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Reflections on New Year’s Eve

Between the weight loss ads on TV and the donation appeals from non-profits, there’s no mistaking the New Year is upon us. That means it’s time for timeless New Year’s resolutions like “quit smoking” or “lose weight” or “get organized” or “spend more time with family.” In my case, that means calling my parents more often.

These days people talk less about resolutions and more about their goals for the year. After all, experts say setting goals is the way to achieve things in life. We’re told to be SMART, making the goals “Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic and Time-bound.” We’re told to write them down, to affirm them by saying them out loud and to visualize ourselves reaching our goal. That’s the secret to success.

CCCX Podium crop

Note: I haven’t raced since 2009 (or was it 2008?). But nothing stands for success like standing on a podium.

At the beginning of 2013 I reflected on this blog in a post called “Looking Back, Moving Forward.” It was much easier to look back into 2012 than to look forward into 2013. I reluctantly jotted down a few things that certainly didn’t meet the SMART criteria for goal setting:

Moving forward into 2013, I’m not really sure the year will bring. I want to travel overseas again, like we did in 2011 with trips to Amsterdam, Paris and London. I want to do more long rides and gain back some technical skills I’ve lost on the dirt. I want to do a longer, multi-day bike+train tour.

Well, if you’ve been following the blog, you’ll know that we didn’t travel overseas or take a multi-day train tour, and I probably did fewer long road rides and less dirt riding in 2013 than I did in 2012. That’s what happens when you don’t set SMART goals and don’t affirm and visualize them and all that.

So what did I do instead? Looking back, what am I most proud of? Here are my Top Five Highlights of 2013.

#1 Anything Goes Commuter Challenge
In April, I challenged myself to try every possible way of commuting to work, and threw down the gauntlet to my readers. I had no way of knowing if anyone would respond. My readers did not disappoint. Six responded, including one who walked 4.5 miles in LA, one who wrote in all the way from the Netherlands, and two who dedicated a full series of Anything Goes posts on their own blogs. As for me, I stretched myself by taking the bus for the first time in decades and learned to ride a push scooter. Trying new things keeps us young, eh?

Commute Challenge Scooter

#2 Silicon Valley Bike Style
It wasn’t my idea, I promise. My grey-bearded-bike-commuter-Burning-Man friend Jack said: “We need to do something with this Cycle Chic thing for the SVBC Bike Away from Work Party.” That turned into encouraging people to dress up for rapid-fire photo shoot at the SVBC party, and then a Silicon Valley Bike Style Tumblr site. What I learned: that people who ride bikes in Silicon Valley do have style and that convincing strangers to let you take their bike portraits is not that hard. People love their bikes and love sharing that love with others.

SV Bike Style

#3 Bike Fun in the Mountain View Voice
I was barely finished uploading the bike style portraits from SVBC party when I got an email from our local paper: Would I be interested in writing a bike blog for their online edition? What emerged was “Bike Fun with Dick and Janet” (shortened to Bike Fun). Written for a more casual bike rider and more locally focused than this blog, it’s featured everything from a map of secret passageways in town to top bike picnic spots around town. I was nervous about anti-bike public comments and I did get a few indeed, but it was nothing I couldn’t handle.

Bike Fun 1

#4 Five Things I Knew About Women & Bikes
In August, the League of American Bicyclists published a research report on women and bicycling. It’s no secret that in the US, like most of the English-speaking world, there are far more men who ride bikes regularly than women. The report’s findings confirmed what I already knew, but was afraid to speak out about without hard data to back me up. I started to write a post about it, but had so much to say I ended up with a series (not unlike those two Anything Goes participants). Lo and behold, the folks at the League loved it so much they featured excerpts of my series on their national web site’s blog, complete with some of my most flattering photos.

LAB Women Bike Blog

#5 California Bike Summit
Opening my big mouth with the series on women and bikes definitely opened some doors. In October I was asked by Melissa Balmer, the founder of Women on Bikes SoCal to speak at the California Bike Summit on her “Why Style Matters” panel. Melissa then interviewed me for their event blog, put my photo on the cover of the program and asked me to be a contributor on her newly launched Pedal Love site. Oh, and I also presented the Silicon Valley Bike Style project in a full-conference session at the summit. It was almost overwhelming.

