Bicycle Regret When Travelling

My friend and I just travelled for ten days across the country to visit Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks. We had completed the packing of the car and were just heading out of the city when I looked at my friend Emley and said, I want to bring my bike. She said let’s turn around and get them.

I said no, for various reasons.

One, we were already camping the whole time and our car was packed to the brim. Even though I know the bike rack would have been on the back of the car and would not have affected the space within the vehicle.

Two, we intended to hike. I know if I have my bike, I will only ride. I will not hike, I prefer cycling.

Three, I did not know the state of the parks and how many places would be accessible via bicycle. We had done quite a bit of research yet neglected to look into bicycle routes within the parks.

Therefore, we said no. And believe me people, Yellowstone is very beautiful without a bicycle. In fact, it is very car accessible because it was the first park to ever be established in the US and because it is SUPER touristy. I knew this in the back of my head even though it did not really sink in until we reached the park. Really, you do not even have to get out of your car to see the highlights of Yellowstone. And if you do, it is to walk less than half a mile to see the well known sites.

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This beautiful photo is from the car, can you believe it? It was early morning in Lamar Valley.

But if you want to see the real Yellowstone, I suggest you hike. Because the untouched beauty is indescribable. And the tourists are decreased almost one hundred fold. You will suddenly feel as though you went to a national park like you thought you did. Initially, you do not feel this way.

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Our hike around Yellowstone Lake

And there are cyclists. We saw many touring cyclists and racing cyclists, as well as the recreational cyclist with their family. The main road throughout the park is 142 miles long and is called the Grand Loop. The roadway traverses up and down large mountains and many flat valleys. For this reason, I am glad I did not attempt the bike here. That would have required a different type of preparation I did not complete prior to the trip.

It wasn’t until the Grand Teton National Park that I really experienced deep regret, specifically bicycle regret. If you want to experience the beauty of that part of the country in Wyoming without the large amounts of tourists and with more of the seclusion expected in a national park, I suggest you visit the Tetons. Spend the majority of your time at the Tetons and drive around to the points of interest at Yellowstone in a day or two.

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Imagine riding by these sites on your bicycle. It is incredible.

And bring your bike. Because from Signal mountain (approximately halfway through the park, there is a beautiful protected bike lane that rides south  alongside the beautiful mountains to and through Jackson, Wyoming for 16 miles. In fact, there are multiple paved bike routes throughout the Tetons.

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View the bike trail map in the Grand Teton Park from the National Parks website at the link below.

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The Hostile Commute

Some days the commute feels more hostile than others. Everyday there is an ebb and flow to the patterns of motorists on the road. And when you switch from major thoroughfares to neighborhood streets or sometimes even a bike lane, it is easy to recognize the vast difference. This difference may occur when you realize the volume of cars is less, the speed of cars is a lot less, and the speed of your heart rate is less. Because it slows after removing yourself from that high stress, high speed environment.

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Safety from the Hostility

Today, the drivers seemed to whiz by at rates greater than normal. In contrast to my leisurely commute yesterday, there was a greater sense of urgency today. I felt this through the majority of my trip. It was magnified when I was at an intersection, going straight and a motorist passed me to get in my lane and then turn right. At which point, it almost caused a collision and obscenities to be yelled. I was happy to turn off the busy Bardstown Road onto a neighborhood street shortly after and afterwards a street with a bike lane. I mean geez, it was barely after seven. The main reason I leave so early is to avoid the crazy drivers and rush hour traffic.

 

Some days it is easy to feel terrorized on the street. Usually, I can’t wait to get out of there. And I have to remember to breathe. Breathe.

 

Breathe.
Breathe.

 

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Rational Fears when Biking

I have been commuting for years, approximately seven. As time has passed, my comfort and proficiency with road biking has grown, naturally. Yet I still have many fears when commuting. The days I get up early to cycle to work are often wrought with fear. And there are varying levels of fear that change depending on my environment, such as the types of road I am traversing, the speed limit of the road, or even the neighborhood.

There are four major fears that I continuously have when commuting. I do not write this to deter you from commuting via bicycle, but to inform you that we all have fears.

The first and main fear is the possibility of being hit by a car. I worry about it constantly. Motorized vehicles like to go fast. And why not?  That is the allure of driving after all. Yet being on a road where cars and trucks whiz by at greater than 45 MPH, I often wonder when will I experience a collision. I mean, how awake are the drivers at 6:30 in the morning? Are they looking at their phone? Are they texting? Are they paying attention to the road? I know the driver is angry that I am in their ‘driving lane’, would they hit me out of spite?

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Furthermore, a car travelling at 45 MPH that experiences a collision with a cyclist, will likely have one mortality, me, the bike rider. If not, I will definitely be the more injured one. I do not have a protective two ton frame surrounding me. I have nothing, except for my helmet. Will that save me? I think not.

