Coffeeneuring 3.1: A Fun Fail

Another opportunity to meet up with the Women & Bicycles Coffee Club arose during my visit to D.C. in October 2016 (just to clarify, since I’m writing this in March 2017). It meant sneaking out early on Friday morning from the breakfast meeting of the Women in Intellectual Property Law Committee of AIPLA. Thank goodness I didn’t sneak out too early or fail to show altogether, as this was my last meeting after serving three years as the Board liaison to this committee. The committee leaders had thoughtfully acknowledged me as their departing liaison by calling me to the front of the room to receive a lovely gift. I stayed as long as I could without completely missing the coffee club, and then ducked out in the middle of the breakfast meeting’s program to hurry on over to the nearest bikeshare station and hop in a bike.

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Rolling into Adam’s Morgan

This time the sun was already up, and it was a glorious morning to ride the just-shy-of-a-mile trip into Adam’s Morgan. I was able to catch the group of seven women before they had to leave for work and whatnot. Particularly exciting about this group of women is that it included a fellow coffeeneur, Ilga, with whom I had communicated about planning a joint coffeeneuring outing while I was visiting her home town.

So much of the fun of participating in coffeeneuring is the shared community that forms between coffeeneurs all over the country, and even the world. Most of us do not have local fellow coffeeneurs with whom we gather in person, and enjoy making a virtual connection through our Facebook group and Instagram sharing. My familiarity with Washington, D.C., the Women & Bicycles group, and the Coffeeneurs all came together in an opportunity for intersection of these elements. It was fun to make an in-real-life connection with a co-coffeeneur.

Since I’d arrived rather late, most were winding up their coffee experience when I arrived. I wanted to make a quick and easy beverage choice, to avoid a long wait for my drink. In a departure from my usual coffeeneuring beverage, I decided to try some fresh grapefruit juice that appeared ready for drinking in the refrigerated display case. It was a refreshing quencher when I’d already had breakfast and my morning coffee, and meant no waiting.

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Women & Bicycles Coffee Club at Pleasant Pops

As is typical for the Women & Bicycles Coffee Club types, these women were most welcoming to the out-of-town stranger. Of course, two of the women there had participated in Women & Bicycles coffee meetups last Spring while they were visiting Los Angeles. So we weren’t all strangers.

As the meeting wrapped up, I had a chance to talk some more with Ilga. She walked with me as I headed for a bike share station and she headed to her next thing that was in the same direction in Adam’s Morgan. Before my trip, Ilga and I had a few preliminary planning communications about trying to coordinate a common coffeeneuring destination for the Saturday during my visit. As we discussed the particular constraints each of us faced for Saturday, we realized it might not work as initially planned. Since Saturday’s co-coffeeneuring plan did not work out, it was especially nice that we had the chance to meet up on Friday morning.

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Co-Coffeeneur Ilga, in front of Pleasant Pops

After parting ways with Ilga, I continued my search for a bikeshare station with a bike available. Unfortunately, I tried three stations, and all were empty of bikes. I ended up walking back to Woodley Park. Although I was disappointed that this meant I would fail to meet the requisite two-mile minimum for a coffeeneuring ride, it was a glorious sunny autumn day. I enjoyed the chance to take in the Fall colors, something we get very little of back in Los Angeles.

One after another docking station, all empty! (The lone teaser bike was out of order.)

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Some of the beautiful scenery for my walk back to Woodley Park, crossing the Duke Ellington Bridge on Calvert Street

Total mileage: 0.8 (biking; additional 1.7 miles walking, including the part where I got lost)

Bike: Capital Bikeshare

Destination: Pleasant Pops, Adams Morgan, Washington, D.C.

Beverage: Fresh Grapefruit Juice

 

Coffeeneuring 2016-3.0: Washington, D.C.

Official ride #3: Bullfrog Bagels in Washington, DC

As with the 2015 Challenge, this year’s event coincided with my trip to Washington, DC, for the Annual Meeting of the American Intellectual Property Law Association. Thanks to the mercy of Rule #4, I was able to make full use of the opportunity to combine a coffeeneuring ride with a chance to meet up with the Women & Bicycles Coffee Club. Andrea was kind enough to schedule a meet up for that Thursday, a day when I didn’t have to be at the conference until 9:00. Of course, the Thursday Coffee Club meets at Eastern Market, and my conference was in Woodley Park, not exactly close by.

But it’s supposed to be a challenge, right?

Bright (okay, not so bright) & early (definitely early) start at the bike share station on Calvert, near Woodley Park

So I mapped out my route and gave myself extra time to walk from my B&B to the nearest bike share station. This meant heading out at 6 a.m., well before the sun comes up. Having come in from the west coast, it feels more like 3 a.m., but I’m tough like that.

