Two portions of seafood and vegetable fried rice. I made this for staff lunch today and it was so good I brought a few leftovers home for dinner. To see the basic recipe being made click here (I also added curry spices to this recipe).
OK, first a couple things. The title of this post is a bit incorrect…it should read how I ride a bike, but I didn’t want it to sound too self-centric (but isn’t that what everyone’s blogs are about…themselves). And the photo above is not recent; it is one I took last spring when I had to move my bikes from my living room for spring cleaning (yes I keep my bikes off to the side in the main living space of my house…don’t you). But they are still the same bikes I ride; from back-to-front…the Yuba Mundo (a cargo bike and still my favorite everyday bike), my winter bike (an old Trek which I bought at a flea market and fixed up and outfitted with fenders and racks), and a Dahon folder (which I use for quick zips around town and bring on day trips to Toronto).
I guess that the main reason for this post is the current topic of gas prices. In my neck of the woods it has hit about $4/gal and is expected to go higher and there are many areas of the country where it is already higher. And yes, to my European friends reading this, I am aware that it is twice that already (so why do we Americans whine about it…because we are spoiled). Anyhow, why you may ask, am I writing about the price of gas on a simple-living/pro-bicycle blog…well the answer is obvious isn’t it. One of the solutions, I really believe, is to hop on a bike (just one of the solutions). I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that I don’t mind the price of gas going up, but also that it didn’t effect me (a little). For the first time ever this past week I filled up the tank in my truck (or nearly filled it up). I’ve owned this particular vehicle for nearly 4 years and have never filled it from empty to full…well you can imaging how surprised I was when I stopped filling at $65 (US) and there was still room for more. The reason I put gas in it was that I am planning a couple-hundred-mile trip next week…otherwise a tank full of gas like this would last me at least a month, likely longer.
Anyhow, I’m assuming that if you are a regular visitor to this blog you already support green/human-powered propulsion…but if not, this post is for you. Here’s how to ride a bike (or at least how I do it)…a few suggestions.
Firstly–and this may sound obvious but it’s not necessarily the case–get a bike that fits you well and is comfortable to ride in ordinary clothing…get a bike that is fun to ride and one you enjoy riding. When I see people riding hunched over or with seats that are way too low it makes me cringe, and racing bikes that require spandex clothing are fine for the weekend warrior but to ride every day and in all conditions a bike where you sit up straight–and with fenders and racks to carry your stuff–is not only more comfortable but also way more fun (just my humble opinion).
Next–and this may be the most difficult part–change your mindset. Don’t think of riding a bike as just a weekend adventure–or even worse, a chore–think of it as a viable means of transportation, especially if you live in a city or town. This is actually what inspired me to start this blog more than four years ago…to ride a bike (rather than use a car) anywhere within a two mile radius of my house (click here for my original post). Do I keep this commitment religiously? Mostly, but not always. I use my truck about once a week, less in the summer months.
Living in a condensed area really is key to riding a bike as everyday transportation, I think (this would be much more difficult in a rural or suburban setting). I am fortunate to live in a closely populated neighborhood that has a score of 98 (out of 100) from Walkscore.com…meaning there are plenty basic–and not-so-basic–needs and necessities within walking/biking distance.
I of course could go on and on here, but I won’t (ok, maybe I’ll go on a bit longer)…the previous was the lecturing part, now here is where I get preachy.
Riding a bike to save gas money is just one of the many reasons an adult should ride a bike…for me it’s more of a bi-product. The real reason I ride, and I’ve posted this too many times to count (click here to read one), is that I enjoy it on so many levels. It makes me feel free. When I pedal and coast through traffic and see people trapped in their metal boxes (which they work so hard to make payments on) I sometimes feel sorry for them…that I wish they knew the joy of what it feels like to be on a bike (again) and out in the elements (and by that I mean all elements).
Today, for example, it was really something to be on a bike. It was not that cold (32F/0C) but it was very windy…crazy windy, wind gusts up to 70mph/112kph. I’d be lying again if I said it wasn’t difficult…but it certainly was exhilarating. At one point, when the wind was to my back, I was coasting and must have been doing more than 20mph/32kph. I was on a side street and weaved back and forth while I looked up to the sky and watched the tree tops sway in the wind.