Second, I fear slipping and/or falling. I am constantly looking for debris in the street that could cause any danger. Just a small rock could throw my tire. Puddles of water or other unknown liquids can also cause slips or instabilities. This is amplified in the street where if I slipped or fell I could risk hitting a car or vice versa.

My first time falling, ever.
The road was wet with rain but the fall could be attributed to the beer I drank. Luckily it was Cyclouvia and there were zero cars on the road.

 

Third, I fear that my baggage will fall off my bike. Bikes are so great in the fact that they can carry such weight in stuff and things. But not all baggage and tie down equipment is created equal. I have had computers fall off, backpacks, and even lunches that were lost forever.

 

Finally, my biggest fear of all, is that my bike will be STOLEN. It happens all the time. It has happened to many friends of mine. Everyday I leave work, I search for my bike in fear, wondering if today will be the day that it is stolen. I am meticulous about how I lock my bike; frame and front tire. I remove all my fancy lights (they are expensive), as well as any other attachment. I often double check the lock, and pull on it a few times. I lock it to a place that is heavily trafficked by the public so that it will look unusual to passersby if someone tries to steal it. Or I’ll bring it up to the workplace if it seems necessary.

wekilltee1Buy this tee here!!

 

So why do I continue to cycle?  And the answer is that I love it. I love the adrenaline that is coupled with the fear; the relief of making it through a dangerous area on my bike. I love the wonderful things I am able to see when I am not rushing through life in a car and the enjoyment of being outdoors. My anxieties and fears won’t stop me. I won’t let them.

Don’t let your fears keep you from the experience of cycling!

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Bikes in Dreamland

Last night, I had a dream about my bicycle. A beautiful black miyata, vintage. I was laying in the grass, as I often do after a ride, next to my bicycle. The grass was crowded in my dream.

There was a man and his friend sitting somewhat close to me. He made an offer to me, to purchase my bike. He offered me $850.

I paid $500 dollars for my bike.

I remember considering this in my dream, considering 850 dollars.

I said no.

And I rode away.

Happy.

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Connecting Louisville Metro

I’ve recently moved.

 

While this was a happy occasion with many perks, a downside was the increase in travel time to work, from five miles to ten miles. This may seem like nothing to you motor vehicle users, but to me, a cyclist, it means a world of difference. Not only am I located five miles more away from my workplace, I am located outside of the Watterson Expressway.

 

Louisville has five major roadways, 64, 71, 264, 265 and 65. Interstate 64 travels east and west through the middle of the city, and 264, the Henry Watterson Expressway ie ‘the Watterson’, travels in a loop around the city.

Louisville Interstates

My colleague says you never want to live outside of the Watterson. For urbanites this is true. For cyclists, I now understand, it holds even more truth.

For a cyclist, living outside of the Watterson means travelling underneath it. Travelling underneath it means cycling down a high speed roadway that motor vehicles exit and enter at high speeds as well. It is dark and musty under there. Gone are the bike lanes, or even sidewalks. It is no ped land. It exists solely for motorized vehicles.

Yet, this morning, I finally took the plunge. I spent many hours considering and calculating my route. I also used Google maps and its trusty bike route tool that gave me three options and times to reach my destination (approximately one hour). So I woke at 5:30, in order to leave by 6:30, and to reach my workplace by 7:30. The first ten minutes were easy neighborhood streets, plus the fact that it was 6:30 in the morning and not many were on the road at this time. But when I reached the dreaded overpass on the high volume roadway, I was nervous. My heart was pounding. It did not matter that there were not many cars. Was I visible?!

I clung to the edge, the white line. I switched to the shoulder with the debris, feeling slightly more protected there. Thank goodness I had lights because it was dark under there. Would drivers see me? Would I be hit?

I finally made it out. But that wasn’t the end. I was right next to a merging lane that exited the interstate onto my busy roadway. What would I do? Stay in the right lane? Switch to the merge lane? Where will people see me best? And they were all driving way too fast.

 

Finally, there was a sidewalk. I immediately switched to it. I had absolutely no desire to be on the busy roadway.

 

Ahead, a shining bike lane appeared, a cordoned bike lane for that matter. I was ecstatic. I had never wished more for a designated bike lane. It offered Protection, Safety. There was a sewer running along side it. Who cares?! Life was carefree again.

 

And then, I was within the Watterson Expressway loop again. I was near the city center. Drivers were real, respectful human beings again, driving at lower speeds. Within the loop there were designated bike lanes.

 

Cycling underneath an overpass (or over an overpass) is the least safe thing you could do on a bike. In Louisville, no bike lanes exist anywhere near these heavy volume, high speed areas. I don’t really understand why because it seems the place where they are needed the most.

