Bike Angst

I really want to ride my bike.

I miss being a bike commuter. I miss the ride to GSLIS from our house, 7 minutes flat on a good day. I miss feeling superior in January when I would arrive at work in a bundle of layers. I miss the freedom of being able to hop on Yellow and go wherever I wanted in town.

I miss biking into DC. I didn’t do it all that many times, but it was An Adventure: crossing the GW Parkway and riding up along the river, past National airport, over the Memorial Bridge, then up the brutal hill on 23rd by the State Department, arriving at work jelly-legged and drenched in sweat, but secure in the knowledge that I could shower at the gym.

http://www.flickr.com/apps/slideshow/show.swf?v=104087

Shane has a new bike, and on Monday we set off for work together, resolved to be bike commuters once again. But here’s the thing: I fucking hate biking in Ann Arbor.

My commute is literally up hill both ways.  The route to work is more downhill than uphill, but the uphill parts are situated in the midst of a series of one-ways and stoplights – as in, a light at every block for the last mile of my commute – making it impossible to build up or sustain any momentum.  In the course of a one-way commute, I gain and lose 100 feet of elevation, all on my single-speed bike.  The Statue of Liberty is 93 feet tall, just for the record.

While in most places, a bike is treated as a vehicle and so expected to be on the road, in A2, that seems to be up to the discretion of the cyclist.  This means that cyclists are on and off the sidewalks, in and out of the roads, riding wherever they damned well please – which then means that drivers don’t know what is going on and respond as erratically as the cyclists behave.  This means that today, Shane nearly collided with a cyclist running a red light (or possibly going the wrong way against traffic?), while I was almost hit by a car that ran a stop sign.

I’ve complained about the roads before.  They’re terrible.  This is even more noticeable when you have an uncomfortable seat, and when you’re trying to avoid getting hit by cars or doored while also trying to avoid seams, cracks, and potholes in the poorly maintained pavement.  Shane nearly wiped out in the gravel at the foot of our driveway, and I skidded on a crack in the road today.

In short, I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s just not worth it to try to ride my bike to work.  I arrive in a seriously disheveled and sweaty state and often in a foul mood from the exertion and annoyance of the ride.  I rolled into work this morning and had no willpower to resist Oreos in the breakroom.  I took a different route home and arrived in tears, winded and sore.  I thought that changing out the freewheel would help – and it has – but I’m still actively unhappy on almost every ride, and that’s just not worth it.  Sorry, Orange Porange.  Maybe we can have adventures in another city.

Places I Have Lived: North Mulford Rd, Rockford, IL

June/July 1996 – August 1997

Sometime in 1995, my family started house hunting.  I’m not sure what exactly spurred this move other than that our house was paid off and it was a financially advantageous time to move.  At around this time, some family friends put their house on the market – a house and property that my parents had long admired.  While I could see the merits of the new house – especially the pool – I mostly remember deeply resenting the idea of moving.  I didn’t have my drivers license, much less a car, so moving anywhere would mean being impossibly far away from my neighborhood crew.

By the time we moved in the summer of 1996, the house had undergone substantial renovations.  The original house was fairly small, so my parents worked with an architect and contractors to knock down walls, build a second story with bedrooms for each of us, expand the kitchen, and add a garage when it became obvious that the original garage didn’t actually connect to the house in the way they thought.  As was the case with the previous moves, Mom found herself pregnant during this renovation, and my brother was born a few months before we moved to the new house.

On the ground floor: my parents’ suite, including a room that was supposed to be an office but became Eric’s when he was conceived between the architectural designs and move in. Their bathroom, one of my favorite rooms in the house, had a whirlpool tub, a sunlight, and a panel of stained glass. A “great room” with a wood-burning stove, a ceiling extending to the second floor, and views back to the creek and bordering arboretum. The kitchen, with similar views, where you can occasionally see a deer or fox while eating your breakfast on a quiet morning. Upstairs: three bedrooms, one for each kid. Jenn’s and my rooms connected to a shared full bath; Mark had his own 3/4 bath. Downstairs: a small exercise room and a larger family room. A 3/4 bath lined in pink tile under the stairs. And then the pool/pool house: roll-down canvas panels covering the screened-in walls, and a bathroom where there were always more bugs than I liked to think about. Perfect for pool parties or cookouts, not so perfect if you had to close it up at night.

