them — yeah!! I also love it when men come to my booth, shopping for a wife or girlfriend back home. It’s so sweet!

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The Bikie Girl Bloomers Pop Up Shop at the National Bike Summit

I still had an extra day in D.C. after the Pop Up Shop. Andrea of the local Women & Bicycles group had thoughtfully organized a special meet up of the Coffee Club for that Wednesday morning, so that Maria of New York-based Po Campo and I could join in while we were in town. We met at the nearby Buttercream Bake Shop.

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Buttercream Bake Shop on 9th Street NW

Holy cakes alive: that place is loaded with sweetness! I was overwhelmed on my arrival at the splendid array of tempting delectables to choose from. I succumbed to the call of the cinnascone and paired it with a cinnamon toffee latte, both of which were divine!

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Sinfully delicious Cinnascone and Cinnamon Toffee Latte
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Maria to my left; Andrea to my right
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Betsy, Shira, and Andrea

One by one, the others arrived, and five of us enjoyed visiting over coffee and pastries. Afterwards, I walked to the nearest bike share dock to get me a bike for my next adventure. There was just one bike remaining at the dock, but I was unable to get my bike share key to work. I thought at first it was the bike or the dock that wasn’t working, but after walking to two other docks and having the same problem, it finally occurred to me that my key might not be working because the credit card linked to my account had been changed recently due to fraudulent activity. I called Capital Bikeshare and learned that, yes, that is precisely what was preventing my key from working. I was able to log into my account from my phone and update the credit card info, and, voila! My key worked.

Then I noticed the time, and realized I had better get hopping so as not to be late for my reserved entry time to the National Museum of African American History and Culture. I was less than a mile away, so it was doable. I was so excited to have been able to land tickets for the recently-opened museum, as I knew that they were hard to come by. To reserve them in advance, you have to book many months in advance, or you can get tickets for the same day by checking the website at 6:30 a.m. I logged on at 6:30 that morning and was able to land a ticket for 11:00 a.m.

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National Museum of African American History and Culture

The museum is very well-designed. There is more than you can see in one day, but to maximize the first visit, I followed the recommendation to begin at the bottom. An elevator takes visitors down to the bottom, and you work your way up through over 500 years of history, starting with the slave ships, the Colonial era, the Antebellum South, the Civil War, various contributions over the years, such as the Tuskegee Airmen, moving through the Jim Crow era, the civil rights movement, and on into the present-day Black Lives Matter movement. There is an interactive display set up as the Woolworth’s lunch counter, where visitors can choose how they would respond to a given scenario, and then see the consequence of that choice. Along the way, figures from politics, sports, and entertainment are profiled. Throughout the exhibits, it is apparent that care was taken to tell the stories in ways that include both ugly truths and beautiful moments throughout our nation’s history. The upper levels of the museum are devoted to thematic exhibits focused on athletics, military, music, film, theater and television. I skimmed through those sections, but took a longer pause at the extraordinary view from the upper levels.

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Looking out over the National Mall from one of the upper levels.
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Getting back on bikeshare just south of the Museum, near the Washington Monument. I wore a red shirt in honor of International Women’s Day. I also saw people returning from a rally near the White House on my ride back to Chinatown.
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Returning my bike to the dock across from this gorgeous church on 8th Street NW

Today’s riding did not add up to more than a couple of miles, but they were quality miles, due to sunny weather and unbeatable urban scenery. I was so glad I had this extra day to see the city before returning home!

*MAMIL = Middle-aged men in lycra.

Coffeeneuring 7.0: Bru Coffeebar in Los Feliz

For my final ride, on the final day of the coffeeneuring challenge, I was determined to check out a place in Los Feliz, a rather hip and pleasantly funky neighborhood north of mine that I don’t visit often enough. Los Feliz is also a neighborhood I pass through on a frequent Sunday morning route, when I ride up to Griffith Park. That ride gives me a nice 22-mile or so loop, with my choice of moderate or intense hill climbing (the latter complete with a fantastic view of Los Angeles from the Griffith Observatory) that I can complete in 2-1/2 hours or less. This means I can still make it to church at 11:00, or have time for other activities. But that was not going to happen on this particular Sunday in November 2016. It was wet and drizzly out, and I don’t do Griffith Park when it’s wet.

So, I did my advance work, and I Googled for coffee shops worth checking out in Los Feliz. Despite a distracting array of enticing options from which to choose, I settled on Bru Coffeebar. It wasn’t too tricky to map out my route, and yet, I still didn’t quite do it right on the first try. But I’m getting ahead of myself here. First, I snapped my style shot, so I wouldn’t forget to document the Bloomers of the Day like I forgot last time.

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Keeping it colorful with Red Hot Aqua Dot Bloomers under a Fruit Punch Nuu-Muu dress (and my orange bike socks!)
I rode up Edgemont, one of my favorite bike lane equipped streets. I often take it on my return from Griffith Park, so today I thought it might be fun to try it out on my northbound leg.

