Posts Tagged ‘ bike commuting

Where Do You See Yourself In Five Years?

1

My employer has a pretty standard set of interview questions, and since it’s been a long time since I interviewed externally, that’s all I’ve had to deal with over the years. They are much more focused on how you’ve handled a situation in the past and much less concerned about how you will handle hypothetical future situations near as I can tell. I’ve also been on the asking side, so I’ve seen some of the methodology. But I can tell you the book does not have any of those esoteric questions (at least that I saw) about what kind of pizza topping you’d be or how to solve random problems that you would never actually encounter like what you’d do if stranded on the moon with these five objects or where you see yourself in five years. This isn’t to denigrate those questions. Well, except for the last one. That one, while not worthless, is the kind of question I like least, a question that just opens people up to poor answers. Seriously, what are you going to say to a question like that? I understand the point, but I can’t even tell you what I’m going to be doing tomorrow, let alone in five years. I can tell you what I plan to be doing (which I see as the point to some degree), but the problem is the further away you get from what you are trying to forecast, the more difficult it gets, the less useful that plan becomes. I am working in a role that essentially didn’t exist 10 years ago, and sometimes I’m applying for jobs that didn’t even exist five years ago. I’m supposed to forecast that? Anyway, it’s really hard for us to figure out where we are going. It’s great to have ideas about where you want to go; I have them too. It’s just important to occasionally look back and see just how off-base they were because we’re really bad at predicting the future. It’s hard enough to trace a path back. If my previous boss had asked me where I saw myself in five years when I got my last job, I probably would have said Wells Fargo, but I don’t know if I would have believed it. I probably wouldn’t have said San Francisco. If I had, it would have been a guess on a very long list of guesses.

2

Recently I decided to go vegan. I’ve been building to it for a while, honestly. And I had just reached a point where I said to myself, you know what, why not? If you want some grandiloquent explanation as to why, I’m afraid I don’t have one. Health is a consideration, of course. And ethically speaking, I get the arguments, but that wasn’t a tipping point for me. It’s the same with the environmental impacts. I get all of those things, but I can’t give you a nice succinct statement as to why if that’s what you really want because I don’t have one myself. Because I can seems like a weird way to answer that question, but it’s the closest to the truth.

Now I’m not here to tell you what you should do. All we can do is put information in front of each other. It’s up to us as individuals to decide what to do with it. And honestly, I don’t really care what you choose to eat. That’s up to you. That’s not a judgment, either. That’s how I approach my own life as well. I have to be the one to make the decisions, no matter what anyone else says. It’s something I learned to truly embrace when I came out, and it’s been a guiding force in my life ever since. Many things, we have to do ourselves. This isn’t to say that we don’t have good support networks that help us, or that some of us don’t have better opportunities or access than others. Some of us obviously do. I’m no exception. It’s just to say that even with those sorts of things, we all still have decisions to make that no one can make for us. Whether we can follow through with them? That is a different discussion altogether. But in this case, where I am right now, with what I have access to? I can.

I live in a time where it’s easier to go vegan because there are a lot more options. I have access to tools, simple things that make life easier like a smartphone that can help me find places nearby that I might not have known about otherwise or even a reliable internet connection at home to figure out the same things. I live in a place where I really have a lot of options when I go out to eat, or even when I’m buying groceries. Of course it still takes effort; there’s still work and considerations and questions when I go out. There’s still habits to change. But mostly, it’s just that I’m in a different place in my life than I was years ago, a time and place where it just makes a lot more sense to me. Whether it’s because the ethical cost of the decisions I make wears more on me now or it’s because I’m more cognizant of what I put in my body because I just can’t get away with what I could even five years ago or just that I can is hard to pinpoint. It’s probably all of those things, and a lot more. Was it a possible future in the past? Of course, because here I am. Was it a probable future? That, I’d have to say, seemed less likely even a couple years ago. And yet, here I am.

3

The Golden Gate Bridge is about a mile and a half across. I’ve walked it a couple times and I’ve ridden my bike across it a couple times as well, but finally, on Saturday, I did something I’ve been meaning to do for a while now: I ran across it. It was kind of annoying, to be honest. Super-windy and full of tourists that weren’t paying any attention. And while I’m used to some degree of that in Golden Gate Park, at least there they can hear me when I try to get their attention. But the views? You really can’t beat them. Plus, it’s a beautiful run to get there from my place, up and through the Presidio and out to the old batteries. I ended up going it was just over 11 miles. It was a nice way to kick off my Saturday morning, though it meant I didn’t particularly care to do much else the rest of Saturday.

