A Blue Heron Day

I went out for a road ride last week. The sky was clear and the wind was out of the south at about 21mph. I did not have the psychological energy to ride south and take Cass County 16 to Clay County 8 to Clay County 11 then to Sabin and back north. There is something about Clay County Highway 8 that is a psychological drain. It is a section of road that just does not seem to end.

Instead I opted to go against the grain and ride north and save the hard work for the return trip. I headed through North Fargo to 8th Avenue North and took Dakota Drive to the Airport and headed up Highway 81 to Harwood. The wind was right on the South marker and my legs were set at a cruising speed of 21mph. I kept my effort well below a hard workout since the hard work was still to come.

My journey east on Cass 22 was holding nicely at about 18mph. It seemed to me that the wind was either dying down or was not coming out of the south as strongly as I thought it was. The cross wind on a 20mph south wind would have scrubbed more speed off of me than my computer was showing. I was able to hold 18mph nicely.

Somewhere on the Minnesota side (Clay County Highway 26) just west of Oakport Street North I had the pleasure of spotting a Great Blue Heron. It rose out of a roadside ditch and headed east ahead of me. I naively thought I would catch up to it but as I learned with the jackrabbit on Dakota Drive in the early summer that wildlife is far better equipped to escape situations than I realize. The Blue Heron gained altitude quickly adjusted its flight path for a southern route away from the road and was soon out of sight. Amazing how such a large bird can move so quickly.

As I headed south on Oakport Street North I could feel the presence of autumn. The sun’s height on the horizon and the coolness in the air all contributed to the understanding that one more summer of my life was gone. I felt a tug from autumns past; sadness that goes back to childhood and pain that I have never been able to reconcile; losses that have stayed with me and have made me who I am today in many ways for better or worse.

As I approached Probstfield Farm I decided to stop. I needed to take in this moment. I needed to feel the setting sun on my face and arms. I needed to see the haze over the tilled field to the south and just allow myself to stop while on an exercise based ride. It was good. It was right. It was grounding.

I mounted back up and moved south on Oakport Street North noticing the burning brilliant oranges and yellows in the community garden to my left and wanting to hold the memory for more than a moment; wanting to hold those colors in my mind for future days because autumn is special to me. I love the oranges and yellows. I love the pumpkins and the frost. I love the cool air and cider. I love the impending Halloween. I love the apple pie.

Upon my return to downtown Fargo, I ascended the stairs of my apartment building and was greeted by a neighbor of mine who asked me if I noticed anything different about her. In my post ride stupor I managed to say “you look wider” in the form of a question though I’m sure I meant thinner. She proceeded to launch into her experience of gastric bypass surgery while standing in a long t-shirt with no visible shorts on. In my mind I was saying “God, please make this moment stop so I can just walk away from this.” This was not to be the case; I suspect God has a real sense of humor and decided to see how badly I would fumble through this mind bending experience. As my neighbor shared her gastric bypass experience then went into the tumor on her ovary (which was information I really was not ready for) I really desired to just disappear into thin air. Never mind that I hardly know her but now I’m getting details about her ovary! Real funny God! The end of the shared experience was punctuated with the factoid that an ovary is the size of an almond not a golf ball as she had thought. I can’t remember how I responded to that factoid. Things were starting to fade into a blur of sound and light at that point. My neighbor signed off and I headed into my apartment to sort out what I had just experienced not sure that I wanted to sort out any of it.
Overall the ride went well, Blue Herons and all.

Distance 21.89 miles, Time: 1.12.24, Avg. speed 18mph.

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Call me Biker Bro’

I Went out Tuesday night about 11:30pm to Walmart on thirteenth Ave. South in Fargo. I’ve been bicycling to Walmart from downtown Fargo the last few weeks to get more riding in and to save a few bucks on gasoline. 3501 does not sip fuel. As you may remember, 3501 is my 1998 Oldsmobile Regency weighing in at a svelte 3, 501 lbs. (Still have yet to find the one spare pound). I needed to do a grocery run. I’m on night shift presently so night is my day.