Keep in mind that I am not a 20-something fixie kid…I turned 50 this past fall and still love to use a bike as my main transport. This may not be that uncommon to the Europeans reading this, but stateside it is a rarity…I know of only a few people my age in this city that choose to ride a bike when they can drive a car. This is not meant to be a braggart’s statement, I’m simply stating a fact.
Here’s an example of my day. I had a meeting at my church in the early after noon (2 miles each way), then after a quick lunch went to the health club for a steam-and-swim (1.5 miles). Then I rode and did some errands, shopping, stopped at a coffee shop, and for a couple beers (maybe 6 miles total). All the while I burned some calories, cleared my head, pedaled into and coasted with the wind, got the best parking spaces, and snickered as I passed petrol stations.
I really believe that if more adults would get on bikes they would remember how much fun they are to ride. Simple as that. Saving gas money is just a minor part in the bigger picture (for me).
I’ll get off my little soapbox now.
I’ve posted the below video a few other times but I never tire of it. I came across it randomly a couple years ago. And in the event you’ve yet to see it I encourage you to take the 60 seconds to watch it. It could be me narrating it, but it’s not.
Front Rack: A canvas bag containing, two books, an iPhone, a camera, and two sets of allen wrenches.
To see how to make an Ezekiel Bread Recipe version of this, click here.
Top to bottom…a railing I had my bike locked to, the top bar of my Mundo, and a railing on my porch. Click any photo for a larger view.
Dusk and dawn are my two favorite parts of the day; the first signs of the beginning of a new day or the end of the current one…and the light is incredible. The above photo (Big Sky) I took last evening. As I rounded the corner on my bike the scene before me–or more accurately, above me–quite literally stopped me in my tracks. The series of four photos below (Birds in a Tree at Night) I took this evening as I left the health club. I was riding my Mundo so I could use the rear of it as a platform to stand my mini tripod on to steady the camera and experiment with different exposures. And the bottom photo (Greek Church) I took on my way to the health club while there was still some light in the sky. It’s a church which I pass and often admire but tonight as I passed the light was just right so I had to capture it the best I could. It’s slightly askew because the bike tilted a bit just before the shutter snapped. As usual, click any for a larger view.
On the bike: A new 6 qt. KitchenAid stand mixer.
First Comment: As some of you may know, I had a mixer fail on me recently (click here) and have had a very dissatisfying experience attempting to have it repaired at Sears (click here). To make a long story short, I have the old mixer back, not repaired. It is, if you are interested, for sale…cheap (if you have the inclination to repair it yourself). And I am still too frustrated at this point to mention the reasons I am selling it, rather than having it repaired. I did end up purchasing a new one, mainly because I found one at nearly half-price simply because the color is being discontinued…which, interestingly, is the same color of my former mixer: silver. I must not be that trendy.
Second comment: When I ordered the mixer I had it delivered to my place of employment because I am there during business/delivery hours…I didn’t want to miss it. It arrived today, and before I left I rode my bike around the city block to the front of the building where it was delivered (the hired help–even the chef–enters the rear of the building, which is fine with me). Anyhow, upon seeing me with my bike the general manager and the office manager both offered to drive me home with the package. No thanks, I told them, this bike is built to carry stuff…and you know me by now, this is how I like to do it. Almost without listening, the manager said that she would call the maintenance man and have him drive me home…that he has a pickup truck. Really, I told them, and thank you very much, but this bike can handle it, and I reminded them that I too owned a pickup truck, but I choose to ride and carry things on my bike(s) when I can. Finally they let me go, but they still looked a little worried. As I was strapping the box down a guy walked past me on the sidewalk (pavements), smiled and said, Geez, that’s quite a bike you have there. Yes it is, I replied, and pedaled and coasted home nearly effortlessly on this beautiful and unseasonably warm spring-like evening.
