Wednesday, November 26, 2008


So I have been in Boston the past week for the USGBC Greenbuild Conference and Expo...Let me just say right now- if I complain later on in my blog about being cold, just remind me about the arctic weather in beantown. I am definitely a cold weather wimp, so just keep that in mind, but when I first got to Boston it was at night, temps in the 20s and windy. But even with the air numbing my face, I instantly loved the city. Getting from the Airport to my Hostel was no problem because they have a great public transportation system. For $15 I bought a 7 day pass that gave me full access to trains, subways, and buses. So in about 30 minutes I was at my stop (it took less time to get across Boston that it took for me to change terminals in Charlotte-go figure). As I walked from my T-stop to the Hostel, I passed five bikers braving the weather all geared out and with a whole bike lane to themselves. They were all wearing face masks and gloves, both of which I have now ordered as the temperature starts to drop here in Charleston. During my trip I lost count of how many people I saw on bikes and it was great. The first day of the conference, I paid a little extra to go on a biking tour of green buildings in the city (picture above and below). Now this sounded like such an awesome idea when I was sitting at my computer all warm and toasty, but when the moment arrived and it was under 30 degrees and windy I got cold feet... literally. But I was too excited not to go and braved the cold weather in the southern version of winter clothes (five layers of cotton clothing with a cutesy scarf, no hat, of course) and tried to stay warm. I have to admit it felt weird getting on a bike other than mine- I kinda felt like I was cheating on my little blue bike back home. I definitely missed having shocks- especially since the seat had NO padding...frozen bum meets cold hard seat... yeah. Anyway..our group had about 20 people in it and our guides tried to keep us from getting squished by taxis (they are totally ruthless). When we were all talking about where we were from I said "Charleston" and someone said "oh, well then you must be used to this weather". I was totally confused for the entire ride until someone mentioned that there is a Charlestowne outside of Boston...BIG difference. I chatted up the guides about biking in Boston and surviving the weather. They said that the right gear makes a huge difference but that you just have to be prepared to be cold. He has led bike tours in the snow but said it gets a little dangerous- ya think?. After talking to other people during my trip, it seems that while the city has bike lanes there are still plenty of people that have no respect for bikers- which I guess is going to happen where ever you are. When I was riding in my friends car, it did seem like some serious cutthroat driving and more than once I had to tell them to watch out for bikers. One guy I rode with said he had actually hit a biker that passed him on the right in his blind spot when in a turn lane... luckily they were both going slow and it wasn't bad. Needless to say, I'm not ready to bike commute in a city like Boston yet... and since the T-system is so great, you really wouldn't have to. Charleston is a long way from this point, that's for sure. One guy I was talking to said that he wished he didn't have his car because the only time he drives it is to move it for street cleaning and snow plowing. What ever public transport you are using there, you never wait longer that 10 minutes, unlike here where you can wait up to an hour. And they have maps, schedules, and info kiosks everywhere, so you never have to worry about getting lost. But even with all of its convenience, beauty, and people- I still rather live in Charleston :-)

Saturday, November 15, 2008


I have had a lot of exciting things happening lately and when I get my pictures back I will let you in on all of the fun. But for now I will share another day of trials and tribulations of my car-less life. The past week the skies have threatened rain at least once a day everyday- which for me is like russian roulette. Without fail, if I ride my bike on a cloudy day, I will get wet and if I ride the bus then the sun will come out. I honestly don't mind getting wet when its warm out but when the temperature drops below 65 (yes, I am southerner), then I become very cold and bitter. Needless to say, I decided to take the bus on Thursday because there was a 60% chance of thunderstorms. Since I decided this last minute, I had to run around like a banchee trying to get ready and had to forgo breakfast... but I made it to class just in time. After class I had an interview with some undergraduates doing a project on social entrepreneurs and then I was free to go.

After a short interview, I decided to catch the 3:30 bus so I could head home and eat. I hustled to my stop and got there with 15 minutes to spare. While 15 minutes may sound like a long time, the buses don't exactly run on-time, so you want to make sure that you don't miss it. There is nothing worse than sitting at the stop wondering if the bus hasn't come yet because you are too early or too late. If you are too late, then it will be a solid 45 minutes until the next shot at getting a ride. So, as you can see, it is worth it to show up a little early to dispel any doubts.