Cal Bike Summit

Going back to the beginning of 2013, there was actually a second half to my “Moving forward” paragraph.

I want to push myself to write to a broader audience than this blog. Last year several people nudged me that direction, but I haven’t put myself out there. I also see myself speaking out more for women’s issues in cycling.

Despite the lack of a SMART goal, I would say that I did what I hoped for. Much of it was because I had people who nudged me, like Jack of SVBC and Melissa of Pedal Love, and other people who otherwise encouraged me, like my friends on Twitter and Facebook, and everyone who reads and comments on this blog.

And although I didn’t have written goals, I was personally driven to write 2-3 stories per week with the personal demand that I always write from both my head and my heart. In 2013, I posted 164 stories on One Woman, Many Bicycles, 24 on Bike Fun and one on Pedal Love. That’s 3.6 per week for the year for about 150,000 views. I’d say that my system was how I achieved the vague goals I stated at the beginning of the year.

As for 2014, I’ve decided to stick with the Third Commandment of Frisbee: Never precede any maneuver by a comment more predictive than “Watch this.” So for 2014 I say “Watch this!”

Happy New Year!

 
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Posted by on December 31, 2013 in Other Stuff

 

Farm to Table to Happy Belly in Napa Valley

It’s Thanksgiving morning here in the US, and Dick and I will be celebrating with a fine feast like every red-blooded American. Since we’re up in Napa Valley celebrating Dick’s birthday, I’ll be spared the cooking and we’ll go out for our feast. Dick will certainly have the traditional turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie. I may vary from the traditional script, who knows?

What I do know is that our dinner can’t possible top the “farm to table” dining experience we had at JoLē in Calistoga for Dick’s birthday the other night. Three courses chosen from a list of about a dozen plus dessert, with wine pairings for each course carefully selected by their sommelier. It was divine decadence.

Dick Birthday

With four courses of wine, thank goodness it wasn’t a bike date. We only had to stumble upstairs to our room.

Of course, a meal expertly prepared with quality local ingredients and paired with exceptional wines doesn’t come cheap. It was the most expensive dinner we’ve shared and we aren’t particularly frugal on our weekly bike dates. But why not, birthdays only come once a year and none of us is getting any younger.

What was the best meal you’ve ever shared? What made it exceptional?

 
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Posted by on November 28, 2013 in Bike Date, Other Stuff

 

Scoot Commute Diaries: Thar She Blows

When there’s a weather advisory for 25+ mph winds and your office is smack dab between two light rail stations, the downwind station is the right choice for an easier way to glide.

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About the Bike Commute Diaries: Launched in May 2012 for National Bike Month, this series explores the unexpected and surprising things I’ve learned about bicycling for transportation.

 
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Posted by on April 15, 2013 in Commute Diaries, Other Stuff

 

It’s January: Looking Back, Moving Forward

In Roman mythology, Janus is the god of beginnings and transitions, a two-faced god that looks both into the future and back to the past. January was named in his honor, a month when people reflect on the previous year while looking forward to the next. I don’t know about you, but that’s what I’ve been reflecting a lot on this month.

Looking back at 2012, the most significant event was starting a new job with a new train+bike commute. I had lost my job with a perfect commute on tree-lined streets in Palo Alto and was disappointed that my new job was in a more car-centric area of San Jose. But I discovered that riding Caltrain and pedaling the Guadalupe River Trail was far better than expected. My commute went from a solo activity to a social ride on the train and trail.

Plus, it gave us new Bike Date Friday options, from Cirque du Soliel to Oktoberfest at Teske’s. San Jose has much to offer, if you look for its hidden charms and don’t expect it to be like San Francisco or even Palo Alto. I don’t miss my old commute at all, although I still miss my old job and our small and mighty team. We rocked.

