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300k aftermath: bus adventures

Sunday after the 300k was quite nice. I got to lounge around a bunch on my friend A's comfy sofa, eating snacks galore. Then we went on a lovely expedition to a nearby botanical garden so I could start learning the flora and fauna that do well in this part of the country. Tons of lovely flowers and cute insects. After a tasty lunch in a nice neighborhood coffeeshop and a few moments of gazing at a beautiful stretch of the Charles River, it was time for the drive back to Albany.

The rental car was due back to the airport by 8 am yesterday morning, but before I returned it, I had one more plan: use it to haul a huge carload of heavy boxes in to the office. Given how much spaces the boxes required, and how creaky I felt, I decided against riding my bike back from the airport. Instead, it was time to try out more Capital District transportation.

Once again, it's useful to take Texas as a baseline. There was no public transportation system in the Bryan/College Station area. When that's the baseline, pretty much anything even remotely functional is a big step up. So yay, there are buses here, and they go to useful places!

But as with navigating by bicycle, there's a learning curve. As I'd hoped, the airport was reasonably well-stocked with bus route schedules, but after perusing them I had to conclude that the only way to get a bigger picture of the bus route network is via the CDTA website. That would help me figure out to what extent this system is set up as a hub-and-spoke versus a cross-town arrangement. Unfortunately, I couldn't figure out any way to get the website to be even remotely useable on my smart-o-phone while I was waiting at the airport, so that's a project for another time. But at least the Goog is familiar with the buses and schedules, so it was able to suggest some routes to get back to campus. And the maps and schedules for the individual routes are quite nicely laid out and easy to read. So as long as you know which bus numbers you want, the system is great.

The woman sitting at the information desk sounded incredulous about the idea of taking the bus. That's disappointing to me but not a big surprise.

Anyway, what I've learned for the airport is that one of the main airport buses only runs Monday through Friday, and only about once an hour in the middle of the day. So I had lots of time to peruse the various schedules I'd picked up. It also meandered a bunch and headed back towards Albany, but it did connect right up to what appears to be the one bus line that runs back out to Siena. So an hour and a half later and I made it back to campus. And maybe in the future I'll figure out how to cobble together more of a bus-walk-bus arrangement to expedite the trip. We shall see.

The bus that runs by Siena seems fairly good and direct - it was only a 20-minute trip back to Albany at the end of the day, after a 15-minute walk from my office to the bus stop. But then it took another 40-minute walk across Washington Park to get home. So if I wind up taking the bus in the winter, it might be worth it to do the transfer to a second bus line in Albany that runs right past the house. We shall see. Either that or I'll give in and get a folding bike, heh.

In sum:

Driving to campus took 14 minutes and required driving a car, which was lame, even during non-rush hour.

Bicycling to campus takes 35 minutes and is phenomenal, especially in good weather.

Taking the bus to campus will take ???? and will be all right.

With that all accomplished, time to get back to various trainings and syllabus-writings.

This entry was originally posted at https://rebeccmeister.dreamwidth.org/1244846.html. Please comment there using OpenID.
The New England Randonneurs apparently call themselves the NERds, heh.

So, let's see here. clicky for lengthy ride reportCollapse )

This entry was originally posted at https://rebeccmeister.dreamwidth.org/1244522.html. Please comment there using OpenID.

300k notes

Just to keep things from bouncing around in my head and falling out.

The ride: http://nerandonneurs.org/nersite/?p=3380

-Tons of roadside produce stands. U-pick blackberries and blueberries around.

-Over the course of noticing that he was reacting to something, [personal profile] scrottie pointed out that it looks like a lot of people out here do the same thing he's seen in Minnesota, where they drench their lawn in pesticides. That made me pay closer attention to the indicators and notice that he's correct - tons of advertising signs in peoples' yards for tick and mosquito control. I did see a single "no spray" sign. But just one? That seems kind of nuts compared to elsewhere. So, given this element, I'm a little skeptical of the signs for organic produce.

-We had to cross a narrow bridge with some crazy expansion joints at one point. Four sets of joints. I rode over the first one but then lost courage and walked my bike across the remaining three.

-The thunderstorm caught up with me in Miles Standish State Forest. I should have headed straight for the visitor's center instead of thinking that the porch/deck by the fire station would do much of anything when the rain started picking up. As a result I re-learned that my handlebar bag is excellent at holding water. I had things packaged up properly, but barely.

-My everyday slip-on shoes were okay, but not the best shoes for long-distance rides. The new pedals were excellent. My feet got soaked right after the thunderstorm while riding through some of the puddles across the road. So the shoe covers I made seem to work for gentle rain but not more extensive rainfall. I also forgot the trick of remembering to pack along spare dry wool socks in case of rain. Hopefully I remember next time.