Well, after the recent spate of frigid and snowy weather I finally worked–a bit–on my winter bike…the Mundo, I’ve concluded is not meant for riding in extreme snowy and icy conditions. I hadn’t ridden this bike in likely 8 months and have to admit I don’t take the best care of it…it is, after all, my winter beater bike. But still I want it to ride well (and it does handle very well in the snow). Anyhow, the last time I rode this it was likely covered in snow and I brought it in an parked..no wiping down or cleaning. To make a long story short it was in rough shape when I approached it today…the chain was literally rusted to the flywheel, I had to pull it off with some effort. After much oiling and manipulation (and quite a bit of mess…the only place I have available to work on my bikes is in my house) I was able to get the bike in working order, but it still needs additional attention. One new thing I’m trying this season is the rear basket…I mounted a soda crate to the rear carrier (semi-permanently with 4 bolts) and use a bungee net to keep things in place; a person can get really spoiled with the carrying capacity of a Mundo. Anyhow, I took it for a ride today to run a few errands and it felt good. It felt good to be on such a “short bike” in the snow.
Technically, the moon was full two nights ago but I took these last night when it was waning (it still looked pretty full to me). I have always been drawn to a full moon…not sure why, it just fascinates me looming so large in the sky. Anyhow, last night I was out on the Mundo and snapped a few photos. The one above is taken at the far end of Allen Street here in Buffalo, the main thoroughfare through my favorite neighborhood and also the one in which I live. The below photo was taken just a block north on Wadsworth Street, overlooking houses there. And it’s interesting, I think, what some people must think of me when they see me hunched next to my bike with a camera and mini-tripod perched on it. At one point, when I was taking the below picture a woman was coming down the street and saw me next to the bike and began to cross the street…she looked a little scared. I actually told her, as she approached, not to worry I’m just taking a few photos (then I wondered if that made her fear me even more). Anyhow, I enjoy taking pictures in different levels of light…dawn, dusk, and night are my favorites. And as I was taking these I was thinking about winter–or more specifically, the lack of it this year–how we can’t count on snow in the winter these days, but we can still count on the sun and moon rising and falling each day and night. Click either for a larger view.
I came across these bikes on east 10th Street last evening while looking for the former residence of Kahlil Gibran (more on that in a later post). For those of you reading this that happen to live in a large metropolis (or a small one that is “bicycle progressive”) seeing bikes like this parked curbside may be no big deal, but to me this is exciting. I believe, for example, I am the only rider in the Western New York area with a Mundo or other form of cargo bike (that I know of); there are a few Xtra-cycles but no other cargo bikes that I am aware of (for the Buffalonians reading this, if I am incorrect please let me know). Anyhow, two days ago I saw a guy ride by (in Mid-Town) on a LongJohn…and I couldn’t help but wonder where he stored it at night. Well this picture above is a good example. I wonder if they store them there when it snows. I’m not sure if they are Dutch or Gemren bikes but they certainly look sturdy. There is hope (for bicycles in the US), I thought to myself when I saw these.
A new but inexpensive ceiling light for the kitchen, 4 lbs. of dog food, and $67.22 in groceries, sundries, and cold medications (yes, I have a slight cold for the new year) from 4 separate stores in three plastic soda crates.
This morning when I woke I was somewhat surprised to see there were a couple inches of snow on the ground. It really changes my short commute to work…how I ride a bike. Interestingly, for as big and heavy as the Mundo is, it is not my favorite bike to ride in the snow. In this this light snow it isn’t difficult, but in the really deep and heavy stuff it can be tough to maneuver. That said, this area of the world has had it really easy this winter, by this time of the year we’ve usually had at least a couple lake effect snows. I’m not complaining, just an observation…but I have to admit I have been liking the cold air…it feels refreshing to me; bracing (and you don’t sweat while riding). To give you an example, take a look at this photo I took exactly two years ago today…the bike was parked in nearly the same spot as the one pictured above is. Anyhow, I worked another split shift today, and on my return to work in the evening I chose to walk rather than pedal. And on the way I was taken by what a beautiful winter sky was overhead…it looked so big to me as clouds rushed past. Here’s a photo.