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The Edgemont bike lane. Griffith Observatory is the big white building on the hillside.
Sometimes I get my “F” streets messed up, and I guess that’s where I goofed this time. I turned right onto Fountain and headed over to Vermont, expecting to find Bru Coffeebar near the intersection, but no. I rode south on Vermont a bit, and then realized I must’ve jumped the gun when turning off of Edgemont. So, I checked my directions, circled back to Edgement, and continued farther north this time, to Franklin, that other “F” street. Sure enough, that did the trick, and although Bru Coffeebar is easy to miss, thanks to its stealth signage, I finally saw it right in front of my face, and found a place to lock up the bike.

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Bru Coffeebar in Los Feliz. Can you see their sign?
It’s a nice, contemporary space, with high beamed ceiling and a cool-looking loft area. I ordered a ginger latte and some kind of syrupy, croissantish pastry that appealed to my sweet tooth. The presentation was lovely, perfect for Instagram, and both the ginger latte and the sweet pastry were delicious. After filling up, I returned to my bike, and was glad to find the saddle on a bit wet. If you’re going to bike in the rain, this is the kind of light rain you can easily manage.

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Not wanting to return the same way I’d arrived, I decided to try taking Virgil back. Virgil is often one of the suggested streets when using Google Maps in bike mode, but I’ve been skeptical. Sunday morning is always a good time to take a first try at biking on a street that might be too heavily-trafficked an arterial. It turned out to be quite fun, even if a bit more trafficky than I would like at times. Part of the way, I did have a bike lane, and the slight decline made for a fun and fast ride.

I worked my way back to familiar parts of Koreatown, and enjoyed seeing some of my favorite architectural gems along the way.

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The Bullocks Wilshire, one of L.A.’s coolest art deco buildings. Originally a fancy department store, it now houses Southwestern School of Law.
Not a bad way to spend a dreary, drizzly Sunday morning.

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Yeah, I’m gonna share my loop within the loop.
Total mileage: 12.4

Bike: Specialized Dolce Comp

Destination: Bru Coffeebar, Los Feliz, Los Angeles

Beverage: Ginger Latte

Coffeeneuring 6.0: Coffee + Food in Larchmont

I was getting down to the wire. It was the final weekend of the Coffeeneuring Challenge. I had two days to get in my two final outings. Much to my delight, I had a bicycle-loving house guest who was happy to join me that Saturday morning. I thought it would be fun to show her some of the local architectural and culinary goodies. Besides, charming Larchmont village is just a couple miles from my home, and yet it has more coffee shops than I have yet visited, so something really must be done about that.

My guest for this ride, Judi, is big on bike touring and seeing the world. On a recent trip, Judi spent several months seeing Hawaii, the Philippines, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, and New Zealand. You can see her pics from that trip and others on her Flickr page. We met when I saw her post to the Los Angeles Women & Bicycles Facebook page, asking when the next coffee meetup was planned. When I asked what part of town she was in, she replied that she was looking for a place to stay for the next few weeks while visiting. And with our kids out of the house leaving empty bedrooms behind, I figured it was a perfect chance to practice our bed & breakfast services. It was so fun to have a bicyclista staying at our home.

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Judi and I rode north into Hancock Park to the northernmost end of Larchmont to check out Coffee + Food, a place on Melrose I’d found in my online research for coffeeneuring destinations. Bike parking was easy to find close to the front of the shop. We went inside and made our selections. I had a flat white coffee with caramel, just because I had never had a “flat white” before, and got some kind of sweet cinnamon thing to go with it. Judi went for a drip coffee and a breakfast burrito.

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If, like me, you need a tutorial on what the heck a “flat white” is, here’s the low down. The quick answer: it’s like a latte, but with less milk and less frothy.

We wandered through Koreatown on our way back, stopping by Alexandria House. Just the night before, we’d been at a neighbor’s house for a fundraising party in support of this shelter that provides transitional housing and other resources for women and children. We stopped inside for a bit, and saw a group of women and teens getting makeovers. It’s a gorgeous house, and it was filled with warm and wonderful people.

AlexandriaHouse

We completed a loop back towards home, turning our short ride into a respectable 9.1 mile route.

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The short dip along the southern edge of our loop (between Wilton Place & Crenshaw) is where I just had to show Judi my favorite mansion in Country Club Park, that has apparently been seen in a show called American Horror Story. The short dip near the northeast part of our loop is where we stopped to check out Alexandria House.

