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scrottie just sent me a link to this awesome visualization of Amtrak train delays. It's nice to live in an era where it's possible to know whether we've missed the train or bus, or how long we might have to expect to wait.

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There are certain times when relying on a bicycle as one's primary form of transportation is less than glamorous. Here are my things right before my doctor's appointment last week, sopping wet from the downpour:

Sopping wet

I don't have a spare pair of socks at work here because I haven't needed any, up until now - I've managed to dodge most of the rainstorms. The doctor's appointment and the expedition to the farmer's market (=sweaty) both made me wish I'd gone to the trouble of packing or changing into cycling clothes instead of trying to just wear-and-go.

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Over the weekend, in the middle of the night, my parents had a strange and troubling experience with a presumably mentally ill man who threw golf balls through the kitchen window and spilled jugs of industrial-strength ammonia in the driveway (if I get his permission, I'll post my father's story of the account in the comments). My parents don't sound too terribly rattled by the experience, but I can't help thinking back to the story about the hatchet murderer in 2010, plus a half-dozen other stories of mentally ill persons and random acts of violence in Seattle.

It's not necessarily a Seattle problem, and yet I suspect a lot of mentally ill persons wind up in big cities because of the social services and anonymity they provide.

I just have to wonder - is this the best system we can come up with, America, for caring for these marginalized individuals? It seems awfully expensive, between the police, fire, and medical response, and all of the jail time and time in court.

What good does it do, to bankrupt such government systems, when the costs are inevitable and unavoidable?

Bike bike bike bike CHERRIES

Yesterday morning, I got up, ate breakfast, saddled up and headed out towards Denton, to work my way through the second half of the overnight 200km brevet I'm organizing in two weekends.

It was a gorgeous day for a bike ride.

Rollers south of Lincoln

I finally stopped to take a photo of what's now my favorite out of the bike trail bike sculptures:

[T]rail bike

There were two other bike rides happening, but the 200k test ride needed to happen, so it was another solo ride day. I'm relieved to have completed it. I drank two bottles of chocolate milk, and also had an ice cream bar, bag of cheese poof snack things, and some "cheese"-stuffed potato things because there wasn't any vegetarian pizza at the last Casey's stop in Eagle. I failed to enjoy the wonderful apple, homemade sandwich, and trail mix I brought with me, but they served as lunch today. When I got home, my odometer was just shy of a century:

Guess I"ll just stop there

I added on another 2.7 miles by biking to and from the grocery store, and then decided it was time to try and take it easy and stretch.

Have I mentioned lately how much I dislike my smart-o-phone's camera? This was supposed to be an attractive photo of dinner:

Black bean burritos

Hopelessly blurry, and it's difficult to tell that it's blurry when trying to view the photo on the phone. I also don't know what's causing a dark spot on the left side of a lot of the photos (see the top photo for an example). I probably need to detail-clean the lens, which involves popping the phone out of its protective case. Ugh.

Even though the photo failed, the food was great - spiced black beans on a homemade tortilla, with cheese; sauteed kale, onion, and mushrooms; shredded cabbage and carrot; salsa; and avocado. Plus a little cholula. Quick and easy to throw together, once the beans finished cooking.

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Today I rode over to the Old Cheney Road Farmer's Market, to see how their offerings compared to the Haymarket one and see if I could still get my hands on some pie cherries.

Old Cheney Farmers Market

The ratio of vegetables to value-added products was much better than the ratio at the Haymarket. Prices were somewhat better, too. The guy who sold me cherries previously was there, and sold me a bunch more. I'm going to can them as Boozy Cherries, which involves a little bit of simple syrup and 1.5 teaspoons of kirsch per jar. That should be an adequately versatile way of preserving them, given my limited freezer space.

Some other day I will try the gelato for sale at the stall on the left. I also like the fact that the Old Cheney Market starts at 10 am instead of 8 am, and that it's on Sundays. Better for my schedule.

I am a No-Fun old lady

I guess the last couple of states I've lived in have been much more restrictive in the fireworks department. People have been setting off fireworks all around this neighborhood for the past week or so, and apparently most of it is legal. On the one hand, I suppose they're mostly harmless fun? On the other hand, my cat is terrified of the ruckus.
(talking after breaking a few glass tubes in a centrifuge) "Yeah, by this point I have already broken pretty much everything."
I woke up at 2 am Thursday morning because of both the ongoing leg discomfort and because there's too much on my mind lately. For a little while, my mind worked away at trying to visualize how the upcoming Seattle-to-Portland bike ride is going to go. It makes me a bit anxious when there are large groups of people to coordinate, and then suddenly other people start making a schedule for me and I no longer feel like I have much say over my own life, even when that schedule is well-intentioned and makes complete sense under the circumstances.

