Errandonnee 2018: Turning Chores Into a Challenge

Transportation is an essential part of how we get things done. Most of the errands we run in our regular daily lives involve short trips. Those trips can often be done more easily by bicycle, and yet, most are not. Sometimes we need a little nudge to help us see how easy it can be.

Enter the Errandonnee: a challenge organized and led by the woman behind Chasing Mailboxes and Coffeeneuring. She’s a randonneur, and loves to meld concepts to create new terms to describe her cycling challenges, which serve to encourage folks to keep biking during the off season. Errandonnee is a fun play on the combination of “errand” and “randonnee”. Like a randonnee, the errandonnee has a set of rules participants are to follow in order to successfully complete the challenge and document their achievements. For this one, participants must complete 12 errands over the course of 12 days, March 20th-31st. The errands must fall within at least 7 of 10 categories, and no one category may be used more than twice. It is permissible to carry out multiple errands in a single day, and there is no minimum mileage per errand. One need only report the total mileage for all 12 errands, and that total must be at least 30 miles. As if all that fun isn’t reward enough, you can even get a patch!

A patch from a prior year’s challenge

This is now my fourth year taking on the challenge. I have found that it is really quite doable, provided I set aside a little time for planning to make sure I hit a sufficient variety of categories. It’s easy to hit the “work” and “store” categories, and I have learned to let my dry cleaning (of which I tend to have very little) pile up so I can take it in as a “non-store” or “personal business” errand. Also easy is “personal care”, as I can always count a recreational ride in that category. Going to an event or meeting a friend for dinner is an easy “social call”. The category that entices and intrigues me, is the “you-carried-WHAT-on-your-bike”. Some errandonneurs have come up with remarkable feats of bicycle transport of sizable loads, and I would love to make my own mark in that category. But, no, I’ve managed nothing more than a giant load of dry cleaning, or several bottles of wine. Perhaps this year I can redeem myself. Then again, perhaps I should just concede this category to one of the cargo bike riders.

Let’s see now, what did I leave out? Other categories are: “arts & entertainment”, “wild card”, and a new one, “peaceful everyday actions”. Yesterday (March 21st) I pulled out my calendar to consider the activities already planned or under consideration, and began making a list of places I’m likely to bike to in the remaining days of March. My list was pretty easy to make. I’d had already taken care of three errands, with two in the “work” category (yesterday’s and today’s commutes), and one run to the “store” on my way home from work yesterday. I think my problem this year is going to be figuring out how to keep it interesting and not too easy.

Here’s my “control card”:

#1: March 20th; Commute to the office (work);

  • Distance: 2.3 miles round trip;
  • Bike: Gazelle Tour Populaire;
  • Bloomers: Groovy Tie Dye;
  • Observation: We don’t often get overcast skies here in Los Angeles. I noticed today how much cooler and darker the ride home feels under such skies, even when the temperature is rather warmish.

#2, #3: March 21st; Commute to the office (work); stop at store for groceries (store);

  • Distance: 2.2 miles round trip;
  • Bike: Gazelle Tour Populaire;
  • Bloomers: Wick-It Black;
  • Observation: Those ready-to-eat roast chickens available at the grocery store on my way home from the office are wonderful when you need a simple, easy dinner, plus they are easy to carry in a bike basket!

#4, #5: March 23rd: Transport several samples of Bikie Girl Bloomers to my office (personal business); take package to post office for shipment (non-store errand);

  • Distance: 3 miles total;
  • Bike: Gazelle Tour Populaire;
  • Bloomers: Blue Bandana;
  • Observation: Although the logistics involved in selecting, organizing, and sending samples out of state, plus coordinating with the recipient, are cumbersome and overwhelming, the excitement of having my Bloomers appear in a Bike Fashion Show (at the Pedal Power Bike Expo in Olympia, Washington) is exciting enough to make it all worthwhile!

#6, #7, #8: March 24th: Ride to downtown Los Angeles to attend the March For Our Lives (peaceful everyday action); stop on return at Whole Foods for groceries (store); bike date with El Cochinito to attend the 20th Anniversary celebration of Peace4Kids at Fais Do Do (arts & entertainment);

  • Distance: 18.8 miles total;
  • Bike: Gazelle Tour Populaire;
  • Bloomers: Shimmering Sapphire;
  • Observations: seeing families marching together for safety gives me hope; buying fresh produce makes me want to take better care of myself; and seeing people who give their time to help those in need makes me want to be a better person; I really appreciate it when the authorities close off downtown streets from cars – what a great way to ride through downtown L.A.