I’m not entirely sure at what point the switch flipped, but since I’ve lived here, I’ve come to think of myself more as a runner. I hated it in high school, and over the years had sporadic bursts where I tried to run a bit more, but I never really put anything solid together until just before I moved here. And while it’s still a challenge to get out as much as I’d like, I still find myself at least doing a 4.5 mile loop through Golden Gate Park with enough frequency, down to the bison and back, more often than I even thought I would when I moved here. Part of it is a function of the fact that it is a bit more difficult to just get on my bike and go for long bike rides here. Part of it is that I have spent more time running. Once a three mile run seemed to be an insurmountable challenge. And though I was out for quite a while yesterday, it didn’t really feel like a challenge in that same way. I was pushing my body, sure. But I knew I could do it. Like most things, a lot of running is mental. And it took me a long time to get over that initial hump, to get to that point where what was once felt like a long run is now a short run, to know I can do it instead of wondering if I could. Though I’d still like to do a better job with it, it’s less a question of when I’ll run and more a question of when I’ll do the other things I need to get done after work.

4

I know there are reasons why people do, but I still can’t fathom why so many people choose to drive in this city. Even when I moved here initially, when I still had my car, I chiefly drove it once every week or so to make a Target run. It was not something I used to get around town. Have you tried driving here? It’s awful. And though it took me a while after I got rid of it, I have finally become the bike commuter I knew I could be if I just didn’t have a car. Of course there are times I miss it. I probably would have gone to Bridge School with a car; not that it would have necessarily been quicker, just that it would have given me greater latitude. As it was, I didn’t particularly want to deal with Caltrain, and no one I knew expressed any great interest, so my next trip to Mountain View will just have to wait.

As long as I live here, I don’t envision a future where I’ll own a car. But there I go again, forecasting. It’s hard to say. What if one of the parking spaces opened up in my building? Or if I were making more money? Or if my job were no longer in the Financial District? Lots of things could impact my decision vis-a-vis car ownership. Lots of things enable it right now, the fact that I’m able, that I live close to where I work and much of what I do after work, that it’s actually basically the fastest way to get from place to place much of the time. Suffice to say, I don’t see a time where I will enter into getting a car again lightly. I will definitely think about the impacts a decision like that much more. I no longer view driving as a birthright, something that was just what you did to get around the suburbs and reach your far-flung friends. But it stands to reason that if 33 year-old me has a drastically different view point on the issue than 18 year-old me did, who knows what 48 year-old me will think? At present, I do not know exactly what circumstances could change my opinion that I am a bike commuter and a bike commuter first. But that’s still a pretty new label for me, so perhaps I shouldn’t get too far ahead of myself.

5

Tomorrow morning will be like any other morning. I’ll get up for my 9-5. I bike in and it’ll take me between 24 and 26 minutes depending on which lights I catch. I’ll get a coffee at Coffee Bar, hoping the medium roast is the grab and go; I used to be a dark roast kind of person; then again I used to never drink coffee. I will sit at a job I’ve had for a year and a half and now people will ask me questions because I’m one of the experienced ones. I’ll eat a lunch I brought in because I’m in one of those phases right now, and when I’ve pushed enough widgets, I’ll reverse the bike ride back out to Inner Richmond. If there’s time, I’ll go for a run. If there’s not time, it’s probably because I’m going to a show. The World Series may well blow all those plans up. Because really, that’s all those things are. Plans. Some of those plans, like my job, are a means to an end, and something I’d never consider blowing off. You just can’t do that. Or at least I can’t. Not where I’m at right now. But most of those plans are highly fluid. Perhaps one of my coworkers will suggest Tlaloc and instead of leftovers, it’ll be an ensalada nopales and that wonderful pumpkin seed salsa they do so well. Perhaps I’ll get a text that an old friend is in town and wants to grab drinks somewhere after work. I still have the plans. I still have an idea of how tomorrow is going to go, and I still made preparations for those plans. But if you really want to know how it’s gonna go? Ask me again in a couple days.

Identity Crisis

Though I suffered a bit of a hiccup in the last couple months before moving, I managed to carve out at least a decently earned reputation as someone who spent the past two years biking to work (at least when I medically could). And it was most certainly earned when I spent enough time to accrue roughly 4,000 miles on my bike, though, in fairness, a lot of that was because of trips to Stillwater or Prescott or wherever else you’d be amazed you can actually reach on a bike with a strange minimum of road riding. I spent a lot of time on my bike, going to work, going to shows, even going to a Thanksgiving one year (good way to work off what you eat). But the biggest part of that identity was that I was a bike commuter, whether I really was that much or not.