What I really needed to do was focus more on the things I am looking forward to, and the things that I know are possible that connect together and lead up to the larger, more impossible-seeming things. Interestingly, hundred-mile bike rides just aren't very daunting to me right now. You get on a bike and you pedal it for a long while, maybe pausing for some good food and water periodically, then pedaling some more and enjoying the sights and sounds of the world. And then eventually, you arrive somewhere.

Other thought-demons are trickier to grapple with. That Thursday morning, the most immediate ones were the need to get cricket injections completed in time to go to my doctor's appointment at 1:45 pm, plus ensuring that I could figure out how to get to the clinic and have correct paperwork, especially given that my dratted health insurance card hasn't shown up anywhere, which adds yet another item to my to do list (call health insurance people, ugh).

Keep in mind that cricket injections are stressful even on a good day, let alone on a day where there's a finite end point. I can't exactly go, "Whoops, got started too late, guess I just won't get enough crickets for these diet treatments after all!" And I'm reaching the end stages of the current experiment, which means every day is that much more important. If I don't finish before I leave for Seattle, I have that much more extra stuff I have to get lined up while I'm away. One of the undergraduates recently made a mistake with nine of the cricket samples from the previous experiment, which has only reinforced to me how precious those samples become over time. Two months prior to an experiment, a large batch of a given cricket cohort must be started. Then there's the daily cricket sorting, pulling out all of the newly molted adults and setting them up on the 13 diets. Then there are the injections themselves, a half-day investment, plus the following dissections. As a result, losing nine cricket samples represents the loss of at least a full day's work. It all unfortunately reinforces my sense of wanting to do everything myself, but I just don't and won't have time.

If I leave town mid-experiment, that means I have to ask others in the lab to sort my crickets and set them up on the different diets. This Wednesday, I originally had 32 crickets lined up to inject, in four boxes of 8 crickets each. When I went to start the injections, however, and counted crickets in the boxes, two of the four boxes were down to 7 crickets due to cannibalism. This is problematic for a diet experiment and put me back at square one with those two diets, so I set up a fresh set of crickets in smaller groups that will be ready on Sunday (2 sets of 5 crickets on each of the two diets). But will that really be enough? There's no way to know for sure, as I found with the last big experiment. So I made myself set up even more backup crickets yesterday evening, which will be ready to go on Tuesday, the day before I skip town. If this contingency doesn't work, I have to cross my fingers and hope that there are enough crickets left when I return from Seattle a week later.

So that's just one thing on my mind. To return to yesterday in particular, I managed to get in to work and get underway in a timely fashion, keeping myself to an exceedingly tight morning schedule. I finished the first phase before noon, so there was time to eat lunch and figure out how to get to the doctor's office. Then the clouds opened up and water started to pour out. So let's just say that I showed up to the doctor's appointment looking like a drowned rat.

The appointment was good, though, once I got there. In almost all regards I'm healthy - there's just this niggling leg issue. After inquiring about numbness and/or tingling (I'm not experiencing either) and checking for potential IT band and ACL issues, the doc said she'd write a referral for a physical therapist to do an assessment and work with me on stretches and strengthening.

I have the day off from cricket injections, although I'll still go in to work to get caught up on everything else that I've been letting slide. I am seriously wondering how all of the data are going to get analyzed and turned into manuscripts - I just don't see how we have the time, over the remaining 3.5 months. I hope I never, ever again have to do experiments with 13 different treatments.

I also need to figure out my entry and exit points for test-riding the second half of the brevet route this Saturday (the only day I will have time to do the test ride). I actually have time and energy to sweep the house this morning, finally, which is good because the crumbs slowly drive me mad. And so on. These experiments are sufficiently intense that most of what I want to do on a given evening or weekend is just lie in place and stare at the wall for a while. Thankfully, the view from the loveseat is nice, of the trees out front.

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Other fun bike culture stuff

Last weekend was the Summer Solstice Swimsuit Ride in Tempe.

