Saturday, October 4, 2008

There will be bruising

'Cause there's already blood.

I wanted to go down to the Portland REI to look at the Ortlieb messenger bags that are currently 25% off; it was hard to tell online which size was best. (I had taken a look at the Chrome bags, way back when, but decided they weren't for me.) There are a number of ways to get down there but I opted for riding my bike, partly because I haven't been riding much and partly because I need to force myself outside my comfort zone sometimes. I have very little experience riding downtown and the only way to overcome my fear of it is just to do it -- I learned that after I found all my months of fretting over riding at night were for naught.

Today was one of those sunny/rainy days, and when I left the house it was nice, but about 3 blocks down the street I saw it wasn't going to stay that way. I was totally unprepared. I was wearing a light, permeable jacket; my gloves were MIA; I had left my lights on the stairs; and I had fiddled around with my new Freddy Fenders and then left them for another time. Before long I was cold, my bare hands were slipping around on the wet handlebars, all the cars on the road had their headlights on, and puddles were impending.

Attempt #1: mission aborted.

A bit later I was back on the road, having installed the rear fender as a start, dug my gloves out of a pile of laundry on the bathroom floor, popped the lights on, and changed into a warmer, dryer jacket.

Attempt #2: mission accomplished.

I'll skip the whole REI-on-a-Saturday-during-a-sale-part; everyone knows how that story goes.

Then I found myself in an unfamiliar part of town, trying to find my way home without a plan. Everything looks different on a bike, and I might just as well have never seen these streets before. So I was puttering along some Eastbound street, and decided to take a right onto some Southbound street, and I was thinking about getting over to the left lane, and whether I had any idea what I was going to do after that, when it happened:

The dreaded trolley track take-down.

It's kind of funny how you have time to think, "Uh oh. Bad idea," as your front wheel locks into the track and you start the downward motion. It was a slowish fall, but I landed hard. My only saving grace was that there was no other traffic on the street, other than the one worried-looking guy walking by. I told him I was fine, picked up my bike, and hobbled over to the sidewalk, but I was hurting. The bike looked okay and by then I really wanted to get home, so I figured I'd check my injuries later. Heading up the Hawthorned Bridge I realized my left shoe was not only moving freely on the pedal from side to side, but just as freely from front to back; the impact had nearly ripped the cleat from the shoe. I pulled over at the bus stop, whipped out my handy Swiss army knife, tightened the screws and went home to survey the damage.

Elbow: round, bloody scrape, less than 0.5" in diameter. Glad I was wearing a jacket and not just the sleeveless shell I had on underneath -- ouch!

Hip: An approximately 3" by 3" expanse of relatively minor road rash, under the shorts, no embedded gravel. Yay!

Also: Scrapes to both ankles.

So, not too bad. The wash up wasn't bad as no scrubbing was needed; the wounds are clean and since there was no direct contact with the ground I doubt flesh-eating bacteria will be a problem. All in all, I'd say the trip was a success.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

A funny thing happened on the way to saving money with Zipcar . . .

When I first sold my car, I figured if I spent anything under $400 per month for transportation I'd be ahead of the game. It didn't take long though, to start thinking of $0 for car expense as the norm, and anything over that as excessive. I started consciously cutting back on my Zipcar use, cringing at every dollar I spent for the priviledge of driving.

The problem? Whereas before we never really went anywhere fun because I was concerned the Subaru wasn't dependable enough, now we never go anywhere fun because it costs too much to rent a car for the day. Arrgghhh! How did this happen??

I have recently identified travel as my #1 recreational priority. But here's the thing: Local travel counts. There's a limit to the number of big trips we can take every year, so to maintain our spirit of adventure we need the little trips. I have to budget for local travel as well as distance travel.

So . . . I can rent a Prius for $62 per day. Four days per month -- either 2 full weekends, or one day each weekend, or some combination therein -- is $248. Math is not my forte, but I believe that leaves about $150 per month before I hit that $400 level. That's 15+ hours of running around town, which should be fine if I organize myself a little better.

Now the only thing left is to arrange my finances so I can get on the $250/month plan and save 15% instead of 10% on my hourly rates. The problem is that the plan amount is taken out of your account at the start of the month, all in one chunk. With the plan I have now, they take $50 on the 1st-ish, and then I pay as I go. But this last month? I spent over $300.

Of course, that included $73 for a trip to the beach at Oswald West, which was more than worth it. It was sunny, beautiful and warm, and at low tide the tide pools were packed with anemones, sea stars and fish, and a number of cool caves that are normally underwater were made available for exploration. This is why we have cars. This is what makes the trade-offs worthwhile.

Dude! What happened to my blog?

There I was, clipping along, building readership, garnering such nice comments on other blogs . . . and then what happened? Well . . . the end of summer happened. The shortening days are already taking their toll on my mental and physical energy. This is the time of year when I struggle just to achieve fundamental competency in my day-to-day life.

So, I can't promise to write as often as you or I would like, but I do promise to do my best. I've already started renting Zipcars an hour at a time for quick trips around town; there's no telling what winter will bring. Maybe once I finally get the fenders installed on my bike . . .