Reputations have a habit of sticking with you once you develop them. We all know that. So even when I was barely riding the past couple months due to, well, the chaos of trying to plan a cross-country move that I didn’t necessarily think was realistically going to occur when I applied for the job, I still got a lot of questions about whether I biked that day, where to park a bike at the WFHM campus, and such. Not that these were unwelcome, mind you. I’d rather have the reputation of a bike commuter than a lot of other things, even if I didn’t feel like I was earning it all that well recently.

And now that I’m here in San Francisco, I’m barely earning it at all. Sure, I have biked to work, but it takes almost the same amount of time it took me to go 11 miles in the Twin Cities just to go slightly over 5. Bike infrastructure here could, uh, how do I say this politely…use some work? Rolling down Valencia is all fine and well, and depending on the time of day, Market’s okay, but it can also feel like a death trap as you dodge myriad other bikes in various states of attention, pedestrians, runners, buses, cars, taxis, and whatever other deathtraps MUNI can throw at you. It’s really taxing to ride here. And that’s not even getting into the hills.

Of course, some of the greater length is also just simple geography. I knew it was hilly here. But where I’m currently staying? Let’s just say the view is nice, and the climb is possible, but not the most thrilling in the world. Plus, there’s a stop sign or light every couple blocks, and short of the bike lane on Valencia being timed, I haven’t had a whole lot of luck hitting any of that stuff at a time where it’s nearly as quick as rolling down Summit was most mornings. But hey, at least there’s bike parking in the garage under my building…just don’t leave the bike overnight or you might not see it again. Not because of theft, but because of the garage rules. I’m not sure I want to test that one out, either.

But the final problem is just that BART is so easy. And it lets me do things I haven’t been doing nearly enough of recently, like read! It’s actually kind of nice to just stand on the train for 20 minutes a day and flip through a book. Of course, I’m not getting exercise other than the incessant walking that this city inspires all of us to do. But the real kicker of taking BART is that it’s really easy, not all that expensive, and not time-consuming. Or at least not any more time consuming than any other way I’d get to work, and as opposed to wondering who might hit me, I just hop on, hop off, and roll down Montgomery. I want to keep being a bike commuter in the one sense that it’s cheaper and easier. But there’s something to be said for the ease of good public transit.

Some of it may change. I may ultimately decide no matter what the troubles that bike commuting is still just a nice way to go. Probably not quite the same level of exercise it was before just by simple virtue that it’s a shorter ride, but still something that’s better for me. Because if I’m not doing it then, I’m gonna have to remember to carve out time to exercise. The converse is I’m going to have to carve out time again to keep reading if I want to keep that up.

Perhaps, though, I’ve just reached a point where I’m no longer much of a bike commuter to work. We all look at things as immutable in the sense that we believe we are going to do our regular activities at some unchanging pace. You think because you do something every Thursday that you will keep doing it every Thursday. And then you don’t. And then it’s like it never happened. Things fill in the other spaces in our lives so quickly. It doesn’t mean I won’t miss being a bike commuter if I suddenly find that I’m really never doing it to anything anymore. I will. But there will also be justifiable reasons, and I will fill things in around it. I’ll figure something else to do to get the endorphin rush, whether that’s as simple as running more or making time for longer evening and weekend bike rides once again. Perhaps, though, after a little more getting used to the city, I’ll realize that is how I want to get around, because I’ll be wanting to hit things up that aren’t easily done on the BART and it’ll give me greater flexibility. I shall see. For now, though, I hang up my mantle as a bike commuter and hope to pick it up again one of these days. It joins a collection of a lot of other things still hanging in that same place that I thought I might pick up again some day. Might be time to go through those again, see which still fit, and whether it’s time to pull any of them out again. Like any wardrobe, some pieces are done after a short while, but some, you just need to put away for a bit to appreciate.

Recrudescence

After a fair amount of ballyhooing in an attempt to talk myself into it and approximately 70 or so straight Mondays with snow, I finally managed to pull the bike off the hooks this morning and take it out for a spin. And by a spin, I mean the 11 miles to work. It’s finally not so bad out there. It was almost above freezing. There weren’t that many sheets of ice between the two cities. Most of the paths are fairly clear and you can ever start to see where the bike lanes are most of the time on Summit. And it took me quite a while longer than it will once I am riding more and it’s warmer, but it wasn’t all that bad considering the shape of the roads out there and the shape that I am in. Which is to say neither is too terrible, but both could use a little more work now that it’s getting warmer. It’s just been a while since I biked (my last ride to work was January 10th…ain’t technology grand?) and it’s different mechanics than going for a run or even jumping on an exercise bike. And all told, it was pretty good. I made it to work on time. The locker room wasn’t too crazy. The ride home felt a lot nicer other than the rotten shifting line (damn salt). I sussed out the maintenance my bike needs before the first truly nice day when Freewheel suddenly gets backed up 2 weeks just to get some minor work. And best of all, I didn’t use any gas today (at least until I randomly decide to go to First Ave later…that’s a different problem). Which is nice.