Anywho, the ride west on First Ave. North was a bit windy but not horrible. Southeast wind at at least ten mph cooled things down nicely. I took 25th Street to 5th Avenue South and cruised along the bike lane to Fiechtner Drive then on to Westrac Drive South which becomes Ninth Avenue South.

Have I told you that I love those bike lanes? The lanes add a sense of place for me as a bicyclist. Are they absolutely necessary? Probably not but they do add a level of presence for bicyclists. Some bicycling purists feel bike lanes are not beneficial. They decry the idea of bicycles “being put in a special area” on the roadway. I say, it sends a message to motorists that bicyclists are likely to be present and that the City of Fargo is aware enough of the growing interest in bicycling that those who want the extra sense of location should be allowed that feeling while driving their bicycles on the road.

For the trip to Walmart, I tried a different configuration of the touring bike for grocery shopping. I attached my rear Ortlieb panniers and the BOB bicycle trailer to the bike. It seemed like an easier option than putting personal items in the cooler (which sits in the BOB trailer) then removing those items to put groceries in then potentially getting stuck with items that would not fit in the cooler because of the groceries. The panniers went on with a bit of cajoling. I felt like I was “loaded for bear.” So much room for so many groceries!

I also tried a different approach to off-loading my groceries. Instead of carrying and or dragging the cooler loaded with groceries to the elevator then to the apartment; I rolled the bike with the trailer attached into the apartment building and then disconnected the trailer from the bike and rolled the bike and trailer into the elevator. I then rolled the bike and trailer to the apartment door. It was a nifty plan and it worked nicely.

As I was about to leave the apartment, I overheard a slightly inebriated young man ask his friend “what the hell is that?” (the bicycle trailer in the hallway) then state, “it looks broken.” I closed my apartment door and mildly surprised him as I came around the corner from my apartment to take the trailer outside. I told him it was a bicycle trailer. He apologized and motioned that he might be under the influence of something. I politely agreed with him, in a, “I promise I won’t tell anyone way” and took the trailer outside. As I was locking up the trailer the young man and his friend exited the apartment building and the inebriated young man, called me “Biker Bro” and wished me a good evening.

So, I am now officially Biker Bro. I was hoping the moment would come when I would receive this title. Once again, my passion for active transportation has brought me to the next higher rung on the ladder of human existence.

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Maiden Voyage

Sunday July 21, 2013 was a big day for me. I took out the touring bicycle for errands that day. The first bicycle ride of substance since the hernia surgery. The riding was generally very comfortable.

I stopped at the Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch Thrift Store in downtown Fargo where I dropped off a winter hat. Not sure why it is called a ranch, it doesn’t look like a ranch, any who…. I apologized to the woman in the donation area for the reminder of winter. She shared a few harsh words with me, threw a shoe at me and told me to get out. It could have been worse.

At this point, I was ready for a beautiful, full-bodied cheeseburger with tomato, lettuce and mayonnaise from Burger Time on Main Avenue. Mmmm, this was going to be good! No it was going to be great! I was so hungry! I cruised along First Avenue North headed west toward 25th Street where I would slip under the railroad tracks and head east on or along Main Avenue to meet my beautiful burger! An added bonus was the partially full bottle of warm Cherry Coke I had with me. I took it from my car for this very moment. This was going to be such a wonderful gustatory sensation! Warm Cherry Coke with a beautiful, freshly cooked, succulent cheeseburger! As I rolled into Burger Time, I got the once over from the driver of a car at the drive-up window. The look was something to the effect; “that’s a trailer hitched to a bicycle with a cooler in it, hmmm that’s interesting….” I thought to myself, “yeah that’s right sister, that bike and trailer are an interesting site. Take it in while you can. Someday you’ll wish you knew me.”

