Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Car-free Disney

After watching "Confessions of a Retired Disney Princess" I had the urge to visit Disneyland.  I love traveling, but hate the hassle of driving, parking, and sitting in gridlock.  So we visited Orange County car-free using bicycles and the Metrolink train.  We brought our dog on the long weekend vacation, using a Pet Gear 3-in-1 carrier.  We took the OC line to ARTIC, the multimodal transit hub in Anaheim.  It was less than 3 miles to our hotel, which was easy to travel by bicycle. We walked through Downtown Disney three times for free, and I was even able to take my dog through security with no problems.  I didn't see any Disney Princesses, but I did see the Monorail go by a few times (which, by the way, you can't board without a valid park pass).

The only downside of this trip was a disruption to Metrolink and Amtrak service due to a gas leak on Sunday when we were on our way home. Luckily, with the help of the LA County Bike Map and Google Maps directions, we biked our way through Anaheim and Cerritos along Ball Rd, which had intermittent bike lanes.  As we approached El Dorado Park, there was even a protected bike lane.  We got on the San Gabriel River Trail, which we love because it has lots of green parks with restrooms and free water.  At the Whitter Narrows we got on the Rio Hondo bike path to El Monte Metrolink Station.  Even though we got home pretty late, we still made it (35 miles of biking).  Although a gas leak is something we could not have predicted, it did force us to follow through on something we had been wanting to do for awhile, which is to find Metrolink train lines that intersect the Rio Hondo/San Gabriel River Trail.

We missed the Viva SGV! event and the Los Angeles River Ride, and I didn't see the fireworks over the Sleeping Beauty Castle, but we still had a great car-free weekend at Disneyland.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Best $1 Ever

Bike To Work Day 2016... I was flying down White Oak in the valley and this happened:

I got screwed! Earlier that morning, I was going through the checklist in my mind of everything I would need to change a flat to make sure I could change my tire if I had to.  I always do this when I'm biking to or from work.  I wondered if I was really prepared to fix a flat on that day.  I knew I had:

  • Pump
  • Tire irons
  • Patch kit
  • Spare tube

Yes, I thought, I had everything.  I just didn't think I would actually need it.  So there I was, hauling as fast as I could away from work, towards my house on Bike To Work Day, trying to make it to one commuter pit stop before it closed, and PSSsssst the tire went flat.

I had my GoPro running, and I considered filming myself changing the flat, but then I thought, "what if I can't do it and then all I end up filming is myself having a pity party right there on the curb."  So I turned off the camera and took out all my gear and got to work fixing the flat.

I love having a road bike with quick releases, it makes getting the tires on and off very fast and easy.  Removing the screw from my tire involved unscrewing it and inspecting the inside of the rim for damage.  I used the tire irons that I keep in my backpack at all times.  They cost $1.  They're lightweight plastic.
So I got the tire and tube off the rim.  I removed the flat tube and placed a $1 bill over the hole in the tire.  The image below uses the wrapper from an energy gu or bar, which also cost about $1, but I was taught by Riverside Bicycle Club to use cash so that when you get to the bike shop, the mechanic gets a nice tip!

Photo from bikehacks.com

When I reached for my pump, I took one look at it and realized (S#@$) I had brought a mountain bike pump instead of a road bike pump.  I have at least 3 small pumps and some of them are configured for Presta and some for Schrader.  But luckily, just this month we had purchased several adapters for a cost of, you guessed it, only $1.

After opening the Presta valve and fitting it with the adapter, I placed the tube inside the tire and gently inflated it.  This gives the proper shape to the tire and makes the fit snug between the tire and tube.  I shimmied my gloved hands along the tire with the tube inside it to make sure that the tube was seated comfortably in there.

I replaced the tire onto the wheel, again it helps to be wearing gloves, firmly gripping the tire and stretching it back into place.  I did use the tire levers a little bit here, too.  Then I put the wheel in my lap and started pumping to reinflate the tire to specificication (110 psi).  The pump I have has a gauge on it.
Mini Dual G

Try as I might, I could only get just past 60 psi but I figured hey, I'll just ride slow and get to a bike shop.  But I ended up riding all the way home.  So I guess the take-home message is that you MUST travel with these items at all times.  This flat was not patchable I would say, so I'm grateful I had a spare tube.  And the $1 adapter saved my a$$.

From our commuter workshops we learned that most cyclists fear biking to work because they aren't sure how to address changing a flat tire.  I did the job in about 15 minutes with very little drama and with no help whatsoever from passersby.  If I can do it, so can you!