In 2011, I made a commitment to stop complaining and start writing letters. In 2012, I not only wrote letters, I spoke up at at City Hall and in the local newspaper. I was really nervous at first and I admit I still get nervous when I speak, but it gets easier each time. I also volunteered on several committees for the Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition, including a winter party that drew our local bike community together in greater numbers.

In 2012, I launched new short features that lowered the stress of writing longer stories. I kicked off National Bike Month in May with Bike Commute Diaries, 31 days of short posts exploring things I’ve discovered as an everyday bicyclist. In its wake came the Bike Lane FAIL series, the Bike Spotting and A Closer Look bike galleries, a Tumblr called Where’s My Bike Today and a Dear City site for advocacy letters. Phew!

In 2012, I started using Twitter to meet and communicate with other bicycle advocates and enthusiasts. Twitter makes it easy to share news and ideas and get community support when facing bike-related challenges.

Through Twitter I now have new friends, both locally and worldwide. Richard of Cyclelicious was kind enough to model for a Fashion Friday shoot. Emily the Bakfiets Babe invited me to hang with her Portland friends at the fashion show at the Women’s Bicycling Summit. What a RIOT! I really value the mommy biking friends I’ve made. They let me vicariously experience parenthood on bikes, without all the tantrums and spit up.

In 2012, I moved forward with my “car-lite” lifestyle, riding my bike to places I had only driven to before, like San Jose airport (and San Francisco airport too). Reducing my driving wasn’t a goal per se, but by the end of the year I racked up only 2,000 miles on my car. I called my insurance company and they reduced my rates.

My friends and I trained for and completed the Solvang Century, the first 100 mile ride I’d done in four years. We followed it with a new challenge: the Peak of the Month Club. We climbed four Bay Area peaks (Diablo, Tamalpais, Twin Peaks, San Bruno) in four counties and still have a few more to finish up in 2013.

Looking back at 2012, I’m glad that some things didn’t change. I made three trips back home to visit family and got to ride all over town with my dad who’s now 82. He hasn’t slowed down much and he rocks the pasture trail with ease. My husband and I still managed to find new restaurants for our long-running Bike Date Friday tradition. I don’t write about it much anymore, but you can follow me on Instagram to catch the food photos.

Moving forward into 2013, I’m not really sure the year will bring. I want to travel overseas again, like we did in 2011 with trips to Amsterdam, Paris and London. I want to do more long road rides and gain back some technical skills I’ve lost on the dirt. I want to do a longer, multi-day bike+train tour.

I want to push myself to write to a broader audience than this blog. Last year several people nudge me that direction, but I haven’t put myself out there. I also see myself speaking out more for women’s issues in cycling. I’ve written about it some and gotten into a few Twitter fights. But I’ve been biting my tongue a lot.

It’s scary to write this. I don’t like the pressure that comes with setting goals. Besides, the most significant things I’ve done in life were not planned. I’ve always believed in the Third Commandment of Frisbee: Never precede any maneuver by a comment more predictive than “Watch this.” So all I will say now is “Watch this!”

Are there things you achieved in 2012 that you never expected? Do you have any goals for 2013?

 
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Posted by on January 15, 2013 in Other Stuff

 

Breathing New Life into Old Bikes

Those who can do. Those who can’t take pictures. I heard through the bike grapevine that the Silicon Valley Bike Exchange needed donations of 26″ mountain bike tires. The volunteers at the Bike Exchange repairs and upgrade donated bikes and donates them to local people in need, from low income kids to homeless adults.

We had some spare tires hanging around the garage, including a barely used pair that had been replaced by sponsor tires when I raced for Team Velo Girls. So I strapped a pair on the back of my Dutch bike, Dick threw a second pair over his shoulder and we rode across town to the dropoff location.

I expected a small shop with a donation bin and a storage area. What I found was a parking lot full of volunteers, rolling tool chests and a full on bike mechanic eduction program. How did I not know about this place?

We gave them the tires and hung out for a bit, but didn’t grab any tools and revive an old bike back to life for a deserving new owner. Maybe next time, after I’ve taken one of their mini-clinics.