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Heading out through Adams Morgan

Being on a mission made the cool darkness part of the fun. Having to get across town meant using one of my favorite bike lanes – the scenic ride down Pennsylvania Avenue, with the colorful sunrise and the Capital dome before me. Unfortunately, the ride was very rough, as the asphalt has been stripped and the transitions between stripped and unstripped sections, at every intersection, were quite rough. I alternated between taking the lane with car traffic and bumpily working me way along the bike lane.

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Riding the bike lane that runs down the center of Pennsylvania Avenue

 

It was an exhilarating ride for me. I loved rolling past famous buildings: the National Archives, the Smithsonian along the mall, then onto Constitution Avenue and right alongside the Capitol and the Senate office buildings, the Supreme Court. To do this ride in the early morning, as the sun was rising, felt magical.

Once east of Capitol Hill, I turned south a few blocks to Eastern Market. I found the bike share docking station and walked through the picturesque market area and found my destination, Bullfrog Bagels.

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Bullfrog Bagels

 

I made it to Bullfrog Bagels on time! I had coffee and a breakfast bagel, and, once I remembered that I needed to look for the group upstairs, joined these lovely women, two of whom visited Los Angeles this past Spring. You can read about the inaugural Women + Bikes + Coffee meet ups with Elisabeth and Andrea, seated across from me here, in this post.

 

Women & Bicycles Coffee Club – Southeast

The only realistic way for me to dash back to the conference hotel in time for the first meeting of the day meant turning this into a multi-modal adventre. So I hopped on a subway at Eastern Market, transfered to the red line, and got back to Woodley Park just in time! It’s amazing how deep beneath the bowels of our nation’s captial one can travel. Here’s my view coming up the loooong escalator back to street level.

Emerging from the red line
My route from Woodley Park to Eastern Market

 

Total mileage: 5.3

Bike: Capital Bikeshare

Destination: Bullfrog Bagels, Eastern Market, Washington, D.C.

Beverage: Coffee with milk

Coffeeneuring 2016-1.0: Downtown L.A.

Official Ride #1: The Wheelhouse & an event on “Fashioning the Future of Urban Living”

See a theme emerging here? I started out just loving to ride my bike when & where I can, and next thing I know, I’m a fan of “urbanism”. When I saw an announcement about this event, I knew I had to go for several reasons. First, I love an excuse to visit The Wheelhouse, a new-ish coffee & bike shop that brings together good coffee, stylish urban bikes & accessories, while-you-sip bike repair services, and an inviting community space. Second, the event was highlighting a designer of women’s bike-to-work fashion, a topic so very much up my alley, given my side business, Bikie Girl Bloomers. Third, I always enjoy meeting other women who love to bike, and this was sure to be an event that would attract my kind of peeps. Fourth, I wanted to hear the women on the panel, a delightful representation of women who embrace the active, multi-modal urban lifestyle.

By the grace of new Rule #4, the fact that the event was held on a Thursday evening did not prevent it from counting toward my official 7 rides. Although I prefer to make my coffeeneuring rides about exploring new-to-me places, I felt visiting The Wheelhouse at night would make for a new-ish experience as I’d only visited it twice before, both times on a Saturday morning.

Parked my Gazelle in front of The Wheelhouse.
Tried the mocha cold brew with almond milk – yummy!
Fantastic display of stylish accessories.
The discussion of urbanism featured the new Metro Bike Share program, with one of the Metro’s bikes out on display.
The Wheelhouse offers an impressive variety of quality saddles and bikes.
The panel in action.

The panel discussion was led by Colleen Monroe, a designer preparing to launch a line of clothing that accommodates a physically demanding professional workday: Untucked Workwear. Other panelists were Gloria Hwang, Founder and CEO of Thousand; Tami Spenst, Actor, Designer at Pluck, and Co-Owner of the Wheelhouse; Rubina Ghazarian, Department of Transportation’s New Mobility Division, Creator of LA Metro’s Bike Share; Audrey Bellis, Founder of Startup DTLA and Worthy Women, Co-Founder of Grid110, and Alissa Walker, Urbanism Editor at Curbed.

I opted for Leaping Lady Leopard Bloomers under the black Hitchable Flounce Skirt for the occasion.

Total mileage: 11.2

Bike: Gazelle Tour Populaire

Destination: The Wheelhouse, Downtown Los Angeles

Beverage: Cold Brew Mocha with Almond Milk

wheelhouse-route

 

Rolling With Los Pobladores

Los Pobladores refers to the original settlers of Los Angeles, who founded this fair city in 1781. Every year, to celebrate the birthday of Los Angeles, a contingent joins with descendants of these original settlers and walks the 9-mile route taken in 1781 from the mission in San Gabrial to Olvera Street in what is now downtown Los Angeles. Many walk the route in this annual ritual, while others make the journey by bicycle. This year I joined the group on bicycles.

