Monday, July 28, 2014

Shift Happens

My sister and nephew came to visit us late last week. We cooled off at the Truckee River, picked up fresh produce from the Sparks Farmers Market, ate at the Food Truck Drive-In, toured the National Automobile Museum, pedaled our bikes to the Sparks Legends Outlet, made ooey gooey s'mores over the firepit and watched the Back to the Future Trilogy together!

My nephew loves the water and so my sister and I took him to Cottonwood Park to dip in the Truckee River. He is from Seattle, WA and it was a great way for him to cool off from the warmer temperatures we have here in Northern Nevada.
Boy on the beach at the Truckee River
My nephew on the beach of the Truckee River.
It gave a chance for me to chat with my sister while we watched him frolic in the water with the other kids.
My sister and me.
On another evening we went to the Sparks Farmer's Market to get some fresh fruit. It's a weekly event on Sparks Victorian Square Plaza with vendors selling goods, food, drinks and fresh produce.

My sister brought her bike with her. So when we needed something from the grocery store, we would pedal down the hill to shop. Then back up the hill.
And just when you'd think you were done, there's another incline to finally get home. It is what I have to climb, every day. But you know what? Each effort makes me stronger! When I reach the top of our
street and look back, I always feel a sense of accomplishment.

We lit the firepit and roasted marshmallows. It's a larger fire than we would normally have but we had some wood we needed to get rid of.
It was a perfectly still evening for a fire and there's nothing like sitting by it and watch the stars in the evening sky!

We also toured the National Automobile Museum, selected as one of America's Five Greatest Automobile Museums in 2012. 
Pedal cars at the National Automobile Museum
Pedal cars.
Touring the museum is like traveling through time beginning with the turn-of-the-20th century. In addition to the gallery of cars, there are memorabilia and special exhibits that change throughout the year. We saw gowns, hair pins, stockings and purses worn through different eras!
National Automobile Museum
On a scavenger hunt to find the steam-powered automobile.
Each of the large vintage, classic and special interest automobiles, rare and one-of-a-kind wonders, and dynamic race cars were a marvel to see as we strolled along authentic street scenes in the museum.
National Automobile Museum
There simply was not enough time to see everything and so we will definitely have to go back! Fortunately we are members of the museum and so we are looking forward to our next trip.
National Automobile Museum
All of us were famished after walking around the giant facilities of the museum. On our way home we stopped at the Sparks Food Truck Drive-In on Victorian Square Plaza to grab some grub.
Sparks Food Truck Drive-In
There was a free movie showing at 8PM inside the newly renovated St. Mary's Amphitheater but we'll have to catch it another time.
 I wish I could remember this food truck because my meal was awesome!!
Grilled onions and slaw hot dog with spinach cheddar polenta.
Grilled onions and slaw hot dog with spinach cheddar polenta.
On our last full day together, we rode our bikes from home to the Sparks Legends Outlet for a day of shopping. It was 11-miles roundtrip from home along a separated bike/ped path including the lap around the glassy waters of the Sparks Marina. By the way, the Reno Bike Project was generous enough to let me borrow a youth bike for my nephew to ride over the weekend (perhaps because I am one of the members on the Board of Directors for the non-profit community bike shop). But of course, my sister and I will be making a donation in lieu of a rental fee.
Riding bicycles
I shared the joy of riding with my nephew taught him how to shift gears on his bike so that he could ride uphill with less effort, fly downhill in control, go faster on a flat road and how to downshift when stopping so that he can start more easily. After a few laps around the neighborhood, he was very quick to learn and said, "Oh THAT'S how my Dad always gets ahead of me [when we ride together]!"

Our weekend went well and we had a lot of fun together. The only snag in our plans was a series of unfortunate events with John breaking the screen on his smartphone, I got a replacement and then later than evening, I cracked the screen of my cell phone while sitting around the firepit. Hey--when shift happens we just have to stay calm and ride on, right?