Do you know if there’s a similar bike exchange in your area? What’s in your garage that you could donate?

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Posted by on April 11, 2012 in Other Stuff

 

One Woman, Many Bicycles: 2011 Year in Review

The other day WordPress sent me an annual report for this blog with statistics for 2011. The infographic showed I wrote 121 blog entries, uploaded 1004 photos and that the blog was viewed 5,800 times–the number of people it takes to fill 5 New York subways. That’s a lot!

Thank you to all my readers, especially from Facebook (the top referring site), and to Dan and Cara for listing me on their blogs. And thanks to Lorri, Brian, Cindy, Katie and Rachel, my top commenters. The report also listed the top five posts of 2011. These rated highest because you all shared them with your friends.

1 Making the Grade the Low-Key Way Coordinating a hill climbing “race” with over 100 riders.
2 Wheels of Change at Public Bikes A book signing about the long love affair between women and bicycles.
3 Where Buena Vista Doesn’t Mean Good View When hill residents demand a stop sign, I investigate.
4 On Pumpkins and Other Weighty Matters A dirt ride to the coast to pick up Halloween pumpkins.
5 Blazing Trails at Water Dog We dig, pick, rake and drill to create a new hiking and biking trail.

Not all posts got this sort of attention, however, including some that I think are among my best, but didn’t get a lot of traffic. So, in the tradition of end-of-year reviews, here are my top five posts you might have missed, one for each month I’ve been blogging.

#5: Picnic in the Garden

Dick and I pedaled off to a park for a picnic for a bike date on one of the last warm evenings of summer. The gardens were still in bloom and pleasantly private for an intimate dinner for two. Read post >>

#4: Amsterdam After Dark

A very different bike date in Amsterdam uses photos more than words to tell the story of a night ride to a walking district with a wide range of dining choices. Read post >>

#3: Cycling from Eight to Eighty

My mom and dad are over 80 years old and are still riding strong. They really impressed me with their riding skills on our family vacation in Florida last summer. Dad even rode some dirt trails in flip-flops. Read post >>

#2: Guilty Pleasures in Paris

Dick suffered through travel delays while I lived the good life waiting for him in gay Paris. Gourmet dining for me, airport food for him. Riding around the city for me, waiting at the airport for him. Poor Dick. Read post >>

#1: On Tradition: Foot Guards, Ghosts and the Queen

In London, we tracked down a pub with a colorful history including a murdered foot guard that still makes his presence known. Oh, and we visited the queen at Buckingham palace. Read post >>

Thank you to all my readers for keeping me going. It’s not always easy to sit down, compose my thoughts and write about my adventures. It’s knowing that you all are reading that keeps me writing. And special thanks to my dear husband Dick who proofreads almost all of my posts. If there’s a grammatical error, misspelling or typo, you can be sure Dick wasn’t involved.

Thank you again all for your support and a happy New Year to all!

 
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Posted by on January 2, 2012 in Other Stuff

 

Wishing You a Joyful Christmas

Today I share some things that bring me joy during the holiday season. What brings you joy at the holidays?

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Posted by on December 25, 2011 in Other Stuff

 

Happy Anniversary to Me! (Now pass the cupcakes)

Diets don’t work, except when they do. This week marks my nine year anniversary of becoming a lifetime member of Weight Watchers. In 2002, I got fed up with being too overweight to enjoy hiking or biking hills anymore. So I joined Weight Watchers, lost 35 pounds and have kept my weight within the “healthy” BMI range since. Given only 6% of Weight Watchers members meet their goal weight and achieve lifetime status, and that only about 20% are within five pounds of their goal weight five years later, I’m pleased.

Why did I succeed where others failed? First, while I was quite capable of packing on the pounds, my parents raised me to eat real food instead of junk and encouraged physical activity. When I gained weight, I was eating far more than I should have for my activity level. Second, and more importantly, I made lifestyle changes afterward that set me up for success. Like joining Team in Training and completing my first triathlon, dating a hard-core cyclist (who I’ve since married) and joining a women’s bicycle racing team.