#9, #10: March 25th: Bike to start and home from finish of a group training ride (personal care); Attend BUSted Storytelling’s 4th Anniversary show at Stories Books & Cafe (arts & entertainment);

  • Distance: 16.3 miles;
  • Bike: Bianchi Volpe;
  • Bloomers: Crazy Daisy;
  • Observation: pushing myself (and failing) to climb longer and steeper hills than I can (on the 3rd super-climb, I had to walk the last part of the hill) is still an important part of my self-care — it tells me that I really did do my best, and gives me a goal for next time (I’m so impressed with my ride, I took a screenshot of the route as recorded on Strava); biking to Stories later that same day was still possible even though my legs were feeling it!

#11: March 26th: Women on Bikes Culver City coffee meet up (social call); plus a bonus errand, see below;

  • Distance: 12.1 miles round trip;
  • Bike: Bianchi Volpe;
  • Bloomers: Pinka Dot Black;
  • Observation: every time women get together, amazing conversations and connections happen!

#12: March 28th: Camp Coffee with the coffee outside crew in Marina del Rey (social call);

  • Distance: 24.6 miles round trip;
  • Bike: Bianchi Volpe;
  • Bloomers: Dazzling Amethyst;
  • Observation: getting up early and heading out on the bike when it’s still cold and dark may be painful, but the fun of riding on a car-free path (Ballona Creek Bike Path) and socializing over coffee makes it all worthwhile. Must do this more often.

I must give credit to a new bike friend, Audrey, whom I met on the group training ride that was #9. She was eager to meet other members of the local bike community, so I had extra motivation to make #11 and #12 happen. Both of these require a certain commitment to getting up early so I can make it to a meeting that is a half hour or an hour from home. Knowing that someone else was expecting me to show up and make introductions prevented me from making excuses or backing out.

BONUS ERRANDS!

Thanks to my thoughtful advance planning for this year’s errandonnee, I knew that my 12th and final errand would be the March 28th social call to join the folks at Camp Coffee. I’ve been wanting to increase my biking miles this year, and nudging myself to get up early for Camp Coffee is a great way to add a chunk of miles int he middle of my week. So, when a few additional errands presented themselves before that day, I decided to treat them as “bonus errands”. Beside, I just wasn’t ready to be finished so soon. It’s too much fun to just tick each one off the list and stop.

BONUS #1: March 26th: Visit to my local bike shop for adjustments (wild card);

  • Distance: 2.4 miles round trip;
  • Bike: Bianchi Volpe;
  • Bloomers: Pinka Dot Black;
  • Observation: I like maintaining a good relationship with the owner of the shop where I bought my Bianchi last October, and I like maintaining my bike. I’m not so good at the DIY approach with the updated technology since my youth, so I’m happy to have the mechanic make sure it’s done right. After a gentle fall on the group ride the day before, I was concerned that something might be a little off, so I had him check it for me. He said only the rear brake was in need of a little adjustment, but everything else was fine (I’m always nervous if the bike falls to the derailleur side). Since he didn’t charge me for it, I used this as an excuse to buy a spoke light so I’ll be ready for my next nighttime social ride (when all the cool kids light up their bikes).

BONUS #2, #3: March 27th: ATM (personal business), and attending the neighborhood association meeting (wild card);

  • Distance: 2.1 miles total;
  • Bike: Gazelle Tour Populaire;
  • Bloomers: Leaping Lady Leopard Print;
  • Observation: It is important to participate in civic discussions when we know there will be NIMBYs and nattering nabobs of negativity trying to shut down any change. The meeting was to discuss a proposed new development immediately adjacent to our lovely historic neighborhood. I don’t like it when developers get waivers to get around all the zoning requirements designed to preserve a neighborhood’s character (as often happens in L.A.), but I also don’t like it when new housing is perpetually blocked by NIMBYs who want it to be done elsewhere. That’s how we end up with urban housing crises. I was happy to learn that, despite all the angry neighbors complaining about the project, the developers have taken a very progressive and “green” approach to their proposal. They are including more set-back, more off-street parking, and fewer units than zoning allows, plus they will include electric car sharing and bike parking, and amenities aimed at attracting families.
  • I couldn’t bring myself to snap a photo of the actual meeting – it ran so long, and I just wanted to get the bleep out of there! My only photographic evidence shows one of the yard signs announcing the meeting that I passed as I was biking over there.

Although I listed this bonus errand under the “wild card” category, it inspired me to propose a new category for next year: “civic engagement”. Attending meetings like this, working for safe streets and bicycle infrastructure would also count. Many of this year’s errandonneurs, including myself, also participated in a public march to voice concerns about civic issues (in this case, gun violence). It seems to me, we could support a separate category for these activities.

So, TA-DA! There it is: another successful errandonnee challenge completed! Total mileage for all errands combined was 40 miles. Even if we subtract the 4.5 miles of “bonus” errands, it still easily meets the 30 mile minimum.

