Monthly Archives: August 2013

What is reasonable for transportation?

So there I was this evening, sitting on my porch and thinking about Thanksgiving. I know, it’s a ways off still, but my family’s already asking about holiday plans–and probably with good reason, since I can be difficult to pin down.

The result, though, is that I’m sort of considering seeing if I can get down to California, which of course means I’m thinking about transportation.

To get to California, I see four options:

  1. I could take Amtrak. A train trip from Portland to Sacramento lasts about 16 hours (if it’s on time), plus about 40 minutes on either end to get to the train station and back. Average cost is about $200 round trip.
  2. I could rent a car. Driving from here to there takes about 10 hours when you factor in time to pee and maybe take a stretch break. Cost on the rental car depends on if I kept it for the whole time or went with two one-way rentals, but it seems like $45/day is sort of standard (not counting insurance or gas or anything). Maybe $300-400 total if I kept a car for 5 days, added insurance, and bought all the gas I needed?
  3. I could fly. Flying takes about 1.5 hours of flight time, plus an hour of waiting in the airport and about 45 minutes on either end to get to and from the airport. A grand total of about 4 hours of transit time. It looks like a round-trip flight around Thanksgiving costs about $200 right now.
  4. I could bike. Not really a viable means of transportation for a trip this far:) At least, not for a trip where I only have about 4 or 5 days off;)

I was thinking about these options, because it’s never an easy choice for me. I would really love to take the train, for example, since it’s (relatively speaking) an environmentally friendly option and I really like trains–but for a trip of only 4 or 5 days, upwards of 32 hours spent in transit just seems like too much.

Even a car feels like almost too much, not only because driving isn’t my favorite thing ever but also 20 hours is still kind of a lot of time. And it ultimately costs more than an airplane, which takes half the time. But on the other hand, even though driving by myself (or with James) in a car for 20 hours seems super long and fuel-guzzling, I know that it’s still better in terms of carbon footprint than flying.

If flying were less of a heinous impact on the world, I would probably fly without a second thought. But as it is, I always feel a little bad about it.

But then again, any way to get down to Sacramento quickly is going to have an environmental impact. This is sort of what I was thinking about. In Portland, I’ve structured my life such that I don’t ever have to do anything but ride my bike. Even most things I want to do involve nothing more than human power, or sometimes public transit. But in moving far away from where I grew up, I’ve also built into my life the fact that if I want to see my family, especially in quick snatches, I suck up a whole bunch of resources to do so.

I guess I was trying to figure out how I felt about all of that. Even though it’s been made normal by current culture, maybe it’s not reasonable to assume that hopping down to California (or wherever) for a few days is actually a viable use of resources. Maybe we shouldn’t be making decisions based on convenience. Maybe until we finally invest in really fast rail (that would be so sweet) or some other and less resource-intensive means of transportation–maybe until then, we should consider the cost of going someplace far away to be a higher investment in time.

But then again, why shouldn’t we embrace modern conveniences like flight? Though what if those conveniences are what contribute to destroying our world?

I can see you rolling your eyes now. I can see you telling me to stop overthinking it. But seriously. This shit is important. I’m sort of wondering if I should stop going to Sacramento unless it seems worth it to take the longer and less environmentally heinous transit options. If I should restructure my conception of what’s possible for long-distance travel the way I’ve consciously structured my life in Portland to make “possible” equal “accessible by bike.”


Ode to wearing out

These are my running shoes:

New Balance Minimus

They have gone many, many miles with me, through mud, grass, rocks, dirt, puddles, rain, even snow. They’ve run in Washington Park and Forest Park and Mt Tabor. They’ve run behind countless waterfalls in the Columbia River Gorge. All summer, I wake up often in the dark and they take me through Oxbow, Wildwood, and Eagle Creek before the sun rises and work starts. They’ve taken me through Ashland and Sacramento and Morgan Hill. They’ve run the hills of Tahoe.

Basically, they come with me everywhere.

Sometimes, they make me feel like I’m flying; sometimes, it feels like I can barely drag them over the ground. Sometimes, especially in the dark, they catch on tree roots and send me tumbling. They’re not magical, but despite the random tumbles it’s also true that I’ve never been injured in them the way I eventually have in most of my previous running shoes. It may just be that because they’re so minimal I don’t run on pavement with them, thus sparing my joints the extra shock of “civilized” surface. Perhaps any shoes run only on trails would behave similarly.