Profound thought from the ride home: If I ride fast, it'll hurt less when I get hit by a car from behind. That's physics people!  But why was I having such a morbid thought?  Hey drivers: give me 3 feet.  And slow down please.  I got a flat while riding in a bike lane.  If I had swerved to avoid the hazard (screw, glass, etc) and not swerved towards the door zone, there would have been nowhere to go since cars were whizzing by me at 50 mph in an area with a 35 mph posted speed limit.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Tiny House Realness

I was thinking about my tiny house today.  I was thinking about hiring some help for some spring cleaning.  Even though it's small, I really hate cleaning house.  The good thing is that there's hardly any carpet to vacuum.  The bad thing is that there's hardly any way to "put things away" in order to clean since there's hardly any space to hide things.

I found this website http://planner.roomsketcher.com/ that I used to make a mock-up of our house. The first house I drew looked lovely with all our furniture in it.  Then I calculated the area of my drawing and found it was 680 sq ft.

680 sq ft = too big
So then I started moving things around and trying to reduce the size of the floor plan.  I got it down to 500 sq ft.  I also added a few other key pieces of furniture that were missing in the first drawing.

500 sq ft = still too big
But our house is actually listed at 372 sq ft so I had to keep moving everything closer together to more accurately reflect the actual size of the home.

380 sq ft = closer to the true size
Now this is more of a true picture of what I'm living in with my husband and dog, Edna Jo.  When I watch the "tiny house" reality TV shows, I laugh at the people who are trying to consolidate their lives from 4000 sq ft into a tiny house.  They really have no idea what's coming.

I was considering taking you on an actual tour of our house, but as I said in the first paragraph, it's really messy right now.  Looking at the renderings from the roomsketcher is encouraging though because it shows me how it COULD look if it were really clean.

view of bedroom from bathroom
 One key piece of furniture that I loved when I first got it is the vanity (desk) pictured in the foreground above.  It was funny because it looked small in the box but when we tried to fit it in our tiny (Smart ForTwo) car, it was too wide.  There's a bench seat (with storage) that doubles as a stepstool.  The vanity itself has two drawers for my hair doodads and cosmetics.  It has a big three-fold mirror that I use to get ready for work.

view of bathroom looking inward
Removed from the drawing so that you can see inside is a really large shelving unit that we hang our bathrobes and stock linens and towels.  Under the sink is where I store the chemicals like Simple Green, Bleach, Drano, and PineSol.  We also keep laundry detergent, a travel-sized iron and small ironing board on that shelf.  There are dirty laundry baskets on the floor under that shelf, too.

view of bedroom from doorway
 The green shelves in this picture are pull-out canvas drawers (baskets) that we store our socks, t-shirts, shorts, underwear, and things that we wear every day.  We have a washer and dryer outside (through the French doors) on our back patio.  There's a clothesline out there, a bbq grill, and a bikestand.  There also a small table and chairs, which we hardly ever use, but they're there.  And a doghouse.

view of bedroom from vanity
Our actual closet is pretty tiny.  We have some bins in there for workout clothes and non-wrinkling dress clothes that don't fit on the hangers.  Mostly we hang our dress shirts that we wear to work and our cycling kits so that when we want to go for a bike ride, everything's grab-and-go.  I also have a bin for sweaters and another bin for pants.  Our nightstands are filing cabinets, which I put my scarves and swimsuits in.

galley kitchen
The kitchen counters have a knife-block, a coffee maker, and a microwave.  Above the oven, there's a spice rack.  On top of the fridge are two baskets for cereal and cereal bars.  In the cabinets below the countertop are pots & pans, and other special dishes we don't use often.  In the cabinets above the countertop are the everyday dishes.  The drawers below the countertop have all the utensils and ziploc bags.  We have our toaster oven just outside the kitchen on top of an old wine rack that you can see behind the blue chair pictured below.

reading area
 This is where we spend most of our time when we're home.  It's a great spot to put our feet up and read something.  The filing cabinet between the chairs is where we keep office supplies and reading material.  We also put our drinks there when we're sitting down.  We eat our meals in these chairs since the table (shown below) is always crowded with stuff.

table and desk from reading area
This is the other area I spend my time at home.  Not at the table unless I really need the space for some project.  I mean where I am now: at the computer.  We have a great printer and scanner, and a very large monitor that we use for a TV.  We can see it when we're in the big blue chairs.  We have a filing cabinet for storing papers and documents.  Under the table is where we have all of our tools and bike stuff.

looking inward from front door
If this was really our house, every surface and every wall would be covered with items: bicycles, tennis raquets, shoes, clothes, towels, backpacks, etc.  But I'm definitely inspired to reconfigure some of our existing shelves to accommodate books.  I'm not totally sure we could eliminate items, or "put them away" but perhaps reassigning some areas from one priority to another would reduce the clutter.

