Tag Archives: oregon

We Are People, Not Test Scores

Lots of schools in Oregon are having parent-teacher conferences right now. If you’re a parent, you may be asked to sign a form that authorizes your student to take each OAKS test twice. That’s twice for reading, twice for math, and if your child is in 5th, 8th, or high school, possibly twice for science, at 60-75 minutes per test, or 4-7 hours altogether. Possibly longer. Many kids who have the hardest time with the tests take even longer.

You don’t have to sign that form. In Oregon, the school can’t test your student a second time unless you consent. And you don’t have to consent. We didn’t.

In fact, you can opt out of the testing entirely if you want to. In Oregon, this has to be based on either disability or religious belief, and no one is going to give you a religious test. “Judge not lest ye be judged” might  be one belief, for example.

We haven’t decided whether to opt our kids out entirely. There are reasons for doing this; they may be personal (I don’t want my kid under that kind of pressure) or they can be a form of protest (see the Why Opt Out? list down past the images on this page). My initial feeling is that I don’t really mind a one and done standardized test to  show how my kid is doing, and how the kids in that particular school are doing. But I think repeated testing  just encourages an emphasis on coaching kids for the test rather than on real learning, and I think it wastes time that could be spent on real learning.

So, unless we change our minds between now and then, our kids will take the first round of OAKS tests and be done.

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

Snow Gets In Your Eyes. Spring Edition.

We Portlanders are a weird bunch. All winter, we gripe about not getting enough snow. If we get half an inch and the schools don’t close down, we grumble about not getting our snow days. Yes, even adults, especially if we work in schools! Unless you are a transplant from the Northeast or Midwest. Then you laugh at the rest of us.

Anyway. Now it’s March. It’s officially spring. And we’re getting snow — so of course we are complaining that we DON’T WANT ANY MORE SNOW! It’s simply not the right time for us. Bad snow, bad!

My husband has a snow day today. He drives a bus for one of the schools in the West Hills, and they are closed. I’m off too, ostensibly on spring break, but the other day I did bike to work during a fairly substantial snowfall. And while I was biking, I had snow in my eyes and a snippet of song in my head. I wrote up a full parody today, just for you. The original song is “Smoke Gets In Your Eyes.” My version is AWFUL. Please forgive me. :-)

They told me it was spring

And my heart took wing

For I am found astride

My bicycle outside

Every day with pride

Then, they said it just might snow

On the valley floor

Oh, I did not believe

But on the morning’s ride

Snow got in my eyes.

So I rubbed them and I roundly cursed

The weather prediction folks

Yet  today I still have found a way

To get there with all my spokes (with all my spoookes….)


Now laughing friends still ask

Isn’t this a task?

Oh, so I smile and say

No, this is no prize

Snow gets in my eyes

Snow gets…in…my…EYES!


Bicycle Licensing

Every few months…or maybe weeks…the issue of bicycle licensing comes up. Some people think bicyclists should have licenses, and that they should have to pay a fee to license their bikes just like auto drivers do. Here’s one line of reasoning that I read today, in an opinion post on the OregonLive website:

Not all cyclists violate the rules, of course, but even cyclists know that their comrades are out there and they are not operating their bikes in a safe manner. We have all seen you, and you know who you are. Portland — bicycle center that it is — knows this; pedestrians know it; motorists know it.

Supposedly, licensing would help stop this lawlessness. However, I could easily make the same statement this way:

Not all drivers violate the rules, of course, but even drivers know that their comrades are out there and they are not operating their motor vehicles in a safe manner. We have all seen you, and you know who you are. Portland knows this, pedestrians know it, cyclists know it.

And drivers ARE required to be licensed and insured. I don’t think the argument holds up.

The other argument is that cyclists should pay their way like everyone else. The truth is that we already do. Many of us also drive, so we pay license fees and gas taxes. We also pay property taxes (either as property owners or through our rent payments) and income taxes, and portions of those taxes also feed into transportation funding. Meanwhile, we’re creating LESS impact on both roads and air by riding our bikes (see this article on Grist by Elly Blue for a fuller explanation).

While I support education about and enforcement of traffic laws, I don’t think additional licensing and/or fees for bicyclists are good solutions. Instead, let’s get more people educated and riding!

Photo by oedipusphinx — — — — theJWDban on Flickr, used via CC BY 2.0 license.

A New Bicycling Challenge

Portland is a city of bridges — 10 bridges across the Willamette River and two over the Columbia River. If you follow that link, you’ll see that I didn’t count two more — they’re railroad bridges, and I can’t cross them by car or bike!

