Category Archives: Cycling

Incentivize Me

IMAG0594I did our tax return yesterday, via TurboTax online. If you haven’t used TurboTax before, it leads you, step by step, through various types of income, deductions and credits you might be eligible for. One of the items I passed by was tax credits for purchasing electric or alternative-fuel vehicles.

I have an alternative-fuel vehicle. It’s my human-powered bicycle. But it doesn’t count for credits on our tax return. Those tax credits are for people who buy relatively expensive motor vehicles.

The tax credits are supposed to encourage people to buy these vehicles. They are slowly becoming more common.   I am still not going to buy one. They are still too expensive for us. We also prefer to have a larger family vehicle, due to the number and type of activities we are involved in (including Girl Scouts), and we do not want to buy a second vehicle just for my commute and the occasional instances when we could use a second car.

There IS a program that benefits bicycle commuters, if your employer chooses to participate.  Employers who provide free or discounted transit passes for employees can deduct those expenses on their tax returns (more info here). These employers can also provide a $20 per month cash benefit for bicycle commuters, to defray the costs of bicycle commuting (and the employer then deducts that expense as well).  The League of American Bicyclists has details (if you don’t see anything, scroll down).

The other option for employers is to allow employees to purchase transit passes using pre-tax dollars, which then decreases the employee’s taxable income. This option doesn’t have a bicycle component.

My employer does not participate in either option, but hey, it’s a public school district. There’s no tax benefit to them. They already give us good health and retirement benefits. They could participate in the pre-tax transit option (many school districts do, including Portland Public), but honestly, in our area it’s relatively difficult to get to the schools by public transit.

So I’m out of luck for tax credits and commuter benefits. And really, there’s plenty of benefit to my bike commute anyway. I get exercise, and we save money by not owning a second car. But wouldn’t it be nice if there were more ways to encourage people to choose alternatives? The United States famously pays farmers not to grow crops.  In light of the most recent climate report, are there more ways we could pay people not to drive?


Where I Am Now

I posted a couple of weeks ago about our move to an apartment, and about selling my Xtracycle.

I’m still mourning a bit, especially when I think of an errand I could run by bike, or of things I’d like to grow.  But here’s where we are now: the balcony of our apartment, and me with my current bike, a Schwinn Avenue hybrid.

Kathleen new

And those would be planters on the left. Our youngest and I planted some seeds from her day camp, but only the fava bean plant has survived so far. I’ve got some more seeds, though, and we’re going to do some replanting. But that’s it for our garden, so far.

You can also see our pool toys on the right. Our complex has a pool, and that’s definitely an asset.

We’re still doing Girl Scouts, as you can see by my shirt. We went horseback riding yesterday, then today I dropped our eldest off at resident camp, and at the end of the month we’ll be going on a medieval-themed campout together.

I’ll still be riding that bike to work, once school starts. Actually, I had started riding it back in June, when I took the Xtracycle in for a tuneup. It’s lighter and faster, but I can’t carry much yet; I need to get a rack and/or panniers. And fenders, before it starts raining!

We have most of the boxes unpacked, but we’re still getting organized. So, life moves on.

The Times, They Are a-Changin’

All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy; for what we leave behind us is a part of ourselves; we must die to one life before we can enter another.  ~Anatole France

This is a summer of change for us. In early June, our landlord notified us that they would be changing our rental terms; if we stayed we would henceforth be paying them a larger amount of rent, which would include utilities.

Unfortunately, that amount was about 200 dollars per month more than what we had been paying for rent and utilities combined. So we had to decide whether to try to manage the new amount or move someplace more affordable.

I had the prospect of a higher-paying job, but no certainty, and I haven’t had even a cost-of-living raise in three years. Steven has been getting step raises, but that’s not enough to make up $200 per month.

So, we decided to look for a lower-cost rental, and found one. It’s a three-bedroom apartment, just about a mile from where we lived before, and within the same school district. Everyone goes to their same schools in the fall. And my two (TWO!) middle-schoolers will get to ride the bus now, because we moved further away from the middle school (this is good, because before they had to walk over a mile).

But we’ve moved from a decent-sized triplex unit (about 1700 square feet) to a smaller, second-floor apartment (about 1100 square feet). We sold or gave away quite a lot, including some furniture, a piano and…my Xtracycle. But we’re still struggling to make everything fit.

And it’s just hard on everyone to leave our home. We’d been there for eight years. We moved in just before our youngest was born, so she had never lived anywhere else until now. She cries about having left. She’s not the only one.