The pre-ride gathering in front of the San Gabriel Mission

And off we went!
We rolled past some cool places, such as the Ming Ya Buddhist Association along Valley Boulevard.

 

And Lincoln Park.

 

Soon enough, we arrived at El Pueblo, just across the street from Union Station.

 

And we got to watch the final part of the procession.

 

La Plaza United Methodist Church faces El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historical Monument.

 

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Free bike valet parking was available to us on this street off El Pueblo, just across from the Chinese American Museum – I’ve visited before and highly recommend it.

 

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Heading to the bike valet, I got to meet Bikie Girl Maria, whom I’d noticed riding in her new Wick-It Black Bloomers.

 

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A ceremony featured some direct descendants of the original settlers and natives who shared traditional blessings.

 

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The prayer in the four directions.

 

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One of the dancers, relaxing after the performance with her companion.

 

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Smokey Bear was among the attendees observing the hoopla.

 

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La Iglesia de Nuestra Senora la Reina de Los Angeles, just across from El Pueblo

 

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Olvera Street Marketplace

 

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If you venture down Olvera Street, you will come upon America Tropical Interpretive Center, where you can see the rediscovered Siqueiros mural completed in 1932, now sheltered for conservation and viewable from a special platform.

 

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Also viewable from above Olvera Street is the beautiful Post Office Terminal Annex Building, which served as the central mail processing facility for Los Angeles from 1940-1989.

 

My complete route for the day, 30 miles total.

This will be remembered as one of my favorite urban cycling adventures.

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.

 

The Bikie Girl Half Century Solo Challenge

A favorite ritual of mine on Sunday mornings is to head out early on my road bike, ride a 24-mile loop from my house to Griffith Park. It starts with about 7 miles of city-riding to the park, leads to a lovely loop through the park, which loop includes climbing up a winding road to the Griffith Observatory. Then I get to fly back downhill and home again. It’s a gorgeous ride, gets in about 1700 feet of climbing, takes a little less than 2-1/2 hours, and I can get home and showered with enough time to catch the 11:00 service at First Unitarian Church of L.A. to complete my spiritual nourishment and recharge for the week. As much as I enjoy that ritual, lately I started feeling like I was getting into a rut and limiting myself from doing longer or more challenging rides.

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Griffith Observatory

A couple of Sundays ago, I had a reason to ride to Torrance for a visit with extended family. That took me onto the Ballona Creek Bike Path, which feeds in to the bike path that runs south along the beach all the way along the South Bay. In other words, the bulk of my 25-mile ride that day was on bike paths. I’d forgotten how nice it can be to cruise along on a flat path without having to stop at intersections and interact with automobiles.

Then last Sunday, I had a reason to go to Venice. The Rapha Pop Up Shop on Abbott Kinney was hosting a women’s round table and social ride, and a friend was going to be one of the panelists. To get there on time for the 9:00 a.m. event, I headed straight west on the Venice Boulevard bike lane. The social ride (I opted for the “low-key” alternative, as I knew I couldn’t keep up with the serious roadie gals) was a gentle 14-miler, so I took a little bit longer return route when it was time to head home, allowing me to get back on that Ballona Creek Bike Path. That day I got in a total of 37 miles, and that whetted my appetite for adding more distance.

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Rapha LA Women’s Roundtable in front of the Pop Up Shop

The next Sunday, I had an excuse to visit the Unitarian Universalist Church in Santa Monica, and to arrive there between 10-11 a.m. That would allow me to knit a bit with the knitting group I used to hang with each Sunday, catch the 11:00 service, and get in on the final opportunity for bidding on the Dining 4 Dollars events, an annual fundraising tradition that involves bidding on themed dinners and events. I really wanted to try my luck at Lorenzo’s Crawfish Boil.

I decided this was also an opportunity to put together an epic ride. Something that would challenge me on both distance and climbing, since all of my recent rides have been one or the other, and never that much of either. I mapped it out with Google: head up Nichols Canyon (after all, I did that one last Fall – should be doable), descend from Mulholland at Coldwater Canyon, work my way farther west and see if I can handle Mandeville (it’s been 4 years since the last time I climbed that one), and then I would be not too far from Santa Monica. After the service and bidding was done, I could then take the longer way home, along the ocean and then back east toward home via the Ballona Creek Path. The total mileage would be close to 50, a challenge given my current level of conditioning, but not too intimidating or unrealistic.