I walked up to the window and ordered a piece of paradise. As I ate that cheeseburger, I noticed the glistening mayonnaise and the moistness of the tomatoes shining in the sun, with glints of light coming off of the lettuce and beef patty. It was a beautiful moment. Then the introduction of Cherry Coke dancing on my taste buds mixed with the wonderfulness of the cheeseburger; made for a cheeseburger in paradise moment. As I rolled away from Burger Time, I knew I was fully satiated and ready to roll on to DSW Shoes on thirteenth Avenue South to return my beautiful but ill-fitting Italian dress shoes.

I headed west on the southern sidewalk along Main Avenue; I wasn’t quite in a courageous enough mood to drive my bicycle on Main Avenue and make some challenging lane changes to get on to 25th Street South. I then headed south on 25th Street and hooked a right on 5th Avenue South. I zipped down the bicycle lane on Fiechtner Drive. A quick right on 9th Avenue South had me headed west driving my bicycle in the bicycle lane on 9th Avenue South under a glorious sunny, puffy cloud filled sky.

As I pulled into DSW Shoes I really wanted to run with the motto, “It’s not how you feel but how you look dahling..” But I suspect the pain caused by ill-fitting shoes (even Italian shoes) would have shown on my face at some point ruining the whole, “you look maavelous dahling” thing, so back they went. So sad, they looked so good on me!

Walmart was next on my to do list. I brought my bicycle trailer with me and a 48qt. cooler that fits very nicely in the trailer with a flashy yellow flag. I know, you are thinking at this point, good Lord, this guy is a goober; even possibly geeky. No worries. I am what I is. OK, back to my maiden voyage.

I landed my two wheeled Air force One at Walmart and leaned my rig against the wall and locked it up. Up to this point, no pain or discomfort associated with the surgery.

As is often the case, I bought a few more groceries than can be easily carried. The bananas always seem to get the short end of the deal. Once again, the bananas were bungeed to the cooler. So far, I have only lost one bunch of bananas off the trailer. I don’t know where they fell off but can only hope they went to a deserving family.
The ride home was smooth and uneventful. Getting the 48qt. cooler filled with groceries up to the apartment was a bit challenging; no hernias though. Thus, the maiden voyage was complete and I felt more whole as a cyclist and a human being.

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You’re Going the Wrong Way!!!!

I have been watching the conversion of NP Avenue and 1st Avenue North from one-way pairs to the 2 + 1 conversion; it has been wonderful. Roadways that were designed to do nothing but move peak hour volumes of motor vehicles (which is nothing close to gridlock or any type of heavy congestion) are now so much more civilized. Motor vehicle flows are slightly slower and motorists must be more attentive to pedestrian, bicyclist and other motorists’ movements. Giving much more attention to all roadway users in a downtown; sounds very reasonable to me.

The first time I drove east on 1st Avenue North I felt like shouting out the window of my car, “I’m going the wrong way!” A slightly altered line from the movie “Plains, Trains and Automobiles.” I love the fact that I can take 1st Avenue North eastbound right into downtown from the intersection of University and 1st Avenue North whereas before I had to make an annoying right turn on University then a left on NP Avenue to get to my apartment. Crossing University in an easterly direction feels so empowering. A “yes” reverberates inside me when I cross University Drive headed eastbound on 1st Avenue North. Where have you been all my life my love? OK, maybe that’s going a bit far but not too far when I think about a more humane roadway system in Fargo’s downtown.

One-ways are brutally efficient for moving motor vehicle traffic and that is it. There is no sense of humanity in a one-way arterial. One-way roadways speak to the motorist in a way that shows little respect for anyone moving under their own power or by bus. Disrespect is even shown for the motorist by making him or her travel out of the way to change directions. All for the “importance” of the “peak hour” motor vehicle volume. As if the only way to travel is in a single occupant private automobile.