The question for reflection: was that a challenge? Can I call it a challenge if I had so much fun just doing activities I (mostly) would have done any way? I think so, and for two reasons. First, it was still a challenge to plan and organize how I would hit the variety of categories and fit it all in to the 12 days. Second, I know that I biked more miles and did more social activities than I would have without the errandonnee challenge influencing my decisions. I see no reason why that fact that I finished ahead of schedule and had a blast doing it should negate the accomplishment.

Once again, thank you, Mary, for the inspiration! And thank you to the fellow errandonneurs for their inspiring posts shared on Facebook and Instagram. A great way to grow my network of bike friends. I am so excited for my new patch!

Ride on!

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BikieGirl’s Epic New Year’s Donut Ride

The resolution will not be motorized! My new year’s resolution, that is; wherein I resolve to bike more miles this year. I want to do more rides, and I want to do longer rides.

I had so much fun checking out various donut shops during this past Coffeeneuring season, it left me wanting more. There were so many donut shops on that list from the L.A. Times that inspired my donut quest last Fall, and some of them rather far from home. I had particularly wanted to visit The Donut Man, and then realized that it’s in Glendora, a good 32-37 mile bike ride (one way) from my house, depending on the routing. I thought a ride of that distance would be best undertaken on a holiday, when traffic is light, and it’s easy to devote the entire day to riding. And as long as you’re devoting the whole day to riding, why not break up the ride with a couple more stops at other donut shops along the way? And biking for donuts is fun; I could invite my friends and make it a social ride, perhaps a full-fledged EVENT!

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That’s more or less how this idea was born. I imagined knocking several of the remaining donut shops off my list of places to try in one cross-metropolis sweep, starting at Blue Star in Venice, hitting one of the many options in Mid-City, swinging by Donut Friend in Highland Park, and ending at The Donut Man in Glendora. I started planning such a ride for New Year’s Day, a holiday for which I rarely have anything planned anyways. I don’t even like to party on New Year’s Eve, so getting up early for a bike ride the next day would be no problem.

Then it occurred to me that some, perhaps many, donut shops might be closed on New Year’s Day. So I figured I’d better make some phone calls. I was relieved to find out that Blue Star Donuts would indeed be opening, albeit at 9:00, on New Year’s morning. After learning that my two most appealing destinations, Donut Friend and Donut Man, would both be closed on New Year’s Day, however, more research was required. Another one on the list was Monarch Donuts in Arcadia, but they close at noon, and according to the LA Times, they can sell out even before noon. That’s too far to ride with any hope of getting there in time, even without the holiday, especially with a group. I still very much wanted to do an epic cross-metropolis donut ride on New Year’s Day, but I would have to be willing to extend my list of potential destinations beyond those listed in the LA Time article.

On further review of the LA Times article, though, I discovered The Donut Hole. It hadn’t caught my eye on the first read, as it is located in La Puente. I really didn’t know where the bleep La Puente is, but it just sounded like it must be really far away. And now, the potential distance is precisely what makes it a worthy contender. It wasn’t just written up for its good donuts, however, the LA Times calls it an “architectural landmark” that was built in 1968. It’s a drive through that passes through two giant fiberglass donuts! Who wouldn’t want to ride their bike through that?! The distance seemed about right: 38 miles from Blue Star in Venice. By this point, I was getting rather excited.

But where to stop on the way? In Mid-City, I had considered SK Donuts, a place so many have raved about, one that was on the LA Times list, and certainly one I’ve been wanting to try. I rode past it one Sunday morning while out for a spin, and noticed a very long line of waiting customers. Also on the list was Trejo’s Coffee & Donuts, recommended for a delightful variety of creative flavors that go beyond mere novelty, and actually taste good. My telephone research led to the news that SK was getting ready to close for remodeling, but Trejo’s would be open on New Year’s Day, so that made the Mid-City choice easy.

Looking at a map of the LA area, it seemed East Los Angeles would be the logical midpoint between Hollywood and La Puente. Yet nothing in East LA had appeared on the LA Times list, giving me pause. Maybe they aren’t into donuts in that part of town? I turned to the google, and read reviews. There were two shops that seemed to have fairly consistent positive reviews, although nothing that stood out as stellar. I jotted down the names and numbers on an old envelope to carry with me so I could call when I had a chance.