I promise if I ever get the house as clean as the renderings above, I will do a vlog about it.  We've lived in this house since June of 2011.

curb appeal
 One thing I loved instantly about the house was its stoop.  It's covered with plants now, but the cuteness of the whole facade really drew me in.

view of bathroom looking inward

 The bathroom from the rendering looks pretty much like this photo I took on the day we signed our lease agreement.

view of bedroom from bathroom
The view of our bedroom from bathroom looks similar to the rendering also.  I took these curtains down and replaced them with some noise-and-heat canceling curtains I bought when we lived in La Jolla.  They're darker (not as light and airy) but they do help keep the bedroom cool in the summer and quiet year round.

view of bedroom from vanity
The actual closet is smaller than the rendering (as you can see above) so that's why we have such issues with storing all our clothes in there at one time.  Our solution was to rent a 5' by 10' storage unit at Public Storage, right down the road.  We have lots of books in there, but also we moved all the non-essential clothing to that space, and we have a clothes rack on wheels that is a secondary closet. When winter is over, all heavy coats and clothing move down there.  When summer is over, all shorts and tank tops go there.

bicycle alley

The other charming thing about this house is that we can store our bicycles along the side of the house.  They're ready to go out a gate that leads to the front so we can just roll them out as needed.

BBQing veggie-style

We used to grill outside often, but not so much lately.  It's good because we have a propane refilling station nearby.  This was shortly after we moved in and before we got the storage unit.  All the stuff that didn't fit in our house was outside under a big tarp, which was hooked to the roof.

Using the bikes to dry my clothes
We also got some trainers for our bikes.  When we first moved to this area, I didn't know where to go bicycling and I thought the traffic was too scary to bike on the streets.  But I'm over it now and hardly ever (read: Never) use the trainers.

washer and dryer from craigslist (used)
 I do, however, use the washer and dryer all the time.  In fact, I should be doing laundry now instead of writing about doing it.  The w/d combo have gotten a bit more rusty than you see in this picture, and we had the switch on the washing machine replaced, but other than that, it's been great not having to haul everything to a laundromat.

bicycle-repair stand
We definitely do use the bike stand for simple repairs like adjusting brakes and derailleurs.  I also use it to take wheels on and off to repair flat tires.  Also, for cleaning the bikes.

now that's home
I'll close with this: I never thought I'd be living in this tiny house for 5 years.  Max, I thought, 2 years until we find a bigger, better place to live.  But the rent is relatively inexpensive for our area and the utilities are included.  We would definitely have less money to spend on fun things (or to put into savings) if we rented a larger house (or a condo or an apartment).  I KNOW for sure that we do more outdoor activities living in this house.  If it's a choice between staying in this cramped house and going out to ride bikes, I will definitely choose bike riding (or hiking, walking, camping, etc.).

If you know the joys of living in a tiny house, or you're considering it, drop a comment and let me know if this blog was helpful or at least entertaining.  And if you're bored, and you want to help me clean this place up, come on over.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

I spy

This is a photo from our first meetup event, "Bike Ride to Starbucks," which was an utterly simple event.  We all met at the train station and rode down San Fernando Rd and Los Feliz to the Starbucks in Atwater Village.  Then we rode back to the train station.  In total the ride was 2.5 miles.

I absolutely love this photo because it shows the people who were there, by showing all of our bikes.  The other day I had a meeting with friends at Panera Bread.  I was nervous to sit in one of the back tables because I thought my friends wouldn't be able to find me.  But one of them said,

"I knew you were here.  I saw your bike."  

Even though that meeting was over a month ago, when I think of that it makes my heart smile.  I love seeing bike racks along busy streets here in Glendale and throughout places where people want to go.

Friday, April 1, 2016

It's all happening at once!

So many great things are happening, it seems impossible to keep up.