I only lived in this house for a little more than a year – beginning the summer before my senior year of high school, and ending when I moved out to go to college. I returned for a few months here and there, but in total spent less time in this house than I have in a couple of my subsequent apartments. Maybe that’s why it’s never felt like home for me – I never had the time to settle in and make it my own, or perhaps I actively avoided doing so because I knew I would be leaving soon, or perhaps I resented it for not being the house where I grew up in the neighborhood that I loved. That year was also kind of crazy – I was a senior, applying for college, and working two part time jobs. I had major roles in the fall play and the spring musical. There was a new baby in the house and then, over the winter, Mom was diagnosed with breast cancer. We all shouldered extra responsibilities.

I loved the windows and the breeze in my new room. I took the van to Lowe’s and returned with a trunk full of cinder blocks, which I used to build brick-and-board bookcases. I burned incense and listened to Procol Harum. I read piles of library books in the saggy double bed that previously belonged to a great-grandpa (or great-great?). I annoyed my parents by walking too heavily – my room was directly above theirs – and by staying up late connecting to Juno so that I could email friends. My friends and I dressed for one of the high school dances in my room, and took photos down by the creek. My adolescent rebelliousness flared in the last summer I lived there, and I couldn’t wait to move out.

Things I Don’t Believe In And/Or Just Don’t Care About

  1. Flu shots. I don’t get ’em. It’s fine if you want to, but I don’t.  Vaccines, on the other hand, I am all for, and will take whatever is necessary.
  2. That antibacterial gel stuff.  What does it do other than give you a false sense of cleanliness and contribute to the development of resistant strains of bacteria?
  3. Biking on the sidewalk, even though there are places where it is encouraged by signage and permitted by law.  I don’t buy it.  There is exactly one stretch of sidewalk on which I will bike, and that is only because it is the only safe way to cross through a Y intersection to get to our house.  If I have to bike on the sidewalk otherwise, I will walk my bike.
  4. Lady Gaga.  There.  I said it.  I really couldn’t care less.
  5. Protein shakes.  While I understand that they play an important role in the lives and diets of many and are firmly ensconced in the Academy of Broscience, I don’t believe in them, and refuse to consider any diet that would require incorporating them into my life.

Ten on Tuesday: 10 Ways to Prepare for a Big Storm

I’m a Midwest girl, born and raised, so my idea of a ‘big storm’ involves snow.  A lot of snow.  We don’t get big storms like Irene here, you see.  We get bad storms, tornadoes, and flooding, but we don’t generally get all of those things at the same time and for extended durations.  When we do, they come up quickly, without much warning, and it takes a while to recover simply because we’re not used to things like this.  It happened in July 2003, when a freak storm took out trees all over northern Illinois, leaving many without power for the better part of a week.  We lost all the food in our fridge, but were  thankful to not sustain damage on the house we would close on at the end of the week.

I’m more intimately familiar with big winter storms, the sort that blanket everything in a foot of snow in a few hours, making it difficult to do anything other than hunker down with soup and blankets and a good movie.  In case of winter storms:

  1. Hope and pray that your employer at least occasionally closes for inclement weather.  Mine doesn’t.
  2. If your employer doesn’t close for inclement weather, try to make work-from-home arrangements.
  3. Obsessively listen to the news in hopes that for once, your employer has changed their mind about closing for inclement weather.
  4. Decide to be a bigger person than your employer and cancel class – even though it’s online – because who wants to be the jerk that makes everyone go to school when the campus is closed?
  5. Arm yourself with a snow shovel, bag of salt, yak trax, many layers, and ibuprofen for the inevitable shoveling aches and pains.
  6. Start praying that the plowing company actually shows up this time AND doesn’t plow your car IN rather than out.
  7. Seal the windows with plastic, though you’ve probably already done that at the first sign of temps below 20.
  8. Start a pot of soup when you get home from work.
  9. Complain about how no one can drive in the snow EVEN THOUGH IT HAPPENS EVERY YEAR.
  10. Update the Netflix queue and hope that the internet stays up.

Ten on Tuesday is a listserv-driven meme thingamagig.

Places I Have Lived: Pepper Drive, Rockford, IL

January 1984 – June/July 1996

We moved to Rockford in the winter of 1984, right around my 4th birthday. Mom was pregnant with Jenn, and I was the only one who was sure she’d be a girl (I was right). I can’t imagine moving to a new city in the dead of winter with two kids under 4 plus another one on the way – I know this move was hard for Mom, though I can’t really even begin to comprehend it. I know that the other stay-at-home moms in our neighborhood became her lifeline, and so we grew up with family friends that were like family – the Kensingers, the Ericsons, the Wilhelms – and that have remained close to this day.