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Beloved and yellowed article I saved from a September 2017 issue of the L.A. Times

You see, I had been talking up this plan for an epic donut ride with my various bike friends since November, but now it was getting into the latter part of December, and I was about to leave for an 8 day trip to Cuba, returning late on the 30th. I always meant to set aside some time to get this route sorted out, but there was always something big that I had to deal with first. We had a big family trip to Orlando the week of Thanksgiving, celebrating my mother-in-law’s 90th birthday. And any time I’m getting ready to go out of town for a stretch, I have to scramble and make sure all my work is done that has to be done in time for various deadlines for my clients. So the last week before a trip and the first few days after are always busy. Then we were hosting our annual pig roast party on December 9th, featuring an artist friend who comes to visit from New York and help with the party preparations the week before. Plus El Cochinito and I had a wedding anniversary to celebrate on the 10th. Next thing I knew, I was scrambling to get work done before the Cuba trip, which is extra challenging, since I know I won’t be able to get online very readily while I’m there. So that’s how I ended up planning this while on my way to the airport as I was getting ready to head to Cuba, just 10 days before the big ride, eager to post updates to the Facebook event page before I boarded my flight to Havana.

One of the two East LA shops I’d identified was not going to be open on New Year’s, but the other was, so that settled it. I was pleased with the way the route had worked out: we should be able to burn off one donut’s worth of calories (more or less) with the 12+ miles of biking between each shop. And the distance would be no problem with built-in rest stops along the way. I know it’s risky to host a group ride without first testing out the route, but I figured we’d manage if a route adjustment became necessary on the fly.

I was excited to check in with my Facebook event page as soon as I returned from Cuba. We had a nice little group forming. I had shared the event with a variety of cycling groups, because, why not? As it turned out, everyone who had decided to participate was a friend I already knew, so I didn’t have to get nervous about the possibility of someone bringing mysterious expectations or strange vibes into our ride.

I got up bright and early, making sure I had everything I would need as a responsible ride leader: cue sheets, water bottle, empty travel coffee mug that fits into my second bottle cage (because I can never finish a cup of coffee that quickly), sun screen, lights, reflective vest, jacket, leg warmers, power bank, handle bar bag, pannier basket, helmet. I had even loaded a route on my phone in both Google Maps and RideWithGPS, just in case one system worked better than the other. I wanted to be sure I left the house in plenty of time to be the first one to arrive at Blue Star Donuts, and I had an 11 mile ride to get there. This meant leaving the house by 7:45 or so, when it was still quite cold out.

Biking from Koreatown to Venice between 7:45 and 8:45 on New Year’s morning is smooth sailing! I have never seen Venice Boulevard so quiet. None of the usual bikes versus cars battle for the bike lanes to which I have, unfortunately, grown accustomed. I did see a few cars out, and expressed my gratitude with a friendly wave whenever a driver made a point of waiting for me to pass before pulling into the lane from a side street or driveway. There was one driver who was either clueless or heartless in the way he started his car in the parking lane just alongside the bike lane in Mar Vista as I rolled by, began driving slowly in parallel with me but just a ways behind me, and then made a right turn immediately in front of me, cutting me off. I watched in amazement, yelled, “HELLOOO???!!”, and was grateful that I had been able to stop before colliding with his car. If I wasn’t awake before, I certainly was now!

The gods of the traffic lights were good to me, and I made it to Blue Star in plenty good time. I snapped a bike portrait in front of the shop and posted it to Instagram. Soon others began to arrive. I got me a cinnamon donut and some coffee to fill my travel mug. The donut was divine. Blue Star gets major points for presentation; their display case is quite chic. This is a donut shop worthy of a return visit. So many flavors that beg to be tasted!

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We ended up having a nice group of 7 riders. Here’s the official start photo (minus Jennifer, who’d been last to arrive and was probably inside getting her donut when this photo taken):

Ready to roll: Francois, Lynn, Alison, me, Joni (not pictured: Jennifer & Michelle)

We rode up Venice Boulevard all the way to Cochran Ave in MidCity, where we headed north. We zigged and zagged a bit into Hollywood, arriving at the bright pink Trejo’s Coffee & Donuts at the corner of Santa Monica Boulevard and Highland. Word to the wise: Trejo’s does not have a public restroom for customer use. There is a Mobil gas station catty corner from Trejo’s, so several riders headed over there for relief. Trejo’s has a remarkable variety of donut flavors, and I couldn’t resist trying one of the more unusual ones. I bought a bottle of ginger kombucha (that I could only handle a few sips at a time – it lasted me all day and then some) and a margarita donut. It really tasted like a margarita – rather tart, but with a lovely, light donut texture. Glad I tried it, but I would not get it again. There are other flavors to try.

Jennifer flashes a peek at the Pinka Dot Black Bloomers under her jeans, while Alison flashes her nasty woman tee shirt.
Our bikes parked outside Trejo’s; my margarita donut and giant bottle of ginger kombucha wait in my basket pannier.
The full group outside Trejo’s: Lynn, Michelle, Jennifer, Alison and Francois, with Joni & me down in front.