The “second view” we get now that we can travel west on NP Ave and east on 1st Ave creates new view sheds and perspectives of downtown Fargo. There is now a sense of personality between NP Ave and 1st Ave that was not there when they were in a one-way format.

I’m waiting for a local photographer to present the “wrong way” or “new direction” photo exhibition. Let’s go folks, get to it. I’ll attend your exhibition.

So, in celebration of the 2+1 conversions, “We’re going the right way!!!!!”

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3501 is the number of pounds my Oldsmobile Regency weighs. While driving home (yes, I drive my car occasionally) I stopped at the recycling center on University Drive and celebrated the wide array of items that can be recycled in Fargo. Happily, I emptied the backseat of my car and jumped back in to the car ready to roll it on home and move on to dinner as I was as hungry as a Smilodon on a diet. A quick turn of the key and the car cranks but I decide to pull back on the ignition to stop the cranking due to weird finger position on ignition; the fatal flaw. The next turn of the ignition provides a New Year’s Eve display of colors on the dashboard but the car remains quiet as a church mouse. Hmmm. OK, that’s not what I said but for the purposes of a family friendly blog…… I try again and get New Year’s Eve colors without any sound. I just changed the starter this past summer though the starter is remanufactured; battery is new……….. grrrrrr……..
I try to push my 3501 from the recycling area so it is less likely to be towed. No such luck. I have managed to park it in a tiny pothole which makes the likelihood of developing a hernia pretty high. I ask a Sunmart staff person if I could leave my car by their store for a day while I try to sort out 3501’s issue. No deal, I am told politely.
I pack items I need and head north hungrier than a Mastodon on a diet and madder than a wet hen. My 3501 sits in front of the city recycling bins sure to be towed by morning. My plan is to eat so I don’t commit some sort of illegal act out of hunger and frustration then return to have the car towed four blocks for $55. Grrrrr……………………….
I begin my walk into the dark and am thankful that it is not February and that food awaits me only a few blocks away. I carry my daypack quietly and effortlessly feeling that if I didn’t own a car I would at least know that I could not be betrayed by it. One second, it’s running the next it’s not. Imagine if our bodies were like that. How ridiculous would that be?
Thank goodness for my body; which generally does not leave me stranded!

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Top O’ the Mornin’ to Ya!

The alarm clock goes off far too early but it is what it is so I join the reality of a new day.  I zip down to the shower and scrub the teeth (mighty fine teeth I say).  A quick dive into the closet yields pants (tan cords, a black checkered short sleeved shirt and black Swiftwick cycling socks (love those Swiftwick socks!).  I grab the preloaded North Face backpack and my day glow Pearl Izumi bicycling jacket.  Put sexy bicycle helmet on and I’m out the door!  Down the stairs and out to my steed where the air is cool (mid-30’s Fahrenheit).  A steel framed Diamond Back around-town bicycle awaits me.  I turn on my headlight and taillight and I’m off.  Follow the shared lane markings Luke; follow the shared lane markings……  Down 7th Street North and west on 8th Avenue North.  Eyes tearing up almost immediately.  Should have worn my amber cycling glasses…………….

A quick push down University (on University) and I am at Main Avenue in no time flat.  Before I know it I’m at the Route 15 bus stop next to Bethany.  Lo and behold there is another bicyclist waiting for the bus.  Will it be a duel for the two-bike front rack on the bus?  Will we both get what we want and so rightly deserve; a precious rack for our steel steeds? The 6:30am bus’s bike rack was full yesterday and I opted to lock my bike to a light post.  I should have done the math and waited for the next bus.  Fortunately, the Route 15 bus runs every 15 minutes most of the day.

It is 6:20 am, a day later, and fortunately math is on my side.  There are two more buses that I can take to get to the West Acres Mall before I have to make my dive into deep South Fargo.  My bicycling commuter frienemy waves down the bus and we are relieved to see that the bicycle rack is empty.  No need to duel for the bicycle rack.  I hate shootouts before 7am, just too early for such activity.  We step on to the bus in our reflective garb and helmets happy to have made our connection.