It’s hard to talk briefly about the house where you grew up. I apologize.

porch rail
From left: Jenn, Chelsea K., Sara K., Ditka, Mark, Bart K., me

Our house had two stories and a finished basement, all resplendent in early 80s style. The house was chocolate brown, with a cement front porch and a two car garage, where I would get the car stuck on my first attempt at backing out. When we moved in, there was no furniture in the front room, and I remember playing ‘store’ in the front window with the kitchen set that Grandpa built. Later this would be the living room, with nice furniture and the piano, where we grudgingly took lessons. The dining room was infrequently used, as often happens with rooms of this type. Mom would sew our Halloween costumes at the table, and I remember dusting as part of weekly chores and finding coins left on the wooden chair rail.

When we first moved in, the kitchen had brown wood paneling, brown wood cabinets, brown wood slat blinds, and brown linoleum. We would play in one of the tall cabinets, pretending to be Oscar the Grouch in his garbage can. In a later remodel, the external wall was replaced with doors to a sunroom, and all that brown went away. I learned to cook in that kitchen, though it’s probably more accurate to say that I learned to prepare food.

The family room, adjacent to the kitchen, had a fireplace and more wood paneling. One year we had racoons in the fireplace and had to have animal control come and take them out. Living (and playing) took place in this room: the stereo and tv were here, as was our first computer. When we got our first dog, we tried to keep her out of this room and off the new white carpet (bad idea!) by constructing a barrier between the rooms out of furniture and boxes. She immediately figured out how to climb over.

I am nine

There was a small ‘mud room’ with backyard access; after a remodel, this became a home office, and the laundry and storage moved to a new room carved out of the garage. I spent many hours in here on AOL in high school, chatting with friends, doing homework, and listening to Sgt. Pepper. I don’t think that Mom ever got to use it as the home office she envisioned.

The ground floor half bath was absurdly gold and brown when we moved in. I think this was the first room to be updated.

The basement had hideous orange and brown carpet, a sort of bar that was mainly for storage, and a store room. My memories of the basement are mostly of it being in a state of chaos from three kids playing video games, listening to books-on-record, doing art projects, and generally making a terrific mess. In junior high, I carved out a little nook under the stairs as my private space, though why I sought this out, I’m not sure. A later remodel would turn the basement into a much more habitable guest space, adding on a half bath, built in cabinets, a space for watching TV, and a small office for Pop. I spent a lot of time down there in high school, exercising or watching tv and talking on the phone.

We each had our own bedroom on the second floor, though our play as kids spilled out into the hallway and down the stairs, where we would amass all of our beloved stuffed animals for impromptu camp outs. My bedroom was the first on the right, with a closet that bumped out over the stairwell. When I was small, this closet was ideal for playing the sort of games that involved climbing around the room without touching the floor, whether your flavor involved hot lava or a sea full of sharks. I could watch the mailbox from my window, and yell out to my friends amassed in the front yard. When I grew into an angsty adolescent, I had a lock – with a key – on my door to keep prying siblings out.

Stuffed Animals

Tied closely to my memories of the house are my memories of the neighborhood. Those same families that provided support networks for my parents also provided friends for Mark and Jenn and I, and we ranged free with those friends until long after sundown. We went to school and carpooled with many of the neighborhood kids. When I was 15, Sarah and her family moved in next door, giving me the neighborhood best friend I’d long wanted. I babysat kids from the neighborhood. My homecoming and prom dates were guys from the neighborhood. All of which made leaving this house in 1996 even more difficult.

P90E Week 7: BROUGHT HARD

I spent a couple of days struggling with the disappointment and frustration of Saturday’s race showing – and thinking hard about what my goals are and should be right now. Is it realistic to try to do everything I’m trying to do? I don’t know. I emailed bad-ass runner friends for advice. I did a lot of reading. And I came to the conclusion that I need to make some changes in my diet if I want to be a happy runner for the next two months leading up to the Detroit half. So I’m working on that, and am starting to notice improvements in my energy. I also took measurements this weekend and found that while I haven’t lost really any weight since starting on this little plan of mine, I have lost at least 2% body fat, which is something!

Monday: Core Synergistics. Superman! Banana! Superman! Banana! No joke. I was tired and sweaty, but I brought it.

Tuesday: 3 miles in 26:45. I can’t even tell you how happy I was. I really, really needed that. I also carried on the fine tradition that I established last semester of teaching my LEEP class in my nasty workout duds. The students can’t see (or, importantly, smell) me, so everyone wins. That is, until Shane told me that I smelled like a burrito and insisted that I shower before bed.

Wednesday: Legs & Back. Let me tell you, doing this workout twice within 7 days is BRUTAL. My calves were screaming at the end of the calf raise sequence. I upped my weight almost everywhere. I’d consider that brought.