Alison, who had started from her Santa Monica home, decided this was a satisfactory end point for her, and took advantage of the convenience of a bus she could catch right there on Santa Monica Blvd to expedite her trip home. A couple of the others who also aren’t accustomed to longer rides were thinking they would ride at least to the next shop, and I was glad folks had embraced the invitation to join for as much of the ride as they wanted. We said farewell to Alison, and ventured on toward downtown.

From downtown L.A., we took 1st Street over the L.A. River and into East Los Angeles to Sun Donut. Readers tempted to repeat our route are advised that this establishment also lacks a restroom for customer use. We had to travel a significant distance to find a public restroom. Plan accordingly!

Sun Donut is a win for value shoppers. Donuts at this cash-only shop are only 75 cents, and a bottle of water was one dollar. I had a chocolate glazed donut, which was perfectly satisfactory. The woman at the counter was the least friendly server we encountered on this day’s adventure. Not rude; just unamused and disinterested. I bought the bottle of water after she informed me that, no, she could not refill my water bottle for me. I found this donut shop to offer nothing to complain about, and nothing to rave about.

My chocolate glazed donut looked better before I got reckless carrying it in the little sack.

I was excited for the next, and longest, leg of our ride. The trip to La Puente took us along a short stretch of the Rio Hondo Bike Path, and later a few miles along the San Gabriel River Trail. I hadn’t been on these paths before, and it’s nice to be off the streets for a stretch. The longer stretch of bike path also provided an opportunity for Lynn and Francois, our strongest riders, to let loose and go for some speed.

Regrouping as we begin on the San Gabriel River Bike Path

The part after the trail was just as stressful as the river trail was peaceful. We had to ride on Valley Boulevard for two and a half miles, with high-speed traffic alongside us. Where we needed to, we took the full right lane, and sometimes rode on the sidewalk. At least on Valley Boulevard we were able to find a gas station (not the first one we tried, but another across the street) that had a restroom. By this point, all of us were in need of relief! Not too much longer after that pit stop, we made it to The Donut Hole. I have to say, as the place came into view, a wave of euphoria came over me. We had arrived at our target destination!

My moment of triumph!                                                                                                                               (Yes, that’s a Hitchable Flounce Skirt and Hot Pink Zebra Bloomers from Bikie Girl Bloomers.)

The giant donuts encircling the drive through shop are indeed an inviting spectacle. We rolled up the driveway and got in line behind the cars to go through and place our orders. The donut case is as long as the entire left wall of the building as you pass through. They offer a wide selection, from donut holes, to apple fritters, to conventional donuts, to giant flaky pastries. I got a giant flaky cinnamon twist and a cinnamon crumb donut and some chocolate milk! Each was entirely satisfying. The twist was so large, I was able to share it with others and still have plenty for myself.

Better than even the donuts, however, was the friendliness of the couple who served us. They were most welcoming of our group on bicycles as we came through the drive through tunnel. I told the gentleman we’d ridden our bikes all the way from Venice just to try his donuts, and he seemed duly impressed. He was also kind enough to step outside and take a group photo for us. I heartily recommend this place, and consider it well worth riding a bike from one end of Los Angeles County to the other!

Jennifer, Lynn, Joni, Francois, Michelle, and me

By this time, the sunlight was beginning to dim. We donned our jackets and/or reflective wear, and began the 7.3 mile ride north to the Irwindale Gold Line Station. By the time we got there, it was dark. This last leg of our ride brought our total mileage from the start at Blue Star Donuts to 50 miles. A half century donut ride to ring in the new year.

Note Joni’s coordination of the tee shirt with her awesome donut socks.

A special pleasure of this ride with our group was seeing the excitement on the faces of Michelle and Jennifer, both of whom had originally thought they would end their portion of the ride at Sun Donut. Neither had ever biked this far before, and on this day, they rode 50 miles! They did great, and it was fun to see them delight in the realization that they could ride farther than they thought they could.

We took the Gold Line to Union Station, and it was fun to fill the train will all our bikes. We were all glowing as we reveled in the satisfaction of a mission accomplished, and chatting with fellow passengers. From Union Station, Jennifer and Michelle transferred to trains that would get them close to home, and Joni, Lynn, Francois and I biked together from there. Joni had realized that biking the rest of the way home (or perhaps even just to the expo line) would bring her mileage for the day to 61, a personal goal of hers to mark her recent 61st birthday. I believe she ended up exceeding that goal by a few miles.

It only occurred to me much later that all seven of us donut quest riders are over 50 years in age, with several over 60. This kind of fun isn’t just for kids, or rather, it’s for kids of all ages!