Things on the bike…4lbs/1.8kgs of green and yellow split peas.
My minor confession…for the past three days, even though the streets have been snow-free, other than a few small jaunts I have relied mostly on my truck for transport. This is mostly–but not entirely–because of family gatherings outside the city. I also have not had much physical/aerobic exercise in the past few days (and have eaten a lot); I really cannot imagine living a lifestyle like this all the time…riding a bike and getting exercise, for me, is more than just about the physical aspect, it–or lack of it–effects my emotional state as well. I’ll be back on track tomorrow.
The brief story…as I was loading the split peas on the bike today it reminded me of an incident that occurred just about 20 years ago. I was riding a Raleigh at the time (click here to see it) and was carrying a loose bag of red lentils on the rear rack. At that time in my life, unlike today, I was addicted to speed; no I am not talking about the chemical drug, I am talking about going really fast on a bike. I was flying down Niagara Street on my way to work. I don’t know how fast I was going, but likely it was pretty fast. That bike is fast and I would also lean way over the handlebars to be more aerodynamic. Anyway, as I was speeding down Niagara Street a slow moving van decides to make a right turn directly in front of me, forcing me to slam on the brakes…thankfully I had just started wearing a helmet around this time. What happened next was like a slow motion action film, and though it happened 20 years ago I recall it vividly. The rear wheel came off the ground as I slammed on both the front and rear brake. Stupidly, I turned to grab the bag of red lentils (yes, my life was in danger but I was still concerned about spilling the lentils), and as I turned the front tire turned as well…bringing the bike–but not me–to an immediate stop, sort of vaulting me up and over the handlebars. I hit the pavement on my side, knocking the wind out of me (if you’ve ever had this happen you know how painful and uncomfortable that is). Now here’s the interesting part. This happened on a street corner, and I landed in front of a small group of people waiting for a metro bus. And as I lay there clutching my side and gasping for air guess who the first person to ask me if I was OK….it was a young girl, maybe 10 years old. Others did come to my rescue; maybe they were initially in shock of this guy falling directly in front of them. The van never stopped (likely didn’t even know what they did)…but I saved the lentils. And this is what I was thinking about as I loaded the split peas on the Mundo today (I pedal much slower and sit upright today).
The recipe…this recipe is actually the outcome of two holiday dinners; Thanksgiving and Christmas. The day after Thanksgiving I made this broth utilizing the leftover carcass and then froze most of it. And two days ago, after having ham at our Christmas dinner, I diluted some of the broth with water and re-simmered it with the ham bone for flavor…delicious. Split pea soup recipes are pretty standard but what’s different about this one is how I seasoned it…with a bit of chilies, curry, cumin, fennel, and tandoori spice. The recipe I made today is below.
Simmer a ham bone, which still contains a bit of meat on, it in broth or water for an hour or so. Remove the bone and strain the broth; remove any meat from the bone; dice or shred the meat and discard the bone. Heat vegetable oil over medium-high heat in a heavy soup pot, then add a diced onion and carrot (and a stalk of celery if you have it). Cook the vegetables until they begin to brown, then add a couple cloves of minced garlic. Cook it another couple minutes and add whatever seasonings you like (I used chilies, curry, cumin, fennel, and tandoori spice), cook them in the oil for a minute then add split peas, stirring them in the oil and spices. Then add the broth (6-8 cups for every pound of split peas). Bring the liquid to a boil then lower it to a slow simmer. Season it with salt and pepper. Cook the soup slowly for about and hour, or until the peas are thoroughly soft and mashed. Stir the soup often to alleviate scorching. If the soup become too thick, add more broth or water. I like to make mine thick enough that–if I want–I can serve it over steamed rice for a more complete meal. This soup is even more delicious the second day, and leftovers–if there are any–freezes well. If you’d like to see a recipe for 3-bean soup using the same broth, click here.