I figured the first climb was definitely within reach, and if the second was not, well, I could always just turn around and end the climb early, giving me more time with the knitting group. So off I went, leaving the house at 7:15. It was cool and foggy; we don’t usually get such dense fog this far inland. I felt good, and was psyched for the challenge. By the time I was approaching Nichols Canyon to begin climbing, I was rather wet. My glasses were wet with dew, my clothes were damp, and my brake hoods and shift levers were slippery. Even my tissue that I pulled from my pocket to blow my wet nose was damp, just from being in my pocket.

Soon enough, the dampness was no longer distracting me, and must have disappeared somewhere along the climb. It turned out to be a great day for riding, maybe just because I started out early enough that there wasn’t much car traffic on the winding narrow road. I like checking out the variety of interesting-looking homes along the way, and then being awestruck by the scenery once I’m high enough to see out over the Hollywood Hills. By this time it was just plain sunny; no hints remained of my foggy start. Before I knew it, there was the right turn onto Woodrow Wilson, which told me I was beginning the final and steepest part of the climb to Mulholland. I certainly felt maxed out on that last steep part, and grateful for my bike’s lowest gear, and especially grateful for the knowledge that this part of the climb would be short. Otherwise I might have considered giving up.

Once I got to Mulholland, I took a good little break. I needed to catch my breath, chug some water, and snap a photo to memorialize my adventure on Instagram.

Top of Nichols Canyon

The next part, cruising along Mulholland, was better than I had remembered it, in that the road had been repaved, and I didn’t have any scary moments with motorists zipping by too closely. At least not until I crossed Laurel Canyon. Then it was the rough road and hostile/ignorant drivers I remembered. For those reasons, I prefer to limit my time on Mulholland and take the first good option for my descent: Coldwater Canyon. I love this one. The road is in good condition and traffic is fairly light. There is plenty of room for cars to pass me safely, a minimum of cross-streets, and I can really pick up speed without freaking out.

I stopped at the bottom to check google maps and plan the next segment. I felt good enough to continue with my plan to head over to Mandeville, but knew the steep part of that climb would be harder than that last part of Nichols, and I may well not be able to go the whole way. No reason not to see how far I can make it, though, especially since it’s an up-and-back route.

Riding through Beverly Hills is nice: giant mansions and ridiculously manicured lawns to gawk at, plus ostentatiously wide streets. I discovered for my first time that there is a cut through to Santa Monica Boulevard that makes it easy to head over to the west side. You still have to ride the awful part through Century City, with cars swooshing by at freeway speeds and no bike lane. There really needs to be a protected bike lane there, more so than anywhere else I’ve ridden in L.A.

Having made it to Beverly Glen without getting plowed over, I got to ride in bike lanes all the way to Westwood and continuing as I headed north to Ohio. Ohio got me to Federal, which got me to San Vicente. There’s a bike lane there, but this is Brentwood, so cyclists have to be extra vigilant about inattentive drivers, cars stopped in the bike lane, and entitled drivers who think nothing of cutting you off in their hurry to make a right turn.

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Colorful nuu-muu dress & red hot aqua dot bloomers to keep me visible!

As I got close to the turn off to head towards Mandeville, I considered the time, and how I could just go straight on to Santa Monica and be able to join the knitting group for the full hour between services. But,no, I was too close to Mandeville not to at least see how far I could go. I survived the scary 0.3 miles one has to ride on Sunset in order to get to Mandeville, and shortly thereafter pulled over to take off my jacket and refill my main water bottle from my backup bottle. At this point, another rider pulled over, too. Turns out he was about to attempt Mandeville for his first time, and asked me about it. I told him I hadn’t done it in 4 years, but that I remember that just when you think you aren’t going to make it, you can see the top, and that helps you make it up that last super steep bit. We wished each other luck, and got to it.

In general, I did okay. I was able to enjoy the ride, and could feel the climb, but without discomfort or feeling discouraged by my limited conditioning. At least not until I got to the steeper part. I was working hard, breathing hard, and reached a point where I began to wonder if I might be pushing myself a little too hard for my own good. Was I starting to cross that line between embracing a challenge and stupidity? I wasn’t sure. I remembered that you can see the end of the road when you are near the top, and it bothered me that I still could not see that end. Maybe I still had a ways to go. My pulse was pounding. If I’m not ready to make it all the way today, I can just stop and turn around and try again another day. No biggie. Yet maybe that guy who was trying Mandeville for his first time was waiting for me. But I couldn’t base my decision on that. I decided I was struggling just a bit too much and ought to stop and turn around at the shady spot just ahead of me, so I did. But as soon as I stopped, I looked up and there was the top, only a short block ahead of me. I took a minute or two to drink some water and catch my breath, and mustered up a little more oomph to get me up that last grunt! Three gentlemen on bikes were at the top, resting, and I recognized one as my friend from the bottom of the hill. They offered words of encouragement, and before I knew it, I’d made it!