Total mileage: 9.1

Bike: Specialized Dolce Comp

Destination: Coffee + Food, Larchmont Village, Los Angeles

Beverage: Flat White

Coffeeneuring 5.0: Santa Monica & Sex Ed

What does coffeeneuring have to do with sex ed, you ask? Nothing, unless you decide to bring them together. As a coffeeneur who also has duties as a facilitator of a sexuality program, I knew what I had to do given the short time remaining to complete the 2016 coffeeneuring challenge. A couple of Sundays a month, on a biannual basis, I help facilitate for 8th & 9th graders at the Unitarian Universalist Community Church of Santa Monica. The program is called Our Whole Lives, reflecting a recognition that we are sexual beings throughout our entire lifespan. It’s an awesome curriculum that covers far more than anything offered in the school system. We discuss honestly all aspects of sexuality, not just reproduction and safety. We help young people develop their skills for dealing with peer pressure, seeking consent, understanding the wide variety of sexual identities and different ways of expressing and experiencing one’s sexuality, in a context of values and within a trusted community.

I was scheduled to teach a session on that Sunday in early November, and I needed to get some coffeeneuring in. I normally enjoy biking the 11-12 miles (depending on my route) to Santa Monica, so why not bike to a coffee shop after the session ends? Santa Monica offers a plentiful selection of fancy coffee shops worth trying. For this one, I decided to try out Philz Coffee on Santa Monica Blvd & 6th Street.

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I loved the cool design of the bike rack right next door to Philz.

Philz offers some outdoor seating, in addition to a large indoor seating area. There was a substantial line, but they have several servers taking orders at the counter, and the line moves quickly.

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Knowing I needed to fuel up for a longer ride home, I got some peanut butter power balls and a yogurt in addition to a refreshing iced gingersnap latte. I strongly recommend the iced gingersnap when you need a combo of spice, creaminess, and potent java on a hot day.

I wanted to take a leisurely route back home by heading a few blocks farther west to the beach. It was a nice day to ride along the beach and then take the Ballona Creek bike path back into the city. This routing added a few extra miles to my ride, but many of those miles were delightfully car-free.

It felt great to be out on my road bike, enjoying some warm weather again. Soon enough, I was back in my own neighborhood. It was such a clear day, you could see the Hollywood sign.

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Total mileage: 30.3

Bike: Specialized Dolce Comp

Destination: Philz Coffee, Santa Monica, California

Beverage: Iced Gingersnap Latte

Coffeeneuring 4.0: Closing Out the D.C. Triple Shot

As it turns out, my free block of time on Saturday did not align with that of my fellow coffeeneur, Ilga, so this last ride in the D.C. coffeeneuring triple shot was a solo adventure. A place called Baked by Yael came highly recommended by a member of the local Women & Bicycles group, and it just so happens to be a short skip up the road from the conference hotel in Woodley Park. In fact, Baked by Yael sits directly across the street from the entrance to the Woodley Park Zoo, perfectly positioned to receive families looking for a refreshment break after a day of zoo-gazing.

It was a damp and dewy morning. I was pleased that I had remembered to carry with me a seat cover that I bought for those times when a shared bike’s saddle didn’t look like something I’d want to sit on. I placed the cover over the very wet saddle, and was on my way.

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My handy dandy saddle cover
In order to (a) make the ride more fun and interesting, and (b) ensure that my ride met the two mile minimum, I decided to do some exploring through the beautiful neighborhood near the Cathedral.

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The colors were stunning, and I enjoyed the architecture of the stately homes in this neighborhood, some of which serve as embassies. I was also tickled to recognize what must have been part of the American University campus, my hubby’s alma mater.I looped around a bit, wanting to be sure I’d logged enough extra distance before getting to my destination on Connecticut Avenue.

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I found Baked by Yael easily enough, and remembered to snap a photo with evidence of my bike mode in front (just the helmet and my bag, as I’d already parked the bike). There’s a capital bikeshare docking station conveniently up the street. It seemed I might be their first customer of the morning, as the place was perfectly clean and quiet. I was taken by the chocolate that faced me, and knew a hot chocolate would be the perfect thing to warm me up on this brisk morning.

This was a new thing to me: being given a popsicle stick with a big chunk of dark chocolate on it, together with a cup of hot milk. I then sat and stirred my chocolate into the milk and watched my hot chocolate form before my eyes. It was divine.

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I went back to the dock and retrieved a bike for the return trip. Heading south on Connecticut Avenue was no picnic – I’d rather not bike on such busy streets. I decided to take the first left turn, at Cathedral Avenue, and turned from there onto Woodley Place to cut over to Woodley Road, a familiar street to me. I thought I was being so clever by taking that on around, connecting back up with Cathedral Avenue, believing this would take me right to Calvert Street, where I would be able to dock the bike right there on the bridge. Except Cathedral Avenue actually dips down under the bridge and curves on to pass under Connecticut Avenue into Rock Creek Park. By the time I realized what I’d done, there wasn’t any easy way to back out of it. I followed the road as it curved around, and then I recognized the steep hill that one can take back up out of the park to Calvert Street.

Let’s just say I got a chance to burn off some of that hot chocolate! If you’ve ever tried to climb a steep hill on a clunky bikeshare bike, you know what I’m talking about.

 

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Total mileage: 2.9

Bike: Capital Bikeshare

Destination: Baked by Yael, Woodley Park, Washington, D.C.

Beverage: Hot Chocolate