A gym bag containing wet clothes, a quart of milk, a dozen eggs, a rug (measuring 60in/152cm by 84in/213cm), and a new laundry bid which also contains 1/2 gallon of bleach, 4 lbs of dog food, two rolls of tape, and a pair of reading glasses.
Eight cardboard boxes (I feel like I should have done a Twelve Things That Can be Carried on a Bike Before Christmas series…maybe next year).
Three liters of red wine.
I just thought I’d pass a long a bit of info on a new update to this page (shameless self-promotion is no easy task for me). I’ve recently added a mail widget to this blog…if you enter your email address you will receive an any new posts from via email. And just to let you know, I personally do not receive your email address; you will stay anonymous (at least to me). For those of you reading this at my main blog–UrbanSimplicity.com–the mail widget is on the left hand side of the page, below the categories and just below the members area. If you are reading this from my mirror blog–UrbanSimplicty.wordpress.com–the widget is on the right hand side at the bottom of the info bar. Lastly, whether you are a repeat reader or just stumbled up this site via clicks or searches, thanks as always for reading, commenting, and following. Peace. Joe.
Sometimes I forget. Often actually. And it’s easy to do because I’m on it everyday. What I’m talking about is my bike, or at east one of them. Specifically I am talking about the Mundo and how long it is (or at least how different it is from most other bikes); that it is a longtail and is just over 7ft or 2.1m. Mostly I think I forget about it because it rides so smoothly…like a “normal bike.” I know that at least some of the readers of this blog ride longtails, box bikes, or other forms of cargo bikes, but in the city in which I live they are not very common. I get comments quite frequently and notice people looking as I ride by, but tonight the exclamation I received from two gents reminded me of this. I was on my way home and stopped at an intersection to snap a few photos. I hopped off the bike but left the head and tail lights on. I saw two guys coming down the sidewalk (pavements) looking at me and talking somewhat loudly and exaggerated. There’s a fair amount of bars/cafes on that particular street so I didn’t think much of it (thought they were just out having a good time). As they got closer I could see that they were definitely looking at me and talking about me. They were speaking Spanish, and I do not, so I couldn’t understand what they were saying (but I did make out the words bicicleta grande, which I know means “big bike”). I stood there taking photos and acting like I didn’t notice as they approached. Then, in English, one says, “What is that?” while looking at the bike. To make a long story short, they were very taken by the bike, inspected it thoroughly, and wanted a list of all the things I’ve carried on it (I told them to check this page). Anyhow, it made me remember how interesting and unique these bikes are, and it also made me proud to be riding one….and I just had to pass this little story on.
I just snapped this photo from my front porch a few minutes ago. Beautiful, isn’t it? But I’m still shaking a little…my nerves are frazzled. Not because of the photo or beautiful sky of course, but because of what happened a little while ago.
I was on my way home from the local pizzeria with a full-sized spinach pie on the front rack of the Mundo; my son had just phoned and said he would be home soon. It was perfect timing. Well, almost.
I was almost home; I was on my street. My street has a slight incline and there was no wind so I was going pretty fast; leisurely but still at a good clip, maybe 12mph/19kph (I’m guessing). And I was thinking how the front rack holds a pizza perfectly. Just as I thought that a local kid (teenager) on a bike flies out from between two parked cars without looking. He pulled out maybe 5 feet in front of me and turned in my direction. It happened so fast all I could do was yell out WHAAA!! Then…crunch. It was a direct hit; I’m not sure if I even had time to hit the brakes.
Between the sound of the crash and my yell neighbors came running. The front rack on the Mundo was pushed aside. The kid fell off his bike. I have a small bump and cut on the bony side of my knee. Surprisingly no one, or the bikes–or the pizza–were seriously injured. It was, to say the least, pretty damned scary.
So now I sit here typing these words with a full belly and a glass of wine at my side thinking about that beautiful sky and how lucky I am (and the kid is) not just today but everyday. I may not have everything I want…but I surely have everything that I need. And for that am truly thankful. Now if only I could remember this every minute of every day of my life.
This morning I read a great quote from Robert Frost and it seems more apre pos than ever, maybe even a premonition.
“In three words I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life: it goes on.”