I snapped a selfie for Instagram and to send to my hubby, who knew I hadn’t been sure about my ability to do this climb, and took only a short break before getting rolling again. The descent was sweet, especially with the added glow of accomplishment.

Victory selfie at the top of Mandeville

I didn’t get to the Santa Monica church as early as I’d hoped, but it didn’t matter much. I had enough time for a cup of coffee and to catch up with a friend before the 11:00 service began. I got some knitting in during the service, and then joined the bidding frenzy and chatted with old friends in the social hall. My mid-ride break ended up being over 2 hours, as it was after 1 pm by the time I got rolling again.

I headed south toward the beach, and enjoyed watching all the sunny Sunday afternoon action along the Santa Monica oceanside before heading into Venice on ultra-hip Abbott Kinney to get over to the bike path into Marina del Rey.

Ocean Park Beach

By this time, the reality that I hadn’t eaten any lunch was getting to me, yet I didn’t feel like stopping at a restaurant or fast food joint. Hungry as I was, nothing like that sounded very appealing to me. Once I’d started onto the connecting Ballona Creek bike path, I decided to stop at one of the recently added beautiful park-like areas that have been added along the path. I drank a good bit of water and ate my second Kind bar to keep the hunger at bay.

Rest stop along Ballona Creek Bike Path

It was great to zoom along the path without being interrupted by intersections. At the other end, in Culver City, I considered looking for a place to get some lunch, but I really just wanted to finish the trip home. I figured I could just eat something when I got home.

But as I got closer to home, heading east on Venice Boulevard, I saw that Strava showed my mileage was only in the low 40’s. I thought my route was going to be 48 miles, which could easily be nudged up to 50 by altering the last bit home. This bothered me. I’d been out all day and I wanted to claim I’d ridden a half century! I decided to take a left when I got to Country Club Drive, instead of the right turn that would have taken me straight home.  I arced west and north, the way I go when taking the longer, prettier route to work through Hancock Park. As I came back east, though, my miles traveled remained disappointingly short of the target, so I extended my route farther east, and took Harvard south to 11th. This looped me through Koreatown and then back west to home. The final tally (49.3 miles per Strava) was still a wee bit shy of 50, but I decided to just go home already!

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It was still a ride I could be proud of, and getting home after 3 was late enough!

Bikie Girl Shero: Charlotte Hager, Artist & Cyclist

This post is the second in a series highlighting interesting women who love to bike. Photos provided by Charlotte Hager.

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Charlotte, in winter biking mode

Last month’s featured Bikie Girl Shero was Megan Jones, founder of the Hains Point 100, which has raised many thousands of dollars to support the Washington Area Bicycle Association (WABA)’s Women & Bicycles program. Bikie Girl helps sponsor the event by offering a raffle prize. This month’s Bikie Girl Shero is the most recent winner of the free bloomers from Bikie Girl Bloomers, Charlotte Hager of Arte by Charlotte. When I discovered Charlotte’s artwork, I just had to find out more about her!

 

Bikie Girl: What inspired you to participate in the Hains Point 100?

 

Planeta LaFragola
Planeta LaFragola

Charlotte:  I have been a fan of Hains Point 100 since its inception. I am in such awe of Megan and the rest of the kicka$$ lady cyclists of the Sticky Finger Team. Megan and I are both part of the Women & Bicycles group in DC – and have crossed paths many of times because, in DC’s bike world, everybody knows each other. I have watched Megan’s promotion of Hains Point 100 and have always wanted to be involved in one way or another, but the time of year never works out for me. I was so incredibly fortunate to have Megan reach out to me directly this year to ask to be involved artistically as a means of helping create fun art pieces inspired by cycling that the event could use for door prizes. I created three original “tiny paintings” for the event as well as shared some prints of a painting I completed last year called “Planeta LaFragola” where the planet’s ring around it has bicycles!

The See Me Rollin'Bici-CoolTandem Love

Bikie Girl:  What is it about WABA’s Women & Bicycles program that makes it important to you?