I have loved these shoes. But today, it’s time for them to retire.

As you can see from the picture, they’re a little bit shot. My foot sticks through the front where I’ve worn out the fabric. The balls of both my feet hammer the ground through the barely-extant bulge of stretched rubber that used to be a sole. They’ve never been much for padding anyway, which is why I like them, but I think the day has come for me to admit that these shoes are done.

I sort of hope that my life can be like these shoes–except longer;) I hope to feel, eventually, like I’ve worn out through good use, that I’ve squeezed every last drop of usefulness out of my time, that my days have taken me to all the beautiful places–physical, mental, whatever–that I want to go.

Heh–and then, when I wear out, I want to be able to replace all my parts and start over, just like buying new shoes:)

NEW New Balance(My new shoes!:)

Tonight, I christen these new shoes, which are actually just a new version of my old shoes. May they also have a long and fulfilling life of much happy running:)

Cyclepedia at the Portland Art Museum

Maybe I shouldn’t confess that despite my intense love of biking, I don’t really get all that much into bike nerdery. I do like knowing how things work, and I appreciate that I can find my way around the various parts on a bicycle–I even like knowing about different options that are out there–but when people start having heated and involved discussions about, say, why one particular derailleur is soo much better than last year’s version of much the same thing, I can’t help but roll my eyes a little.

That being said, I got a little into the bike nerdery at the Portland Art Museum’s Cyclepedia exhibit this weekend.

bike in a box(this bicycle retracts into the box to be its own suitcase!:)

Basically, the exhibit is approximately 40 crazyass bicycles all from a dude called Michael Embacher’s private collection of bikes. It may not sound like much of an exhibit, but seriously. There are some crazy bikes.

This one, for example, has a wacky gearing system so that when you’re pedaling forward you’re in one gear, but the when you pedal backward it shifts into an easier gear to go up hills.

Cycles Hirondelle Retro-Direct

I really wanted to take this one for a test ride, just so I could have the experience of pedaling backward but still moving forward. I imagine that’s sort of trippy.

There were also all sorts of old, funky bikes that don’t seem super practical but were pretty rad, including an ice bike (the front wheel was actually a skating blade) and a tandem bike where the riders sit side by side instead of one behind the other.

crazy seat bike(this one apparently became more stable once the rider sat on it and put downward pressure on that funky slingshot-looking seat)

I also liked this experimental version of shock-absorbing devices:

 old-school shocks(the circles allow the frame to give, absorbing some of the bumps)

For not being super into bike nerdery, I definitely spent a lot of time looking at little bike pieces and wondering what the heck they were for. But even if you’re not necessarily into bikes, I imagine this is kind of a cool exhibit just for the walk through history it represents and the progression of innovations you can see.

It was also funny for me to imagine Michael Embacher with all these bikes (plus many, many others) stored somewhere–perhaps in his spare airplane hangar? I have no idea how someone stores so many bikes.

Anyway. The exhibit runs until September 8, so you still have time to check it out. Admission to the museum is a fairly steep $15 for adults ($12 for students), but if you give yourself lots of time you can make a day of it and feel like you got your money’s worth. I felt like even just for the bikes it was worth it, though I did have a $5 off coupon:)

Things you might see while biking: public pianos

That’s right. This summer, there have been random pianos springing up in various Portland locations with an invitation to “please play me!” There was one right by the Salmon Street fountain for a while, one in Pioneer Square, and this one in front of the Portland Art Museum:

portland public piano

It’s sponsored by the Snowman Foundation (which I only know about because I just looked it up:), an organization that works to create access to music for kids. And even if it’s not kids playing these pianos necessarily (though one girl I heard in Pioneer Square was fricken phenomenal), being able to simply walk around the city and hear free music that people just like you are creating has to be good for everyone, kids included.

It’s a lovely idea. A piano for the masses. And every time I’ve biked past one (or, when I walked home from work, walked past one:), someone’s been playing it. Usually very well.

Public art. I love it.