Before I started the ride, back in the day (2010), I'd spent several years contemplating how to cope with the hot weather of Arizona summers, how to make up for the fact that I wasn't in Fremont to enjoy the Fremont Solstice Parade, and how to deal with the general reaction people had whenever I would bring up the World Naked Bike Ride (fear). For a number of years, and before I knew many other car-free bicyclists, I would ride my bike from Tempe to downtown Phoenix to observe certain special features about the Burton Barr Public Library that were only visible around Solar Noon of Summer Solstice. It would take about an hour, then I'd have an hour or so to cool off in the library, and then I'd ride home as my Hottest Ride of the Year. It would give me the ability to cope with the remaining hot summer weather, where temperatures rarely go below 90 degrees at night.

Getting to know people at the Bike Saviours Co-op was key to community-building, and also key for finding like-minded characters who thought it sounded great to ride around and jump in fountains on Summer Solstice. For all the people who flee the desert in the summer, there are many who develop creative coping mechanisms, and it was wonderful to hang out with other people who embraced where they lived instead of constantly trying to deny it by hiding in air-conditioned cars and buildings.

It still amazes me that the ride is still going, and in fact it has grown considerably. So many people are carrying the torch now. The developing bike culture in Tempe gives me hope for other parts of the country. Bicyclists naturally get engaged with the world around them, because they are out experiencing that world whenever they pedal around. It forces you to notice things, especially situations that are unjust, and that encourages you to do something to change the world for the better.

Riding bikes around in swimsuits might just seem silly, but as a counter-cultural message it's huge.

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Bike tickets

I have ticketed a grand total of two bicycles in Lincoln, using my own version of these. I originally made a set of the tickets for scrottie, who would sigh and say, as we walked around bike-tating (spectating awesome bicycles), "I wish I could give that bike a ticket for excessive awesomeness." But once I gave him a set, I couldn't help myself and started making more.

I tried to use them as a community-building item in Texas, putting info about one of the local cycling organizations on the back of the ticket. My friends were entertained by them, but that's all I ever heard back. I probably put about 50 tickets on various rad bikes around that campus, but got zero response. I've only ticketed two bikes in Lincoln. The second one was this bike:

Big dummy

which belongs to a local bike mechanic, and who saw me issue the ticket because I wasn't being very sneaky about it.

I was more sneaky about the first one, because it's a bike that I ride past every day on my way to work, and it really does make my day whenever I see it, I have no idea who the owner is, and I've never seen the owner.

Apparently ticket recipient #2 had already heard about ticket recipient #1's ticket. I had noticed that the ticket was still in place on bike #1 a few days later, when the bike was parked in a different location in the same general area (clearly, someone commutes on it).

This is such a different city.

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Bikes on my mind

Bicycling on my mind

I finally had breathing room yesterday to start thinking about plans for the Paris-Brest-Paris some more. To start, I outlined the 15 stages of the ride, and dug through some of my previous materials, such as the pictured "France Randonnees a Velo" map being helpfully held down by Emma. My 2011 number and frame badge are pictured at the lower left, along with the handwritten prescription for industrial-strength Ibuprofen written by the doctor at Carhaix. Wonder if it's still good, but I hope I never have to find out.

The Nebraska RBA has been good about getting our results validated and returning our brevet cards, so the four pictured brevet cards are my qualifiers for the 2015 PBP. I like that he has an "Audax Nebraska" rubber stamp. The Nebraska Bicycling Alliance ringleader (source of the pictured "Thank You" card) also either has a super-nice bicycling stamp, or a friend with said stamp.

I woke up at 5:30 this morning, and turned yesterday's rhubarb and sour cherries into compote, which I applied to waffles for breakfast.

Cherry-rhubarb compote

I like to add just enough sugar so the compote doesn't make my mouth pucker up. If I were more than one person, I might switch to whipping cream instead of ice cream as my waffle topping. Solo living compromises.

Then I rode over to the Great Plains Trails Network's thirteenth annual Trail Trek, where they put together adventures of all distances that make use of Lincoln's fine trail system.

I encountered a few young Trekkers on my way to the starting line:

Kids headed to the Trek

Although I suspect they joined the other kids completing the 8-mile trek. I just LOVE seeing kids out on bikes. If B lived out here, he'd have a whole posse of kids to ride with!

After ticketing this rad-tastical Big Dummy (owner works at one of the local bike shops):

Big dummy

I embarked on the 28-mile trek, as a volunteer, along with this gaggle of folks:

Words of wisdom for the 28-mile riders

The people wearing green shirts are volunteers, although there seemed to be an abundance of us on the 28-mile distance, and we didn't have a whole lot to do. Probably better that way, eh?

