Friday, June 20, 2014

Semi-Bike-Related Miscellany for Summerrrrrr

New to biking? Awesome-sauce (if profanity-laden) tips for new cyclists for commuting harmony by Lorena Cupcake at TinyFix.

Earth-Friendliness. Do you ride because you want to be healthy and minimize your consumption/impact on the environment? Hey, me too, though I still rely on my car more than I'd like. (Womp.) Some other random things I do (hold on; it's about to get crunchy up in here):
  • Compost
  • Wash my hair with baking soda / rinse with vinegar
  • Make my own deodorant 
  • Buy second-hand clothing
Compost.  I compost for two reasons: (1) it means we send fewer refuse items to the landfill and (2) it's a cheap and easy way to feed my garden. I have a three-step system: counter-top container, back-stoop bucket, and a big container by the garden (on the other side of the yard). This makes composting easy; it's become second-nature. In the spring, when I'm ready to plant, I simply dump the contents of the bin in the garden, return the still-breaking down-bits to the bin (with a big shovel), and then mix the compost in with the soil. Et, voila. 
Countertop Compost
No 'Poo. I started this in March 2012 and haven't looked back since, because it works well for me, reduces my environmental footprint (fewer disposable containers), and reduces my exposure to chemicals like "fragrance" (often petroleum-based) and sulfates, which create the lather in your soaps, and suck the natural oils and life out of your skin and hair. Short version of the story: I wash my hair with 1 tbsp baking soda in 8 ozs hot water (shaken in a bottle, applied to wet scalp, massaged in with fingertips, left to sit for 2 minutes, and thoroughly rinsed), then condition it with 2 tbsp distilled white vinegar to 6 ozs cold water (in a spray bottle; applied mostly ears-to-ends, massaged or combed through, rinsed, and then a cold-water rinse of my head only under the bath tap to close my hair cuticles). The result, for me, is hair that is soft, manageable, and happy. Below is blow-dried straight with no additional product from December 2012, about 9 months after I gave up traditional shampoos.
This hair was washed with baking soda. No, really.
Homemade Deodorant. If you'll permit me to be human for a second, I sweat, and I'll bet you do, too. Antiperspirants helped a little, but I don't like the (petro-based) fragrance and aluminum in most commercial deodorants, and I was still sweating if I was really hot or nervous, so I thought I'd give natural deodorant a go. I could handle a little more sweating, and I liked the smell of the deodorant when first applied (like a field of lavender, I tell ya'), but the smell would morph into something really... off by the end of the day, so I looked up homemade recipes and in July 2012, made a batch with equal parts baking soda and starch (I used arrowroot powder, but organic corn starch works, too), mixed with enough coconut oil (unrefined, please - you can get it online or at Trader Joe's or Whole Foods) to make a thick paste. Through experimenting, I've decided I like to make about 8ozs at a time; I drizzle in a little olive oil to condition the skin and keep the stick from being too solid when it's cold, and I like a ratio of about ten drops of lavender oil, five of tea tree oil, and 2 of peppermint oil, though the plain mix smells nice on its own, if you like the smell of coconut (I do). I apply a pea-sized amount in the morning; it lasts all day, handles bike-to-work commutes and work-outs, and strong cases of the nerves (public speaking, anyone?) like a champ. 
Second-hand Shopping. I can afford "new" clothes just fine, but honestly? I often prefer to shop second-hand, for myriad reasons. Jeans are already broken in or hemmed. Retro florals are abundant (and those are fabulous for bike commuting, let me tell you). You can find items that don't look like what everyone else is wearing. And, after reading Elizabeth Cline's Overdressed, most of the manufacturing practices (ethical and environmental) of those big brands I'd come to rely on started to really bug me. Buying second-hand allows me to make someone else's shopping habits less disposable, and also saves money, because thrifty finds are a lot cheaper than what you'll get at the mall (and sometimes still have tags on). In 2014 so far (almost halfway through), a full third of my purchases have been second-hand items; another third of the items purchased have been through companies who practice ethical and/or environmentally-friendly manufacturing practices. My goal is to increase the percentage of my wardrobe that is purchased ethically (new through good practice or second-hand) and reduce my shopping in general. If thrift/charity shops aren't your thing, there are a number of for-profit resale shops focusing on youthful trends or high-end designers popping up throughout St. Louis (check out the shops on South Brentwood and in Warson Woods along Manchester, the designer section of Scholarshop, or Plato's Closet, or Rung in Rock Hill) that feel more like shopping at a boutique, but better for the earth and your wallet.