We all agreed that this should be an annual tradition.

Epic, indeed.

Minneapolis By Bike

Love the little bike symbols on the bike-friendly street signs, but apparently, it did not entice this gentlemen to ride on the street.

I recently attended a conference, and felt so lucky that it was being held in one of our nation’s top bike-friendly cities, AND during a week of fantastic weather! If you have to attend board meetings, there’s no better way to get there than by bike, except, of course, for taking the long way by bike!

For the last three years, I’ve been serving a term on the Board of Directors of the American Intellectual Property Law Association, also known as AIPLA. It has been an incredible honor and privilege to serve, and it also means that, each of the three years, I attend the 3 stated meetings plus a board retreat, held in varied locations, as well as 3 additional day-long meetings at the AIPLA headquarters in Crystal City, Virginia. This makes for quite a bit of travel, and I have been determined to make the most of these excursions by working in some bike adventures whenever I can.

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How’s this for bike-friendly infrastructure?

Last year’s AIPLA Spring Meeting just so happened to be held right here in Los Angeles, so I biked from my home to the JW Marriott in Downtown LA each day of the meeting. This year, the Spring Meeting was held in Minneapolis, a city designated as a gold level “Bicycle Friendly Community” by the League of American Bicyclists, among other bikie accolades. Not only that, the meeting was being held right smack in the middle of Bike Week! When I realized that, I started looking into what Bike Week events I might be able to participate in while I was there.

I also got to work at finding the right place to stay. I am not a big fan of paying big bucks to stay at a standard, run-of-the-mill chain hotel room. A room in a Marriott or Hilton can look completely interchangeable with any other corporate chain hotel room in just about any other U.S. city. The tastefully bland decor can be a damper on the spirit, if not outright soul-killing. I prefer to book my stays at nearby bed & breakfast inns or boutique hotels. It means spending significantly less per night, plus staying in a charming place, and meeting interesting people. In most cities, I’m also able to rent a bike and see a bit of the city I’m visiting while commuting from my charming B&B to the conference site. It’s a real win-win-win. So far, I have biked to AIPLA meetings in Austin, Orlando, La Quinta, Philadelphia, Seattle, and Washington, DC, as well as L.A.

I also love trying out bike share in different cities, and I knew Minneapolis has a bike share system called Nice Ride. I was delighted to find that they offer a 30-day membership for just $18, so I signed up before my trip. Membership meant I could get a key for easier unlocking of a bike and 60 minutes of use per trip instead of 30. A great bargain. Nice Ride mailed me a code that I could use to obtain a key at a Nice Ride station once I was ready to begin using my new membership. I stowed that code in a safe place, or so I thought until I went to retrieve it and spent a few hours searching everywhere I could possibly imagine having been considered a “safe place”. Luckily, the kind folks at Nice Ride were happy enough to issue me a new code — by email this time — when I called to tell them I’d lost the code.

I stayed at LeBlanc House, a Victorian B&B just north of downtown. The house was built in 1896, and is just two blocks from a Nice Ride station. Even though I arrived in the wee hours, I got up early my first morning there, hopped on a Nice Ride bike, and rode to the south side of town for a coffee meet up. I’d reached out to various women in the Minneapolis bike community to explore the interest in a coffee meet-up, in the style I’ve written about before. I contacted people of the Minneapolis Bike Coalition, reached out via the Wheelwomen Switchboard, and emailed a blogger I found. Erin, a woman who responded on the Switchboard pointed me to a Facebook group for WTF cyclists in Minneapolis called Grease Rag Ride & Wrench, so I created an event page and invited that group. That post got lots of likes and started some conversation, but did not draw any others into the coffee plan. Both Erin and Lindsey, the blogger, participated in the coffee meet-up. Erin has lived in Washington, DC, and is already quite familiar with the Women & Bicycles Coffee Club tradition.

LeBlanc House, on bike-friendly NE 3rd Ave
Nice Ride Bike Station

Even though I’d only slept for about 4 hours due to my late-night arrival, I was able to rise and shine early enough to make the journey to Peace Coffee on Minnehaha my first experience with Nice Ride. The weather app on my phone said it was 43 degrees outside, so I bundled up with tights and a trench coat. As it turned out, the morning sun was plenty warm and I was over-bundled.I was pleased to have given myself enough time to arrive just a couple minutes ahead of the scheduled 8 a.m.meeting time. I snapped a few pics of Peace Coffee, ordered my mocha & almond croissant, and settled at a central table that made me easy to find. Erin and Lindsey joined me, and we had a great time visiting. Erin shared her comparative experiences with biking in DC and Minneapolis, and Lindsey shared her passion for spreading bike love and making her own bike-friendly clothes. Of course, I had to pull out some samples to share of my Bikie Girl Bloomers.