My everyday and social lives now revolve around physical activity, which frees me from the burden of counting Points Plus all the time. Because you can’t spend the rest of your life counting calories, or eating one meal a day or never eating ordinary food with friends and family. That’s not living.

Unfortunately, it’s not that easy to stay lean. We Americans live in a culture that’s created the perfect storm for obesity: inexpensive, high calorie processed foods, super-sized restaurant meals (not just at fast food places either), and the virtual elimination of ordinary, everyday physical activity, like walking or bicycling to school or work.

You’ve probably heard the statistics about how 30% of Americans are obese, but do you realize that just 20 years ago less than 15% were? That’s a horrifying increase. Watch this video to see how in any given year a significant number of states increase their percentage of obese residents.

For those who are curious about how I looked at my max weight, I did find a photo from that era. Photos are rare since I didn’t like how I looked. Or how it kept me from being active outdoors like I am today.

Has maintaining a weight you’re happy with been hard for you? Do diets work for you?

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Posted by on November 10, 2011 in Other Stuff

 

Farewell to a Visionary

The drizzle today only seemed fitting for paying my respects to a man who epitomized the spirit of Silicon Valley: be bold, be daring and follow your vision, not your critics. Or worse, your competitors.

I may have graduated with honors with a degree in Computer Science, but when it comes down to it I’m not a computer geek, or even a gadget head. I actually cried the first time I was forced to use a computer in college. What attracted me in the end to Computer Science was the elegance of expressing an algorithm through code. Good code is like good writing: clear, concise and well organized in its message. That’s good design, and that’s what Steve Jobs demanded.

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Like so many others, what I appreciate about Apple products, which are all Steve’s babies, is their simplicity. Rather than offering you a hundred options, they know what you want. Rather than being clever, they let you be clever. Rather than being made in the image of the engineers that built them, they were made in the image of the non-geeks who bought them. In droves.

That’s me, the non-geek whose iPhone is her most valued material possession (don’t tell my bikes). I use my phone to connect with my husband, check in with friends on Facebook, record what I see with an amazing camera, find my way across town with Google maps and journal my life through this blog. With just my iPhone I was able to create this whole blog entry: taking photos, cropping them with PS mobile, composing copy and uploading it all with the WordPress mobile app.

Thank you, Steve. You make me clever. And judging by the little memorial your fans have created outside your Palo Alto home, I’m not the only one you touched.

Who are your heroes?

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Posted by on October 10, 2011 in Other Stuff

 

HDR Questions from an iPhone Photog

On our way to lunch today, my co-worker Melissa told us she was thinking about buying an HDR camera, but they cost thousands of dollars. My iPhone 4, which I use for all my photos, has an HDR setting. Not knowing what it was, I tried it out a few times. I didn’t notice any difference in quality and it took forever to save the photo, so I turned HDR off and forgot about it.

Melissa explained that HDR stands for High Dynamic Range and that HDR merges multiple exposures and that it’s good when you have a wide range of light in the shot. Sounds good to me.

So I had to try it out RIGHT THEN with side-by-side comparisons. Here’s the back entrance to our lunch spot, La Bodeguita del Medio. The non-HDR version is on the left, HDR is on the right. I see now that the leaves on the hedge and the blue wall, white siding, and sky behind it are not overexposed, even though the dark entry is still properly exposed. Much better with HDR.

But notice what happens when there’s motion in the frame. In HDR, Michelle becomes a shadow of herself, with foliage overlaid on her face (click to zoom in). Cool effect, but not something I’ll use much.

Curious, I go online and check out gallery after gallery of HDR images and find lots of dramatic landscapes with clouds and severe architecture, like this one of the Golden Gate Bridge from vgm8383

Golden Gate HDR

Now, I’m no photographer. My only cameras are my iPhone 4 and my GoPro HD, the latter purchased because I couldn’t figure out how turn my iPhone into a helmet-cam. But I’m not so sure about HDR photography.

What do you think? Is HDR a great technology or is HDR to photography what Thomas Kinkade is to painting?

 
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Posted by on August 18, 2011 in Other Stuff

 
 
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