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Crazy Summer Weather

The weather for the past few weeks have been hot and humid with thunderstorms later in the day. Somehow I managed to dodge the rain while riding my bike home from work. Yesterday the weather was perfect and I went for a long ride on my commuter to meet John in south Reno for pastries and coffee. I posted about that on Cuter Commuter (my bicycling blog).

Afterwards I worked in the yard and sat on the patio downstairs for a while. It is much cooler in the shade than in the direct sun.
Then, as soon as I went inside a storm came and I had to wrangle all of the outdoor furniture from all over the yard.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

A Plan for Family Activity in Sparks, NV

My husband doesn't normally work on Saturdays but today he is covering for one of his guys at the shop. He left early this morning with his road bike loaded on the roof of our car so he could ride Geiger Grade before clocking in.

I decided to ride to south Reno to meet him for pastries and coffee. If I hadn't made that decision, I'd probably have streamed the Tour de France from the laptop to the t.v., brewed some coffee and loafed around the house all day. So I was glad I left home to enjoy the gorgeous morning weather and fresh air!

I should have ridden my road bike (which is collecting dust in the garage) but I really didn't feel like being in all those layers with a sport bra underneath my bibs and a jersey on top--especially with the weather being so humid and warming up later into the day. THEN I would have to wear cycling shoes designed to clip into my bike pedals. There are functional and performance reasons for wearing cycling specific gear but I wasn't going on a training ride today. I would also have the challenge of carrying my stuff such as a bike lock, bungee cords, my paper notebook and iPad Mini in case I decided to stop somewhere to run errands or grab a snack and respond to e-mails at a coffee bar.

In this case, it was much easier to throw on a sleeveless, carefree dress and slip on comfortable sandals that I could walk in! I put all the things I may need for the day in my pannier bags and rolled out the door!
When I got to Sparks Boulevard I saw with my very own eyes what a FABULOUS job the folks at the RTC (Regional Transportation Commission) did with making the roadways pedestrian and bicycle friendly. And YES, the bicycle path at Greg Street and Sparks Boulevard is open and beautifully landscaped!! So for the folks in Reno who want to bike to Sparks for a day of shopping, dining and/or the movies -- they can easily do so and have a scenic and safe route!!

A PLAN BICYCLING-FOOD-SHOPPING FAMILY ACTIVITY AT THE SPARKS LEGENDS OUTLET
So here is the plan for a day of bicycling, eating and shopping for you!! This is just what I recommend (you do at your own risk and I assume no liability for any injuries as a result for taking my recommendations here. I rode this route today and made it all the way home safely without a hitch.) You will have to forgive all my comments about crossing the crosswalk defensively. I don't mean to preach if you are already a safe bicyclist. I just don't want anyone to get hurt.

Load up your helmet(s) and bike(s) in the car and pack the things you think you may need for your day including:
  • Bike lock(s)
  • Water (iced or no ice)
  • Sunglasses
  • Sunscreen
  • Snacks (portable ones like Nature's Bakery Fig Bars or fresh fruit that carry well)
  • Bag (I have panniers which are bags that hang off the rear rack of my bike to avoid carrying the weight on my back but you can use a backpack, messenger back, bike trailer or whatever you have to carry your stuff)
  • Lights (front and rear are not necessary but I always have them on my bike and I always turn them on.
  • Cell phone/I.D. (I always have my emergency contact information on me)
  • Towel and/or wet wipes if you tend to sweat, especially if the weather forecast calls for increasingly warmer temperatures throughout the day