As far as I can recall, I haven’t crossed any of Portland’s bridges by bike, though. I don’t commute to or live near downtown, so I haven’t had any reason to. But this summer, I’m planning to hit at least six of them through the Providence Bridge Pedal.

The Bridge Pedal is an annual event in which the city closes down auto traffic on the the Willamette River bridges and lets bikes take over! Even the two bridges that are interstate highways! Many people on bikes cross the smaller bridges every day, but this is the only chance for cyclists to cross the Fremont and Marquam bridges.

There are three ride options — crossing all 10 bridges requires a 36-mile ride, but you can also choose 8 bridges in 26 miles or 6 bridges in 13 miles. I’m opting for the latter. My daily commute is only a little over 2 miles each way, so I don’t do a lot of distance riding. I am training up to it, though — even though 13 miles isn’t very far (and I have done a ride that long before), I expect that climbing at least a couple of the bridges will be difficult for me.


Last weekend, I rode to the farmers’ market and back up the big hill — without stopping or walking for the first time! Today I did an 8.7-mile ride to pick up our ground coffee order, including a climb up a steep overpass. I managed this one without stopping or walking too, but it sure takes the breath out of me! When climbing, I actually feel like I need bigger lungs. I’m at capacity. And back at home, I did feel slightly nauseated from the exertion, despite stretching to cool down and drinking water.

I’m looking forward to meeting this challenge. How are you challenging yourself this summer?


Bicycle Commuting Mama: Still Going, How About You?

We’ve had both sub-freezing weather and rainy weather in recent weeks, but I’m still biking along every day! Well, there was that one day that we had freezing rain, and I didn’t get out until about 10:00 a.m. when it thawed out, but that was OK. The only problem was that it was garbage day, and we didn’t get our garbage and recycling bins out, because they sit at the top of a short but steep slope, and it was still covered in ice when I left. So the recycling bin is overflowing now! Yay, recycling.

I know other parts of the country have much more severe weather, though. How are you getting around? Do you drive, walk, bike, bus? Or just stay home?

Here in Portland, we’ve had a bit of an uproar because a member of our State House of Representatives proposed a bill that would make it illegal for children under the age of 6 to ride on a parent’s bike or in a bike trailer. Yes, that really does mean what it sounds like it means. No toddlers and preschoolers in a child seat, or in a trailer intended for babies and toddlers, or on the back of an Xtracycle.

Huh? I mean, even if you’re not that into biking this has to sound a little crazy. Lots of people, normal, average people, take their little ones out on bikes!

Representative Mitch Greenlick (D-NW Portland), thinks young children on bikes are a public health risk.  He told BikePortland that he bases his concern on a study done by Oregon Health Sciences University, his employer.

We’ve just done a study showing that 30 percent of riders biking to work at least three days a week have some sort of crash that leads to an injury… When that’s going on out there, what happens when you have a four year old on the back of a bike?

Oy. Yes, the study exists. The injuries counted in the study included everything from a scraped knee on up. Cycling advocate Mia Birk has an excellent analysis of the study.

Greenlick says that if we can save even one child’s life, we should do it. But meanwhile, thousands of children die as automobile passengers each year, and I don’t see Greenlick proposing that they be banned from riding in motor vehicles as well. And I’m not proposing it, either! I’m just saying that there’s definitely a double standard here.

Cooler heads have convinced Greenlick to pull back; it’s now going to be a topic for further study rather than a potential law. But he certainly got a reaction from Portland’s family biking community!

Challenging Week

It’s back to work week for me! And it’ll be back to school week next week. Both of these present challenges, but I’m also participating in a couple of bike challenges this month.

30 Days of Biking has returned for September! This Minneapolis-based event is open to everyone in the world.

The only rule for 30 Days of Biking is that you bike every day for 30 days—around the block, 20 miles to work, whatever suits you—then share your adventures online.

Yeah. That works for me. I participated in the original 30 Days of Biking in April, but didn’t quite make it to 30 days, because I had to take my bike to the shop, and they kept it for several days. C’est la vie. I’m doing it again. So far I’m two for two.

September is also Bike Commute Challenge month in Portland. Every year, the Bicycle Transportation Alliance sponsors this month long event, in which workplace-based teams compete based on the total percentage of commutes made by bike. I’m entered as part of my employer’s team, and plan to make 100% of my commutes by bike.

Work and life are already bringing challenges, frustrations and setbacks this month, but at least I’ll be getting out on my bike.