Walk Bike Glendale is planning a series of events:

Verdugo Mtn 10k Training Hike https://www.facebook.com/events/870265023086202/

Women's Beginner Rides https://www.facebook.com/events/254030184935096/

Family Ride https://www.facebook.com/events/1077360075660632/

Commuter Workshops https://docs.google.com/document/d/1GaD-3cPUxq8As_Tu0oVfmz_UsRulLT7jp3R-HQ0JDi0/edit?usp=sharing

Commuter Workshop Class #1 = Tuesday, May 10 from 7-9pm

Commuter Workshop Class #2 = Thursday, May 12 from 7-9pm

Commuter Workshop Ride #1 = Sunday, May 15 at 7:30am

Commuter Workshop Ride #2 = Saturday, May 21 at 10:00am

Sunday, February 21, 2016

I wish

When I was in my early teens, I was lucky enough to be surrounded by college-age girls.  But when I was in my twenties, I needed advice from a thirty-something.  Here are some thoughts that have been knocking around...

things I wish someone would have told me:

1) Your career will not take off right away.

This is a big one, and a bitter pill to swallow.  I had a thought in my 20s that if I worked SUPER hard to distinguish myself from everyone else, then I would land an amazing job right away.  That didn't happen.  Or maybe it did, but I didn't realize that I was right where I needed to be and there was nowhere else I was supposed to be going.

2) You do not have to hurry so much.

I did enjoy my 20s but I was in such a hurry to "get everything done" that I made myself miserable.  I wish someone would have told me to slow down sooner.  I wish I could have helped myself sleep better at night, with more patience and self-compassion.  I had a frantic state of mind because I thought I wouldn't live past 34 and I wanted to check off every item on my bucket list.

3) You will eventually turn 35 and things can be simpler.

In my 20s, like many other young people, I drank a lot of soda.  Now young people have "energy drinks" in more varieties than there are fresh fruits in a grocery store.  I complicated my life with a lot of worrying.  I thought there was something wrong with me, but I didn't know what it was.  I was so amped up but didn't know that I could have lived at a more reasonable pace with less drama.

4) You are the love of your life.

I thought about having a family in my 20s.  I have heard women do this: considering a family while planning their career path.  They end up making choices that will accommodate an imaginary husband and child before those things even enter their life.  I wish I would have been happier and less concerned that those things would come to fruition immediately.

5) Paying back student loans sucks.

I really didn't have a care for how much I was taking out in loans.  I wish I would have lived more simply earlier in life and saved more money.  We recently went to our first model home tour and had a heart-to-heart about what amount of cash we should have saved for a down-payment on a house.  I know, real estate in California is astronomically expensive, but I wish I had started saving earlier.

Season 8 starts March 7th
I know there are more ideas, but these are a few I will leave you with for today.  Like RuPaul says "If you can't love yourself, how in the hell are you going to love somebody else, can I get an Amen?"

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Griffith Park Traffic Plan Presentation

The presentation hinged on four points:

1) public safety
2) shuttle
3) Hollywood sign
4) media campaign

The intersection of Vermont and Western Canyon was heavily impacted during Spring Break.  They propose one-way traffic on Vermont and two-way traffic on Western.  A shuttle would stop at Traveltown, the LA Zoo, connecting to the Metro Red Line at the Sunset & Vermont station.

There will be free parking at the Greek Theater and Section 9.  East & West Observatory Road will have angled parking (metered).  The goal is to redirect tourists who wish to view the Hollywood sign from the neighborhoods to the park.

The shuttle route would be from the Greek Theater to the Obsevatory.  Another shuttle would run from the Greek Theater to a Hollywood sign viewpoint.  A third shuttle would run through the tunnel and back.  Shuttle service would run every 15-20 minutes.

Vehicle traffic invading Vermont and Ferndale would be alleviated.  Hollywood & Western may be designated as the official Hollywood sign viewing point from the Metro system.  There will be shuttle stops outside the park.

Q & A session:

Q. Will Western Canyon eventually become a one-way street?
A. Eventually, but not in phase 1.  Phase 1 will roll out in Fall 2016.

Q. Can you give us more details about the shuttles?
A. They will hold 21 passengers.  There will be 4-5 shuttles total.

Q. What about the sharrows along Obsevatory Road?  Sharrows do not work to improve public safety.  Impatient motorists passing cyclists can cause problems.
SEE: http://bikinginla.com/2013/07/24/embarrassing-video-shows-sheriffs-deputy-doesnt-know-what-a-sharrow-means/

Q. What about the environmental impact of the shuttles?
A. The mitigated negative declaration tells how much emissions the shuttles will generate annually.  The document is available on LAparks.org.

Q. How does the neighborhood traffic exit Commonwealth Canyon Drive?  Residents cannot get to their houses, nor can emergency vehicles access those residents.