-I did okay on food. Two of the five controls were at Dunkin Donuts, which has egg-and-cheese sandwiches and hash browns. Reasonable brevet food. I ate three of the four burritos I brought along but accidentally squished the last one.

-Following the .gpx worked well, up until the track ran out. Which happened right as it got dark. Navigating by cue sheet in the dark got confusing in a hurry, and probably cost me around an hour in bonus miles and map checks. Every road is named "High Street" or "Church Street" etc. That said - there are actually pretty good road signs in the MA countryside, unlike in Boston proper. At the finish control I learned from the organizer that my problem comes from the GPS getting cranky when a .gpx track has too many points. I'll plan on allocating more time for sorting that out in advance next time.

-Nice group of people out here. I wound up riding mostly by myself because my speed was in between the speed of all the normal people and the two guys who apparently vie with each other for Lanterne Rouge (unintentionally). Riding by myself was all right because it gave me more time to admire all the trees and stone fences.

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Local Bike Shop

The Local Bike Shop, a mile away from the house, is only open from 11 am - 6 pm on weekdays and Saturday. So after a crazy restless night of not-quite-sleep, I spent the morning working on various things at home and then gingerly rode the Jolly Roger over to the shop.

In spite of its boutique-like appearance, the mechanics there were perfectly happy to have a crazily heavy mountain bike with a picnic basket on the front to work on. By now I think the Jolly Roger's due for a spa treatment, so we went over a whole series of items in great detail.

One of the mechanics suggested trying to do a helicoil thread repair on the stripped crank, so that's what they're going to try. Given that the pedal seems all right and the other crank is fine, it totally seems worthwhile. First things first, though, I asked them to go ahead and work on getting the stuck seatpost out. The same mechanic who recommended the helicoil trick showed me two examples of other stuck seatposts he'd extracted recently. I'm glad to have someone work on it who's enthusiastic about the project. When I took the Jolly Roger in to the bike shop in Nebraska, the mechanic looked me in the eye and said, "We don't do seatpost extractions." The bike mechanics at my father's shop in Seattle also gave the Jolly Roger the hairy eyeball. I don't think the mechanics in Arizona or California would have been interested in the project, either, and I wouldn't trust the bike mechanics in Texas.

I gave them a handful of reflective ducks. I should probably give them a bunch of reflective Jolly Roger stickers when I come back in to pick up the Jolly Roger.

Then I rode Froinlavin in to campus again.

The local bike co-op is called the Albany Bike Rescue, and has open shop hours on Tuesdays and work days on Thursdays where people refurbish bikes to give away. I'll make it over there eventually.

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General Albany observations:

-Our co-mingled recycling bin was very thoroughly explained at to us, which was cute. Apparently co-mingled recycling is a new thing in Albany.

-When trying to learn about places to live in Albany, a colleague sent me a map with different neighborhoods highlighted on it. The northern part of Albany was all highlighted in red, to avoid, while the southern part was highlighted in green. Bicycling along Clinton Ave, in the northern portion, I've been observing a large proportion of rowhouses that feature the Scarlet Letter. I've also been riding past a rowhouse with a sign outside that says, "Priced to sell fast - $30,000." One other thing I've noticed about those neighborhoods is that there are a lot of people who live there who like to hang out on their front steps - people of all ages, sitting out on the stoop. I love seeing people out, interacting. On Monday's route in the morning, I watched two people who were working to ligh up a barbecue grill in front of their rowhouse, with cardboard and lighter fluid.

I am not seeing nearly as much evidence of complete homelessness as in California. Just poverty and racial segregation.


Almost immediately upon arriving, [personal profile] scrottie and I went over to check out the local grocery co-op, as I wrote about previously. I would have joined up immediately, but they said they have all new prospective members attend a 3-hour orientation meeting first. So I signed up to attend the orientation meeting that was held last night.

It was amazing.

But not like you might think, exactly.

A, the person who led the orientation, was one of the original co-op members, and is a woodworker and storyteller. This co-op dates back to the 70's, and he gave us the full lengthy, involved story of the co-op's history, from its early origins up through the more recent drama and how it wound up reaching its current state.

Equally interesting were the other people attending the orientation. A had us go around and introduce ourselves and talk about our experiences with other co-ops and why we were interested in joining Honest Weight. There was a woman who had driven in 45 minutes from an outlying small town because her nearby options sucked, a man who had been working to change up his diet and lifestyle who had lost a lot of weight and was looking to save money on his groceries, 6 or so younger idealistic types (one also named Rebecca, from Minnesota, who had moved to town 1 day before me), and a gay couple that had moved to Albany from NYC a few years prior. Oh, I eventually got labeled "Left Coast." Welcome back to the East Coast to me, ha.