 

A happy solution to this specific lack in bike lanes would be to add some, or even better, to narrow or reduce the motor vehicle lanes and simultaneously add a bike lane. This has been done in the Netherlands.
However, that is not to say that Louisville, KY does not have a burgeoning cycling scene. Our local government has spent much time and money developing bike lanes throughout the city, including the Louisville Loop, a 100-mile bike lane that travels around the city, much like a couple of our interstates. In fact, we recently reached silver status as a bicycle friendly community by the League of American Cyclists. Yet we have more work to do in order to expand our urban bike lanes and connect more riders to accessible and safe routes throughout the city, within or outside of the Henry Watterson Loop.

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Babes in Bikeland

I am going to pause and not talk about bikes for a moment, instead I will talk about babes. Not hot babes (unfortunately), but babes as in babies. Babies that are yours from the time they come out of you until they reach college. Well, they are yours forever, I suppose, not just eighteen years.

 

Recently, I had a break down. Last year, to be exact. It was a pivotal moment, I was considering doctoral-ism. All of a sudden, a time table flashed before my eyes. I am(was) 28, a PhD is going to take approximately five years. Then, a deep voice said to me, ‘but when are you going to have a baby?’ I immediately wept. It was too much pressure. Why was I required to think about this, about procreating? Why is it my decision? Why do I have to think about it at all until I am absolutely and really ready? Why must I be the procreator? Can’t someone else be the procreator?

 

This was all part of my break down. On a normal day, I don’t think about having children. In fact, it rarely crosses my mind.

 

Except…..

 

When I see someone on their bike with a little trailer on the back. The windows are screened. And it is covered in reflectors.
Then, I think to myself, ‘if I have a baby that is what we will do.’

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The Bungee Strikes Back

At the beginning of each bike ride, I attempt to bring along as little as possible. When going to classes, this is never easy. However, when going to work it’s pretty simple. I have a small across the chest bag (A Kavu which I love) and a lunch box/bag. I normally try to stuff the lunch box into my Kavu bag along with the book I am reading at the time, my work shirt so I don’t sweat it up on the ride in, my large wallet that needs to be replaced, and other miscellaneous items that are safe to say, probably unnecessary.

Two weeks ago, I had a great idea to bungee the lunchbox onto my bike rack in the back. It would be less weight carried on my back. Although the lunch is small, it can make a difference believe it or not. Plus, I have had a number of instances where Tupperware has leaked, been tossed around and mushed together, or my fruit was majorly bruised.( You’d think I was doing some type of extreme cyclocross!) On the rack, it would be stable, upright.

I prepared for the ride. I secured my lunch box with my final yellow bungee cord onto the rack. ( I have yet to purchase new ones.) I noted how cute it looked, wondered what you might call a trunk on a bicycle, and happily and satisfactorily mounted my ride.

I took the usual ride to work. Partway down Frankfort, someone honked. I thought to myself, you have plenty of room to pass, just pass. But other than that, I didn’t think much of it. On Story Avenue, (one of my least favorite streets to ride on) I received another horn honk. I wasn’t sure what was wrong. I don’t normally get this many complaints early in the morning. However on Story, people like to speed and there are only two lanes. I’m sure I was inconveniencing someone as usual, shmeh.

Anyways, I continued on to work. I pulled up to my bike rack at work with a smile on my face, full of endorphins, and the bass beating in my ears. I locked it up and proceeded to remove my lunch box.

But it was gone.

Only my single yellow bungee cord remained.

My delicious homemade spaghetti with sausage and crusty Italian bread, gone! Oooh nooo! Did I even have money for lunch???

I had half a mind to go search for it. My lunchbox. Filled with food. My Tupperware. Filled with food. My CRUSTY ITALIAN BREAD FROM THE BAKERY!

There was no way to return. There was no time to go back and search for it. I had to let it go. Let. It. Go.

I thought to myself, it’s just a lunchbox Katlyn, it’s not the end of the world. Maybe some homeless person is really enjoying your meal.

Well, recipient of my homemade lunch, I hope it was good. I hope you enjoyed the decadence of bakery made Italian bread, of homemade spaghetti sauce with lemon zest and sausage, of long, al dente spaghetti noodles. I hope it gave you the strength of the gods! I hope you were rejuvenated for days! That you didn’t feel hunger at least for twelve hours!

But I’ll still search for you, lunch box. Every day, on my way to work, I’ll look for your discarded self. I won’t care that you’re no longer filled with food or crusty Italian bread. I won’t care that you’re covered in dirt and filth.

I’ll welcome you back with open arms. And I will reuse you, again.

Lunchbag

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