1. Drive out and park at the Sparks Legends Outlet (enter at the traffic light signal on E. Lincoln Way from Sparks Boulevard exit). This dirt lot is now paved. I wouldn't park much deeper into the outlet grounds because the roundabouts can be tricky to navigate on a bicycle, especially when traffic starts to pick up.
2. Proceed along the sidewalk (as indicated in the photo above) and head south on Sparks Boulevard. Don't worry, the sidewalk is super wide with enough space for people walking on foot and people riding bicycles
to pass side by side. Just yield to pedestrians and let them know you are approaching with a greeting so they aren't startled by your sudden appearance. Basically you will stay on the west side of Sparks Boulevard the entire time to the Truckee River Trail and you will stay on the west side on your way back, taking the same route.
3. At each intersection crossing there are push buttons for crosswalk signals like the one pictured below to let you know when to proceed across the intersection. Use the devices and cross when the signal indicates it is your turn to go. Please look in all directions for approaching vehicles on Sparks Boulevard getting on and off the I-80 on ramp and cross when it is clear and safe for you to do so. Right of way does not guarantee safety or that people driving actually see you!! Even though you are a crosswalk it DOES NOT mean those driving will stop so cross only when you think you have time to clear the road safely.
Image source: http://www.betterinstitutions.com
4. The entire way to the Truckee River Bicycle/Pedestrian path is protected by concrete barriers from passing traffic as the photos below show. Again, the only place you need to use extra caution is at the road crossings, especially at the I-80 on-ramp and off-ramp and the Sparks Boulevard merge lane to Greg Street. Just because the crosswalk sign in on and you are at a crosswalk does not mean the drivers will stop (90% of the time they don't.) I have noticed that visibility and the line of sight for both people driving cars or using the crosswalk is nice and clear which is a good thing from a safety perspective. And there are protected islands for you to cross and stop at so you aren't stuck in the middle of road when the traffic lights change. Again, I have to give massive kudos to the RTC for these pedestrian and safety improvements!!
 5. Finally you will cross Greg Street.
 6. And you will be right on the path!
7. Turn right once you are on the Truckee River Trail and head west towards Reno. The path also goes underneath the Southeast Connector (under construction) and east to the commercial streets near Vista Boulevard.
View of path from Greg Street and the path underneath the Southeast Connector towards Vista Boulevard.
 8. It is smooth sailing from here although it is still necessary to look and listen. Ride your bike towards the right side of the path and watch for other people walking, running or biking. Use the bell on your bike or your voice to let them know you are approaching because they may not see or hear you and change direction at the last second. I usually call out a 'good morning' or 'hello' to greet them and give them a heads up at the same time!!
Ride as far as you want and are comfortable with doing. The path will take you to the National Automobile Museum and downtown Reno. If you continue through, the path will take you through downtown Reno to Idlewild Park and Mayberry to Verdi!

9. Again, your return trip is exactly the same route in reverse. Stay on the west side of Sparks Boulevard until you get back to where you parked. Then get some grub at the food establishments below and enjoy your shopping trip! Or watch a movie at the new luxury Galary IMAX Theatre.
  • BJ's Restaurant & Brewhouse
  • Buffalo Wild Wings 
  • CBQ Cowboy Bar & 'Que
  • Fuddruckers
  • Freshberry Frozen Yogurt Cafè
  • Gramma Gina's inside Scheels
  • Grimaldi's Pizzeria
  • Jazz, A Lousiana Kitchen 
  • Olive Garden
  • Perk Up Coffee Shop
  • Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen
  • Subway
  • Taco Bell       
10. Take your bike with you and lock it up where you can see it while you eat and shop, store it in your car or lock up your bike to the rack on your car. I'd probably move and park where there is passing foot traffic instead of leaving your bike at the car in a somewhat remote lot. Thieves are opportunists and they may not try to steal your bike if you make it hard for them and if there are people passing by frequently.

If you feel like exploring on your return trip, bypass where you parked and use the cross walk system to get on the bike path along Sparks Boulevard (see the illustration). Cross Lincoln Way and then Sparks Boulevard and you can get on the separated bike/ped path on the east side of Sparks Boulevard.

And ride on a separated, protected bike/ped path like this. You can ride to have breakfast at Peg's Glorified and Ham on Pyramid Way and Sparks Boulevard.

Or stop and have a picnic on the grass!
There is seating along the way so you can sit and enjoy the view!
Now that there is a protected path connecting the Sparks Legends Outlet to the Truckee River Trail, it is a breeze to go on a fun bike ride and get in great physical activity, dine and then shop with the family all in one afternoon!! Or go to the Wild Island Family Adventure Park to ride the Indy Cars, play miniature golf, indoor bowling, or cool off in the water park!