Thursday: 3.85 miles home from work, finishing at the Westside Farmer’s Market. I took it a bit easier on Tuesday as my calves were like angry fists and my thighs were feeling the squats and sneaky lunges from the previous night. I made an ill-advised stop by the garden, still sweaty from my run, and was attacked by a swarm of mosquitos. It’s been like this every time I’ve gone to the garden for the last month, but I still persist in thinking that I can stop by for a few minutes without bug spray. OH NO. Instead, the combination of workout exhaustion and at least a dozen bites in 5 minutes was enough to trigger a full-on panic attack. I took a hot shower and went to bed early.

Friday: Rest. I was supposed to do Chest, Shoulders, & Triceps, but put it off til Sunday.

Saturday: A perfect morning for a run, and I got in 6.5 miles before breakfast. Now that I’m feeling a bit better, I need to start building up my weekend distances before the half EXCEPT that I’m out of town 3 of the next 4 weekends. Oh well – I’ll make it work! Knees and calves felt a little iffy, so I walked some of the hills, but still finished in good time and then ate all the Afternoon Delight.

Sunday: I had good intentions of either Chest, Shoulders, & Triceps or an evening yoga class with friends, but last week’s twingey shoulder was back, so the best I managed was 2 hours in the garden (WITH Deep Woods Off) and a bunch of around the house sorts of things.

Week 7: Brought

Places I Have Lived: Iowa City, IA

1981-1984

i am small

I can’t say conclusively that this photo was taken in Iowa City, but the vintage is about right. We moved sometime between January-September of 1981 – Mom was pregnant, as she was every time our family moved. Pop worked at University Hospital, and some nights we would walk to the bus stop to meet him.

I remember that there were three bedrooms, and I have been told that when Mark was bugging me, I would push his walker into his room and shut the door. The dining room was in the front of the upper level of the house, with the kitchen behind it. I would “bake” stacks of potholders into cakes. I have a memory of pushing a dining room chair into the table “oven”.

The house was a split level, and I remember standing by the door with my Peanuts lunch box. The lower level was darker, and there was storage under the stairs. Behind our house was a field, and trees beyond. I remember throwing rocks into puddles at the end of the street with Pop.

I can’t imagine how heart-wrenching it must have been to leave Iowa City after only a couple of years back. We’ve started over in two new states already, but we haven’t yet returned to a beloved place, then had to leave it again.

Places I Have Lived: Marshfield, WI

1980-1981

It should be fairly obvious why I have no memory of this place. After all, I was merely days old when I first encountered it, and not much more than a year old when we left.

I know that when my parents moved here from Iowa City, they arrived to find a neighbor hosting a cookout or some sort of backyard do. I know that those neighbors and their guests helped unload the moving truck, and that some of the neighbors also became life-long friends. I know that Mom worked as a phlebotomist before I was born, and that they were regulars at The Kitchen Table – to the extent that Mom edited their cookbook, copies of which we both have.

But I don’t know anything about the house. I seem to remember – from pictures, of course – it being a ranch-style. I know there are pictures of me peeking out the front window, safely ensconced in my playpen. I know from pictures that there was a squat wood-burning stove.

With Aunt Nancy

I don’t know how long my parents lived in this house, or how they felt when they left it. Our next move was back to Iowa City, where all of Mom’s siblings live(d), where my parents both gone to college and Pop had gone to med school. I know how fiercely attached I felt to Champaign, so I can only imagine that leaving Marshfield must have felt like going home.

Madison Eats, part 3

Honestly, I’m surprised I had room for breakfast after eating all the toast at Merchant on our last full day in Madison.  As we walked to breakfast, rubbing the sleep and mild hangovers out of our eyes, Shane teased me about the stack of toast which somehow grew from 3-4 slices of crusty farmhouse bread to a stack of toasts all the way up to the ceiling that I consumed Cookie Monster style.  I don’t deny that I ate all the toasts.  Just not that many.

Breakfast, day 3: Bradbury’s

Bradbury's

Cappuccino

We’ve traveled a lot this year, and as a result, have spent a lot of time trying to figure out how to interpret Yelp reviews in order to find good coffee. The problem is that definitions of ‘good coffee’ are highly subjective: for some, it’s a 32 oz sugar spectacle from Starbucks; for others, it’s Blue Bottle. The best strategies I’ve found so far involve searching for words like crema, siphon, flat white, ristretto or gibraltar – one of which led us to Bradbury’s.

And Bradbury’s was exactly what we were hoping to find: seriously good coffee made by people who care. Shane had a traditional cappuccino – no more than 8oz, perfect microfoam – and a crepe with Nutella and bananas. I had a piccolo – indistinguishable from a gibraltar or a cortado, but then what do I know – and a scone. We left caffeinated and happy, wishing we’d found Bradbury’s earlier in our stay.