The bus driver calls out the West Acres stop in some language, English likely, but it doesn’t sound like it.  Maybe he swallowed the microphone again.  As I get off the bus, I let the driver know that I’m taking my bike off just in case he should get distracted for some reason.  Off comes the bike in two shakes of a pig’s tail and I put the bike rack in the up position.  The bus rolls on its way and I’m back on my steed riding toward deep South Fargo.  I head west along 17th Avenue South and south on 42nd Street South.  I take the shared use path on the west side of 42nd Street South and my effort is a comfortable one; the wind is calm.  The third and final stage of my commute is uneventful (this is always good) and in about twenty minutes I am sitting at my desk, cooling off from the effort of the last twenty minutes.  My day glow bicycling jacket breathes as much as a garbage bag thus I take it off immediately to begin the cooling process.

Feeling very awake and satisfied with the outcome of the commute I move into the day effortlessly and clock-in for 7am.

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Recycling By Bicycle

I have the good fortune of living near a City of Fargo recycling Center.  I enjoy loading up my Beast of Burden (B.O.B.) trailer with Rubbermaid containers filled with leaves, grass or recyclables and hauling them to the recycling center.

I stack the Rubbermaid containers three high and bungee them down to the B.O.B. trailer.  The load is always secure and the trip is short.  Generally trips of two miles or less are the most polluting trips made by automobile due to the need for the pollution control devices needing to warm up to perform at peak efficiency.  Many auto trips in the Fargo-Moorhead area are under two miles thus adding to the pollution that heads to Minnesota. The bonus of a little exercise is great and it is always nice to get out and about on my bicycle.

Recycling by bicycle is easy if you have a small backpack, panniers or a bicycle trailer.  Make sure your load is evenly distributed and secure and you are good to go.  Make sure you have lighting on the front and back of your bicycle if you end up recycling after sunset.  Drive your bicycle predictably and make sure you are wearing bright clothing and a helmet.





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Introduction to Active Transportation

Active transportation is a great way to increase one’s health and reduce one’s transportation expenses.  So much of our lives these days is spent in private automobiles all by ourselves.  There is much to be seen and experienced being out in the fresh air on a bicycle and walking or joining our neighbors on the Metro Area Transit bus system.  Active transportation comes with a time cost and for many this is a very real limiting factor.

It is my desire to share my life experiences of driving my bicycle around town, walking to complete errands and using a combination of walking or bicycling and transit to complete some daily tasks.  Notice, I said some; this is not New York City and I too as many others have time and energy constraints set upon me.

Please understand that the safety of any routes I may discover or create can change in a matter of hours from acceptable to unacceptable.  You must use your judgment as to whether you should walk, bike or use transit on any given day in any given moment.  I make no guarantees as to the safety of any route on any given day.  Check the weather, road conditions and the equipment you are using to complete a non-motorized or transit trip.  If in doubt, check with weather, transportation officials and clothing experts.  Non-motorized and transit use in inclement weather can become dangerous depending upon the circumstances and your ability to understand what dangers you face (e.g. windchill, lightning etc.).

Also, please understand that I may use a roadway instead of a shared use path to get to and from my destination.  I may use a shared use path instead of a roadway and in very limited circumstances I may use a sidewalk (a pedestrian facility not a bicycle facility) as part of a route.  It is up to you to decide which facilities or combination of facilities fits your level of experience, confidence and comfort.  Ultimately, the selection of facilities is your choice.  You are responsible for your actions.

With the following disclaimers being stated, please feel free to share my journey of discovering the simplicity, challenges and benefits of bicycling, walking and using transit to save money, increase your fitness and experience the Fargo-Moorhead Metropolitan Area in a more personal way.

Let’s roll.

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