Over-bundled for my morning ride
Peace Coffee on Minnehaha
Hangin’ with Erin and Lindsey

After Erin headed off to work, Lindsey and I stuck around while she interviewed me about biking in Los Angeles and the Bikie Girl Bloomers story.Afterward, she walked with me back to the Nice Ride station. We stopped briefly on the way to admire her nice custom bike made locally by Handsome Cycles. Lindsey is quite a delightful tour de force, full of great ideas for helping people, and the businesses who employ them, discover how easily they can work bicycling into their lives, improve health and productivity, and find their own win-win solutions. She’s also very efficient, as she posted the interview with me on her blog the very next day!

Lindsey with her Handsome bike

From there, I enjoyed a leisurely meander on Nice Ride back to LeBlanc House, making use of the Hiawatha Light Rail Trail, one of many bike trails in and around Minneapolis. This one took me into downtown right alongside some light rail tracks.

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My route back from Peace Coffee

 

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Hiawatha Light Rail Trail
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Coming in to the City Center from the south.

 

 

 

Once in the city’s center, I soon found myself near the Old Mill Ruins, riding over wood planks. This area is right along the riverfront, with a view of the beautiful Stone Arch Bridge, one of the highlights listed on the Bike Bridges tour. Of course, I had to cross it! It’s a beauty and fed me right into a beautiful neighborhood greenway. I took great pleasure in all the bike-friendly features along my way.

 

Stone Arch Bridge
Riding the wooden planks by the Old Mill Ruins
Looking back over the Stone Arch Bridge from the north
Cute bike signs
Beautiful greenway

I was able to get in a much-needed nap before it was time to head to the downtown hotel for my first meeting associated with the conference. What would be my regular commute for the next four days took me into downtown via the picturesque Hennepin Avenue Bridge. Continuing on Hennepin Avenue into downtown was only moderately hectic, as the bike lane gives way to a lane with sharrows and lots of city buses. Shortly before my turn onto 10th Street, I passed State Theatre, whose marquis was advertising an upcoming opportunity to see a final performance of A Prairie Home Companion – so Minnesota!

Hennepin Ave Bridge
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State Theater Marquis
Feelin’ floral in my Crazy Daisy Bloomers under the purple Hitchable Flounce Skirt

After an evening event at Hell’s Kitchen, I went to retrieve a Nice Bike from the docking station right across the street from the Hilton where the conference was being held. I’d switched bags for the ride back and realized I’d left my Nice Ride key in the other bag back at LeBlanc House. No problem, though, as I knew I could just swipe my credit card and get a bike through my membership that way. Except that the kiosk wasn’t responding – not to my credit card swipe or to any attempts to press the touch screen. No problem, though, as I knew there was another Nice Ride dock just around the corner. Except that kiosk had an unresponsive touch screen as well. I began to wonder if Nice Ride doesn’t operate after 10 pm. I called their number for assistance, and got a recording telling me it was after hours for customer service, but inviting me to leave a message. I let them know I was rather concerned about not being able to get out of downtown after 10 pm. I figured I would just start walking back toward LeBlanc House, and keep an eye out for another Nice Ride station. I did find another, but had the same problem at the kiosk.

Suzannah and Angie enjoying the reception at Hell’s Kitchen

I looked up and saw what I thought was the Hennepin Ave Bridge I’d come into town on, so figured I’d just walk the rest of the way. Except at some point, halfway over the bridge, I knew that was not the Hennepin Ave Bridge. I was not going over a river; I was going over a freeway. The neighborhood did not look very residential. In fact, it seemed like a rather creepy place for a woman to be walking alone at night without knowing where she was or how to get where she was headed. I was glad I’d already installed the Lyft app on my phone, and requested a ride. I immediately called the driver who was on his way to let him know I did not feel safe standing in place to wait for him — that I was going to keep walking, and we identified a good place ahead of me to meet. I made it back to LeBlanc House fine, but a bit miffed that Nice Ride had let me down.

The good folks at Nice Ride called me back the next day, terribly sorry for my troubles, and reassuring me that it was supposed to work any time of day or night. They did point out that, if I’d had my key with me, I wouldn’t have been limited by a malfunctioning touchscreen, so I made sure I always had it with me the rest of the week. While on the phone with me, they also noticed that I’d had a significant overage from the morning before and asked if I’d had a bike out for 3 hours. I told them I’d discovered my bike was still loose at the docking station where I’d parked it before my morning meeting when I returned to get another bike. They kindly credited my account to remove the overage charges, and advised me to be sure the bike was completely locked back into the dock whenever returning a bike to a dock.