Sitting on a bike isn’t always luxurious. Waiting at lights, getting splashed on days like today when there are giant puddles, trying to augur exactly whether that driver wants you to go or just thinks you’re too incompetent to follow traffic signals, it’s not always particularly glamorous. I don’t miss that stuff when I’m not biking. I don’t miss the black ice. I don’t miss riding into a 10 mile an hour wind. I don’t miss the fact that it takes me a lot longer every time it’s cold just to put on all the layers. But all of that sure as hell beats sitting in totally inexplicable traffic. And while I know that it doesn’t (at least in any perceptible way), hopefully me being on that bike leads to a few slightly less frustrated drivers out there, and a little more space on the road. I’m not gonna go crazy and think that all of a sudden everyone out there is going to give up driving. But it is nice to change your relationship with it. Biking does that for me. Hell, biking does that for a lot of things for me. Even when I’m lollygagging (or at least that’s how it feels sometimes) on the bike, I’m still riding 22 miles a day, give or take a bit. And that’s still a lot of calories, so it helps keep me honest. But it’s more than that. There’s the cascading of driving.

Driving makes lots of things easier. I like to have a coffee every day, and I can get that at work. I don’t need anything fancy, I’m perfectly happy with a good cup of black coffee (or a mediocre one as the case is). And really, there are a ton of options for that. I also happen to enjoy a good pastry. The Twin Cities has a number of nice little bakeries that all have the fortune of being relatively convenient on my way to work. Which isn’t a problem when you are driving an average of once a week. Then it’s a treat. The stuff at work largely sucks, so it’s not that hard to avoid, but when I have the option to get a blueberry buttermilk scone at Isles Bun & Coffee sometimes I’ve got to avail myself. The problem is, I’ve had that option too much. Especially with the erratic winter road conditions. I leave early to make sure that I have plenty of time to get there and all of a sudden I have time to kill. And while there’s nothing wrong with something like that every once and a while, it adds up. In so many ways. Even if it is delicious. Biking doesn’t necessarily make me eat better anymore than it makes me spend less (at least relatively). But I do spend a lot of time working that off (and a lot more money on something I’d rather put it into). Not that I was sitting on my hands or anything. I still worked out. But another funny thing that biking does is it makes lots of stuff a lot more inconvenient.

I’m not a huge fan of stopping on the way to work when I bike. It’s a much more regimented schedule that I don’t leave a ton of room in to make a stop that’s inconvenient. Even when I used to stop at the Donut Cooperative (R.I.P.), which was all of 2 blocks off the Greenway, it usually ended up being a 10 minute affair. Nor do I particularly enjoy stopping on the way home. While I have more time in the sense that I usually don’t have to be somewhere right away, I still just want to get home and get on with whatever my evening has in store for me. Sure, if I need to pick something up at the store, something small like a prescription, that’s all fine and well. But picking up food on the way home is kind of a pain. So it just makes me go home. And then I’m home, and I have all this stuff here, so I cook or have some leftovers or whatever. I know that all of this must seem a little stupid. But we all only have so much willpower in a day. And after 8 hours of keeping my wits about me and trying to not say anything too stupid at work, well, I’ve spent all the willpower I’ve got many days. So yeah, I’m gonna swing by someplace a lot of times. Because I just want to be home, sure, but the difference between stopping in a car isn’t necessarily as big. Because I don’t consciously have to do the work. Right it takes more gas, and it certainly takes more time, but the difference just doesn’t seem significant enough to keep me away from it in regards to those aspects. I know myself. I know the easiest way for me is to just not make something an easy option. It’s the kind of personality I have. I’m not particularly ashamed of that. There are some good sides to the converse of that (another time). But I know biking does a lot of good things for me. Besides perhaps the obvious things that you might associate with biking. Because I tell you, it doesn’t end up costing a whole lot less. I just spend it on that bike. I’m sure if I got rid of my car, that’d be a totally different scenario, but at present, that’s just not the case.