Charlotte:  WABA’S W&B has literally changed my life – for the best! The W&B group has Art Bike Photo Shoot 2016been such an incredible system of support and knowledge for me as well as other women of all different backgrounds and biking styles and levels . This group has been a life saver so many times, giving me the supportive environment and encouragement to post all types of inquiries from researching folding bikes to issues I have had with sexual harassment while cycling. The W&B group literally feels like a sisterhood with nonjudgmental, never-ending support for all women. The programs and events that have come out of the W&B group have been incredible and have honestly helped me to get on two wheels more frequently and meet/encourage more lady cyclists. The W&B groups and programming are the first place I go to with any bike questions. I love my W&B sisters! Even now, I live in Baltimore, MD but still frequent the W&B facebook group and the DC-based events because I love and support this group of women so much!

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Charlotte rocking her Hot Pink Zephyr Bloomers under a black Hitchable Flounce Skirt

Bikie Girl:  What is your bike style?

Charlotte:  I am all over the place with this question. I like to consider myself a pretty easy-going putzer. I use a bike for daily work commuting, running errands, and the occasional bike party. I used to ride my bike more when I lived in DC and knew the streets better – but I am learning all about my new home – Baltimore- and am hoping, come summer, a bike will be my main form of transportation! I try to wear a bunch of different types of clothing while biking. My favorite being leggings and a dress. It’s a way for me to feel “normal” while also covering my bits. One thing that’s constant: bike shorts. I slip them on over leggings, under dresses, in exchange for shorts sometimes. It just helps make longer ride my comfy for my lady bits. Lastly – sunscreen. Every time, all the time.

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Bloomers Bedazzled!

I own three bikes: my first love – my daily commuter, bada$$ mama jama. Her name is “Blu Goose” and she’s amazing. A blue, with yellow accessories Kona Jake the Snake cyclocross turned into my daily commuting beast. I love her so much. I helped build her from the frame up back in 2010, and she’s been the reason I have become such a huge bicycle advocate and aficionado. Maybe I would be so easily passionate on another bike, but I don’t know. Blu Goose and I are liked bonded spirits. It’s great!

Bike to Work Day in DC 2015
Bike to Work Day, DC, 2015

My second bike I acquired at one of WABA’s amazing annual fundraisers, “Bike Fest.” I believe the teen mechanic group out of Phoenix Bikes made this fun “tank” of a bike. I have lovingly – with much chagrin – named this bike “The Bourbon Bike” because I bought this bike during WABA’s Bike Fest “Bike Auction” after a few bourbons and a new-found sense of competition in the Bike Auction Bidding War. I later tossed the mustache handle bars, added more dutch-style up right bars (all by myself! woo!) and now have a more upright fun bike I keep around as a beater bike for easy commutes or visiting friends.

art bikeMy last and most recent acquired bike is the newly reborn “Art Bike.” This is a Art Bike in Baltimorefun step through, upright cruiser that a dear bike friend gave me before he and his family ran away to Colorado (move back Stewart and Melissa Eastep!). This is a bike I kept around for a few seasons, using it for an occasional guest or grocery run – especially when I wanted to feel Dutch and pretend I was biking in Amsterdam. Recently. however, this unassuming bike was reborn into the Art Bike. I have completed Phase One with a brand new paint job and accoutrements: a used a bunch of different colored spray paints and hot glued on beads and gems. This bike went for her full-fledged inaugural ride as the Art Bike for Baltimore Bike Party’s Halloween ride . . . and I managed to entirely destroy one of her brake cables. So this bike is in repair and will be back on the roads come Spring. She does manage to still show up in my photo shoots . . . that cheeky wench she is.

Bikie Girl:  I’m a lover of bold colors. I think bold colors evoke emotions that I can’t fully express in words, and help me feel more fully alive. This makes me a fan of your art, and also curious to know what the significance of using bold colors in your artwork is for you?

char paintsCharlotte:  Colors make me feel like everything is going to be okay in this world.  There’s a
certain amount of pure, unadulterated joy I experience with bright, bold colors; an almost childhood innocence where the world is fun and has your best interest at heart. The world around me is alive, evolving, and brilliant. To me, color has tastes, gender, temperatures, associative numbers as well as days of the weeks (weird, I know). Colors have personalities to me. Perhaps this is why art has had such a profound effect on me since I was a child – I’ve found a way to channel this magical world I see daily into a visual form that others can experience and begin to understand.

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Charlotte in action

Char and Bike 2

Bike Girl:  Do you ever feel as though your bicycling influences your art (or vice versa)?

Charlotte:  Totally! I think art and bicycling are a really copacetic duo. When I’m cruising on my bicicletas, I feel so inspired, so connected to . . . well, really connected to everything and everyone. Being entirely exposed while producing power manifested by your own strength forces you to be super aware of yourself and everything that surrounds you. I feel more connected to the communities I venture through, the people I smile at or chat with at a Char paints 2light. I feel connected to the sights, sounds, and smells that resonate all around me. For the most part, my bicycle experiences are really, satisfyingly cathartic. And I think that disinhibition – that effort to put down the barriers and connect to elements around me – is what can also make art

Happy Halloween from Art Bike
Happy Halloween from Art Bike

such an incredibly powerful experience for me. The connectivity, the whole body experience of art parallels to a good bike ride around town. Something about both bikes and art are just so darn magical to me. Plus I feel like I’m flying – both while cycling and while painting – so that’s cool.