This bike, parked at the end, was also cool, although I didn't ticket it.

NoGasTrike

And now I am enjoying a mostly-quiet afternoon.

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[Saturday errands]

At the farmer's market yesterday, I encountered one farmer selling sour (pie) cherries, one farmer selling interesting peppers for a reasonable price, some rhubarb, and some potatoes, and then I was out of cash. There were beefsteak-style tomatoes, but zero interesting heirloom varieties in sight.

At the grocery store, the shelves containing paper bags of "Tired Produce Discounted Just For You" had bags with slightly unhappy tomatoes, barely unhappy apples, green peppers with small bad spots, pears, and mushrooms that were just starting to dry out. It was also "co-op member discount weekend," and I finally got to cash out my green card discount stamps (totaling $5 off).

Goodwill had some sort of "Dollar Discount" thing happening, so elements for my pirate costume were even cheaper than usual. I might wind up looking like an Office Pirate, though, as I found a nice-looking business vest and the blouse I found doesn't have poofy sleeves. It's a start, however.

Then I rode out to Ben Franklin to see what they have in the way of devices that can punch a hole in the cap of an Eppendorf tube. That store was simultaneously horrifying and interesting. I like it much better than its other big-box craft rivals (JoAnn's, Michael's), and it carries certain odd items I hadn't had a reliable source for (envelope templates, glue pens). But it still made part of my soul shrivel up and die.

And they had punches aplenty, but nothing nearly sturdy enough for my project. Fortunately, there was an Ace Hardware next door that had a leather punch, which works fantastically. They also had popcorn. That reminded me of trips to Ernst with my parents when I was a kid, back when the University Village contained shops worth patronizing. What's the history of hardware stores offering popcorn, anyway?

Then I did my daily cricket work, rode home, and made calzones stuffed with mushrooms, green pepper, onion, tomato, and unhealthy but delicious quantities of mozzarella cheese.

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Bang snap hustle

So, one of the cyclists here invited me out to this month's Lincoln Hustle, and from the looks of things, I had to figure it would be like an alleycat.

My alleycatting experience is...uh...limited? I can't remember if we did the Dagger Death Race just one year or two years (Halloween alleycat). I suppose I could dig through Ye Olde Spoke Carde collection. Regardless, it sounded like way more fun than staying late to analyze data, and like a good opportunity to figure out if there are actual hipsters in town, so I jetted out of work yesterday and then moseyed over to the rendezvous point in a park in southern Lincoln.

I didn't want to stress my leg out too badly, so I rode the Jolly Roger and declared to myself that I was just out for a lark. I managed to mostly stick to that agenda.

Directions
Explanation of the manifest

The method to the madness for this one was a touch complicated. We received a list of five "Speakeasy" addresses, plus a list of five mixed drinks, each corresponding to one of the speakeasys. Each drink had a list of ingredients (e.g. Sidecars containing brandy, triple sec, and lemon juice). Our objective was to go to different supplier locations (intersections) to pick up codes for the ingredients, and then bring the codes to each speakeasy for points and further hijinks.

Altogether, we had two hours to hit all 17 supplier locations and the 5 speakeasys. Right as it was time to roll, another woman asked, "Hey, would you like to ride together?" so I said, "Heck yeah!" and we got underway. I got the list of locations early enough to start plotting things out on my bike map, and was glad to have my cue sheet clip ready to go:

High-tech navigation

The other rider, A, knew town better than I did, but only had a rear pannier for stowage, so we were each able to help each other out with different aspects of the fun.

Also, smartphone navigating is terrible for this kind of event, in case you wondered. I pulled my phone out occasionally, but it took way too much fiddling to be useful.

When all was said and done, we only made it to three out of the five speakeasies. This one was highly entertaining:

Speakeasy

because the purveyors had strewn a bunch of bang snaps on the front walk. It was also run by a gravel rider I'd been wanting to meet, conveniently enough!

The celebration at the end was fun, too. Bike people (mostly not pictured)!
Post-ride celebration

I have concluded that there don't really seem to be hipsters here. But hey, that's okay, because there are other flavors of awesome bike people. I was highly amused to note that A was also on a mountain bike with a rear pannier, wearing a Bern helmet.

I think I inhaled slightly too much smoke from the backyard fire, though. Either that or my sinuses are unhappy about pollen again.

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