The gay couple had some amazing stories about grocery co-ops in NYC. It sounded like they'd tried to join the Park Slope Co-op, but said that it was nearly impossible to figure out even how to get in for a tour, let alone how to join, so they'd joined a different co-op instead and supplemented that with a CSA subscription. A noted that the Park Slope Co-op shows up periodically in the New York Times.

Evidence: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/19/nyregion/metropolitan-diary-overheard-at-the-park-slope-food-co-op.html (omg please read this one)
https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/30/business/park-slope-food-coop-pension-fund-fight.html (with a link to additional NYT coverage of co-op matters)

There was also extensive discussion of some changes in terminology that have happened for Honest Weight over the years. Apparently around 16,000 people are "member-owners" of the co-op, which in its simplest form involves purchasing a $100 "Certificate of Ownership" (not a "share," ahem, because that word means something else from a legal standpoint). However, if a person wishes to wield decision-making power (i.e. have a voting membership), they must make a "time commitment" of at least 3 hours a month (this is neither "working" nor "volunteering"). If a person wishes to receive more extensive discounts, they must then make a further time commitment of three hours per week. For those with partners or shared households, where everyone shares food from the same fridge, each person is expected to become a member-owner, the total "time commitment" is three hours plus an additional hour per additional person, and this can be met by a combination of hours from each person or by one person meeting the full time commitment.

Over the course of this, we learned that at one point the Park Slope Co-op had to crack down on member-owners who were sending in their nannies to fulfill their time commitments on their behalf. Ahem, member-owners at that co-op must fulfill their time commitments themselves.

There have been interesting disagreements that have happened over the course of the co-op's history. Some of Honest Weight's history will be of especial interest to those who are familiar with the Gentle Strength Co-op's history in Arizona. But also compared to the models pursued by other grocery co-ops in other parts of the U.S.

So, back to the 70's and 80's. Lots of grocery co-ops got their start in that era, often by people who were inspired by reading Diet for a Small Planet. The same was true for Honest Weight: strong vegetarian leanings in the early days. Early grocery co-ops were often just big rooms, and people would basically band together to be able to purchase items in bulk for cheap and then distribute those items among themselves. So in the early days, Honest Weight basically offered vegetarian bulk dry goods, and occasional dairy products from a local dairy. Over time, they started to grow, and at some point they wound up relocating to a building owned by somebody who was sympathetic to the co-op's mission. This was an older building in a fairly central location, and it allowed the co-op to grow and expand in the space for a long time. But apparently it was very much lacking in parking space. When the building's owner eventually got tired of owning the building, they offered to sell to the co-op for a good price. But with the lack of parking space, the co-op members instead decided to purchase a chunk of land with a warehouse on it instead, so they did.

I'm a bit dodgy on some of the details at this point, but it sounds like there was a challenging period where they demolished the warehouse and then went into debt to construct the current co-op building of their dreams. So they're now in a phase where they are paying off all of that debt (more-or-less successfully, by the sound of it) and continuing to work to stay afloat and serve their membership and the broader community. While the current location provides a parking lot that can hold somewhere between 100 and 200 cars, it's apparently still not quite large enough to contain both the cars belonging to co-op shoppers and the cars belonging to member-owners who have arrived to put in their time commitments.

(I should note that the bike racks out in front of the building are quite nice and well-situated, and it's pretty easy to bike over there).

It sounds like in recent years Honest Weight wound up deciding that it is not interested in pursuing a "consumer model," which is more like what has happened for co-ops like REI. I suspect something similar may also have happened to PCC. I'm not sure where Open Harvest fits in (that's the co-op in Lincoln). Honest Weight has also struggled with shifts in the grocery distribution options, but is still managing to do a lot to bring in food from local producers in addition to bringing in many of the packaged/manufactured goods that some fraction of the members like. Hence why I could find products shipped all the way in from the west coast, which I have mixed feelings about. (I'm inclined to agree with our oral historian, though, that the heart of this co-op is in the bulk section and the produce section, and thank goodness for that.).

Anyway, I hope I am able to become an active member-owner. If so, it sounds like I will have future stories to tell about adventures with this interesting community of people.

And I haven't even mentioned the hilarious commentary about the throngs that flock in to take advantage of the senior discounts on Wednesdays. As A put it, people fighting their way out of their Mercedes-Benzes and Rolls-Royces to get in to the store and get those grocery bargains.

Nor have I mentioned how there have apparently been raging debates between the vegan faction and those who were interested in bringing in locally-produced meats and seafood.

Also interestingly, only residents of the state of New York can become member-owners. People who live in western Massachusetts cannot join - probably for legal reasons, if I had to guess. And while there are around 16,000 member-owners, there are only around 800 people who are eligible to vote in elections. There are also around 200 paid employees who work at the co-op, and there have been some interesting dynamics that have developed between the co-op's board and the people who have spearheaded co-op management over the years. Lots of room for interesting interpersonal things to rise up and swirl around, but at least in this case the co-op has continued to persist in spite of it all.