 

Thanks, Charlotte! Keep on flying!

Poppies, 2007

You can find out more about Arte by Charlotte here, and about the Women & Bicycles program here. If you aren’t already a member of the W&B Facebook group, you are missing out on a welcoming and resourceful community. Learn about the Hains Point 100 here.

Follow Charlotte on social media:Self Portrait

Facebook: Arte by Charlotte

Instagram: @artebycharlotte

Twitter: @artebycharlotte

www.charlottehager.com

Arte By Charlotte Logo

Bikie Girl Shero: Megan Jones

This post is the first in a series highlighting interesting women who love to bike. Photos by Dominion Cycling Photography.

Imagine riding your bike in a 3-mile loop over and over until you’ve logged 100 miles, and imagine doing this on a cold December day in Washington, D.C. no less. Who would imagine such a thing you may ask? Why Megan Jones would, and that’s why she is our Bikie Girl Shero of the month.

Meganphone

Megan is the founder and force behind the annual fundraiser, the Hains Point 100, which has raised many thousands of dollars to support the Washington Area Bicycle Association (WABA)’s Women & Bicycles program. Megan reached out to me as the owner of Bikie Girl Bloomers in 2013 to ask if Bikie Girl would be interested in helping sponsor the event by offering some product as a raffle prize. Bikie Girl Bloomers has now sponsored the Hains Point 100 three years in a row, and watched both the event and the WABA Women & Bicycles program grow like gangbusters.

I asked Megan if she would answer a few questions for me, so we can all get to know a little more about the woman who came up with this crazy fundraiser idea.

Bikie Girl: What inspired you to launch the Hains Point 100?

Megan:  In the cold of winter, at the end of the year, there aren’t too many bike events or races going on in the DC area. In 2012, I wanted to cap off a pretty high mileage year, so, I thought that I would end the year with something interesting. I was going to head out to a local training spot, Hains Point – a 3-mile loop – and attempt to do 100 miles around it….in December. After an Arlington Bicycle Advisory Committee meeting, I mentioned that I was going to attempt it and someone, overhearing this conversation, wondered if I was doing it for a cause. I figured, “why not!”  I was then determined to figure out a way to make it this interesting and earn money for the Washington Area Bicyclist Association’s Women & Bicycles. I knew I needed some company out there to keep me entertained. Almost immediately, a local bike shop jumped in and offered up to help sponsor it. So, 15 days after I came up with the idea, I held the first ever Hains Point 100.

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The “cue sheet” for the Hains Point 100.

I had local businesses and women-bike focused sponsors provide some prizes and raffles, food and amusements to get us through the day. I was thrilled at how responsive these businesses were – it was a crazy idea to start the event, and the support was overwhelming. I was even more thrilled getting the attention of national companies – like Bikie Girl Bloomers – to support the cause.

HainsPtStart

From thBullRidere very beginning, I wanted it to be an all-inclusive event. Everyone was invited no matter what kind of rider they were. I think that’s what makes this event so unique: we have race teams, unicycles, cargo bikes, hybrids, three speeds show up. We have had people attempting their first 100 miles ever riding with people that were completing 200 miles for the day.

I completed that 100 miles with a smile on my face and decided to do the event again . . . three more times so far!Tandem

Bikie Girl:  What is it about WABA’s Women & Bicycles program that makes it important to you?

Megan:  When the Hains Point 100 was born, Women & Bicycles was a pilot program and not yet officially launched. I knew right away that the concept was something that we needed in the DC area, and I wanted to support it. With only 24% of people riding bikes being women, we had lots of room to grow. By creating a program that fosters learning through sharing each others’ experiences, how could it go wrong? Now, we have nearly 5,000 people on our Facebook group and hundreds that have mentored ladies who have then helped others. The group includes daily commuters, racers, casual riders, triathletes, bike messengers, bike shop employees, and more. What defines us is our love for riding. It’s been great watching it grow, because those that started off asking questions are now the ones that are helping others. On a daily basis we are talking about equipment, routes, riding in the snow, advice for gear, what to do after an accident, and more. Women in the group are educators, mentors, and advocates within their community and we’re growing a strong base of active bike community advocates.