So yeah, it’s gonna start to be that time where I complain about double-wind days. Or where I lament the fact that I’m getting up just before 6 am again consistently. Or where I curse how so many parts could break on my bike at once. But it’s also time where I get that great feeling of seeing the buildings in downtown are that brilliant pink-orange in the morning. Or when I see a bald eagle flying along the Mississippi like I did today (I know, without Instagram, it never happened). Or when I start to actually make better use of those bike racks in front of First Ave once more. It’s weird sunburns and rides to Wisconsin and rides by Minnehaha because one should go there often, regardless of season. It’s getting to bed a touch earlier because that’s what it takes though it comes easier after a day of riding. Anyway, early for me is probably different than early is for you.
Besides, it all gets a touch easier when I get back into the swing of things. So here is to a good first day of what will hopefully be many, many more. Perhaps one of these years there won’t be a need to feel this way because I’ll never stop. But I imagine a lot of things will change, even between now and next winter. And let’s face it, Minnesotans, we can finally say winter is on its way out, so let’s not think about that for a while. In the meantime, let’s get out there. You’d be amazed what you’ll find.

Reasons (Excuses)

If you’ve been to my place, you’ve seen my bike hanging all too low from the hooks. It’s been hanging there for over two months, with my last ride coming prior to my trip to Burbank. I have a litany of excuses, some more valid than others, but overall, they are just that. I am a creature of habit, so it’s not that surprising. And it’s not like I’ve just been sitting around for a couple months, as I’ve been trying to challenge myself to be more of a runner since that’s a much easier thing to do when I travel. But again, it’s all just rationalization.

Granted, time is finite, and winter riding, even when it’s a weak winter like last year, is not the most enjoyable activity. Between random patches of ice, wicked breezes, and near-constant efforts to figure out how to keep every part of your body warm while not getting too hot, it’s quite a chore. I spend probably an hour of my day putting on and taking off clothes. I have to get up earlier. But there is that rewarding feeling of doing something, even when it is not easy. I’ve been missing that recently.

I also feel I am doing a poor job of living up to my reputation as a bike commuter. But as it is most of time, it is just making the decision and making it stick. And I haven’t done that yet. Every weekend, I look at the weather, and I keep thinking, okay, this Monday. And yet, I don’t. Whether it’s snow or sickness or just the general lassitude of winter, I keep telling myself no, not this week. Of course, I could do it other days, or at least just take advantage of the relatively nicer days as they crop up. All true.

But it’s like everything in life. You just gotta do it or not, and be okay with whatever you decide. Right now, I am still not there when it comes to getting back on the bike. And I’m okay with saying to myself and others that I am just not right now. Most will nod and understand, given that they wouldn’t do it on a perfect day as it is. A few will understand because they are out there in those conditions for short rides. And a few will scoff because they don’t stop for anything. There’s truth in all of them, of course. That’s always kind of vexing, that so many things can be true at the same time. But I am a lot of things. I am a bike commuter as much as I’m a certified fraud examiner. Or a concert aficionado. Or a binge TV watcher. Or quite plugged in here in the Twin Cities. Or an occasionally on-point blogger who thinks she’s got something worth sharing. And a lot more things. And all of those things, all of those aspects are competing. So yes, right now, I am just doing what’s easy, at least in regard to the biking. But one of those other aspects surely has filled that space. It certainly makes the late-night weekday concerts a bit easier. But mostly, I am a creature of habit. And while they shift, I am in them strong when I am in them. One small change (like say, a warm week) and all of a sudden I am back getting up before 6 and on the bike. And then the habits shift a little to accommodate.

Monday isn’t exactly looking like a day I am ready for, with more snow and more that just makes me want to take the easy way in. And I will get in the car, I imagine. But perhaps I’ll make some decisions next fall that prepare me to ride through the winter. I’ll get some better gear, and a better bike (or at least better tires) for it. Who knows? That is quite a ways away. Though let’s be honest, if you don’t mind having gear that isn’t the newest, going out of winter is the best time to prepare for the next one. Perhaps I am not all that forward-thinking, even when I try to be. In the meantime, I can just be honest and say I haven’t done a great job of riding this winter. The reasons don’t really matter. I’ll get back on and it’ll be all good. There’s no sense in setting myself up for failure by trying to force myself to ride in a snowstorm when I am not ready for that. Reasons and excuses are quite often interchangeable, depending on how you feel about the subject. In this case, they’re both. There will always be more of either. And once I am back on the bike, those reasons and excuses will shift, perhaps to keeping me in when there’s a band to go check out. They are always there. You just have to be okay with that.

 
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