Q. Why can't Griffith Park be closed to all cars like Central Park in NYC?
A. We are reaching saturation of cars within the park, so this may be a long-term solution.

Q. Has a bike lane been introduced to the one-way plan?

Q. Can revenue generated by parking fees be used to repave Mt. Hollywood Dr. and keep it closed for pedestrians and cyclists?

Parting thoughts:

The shuttle in Zion National Park is a buzzkill for pedestrians and cyclists.  The selfie culture is dominating wilderness access.

Griffith Park is my Backyard, Too (Mapped on 12/21/2015)

After thoughts:

During public comment, I spoke about how I was among the dreaded Spring Breakers, although it was 15 years ago.  At that time, websites were sparse.  Back then, I found information about the Youth Hostels we stayed at on a webpage, but most of our information was found in travel books and magazines.

As a tourist, I would not have had the sophistocation to take public transportation back in 2001.  Coming from Nebraska, I had no idea how to navigate the Metro light rail system.  I have lived in California for more than 10 years now, and I am just now figuring it out.

This is a scan of the actual scrapbook.
In order to take our photos in front of the Hollywood sign, we drove around the area until we found some neighborhood to park in and hike up a bit.  Some nice locals even took our picture.  I want to say that our "tourist dollars" poured into California, but the truth was that we didn't actually go inside Legoland or Disneyland.  We did a lot of walking in areas that were free.

What I didn't realize at the time is that I was already imagining what it would be like to live in Southern California.  I love the sunshine and recreational opportunities that come with it.  Speaking with a former running buddy, I describe how the streets of Glendale are a dangerous place to go running, but Griffith Park is considered a safe space.  Also, the climbing offered by Griffith Park, in particular Mt. Hollywood Dr. (currently not open to cars), is a great way to train for other longer rides that involve hills.  If I only ride out to CSUN and back, it's too flat to prepare for hills.  

Having a safe space to climb on a bike is EXTREMELY important to those who train for the long multi-day rides such as Aids/Lifecycle, the Climate Ride, and Ride2Recovery California Challenge.

With all the negativity (on the part of cyclists) about sharrows, I did a bit of reading.  It turns out that sharrows are meant to show cyclists the safest place to ride.  I had been confused when there are sharrows in the middle of the lane, I ride in the middle of the lane.  I thought there were no sharrows in Glendale painted to the right of the lane, but here's one example.

Watch this video here.
When a sharrow is painted in the center of the lane, it means that riding to the right side of the lane is not safe, due to parked cars (creating a door zone) for example.

If you really want to read the entire report regarding "Griffith Park Action Plan" as it is called, see here:

If I, as a cyclist, had to do 2 hours worth of research and reading to really understand a "sharrow" it's unlikely that people will use them as intended.

SF to Salinas Century (May 2015)
The other thing, that I think is related to these issues, is a discussion of requiring cyclists to have safety flags and wear a certain amount of square inches of fluorescent fabric.
I have no problem wearing fluorescent colors and reflectors and I have a flag for my bicycle that I use when I'm volunteering as a ride marshal or when I ride recreationally along the Pacific Coast Highway.  I wonder if the Park Action Planners realize that opening Mt. Hollywood Dr. to cars will force cyclists like me to start worrying about my safety.  I already worry enough as it is, can't we just have one car-free space to train?  

When I ride among cars, I will wear a safety vest and if on a particularly busy highway, I will fly my flag.  I don't want to have to do all that to ride in my "backyard," aka Griffith Park.

I understand that a helmet is expensive. The safety vest I wear was $15.  I think we paid $12-15 for our flag at a bike shop, but you can buy a 6' flag online for $7. Some helmets cost $60-120 and some are as cheap as $7 (see Burbank Bike Angels).  I have heard that a mandatory helmet law for cyclists is not supported by bicycle advocates due to the cost burden for low-income individuals that rely on a bicycle as their primary means of transportation.  What about the requirements for reflectors ($8)?  Are they not cost-prohibitive?   The lights I use are in a state of constant flux, but $26 was just for a USB-rechargable taillight.  A set of front and rear lights was $39 (in 2013).  Half of our fleet of bicycles is missing the pedal reflectors ($5).  So just to meet the current laws would cost just over $50.  Adding requirements for a helmet, vest, and flag would bloat the cost for the casual cyclist, commuter, or competitive athlete.

The bottom line for me, that I didn't get to articulate in my 1 minute public comment, is that Griffith Park should NOT be open to shuttles or car traffic. #keepgriffithwild