But, here we are. And it IS a good apartment, and the complex seems well-managed. There is a pool. We are all together. We have enough money set aside for next month’s rent. The girls are still going to their camps, thanks to cookie sales and scholarships.

And we still took our family road trip that we had planned for June. We had reserved a rental car on Priceline back in April, which is GREAT for getting a lower price, but also means you can’t cancel and get any kind of refund. So we decided to go ahead with the trip (which was important to us because we were visiting family, as well), but canceled a few things we had planned to do. And we’d already planned to camp and stay with family everywhere, so we didn’t have hotel expenses.

But still, change is hard! And I’m seeing a pattern here…I keep saying BUT and AND. Obviously I am conflicted. There are good things happening, and there are disappointing things happening.

For instance, I didn’t get the higher-paying job that I was hoping for. I’m disappointed, BUT I am going back to a decent job at a good school.

I’m sad about not having the Xtracycle any more, BUT, I am glad that I was able to get money for it, which is helping us get through the summer. AND I still have a bike to ride; a Schwinn Avenue that came from a family friend. It has no carrying capacity as yet (I need to get a rack and/or panniers), BUT it is lighter and faster and can be carried up and down stairs.

When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.  ~Victor Frankl

Where do we go from here? I’m still feeling some uncertainty. We are working on income for the rest of the summer, but I’m wondering about my long-term career options as well. Every time I’ve applied for a different job within my school district, I’ve been told that my application was good, that I interviewed well, but that someone else had more experience. I’ve been there for eight years, two as a special ed assistant, and six as the computer lab specialist. I’m most interested in either library or technology jobs. I’m not sure how I can get more experience, unless I try for a lower-paying library assistant job, which is not really a feasible option right now.

So I’m pondering options. Should I take some technology-related classes to increase my skills? Get a teaching credential? Get some volunteer experience? Look for jobs elsewhere? Be happy where I am?

I don’t know. I sort of have time to think about it. I don’t go back to my regular job until the end of August, and I can’t really afford to take classes as yet. So I can work on getting this apartment unpacked and organized and take time to ponder things.

40 Miles DONE!

It was a beautiful day for the Lancette Memorial Ride in Canby, Oregon — cool but sunny in the morning, warming up just enough later in the day (it eventually reached 83 in Portland).

The ride wound through several of Oregon’s small, country towns and hamlets: Canby, Mulino, Liberal, Macksburg, Lone Elder, Barlow, Butteville. Wendy instantly described it as “bucolic.” And wow, yes. Horses, hay bales, corn fields, farmhouses, rural post offices, and a perfect white church with stained glass windows and a steeple (which was our first rest stop). We picked out many houses we wanted to live in. And we could have had so many adventures along the way! We pictured ourselves crashing weddings, joining a family reunion, taking a detour to check out the town of Needy (also known as Hardscrabble), stocking up on millions of peaches, and “borrowing” a boat to float down the Willamette (undoubtedly encountering a mystery along the way). If I had had my Xtracycle bags and racks, we would certainly have indulged at one of the farm stands.

But we stuck to the course, and to our 40-mile goal. My longest ride so far had been 30 miles, and indeed, by the time we got the rest stop at the Historic Butteville Store (at 28 miles, been operating since 1863!), I was tired. Of course, we persevered, fueled by excellent snacks provided by the ride organizers and volunteers and Wendy’s margarita-flavored Shot-Bloks. It took us just under five hours total, including two 10-15 minute rest stops and a few unofficial stops to recover from hills and deal with my watering eyes. I did have to walk part of the way up two hills and all the way up another one, due at least partially to the limitations of my bike (it weighs 40 pounds and only has an 8-speed derailleur). But most of the course was fairly easy to ride.

Yes, I did ride all the way up this hill.

So what’s next? I still want to work my way up to a full century and then the Seattle to Portland ride (two centuries in two days). But I think, and Wendy agrees, that I’m going to need a different bike for that. I’ve thought of getting my Radish re-geared (which might not be a bad idea anyway), but a lighter bike would be good, too. So unless I decide to sell the Radish, I’m going to have to set myself a savings goal for that. I also need to get ME lighter. I’ve been burning lots of calories, but not losing weight because I’ve also been eating a lot to fuel myself for those long rides. Weight loss and distance riding don’t really mix (at least for me), because I can’t ride without the fuel. So over the fall and winter, I need to work on weight loss, aerobic capacity and muscle strength rather than distance. It’s rather less exciting, but it needs to be done.