I commuted back and forth between LeBlanc and the Hilton twice each day, finding that I always needed a nap in the early afternoon in order to recharge and get through the evening receptions. On Thursday, which was Women/Trans/Femme Day of Minneapolis Bike Week, I wanted to try to catch an event listed as part of that day’s schedule that would fit my free gap in the middle of the day. At the downtown farmer’s market, there was to be a free bike check and zap-tagging event running from 10-1. I got out of the Hilton around 12:15 and walked over to the market, except I had a heckuva time trying to find it and follow my Google maps walking directions. After wandering in a big circle for a half hour, I got real hungry and stopped at one of the many food trucks parked along 2nd Avenue. After enjoying the best brussels sprouts ever, I finally found the farmer’s market. The bike “event” was just one booth in the park where an occasional passerby would stop and inquire about zap tagging (used to count bicyclists). There was nothing about this event that was connected with the Women/Trans/Femme theme of the day, so I shrugged it off and went back to LeBlanc to attend to some work matters and grab me a power nap.

Free bike checks & ZAP tagging at the Farmer’s Market downtown.

Friday was great because I didn’t have any early meetings to attend. Finally, on my fourth morning at the bed and breakfast, I was able to take advantage of the breakfast offered and get to meet some other guests at LeBlanc. After dining with a couple in town from Ohio to attend their kid’s graduation and visit with old friends, the hostess was kind enough to give me and my suitcase a ride to the Hilton. I stowed my luggage at the hotel, and then took off on my much-anticipated bike adventure.

The Walker Art Center had been recommended to me, and wasn’t too far away, so I headed in that direction. I knew it likely wouldn’t be open when I got there, but figured I could at least explore the sculpture garden. The ride through Loring Park to get there was absolutely gorgeous. Ponds, bridges, gardens, park benches, all right there on either side of the bike path.

Loring Park
Loring Park
Walker Art Center

Then I found my way onto a bike path that runs along a very busy part of Hennepin Avenue, with Walker Art Center visible on the other side of many lanes of fast-moving traffic. Google maps wanted me to do something else, I wasn’t quite sure exactly what, but I saw a bridge up ahead and had to explore that. It was a fantastical contraption, a bit awkward to go up the ramp to get to the bridge, but a fun challenge to tackle with the clunky Nice Ride bike. I got up and over and found my way to the sculpture garden. Except the sculpture garden was fenced off and closed for renovation.

So I continued onward, knowing there were lakes off in the beyond somewhere, lakes completely encircled with bike paths. I saw a sign that announced Kenwood Parkway, an area that was lush and green, so I kept right on pedaling. Soon thereafter, I came upon a crossroads of bike paths to choose from. I saw that I could head left to take the Cedar Lake Trail, so I headed that way. After enjoying that trail for some good while, it dawned on me that I had best figure out where there might be a docking station, as soon my 60 minutes would be up. I consulted the Spotcyle app’s station map, and realized that going around Cedar Lake was not a practical option. Of course, going over the 60 minutes would simply mean incurring a surcharge, but I was a bit uneasy that I would underestimate just how long it would take to go all the way around Cedar Lake. I did have to get back to the Hilton for a meeting at noon!

Kenwood Parkway

Instead, I headed toward Wirth Lake, where I was able to dock the bike at a Nice Ride station and take a little break. There was a playground and a building next to the bike station, so I got real hopeful that there would be a place to get some desperately needed water. Whatever facilities beyond restrooms that the building is used for appeared to be shut down, perhaps waiting for the official start of Summer. At least there was a drinking fountain and a lovely shaded seating area.

Wirth Lake

From Wirth Lake, I continued north alongside the lake and then through a golf course to Plymouth Ave, a nice bike-friendly street that took me back toward the Mississippi River, north of the city center. I had a bike lane most of my way along Plymouth Avenue, and even a protected lane for part of it, with a well-marked zone to guide the transitional zone where cars must cross the bike lane to make a right turn. When I got to the river, I turned right and rode along the waterfront. So many bridges – it really was beautiful.

Protected bike lane on Plymouth Ave
Riding along the riverfront
Styleshot for Friday’s adventure: Pinka Dot Bloomers under black Hitchable Flounce Skirt
Friday adventure: Part One
Friday adventure: Part Two

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I decided to arc in a big circle around downtown and then head back to the Hilton from the east. At one point, I missed a turn and went a little too far south, but was able to course-correct quickly enough to get back just in time for my meeting. Maybe not as epic an adventure as I’d hope to squeeze into my morning, but enough to give me a taste of how much there is to explore by bike in the Twin Cities area!

 

Took the light rail from downtown to the airport – got there at the same time as a group who’d left the hotel at the same time as me, but went by car.