After breakfast, we wandered around the Capitol Square to Fromagination, a cheeseshop on par with Cowgirl Creamery in my book. The store was in a state of minor disarray as a Food Network crew was in the process of filming a spot for a new show focused on cheese, but that didn’t deter us from sampling a number of fancy and delicious Wisconsin cheeses. I especially enjoyed the display of local beers and recommended cheese pairings, and wish we’d had the opportunity to try more of them! Regardless, we left with our dinner in hand – three different cheeses to be paired with co-op takeout – and a recommendation to check out the National Mustard Museum on our way out of town.

Fromagination

Photo by Susie Foodie

Lunch, day 3: Brasserie V

100 World Class Beers

Photo by beautifulcataya

We split a delicious lunch at Brasserie V, located near Camp Randall Stadium amongst a bunch of boutiques on Monroe St. Shane was excited about the Belgian beer list, but I was more into the cool and creamy pea soup that we shared for lunch, along with a half Croque Monsieur and a towering cone of frites. We tried to avert our eyes as a couple at the bar gratuitously made out between sips of their Kwak, served in authentic Kwak glasses. We wished we had more appetite so that we could eat and drink more delicious things.

Off to New Glarus! But first, a stop at the Mustard Museum, which was everything we hoped it would be: weird, esoteric, and full of ridiculous mustard things. What possesses one to make mustard – collecting, not making – one’s life’s work? A question for the ages.

King of Condiments!

Madison Eats, part 2

Seriously, Madison has too much good food to limit it to just one post. Which isn’t to say that everything we ate was wonderful – we had some downright lousy coffee, for example, and tried to get drinks at a couple of places that turned out to be too upscale (while also smelling really weird) or too dive-y – but there were plenty of places that were just right.

Breakfast, day 2: Marigold Kitchen

Veggie Scrambler

French Toast

Photos by beautifulcataya

There are two things I would like you to notice in these photos: the breakfast potatoes in the first, and the exceptionally decadent French toast in the second. We ate all of these things. My scramble of the day was kind of wet and disappointing, but the incredibly flavorful breakfast potatoes more than made up for it. I don’t often want potatoes – they can be really hit or miss – but these were worth the risk: crispy and salty, fried up with onions and a lot of rosemary. Amazingly good. Shane had a different French toast than is pictured here, but it was no less wonderful.

Lunch, day 2: Chautara

Chautara - sunny spot on a cold day

Photo by humbletree

Tofu Buff at Chautara restaurant

Photo by John Kannenberg

Max had his first samosa, and I had the ridiculously flavorful seitan buff. I have fond memories of this place, even moreso now that I’ve shared it with Shane, Jenn, Bill, and Max.

Dinner, day 2: Natt Spil

lively up yo'self

Photo by mkebbe

We had planned on having a really nice dinner while in Madison, but neither of us were particularly hungry or decisive when it came to making a plan on our last night in town. While Shane moved the car, I decided on Natt Spil, which was supposed to be sort of dive-y and intimate while also having good food and music. The cuisine is somewhere between Chinese and Italian – really, I’m not sure what you’d call it. Not fusion, as that suggests a melding of the two flavor sets. Really, it’s a place where you can get dim sum and also pizza and also cocktails. I like all of those things. We were a little underwhelmed by the food and definitely by the service, but that didn’t stop us from devouring a small pizza and a plate of shrimp cakes. My cocktail was delicious, though I couldn’t tell you what it was. It seemed like the sort of place we’d definitely go with friends – like the Galaxy Hut, except completely different.

Drinks, day 2: Merchant Madison

Merchant cocktail list

Photo by jumbledpile

I spotted Merchant while we were walking around the first night in Madison. We didn’t love their food menu, but decided to stop in for a cocktail as a majorly scary storm rolled in over the lake. You’ve gotta love a cocktail bar where the menu is reputable enough that you’re happy to go with the “bartender’s choice” option. There were so many good things, but I’d already started down the bourbon road, so it seemed like folly to stray.

I was right. And the drink the bartender made me was even more right but unfortunately I will never know what it was because when I went to order another, he was gone! I know that it had at least five ingredients, one of them bourbon, another absinthe, and that I really shouldn’t have had another after that. I also know that Shane had two delicious cocktails, perhaps made with gin, perhaps citrussy? I don’t know.

What I do know is that we ordered toast with lardo – another good idea – and then I ate all of the toasts. OK, not all the toasts. But most of the toasts. And they were good.

Toast

Photo by jumbledpile