Bike Events. This weekend (weather-permitting, and with SO MUCH WATER), I'm going on the B Works tour of Calvary Cemetery. Links to other event calendars can be found here (including a link to Trailnet's bakery bike tour, also this Saturday).

As for future plans: 
  • I still need to pick up my two-footed kickstand for the Linus and have it installed, and I'm thinking about removing my Delano front basket (heavy; not as useful as I'd have thought, I lost a nut and bolt on a recent ride, and it scratches my car when it's on a car rack).
  • I'm thinking about swapping my drop bars on the ten-speed for swept ones, and getting a new saddle, but I may focus first on getting it professionally fitted to see if the shoulder/back pain I experience is avoidable with the present set-up.
  • I still need to have my MTB worked on, but the other two bikes have been good about meeting my needs. 
  • I kind of want to get an old-style bike rack for my basement. I kind of also want a walk-out (instead of up) basement. Right now, when bikes are downstairs, they are just leaned against the wall, which makes retrieving them difficult. Plus, if we someday do have a walk-out level or larger garage, it could be great there, too. I've thought about screwing hooks into our rafters, but lifting (She's a heavy girl.) This appeals much more.
  • I'm planning to visit my hometown (Topeka, Kansas) for July 4th, and I hope to explore a bit by bicycle. I follow some of the folks there on Twitter, and it's my understanding that they've installed some infrastructure (lanes, etc), and it'd be fun to just explore my hometown in a way I haven't done for nearly two decades. I expect it will surprise me how small it is; I mapped my childhood home to the mall (because the mall was the commercial edge of the western side of town for all intents and purposes when I was growing up), and it was a little more than half the distance of my (comparatively-short by St. Louis standards) work commute (3.7 mi vs 6.5 mi one way).
Any fun plans for you? Questions now that you know I'm a secret hippie?
Share or ask in the comments!

Cheers, and happy riding!

Friday, June 13, 2014

Grants Trail / Bike Links / Upcoming Events

We finally have a had a break in the humidity and we're getting our May weather in mid-June instead. Sure. Why not? It's been in the 60s in the morning and upper 70s most afternoons. We've had a little daily rain or the odd thunderstorm or downpour, but the humidity is much more manageable (either lower, or less oppressive due to the lower temps). It was still pretty muggy last Sunday, though, but I decided to ride the entirety of Grant's Trail, plus the trip to/from my house, which totals a little over 21 miles for me (the trail proper is around 16 miles round-trip, or about 8 miles start-to-finish). Every time I ride the trail, I am struck by how much I like it, and would love a connected network of trails like this to make covering large areas more pleasant. 

From the Kirkwood end, the trail starts out feeling suburban, with open, fairly-flat land, signaled crossing points where it intersects streets and arteries, and views of the backs of stripmalls. From there, it gets better, unfolding at Grant's Farm, which houses petting zoos, a train, and Clydesdales!

After Grant's Farm, you pass ball fields and a few more businesses.

But it's the other stuff that I find most interesting. You alternate between open fields and far-off backs of houses, to practically being in people's actual back yards, to railroad and highway overpasses and lush, overgrown vines and trees. With the humidity Sunday, it got downright tropical. And then it just ends, in the middle-of-nowhere (no disrespect to Affton/Mehlville intended) South County, with no indication that you're near anything at all (because other than a few homes, you aren't). You turn around and ride back to "civilization". 