If you are an Oregonian, I can definitely recommend the Lancette as a ride. It was well-planned and well-supported. I can’t speak for the longer routes, but the 40-mile was a great route with plenty to see and not too many hills. You could even do the 40-mile route on your own if you wanted to — there are stores conveniently located in Mulino, Lone Elder and Butteville for rest stops. You can view the route map and cue sheet here.


Ride Time!

It’s almost here! The Lancette is tomorrow. Wendy and I have made our plans (I wonder how our dad feels about giving his 30-and-40-something daughters a ride to their sporting event?), and all equipment seems to be in working order. I have a water bottle in the freezer, and I’ve packed my tiny equipment pouch (I’ve removed my Xtracycle racks and bags for the duration). Wendy has the energy bars/gels/blocks/whatever.

So. 40 miles!  We’ll be on the road tomorrow between about 9:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m.

Photo from Flickr by onohiroki, used via CC BY-ND 2.0

Training Update – Almost There!

I’m back from dodging wildlife on the Springwater Corridor Trail. Yep. Since it’s a Friday morning, there aren’t so many people out there, and I encountered a coyote, a duck, and a snake (which I did shriek at because it started slithering toward my wheels and I didn’t want to run over it).

This week I did two short rides, four to five miles each, including a longish hill climb. I’ve been avoiding the climb up from the Columbia River, but I figured I’d better do it at least a couple of times before the Lancette.

Today was my best chance for a longer ride. I didn’t plan any specific mileage, but it ended up being 23.54 miles. And overall, it felt fairly easy! Sure, I did the hill climb again near the beginning, and there were a few other tough spots, but I still had energy at the end.

This was also the shakedown cruise for my new hydration pack. They had “Party Like a Girl Scout” packs at the Girl Scouts 100th Birthday celebration we attended last weekend, and I figured “why not?” It worked great. Between that and a regular bottle in a cage, I should be good to go for the Lancette. Oh, and I’m all outfitted now, too! My sister Wendy sent me her old padded bike shorts, which don’t fit her any more because she is a much better dieter than I am. And I bought a pink sleeveless jersey with my REI dividend. I still sweat, but I don’t feel so yucky and wet when I get home.

The Lancette is a week from tomorrow. I’m nervous and excited.


Today I started a new work assignment, in a new place, with a new kid.

I had a few butterflies, but no debilitating anxiety. It’s only a three-hour work day, so I have plenty of time for other things.

I’m pleased with my progress on the anxiety/depression front. I do need to continue my mindfulness practice so that I can maintain this level of sanity. And I’ll still have an appointment sometime to review my meds. But I’m doing well overall.

Now I need to do a little more biking! It’s been just over a week since my last ride. I’m planning to try riding to work and back tomorrow, which will be fairly challenging. It’s eleven miles each way, and it’s going to be hot. I’ve got to do it, though, because the big ride is coming up in less than two weeks!

Bonking It Out

So, you’ve probably heard the term “hitting the wall.” Cyclists seem to mostly call it “bonking.” I’ve always figured it meant something like “I’m super-tired and I feel like I can’t go any further but I’m gonna push through and do it anyway.”

It’s not always surmountable, though. Saturday I bonked hard enough that I couldn’t keep going. I was near the end of a 30-mile ride, but it had taken a little longer than I expected (had to stop for a repair and also got a little lost), and I hadn’t brought enough snacks. I should have just stopped to get something (I had opportunities), but I wanted to push for home and get it done, dammit! I was a little worried about one steep climb getting there, but hey, I’d done it before!

But when I stopped at a park about two miles before home (and a little bit before the overpass climb) for a water break, I suddenly felt nauseated and then light-headed. I called home for a ride and lay down on the grass, and when my husband came to get me I honestly couldn’t do much of anything to help load my bike into the van.

I’m sure it didn’t help that it was already 90 degrees and climbing by that point, either. I’d drunk plenty of water, but still.

I’m not discouraged, though. I’m certain I can do this if I just manage my food intake better. And it was a beautiful ride. I rode four different multi-use (bike/pedestrian/etc.) paths in the Portland area: the I-84 path, the Gresham-Fairview Trail, the Springwater Trail all the way from Gresham and through Sellwood, and the East Bank Esplanade along the Willamette River. After that, I had to climb through the neighborhoods back to East Portland, which was the hardest part (and where I bonked out).

Now to research energy bars! Or something.