It made me think about Gentle Strength a lot, and how Gentle Strength wound up imploding after a similar, related series of cascading events (management vs. board dispute, questionable real estate decisions, etc). When I left Arizona, construction was well underway on the 10- or 20-story building that's replacing the old Gentle Strength site. The developers have named the building "The Local" and it will feature a Whole Amazon Foods on the ground floor, along with floors and floors of parking stalls.

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Route Three

I took Froinlavin in this morning, which meant carefully re-installing its new MKS Lambda pedals. Froinlavin doesn't appreciate being as loaded down as the Jolly Roger, but managed fine.

Some of the roads that cross Albany are one-way, so the route to campus is slightly different from the route from campus. In general, the trip to campus went much more smoothly, though. I decided to try out a short detour through the Albany Rural Cemetery. What a beautiful spot. However, it isn't particularly convenient, due to a brief gravel stretch and a low chain fence, so I don't think I'll bother going through the cemetery in general.

8.3 miles in 50 minutes. The ride home yesterday was 6.78 miles - didn't note how long it took.

I am back to hobo showering in the restroom for the time being. I am also thinking I should start a Siena Bicycle Commuters Club, even if I'm the only member, heh.

I am thinking that maybe now is the time to do a total overhaul on the Jolly Roger - see if the seatpost can get unstuck, deal with the wacky shifting, maybe see about a new paint job or at least a reasonable touch-up.

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Route home was fine

Followed Google's directions, and there were bike lanes that aren't indicated on either teh Goog's maps or the new BikeAlbanyMap.

Not that I'm complaining.

Pedal stayed on but made disconcerting clicking noises/feelings.

It was rainy so I tried to smile a lot and look like I was having fun. Hey, I was!

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Made it to work on Day 1 of bike commuting. I think I left the house at 9:30. I got to campus at 10:45. In my defense, partway through the ride I discovered that I had indeed cross-threaded my right pedal, so I had to do some finagling and only powered up with my left leg after that. The crank's about 2/3 stripped, so I guess I'll be shopping for a new crank soon. Meanwhile, I discovered that most of the bike shops in the area are closed on Mondays. So, yeah. Maybe I'll be riding Froinlavin tomorrow.

This is a funny commute. The first half is extremely urban, winding through Albany. The second half is pastoral. I may be able to ride one leg through a cemetery. It's not flat, but it's not too terrible.

I locked my bike up to the "faculty and staff parking only" sign. I will start bringing it in to my office soon, though, probably once I can get the second desk cleared out of here.

But one thing at a time. HR appointment first, etc etc.

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I think I'm going to get a tumbler-composter for this house. We generate too many kitchen scraps for just the worm bin. I might try to keep it going in the basement in the winter, though we'll see. We'll probably need to steal leaf bags from people to get enough carbon for it.

Suggestions on what works well in addition to what to avoid would be appreciated.

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Time travel

So the dark cloud for Grandma House is that S is responding to something here. At this stage, we can't tell if it's the lingering effects of one of those older, more persistent kinds of pesticides that was used directly inside of Grandma House, or if it has more to do with whatever is going on with the brick building next door. As best as we can tell, the brick building is in the process of being sold. It looks like it's generally rented out as student housing. The brick building hypothesis would be a best-case scenario, although we would probably then need to leave all the windows closed on that side of the house.

So it was a good morning to try and get out of the house - under these conditions, S needs to be out in fresh air as much as possible because it takes a long time for his body to clear stuff out and return to baseline.

The local bike advocacy organization had organized a ride for this morning called "The Daily Grind to the Daily Grind," which started at an Albany coffeeshop called the Daily Grind and traveled to a Troy coffeeshop called the Daily Grind.

However, when we reached the starting point, it was discovered that a huge raincloud was looming over the area. So the ride organizer postponed things until the following Saturday. At least we got to meet a couple other local bicyclists. And thankfully, one of the other people who showed up to participate was willing to lead us down to the Hudson River Trail, and on the way he told us a few things about some of the bike infrastructure projects that are in the works.

We did get rained on while we rode, but it was a reasonably gentle and warm summer rain. Instead of going to the other Daily Grind, we rode to the Troy Waterfront Farmer's Market. People have been saying that it's the best farmer's market in the region, and it certainly had lots to offer.

Walking around and seeing what produce is in season felt a little like time traveling. When she visited on Tuesday, my aunt C brought us some apricots and peaches and said that apricots are usually here and then gone in a flash. My mental calendar has been tuned more to the Arizona seasons, where apricots and peaches have already happened, way back in May and June. Tons of tomatoes are ripe here, now, too. And there are blueberries all over the place.

It's comforting to be able to stock up a bit on fruit for the winter. We really couldn't take any frozen goods with us all the way from Arizona to New York.

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