In one open field, I saw a deer grazing contentedly.
On my return trip, a hummingbird hovered in front of me for several seconds.

The trail is remarkably flat (a nearly-imperceptible decline heading SE; a slightly-more-noticeable incline heading NW), can be busy (Grant's Farm users, other cyclists, joggers, rollerbladers, and the like), and  has parking at either end, plus a couple of lots in between. There's also a separate Clydesdale path marked, though I haven't tried it yet; I think it's a short loop?

I love this trail. I can relax and enjoy the ride, my thoughts, or music (I allow myself to do the one-ear-bud-only-low-volume ride-thing here, then remove them when I'm back on streets), and it reinforces all the things I loved about riding when I was a kid. I also love that animals don't skitter away (as quickly, if at all) when you're on a bike. It reinforces that this mode of transportation is earth-friendly, and people-and-creature-friendly, too. Bike-riding: Just a big ol' batch of awesomesauce.

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Upcoming St. Louis Bikey Events:
  • Trailnet hosts a lot of rides throughout the week and on weekends for various speeds and styles of riding. You can check their entire calendar here
    • In particular, for "ladies of the lane", there is an Arch Women event next week on Wednesday, June 18th - bikey crafts and beer at Perennial. More info here; preregistration is requested. It's free, but they are asking for a $5 donation to cover costs.
    • A week from Saturday, on June 21, Trailnet is also hosting a bikey bakery tour ("Bakeries on the Rise"). Info here. Cost is $5.
  • BWorks is a local organization that refurbishes and sells donated (to them) bicycles to raise money for bike training and donation to get children riding. How fantastic is that? They are hosting bike drives (to receive donated bicycles) at Weldon Spring on Saturday, June 21, and at Webster Groves on Tuesday, June 24. They are also hosting a family-friendly bicycle ride on Saturday, June 21, at Calvary Cemetery in North St. Louis. Info here. The Calvary ride is free.
  • You can also check out Bike St. Louis for events and advocacy!

Friday, June 6, 2014

Gone Ridin'? Mostly.

I did not mean to take a three-week posting break! But here I am, so let's get caught up, shall we? 

The most glaring reason for the break was general busy-ness, exacerbated by lovely opportunities to go for nice weekend rides. On top of that, I had to make the very sudden and difficult decision to put my lovely Charlie-cat to sleep on May 23rd, which was very sad and left our home cat-free, a status change I found nearly as upsetting as losing my best boy-cat in the first place. The impact of that loss and the hole it created in our household meant that The Husband and I ended up interviewing a number of kitties for adoption, and ended up being selected by two year-old ginger boys, who are crazy and affectionate, and now named Calvin and Hobbes.

And so, between socializing the new kitties, introducing them to The Corgi, and general craziness associated with human bikey-socializing and the holiday weekend and LIFE, here we are. Back to the bikes.

Due to the above-mentioned events, I didn't ride to work as planned on Friday the 23rd. That weekend I had a house-guest, and last week was pretty stormy. ('Tis that time of year.) I did ride Thursday May 22 (to try to get a new kickstand fitted for the Linus at a local bike shop), which didn't work out and ended up with a fun, if very wet, ride home in a sudden downpour. Then, last Saturday, I drove the bike to the city and met up with bike friends to do a Tour of Old Carondelet, which is a neighborhood in extreme South St. Louis that used to be its own town separate and apart from STL and is FULL of stories and history and just beginning to come back to life as interest in walkable, bikeable, liveable neighborhoods renews. Some of my favorite photos from the tour:

The next day, I had another bikey-lovely day. In the morning, I rode to church, then I made a pit stop at a local grocer and headed to our "all-church picnic". It was warm both days (and so humid), but there is always a breeze when you're on a moving bicycle.

This weekend, I plan to mostly stay in, but I may squeeze in a trail ride or two, and if we find ourselves with another not-too-hot/not-too-stormy day, I may try riding to work again, but perhaps with another route. 

Cheers, and happy riding!