MeganNelle
Megan Jones with Nelle Pierson, Deputy Director of WABA

Being in DC, we are surrounded by politics, and each city and county have different structures on how to navigate through to get things done. We have helped to get more women in front of these various committees, boards, legislatures, managers, etc. As a result, we have ladies now all over the DC region that are helping to effect change in cycling infrastructure in the area.

I have seen more women on bicycles inspired by this great group. Best of all, Women & Bicycles has inspired women all over the country now to start up networks just like the DC network. The Hains Point 100 has turned into a celebration of all this great work.

Bikie Girl:  What is your bike style?

Megan:  I currently own four bikes, plus am a member of Capital BikeShare. My outfit really depends on what I have planned for the day or where I’m going.  I don’t limit my outfits because I happen to ride a bike. I actually can ride better in heels than walk in them!

I am on an all-women cycling team – Team Sticky Fingers, so when I’m in training you’ll see me all kitted out in the black and pink racing kit with the “sassy lion” on the front of it. I also commute to work by bike. Then, I am wearing whatever I happen to be wearing that day to work – heels, skirts, jeans, dresses, etc.

I will ride in most any weather so my riding style depends on that. In the winter, it definitely takes me longer to gear up in the layers. Two gloves, windproof jacket and pants, scarf, hat, etc. etc. Currently, my favorite thing to have on is a bright pink scarf that my mother knitted with reflective yarn. I definitely am seen in the dark when I have it on.

I hope that, when I’m riding, other women can see me in my high heeled boots and think “Oh, hey, I can do that!” And, then they do it.

Bikie Girl:  How does bicycling fit in with other aspects of your life (work, hobbies, people in your life)?

Megan:  Cycling is a huge part of my life. It’s my primary source for exercise and transportation. I ride my bike to the grocery store, to meet people for dinner, and I even used it to pick up my Christmas tree. Many of my friends ride bikes and those that don’t are used to seeing me pull up on my bike and lock it up wherever we are meeting.

I am actively involved in my county’s Bicycle Advisory Committee, and just the other night presented at my neighborhood’s civic association about protected bike lanes. I highly encourage women to get involved in their community’s efforts to help increase biking in the area. Sure, it can seem intimidating, with some of the engineering terms and concepts, but there is always someone around to ask. Many of the local committees see the same people over and over, and getting new faces and voices involved in these efforts goes a long way.

I sustained a major ankle injury and dislocation during a bike race that required two surgeries last year. I was not only off my bike, but on crutches for much of last year. It was torture because I had to depend on getting around by car and the kindness of others. Once I was allowed back on my bike for just a mile, I was smiling broadly ear-to-ear, as I was so happy to be able to roll where I wanted and when I wanted.

Kids

Bike Girl:  Has the growth & popularity of the Hains Point 100 made it too much to manage, or do you get more help with it now?

Megan:  The first year, I quickly threw up a Facebook event page, got a Twitter handle. Almost immediately I had people committing to coming and telling others about it. When I first launched it, I’ll admit, I had that fear that “no one is going to show up to my party”. Then, people started committing to coming and sharing the event . . . my original fear turned into “uh-oh! so many people are going to show up!” Ironically, that first year, I counted the riders and 25% of the people that were there were women. I knew that it was only the beginning, and this showed the work that needed to be done to get more women out there.

HainsPt100Group

Fast forward to 2015, and I had over 550 riders and 45 sponsors. I would probably say that 40% or more that showed up were women. People came from all over, and I really was blown away. I definitely needed more help. In keeping with the spirit of the “one woman” ride, I tend to do a lot of the preparation, and asking sponsors for donations and help, myself. I get a lot of help picking up the donations and day-of, it definitely takes a village to run the event – from registration to handing out the prizes to doing hand-ups. I now have coffee sponsors, and have several bike shops on location to do any last minute repairs. It is so heart-warming how many people show up, see something needs to get done, jump in and help. I also encourage people to bring snacks to share so we have a great “pot luck” of goodies.

Groupshot

For the 5th Annual Hains Point 100, I’m sure everyone is expecting me to pull out the stops . . . and I’m up for the challenge! Someone likened the Hains Point 100 to a winter block party festival for cyclists. It’s been an amazing ride. I’m happy to have helped to support the cycling community in this unique way.

Thanks, Megan! Keep it up – you are an inspiration to Bikie Girls everywhere!

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You can find out more about WABA here, and about the Women & Bicycles program here. If you aren’t already a member of the W&B Facebook group, you are missing out on a welcoming and resourceful community. Learn about the Hains Point 100 here.

Next month, we will profile this year’s winner of the Bikie Girl Bloomers raffle prize from the Hains Point 100. She’s a gem; you will enjoy meeting her.