Friday, July 18, 2014

The Faces We Make

Bicycling in the 19th century was dangerous for women even back then. Not from the threat of collision with cars but because it could lead to a threatening medical condition: the faces they would make while riding their bikes. In this article about the 19th century health scare, the doctors claimed that bicycling was a taxing physical activity and 'unsuitable for women'. That it would not only lead to a bicycle face but also a host of other health issues.
Special Collections Department of the University of Nevada, Reno Library
Speaking of bicycle faces, I love reading the blog Bikeyface.com and admiring the drawings that the author, Bekka, creates with a sense of humor I wish I had. I'm not very funny. I can't tell a joke to save my life, LOL. Anyway, Bekka talks about what a bikeface is. It is far from the condition "characterized by a hard, clenched jaw and bulging eyes" and "the beginning of dark shadows under the eyes, and always with an expression of weariness."

artwork by Bikeyface @ www.bikeyface.com
That made me wonder - what is my bicycle face? Usually a big wide grin.

Bicycle face after climbing to the top of a hill near home

I wear the big aviator glasses to hide my bulging eyes and the beginnings of dark shadows under them.

Bicycle face on the Truckee River Trail
Earlier this week I made some new friends while biking to work and my bicycle face was that of JOY!!
Eric & Corrie are from Arizona and new to Reno (Corrie lives here years ago). They are Zumba instructors in town and were also riding their bikes to work that morning.
 And I LOVE their bicycle faces!!
 I shall give these facial expressions a try!!
What would the doctors say if they were to see our bicycle faces now?

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Summer of No Pants

Lately, I have been wearing a lot of dresses and skirts in order to be more comfortable during my commute between work and home. I like to wear skirts and dresses anyway (even during the winter) but now as part of the Summer of No Pants -- I have more reasons to ditch my pants! And Darcie, blog author of Mimi's Mom has a closet-full of tips for riding a bike in a skirt. From skirts that work well (and not so well) to craftsy things you can create so you're ride is more skirt-friendly.
black chevron chiffon dress with cap sleeve
Here in Reno-Sparks, the weather has been quite muggy!! We have 300 days of sunshine per year but I don't remember it being this humid and warm in July.
navy dress with pink cinch belt
The People for Bikes button is a perfect accessory.
In the mornings, the temperature is anywhere between 70 to 78 degrees depending on what time I leave. By the afternoons the digits can reach 95 to 100+ on my way home. I am glad there have been days with some
cloud coverage. Direct sunshine on top of the heat would probably dry me up and I'd surely shrivel to a prune!
striped dress
I slipped a khaki blazer over this dress.
I am finding it harder and harder not to bring a change of clothing to slip into after arriving at the office.
pink chiffon dress
Some days I bring an extra camisole to replace the one I wear underneath my dress.
Other days I wear a crochet top over a cami so there is A LOT of ventilation but I am still covered.
Should've worn a brightly colored cinch belt for some pop.
 Today I started with this. Well, I actually had shorts and Vans® sneakers on but who was I kidding?! Even though I do not interface with the public, there is still a semi-professional dress code.
Hmm...I don't like how the belt chops me up.
The skirt is the black version of Betabrand's Bike to Work Skirt, a pencil fit for bicycle commuting which I wrote a review about. Then I switched to black heels which I keep in my office.
black pencil skirt professional attire
Tank tucked in, the cinch belts gives a high-waist pencil skirt look.
Yes, I am wearing a sweater. In this heat?!? you ask? Even though it is hot outside the office is freezing so I am always layering with a cardigan or jacket.