The nice thing about riding the bus on a regular basis is that you know how to judge the arrival of your bus based on other routes passing by. So as the 20 came and went, I knew that my ride was just around the corner. In the beginning I had pleasant conversation with fellow bus riders to keep me entertained, including a discussion on how silly it is for tourist to pay $5 for a 99 cent hot dog. But when the second 20 went by, I started to get worried. I check the time and realized that I had been sitting there for 45 minutes. I started getting a little suspicious and decided to call CARTA. After getting past the automated system and through to an actual human, I was put on hold for 5 minutes. When she came back on she informed me that my bus had broken down, so I asked: "Do you have any idea how long it will be... an hour? a day?" to which she replied with attitude: "No. I'm not a mechanic." I then I started to asked her: "Well could you at least tell the 20 to stop and let people know there bus isn't coming?" but she hung up before I could finish. So after waiting for an hour and desperately hungry- I realized that I had no way of getting home.

Lucky for me, I have enough friends that have flexible schedules, that one of them could come get me. But what about all of the people trying to get to work, home, and school? The clouds were threatening rain as parents struggled to keep their kids entertained and those heading to their second job were trying to flag down cabs. Why is there no system in place for situations like this? No back-up bus? Why weren't the bus drivers stopping to let people know? How is CARTA expecting people to use their bus system if it is unreliable with horrible customer service?

Needless to say, I wrote them a letter with my thoughts as well as suggestions hoping that maybe the next time this happens, they can handle it a little better.

In the end, I am glad that I got stranded because on the way home, my friend and I rescued a stray puppy that was running across a busy road that may have otherwise not have made it. But from now on I think I will bring my bike with me just in case.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

getting a bike education

Okay. I know that bikes are pretty simple machines...BUT they are not something that I grew up working on. I understand how bikes work (for the most part) but there are some basic maintenance things that I definitely did not know about. This was made clear to me when I flipped my bike over and reddish orange rust water poured out of my handlebars (yeah, I felt like a horrible parent at this point). My first problem is that I expose my bike to all kinds of good stuff like sand, mud, salt water, dirty street water, and rough streets. The second problem is that after a ride I was just leaning my poor bike against the house and calling it a night. This is no way to be treating an object that I have to depend of for transportation, recreation, and exercise. So, to make it up to my faithful companion, I treated her to a shopping spree, day at the spa, apologized profusely, and begged for forgiveness.

Instead of just totally winging it, I decided to go into the Bike shop and ask for some advice. Let me just go ahead and tell you right now. If you ever want to get a bike mechanic fired up, just mention that you have used WD-40 on your chain. I mean WD-40 can do anything, right? Umm. Wrong. It is actually a degreaser which will strip the much needed lubrication off of your chain and create unwanted friction and wear to your chain. (If you are trying to clean the gunk off the chain, go for it, but then apply lube). If you don't believe me, check out this dude: Now if you are like me and want to use something that is environmentally friendly and biodegradable to clean your bike, there are products like Pedro's Bio Cleaner and Simple Green Bike Cleaner. As for lubrication... I just bought some White Lightening Clean Ride self cleaning wax lube and it is working nicely on my chain.

So what about the rest of the bike? Well... Some parts use medium-weight grease for lubrication and others use oil. I still haven't really gotten all that down yet, but I will sure to keep you informed as I figure it all out. For now: The one part of my bike that has really needed help is my break cables, and I have had friends use both oil and grease. Sometime in the near future I need to just make the commitment and buy some of both.
So after a nice bath, a relaxing chain oiling, a deep metal cable massage, and a new indoor parking spot, my girl was feeling like a brand new mountain bike... except for the half broken hiking headlamp that was rigged to the front of the handlebars. Needless to say, I now have the new cateye headlight which makes night biking SO much safer. I also bought a "rescue tool" that looks like something McGyver would have killed for... it is basically a pocket knife on steroids. Granted I have no clue what any of the 20+ parts do, but I am sure I will find out and knowing me, it will be on the side of the road, in the middle of the night, while it pours down rain... and I will tell you all about it.
Until then I will be exploring ways to stay warm as the temperature drops.

Monday, November 3, 2008


I can't take credit for any pictures from this month's critical mass but my friend Katie took the two above and my friend Geoff took the rest at the link below. Yes, that is me next to the twinkie (my friend Brett) looking a little too much like my character, Corey Bohan (male BMX biker).