I hope you are staying cool if you're experiencing the same weather!! What do you do to cope with traveling in this heat? No...driving with the A/C on max does not count, LOL!!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Weekend Report for July 11th - 13th

Our cat told me she was ready to go for another bike ride as she sat in the crate we made specifically for her. So I took her for a ride on the front rack of my bike. This time she was able to turn around as she pleased and seemed much more comfortable.

cat in custom wood crate
Our cat in the custom wood crate we built for her.
We didn't ride together very far. For one, with no safety cage to enclose her I didn't feel she was ready to venture farther than a few blocks from home. She needs more practice before we can compete with Momentum Magazine's #petsonbikes Instagram Contest. And two, with the sidewalls of rear tire on my bike thrashed I didn't want to risk being too far from home with an untethered cat who, at any moment, can decide she'd rather chase the rabbits and THEN have a flat tire to deal with.
cat on a bike ride
Our cat on a bike ride.
Saturday morning John went some 80+ mile group training ride by Lake Tahoe and Carson City. I, too, decided to get on my road bike. And then three and a half miles down the road he called to say his card was declined after trying to purchase coffee. I thought, surely we have more than $3 in our checking account, LOL!! He was also getting alert text messages from our bank.

So...it was a good excuse for me to head home [insert big grin]. Besides, traffic was starting to pick up and the morning temperature was starting to rise. I really didn't feel like being sticky and sweaty in the muggy heat that has been plaguing Reno-Sparks for the past couple of weeks.
Later that day, we went to dinner at the Blind Onion Pizza and Pub at Victorian Square in the heart of
downtown Sparks. There we met several folks we've never before met who belong to the Biggest Little City Swing Dance Club. You read that right -- John and I decided to take a beginner's dance lesson in West Coast Swing!!

Ready to dance!
The Monthly Dance is held on the second Saturday of the month, October being an exception, on the second floor of the Sparks Heritage Museum. The beginner's class (West Coast Swing 101) is from 7PM to 8PM is and is free, compliments of the U.S. Open Swing Finalist Jeffrey Munson.
Monthly Dance for the Biggest Little City Swing Dance Club
We focused on learning the four basic patterns with rotating partners. It takes at least 8 sessions of beginner lessons for most people. So you bet we need more practice before progressing to West Coast Swing 102! But it was SO MUCH FUN and John and I enjoyed ourselves. If you live in Reno, the free beginner West Coast Swing 101 classes are Mondays 6PM to 7PM at the Ballroom of Reno (2540 Sutro Street, Suite 1).
food trucks in downtown Sparks, NV
Food Truck Drive-In (Sparks, NV)
Outside food trucks lined Victorian Avenue. The streets of downtown Sparks were closed down. Picnic tables occupied the parking spaces to provide places for people to sit and eat.
food trucks in downtown Sparks, NV
Food trucks line Victorian Avenue
The Sparks Food Truck Drive-In is a relatively new thing in Sparks. It's a dinner and movie experience in Victorian Square the 2nd and 4th Saturday through summer from 5PM to 9PM where it ends with a free movie inside the renovated St. Mary's Amphitheater.
I definitely am keeping this event in mind for the next Cuter Commuter gathering. Usually it's a group of women (and all women are welcome whether they ride a bike or not) who meet at a different restaurant each month to socialize. This time I think we'll need men ambassadors...or manbassadors to ride in the back and help ensure the safety of the group ride. They can let the women know when there is an approaching motor vehicle, when the road is clear for left turns and so forth.
Picnic benches replaces car parking
This patio was completely empty. It belongs to B-Street and I am hoping it might be open for our group so we can have a dedicated place to meet and talk about our continuing women's bike initiatives.
B-Street Cafe Patio
Sunday we checked out O'Skis Pub & Grille (840 Victorian Avenue, Sparks, NV) as we have never dined there before. The O'Skis Famous Reuben and Dubliners Deluxe Grilled Cheese (chedder, provolone, ham, bacon, tomatoes and sauteed mushrooms served on toasted Ciabatta bread) were OH SO GOOD!
Grabbing lunch at O'Skis Pub & Grille
Fortunately John trains really hard and I ride my bike enough during the week so I didn't feel too guilty about eating really rich foods like pizza and grilled cheese with fries. But we don't eat like this all of the time. During the week we eat vegetarian with limited amounts of dairy.
We had no idea a year-round Christmas Corner existed in downtown Sparks!! I ride by there all of the time so I must check it out when they're open!